Sunday, December 30, 2007

Paraiso Miramar

The name says it all. This is probably our favourite spot on the entire west coast. Its also probably as far south as we will go this trip. We rolled in here early yesterday morning after spending the night on the side of the road at a toll plaza. We had planned to spend the night in a Pemex fuel station but ended up on a really new stretch of toll road where there simply weren't any toll booths so, after running for about an hour in the dark decided to just stop for the night at the toll plaza. They're open 24 hours and well guarded so we felt pretty secure but it was NOISY. The old Dinas didn't come quite as often after dark but we still woke up plenty of times to the brap of their compression brakes as they slowed down and the grinding gears as they left the toll stop.

We're in a little courtyard behind a small hotel, right on the coast. About 150 feet outside the door we can sit on the seawall and watch the ocean. There's room for maybe 12 rigs here and there's about 6 of us here right now - mostly Canadians - us and some Quebecois. Yesterday there was a fiesta de boda (wedding) on the grass in front of the hotel. That didn't go as late as I expected but they alternated between playing Mexican polka music and some crap that I supposed is rap and it was all at about 200 decibels higher than I consider reasonable. We turned the TV right up as far as the volume would go and we could sort of hear a movie over the "music". But the the party broke up around 8:30 so that was OK.

This area around San Blas has a bad reputation for biters. They have mosquitoes and a little no-see-um that the locals call jejenes (hayhaynees). They don't seem too bad this year and they are never as bad here as in San Blas so we will likely stay here for a couple of weeks or maybe more. We even went so far as to meet with a local real estate agent yesterday. We'll see where that goes.

SWMBO just got up - more later.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas dinner

We're waiting for the crew from Guasave to arrive - its our turn to cook supper tonight. After 2 wonderful evening meals (la cena) in town we offered to cook a Canadian meal tonight. So we have a 15# turkey in the oven, getting ready to be the guest of honour later today. Along with some carrot/raisin salad, one of Marilyn's famous hairy salads and smashed potatoes with turkey gravy that should make a pretty typical Canadian Christmas dinner. Oh yes, we had some dried cranberries that I resurrected last night and that I think I have now persuaded to be cranberry sauce. Of course we have no idea whatsoever when our guests might arrive. They said they were coming in the early afternoon but that is rapidly becoming a non-possibility. They'll get here when they get here and CJ will get here about 4 hours later.

Its a miserably windy day here but that's not uncommon for Las Glorias. The bus thermometer says its 21 degrees outside and 28 degrees inside - thanks to the convection oven. I'll get some pictures of the Lopez Rodriguez Diaz clan up in the next couple of days.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Building with adobe blocks

When we arrived here a week ago that's what we saw. Its a very imposing structure and the picture doesn't give a good sense of the scale of the building. Along each side of the building there are two apartments that will eventually house 2 "families" of orphaned children. Each apartment is completely self contained with kitchen, living area, bedrooms and laundry facilities. The intent is to have 8 kids per apartment and a foster parent couple in each apartment. There are 2 small "bachelor suites" at the front centre of the building. The back of the building houses a huge meeting/eating area with an institutional size kitchen at one end and a large workshop at the other end. The upper level has some smaller apartments for volunteers and the intent is to eventually house some of the older orphans in that area as well. The centre of the structure is a large open courtyard with all of the apartments opening onto it.

It has taken 3-1/2 years to construct the building to this stage using a crew that currently numbers around 20. There's a lot of work to laying adobe blocks. The crews only work from about the end of November to late April because that is when their gringo volunteers are available.

Those walls are well over 14" thick. An adobe block starts out life as the local red clay mud. In the case of this construction site "mud" is actually pretty dry dirt that is run through a hydraulic press to convert it into a block about 5" high x 14" long x anywhere from 3-8" wide. Then the blocks are laid crosswise side by side to slowly build up a wall. Then the wall is covered with successive layers of concrete. One of the really neat features of adobe construction is its ability to heat sink. Because there is so much mass in the structure it stays relatively cool during the day and relatively warm at night. Noticeably warm first thing in the morning and noticeably cool during the heat of the afternoon.

I got to participate in several distinct phases of the construction process, from making blocks through placing them to forming for a roof and finally pouring the roof. The traditional way to make blocks is to form mud into blocks and wait a month for the sun to completely dry them. This project uses a press so we could make blocks for a half an hour and place them for the rest of the day. The traditional way to make a roof used to be to lay poles across the span then place clay tiles across the poles and then to pour concrete on top of the tiles. That evolved into using poured beams to replace the poles and now the usual practice is to pour the entire roof with integral beams. We formed the surface of the roof, then laid chicken wire so the finish stucco would have something to carry it, then laid 2'x2'x8" styrofoam blockes to create voids and beams, placed steel in the beam areas and finally formed the sides to create a slab roof that is about 4" thick carried by 12" deep beams. There is probably 60% of the roof volume taken up by the styrofoam so it is not as heavy as it appears but still a lot of overhead concrete to form and place.

Since I have some experience with pouring concrete - actually a surprising amount of experience once I start into the process - pouring the concrete was the least educational part of the whole process. I was glad to see that they didn't adhere to tradional processes for pouring the roof. There is a 1/4 yard mixer out behind the site that runs constantly during the day with one man continuously shovelling sand through a screen and another running the mixer non-stop. He dumps into wheelbarrows and the mud goes off to grout blocks or get trowelled onto walls. I've seen them lifting concrete to the roof using a pail and a rope so I had visions of us lifting 6 yards of cement to the roof. I was very pleased to hear that there would be a pumper truck onsite for the pour. The picture is of the truck set up to pour the roof of the bell tower.

We also poured the sidewalk yesterday. 80' of sidewalk, 4" thick & 6.5' wide when the temp is over 80 degrees - you don't have much time to work the surface in those conditions. Fortunately the water was on yesterday or we would have lost about 1/2 of the sidewalk pour. It was a near thing as it was. The local guys are so good with concrete it is a treat to work with them and learn from them. They use so much "cemento" in all their construction and they know what they can get away with. They use too much water for my liking so they end up with a lot of cracks but they are the local experts and there may be some other problems that they are avoiding with the excess water.

And on the subject of local expertise - - concrete counter tops and concrete sinks. You have to see them to believe them. They polish the concrete so it looks like granite and the sinks are integral with the countertop. This stuff is like Corian on steroids - looks great and is indestructible. It would be great for a cabin or for a laundry area but maybe a little "heavy" both visually and physically for most kitchens.

For more information this is the website for the project:

and this is Bob Masons website that deals with the orphanage project from its inception:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Grinding, eye wrenching poverty

We just moved from Alamos where we spent the last week over to Refugio Infantil de Navajoa, recently renamed We had a wonderful time in Alamos, as usual, and got reacquainted with our friends there. Friday night we got invited to a TGIF party put on by some of the expats in town. We should have known better - we have hung out with that crowd before and always regretted it. Imagine a roomful of nouveau riche, everyone wearing exactly the right designer sweater and the right gucci sandals and everyone looking for someone important to hang out next to. Clearly we weren't who they wanted to hang out with and the feeling was mutual. The occasion was the sale of one of the houses close to the centre of town. They were trying to sell some of the art and excess furntiture so that potential buyers could actually see the house. The house is listed for $435,000.

So from one extreme to the other. Today we took Manuel & Delphina up to Obregon to see their adopted son, Chiquire (I really don't know how to spell his name - that's my best guess). Anyway, we left early this morning and drove to Obregon, about 1-1/2 hours away. Chiki is working at a new carwash on the southwest side of Obregon, making 800 pesos per week, for 6 days work (about $80). His home is on the northeast side of town, probably 5 miles away. He gets to work every day on his bicycle.

After visiting with Chiki we drove across town to see his wife and 3 year old daughter. We drove through the better parts of town and then farther and farther into the barrio. Finally we stopped in front of an adobe "house" - two rooms, set back from the street behind a barb wire fence. It turned out that was Chiki's wife's parents' house. Behind that in a shack that appeared to be built out of partially adobe, partially corrugated iron and partially cardboard is where Chiki's family lives. It was one of those spots where your eyes don't know where to look because there is so much poverty in every direction and it hurts no matter where you look. Dirt floor, a few pieces of old furniture obviously scavenged from a dump somewhere, pullout couch for a bed. Dirt everywhere, some dirty dishes balanced precariously on a table in the area that obviously serves as a kitchen. Taking a picture would have felt like voyeurism. And to cap it all off the daughter was recently diagnosed with epilepsy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Carbon credits are the new pet rock

Excellent article by Maureen Bader (no relation to my bride) that hits on all the reasons why climate change activism is bad. Everywhere I go now somebody has figured out how to climb on the climate change bandwagon. The goal is to "sell credits" whether its a grain farmer who can convince a buyer that he has abandoned his reckless tillage practices in favour of greener reduced tillage or a cowboy who can document that his cows fart less under his current management program than under the previous one. Everyone is chasing the ephemeral "carbon credit" which will eventually be sold to real industries - like the hospital in Maureen's excellent article - and which will take money away from real productive activities.

Carbon credits are the new pet rock. Remember pet rocks? Some smart marketer figured out that the public was actually stupid enough to buy rocks, something that hitherto had been ubiquitous and valueless and lo and behold, he was right. The emperor's new clothes revisited. Carbon credits are no different. We're buying a mirage and in the process diverting productive funds to unproductive causes. Even more significantly and ominously we are diverting creative energy from productive avenues to chasing rainbows. All the effort that is currently being directed to figure out ways to milk the carbon cow would be better spent developing new energy technologies or improved extraction techniques for old energy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Irishman shingling his roof

One of the earliest stories/parables I recall father telling me is the story of the Irishman who never could get the leak in his roof patched because, when it was leaking it was raining and he couldn't patch it in the rain and when it wasn't raining it didn't leak so didn't need patching. I feel the same way about the ProHeat - it quit working reliably when we got to Regina and was generally a real PITA the rest of the trip but I didn't want to tackle trying to fix it because it was too bloody cold. Now it would be easy to tear it apart but its 27 above outside so its hard to get too excited about needing heat.

This morning I got the fresh water tank filled. One of the cool features of the bus is that it has a 20 gallon drinking water tank in addition to the main coach water tank. We have always thought that when we got down here we would refill that tank from purified water. I rigged up plumbing years ago to let me do that but had never needed to use it until today. Roberto sells purified water from his plant here in the trailer park so this morning I started packing bottled water to the bus and pumping it into the tank.

I walked out the door this morning and met Salvatore walking up to the bus. Salvatore makes his living in the winter by buying fish at Huatabampito, about 50 miles from here and reselling it in Alamos. We have got to know him and his family over the years and have visited their house. We recognized each other immediately - he hadn't seen the bus before of course. His business has a new innovation. Previously his equipment consisted of a cooler with a rope around the middle. He would get off the bus from Huatabampo, heft the cooler up on his back, hang onto the rope and head out across town. Now he has a two wheeled cart that someone gave him to carry the cooler on & it makes a huge difference for him.

We had a great visit over coffee and blueberry muffins this morning. One of his brothers is currently working in Canada and he would like to investigate that possibility. He does OK for work in the winter when the gringos are here but I think life is pretty hard in the summer. We're going out to visit the family again a week from Sunday - before then I will do some research to see what the requirements are for him to get a work visa to Canada. I tried to discourage him as I did for Elsira and Sergio but it is hard for them to understand that things aren't perfect in Canada. The economy is really gathering steam down here & I think the real opportunities over the next decade will be here rather than in the US & Canada but they don't see it that way.

I gave up on the bus ever settling down on the stoppers yesterday & bled the air off the airbags. One side had gone down but the other side was still holding air and we were getting tired of sleeping uphill. I'm going to have to either put in a compressor to keep the bags up or put in an easy way to bleed the air off and let it go down everytime we stop. Its nice having it down because it is lower to get in and out of but we need some way to get it down quickly and evenly. We're really level here - once we get all four corners down - so I am going to install some levels that I have been carrying around for years. It will be nice to pull into a site and know immediately whether we are even close to level before I get out of the seat.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alison - you can't post here!

Jorgito's mom is learning to post here but she was very concerned that Alison not be able to post. I assured her that even if I say something really dumb that bugs the H out of Al she still can't post a response.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hola from Alamos

Its 6:00 AM (the locals think its 5 but they're wrong) and the roosters are already hard at it - we must be back in Alamos. What a lot of changes 4 years have brought. The road in here used to be pretty scary - narrow lanes with no shoulders, I really wasn't looking forward to herding the moneypit over it. Instead yesterday we found a wide, new highway all the way from Navajoa. In fact the highways all the way down from the border have been considerably improved - on the average much better than Saskatchewan highways, maybe not up to Alberta standards but certainly up to US interstate standards. There's two new Pemex fuel stations on the west side of town which is a major help for us. The old Pemex station is almost right downtown - accessible with the bus but only with difficulty. I wasn't going to bother getting fuel here but now it will be easy.

We walked Carol & Virgil all around town in the early afternoon yesterday and then went looking for Manuel & Delphina. At their house we found a couple of kids from West Virginia who are boarding there while they study Spanish. They told us that Delphina's mother had died in the morning and that the family was at her mother's house but of course they didn't have a clue where that was other than "near the airport". That was too far too walk so we took the truck over there and instead looked for Sergio & Elsira's house which we had been to before. Four years is a long time though & it took us a while to find it. Then Elsira went with us over to Delphina's mother's. There was a huge crowd there - they had the casket in the yard just outside the little adobe house and the women were gathered around it probably reciting the prayer for the dead but I'm not real current on my catholic liturgy and especially so when it is in Spanish. We paid our respects and got out of there because we felt more than a little under-dressed for the occasion. Today we are going into Navajoa to drop off the stuff we brought for the orphanage so we will pick up some flowers and take them around to the house later.

Last evening we went for taquitos in town and then sat in the square watching the evening activity. There was a festival of some kind going on - our neighbours here told us it was a folkloric music festival before we left but it sure the hell didn't sound like folk music. I think it was an excuse for a party occasioned by the arrival in town of a small traveling midway such as you often see down here. All the kids were out dressed to the nines and walking around the square. The guy next to us is quite an authority but I'm not convinced he is as wise as he thinks he is. 3 rigs in this park (that would accomodate 100+) - 1 Manitoba, 1 Sask and one US. There sure aren't many people down here yet and even less Americans. There's 4 RV parks in town - we drove by 2 of them on the way in and saw one rig in one of them, the other looked abandoned. Tonight there should be two more rigs in from BC that we met up with at the border and again Friday night in Guaymas.

I had to thread the needle with the satellite dish through the trees around this site but as usual setting up on SatMex5 was a breeze. I hardly moved the dish from the time I set it up until I had the signal locked. Skype isn't working worth a damn though - I tried to phone mother from Guaymas & that was a complete disaster. Last night I tried to phone Dick to let him know about Delphina's mom and that was a total disaster as well. I "upgraded" Skype last night - not sure what that means other than a 26 meg download but I will try phoning someone today to see if it made any difference. Once the sun gets up I'll get some pictures of this site posted. Its so pretty.

We have a camp cat that is almost a dead ringer for George only smaller. George is more than a little concerned. We fed it a bit yesterday so I expect it will hang around while we are here. I told George he'll have to watch his attitude or we'll trade him in. He seemed a lot more cuddly last night - perhaps it is working.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Update from Guaymas

We're running a day later than we expected. When we got to Nogales our travel buddies needed a day to get ready to actually cross the border - they had to buy propane, buy insurance, go to the post office, etc. We thought they might have had some of that done ahead of time but apparently not so we decided to wait a day for them. It was nice to have the day off although we would have liked to get on with it too.

On the way down to Nogales we stopped at Home Depot in Tucson to pick up some carpentry supplies for the mission in Navajoa. That turned into more of an adventure than I was planning for. The freeway in Tucson has been under construction for as long as we have been coming down here and that is going on 10 years now. Its absurd. They just don't seem to be able to get it together. Flagstaff's road system is a complete screwup, Tucson is perpetually under construction and Phoenix is probably my favorite city in North America to drive in. And they're all in the same state, within a 1/2 day's drive of each other.

When we got to Mi Casa in Nogales it was considerably fuller than we have seen in the past. Its a pretty down at the heels campground on its best days and it is looking pretty rough now. We probably won't stay there again. For all we got there we might as well have been on the parking lot at the Safeway on the south side of town.

Coming into Mexico yesterday was typical. They tried to make us back up in the pylons at the 1st border crossing. That wasn't going to happen. Then I got the stupidest person on the face of the earth to do my vehicle import papers. Fortunately there was a shift change. Marilyn got the import certificate for the bus and was waiting while doofus accomplished nothing. Then the shift change showed up so doofus shut down his computer and left. The new guy was as good as doofus was bad so I finally got the hologram. Carol was having a bit of trouble getting the certificate for their towed so we waited for her. Then when we got to the actual customs entry there was nobody there. They were all milling around a 1/2 ton over on the car entry side - we rolled through S L O W L Y but nobody seemed to care about us or the trucks rolling through with us so we kept on going.

I'm looking forward to getting to Nogales to get the moneypit washed off. The trucklet is covered with soot on both sides - the engine exhausts on the road side and the generator exhausts on the curb side so both sides of the towed vehicle get coated. There's a "car wash" right next to Dolisa that I have taken vehicles to in the past so we should be squeaky clean tonight.

Mama just got up and the sun is starting to peek over the horizon so it is time to do something useful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Headin' down the highway - lookin' for adventure

Well - we're out of the deep freeze - finally. Regina was challenging to say the least - the diesel furnace packed it in while we were still in Saskatoon so Regina at -30 was a serious challenge. But we made it out of the cold yesterday. Sunday night we were south of Great Falls and then we came all the way to Kanab (southern Utah) on Monday.

Customs was a breeze. Its funny - Marilyn & I were talking about this yesterday - we always worry about US & Canadian customs but never Mexican customs. We know that the Mexicans will be unscrupulously polite. The whole Mexican border experience may be a complete muddle - everything may have changed from yesterday, let alone last year and we expect it to take a long time but we don't worry about capricious ignorance. We do worry about someone having a bad day and taking it out on us when we cross into the US or back into Canada. Yesterday though was a treat. The guy looked at our passports, gave them back and said "did anyone ask you to bring anything into the US?" Of course I said "No". He said "odafaia lsdifl ndew sodi" I said "Pardon me?" He said "Have a nice trip" And that literally was it. There was a line up 1/4 of a mile long coming into Canada but we drove right up to the window on the US side. So it took less than a minute total.

The trip to Great Falls was uneventful, dry pavement and great conditions. We should have kept on but I was getting tired so we shut down for the night. Monday I woke up to light snow but the road quickly turned into a mess and it was tough going until we were nearly out of Montana. The picture is taken up in Monida pass. If you look closely you can see the reflector stakes alongside the road. They are about 3' high and they have 3' extensions added to them for the winter. That is because the snowplows use them to gauge where the edge of the pavement is and the snow ridges in the pass get so high that the stakes get buried. Fortunately there's not that much snow there - yet.

Jorgito got much braver on this trip. Up until now he has travelled under the futon. And never come out while we were moving except for very brief periods. We don't know if it was the cover of darkness or if he is just getting accustomed to our nomadic life but Sunday night there he was wanting to be picked up and he spent most of the evening in Marilyn's lap. Monday he was in my way while I was trying to handle the snow pack and blowing snow early in the morning and then he just naturally settled into Marilyn's lap for a large part of the day.

Last night we arrived in Kanab very late and found our way to the Hitch'n Post campground. Its pretty de-classe but adequate although what they call a pull-through site is a little different than what I would have expected. This morning I got the satellite set up and switched over to SatMex 5 so now we are good to central or south America. Not that we are likely to go there - this year. In theory us tripod users have some special hoops to jump through to switch satellites so I was understandably sceptical when the guy who sold me this system absolutely assured me that it was no problem. Until I had actually made the switch I was reserving judgement but if all the switches go as smoothly as the one this morning did then it truly is no problem. We need to switch each time we move north to south or back because the footprint of the northern satellite doesn't go far enough south & the footprint of SatMex 5 doesn't go far enough north.

This afternoon we've got some housekeeping to do and we need to get ready for an early departure tomorrow morning. Tomorrow night we are supposed to meet up with a couple in Nogales in preparation for helping them cross the border for the first time. More from Alamos.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


So the plan was that I was going to get up early, fire up the Aqua Hot, (diesel furnace) let it warm up while we had breakfast & then we were going to do the final packing for our departure tomorrow morning. I didn’t get up all that early but it wasn’t late either, went out and flipped the thermostat up and listened. I only have experience with one Aqua Hot but if they are all like this one its no problem to tell if they are running. This one ROARS when it is running. This morning it kind of mumbled. Not good.

Sure enough it went through its start cycle a few times and then showed a start fault. I buggered around with it until I got cold but no joy. Did I mention – it was -30 or worse here this morning – I didn’t actually look at a thermometer until noon and it was only -22 then. After breakfast and more buggering around I finally gave up on the Aqua Hot and plugged in the block heater. I also dragged out my 75,000 BTU construction heater and stuffed it up against the rear bumper. Then I went to town and bought some Melt and dumped that in the tank. And I hooked up the boost charger & plugged in the battery blankets and put a magnetic heater on the pan. The first rule of cold weather diesels is “always park the noisy end closest to the electric panel”.

I managed to wait until about 12:30 and then gave it a shot of go juice in the little SS hole. And the big 8-92 lit up first turn so that was the first good thing that had happened. Then I thought I might as well try the Kubota cuz it had been getting all the waste heat off the construction heater. And like all good Kubotas it lit up right away too. So I let both the engines run for about an hour and then tried the Aqua Hot again. Sure enough that time it started roaring too.

Then we waited for about an hour so the worst of the chill was off and started the last minute packing. There was quite a pile of "stuff" by the back door waiting to go to the bus. We're going to stop for a while at an orphanage in Navajoa - maybe give them a hand with construction. We asked them what they needed and they said bedding & towels. What a bit of good luck - we just happen to have a bunch of bedding and towels that are surplus so we had all that packed into about 6 garbage bags which made the pile look even bigger than it really was. It took about 3 hours but we got everything stowed away in various nooks and crannys. Its really amazing how much room there is in the bus. The front bay is FULL but most of that is the stuff for the orphanage so we will get rid of that as soon as we get into Mexico.

Yesterday Marilyn took G II for his shots & checkup. As far as we can tell all that he needs to do to get into the US is look alive. He's pretty good at that but we went ahead and got his shots and a certificate saying that he has his shots. My guess is that no one will pay him 2 seconds of attention at either of the borders but time will tell. The shots really hit him hard - he was pretty dopey yesterday and - most unusual of all - not hungry. Today he sort of has his appetite back but he's still pretty dopey. We can't skin him and make him into a rug and import the rug to the US. It appears we can skin him in the US, tan his hide and export him as a rug but bringing him in is completely verboten.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

pretty busy last 2 weeks

I've been everywhere from Winnipeg to Red Deer - I am SO ready to leave here. We rolled out our NH3 training in Winnipeg 2 weeks ago this coming Monday, then went to Saskatoon the same week. A couple of days at home and then back out to Red Deer. The only good thing about the Red Deer trip was that I got to listen to Sask. beat B.C. while I was driving. It took me 5 hours to get to Saskatoon (should be 2.75 or 3 hours max) because the weather was so bad. And why is it that some moron always wants to start a parade when the highways get bad? I don't mind that someone gets out there and is scared stupid and wants to drive slow. What I mind is the idiot behind that person who hasn't got the balls to pass or the brains to stay back so someone else can pass.

I got back home late Wed and spent the end of the week cleaning up a farm business assessment file that needs to be done before we leave. And I got the bus out of the shop. That was a major project. We have close to 2 feet of snow in the yard. Denton came & plowed out in front of the shop but I still wasn't sure that I could get out. I seriously considered hanging the tire chains on the tires but fortunately talked myself out of that plan. It was pretty cold too so it took a little ingenuity to get the big diesel running but everything went off without a problem. I needed to take the bus to town to fill the propane & weld up a crack on the hitch. All that is done now & the bus is parked so that it is aimed at the highway. Only 4 more sleeps until we pull out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Of pigs & polar caps

So how are they related? Well, if you believe hisownself the ex-President, the polar caps are about to make like the last of the icecubes in the bottom of your drink glass. And that's supposedly all our fault so we need to do everything in our power to reduce our dastardly emissions into the pristine atmosphere. Doing everything in our power gets translated into subsidizing the hell out of impossible technologies, like making fuel out of grain. That in turn drives the price of grain to unheard of heights which devastates the North American livestock industry. But its all for the greater good because we are preventing the loss of the icecaps, which is obviously our fault.

I had a vigorous back and forth email exchange with Kevin Hursh over the past 2 days concerning the future of the so-called bio-fuel industry. I initiated the exchange when I dismissed bio-fuel as a pipe dream to which Kevin responded that it wasn't really a pipe dream given that it consumed 3 billion bushels of US corn last year although he was prepared to concede that the industry was "government subsidized". To which I responded that it was more a case of "government maintained" than subsidized and time will tell just how sustainable that situation is. By which time it may be too late for the North American livestock industry.

Then tonight comes an email from my good friend Bryan St. George which included a reference to this website which is devoted to debunking the nonsense of global warming. Bryan's note included an excerpt from an essay by John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel wherein he attacks the pseudo-science of manmade global warming. Personally I don't really mind a bit of global warming - I'm hoping to experience some personal warming starting in about 3 weeks. Only 12 more sleeps until we start out on the great adventure.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What constitutes news?

I think Brian Mulroney will go down as one of Canada's better prime ministers - perhaps one of our best prime ministers. If he had done nothing more than NAFTA he should be honoured forever as one of the most effective governments of modern times. However, the current media circus around Schreiber's so-called revelations has cast a pall over the Harper government's relationship to Mulroney.

So what does Harper do? What we would expect based on previous Liberal history is obfuscation, avoidance, stonewalling. But that's not Steven's style. No - he announces an inquiry and he does it immediately. I like his style.

I said to Marilyn the morning after the Sask party victory that it is a sad commentary on our political process when it constitutes news that a politician does what he says he is going to do. At Wall's first press conference he announced that he is going to immediately introduce legislation to fix election dates in Sask. Now this should come as no surprise to any sentient being living in Saskatchewan. I wouldn't say it was a major campaign plank but it clearly was a commitment during the election. So the fact that he went ahead and did it shouldn't be news. It should be news if he didn't do it but our expectations from politicians have sunk so low that it now is news when a pol does what he says he is going to do.

Harper does what he says he is going to do too. He's going to reform the Senate, he's going to lower taxes, he's going to stay the course in Afghanistan, he's going to clean up government. So when there is an appearance of impropriety involving an old friend of his what does he do? He does the right thing. That shouldn't be news but at the sad low that our system has descended to it is news when a politician does the right thing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Good bloody riddance

It looks like the people of Saskatchewan have spoken and spoken for sensible, forward thinking, logical, legitimate leadership. It was long overdue.

In his victory speech Brad characterized the results as a triumph of Hope over Fear - what a perfect summation of the Saskatchewan psyche. We live in a perpetual depression mentality in Saskatchewan. Where else do you have to be ashamed of being successful? Where else would a farmer buy the same colour and model of pickup so his neighbours won't know he can afford a new truck? Where else do neighbours resent your success the way they do in Saskatchewan?

While we are away this winter I promise to write an essay with some substantiation for the following premise: Sask. was "ahead" of Alberta up until the time we elected Tommy Douglas. I'm sick and tired of hearing about the supposed saviour of Saskatchewan/the World. The CCF is just the Canadian example of a philosophy that has failed miserably everywhere it has been attempted. Think Soviet Union, Cuba or Great Britain - socialism doesn't work. Full stop.

More later.

Friday, November 2, 2007

what a moron!

Bob Fyfe was just on CTV talking about the new attack ads that the Torys are getting set to run. Surprise, surprise - they are going to show Stefan standing on the steps of the House of Commons telling us that he is going to raise the GST rate if Canadians should be stupid enough to make him PM. Thank goodness for the attack ads is all I can say. Most Canadians are too lethargic to pay attention to national affairs. They need to be told that the Libs have elected a moron for a leader. That way if they are stupid enough to elect him at least they were warned.

And the other big news for the day? Stock Day says "if you commit a crime in another country you should expect to face the music in that other country". No more running home to Canada's resort prisons. Good on ya Stock. I don't see any reason why we should feed and house perverts, pedophiles and murderers who run afoul of the law in some other country.

Its about time we had some common sense leadership and decisions coming out of Ottawa. Maybe that's the real reason the dollar is on a runaway trajectory - maybe the rest of the world has noticed that the leadership in Ottawa has a brain for a change.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hallowe'en & the hooligans are out in the House

The goblins are out in force in the House of Commons today. The speaker looks a little frustrated.

Its been a while since I wrote anything here - lots of things have happened. We are scrambling to get ready to leave for Mexico. Today I pointed out to Marilyn that 5 weeks from tonight we should be sleeping in Mi Casa campground in Nogales.

Last week I got all the airbags in the bus changed. It had been leaking somewhere for over a year now. A few weeks ago we had it in Saskatoon & I got the STC shop to diagnose the leak. It was in the two front airbags on the driver's side and it seemed to me that, if they were both leaking then the rest probably weren't far behind. I hired a tire shop in town to change the bags but in hindsight I could probably have done it myself. There's a lot of these heavy duty mechanic jobs that I am nervous to tackle for the first time but, once I've seen it done, I wouldn't hesitate to do it the next time. In this case we changed the shocks at the same time but the tire shop didn't want to tackle two of them. I ended up changing them myself with remarkably little incident (translation: I didn't lose much bark off my hands in the process!)

Marilyn is hurrying to finish up the projects that she needs to have completed before we leave and I am doing likewise. I have 3 farm business assessments on the go that have to be completed before we leave. I also have a 4th one on the go but it can be completed in February so I intend to do the writing while we are away. And yesterday I landed about a week's worth from CAAR that doesn't need to be done until we are on the road and can be sent back electronically so it is starting to come together. I'd still like to find about another 2 weeks worth of work that can be done on the road.

At the same time I have a list of must-do projects on the bus to get it ready for more full-time occupancy. We put a multi-function printer in the bar cabinet this fall and wired that area with network connections but it still needs some printer cabling to give us easier access to the printer & I want to put some shelves under the printer for paper storage. This weekend I am going to put some drawers under the foot of the bed to facilitate easier access to that space. I'm also overdue for an oil change on the generator and I need to get all the yard equipment put away for the winter before it decides to snow here.

Last Saturday we left really early in the morning for Medicine Hat, watched Marlan win a football game that started at noon, went to his windup banquet that evening and then drove home again, arriving back here almost exactly 24 hours after we had left. I'd like to get down to Saskatoon to watch another Huskies game but the way they are playing they may be done playing in Saskatoon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A well written throne speech

I watched Michaele read the throne speech last night with a couple of thoughts running through my mind. First I had to acknowledge that I was wrong about this GG. When Martin appointed her I thought he was pandering to the feminist and immigrant communities. He probably was but, in spite of himself, he appointed someone who has acquitted herself admirably well. She holds office in an anachronism, she shouldn't be there at all and she appears smart enough to know that. And she may look better than she really is by virtue of being compared most immediately to the abject failure that preceded her. Despite all those qualifications I believe she is doing us proud as Canadians - if we must have a GG then Michaele Jean embodies the qualities that the GG should have.

Harper, despite being painted early as an idealogue who would never compromise, wouldn't be able to restrain his rogue members, would be too rigid to survive in a minority, etc., etc, has confounded them all. Here he is, well into his second year of a minority government with his official opposition in complete disarry, implementing his common sense agenda in a fair and remarkably flexible manner. He just replied to Jack Layton in the house. Layton was quivering in Diefenbakkian rage to emphasize how the NDP could NEVER support this budget because it ignored so and so and so and so ad nauseum. When he finally wound down Harper stood up and simply said "If the NDP hadn't announced two weeks ago that they would oppose the throne speech then they might have actually listened to it and decided to support it."

Our country is in good hands for a change.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back in Nipawin

We got home around noon on Sunday. I had an FBA meeting Saturday night just outside Naicam. That got cut a little short when there was a major power outage in the Naicam area. We could probably have come home Saturday but it was nice not rushing to get home. Sunday morning it was so foggy we could hardly see across the road so we dawdled around for a while but it didn't look like the fog was going to lift. Finally we set out a little before 10:00 and took our time until the fog finally lifted somewhere before Melfort.

Now we have the bus emptied out, the water drained, carpet shampooed and scotchguarded. I am trying to find someone to change out the airbags on it before I put it away for winter. It has a leak that has been steadily getting worse for the past year. I couldn't find it so I took it to STC in Saskatoon and they finally found that both the front drivers' side bags are leaking. They didn't have the bags in stock so they couldn't change them & I was just as happy that they couldn't do the work. I should be able to find someone local who can do the work for 2/3 of what STC would think it was worth.

RJ & I had a plan all worked out to go to Medicine Hat together to watch one of Marlan's games but that fell apart when we discovered we were going on the wrong day. I'm still going to go watch the game but RJ won't be able to come with me.

We're counting down the days until Karla leaves now. It doesn't seem like 6 months ago that she arrived. A lot of things have happened since then - the time has flown by.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October in Regina

We agreed yesterday that October in Regina is a bad combination. It will be a few years before we can organize our lives so that we don't have to spend October in Saskatchewan at all but it is definitely a goal worth pursuing.

Father's condition seems to have stabilized but at a much lower level than he was at as recently as a month ago. We stopped in here at the start of the Mexican connection visit to Banff. The first night we were here father took Carlos-Juan and I downstairs in search of their humidifier. He used his walker but he was quite mobile and pretty animated. Now he struggles to get around in his wheelchair. And that is in the space of 2-1/2 weeks. Its a good thing none of us know what the future brings - the good or the bad would be more than we could handle if we knew it was coming.

We will leave here Saturday in the early afternoon. I have a CFBAS client to meet with at Naicam. We'll probably spend Sat. night somewhere in or around Naicam because that meeting will likely go late. Then we'll go the rest of the way home. Its probably time to put the bus away for the winter. I have some work that I need to get done on it - new air bags for sure - but I think its time to do the winterizing thing. Its next big trip will be destination Mexico.

The satellite connection has worked really well. I'm glad we had a chance to test it while it was still easy to phone support but I have only had to do that twice and the 2nd time I shouldn't have phoned. I've got a cable that intermittently gives problems. I think it just has the centre core cut a little too short on one end so that if it isn't tightened up absolutely tight then it doesn't make connections. We have to do something with the LNB for the TV signal too. It uses the same dish but it is offset because it is trying to bounce off the dish to a different satellite. I think that is likely a bit of a bodge that will require some fine tuning at each setup to make sure we have a good signal. Right now I don't have any convenient way to adjust the bracket. In fact the bracket is held on with two bungie cords and a large piece of cardboard in order to get the right angle now. Its probably lost the cardboard in the rain today. That will have to be improved but it isn't really a high priority.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

P.A. Again

We're going round in circles - back in P.A. for a couple of days so Marilyn can have some meetings & so I can get the boat home & winterized. We came up from Saskatoon through Wakaw & there is a lot of crop still out once you get north of Wakaw. There were a few combines going today but not much dust flying so it must still be pretty tough.

Tomorrow I'm going to take Karla back to Nipawin and put the boat away for the winter. We had it in the water at Medicine Hat. Karla and Marlan were brave enough to go into 48 degree water but I was not. I like to change the oil in the fall, run some antifreeze through the block and put fuel stabilizer in it before I tuck it away for the winter so I will get that done tomorrow. Once I get back here Marilyn & I are going to move to Buffalo Lookout east of Regina for a week or so.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Camp Canitz

We arrived back in Saskatoon yesterday. The night before we were in Kenaston. We thought the campground there had full services - turns out they have only power and they turn the power off on Oct. 1, which just happened to be the day we arrived. So there we were sitting in the bus with the generator running when CJ came in to tell us that there were "dos viejos" who wanted to talk to us. Roughly translated that means 2 oldtimers, so Marilyn went out to see what was happening. When she came back in she said that it was the camp attendants, she had asked if they could leave the power on for one more day and they had agreed but they needed to flip some breakers until they figured out which one we were on. So I went over to the shack to thank them and it turned out the "2 viejos" were Ray and Shirley (can't remember the last name) who used to combine for Grandpa. I wouldn't have recognized them and the last time they saw me I was probably 13 or 14 but we had a good visit.

Later that evening we went out to Marvin & Marilyn's where we met up with Paula who took us over to their place to see the new kittens, pat Shae-Lynne's 4H heifer and ride Marvin's horse. Then we went back to Marvin's for coffee. Brad & Tammy showed up with their two kids because they knew we were in the area. We all had a great visit - I think the Mexican connection was a bit bored but the rest of us were enjoying ourselves.

We tried to organize breakfast with Ron and Norma but that didn't work out so Karla ended up taking her parents shopping while Marilyn & I got set up in Blaine & Jacquie's yard. We had supper with Blaine & Jacquie - RJ showed up after football so CJ & Adriana got to meet him.

This morning I took the bus to the STC garage for some diagnostic work. I've had an air leak that has been getting a little worse for the last year but I haven't been able to find it. They found it this morning but didn't have the parts to fix it. However, now that I know what it is it won't be that big a deal to get it fixed. Then I met up with Marilyn, Karla and her parents and we put them on the plane to Calgary. We've been waiting anxiously all day - hoping that we don't hear from them until about 8:00 or 9:00 tonight. Anything earlier than that will mean a problem.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Medicine Hat

We broke camp in the snow at Banff yesterday. Our visitors thought the snow was so pretty and so wonderful. For us it was just a cruel reminder of what is yet to come. It was kind of pretty if you didn't know what it precedes.

We stopped at Allison & Camille's on the way past Calgary. They are excited because they have an offer in on a property - more like an estate - east of Calgary. They would like to sell the place they are living in and working out of and move to something with a large shop and better house. They have found a place east of Calgary, just past the highway that goes north to Beiseker and made an offer. It sounds like the bloom has gone off the property boom in Alberta. Up until now you have had to make offers above the asking price, hard as that is to imagine. They made an offer substantially below the asking price and the realtor initially told them to bugger off. Apparently she has now called them back and they are doing the dance around the price. They expect to come to an agreement eventually.

After an extended visit with Al & Camille we got back on the road and arrived in M.Hat around 7:30. I got us set up and the others went into town to shop & eventually ended up at the Casino. I wasn't sorry to miss that. They took the truck to the carwash where Marlan was working so they got to meet him and then he came out here to visit me & Jorgito. Today we are going to take the boat to a nearby lake and see if we can get one last run for the season. Its going to be cold - VERRY COLD - but its the last run of the year. Karla is anxious to show her parents what she can do - I'm not sure she will go through with it but time will tell.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lake Louise

Today we loaded everybody in the camioneta & headed up to Lake Louise on the old highway. Sure enough, about halfway up to Castle Mountain campground, there was some traffic sitting on the road and, when we caught up to them we saw the bear that they were watching. He was ambling his way up the hill away from the highway in fairly heavy bush so we didn't see him for long. But he whetted Adrianna's appetite for more wildlife. Later in the day I overheard Karla admonishing her mother in Spanish about how lucky she had been to see even one "Oso" and how she wasn't likely to see another ever, let alone today. Later in the day we did see the ass end of the most immense elk. He was standing well back into the forest but we could see him fairly clearly. He was one of those guys whose rack is so huge that he actually had difficulty walking through the trees. His harem was even further into the trees. For a while he stared over his shoulder at us and then he carefully picked his way deeper into the forest.

We had lunch in the day lodge at the ski hill after wandering around at the lake and in the hotel. We didn't stay outside for long though - 4 degees here today and it was trying to snow up at the ski lodge. It won't be long before they have snow on the ground up there. The last time Karla was here we skied on the Nov. 11 weekend - this year looks promising if it stays this cold.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Estamos en Banff

We arrived here last night at about 8:00 - early enough that everyone could see the mountains & too late to do much after we arrived. We got everyone packaged up & off to the hot springs before they closed but that was about it for last night.

This morning I arranged for us to move to a neighbouring site because there was no way I was going to get a connection in the site they originally put us in. It took a bit of doing even in the 2nd site but we got connected. Now we are getting packed up to go into town for some sight-seeing, photography and (no doubt) shopping.

(later) We had a pretty full afternoon. Banff got photographed thoroughly. First we wandered through the Banff Springs Hotel (actually, everyone except me wandered through the hotel - I sat in the lobby & waited). Then we headed downtown to where Banff Avenue is under construction - no doubt our tax dollars at work. Although it didn't look like all the tax dollars in question were getting real good value. The disarray on the avenue didn't deter the shoppers. After we got through that ordeal we drove up around the Minnewanka loop where we saw a bull elk with a large herd of cows and a challenger standing on a hill trying to muster up enough courage to pick a fight. We waited a while but the herd owner seemed more interested in hurrying his cows away than in picking a fight with the interloper so we kept on driving.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lopez family returns

The travellers returned from Waskesiu in time for supper. It sounds like everyone had a wonderful time. They got some sunshine but it was a bit colder than they are used to. The big deal was the wildlife, as I expected. They saw a skunk, some geese and numerous elk, including a bull who didn't much like their presence.

We impressed on everyone tonight that we are really leaving at 12:30 tomorrow. Not 12:43 or 1:09 or whenever Carlos is ready to leave but at 12:30 exactly. I think I have them believing that I will leave with or without them which is OK if that's what it takes to get on the road. They have the whole morning to get ready after all. Marilyn is leaving earlier in the morning for an afternoon meeting in Regina. I'm going to take them down to Ft. Qu'Appelle and then along the north side of the valley as long as we actually get away at 12:30.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Good work Bruce Allen

CBC was whining this morning about some radio personality in Vancouver who had the temerity to say that immigrants to Canada should come expecting to become Canadian citizens. And if they don't like that idea then perhaps they should choose another destination. What a concept!

The man's name is Bruce Allen. I already sent the radio station a note saying that it is about time someone started saying what Bruce is saying. For too long the requirement for Canadian citizenship has been that the applicant can fog a mirror. If that's all it takes to be a Canadian then we are all in trouble.

Speaking of idiotic ideas, Stephane Dion is on the radio snivelling about losing Outremont. I love it - the long knives are out in the Libs. Big revelation this morning --- wait for it --- the loss was Stephane's fault.

It was like a family reunion earlier this week in Saskatoon. We went in a day early to pick up Carlos Juan & Adrianna so that I could attend the CropLife conference. As I was walking into the Radisson Hotel I met Tom Hewson and later in the evening I ran into Stuart Smyth - I guess that's "DR." Stuart Smyth. There was a large contingent from the university there, both faculty and students. Tom was there with the Barley Growers. We spent a few minutes bashing the Wheat Board which is always refreshing. One of the speakers at the conference was from the CWB. He was dead from the neck up 30 years ago when I knew him at university and has been working in the rarified atmosphere at the board ever since. Its not hard to figure out why the board is the way it is when you know some of the people involved.

CJ, Adrianna and Karlita left for Waskesiu late yesterday morning. It takes quite a while to get CJ mobile. Karla was flying around like a fart in a mitt getting everything organized. She phoned from Waskesiu around 5:00 to say that they were checked in and very happy. I phoned her this morning after the bus depot phoned to say that their bags were in Nipawin. It sounded like they had a full day planned. She has booked a boundary bog tour and there is some kind of a film festival in town this weekend so they will be busy. I think the highlight for CJ and Adrianna will likely be the elk. At this time of year with the tourists gone the townsite is over run with elk. Mexico has pretty well hunted all its wildlife to extinction so seeing wild animals is a real treat for them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

They arrived!

Well - we're home from Saskatoon, complete with Carlos Juan & Adrianna. But their trip was not without incident. They managed to miss their connection in Denver. We're not quite sure what happened - likely nobody in the world is absolutely sure what happened but my guess is that it involved a fairly relaxed attitude toward timetables on the part of the travellers in question. I was at the Croplife conference all day yesterday so I missed the excitement but Marilyn somehow determined that they had missed their flight, figured out what flight they were likely on from Denver to Calgary, determined that they were in fact on that flight and then I think they talked to them while they were in Calgary. Now that I am remembering the story I think she got a call from Air Canada in Denver to sort out most of the details.

All that excitement meant that a) they arrived a few minutes after midnight and b) their bags are "somewhere". In theory their bags on enroute to Saskatoon from Winnipeg and will arrive here by bus tomorrow. I will believe that when it actually happens but they will likely get here before we leave for Regina on Monday.

Today we drove home in the rain from Saskatoon after having a morning visit with Jackie. We stayed in Blaine & Jackie's yard for the two days we were in Saskatoon. We're going to stop there again the night before we put the travellers on the plane back to Mexico so that we can have a better visit.

Karla is having a great time being a tour guide. My spanish is adequate for conversations about most matters that come up but I am reaching for words a lot of the time. Its hard to explain why we swath, for instance, with my limited vocabulary. Tonight we will have a houseful for an early Thanksgiving dinner. Karla has invited a couple of her friends from Nipawin and, as it turns out, it is Carlos Juan's (CJ's) birthday today. If the suitcases show up, Karla is going to take her parents to Waskesiu tomorrow. Otherwise I guess we will have to make a new plan.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Karla is back home

Karla came home Sunday from Calgary. She got into Saskatoon Thursday morning where her friend Glenda met her. Then she partied the weekend away and came back here Sunday hoarse and tired. They went to the Beyonce concert at Sask Place on Friday night but I think her lack of voice was because they spent the rest of the weekend in various bars and at house parties. The pace of life around here must seem like a morgue to her. She spent the day today whipping the yard back into shape. It has missed her.

Marilyn got her flowers put out finally over the weekend. Last spring she came home from Boughen's auction sale with the back of my full size 1/2 ton full of various perennials. They have been living in various locations around the yard all summer but now they are in permanent homes around the house. I'm sure they will look very nice next summer but right now they just look like a lot of work.

I believe I may have fixed my fuel leakdown problem on the bus. It used to be the easiest starting diesel I have ever owned but this summer developed a hard start problem which I suspected was caused by fuel leaking back to the tank while it was sitting. There were a couple of possible causes, one of which was a bad check valve in the line. I tried a few other possibilities and then spent about a month tracking down a replacement check vavle. I put that in while we were out at Walkers' a couple of weeks ago but I wasn't sure whether the problem was solved and, truth be known, I'm not 100% sure yet. The problem is that it didn't always exhibit a hard start so I can't be sure that it is fixed even though I have had a couple of good starts. Yesterday we had the genset running for about 4 hours and that should have caused a problem for sure but it didn't which leads me to believe that the problem may be fixed. We'll leave tomorrow around noon in the bus, go to Saskatoon and spend two nights there before returning home with Carlos Juan & Adrianna.

Bad night for the Libs tonight. So sad - too bad. May it be the first of many. Stephane is on the TV right now trying to justify his poor showing in Quebec but I'm sure he can hear the knives being sharpened in the background.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One last swing at the idiot

The more I read about the famous pulp mill deal the more disgusted I get. This deal was cobbled together and announced in such haste that the mayor of P.A. was barely able to get home in time to attend the announcement. He said that it took heroic efforts on the part of his travel agent to get him there in time. There's only one reason this "deal" is getting announced. The reason is that Myron Kowalsky and Elton Lautermilch are "retiring" - running as fast as they can away from a sinking ship might be a more accurate description of what they are doing. Between the fact that two seats in P.A. that have been socialist forever are now up for grabs and the fact that Lon Borgersen in Sask Rivers is now having to actually fight for his seat there are 3 socialist ridings that have gone from solid to maybe. That's the reason for this hasty charade of an agreement. The NDP barely squeaked in 4 years ago - this time they will be in for the fight of their lives.

Thank goodness Brad Wall had the guts to say that the deal is off if he gets elected. Most politicians wouldn't have the guts to be that adamant. The temptation must have been to fudge his answer in order to bolster conservative support in P.A. but he didn't take the easy way out. Now watch for Domtar to try to get something in writing that requires the government to pay a penalty if they back out of the deal. That shouldn't be all that hard to negotiate given the stellar display of negotiation skills that Lorne has shown so far.

The sooner we dump this bunch of losers the better off the whole province will be. The claim that politicians are like a baby's diapers was never truer than it is right now in Sask.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The futon has landed

Wow - two posts the same morning. Can you tell I'm excited? More like relieved actually. It went together, went to the bus and actually fit this time. It doesn't bear too close inspection but it looks good in the picture. What the picture doesn't capture is how much room it has freed up. It feels like there is actually an aisle down the middle of the living room now. Time will tell if the mattress will stay in position. The back of the futon stops below the level of the bottom of the windows and the mattress top actually rests against the window ledge. That was deliberate because there is a recess under the windows that the futon now sits back into which is part of the extra space that we have created. I also cut the seat bottom a little shorter than the design. Well - - actually I cut it a lot shorter and then had to lengthen it again after the 1st design flaw showed up.

Now I've got a couple of days work ahead of me to put the shop back in order. It has slowly deteriorated over the course of the project to the point where it is now in complete disarray. And whaddaya know? I just previewed this and figured out where my missing 3/8 ratchet is - that would be it lying on the counter next to the right armrest of the new futon.

Not much more politics and a futon

Its worse that I thought. Turns out Lorne's astute negotiations managed to get the province from zero liability for cleanup to $70 million. Man that was one masterful piece of negotiation - what a genius you are Lorne. I'm sorry I ever doubted your ability. So in exchange for taking on a $70 million cleanup liability and paying Domtar $100 million we the people get a money losing pulp mill complete with a radical union that doesn't want to work. This is after all the same union that pioneered the "wobble" as an alternative to an out and out work stoppage. Don't know what a "wobble" is? That's probably because it started at the P.A. pulp mill and maybe you never worked in a union shop. A "wobble" is where everyone sits on their lunch pail and wobbles. Don't believe me? You think I could actually make that up?

From one disaster to another - I have been rushing to get my newly built futon into the bus. I should have remembered my first rule. I am a carpenter, not a cabinetmaker. Remember the last time I thought I was ready to put it in the bus I discovered that my redesign had created the feature that the seat bottom didn't actually reach to the rail that it was supposed to rest on. So I made just a fine bed but, when you folded it up into a couch, the seat fell on the floor. But Thursday night I was finally ready - the last coat of finish was hard enough to move and assemble. I had the old futon torn apart ready to take out of the bus. Everything was good to go.

We dragged the pieces of the old futon out and carried the frame for the new one in. As I had hoped it fit neatly through the door but then .... oooooooppppppss. It was about 5" too wide to fit between the two cabinets on either end. I can't imagine how I managed to make that critical an error. I distinctly remember measuring that and it would have been dead simple to adjust the drawings for that dimension. Whatever the reason, I clearly didn't make the adjustment. So then everything has to go back out to the shop & I have to come up with a plan for a redesign AGAIN. This one, despite making me almost physically sick at the time, wasn't that big a deal. A couple of strategic cuts with the Skilsaw and some glue put everything back together at the right size (I hope). Along the way I was able to clean up some of the boogie fixes I had done to increase the seat depth so that wasn't all bad. Today we will find out if my fixes have worked.

We need to get the oak futon in the bus so we can move the metal futon that was in the bus to the house. We don't have a double width guest bed presently. Karlos Juan and Adrianna arrive Wednesday & we would like to be able to put them up in the house for the few nights that we are going to be home while they are here. We're going to put the metal futon in the spare bedroom/office so that we have a bed in there that doesn't take up the whole room for the 99% of the time that it isn't being a bed.

There are some CropLife meetings in Saskatoon this coming week so we are going to go to Saskatoon on Tuesday in time for a reception that evening. I can then catch some of the meetings on Wednesday before we pick up the Lopez Diaz Wednesday evening. We'll spend the night there and come home Thursday morning. There's also a "Train2Invest" seminar in Saskatoon Wednesday night. I'm not sure what to make of that outfit - they have been getting really good reviews in Grainews & I have talked to a couple of people who have been through their program who gave it really high marks. It still smells like snake oil to me but we're going to attend their seminar anyway and see what they have to say.

Karla is taking her parents to Waskesiu for the weekend - Marilyn & I will stay home and work to make up for some of the time we will be away the next week. Then we'll leave for Regina on Monday, spend all of Tuesday in Regina and head west on Wednesday morning for the great Banff adventure. Time to go find out why the futon won't fit this time. If it ever does fit I will post a picture of it in its new home. Later. (maybe much later for the photo)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Domtar shares will certainly go up

I have never had much use for Lorne Calvert but yesterday's announcement that the government of Sask. is going to buy the pulp mill that both Weyerhauser & Domtar have concluded is uneconomical just confirms my certainty that the man is a moron. This morning the newscasts are all focussed on whether this will mean new jobs in Prince Albert and what a wonderful thing it is for the P.A. economy. HELLO - has everyone taken leave of their senses? Its about making money. If it doesn't make money it doesn't work. End of story.

This is a pulp and paper mill with a list of problems longer than my arm. They are 1500 miles from tidewater making a product that the world increasingly doesn't want with a labour force that has a history of lacklustre work ethics and underproductivity. What incredible hubris would possess the provincial government to believe that they are wiser than the two largest paper producers in the world. What would possess them to believe that a government run operation could succeed where industry giants had failed?

And what joy must there be in the Domtar boardroom. I can almost hear the discussion now "OK guys - on the one hand we could do a site cleanup - let's say that might cost us 15 or 20 million but its kind of open ended and we could end up on the hook for years to come at the whim of SERM. On the other hand the province will give us $100 million. What should we do?" Gee, I wonder how long that decision took.

The really frightening aspect of this is that the Sask public is probably stupid enough to put this moron back into office because he has "saved the pulp mill". I guess the people truly do get the government they deserve.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday - change of plans

Marilyn's workshop got shortened dramatically. Only 3 people showed up for the session yesterday & one of them wasn't coming back today. So there was no workshop today.

Jorgito & I spent yesterday alone - I worked on a CFBAS file - he slept. Today was pretty laid back for everyone. We stayed in P.A. because I need to go to Maymont (b/n North Battleford & Saskatoon) on Monday to take some pictures for the CAAR training that I am developing.

Its definitely turning into fall now - the leaves in the campground are starting to turn yellow. I just checked a forecast on Accuweather and they are calling for 2" of snow accumulating overnight Tuesday. We could do without that but I guess it is inevitable. Getting away to Mexico at the end of November looks better (and more important) every day.

The bus is infested with mice. Not the gray, running around kind. More the fluorescent coloured fuzzy with a felt tail kind. Marilyn buys them in packages of 5 at the grocery store. George loses them. He has 20 hidden in the house somewhere. He has 3 hidden in the bus. The other two he drowns regularly. He is obsessed with water. He loves to perch on the top of a toilet bowl and dabble his paws in the water. If he is really thirsty he will drink but otherwise he likes to dip his paws in his water and then lick them off. And he really likes holding his mice underwater until they are thoroughly dead and then dragging them around the bus sopping wet.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Running back to P.A.

I see that this doesn't always work quite the way it was intended to - this is the 2nd time around for this post. I'm not sure it is like wine. It may not improve with age.

We are moved back to P.A. now. Here is the Datastorm map that keeps track of where our dish is located. Of course if you are reading this some time after this weekend then that map may not be accurate anymore but it will be interesting to see what it shows so I will leave that link in anyway.

Last night Marilyn cooked supper for our hosts. After supper we had a bit of a visit with Murray and Jill's daughter Alison who had just arrived home from Kananaskis. She is getting ready to go to university in San Bernardino, leaving at the end of next week with Murray to drive down there. We said our goodbyes last night because they all had to either go to work, go to school or sleep in this morning.

I had a morning meeting with Adelle Buettner who owns the business that provides contract administration to I.D.E.A. That is the group that has hired me to be their executive director. We ended up having lunch with Blaine Canitz who was their previous exec dir. Then I headed back out to the farm to get hooked up for the move to P.A.

The satellite setup took a little longer this time but it was nothing to do with the satellite. It turns out that the network cable that I reused to connect the modem to the router inside the bus wasn't such a bargain. I eventually gave up trying to make it work, went into P.A. and bought a new cable. Then I had to feed it through all the same tight spots that I had orignally fed the used cable through but everything is working just fine now. I've got some more renovating to do inside the bar to accomodate the router and the network cables. Right now we have a spaghetti bowl of cables across the floor and that isn't going to continue.

Marilyn is taking a course on screenwriting. She is at a lecture tonight and has workshops all weekend. I have lots of work to do, plenty of books to read, a cat to keep me company and a well stocked fridge so I think I will do OK. If we hadn't just been out to Shellbrook I would be going out there and I may still go there on Sunday for a little while.

On Monday I have to go over to Maymont to take some pictures for the CAAR training project I am working on. Then we will move back home whenever it works for Marilyn. If she needs to be on campus we will just stay here. If not, we'll go back to Nipawin for a while. We have to be in Saskatoon a week from this Wednesday to pick up Carlos Juan and Adrianna. I need to spend a few days at home between now and then in order to finish off the futon so that we can get the one that is in here now out and moved into the house. That way we will have a second double bed in the house as well as a guest bed in the bus.

Now - I'll try posting this again but I won't be closing this browser window until I am dead certain that this has posted.

Monday, September 3, 2007

An afternoon on the river

We spent a wonderful afternoon on the river in Saskatoon with Blaine, Jackie and their son Aaron. Marilyn lets us know she is finished her run when she does her signature "Rocky" finish. Sometimes she also has a rocky start but that is another matter altogether. Karla had a great afternoon on both the wakeboard and her skis. Here she is finishing up her wakeboard run in front of the Bessborough Hotel.

The famous Saskatoon River Landing area is in the background of this photo as well as two of the bridges that the Bridge City is named for.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Supper with RJ & Josh

Sept 1
Karla met the long lost Josh for coffee this afternoon. RJ came for lunch at the bus. He and I hung out for the afternoon, watched Murray & Thomas combine for a while and then met Marilyn, Karla & Josh for supper at Red Lobster. Josh seems OK - pretty smitten with Karla.
I spent a bunch of the past 2 days getting Marilyn's computer to work in its new environment. She doesn't need a whole lot of computing horsepower - she uses Word a lot and needs to be online reliably. Yesterday it all came together and she can now get into SIAST's remote desktop system which a good friend of ours assured us would be impossible with this satellite connection.
So far the only thing I have found that the satellite won't do reliably is stream audio. That's no big surprise I guess but it sure would have been nice to have CBC in Mexico. We can get radio feeds off the ExpressVu box so we won't be completely cut off from Canadian news but it would have been great to get our choice of audio feeds from across the country.

Friday, August 31, 2007

At Murray & Jill's

We moved everything we own to Saskatoon yesterday. Marilyn & I (and George) left home early early and drove the bus & truck to the Meath Park junction. Then we took the truck to Candle Lake to pick up the boat. We had a visit with Larry Watts on the way into town, loaded the boat without incident and took me back to the bus. Then Marilyn left me with George for the day while she went into PA.

I fixed a windshield bruise with these neat kits you can get from Permatex. Then I spent the day writing outlines for UFA and training material for CAAR. In the afternoon I moved the bus south of PA stopping on the way through town to reload the fresh water. We have never put our farm water in the tanks - often the water sits for an extended period of time so I like to pick up chlorinated water. Karla caught up with me around 4:30 and we waited until Marilyn got off work before leaving for Saskatoon.

We arrived at Murray & Jill's around 8:00. Jill escorted us to our parking spot in the bin yard, next to their trailer. I got busy and set up the satellite dish with the new Align-a-Site. It sure works great. We wouldn't have got a signal here without it - there is a row of tall trees along the south side of the yard that I would have expected to be too high to shoot over. As it turns out we are able to shoot over them by putting the dish at the front of the bus but from that position we are also shooting over the rear corner of the bus. Again I wouldn't have been sure we would clear it without the assurance of the siting tool.

We've got an old IBM laptop that Marilyn is going to use but it didn't have network capability. Last night I fought with it until after midnight and wasn't able to get connected to the internet. I could get a connection inside the bus on our local net but couldn't connect to the router. It has windoze 98 on it so that was causing me some grief because it has been a long time since I have put up with that particular operating system.

This morning I had an early breakfast meeting with Blaine Canitz & Al McDougald to discuss the IDEA exec director contract that I have just taken over. Blaine was the past exec director and Alan was his predecessor. We had a great visit covering a wide range of topics including IDEA and then I went to do a bit of shopping before coming back out here. I looked at Staples for a headset that I could use for Skype and instead found a $3 adapter that lets me use an earbud that I had already so I splurged and bought a network card for Marilyn's laptop. Then I came back to the bus, plugged the card into the laptop and she was on the internet in under 10 minutes. We had to bugger around a bit with some settings to get her completely connected and she still has some kind of a bug with Java or ActiveX so I need to do a little more work but she is able to connect to SIAST and get her email which is all she ever wanted to do anyway. Life is good.

I even placed a Skype call to mother which was a bit frustrating for both of us but I think it will be a workable solution. It may not be an ideal solution but Mexican phones aren't an ideal solution either so getting connected in any fashion is better than not being able to connect at all. The big problem with Mexican connectivity is that - up until now - we have had to go find a public payphone in order to phone home. Then if there is no answer we have to go back to the phone. Sometimes the phones don't work, some of them are in less than ideal locations, you have to buy a card to use the phone which has it own set of quirks, in short its just a royal PITA. Now we will be able to pick up the phone in the bus in the evening and call home at our leisure.

Tonight we are off to the Huskie season opener. RJ won't be playing so we'll maybe get to spend some time with him. Blaine has Chamber of Commerce tickets to a pre-game tailgate party and to the game so we are meeting them for that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting started

We leave tomorrow for Prince Albert and then Saskatoon. We'll be staying at Murray & Jill's and attending the Husky season opener Friday night. I'm going out to Alberta Tuesday with the boat and stopping in Medicine Hat on the way home to spend some time with Marlan. We'll be home "sometime".