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.