Tuesday, February 26, 2008

last warm day for a while

Tomorrow we start going seriously north. We've been stalling our departure here in Mesquite but we're going to have to admit that our escape from winter is temporarily over and get back into it. The forecast for Helena isn't good - if we didn't have appointments to keep in Alberta and Saskatchewan it would be pretty easy to talk ourselves into another week.

This satellite coverage has to run out at some point too. We're still on SatMex 5. I'm going to leave us on it just to see how far north it really goes. The footprint of this satellite has a big bulge into the pacific northwest so maybe it will extend up into southern Alberta as well. The speeds on this one are so much better than G99 that we don't want to go off it until we absolutely have to.

I've enjoyed watching the US primaries from this side of the border. Billary looks to be done but won't give up. The Repubs must be praying she keeps on keeping on. The campaign is getting dirty. She has to beat up the black guy in order to have any hope of winning herself. That in turn is good for McCain. By the way "the black guy" isn't a racist slur - the campaign has never been any deeper than "the black guy" against "the woman". Although when you think about them the black guy is only 1/2 black and the woman is too old to have kids so doesn't that make each of their campaigns fundamentally a lie? Maybe when you're a Democrat that's more like a qualification than a character flaw.

At least McCain stands for something - flawed and aged though he may be. I'm afraid he can't overcome the Bush baggage though. It won't hurt if Billary hangs in until the convention. Maybe someday the American public will wake up and realize just how shallow the black guy's campaign has really been. The voting public isn't known for being smart so I'm not holding out much hope for that.

I got published in the last issue of Grainews. I haven't seen the article in print yet but I knew it was out because I got a phone call from some moron at Crooked River. In his broken Ukrainglish he wanted to know what he should rent the farm out for. Then I couldn't get the stupid SOB off the phone. The article was about unit cost of production - cost per bushel - so I don't know how we went from there to what he should be renting the farm for. I expect he was just a lonely old fool who likes phoning people he doesn't know because the people he does know won't talk to him. I got another call this morning from an old customer at Nipawin who seemed amazed that the phone could find me in Arizona. Some people don't get out enough. Marilyn says I should be careful what I write here because somebody might read it. I tell her that in the first place it is extremely unlikely that anyone will see themselves here and in the second place some of them should see themselves. And besides I've got enough friends already.

Look out Alberta - here we come!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

In Nevada, almost in Utah

This area could be described as Mormons in the desert. We're right on the Nevada/Utah border. There's lots of obvious Mormon influence but its still very definitely desert. Yesterday we drove to the northern edge of Lake Mead to see some museum devoted to dead indians who used to live in dirt houses. Most of their houses are under Lake Mead now so apparently there was a big scramble to record the history before the area was flooded. The ones that aren't under Lake Mead have mostly been bulldozed - they were dirt houses after all. The museum made a big deal about how the houses had "evolved" from 300 AD to - can't remember - maybe about the 1600's. Essentially they started pushing dirt up around the edges to make a nest and eventually the dirt "walls" got higher and someone had the great idea to throw a couple of sticks over the top. Along the way one of the women no doubt said "honey, that wall looks so gross with just stones and dirt everywhere - why don't you smear some mud around on it and we'll call it adobe". They did some pretty good pottery though and some really intricate basket weaving.

It hasn't been real warm here but it gets better in the afternoons. Its generally cloudy and cool in the morning but still 1000% better than what I had to put up with while I was in SK and AB. We're not really looking forward to going back into the deep freeze but are resigned to it. We won't go back to Nipawin - southern Alberta shouldn't be too bad and eventually the rest of the west will warm up.

Sunday Morning is on and they are talking about some dude in the Federal Gummit who has issued guidelines for the use of Blackberries. About time. And apparently its not just the gummit - some leading businesses are finally taking a stand as well. I am amazed by people who feel they have to instantly respond to a cell phone or email message. How did we ever function prior to these devices? The woman who was working the IDEA booth with me at the CAAR convention was tethered to and controlled by her Crackberry. She was horrified when I told her that I didn't see any need for instant response to the demands of such a device. I think the people who feel the need to respond instantly believe that the device somehow validates their worth. Its like they are proving -- to themselves? to me? to their staff or boss? -- just how indispensable they are. I don't buy it.

I've carried a cell phone as long as anyone I know. I was an early adopter of the combined PDA/cell phone. One of the most important features of any such device is the mute button or silent ring. When we lived in the house I didn't feel the need to answer the phone immediately every time it rang. Just because somebody wanted to talk to me at some particular moment in time didn't necessarily mean that I wanted to talk to them at that time, particularly once we had voice mail or answering machines. When my phone moved into my pocket I didn't feel any more need to answer it immediately. It sounds as though a few enlightened businesses are starting to adopt my attitude. (one more reason to like Stephen Harper, by the way - apparently he has banned Blackberries in cabinet and caucus meetings)

What they aren't talking about enough, in my opinion, is the horrendous misunderstandings that result from misinterpretted emails. I can't count the times I have listened to someone tell me a tale of woe about how so and so doesn't understand the situation and you can clearly see that from this string of emails. So pick up the damn phone and solve the problem. People use email to avoid personal contact. Email in business is a great way to confirm specifics or to share joint written material that requires collaborative input - its a really poor way to communicate.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Its really - REALLY - good to be back.

I'm back in Nevada and glad to be out of the deep freeze. I don't think there is any reason why a sane person would voluntarily spend December through March in Saskatchewan - it is just too cold.

Our weekend in Banff went really well this year. Although it may have gone well last year as well - I just don't have a clear memory of it. When we were getting ready for the trip I realized that I couldn't remember the hotel we stayed at. And I wasn't even head whacked the first two nights - the only nights that I stayed in the hotel. I could remember the parking lot behind the hotel, I could remember going to look at Camille and Allison's "big whore" (motorhome) but for the life of me I couldn't remember the hotel at all. And even after seeing it this year I couldn't remember much more although I did remember the Joey's Only sign at the entrance.

I dug out my motorcycle helmet and wore that - the boys wore construction hardhats. I don't think going without a brainbucket was likely an option for me this year. Most of our group had some form of head protection on. Stupid idea - I got neck strain from wearing the stupid helmet and I've been skiing for close to 40 years without ever getting neck strain. And without getting head damaged up until last year. One little incident and everything changes!! Maybe everybody will have forgotten about it by next year.

Marlan drove to Oyen to meet RJ & me so that shaved a lot of the driving off the trip. RJ went back to Medicine Hat with Marlan because this is the university break week. I spent Monday night in Saskatoon and got in a quick visit with Blaine & Jacquie. My flight wasn't until 5:30 and was more or less direct to Vegas through Edmonton. Marilyn found me at the airport before I had even had a chance to look for her. She wasn't actually waiting at the door when the plane parked but she was pretty close. We had to leave Arizona Charlie's which had been our home for 3 weeks so we moved up the road to Mesquite which is just inside the Nevada border with Utah. Its kind of a cute little town with a lot more services than we expected. We may come back because it is also a lot cheaper than Vegas. We'll spend about a week here and then move up into southern Alberta.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Big weekend coming up

Looks like my source in Ottawa didn't know what he was talking about. On the other hand, how could he have expected that Stefan would start acting like Kyoto - lying on his back, kicking his paws in the air and smiling at Steven.

I'm out of this deep freeze tomorrow morning. I hope it doesn't blow tonight cuz I'll never get out of the yard if it does. I told Denton not to do much plowing and he hasn't. There's been a couple of days when I've wished I hadn't told him that but it looks like I'll get away with it and the plugged lane is a pretty good deterrent to any evil doers who might want to visit the abandoned house.

I'm looking forward to seeing the boys again. RJ and I are going to see the matinee of "Charlie Wilson's War" tomorrow and then I have a client meeting in the evening. Friday afternoon we're off to Banff - YIPPEEE. I've got a brain bucket packed - this afternoon I remembered that I have a motorcycle helmet. Its sufficiently ugly for the purpose. I'll take a construction hardhat along as well. I think RJ & Marlan have a plot hatched as well & I'm sure the rest of the crew will have something planned.

Time to go - next post will be from a warm place.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Morons incorporated

I was at the Canadian Association of Agri Retailers convention in Winnipeg most of last week. While there I had a really informative conversation with the leader of a national NGO. The CAAR convention is really just a gathering place for the entire ag value chain - grain companies, chemical companies, fertilizer companies from all levels from manufacturing through distribution to retail. The guy I was talking to works in Ottawa and has impeccable connections so I was listening carefully to what he had to say. He and I have locked horns more than once in the past but I respect his perspective on the national political scene because he is there and I am not. He's been there for a long time and he has some family connections that run deep into the Liberal party so I used the opportunity to pick his brains.

I specfically asked him about the Harper government's strategy of pushing the Libs into a corner and governing as if they had a majority. His take on Dion's short term chances was bleak. He said that the inside Liberal power circle has a dilemma. They know they made a mistake - they know they have the wrong guy in charge - but they don't know what to do about getting rid of him. They can't have another convention without letting the fool go through an election and they aren't sure when their best prospects are for that. Leaving aside the astute perception displayed by the Liberal brain trust in that it has only taken them a year to figure out what 99% of Canadians knew the morning after the convention, it is fun to dissect the dilemma that the Liberals now face.

Should they wait until they have rebuilt their finances and give Harper time to move further away from the honeymoon period, looking for a key campaign issue that might play well for the Liberals and ultimately return them to their natural governing role. Or should they "get it over with" so to speak - let the government fall, go through the motions of an election, hope that the most they suffer is another two years of minority and in the process have the excuse they need to hold another leadership convention. Apparently the senior party members are increasingly moving to the latter option. Realizing that they made a huge mistake they would rather take their lumps now while it appears that Harper cannot secure a majority despite the fact that this means they won't get a majority themselves. Under this scenario they presumably get some breathing space to rebuild their finances, they have the excuse they need to hold a leadership convention and they can then move into an election 18 - 24 months out while still riding the publicity of a new leader.

Of course that whole strategy hinges on them picking the right guy next time round. And on Harper screwing up enough to give them the majority they so desperately crave. Meanwhile Harper continues to not serve roast babies at 24 Sussex, makes progress with NATO countries that previously ignored us, works with (as opposed to fighting with) the provinces and generally acts prime ministerial. What a pleasant change from the past decade. It also sounds as though the Libs are by no means united with individual members having a variety of ideas about how best to proceed. Music to my ears.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I hate this hotel

My earliest memory of the Delta Winterpeg is of Charlie McKay standing at the registration counter holding a reservation confirmation and arguing with the hotel droid about whether or not he actually had a room for the night. You don't want to argue with Charlie ever but that night the desk at the then Holiday Inn was hideously oversold and telling everyone that they didn't have a room. If you couldn't prove that you had a reservation then by default you did not have a reservation. It hasn't changed a whole lot despite a new marquee. It is however still attached by an umbilical cord to the Winnipeg Convention Centre and, if you are unfortunate enough to come to a convention in Winnipeg in February then you will put up with almost anything in order to avoid having to go outside. Yesterday when I checked in they informed me that I could get a special deal on my parking - like I have any choice in the matter - it is ONLY costing me $11.50 per day. I wonder what the rate is if you don't get the special deal?? And then I get to my room and discover that, at a time when a lot of hotels provide free wi-fi services this dump wants a mere $9.95 daily - you read that correctly - $9.95 daily to connect to the interweb. So I won't be online a lot but I did spring for a connection today.

I've got CNN on in the background and the talking heads are trying to make super Tuesday exciting. That's kind of like trying to make porridge exciting. The Democrats are trying to decide whether the Republicans are more likely to vote against a woman or a black. Meanwhile the Republicans are desperately trying to make a coronation look like a contest. And the coronation is of an octagenarian who would be more comfortable running as a Democrat. At least he has some semblance of policy beyond having a womb or black skin.