Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kitchen tables and cabinet tables

Its probably slipped most people's minds by now but Jack went on and on and on and on about the kitchen table during last fall's election campaign. Then in December he had brief delusions of sitting at the cabinet table. Some will say our politicians have wasted the last six weeks through bickering but I'm not so sure. Down here in Florida we listen to US television fairly regularly and get bombarded with all the wonderful things The One is going to do to resurrect the US economy. The premise is always that there is something WRONG that can be FIXED.

Here's a thought: what if what was wrong was two years ago when property inflation was still ramping up driven by a mountain of consumer debt or what if what was wrong was a year ago when commodity inflation went through the roof for no particular reason other than because it did? What if right now the market and the world economy is performing exactly as it should? What if all the government meddling and interference is just so much more tax dollars pissed away to employ low lifes to harass us in airports and build pork barrel projects in fat cat constituencies?

Maybe as Canadians we are blessed that our politicians have been busy scrapping over who gets to sit on which side of the House. Maybe we'd be further ahead if the whole works of them took a couple of years off. Its probably too late though. Who'd have thought even six months ago that we would see a Stephen Harper government introduce a $85 billion deficit budget? Ignatieff certainly doesn't have any alternatives to offer. He may be the smartest Lib in Canada - he's certainly smart enough to know he doesn't want to be in government right now. Maybe we'd be better off if none of them were able to govern for a year or two.


Tonight was the last Wednesday of the month which means it was potluck night. I didn't count but the official tally was 120 people for supper. As could be expected in a crowd of 50 or so grandmothers nobody had any reason to go home hungry. There were a couple of exciting moments. Of course it doesn't take much to make the moment exciting when the average age of the room is north of 65.

The first moment came about 15 minutes after we had drawn numbers to see what order the tables would go up to the buffet line. Our table was 3 tables over from the west wall and we drew #2. That seemed pretty straightforward to me - we would go up to the food line after table #1, whoever they turned out to be. We went back to visiting. After a while we sensed a commotion further up the table and turned to see what was going on. We turned just in time to hear an elderly gentleman speaking very firmly and loudly saying "this has always been table #3 - you can see if you count - 1 - 2 - 3" and he gesticulated toward the wall. Several people attempted to explain the system to him but he seemed intent on sticking with the plan to be table #3. I have a short attention span so I went back to my conversation but Marilyn apparently stayed focused on Mr. #3 and he stayed focused on being #3 almost up to the point where we all got up to follow table #1 and left him behind. By then he seemed to have it figured out.

Now it was pretty hot in the hall and when you put 120 moderately overweight people wearing shorts in an already hot room with limited circulation the temperature isn't going to drop. So it shouldn't have come as any surprise when somewhere between chicken wings, lasagna and the dessert table there was another commotion at the far end of our table. Come to think of it, our table seemed to be providing the only entertainment for the evening. Round 2 wasn't nearly as benign as simple confusion about a table number. Round 2 appeared to be some sort of a cardiac event judging from the pallid complexion and anxious gathering of ex-nurses taking pulses and generally fussing. Shortly after we realized that something was happening we heard an ambulance pull up and six - yep - count 'em - six EMTs appeared to attend to Mr. Cardiac. One may have come in a separate vehicle since his sole responsibility seemed to be payment details and he stuck around after the meat wagon had left but the other 5 seemed to be directly associated with the actual ambulance. Marilyn's comment was "no wonder their healthcare is so expensive".

Tomorrow we leave for the Keys. I've heard about the Florida Keys since we first moved to Nipawin. Ron & John Harker and their wives used to go to the Keys in the winter. I had never really paid much attention to them but they look to be a pretty neat location. We'll watch some sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico and post some pictures once we get back.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

spot on

I just found this one - its getting old now but some words are timeless and this guy definitely got it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The empress's new clothes

OK - its petty and irrelevant but somebody needs to tell Michelle Obama that she has no fashion sense. In fact, somebody needs to tell her that she has negative fashion sense. Random chance would dress the woman better than she does right now. If she's going to be the first lady for four years then she needs to get some help getting dressed. The talking heads were on tonight about how wonderful she looked today but come on folks. She looked like a large yellow bedroom suite. If she had set out to accentuate her worst features she couldn't have found a better outfit and a better colour for it. And what she wore to the balls tonight wasn't much better.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Respect the office ......

no matter what you think of the man in it.

Tomorrow there will be a coronation in Washington. The man is shameless - he is pulling out all the stops, playing the race card, tugging the heart strings, posing in all the right locations and generally playing to the world stage. Already it is evident that a majority of US citizens are ready to give him a chance by closing ranks around the office, no matter what their personal feelings about the man occupying it may be. We could learn from that example north of the border.

Nobody short of Jesus Christ himself could possibly live up to the expectations that the world has for Obama. Nevertheless he seems bent on building the expectations even higher. Ultimately the whole so-called global financial crisis is nothing more than a collapsing ponzi scheme. Markets work because people believe that they will continue to work. Capital has value because people believe that it has value. Let's all hope that the sudden worldwide rush of enthusiasm for this previously little known senator from Illinois provides the impetus necessary to restore international confidence. If it doesn't, God help us all because the man's grasp of policy is as thin as rainwater.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A taste of what we left behind

And I can't say I miss it all that much. That was Weds. at 10:30 in the morning, somewhere between Regina and Saskatoon. I had such a hurry-up trip that I didn't really have time to experience the cold but cold it was. Fortunately despite traversing the hellhole that Toronto calls an international airport twice in less than three days I stayed mostly on schedule for the whole trip. I was more than a little worried though Weds. when they were getting ready to board us in Saskatoon. I happened to notice that the co-pilot on our flight was a woman. Now I've got nothing against equality for women in a conceptual sense but come on, flying planes? As it turned out we got into Toronto about ten minutes early which leads me to believe that she drove something like Marilyn does. Fortunately she didn't have to land us in Lake Ontario like the US Air guy did the next day but then she was in the right hand seat so we were likely OK there anyway.

I was back in Saskatoon to run a strategy session that BDC hired me to do for one of their clients. I think it went pretty well but we only had 5 hours to work with and that simply isn't enough for that type of exercise. We'll do some more work by email and likely get together again when we are back in Feb. It was for a seasonal business with a very unique value proposition so it was fun work to do but it clearly reminded me why I don't miss managing seasonal staff.

This morning I drove up to Lake Alfred to find Lucky Lowe's Place but I carefully left my ski gear behind. It was 8º C when I was driving up there which I realize is considerably better than what I left behind - 45º better than that picture I guess. No matter how much better it was it still felt too cold to be going in the water. When I got up to Lake Alfred there was a crew of hardcore skiers already there - 2 guys from Montreal and a couple more from upper New York. They were questioning why they were going to ski but they were all definitely going in the water. I left while the first one was in the water but I am sure I will be back there once it warms up again - maybe even tomorrow.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our cat is a fool

I've been taking Jorgito for fairly regular walks. He detests the first 1/4 of the walk - the portion where he is convinced that if he behaves badly enough I will give up on the whole idea. Once he resigns himself to the fact that we definitely are going for a walk he gets busy and walks. In fact he walks so fast that I have to hurry to keep up with him and I think he actually enjoys that part.

Yesterday he decided that he could take on a Sandhill Crane. There's four of the goofy looking birds that spend a lot of time in the park. They don't actually live here because I have seen them flying in but they do seem to spend most of the day here. Anyway, dingbat decided that he could handle one of them while we were out on our walk. He flattened his ears back, hissed, and started to advance on the crane. The crane seemed mildly annoyed by this unknown black and white thing that didn't even come up to his knees. He put his wings up and his head down and he started to advance too. I figured that this could get bad real quick so I pulled George out of the battle. As soon as I released the pressure on the leash he was tried to go back in and the crane kept advancing. Unlike dingbat I could see that the crane had a very long and very pointy beak so I yanked the furball out of harm's way and we carried on carrying on.

We're starting to get settled into a routine here. I have to leave very early Monday morning to fly up to Saskatoon for a couple of days so the routine will get disrupted but that is only a three day trip. We are both going to fly up for a ski trip in February but that is still a few weeks away. Marilyn put an ad up on the bulletin board in the clubhouse and bought herself a $25 bicycle. We used to carry bikes with us but never used them. I expect this one will suffer the same fate but $25 isn't much to risk on finding out. Its a pretty good looking bike so maybe she can make a buck or two when she sells it. We figure in the worst case if it gets to be a nuisance we can leave it on the side of the road and not be out too much.

Earlier in the week we had some friends over for lunch. We met them a few years ago on the desert in Arizona at an Escapees Rally. Shortly after that visit Lon had a blonde moment and invited everybody in his address book to be his Facebook buddy. Of course at the time I didn't know that I was just one out of 600 so I was delighted to be asked. I didn't know and still don't know what the hell Facebook's purpose is but it was the first time anyone had invited me to be their buddy so I joined. Then it snooped through my address book and found about a hundred people that it thought should be my buddies but I quickly put the kibosh on that plan. I'm not sure what the purpose of the thing is but it does give a different window into people's lives.

Some nice guy in Arizona has taken pity on the poor Canucks and donated us an awning. Pay attention Mark: we're going to have our own awning by spring. No more standing under your awning in the rain and harassing me about not having one. We will have to drive to Arizona and install the awning when we get there but he has also offered us a 50 amp hookup and assistance to install it so we couldn't ask for much more than that. Up until the famous engine fiasco we had intended to go back north through Elkart, Indiana. There are several RV salvage yards there where we intended to pick up and install an awning. The trip to Arizona will add a few miles to our return north but not a whole bunch because we will likely give Saskatchewan a complete pass and just carry on directly to B.C. Awnings are difficult to find for this particular model of Prevosts. Our side windows have that wonderful curve in the top which looks gorgeous but makes fitting an awning extremely difficult. To my knowledge there are only two awning manufacturers that even make an awning to fit this coach.

I can hear the cranes making their funny noise as they fly in which means it is time to get dressed and head out to the flea market.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wheat and chaff

You have to blow a lot of chaff out the back of a combine in order to fill the hopper with wheat. Its kind of the same with people - you have to winnow your way through a huge number of acquaintances in order to accumulate a few lifetime friends. We added a few potential long term friends to our list over the last week.

Arcadia, Florida is the location of a large bus rally, hosted by Jack and Paula Conrad. This year about 115 coaches showed up for the rally. We didn't by any means meet everyone who was there but we met enough to encounter the occasional asshole, more than the occasional fool and a few grains of wheat that will bear continued contact with over the years.

Mother used to worry that we wouldn't have "community" as we aged if we continued with our foolish notion of travelling and it is a legitimate concern. Homo sapiens is a social creature, given to living in proximity to other members of the species and drawing strength from association with friends and family. Our nomadic lifestyle runs counter to the evolutionary bias toward living in stationary communities. Electronic communication makes it possible for us to stay in contact with a dispersed group of friends. It however remains to be seen how well we will make use of our social skills to form an extended community and then to stay connected to that community. So far we think we're doing pretty well but only time will tell.

Right now we're parked in Jack and Paula's yard, about 15 miles south of Arcadia. There's about 7 other busses parked here as well. Apparently that's what happens after the rally in Arcadia - some of the busses move out here for further fellowship but more importantly so that the owners can get some work done. Jack loves working on busses so he is a great resource and just having other bus owners in the same yard is also a resource. Jack loves working on busses so much that he has 13 thirty amp outlets installed around the yard for us to hook up to. He's also got a couple of long term projects where the owners have dumped their coaches here and are clearly taking advantage of Jack's good nature. In one of those cases the bus is in such a state of disassembly as to be almost unrecognizable as a bus anymore. We're here so that I could get an oil change done. Even among the small sample of people here there's at least one out and out asshole, one complete fool and only a couple of people that we will even make an attempt to stay in touch with.

When we filled the rebuilt engine in Vineland the first oil turned to slime immediately. I thought all the slime in the engine had dripped out on Bill's neck while he was working on the engine but evidently it hadn't because that first oil was absolutely gross. We changed it after about a half hour of run time and even that second oil turned milky immediately but it steamed off and eventually changed back to something that at least looked like oil. I was prepared to do another oil change but Dr. Bill seemed to think we were OK to run with what we had so we did. Yesterday I pulled a sample from that oil before we dropped it and once we get up to Winter Haven I will pull another sample from the "new" oil. Assuming that second sample tests clean I will start to relax a bit.

Yesterday Tom Mason got Marilyn's computer fixed so that she can use external microphones on it. She hasn't been able to use her voice recognition software since she bought the computer this summer so getting that fixed will be a huge help to her. Last night she tested it by phoning Judy to tell her that we were sitting outdoors passing handguns around the circle and talking about gun control. Judy was appropriately horrified but the computer worked well on Skype so that was a good thing. The handgun discussion was informative too.