Thursday, January 31, 2013

just one more word

I'm still at 27 words. I need one more word to make February complete. Please and thank you.

Funny how the day goes sometimes. There I was, chugging away methodically on stuff at work. Then I got an xl exception report, telling me about 355 things that didn't load. I don't know why, though I only had about an hour to look at them. The one I checked in detail should have loaded. Sigh. Tomorrow might a 2 fully caffeinated coffee cup morning. After my swim. With any luck at all that will wake me up.

I want to go for a run, but I'm not feeling the workout love here. This working full time, and trying to train on top of it is difficult. I have no idea how the people with kids cope. One of the bloggers I follow says you don't find it under the kitchen table, you have to make time. She is right, it isn't under the kitchen table. I looked, just to be sure. Maybe the cats stole it, they seem to have lots of time.

The TV research project is moving no further ahead. There are several DVD's worth of shows I want to watch, but somehow it's just not happening. Maybe I should defer the whole thing till when the TV actually dies, since by then maybe Apple will finally have come out with the long rumoured Apple TV set that radically reworks the whole television watching experience. Uhuh.

The weeks sure seem to go by quickly these days. I remember talking to my grandmother once when I was about 10, expressing frustration that my birthday was a long time coming. She was sharp about saying not to wish myself old, that it would happen soon enough, and one day I would look back and wonder how a day could possibly seem so long. Well Grandma, it's true. Seems like I blink, and it's time to fill out another timesheet at work. Another blink and the weekend is over.

Sometimes I wonder what it is that I'm doing when I'm not paying attention. Maybe I've been taken over by the brain sucking aliens, and I'm carrying out their insidious plan in a fugue state. How would I know?

One more word, dear readers, one more word into the breech! Wall up that barrier with your literary gems, and I don't wish for one 10 thousandth of the words available. Just one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Linda was the chosen one

I'm up to 27 words! My readers have been coming through, though I cheated on one because it was a one word ending of a twitter exchange. Who will be the first to give me the 28th word? You perceive me agog with curiosity.

Our yoga teacher has a minor ailment with her low back, so she has been instructed to be doing no demonstrations during class. Out of the entire class of people, she picked Linda to demonstrate! I think it just shows the knowing all and form that Linda has. Somehow, I was feeling blah throughout it, and not really in the groove. The drop in grunter a couple mats over didn't help.

I had to chuckle at one of the people in yoga class. Her heart was in the right place, but her brains weren't. Her idea of being polite and holding the door for the 5 people behind her was to open it up and stop, so the next person would have had to make a hard right turn almost before getting out of the doorway, and still brush against the first one. She did it 3 doors in a row. I'm at the back watching this production. If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have had the phone out to video, but I didn't think she'd do it twice, let alone thrice.

There was a new cure for insomnia released today, the Blackberry 10. Much too little much too late. Unless there's something about this that I'm not getting, or their customers have loyalty verging on pathology, I think they're done. Still thrashing, but done.

Weenie admission of the week, (hangs head). I've parked the car indoors downtown the last couple of days. I have to admit I could get used to that. Indoors is $17 a day, as opposed to $14 a day across 9th Ave outdoors. Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

90! 2nd! 23!

HUT!
Sorry, got carried away there after writing that title.

One of my rules is that it's a core workout if it has plank in it, regardless of anything else. This one did, 90 seconds worth, which is a nice surprise for me. 30 minute easy spin on the bike. 30 minutes shoveling snow, mine and my neighbours.

On Feb 9th I'll be running for Sherry. For the second time. I'd love to get together with other members of the SUAR fan club here. Anyone in? Let me know, and we'll work out a time, place, and all that good stuff.

I'm up to 23 words now, thanks Mom for the latest bunch. You have only a few days to get in on the action. I'm looking for 28 English words by the end of January. Please and thank you. None have arrived by carrier pigeon, or at least the cats aren't admitting it, but they've come by email, fb, twitter, and comments. Love it. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Remembering

I didn't know what to expect at the pool this morning. There is a water polo event going on taking up the competition pool. It could have been really busy with 2 pools worth of stuff happening in, or lots of people avoiding it because they thought it would be busy. It wasn't busy at all. I had a whole lane to myself the entire swim.

35 minutes. This included 5x50, in less than 50, on 60. I'm getting better. The water feel was very erratic today, with some lengths really good, and some really not so good. Once I start getting a bit tired I'm trying really hard to remember what it felt like when I wasn't tired. That seems to help.

We were off to ballroom dance again tonight. Mostly cha-cha-cha, which is one of my favorite dances. I'm trying to remember more of the patterns that I could once do without thinking about. We're trying to work out some of the other ones as well that we used to do. It's been a long time, and I'm finding this a bit difficult. The teacher doesn't project well, the room echoes, and the class doesn't shut up when she starts talking.

Today was a beautiful Alberta winter day. Clear and sunny, and about freezing. If we hadn't had ballroom tonight, I'd have gone for a run. It's starting to snow now, and it's supposed to get cold tomorrow. With the wind chill it's getting down to where it doesn't matter if it's C or that other primitive scale that only 3 other countries use. I might have to dig out my old Amoco parka that's rated to about -55 or so.

We're getting down to the last few days for the 28 words I want. I'm exactly half way there. I suppose I can make that work, if I have to. It will just be easier on me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mostly a novel bit

Today was a very quiet day here. Reading. Writing. Cuddling cats. Nibbling the last of a great lemon tart. No workout.

Here's a snippet of the novel, where some of the plant staff get together for a game of pick up hockey. You get to meet some of the people involved in the book. I was thinking of posting what I wrote today, but realized there's a bit of a twist there that needs more exposure to the book.



Dwen came into the lunchroom for shift change to find a group of people around one table. She put the beeper down, and gathered up her lunch stuff to put into her back pack.

`Do you know how to get to the rink, Dwen?` asked Erik `We’re trying to figure out the best way.`

`Sure. I was going to go down to Glenmore, across to Sarcee, and all the way up. It’s the rink behind the mall that’s at the intersection where you come down off Sarcee Trail onto Bowness Road. It’s probably way longer than going through downtown and out Memorial, but there’s only a few stoplights and it’s a no brainer route.`

`Don’t forget about those school zones where Sarcee ends. I got nailed there once,` said BJ. I’ll be going along Memorial. You’re looking really lost, Les.`

`Yeah, kind of. I don’t think I’ve ever been up in that end of town. If I can follow someone I’ll be fine.`

`My way is the easiest. You can follow me if you want,` Dwen said. `You’ll never keep up with BJ.`

`Gentlemen, start your engines!` yelled BJ. `See you all there.` He left the room first, but all the others followed soon after.

At the rink parking lot, Dwen pulled in beside Belinda’s car, which was closest to the rink door. She was pulling her hockey equipment out of the trunk when Belinda and Veronica came out of the rink. `Hey Ronnie, long time no see,` Dwen called. `And Belinda, all of 12 hours, eh.`

`Hi Dwen, it’s been a while. Are you up for this?`

`Sure am. Did you find out where our locker rooms are?`

`That’s what we went in first for. We didn’t want to drag in our bags till we knew where we were going. The rink rat said the City team was in locker room one, and the bozo didn’t clue in when I said ‘and?’. Oh, hi Les. You didn’t have anything to do with organizing this, did you?` Ronnie growled.

`Not me. You haven’t had your coffee yet, have you?` Les edged back a little.

Dwen had dropped her bag back in the trunk. `So are we ok, or what?`

Belinda smirked. `I thought you wanted to change with the guys, Dwen.`

`You’re such a tease, Lin. Of course we’re ok. Locker room two is for us. In the doors, turn right. It’s unlocked now. The guys are in room one.`

The parking lot had been filling up with familiar looking cars. The guys all dragged their equipment bags over to Belinda’s car. `Just like you to be first, Ronnie,` BJ said. `Did you find out which locker rooms we have?`

Veronica slowly looked at her watch, then at BJ. She was a little taller than Belinda, with rangy cowgirl looks that were almost boyish beside Belinda’s more willowy figure. `I expected you to be first BJ. After all, you would have left the plant at eight, and Dwen’s been here a few minutes already. You must have stopped at home for some sack time with your wife.`

`Funny girl. Had to get gas.`

`And funny boys. Which of you clowns forgot to tell numb-nuts in there we needed two locker rooms?`

`Hey no, you can’t pin that on us,` BJ said. Some paperwork appeared. `Here’s our rental agreement. It says two locker rooms. They must have forgot.`

`All right,` said Veronica, `you guys are in room one, we’re in two. Lets get this show on the road.` They all trooped inside.

The three of them had barely started pulling gear out of their bags when the door opened and Carol walked in. `Hey ho, the gangs all here,` she said as she dumped her stuff beside Veronica. `Are you guys going to wear all your gear?` she asked as Belinda pulled out a helmet. `Blair said he was just going to wear a jock under his jeans, shin pads, and gloves.`

`Hi Carol,` the three of them replied. `I’m for sure wearing everything,` Belinda said.

`Me too,` added Dwen. `Accidents happen, and I don’t want to be injured again.`

`I don’t want my boney old bod to get bruised,` Veronica said. `I’ll bet you we see Blair dressed in all the gear. Well, maybe not the helmet. He doesn’t really need one.`

`I just hate wearing a helmet unless I have to,` Carol said. `It always slides around and pulls my hair, which looks like shit afterward.` It was barely shoulder length, but she pulled it into a small pony tail. Belinda’s hair was in the usual braid.

Ronnie ran her fingers through her short spiky hair. `Cut it off, girl. And speaking of cut off, Dwen, there’s the most astonishing story going around about you and Al. After you dumped him, did you really punch him out when you met on the street?`

Dwen blushed a little. `I didn’t punch him out, as you put it. Not that he wouldn’t deserve it.`

`I wonder if he’s still singing soprano,` Belinda mused.

`Ha! So what did you do?`

`I go years without my life getting mentioned at work, and now I’m headline news. Just because I leave someone, he tries to get all clingy, and I make him shove off.`

`Yes Dwen, this is your 15 minutes of fame,` Veronica said. `What did you do to him?`

`Come on Ronnie, have a heart. We know you not having coffee yet is just an excuse to be cranky. You’ve got the guys fooled, but not us.`

`I may have them fooled, but you have them thoroughly spooked. Not that they didn’t respect you before. How did you do it?`

`Oh all right. We met on the street and he started getting on my case again. When I tried to walk away he grabbed my arm and said something about continuing the discussion in private. I made like I had changed my mind and was going to go with him, then put my knee into his crotch as hard as I could. I think I hit him as he was going down, but I’m not sure. He sort of landed on the sidewalk face first. That might have been why people think I hit him. I hate putting on cold skates.` She shivered a few times.

Carol reached into her equipment bag and pulled out a hair drier. `Don’t leave home without it.` She padded in sock feet to the counter, and set up the hair dryer to blow into one of her skates.

`The story goes that you did a little war dance on him as well,` Ronnie allowed.


`Geez Dwen, can I introduce you to my ex? Maybe you can convince him to go away once and for all.`

`Carol, if you’d stop being nice to him when he calls and asks for a second chance, he would go away. Look, I didn’t plan this, it just happened. These stories get so out of hand. Who’s saying these things anyway?` Dwen glared at her skates as she bent over to lace them up.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spent the free bucks

Back in October and November my work had a track your steps contest. I didn't win, though I was quite pleased with my steps total. I didn't even make top 3 in my building, and they didn't make top three compared to the other building. I think there is a marathon training crew over there. In any case what is important about is that I was happy with my activity levels, and I got a $100 Sport Chek gift certificate.

Then a little while later I entered an on line contest over at Running with Spatulas and won another $100 Sport Chek gift cert. At first I had a bit of trouble spending it, what with not seeing anything I liked at the downtown store. Then trying on some running tights at Chinook, and being sent down to Southcentre for the next size up, which they didn't have.

I'd been doing a bit of research, and after discussing with Neil yesterday, I was minded to get the GoPro 3, especially if I can get my buddy Mike to give me lessons. I'm not sure how much I'd use it, but he assured me it was an awesome camera for video and stills, much better than the iPhone. Today I went up to Market Mall, determined to spend my $200. They only had the GoPro2. At first I wandered around in a daze, but ended up trying on some tights that I eventually bought. There is an Under Armor base layer, and a slightly looser pair that I think will be good over top of the Under Armor layer for snowshoeing and generally being outside when it's pretty darn cold. I will have to experiment a bit. The top layer does not have flat seams, which leads to chafing in a sensitive place. I think it will be ok as long as I have a layer under them.

Just getting to the store was an exercise in patience. Normally Calgary drivers are an impatient bunch, zooming along, cutting people off, and generally charging ahead as if they were late for the rapture or something. I can cope with that. Not today. It's like they were on drugs, reacting seconds after you would normally expect. I was just about hit in the parking lot by a guy driving along, looking the other way for a parking spot, and not noticing my car. I was about to put it in reverse to get out of his way.

The people in the stores weren't much better. I was bumped into twice by people looking the other way as they shambled along. Not just a bump like when two people know each other is there, and are trying to squeeze by. This was a full on bump, with me standing still, and them walking into me. At least one of them was cute.

The morning started with a slightly disappointing run. It was brilliantly sunny out as I was getting dressed and limbering up. Once outside it had clouded over. (Insert run here.) Later on it was brilliantly sunny again. Figures I'd pick the one hour of the day it wasn't sunny for my run.

If you see my Facebook page I alluded to an adventure with electricity. We have a lamp illuminating the space under the stairs where the cat boxes live. It had stopped working. I was going to wire in another light for that space, and on the way home picked up the electrical box I needed. I strung the wire and commenced severe frustration. My screwdriver is one of those that can ratchet either way, and no matter which way it was set, I needed it the other way. When that happened I usually had one hand holding something to be screwed that wanted to move. Which it would do as soon as I let go of it to fix the screwdriver. In the end the light didn't work. I think the fixture itself is broken inside. I was very cranky about that and since I'd got the lamp to work in the mean time, the whole thing was kind of not necessary, so I then had to go through some of the same pain to leave it in a safe condition. There was much bad language, and one cat was banished upstairs for the crime of supervising from underfoot.

One needs to be careful handling live wires. At one point I shorted it out against the box. This burned off enough wire that the piece I had cut is no longer quite long enough, so I essentially have to start over. Which I'm not going to do today. Part of the problem is that I have to turn off the breaker for the sensitive work, and that breaker controls all the lights in the basement. Good thing I have a wind up flashlight.

Shortly after having a calming glass of wine I BBQ some very nice tenderloin beef in a specialty Linda marinade. Very tres yummy! With baked potato, and organic corn, with a lemon tart for dessert. Sorry about the lack of pictures, I was too hungry.

I left the details of the run, and the new updated run meter graphs for the end, because I know some of you are not interested in that. Before you go, you can comment, leaving a word or two for my 28 word collection. Please and thank you.

It's been about a week since I last ran, and I was getting a bit itchy about it. Limbered up and stretched a bit, then started off on a walk. I ended up running 4 K, at least some of which was about the pace where I left off, but the last part of that was getting a bit sloppy. What was interesting was that the Runmeter graphs have changed. Here's what I get now.

The map is a bit smaller than it used to be, much wider than tall, though I suspect it will resize as needed.


A summary, which is nice enough.
 Here's the meat and potatoes. From looking at the elevation graph (the green) you'd think I was running in the mountains. The vertical scale is exaggerated a bit, and I think it's more than what there really is. The pace line (the blue) looks like it needs to be shifted slightly to the right to make more sense. But this is a typical run for me, a slow first K to get into it, then running a little over a 6 minute K.

Towards the end I could feel my legs getting tighter, and my run getting a bit sloppier so I was happy enough to stop at the 4 K mark. I was breathing up near the top of my aerobic zone and mostly my feet and legs felt light and fairly happy.

Long stretch after, with 6 minutes of pigeon a side. Yes I timed it as I was reading stuff on my iPad. I'm such a geek.

Still doing research on a new TV. Still plugging way on my novel. Maybe if I'm in the mood tomorrow I'll post another snippet.



Friday, January 25, 2013

A big fun day!

Even though I could have slept in, by 5:30 I was down in the basement on my bike. Before coffee even. I realize that seems very strange to some of you, but it's true. On the bike for an hour, mostly trying for a smooth spin. Then coffee and breakfast.

I was out of the office by lunchtime. Linda picked me up and we went over to Calgary Farmer's Market. I've been having a yearning for Big D's smokehouse food for a while, and finally got there. They have a pulled pork poutine-like creation on special this weekend, and it's worth the trip. Get a spoon for the gravy.

There I was shoveling it down, and my buddy Neil drops in the chair across the table! I haven't seen him since his show at Village brewery, and we had a nice chat. Photography, office furniture, race plans, what we've been up to. Nice to see people you know when you don't expect them.

Then, as expected, I was captured by Yum Bakery. This time I had one of their Nanimo bars. It was totally orgasmic chocolate awesomeness. Often such bars are more sweet that chocolaty, but not this one. Possibly the best Nanimo bar I've ever had.

We were in Indigo for a while on the way home. It was nice to browse, and I saw a couple books I might like to read but didn't buy. I've got several on the go now that I need to get finished; the health care one, and one about walls. I wish that last one had maps; it would be so much easier to follow. After visiting the nice independent stores for books, I'm not really in the mood for Indigo anymore. Part of the problem, though, is that without the Indigo selling juggernaut the smaller bookstores probably can't stay in business either.

In the evening I was back out again for a surprise last minute blogger meet up. Look who!

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Tiff and Leana. We had a wonderful time. So nice to meet the people you blog or twitter or Facebook with. Tiff and Corey are passing through Calgary on a quest.

In other news I'm up to 13 words, so I'm almost half way there. You have 6 more days to give me a word or two. There have been some wonderful words suggested so far. Trust me, you'll like it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rescued!

On Monday I ended up leaving my swim fins at the pool. There were a whole bunch of people around me and I got flustered or something as I was tucking things into my bag. I don't like being crowded. On the way in this morning I asked at the front desk and they had them! Thank you honest stranger.

The swim is coming back. In the water 40 minutes swimming fairly strong. 3x50 on 60, under 50 seconds. It's nice to be getting the water feel back. Though as I was finishing up some kids from a synchro club hopped in the next lane to cool down. They were still swimming faster than me.

One of my regular habits until recently has been going for a walk at lunch time. Somehow over December I got out of it, and now I'm trying to get back to doing it. The great white head in front of the Bow building looks like its done, but the construction signs are still up so you can't see the base.

I still have not got around to spending my gift certs at Sportchek. Maybe this weekend. I wonder how much I would use a GoPro video camera? Anybody have one? Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slowly, but surely

I am collecting words. Thanks to all who have contributed so far. It is a wonderful collection I'm very happy with. It's not too late for you to join in. I am looking for 28 English words. Please and thank you.

In other news, I did not go down and core last night. I was full, and it was like my supper was not digesting. It just sat there. Mostly so did I.

Tonight tree was my best thing. I used to hate this pose. I can't imagine why now. I didn't want to stop because I was so relaxed into it. The ankle and calf muscles that normally go crazy trying to keep me upright were calm because I was centered on top of my foot. It was so nice.

Things went downhill after that, and my right hip flexor started getting a bit cranky. It didn't like intense forward stretch, which is a bit weird. It isn't stretching, the hamstrings are, but they didn't complain.

It's taken years, but I'm really enjoying yoga class these days. My flexibility and stability is gradually getting better. Some poses used to be a real struggle, and have become easier. I'm more aware of the sided issue, where one side is more flexible or stronger than the other. We did one tonight, a seated pose. The legs are splayed sideways, with one foot tucked into the groin, and the other foot under the butt. With my legs off to the right, I can only stay upright with the support of my hands. With the legs off to the left, I'm sitting up centered and relaxed.

However I can hear some of you asking, "Yes, but has it made you a faster swimmer, biker, runner?" I don't think so. Maybe helped with recovery, maybe helped avoid injury, but faster? Probably not. I need to work on those things too.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Will I? Or won't I?

The work day went by in a flash today. That's what you get when you have your head buried in xl and Access, playing with data. Turns out a source xl I had been given had been corrupted, so I have to redo a bunch of stuff. And on the second round we've been finding other issues, so maybe it's all just as well.

I was thinking of getting on my bike this evening for another good workout. My legs sort of want to do it, but my lungs are having no part of it. You know that feeling like there is something on your windpipe and it vibrates when you start breathing hard, which tickles, and then you start coughing and things go down hill from there? That's what I'm getting. So I'm thinking about heading down for a good core and stretching session, after supper settles a bit more. Will I or won't I?

The 28 words are coming along. I'm up to 6 now! I am looking for 28 English words. Never mind why, for just now, it's a surprise. Please them in comments, or email, or twitter, or by passenger pigeon if you like, though that might get the cats really excited.

There was this imaginary conversation I was having with myself in the shower the other day. It started from a conversation at work about what I eat for lunch and why it smells so good. The main reason is that Linda is a good cook. The other is that we are trying to be more careful about the food we are buying. Gradually more and more is from the farmer's markets, and is organic.

Their comment was about cost, as in too expensive. I didn't say much to them, though I was thinking it.  If they're working for Penn West, they are almost certainly well paid by Canadian standards, and could be very well paid. The supply of dollars is not likely the problem. It could be they have a large family and only one income, and fair enough.

But I was thinking what could possibly be more important than the quality of food you're eating and feeding to your family? It is a cornerstone of your health and quality of life. Yes you can spend less. But what is a case of e coli, or listeriosis, or salmonella poisoning worth to you, or even the chance of getting it? People can die from bad food, or suffer irreparable organ disease.

And then this song popped into my head. With apologies to Sting.
Every cut of meat
Every veg you reap
Every fruit you eat
Every meal you heat
Sickness lurks for you

Every single day
Every leaf you flay
Every animal you slay
Every snack on way
Sickness lurks for you

Can't you see
Sickness waits for you
On a plate of food with every bite that you eat

Monday, January 21, 2013

The dancing workout

Almost by accident we noticed an ad for a ballroom dance class at the local community centre. We used to take dance lessons at the U of C. They were good, we met lots of neat people, including a couple of people we are still buddies with today. Hint, look for The Mama Runs on my blog roll, even though she hasn't updated it for a while.

For a while it worked out well. I worked downtown, Linda just south of downtown with free parking. I'd walk across to the parking lot by the curling club where she'd pick me up. We'd have an amazing dinner, usually at the Lazy Loaf and Kettle, then head up to the University, or the Varsity Community Centre, or the Euro-Canadian club, where ever our lessons were. Then home after.

Then I got a job way NE Calgary, up north of Deerfoot mall. It was usually 40 minutes home. Then 40 minutes at least back up to the U of C. Then home again. And because we were teaching assistants, it was 3 nights a week, plus dances every month or so. The commute killed it for us.

We took a bit of Argentine Tango about 5 years ago at the Southland Leisure Centre, but I've since forgotten it all. I was a bit worried about tonight, but it turns out it's coming back fairly quickly. Once I see a pattern I knew, I'm usually good to go. So that was an hour tonight, brisk enough to work up a bit of a sweat.

That was on top of 30 minutes swimming this morning, regular stuff, stroke coming back to me. After that I water ran for maybe 10 minutes with my buddy Katie, and got caught up.

28 words, please and thank  you readers! I hadn't thought it would be difficult. I know some of you are reading, I can see the nose prints on my blog afterward. I can hear you breathing, and sometimes giggling to yourselves. Lots of words to go and just over a week to do it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Maybe I'm not cured after all

Best book club meeting ever! We've been part of BJ's book club for more than 13 years now. That's as far back as my email on this computer goes, and I don't feel the need to dig into archives that I think exist. This isn't your artsy fartsy literary book club, with in depth dissections of character motivation and writing points. Those things are all fine in their place, and that place is typically not in our book club.

For starters, we usually meet in a pub on Sunday mornings. Occasionally we meet at someone's house, which has been fun. For a while LK was house surfing, baby sitting various homes while the owners were away on extended trips. There was the ritzy place in Elbow Valley I liked, and the one in Inglewood was really cool, and the one a few blocks from Lazy Loaf and Kettle really seemed to suit her. But now she has settled down into a place of her own.

BJ moves a lot. I'm not sure why. We were discussing this at one point, and I can clearly remember 5 previous places that I've been to, and we all know my memory is suspect. There are probably more. She's moving again next week. GS interviewed Bernard and was accepted as chief of staff. He lives in a nice house that Bernard has thoroughly taken over. And of course, our place, we've had a number of meetings here, but it's a bit of a drive for most people now. Technically, most of the book club people live in the SW, but in Calgary that covers an awful lot of ground with a reservoir in between major bits.

There are times the book club doesn't even talk about the book, even if we've all read it. We are all wrapped up in other conversation, like today. Lots of people showed up today. Tempted by Linda's cooking, no doubt. GS was a bit colorful about not having it in his calendar for some reason. Lots and lots of lively conversation. Our house sitter Darlene was first here to meet the cats, and joined the conversational free for all.

The book was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and we all loved it. We actually talked about it quite a bit, by our standards. Supposedly it's being made into a movie and I really hope they don't botch it. There is an excellent trailer. The next one is The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared. I've read it already, and might read it again for the meeting.

Meanwhile, I'm still burping the various culinary goodies. I did not work out today. Yesterday I was on the bike for a fairly hard hour's workout. Good warm up, then hard intervals above 200 watts, at progressively faster spins. Cool down. Stretch after for a long time.

Today I'm noticing my lungs. I think I knocked some guck loose, and I've been coughing it up. My lungs have that hollow feeling so I know I pushed them. My legs are feeling pretty good.

I'm still looking for 28 English words. I've had one suggestion and an alternate, so there's a long way to go. Never mind why at the moment, all will be revealed later. 26 more words, please and thank you. Feel free to email them if you don't want to comment. My email is buried in my blog, as is my twitter account. Some of you are on Facebook, and that's ok too. A few might see me on Linked In, and that's ok too.

Curtis and Celina were the hit of the meeting, after the food, particularly Curtis. Just by accident today I got a great shot of him looking regal. Or something. What you can't see from this shot is his paws hooked into my fingers, trying to play with the phone.
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Last night I stayed up way too late watching old Clint Eastwood movies. Man did he ever have good hair back in the day! I'd forgotten how much squinting happened. If you want to know which movies, just look at some of my recent posts, and you'll get the idea. I can go for a long time without video input, but I was really in the mood last night. Linda has Sherlock on right now, and I think I'll wrap this up and join her.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A well care rant

What we have now in Canada, and the US too for that matter, is not a health care system. It's a sick care system. It mostly knows how to cope with emergencies and various large bodily injuries. However it's biggest failure is that it doesn't have any incentive to keep people out of the system, quite the opposite in fact. It doesn't have the least idea how to cope with people it can't fix up and push out the door.

Let me tell you where I'm coming from personally, before I tell you what I want from an actual health care system. We are very fortunate in many ways. One of the main ones was to win the genetic lottery in terms of health. Throughout much of human history, someone my age would be considered very old.  By modern Canadian standards I am middle aged and much healthier than other men my age. Statistics tell me I can reasonably expect to live another 25 years. If I take care of myself and have a bit of medical luck, I might well make it to 100. And then if you believe even a bit of what Ray Kurzweil has to say, by then I might be on the threshold of living forever.

I'm old enough to not have starry eyed delusions about our society, but not so old to be set in my ways. I'm wealthy enough (now) to not mind paying more taxes provided I can see the benefit of doing so, and funding a proper health care system is to my obvious advantage. I will almost certainly need it over the coming decades.

What do I want to see? The current system dwindle to a tiny fraction of it's current size. I do NOT mean dwindling the Canadian system so an American system can be implemented. I see no reason to allow vulture insurance companies to get rich from denying people medical care.

I want to see a birth to death health system that is focused on keeping people healthy. Lets explore what that might look like. In Calgary it is extremely difficult to get a family doctor. One co-worker flew back to BC to visit her doctor because she couldn't find one here. I'm supposed to get a physical annually, and I was astonished to discovered two years ago, that if I booked the day of the physical, the next appointment was 1.5 years out. I booked it. I rearranged my life to keep the appointment. Good thing I only work one block away.

But most of us don't really need an annual physical by a medical doctor. That medical experience is overkill for most patients most of the time, and the time frame is much too infrequent to get any idea of what normal is. The doctor is the gatekeeper to seeing specialists, but the real word for what they are is the bottleneck.

What we should have in every strip mall big enough to have a convenience store is a small medical office staffed by someone with credentials similar to that of a Registered Nurse, but with additional training in the resources available to the system, and the overall normal healthy human life cycle. Their primary role is to regularly see a group of patients, typically people that live within walking distance. By regularly I mean every few months, with the exact schedule determined by the patients specific needs. Some people might be every 6 months, some monthly, and it will almost certainly change as the person ages.

During a visit a number of things happen:

  • the patient gets weighed on the fancy scale that gives the detailed fat level. These might not be exact, but they are pretty close, and they are consistent. They are also very fast and very cheap compared to a hydraulic test.
  • Blood pressure, and a blood sample taken. Maybe two, with one going to automated testing, and the other put in storage for later detailed testing if necessary. (See automated testing further on down.)
  • Listen to the heart and lungs, look in the various bodily orifices, test reflexes, mobility. 
  • Maybe a urine sample for automated testing.
  • Discuss on going health issues, noting trends. For example most of us gradually gain weight. A few pounds up or down is no big deal, but a longer term trend can be caught early, and the person advised about issues, and appropriate help found if necessary.
  • All data is tracked, and the most important thing is to compare to previous results. The idea is to get a grip on what is normal for that person, and to see when things change. This becomes an invaluable took if the person is involved with some catastrophic medical event, such as an auto collision or the onset of some disease. Then tracking when something changed from the low end of normal, to the high end of normal might be very important.
  • When something comes up that is abnormal, or warrants further investigation, the practitioner is their guide to the system, helping them to see the appropriate people, get the appropriate tests, and coordinate any medication issues.
  • They would be a central place for all the patient's medical data from checks done in that office, but also from routine eye examinations, dental procedures, OB/GY, hearing tests, occupational rehabilitation and other such things all done by the appropriate specialists.
  • As the person ages, the routine checks might change, become more detailed, or additional ones could be added. They key is that it is personalized because we have the data. It might well be that with genetic sequencing becoming cheaper by the week, this office might sequence every new patient and use it as an indicator of what to watch for.
  • All this should be paid for out of our taxes. The practitioner reports that they see a particular list of patients from year to year, and that drives a medical tax rate. People that do not see such a practitioner pay a higher rate, perhaps much higher, on the theory that sooner or later they will need the services of the more expensive system.
The first objection to this is that such practitioners don't exist, and it will be expensive. Firstly, nothing is expensive compared to our current system. Preventing from people getting sick or injured has to be cheaper than fixing them up afterward. While the system is strained for medical staff now, the system itself is part of the problem. I've known people with valuable medical training that simply can't cope with the stresses any more, and they find another job. What a waste! (Don't get me started on how we train doctors now!)

I am convinced that we can start recruiting back some of these ex medical staff, and current staff willing to learn a new way of doing things, with a promise of reasonable pay, and a holistic life based practice. I'd love to see such a system get started in a small city where we can start tracking the changes and compare to other centers. The more things like diabetes we can catch before it really gets going, the system will start to pay for itself, and we can gradually devote more and more resources to it, transitioning from our current system to the new one.

Part of the issue is to drag the medical system, kicking and screaming every inch of the way, out of the primitive tracking practices. Paper? Puh-leaze. Every person should have all their medical data encrypted in such a way that the various staff in various offices can see what they need, such as the eye doctor seeing the eye information she created, and the overall health notes, but not the details of treating that nasty little STD you picked up. Perhaps the patient carries a card that is the only practical way to un-encrypt the data. Or a key is buried in your smart phone, or tied to your genetic code. 

Right now the doctors are the centre of the whole system and they like it that way just fine. The blunt fact is that they are a big part of the problem. Remember what I said about bottleneck? There is a scientist who once said, scientific progress happens one death at a time. It's almost like that in the medical industry. A little over 100 years ago it took them years to accept that washing their hands between patients saved lives, and it's still a problem now. Why do we put up with it? 

I don't know the details of the medical lab practice, but I'm pretty sure there is a group of very bored people doing the same tests over and over, hundreds of times a day, and reporting the results. I'd like to believe that significant variations from the norm are flagged, checked, and reported to the doctor for followup. Yeah, lets ask the Newfoundland cancer patients what they think of that.

Where I'm going with this that we should be putting research money into automating these tests. Canadian Blood Services used to put the drop of blood into a blue solution to see if it floated. Now they put it on a tiny chip, and slide it into a machine. It beeps almost instantly with results. Next time I give blood I should ask what all it reports. We should be able to feed in a drop of blood, or urine and get the results from a whole host of tests in real time. They have a little machine that automates blood pressure readings, and my doctor cannot explain why he doesn't have one. The time it takes for him to do the test, as opposed to noting a reading and thinking about what it really means, is time that could be better spent doing something else.

Lately there's been some media attention about old people not driving cars very well any more, and discussion about how to prevent this from happening. Typically the family doctor is the one that recommends to the authorities that driver's license should be revoked, or have limitations. This is based on the old model where the doctor actually knew the patients and saw them in day to day lives. Seeing someone for a few minutes once a year is no basis for such an important decision, and as if they have the time. But a practitioner like I discussed will have a long term relationship with that person, or a new person in that position will have access to the data. They would have a much better grip on the person's medical issues in relation to driving, and how it's changing over time. If such a practitioner has been helping that person find the appropriate medical resources for much of their life, it will be one more thing to have them say "You know, your peripheral vision isn't what it once was," or "Your depth perception is shot" or  "you aren't reacting to sudden changes the way you once did" and suggesting ways to get it checked out, or modifying activities for safety. It might be as simple as not driving at night or rush hour. Or maybe a short drive is ok, but anything longer than an hour is too tiring. They can help the person do the right thing. Maybe we should build simulators to objectively test such things, and run everybody through one every year.

Then there will be the people saying they're too busy, and don't have the time. I suspect this would take maybe an hour or so, every few months. Since I started working out, I've come to have a whole new attitude about what's important, and what I have time for. Someone will watch 12 hours of reality TV a week, and not have time to work out. Bah! During the run up to IMC, I was typically putting in 12 to 15 hours a week in cardio activity. Plus things like yoga, stretching, rollering, and other maintenance activities. Now I'm aiming for an hour a day. One of the internet memes that I really liked had the doctor saying to the patient "It's your choice, you can cut back a bit on junk food, and spend an hour a day working on your health, or you can be dead 24 hours a day".

The problem is that it isn't that simple a binary choice. There are a lot of very, very expensive options in between those choices. Lots of guys my age have a heart attack. Our current system is very good at dealing with them. If I ever want to go to the head of the line at emergency, I just have to say I feel shooting pains down my arms, and that elephant is squishing my chest. Boom, I'll be in there so fast. And Bang, will they be mad when they find out something else not so serious is the issue. Some of them change their lives, and others don't, leading to further expensive medical issues. Maybe, just maybe, if they haven't changed their lives, we should take the position that if they aren't interested in their health, why should we pay for the consequences of that disinterest?

A hospital is the last place in the world an old person should be. A while ago I listened to a doctor talking about his practice of making house calls. He had a group of people he saw regularly in their homes. He could discern an amazing amount seeing someone in their home environment on a week to week, or even day to day basis. He despaired when they had to go into the hospital for some reason, like a fall. The hospital buggered up their routines, disrupted the delicate balance of their medications, and they generally never recovered back to where they were. 

A hospital is the last place in the world a pregnant woman should be. Being pregnant is not a disease; it's a natural part of life. Hospitals are a great place to catch horrible diseases. Starting a person's medical care by starting with their pregnant mother seems like a no brainer to me. Why are we still having people born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder? Maybe the practitioners specialize in male or female life cycle issues, since we generally do have different issues. It's hard to compare the numbers, but Canada's infant mortality rates are not as good as other peer countries. We can do better.

Our medical system generally treats impending death as an all hands on deck emergency. Even if that person has signed a do not resuscitate order, sometimes next of kin go and mess with that. Maybe it's better if we let some people die. Every medical procedure has a dollar value, and an opportunity cost. To maybe save that person will cost x, and also means we can't treat those other x many people. Right now the medical system doesn't want to say triage, but that's what they are doing. It's a pity we aren't mature enough to have a discussion about it like grown ups. I will come right out and say that not every life is worth an infinite amount of money. 

I would very much like to see a graph of the medical costs per person. Somewhere in Alberta is the one person that cost the system the most money. At this second I don't need to know who, but I do want to know how much. Somewhere are some other people that cost half as much, and lots more that cost a quarter as much, and then a great many that all cost about the same, and a few fortunate people that don't cost the system much at all. This year. Malcom Gladwell wrote about this extensively in his article about Million Dollar Murray. It's worth reading if you haven't. It's very likely there are some inexpensive things that can be done for that one expensive person that would save a ton of medical and social costs.

There are many people waiting for organ transplants. We are not quite yet at the point where we can grow an organ on demand. We are so close. It looks medically possible to take a skin scraping, run those cells through a procedure to turn them into stem cells, and then build a liver, for example on a substrate. Such a liver would have no donor rejection issues. In the mean time, why are are we not harvesting all the medically suitable organs or other material from dying people? Rather than having to sign a paper saying take what you can, this should be routine practice. Religious scruples be damned. Every kidney from a dying person that can be matched to someone needing it, saves the system a huge chunk of money from routine dialysis and other medical interventions, to say nothing of giving life back to someone who is essentially on death row.

That's what my proposals are about, giving more life to more people. Helping them understand the medical choices available now, avoiding the pitfalls leading to expensive medical interventions later in life, getting medical professionals dealing with the living instead of the dying.

One of the key statements in Gladwell's article is from a guy named Philip Mangano. He says, "It is very much ingrained in me that you do not manage a social wrong. You should be ending it." And that's what we should be doing with the current health care system. It isn't serving us. We need to graduate to a real health care system, and end the problems with the current one.


Friday, January 18, 2013

The good, the bad, the crunchy

The really good cat food was what we made for Sebastian. No pic of him, unfortunately, since he was before digital photography, but if you picture Curtis you've got a pretty good idea. Bigger though. The problem he had was FUS. Feline Urological Syndrome. Guys don't like to read about this. The ash built up in his penis, and blocked the flow. We found out shortly before he was about to explode. Essentially he got turned into a girl cat in some respects, and we had to be very careful about his diet.

We made the cat food. It was edible by humans, if you liked chicken liver. At the time I could make it in my sleep. Make some rice. The chicken livers could be cooked or not. Hard boil some eggs. Mix all together in a food processor, add a bit of carrot, a few vitamins, and you're ready for the most important step. It had to be frozen before serving. Had to be. They wouldn't eat it fresh, but chowed down on it big time after it had been frozen and thawed out again. Something about the texture and the smell totally changed.

The bad was the commercial cat food we tried before making it for ourselves. We opened the first can and nearly heaved. If the vet hadn't warned us that it smelled bad, we would have taken it back to the vet to get our money back. It was gross, and that's what we thought with our insensitive human noses. Sebastian and Nefertiti wouldn't even stay in that part of the house after a can was opened. Neither of them ate for two days while that was on the menu. It didn't hurt Sebastian to miss a few meals, but poor Neffer was getting a bit thin. Thats when we started to make our own.

Sebastian's crunchy of choice was crackers. Particularly the Stone Wheat thins. Even the slightest rustle of the wrapper would wake him from a sound sleep, and he'd run to the kitchen. Run. Normally he was really civilized about sharing a lap with a human who was eating. He just wanted to know what we were eating. Even if it was something cats normally liked, a tuna sandwich for example, he'd take a couple sniffs, and then wait patiently. He'd be right on anything that dropped. He loved the smell of bananas. He'd sniff and sniff and sniff, but wouldn't taste. All that was fine.

But crackers. He was a total cracker whore. He'd be right in my face, trying to eat the cracker that was in my mouth. He would try to pry open my hands to get  at the crackers. One time I held a couple crackers out at arms length. He tried several times to walk out my arm to get them. You try to hold your arm out straight with a 17 pound cat walking on it. When that didn't work he went to the floor beneath my hand, then leap up to wrap himself around my arm to drag it down to where he could work on my hand. Eventually I realized that if I wanted to eat crackers, he had to have one. That was enough. I'd break corners off and he'd snarf them down. I think if you laid a path of them he'd happily follow them into a troll's lair.

It's beautiful weather out today, 8 or 9 C (nearly 50 F), with water running everywhere. I put on my run gear, did lots of limbering up and headed outside. There is still lots of ice on the sidewalks so I had to be cautious. After a short and brisk walk I tried running, very lightly, very easily. I very much doubt those would be the words used by any watchers to describe what I was doing. I lasted about 5 minutes, then did a short walk just to give my legs a break. They weren't sure of this running thing anymore, and my knees and hips were complaining a bit. I did that a couple more times, then walked back to the house for a cool down. I stretched for a long time after, pigeon, feet up, runners stretches, back twists, squats.

The first thing getting back is always hard. Tomorrow it's supposed to be crap weather again, so I don't know when I'll be running again, but I'm aiming for Sunday.

I have to admit I'm a little surprised that there were no comments about the cat paws under the door video in yesterday's post.

Reader input needed. I need 28 words supplied to me by my faithful readers. Any word in English. Never mind why just now, but I need them for Feb 1. You can supply more than one if you like, but I'd prefer if the first commenter didn't supply all 28. If I get more than 28 I'll pick the most interesting, by my criteria. You'll have a chance over the next bunch of blogs to contribute. I'm pretty sure it's set up so that anyone can comment, though blogger makes it hard to do from a mobile platform. Please and thank you. Yes, I'm going to be a nag about it.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

For a few crunchies more

Amelia was on a steady diet of crunchies. When we got her she had bad teeth, and they suspected she would need some (expensive) dental work done. We had her on a special crunchy diet designed for tartar buildup. At least they were good for her teeth. We never did have to do any dental work on her.

She liked them quite well enough, but didn't make a pig of herself, unlike some we could name. However the problem was that she was a messy eater. She would pick out a crunchy, hold it away from the dish, crunch it and nibble, while many crumbs fell out of her mouth. She wouldn't touch those. Sometimes she played with her crunchies.

We discovered this the first time we had the heat ducts vacuumed out. As the guy was shoving the hose towards that bit of ducting, it sounded like gravel being slowly dumped into a truck. It's a good thing we weren't on a strict budget for cat food because it was expensive stuff, and she probably actually only ate about 3/4 of the bag.

Curtis knows the bag of crunchies is kept in a big green bin near the cat dishes. Occasionally he will rattle the lid, but he hasn't quite got to the point of knocking it off. For a while we had a big stuffed toy sitting on there to discourage him. If he ever does get it off he's going to think he's in cat heaven, and we'll come home to an exploded cat.

For a face that is covered in fur, he can be very expressive. He makes it perfectly clear what he wants, more crunchies, and wonders how we could be so stupid as to not get it. What more do I have to do, you can see him wondering.

Here's a video of Curtis reaching under the bedroom door. This is the first video I've done to Flickr, I have no idea how slowly or quickly it will load. It is a little dark, and there is no sound till almost the end.






In other news, I was in the pool again for the first time since about Christmas. It was really full and I had to wait till a swim club cleared out. I wasn't expecting anything special in terms of times, so wasn't disappointed. The water feel wasn't as clunky as I had feared it would be, it's just that my arms were weak and feeble. The first 100 m was about where I normally am, then it slowed down. At least it never got slower than a 60 second 50. Then some dolphin kick and pull, and one fast 50 in 44 seconds not working too hard. In the water for 30 minutes. At the end of the day I can feel it in my shoulders a bit.

I'm still musing about races this coming year. I'm trying to picture myself going out to Banff or Canmore, and getting into the freezing cold water. Or Chinook where I'm really familiar with the course. Somehow, the picture isn't quite coming into focus.

After the pool I was walking briskly from the car to the office, and wondering why I'm beginning to sweat. It was actually warm out! There was a huge line up for coffee, so I went upstairs. On the days I swim I like to have coffee with my granola.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A fistful of crunchies

That seems to be a huge focus for Curtis. Though to be fair, most of our other cats were very interested in crunchies too. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the novelty of the crunch. After all, in a more natural cat life where they only eat what they catch, there would be very little going crunch in their lives.

The current kind of crunchies look like this, followed by the wet food we buy. It's not all duck and green pea, there are other flavors too. I just wish I knew how much cats really tasted.

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Here he is, trying to convince me he is weak from hunger, barely able to keep fur from bone. Uhuh. Pardon my skepticism.
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Celina seems to be more interested in the wet food, and often chows down on Curtis's, as he wait's for the crunchies. We're trying to teach them the bowls have to be empty to get more. We fear the vet eye, telling us we feed our cats too much, and we have to cut back. That's fine for *HIM* to say, he isn't the one that has to listen to the 3 am cat chorus.

What do you feed your cats? Is one of them more of a pig about it than the other(s)? Do you have to split them up for feeding?

Human crunchies are of course in good supply. There is a cookie jar that Linda keeps full. She was much taken by my stricken look as I opened the jar once, when I thought there were cookies, and there weren't. Of course, one of my main rules is that cookies consumed post workout are recovery cookies, and the calories don't really count. Both cats are interested in cookies. It can be very difficult to defend milk and cookies from cat investigations, while reading whatever it is on the go at the moment.

I used to do lots of cookie baking, with an especially well thought of mint chocolate chip cookie, but since we switched to whole wheat flour, I haven't quite got the knack back yet.

There was a bit of a core workout last night. Still getting back into it, with yoga tonight. My lungs and throat are feeling pretty good, so I think I'll try for the pool tomorrow and see how that goes. Let's hope the resolutionista crowd has thinned out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Not the rant, yet, but

Chugging through Simpson's book on the Canadian health care system. So far I've wanted to get up and scream about it a few times. It's safe to say there is a head of steam building for a rant.

Even after a really, really light workout yesterday, I could feel it in my hip a little bit, and in my hams and calves as I walked to work this morning. Once I finish digesting supper I'll head downstairs and do some core and stretching. That kale stuff sure slows me down as I eat a huge Waldorf salad mutation.

I've been musing about races this year. I already see people have signed up for some. There are races that are sold out or nearly so. Yet somehow I do not feel the race love at the moment, not even for my nemesis, Chinook. My thought was to do some Olympic distance races this year, see if I could build some speed. Over the fall I was doing really well on the training. Then since early December I've been off the wagon. I needed a bit of a mental break, and then came Christmas and a trip to /Vancouver. Then I got sick and I'm still struggling out of it. Not having any races to train for is enormously reassuring at the moment, still, I'm wondering if I really ought to get off my butt and sign up. Get over over the DNS of my last race. Start to focus.

(What's that wine saying? And the cookie chorus, isn't that a new orchestration? Plus the cats are making it clear they consider my first duty after feeding them is to give them a lap.)

The only races for Oly distance in short driving distance of Calgary I know of are Chinook and Canmore. Is Banff still on? When, if so? Are there other good ones local? When is signup for Vulcan; or is it full already? I'd travel that far I guess. I know of one in May, and if the organizer is putting it on again, I'll be there.

In a teaser, I'm starting to build a three part blog. The titles will amuse you.

The sunset was pretty amazing tonight. These photos are untouched. No Snapseed, no filters, no nothing. Just an iPhone 4 pointed at the sky. Yes that's the moon in the first one; it looks much bigger in real life.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

On the bike again

Just a quickie. Only 45 minutes, mostly easy spin, just to see what my legs and lungs would think. No big complaints, but neither was there a lot of enthusiasm for carrying on. I hadn't really prepared for a long ride anyways.

I've been just on the verge of declaring the cold over with. It's just hanging on long enough for me to have a bit of a cough, and a bit of guck in my throat. I haven't been to the pool since about Christmas, mainly because I didn't want to be cold, but if people take that as consideration for other people and not spreading germs, I'll take that too. I was listening to someone on CBC describing the Norovirus, and I can certainly do without that, thank you very much.

There was a bit of stretching and rolling on the T ball. There is still some tightness in my right hip.

Celina dived into my pack on the weekend to haul out the mittens I'd been wearing. One was in the kitchen, with the inside fluffy bits slightly pulled away from the leather and fur outside bit. I had to hunt for the other one. It was downstairs, thoroughly molested. The fur around the cuff was still damp with cat spit. The inner fluffy was almost totally apart from the leather outside.

Tonight I'd bought some new work shirts. Since she could get into my pack she was starting to dig at the new shirts. They don't even smell like me, so I don't get that. The bike gear I'd been wearing, and left near the washer? I had to put them in the washer. She was all over them.

It's been snowing the last little while, and today it warmed up to above freezing. The roads were turning into a sloppy enchilada, and tomorrow will be worse.

Reading about the evolution of Canada's health care system. You may reliably expect a rant on that topic soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Now it's down

The best part about it was listening to the cats offer to help. We were keeping them out of that bedroom precisely because they wanted to help. Even after explaining their deficiency in opposable thumbs, and a lack of understanding about how to neatly pack things, they insisted they could help. But the tree is down, uneventfully, and everything packed away again for another year. No doubt it will go by very quickly.

I was even downstairs for a brief core workout and stretching session. However, the real workout was holding onto a squirming cat who was getting his nether bits washed and combed. Every now and then that needs to happen. I think combing the knots out actually makes him happier almost immediately after, even if he isn't very happy about the warm water running over his butt.

Every now and then I get a kick out of watching the fail videos. Yes, I realize this is sick, but there's something fascinating about it. Every now and then there is one where something unexpected goes wrong, and the boat turns over in the cradle and falls upside down into the water. Some of them are drunks trying to do something they couldn't do sober and at the height of their athletic prowess. These guys, and it's mostly guys, deserve everything that happens to them.

But most of them are people demonstrating that wheels, a jump, and a video camera often adds up to stupidity incarnate. It is clear that none of the people involved had the least thought along the lines of "what could obviously go wrong?", let alone a thorough examination of the various potential causes for failure and pain.

Sometimes the stupidity demonstrator gets up right away, but I'm sure that isn't going to last. Many of these people are, or should be on their way to a hospital for head X-rays and dental care. Much like the guy who proved that his brain isn't a vital organ, via "cleaning his cross-bow", these people don't seem to show any inclination to use theirs. The potential for injury is there even if things go perfectly.

My only consolation is that some of them look to be too young to breed, and they way they have rammed their crotch into some unmoving object leads me to believe they won't be reproducing. Which is good. I often take a Darwinian view of such things. This is the safest society humans have invented to date, with many previous hazards removed or mitigated. Now people have to go to some lengths to injure themselves, and they seem willing to do it.

I just wish we didn't have to pay their hospital bills. Perhaps we need a stupidity judge. When people go skiing out of bounds and need an expensive rescue, such a judge could determine if they were being stupid. To me, walking, skiing, or snowshoeing past the "out of bounds" sign without adequate preparation is prima facie evidence of stupidity, and they should have to pay the rescue costs. As is being towed by just about any motorized vehicle. Or operating powerful motor vehicles with inadequate training, or outside their operating parameters. And most frequently, attempting to operate their own bodies outside their established operating parameters with inadequate training or preparation.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First real Saturday of the year

Last Saturday was a washout. Today was nice. A bit of a sleep in. The morning papers. French Press coffee, which I'm really liking. It's a bit fussier than the drip, but tastes much better. The overnight snowplow driver left a big row across the bottom of the driveway. That was my only real exercise of the day, shoveling that. Rock hard on the surface. Good thing I have only a single driveway.

I ripped through Turing's Cathedral, and skipped whole chunks of it because it was so dry. It sounded so good but I'm disappointed. Not recommended. Next up is Walls.

We are only a little behind the times here, so our first movie outing of the year was to see Skyfall. Back in the day I loved going to the new Bond movie. Then they got dreadful for a long time. Along the way somewhere I discovered that my brain had stopped making some memories. We were with friends talking about renting a video (back when there were videos), and I wanted to get the one where he slides down a mountain side in a violin case. That's when I found out I'd seen it in the theatre with those very friends. I didn't believe them. Later I rented it myself, hoping for a 'oh now I remember' moment but no. It was entirely new to me, and my friends swore I'd seen it with them. Another side effect of working shift work. It's an uncomfortable feeling to know you don't remember some things.

We all enjoyed Skyfall, a bit to my surprise. I hadn't expected to, though I'm not sure why. I think Craig makes a fine Bond, one of the best, though the bar isn't that high to avoid being the worst. After we went out to dinner and chatted. We don't go to many movies in the theatre anymore, mainly because it's expensive, there are too many commercials before hand, and often they are too loud. Linda paid, I snoozed through the commercials, and the volume was just right. Plus the seats were more comfortable than I remembered.

Trying to build up the nerve for a shopping trip to Sport Chek. Maybe tomorrow.
Trying to get back into the fitness routine. Maybe tomorrow.
The Christmas tree has to come down. For sure tomorrow.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Look what Susi made!

While we were visiting, Susi gave me this little crocheted cup cozy. People have already been eyeing it as I top up the water. That's when they're not eyeing and smelling my lunch. I'm getting a bit of a rep there for having the best lunches. Trust me when I say that isn't my doing.

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I'm still not back on the workout train. There are still some vestiges of cold left in my chest. And my nose. I won't go into any particular detail what happened this morning when I blew my nose after shoveling the driveway, other than to say I badly needed to wash my hands after, and it took some doing, just to be clean enough to get into the shower.

Just a few minutes ago I finished this book.
IMG_2554
I'm charmed! This is two winners in a row. First Night Circus, and now this. I pick books by being intrigued by the cover, and then liking some bits as I browse through it. The part I browsed had Allan meeting up with Truman during the atom bomb project. Yes, that Truman. It goes from there. I found it in a nice little book store in Vancouver called 32 Books. Many other nice books too.

Thats the problem with nice independent bookstores; I feel impelled to buy stuff, just to help out the staff, because I know their profit margins are razor thin, if they exist at all. I feel no such compunction at Chapters, or Indigo, or whatever they all themselves now. The most unlikely book I ever bought, was in the most unlikely place you could imagine. I bought the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, in an independent book store in Slave Lake, Alberta. Top that. The next book on my list is Turings Cathedral, purchased from Owl's Nest in Britannia.

Allan leads what could be called an adventurous life, starting from learning how to make explosives as a child by experimenting in the early 20th Century. Much like Flashman, he finds himself in one improbable situation after another, culminating in what happens after he climbed out the window on his birthday. At first I thought it was to avoid a party, but it's not. It's intricately plotted, to the extent I'm sure the author had to draw a diagram, and periodically look at a map.

The English translated from Swedish is slightly oddly flavored, which adds to the charm. The cast of characters, both after the window and before are amazing. Somehow, without trying, Allan is one of these people that shit happens to, and the results are hilarious. Go find this, and buy it. I'm not sure if it's available as an e-book, but I'm sure you can find out quick enough. It's well worth your time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stoic

Stoic has been the word of the day.

It's been snowing the last 24 hours or so. At times it's been really heavy, some of them commute times. This is life in Canada. I am stoic about it.

In much the same way I am stoic about the cat complaints. You know the ones. Never gets fed. Never gets petted, or any human attention. Totally unloved. Might as well let me out to hunt for my own mouse to eat. No matter it's -10 C and nearly a foot of snow. Do you feel guilty yet?

Then there are xl spreadsheets, and various complicated data transformations. Some days they are fun. Some days they are not. I was very stoic about digging a piece of ID data out of a text description field, then fixing the format so I could reliably compare it to another database. Then looking at another database to get a data field I needed. And then another database to figure out which LSD is related to another LSD and which of them I needed. Then sort out the spurious duplicates it produced. Under time pressure.

Now I'm beginning to feel flabby and unfit from being sick for a while. I don't think it's terribly productive to work out when sick, but then I also believe one has to eat to have the nutrients to fight off disease. I am afraid to get on the scale, but at least my pants still fit. Yet another opportunity to be stoic.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I was surprised, almost shocked

Here I've been taking it easy the last little while. As I recall about the end of November I dialed back the workouts a bit. I haven't done a really serious workout for a couple of weeks now, and it seems like forever since I've run.

So you'd think going into a massage that I'd be all relaxed, no tight spots, right? Ha. Upper back and shoulders, tight. Low back, tight. Hams and calves a bit tight. Quads and IT band, killer, painfully tight. Arms, lots of tightness. Neck, tight. I guess my feet weren't tight.

How can this be? I was whimpering throughout some of the massage. At least, I thought, it will get me going for our first yoga class of the session. Fortunately Fiona takes it easy on us, but by the end of the night my right hip was aching all over again. Sigh.

What I'm not surprised about is the snow. In a couple hours we've already got 4 cm or so, and it's coming down hard, thick, wet, and heavy. Doing the driveway tomorrow is going to be slow. If it does this all night I might not be going in to work, though it doesn't call for that much snow. Then again, we're already past the minimum of what they called for, and no let up in sight.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Protests

Natives have been much in the news lately. In no particular order we have Chief Spence on a hunger strike, there is the IdleNoMore protests, there was a Federal court decision about Metis and non-status Indian rights, along with assorted other protests for various environmental and other reasons.

Let me get one thing clear right from the start. The Native, Metis, and Inuit people in what is now called Canada have been getting the shitty end of the stick since well before there was a Canada. I do not propose to list all the issues, or even a representative sample of them.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Native relationships with both French and English have been fraught with misunderstanding for centuries. What we've ended up with is a system that doesn't serve anybody well, yet seems impossible to change. Some Native reserves are essentially third world enclaves, complete with rampant disease, poor housing, poor education, poor job prospects, and generally speaking poor life prospects. In some cases, corruption is rampant too, with the chief and his buddies living very well. Some of the people living off reserve do very well, and some do very poorly.

I read of some reserves that appear to be well run, such as the Osoyoos Indian Band, whose businesses now include Nk'Mip Cellars, North America's first aboriginal-owned winery; two resorts; a golf course; and retail stores, among a handful of others. The band, which administers its own health, social and educational services, has 700 mostly non-Native employees and contributes $40 million annually to the local economy. Chief Louie has made it clear that economic development is the best path to success and weaning themselves off government dependency and they seem to have done very well. Yet I have with my own ears heard Native people calling him an apple, a red man who has sold out his heritage and background to become white inside.

Natives in Canada are a very diverse group. There are about 615 bands with about 800,000 people registered. Many bands are smaller than 1000 people. Some bands prefer the term First Nation, which is actually the term I want to discuss.

Were the various bands in fact Nations when Europeans arrived for the second time about 600 years ago? (The Vikings didn't stick around long enough to have any real impact.) Are they in fact nations now?

There are two related concepts in "nation". There is nation-state, a sovereign entity that we normally think of when we say Country. And there is a cultural or ethnic identity that is sometimes caught up with nationalism. There is no denying that the various Aboriginal groups have a cultural and ethnic identity distinct from "white" Canadians. They are proud of it, and have been struggling to retain it in the face of many challenges from the modern world. I believe this is the sense in which they are using the word nation.

For sure they are not sovereign entities. They exist on Canadian soil. Admittedly, virtually all of it was taken by force, trade, or treaty from Aboriginal groups, but the fact is that Canada is the sovereign entity. The reserves in some cases are well established by treaty. Many native groups never signed a treaty, and are still working on it now. In BC, for example, all the Native land claims add up to more land mass than exists, due to overlapping traditional grounds. But for all practical terms in the modern world, Canada is the sovereign territory in every respect.

Most bands are dependent on the government, which I'm sure rankles them. Nobody likes to be dependent. It rankles taxpayers too, because all they see are dollars flowing onto the reserves, and apparently nothing ever changing.

Everybody is caught between a rock and a hard place here. Giving the band money with no intention to track where it goes is an invitation to corruption. Some Natives already think they are entitled to a never ending supply of tax free money. Putting in a manager to watch the money tells the band that the government thinks they are corrupt and incapable of governing themselves. The Indian Act, and yes it's really called that, is central how how Natives and the Federal Government relate to one another. It's been amended over the years, but many people say it needs to be scrapped. Unfortunately, discussions about even trying to do that have failed, with Natives saying they were not consulted. There are practical difficulties in consulting with more than 600 groups, but I'm sure we can do better.

I'd like to believe that these groups truly do not wish to become sovereign, with a seat in the United Nations and all. Nauru is the smallest population country I can find that is not a dependent state, and their population in 2011was just under 10,000. It's 21 square Km island in Micronesia. (I don't count Vatican City as a country.) At some point a country is too small to be viable, and since they are accepting Australian aid to stay afloat, it could be that this is too small.

Even if some of the reserves are sitting on oil or other mineral deposits, I don't think that's enough to run a country on, even if the skills are there, and at best, most bands are just working on that. So what then, do we all work towards? And how? They talk of being self governing. Are they to be treated like provinces? A municipality? How do they get the practice governing without feeling patronized or bullied? How do we know when they've demonstrated competence at running their own affairs?

Sometimes the Native groups consider themselves to be meeting nation to nation with Canada, as equals. I'm sorry, but that's really funny. A bit of spin to maintain your pride is one thing, but that is completely false to fact. Whether they like it or not, most bands are completely dependent on the flow of money from Ottawa, and a thousand people are not equal to 35 million. That's hardly a meeting of equals. We have to, somehow, recognize today's realities. The Natives aren't going away, and neither is Canada. Unfortunately, neither is the taxpayer who has to pay the bills.

So in one sense, I'm happy to see the increase in the Native profile. We need to learn more about each other, as we really are, in order to move towards a more mutually agreeable way of living together. We need to build confidence in each other, and that will be nearly impossible. That well has been poisoned again and again by white people, over the centuries, and recent Native blockades and some protests have pissed off a lot of white people too.

In another sense, I'm sad to see the increase in the Native profile. An increased profile will inevitably shine light on the weakest parts of that society, the ones least able to withstand the glare. People in power that do not want to share, will point at the drug addicts, the corrupt, the (apparently) lazy, and anything else negative that they can, as examples of why nothing should change, or change to give them even less. It's a dirty game, and can be played by both sides, with the Natives pointing to corrupt cops, and a network of agencies and corporations that infantilize them as they struggle to regain their world.

That won't get us anywhere, or at least, it hasn't yet, and unfortunately, that looks like the direction Harper is taking, in response to a woman who is starving herself to death with as much dignity as possible. Bad start.









Monday, January 7, 2013

Lets not get carried away here

I was feeling pretty good yesterday, then slowly started fading in the late afternoon. There had been (premature, as it turned out) dreams of getting back in the pool this morning. I was able to get to work feeling not bad, and did reasonably well until the slow fade happened again.

Five for five on my tweets being read on CBC. Not that I'm counting. I think my acerbic humour amuses Doug and Jenny, and I say things he would like to say. If I were to happen to meet up with the big time radio star when he wasn't working, I think I'd have to buy him a coffee.

Our tree is still up. We were in no mood on the weekend, and now, if there was a gun to our heads, we could cope. But other things need to happen. Like food. Lamb kind of food. I'm going to need an armed guard on the fridge at work again. Plus I'm still going to bed early tonight.

I did a bit of stretching here tonight. Very gently, since I'm still kind of full of Tres Marias burritos (ROLL those r's). They are so yummy and filling. My shoulders, chest, and core are still kind of cranky about the spasmodic workout on the weekend, but I need to be able to move during yoga. I'm sure my massage therapist will also be happy about things NOT going crickle crack any more than usual.

My desk is much more comfortable now that I got that little heater. The whole room is quite a bit warmer now, which is nice. I guess this means I can spend more time writing, huh? Just not tonight. Lots of people stay sick longer than they need to by not fully recovering. Not me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lucky Seven Sunday Snippet

From Janet, who got it from B. E. Sanderson, a snippet from a manuscript from a 7 page, 7, 17, 27, you get the idea. There area  couple there already if you are interested.

Here's mine. My normal text editor is very bare bones, and doesn't give page numbers. I copied this story into a more featured word process and grabbed a one page chunk from page 7. This is a conversation between Dwen and a cop who is investigating a bone found in the digester, which is a big sealed tank where an anaerobic process breaks down sewage.


`We only do it when we have to. We can tell by the suction and discharge pressures of the pump involved. Normally it would be recorded in this book here, but I can tell you that nobody has written down that they’ve done it in the last year or so. For a while we were having process problems and of the four in use, we probably cleaned one a shift.`
`How big is the piping involved?`
`Ten inch diameter. Big enough for a bone, easy.`
`At this point I’m thinking more in terms of bodies. Could someone have been left in the tank during the last clean out?`
Dwen shuddered. `I don’t want to think about that, but no. You saw how open the tank is. Normally everybody going there would put a lock on the manway so it can’t be sealed. I’m not sure when that digester was last drained, but it would be on the order of 10 years ago. Stu would know for sure. Would bone last that long?`
`The forsenic guys will know. Can the hatches on top be opened when the tank is in operation?`
`Not without getting a faceful of gas. I can take you up and show you them, too. If the hatch is opened, the pressure would drop in the digester, and that would show up on the instrumentation.`
`Is there any way of looking back for that?`
I’m afraid not. Maintenance has been cleaning this tank for over a month now. The computer only keeps records for a little over 24 hours. We used to have pen charts recording some things, but gas flows were never done.`
`Hell. So 24 hours after the hatch is opened and closed, you’d never know.`
`I don’t really want to experiment, but I’d bet that unless you were watching it live, you’d not see it at all. The dip would be over quick enough that it would be lost in the computer processing. Opening the hatch itself wouldn’t be difficult. I’m not sure how you would get the body in without getting covered in gas and foam, or risk breathing the methane. One breath of that and you might join the original victim for a swim. Game over big time, but then we’d find an open hatch.`
`That would have shown up, and would be noted?`

Right now I'm putting in a serious effort to timeline and plot the whole thing out. I've got lots of snippets and individual stories that need to be massaged together into a coherent whole.

Speaking of coherent wholes, that's basically what I'm feeling today, for the first time in several days. There is still a bit of congestion but breathing for ordinary activity is back to normal. My body's thermostat isn't playing tricks on me anymore. With any luck I'll get back on the fitness bus tomorrow.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Weird visio dreams but no ickyness

Today has been a very strange day. I have seldom felt this exhausted even after big workouts. Walking around the house is a serious effort. Getting up from a chair takes planning.

I was in bed last night early after doing some software testing, and slept till about 10. Then I got up to briefly look at stuff, then cuddled up in the media room where I have a nest. I know I was sound asleep at 5 or so because I didn't hear Linda feeding the cats. I was fading in and out of dreams.

Then I dozed some more, and got cold. I was shivering hard enough to hurt my breathing. Linda helped get me all tucked in the front chair in the sun, one big quilt around my body, and another over my head. Then she went off to do some errands.

It was like I was watching myself, dozing off, yet awake enough to count intervals between bouts of shivering. There was gradually more time between them, and they were less severe as I warmed up. There was a big 3-D Visio diagram of the steps to count the shivers, and gradually open up the blankets a bit. I didn't want to go right from shivering cold to soaking wet with sweat. The strangest thing was seeing the cold draining out of my body from head down. I had taken off the head scarf, and opened up around my chest, but my feet were still cramping from cold. At one point I had untucked a bit too much and could clearly see that. I could see how to change my position and tuck in again for the best result.

At the same time I was looking at the political situations in Washington and Ottawa through the same sort of lenses. Seeing the obstructionists in power refusing to make any deal on ideological principals, and meanwhile messing everything up for everyone else. I could see some of the complexity of the situations as they affect various parts of each others, and following projections of what certain actions might lead to.

These TeaTard idiots have no idea of the complexity of the world economy. All they see is that it's bad to raise taxes. Or talk about gun control. Or extend health rights to women because it's inconvenient to conduct the vote. They are acting like 2 year old children only only know they want what they want, and right now.

They don't even see that by responding to the nut cases in their own party to make their positions the new normal, they have been making themselves increasingly unelectable. It's political science 101 that you have to get elected to attempt to carry out your agenda. From a small partisan front, these people are just screaming NO at the top of their lungs, hoping the rest of us will give in. That's an attractive package for some people, but most of us have better sense. Tell me again why any woman would vote for the current crop of Republicans?

My Visio diagram was amazing in a hazy way. It extended out beyond the house, the neighborhood, and seemed to go and go, getting more complex. I was drifting along, following various paths. In many ways the current world situation is untenable. Letting corporations run the world to internally maximize profit, and externally socialize everything else, and letting the wealthy gather an ever larger size of the pie simply isn't going to work.

There have been a number of inchoate movements, Occupy, the Idle No More, and no doubt others. One of these days, I think fairly soon, one of them is going to catch fire. Remember how nobody knew they wanted an iPod or iPhone, until they did? Somebody, somewhere will articulate the message, and the actions, and it will resonate around the world. Some things will get broken, but it needs to happen. The rich and the corporations won't know what hit them.

Maybe, just maybe, this flu isn't a normal flu. The 1918/19 Spanish Flu changed the world. More people died of the flu than on the battlefields. The Black Plague killed nearly a third of Europeans, and cleared the way for the Reformation. Maybe this one is the big one that public health people have been worrying about. My Visio model had incredible changes coming.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Batten down the hatches!

All hands on deck for kleenex duty! That time has come. Other than that, I don't propose to bore you with the details.

I've been pouring hot tea down my throat. After work I went to Teavana and got the mix that Susi served us. It's just as yummy here. Then some corn chipolte soup that was just perfect for what I wanted.

The other errand I did was to buy a small heater for under my desk in the study. This room has always been cold, and after writing a while my feet end up very cold, even wearing warm slippers and resting on a lamb fleece. Maybe it's just my metabolism slowly failing. Used to be I was warm all the time.

On the way to the heater display I had to walk past this.

Untitled

And
Untitled

Can you make out the pricing? $400 and $420! These just happen to be the first HD TV's I happened to see since I started the quest of researching TV stuff. I almost bought one of them, then realized I was too feeble to carry it out to the car, and there's no way I'd be able to figure out how to set it up. To say nothing of having a Christmas tree in the way for another day.

In my brain, it wasn't all that long ago (10 years) that these would have cost north of $8000. I did the math on a calculator, twice. The current price is 5% of the price then. Good thing my financial investments aren't following the same curve. I've never heard of these manufacturers, and they're sold in Canadian Tire. That doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, but it does give me a price benchmark.

No wonder some people at work were considering these a disposable good. Maybe if I wait a little longer one will show up in my bag of granola. Or one of my neighbors will force their old one on me, sort of like how I got my first TV forced on me.

Any hints on where to go for a new TV? Or does it matter any more? Best Buy, Costco, Canadian Tire, they're all the same now? I also need something to play Blue Ray DVD's, for the short time they'll be around, and our current DVD library. Something to store things I stream from the net. A TV that talks to me wireless router directly, or another box that manages all that. Decisions decisions. No doubt I'll end up with a zillion remotes, and need a course to use them.

Not something to think about with a head full of

Now to carry on with the dream sequence, I'm in the space for that.

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