Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snowshoe success!

Rain, cloudy, rain. As expected. Then this morning some blue sky. We zoomed up to Seymore and had PERFECT weather for my very first attempt at wearing snowshoes. Clear Alberta blue sky. Trees laden with fresh snow. Not too cold. Not windy.

After a bit of adventure getting the straps right for Linda we headed up and up. She rested a bit while Susi and I pushed up a very steep part of the trail to reach a scenic viewpoint.

Then back down, and we took a shorter easier route back to the parking lot. There is video evidence of me and Susi barely able to keep up with Linda. Maybe I'll post that when I get home.

Lets see if Blog Press will do photos.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Almost a patch of blue sky

Things are going well. Raining, of course, but for a brief time it stopped, and it looked like things were going to clear up. It didn't. Oh well, like that's a surprise.

Snowshoeing has been delayed till tomorrow. Otherwise hanging out and enjoying ourselves. Hiking. A suspension bridge. The sea wall.

In other news, I nearly bought an $800 leather jacket. Very nice, and fitted perfectly. It called to me but I managed to resist.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sloth. Plus gluttony followup

Last you heard we were heading out for Christmas dinner with friends. We were not disappointed. Burp.

Afterward we played the train game we like. We've been playing this one or a North American version with them for years. Many years. Linda almost always wins. Here's the board, can you guess what colour she was using?


We got home fairly late, (for us), surprised how much traffic there was on the road. We were speculating how many of them were heading out to stalk their shopping prey.

We didn't stalk any at all, unless you call ripping baby cookies or chocolates out of their lair, stalking. We slept in. There was nice coffee. A big lunch. Lots of lazing around cuddling the cats and reading. Very relaxing.

There was no workout at all. The pool was open. I could have gone. But I didn't. It's still freaking cold out, and I'm not on a run schedule, so I didn't. It was very, very nice to stay inside today, not doing anything.

Oh, and look for embedded threaded comment! Down below, that little comments button. I'm still working on making it bigger.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Here we are again. Seems like every time I blink, Christmas is here again. I have a somewhat conflicted relationship with Christmas, but don't intend to get into that here.

We tried out coffee done in a French Press. Really good, and only slightly more fussy than the drip coffee maker. I'm wondering a bit, though. It says it's a 1 litre container or 8 cups. It's enough for us each to have one cup, with a bit left over. I didn't think our cups were THAT big. Did I mention it makes tasty coffee?

We did our gifts of course, since the tree and ornaments survived the night. We cheated of course and put it up in the media room so we could shut the door. We had Love Actually going for a while as we finished things off. That's one of my favorite Christmas movies. It had me at the first "Billy Mack" snork noise he made.

Today is another quiet day for us so far, though we're heading out for Christmas dinner with our oldest friends in Calgary, which pretty well means my oldest friend period. I've known Gord since 84 or 85, and shortly after he met Gail. We've been getting together for dinner, and movies, and coffee, and weddings, and the train game ever since. Though Gail was a bit dubious about us after the first visit. We were all having such a good time we didn't get out of her house till about 3 in the morning. Still it's all worked out. I know people who have been best friends with the same person for most of their lives, usually from early grade school. That seems a bit odd to me.

I got in a very nice spin session to work up an appetite. Did I mention Gail is a really good cook? On the bike 1.25 hrs for a moderate to strong workout, then a really good stretch after.

So far no fallout from removing Disqus. My spam filters are still working, and I think all the comments are there. The comment button is a bit easier to find now, and anyone can comment, so there is no excuse!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Kiss Disqus goodbye

It's gone. Nicole had left a comment that appeared nowhere except in my inbox. Not deep in the bowels of Disqus anywhere. I found it in Blogger comments, but it doesn't show it with the post it (supposedly) is attached to. However blogger thinks I have 4545 comments, and Disqus only 4508. I guess that means that nearly 40 comments are in limbo somewhere. Oh well, I'm sorry about that, but maybe they'll show up sooner or later. I'm sick of comments being eaten.

Perhaps more people will comment now. (Hint, Hint). The comment threads might be a bit more chaotic given Blogger doesn't do threading, but it's not like I get a zillion comments per blog, with readers coming back to comment on comments. Well, a couple people did a few times. Maybe it will be fun for people to figure out which response goes with which comment.

The little comment button is not obvious at all at the moment so I'll see if I can tinker with the layout to make it more visible.

In other news, I was in to Sunterra market in Britannia to pick up some last minute goodies. Across the road I went into a store to get a French Press for coffee. I've been meaning to try these for a while. My Facebook buddies will have seen this exchange already.
Half of a cell phone conversation overheard in the Britannia hardware and gift store. 
"They don't have one like that."
"What they have looks like (description)".
"Are you sure?"
"Chinook?! Are you kidding?!"
"Williams Sonoma. I'm doomed, you know that. It will probably be faster to leave my car here and walk there."
"Love you too dear."
(puts phone in pocket.)

I kept a straight face in front of the guy, but I felt pity for him. Sunterra was a madhouse with people lined up to demand their turkeys. Chinook parking will be a good approximation of the first levels of Hell, and the mall itself will be beyond that into some time-space continuum that fill even the damned with dread.

Before I got there I was in the pool for the last swim of the year. Imagine, a whole 50 m pool to myself. The water was the perfect temperature. I cruised along, not getting the feel of the water particularly well at first, but it came to be suddenly during some pull drill. Nice. A bit later some girls from one of the swim clubs showed up slumming. They were having fun discussing what they'd do. They were fast, but having fun and not working too hard I think. My swim was not fast, but I was having fun being in the water again. For the past couple weeks I wasn't feeling the pool love.

The rest of the day was lazing around. Tidying the media room where the tree will go, so there is room. Wrapping a present. We do not know how the cats will react to a tree, and would prefer to limit their exploratory inclinations. During the painting we had moved the little glass octopus we got from Bermuda into a high shelf in the guest bathroom. Someone, we think Celina, got up there and knocked it into the toilet. So at least there wasn't glass everywhere.

Drool protector for keyboards ON!
As a few of you know, Linda likes to cook. Loves to cook. Today she outdid herself. Roast chicken, roast potato and sweet potato, carrots done with the chicken, steamed broccoli, and amazing dressing, one of her secret recipes. Dessert was an apple crisp. Wine of course. Good thing I was hungry.


Drool protector OFF, unless you aren't done staring yet. That's ok.

The cats continue to amuse us. Curtis loves to drape over things, including humans. However it's really hard to get a photo of him doing that, so you'll have to settle for him draped over the kitty condo.

And such a sweet face! How could I not post a photo of Celina? I think she was actually asleep for this shot. She paid no attention to me at all as I took several shots.


Christmas Eve. I'll be recruited shortly to work on the tree. This year sure has gone by quickly.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Feeling better now

Even though I still haven't figured out why Disqus hates some comments, or my desktop computer, I've decided for the moment I don't want to struggle with going back to the old comment system. At least not at the moment. It might still happen. I wish I could do it on a test system first. I'm getting spoiled by work.

In other news, iPhoto and Photostream sometimes appear to not to talk to each other. Then I figured out that when I modify an image in Snapseed, Photostream still knows the original date the photo was taken and treats it as if it has just discovered it. No wonder I couldn't find it. Some others that I hadn't been able to find showed up as well, so that was a semi productive use of my day. One of these days I'll have to dive into Flickr and learn a bit more about what it does. I'm sure it's good for more than holding photos so I can put them on my blog.

By late afternoon I was getting itchy for a bike ride. I wanted to be getting sweaty on the bike, and best of all my back and hips had been getting less and less cranky all day. I had a good strong workout on the bike, only an hour, but I'd rather feel good for an hour, than try for longer and blow something up. There was only the faintest of pulls where my right hip flexor anchors into my hip. Nice warmup, some tempo pace, and 3 short bursts working up through the gears staying over 100 rpm while staying light and smooth on the pedals.

Long stretch session afterwards, rolling the ball, twists, cat/cow, pigeon. Nice. The 50 m pool is open the whole day. Haven't been swimming in a little while, and I'm feeling that itch too.

That's enraging

I am ready to pull the plug on Disqus. It's been eating comments lately. I can see them on my iPad and iPhone, and in my email, but not my main computer no idea why. Even worse, I can't write a response on the iPad. It, or Discqus have just eaten 3 of them. Grrrr.

That will explain why you might be seeing duplicate comments, or me responding to extra comments you might not see. Or something.

Have you been having trouble leaving comments? I haven't had many lately, and I don't know if that's because Disqus has been eating them. Or if you don't feel like commenting. Please leave a comment to let me know. (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.)

So I'm going to be playing with it for a while some time today. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nice day, with a major disappointment

You know how everybody talks about trying to relax at Christmas, having some time with their families, getting away from the stress of work, and all that? Yeah, it's like the weather, everybody talks about it but nobody actually does anything about it.

Except me.

I slept in today. Yesterday too, for that matter. Cruised Facebook, Twitter, blogs while watching the sun come up. Talked to my neighbour while getting a newspaper. Enjoyed a wonderful cinnamon bun from La Boulanger in Kingsland with coffee. Read for a while (more on that later). Workout. A great meal, and now blogging. More novel later.

All in all an excellent, relaxing day. How many people in Calgary can say they had a relaxing day today. Come on, hands up, let me see you. Anybody? I thought not.

My one bitter disappointment is the book Age is just a Number, by Dara Torres and some hack ghost writer. I'm sorry, but it's incoherent. I think Torres is an amazing athlete who has helped redefine what "old" is, and makes people think differently about age. I think there is an amazing story in her life, but this book isn't it. I had to stop reading. I lost track of which comeback she was talking about, or which coach she was working with. The competition during training between her and and somebody, I can't remember her name, struck me as stupid and immature. She was a grown woman, I'd have expected her to be smarter about it, even if the kid wasn't.

The kiss of death for a book is when I realize I don't care about the characters, or the situation, or the story, or the topic, or whatever the book is about. It used to be I'd soldier on through, but not any more. Life is too short. I move onto the next one.

The minor disappointment is this bottle of commercial wine. I'm not sure how it ended up here, since I haven't bought commercial wine (by the glass in restaurants excepted) for a decade at least. It's ok, I guess, I'm drinking it after all, but it isn't as good as my wine.

A good thing was the workout. A bit of stretching got me on the bike for the hour feeling pretty good. My heart rate was a bit higher throughout than I would have liked, but it was nice to be biking with no low back pain. Afterward was a long stretch session, using the ball on my hips, butt, and back. It felt really good. Just lay there in a twist for a while. Did a long pigeon pose. Now my hips feel good, and my upper back is a bit cranky. Oh well.

Linda did up a simple little trout and wild rice dinner.


Very nice. I keep telling her that she should teach people how to cook. Not to follow a recipe, but the real deal, how to actually cook, and have fun doing it. She doesn't think anyone would be interested.

Next, onto the novel. I probably won't talk much about it here; there doesn't seem to be much interest.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I've been awarded!

Such a nice way to end the year. In no particular order.

I won a "coveted" coffee mug from the CBC afternoon show I like to listen to. Every now and then they ask listeners to respond to a question through phone, email, or twitter. Here's the exchange:


I won't include a photo of the mug, especially not full of coffee because it would drive you all mad with envy. I'm sure of that. You'll just have to imagine how awesome it is. For non Albertans, the Legislature is where the Provincial Legislature sits and spends our money. The building has a nice dome, and a great view of the Edmonton River Valley. I hadn't known there was a nice reflecting pool there.

What was really awesome was the traffic to get there after work. There'd been an accident on Memorial westbound, near CBC. The back up was along Memorial way east, south on 14th St, and eastward along 11th Ave, which is the route I needed to take. It was pretty slow going. The host, Doug Dirks was in the lobby doing the show from there. Somehow I had thought it would be higher tech, reading the script from a laptop or a teleprompter. Maybe they really do make it up minute by minute. It's funny how you get an impression of people just from their voice. I had no idea that Jenny was so tall. Like my height or nearly so.

Another thing was a Sportchek $100 gift certificate. Another one. The first one was from work for doing at least 600,000 steps over 2 months. In fact I did about 1.3 million, but they wouldn't give a second card. I tried a couple times to spend it, but it didn't work out. Then one of my blog buddies, Ali Mc over at Running with Spatulas, had a contest for, you guessed it, a $100 gift cert from Sportchek. And I won! So I've either doubled the size of my problem (such a problem to have, I know!) or got myself to where I can get something really nice. What was their URL again?

Over the last little while I've been trying to branch out my blog reading. It started as just triathlon, and then expanded to fitness in general, and then expanded to, well, in general is about the best way I can put it. Blogs go on my blogroll for one reason, I like to read them. Maybe they amuse me, or educate me, or share my pains and triumphs. You all know who you are, even if you don't comment much lately.

One that I discovered recently is Janice at Figuring it out. I'm no longer certain how I found her, but I think it was a contest like this one, the Liebster Blog award. She won, and then passed it along to me, in the company of the Blonde Runs and SUAR. I'm flattered, and will be checking out the other people mentioned.

I think I've done this one before, but that's ok. I don't mind. Always nice to have your blog noticed. What keeps me going back to Janice's is in one of the first times I opened it, there was a beach photo. Some of you will know I'm a sucker for beach photos, with cuties nice but optional. Think of all the blogs, and all the photos of beaches on blogs, and I recognized it. I'd been on it. How cool is that? She lives in a beautiful but under rated part of the world.

So. Five Random Facts hereto though unmentioned on my blog:

  1. I completely believe there is an alien conspiracy. Some of them walk among us as TV and movie producers. Their evil plot is to turn human brains into tapioca pudding via insidious broadcasts and commercials. They happen to like human brain tapioca pudding, and are patient. The harvesting will happen any time now. Even human brain tapioca can go rancid, and there are lots of signs of it happening. Which is why I don't watch much network TV or see many movies anymore.
  2. I am a curious contradiction. I've only been blogging since late 2007, though I had a website and another blog on another platform back in the mid 90's. It took me a while to get onto Facebook, and much longer to get the point of Twitter, and I've come to love them both. There's lots of people I've never met that I've enjoyed chatting with, and exchanging (semi-)witty banter. I've even met a number of people through blogging and that's been really good. I can keep track of people who have moved to the other side of the world (hi Kelsey!) and family I had lost touch with. And yet, in a group of people I don't know well, I don't have much to say. I'm rubbish at small talk, but I've learned that many people are horrified at my not-small talk. When I tell you the very, very first thing I heard coming into my very first spin class was a woman saying "what's a little vomit between friends?" and it felt like I was coming home, that will tell you much about my small talk. (She knows who she is.)
  3. The person I would most like to have dinner with is Leonardo da Vinci. There is little doubt he would make the top 10 list for most remarkable human beings ever to live, and has a strong case for being first on the list. I would ask him how he learned to see what no other person had ever seen before.
  4. Dogs often bark at me, (though Austin doesn't). I'm not sure why. One of my dog buddies speculates there's something predatory about how I look at dogs, and it makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they sense my inner shark. I worry about dogs running loose on the bike path.
  5. One of my father's brothers had intensely piercing blue or grey eyes. It was like he could see through to your soul, yet he was a kind and gentle man who walked the talk of his religion. My mom's dad had intense dark eyes that scared the crap out of me as a child. My cousin's (mom's brother's daughter) young daughter has inherited his intense look. It's unsettling in a very little girl. I'm told I have intent blue eyes as well. The blue part is easy to see, but I've never felt like I have the intent quality. 


1. What is your mantra or motivational quote?  "Despair is a sin" or "I get to run when so many others don't."
I don't really have one. Sure, there are things I mutter under my breath at times as an alternative to a homicidal response to human stupidity. None of them are particularly fit for public consumption.

2. What is the next big goal on your list?  My next big  non-running goal is to finish my novel. My running goal is to finish the Bluenose International Marathon in a personal best time.
It just so happens I've been musing about this. Just very recently I've dug out the bits of a novel, and am thinking seriously about taking another run at it. Lots of good bits, I just have trouble figuring out what kind of story it is. There's a love story (sort of) in it. There are at least two murders, but I'm pretty sure the book is not about solving those murders, though one character could. There's a dream sequence I see in my head, because I dreamed it, that I have no idea how to write down, or how it could fit into the novel, because it does. The plant where the characters work is almost a character itself, and a significant part of the atmosphere. It's a little bit of a period piece. 

3. What is your favourite place in the world and why?  Risser's Beach because I feel more myself there than any other place on the planet.
Ah, Risser's Beach. I'm a big fan of Hirtle's myself. Venice was amazing. I want to go back. And yet I never, ever tire of looking at the mountains and foothills, and the cloudscapes from the strange winds we get. I'd never understood what painters meant when the talked about the quality of light in Italy, and now that I've been there I understand. I also now see the peculiar qualities of light here. In some ways Calgary is a frustrating place to live, but I've been here since 1980, and can't really see myself living anywhere else now. At least until someone carts me off to the old age home because of advanced geezerdom. With any luck by the time I need one, they will have figured out how to make them a civilized place to live.

4. What's the best way to spend a recovery day?  Good question that I find hard to answer because I nearly always spend recovery days working. If I didn't have to work, I like to think I'd spend them reading, writing and cooking.
Usually recovery days are spent catching up on laundry. Nobody ever told me about the laundry issues facing triathletes. Every now and then I like to spend part of the day in silence, doing nothing but meditating. No, not the formal incense sniffing, mantra chanting, cross-legged meditation of popular image. For one thing, I can't sit upright cross-legged. My hip flexors start killing me really fast, and then I have to hunch over to keep my balance, or I'll fall over backwards. I mean just seated comfortably, preferably with a cat purring nearby. But it has to be quiet. I like to let my mind wander, but I don't try to think about any particular thing, and I don't try not to. It's sort of like lucid dreaming. It's hard to describe.

5. If you could travel and run a race anywhere, where would it be?  Another tough question. There are lots of places I'd like to visit but, to run a marathon, I'd have to say New York. Or Dublin. Or maybe Edinburgh. Or Athens. sigh. Nope, I can't decide.
Hmmm. I don't know. I'm not a big fan of traveling to a race. So far I've driven to all my races. There is something within me that doesn't like the thought of disassembling Estela and putting her in a bike boxes. Maybe if I took a bike mechanic course I'd be happier about it. I used to like traveling a lot. My dad was an airline pilot, and some of my earliest memories are of airports and airplanes. But that was when flying had class. Men wore suits, and women wore dresses on a trip. Real food was served. Now, an airplane is a flying bus. I have seen people getting on a mid day flight wearing pajamas and slippers. Airports no longer feel safe to me, mainly because of the security theatre. 

I just finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Even reading it I knew I was going to be sad at the end because I'd never ever be reading it for the first time again. Many people read because they like to immerse themselves in the world. That doesn't happen to me that often, but it happened here, big time. The whole book works on so many levels for me that I was just delighted the entire time reading it. Next time I read it I'll have to pay a bit more attention to the dates. I think they matter more than I thought.

Using a trackpad is a bit of a change from a mouse, but I'm liking it so far. The main issue is when I intend to do a two finger gesture, and do a 3 because my ring finger droops, and then something unexpected happens. I'll get used to it pretty quick.

The novel fragments are all rescued, and I need to do some serious work on story timeline. That will tell me what bits of what I've done so far I can keep, and what I need to write.

I sometimes do a year end blog, and some thoughts are beginning to surface about that. You have been warned.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the lam from the potluck police

Sure enough, there are people roaming the hallways, dragging us to the big kitchen to EAT MORE FOOD! That or go downstairs to see if you won anything in the raffle. I didn't. I ate lots of good stuff, including some pretty awesome fudge. Almost but not quite too much food. I won't need to eat supper tonight. There is a plate here showing I've been doing my share of eating, so now I get a rare chance for a mid-week mid-day post. The cookes I brought are almost gone. All is good.

My work year end is wrapping up here pretty quick. I've got a timesheet to do, and a little bit of house cleaning, then I'll pack it up and go rescue our car from the dealership. Then some errands taking the scenic route home.

Wed night yoga class was amazing. What with some serious rollering and other stuff earlier this week, my back and hip have been loosening up. There was a 7 minutes a side (I timed myself reading on the iPad) Pigeon Pose that really did good things. Then lots of good stuff in yoga that really helped. That isn't to imply that there is stuff in yoga class that isn't good, not at all. During the run up to Ironman it's like Fiona designed the class around me. So many nights where the class was doing stuff that was just what I needed.

Good news for the old, cracked iPad. The case arrived; same one as I have for the new one. Now that the iPad is safely enveloped I don't mind touching it again. I downloaded TouchPad onto it so it's now a giant trackpad for the main computer. That and a music server. Tonight I'll play with the apps to make more space, then copy the entire music library from my iTunes to it. Then we can have music through the good stereo system. Playlists, must remember to do some playlists as well.

If I get ambitious I'll get on my bike tonight. I've been mentally itchy to get back on the workout bus, but my body wasn't quite so eager.

No comments at all on the novel extract. I'm not sure what that means. If I was a conspiracy nut, I'd think all my readers got together to collude on the thought "don't respond,and maybe he'll stop." But much as I love a good conspiracy theory, I'm not a conspiracy nut. I'm thinking your eyes glazed over as you read it, and your head bonked the keyboard as you were going to sleep. Then when the impact woke you up again the browser was gone and you went on with the next thing to do, having totally forgotten about it till now. And since you're burning with fascination to read more of my brilliant prose, click here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

quickie workout, and an excerpt

Sundays gun culture rant took it out of me a bit. There was a bit of emotional involvement there, and I didn't even get to other stuff. I just read it again, and I see places I could make it flow better, but that's ok. It's done really well in the readership department, nearly cracking the all time top 10. There's been a few appreciative off line comments, which is always nice. 

I tried running Sunday, and it did not go well. My legs felt really heavy and slow and tight. The RunMeter app lied to me, telling me I'd run 5 K in less than 25 minutes. I'd be pretty pleased with that as a time if it was real, but the map showed me going all over the place. I doubt is was anything over 3K, and maybe not even that. The stretch session after was really good.

Monday I did some stretching, and more again tonight, really working that cranky hip. Right now it feels pretty good, but this lingering tightness is not normal for me.

I started reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I'm absolutely entranced. I'm about 3/4 of the way through and I known I'm going to be sad when I'm done, and I know I'll be reading it again. The world is so immersive in a way I haven't enjoyed in a book for years. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I have my suspicions of course. Great book club pick! I've got a stack of books to work through, and they all look good.

The other literary thing is starting to look at the bits of my novel again. It's been a while since I've looked at it, and the format is obsolete. None of the programs on this computer can read it. Fortunately I still have the cube downstairs, and I managed to convert the chapters to RTF and put them on a USB drive. Now I just need to save them again and the process is complete. Well, not the writing process, lots left there.

Here's an excerpt for your reading pleasure. I'm curious what you think. If there's any demand I'll post other bits.

`Well Les, what do you think so far?` Dwen asked. It was his second shift. He had spent the first one with Mitch, and today he’d start learning his daily job duties. Mitch had asked Dwen to show him the primary end in more detail.

`After all Dwen,` Mitch had said, `you seem to know the plant pretty good. Now we’ll see if you can explain it to someone new.`

`We sure covered a lot of ground yesterday. He didn’t really want to get into much detail.` Les’s voice was light and quiet, with the faintest hint of a Newfie accent.

`Do I get just the slightest hint that you wonder if he knows the detail to give? I’m not sure you realize yet how much detail there is.` Dwen looked up at him to see his bland features delicately flushed.

They strode along for a moment, steps out of time. Les’s apparent embarrassment didn’t seem to affect his graceful walk. His face didn’t show it, but Dwen could almost feel him trying out different responses. She kept her eyes on his face, eyebrows slowly raising. 

`All right, he had said that he was going to be giving me an overview, and that other people on the crew would be teaching specific jobs. I hadn’t thought I’d spend the whole shift wandering around not doing anything. Most places put new people to work right away.`

`That’s what they used to do here too. Teach the new guy a few jobs, then leave him to learn the rest of the plant on his own. Most people didn’t bother. Now they have all this new equipment coming in and most of the senior operators can’t really operate the stuff that’s here now. We need you to know how your day to day job fits into how the plant runs, and give you a framework for fitting new jobs into.` She pulled open the door to headworks, then walked into the control room. `Have a seat. Don’t think that Mitch doesn’t know the details. He does, but he’ll be the first to admit he isn’t very good at explaining them.`

`I see. Maybe I’m a little sensitive about people that I think are trying to get something past me. I don’t like being snowed. So what do operators do in here?` He swung a chair around behind the desk beside Dwen’s, and settled into it in one smooth motion that looked like he had been practicing it for weeks. Somehow he ended up just exactly where any closer would have made Dwen uncomfortable. Dwen straightened up, and cleared the screen.

`We’ll begin at the beginning. This place is like an onion, there’s always another layer of stuff to learn. I don’t know everything yet, but what’s important is that I know how to figure it out. If something I’ve explained isn’t making sense, stop me and say so. Ask if you have a question. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid, since we don’t expect you to know much now. So for you, for the next few months, there isn’t any such thing as a dumb question. Are you with me?`

The sharp question woke Les up. He had been getting lost in her words; paying attention more to the flow and rhythm of her husky, slightly nasal voice.

`Yes, ask if I have questions. This place is like an onion. Does that mean it would taste good broiled in a cheese sauce?`

Dwen stared at him and wondered what she was dealing with. `After your tour yesterday you have to ask that? But if you can get it into a pot, be my guest.`

`I suppose not.` He patted the top of a metal box that housed a TV screen and a membrane keyboard. `Is this what really runs the plant and make us operators obsolete?

`Yes and no. This isn’t really a computer, though that’s what we call it. What it really does is monitor plant conditions, shows us various operating parameters and graphs trends, and lets us start and stop some equipment remotely.  You get the various screens by doing this,` as her fingers touched the keypad.  She walked him through the most important screens and explained everything in careful detail. After that she took him through headworks and showed him all the things to check on a regular round. `Later we’ll come back and fire up the queen, but that’s it for headworks for now. Next time we come back, you’ll walk through and show me all the things you’ll have to check. Are you up for that?`

`I think so. It’s pretty straight forward so far.`

`So far is right. There’s a lot more so far to get through before you come back and have to remember this particular bit of so far.`

`So what’s the next bit of so far?`

We’ll go down to number 2 primary pumphouse and spend some so far there. You probably already know as much as you need to about checking on clarifiers, but we’ll find out. The main thing will be pumping grease, though that can lead into lots of other stuff. This will probably take us up to coffee break. If you want to use the bathroom, now’s the time.` She gestured at a pair of doors.

Les shrugged. `I’ll be ok. Listen. I didn’t mean to imply that Mitch didn’t know the details, but he did have a no rush, there’s time for details later attitude that seemed to go beyond sparing a new person un-necessary detail. You seem much more brisk and on the ball.`

`Well, thank you. But it isn’t what your words said that cued me, it’s what was behind your voice as you said it. Just now, you said new person, but what you had originally thought was new man. You edited your words on the fly. I’m not some ultra-feminist that objects to the “man” suffix.`

Les’s eyes widened in surprise. `A guy never knows. I’ll have to be careful what I say around you, I think. You’re two for two in picking up the original cast of my thoughts by the way I phrased it.`

She stopped and looked up at him. `I’d say three for three. So far.` She smiled an enigmatic smile under her sunglasses.`Show me what you know about clarifiers, then we’ll get on with new stuff.`

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Not an anti-gun rant, not quite

It's more. Much more. Hold onto your hats.

I'm still processing it. I can't even say the latest shooting because there have been a whole bunch more since. These are on the retail level, so they don't make the news. But the world is still being rocked by the latest school shooting. News is still coming out about it.

The second saddest thing is that we will never know what those children would have become. What the adults might have accomplished in their work with children.

The saddest thing is that it could be much more difficult to make things like this happen. If it was once or twice, it would be a tragedy. But it happens every few months with a monotonous regularity. Another set of people get their lives ripped apart. Only the details vary.

We have said, and continue to say that a culture that promoted human slavery was wrong and evil.
We have said, and continue to say that a culture that actively tries to kill an entire people is evil.
We have said, and continue to say that a culture that judges people on the colour of their skin is wrong and needs to change.
We have begun to say that a culture culture that represses human rights, and treats women as property is wrong, and needs to change.

It doesn't matter what else those cultures offer, in that one regard at least they are poisonous. They need to change, or be changed. Cultures that practice barbarities like genital mutilation, medieval religious indoctrination, and the like are not really part of the civilized world and shouldn't be treated as such.

Firearms are a tool to kill people. It's a happy accident that they are good at killing animals too. But humans had been killing animals quite adequately for millennia. Killing more humans faster was what drove the technology.

Every other product sold has safety features. Even firearms have rudimentary ones in the sense of a basic on off switch. We recently installed a gas stove and oven. Here's an appliance that is designed to mix natural gas with air, not just in a combustible range, but in a way that promotes the most efficient burn possible. Working in the natural gas industry I do not need to imagine the hazards involved, I've seen the photos.

And yet, just about the very first thing the manual warns about is the tipping hazard. Yes, there is a special bracket that is supposed to be installed to prevent the stove from being tipped over. Here's a photo of that manual page, it's the first real page after the table of contents.

Here is a photo of the stove itself. With the lived in house in the background.

I've had to haul it out of there. It's pretty heavy. I could turn it over, but I'd have to work on it. I'm not sure how much force would have to be applied to an open door. Just think of all the risks involved with burning gas in an open flame, and they first warn us of tipping it over.

Think about power tools. They are festooned with safety devices, and rightly so. It's trivially easy to maim yourself with many of them even with the features. Most cars now come with airbags, even though they are hazardous to some drivers. There are a great many rules, regulations, and laws associated with cars. How we buy them, where and how to register and insure them, how to drive them safely on the road surrounded by other cars (and a great many people need a refresher on this, if they ever learned in the first place), how to maintain them and to what standard, how they can be disposed of, and probably a lot more that I can't think of at the moment.

Computer manufacturers warn of of the hazards of a poor ergonomic set up. Laundromats warn clients of the hazards to children from the plastic bags. Toys often come with a list of potential hazards, and suggested age ranges. Public transit automated voices remind us to "beware of the gap" and to remember our belongings. Train crossings have loud warning bells, safety arms, and flashing lights yet every year many people walk or drive into the train. I often wonder what would happen if we took the signals away?

The box of plastic wrap has a warning that the cutting edge is sharp. The stereo has a prominent label "no user serviceable parts inside". The iron and kettle will shut themselves off if left unattended for too long. Paint and various adhesives warn users of potential toxic or flammable fumes. Manufacturers of a great many products are required by law to produce and make easily available a WHMIS data sheet outlining the protective equipment required, the toxicological issues, and first aid requirements.

I could go on. We build safety devices into almost everything we build. We train people how to use equipment safely. There are standards to follow. Red means stop. Keep right. Do not attempt to defeat the interlock mechanism. Use in a well ventilated area. Hard hats and safety boots must be worn on this site.

Our lives are full of such warnings. Few people argue that safety requirements are a violation of their rights. Oh, sure, there are a few nutters that think that being required to wear a seatbelt or a helmet is a violation of their personal rights. They also think that speed limits are for everyone else because they don't know how to drive. Fortunately, in the grand scheme of things, there are not too many of them.

But now we come to the USA, and the national penchant for murdering each other with cars and guns. One guy fails to light his shoes on fire, and millions of people have to take their shoes off in the airports, and let TSA goons sexually assault them. One attack on the World Trade Centre where 2800 people died horribly was enough to start two futile wars where many thousands have been killed and maimed.

Every few months, American shooting deaths add up to a World Trade Centre. Nothing gets done. Innocent people in schools, malls, workplaces and movie theaters are regularly shot as some raging loner takes it out on them with a gun or several guns, and potentially hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Children. Teens. Adults of every age and from every walk of life.

If it was Islamic terrorists setting off bombs, or conducting these shootings, there would be a major response. I'm pretty sure the USA would start another war, as long as it wasn't a country supplying oil, or lending America money.

But these are home grown nut cases, supported by people that fervently believe that even discussing gun control is a loss of their freedom. They can prevent people from bringing toy squirt guns to a political rally, but restricting a real gun is an infringement on their rights. It is trivially easy to get guns in the USA, much easier and cheaper than getting medical attention for a health issue.

People have been fed a steady diet of gun usage being the "solution" to a "problem". News. Movies. Books. Video games. Shoot the right person, problem solved. Cut to a commercial. Somehow, a round or two is all that is needed for most of the characters, but the main characters can take round after round and come back for the final act.

The time has come to say that the current American culture is poisonous when it comes to guns and violence. The solution is going to be more than gun control. When there is a gun for every adult American, the solution is not to control the supply of guns. Taxing ammunition isn't a solution either, since many people have the equipment to make their own, and you can bet that industry would go underground quickly. Trying to take guns away by itself is a futile activity.

The only real solution is to tackle the culture that thinks guns are normal. They are a tool of death. They should only be carried by soldiers on active duty, some cops and other enforcement agents, hunters trying to feed themselves, people actually at a shooting range, and criminals. Those first ones are easy to identify, train, and regulate. The remainder are criminals, not heroes. The only reason to carry a gun in a populated area is to commit a crime.

The gun nut fantasist's think that more guns will prevent these shooting rampages. All they'll do is kill more bystanders. But they don't see it that way. They see their right to walk down the streets thinking they are a potential hero as more important than the children getting killed.

If you walk down the street of any town or city in Canada with a handgun poking out of your pants, I doubt you'd get two blocks before you were taken down by cops. Even carrying a perfectly legal long rifle would get the same response. We have strict laws about firearms.

Somehow the USA needs to get there. They need to get away from thinking that guns are a solution, that they're normal to carry around. Ownership of firearms is fine. Use of them in some places is fine. But carrying them around populated areas? Not. My solution is to make laws around the safe transportation of firearms between the home and the place it is to be used.

Firearms not transported properly are to be confiscated and destroyed. Preferably on the spot. Meanwhile the person carrying it is treated like someone who is potentially on their way to conducting a shooting rampage. If they get shot in the excitement because they didn't put the weapon on the ground fast enough, oh well. The average IQ goes up slightly.

The rules should involve a pair of locked cases, one for the weapon, one for the ammunition. I think that firearm owners should be prepared to prove that they actually own their weapons, should they need to. Don't we have to prove we own and insure our motor vehicle if we are stopped by the police? What's the difference? I'm not so sure about the national registry idea, since Canada tried that, badly, at enormous expense. Being able to produce a receipt or some kind of documentation should do it. And yes, there should be regulation around who is allowed to commercially sell firearms, and who they sell to.

One commentator wrote a very perceptive article about dealing with mental illness better, before people get to the shooting state, and that surely is part of the solution. It's one that's tied into the culture that medical care is a for-profit-by-insurance-companies, which also needs to change. It should be much easier to get the help that is needed. Yes it costs money. I'd like to think that most taxpayers would be ok with the idea of paying a bit more in tax, in exchange for a much smaller chance that someone will come and shoot up the school their kid goes to. Then again, the taxes must be lower and everything must be cheaper is part of the problem too.

There is a word that goes with America, and no other country in the world. Exceptionalism. Many Americans think they are an exceptional people, both individually and collectively. They're right, and everyone else is wrong. Dealing with a problem can't affect me. I'd never go shoot up a school, so my gun rights can't be restricted in any way, shape, or form. If my government says so, I'll go kill (insert racially charged epitaph here), because they deserve it. I'll be a hero and serve my country, and maybe I'll get a medal. I'm sure the Taliban guy that shot Malala Yousafzai was thinking exactly that.

The American solution is often to shoot first and talk later, except that corpses aren't terribly talkative. Which in some ways makes it easier to make up the story about it. That's why you hear some people saying that sanctions don't work, go drop some bombs, that'll teach them. America has been all about dropping bombs for more than 100 years, and the result is America has fewer friends in the world than ever before.

Canada and America used to be best friends. In many ways they are almost siblings, closer than just about any other pair of countries. Yet our political leaders pay a price for being seen as too close to the American government. The various Free Trade deals were hard fought things. Odd that both sides thought they were losing. Many Canadians applauded at how Chretien managed to avoid being sucked into the war in Iraq. To accuse a Canadian of being like an American is almost fighting words. One of the most emotionally laden discussions here is about our medical system. One of the harshest, most damning, and most accurate barbs is the accusation that a group wants to bring in "American style" medical care. That is the kiss of death. One Canadian ditty I like goes "We won't say that we're better,  it's just that we're less worse."

America used to be the place everybody wanted to go, and that's still a happening thing, but not as much as it used to be. Too many hassles getting a green card. The Constitution-free zones that airports have turned into. Kidnapping people and sending them off to torture. Killing people by executive order, some of them actual American citizens. The paranoia about foreigners, and that means people from the next state; people from out of country are regarded with actual suspicion, and that's if you have white skin. It's a bad time to be brown in America. But then, it's almost always been a bad time to be brown in America.

In spite of being one of the older democracies, in some ways America as a country needs to grow up. They need to get their head around the idea that government needs to happen, and the discussions need to happen, with give and take on both sides. Your ideas are tainting our government, via Harper, and I wish it would stop. The gun nut culture I've been talking about. The insurance profit driven health care model. That they can go bomb anyone they like to help American corporations line their pockets. They need to realize their economic model of unfettered petroleum based growth is killing the planet. (This is a Canadian problem too.) They've been regressing on the understanding that a society that is more equatable is better than a Gilded Age. They seem to have forgotten that education and science got them to the top of the world heap in the 19th century. Too many political and religious leaders want to get back in the game of controlling women through their ovaries. Too many people think that the world that has been good to them all these years has to go on being good to them, at a bare minimum.

So many things to change. Where to start? Some of my colleagues have had root cause training. I've seen enough to get the general idea, but I'm not formally trained in it. My thoughts above are just the beginnings. The problem is much bigger that a steady supply of nut cases getting their hands on deadly weapons. I don't know what the real root cause is. Perhaps this latest tragedy will kick off the discussion.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A house day

After a busy day, our house, mostly, is now habitable again. There was much scrubbing and swabbing. Linda even wore out her compulsive swabbing urge. Floors in the corners were scrubbed. Baseboards wiped down and wood oil added to them. My desk was even excavated, check out the before and after.



You probably can't notice, but my keyboard is white now, instead of some disgusting colour mixed with food remnants. It badly needed to be washed. As did the desk itself. When I tell you I usually eat breakfast while reading blogs and Facebook, you'll totally understand.

The clean up and moving stuff around took up a lot of the day. There is still much more to do. Some excavation in the media room which was a handy dumping ground. Lots of things got stuffed into drawers to be dealt with later.

We've never wanted a sterile hospital operating room for a home. We like a lived in look. A dust bunny or two, lurking discretely in the corners or hiding under the furniture is not the end of the world. Books stacked up that we mean to read add an air of culture. Some cat fur shed onto a chair makes it more comfortable. Some scratches and dings in the drywall are an inevitable part of daily life.

It's sort of like a face. Lately I've been looking at faces more. Of course the "perfect" faces are what we see in the media. Airbrushed. Photoshopped. Make up-ed. Plastic. Unmoving. Unreal. Lifeless. I like faces that have imperfections, wrinkles, laugh lines, freckles, scars. Sometimes there is lots of sweat. All these indicate that the person has been alive, accumulating experiences. There is much one can learn from looking closely at a face. As along as she doesn't think you're a pervert and slap your face.

However, it's clear that things had got out of hand. We were well over the line of looking lived in, to outright clutter. Most of office was unusable. There were a bazillion CD's lurking around the CD player, and the problem is that many of them are in the computer and that's mostly how they get played. There is a wire to use an iPod or iPad to supply music to the stereo, but we didn't do that much. Now that I found that wire, maybe we'll do it more. It sounds better than the iMac speakers. There were all sorts of things lurking in all sorts of places for all sorts of reasons. All of them gathering dust.

It isn't like we were rampaging around the house, frothing at the mouth, trying frantically to get it all done before something else had to happen. We slept in. We talked over our plans, and what we wanted to get done. Then started, and did better than we thought we would. Much more remains. Maybe that will be the great winter project this year, to try to get the clutter under control. If we can do that, we'll tackle world peace next.

This is not a workout free blog. I was down on my bike today. After a bit of limbering up I did a gradual warmup to the top of endurance range, but my right hip was still being cranky. We have a softball something like it (it's pink, after all) that is perfect for rolling those hard to get areas. I rolled over it on my hip, and found lots of crunchy stuff. Then I got back on the bike. It was better for a while,  then was starting to get sore. 1.25 hrs, plus some stretching and rolling on the ball. I haven't run for a couple weeks and I'm missing it.

One can't avoid all the commentary about the recent mass murder in the States, but I've been trying. There's lots to say about it, but I don't have the stomach at the moment.

What just kills me here is that I had a great title while I was on my bike, but now I can't remember it. I think I need to get used to that.

The whirlwind

For those thinking I am down in the basement every evening exhausting myself with a series of workouts that leave me too tired to blog, all I can say is that I'm glad you are not sharing those drugs.

No swim Wed, I knew it would be a late night for us. We saw Jesse Cook in concert! If you know who he is, you'll know we had a good time. If you don't, Google him. It's hard to describe what he does, but it involves seriously amazing guitar sounds. His latest album is a bit of a mood piece, and a departure from his other work, so this concert was a bit slower than ones in the past. At least the first set was. The second was the more usual party. The finale was the band coming into the audience, and singing Fall at your feet. Unplugged. Amazing.

Thursday the painting was done and I started putting the house back together. Much of that still needs to happen today. We might rearrange a bit. We are really pleased with the work he did, and will be bringing him back to do some outside work in the summer, and a bit more interior as we replace another 3 windows.

Friday was my company Christmas party at the Round Up centre. It's my first year there so I didn't know all that many people, but chatted with most of them. It was a typical big company banquet thing, but the food was good, and the hall was nicely decorated. The first band that was playing was really loud, and I didn't care for them much, and we left as they were winding up their set.

Today should be full of house stuff. Maybe I'll take some photos. My desk deserves a before and after. What a mess.

You will note this has been a fitness free post. That isn't an oversight. Maybe today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So that's how those work, and an elevator rant

Every now and then I do stuff to my blog. A while ago, almost by accident, I added those tiny little buttons at the bottom of each post, just underneath the "You might also like" pictures. Then I never thought about them again. They've been there for a while, a year at least. I've never used them, and as far as I can tell, neither has anyone else.

When I got a Twitter account I decided to tweet the URL of each new post. Silly me. I'd publish the blog, open it up again, copy the the URL, open Twitter, paste the URL into the text window, add some teaser text, and tweet it. At least Twitter copies it to Facebook, and thus many of my fans get the news, and come to my blog, breathless with anticipation, or maybe more likely a tough workout, to read my undying prose.

Then I read a rant by a blogger talking about Blogger needing to put a Tweet This button at the bottom of every blog. That got me thinking. What in fact does that button do? Tested it earlier today, and it totally revises my workflow. Two clicks after publishing, plus a bit of teaser text, and it's gone to Twitter. No muss, no fuss. There are so many things in this world that I'm still figuring out. Keeps me young.

Now what I'd like to do is see what happens if someone ELSE clicks that button. So please and thank you, could one of my Twitter buddies hit the Tweet button (the tiny wee one with the t) and one of my Facebook friends hit the Facebook button?

I've been shaking my head at our societal elevator conventions, especially in our office, given the "security" setup. We have to wave our card keys at a gate just to get into the elevator lobby. Then again at the elevator controls to go to the floor we want. Then again on the floor to get out of the elevator lobby. It's a bit tedious.

In a rational society, people would get in and out of an elevator in the order of their closeness to the door, and out happening before in. So much for rationality.

I've been watching elevator behavior, and trying to deduce the rules, and the exceptions.

  1. Women before men. Fine, if they are equally close. But the contortions some men go through to let a woman get out first are just amazing. One stood IN THE DOORWAY, holding it open with his body, motioning women to get out. Two problems. His big fat sweaty gut took up a significant fraction of door space, and the way he was waving his arms one could believe he had every intention of groping every butt that went out the door.
  2. People carrying lots of stuff, or a cart full of stuff. This sort of makes sense. The elevator lets us push as many buttons as we want, so if someone has their arms full, it's common to ask what floor they want to go to. This is nice. Provided the guy with the cart isn't going to 10, and can't get out of the doorway to let other people in and out.
  3. The person going to the lowest floor is the one that got on first, and is trapped at the back. The efficient way is for everyone to do the LRT line dance. There is a little Conga line of people that snake out and stand outside, holding the door while the people that want off follow and then get out of the way. Then ones waiting outside are the first ones back on and the line heads inward. Instead, people shuffle around in the elevator to let someone out, trying to avoid touching anyone. Or the person that knows they need to get off at 3, and is trying to stay near the door. They get funny looks. Until we reach 3.
  4. Handicapped first, even before women. Which is fine, except when they don't want to be going out first so they have a bit more space. And for another reason I'll cover in a  minute.
  5. People that don't understand out before in. One guy stands with his nose to the door, ready to barge in, except half the time someone is there trying to get out. There he goes, oozing past the person getting out, reaching for the door close button. No matter if someone is coming. 
  6. Then there is the opposite of the door close guy. It's nice to hold the elevator for someone a few steps from getting there as the door would close. SomeONE or at most, someTWO. Not a sequential series of people, each of whom is lunging for the door, prying it open, and then holding it for someone behind THEM. I saw this happen, x8 one day, as my coffee was cooling down, and my temper was rising. I hadn't known our elevators would make those noises about wanting to close the doors. Enough already, another elevator will be along in a minute. You can't be that eager to get to your desk, can you? (There is a related rant about idiots not letting the LRT doors close. My solution is to install sharp overlapping plates on the doors, sort of like giant scissors, powered by  giant hydraulic rams. Nuff said.)
  7. If you remember a photo from a few weeks back, our elevators have mirrors. Not shiny metal, but actual mirrors. Many people check their hair. Some of the guys that wear ties straighten them after unzipping their jackets. One woman was touching up her lipstick. Pretty sure that wasn't a chapstick. One guy was full on styling his weird upswept hair style. I didn't think it had been that windy out, but no, that was the intended effect. One woman dives into her top and starts adjusting her bra. That one stopped all conversation.
  8. The people at work are a pretty friendly bunch. Lots of elevator chat, which is nice. Even when the ultimate top big dog gets on the elevator. He introduces himself to people. "Hi, I'm Murray, I haven't met you yet." I had a perfectly nice chat with him, that he was in no hurry to end, even as we were walking out the front door. Sometimes though, normal graveyard elevator behavior takes over. Not sure why.
  9. One of the downsides about women out of the elevator first, is that with rare exceptions, they walk slower. Slower out the door and to the security gates. Slower to the front door. Slower down the sidewalk. The gate timing, revolving door timing, and obstacles in the sidewalk, make it really hard to get past someone till well out of the building. I like to walk faster than most people walk, and being behind someone that's dawdling along when I want to stretch out my legs is very aggravating. But there is no way to tell who walks fast and who doesn't in the context of ordering people for elevator departure. Don't get me started on people that just stand there in the direct path between from and to. 
  10. The milk run. Why do healthy people take the elevator one flight DOWN? One coworker of mine walks with a limp and doesn't do stairs. Fair enough. But most people need more activity, and the stairs is a good way to get more of it.
  11. Related to the milk run, why are elevators not smart enough to know about how many people are on board, and not stop for outside calls when full? At certain times of the day the elevator fills up near the top, and then people on lower floors look at the crowd, and say they'll take the next one. And the next one, and the next one, because they don't want to cuddle in.
  12. The one that just kills me, and even more now that I'm trying to be more fit, is smokers. I swear some of them deliberately take that last big puff, and hold their breath till they get in the elevator. Bastards. I think there is a bylaw that says smokers have to be 3 meters from a doorway. Screw that. The smoking areas should 100 m from any occupied building, and littering cigarette butts should be a major fine. And yes, I'm sure that it's not possible to be more than 100 m from an occupied building in the downtown core. I don't understand why tobacco is still available as a legal product. It should be like methadone, available only to junkies, gradually weaning society off it. We should be doing anything possible to keep kids from starting the habit.
Well, I think that's enough for now.

One hour spin session. My back is feeling better, I can almost touch my toes again. My right hip is still a bit cranky so I didn't push the workout too much.

Now, somebody, please go press the Twitter and Facebook button!

Monday, December 10, 2012

adventures in sleeping and swimming

Last you heard, we were shuffling stuff around to get ready for the painter. Once upon a time when we were visiting our wonderful financial adviser, she asked us if we knew anyone that needed a desk. Her father had recently passed away and she was trying to deal with a very long lifetime of stuff. This is a very nice oak desk, not too big, not too small.

Linda didn't know anyone that did. I did. We picked it up the next day, Linda wondering why she needed a desk. Within a day, ONE DAY!!! it was buried in her papers.  I know better than to touch them. Which is why I knew she needed a desk.

So when the painter enters the scene she decides it's time to clean off and organize the desk, once she was forcibly repressed from a third round of swabbing. (There's a story there.) She's been meaning to for a while, and now was as good a time as any.

I went to bed, and was mostly asleep pretty quickly. She was shuffling paper. Periodically the paper shredder would do it's thing. Then I could hear it working harder. And harder. Then it stalled, and there was much muttering. I came out and played with it a bit, but she had tripped the thermal fuse. It was ok in the morning. A bit of pulling with a pair of pliers and putting it in reverse and all was well.

This was one of my interesting sleep states. At the time I was somewhat aware of what was going on, but I was also aware that I was mostly asleep. Sometimes I can decide what I'm going to start dreaming about. It's a state very familiar to me, and familiar to anyone that has done shift work for any length of time. There are times I'm sure I spent most of my shift asleep, wandering around, checking equipment and taking numbers out of sheer habit. I've had some interesting dreams about that plant over the years. Maybe I'll queue them up for the next Nanowrimo contest, and try to do something with the murder mystery romance novel I've had stalled for some time.

I also had an interesting state of mind while swimming this morning. It's odd, but going into the pool I knew I was going to have a good swim. There was a 50 m lane open, all to myself. There must have been a memo or something because most of the other people were swimming with fins, goggles, and a snorkel. During the easy 1K (19:30) I was having a great time. Most of the time my swim felt smooth and easy. For once my kick felt strong. 45 minutes.

I cruised along not thinking of much, and trying not to think of the guy swimming next to me. He had a crappy stroke, and with fins kicking and splashing and thrashing he barely swam faster than me. After a short rest I did some 100 m intervals, comfortably passing him several times. That's always nice.

It was like the swim was washing some stress and tension out of my body. My legs and back felt better after the swim, and a bit of hot tub time didn't hurt either. I'm not sure why it was so quiet but I'm not complaining. At work I'm still on the killer xl, but I'm trying to be more careful of my posture and muscle tension.

House painting is going well. Mostly surface prep, and doing the ceiling today. He was very entertained by the cat chorus in the basement, but once they figured out he wasn't going to either rescue them or sell them into cat slavery, they were quiet. As will I be in a few minutes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

another scurry day

It was nice to sleep in a bit this morning, after a night that had a moment of excruciating pain. I just tried to roll over and part way through my right calf cramped up in a major way. I don't think I screamed, but I was certainly breathing hard.

Once up and around I was feeling a bit restless. After a bit of warm up stretching and working my hip, I decided to try an easy spin. One hour on the bike, warming up very gradually. Never pushing the cadence much above 100, and never in a really hard gear. This didn't bother my calf at all, and as long as I was sitting up my hip and low back were fine. Getting down onto the handlebars stretched my low back a bit, and I could feel a bit of a pull in my hip flexors. Afterword I worked hard on the ball, and there were some quiet clicks and pops from my hip and butt. It feels much better.

Lunch was starting to smell amazing. It looks pretty amazing too!


We had a little bit of quiet time after lunch, then started getting ready for a painter to come in tomorrow. This should tidy everything up after the door and window installation. Once again I have been forced to confront all the stuff in our lives.

I've been musing about future blog topics. Some might seem a bit heavy, like selective sex abortion, climate change, opportunities and consequences of unravelling our genetic code, the F-35 scandal and the future of the Harper government. Who knows what else might come up? For sure the mirrors in the elevators at work.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

odd core workout and photos

How often have you noticed something, and wondered how long it had been like that? It happens to me all the time, but most days it's not a big deal. This one was, though.

We noticed one of the pot lights in our guest bathroom had partially fallen out of the ceiling. I couldn't push it back in. That means a trip into the attic, and I'm not about to do that at night, so it had to wait for today. It looks like someone stepped on it, but as far as I know the last people in the attic was a year ago to fix the vent from the bathroom fan.

Please tell me that it hasn't been half fallen out for a year. My suspicion is that they did kick or step on it, but shoved it back up and wedged a piece of wood up against it. When the roofing guys were here the other day, walking, cutting, banging as they did their thing, the vibrations caused the light to slip back down again, and the wood to wedge itself again. Oh, and the new roof looks awesome in the daylight.

In any case, getting up there looks like this.


My ladder is 6 feet high. I have to stand on the top, and do some perverted cross fit move I don't know the name of to lift myself up into the attic, and get my feet onto a rafter. Arms, abs, and hip flexors. Sort of like a backwards muscle up. From there it's scramble over a couple of rafters, being very, very careful not to bump my head against the nails holding the shingles on.

Remember how the cartoon rocket ships have the tripod legs that fold out from the body of the spaceship? The pot light has a similar arrangement to hold it snug against the drywall. One of them was broken, and the lip had broken away from the rest of the unit. I played a bit with trying to rig up something to support it properly, but gave up. A new one was $27.

Undoing the wiring on the old unit wasn't bad. You can see the hole where the new one would go. 
It turned out that rewiring the new one was pretty simple, considering I was in a deep squat, balancing on the edge of a 2x4, and reaching below my feet to connect the new wiring all together again. It went much better than I had expected. I do not flatter myself I'm getting better at it. I got lucky and I'm grateful. My cranky hips and low back are grateful too.

Recently it's been cold here, a little colder than an average Calgary winter. The upside is that it's really pretty. Here's some photos.
I think this is a willow tree. Some of the white is from hoar frost, and some is from actual snow. Pity the sky hadn't cleared so there was a brilliant blue background.

The house just behind us has this beautifully shaped tree.

When I stand at the bottom of my driveway and look right, this is what I see. It would have been nice to go for a run down there.

This is my neighbour's tree, slightly dressed up in Snapseed.

Last night I was curled up reading, with both cats on my lap. I got a nice shot of Curtis looking pensive.  Do you think it's pensive or something else? You can just see a bit of Celina's bum in the corner. It took a bit of squabbling for them to get settled.

Other than a brisk walk, and the balancing squats, no workout today. I probably should have done a spin session first thing. No way am I going to do one after the attic work. I totally deserve this glass of wine.

We did a batch of Christmas cards today, in a reasonably organized fashion. Some of you readers will get one. Try not to be astonished.

I've been playing in Snapseed. Watch my Facebook cover photo.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The supreme court is wrong on this one

It turns out in Canada, polluters don't pay after all, especially bankrupt polluters. Even bankrupt polluters that are now operating under a different name. In spite of a federal law.

I need to backtrack a bit here. Unlike the USA, the Canadian Supreme Court are not a bunch of partisan hacks who make decisions blindly by ideological background. While the Prime Minister of the day makes the final choice, there are avenues for input from other stakeholders. Yes, technically the Governor General makes the decision. Picky picky picky. They are well known for making decisions that are grounded in the law, and trying to balance the conflicting rights of the various parties.

Here is the actual ruling. Yeah, like you're going to click on that and read more than 100 paragraphs of legal reasoning. Did I ever tell you that one of my lawyer buddies has actually argued a case before the Supreme Court? Not the whole thing, no, but she had been working this particular case (NWT egg marketing board against somebody or other) since being an articling student. She had video of it, and we spent part of a weekend watching the case being argued. Here is another summary of it in case you want more detail than I provide below, but not as much as the legal reasoning.

Yes, we are one of the very few people who have actually watched the Court in action, and even better, we got blow by blow commentary from our buddy. It was much more interesting than it sounds. I loved how the various justices just cut the lawyers off when they were tired of hearing them talk. (Not our buddy.)

The court voted 7 to 2. Essentially the appeal by the province was denied, and it has to get in line with the other creditors. That because they couldn't attach a monetary value to the work to be done to remediate the properties, and that the Province hadn't started the work and might never start it, and hadn't even budgeted for it. There was a bit in there about "insolvency is hardly ever a deliberate choice" by corporations, and that doing so still does not extinguish their environmental obligations. I suspect that insolvency is in fact a frequent choice by companies to attempt to escape their obligations.

I think I've got it right. So much legal reasoning is expressed in a difficult way, almost like arguing the negative. But in any case, it's clear that remediating damage to the environment is no more important than ordinary obligations to other creditors. So as far as what the law says, you have to believe that they made the decision based on law. These are some of the most well respected and learned judges in Canada.

However, my instant reaction on hearing the judgement was "That's not right". In law, it might be right, and probably is given what they said. But in the wider world, it's wrong. Here's why.

When a company goes bankrupt, the creditors line up for the remains. The bankrupt entity owes money, goods, or services to other companies and people. There is an established order as to who gets what, and in what order. It's monetary.  In a larger sense though, environmental remediation is for society itself. The people and environment closest to the industrial site have the most to gain or lose from the remediation being performed or not, but if it's left to a government to pay for the remediation, it affects all of us. Our taxes have to pay for that cleanup, instead of something useful. An unmediated industrial site is a huge liability to the nearby municipality as no other corporate entity will want to set up a business there until the remediation issue is addressed. There may be health risks that we don't know about yet.

The Court argued that forcing compliance to remediation orders would shift the cost to the creditor third parties, rather than the polluter, but in my mind that's the point. Some of those creditors are shareholders, and therefore the owners of the mess. They should pay. I'm not so sure about people that sent products and services to the entity with the expectation of being paid, and are being left holding the short end of the stick.

When you take a step back, and look at it, the bankrupt company should be obligated to clean up the mess they made. After all, their profits over the years are what produced the mess. Only fair that whatever assets are left be used to clean up.

And yes, there is a bit of anti-corporate bias happening here. Corporations are NOT people. They should not have the rights of people. Where the rights of a corporation and a real person conflict, the corporation should lose, every time. Corporations have only one motive, profit. Everything they do is subordinate to that. Even situations where they are "donating" money to worthy causes, there is a calculation made. The corporate managers decide that a certain amount of money spent on a worthy cause is good for their corporate image, which enhances the profits.

Corporations should not have the right to contribute to political parties, and any money spent  advocating a position during elections should be completely disclosed. Their lobbying and other efforts to influence government should be completely public. Big corporations should pay more tax, and efforts to hide it off shore should be vigorously dealt with. How do I define big? More than 150 people. Employees, contractors, whatever you want to call the people paid by the corporation. Everybody, no matter how they get paid, or the route the money takes.

Corporations make noises about treating people right and providing safety programs because it's finally sunk in that doing so is cheaper than dealing with injured or pissed off employees. Still, it's another calculation to figure out exactly how much they should do. Very few corporations willingly pay their people any more than they have to, and try to push back on wages at every opportunity. Mostly they can do this because the ones at the top are all about "Fuck you Jack, I've got mine" because they don't know the people at the bottom of the pole. But when there is only 150 people in a company, you will know everybody fairly quickly.

I've worked for one of the biggest companies on earth (BP right after the Amoco takeover) and some tiny ones. I was one of 3 employees in one company I worked for. Trust me, there is a huge difference between the two. I would far rather see more smaller companies, even if it is economically "inefficient". There is more to life than an efficient economy.

At work I had won a chair massage for neck and shoulders. In fact I was on a massage table, and this nice lady clutched the acupuncture pressure points firmly. It felt really good; pity it didn't last longer. I only wish I could have got her to work on my hips. They are loosening up a bit, but even an attempt to spin didn't work out so well. Just where the hip flexor anchors is the tender spot. Stretched, and used the ball strategically.

Busy weekend coming up. There is a long list of things to do. Good thing none of it involves malls. Or elevators. I've been shaking my head at the elevator goings on. And the choices people make about stopping to chat. Granted it's the social party season and all, but some of us have places to be, and would like to get there BEFORE Christmas.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

short but exciting

Wed. Swim. 20 minutes, + 10 more water running chatting with Katie. Fun. Shower. Phone rings as I'm putting on my shoes. Linda. Roof installers blew fuse, must have power. I have just enough time to zoom home before dental appointment. Shitty traffic. Reset fuse. Chat with guys very briefly. Zoom to dentist. Shittier traffic. Make it, less than a minute from walking in door to sitting in dentist chair.

Major success! Last time was 3.5 units of hard scrubbing. This time was an easy 2. I credit electric toothbrush, and the interesting vibrations it makes in my head. Sort of like a very small twin prop plane with the engines slightly out of synch. Hygienist very happy with me.

Work lasted forever, a very slow afternoon. If chocolates hadn't shown up I might not have made it. Seriously. #thisxlwillkillme

Yoga started ok. Nice stretches. Then I couldn't anymore. Something in my right hip locked up or gave up, or something. I couldn't even sit up without supporting myself with my hands. I could barely touch my knees in a forward bend, after working into it. Home and straight to bed.

Long day at work Thurs, once the thrill of nearly being run over in a  crosswalk was gone. Good thing looking is a habit. The high point of the day was hearing Harper agree with the opposition, perhaps for the first time in his life. I guess throwing red meat to his base doesn't go as far as legalizing fully automatic guns.

Plus shuffling serious amounts of money around. We paid the deposit for the roof on Visa, so I just assumed we could pay off the rest. Not. TD Visa phone support people are awesome. Can't wait to see the roof in daylight. Plus the new light switches that match the door handles arrived!

Even stretching is out. Hip is seriously cranky. Swim tomorrow is iffy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I held my breath a little

Normally with computer stuff I like to get it to a stable state, and leave it. Minor upgrades are ok, but I get a bit twitchy if lots of things change. Because then all of a sudden stuff stops working, or works differently. Or to get an upgrade you have to do other upgrades.

There's a new iOS, and since someone I knew personally was struggling with it, (hope it's all sorted) and I don't have an iPhone 5, I ignored the upgrade. But tonight I noticed that Zite has an upgrade, and it sounded good. However, I had to upgrade the OS on my iPad. Sigh. I was a bit afraid of a chain reaction leading me to an iCloud place I didn't want to be.

I thought about it, and realized it was going to have to happen sooner or later, and that my usual cardinal rule had been satisfied. That is, never buy the first version of anything. The OS was 6.0.1. Good enough for me.

Still, I did a back up first (you are doing backups of all your computer stuff, RIGHT??), and then held my breath as I pushed the update button. It took quite a while, I had time to watch the final show of Leverage Season 3, and dry dishes before the software downloaded.

One thing about Apple, it's usually pretty tidy about doing upgrades. After it was done I checked it out and all seems good. The new version of Zite will take a bit of getting used to, but it looks very clean and elegant. It's my favourite news reader. Of course I went to find the ad limiter thingie, and turn it on, to limit the ad tracking. I hate these backwards logic settings choices. Everything else seems good, but of course now I have a bunch of apps that need to be updated. Facebook is one of them, and I never update it without check which privacy bombs have snuck in, and what needs to be adjusted.

I'm still being a slacker on the workout front, but will be getting back in the pool tomorrow. I actually was needed a bit of a mental break since I wasn't feeling the workout love. Normally I'm pretty happy to be going to the pool, but not last week. Since I didn't HAVE to, I didn't. This is the joy of not being under the race deadline, or on a schedule.

My wonderful massage therapist pummeled me pretty good, once again finding places that I didn't think needed work, that did. If you're looking for a massage therapist that's used to working on athletes and can do deep tissue, let me know.

Been following some politics stuff lately that's making me grind my teeth, but no time to write about it now.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A left wing political rant

This post will assume you have read Two Liberals; a basic primer on Canadian politics as it related to the recent by-election in Calgary Centre, and you'll note I called the election results correctly. I wrote that on Oct 6. The Greens ran a better campaign than anyone gave them credit for, and did very well indeed. The Liberals did quite well too, just not quite well enough.

The Conservatives will be telling themselves that a win is a win, and they will carry on their right wingnut agenda. The voter turnout was abysmal, under 30%. Of that 35% voted Conservative, 33% voted Liberal, and 25% voted Green. Approximately 10% of the eligible voters cast their ballot for the Conservative.

Enough numbers. What does it all mean? The facile explanation is that the Greens and Liberals split the vote and allowed a weak Conservative to sneak up the middle. However, that does not account for voter dynamics here, and recall that "here" is a strange place politically. At the moment there are two breeds of "Conservative" here in Alberta. One is the long governing (and I mean really long, since 1972) Progressive Conservative party, and it's off shoot, the Wild Rose party, itself an amalgamation of two other right wing parties. These all thought and think that the PC party was too left wing, too soft, too elitist.

The Wild Rose party is quickly summed up as Tea Party wannabe's. They have a charismatic leader, who none the less can't quite connect all the dots in the party platform. She is walking a tightrope between the hard and harder wings of her party, and it will eventually consume her. In this sort of situation, the crazier guy wins even if it's electoral poison, as the Republican party recently showed.

There are many conservatives here that do not want to vote for a WR candidate running for the federal Conservatives, and yet cannot bring themselves to vote Liberal, let along the (ack, cough) NDP. For now the Greens are safe place to park a vote. So had the Greens not run a candidate, it is very possible that the same election result would happen, only with fewer votes. One cannot assume that all Green votes would go to the Liberal. Nor can one assume that had the Liberals not run a candidate, that all those votes would go Green. Some of the Liberal vote came from the NDP, and would have returned there.

Some pundits say that the Liberals and NDP need to merge to compete against the conservatives. (Go read the Two Liberal blog if you haven't.) These two parties are actually quite different. Much more different than the two conservative parties that "merged". A more accurate term would be a cave in or sell out.

The Liberals have a proud tradition of running Canada for much of it's history, generally as a centrist party, generally with the viewpoint that the government was there to do things for the people to make their lives better. Until quite recently, by and large they dealt very well with the various historical challenges of the 19th and 20th centuries. It would take a moderately serious study of Canadian history to understand where and why they didn't do so well.

The NDP grew out of the labour union movement, and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation party. They have often been branded as Communist by their rivals, since social democracy is a difficult concept. They are generally considered the most idealistic or utopian of the major parties, pushing for legislation that benefits ordinary working Canadians.

So where, then, is the common ground between the Liberals and NDP? While they have governed together, briefly, there was no formal coalition. In fact, there isn't much common ground. Even the backgrounds and history of the parties preclude that, the NDP coming from a union background, and the Liberals coming from a upper class and wealthy middle class background. In many Canadian towns and cities, an NDP supporter would be working for a Liberal supervisor or manager. Even the Liberal legislation that supports middle class Canadians doesn't go far enough according to the NDP.

Each party has it's own core of supporters that will not willingly give it up for another party. Too often they see the other parties as part of the problem. Elections in Canada are generally pretty civil affairs, especially compared to other parts of the world, but for the die-hard partisans it's all out war. Especially for the Conservatives. Even holding talks with another party about discussing the potential idea of holding merger negotiations would be seen as a betrayal.

Each party looks to the good side of the equation about why they should be the one to stick around and the other parties go away. The Liberals point to their history and overlook the recent corruption and incompetence issues. The NDP point to their recent electoral success and overlook the left wing kooks. The Greens point to the growth in their support and post-ideological platform, while overlooking their complete lack of experience at governance.

If one were to design political parties for Canada, one might well look at the last part of the 20th century as a model. The Conservatives centre and somewhat "right", the Liberals centre and somewhat "left", and some smaller other parties trying to carve out a place. Canadians haven't changed so much that the centre point has moved much, contrary to Harper's wet dreams. What has changed is the communication of smaller and more detailed points of view. People that might broadly agree with one of the parties on most things, except for one or two issues that are very important too them. ISSUES, in other words, and modern parties have been trying to exploit these as wedge issues.

That's the problem with governing in Canada, there is a wide divergence of thought, and the governing party generally has to govern toward the centre. The NDP has never been in danger of actually forming the government, though they have held the balance of power in some minority governments. This means they can propose some of the most unlikely legislation (a levy on iPods, centralizing/nationalizing the industrial sector and demonizing the private sector) without having to cost it out, or actually worry about enacting it. There is a reason they have only a small base of support; their success in Quebec is a historical anomaly dependent on people voting against other parties.

No, I believe the idea of merging the centre left parties is fruitless. Too much history and bad blood to overcome. There is too wide a divergence in political though to be summed up in just two parties. The world is a more complex place than just the left right political spectrum would have you believe.

What needs to change is the electoral system itself. The first past the post system is obsolete, and in Canadian politics produces perverse results. No, not perverse in the sense that Conservatives are perverted, though there is an argument to be made there. Perverse in the sense that the outcomes do not reflect the inputs. A strongish minority of votes can produce a very strong majority government. A minor party with small but consistent support across the country will get no seats, while a party with the same number of supporters concentrated in a smaller area will win seats. The name of those two results are NDP or Green, and Bloc Quebecois, respectively.

Since the current system favours the governing party, and it doesn't matter if they are Conservative or Liberal, it's going to be very difficult to change. There has been discussion of the Greens, NDP, and Liberals forming a one time alliance for the next election for the sole purpose of enacting electoral reform, and then going back to the normal state of politics. Great idea in theory, but I'm having difficulty imagining how they choose candidates for each riding.

Since we are talking about pie in the sky, let's talk about my pet pie in the sky dream for electoral reform. It's cheap and simple. I think that every ballot in every election in Canada needs to have a box on the bottom for "None of the Above". If one of the named candidates wins, all well and good. They take their seat and get on with the job. If "None" wins, the seat is declared vacant, and a by-election is called immediately. The parties have, say, a couple months to select new candidates, and we vote again.  We do it again and again, until the parties get the message, and a named candidate wins.

The message being is that Canadians are tired of having lying political hacks put up to purportedly speak and act for us, when in fact they say and vote how they are told to. The Harper Conservatives have taken this to absurd lengths. They've been burned in the past by fruit loop comments, so they have enforced strict message discipline. It leads to a central party attitude, not a Canadians and Canada first attitude.

Admittedly, the first couple votes might be a bit of a rocky process as we vent our spleens on the parties and the current porcine incumbents. We might want to have a transitional process where the first named candidate is named a provisional winner and takes the seat while the by election goes on. That would lead to some interesting discussions between the provisional winner, and the candidate from the same party. But that's good. Anything that promotes some squabbling and opportunities to go off message is good. The more off message messages there are, the more likely it is that some truth might emerge.

I'd like to look at a two tier pricing structure for signing up as a candidate. A regular Canadian signing up to be an independent should pay only a nominal fee to register with Elections Canada, and they get it back based on their percentage of the vote. Running as the candidate of a political party could be made much more expensive, and maybe they shouldn't get any of it back.  I suppose that would lead to candidates posing as independents but secretly having an affiliation with one of the parties.

With modern communication methods it's much easier for candidates to get out their message. They don't need the big budget national television campaigns anymore. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others are superb methods of spreading information. The candidates just have to be a bit smarter about their messaging. Hmmm, thats a real burden on the traditional party candidate, isn't it? Breaks my heart. Cry me a river. Send a complaint email to

Granted, the None of the Above is a broad brush that would tar some potentially good candidates. There ought to be a mechanism to allow independents and marginal parties to run the same candidates again. Of course the 3 main parties would not be allowed to recycle candidates; once a hack, always a hack.

Another alternative I like is where people can vote against candidates. The idea is that a ballot would be marked with a space to vote for a single candidate, or against all but two of the candidates. Voting against all but one is the same as voting for one candidate. In the simple form, at the end of the night each candidate would have a tally of votes for, and votes against. We look at the net vote and see who wins the seat. I can't fully picture how this would turn out in real life, but it would certainly be interesting.

In broad terms, I suspect the partisans will vote for their guy. Many other Canadians would vote against, falling into two groups. One group would vote against the lying venal and corrupt current parties, and don't care which of the minor parties takes their seat, figuring they can be voted out of office after they figure out how to pull the office reward levers of power. Another group of Canadians might vote against the independent fruit loop candidates that just don't understand the complexities of a modern political state, and against one of the lying venal and corrupt parties (the Conservatives, say) but doesn't care which of the center left candidates is chosen.

The trick to this option is deciding just how the ballots are to be counted, and the voting preferences parsed. Suppose one of the independent candidates and a party hack have the same differential, +2. Only the independent has 12 votes for and 10 against, and the hack has 10002 for and 10000 against. Which do we pick, and why? Maybe we could tie this in with the None of the Above system to determine which candidates can run again.

As you might imagine, I find it very difficult to choose how to vote in the current system. You've heard this rant before, that it's very easy to choose some reason to vote against a party or a candidate. In fact it's so easy that you run out of choices very very quickly. It comes down to how hard you need to hold your nose as you vote. I suspect this is the core reason for the dwindling voter turnout in successive elections. People don't want to think that hard, and prefer to avoid making the choice. Perhaps if they were allowed to vote against, voter turnout would increase.

In a more practical sense, there is support for the idea of changing our voting system. The devil is in the details, since each potential alternative has flaws. None produce a result that is exactly representative of the votes cast. Some are more or less complicated or difficult to explain. Any potential change usually gets lumped in with the potential of voting electronically and avoiding fraud.

The problem is that when there are many complex choices, it is easier to stick with the devil you know. If you look at the Australian Republicanism movement, there is general support for moving away from the monarchy. However when you compare the monarchy to any individual republican model, the monarchy wins.

Still, something has to change, somehow. We need to get Canadians more involved in our political system and governance again, and not just as election fodder. We need to make political representatives more accountable to the people they serve, not the parties. We need to control the amount of money going to the parties from entities such as corporations.

We need to have a way of holding national conversations about the issues of the day. What, exactly, do real Canadians think about running a dil-bit pipeline to the coast and having super tankers navigating a complex passage to transport it overseas? How do we balance the various concerns against the various benefits? How do we hold such a conversation without being held hostage by the rabid fringes? How do we conclude the discussions with a nuanced decision that the losing group(s) can accept as legitimate because they recognize the process, and had they won would have expected the other side to respect the decision?

It can't be a simple majority decision, because the Natives are going to get the shitty end of that stick every time, and they've had the shitty end of the stick so often, and for so long, on so many issues that we can't ignore their concerns. The vast majority of people in Canada simultaneously like to drive their cars fueled by gasoline, and heat their homes with natural gas or heating oil, and leave the environment pristine, or at least have the mess happen somewhere else. Ain't gonna happen. We need to grow up and recognize that. The current political system is a huge barrier in the way of that maturing process. It needs to change.

Yes, at last I got on my bike for 1.5 hrs, for a moderately hard workout. Felt good. The shopping was an ordeal, but that's another rant.