Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Ocean Falls is a community about 300 miles north of Vancouver BC on the Pacific coast. It was built at the turn of the last century (1905) and was entirely constructed by one company, both the industrial complex and the town. It was chosen as a town site and a mill site because of the ready availability of water. There was a natural waterfall dropping from Link Lake to the ocean, into a deep harbour. A dam was constructed for hydro power, and everything that a sawmill and a pulp and paper mill would need was as hand. The deep sea ships could anchor to take on cargo, the barges, which brought wood supply, could dump their load right beside the mill, and the one and only freighter/passenger ship could dock and let off both people and supplies. The terrain is very steep, however, and the town had to be constructed on many stilts with wooden roads connecting the tiers of houses. Everything was built on solid rock and it was a good thing because this particular location had the highest annual rainfall in North America (about 250 inches per year) and things would have washed away rather quickly had it not been for the rock foundations everywhere.
About one mile from the town site, there was a 'private' residential neighbourhood where you could actually purchase a home if you so wished, as opposed to renting from the company. This is where management lived as well as skilled tradesmen who had families. It was here in Marten Valley that the planes landed as there was a bit more room than in the town itself, which was very pressed for space.
There was not an airport, but simply a ramp that the seaplanes taxied up after they had landed in Cousin's inlet. I did not know this on my first flight to Ocean Falls.
I had entered the plane in Vancouver on a rainy day and it was sitting on the tarmac, on its wheels. It was my first flight in an airplane and I was both nervous and excited. Nobody told me that a Gruman Goose had wheels sticking out of its amphibious fusilage and it was the boat shaped bottom that I had not noticed when I boarded the plane. The plane held about 20 passengers and was full when we took off. Such a noise I had never experienced! Had I known, I would have brought ear plugs. The vibrations and reverberations in the fuselage were horrendous and I was quite frightened the whole trip up. It was about a 2 hour flight and when the plane started to bank, I knew I was soon to embark on my great adventure. I gazed out the window and noted with alarm that there was not a landing strip in sight. Surely it would be evident from the other side of the plane. We were at low altitude now, and I could see the log booms on the water with great clarity. I thought that it must be one of those runways that starts right on the water's edge. We were now skimming the water and yet seemed to be far from land. Too far! The bottom of the Goose nicked the tops of the waves, and soon it was thudding each small whitecap. I was in panic mode now and was wondering why there was almost no concern showing on the faces of my fellow passengers. They must have been amused at my white knuckles gripping the arm rest with the strength of imminent death. Now we were in the water and sheets of sea foam were cascading up onto the widows, not only drowning out any view, but giving the feeling of being submerged. I was sure we were going underwater and just as I was drawing breath for my death scream, the plane suddenly slowed, the water ran down off the windows and the plane became buoyant. The engines revved once again and we taxied to the ramp with a great thrust of the two prop engines. "Unbelievable", I thought, as I caught a glimpse of my sister and her husband waiting at the edge of the ramp.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Enough Already

Are you like me and are getting very tired of headlines like the one today?
"Global warming could cripple winter sports and winter tourism in Canada, according to a report published Monday by the David Suzuki Foundation."

Dear David. When are you going to get a real job? Your whole career has been based on "it COULD happen". You know what? An ice age could wipe out half of all Canadian summer recreational sports. Of course it could. The Earth is actually cooling in case you had not noticed. You seem to be a talented fellow when it comes to conjuring up worse case scenarios. Why don't you just write science fiction novels so we can chose to read you or not to read you. We do not need your fear mongering staring at us in the newspaper every time we open it. Some people actually believe you!

First Trip

The famous BC Airlines Gruman Goose.

It all started with an innocent phone call. My sister and her husband had recently moved to Ocean Falls where they were running a small church called the "Gospel Fellowship Hall". I could not remember when last I had seen them, but we would occasionally get a phone call from them as they were isolated and missed their family.
I was nineteen, and after trying my hand at different types of work, was at loose ends and wondering what to do with my life. I grew up with 4 sisters and when the eldest sister got married, I finally had the brother I had yearned for all my life. Trouble was, my sister had him, not me. But he was good at taking me under his wing and he did that on a number of occasions. When he called that fateful night, he only wanted to speak to me, which rather surprised me. He got to the point quickly. He had just concluded the weekly Bible Study at the church and one of the attendees had made a request. He wondered if anyone knew of someone from the outside world who would want to come to Ocean Falls for a job in the Technical Control Department. They desperately needed someone right away. I came to mind and thus the phone call. There was a catch. I had to make an instant decision. Right then and there I had to choose because if I accepted the position, I would have to be there in two days.
I am not usually one to make quick and irrational decisions, but that night I made one. I accepted and was told exactly what to do.
The next morning, I had to be in downtown Vancouver for an interview at Crown Zellerbach headquarters, immediately followed by a medical examination in the building next door. I filled out many forms, and after an OK by the doctor, was given the green light. I was handed a plane ticket and told to be at the Vancouver International Airport the next morning with one bag.
The next few hours were a blur of activity as I finalized my affairs at home and tied up as many loose ends as I could. It was August and there would be more to do in that regard at Christmas, the next time I came home.
I knew very little about my destination, or the company I would be working for, or the job I would be doing. I only knew that 'Sid', the head of 'Tech Control', was a good man, a Christian, and he would show me the ropes when I got there. There was also some comfort in knowing that at least temporarily, I would be living with my sister and brother-in-law. I slept little the night before my flight. I was second guessing myself, but could not turn back now.
Little did I know that I was going to fly the 'Gruman Goose' the next day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ocean Falls

I have decided to embark on a little blog project that I have been contemplating for some time now. I spent three years of my life in the small coastal community of Ocean Falls and it was a turning point in my life. It was a unique little town and I had many interesting experiences there. I will take you on a journey of a young man in his late teens who was yearning for a new life and full independence from his family. The adventure was stumbled upon but with hindsight, it turned out to be a key event in the grand plan for my life. The memories are vivid and the photos still rich with colour and detail so I hope you enjoy reading as much as I am going to enjoy recalling the years 1969 to 1972. Of course there will not be a steady diet of this stuff, but it will fill in the gaps when other more pressing issues cease to press.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

I realise that Earth Hour is largely symbolic, but by all the hype, you would think that it is actually making a difference. Where there are diesel generators or coal fired power plants creating electricity, I can see the point, but here where our power is mainly from hydro, it is a non factor. The water will flow through the turbines regardless of lights on or off, in your home. And if you will be lighting your space with candles or oil lamps for Earth Hour, you have just committed a "carbon footprint" sin. It is really just an excuse for street parties, especially if you live in a climate where a street party is actually a pleasant experience. So do what you have to do tonight and perhaps think about more significant ways to reduce power consumption on an ongoing basis. Now that will really make a difference.

House Renovations

We own five houses that are vacant right now and we are in the market for new tenants. They are all of the same age, roughly, and all needed new roofs this spring. They also need a general and thorough cleaning so we can attract good renters. Somebody offered to re-roof them for us at a very nominal price and today they are all complete. We have had a few 'lookers' but we are not sure if any of them will be moving in. Conditions have to be just right if you have specific needs in mind. It is mostly about location, privacy, cleanliness, and proximity to markets (food supply) and who your neighbours are. Being the generous people that we are, we have decided once again this year to rent them out for no cost to the tenant. We have pleasure just knowing that they are good homes for the little ones and places to stay warm, dry and safe. They are, after all, only bird houses.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Running Interference

Because the Daffodils should be out already, and are not, here is a photo from years gone by taken only a few blocks from our home.
"Quantitative easing" and "monetizing the debt" are the two new buzz phrases of today's economic reality. On Wednesday the US Fed began monetizing the debt which helps with quantitative easing. There now, that helps, doesn't it?
Here is what they are doing. If you or I were to invest in a Government Saving Bond or a US Treasury bond, we would take the money out of our bank account, or out from under our mattress, and go purchase it. Money would change hands and there would not be any more or any less money in the system, it would just go from our account to the Government's account. But now the Fed is buying its own US treasury bonds and it is creating money of thin air to do it. Now the money supply has just increased and it is called monetizing the debt or turning debt into money. Now, wasn't that easy? With the planned treasury purchases, the supply of money, or the base amount of money 'out there' will increase by 500% !
This is not just tinkering with the economy, but a deliberate attempt to decrease the value of the US dollar and to also create inflation. Two things are supposed to happen then. The cost of the debt owed to foreign banks just decreased and inflation will follow as sure as the flowers follow the rain. We, as consumers, will then run out and purchase stuff before our money becomes totally worthless. This is how the economy will get back on track. At least, that is the theory. Japan did this 20 years ago and their economy has been in the tank ever since. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in our society.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

April Snow

I took this photo two years ago on April 2nd. The flowers were way ahead of this year, but then we had a nice dump of snow right on top of them. We have Daffodils and Tulips planted in this very same bed this year but they are only green spikes with the exception of one stunted Daffodil bud, a brave soul who seems to be not afraid of anything. We had just returned from two weeks in Palm Springs and were wishing we had stayed there a little longer.
Today was a very physical day for me and I was feeling my age a little more than usual. I am grateful for work, and grateful that I am still capable of doing what is required on the job, but am feeling the limitations built into this old body, more all the time. So the dilemma is this. As long as I work hard and often, I remain healthy and strong. If I holiday too much, I become lazy and weak and that brings its own set of health problems. Of course, the compromise is to play hard while vacationing. Catch 22: Without the hard work, there is no money with which to pay for the hard playing vacation, and without the vacation, there is a dreariness that settles in to make the aging process accelerate.
I must stop posting about missed vacations. I feel a depression settling in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Of Fools

A child cries for candy and in the interest of keeping the peace, the mother gives in.
A young offender is caught in criminal activity and is not punished.
A business fails and is then bailed out by the government whose only source of revenue is the taxpayer.
A smoker continues to smoke and when he becomes ill is still given free and easy access to health care.
A snowboarder is 'out of bounds' and is still retrieved, time and again, by "Search and Rescue".
Thus writes Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820 - 1903)
"The Ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hanging Over Me

Continuing my thoughts from Sunday. I know we have all experienced it, the feeling that there is something or a number of things that are hanging over our heads. Many of these 'things' are of our own doing, some are not. At times, it is a like a little rain cloud, and we know that with time it will pass and the sun will again shine on our lives. It is often a job that needs doing, not a pleasant job, but we have been procrastinating and it hangs there, blocking the view to our joy in life.
Unresolved issues can create monumental overhangs that can feel like they could collapse at any time and crush us. Dealing with these 'overhanging issues' quickly, helps to negate their impact on our lives, but sometimes we have to live with negative things in our lives for a long time, and they drag us down and can cause depression.
At any given time, I, like you, have a few of these overhangs looming above me. Right now, I have at least a half dozen of the larger type and several of the type that go away when we simply take care of them.
For example, the tax preparation that I have started but not completed. It is a minor issue, but still weighs me down as it gives me guilt when I spend some free time doing something other than tax preparation. But this is a small issue and will eventually be dealt with and will be put out of my mind completely. There is another issue that will be resolved in a few weeks, however, I do not know the outcome, and this weighs me down.
There are larger issues that are not for discussing on a blog, but you get my meaning by now. How we handle these issue that hang over our heads is a testament to our character and perhaps also to our faith. We often feel like our lives are not in our own hands, in our own control, and that is probably true to a large degree. If we believe this, it should not make us anxious, but actually bring relief. Does that not lift the burden, or at least share it? If God is not in our lives, then this would simply be labeled as a fatalistic viewpoint. If we put God in the mix, then it means that someone bigger, wiser, stronger and more capable is orchestrating some or all of our life. For me, at least, this takes off a lot of the pressure and I know I can walk under the overhanging rocks in my life without fear that I will be crushed.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Everywhere you go you see these flowers for sale. We have had an arrangement on our front porch for a few weeks already. I was reviewing some photos from March '04 and apparently at that time, there were already buds and blossoms on the fruit trees. Those were the good old days of Global Warming. Today we are to get another round of very cool weather and possible snow showers. It seems that more and more the so called experts in various fields, be it science, economics, or justice, just don't seem to know what they are talking about anymore. Could it be that the more knowledge man has the more confused he gets? That almost sounds Biblical, does it not? While you are pondering that deep question, enjoy the Plumera.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Content, Just Like the Cows

Another Sunday and I find myself doing what I do every Sunday. But I could be saying that no matter what the day was. Babies and old people thrive on routine. My dilemma is that I am neither and as a result, I am not satisfied with routine. It has been a difficult week because of my physical limitations and when I am working and hurting, I think of the winter vacation we missed out on this year. I always thought it was more about getting away from winter for a few weeks, but it is also about getting away from routine.
I must remind myself to be grateful for all that my life is, because it is quite wonderful compared to the majority of lives around the world. It is in our nature to want more than what we have, do more than what we are doing, and be more than what we are. Contentment is a difficult destination and yet it is one of the keys to happiness. We are so often limited by our circumstances and right now, that is what I am feeling. Some I can control, some I cannot. Some I worry about, some I do not worry about. But life is always a series of circumstances and we do have a choice as to how we react to them.
There is a yearning in every one's soul for perfect circumstances, ideal situations, everything just the way we like it. This is built into our very nature, a kind of dissatisfaction with the way things are, a frustration when things go wrong. I believe that this is a longing for Heaven, the perfect world in which all is well. The longer I am in this world, the more I realise that Heaven is not on this earth. I found out a long time ago that something will always go wrong and as good as it gets, it could be just a bit better... if only.
I think I can handle the routine a bit longer, because when this is over, I know where I am going.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Letter From the Boss

I do not usually do this, but I am posting something I got in an email from my friend John B. It is so good I could not just let it go.

Letter From The Boss
To All My Valued Employees,
There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.
However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.
First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Cadillac outside. You’ve seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I’m sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.
However, what you don’t see is the back story.
I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.
My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn’t have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.
Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom’s for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the discount store extracting any clothing item that didn’t look like it was birthed in the 70’s. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.
So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don’t. There is no “off” button for me.
When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden — the nice house, the Cadillac, the vacations… you never realize the back story and the sacrifices I’ve made.
Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.
Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I’ve paid is steep and not without wounds.
Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:
I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don’t pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my “stimulus” check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.
The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check?
Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.
The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you’d quit and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? That’s nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.
Here is what many of you don’t understand … to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn’t need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.
When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don’t defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you?
Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it.Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.
So where am I going with all this?
It’s quite simple.
If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child’s future.Frankly, it isn’t my problem any more.
Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I’m done. I’m done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.
So, if you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steamrolled the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about….
Your Boss

Friday, March 20, 2009


A while back I posted a comment on inflation where I spoke of the situation in Zimbabwe Africa. I also spoke of the goals of the US government to create inflation so we would spend our money instead of saving it, thus stimulating the economy. They would do this by printing money. If you follow the news, you know what happened yesterday. The US FED announced it was buying $300 billion worth of US debt. How do they do this when they are already borrowing money to operate and are trillions into deficit? They create it out of thin air. If you noted what also happened, you will see that it had an immediate effect on inflation. The $US dropped dramatically against all other currencies, including the $CAN. Add to that the announcement that our (Canada's) latest inflation figures show that we are having an increase of living costs for the first time in 5 months. The rate is only 1.4% but watch it climb. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that we are in a recessionary cycle. This is much more serious. The rally on the markets of late will be short lived. After all, the stocks that are being purchased are of companies that are doing poorly. Folks are just getting impatient. They do not like to get such low returns on their GIC's and term deposits so they are risking their money by playing the market, like they used to.
I will be the first to rejoice if and when I am wrong.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Grandson Nathan

Yesterday was my Grandson Nathan's 11th birthday. We had him and his family in for a birthday dinner and a wonderful cake with 11 glowing candles. Nathan is such a great kid that I just burst with pride every time I think about him. He is thoughtful, polite, sensitive, caring, and helpful. He is not only willing to help, but is often asking how he can help even more. He is smart and has a great sense of humour, not having much trouble at all catching onto jokes or knowing when something is said in jest. He is self assured and has confidence. This was demonstrated recently when he announced with great excitement that he had been asked to play the lead part in the big musical drama production at our church. This is a bid deal because the kid's choir is more that 100 strong and the productions that they put on are very well attended and looked forward to by the whole congregation of around 2500 people. It has been such a great pleasure watching Nathan grow and mature and now that he is on the brink of adolescence, we have a feeling that his good nature and quality of character will help him over the humps and bumps of puberty. He takes care of and cares deeply for his baby brother Liam, and this is an indication that he will make an excellent father one day. Happy Birthday Nathan and know that we love you with all our hearts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bald Eagles

On Sunday afternoon we saw a rare sight. We were at F & E's for lunch and right there outside the windows, was a flock of American Bald Eagles. It is not unusual to see them in pairs or individually, but there were at least thirty congregated on the field and another 6 perched in the trees only a few yards from the house. At first they did not all appear to be the same kind of bird, but later I found out that the Bald Eagle only gets its white feathers after the fifth year.
These magnificent birds are very light, as was evidenced by the fact that the branches they were perched on hardly bent at all. They do look rather large and heavy, but weigh very little. They mate for life and have lived in captivity for up to fifty years. The particular location where they congregated today (I am writing this on Sunday March 15) is right next door to the Blue Heron reserve, the purpose of which is to protect the beautiful and graceful Great Blue Heron. Apparently, the Eagles love to raid the nests of the Herons just after their chicks are hatched. The irony of this is that they are both considered endangered species. Somebody should tell the Eagles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Culture of Greed

Every new day brings another story of the astounding greed that has brought down the economy of the world. The latest is the blatant theft of bailout money by AIG (American International Group) After receiving money (more that $170 Billion) from the US government to 'stay afloat', they announced that there would be $165 million paid to employees in 'bonuses'. It is good to see President Obama outraged and he is not the only one demanding accountability. AIG's defence was so out of touch with reality that one has to laugh through their tears. They "have contracts to keep. We cannot break our contracts." Excuse me, but contracts are broken everyday when there are severe extenuating circumstances and this applies, for sure, in this case. But the icing on the cake was when they said that in order to keep their top leadership, they had to pay them well and pay them bonuses. Excuse me, but these are the leaders that got them in trouble in the first place! Bonuses are paid for a job well done. They failed miserably at their jobs and should be fired without any pay or severance, let alone bonuses. Maybe what AIG needs now is some underpaid poor leadership because heaven knows, they couldn't do a worse job.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tax Time II

Did I mention I was a procrastinator? With many things in life, especially the distasteful but necessary things, I like to get things moving and get it over with. I do not handle stress well and the sooner one gets over these things, the better. Then one can move on in life. Tax prep is a rare exception for me. It is not particularly difficult, just tedious and time consuming. There is also the unknown. Will there be more payable than last year, or less. I am never anxious to know the answer to that question, but I should be as it is an indicator as to the health of my finances. I look to my left, and there is the mountain of papers. I look to my right and there is my Lazyboy with a good book resting on the arm. I look straight ahead and there is my monitor and keyboard, which really is a window to the world. Who would not choose option 2 or 3? As noted in yesterday's post, I am putting off the inevitable once again. How many more times can I do this? I know you are wondering the same thing and will be checking back regularly to keep track.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tax Time

As in every other year, I am overwhelmed. Where do I start? I think I received the last of the receipts and various other pieces of paper so now I have no more excuses. The mountains of paper sit on my desk, matched only by mountains more in my filing cabinet in various files marked "Tax Preparation". The joys of self-employment, at the present, are being completely negated by the chore ahead of me. You would think that after 34 years of the same thing, I would be more organised. You would think. Well, think again. I retained an accountant about twenty years ago and that was a big step forward, but I still cannot bring myself to simply bring him a U-Haul full of paper every March and expect him to sort through it on his own. He would have even less of a clue as to what is what, than I do. So I do the organising, the sorting, the itemizing, and the listing, while he does the calculations and the filing of the forms to Revenue Canada. Oh, and he also takes a good chunk of my money. But, I do not begrudge him that fee as I tell myself every year that he saves me more than I pay him.
In case you had not noticed, I am procrastinating by writing this post.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Old Friend

One of these days when I am not so lazy and my truck is very clean, I will take a photo of it and post it here. In the meantime, here is a replica, but keep in mind that mine is burgundy, has a canopy, and has mag wheels. I could have purchased a newer, bigger, brighter truck many times over the last 16 years, but what would be the point? My truck was built in 1993, the last year that the Mazda B2200 was manufactured in Japan. The year following it became a Mazda/Ford hybrid and the reputation has been falling since. These '93's are amazing in their dependability, fuel economy, and endurance. It is simply the best vehicle I have ever owned. It would be foolish to trade up to something that diminished in value rapidly, cost me more money, and would do nothing more, or less, than my Mazda does for me now.
Today I got my old friend back from the body shop. The total bill was over $1600.00, $300.00 of which came out of my pocket. A 16 year old import pickup would normally not have a value of over $1500.00 so it stands to reason that the punk that jimmied my locks with a screw driver nearly 'totalled' my truck. In fact, I am surprised that the insurance did not write it off. As I drove up to the body shop, there were some guys standing around my truck, admiring it and checking out the odometer. One of them was also a '93 Mazda owner and he was very envious as his had 500,000 km and mine only had 149,000. On Monday I will pack all my tools back into my little work horse and it will continue to serve me well.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Our 8 day job at the towers is now complete. The clients are very happy and I must say that is one of the more dramatic jobs we have done. The degree of difficulty was high, but when there is no pressure from the client, and we can take the time to do our best work, the results are very satisfying. It was a great joy to gaze out of the huge windows, south to Mount Baker. Today the sky and the air were crystal clear and the mountain was 'jumping out' of the landscape. The snow covered slopes and glaciers were dazzling and white, reflecting the brilliant sunshine. If that puppy ever blows, like all volcanoes eventually do, I want to go back up to the 15 floor and watch it happen. What a view!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Yearning for Flowers

I am writing this on March 10, a colder day than anyone thought possible, this time of year. Only a few days ago we saw promises of spring, but those promises have not been kept. The bright sunshine and long days (now that the clocks are set to their proper time) have been more than deceiving. The green spikes of Daffodils and Tulips, knifing their way up and out of the winter soil, have been stopped in their tracks, the bulbs beneath probably freezing solid. I yearn for flowers, for colour, for greenery, for blossoms, and for the fragrance of warm wet soil as the creative juices within bring forth new life. This 'spring fever' that is much talked about is nothing but a hope as long as the cold arctic air keeps washing over our fair valley. Last night I drove through a blizzard as I was approaching the Port Mann Bridge and the crazy thing was, the sunset was plainly visible through the driving snow. In two minutes it was over. Ah. Such is the month of March.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A punk, or punks, thought they needed something in my truck yesterday, but unfortunately it was locked. There was nothing of value visible, but they took a chance and did they hit the jackpot! They made off with my ashtray and its contents, loose change amounting to maybe twenty dollars, but not before wrenching both door locks and doing body damage to both doors. To a punk, this must not be a big deal at all, two minutes of work for pocket change, but the impact this little act has, is not so small. Consider the ripple effect of this petty crime.
A call to BCAA roadside assistance to get the doors open after they had been closed and locked.
Where to put an unsecured truck until the repairs are made.
A phone call to ICBC (Insurance) to make a quick claim after having made an online claim that was not going to work quickly enough.
A call to my dealership and a trip there to see if a temporary repair can be made.
A quick visit to a body shop where they tell me they need to do body work and repaint the doors and it would take four days.
Many phone calls to repair shops certified by ICBC to find one that can not only do the repair quickly, but can loan or arrange rental of truck suitable for my work.
Finally a trip to the right repair shop and more paperwork, then a trip to the rental agency for the rental van.
Cost to me: $300.00 deductible, $40.00 waiver of deductible on rental van, almost a whole day of lost income, and enough aggravation for a long time to come. Also, I am now behind in my scheduling.
Loss to ICBC: at least another $900.00
My suggestion: They give proper break-in tools to the punks so they do not do any damage to the vehicles they break into. The tow truck drivers sent out by BCAA have amazing tools for opening doors! If everyone keeps no valuable in their vehicles, the punks will soon give up. Most vehicles today have immobilisers so they cannot be stolen.
A footnote: My ashtray cannot be replaced by insurance until I make out a Police Report saying that something was stolen. I can pick one up from the auto wreckers for a few dollars so why bother. So this is another unreported crime who's cost was $1200.00 plus lost income. The police say that crime rates are going down. I say, and the auto body repair guys say, "Not so." People just don't bother reporting any more. With all the shootings and murders around here, can't you just see the police sending out an all points bulletin for a gray medium sized ashtray! I think not.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where is This?

I have been here twice in my life. The general location is not only very nice, it is great. But this specific location drives me quite crazy. Those of you who have been here, know exactly what this is and I am betting that a certain tune is now drifting through your mind. I predict that this tune will now drift through your mind for the rest of the day, and if you are really unfortunate, for the rest of the week. It is happening to me as I write. Why am I doing this to myself? I was reviewing some old slide scans today and came across this photo that I took in the eighties and it immediately triggered "the song". I am now 'done' for the rest of the day. I will have to drown out the music with some substitute, some severe distraction, maybe a mind altering drug, something I do not have.
Can somebody, anybody, tell me where and what this is, but more importantly, how do I get the song out of my head?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Climate Change Formerly Known as Global Warming

I do a lot of reading on this subject and have been convinced from day one that this issue verges on conspiracy. Perhaps I have expounded on what this theory is, but that is for another time. More reading and viewing today tell me that us few naysayers are becoming a majority. This winter the ice in the Arctic is growing and forming at an unprecedented rate, while only last summer it was reported by the doomsday 'warmers' that the Polar Bear was in decline because of lack of ice. In the last ten years, since our warmest year of the century, seven years have seen a decline in temperature. Your and my own observations on our Canadian winter this year would suggest that we are cooling, not warming. Sunday was a good example. If you are up to it, I have a link to a fascinating documentary on climate change that was shown on the CBC recently. It is 43 minutes long so make a cup of tea and enjoy. It is very interesting and has no commercials. :) I assure you that the next time you hear about carbon taxes and doomsday from weather catastrophes, you will have a definite opinion. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3309910462407994295
PS The photo is not mine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Did You Remember?

It started around 11 pm when I realised it was actually 12 pm. Before I could head for my bed, I had a monumental task ahead of me. Yes, it is that time of year again when frustration reigns supreme. Why we need so many clocks is beyond comprehension, because twice a year we have to change every one of them. It started with the two desk clocks within view of my computer. One is mechanical and one is electronic. One is a piece of cake to change, the other has a battery that will not die and ends up being right only half the time because I do not know how to change the time on it. Then there was the clock on the kitchen stove top, the one on the microwave oven, the coffee maker clock, and the one hanging on the wall. Almost forgot the clock radio beside the Kettle. Then it was off to the media room where there is a VCR clock, DVD clock, and the clock built into the TV. There is also a clock on the wall down there so we can verify the time on the TV, The VCR, the DVD player, as well as the wrist watches we all wear. Which reminds me, I have not yet done all the wrist watches. Let me see ... how many of those are there? I think I will leave the digital ones for tomorrow. Then there are the clocks in the vehicles. The one in my car requires a re-read of the instruction manual every time it needs setting. I hope I remember to re-set the clock radio on my night table or we will not be getting up in time tomorrow morning and we will be late for everything. Or is it early. This is so confusing. And one more thing. Does the time automatically change on my computer? I forget from one year to the next. And what about the clock on my cell phone? This is all just another form of insanity. I think I will just go to bed and hope for the best. It is way later than I think!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Are We Surprised?

This is a photo of an Inukshuk, an Eskimo rendering of a standing man. It is the official symbol of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. These Olympics, along with the recent spate of gang related shootings, is all we hear about recently. The cost over runs were expected by all but the most naive, and now, today (I am writing this on March 4), comes this headline: "Provincial government says recession having an impact on 2010 games; games may not provide much talked about ten billion dollar bonanza."
DUH!! Who figured this out? The same guy who is predicting that the sun is going to come up tomorrow? We (citizens of BC) are going to be paying for this for generations to come. I have said for years that the Olympics have run their course and pity on the poor country that gets them. It has become a simple competition to see who can saddle their citizens with the most amount of debt in the most opulent and wasteful way. In a time of recession/depression, you can double that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wild Wild West

I dredged up this old photo from my archives. I took it in one of those old wild west towns that are a replica or maybe a restoration of a town from years gone by. This one had everything except the horses and the gunfighters. I have always loved the old wild west books and movies about pioneers and frontier justice. One thing though, that has always irked me. The movie sets would generally be made to look old, like in this photo. But, at that time, the towns were brand new and there would not be a weathered board in sight. But we are so conditioned by now that if a wild west town site were to be built of new lumber, we would find it odd. We like to think that history was full of 'old stuff'. How silly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

UFO in Triptych

On Feb. 19th, I posted a photo of a UFO landing, but it was implied, as the light was coming from behind the tree. This is a photo taken in a rapid fire sequence, just before the Feb. 19th photo, in which you can clearly see the UFO in question. I found later that the dog was abducted and his brains were sucked out. After a careful analysis of the data, the aliens discovered that the creature they had captured owned the two up-right humanoids accompanying it. This evidence lead to the conclusion that these creatures ruled the humanoids and orchestrated their lives. A further fact finding mission contradicted this theory, however. Apparently the creature abducted on the second mission was a cat.
When you call a dog, it comes running, tail wagging, tongue lolling, ears perked up, and eyes wide, eager for a good time.
When you call a cat, it makes an appointment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Extremes of Sumas Prairie

There was a rare 'Silver Thaw' that winter. The warm rains were falling through the atmosphere to hit a very cold layer of air just above ground level. Wherever the raindrops hit, that is where they would freeze and soon everything had a layer of ice or was hanging with icicles. The storm passed as suddenly as it had appeared and some late winter light filtered through the clouds in the west. It was caught in the ice, reflected, bounced, and flung back out in silver shimmers. The snow was glazed with a mirror finish and the trees were hanging with diamonds. Like that frosty January morning, earlier this year, it was a rare and beautiful experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Foggy River Sunrise

There were three things that happened to me thirty years ago that tested my memory recently. The first one is this picture. I remember like yesterday, standing at the water's edge, waiting for the sunrise glow to intensify, and then, with the last frame on my film, snapping the shutter and hoping for the best. It was in the days of film photography when we could not afford to snap away at a sunset or sunrise at various f stops, hoping for a proper exposure. Today, we shoot 20 0r 30 digital frames and know that one or two will likely be good enough to avoid deleting.
The other two incidents are two phone calls I received from 'old' customers, both from around 30 years ago. The first one I remembered immediately and rattled off a number of details about them and the job I did for them. Naturally, they were pleased, but not half as pleased as I was. Minutes later, the second party called, and they too were 'old' customers, but this time there was no light bulb, no ringing bell, no penny dropping. Try as I might, I kept drawing a blank. I made an appointment to see them at their new home and I would do a consultation for them and surely I would then remember them. It did not happen. I mean, I did not remember them. They were total strangers to me and even after describing the location and details of their previous home. I drew a big blank. I was embarrassed and apologised profusely. They were gracious and shrugged it off, but I must admit that it is still bothering me greatly. At this rate, I may forget about it by morning.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dirty Thirties

This photo was not taken in the dirty thirties, it only looks like it. It was in 2001 and we were wandering the back roads of Saskatchewan, in search of just this thing. With today's economic woes, one wonders if we are not in for something like this again.
I got my monthly credit card statement a few days ago. I always pay the monthly balance in full and thus have never paid one penny of the exorbitant interest that they charge. They probably do not like me much. I noticed that my 'minimum monthly payment' was zero. I read further and discovered that the bank is offering to waive my payment this month so I can "treat myself and my friends". Then in small print, it says that normal daily interest will still accrue. Whoa! Isn't this how the world got itself into this mess in the first place? This is very irresponsible of the banks because there will be many people who will do exactly what is being suggested to them, delay paying down debt, and add some more. I guess some people just never learn.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pioneer Elevator

I love these old prairie grain elevators but they are becoming a thing of the past. Every little whistle stop along the railroad line had at least one of these, but alas, no more. The huge centralised concrete terminals have taken over and these ageing, all wood construction buildings, are being taken down for safety sake. The cost of restoring and maintaining one of these is beyond the means of most small communities. There are very few left now, but they used to dot the skyline in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. When I was ten I saw one of these burn to the ground. They are constructed of 2 x 8 dimensional lumber, nailed together on the flat, so they are very sturdy, but when laden with grain dust, they are a fire waiting to happen. The fire was so intense, the townspeople could only stand way back and watch it burn. It was said that the fire was seen more that forty miles away. It was not rebuilt. I suppose someone saw the writing on the wall and knew it would soon be useless anyway. The famous prairie grain elevator has been reduced to a subject of paintings and old photographs.