Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Golden Moment

I was beginning to think that this Hockey final was being over-hyped. After all the talk and anticipation, would it be a let-down? There was so much riding on the outcome that I was feeling sorry for both teams because of all the pressure being put on them, all the expectations, almost all the hopes and dreams of both their respective nations. But there would be a winner and there would be a loser.
I am sure you watched it or have heard all about it already so I will not recap it. Suffice to say that it was probably the best hockey game I have seen in recent times. It had plenty of drama, excellent play, and emotion enough for the most stoic of viewers.
This was the perfect finish for a near perfect Olympic games. Canada not only did well, but they exceeded previous records and in the process unified the country like nothing in recent memory. Maybe it was this significance that prompted busylizzy to watch it with me. Yes, you read that correctly. She actually watched the whole game with me. I still can't believe it! But true to a woman's perspective, that is, one who is not a sports fan in the least, her comment as the Canadians lined up for their gold medals was, "When they line up like that with their red and white uniforms, they all look like Campbell's Soup tins." It kind of stole the Golden Moment.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympic Curling

I was just a kid. After hockey practice, I would climb up onto the bleachers and if I stood on my tip toes, I could watch the curling match through the open vents between the curling rink and the hockey arena. I found it fascinating and eventually I did get to play a bit. Then, in grade 10, I got to play in a few bonspiels, which is curling talk for tournaments. It is a game that is a perfect marriage between strategy and skill.
I caught most of the Olympic Gold Medal Women's final on Friday. The match hinged on a critical shot, time and time again, but on the last shot, our gal missed her rock and we ended up with Silver. Saturday is the men's final. After watching both men's and women's, I find that the big difference is that the skill level is so high with the men, that it all boils down to strategy. It is a fascinating sport to both watch and play. We are guaranteed a medal so it should be fun.
But, of course, the big finale is the Canada/USA hockey match on Sunday. It was a real nail-biter watching the Slovakians almost overtake Canada in the third period on Friday night, but it is only right that the final should be USA and Canada. It has always been the classic battle. The women's hockey team won Gold. Can the men match that? It will be one of the most watched events in Canadian television history. You may hear me yelling from your place!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tilikum The Killer Whale

This giant mammal is really living up to its name these days. Tilikum has killed again. It has taken another trainer into the water and snuffed out her life. This is the third time! Why is it that a dog is put down for attacking a human, yet this Orca Whale is given yet another chance? Why not put this bully out into the open ocean and let it fend for itself. Nature will take its course. These animals are majestic, yes, but they are not endangered. Whale trainers are.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic Fever

I cannot remember when I have spent so much time in front of the TV. I only watch hockey and Survivor, as a rule, but lately I have been spending too much time with the Winter Olympics. Apart from the athletic competitions, there have been some interesting aspects to these games. Take the above photo for example. How many millions of photographs have been taken through this chin link fence? What a sad comment about our modern society that we build an icon such as this and shield it from the very people who are paying for it. No doubt, without the fence, it would have been vandalized by now. But why not build it on a pedestal with unscalable walls. Or put it out on a mini island with a moat around it. Or dedicate some of the $ Billion in security funding to protecting this cauldron? And how did that person get on the other side of that fence? Privilege or stealth?

There is much talk about the cost of the games. By most standards, it has already been deemed a huge success. The figure of $8 Billion has been bandied about, but that would include the cost of most of the infrastructure that will remain long after the Olympians go home. The actual cost of putting on the games apart from infrastructure is said to be less than $2 Billion although that is difficult to believe when the security bill alone is half of that. But, if one is to extend that $8 Billion into the future as an ongoing debt, then it is only fair to incorporate into the numbers all the future revenues that will be drawn from the infrastructure. Only time will tell if the books will be balanced in that regard.

The legacy of the games are many faceted. We will have use of an up-graded Sea to Sky Highway, we have a new Trade and Convention Centre, we have huge Sky Train up-grades, newly developed Real Estate at the Olympic Village, and probably most important, we have the goodwill and amazing advertising of our city and our province as images were broadcast around the world every day for two weeks. One of the biggest and most unexpected bonuses has been the sense of pride, unity, and patriotism that risen up during these games. You cannot put a price on that but it will have long term positive spin offs.

I suppose I sense these games are a bit of historical turning point for our province, much like what Expo '86 did for us almost 25 years ago. I guess that is why I am watching so much TV.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Neck

Just a quick up-date on my hip problems which were actually neck problems. I am very happy to report that I am almost completely better. My adjustments (treatments) are few and far between these days and the hip continues to improve. I am able to drive long distances now, something I have not done for a few years now. I am back walking and have even taken to a treadmill daily.
Today I am mailing a number of letters I have written to several of the seven therapists I went to and was treated by in my quest for a solution. They are not nasty letters, but merely to inform the various doctors and practitioners that there are limits to their knowledge, understanding, and capabilities of their particular discipline. It is in their best interest, I went on to say, that they should admit when they do not know and they should be open to new ideas and realise that there are people out there who know more than they do. How many patients are 'barking up the wrong tree', who are given false hope and who are paying money they cannot afford for treatments that are not doing them any good, and in some cases doing more harm? Of the seven, only one admitted, after two treatments, that I should seek other options as he did not know what my root problem was. I suppose it is a conflict for them to send a patient away, knowing they could earn hundreds of dollars by giving them hope and getting them to come back time after time. It is unethical for them to do that. In the long run, being honest is always the best policy and it would give them more credibility, which is good advertising, which results in more patients, which results in more income. Being greedy is always shortsighted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Up Close and Personal

We were extended an invitation to a 'House Concert' on Sunday afternoon. Our friends, Ian and Mona, have a vested interest in a band by the name of "House of Doc". The band's newest member is soon to be their son-in-law. When Ian told me the genre was Blue Grass/Gospel, I was in. I checked out their tunes here and liked what I heard, but we were in for a real treat hearing them in person, up close and personal. These are 4 inter-related people with Menno backgrounds and a vast array of musical talents. Between the four of them they played 14 different instruments, all with skill and verve. But their finest instruments were their voices. They have improved since their album releases and since Ian's future son-in-law has joined the team. The vocal harmonies sent chills down my spine, and they do plenty of that. Their music is lively, at times soulful, and always toe tapping. They had just come back from playing at two different Olympic venues. We were a small group for an audience, maybe forty five of us, but they did a full blown concert! They certainly made a fan out of me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Rare Goal

Ryan Miller, the USA goal tender, letting in a rare goal tonight.

The Canadians are choking in the games. Never before has there been so much hype about "owning the podium". The Canadian Olympic programs have received infusions of cash and the athletes have contended well on the world stage prior to the Olympics, but when it comes to 'crunch time', the results are just not there. Tonight we saw another example in the Men's Hockey as Canada fell to the USA. Let's face it. Ryan Miller was outstanding. Normally, with the way Canada played, and with the amount of shots they put on Miller, they should have won. But, some rather untimely penalties and some poor puck handling by our own goal tender made the difference and we now have to go the more difficult route to get to the medal round. We are down but are not out.
The expectations on our athletes are huge and many of them are taking their losses very personally. We are hearing things like, "I feel I have let down my country". That is a heavy burden. Instead we should be celebrating our athletes for even qualifying to be there in the first place! When the top ten competitors are only hundredths of a second apart, being fifth or sixth holds no shame. What I am most proud of is the way we as Canadians are wrapping ourselves in a patriotism that actually out performs the Americans. I have never seen anything like it and this new feeling of pride and of country bodes well for our future. Nations become great when all the citizens pull together and have common goals. A sense of unity will bring us much farther than dissension and strife. When the people of this country, of all stripes, wear the Maple Leaf, we become strong and will be able to accomplish great things.
Sure, it is disappointing for the athlete and the fan when we do not win, but, if in the process we can become unified, we have won much more than a piece of metal to hang around our neck, we have won a great future for our country.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Forget the Blog. I'm into Olympics! Go Canada, go! Curling rocks! (Get it?)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Careful Now

I like the move our Government took today when they announced that they would be tightening up the qualifications for mortgages, especially for first time buyers. The buyer will now have to be able to show that they can sustain a 5 year mortgage at current rates as opposed to three years. Also the amount of equity a home owner will be able to withdraw from their home is decreasing. It is nice to see that someone is learning from the huge mistakes that were made south of the border. It is said that a large number of first time buyer are one paycheck away from being in default with their mortgage lender. It used to be three months.

So beware. This is a huge indicator that the government is more or less admitting that there is big time inflation in our near future. This is actually a no brainer because inflation always follows a recession and government deficit spending. And of course, inflation guarantees that the interest rates will go up. How nice for those with a big bank account when the interest rate rise, as opposed to those with debt. Unfortunately, most are on the debt side of the equation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Good Read

Modern day Mongolian horsemen

A number of months ago, I picked up a book that I thought might be interesting. I was completely unfamiliar with the author, Conn Iggulden, but was intrigued with the cover's synopsis. I have been a Wilbur Smith fan for many years and really enjoy reading about history disguised as fiction. Or is it the other way around? If I can learn some history while reading a ripping good story, it comes alive for me and I can remember and understand the history part of it much easier.

The book to which I am referring happened to be the second in a series of three books depicting the story of Genghis Khan. Then, just before Christmas, when my kids asked me what was on my Christmas list, I suggested the two books of the series which I had not yet read. My Mexico 'beach read' was the first in the series, "Wolf of the Plains". It traces the great Mongol leader's early years and tells the fascinating story of how Genghis united the warring Mongol tribes when he was yet a very young man. His very difficult childhood fashioned him for the job, but he was always driven by who he was, the son of a great Khan who met an untimely death.

I have now learned about his life from childhood to the invasion of China. These books are very well written and hard to put down, right from the first page. I am looking forward to the third and final book of the series. I do not have to go looking for it. It is right here on my shelf. Yes!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Guide

We took a trip to Bellingham on Saturday. It seems that fabric is hugely less expensive in that city than anywhere near here. Lizzy is into quilting these days so, of course, we had to make the journey. For any of you who have ever driven there from the Canadian border, you know what a slow and agonizing trip that can be. Like the freeway that leads north of Puerto Vallarta, the Guide Meridian (what a cool name for a road) has been under construction since the days of Julius Caesar. I am happy to report that the up-grade is almost completed. There are five or six roundabouts which makes it a trip free from traffic lights. It is wide and smooth and there are only a few little bumps and irregularities that need fixing and it will be a done deal.

I had the brilliant foresight to take a book with me while 'the busy one' was shopping for just the right pattern and shade for her next quilt. As I scanned the parking lot at Joanne's House of Fabric, I saw that I was not the only guy who refused to enter that establishment. I had the car window rolled down an inch and a couple was walking past. There were very few couples going into the store, but mostly women on a mission who wisely left their men at home or in the vehicle. I overheard the whiny voice of the man say,"Please don't be mad at me" as he followed his little woman by ten paces. He had probably made a very reasonable request to stay home and watch the Winter Olympics. Before you, my dear readers, jump to any conclusions, I will tell you that I went voluntarily. Actually, I had an ulterior motive. We happened to turn into the Costco Parking lot on the way home, happened to walk into Costco, and happened, of all things, to stumble upon those delectable Macadamia Nut Clusters Enrobed in Milk Chocolate. There happened to be such an immense pile of them that I felt sorry for the order clerk, who obviously overstocked on that item, so I relieved him of some of them. I may have saved his job.
I try to do at least one good deed every day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


It stared with what was to be just a bit of Women's Hockey. After enjoying the 18 to 0 drubbing the Canadian girls gave the Slovakian women, I watched some speed skating. I got a bit hooked and then the women's moguls came on and by the time I witnessed Jennifer Heil win a silver medal, I had spent several hours in front of the TV.
I realised that for the very first time, I was able to watch an Olympic event in my own time zone. This has some good advantages. I also saw what a fantastic turnout the venues are getting and it makes me proud and happy that we do not have to populate the stands with zombies the way the Chinese did in the summer Olympics. Of course, we as polite Canadians are being good hosts by cheering all the athletes, in the spirit of good sportsmanship and hospitality. And, in spite of the warm rains, Cypress bowl is still able to have some snow, even though it came from Manning Park.
I keep thinking about that torch run at the end of the opening ceremonies last night. It has to be one of the lamest finishes, to what was a fantastic program, that I have ever seen. I thought the Olympics was about athleticism. Here we have a 'has been' hockey player riding in the back of a pickup truck, in the rain, trying to keep the torch burning. It looked like a bit of a red-neck idea to me. And didn't riding in the back of a pick-up result in Rick Hansen's spinal cord injury? After all the fantastic artistry and showmanship of the ceremonies, I guess they just ran out of ideas. Let's hope they do better when they close shop in a few weeks.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Ceremony

I sat in front of my TV for 3 1/2 hours on Friday night watching the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. How could I not after all the hype? A few observations.

It was spectacular and very well done. It made me proud to be a Canadian on a certain level. Being in our back yard made it even more meaningful. I have not been a big fan of the Olympics, but neither have I been a protester. There are two Olympic worlds, the politics and money, and the sport. The sport I have no problem with and the ceremony celebrated the athletes, and in part, the events that will take place in the following days.

For the uninitiated, it would appear that Canada is a French country full of Aboriginals. This has not been my experience in the 61 years that I have lived here. Why portray our culture so heavily leaning to the Native Indian culture? That was our beginning, but none of us live in that century any longer and Canada can be defined by some of our modern day attributes more accurately. I suppose it is political correctness.

Why do we have to listen the embarrassment of Alberta, KD Lang. Again, for the uninitiated, it was probably impossible to tell its gender.

When will we put Wayne Gretsky out to pasture? In my opinion he was a manufactured hockey player and was not that great except for his very early years. Gambling scandals and a dismal coaching career (when we all learned his limited and profane vocabulary by lip reading his rants) have turned me against him as a sports icon.

Other than those beefs, I thought the event was very well done and I must say that I had a moment or two of pride that I was a Canadian. But then I have always felt that way and I do not need a multi-billion dollar event to boost my pride.

The photo above was the one moment when things did not go well. That empty hole on the left was supposed to be a fourth pillar of fire, but alas, the hydraulics did not function and it was a blemish on an otherwise perfectly executed ceremony.

Tomorrow the events begin. The weather is a concern for many of the outdoor sports, but somehow they will manage to get the medals awarded. They always do.

After the Big Blow

I make decisions and then try to have no regrets, but this time, my decision to be unencumbered with my camera, on a trip to a place I have many photos of already, was a dumb move. One never knows when photo opportunities arise. Lizzy had her camera but does not see things the way I do so the record of events is minimal, to say the least. I would have been keen to record all the destruction the following morning, but I cannot tell another person what to do with their camera.
The complex was littered with a blanket of plant debris, most of which looked like it had gone through a food processor. There were many larger limbs down also, and a few larger trees snapped off or uprooted. The staff had already been working through the night to clean up the mess. It was unbelievable how in 48 hours there was not a stitch of evidence that there had been a hurricane. We heard many stories about that night, making us grateful that we were in our rooms when it hit. Those near the beach had to take shelter on the lea side of pillars and walls as the sandblast from the beach was brutal. Anything loose, such as a young man's papers, as I overheard the next day, simply vanished. The rooms facing the ocean, about 100 yards off the beach, had their patio windows blown inward and the guests had to take shelter in their bathrooms from the driving sand and broken glass. The clay tile, a common form of roofing, littered the ground and there was not a tile roof anywhere unscathed. A large thatch roof on a building near the beach was demolished. Poolside umbrellas and lounges were scattered. Rows of low shrubs were simply uprooted and lying on their sides where once they stood erect. Fifteen foot palm fronds were hanging down, their backs broken. One building nearest the ocean had a lot of its paint blown off and it was lying in the grass in large pieces. It was a mess.
We decided to walk to the little village of Bucerius while the clean up was taking place. There we saw the largest tree in the middle of the town Flea Market completely uprooted and fallen across the main power lines. The power was out and crews were working to restore it, with chain saws buzzing and men up on the power poles. It began to rain again and soon we were darting from overhang to tree, trying to prevent a good soaking. We were grateful it was not cold. Soon the water was running down the streets once again and we took shelter in the big open doorway of the Catholic Church in the town square. A big tour bus pulled up and a wedding party dashed out of the bus and into the dry confines of the church. It was the wedding that was supposed to be on the beach that day. We made our way back through the streets of Bucerias, no longer caring about being wet and wading through water up to our ankles.
We got back to our rooms, had a refreshing hot shower and changed into dry clothes. We looked at one another and wondered how we could have picked the worst week of the year in which to have a vacation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just Like on CNN

After thoroughly checking out the bruised jaw and determining that it was not a serious issue, we got into some holiday attire and set out for out first dinner. It was everything we had remembered but better. We noticed throughout the week that there were many improvements to the resort since our last visit there three years ago.
After dinner we decided to attend the evening show. Because of the constant threat of showers, the event was held inside the disco which is immediately behind the outdoor bowl theater where it usually takes place. It was crowded and humid in the somewhat confined space, but the show was great and we were really getting into the mood of a Mexican vacation.
We had been up since 4 am that morning so we decided to call it a day and headed back to our room which luckily adjoined the room of our travelling companions. We stood out on the back balcony watching the lightening in the distance and marveling at the balmy air in spite of the rain. We bid each other good night and stepped into our rooms where only a minute later we heard a sudden roar as a violent wind hit the resort. It went from dead calm to hurricane force in the blink of an eye. We did not dare step out for fear of being blown off the third floor balcony, so we watched through the patio window. Almost immediately, the lights went out and our view toward the village of Bucerias became devoid of even the smallest flicker of light. The lightening was now coming at rapid intervals, each time illuminating the violent scene unfolding before our eyes. It was like watching CNN coverage of Hurricane Katrina or Andrew as the palm branches were splayed at a horizontal angle and the torrential rain was flying by without falling ground ward. We began to hear popping and cracking noises and knew that trees were being ripped apart and probably many being uprooted. It was scary but I must say that never once did we feel insecure in our concrete constructed building. There was never a shudder, creak or groan in the building itself.
Within an hour, it had blown itself out and we went to bed, wondering what we would see the next morning. Just before we drifted off to sleep, the distant roar of generators was evident and the lights came on. I fumbled for the switch and fell into a deep sleep.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not What We Expected

For a week before we left, we kept an eye on the Puerto Vallarta weather forecast. Each and every day we looked at it, the rain was supposed to come the next day and then nothing but sun.
There was a delayed system hovering over the Bay of Banderas and sure enough, we landed there in a torrential downpour. It was a warm tropical rain, but water was running everywhere and it was obvious that the streets were not engineered for good drainage. The airport runway was a river and our baggage was soaked and dirty just from the transfer from plane to terminal.
Once again we survived the gauntlet of time share sales people in Arrivals, but our travelling companions were almost not so lucky. They were being sucked into the vortex of slick salesmen disguised as our tour guides and were only rescued when we grabbed them by their arms and heaved them away to the waiting bus that was our escape.

We were following the porter on the way to our rooms, weaving in and out of the rain and the dryer corridors. There were "Slippery when Wet" signs everywhere, but when you fall, you fall. Lizzy did a face plant right on the tile floor in the Tropical Lobby and when I looked back, there she was, lying spread eagled, flat on her face, and not moving a whole lot. I rushed to her side and she started to turn over, working her jaw back and forth. She had taken the impact on her jaw and it was a miracle that it was not broken or cut. No teeth or tongue missing either! We thought that would be enough trauma for one night, but we were only starting!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

There Are No Photos That Represent The Way I Feel

I pulled my thick winter socks over my tanned feet this morning, and it hit me. I'm Back! It feels rather odd to being wearing long pants, but I do it today for survival. As I shaved my haggard face, the colour in it was the only redeeming quality. Because part of the tan is burn, it will no doubt peel away in a day or two. I stood on the scale and noticed, not to my surprise, that I had gained five pounds. That too will go away, hopefully as quickly as the tan. Our new luggage is battered and dirty for reasons I shall reveal later, and the clothes in it, which still smelled like tropical Mexico, are now in the laundry.
What did I come home to? What some might call mild weather, phone messages, a mountain of mail, and 95 emails, the most of which required some response or action. I know from experience not to schedule work for the day after a vacation and in this case, I may need more than that just to catch up. I will decide tonight. Having known before hand that there were critical issues to deal with once I was home, I was still able to shut it all out and bask in the pure joy of an all inclusive vacation in a beautiful Mexican resort. I soaked it all up, drank it all in, absorbed it into my sub-conscious, there to retrieve at will when I am cold, miserable, tired, hungry, or discouraged.
In the next couple of posts, I will talk a bit about our little getaway, and how it got off to a most astounding and unexpected start.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wish You Were Here

Picollo's Specialty Italian Restaurant in the newly constructed area of the Royal Decameron.

We had a 'close call' and we had not even left home yet. Late Sunday night I was looking at our flight tickets and noticed that my name was spelled wrong. This kind of slip up was never a problem before the world became paranoid about safety. Apparently the name on the flight information had to match, exactly, the name on the passport. I hustled over to the travel agent first thing Monday and she informed that yes, it was a good thing I had noticed. The information they took from me was accurately recorded in their files, but the airline issued the ticket in a revised spelling, the way somebody thought it should be spelled. Had our flight been to the USA, there is no doubt that I would not be permitted on board the plane with a discrepancy such as that. Going to Mexico is a lightly different story, but still ugly and complicated.

It is no wonder that some people are too nervous about travelling to get up off their easy chair. Anyway, wish you were here, or at least that is what people almost always say when they communicate with those unlucky enough to not travel with them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gone At Last

This is exactly where we will be if you are reading this at 3 pm this afternoon. No more blog posts until we return.

OOps! This got posted a day early. Do not read until Feb. 2


A medical study has just been released that has a surprise result. It was a study on the prevalence of cancer in closed societies, where many of the members of those societies are closely related. The theory was that genetically influenced diseases such as cancer would be more common and the incidence of the disease would be greater than the norm. Being a Canadian study, and having a closed society at hand, the Amish of Eastern Ontario where chosen in the eight year study. The surprising result was that the Amish are less likely to have cancer by a factor of 40%!
It is concluded that environmental factors can and will over ride genetic factors. The clean living, hard working, and healthy eating Amish have the lifestyle to emulate if you want to live to a ripe cancer free old age.
I suppose it also proves that the exhaust from horses is less harmful than the exhaust from cars and trucks.