Sunday, August 28, 2011

Birds Across The Pond

I was looking through some old photos this morning from a couple of European trips when I realized I had a few decent bird photos hidden away in the collection. I wasn't really into birding at the time so I'm not sure why I took the photos although now I'm glad I did.

I won't pretend to be an expert in the identifications here but for the most part I'm assuming these are just variants of their North American counterparts. Feel free to correct me if you wish.

Brussels, Belgium, June 2007. This was my very first bird photo I took Europe, in a local park near my uncle's home.

This photo, of a Eurasian Coot, was taken in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic in July of 2007.

These ducks (some sort of Mallard?) were photographed at the same location as the picture above.

Storks in their nest atop the chimney of an old brewery in the always fun to pronounce town of Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic.

I came across these little guys, along with the adults in the shot below it, in a small pond in the UNESCO-designated town of Telc, once again during my 2007 Czech Republic trip. Looking back, I really wish I had had a pair of binoculars handy that day.

Inspite of all the strudel I ate, I was able set my fork down long enough to capture this brave fellow in the resort town of Karlovy Vary. It reminds me very much of the rock doves I've seen here in northern Alberta.

More storks....this time along a road side in Hungary in 2008 not far from the border with Austria.

Swans along the western shoreline of Hungary's Lake Balaton.

Yet more storks, this time taken in Gyula, close to the Hungarian/Romanian border.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jack Layton

I was both shocked and saddened when Lisa called me this morning to tell me that Jack Layton had lost his battle with cancer. While we never agreed with his policies, we have the utmost respect for the man's energy, courage and strength of conviction. He inspired a whole new generation of young people to run in the recent federal election and regardless of your political stripe, our country is the richer for it.

Jack possessed a quality lacking among many a politician this day....true leadership. The man was a visionary. The respect he received from colleagues across the political spectrum was indeed well-deserved. Jack, you were truly a great Canadian and the greatest Prime Minister we never had. Thank you for inspiring us through both your politics and your own personal battles. Canada finds itself a little poorer today with your passing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Turning My Thoughts Toward The Far North

Prior to moving to Alberta I spent a few years living in Nunavut, often flying great distances in many types of aircraft, mainly the Boeing 737. So it was with great shock and sadness that I returned home from work this evening to hear about the First Air crash near Resolute Bay. I wait with a great deal of worry as events unfold, wondering if I knew any of those directly affected.

I landed many times in this remote community and spent more than a few nights there as a result of being "weathered in". Resolute Bay formed part of the route I often took when traveling from Iqaluit to where I was living in Arctic Bay. In a land of no roads connecting any of the communities, flying is the only real way of getting from place to place.

While Nunavut is a large place geographically-speaking, in human terms it is actually quite small. You spend enough time there and the population begins to feel like an extended family of sorts. Which is why it pains me tonight to think of all the people who are connected with this tragic event...people I lived with, exchanged a friendly word with, went out on the land with or even just passed by on the street or in an airport waiting room. This sad event extends well beyond a small northern hamlet, that not many people have had the privilege of visiting and spending time.

My thoughts are very much turned toward our arctic landscape and its people this evening.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Normally I avoid blogging about work but today work has become a little extra interesting for me as of late so I thought I'd make an exception to the rule. Earlier this week I left the confines of the scaffold yard to work down in the plant down around Upgrading. Turn Around ended back in May so all the scaffolding that was sent down is now being taken out and sent back. (A "turn around" is essentially a large-scale shut-down event during which planned maintenance, inspection and other construction takes place.) Since the start of my shift on Tuesday I've been helping with the tear down, counting and bundling of all the materials that need to be removed and returned to our main yard.

It's been busy work and a nice change to work with a lot of different scaffolders...a good learning experience should I decide to go out in the field some day. Giant cranes, ropes, forklifts, and the noise (and smell) of the all makes for an interesting day. (No worries Mom, I'm not actually up on the scaffolding since I don't have my fall protection training yet.) Plus, I'll get few extra days in since it would mean a 12-on/2-off schedule rather than my usual 10-and-4.

The other reason work suddenly became a little more interesting was revealed to me late this afternoon, and it still comes as both a shock and a surprise to me. I bumped into a couple of my regular foremen and they asked me if I was interested in taking on foreman responsibilities in one of our yards starting this Saturday. Initially I thought they were joking around as they both have a good sense of humour. I'm pretty comfortable with the paperwork aspect of it (I worked in public service for 10 years afterall), I haven't missed that many days since I started last fall and I confident I have the respect of the other guys on my shift I regularly work with (they certainly have my respect.) But still... Surely, they could find someone a little more experienced than me for the task. But it turns out they were serious. I never thought I'd get this far, really. It's my first out-door, private sector, physical job and 10 months ago I wouldn't have know the difference between a standard and a double ledger if I had been knocked over the head with one. It's not a full-time position as it only involves a set number of days during the shift but work is work and it's nice to have your efforts recognized. In the end, there was only one way I could respond to the offer.

I accepted.