Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The People On The Bus

For the most part my morning bus ride in to work is a routine thing, with the exception of the occasional breakdown as happened yesterday and again last week. Two mechanical problems in as many weeks.....apparently we were falling below our quota for the month. Generally, I catch the 5E for Suncor at around 5:40am and it deposits me back at the same spot anywhere between 6pm and 6:30pm depending on traffic, which I should add, has been pretty good since our new overpass opened last fall.

I've taken a couple different routes as routes periodically change due to ridership. I pretty much always get two seats to myself and usually get off at the same stop at the top of Contractors Row at Suncor. Routine. Once in awhile, as I mentioned, the bus has issues or I end up at Albian Sands after getting the wrong bus as did happen to me last year but as I said....routine. I can pretty much do my morning bus ritual in my sleep. As a matter of fact, I usually am sleeping on the ride in. The only variables really are the passengers on the bus.

In almost 18 months I've bumped into pretty much all kinds. In many ways the little collection of passengers on my bus is a microcosm of society. A few I've chatted with from time to time and others I have little interaction with. Some are downright annoying. If you take a bus to site long enough or work out there you hear some great stories about fellow passengers. Some are humorous. Other stories are a little less flattering.

I've ridden with a few that have been working at Suncor for many years. They know who gets on and off at each stop and a lot more about Fort McMurray (both the good and the bad) than I know. There are the readers and the loud talkers. One lady reads one of those fancy e-book tablet thingys. One fellow only seems to talk at one volume..loud. And that extends to his cell phone. So you, and everyone else around, are privy to the details of his conversation, whether you like it or not. Apparently the man has a lot of family in Edmonton and likes to fish. There's the two ladies from Newfoundland who talk uber-loudly to each other at the front of the bus on the ride home. How two people can have show so much exuberance after a 10 hour shift escapes me. There is the occasional new hire boarding and asking the driver to be let off at the main gate so they can catch the a bus to the training centre. There is the lady that coughs, snorts and sucks it back really loud. She must have a bad cold. I hope she gets better soon. A lot of us do. A month is a long time. One time last year, one delightful ignoramus sat down on the seat next to me and woke me up by tossing my bag containing my lunch onto my lap where it then spilled out all over the floor. Without apology, or even acknowledgment of my existence, he then pulled out his cell phone and began a loud conversation oblivious to my glaring eye.

Then, there is the hodge-podge of the cranky, the self-assured, the know-it-alls and so forth. The most challenging though, is always the snorer. One particular occasion stands out for me during last year's shut-down. Thankfully this guy only rode my bus a few times. He must have been a temporary hire with the shut down. Anyhow, on the one evening ride home he drifted off in the seat behind me and began to snore. Loudly. Very loudly. Somehow the kid with the loud music blaring on the ipod that I happen across on a city bus didn't seem so trying. Anyhow, a louder snorer I've never heard. The first time, it was actually funny to listen to. I'm sure the driver way at the front could hear it as well. I had to avoid eye contact with a co-worker of mine on the same route as every time we looked at each other it took a super-human effort not to burst into laughter at this guy's crazy snoring. Fast forward a few more days into the shift and I found my end of the day snooze was starting to be severely truncated. The humour was wearing off. Fortunately, I didn't see much of this individual after this but there was one particular day I did opt to get off at the first stop in the rain and walk a good kilometre or so home rather than subject myself to his snoring symphony.

So, yes. While I'll admit there were times I found myself annoyed, I do have to crack a smile as I recall some of these little episodes. I do have to say that for the most part I don't mind the early get ups and relish the chance to grab a little extra shut-eye rather than deal with early morning traffic.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shower Doors Be Gone

Its been a pretty quiet weekend around the chateau here but busy as well. A couple minor tasks I had been putting off around the house were finished yesterday, namely cleaning the grout on my kitchen floor and finally.....FINALLY getting rid of some old shower doors in the upstairs bathroom. It's amazing how much of a difference a new shower rod and white curtain can make. I'm nowhere close to getting done all the changes I want for the bathroom but its a start at least. I'm pretty sure the shower doors were put on when this place was built and I look forward to finishing off the changes I want to make. The only problem was that there was quite the disgusting brown mark underneath where the door sat on the edge of the tub from the silicon and God only knows what else that had accumulated over the past 30 years. I'm sure a little CLR will do the trick to remove what I couldn't get off. At least the big shower curtain I bought hides it rather nicely. The bathroom is easily the biggest eyesore in the house and my least favorite least for the time being. When I'm done with it, I'll have it looking like a million bucks (hopefully without having to pay a million bucks). And, yes, I will most definitely have a photo or two of the result.

The photo above isn't really connected to this post in any way. I just happened to be looking through some photos on my computer earlier in the day when I came across it. During a jaunt though Bohemia a few summers ago, I was admiring a turn of the century spa which Emperor Franz Ferdinand frequented before he was assassinated. Turning around, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a very small statue out of the corner of my eye. This appears to be the European version of the Rock Doves we see around town here if I'm not mistaken.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count....Suncor Style

It turns out the lamentations I espoused in my previous post about not being able to participate in this years Great Backyard Bird Count were premature. My "backyard" just happened to be at work. While I did last year's count during work breaks as well I was hoping this year to be home where I could do my count in my actual backyard. I've noticed many more Pine Grosbeaks this year compared to last year and wanted to add it to the overall list for Fort McMurray since the most current count for them stands at zero. No matter though. My numbers were way up this year (as were the numbers for Fort McMurray and Alberta as a whole) and for the first time ever, my list included a couple other species other than the Common Raven. We get quite a few ravens out at work, though occasionally I get lucky and glimpse a few sparrows or a magpie. One memorable spring day I even spotted a woodpecker (Downy or Hairy I'm not positive on) but I digress.

I was pretty happy with my count since I felt particularly crunched for time and wasn't able to check out my favorite spots. The final tally then.....

Common Raven - 185
House Sparrow - 4
Black-billed Magpie - 1

With luck I'll have some time off work for next year's count as I would dearly love to spend a few hours checking out my favorite spots....the river valley, the Birchwood trails, The Snye and a small storm pond and marsh area in Wood Buffalo, but I'm sure I'll hit all those places many times come spring.

Friday, February 17, 2012


I know the blog has been pretty quietly lately but not because of lack of things going on. Au contraire, its seems just the opposite. Its perhaps just that much of what is going on here likely wouldn't be of that much interest to people I suspect. I could write about how work (after a few initial bumps and bruises) is progressing nicely or about how the bus broke down on the way to work this morning and we had to transfer to another coach, making me 30 minutes late and oh yes, I was lead hand in the yard and had to get the guys organized and going in the morning once I eventually got there. I could write about how I walked a million miles around the yard today helping my foreman completely reorganize the place (and we're not quite finished it yet. I would of course love to write about the Great Backyard Bird Count that started today and how I will most likely miss it. I could also write about how the cat is mercifully not in heat anymore and that I've wised up and plan to get her into the vet on my next days off.

One thing I definitely will mention is the recent performance of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera's live HD program. Sadly I missed it since I was in the middle of my first shift with my new employer and wasn't sure what kind of work schedule I would have. I'm sure it would have been fantastic to see in the brand spanking new auditorium we have here at the recently-opened Holy Trinity High School. I can take solace in having seen Don Giovanni in Prague back in 2007, performed in the very theatre where it debuted. I have a photo of the theatre below. Its name escapes me at the moment but its only a very short walk from St. Charles Square. I will get a chance to see another operatic performance though, this time Verdi's 'La Traviata' this coming June so here's hoping.

At the risk of sounding overly pedantic and fuddy-duddy, I'm also working my through a few recordings of Mozart's piano concerti and am pondering the upcoming provincial election here. I also pondered a response to Justin Trudeau's latest hissy fit but since I've already dressed down Pat Martin, I'd rather not waste my time and efforts on mere politicians. I can also add that, in living up my belief that you are never too old to learn to something new, I am also picking up a little Somali. I've actually been learning a few words and phrases here and there over the past year. Granted, not all of it is intended for use in polite company and it not that I will ever be able to have any serious discussions or anything like that with some of the guys I work with but I've always been interested in learning about different languages and cultures as anyone familiar with my old Nunavut blog may know.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wow, I Have No Problems

I have to admit to feeling a little like being under a dark cloud the past couple weeks. A slew of work-related stuff coupled with a lack of time and a frustration of not being able to get to matters that need attention. Needless to say, my little (okay, not so little) collection of Bach has had quite the workout the past week in particular. It wasn't until I happened across an on-line posting today from one of my ex's former daycare clients that I began to think how silly some of my worries are.

Now Kevin (not his real name) was a pretty cute little kid with red hair, big cheeks, big laugh and a smile so big you'd think his face would split in two. It certainly doesn't take long to get attached to the little guy. Today I think he's about 3 but back when I met him he had barely started walking. In many ways he looked just like any other kid his age. It wasn't until you noticed the large surgical scar running the length of his sternum that you would suspect his journey in life had been a little different than most others. Kevin was born with a heart defect. Okay, not just one heart defect, FIVE heart defects....dextrocardia (meaning his heart is on the opposite side of his body), double outlet right ventricle (both of his major heart vessels exit through his right ventricle), pulmonary stenosis (meaning an abnormally narrow pulmonary artery valve), unbalanced atrioventricular septic defect (a large whole between the two heart chambers) and finally, total anomalous pulmonary venous return (meaning the pulmonary veins were not properly connected to his heart and he had an abnormal vein). This last one was repaired leading to the big scar I mentioned earlier. Now if this wasn't serious enough, the kid was also born with no spleen and oxygen levels in his body are only about 85% of what they should be.

When he was here he had to follow a pretty strict regimen of medications to help his heart. His mom always referred to him (and rightly so) as her miracle baby. I don't know the odds but the chances of a newborn surviving all these physical ailments and seeing their first birthday must indeed be phenomenal.

Now in the future when I think about all the trivial matters I complain about in the course of a day (the grout in kitchen floor, the bathroom sink, waiting in the cold for a bus, paying bills blah blah blah) I'll try to recall how fortunate I really am. Because really, after reading about this young guys issues, I have to look myself in the mirror and be honest. My life truly doesn't have any problems.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pat Martin, Honourable Asshole

I'm not sure if it's the unseasonable weather I talked about in my last post or that I woke up with a monster headache and queasy stomach this morning but for whatever reason, I found myself in a cranky mood for part of the day. So hearing the garbage come out of the sewer that Pat Martin calls a mouth in regards to some recent comments made by a Canadian Senator had me a little steamed. I can't believe people actually the type of language applaud what this clown Martin has to say. That Martin himself defends his actions to my mind is just plain sick.

Rather than leave a few comments on the bottom of news articles gather up unread with many others, I decided to take the bull by the horns, find Pat Martin's email and give him a piece of my mind. Quite frankly, Mr. Martin if you and your colleagues think this language is ok you have issues. And honestly, if you think you can go on ranting about how euthanasia is ok and being tough on violent offenders isn't, about needing draconian gun control or how the oil sands are evil and think you are going to somehow attract votes in this province, you really should seek help.

For the curious, here is my little email more or less, to the Honourable Asshole.

Dear Mr. Martin,

I find your recent comments regarding the Senator Boisvenu deplorable. You want workers like myself to support your party yet you go off the hinge and make embarrassing comments when you open your mouth. Don't tell me the debate is closed on capital punishment. Capital punishment was ended here in 1976. I was less than 2 years old at the time so I didn't get to have my say. I am so sick and tired of you and the NDP going on and on about what you think ordinary Canadians want. I'm an ordinary's what I want...get tough on more concurrent sentences, no more 25 years, murder equals life, or yes, in some cases the death penalty.. That is my opinion. Don't freak out and swear at me because you may disagree. I would much rather pay for a rope or keep violent repeat offenders behind bars permanently rather than pay for that gold-plated pension of yours which you obviously don't deserve.

Notice I said "murder" Tough sentences for the most heinous crimes like murder. Please stop getting sidetracked and twisting debate....I am not talking about the average thief here. I mean murders, rapists, child abusers. Get tough on these people.

Back to Boisvenu though.....he is only saying what many of us are thinking. Unless you really want to come to Fort McMurray and tell a bunch of oil workers they are assholes for thinking as the Senator does. Yeah, I didn't think're all talk.

This was an off-the-cuff remark sir, like your off-the-cuff tweet a few months ago. It is a canard, a dead issue. PLEASE. Please move on and deal with more important issues. If the only way you can raise your party profile is through milking these little side-show issues you have serious problems and I won't bother wasting my time to hear what you have to say, let along vote for you.

You and your party support assisted suicide and abortion yet you freak out over what really should be done to a murderer?? Give me a break. I know you won't respond to this email. You're just another pompous and arrogant politician.

At this point I finished off with a few expletives letting him know how I really felt about him. Not the best of form I know but really, I was cranky today so to get this far into a letter against a politician from a political party I simply cannot stand without using a few four-letter words was a Herculean feat in itself.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Since I work outside, I'm certainly not going to complain but still, I find a large part of me asking where exactly winter went this year. From unseasonable images in Prince Edward Island, to Edmonton, where many no doubt are thankful not to see a repeat of last year's "snowmageddon", winter weather, or the lack of it seems to be on a lot of people's minds. This winter season has easily been the mildest I've experienced in a dozen years.

Part of me misses the crisp coldness of winter snow though. I miss the way it crunches under my boots as I walk in the forest or across the tundra. I miss the stillness of the winter air....and yes, throwing a pot of boiling water into the air when the mercury sits at -40C is pretty cool. Part of me just misses being out in winter weather just long enough to get numb and they scurrying indoors to curl up with a good book. Yes, these are all strong images from my past and I miss them. It just hasn't been the same this year.

We do have snow here, just not as much as we have in past years. Of course this is only my 3rd winter here so I can only compare this season to the previous two. Other than a windy November and a slight dip in the temperature a couple weeks ago, this season has been rather impotent. While, I'm not asking Mother Nature to sock us with a blizzard (I do want a safe commute to site tomorrow) would be nice to see a little more bite to the season. Anything less just wouldn't be Canadian to me.

To console myself I dug these two photos out of the archives. They were actually taken in the Spring of 2010 after an unexpected dump of snow. I loved all the whiteness though it did do a number on my neighbor's tree....

...and one of my own...