Monday, October 29, 2012

Scatter Brained

I've been a wee bit scatter-brained as of late due to my crazy work schedule, hence the inconsistency of my posts.  I beg your indulgence for a few more days until I have time to write more coherently.  The ride in to work could be an interesting one as we had a bout of rather nasty weather this afternoon.  The east coast gets hurricane-force storms and the west coast gets earthquakes and tsunami warnings.  Here we get freaky blizzard-like conditions.

Oh, I knew we'd pick up a bit of snow today but I think caught a few people by surprise were the gusty winds that created a nasty little windchill and lowered visibility considerably.  At  least that was the case at work.  Working outdoors for 12 hours sure gives you a good appreciation and respect for the force of Mother Nature.  I remember thinking around 4:30pm that conditions were a bit nuts.  Certainly I've experienced weather like this before but just not this early in the season.  The winds have died down considerably now but I'm sure we'll have a good foot of snow on the ground in the morning.  Road conditions dictated that I didn't get home from work until around 9:15pm and shoveling the driveway at 10:30pm so my tenants could get their vehicles out in the morning was definitely a slice.

I can't wait for days off to roll around this coming Friday.  It gives me a chance to see what my house looks like when there is actually some daylight here rather than leaving and returning in the dark.  It will also give me a chance to enjoy looking out the windows at my bird feeders to see what shows up.  I've actually seen quite a bit this part year, remarkable given the amount of hours I've been working away from the house.  (I'll post a complete list for my 2012 birding season before year's end.)

I filled up my feeders on my last days off and now 2 of them are pretty much empty without me having had a chance to see anything.  So a day or two to do a little birding from the kitchen and living room windows would be nice.   On a positive note, I'm already looking forward to next year's Great Backyard Bird Count.  It's scheduled for February 15-18 and while I haven't had a chance yet to look that far forward into my work schedule, I'm hoping these dates fall on my days off since I was working the past couple of years.  Sure, I can still do it at work to some extent but it would be much more enjoyable from the comforts of home, naturally.

I had a few other random thoughts floating around in my head here but they seem to have escaped which I take as a sign that I should really head off to slumber here soon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sometimes I Get It Right

I'll admit I'm quite liking this whole home ownership thing.  I like being able to make changes and fix things up to suit my liking.  While my mind is full of ideas I must admit I'm not exactly a handyman but I think I've done pretty good so far.  With the long hours I worked this summer, most of my outdoor projects, like the gazebo, wine bar and Japanese garden didn't materialize as planned (keeping the grass cut and the weeds in check was a task in itself) but I suppose there's always next year.

One thing I do struggle with is color coordination and trying to visualize the end result.  It took me over an hour to decide what colour of bathroom flooring I wanted and I left the store still having not come to a firm decision.   A friend of mine had a pretty nice kitchen linoleum floor design which I think will work well so when I do get around to taking care of it, I'm pretty sure I'll go with that.  It certainly compliments the paint rather well.

Speaking of paint, the walls in the master bedroom had always been rather sterile so adding a little colour was on the radar as one of my winter projects.  Eventually I'd like to get rid of the grey carpet and go with hardwood so I was keen on finding something that would work well with a dark hardwood.  So I found myself at Home Hardware last Friday trying to visualize not only a wall colour but how it would look with a future floor.  Initially I decided on something called "sable" for the walls but thought it might be a bit dark.

Looking around the store I say a wall with a hue I thought looked rather nice and decided that heck, it just might work in the bedroom.  The two front-facing windows bring in enough light so that it wouldn't look too dark and gloomy.  So in the end, I went with this colour, which the according to the catalogue, was called "twine".

And wouldn't you know, I love it.  I painted a couple walls later that afternoon and yes, I did have one of those "oh God, what have I done?!"  moments, but once it dried a bit I must say I was rather impressed.  It certainly compliments the dark wood furniture of the room.

The lighting isn't the greatest as it was getting on in the day but here is one wall contrasted with another.

I still have to do a few touch up around the bedroom door and floor boards  and then do the other two walls but so far I like what I'm seeing.

I do have plans to replace a couple of big light fixtures in the upstairs bath and hall but I'm pretty sure I won't press my luck and will call an electrician instead.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's Baack!

After getting a few wet flurries earlier in the week I awoke this morning to our first appreciable dump of snow.  I was glad to have the day off since I've heard traffic conditions weren't exactly the greatest this morning.

For some strange reason my trees still have most of their leaves which makes them stand out quite a bit against the others in the neighborhood.  Apparently they didn't get the memo about losing their leaves quite yet.  I certainly won't complain about not having to fetch the old rake though.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fine Young Whipper-Snapper

Since its been forever and a day since I've posted any photos of the boy, I figured I would share a few of my more recent ones from my Facebook page here for those who may not be privy to it.  The first two were taken at 17 months and the last two at 18 months.

One of my favorites. I love that drooly, teething smile.

The highlight of my weekend came yesterday when I got a simple message from him on my cell phone....a simple "Hi Dadda!" It made my day.

Opening a Small Twinned Section of Highway 63 aka How the Alberta Conservatives Gave Fort McMurray A Bag of Peanuts

I've been a bit silent on the twinning of Highway 63 lately as work has kept me uber busy.  Nevertheless, its an issue not far from my mind as I travel the highway on a regular basis.  I caught word this morning of an announcement regarding the highway but wasn't able to get details until I returned home from running some errands downtown.

Actually, its a double announcement  --- a small section of highway "will open to traffic soon" and the province has committed to having the highway twinned by 2016.  Of course, this small section that will be opening has been in the works for God knows how long and the government trumpeting that it is opening a few months ahead of schedule does elicit a chuckle given how pathetically slow things have gone.   And, there remains a good 200-odd kilometers to go.  A 2016 completion date brings us pretty close to a provincial election.  I'm sure this is just a coincidence of course.   I've never been to keen on the particular brand of conservatism here in Alberta and see choosing between the Conservatives and Wildrose kind of of like deciding what form of cancer you want to die from, but at least there is finally some movement here so I'll take it.....but I won't let up the pressure.  TWIN 63 NOW!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ain't it Grande?

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to see a part of the province I've only traveled to once before a number of years ago. I paid a long overdue visit to a friend of mine in Grande Prairie. I had only ever been to the northeastern part of Alberta once before and that was a dozen years ago and mostly in darkness as I was took an epic bus trip from Edmonton up to Fort Smith, NT where I was living at the time. Last week however, was my first visit to Grande Prairie itself.

Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie are northern cousins in a way, being Alberta's two largest northern centres.  It was probably inevitable that I spent much of time there comparing them in the back of my mind.  And of course my friend and I got into a show of "one-upmanship".  I had to point out that I thought Fort McMurray had the much better recreation centre,  (I'm rather biased toward MacDonald Island here, what can I say.)  I did have to concede that unlike last year, the Grande Prairie Storm will likely finish higher in the standings than the Oil Barons.  Also, being able to go through a Tim Horton's drive-thru and be the only vehicle in the queue was quite novelty and seeing absolutely zero rush hour traffic at 5am was a completely foreign concept to me (especially after the epic traffic jam I blogged about in my last post).

Grande Prairie welcome sign upon entering the city from the south.

214 Place in the background.....the city's tallest building.

Though Grande Prairie is a couple hours away from Dawson City, BC, the start of the Alaska Highway I just had get a photo of one of the many signs pointing towards Alaska.

Naturally the history geek in me found the Heritage Park located in Muskoseepi Park.  Sadly I wasn't able to explore it more.

I had to really fight against the glare of the sun for many of photos, late in the day as it was, but managed a half-decent shot of a rather striking Catholic Church (St. Joseph's if I'm not mistaken), taken again from Muskoseepi Park.

I was so taken by the sight of a Mallard along this small creek I almost didn't notice the shore bird right in front of me.  Initially, I thought it was a sandpiper but it would have to be awfully late in the season for that.  More likely, it's either a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Little Snow and An Epic Traffic Jam

It looked like a pretty innocent dusting of snow this morning but it was anything but as the morning ride to work took a tad longer than expected.  What is normally a 45 minute ride from my bus stop to where I get off at Suncor turned into a 4 hour morning odyssey.  The culprit turned out to be a couple of spun out dump trucks at the bottom of Super Test Hill.  I saw one stalled out  along the shoulder and the other jackknifed in the ditch several feet off the road.  All this meant that traffic was backed up from the bottom of the hill and all the way back into the city about 30km to the south.   Apparently  from what I overheard, traffic was backed up over the bridges as well, extending all the way down to Gregoire, which for those not familiar with the lay out of Fort McMurray, is the industrial area south of town and the first part of the city you enter as you come on Highway 63.

The highway can be trying under normal circumstances and I've been stuck on it a few times but this was rather something.  One of the two trucks contracted to sand the road apparently had mechanical difficulties.  So after a night of flurries and light snow, the area around Super Test wasn't attended to with the resulting traffic chaos.  I counted a number of vehicles in the ditch, everything from pick ups to cars to everything else.  Even a bus slid across lanes north of Suncor around the Bridge to Nowhere.

I sat a couple seats behind the driver so between bouts of sleep I was able to pick up a bit of radio chatter.  The line of the morning came from one anonymous driver who remarked, "A billion dollars worth of overpasses is all for nothing if they can't manage to deal with one hill." (I had actually planned to do a traffic-related post earlier this week as it turns out as I learned that the long-awaited Timberlea overpass is tentatively schedule to open October 16.)

Four hours to travel roughly 30km.  You can drive all the way to Edmonton in a little over 5.  On a brighter note, I did get some extra sleep and I was still paid for the full day.

                                         (Super Test, Feb. 2010.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ron Bradley Is A Coward

I caught wind over the weekend to another follow up on the bru-ha-ha at the Edmonton Public School Board but wasn't able to get around blogging about it until this evening.  Sadly, the principal in question, Ron Bradley lacks the fortitude to stand by his own policy it seems as he has resigned his principalship and taken on another (thankfully) non-teaching position within the board.  You can read about the story in the Edmonton Sun and the Vancouver Sun.

The sad thing is that this moron (and trust me, this is one of the more polite words I can use) is now in a position of fostering future educational leadership.  Scary thought if he impresses on prospective new principals his myopic rosy view of the world.

No, Mr. Bradley, you are not a leader.  You tried to bully a very good teacher but when the other shoe dropped you couldn't even defend your own policy.  This is not leadership.  This is cowardice, pure and simple.  Part of leadership means when you screw up, you don't cut and run, you own up for your deficiency and make changes so it doesn't happen again.

Grow a spine.....own up....inspire.....LEAD.  I can see how in some ways this "no zero" policy is very appropriate for your situation.  This policy, like this principal are both completely useless and have no place in the real world.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wrong Side of the River

I don't normally blog about my work, not only because the long work hours make for a tired brain by the end of the day but also because I figured most people wouldn't find it terribly interesting to read about.  Occasionally, things get interesting though and the unexpected (even the mildly embarrassing) happens.  Last Wednesday was one such time.

Last week, due to increase demands from the shut down, I was switched to a 12-hour shift rather than my usual 10.  The good thing, aside from the extra money, is that I catch an extra hour of sleep (theoretically).  Rather than catch the bus around 5:45am and work my usual 7am-5pm shift, I embark at 6:45am and work 8am to 8pm.

The tricky part I soon discovered, was that around 6:45am, two buses swing by my stop,  one goes to my regular drop off spot at Suncor.  The other, which arrives a few minutes prior to the first, also goes to Suncor, but heads the mine rather than the base plant.  Tuesday wasn't a problem, the following day, I momentarily lost track of time and bolted for the bus which I saw pulling up to the stop as I rounded the corner.  Yup....wrong bus.  Approaching from the rear of the bus at a full out run, I wasn't able to check the big sign at the front to make sure I got on the right one.  All I remember thinking was that I didn't want to be late for work.

My first clue I had screwed up was when it failed to make a couple stops at Suncor that my route usual makes.  And the kicker was coming down the hill at base plant and heading straight rather than turning left.  And over the river I went to the mine.   Part of me did think it was pretty neat  seeing as I had never been over there before but then of course I was thinking, "Getting back could be fun."

In any event, as soon as I was able to get off the bus, I made a quick call to my foreman and explained the situation.  A couple shuttle buses later and I managed to get where I needed to go.  As one of the more experienced workers at my immediate job site, my little adventure was a tad embarrassing but I was able to laugh it off.  At least its not as bad as taking the wrong bus and ending way the heck up at Aurora.  But hey, at least now I know where to find the Millenium Mine, Plant 86 and Assembly Point W.