Tool! Tool! Tool! - Nov 15, 2019
Toronto

Wow. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of fun and frivolity.

With barely any time to recuperate from our vacation it was time to host our annual Halloween party. Due to not having a lot of time to prepare after we got back I ended up re-using a costume I created for a friend of our's 50th party and went as Walter Sobchak, John Goodman's character from the film The Big Lebowski. However I was shocked to discover that some people at our party had never even seen the film. Needless to say I didn't win best costume this year. Chris dressed up in a Mexican Day of the Dead type costume and looked adorable as always.

Some people couldn't make it this year which sucked, but on the flip side we had some new people which was great. As always it was a lot of fun and I can't wait for next year. I already know what I'm going to dress up as!

A few days later it was Halloween proper and Chris and I hung out in the garage handing out candy. It was a record number of kids this year, with the total being around 140. The weather was kinda crappy, so we didn't go to crazy with the decorations, but we still had some of our characters out which the kids either loved or were apprehensive about and we had the projector in the bonus room going showing loops of Halloween themed images. I got a kick out of watching the kids and their parents stopping in the street and pointing at the window and getting their phones out to video it.

The weekend after that we went to a house warming party for our neighbor's son, Cam. He had finally left home and got a place way down in the south. He's a good kid and has always come to our events so there was no way we weren't going to go. It was fun but ended up being a shit show which wasn't really a surprise.

Which brings us to last weekend where we first went for dinner and drinks with Chuck & Tracy and friends at a funky place downtown that was themed on a WWII bunker - although it wasn't as 'bunkerish' as I was anticipating. Still the food was really good, although the place was super loud and made talking difficult.

Then the next day was Nancy's 50th bash at one of their local pubs. Sadly we ended up leaving before Karaoke started which was probably a good thing for everyone there as they were spared my amazing vocals.

And the day after that I was off to Toronto to go see Tool in concert.

Tool Concert
Bless This Immunity

For those not in the know, Tool is one of my favourite bands. For numerous reasons there was an almost 15 year gap until they finally released a new album. So them going on tour to support it was kinda a big deal. However there was only one Canadian stop which was in Toronto and I just had to go, cost be damned! I ended up getting two tickets, the first one from a scalping site as I was paranoid it'd sell out before I could get a legit ticket when they officially went on sale. I had seen numerous posts online from people not being able to get tickets in other cities and the last band I really wanted to see - The Pixies - had sold out in the time it took for my web browser to refresh - I was still scarred from that experience.

The second ticket was from Ticketmaster which I got as soon as they became available. I did that as I was nervous the first one might not be legit. It didn't help that in both cases they were both e-tickets and you didn't actually get them until a few days before the concert. I was hoping I'd be able to convince a couple friends of mine (cough Jay, cough Jamie) to go with me but they sucked and said no. I kid (mostly) as it was definitely an expensive concert in the end - flights, hotel, cab rides, meals, merchandise etc.

I'd been to Toronto once before a long time ago and other than going up the CN Tower, don't remember much about it. The hotel I got was in a great location on the water and Rogers Place, the tower, Scotiabank Centre (where the concert was), Rogers Aquarium and so on were all just a few blocks away. The day of the concert I wandered around and stumbled across City Hall where there was a big Rememberance Day celebration. I tried to find Much Music but was saddened to see it's basically gone. Technically it's still there, but not like I remember from back in the day where they had the logo prominently displayed and people would stand outside looking in to the studio. Now other than a small IHeartRadio logo on the side of the building you'd have no idea it's even there anymore.

Being that it was a holiday the Ontario Art Museum was closed, but thankfully the Aquarium was still open so I checked it out. I think their claim to fame is the world's biggest or longest all glass viewing enclosure. It was pretty cool as they have one of those moving walkways and you can just stand there gawking at all the fish, turtles, and sharks all around you as you slowly go by.

Eventually it as almost time for the concert and I went back to my room and got primed by having some wobblies and listening to Tool videos before heading out. The opening act was Killing Joke which is a pretty cool alternative 80's band. They were just finishing as I got to my seat. As I had two tickets I was going to pick the spot I liked best - however the one was really close to the stage and although I initially thought that would be ideal I was worried about being so close to the speakers - yes, I'm old. Chris had given me some earplugs and although I had practiced putting them in I just couldn't get the hang of it. So I ended up at the other spot which was still a pretty good location.

Finally the lights dimmed and the music started!  The rest of the night was a bit of a blur but I remember it being musically perfect and by the end I was in my own little world just rocking out amoungst 20,000 other people and just not giving a shit what anyone thought. I'm super glad that I went!

But after all the craziness of the past few weeks I'm looking forward to some down time and just taking it easy for awhile.

Canada/New England Cruise - Oct 24, 2019
Quebec

Well we're back from our latest cruise.

It was a lot of fun and it was great going to all those places on the East coast that I'd never been to before. My world map got quite a few new pins out of this trip. Figured I'd get this updated while I can as I need to start decorating soon for our annual Halloween Party.

Can't believe it's almost November. This year is sure flying by.

Anyways, here is my usual blog of our journey:

Wow. Less than a week left in our cruise and I’m just now sitting down to write about it. Guess that’s what happens when you only have two sea days in a two week cruise.

Currently sitting on our deck looking out at the Saint John harbour, with the sign on the hill in the background. It’s gorgeous right now and I wished I had brought shorts. Other than a couple of cool and rainy days and one bumpy night as the remnants of a hurricane went through, the weather has been great this trip.

We began our journey in Quebec City (QC). The flight from Calgary was uneventful, although Chris was a bit of a trickster. When I asked if we had pods she said she didn’t think so. So when I walked on the plane and saw them I had a big smile on my face.

We spent the first night in a nice hotel in the old part of town near the docks. The building had that modern loft vibe with exposed ductwork, high ceilings and brick walls. After getting settled we went out and explored our surroundings - stopping in a couple of pubs along the way. The area is beautiful and feels like a slice of Europe with its cobblestone and windy streets. But we found it weird that the streets were empty - it was like we had the place to ourselves. We found out later that everything closes at 11pm for some odd reason.

The next day we had breakfast, asked for a late check out, and did some more exploring. The one thing we kept seeing that we both got a kick out of was how every store had pumpkins and Fall related displays both in and outside. It wasn’t really about Halloween, although there were some of those decorations, it was more a celebration of the season. We took the Funicular up to the top of the hill and popped into the Fairmont hotel to check it out. The place was a tourist gong show so we didn’t stay long. It was your typical, nice, fancy, Fairmont establishment, but it has nothing on the Banff Springs location.

We hit a local coffee shop and sat down outside. It was a cool day and I just had on a T-shirt and my puffy vest while Chris was wearing her light jacket. And older couple came along similarly dressed and in accented English asked if we were from Norway. I was like huh??? That was were they were from and they were making a joke as to how all the other tourists seemed to be wearing full winter coats. From there we ended up on the main ‘strip’ and traversed it’s length before heading back down. We hit the hotel, checked out, and boarded our ship. Unfortunately we were in the crappy industrial area instead of the main dock. We wandered around the ship until our cabin was ready which thankfully wasn’t long. Then we got ready and headed back into the city to go for dinner and meet up with Alpha & Nancy.

They happened to be doing a similar cruise but on a Royal Caribbean ship. Like us they also overnighted in QC, but started a day later than us. So we overlapped the one night and we’re determined to make the most of it. Unlike the previous night the area was now packed with tourists. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get a table somewhere. While Chris tried to coordinate meeting A&N, I went to this place we had been to the night before and had liked. It was cozy as all the pubs there were, but they served yummy food - we had tried a charcuterie board and fondue - it had a good looking waitress who was adorable with her cute French accent, and even better it had a Happy Hour. Luckily I was able to grab a spot and eventually we were all together living it up in Old Quebec.

At some point someone decided we should do a pub crawl, and several hours later and several pubs later we took an Uber back to our respective ships and parted ways. We had a lot of fun that night, although I’m sure by the end of the night we were those annoying Westerners. That said, we found all the people friendly. They’d greet you in French, you’d reply in English and they’d switch to match. I never once felt any attitude. If you threw in a smattering of French they’d acknowledge and appreciate it. All in all it was a great place to visit and I’d easily go back again some day.

The next stop was Sagenauy, Quebec, which I’m not sure I’d even heard of before. It was a smallish town that had a pulp mill back in the day. We woke up to the sound of French music and looked out to see a bunch of locals in lumberjack attire and holding oars doing little jigs. They were adorable. I wanted to go for a walk so I got off while Chris relaxed and checked out the place. But as I entered the tourist pavilion I spotted a helicopter tour sign. With our bad luck concerning helicopter rides I was determined this one would happen, so signed us up.

The walk along the sea wall was good, but Chris texted me she was bored so I came back and changed, told her about the tour, and we went and got some yummy maple syrup pops the lumberjacks were handing out and waited for our trip in the air. Having done one when we were in Vegas I was anticipating that brief, odd feeling of weightlessness as you take off but for some reason it didn’t happen this time. Once in the air we got to check out the countryside and see all the gorgeous Fall colours of the trees. We also went through the fjords there before heading back. The only thing I didn’t like was our pilot wasn’t saying anything. It was only after myself and some others began asking questions that he began engaging with us, and then things were fine. I’m glad we did it and our streak of bad luck regarding helicopter tours was broken.

Once we landed we went and had lunch at a local pub. It must have been a good pick as other than us and one other table it was all crew there. Sadly as always freakin happens I of course became sick. Wasn’t sure what it was at first as my throat felt like there were razor blades inside and it hurt to swallow. From there I went on to coughing up crap and just generally feeling shitty. Thankfully it only lasted a couple days before I began to feel better. In any case we hit a local pharmacy and drugged up. We’ve also been buying lotto tickets in each port (cause we’re sure to win) and got a kick out of how monstrously large the tickets in this region are. Then it was back on board for more shenanigans and on to Newfoundland.

One of the reasons we picked this trip was that it stopped there. Unless you’re doing a Transatlantic most ships don’t go to it. In our case it wasn’t the capital of St. John’s, but instead Cornerbrook which was on the other side of the Island. I was on my last day of being sick so was a bit of a grumpy bump but still determined to make the most of it. My goal was to get a picture of Curious George with a bottle of screech, so we hit a pub and had yummy fish and chips - and they were cool with my picture plan. We then heard the local Legion was having a Screetched ceremony where they make you an honorary Newfie. So we headed there but there was one already in progress. So we wandered to the back of the place and had some drinks. I got a kick out of listening to the locals banter in their thick accents and one of them explained to us how the local lottery game of ‘catch the Ace’ was played. Eventually they had another ceremony and I manned up as I knew Chris really wanted to do it. Feeling like crap and not wanting to be near other people I watched from the side. But we both kissed the cod and got our official certificates.

Jumping ahead now to almost the end of the cruise. We were supposed to go to Rhode Island but the Captain came on to announce that because of bad weather we’d be stopping in Boston instead. I’m sure Rhode Island is nice, but for us we thought it was a definite upgrade. Even better Alpha & Nancy happened to be there that day on their ship. After docking we hopped into a cab and headed downtown. We didn’t really have a plan other than Alpha had mentioned they wanted to go to the Cheers bar. They were still stuck waiting to clear customs so we just wandered around. As it happened we stumbled across it on our own and as soon as they opened we bellied up and waited for the Murrays to show up.

Eventually they came by and we all whipped out the cellphones and were snap happy tourists. After a few pints we hit a couple of other establishments before sharing a cab back to the ship. Alpha was worried we wouldn’t get back in time and debated which streets to take with the driver - we ended getting dropped off before them as our ship was first and found out later that they just made it with 5 mins to spare.

Which takes us to today.

Last night was really rough and before crawling into bed I noticed on the navigation map that we were headed back the way we came which I thought was weird.

This morning we woke up to crazy seas alongside another cruise ship and discovered that they had closed Boston harbour and that we had spent the night circling in a somewhat sheltered area. A few hours ago the Captain got on again to inform us we wouldn’t be able to leave until evening which meant our overnight in NYC wasn’t going to happen but that we should get there in time to catch our flights home.

We’re still waiting to get underway. Even worse, because we’re too close to shore they can’t open the casino or the shops. Oh well, at least the ship hasn’t run out of alcohol yet. Obviously disappointed, but it is what it is. A&N are currently getting pounded at sea and knocked about, so I think our Captain made the right decision. Tonight should be an interesting one but soon we’ll be docked and on our way home.

Jumping back in time again...

We woke up to the charming island of PEI. This was our first tender or the trip so I was glad we had a suite as our chicky had us skip the long lines and scooch us to the front to board the tender. We didn’t care about Anne of Green Gables and had nothing else planned so we just wandered about popping our heads into various stores and pubs. It was an easy going and relaxing day.

Our next port was Sydney, Nova Scotia and once again we didn’t have anything planned. A&N had been there the day before and had told us there wasn’t much to do. The weather was rainy, but we at least wanted to go ashore from lunch. By that point it was pouring rain so we were content to eat in the tourist pavilion and snap pix of the world’s biggest fiddle outside. I had been craving lobster the entire trip so was overjoyed when I could get an entire lobster for lunch. I was in my happy place as I ripped it apart and devoured it.

Next up was Halifax and after two stops where we had to tender, it was nice being able to dock again. We had an excursion on a Tall Ship booked for later in the day so we just toodled around the waterfront until we got to the end where Halifax casino was located. Nearby was the Navy base so I was in my element snapping pix of the warships and patrol boats. There was even a ultra modern ship there that I knew wasn’t Canadian and later found out was Dutch as they had recently just finished a big NATO exercise. We actually won money at the casino so hustled out of there before that one extra spin ruined it and headed to a restaurant one of the casino managers had recommended. The owner guy had competed on Top Chef Canada, and it was a pretty hip place that had yummy burgers. We made a note to look him up and see how well he did on the show.

It was almost time for our tour so I ran back to the ship to put on something warmer as it was pretty cool on the water. We met our group and walked a few blocks to the Tall Ship. Although I’m glad we did it, I would say they cheated a bit and would classify it as a Tall-ish ship. To me a proper Tall ship is wooden and had 3 masts with sails at multiple heights. This was a converted coal ship which was metal and although it had 3 masts they were only one level. But it had a neat history having sunk in the Baltic in the 20’s? and later on having been raised. Our guide actually had lived in Calgary before so we chatted back and forth about various things. The best part though was they had a musician on board who entertained us with various Maritime jigs - oh and they had a bar, although Chris & I seemed to be the only ones drinking lol. After a trip around the harbour we got off and headed back to our ship. Hitting yet one more place for nourishment along the way.

And now everything is up to date...

As for the ship, this was our first time on the Norwegian Dawn. If it’s not officially a Jewel class ship, it’s very similar to the Jade which we’ve been on several times before. Basically a mid-sized ship. But we knew that. For us, this trip was all about the itinerary. However they did a bunch of upgrades during the last refit. Probably the nicest addition is the wine bar - which is the only ship other than the mega ships in the fleet to have one. And unlike the wine bars on Celebrity, we actually enjoyed and spent time here. They had a super modern menu which was basically a tablet you could scroll through all the available wines, get info about the wine, see if it’s available by the glass or bottle etc. We also did a blind taste tasting event where we both actually learning a lot about wine drinking - I’m even drinking (some) Red wines now! We also spent a lot of time chatting up the resident wine expert who was really nice.

Of course we bought some more art. We’ve been wanting a certain piece by one of the artists for a long time, but it was never the exact one we wanted. But we saw it here so we had to have it. It’s technically a numbered print, so it wasn’t super expensive - but for us it has special meaning. Consisting of two adorable, happy cats, you could either interpret the two cats being Chris & myself, or you could also interpret it being a representation of our cats JC & Mindy.

The casino has kind of sucked. Neither of us has done very well, but Chris (as I write this) is still leading in the slot machine tournament. The one annoying thing is they’ll have $5 Poker tables, but the minimum for Blackjack is always $10.

The food has been good (on the NCL scale) and I’ve had a few super yummy dinners - my favourite being a lamb curry dish we had in the dining room. The only real disappointment was the Bamboo restaurant where we spent lots of time on a previous cruise with the Blanices downing dumpling after dumpling. But for whatever reason, here it outright sucked. Chris couldn’t even finish her meal. We also had a couple of misfires at Cagneys, the steak place, however they were always quick to remake and make sure we were happy.

As for entertainment, we haven’t really done any of the shows other than to go see the comic. Usually those shows are always kind of meh, but we both found this comic to be really funny. We were both laughing throughout the show. For music the piano guy was so so, but the guitar guy was really good. Sadly because of the colder weather we didn’t see much of the ‘rock band’, but one day they were poolside rocking out the Queen and everyone including the bartenders were belting out Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a lot of fun.

And while the average age of the guests on here is probably 70 - there’s literally a total of four kids onboard - I can’t really make fun of them this time. Because we’ve found ourselves doing old people stuff this trip! Looking forward to trivia, hanging in the Champagne bar, tapping our toes to the music etc. In bed by 10pm. My God, next we’ll be doing the Macarena at the morning dance class in the atrium.

And that’s pretty much it. It’s been a good trip. We finally got to see the Maritimes, saw some amazing scenery, and went on some terrific excursions.

Here's some pictures of our shenanigans:

Wandering the streets of Old QuebecFall decorations everywhereLook who we found in Quebec City!Yummy maple syrup treatsThat's my action shot
Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?Pretty Quebec countrysideI'm an honorary Newfie!George found a friend in NewfoundlandMy what a big fiddle you have...
Chris ponders ConfederationLooking cute in HalifaxCould we be any cooler?Funky art on Halifax waterfrontSmile, say tourist!
Lighthouse in Portland, MaineChris gets her lobstering onI thought the architecture was cool. Chris liked the hotdog stand.Did someone say wine tasting?Of course we bought more art.
Our favourite place to hang on the ship.Cool, newly revamped, atrium.We finally got a magnet for when we go cruising!Sunrise over Boston harbourLook who we found in Boston!

Now time to start looking forward to our next cruise!

The Fruits Of Others Labour - Sep 8, 2019
Backyard Fun!

Yawn. Stretch. Just got up from a nap. Yes, it's been an extremely long hard day - not.

I've been joking for awhile now with each nice day that it was likely the last gasp of Summer. But I think yesterday might have actually been it - for real this time. We were going to spend the late afternoon and evening enjoying the warm day in our newly built and mostly functional pergola but instead ended up watching the Labour day rematch in the garage. As usual my team lost, so I had to endure the incessant taunting from my neighbor while drowning my sorrows in beer. After the game was over the usual collection of neighbors spotted our garage door open and so invited themselves over for some bevvies.

Normally I'd be all over whooping it up with the gang, but for some reason I wasn't feeling it last night and Chris had to be up at 4am to book a flight for next year on points, so we both called it early. Which was good as that meant I didn't feel like crap this morning and after a healthy breakfast went for a lovely walk. I've been doing a bunch of walking lately, even more than usual. I've almost hit 50km already in just the first week of this month.

Speaking of the pergola...

At long last, after what seemed like a never ending process, our back yard is complete - ok, almost complete. We're still waiting for a few things pergola related to be done. The company that installed the privacy screens screwed up the measurements and so we're waiting for replacement screens as well as lighting and outdoor speakers to be installed. But they left the existing screens in place, so as mentioned, it's mostly functional. In fact I napped outside in there for the first time yesterday. It was nice being shielded from the bugs while enjoying a nice slight breeze coming through. At this point, it's now almost Fall, so we're not in a hurry for them to finish - as that would mean having to do the substantial final payment. Based on the shit show of how long everything took, we might just insist on it being completed next year now.

Back Yard Jungle
Before...

But overall we're extremely happy with how everything turned out. As you can see from the pictures, what was once a back yard jungle is now a clean, sophisticated, outdoor relaxation zone. We also get a kick out of watching people on the walking path behind us looking at the yard and pointing at it as they go by.

Of course we needed to have a party to celebrate and due to the ever changing weather forecasts we ended up having two - one on consecutive weekends. That turned out to be a good move as it meant we got to have fun with even more people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to make it. It was nice watching everyone play the backyard games and seeing the pinball machines getting a work out. A big thanks to everyone who came out - both Chris and I had a blast.

Finished Back Yard
...And After!

This past week I had a few days off and instead of just sitting around wondering what to do I had come up with a list of things to keep me busy. Other than not going to a movie matinee, we managed to get them all done. Some more exciting than others, but still it's good to have some structure and goals even when not working. Probably the biggest event was us going to the zoo which was something I had been wanting to do for awhile, it having been years since I was last there. A couple of attractions were new for me - namely the Penguins and Pandas. I was initially looking forward to the Pandas the most, but in the end found myself enjoing the Penguins more. So awkward on land, but so graceful in the water. We also got to watch them feeding one of the Tigers which was also cool. And as a bonus, one of us got in for free as the guy next to us at the ticketing machine gave us a ticket he said was an extra that got spit out.

This coming week I'm doing an online training course - while it's a full day every day, I'm able to do it from home which is nice as I don't have to endure the daily commute. After that it's back to the regular grind for a few weeks, including a quick trip up to Edmonton and then before we know it we'll be enjoying our next vacation. And soon after it will be our favourite day of the year - Halloween! I have a feeling that the rest of this year is going to fly by.

Here's to enjoying what's left of the Summer season!

Summer?!?!? - Aug 1, 2019
Summer Is Over

Another 3am post...

Not because of any health issues this time at least. I just went to bed pretty early as I had earlier walked 10k and it had kicked the crap out of me. So technically I had over six hours sleep, but you can only toss and turn so long before you say screw it and decide to get up. I came downstairs and JC looked at me like 'what are you doing up at this time'? As if I was interrupting whatever cats do to enterain themselves at this time of night. Speaking of JC...Chris & I got a bit worried a few days ago. She went to jump up on her cat tree and if I hadn't been there she would have fallen twice while jumping to the higher levels, then later that day she fell off the couch. So naturally we both were wondering if this was the start of her downward spiral and the inevitable trip to the 'cat farm'. Which is where we jokingly say cats go when they well....go away. But the vet ran the usual battery of tests and said she was 'ok'. As ok as you can be with a terminal kidney illness anyway. There's a certain marker protein or something that shows up in the blood? or urine? when the kidneys start shutting down and so far she doesn't have that. So we figure she was just having a bad day that day. While she's still wobbly, she's been able to jump up on her tree ok since then.

As for me had another follow up with my cardiologist. Basically nothing has changed since last time as my heart function is still at 35%. So good news in that at least it's not worse I suppose. He again suggested a pace maker and I again said no bloody way. My plan is to still keep on losing weight and hit my new target by the end of the year. Then I'll get re-tested for sleep apnea, and hopefully with the weight loss that will have improved which in turn should help my heart. I also did just see an ad on TV for a new drug to treat heart failure and improve pumping action. I can't remember the name offhand, but Chris wrote it down somewhere for me. Of course it came with the usual nonsensical warnings...may cause your ass to explode, consult a doctor. But I'll look into it. Maybe it won't have the side effects that the other drugs I've tried have had.

Still on the health train of thought, we were all saddened when a friend of our's lost her mother recently to cancer. Chris drove out to BC to be with Deb and her family and was with Ann at the end. She was a terrific lady and I'm thankful to have known her. On the flip side my bestie Jamie was given the all clear and is officially cancer free which is all kinds of awesome. So right now, in my personal experience, Stage 1 Cancer is highly treatable and a good outcome likely. Anything beyond Stage 1 - well, not so much.

Onto yard news...

The landscaping is finished! The 'boys' wrapped everything up last week and Chris & I are super happy with the results. Our furniture and the fire table are also in town, but we're having them hold off on delivery until work on the pergola is complete. That work consists of installing the downspouts, running all the wiring and hooking up the speakers and light, and installing the retractable screens. Of course we were ever naive in thinking this would all be done in time for us to spend the summer enjoying our new outdoor space. July was with the exception of the last few days a total waste of a month with shitty weather and it looks like the remaining work won't be finished until mid-August (hopefully). Oh well, at least we'll get a month or so of enjoyment out of it before the icy grip of winter envelopes us once again. I'll post pictures when everything is done.

Been frustrated and stressed out a lot lately with life, work, the yard work etc. Looking forward to our next vacation in the fall which is another cruise - I know, shocking right? We'll be doing what they clasify as a New England trip. Although unlike most of those cruises the majority of stops are in Canada. It's also pretty unique in that we overnight in both Quebec City and in New York City - plus there's a stop in Newfoundland which I've always wanted to visit. And because most of it is in Canada we won't have to deal with the stupid exchange rate. About the only downside is it's an older ship. But again, this trip is all about the iternary.

Suppose I should go and get another hour of sleep or so. Enjoy what's left of Summer!

Gone Solar - Jul 1, 2019
Solar Panels

Happy Canada Day!

While I've enjoyed a long, long weekend, sadly it's back to the daily grind tomorrow. Chris has been away in BC with friends and family so I've had the place to myself. Which sounds like a great idea, but true to form it wasn't long before I was missing her - and having full on conversations with the cat as if it was another person. I didn't really do a lot other than putter around and hang in the garage watching reality TV. Ok, I guess I got in a bunch of walking as well. Another month where I've done over 100km walking. We'll see what the scale says tomorrow, but having passed 250lbs my next goal is to hit 225 by the end of the year - basically a pound a week which is more than doable.

Had a bit of a health scare last weekend (what else is new). Chris & I were out getting groceries after having done our usual breakfast stop at Good Earth. We both had to pee so ran into the washrooms at the grocery store. While I'm doing my thing in the urinal I glanced down and saw something red shoot out. It took me a second or so to comprehend what I just saw. And sure enough in the urinal there was this bloody stringy tendril thingie. Pretty sure at that point all the colour had drained out of my face as when Chris saw me she was like 'what's wrong'? Hoping it was maybe a one off I just continued on with my day. But then everytime I'd go I'd watch and sure enough there'd be blood in the stream. So at this point I'm kinda freaking out and so we called the Health Link line, and buddy was concerned with it having to do with my blood thinners and advised we go see someone right away. And of course it was on a Saturday and my Doctor's office was closed. So we went to the emergency care clinic in Airdrie which I'd been to once previously when I was dumb and sliced open my hand.

So they felt me up, did a bunch of blood tests, had me pee in a cup etc. While peeing in the cup I realized I wasn't peeing blood - it was more accurate to say I was peeing blood clots. Floating in the cup was one of the clots. After much nervous pacing back and forth they told me all the blood tests were fine. Kidneys were fine, Liver was fine (really??), coagulation levels were fine. But they wanted me to go and have an ultrasound done on my bladder. I had one of those done before and it was torture. They make you drink a crap tonne of water beforehand so that your bladder is full and while you're endlessly waiting in the waiting room you're worried you're going to piss yourself, then when you finally get on the table they're pushing on it with the device. Luckily as my form was marked Urgent I got an appointment the next day or so. But the next day I got a call from my Doctor's office saying she wanted to see me right away. So of course now I'm freaking out convinced I have cancer or something for her to want to see me right away. In the end I managed to get her on the phone versus having to go in to her office and she told me my scan was fine. That these things 'sometimes just happen'.  Thankfully it stopped after a couple days, so who knows. Once again I'm an enigma to modern science.

On to progress with our renovations...The pergola is in and mostly done, we just need to get the permanent and retractable screens installed plus the speakers and lights. But that's on hold until the landscaper finishes installing the patio stones. Supposedly that's going to happen sometime in the next week or so. I'm going to hold off posting pictures of that until everything is all finished.

However the solar install is finished!

Solar Readings
Solar Output Reading

We are now the proud owners of 26 panels on our roof and a combination Inverter/EV charger. As you can see above, on a good day we're able to generate over 7 kilowatts of power. Due to the challenging shape of our roof we had to put some panels on the front, on the one side, and on the back - versus having one large bank. I think that's probably a good thing as we can capture the morning sun, maximum output at noon, and the evening sun. And due to the height of the roofs and closeness with our neighbor you can't really see the panels on the one side or even really from the front of the house. It's mostly the back panels that are noticeable and even then they don't really stand out that much.

I'll wait to get our electrical bill for the month of July in order to do a comparison, but we really won't have an accurate picture until an entire year has gone by and be able to do some savings/break even calculations. So as of now, other than a couple show homes, I think we're just the third residential install in Calgary's largest community. Which frankly is pretty sad. But I get that not many people want to make such an investment. For us, honestly, if it wasn't for the rebate that we got - which our new premier has promised to eliminate - I don't know if it'd make sense from a purely financial point of view. But overall we're quite pleased we made the move.

Now off to fire up the BBQ and enjoy the rest of the holiday!

Hawaii Trip - Apr 19, 2019
Hawaii

Got back from our latest cruising adventure exactly a week ago.

And not coincidentally we've also been sick for exactly a week now. Because you know, that's what happens when we travel. One of us - this time both of us - inevitably gets sick. It's to the point where we're seriously questioning the wisdom of even vacationing anymore. What's the point of going on a 2 week trip if you're going to lose a week (and counting) of work afterwards. Even more frustrating is we literally could not have done more to avoid getting sick this trip. We sanitized our hands like crazy, avoided touching public surfaces, ate healthy, exercised, limited the boozing, got lots of rest etc.

So what affliction are we suffering with? Who knows? Two trips to the doctor and two trips to diagnostic clinics and the best modern science can give us is a shrug of the shoulders. For me who has been hit harder than Chris they at least ruled out pneumonia. I assumed that was my issue because as has happened in the past I was having breathing issues whereb my lungs were all gurgly and I couldn't sleep because whenever I'd lie down, even elevated, I wouldn't be able to breathe. The doctor did say that something 'new' was out there and they were being flooded with people complaining of similar symptoms - however different people were reacting to it differently. In my case she said I was having a severe asthmatic reaction - even though I've never had asthma before in my life. So now I'm taking steroid based anti-inflamitories and they appear to be helping.

In any event, as I usually do, I kept a short journal of our adventures:

First sea day....

Just finished my laps around the jogging track. Walking, not jogging, because that would be silly. I have however created my own customized course...at the one end of the loop I keep walking and go up three flights of stairs to the Solstice deck which goes around the back of the ship - so I almost double the length, work in some stairs, and avoid much of the waddlers...

So why am I talking about exercising on our vacation? Both Chris and I are trying to not gain the usual vacation 10 pounds. Doing a bunch of walking, taking the stairs, less boozing etc. We’ll see how successful we are when we get back. We did however get our Martini Bar on last night - and even Mom got in on the action. Other than our first night in Honolulu it was really the only time this trip we tied one on..

The vacation has been good. Chris and I had a lot of fun at our hotel in Honolulu -The Prince Waikiki. It was expensive as hell, but worth it. We hung out the first day at the pool area where they had an infinity pool overlooking the harbour. And we had access to the special lounge where we could get snacks and drinks and be served by Rininko - who as she told us when she introduced herself was Japanese. In fact it felt like we were in Tokyo again as there were Japanese people everywhere.

We met up the second day with our cruising pals Jake and Gary who were there on another cruise. It was good seeing them again and we had brunch and did some shopping. After that we had some more pool time - we were having so much fun we kept joking ‘we can’t forget to pick up our Mom’ as her flight came in that night. But we remembered to grab her and the next day we boarded the ship...

That ship was Celebrity Solstice...which we had been on almost a year previously on our ‘free’ cruise. This time our cabin was a suite at the back of the ship. We really liked it as unlike some of the other suites it was an open floor plan and felt quite spacious and the balcony was really large. We also had a private entrance to a sort of foyer outside our room which made us feel all special...

Our first stop was in Hilo and we didn’t really have a plan other than renting a car and toodling around. Unfortunately you had to catch a shuttle to the rental place and there were long lineups. Took almost 2 hours from when we got off the ship to when we pulled out of the parking stall. We went and visited a waterfall which while not breathtaking was quite pretty. Then we had a yummy lunch at this place called Ponds where the windows opened up and you could feed fish food to the Koi fish in the pond below. It was always a race to see who’d get there first, the fish or the ducks (usually the ducks). After we looked for some luggage for my Mom but couldn’t find what she wanted. That was pretty much it for the day...

The next day was much better when we stopped in Kona. We again rented a car but this time it was quick and easy. We went to one of the beaches and Chris & I got our snorkel on. I had bought a fancy full face mask due to the issues I keep having with the normal masks, but quickly discarded it for the regular one. Saw a bunch of fish but was sad I never got to see a turtle which was my main goal this trip. Then while I was walking to go get the car I glanced out at the beach and could see at least three of them in the shallow water - who according to a nearby lifeguard were feeding on the seaweed on the rocks. So while I didn’t get to see them while I was in the water I was still quite happy overall.

Then we went and visited a coffee farm called Kona Joes. I was expecting the usual by the numbers tourist trap, but it turned out to be great and was actually interesting. The guide was also really good with Mom and the coffee super yummy. After it was over we sat down outside the gift shop overlooking a gorgeous view and just taking in the beauty of it all. It was a great day.

From there we spent two days in Maui which was supposed to be the highlight of the trip. We had booked both a helicopter tour and a Luau for the first day. Well we get to the helicopter place which was literally on the other side of the island after a 50 minute Uber ride only to be told it was cancelled. We were given the option to rebook it, but they said the weather wasn’t looking good for the next day either - and while they refunded our money we faced being out of pocket (roughly $160) yet again for the cost to get there and back. So we didn't rebook. We called another Uber and went back to the port and drowned our sorrows with a couple pints at a yummy pub called Captain Jacks. We headed back to the ship to get ready to come back again for our Luau later that night.

And that leads me to bitch about the amount of tendering we had to do this trip. Usually we’d end up tendering maybe once per cruise, but this time it seemed like it was every stop. It was made worse by the fact that the waves were really rough in Maui and they had to reduce the number of available boats - plus for some reason they couldn’t figure out how to time one tender leaving as another one was arriving. So there’d be a tender traffic jam as you had to wait, sometimes for two other boats. Meanwhile you’re waiting in those claustrophobic life boats bobbing up and down in the ocean like a cork bottle...

The Luau started off fine and was kinda neat not knowing what to experience. But the food while tasty was a bit of a let down just as I expected there to be a bigger feast. The entertainment was good, but after almost three hours, we were waiting for the big payoff of the fire dance - you know, the one clip you see each and every time you’ve ever seen an advertisement throughout history for Hawaii - and suddenly the show ended. No fire dance. So now I’m really annoyed that what was supposed to be the best part of our trip sucked - compounded by the fact that my Mom and Dad had done a helicopter tour on their last trip there - one of their last big vacations before he died. And I wanted for her to be able to re-experience that with me. And then of course having to once again tender back in even rougher water for what was now the sixth time and well, I kinda lost my shit...

Thankfully, the next day was better and we went back in to town for lunch and to wander around. We ate at Fleetwoods which is owned by the Fleetwood Mac guy - it was ok, but we liked the other place better. For some reason Maui is a big art hub and there were a tonne of art galleries along the Lahaina strip. So I was in my element. I found one painting that I loved but Chris was mean and wouldn’t let me buy it. That said, it’s burning a hole in my soul not owning it....we’ll see. The tender back was super rough, but this time being in a better mood I was ok with it - it was basically a free roller coaster ride.

And that was Hawaii. While I enjoyed it I don’t know that I’d be in a hurry to go back. For the travel time to get there (as you can’t get a direct flight) I’d much rather go to the Caribbean. And while the scenery was pretty it frankly doesn’t compare to other places we've been like say the Azores or Madeira. But we still have a couple of sea days to go before we’re home. Sadly as we get closer the temperature keeps dropping. So today we’re calling a Spa day and are hanging in the Solarium, doing some swimming and hot tubbing.

It’s been fun having my Mom on the trip. I know she’s enjoyed it. I wasn’t quite sure how we’d balance our time between doing our thing and hanging with her, but we quickly established a routine that seems to work. She’s also made some friends with her smoking buddies.

As usual we’ve really enjoyed the food on the ship and our cabin steward and Butler have been terrific. Probably the biggest nice surprise has been all the quality musical entertainment. It’s all been terrific - and there’s this Violin duo which we’ve really liked. We’re going to be sure to mention them on the comments card. On the Casino side we’ve of course lost money but had fun doing so. Yesterday we did a glass blowing class which was a lot of fun, the girls that worked at the studio did the dangerous handling but we actually got hands on in making our creations. I know I had a big ass smile on my face throughout the process.

We’re just going to relax and take it easy these next two days and then sadly it’s back to reality.

Here's some pictures of the fun:

View From Our Hotel RoomPostcard PerfectHanging With Our Cruising Pals!Prince Waikiki Pool AreaOur Home For Ten Days
Akaka FallsDid Someone Say Pineapple??At The Coffee Farm TourThis Is How Coffee Is MadeUnleashing Our Inner Foodie
A Bit Different From Caribbean BeachesPretty Hawaiin BackdropAt The LuauPretty Ocean RainbowSurprise Mothers Day!
Glass Blowing FunGeorge Takes A Sunset SelfieMom's Two Fisting AgainOur Last SelfieBut I Don't Want To Get Off!
Buzz Off! - Apr 19, 2019
Tinnitus

First a health update...

It's been seven weeks now since my Tinnitus came back. At this point I have to assume it's permanent and that I'll never know silence again. It is what it is. No cure, no hope, just constant ringing - or in my case humming/buzzing. Unless you have it, you simply do not understand it or why its so dehabilitating. There also seems to be no rhyme or reason. I'll go for a few days with it at a low level and I'll actually sleep through the night, and then there'll be days where it's especially annoying and like right now I'll be up at 2:30am after only a few hours sleep surfing the web and pondering life. Not a huge deal on days like today where I have it off or it's a holiday, considerably more annoying when you have to be up in a couple hours to go to work and can't nap later on.

Still I have moments of hope. A week ago today, it completely disappeared (for about 10 minutes) and I was freaking out - afraid to even move for fear of it returning. I even wrote down a journal of everything I did and ate that day in the likely futile attempt that I'll be able to recreate that magic mixture - mix Vitamin C, Echenecea tea, and curried Hummus - and be cured. Cured I say! Praise Jesus! Sorry, I get a bit silly when I'm strung out. It could be worse I guess, I mean at least I still have all my limbs right?

At least I'm continuing to lose weight. I recently hit my goal of losing 50 pounds. And while that sounds really impressive it depends upon how you look at it. Yes in terms of absolute weight loss it has been 50 pounds. But half of that as previously detailed was from my meds and simply stopping them got the process going. That said, I still had to work to lose it. I've had a couple people comment on me looking good which is always nice. I'm going to continue doing what I do. I hope to lose at least another 25 pounds by the end of the year. So what's my secret? Just three simple things. I do a lot of walking - I typically do 6-7km outside or 30 mins on the elliptical. I also do some weight training, usually a couple times a week on my Bowflex for roughly 30 minutes at a time. Finally Chris and I have slowly shifted how we eat to consuming less and less carbs. We're not strictly anti-carb, I still enjoy having sandwhiches and what not, but our dinners almost always consist of just meat and vegetables. In addition, Chris has been working hard at being healthy as well and has lost a bunch of weight also. It helps when you have someone else to encourage and motivate you.

On to other things...

We're counting down the days until our Hawaii cruise. Something that I didn't think would ever happen considering we had booked and then cancelled this trip twice now due to various reasons. So I'm looking forward to getting away as other than a few days at Christmas time I really haven't had a break from work in almost a year. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy right?

Regarding the yard work, we're in a holding pattern right now. The electrical guys are coming next week to do some work - for whatever reason the original landscapers only ran a single speaker wire outside and I never noticed. I just saw the coil of wire rolled up and assumed all was good. Thankfully it was all run through conduit, so we should be able to get a 2nd line out there in addition they're going to run some ethernet - because why not? Maybe I want another webcam. As well they're going to prep the electrical so the outlet out there is always on but I'll also be able to switch on and off the pergola light both via a mechanical switch in the house and via Control 4. I discussed my vision of the pergola with the manufacturer and they're going to have to fabricate a custom centre beam - inside will be the speakers and a recessed LED light strip.

As for the solar install, we're still waiting. I'm hoping they will be able to start next month.

We can't wait until everything is finally done. If I'm going to suffer with this condition at least I can make it bearable while relaxing in our shaded pergola while listening to tunes and enjoying a bevvie.

Cheers!

Appointment City - Mar 3, 2019
Appointments

As the graphic says, the past couple weeks have seemingly been nothing but appointments for me.

Doctors appointments, dermatologist appointment, car appointments etc. Basically, if there was an appointment to be had, I was likely there for it. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate having to go to these things. Having to wait forever and then when you finally get called you simply get to go to a smaller waiting room. Sigh.

My visit to the doctor was supposed to bring good news. I had previously gone off my meds as the side effects were freaking me out and driving me crazy. I had hoped through exercise and healthier living that I'd be back on the path to wellness. Well turns out my latest echo test showed that my heart function had regressed to back where it was when I was almost hospitalized over a year ago when my lungs started filling up with blood. So despite dropping 50 pounds and feeling better than I have in years it was all for nothing. So my cardiologist again brought up going on a pacemaker - the idea of which scares the hell out of me. Your life literally at the whim of some corporate device. And it wouldn't cure me, I'd still be in Afib and still need to take blood thinners the rest of my life. So I struck a deal with my doctor that I'd go back on the meds at a low dose. My issues seemed to start happening after he had kept increasing dosages. So I went back on them and almost instantly I got ringing in the ears again. Stopped taking them and right now praying to the Gods that it's not permanent and goes away again. One last thing I'm going to try is see if he'll write me a prescription for Nadalol which is another beta blocker, unfortunately not cardio selective however - but supposedly it has less instances of causing hearing issues than Bisoprolol.

So I've been extremely stressed out lately. I'm basically running out of options at this point.

As the weather has sucked so bad for so long during the past month Chris and I have been doing a bunch of puzzling. Years ago I always thought jigsaw puzzles were something old people did - and now I find myself doing them. Chris got me a 3D Game of Thrones puzzle for Christmas so at some point in the new year I had at it. I hadn't done a 3D puzzle before and it was definitely challenging. The idea was I'd work on it a bit at a time and take most of winter to finish it. But of course, being that it was a challenge I just couldn't leave it alone and obsessed over finishing it.

Game of Thrones 3D Puzzle
Winter is Here

Since I finished that one Chris and I have finished another two (regular) puzzles and are now working on our third. So yes, we are officially old now.

Work is supposedly progressing on the website overhaul. Last communication I had with the web design company was that they should have something for me this week to test out. So again, hopefully things will be updated soon. Oh, speaking of the website, you may have noticed the one camera feed from the Livecam is down. Sadly my ridiculously expensive network camera died a week ago or so. And all the replacement options for it don't support a drop ceiling mount. So despite not being supported by the manufacturer anymore, I ended up having to order another one of the same model off Amazon. But sadly it won't be here for roughly a month. So until then you'll have to make do with checking out the bunny tracks in the snow in our back yard.

Finally we got word a few days ago that our application for the Government solar rebate was approved. And I think it was on the same day that I read that should we have a likely change in the Provincial government next election that they were going to kill the rebate program. So my instincts were right to get everything going when I did.

Stay warm!

No I'm Not Dead - Feb 9, 2019
Under Construction

You may have noticed a lack of posts lately...

My website host recently removed support for FrontPage Extensions (without telling me). So when I last updated the website, any page that I had updated that had the year linkbar in it suddenly broke. So as you can see here, there no longer is the menu bar with the various years showing as I had to remove it.

Last year I looked at somewhat updating the site to a slightly newer platform - Microsoft Expressions - and had started working on it and then my hard drive crashed and I lost everything. I thought about hiring a web designer to just do it for me but my laziness got in the way. Fast forward until now and I once again started working on a new site design. I got about 75% of the way in terms of the look I wanted, which wasn't a huge change, just a bit more refined. But I couldn't figure out how to handle everything collapsing properly when resized to look ok on smartphones or tablets. With enough time I probably could have figured it out, but now that the site was somewhat broken I decided to just bite the bullet and hire a professional.

So I found a local developer and will be working with them to get everything updated. It took me awhile to find someone because when I mentioned the platform I wanted to use I'm sure they thought I was some web luddite. It was painfully obvious how much technology had passed me by since I started the site. Most everyone was like 'why don't you use Wordpress'? As Wordpress is the current darling of bloggers. It basically gives you drag and drop web publishing. All you have to do is write your post, drag a few pictures into it and Bob's your Uncle. That said, and despite offering a number of templates, for me, all Wordpress sites look the same. And I wanted mine to retain it's look. I also wanted to still do this somewhat old school and be involved in the coding and understanding how everything worked.

So hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to unveil the new improved look.

Ice Sculpture
Banff Snow Days

Last month the Blanices (Blaine and Janice) and Mori (Matthew and Dori) came with us to Snow Days in Banff which is a winter festival that happens every year in January. We decided to be all fancy and stay at the Banff Springs hotel and I have to say I was quite impressed with it. Chris & I had stayed there once before but had were in the main building and our room was laughably small. This time however we stayed in the 'newer' Gatehouse wing and had a really nice suite. We hung out in the pool, I went for my walks, and just had a great time. We also went to Lake Louise where they had their ice carving contest and in downtown Banff they had snow carvings. All in all a really nice getaway with friends.

Last post I mentioned we were thinking of going Solar. Well it's official now and the contract is signed. Likely in April or May we'll have a bunch of panels on our roof generating electricity. So I'm excited for that. As for finishing the yard, we put down a deposit with a company that builds fancy metal pergolas to hold our place in their schedule this year. We also got in touch with a landscaper who does smaller jobs and once the snow is gone we'll get together to discuss what needs to be finished. Hopefully come summer time it will all be done and we'll be able to spend our days lounging outside in total comfort.

Another Year In The Books - Jan 12, 2019
2019

Happy New Year!

As usual we rang in the New Year at the neighbors but this year was a little subdued. I wasn't feeling great and Chris called it just after midnight as neither was she. Which was probably good as I had started to listen to Tool and that never ends well. The neighbors were also disappointed at the turn out as they said each year it seems less and less people pop in. So we might just pub it this year instead.

Prior to that we went to Kananaskis for a big get together with Chris' family. We stayed at the lodge there which is where her Mom and Step-dad got married 17? years ago which was pretty cool. Wow, can't believe it's been that long. We had a great time despite half the family being sick with some kind of stomach bug. One day I went for a long walk through the mountains and it was just me in the wilderness stomping through the snow with amazing views all around. Another day we all went for a massage at the spa and while it might not have been the best I've ever had it was definitely up there. And one night we hung outside by a fire and listened to carolers and drank really yummy mulled wine concoctions. So unlike the last big get together, this time we actually took advantage of a lot of the activities they had going on.

There was also a professional photographer who took a bunch of family photos. While she was really good, especially in regards to keeping the kids attention and getting good energy from the, my favourite photo of the trip is a selfie that Chris took of us. Awwww. Aren't we cute? A big thanks to Jim & Karen for putting on such a great gathering.

Cute Couple
Fun in Kananaskis

Of course not all is sunshine and rainbows. A few weeks ago we found out my bestie Jamie has cancer. I can't imagine what he and his family are going through. When I first heard my initial reaction was to remember my Dad and think 'here we go again'. But according to the experts it's 'only' stage one and there's a high survivability rate. You don't want to make it about you, but you're reminded of your own mortality. You plan for the future and make various plans for some distant day, but it all could come quickly crashing down in an instant. But he's strong and he'll get through this. He also started a blog detailing what he is going through. I think it's great he's doing that, I'm sure it's not only helpful for him to express himself but also for others not only to find out how he's doing but to also better understand what a horrible disease it is.

On to other things...

Currently trying to figure out finances for the year and make plans for our various trips and never ending renovations as well. We're actually meeting with a Landscaper tomorrow to discuss what we want done to finish off the yard. Hopefully things go well and I get a good vibe from them. We want the yard finally finished this year. I can't wait to be able to go out and enjoy the summer in a nice shaded structure, with a cool drink in hand, listening to some tunes and relax myself into oblivion.

As previously mentioned, I'm also toying with maybe going Solar this year. We have a meeting with an installer in a couple weeks. Financially it's probably not the smartest decision with the payback period likely a decade, but I'm not doing it just to save money. Obviously that's part of it - I look to the future when I'm retired and on a fixed income and it'd be nice to half our electricity bills dramatically reduced - but there's also the environmental aspect as well. Plus my next vehicle is likely to be electric and it'd be nice to have the sun effectively powering it. I'll have a better idea how everything will shake out by the end of the month.