Worst Year Ever? - Jan 8, 2024

Day 8 of the worst year ever.

Wait, what??? Well many at least are saying this year is going to be a shit show of epic proportions. I tend to agree. Not based on anything really, but I just sense something is coming...

We decided to host a party to bring in 2024 and it was a lot of fun. Sadly a lot of people cancelled as they were sick. Tis the season. At one point I got upset as I just 'felt' that would have been the time that JC would have come down the stairs and made an appearance. It's coming up on two months since we said good bye to her and while things have slowly gotten easier both Chris & I still have our moments of sadness.

The biggest thing is just an overwhelming sense of emptiness in the house. I tended to be judgmental of people who'd lose a family pet and then a few days later get a new one. But now a little less so. You just want to fill that sense of loss. We still have our Salamander, Sally, but she's currently hibernating. Last year she was gone roughly four months before she reappeared. So she's no help. Chris is wanting to get a new cat, but I'm not ready to move on just yet.

Happy New Year!
Welcome to 2024!

Resolutions wise I lasted 5 days. Hey, at least that was better than last year. So that's progress right? Right?!?!?

Apparently Winter is finally coming as of tomorrow and there's a bunch of mundane tasks we still need to get done - need to get my new glasses, need to get bloodwork done, we both need to renew our passports etc. We also need to go up to Edmonton at some point this month to see my Mom. At least the days are (slowly) starting to get longer again.

Vacation wise we don't have anything booked except for Jamaica in November. Which is unusual for us as we typically have things planned out a couple years in advance. My guess is we'll probably cancel Jamaica to save money. Finance wise we may be making a big move in a couple months. We'll see.

That's pretty much it, just a quick update and wanting to wish everyone a Happy New Year - and fingers crossed it'll be one to remember, but in a good way.

Heartache - Nov 20, 2023


Earlier this week we said goodbye to our fur baby - JC. She had been a part of our lives almost as long as Chris & I have been together - 23 years. She was with me for almost half my life.

The past few weeks we were agonizing over when the time was 'right'. Surprisingly I think Chris was ready while I was still in denial. JC ended up with a urinary infection earlier in the month and we took her to the pet hospital and got her antibiotics. This had happened a couple times before, so I wasn't hugely concerned. I figured she'd just get better again. And while I think the infection had gone away, I think it took the last of her strength. She wasn't the same again and her health quickly deteriorated.

For the longest time we had setup a cat ladder (boxes of varying heights) so she could get into bed. And we had a step stool so she could get on the couch as she could no longer jump up on things. But she couldn't even do that anymore, I walked by one day as she fell off and onto the ground. And it was obvious it hurt her to walk. We knew her back legs were giving out, but now she was limping even with her front legs. We had her on pain medication, but she'd still have to stop and sit down every once in awhile while walking as it wore her out.

As I told Chris who was second guessing herself that we could have done more - we did everything humanly possible we could for her. She was on all kinds of medication, Chris was even giving her IV fluids every few days to stop her from getting dehydrated (a symptom of her kidney failure). In fact I always felt a bit guilty when our neighbour would cat sit for us as you almost needed a flowchart to figure out all the drugs she was on and how to administer them.

She was scheduled to go to the vet to get her follow up shot of antibiotics later in the week and Chris & I decided that instead we would take her in to be put down. But she didn't even make it that far. Tuesday morning we both knew it was time and she made the call and was able to get her in to the Vet that afternoon.

So we spent the next few hours crying and comforting each other.

Much like with Mindy, JC spent the trip with a sense of wonder, looking at everything we drove past as we didn't bother putting her in a carrier. When we got there they whisked us into the special euthanasia room they had setup. We signed some paperwork and waited for the vet. Chris was sitting down holding her and again JC was wide eyed, checking everything out. It was a gut punch when Chris mentioned she was happily purring away - moments away from her life ending.

The vet came in and explained the process and asked if we wanted more time with her - and I told her just to get it over with. Chris held her while I stroked her head and first she went to sleep and then had her heart stopped. When the end came JC was staring right at me. I knew she was gone, but it was surreal and felt like somehow she was still alive. That image of her staring at me as the life drained out of her will never leave me.

The vet picked her up and took her away, Chris & I held each other and sobbed and then we left out the side door and drove home.

Goodbye Little Girl
Goodbye Little Girl

We got home and a wave of emptiness washed over us. Seeing all her things - litter box, dishes, toys etc. and knowing she'd never use them again. Automatically glancing at the top of the stairs expecting her to be there. Being in the kitchen and expecting to hear the crunch of her eating her kibble. Walking into the living room and expecting her to be sleeping on her blanket. And so on...

This has been an extremely hard week for us.

On Saturday we went next door as we had earlier agreed to cat sit. Lynette being considerate said we didn't have to - but Chris said it was ok. We got there and when she saw her cats broke down. But as much as I like them, I didn't feel anything. They weren't JC. As much as we loved Mindy, Mindy wasn't JC. Even if we one day get another cat, they won't be JC. We will simply never have another animal as special as she was.

I picked this picture as it's arguably my favourite one of her. It was taken on the day she literally burst into our lives and into our hearts. She was so little and so happy.

We miss her terribly.

Not Again - Nov 10, 2023
Covid Vaccine

No, I'm not dead (yet).

Pretty sure in a previous post I said I'd get back to posting more frequent updates. Obviously that didn't happen. And I'm not really sure why.

Maybe I'll chalk it up to with it being summer I just didn't have the motivation to be stuck inside hunched over a keyboard when I could be outside enjoying the sun instead.

In any event, I'm sure a lot went on since my last update, but it's been so long I can't really remember everything.

Chris & I did finally manage to do our staycation. We spent a couple nights downtown. On the first night we stayed at the Alt Hotel located right on the river across from the Zoo. It was our first time staying there and overall we liked the nice, clean, modern but quirky vibe it had. For dinner we went to Charbar which was near the hotel and is a very trend restaurant in the old Simmons Warehouse. While it was very fancy pancy and expensive, for a change I felt that it was worth it as the food was really good. I can't remember what my main was but for a starter I had a Scallop Crudo and it was amazing.

Afterwards we went to the Casino and did our thing, roughly breaking even. We wandered back near the hotel and plunked down on a bench and just took in the sights and sounds of the East Village in the wee hours of the morning. The next morning we checked out, and then checked into Le Germaine hotel by the Calgary Tower which is our usual downtown hotel. We met Sheri as she was celebrating her birthday and spent the night bar hopping with her and the girls. It was a fun little get away.

A few weeks ago I got to go see my favourite band of all time - Tool.

Last time I saw them, I had to fly all the way across the country and see them in Toronto right before Covid shut down the planet. Thankfully I didn't have to go as far this time as they were playing here in Calgary. I went along with Jamie and our friend Ashley who were seeing them for the first time. There was a young lady next to me who was seeing them for the first time as well so I enjoyed chatting her up and explaining how the concert would go and the various eccentricities of the performance as I was the old grizzled concert veteran having seen them now for the third time.

As for the concert itself it was great as usual. I forewarned my friends that I'd likely get really into it - and of course I did, just rockin out without a care in the world and not giving two craps what anyone around me thought. Having seen the set lists of recent concerts I was expecting they'd play Rosetta Stoned which was getting buzz as it was a song they hadn't played live before in ages and I was also hoping they'd play 46 & 2 although I knew it wasn't likely. Turns out they did play them, just at the next concert in Winnipeg. So we drew the short straw on the set list this time. Oh well. I did make a comment on Tool's official Facebook post about the concert where I posted a gif of someone smashing a computer when they found out they wouldn't be playing 46&2. The next day I noticed the band's singer, Maynard, actually liked my comment.

Viva Las Vegas
Tool! Tool! Tool!

Afterwards we predictably headed to the casino which was a gong show. It was crazy packed ever before the concert goers poured in. We were sitting at the bar having a drink and people watching when I commented 'why are all the girls dressed up like whores (even more than normal)' and Ashley mentioned it was because it was Halloween - or at least the weekend (Friday night) before Halloween. I had completely forgot about that.

Much to many people's dismay we didn't have our annual Halloween party this year. Previously Chris & I discussed it and with it always being so much work we decided we'd do it every other year. On the non-Halloween years we'd instead host a New Years Party. But Chris still wanted to do something to celebrate so we had arranged to go with some of our friends to a pub and see a local band that Ashley and Shari knew the performers.

Of course this was on the day after the concert. So despite our best efforts it was painfully obvious that Ashley, Jamie and I were just going through the motions as we were all still worn out from the previous night's fun. And let's face it - this band was a big step down from Tool. Everyone else seemed to have fun for the most part however. The place had a costume contest so most people there were dressed up. I went in my lame Aquaman costume and surprisingly didn't win. Not only that, but that's likely where I got Covid from.

Covid. Again. For the third fucking time!!!

I say likely because Blaine and Janice who were also at the party ended up getting it a few days before I did.

So I've spent the last week going through hell. As with the previous times the worst part is not being able to sleep as every time I lie down I have trouble breathing. So I'd end up getting maybe 1 or 2 hours of sleep a night when I'd eventually drift off while sitting either on the couch or in the office chair. Thankfully last night I managed to sleep 4 hours straight in my bed. So the end of my misery is in sight. I'm just so frustrated though. I've had 3 shots and they've been useless. It's obvious that natural immunity doesn't work and the vaccine doesn't work either. So I'm destined to get sick multiple times a year for the rest of my life. All because some corrupt government official thought it'd be a good idea to do gain of research funding in an overseas lab.

Oh and hey, amidst all my misery let's also throw in a time change as well just for shits 'n giggles...

It sucks too, because I had just committed to a new effort to improve my health and for once was in a really good head space. I say for once because the past several months have been hard with world events weighing heavily upon me. It is amazing, we are marching towards WWIII and most people are completely clueless.

Anyways, later in the month we'll be headed to Banff to partake in Beer Fest for Chris' birthday. And then we'll be on the West Coast for Christmas. And then this year will be over.

It seems like the year has flown by and yet somehow dragged at the same time.

Until next time...

Summer Daze - Jul 21, 2023
Summer Heat

Wow. I've been horrible in not updating in so long. I've been wanting to for awhile but kept procrastinating - why do today what you can do tomorrow?

I'll chalk it up to the lazy days of summer. Currently sweating my arse off in the garage as I type this up.

Breaking News! Summer is hot!

Of course the downside to waiting so long to update the News is I have to wrack my brain to remember all the interesting stuff that's happened in the past couple months.

I guess the biggest event was Chris & I going to Vegas. I got the ok from work to attend Dell World which is a big computer expo that happens every year. I went once before Covid hit and had a good time. Before we stayed at the Venetian, but this time we were at Mandalay Bay which we've never stayed at before. It was nice, your typical Vegas hotel complex - but everything at that end of the strip is so large and spread apart that if you want to go anywhere it involves a lot of walking (in the blazing heat). You definitely need to take advantage of the monorail.

At Dell World there's always a music concert where the guest is a surprise. Last time it was Sting and we had a blast watching him. This time it was The Lumineers. We were maybe a bit underwhelmed when we found out thinking we wouldn't know many of their songs. But as we were listening we'd be like 'Oh I know this! Or oh ya, I like this song!' etc. And this time the concert was in an actual arena so it felt like a proper show. Everyone also got blinking Hats and glow sticks and wavy things. It was cool watching all the arena lit up by the audience.

Probably the other highlight is we got to attend an exclusive party at the top of Mandalay and the view was amazing - and surprisingly no barriers. I was sitting there realizing I could just jump to my death if I wanted to - I know, morbid, but these things go through your head (or at least mine) occasionally.

And best of all we came home up like $30 or something from gambling. Hey, in my mind if you come home from Vegas up any amount it's always a good thing.

Oh ya, I just remembered the shit show in terms of getting there and back...

Not only did we have to contend with the looming WestJet strike, we were worried our beloved cat JC was dying. So we were super stressed out whether to leave her for a few days and even if we'd be able to go - should we cancel our flights? Rebook with someone else? And then coming home they lost our luggage and we ended up getting Covid (again). But despite all that, it was a fun getaway.

Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas!

Other than that it's mostly just been spending time with friends and family.

We went out to Sylvan Lake last month as a surprise 50th party for Jamie (it was a surprise as his 50th is next year). We rented a vacation house and Chuck & Tracy, Kim & Jamie, Kim Grover, and Chris and myself all had a room. I hadn't been to Sylvan in years and I can't remember the last time all of us hung out for several days at a time. You can tell we're all old now as we were all in bed relatively early and a lot of our conversations consisted of our various ailments. Sigh.

Chris & I also hosted a Canada Day bash and in addition to the usual hanging out in the back yard in the Pergola and consuming bevies we also had a contest consisting of multiple games (Jenna, ladder ball, a horseshoe type game and so on). Everyone had a team and whomever got the most points won. And Juan & Brooke who live several houses down and who have the neighbourhood's favourite dog also came and hung out. Which was cool, as up to that point we'd only say Hi and chat a little bit while they were out walking on the ridge. It was a fun day.

More recently we got to see almost all of Chris' family when everyone came out for Hailey & John's engagement party. The one day everyone met for lunch and to see their new condo and the other day was the party at John's parent's place out in Springbank.

Their condo is in Garrison Woods which is basically across the highway from where Chris & I first lived together in Marda Loop. After meeting everyone for lunch we swung by our old stomping grounds and thanks to my impeccable sense of direction and memory we were able to find our first house. Needless to say we've come a long way since then. Never having been there before, Garrison Woods is a neat up and coming area - kinda hipsterish without being pretentious. I've also never been to Springbank before. So it was enjoyable going to these places which were new to me.

As for the rest of the summer I have a bunch of vacation time coming up. Not really planning on doing anything other than just relaxing and puttering about the house - but I imagine by the fourth week I'll probably be bored, so we might hit the West coast once again.

Next week we're going up to Edmonton for a funeral. Sadly, my best friend Jay's Dad passed away. While it wasn't unexpected, it's still a gut punch and having lost my own Dad several years ago I know what he's going through.

Health wise not much to report. After my last ultrasound that showed my heart function declining I upped my medication dosage. I need to go get another ultrasound to see if it improved things or not. Frustratingly, these meds make me gain weight and I'm the heaviest I've ever been. But I still go for my walks almost daily - usually around 5km. I'll surpass 100km this month which is the first time this year I'll have done so. What can you do? Chris mentioned maybe taking Ozempic - but beyond no one knowing the long term effects of the drug - on principle I refuse to take yet another medication for life to reverse the effects of another fucking life long medication.

Anyways, that's it for now. I'll try and get back to updating more frequently again.

Stay cool!

Birthday Boy - May 7, 2023
Birthday Cake

Yup. Another year older, definitely not any wiser.

Things were pretty subdued this year. Making a yummy surf 'n turf dinner was about the highlight of my day - but that's fine, I really wasn't looking to do anything special.

Maybe it was because we had just finished celebrating our friend Blaine's 50th birthday. Friends and family went to the lodge in Kananaskis and some of us showed up early and got his room all decorated. Then we all waited inside for him and Janice to come into the room and yell surprise. Seeing his reaction was worth the effort. It was a fun night and I especially got a kick out of seeing my cousin getting messed up on Bailey's (liberally poured by Janice) and seeing her pass out by the end of the night. Sadly I wasn't feeling great that day and was having issues but still made the most of it.

We've actually had a lot going on since my last post...

There was a work trip up to Edmonton and as always I got to spend some time with my Mom. She was wanting to get some seeds to do some planting and gardening so we went to the local greenhouse. I was also interested myself as we've been kicking around the idea of getting a large planter for the back yard and maybe growing some things. I already learned that some seeds come glued on strips of tape which are apparently easier to plant. Who knew? We also did dinner and some other running around for things she needed.

Chris & I were supposed to have had a staycation last weekend, but we left things a bit late and found out we couldn't get reservations at the place I wanted to go to for dinner. So we ended up just cancelling. Awhile ago we found out you could book hotels using Airmiles. As Airmiles is all but useless for getting flights and with it possibly going under, we've been doing that to use up some of our remaining points. Which is what we did when booking the staycation hotel - The Alt Hotel in the East Village. I believe it's part of the Germaine group - and we really enjoy their hotel by the Calgary Tower. So we're going to try and rebook it for sometime later in the year. I really enjoy those one or two day getaways without having to leave the city.

Several weeks ago we spent a few days on Vancouver island in Ucluelet at the Blackrock Resort to celebrate Chris' Dad's 70th. I'd been to nearby Tofino before, but this was my first time in Ucluelet which was beyond beautiful. Looking out from our room upon the ocean was like something out of a postcard. And at night with the windows open you got to fall asleep to the sound of the crashing waves. There were also some great trails and I went on one of the smaller loops with Chris and Michael and then one afternoon where I wanted some alone time I did the longer trail which left me huffing and puffing due to all the up and downhill climbing but again the scenery more than made up for it.

We had also arranged to get some family photos done (everyone knows I just adore having my picture taken). While we were out there on the beach with the photographer the big suprise for everyone was finding out Hailey and John got engaged. So a big congrats to them!

The resort was also great. They had a fancy restaurant which we went to once as well as a bar/lounge which we spent more time in. There's also a spa which we hit up one afternoon to soak in one of the hot tubs. But probably the highlight was spending one night on the beach with the family and a campfire going, having some bevvies, swapping stories, and looking up at the stars. I really enjoyed it out there and I know we'll be going back again at some point. Here's some pictures I took of the area:

Automated LighthouseLife's A BeachSuch pretty sceneryGreat spot to sit down and relaxMassive Cedar near the end of the trail

Last post I was all frustrated at everything in the house falling apart. Since then we finally got the downstairs toilet fixed. That was a shit show (ha) and it took the plumber guy two trips to finally get the problem resolved. As for our boiler the problem magically went away. The guy who came out who was different than the guy who first looked at it seemed to know his stuff better and he ruled out the part that the previous guy had said we needed. And based on what he was saying and the error code etc. it made sense to me. So we had them order it but because of the never ending shortage of everything it didn't show up until just this week. But again, the problem hasn't occurred since. My guess is if it was to happen again it'd be later in the year when the temperatures drop. So we're going to ask if we can just hold on to the part and have them swap it out later in the Fall.

Health wise I'm struggling. I keep gaining weight - having cracked 300lbs recently. Yes, some of it is lifestyle choices, but I know the main culprit is my heart medication. In the past five years, the two times I went off of it, within a few months I dropped down to 250 (I tended to be around 275 for most of my adult life) with no other changes. I'm still going for my daily walks, trying to eat better etc. So it's extremely frustrating. I could be like seemingly everyone else and just go on Ozempic - but I refuse to take yet another drug for an issue itself caused by drugs. Plus no one knows the long term side effects. My eyesight is also rapidly going downhill. My right eye is now all but useless. 30 years of staring at a computer screen for work shockingly destroys your vision. But hey, at least when you retire you get a nice watch right?

Oh well, at least Winter is over and longer days and nicer weather is back. A few days ago Chris & I went out and dusted off and wiped down the Pergola and just today we got our flowers for the front planter. So we're ready to enjoy hanging in our yard once again. Bring on the sun!

FML - Feb 11, 2023
Out Of Service

If you can't tell from the subject line for this update, the world is basically raining shit on me right now. Yes, it's going to be one of those rant posts.

Work is really stressing me out right now. We're migrating to a new system and I can't properly backup part of it because the performance is horrific. And it doesn't matter what vendor professional I engage to troubleshoot, no one seems to have a clue. Meanwhile everyone else is constantly throwing shit my way. Just piss off, leave me alone for a few weeks to get this resolved. In my 25 years working there I've maybe been this stressed a handful of times. It's obviously affecting my mental state, but also my health as well.

Then compounding that frustration, apparently when your home hits the 10-year mark all your appliances decide to spontaneously break at the same time.

It started late last year when our hood fan broke (one of the vent flaps) and they don't make that model anymore so to 'fix' it we'd have to buy an entirely new model. Then our main floor furnace died. They replaced the blower motor and some circuit board and charged us over $3000. Then the oven/microwave was throwing up errors randomly. $300 for someone to come out and take a look and they couldn't figure out the problem (a common theme in everything and everyone right now) although it thankfully hasn't reoccurred since. Oh, and our main floor bar fridge is toast. Be cheaper to replace than to repair. Plus the downstairs toilet went. As it's a super fancy European wall mount model they had to special order parts which means it's been out of action for the past month. Finally a couple weeks ago the boiler crapped out. Another $300 for someone to come out and look at it, and again, they weren't sure what the issue is. We spent $900 to order a part that buddy 'thinks' might be the issue. But as usual, supply chain issues bla, bla, bla. So we've been without hot water for 2 weeks now - although occasionally I can get it going for brief periods of time.

Boiler Error
Well That's Not Good

Like, what in the actual fuck???

I was going to talk about New Years and anything else that might have happened since my last update, but I'm so pissed off at life right now that I don't care, plus honestly at this point don't really remember anyway.

Maybe I just need a vacation. We're supposed to go to the West coast at the end of March for a family celebration. Hopefully my sanity lasts until then. So there you go. A lame update I know, but it is what it is.

Year End Musings - Dec 4, 2022
Respiratory Illness

Sitting here at 7am in the pitch black darkness. Figured I'd do what's likely the last News update of the year.

I'm already counting down the days until the Winter Solstice and the return of sunlight. Normally at this time of year I'm not in the best mental shape as the lack of sun does a real number on me, but so far this year it's been ok. I chalk that up to the fact that I've spent the last month distracted by being sick. Chris & I went to a work function and I'm pretty sure that's where I picked up whatever it was. I honestly don't know why people insist on getting together at this time of year, it's pure idiocy!

Sadly Chris got sick as well. She did a Covid test which was negative. Neither of us had fevers, so it wasn't the flu. For me it started as a normal cold but within a few days I was coughing really violently. The worst was I couldn't sleep as whenever I'd lie down I had issues breathing and it would set off even more coughing. I literally spent a month sleeping sitting up in a chair. It's only in the past week where things have mostly returned to normal for me. Chris got better, but then went away to visit family on the West Coast and when she got back got sick again - and she's still sick. Personally I think I had bronchitis. I did go visit my GP and she was like 'ya everyone is sick, it's a virus, suck it up'. Thank God I'm working from home, otherwise I would have had to have gone on short term disability.

Other than being sick not much is new. We've been enjoying watching World Cup even though Canada got quickly knocked out. Chris has been adorable getting into it as much as she has.

We were supposed to go to an event the Blanices were hosting last night, but with Chris still being sick we cancelled. So instead we had a couple bevvies and put up the Christmas tree while I got to experience the novelty of watching an Oilers game as it was on CBC (I refuse to pay for Sportsnet which I've watched literally for decades until one day it was gone and Shaw said oh you weren't subscribed to it). We like having a tree even though there won't be any presents under it. For us it's just a nice decoration and as we found out last year, the people across the street enjoy seeing it in our window. Actually we might have ended up with presents under the tree as Chris talked to my Mom last week and she was all ready to take the bus (Red Arrow) and come down here for Christmas, but when I talked to her a couple days ago she had done a complete 180 and said she 'just can't do it'. So who knows, she very well could change her mind yet again in a couple days.

We're not really doing anything for New Years either. Although we will be making an appearance at the new Casino that opened up by the Airport. They're doing a draw early in the evening for $10,000 and you have to be there to win. So we might play some slots and then come back. We'll probably end up next door for some drinks with the neighbors.

Overall it's been a fairly decent year. We got to go on two great trips. JC is still with us. Our one set of neighbors finally decided not to move which was a big relief. No more toilet paper shortages...

Here's hoping next year is even better!

Europe Vacay - Oct 25, 2022
Celebrity Silhouette

We're back from our first Europe trip in five years and our first cruise since Covid.

As usual for these bigger vacations I kept a bit of a blog of our adventures. Normally I'd try and update a bit every day or maybe every couple days, but there wasn't a lot of downtime this trip so maybe less detail of our port stops than usual.

First day in London…

The flight here was a bit of a shitshow. Despite our friend Alpha going on about how much better the new Aeroplan points system is, I don’t see it. It used to be you could get a direct flight from Calgary to London on points. Now the best we could do was having to first fly to Vancouver and then on to London. Which normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except our flight got bumped back after we booked and we now had a four hour layover. All told, from leaving our house to the time we got to our hotel was almost 20hrs. It made for a really long day.

Flight was ok, we were on a Dreamliner in pods (although I prefer the older style pods) which supposedly has fancy technology to reduce jet lag. And yet here I am at 2am wide awake.

Our first night we’re staying at the Westin, not far from Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s. Tomorrow we’ll be staying at the W hotel in Soho. That one we’re being comped by the Park West people - as a quick recap, this is our ‘free’ cruise for all the artwork we’ve bought on our cruises over the years. If we manage not to buy any more it really will be ‘free’, but we’ll see if that happens.

Going back to the time change/jet lag thing. We were wandering around trying to find a pub but they were all packed. Someone, either at the hotel or the pizza place we found mentioned it was because it was Friday night - we were like ‘when did it become Friday’? Which after thinking about it made sense, but it just seemed so weird as we left our house Thurs morning.

The pizza place was good, the pizza yummy. But there was a guy a couple tables down constantly sneezing which was wigging me out. We wore our masks on the first flight and while boarding the second and again when going through customs, plus on the private shuttle from the airport. So we took some precautions, But I just read earlier today that Europe cases are spiking again. Normally I wouldn’t be that concerned, but we have to get tested to get on the ship - and obviously going on the cruise is the entire point of this trip.

In our wanders we also came across St. Paul’s cathedral which looked pretty cool lit up at night. We did finally manage to squeeze into a pub before calling it a night. I forgot about the habit here of a place being full not really being true as even if there are no tables, or even chairs/stools, people will just stand there drinking while yacking with their mates.

Tomorrow (later) we’ll probably cross the river and check out that side. It looks like there’s some sort of market there, and I wouldn’t mind checking out the Shakespeare Globe which is a faithful recreation of where the Bard used to perform. I’m guessing maybe the original burnt down in the great London fire? I’ll have to Google that.

Up early waiting for my Americano…haven’t docked yet, but will shortly be in Porto, Portugal. Our first stop of the trip.

First couple of days have been good. Most of our time has been taken up by being wined and dined by the Park West people. Haven’t bought any new art yet, but was really tempted during the first art auction. The featured artist Allison Lefcort is a pop artist and one of only a handful to be officially licensed by Disney and Star Wars. Amongst all the paintings displayed was one that immediately grabbed my attention which was a sweet portrait of Boba Fett. But we’re trying hard not to buy anything so that our trip remains mostly ‘free’. It’s obvious that Chris & I are the riff raff of the group. Other than maybe two other couples, also the youngest. But last night they had a quick mini-auction of work from the Masters, mostly focused on Picasso, and in less than 15 minutes $250;000 had been spent.

After we dock they’re taking us on a tour where we check out some of the architecture in Porto, go on a cable car ride, and wind up at a Port wine tasting event.

All that said, things have been fairly go go go and I need some time to relax. Unless the other artists (who are actually here or will be on the ship) blow our minds I think we’ll be scaling back our attendance at the remaining auctions, cocktail events etc. Might pick a day to just hang in the Spa pool area and enjoy doing nothing.

Currently on our second of three sea days. Tomorrow we’ll be in Lisbon.

So Porto was a disappointment. In hindsight I wished we had kept our original tour. Did a bit of a bus tour (I hate bus tours) around the old city, walked across a high bridge and took the cable car back down, and then went to a wine museum. The museum was actually kinda neat as it explained how wine is made, the different growing regions of Portugal, and a couple of interactive areas where you could smell the different ‘notes’ and answer a bunch of questions to determine your ideal wine. Then they had a tasting at the end which lasted all of 5 mins, wasn’t even Port, and was your basic spiel. We had a much more enjoyable wine tasting experience on our last cruise ship. After hearing how amazing these special Park West arranged excursions are supposed to be it was a huge letdown.

As a result when we got to the Canary Islands I was a bit of a grumpy bump as we hadn’t planned anything for them, and the couple of neat things I then found online were already sold out. The first island, Lanzarotte, we just went ashore and wandered around a bit, had a drink, and went back to the ship. The second island Tenerife was better as the city was larger and this time we enjoyed our afternoon out much more. We also saw some large military parade although we didn’t know what it was about. The final stop in Gran Canaria I went for an epic walk along the sea wall while Chris checked out a nearby Mall. They’re neat islands and if we ever make it back here again we’ll need to enjoy them to their fullest.

Sitting in the lounge at Heathrow waiting for our flight home. It’s been a great getaway but I’m looking forward to being home. We had booked two extra days in London so we could see friends of ours. We were going to spent a chunk of yesterday with them, but sadly they came down with Covid and had to cancel. Although disappointed we still made the best of it. We had previously booked our hotel for these remaining two days and picked the Canary Wharf part of London. At first glance a bit of an odd choice as it’s very modern and is their financial district. But it’s actually a neat area. There’s tonnes of great pubs and restaurants, lots of street art and sculptures, and the docks and canals reminded me of a modern Amsterdam.

Going back to the cruise, we had a great time in Lisbon. We had booked a Tuk-tuk to take us around the old city area and our driver was great. He wasn’t your typical tour guide just going through the motions. He was just a local who was passionate about where he lived and its history. I found going around in a Tuk-tuk to be much more enjoyable than being on a bus tour. After we parted ways we had lunch and then later a few beers overlooking the ocean before heading back to the ship. It was a great city and a highlight of our trip.

Our last stop was in Vigo, Spain. And originally we were just going to stay on the ship as Chris was having issues that day. But she was determined to look around for a bit so we ended up taking a taxi tour who took us to the two most scenic places before dropping us off back near the ship. The one place was a Castillo (castle) so I was like a kid in a candy store scampering around the embattlements and imagining myself back in medieval times. We then stopped for a cervacas and wandered a bit more before running into a couple we had sort of befriended at the art events. So we sat down and chatted with them over more beers, just relaxing on a nice Spanish afternoon.

And that leads me to the weather…other than one rainy day in London every day was near perfect. I think next time we go to Southern Europe or the Mediterranean it will be in October.

As for the ship, this was the first time we'd been on the Silhouette, but I think we've been on every single ship in this class now. While it's always fun exploring a ship of a new class, there's also something nice about being on one where everything is familiar. That said, this one was renovated a few years ago and one of the biggest changes was they got rid of the wine bar and changed it to an English style sports pub. That was a good move as hardly anyone was ever in the wine bar where it was all machines that would self-serve the wine (insert your ship card, push a button). I remember talking to someone on one of our last cruises and they told me the company that made the machines had gone out of business so they were having a really hard time repairing them when they broke. Considering most of the passengers on this trip were Brits, the new pub was a big hit. The other big change is they're following NCL's model of establishing a 'Haven' concept. The top most deck was restricted to people staying in 'The Retreat' and they had their own lounging area and bar and hot tub (although apparently no pool). I imagine on the newer ships such as the Edge they have their own restaurant and pool as well.

The last thing that I noticed had changed was the restaurant Qsine had been updated with a new theme. We really enjoyed going there to eat on our previous cruises where they served unique food in a fun way. But now it was an interactive 'virtual reality' sort of theme. Everyone ate the same set meal, but before they'd bring out each course your table top turned into a 'screen' where you'd watch while 'La Petite Chef' would come out and in a comically way prepare the ingredients for you. It was a lot of fun. We ended up inviting the couple we had met at the art auctions to join us and they got a kick out of it as well.

The guests were mostly British with the odd smattering of Americans and Canadians and Europeans - and the average age was much older than us. As such lots of walkers, scooters, wheelchairs etc. We found all the staff to be great, although Chris thought our room steward was just 'ok'. There were a couple of servers at all our art events that were really nice. Getting on and off the ship was a breeze (no tenders this time) and other than the first time we crossed the Bay of Biscay which is known to be rough it was so called smooth sailing. We didn't check out any of the shows as we were so busy with other things, but all the music was really good. In fact we ran into the ship's music director in one of our stops and conveyed to him how much we liked the performers.

Of course we ended up buying more art. They brought up a piece by one of favourite artists Michael Godard that was two hummingbirds making a heart shape and I instantly knew we'd be buying it - I didn't have a choice in the matter. After that Chris decided she wanted a cat sculpture as well because at that point, why not? Then later I couldn't resist the chance to own a piece by Salvador Dali which is something I've always wanted. And to top it all off, I bought a set of limited editions from a new funky artist we both liked. Oh well, we're happy with our purchases.

All that said, Chris and I had a conversation one day and discussed our cruising future. We looked at all the older people on the ship and tried to project forward to us being that age and we both came to the conclusion that it'd be unlikely we would be able to handle it. As much as we've enjoyed these trips over the years we might only end up doing a handful more.

Anyway, here's a sampling of our adventures:

Our favourite English meals!Piccadilly Circus in LondonNight time shot of St. Paul's  Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London  Sharing a marmalade sandwich with Paddington
We always forget to take a picture of what ship we were onWatching a demonstration by one of the artistsQuick! Get this grubby person away from the Masters!Touring a Wine museumCastillo de San Gabriel in Lanzarote
Harbour area in LanzaroteQueso de Cabra Doble for me!Knights Templar temple in PortugalPlaying tourist in Gran CanariaThe scenery in Tenerife reminded me of Hawaii
So many cool building muralsSelfie time at the top of LisbonGeorge drives our Tuk Tuk!Carmo Ruins in LisbonSo many pretty tiled buildings in Portugal
Statue of Jesus next to Abril Bridge in LisbonPretty scenery atop Castro FortressBattlements of Castro FortressFriendly couple we met at the auctionsTime for a Cervezas!
View of modern London from our hotel loungeCanals of Canary WharfChris poses with some funky characters in Canary WharfDoing my best impressionChris bought me a companion for the long flight home

I've been working hard on getting this part of the News updated because there's only a few days left until our Halloween party. That's going to be our focus for the rest of the week and we really need to start decorating and getting prepared. Beyond that we have trips to Banff for a work function and to the West Coast to hang with family. Chris and I joke that we're either bored to tears as nothing is going on or we're being run ragged with everything seemingly happening at once. The rest of this year is going to fly by.

Yawn, Stretch - Aug 4, 2022
Yawn, Stretch

I'm in the middle of a few days off, so as the title suggest I'm just taking it easy. Figured I'd update the News as it's been awhile.

For not having anything really planned this Summer I feel like there's been a lot that's been going on.

We finally had Chris' long awaited and Covid delayed 50th birthday party and it was a lot of fun. She was a bit stressed a few days prior as she wanted everything to be perfect, but in the end everything worked out and we both had a great time. A big thank you to everyone who came.

Several weeks ago we went up to Edmonton to visit my Mom. Besides just hanging out we went to the Edmonton zoo as well as taking her to a movie. I hadn't been to that zoo since I was a kid and while smaller than the Calgary zoo I thought it was a worthwhile destination. About the only disappointment was that the resident celebrity - Lucy the Elephant - was being kept away from the public due to Covid restrictions. But it was good being out and about and checking out all the animals. We knew all the walking was likely to be an issue for my Mom so we rented one of those stroller things older people use. They have the handles and can be pushed around and when the person gets tired they can simply turn around and sit on the built-in seat. It worked out great for her and she was zipping about all over the place. For the movie we went and saw Elvis and while I'm not really a fan it was surprisingly good. The guy who played Elvis was excellent and it was an aspect of the story I had never heard of before. It was also just nice being in a movie theatre for the first time in a long time.

We also had dinner with Mom one night at one of the pubs in Sherwood Park. It was a place where whatever beer on draft you ordered came in a glass with the name/logo of the beer you ordered. This place had Newcastle which is an English beer I like and which is not very common (on draft anyway). As I already have a fairly decent collection of glasses with the various brands on them at home I just had to have this glass! In my youth I likely would have just swiped it. But I thought no, I'd at least ask the waitress if I could buy it from them. She started in with the 'they're not allowed to' speech and so I said 'well what if I give you a really good tip?'. While I was having this conversation Chris was just slowly putting the glass into her purse. Finally the waitress looked around and said 'ya, fine, go ahead'. So I'm now the proud owner of a Newcastle pint glass. I got quite a kick out of that - it's really the small pleasures in life you know?

Edmonton Zoo
Edmonton Valley Zoo

Chris and I went for a one night staycation downtown a couple nights ago. We stayed at Le Germaine Hotel which is one of my favourite hotels and were able to get the room on Air Miles. For dinner we went to Modern Steak which is a fancy place I've wanted to go to for awhile now. We had a gift card that I believe Kim & Hailey had gotten me for Christmas. Which was good as it was super pricey - but worth the money. We also went to Cowboy's Casino as again, it had been forever, maybe before Covid? since we had been in one. Usually when we go to a casino one of us will win money and the other will at the same rate lose it. But this time we wandered around playing various slot machines for over an hour and ended up breaking even - which I was quite happy with. I get that it was a Tuesday night, but it was surprisingly dead inside. But we still had fun. Other than that we hit a couple pubs on Stephen Ave for a snack and bevvie or two. A short, but fun getaway.

Health wise it's been a mixed bag.

I was looking forward to my time off as I was going to be all healthy and walk up a storm. Well one day I was in the garage and reached for something, just a casual motion I'd done countless times before, and in the process threw out my back. So I spent a few days in agony (although not as bad as the past couple times) before finally giving in and going to see my Chiropractor. Four treatments later and I was mostly back to normal. However all my hobbling about had put a bunch of strain on my left leg - my calf in particular - so one morning when I was out trying to do a short walk things were fine for about half the route and then it was almost like I heard my calf muscle pop. So then I could barely walk for a few days. Of course now that my little time off is almost over I'm mostly back to normal.

But on the flip side, my GP called and gave me the overview of my last Echo test. As a quick recap, I had one a couple years ago and it wasn't good, I was in heart failure and my ejection fraction (how well my heart pumps) was almost undetectable, they rated it at <25% (a normal range is 45-50%). That was when I did a bunch of research to find a Beta blocker that wasn't as likely to cause the Tinnitus that my previous meds had tormented me with and which caused me to stop taking them. So after taking this new drug ever since I wanted to get confirmation that it was actually working and that my chronic fatigue was at least worth it. So the good news is my latest test had my ejection fraction at 35-40%. So yes, the pills were helping. I was also able to find a new cardiologist whom I have an appointment to see later this month. So this is a huge relief for me, because my only other option was going on a pacemaker.

But it's not all just about me. We were really starting to worry about Sally our Salamander that we've had forever. She hadn't eaten in at least four months. Now every year she goes through a phase where she doesn't eat and stays mostly buried, but that usually only lasts a couple months. Plus this time she was remaining mostly above ground. So we took her in to an Exotic Pet hospital and had them look at her. They didn't see anything obvious - but the Vet mentioned she's near the end of her natural life as we've had her for 15 years now. But she also suggested they treat her for parasites. To me that didn't make sense as we don't let her outside, but apparently they are born with them and when their immune system gets weak the parasites begin to take over. We also switched to giving her distilled water as apparently even fridge filtered water can contain chlorine (good to know). Happy to say that something worked because she's now back to her snappy (feed me!) self. It's amazing how such a small creature can cause me so much stress and anxiety.

That's it for now. Off to enjoy what's left of my time off!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy - Jun 17, 2022

I feel good right now.

For me that's fairly unusual. Normally I go through life firmly experiencing various levels of crappiness, but occasionally the proverbial clouds part and a ray of sunlight strikes me full on and for awhile anyways I actually feel truly good. So when it happens I try to ride that feeling as long as possible.

Could be because I'm on the mend after a few days of feeling like shit. Earlier in the week I got sick - sneezing constantly, running nose, fatigue. The first night I got maybe a couple hours sleep. I figured it was Covid (again) but the rapid test I took came back negative. So who knows. Of course Chris is terrified that she's going to end up sick right before her much belated 50th birthday celebration next weekend.

Speaking of which, she's getting really excited and looking forward to it. A lot of thought and planning went into this. We know some of our friends don't just like sitting at someone's house drinking so that's why we're going out to three different pubs - each one with a different vibe. The first place having lots of arcade and video games to play, the last one having live music, and the second one being a brewery which will hopefully appeal to the beer snobs in the group. And so as to remove the possibility of drinking and driving or hassle of having to cab everywhere we're doing a party bus so everyone can just relax and have fun. We hope everyone ends up having a blast.

For me it'll be a bit of a last hurrah. My bestie Jamie will be undergoing his cancer treatment shortly after which obviously means he won't be able to drink anymore. So in a show of solidarity I'm going to go dry - ideally until our next vacation. I think it'll also be helpful publicly stating this because if there's one thing I hate is being a hypocrite.

My weight has once again hit almost 300lbs. So cutting out the booze will hopefully help me to get back to where I want to be again. I'm so tired of this yo-yo'ing back and forth. It's not normal gaining/losing 50lbs every year or so. I attribute this mostly to my heart medication because every time I go off it (or it's previous incarnations) I instantly lose the weight - without anything else changing in terms of my lifestyle.

I felt bad because I snapped at my Mom last time I talked to her when she said something along the lines of 'I need to be healthier'. When you've been dealing with this shit for years - walking/exercising every single day, not eating junk food, not drinking pop etc. and then to hear someone say 'you should try and lose weight' it just sends me into a rage.

Even worse, I don't know if the medication is actually doing anything to improve my heart function. Because I have the Kardia Mobile device for my iDevices I know that it's working in terms of keeping my heart rate manageable, but until I get another Echo test done I won't know if it's done anything to reverse my declining heart health. Last time I got the results I was technically in heart failure - and that's when I went back on some form of medication after doing a bunch of research to try and find a Beta blocker that wasn't likely to cause/aggravate Tinnitus.

I tried to get ahold of my cardiologist whom I hadn't seen since before Covid - and who never bothered to follow up with me - only to find out I'm no longer a patient of his. So as of now I don't have a heart Doctor.

Covid in a weird way was a bit of a relief as it temporarily set aside all this shit I have to deal with as I instead had to worry about dying in a more immediate manner.

As for what I've been up to lately, last weekend Jamie and I went up to Edmonton to go to a concert along with my friend Jay. The cool thing about this concert is the band Primus does a tribute to Rush by playing the entire 1st side of the album Farewell to Kings. Basically it's the closest thing one can get to watching Rush play live again - and beyond that, I also really like Primus' own stuff. It was a fun concert and great little weekend getaway.

This past Sunday we headed down to the local Boston Pizza. Sadly our neighborhood recently suffered two separate fires and a number of homes were lost. So BP's was having a fundraiser to help the affected families out. We got to drink beer and they got to raise money - it was win, win! They also had a silent auction. While there was a bunch of things up for bid we were really only interested in the one night stay at the Carriage House Hotel in south Calgary which also included a gift certificate for the attached restaurant there. Friends of ours have stayed there in the past and really liked it. And after some back and forth bidding we ended up winning! So we'll likely book something for later in the summer and have a mini-staycation.

We also recently bought a bird bath. We talked about it last season, but couldn't really find one we both liked. We looked again this Spring but still didn't see anything we liked. I went online and found one that was pretty cool - but also stupid expensive as it was made out of actual stone and Chris said no way that we were going to spend that much money on it. After grumbling about it for awhile I realized it made sense not ordering it as we had no idea if the thing would even get used or not. In the end while we were grabbing flowers for our front yard planter we saw one at Home Depot for like $50 that looked ok. So after getting home I set it up in the back yard, poured some water into it - and we waited with anticipation. After a few days we spotted a Robin hopping into it and were super happy. We've seen it get used several times since then - the Sparrow type birds typically just hop in and out, but the Robins will get right in there and splash about like a little kid in a bathtub. I know it may not seem like much, but it delights us endlessly to watch.

I'll leave it there and continue enjoying my newfound happy state and make the most of what looks to be a lovely day. 

Sweet, Sweet Vacay - May 1, 2022

Ya mon! We be jammin to sweet reggae and drinking the rum punch Mon!

After the Covid shit show our first vacation in over two years. We picked Sandals Royal Caribbean in Jamaica as it had been awhile since we’ve done an all inclusive and obviously we like Jamaica. But what really sealed the deal was our being able to get a direct flight and the recent dropping of all Covid requirements.

I was paranoid we’d spend all this money and then not being able to go because one of us tested positive the day before we were supposed to leave. Yes we had Covid insurance, but again, I’m always skeptical of insurance companies actually paying out - they always seem to have so many loopholes in their policies. In any case we’re here! The flight wasn’t bad, we managed to get business class on WestJet points and the flight was 6 hours.

Having been here a few days we’re already on island time and I have to stop and think to remember what day it is. I think today is Tuesday…The resort is nice - but I (so far) prefer the one in Ocho Rios better. A lot of that is due to the fancy room we had both times we stayed there coupled just with a lot of good memories. The resort there is also much larger, with it essentially being two resorts next to each other. That said, it is nice to be able to get everywhere in just a 5 min or so walk.

But, they also have the private over the water bungalow suites here off the smaller island and so we’ve been able to see them up close - and now I really want to stay in one the next time we come here.

I wanted to start on this write up earlier as I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some stuff. But today was really the first day I’ve had an opportunity (Chris is napping right now).

After we left the airport we were shuttled to the resort in a fancy BMW car - which would have been more impressive had the resort not literally been a 10 min drive away. We checked in at the front desk, got escorted to the fancy ‘Club Sandals’ waiting room and after a few minutes our Butler showed up and introduced herself (you get two Butlers and they rotate their hours) and took us for a quick tour of the resort before taking us to our room.

Our room is ok. We have a little balcony outside and we’re steps away from both a pool and the beach. The room is a bit run down though. After ogling some of the other rooms as we passed them by, we’re guessing this wing of the resort might be the last one scheduled to get updated. One of the room types that was interesting has a large balcony, nicely sheltered (deep overhang) with a huge soaker tub. For privacy there’s curtains you can draw closed. The idea being you can hang outside as really a natural extension of your room. We’re located at the end of the resort which we like as it’s a lot quieter and mellow over here. But again, if you want to go where the action is it’s only a short walk away.

After dropping our stuff of in the room we went to the English pub which I thought would be a neat place but was actually quite a disappointment. It looked the part of an English pub (other than the beer being bottled or canned) but the food looked crappy. Not that we got to taste because after waiting forever I said screw it and we got up and left. We found a place next to it that was open called Spices and it was really good (we’ve eaten there a few times). I think after that we just called it a night as we were pretty tired.

The next day we wandered around and Chris decided she wanted to hang out at the pool bar. So we bellied up and ended up spending the entire afternoon there. We met the couple who sat across from us on the flight who were basically the same age as us and hit it off with them. At some point the heavens opened up and a downpour ensued. Unlike what usually happens here where it normally doesn’t last long it just didn’t stop. So while everyone else scurried away to cover we had a blast getting soaked and just carried on. I think my beers were mostly rain water.

Yesterday we had a snorkel excursion booked having brought our gear with us, but it got cancelled as the ocean was to rough. We obviously were disappointed, but had noticed some people snorkeling around on the private island so we asked one of the staff about that. We found out there was a spot over there that was ok for snorkeling so we hopped on the shuttle boat to check it out. Turns out the snorkel beach there is part of the ‘clothing optional’ beach. So as we wandered along to grab a spot to gear up we got more than an eyeful.

Once we got into the water we snorkeled around to the other side of the island. There was no coral, but we did see a bunch of fish - I even saw a scorpion fish (at least I think it was) as it had those spines on it’s back that you really don’t want to step on. After we came ashore and went back to our spot we of course had to dry off and so said screw it and took everything off (Chris just went topless). When in Rome right? Chris captured the moment by taking a picture of me with my bare ass staring out into the sea - and no, I’m not posting it.

Today we have a couples massage booked and then later we’re going to go check out another Sandals resort nearby. They apparently have more bars there than we do lol.

Ug. Sunburnt. We are those stupid tourists wandering about all lobster red. It was only recently that I was quite pleased with myself for not getting burned so far. This despite doing everything right. We lathered up the sun block before going out, reapplied a few hours later, wore our hats, spent quite a bit of time in the shade etc. all for naught. And is typical in these places, nary a bottle of Aloe to be found - and like idiots we forgot to bring some.

So what caused our sizzling? Just spending the afternoon in the main pool and swim-up bar. We met a nice couple from Texas and whooped it up with them. Later we went for dinner at the Indian restaurant which was really yummy. When we got back to our room it was all decorated as we told them we were celebrating our anniversary. So that was pretty cool.

I forgot to mention, on one of the nights we popped over to the sister resort - Sandals Montego Bay. It’s literally right at the airport, you can watch the planes taxi and land right behind the Sandals entrance sign. We had heard through the grapevine it wasn’t as good an option but I was someone stunned by how new and modern everything was - a huge contrast to our resort.

We wandered around a bit and found the Latitudes Bar which our butler had recommended we check out. It was pretty nice. Out over the water with mesh areas like you get on a Catamaran you could lounge on with the ocean beneath you. And with nothing to impede your view you had nothing but ocean to gaze at as you sipped your drinks. From there we hit the English pub, which we also have at our resort, but again a complete 180 in that it was really enjoyable. As a bonus ESPN had the Oilers game on so I got to watch hockey while in Jamaica (Oilers won btw).

So it was a neat resort with a much different layout (one long continuous beach) and a different vibe.

Our second last day was pretty low key as we nursed our burns and tried to stay out of the sun as much as possible. That night however we had dinner at the Thai place on the island and it was really good. Great location, with a great ambience, and fantastic food. Chris had Pad Thai which she really enjoyed while I had one of the curry soup options. Speaking of food, we really liked pretty much all the places we tried. Even the English Pub redeemed itself as we went back there again at some point and this time had a good experience. Normally we'd pick the Jerk Chicken as our favourite dish, but I think this time we'd have to go with the Jamaican patties we'd get at the beachside grill. And on our last breakfast I tried what was labelled a 'traditional Jamaican breakfast' which consisted of the local fish, plantains, and veggies and thought it was quite tasty.

On our last full day we spent some time hanging in the small little pool next to our room in the morning and then in the afternoon we went on the only excursion we had booked which was a Catamaran booze cruise to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville in Montego Bay. We've never not had fun on any Catamaran trip we've booked throughout our vacationing lives and that was the case once again. Once we got on the water the Rum Punch was freely flowing. I'll digress once again here. Both Chris & I were fairly constrained in our whooping it up this trip. Other than one night where be both got a bit tipsy we were well behaved. Most nights we were in bed by 9 - just like at home. We never even got around to drinking the bottle of champagne in our room and other than a few Red Stripe beers, our fully stocked fridge and bar remained mostly untouched. Part of this could be attributed to us being older now but I also made a concious decision this time to cut back on the usual shenanigans. This trip was about us getting away for a well deserved return to normality and for me to relax. Just to simply not have a care in the world for a few days.

As for the world famous Margaritaville, the place was pretty run down and just screamed tourist trap but we were there mostly just to check it off our list. We had some mediocre food and overpriced drinks, got suckered in by the photographer to get our pictures taken (although Chris did haggle with him over the price), and were enveloped by the smell of weed wafting up from somewhere below us. On the boat ride back the party really started and us pasty White types got schooled in the art of twerking by a large contingent of Sista's on board who were very large and proud to show it off. I just enjoyed being on the open water and between all the dancing and the large waves we were rocking pretty good.

The next morning was spent packing up our stuff and waiting in the Lobby for our private ride to the airport. The airport was the usual gong show but things were moving along fairly well and before long we were in the air for our roughly 7 hour flight home. And thus concluded our first vacation in over 2 years. It was a perfect getaway. All the staff and especially our Butlers were great, the resort was great, and the food was great. So great in fact, that we booked there again in 2024 - this time in the fancy over the water suites.

Here's some pictures of our trip:

And we're off!View from our roomEntrance signOver the water bungalow suitesDid someone say squishy drinks?!?!?
Ya, what the hell, let's get nakedAll jerk, all the time!Whee! Say tourist!Shuttle boat to the private islandFrench restaurant had a nice ambiance
The love of my lifeHappy Anniversary to us!Standing next to a massive palm treeTime for a foam party!Pulling up to Margaritaville in your catamaran...
We loved spotting hummingbirdsOne love, one heart...Latitudes bar at Montego Bay resortIt's a kitty fest on our patio!We spent a few afternoons at the main pool
Shot! Shot! Shot!Could eat this for breaktfast, lunch, and dinnerWe took an almost exact same photo on our first Jamaican tripSunset over the fancy suitesThis is my artistic shot
Random Musings - Mar 10, 2022

A few months later and still not a lot going on.

We've pretty much settled into the same routine everyday. Get up, log into work to check on things, hop on the elliptical, have breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner. Then watch shows and go to bed. While I'm working Chris will do such exciting stuff as clean the kitchen or do laundry. For added excitement she'll pop out and get groceries. Although she has started doing a Yoga course 'online' - she watches the instructor on the TV and has setup a space in the Bonus Room to workout. Unlike me, she's lost a bunch of weight and is looking good.

The irony of course is Covid restrictions are now a thing of the past - but for the most part we're still living the same lives.

Early in February we did a one night staycation downtown and checked out a few pubs/breweries that we were thinking of booking for Chris' belated 50th birthday party now scheduled for June. Kim & Tracy joined us at one of the pubs and much drinking and late night shenanigans ensued. We also went out for dinner last weekend with Kim & Jamie and to watch our hockey teams play (they both lost). Oh, and we also went to Chuck & Tracy's a few weeks ago to celebrate their little man turning 18 - obviously he's not so little anymore. So we have had some fun outings, but for the most part nothing overly exciting. I was going to go up to Edmonton for work and in the process spend some time with my Mom but that ended up getting messed up. Hopefully I'll end up going there in the next few weeks.

We did however make final payment on our Jamaica trip which is just over a month away. We're both super excited for that as it will be our first vacation in 2 years. I'm hoping that by the time we go the last of the Covid restrictions will be gone, but even if they're not we'll jump through whatever hoops are required to get away for some fun in the sun.

I guess the biggest change recently is we finally got a new fridge. We had ordered it back in September or early October and of course with the global 'nothing is working anymore' state of things it wasn't until November that they called us and told us they had just received a small shipment of the model we purchased. As that was during our year-end strapped for cash period we generously offered to wait and let other people ahead of us on the waiting list get theirs first. Then we got another call last month saying some more had come in and so we arranged for it to get delivered.

Sadly we didn't get the counter depth model as it would have been a step down in terms of capacity from our old fridge and instead got the standard size (which is huge). I knew it'd stick out quite a bit and it bothered me for awhile, but now I'm mostly used to it. As you can see from the picture it looks ok in place. The 'knock on the glass to light it up' feature is really just a gimmick, but the door within the door is actually a useful improvement. You stick all your drinks and condiments and anything else you regularly end up grabbing from the fridge on any given day in the outside compartment. The point being you open just that door and it keeps all the cool air from escaping - so in the end saves quite a bit on energy. We were also super excited for the 'craft ice' feature which makes round ice cubes. So ya, our fridge actually has two separate ice makers. It's also been really nice being able to drink water from the fridge dispenser again vs. using the kitchen sink.

New Refrigerator

Mentally I'm in a pretty good state right now. I shouldn't be what with the world going to shit - I mean come on! 2 years of enduring Covid and now we're looking at WWIII. It just never seems to end. And beyond that, friends and family also going through some trying times right now. But this week for whatever reason I've been in a good head space. Hey, I'm not going to complain and I'm going to try and ride this wave of happiness for as long as I can.

Oh, I almost forgot. Carlie and Jason had their baby last week which makes me a new Uncle! So that's pretty cool. Chris has been super excited and has already been shopping up a storm buying things for the little bundle of joy. So I guess my final musing is that no matter what storm clouds are on the horizon, there's always something that comes along to lift one's spirit.


Happy New Year?? - Jan 7, 2022

So as we enter the 3rd year of this global pandemic shit show the inevitable finally happened. I got Covid.

It's kinda funny. With the new variant and cases predictably rising once again and with us busy with various activities - trip to Edmonton, Christmas with the family, New Years with friends - I joked that if I didn't get Covid that I must be immune and never would. We still followed all the rules and weren't reckless, but honestly I was just so tired of worrying any more. Once January hit we were going to hunker down again, but until then I was resigned that whatever happened would happen.

And so, of course, during Christmas dinner in the common room at the hotel everyone was staying at I suddenly started to not feel well. That feeling you get when you know you're starting to get sick. Instead of ignoring it or dismissing it as just being paranoid I went back and stayed the rest of the trip in our room. On the drive home Chris booked me in for a Covid test (PCR) a few days later. So when the day arrived I drove to the location had them jam the swab thing up my nose and the next day got the text saying I was infected.

It just confirmed what I already knew. Several days before I got sick our friends Alpha & Nancy got it and with them describing their symptoms I knew I also had it.

I'd describe it as a cross between a really bad cold and a mild flu. After a few days I started feeling better, and maybe a week later I'd say I was basically over it. Not something I'd want to go through again obviously, but there's a bit of a relief now that I've had it. Yes, I've been triple vaxxed, but I'm also over 50, overweight, with a heart condition. So I met all the criteria for being high risk. Knowing that, the worst part of the whole ordeal was that first night trying to fall asleep as I could feel myself getting sicker by the minute and fear of the unknown - not knowing how bad it was going to get.

Even through Chris wore a mask on the drive home and we avoided each other as much as possible she of course got sick a few days later. Sadly she's had a harder go of it, and although she's improving each day her symptoms have lasted a lot longer. She got tested a couple days ago and is just waiting on the results, but again, it's obvious she has it as well.

Based on my relatively mild symptoms I'm guessing we got the Omicron variant, but what I find strange is no one else in the family got sick. Supposedly you're the most infectious in the day or so prior to starting to feel sick and I was around everyone, with for the most part, masks not being worn. Indoors with no real ventilation. So maybe we had the Delta variant? Who knows. Also trying to figure out when I got infected, but any possible event, the people we were with didn't get sick. So it's quite likely it was just a completely random event.

Of course we had to cancel New Years which upset Chris greatly. We were really looking forward to it. All our friends together (in separate hotel rooms) again for the first time in ages.

Until I got sick we had a great time at Christmas. All the family together at the Delta lodge in Kananaskis. Sadly a lot of the outdoor activities we enjoyed last time everyone got together there were cancelled due to the extreme cold. It was essentially -30 the whole time we were there. Still, I did manage to go for a walk the one day and grab some pictures of the mountainous winter wonderland. The picture I took below was what I considered my artistic shot.

Winter in Kananaskis

So it's 2022. Now what?

Although Chris says she never wants to go out again (she's still legally isolating here at home) I know that once she's better she'll change her mind. Next week this deep freeze is finally supposed to be over and I'll be looking forward to getting outside and going for my walks again. While I'm never one for resolutions, I was going to go for a dry January. Predictably that lasted about 5 days. This time of year always sucks because besides the crappy weather it's also just before I get the bulk of my income for the year and money is always tight around this time. Once my yearly windfall comes we can start planning for the year ahead, but until then we're just going through the motions.

The plan is to still go to Jamaica at the end of April although we more than likely will be cancelling the cruise we had planned for November. It goes without saying that we both really, really need a break from everything. Our neighbors just got back from visiting Washington DC, and despite some hassles getting there and back they thankfully managed to avoid the nightmare scenarios your hear on the news all the time. So that is somewhat encouraging. With us at least our flights would be direct.

That's it for now.

Year End Musings - Dec 18, 2021
End of 2021

Looks like this wretched year is finally coming to a close.

Of course Covid numbers are spiking right now and with all the lockdowns and restrictions it's beginning to feel a lot like March 2020 all over again. Remember way back when we were all asked to sacrifice for just a couple weeks to get through this? Well we're now approaching year three of this madness with no end in sight. Yesterday I got my 3rd dose of Pfizer. Initially I wasn't going to bother and wait for an Omicron specific booster which they say could be ready by April. It didn't make a lot of sense getting a booster for the existing virus - that'd be like getting last year's flu shot (which apparently is a miss in terms of the targeted strain this year). But then as more data came out and it appeared that only having two doses offered almost zero protection but a third offered 80ish percent protection I figured I'd better get it.

It's also timely as in a week we'll all be gathering together with family to celebrate Christmas. While there's a big part of me that just doesn't care about Covid anymore and wants to just live my damn life, there's also another part of me questioning the wisdom of the forthcoming get together. I guess we'll see what happens right?

Speaking of living life, last week we headed up to Edmonton partly to see my Mom and have a bit of an early Christmas with her and also because a few months ago I thought it'd be a great idea to go up for the Leafs vs. Oilers game with my bestie Jamie. We did that a couple years ago and while it was a lot of fun, predictably my team lost. But when I booked our tickets this time the Oilers were number one in the league. They were guaranteed to win right? Right?!?!? Nope. Once again they shit the bed and Jamie got to rub it in my face all night. Still it was a lot of fun. We stayed at the fancy JW Marriot which is connected to Rogers place which was something I've wanted to do for awhile - we stayed there last summer but I also wanted to experience being there during a game and getting the full fan experience.

Chris and I also really enjoyed spending the day with Mom. Instead of just getting her a gift card we offered to take her out shopping for some new clothes which she badly needs as she's literally shrinking and her existing clothes no longer fit properly. So off to the mall we went and she shopped up a storm trying on all kinds of clothes until she found some that she liked. Afterwards we had a really yummy dinner of Chicken, Ham, and Stuffing and opened up some presents. Thankfully the weather Gods were kind to us and the roads going up and coming back were fine. It was a great little get away for a few days.

Rogers Place
Hockey Night in Edmonton

Even though we won't be home for Christmas we did spend some time decorating - as usual I put up our balcony lights in the back and our Christmas critters in the front. This year we have a new addition to our herd in the form of a Christmas Llama which we're very excited about. We (mostly Chris) also put out our usual decorations inside and although I did manage to put up our Christmas tree, for some reason we never got around to decorating it. Unlike most years we've been really busy this month and while we talked about doing it, with the big day only a week away we've decided to skip it this year. Bah humbug??

For New Years we'd normally just head over to the neighbors to celebrate but with them having moved last year we weren't sure what we were going to do this time. In the end we signed up for a hotel concert - and even better most of our friends thought it was a great idea and are going as well. We did one of these last summer and it was a lot of fun. As a way of being able to enjoy live music with all the restrictions in place you'd get a hotel room and have a balcony which overlooked the stage where the band was playing. So you'd be able to enjoy the show from the comfort of your own room while still adhering to the prerequisite social distancing. Of course now it's Winter, so instead of the stage being outside the band plays in an atrium which all the rooms overlook. This is all assuming our Government doesn't do what British Columbia just did and cancel all New Years celebrations.

On a final note, last week marked the 10th Anniversary of my Dad's death. I knew the day was coming up and I was dreading it. However when it arrived I found myself not as upset as I expected - and of course then I felt guilty because of it. As Chris said, just because it's been 10 years doesn't mean I should feel it more than usual - Anniversaries are just an arbitrary way to mark the passage of time. It doesn't feel like that long ago... I can't remember what I had for breakfast on any given day, but I still remember the events of his passing with crystal clarity. I suspect that will always be the case. I think about him every day and I miss him terribly.

Didn't mean to end the year on a down note - but here we are.

Anyways, here's wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and New Years!

Living The Dream - Oct 13, 2021
Same Shit

Been awhile since I've done an update.

That said, there's really not much to say, nothing really new, just daily tedium. But I'm here, so I'll give it a go...

Currently on 'vacation', which in reality just means I'm not logged into work 24x7 for a few days. We were supposed to go to Victoria tomorrow, but looking at the weather forecast decided to cancel as it's supposed to be pissing rain the days we'd have been there. In another time it wouldn't have mattered, but we didn't want to have to rent a car and were just going to wander around the harbour area. Yes we could take umbrella's, but it's also due to the fact that if we were to go to a restaurant we'd have to eat inside - and with Covid we wanted to be able to hang on a patio. So...in the end we're on year two of no actual vacation anywhere. We're supposed to go to Jamaica next year, but now Chris is second guessing that as they're now on the CDC's Covid High Risk list. Maybe we'll just never go anywhere again.

Of course you keep hearing in the news how much money everyone is saving by being stuck at home. Hell, we should be Millionaires by now right? Everyone else is rolling in dough now right? Right???? For some reason we're not. At best we're just not going further into debt. With the price of oil the highest since 2008 I should be raking in the money where I work - yet again, I'm not. I am spending a lot of my nights and my weekends working despite all that however. Not sure why I keep continuing to do so.

We had another useless Federal election which changed nothing except putting those of us still bothering to work on the hook for the half Billion dollar cost. Now we have a Municipal election which again, I'm sure everyone I voted for won't win. We'll get another mayor more concerned about funding ridiculous art projects than halting my ever increasing property taxes. Meanwhile - and I called this last year despite everyone else saying no, it wouldn't happen - now you can't travel anywhere or go out anywhere without proving you're vaccinated. Any while I am vaccinated and believe in this case it's a necessary evil, as with anything, once the precedent gets set there's no going back. Soon if you want to leave your house you'll also have to have had your flu shot, and this shot, and that shot. Achtung! Ver are your papers!?!? Just shut up peasant, pay your taxes, and inject this into you arm or you go to jail!

I know I'm being really negative right now, but this is really my only arena left to vent. I've been banned from all the major news website comment forums. It's as if everything is tribalized now and there's no more middle ground to be had on any given subject. And instead of actually trying to have a debate on something you get reported or flagged when someone doesn't agree with you and your comments automatically purged. I ran into this on a Covid group I was in on Facebook as well. I'd been in that group from the beginning, helped out as a part time moderator, publishing numbers when the main people couldn't do so on a given day etc. But again, lately it's devolved into where unless you say anything along the lines of 'Jason Kenney sucks' or 'Nurses are infallible' then you're instantly shit on by everyone. Again, no deviation from the Tribal beliefs allowed. So after being called an anti-vaxxer (which is ridiculous) and yelled at for posting fake news (I linked to a TSN article) I said screw it and left the group I had been in for over 20 months. The next day Facebook had their big worldwide outage.

I realized then that maybe I should take a break from them as well. In fact take a break from almost everything.

On the health front I ended up getting this twitch in my left eye which was really annoying. It would happen randomly (but routinely) throughout the day with no real rhyme or reason as to why. After a couple weeks I Googled it and predictably it seemed I was not long for this world. So I did a phone consult with my Doctor and she's sending me for bloodwork next week. That said I went to Burnaby for work for a week, and after I came home it had gone away. Which leads me to my supposition that living at the altitude I do in Calgary is not good for me. I get that it's not exactly like living in Denver, but still, at over 1000m, Calgary is the highest city in Canada. It just seems that my various ailments seem to go away or get better when I'm away somewhere at a lower altitude. Same with my Tinnitus, never an issue when I'm gone. But it's not like we're moving anytime soon. So it is what it is.

Thankfully our furball is still with us. Like us she's settled into the same daily routine. The anti-nausea meds we put her on have clearly helped. However our Salamander - Sally - has been giving me grief. Every year she goes through a phase where she buries herself underground and you don't see her for a couple months. And every year I freak out because in my mind that's a long time to go without eating. But this time was different in that she wasn't buried. I'd go to feed her and she'd move her head back and forth and refuse to eat. This went on for over two months. She's over 10 years old, so I was thinking that maybe she was just dying (although I think I read they can live up to 20 years). I didn't know what to do so finally I found an exotic pet hospital and booked an appointment. Of course a couple days later she suddenly started eating again! It's now been 3 straight days that she's eaten. So I don't know what her deal is. It's amazing how much such a tiny little creature stresses me out.

Vacay Struggles - Aug 28, 2021
Road Trip

And just like that...Summer was over.

Sadly we had to cancel our BC trip. As mentioned previously we were concerned about all the smoke from the forest fires, but in the end it was a combination of that, new Covid restrictions, and the town of Vernon being put on evacuation notice that sealed the deal. Fortunately we were able to get most of our deposits back although Chris is still struggling with the wine tour company and we lost half our Airbnb deposit.

Determined to do something no matter how trivial we ended up spending a few days in Edmonton. As a quick reminder, the BC trip was supposed to be my 50th birthday celebration - which originally was supposed to have been a luxury cruise. So while other friends and family were able to celebrate their milestones Pre-Covid and other friends and family will be able to celebrate their milestones Post-Covid, my fate was continually being forced to scale back my celebration until all we were left with was a trip to Edmonton. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

We ended up splitting our time there between two different hotels. First up was the JW Marriot which is the new fancy hotel they built as part of Rogers Place (home of the Edmonton Oilers) and the city's ongoing Ice District revitalization project. As I overheard in the lounge, it's Edmonton's only five star hotel. Overall it was pretty nice. We really enjoyed hanging in the lounge which had terrific shrimp cocktail and we liked our server who comped us said shrimp cocktail to make up for someone else getting it before us. It was also interesting hanging around downtown which I hadn't been to in years and years. The city God bless them is trying - really really trying - to turn the place into something great. But it's clearly a struggle. Not that Calgary doesn't have it's own city core issues, but I was horrified walking around witnessing completely empty malls (other than the resident homeless crowd) and shuttered business after shuttered business. The media keeps highlighting downtown Calgary's 30%? vacancy rate, but there's no way in hell Edmonton is doing any better.

On the first night Chris & I did said wandering and a bunch of pub hopping and had a good time. The second night our friends Alpha & Nancy drove up and joined us and more pub hopping ensued.

After that we downgraded our hotel to stay at the Delta on Whitemud, which while no longer five star, was also about half the cost. It's also the hotel I/we normally stay at when we go up there. The highlight of that stay was us all going to the Fringe Festival which is an annual event consisting of street performances and various plays held in the Old Strathcona district. Back when I used to live there I remember going a few times and enjoying the experience. This year was a tentative return for the event after being forced to cancel last year due to Covid and it was a decidedly downscaled version this time. We watched some of the free shows at the main area, had lunch on a nice rooftop patio place, and then went and saw a Burlesque show which was interesting.

The day after that Alpha & Nancy went off doing their own thing and we spent the day with my Mom. Wanting to do something different with her we ended up going to the Muttart Conservatory which are the pyramids you see approaching downtown. Each pyramid holding various plants making up a different zones of the world - ie. an Arid zone, Temperate zone, Tropical zone etc. I believe I went there once as a kid as part of a school trip so it was interesting being back there again after all these years. Apparently they just did a major renovation a few years ago. While looking at plants might not sound overly exciting we all thought it was a fun trip and enjoyed it. For lunch we went to a neat Italian market place consisting of a grocery store and a cafe. I was very excited when I saw they had a wall of cheese. After that we spent some more time with Mom and helping her with a few things she needed done. We headed home the morning after while Alpha & Nancy continued on with their trip.

Here's some pictures of the fun:

Home of the Edmonton Oilers!Our fancy hotel, the JW MarriotView from our roomRelaxing at the hotel loungeFirst drink of our trip
Yum, yum, yummy!!!Ice, ice baby (District)For a five star hotel the pool underwhelmedInside the Art Gallery of AlbertaTake off eh! You hosehead!
The Hotel MacdonaldStay classy Edmonton...Hanging with Alpha & Nancy on the terrace patioEerily emtpy mallsEdmonton City Hall
The very picture of happinessScrew the diet!Edmonton's version of the Neon GraveyardEdmonton Fringe Festival Cool mural off Whyte Avenue
Wall mural to the late Chi Pig of SNFUWaiting for our Burlesque show to start Emtpy beer tentsThe Muttart ConservatoryArid Pyramid
Temperate PyramidI wouldn't eat this...Hey! There's a face there!Tropical Pyramid...and we finish with a wall of cheese!

In my last post I mentioned that our little fur baby wasn't doing well. Happily she's still with us. The vet gave us some anti-nausea pills and they seem to be working. She's keeping her food and water down now and seems to be her old self once again. So we'll just continue to take things day by day and be thankful for each day that she's still a part of our lives.

I still have a bunch of vacation time I need to use up before the end of the year. We were going to do a little staycation here next month, but ultimately decided against it for money reasons. We recently had a new doorbell/camera station installed and had some other work on our Control4 system done and the bills for that will likely be showing up soon. Also we've booked flights in October to go out to Victoria for a few days so it felt a bit excessive doing both things.

With rising case numbers once again in this never ending Covid shit show we're thinking it's likely things will lock down once more and even if it doesn't we'll probably decide to curtail the number of times we're out and about especially once Winter hits. So for now we'll continue enjoying the remaining days of good weather and hit the occasional patio and just be thankful for each other and try and be hopeful for the long promised return of normal.

Living the Dream - Aug 2, 2021
Ho Hum

Bla. Yawn. Stretch.

Not a whole lot going on, but it's been awhile so I thought I'd do an update. I had tacked on a few extra days to the beginning of the long weekend. My first vacation of note this year. Of course, life being what it is these days, it's not like I had anything planned, or anywhere fun to travel to. I did manage to nap a lot and we did take the bottles in to the bottle depot. So that's something I guess.

Actually the past couple days have been fairly good. Today was nice and relaxing and we had a visit with Kim & Hailey (and ate yummy waffles) and later Chris & I will probably watch a movie. Yesterday Chris & I hung out in the back yard for a good chunk of the day, drank Tequila and just enjoyed each other's company in the 30+ weather. Lately it feels like it's really just the two of us against the world.

Besides the general malaise I was feeling earlier in my 'vacation' we also were dealing with a downturn in our fur baby's health. We've known for awhile now that JC was suffering kidney failure. Considering the fact that she's over 21, her even being alive right now is amazing. But we recently took her to the vet for a checkup and sadly her kidney disease has progressed to Stage 4 - which means she's really on borrowed time now. And for awhile she really wasn't doing well - to the point where we were debating whether this was 'it' or not. We stopped giving her the special kidney care diet the vet suggested we put her on as her stomach is so sensitive to changing her food that it was making her sick. We also started giving her anti-nausea pills to try and keep her from throwing up what she was eating and drinking. She seems to be doing better than past few days. So we'll see what happens.

Of course this is weighing on us as we discuss our upcoming vacation to Wine Country in the BC interior. This would be our first real getaway since 2019. But if it's not our cat's health, it's all the smoke from the forest fires, or Covid concerns, or <insert disaster here> we have to worry about. Our window for figuring out if we'll go or not is quickly closing.

Thankfully work-wise things have been going well. No disasters and steady progress on a number of improvements and upgrades I've been working on. I went up to Edmonton recently to swap out some equipment and Chris came with me. We were able to see my Mom for the first time this year which was nice. While there she informed us that she can't handle taking care of the house anymore and wants to downsize. While I'm happy she's finally come to that conclusion, I do wish she would have realized that a few years ago when I first suggested it to her. So if anyone knows of a small 1200 sq ft. size house with no stairs, detached, with a garage and that's affordable feel free to let us know.

Other than that we've just been trying to enjoy what has turned into the 'Summer without Rain' - at least so far. We did visit a new pub that opened up nearby and had fun with friends and neighbours. Kim & Jamie joined us and the Pajacks (neighbours) there for dinner and drinks and later we ended back here and hung out in the Pergola. Later on Alpha & Nancy showed up for a couple of drinks as well. Or maybe that was a separate time? I'm not sure. It all kind of blends together. I do know we had a lot of fun and it was like the old days once again.

Happy Hour!
Did someone say Happy Hour?

That's it for now. Hopefully my next post is of the fun we had on our trip with lots of pictures. Otherwise it'll likely be a sad tribute to our kit kat. Again, we'll see what happens.

Summer Heat - Jun 30, 2021
Heat Wave

Like everyone else in Western Canada, I'm just sitting here sweltering in the heat.

Actually it's not that bad inside. Upstairs is fine with the AC and the main floor and downstairs are kept cool enough with us keeping the windows closed, blinds shut in the afternoon and so on. Of course this time of year I'd normally be working from the garage with the doors open, but that's been a chore this past week with temps hitting almost 90 in there. Of course stubborn person that I am, I've still been hanging out there as much as possible.

Weather event one off or signs of things to come via global warming? Who knows. I do know that paying more in taxes likely isn't going to change the equation on a global scale...

I've actually been fairly busy the past few weeks. Last week I was in Saskatchewan doing a work trip, visiting Regina, Saskatoon, and Midale. Where you ask? Quaint little town of 500 people Southeast of Regina. For some reason we have an office out there. There's not much there other than a gas station, a Variety Store, one restaurant and an apparently abandoned Motel. They did have a main street labeled 'Main Street' which I thought was adorable however. Obviously with the pandemic I didn't fly, but drove instead. Something I wasn't really looking forward to, but it actually turned out to be not bad. All the work I had to do (replacing servers) went smoothly for a change and it was nice just being away from home for awhile. I even managed to get in some walking along the beautiful River Valley in Saskatoon.

I've got another work trip coming up where I'll be travelling to Edmonton which will be good as I'll be able to see my Mom for the first time this year, and then later in the Fall to Burnaby. I also need to start using up some of the time I've accumulated, so I should be able to have a 4-day work week the rest of the year. Time to reward myself for all my hard work!

River Valley
Saskatoon's River Valley 

This past weekend we had our first party in 18 months when we had a bunch of friends over for a wine tasting. As we're going on a wine tour in BC in August we thought we'd better practice. Everyone brought a bottle of White and Red and we all pretended to be sophisticated as we drank them. Of course still being in the pandemic we had it in our backyard and socially distanced - although the distancing seemed to get less and less the more wine we drank. It was a nice slice of normality for a change.

Both Chris & I are fully vaccinated so we're able to relax a little bit now. But I think it'll still be a long time before things feel like they're back to normal. We went to a pub recently and were going to eat on the patio but as the weather wasn't the greatest I convinced her to eat inside. Even though there was maybe one other table occupied in the entire place she still felt anxious and on edge.

Covid's not really my biggest concern anymore anyway. I'm back to dealing with my heart issues. Just over a month ago my Tinnitus came back. As a quick recap, my last meds triggered it which was hell and I stopped taking them - which ended up putting me in heart failure. So after a bunch of research I came up with a similar drug less likely to cause the same issue which I had been taking for over six months. And it was working, my heart rate was down in the low 70s after increasing the dosage a few times. So now it feels like I'm back at square one. I've reduced my dosage hoping the Tinnitus will go away and while it's not as bad as it was last time it's still annoying and stressful. The interesting thing is after being in Saskatchewan for a week when I came back it was gone. Which leads me to my other theory, that living at the altitude we do in Calgary is not good for me. I always feel better at lower altitudes, especially at sea level. And while we're not exactly like Denver aka the Mile High City, 3500 feet isn't insignificant either. But we're in our forever home, so what can you do?

Anyways, stay safe in the heat, put some water out for the critters, and if you haven't done so yet, get your second shot!

Birthday Boy - May 3, 2021
Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to me!

Yup, finally hit the big 5-0. An age that not that long ago I was pretty sure I'd never make it to. Thankfully I was wrong. Of course this was also my 2nd Covid birthday in a row. At first my attitude was that it wasn't a big deal, but as the day got closer I was being more and more of a grumpy bump about it. I considered it unfair that my friends before me and friends after me hitting the same milestone were or will be able to enjoy it properly. Unlike me, where I was relegated to spending the biggest milestone in one's life simply hanging in my backyard.

We went for lunch that day to one of our local pubs and obviously with the restrictions were on their patio. For us it was the first time out anywhere fun in roughly six months. It was also the first time I've had draft beer in all that time and I have to say after 2 pints I was feeling pretty good.

Later in the afternoon Kim & Hailey and Jamie & Kim showed up to celebrate with me and we socially distanced in the pergola. Hailey had grabbed everyone dinner from a nearby restaurant so we ate that and drank and hung out. Afterwards our neighbor Lynette dropped by as well. Chris unveiled my present which was a bunch of wine with labels of our friends on it and sadly I didn't get what the gift was. I was like, um, great, a bunch of wine. Afterwards she explained that it was a trip to BC's wine country later in the summer which a bunch of friends and family had chipped in for. This was the trip we had wanted to do originally before Covid messed everything up. Hopefully restrictions won't get worse and we'll be able to actually make it happen.

50th Birthday
50 Is The New 30 

Then Chris told me to wait as she had to do something in the garage - so I knew something else was about to happen. When she was ready I went to the garage and got to watch a video yet more friends and family had made for me. Of course like with last year's drive-by I got a bit misty eyed, overwhelmed at what great people I have in my life - but especially with Chris as she worked so hard to make my special day not suck.

So was it the amazing celebration I would have wanted? No. But it was still a good day and all things considered I'm ok with that. A big thank you to everyone involved!

Other than that, I guess the other event of any importance was both Chris and I finally were able to get our first vaccine shot. Sometimes having horrible life-long illnesses has it's benefits as we qualified for that phase of the rollout. I was worried that it'd be a shit show with a bunch of people lined up, but the place we went to was well organized and not that crowded and we were in and out in roughly 30 mins. The nurse asked me a bunch of questions and had me sign my life away and as she was getting ready to inject me I looked away and suddenly she said 'ok, all done.' And I was like seriously? Because I didn't even feel it. That said, later that night and for the following day my arm was pretty sore. I also felt a bit 'off' later that night, but by the next day felt fine.

We still have to wait for our 2nd shot, but I'm hoping with increasing supply we'll be able to get it sooner than the 4 months interval they told us. So I guess we're on our way to being able to start living our life again.

Now I just need to focus on dropping the weight I gained over the winter and staying busy and not letting boredom and never ending bad news wear me down. Hopefully come summer this nightmare will mostly be behind us.

Normalacy Beckons - Mar 19, 2021
Almost There!

And just like that you can sense that the end of this nightmare is in sight - for real this time.

Hopefully within a week or so Chris & I will be able to book our appointments to get vaccinated. We both fall into the 2B category due to our various health woes. So while it sucks having a chronic illness, in this case at least we're thankful for it so we can get our shot sooner and begin to live life again. Yes I know we'll still have to wear masks, follow the public health guidelines etc. but at least we won't have that paralizing stress that we're going to end up in a hospital gasping for breath. I'll be able to go for my walks and not feel like I have to cross the street when someone else is approaching. I'll be able to run into work and not have that added stress picking away at me while I try and focus on my job. And so on.

The other worry crushing my spirit to live last year was our financials woes brought on by the pandemic. As I mentioned in my last post this is the time of the year when I get the majority of my income for the year. I'm happy to say, that while not back to the levels before this all started, at least I'm not going to have the worry that we'll run out of money before the end of the year this time. So that's a huge weight off my shoulders. As we're once again not going anywhere this year everything is going to be going towards paying down debt. Another boring year ahead, but without all the added stress for our health and finances.

A week or so ago we had the neighbors over in the back yard for a socially distanced get together - the last before the one set leaves us. They sold their house last month and will be moving out shortly. So that sucks as all three houses have been here from the beginning when the neighborhood was being built. Then there's the worry about what the new ones will be like. Apparently they have two dogs - I died a little inside when I heard that. Hopefully they aren't like so many asshole dog owners around here that let their mutts yap all day long. On the flip side, they're from Edmonton, so I'm guessing Oilers fans. So that's something at least. Either way we'll know who'll we'll be living beside shortly.

Spring Bunny
Spring Is Here!

The fact that Spring is now here is also like a perfect trifecta of awesomeness to go along with vaccinations and more money. I snapped a picture of this little guy while coming back from one of my walks. Hopefully the Robins we had last year will return to the nest they made which is still there and we'll be able to resume our routine of watching them grow and develop until they make that big leap into the world. We're also looking forward to hanging out in the back yard and soaking up the sun. And I'm looking forward to afternoons working in the garage with the door open - my version of indoor/outdoor living.

Hang in there, there's better days ahead!

Brrrrr - Feb 13, 2021
Winter Cold

First update of the year.

Yes, I know, that's pretty sad considering it's mid-February. It must be because I'm so busy enjoying life right? Ah, sarcasm, my old friend. No, sadly updating the website is just one of a number of things on my 'to do' list that I just never seem to have much motivation to getting around to doing these days. You'd think with the current cold snap I'd be getting lots of stuff accomplished - well I guess I am actually updating the site with this post, so, yay! Apparently I am being productive after all!

As I'm typing this I'm listening to the Jazz station on iTunes which just cheerfully reminded me it's Mardis Gras week right now in New Orleans. While I'm enjoying the resulting music, it's also a sad reminder that 3 years ago Chris & I were cruising up the mighty Mississippi river and enjoying the parades and food and all that the Big Easy had to offer. That seems like a lifetime ago now. Getting on a ship with 3000 other people, not having to wear a mask, not having to worry that chatting with someone might end up killing you, being able to actually enjoy life - it all seems like a cruel dream.

As with last year we aren't doing anything or going anywhere. Vacation is just a meaningless word now. If the vaccines ever actually show up in any meaningful number and we along with friends and family are able to get vaccinated, that might change the equation, but for now it looks like another year stuck in purgatory. That said, roughly a month ago Chris & I just hopped in the car on a whim for a day trip to Vulcan, Alberta. Why? Why not! Maybe I was there as a kid, but if so, I don't remember. Of course the only attraction there is the monument to Star Trek's Enterprise and the associated museum. So once we got there we jumped out of the car and played the quintessential tourists taking selfie after selfie in front of the iconic spaceship. The museum was closed, so we did a quick tour down 'main street', grabbed some grub at the drive through and headed back home. Pointless considering the travel time? Yes. But all things considered being in the 'new normal' it was a fun break for us. We've already planned a few other day trips when the weather improves. At some point this year I'll post a bunch of the resulting pictures.

Health wise we're both doing ok. I haven't been recording my heart rate as often as I used to, but when I do it's been 'ok', usually in the mid 80's. Likewise with taking my blood pressure, it's been in the normal range. As I previously posted back in October I had hit my target weight, but then the long dark days of winter and depression hit and I packed on the 'Covid 20', gaining 20lbs back. But I buckled down last month and started getting back into the routine of eating better and going on my walks. My plan is to be back at my target weight again in time for my birthday and then work on losing even more over the summer and fall. Of course winter finally hit in earnest last week, so I've been relegated to working out on the elliptical instead. At the beginning of the cold snap I bundled up and went for a walk. But not long into it I started to regret my decision as I was uncomfortably cold. I took this selfie to capture my silly decision.

I Have Icicles On My Eyelashes!

This is also the time of year when I get the majority of my income and plan accordingly how we're going to spend, save, invest etc. it. Last year was a gut punch when that previously always reliable economic windfall was not to be. Hopefully this time it'll be a return to something approaching normalcy. I'll know in a few weeks anyway. Besides the typical worries and stress of the pandemic, money concerns was an added burden dragging me down. I'd rather not have that additional uncertainty this time round.

That's it for now, stay warm!

Happy Ho Ho - Dec 30, 2020
Xmas Kitty

Final update for the year...

Of course it goes without saying that 2020 was a shitshow of epic proportions. I still remember frantically searching for news on the outbreak in China in December of 2019 wondering if this was 'it'. And watching as people went about their normal lives for the first few months of the new year while I grew increasingly worried and anxious. Having heated arguments with friends who were determined to go on their vacations just before everything was shut down. Worried we were going to run out of food. Worried I wouldn't have a job. Certain that some of our friends and family wouldn't be here at the end of the year - which thankfully hasn't come to pass.

Remembering the absolute quiet in the neighborhood at the beginning. Not a car on the road, not a plane in the sky, no one outside. It was almost post-apocalyptic in feeling as case numbers started to rise and everyone shut themselves off from the world. Then came what I'd call the good times of summer as cases started to go down, the nicer weather allowing people to gather on outdoor patios and enjoy life again. And while not back to normal, you sensed it was tantalizingly close.

And then with Fall and the onset of Winter, predictably the bad times returned. The colder weather, the decreasing hours of sunlight, the rising case numbers all conspiring to crush everyone's spirits again.

Most people can't wait for this year to be over thinking the worst is behind us and next year has to be better. Personally I hope so, but part of me isn't so sure. Time will tell.

Obviously Christmas wasn't the usual celebration for our household. With it being just the two of us we had already decided we weren't going to exchange gifts - what was the point? But we still put up a tree, I put out our Christmas critters on the front lawn, and our lights on the back patio mostly for some semblance of normalcy and also to help brighten our moods. Needless to say our tree looked pretty empty, but there were a few presents there for us to open from family.

Christmas Tree
Our Sad Looking Tree

For New Years Eve we're going to order in or pick something up for dinner and help out one of our local pubs in the process. Of course we'll also be watching team Canada play in the World Juniors. Afterward we'll crack the bubbly and have a virtual party with the neighbors, and possibly another one with some of our friends. As to whether we manage to actually stay up for midnight? I guess we'll see.

So take a moment to pause and reflect. Give yourself some credit - you made it to 2021.


Homeward Stretch - Nov 22, 2020
So Bored

Only another week and then it's December. As the heading says, we're in the homeward stretch for the year - for the absolute worst year (almost) of my lifetime, and likely for most people's lifetimes.

With daily case counts skyrocketing, while we've always been cautious we're going back to where we were when all this started. Almost no contact with anyone else and only going out once a week for essentials. That said, I did recently get back from a work trip up North to Fort McMurray. I had planned to go awhile ago before winter hit, but for various reasons I had to push it back. So now I was faced with the choice of driving in unknown weather conditions and spending 16 hours total on the road for 2 days on site or risking Covid via flying up there.

After going back in forth in my head as to what to do I decided I was going to fly - I had a N95 mask, the flight is only 90 minutes, and hopefully I'd be able to get a seat to myself. I was encouraged by pictures my friend Jamie took on his work trip to Toronto where the plane was almost empty. But as the day to book my flight got closer I saw that almost all the seats had been sold - and I wouldn't be flying in a Jet, I'd be flying in one of those small turboprop planes (which pre-Covid I used to like, at least the Air Canada ones) which meant I'd literally be shoulder to shoulder with the person next to me. I just couldn't do it. So I ended up driving instead.

Thankfully the weather wasn't that bad - at least on the way up. Work wise things went well and I didn't encounter any problems. I had checked out of my hotel and was headed out of the city on my way home when the car (I drove Chris' vehicle) started shaking and making this knocking noise. It was almost like having a flat tire except I knew the tire was fine as when I let go of the steering wheel I wasn't being pulled to the side. I thought about just sucking it up and getting it looked at when I got to Edmonton but it was quickly getting worse - I saw the road sign just outside of the city limits which said that there was no service for 300km or something similar and figured I better not risk it, so headed back into town to try and get it looked at.

Well that was a gong show as the first few places I went to were telling me the earliest they could look at it was Friday (this was on a Wednesday). Finally after a bunch of calling around Chris found someone who said they'd look at it. Thankfully it was close to where I already was. Long story short, the dealership screwed up when they put on the winter tires a couple weeks ago. They used the wrong size lug nuts and buddy told me if I had kept driving on it the tire would have fallen off. So several hours later and several hundred dollars later it was fixed and thankfully I wasn't stranded in the Mac.

Of course by that point the weather had changed and I had to deal with a blizzard from Edmonton through Red Deer, coupled with having to drive a few hours at night which I normally refuse to do as I can't see shit at nighttime. Needless to say it turned into a very stressful trip. But thankfully its now done and for the rest of the year I intend to take it easy at work. I'm going to hold off on any major changes until next year and just focus on clean up activities, day to day support, documentation etc. We recently had our yearly summit and while things are obviously challenging right now the gist of it is they hope for a return to normalcy within a couple years. So we'll see what next year brings.

Highway 63
Long Way Home

Other than my work trip, it's been the same 'ol mind numbing, boring daily routine, day after day, week after week. The neighbors were both sick and so got tested and thankfully were negative - so that was a bit of excitement. Normally we wouldn't put Christmas stuff up until the 1st weekend of December, but with everything going on we decided to do it the weekend after Remembrance day instead. I know a number of others felt and did the same - the world needs some festive spirit right now.

Last night Chris & I popped some bubbly and put the tree up and did a bit more decorating - even though we're not doing presents this year, it's still nice to have a tree to look at. Her birthday is this week and normally we'd go to dinner and a movie or have friends over for a party, but it'll be pretty subdued this year and just be the two of us. Thanks global pandemic!

A couple days ago I asked her what we were doing today and we looked at each other and both started laughing as it was such a ridiculous question to ask. The highlight of our day is if one of us goes out to get gas or makes a breakfast sandwich run. Yet despite everything we're getting by. Although this year has been hard on relationships for numerous people we've managed to weather the storm together. While there may have been times we got a bit snippety with each other we have yet to have any full on arguments or fights. I couldn't imagine going through this with anyone else.

Stay positive!

Spooktastic? - Oct 8, 2020

In the middle of some more mandated days off, so figured I'd do an update.

Nothing really exciting has occurred, just more of the same - merely existing until we see what next year brings. I did spent a week up North, so in some respects I guess the change of scenery was nice. I even managed to get in a fairly decent walk through a pretty natural area in Grande Prairie. That said, the trip took a lot out of me between all the driving and having to cram 7 days of work into only 5. I mentioned it on Facebook, but I also couldn't get over how it seemed like I was the only person in Grande Prairie and Fort St John who was wearing a mask. It was almost like everyone in those places figured the virus simply didn't exist north of Edmonton. Who knows, maybe they're right and the whole thing is overblown. But I wasn't going to take any chances either way.

We're going to head out to a nearby pub this afternoon for some pub grub and some bevvies. I know at this point I probably sound like a broken record, but I think this will likely be our last patio of the year. So far 'fall' has been nice and I've enjoyed going out on my morning walks, the rustling of leaves, the beautiful colours, that fall smell in the air and so on. But according to all the forecasts starting next week things won't be as nice. I'll need to do the last of my winterizing this weekend. Change the furnace filters and humidifier pads, put the hoses away, turn off the outside taps, cover up the air conditioner etc. I'll probably also spin up the Laserdisc player in the garage one last time before it gets to cold. Yes, we have a garage heater, but it's annoying watching a movie while it's kicking in every so often.

Speaking of movies, as it's now October I'm doing my annual Horror movie binge fest. This all started a few years ago on my movie geek website. Members on there will post daily what movies they either are going to watch or have already watched - the goal being to watch a horror movie every day of the month. '31 Days of Horror' if you will. Pre-pandemic I'd never get anywhere close to that as I simply didn't have the time, and even now it's the same. I give it a good try, but the best I usually end up doing is a few during the week and several on the weekends. I've also been posting on Facebook what movies I'm about to watch. I'm sure my friends could care less about some obscure entry they likely haven't even heard of before, but I still get a kick out of updating everyone.

Chris & I have discussed what we're going to do for Halloween, and unless something changes drastically in the next few weeks in regards to Covid, we're going to assume we'll still have trick or treaters coming by. So I'll do up the projector in the bonus room, we'll set up some decorations outside, and put up a table with candy in the garage doorway the kids can come and grab. I'll have some movies on the garage TV and the neighbors will likely swing by for a socially distanced bevvie or two. Of course Chris is super sad that we won't be having our annual party - but it is what it is, and all we can do is make the best of it.

In terms of my health, just yesterday I reached my target weight goal. This was the weight I was at last year in May when we needed to trim down for our helicopter flight in Hawaii (which ended getting cancelled). My plan is to lose a bit more and then try and maintain that over the winter before the weather improves again and I can resume walking every day. And likely as part of shedding the pounds, I'm also sleeping better again. So in that respect, things are good.  On the downside, I've had a resurgence of Tinnitus - although very slight at this point. So the question is, is it from the medication, or a side effect of alcohol? While I've cut back hugely over the past few months, I do enjoy the odd glass of wine especially if I'm watching a movie. And I've found that tends to aggravate it. So I need to go cold turkey for a couple weeks and see if it goes away or not. In addition, it looks like I might need to increase my dosage, as my heart rate for the past few days has crept up again. Sigh.

Covid numbers keep increasing, winter is coming, days getting shorter, money woes and so on - but overall we're doing ok.