Gone Solar - Jul 1, 2019

Solar PanelsHappy Canada Day!

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

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

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

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

However the solar install is finished!

Solar Readings
Solar Output Reading

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

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

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

Hawaii Trip - Apr 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

First sea day....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's some pictures of the fun:

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

TinnitusFirst a health update...

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

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

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

On to other things...

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Appointment City - Mar 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Game of Thrones 3D Puzzle
Winter is Here

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

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

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

Stay warm!

No I'm Not Dead - Feb 9, 2019

Under ConstructionYou may have noticed a lack of posts lately...

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

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

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

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

Ice Sculpture
Banff Snow Days

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

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

Another Year In The Books - Jan 12, 2019

2019 Happy New Year!

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

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

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

Cute Couple
Fun in Kananaskis

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

On to other things...

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

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