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.

Cheers!

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
Halloween

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.

End of Summer - Sep 13, 2020
End Of Summer

And just like that Summer was over...

Like most people I'm sure, we're not looking forward to the next eight months. Winter sucks at the best of times, but being cooped up at home in the midst of a pandemic makes it even worse. While the timing of getting our back yard done absolutely sucked in terms of the financial hole it put us in right as the economic rug was pulled out from under me, we've been very thankful to be able to relax in the back yard and hang in the pergola this season. It's also been so handy for socially distanced visits from friends and family. So in that respect the timing was perfect. We'll see what the weather brings, but we're hoping to still be able to enjoy outside for a few more weeks.

Chris & I have discussed how we're going to cope. Likely for her she's going to become a home cook extraordinaire and whip up amazing recipe after amazing recipe. I have my vast library of movies to draw from and I'll also be spending countless hours playing games on the computer - something that I've gotten away from doing for the past few years for some reason. In the end we'll be safe, snug, and cozy and have each other to keep us sane.

Other than our quick trip to Waterton, the only other really fun thing we did this season was to go to a hotel concert. Basically in an effort to drum up business for music artists, support personnel, hotels etc. a local company came up with the idea to hold concerts at various hotels throughout Canada that were of the right setup to still allow people to enjoy but be safe while doing so. So as an example, the partner hotel here in Calgary, the Ramada, has an outdoor pool deck area, which the one side of the hotel overlooks. So people would buy tickets like you would for a normal concert but you'd be assigned one of the rooms overlooking the pool area which is where they setup the stage. You then get to watch the show from the comfort of your outdoor balcony. As for Covid precautions they had staggered check in times, everyone had to wear masks in common areas, and you were only allowed a maximum of four people to a room. The band we saw was a Queen tribute band and honestly I wasn't expecting much. But they were really good. In the end both Chris & I had an absolute blast. It was a fun distraction that we both really needed from reality - that reality being emphasized when the promoter just prior to the show stated that it was the only concert in Canada.

Work wise I had to run up to Edmonton for a couple days to install some new equipment. I wasn't sure what to expect from the hotel I normally stay at when I got there. The lounge was closed, the restaurant was closed, they didn't have room service, and there were no amenities in the room. I did have a TV, although as part of the 'new normal' there was nothing to watch anyway. So basically it was a slight upgrade from camping. Of course you'd think with such a bare bones setup the prices would be reduced accordingly right? No. That'd just be wishful thinking.

I did get to see my mom and have a socially distanced visit which was nice. We went and had a nice lunch on an outdoor patio and got caught up. Sadly that was the first time I'd seen her this year.

Mom & I
Hanging With Mom

I had some mandated time off as well. Of course I couldn't really do anything or go anywhere, but mentally it was a nice break. I had planned to do a bunch of things to keep busy and I got some but not all on my list done. Mostly it was just spent trying to focus on my health. I'm not sure where I even left off detailing my ongoing struggle...

With Covid consuming my every thought I had essentially neglected doing anything about my heart issues. I was still of the mind if I just got enough exercise everything would be fine. But they had me go for another echo test and the results weren't good. My ejection fraction (how well my heart works) was really low - to the point where I was technically in heart failure. So again my cardiologist wanted me to get a pacemaker. And again I did not want to go down that road. So I did a bunch of research and came up with a drug available in Canada that in theory wouldn't give me the side effects the previous medication did - which was why I eventually stopped taking it. So I started taking Nadolol at a really low dosage - I would break up the pills into quarters which equaled 10mg. I wanted to start out slowly not only to gauge any possible side effects but also to see if I was likely to start gaining weight like I did with my previous meds.

As detailed previously, I have the Kardia Mobile app/reader which allows me to take fairly accurate measurements of my pulse rate. So I was ecstatic when it appeared that at even such a low dosage that the new drug was working. For the past couple years my heart rate was in the high 90's/low 100's and after being on the drug for a week I was getting readings in the low 80's. Then I got a bit complacent and neglected to take any readings for awhile. When I started again I was dismayed that I was back in the low 90's. So I upped the dosage to 20mg and I'm going to give that a week or so while continuing to monitor. Either way, it's definitely helping and so far I haven't noticed any side effects. So we'll see.

In any given year we usually have 2 or 3 trips already booked or planned. Maybe that's the reason we started looking at cruises again recently. Maybe it was just to torture ourselves. As the guy Chris used to work with at the Cruiseship Centre said, even if you end up having to cancel later on, it makes sense to book something now to take advantage of the incentives. Of course you also run the risk of these companies not being around in a year or two. We still have future cruise credits with NCL so we want to use them up before they expire. I think as of now, only one company has started up operations again - MSC Cruises - doing cruises in the Adriatic Sea. However we heard that you're only allowed to go ashore on ship excursions and anyone who goes off on their own will be (and have been) kicked off the ship. While I understand it's in an effort to minimize the risk of a passenger bringing the virus back on board - if that's still the case a year or so from now that'd be a deal breaker for us. If we can't do our own thing then we won't be cruising period.

Of course this is all based on the assumption that the next couple years will be better financially for me which isn't a given. I should have enough money (barely) to get us through to next year and then we'll see what happens. I have to actually remind myself that not everyone has been impacted like we have. For some people other than the travel restrictions it's been business as usual - for others Covid has actually benefited them. I won't even begin to pretend I don't harbour any resentment at that fact.

The coming months are likely to be a challenge. Try and be positive. Be there for your spouse or significant other. But above all stay safe.

Big Vacation - Aug 8, 2020
Road Trip

Looks like I've been a bad blogger and haven't updated things in awhile.

I guess time flies when you're having a pandemic.

Chris & I are still ok, just living the dream that is 2020.

Speaking of living...I found it somewhat annoying recently looking at all the social media posts from friends and family living it up on their various vacations with not a care in the world - and not a mask anywhere in site. Carrying on as if everything is normal. I haven't seen my Mom yet this year, hadn't even been outside of the city yet this year, not sure if I'll have enough money to make it through the next few months etc. So no, everything is most definitely not bloody well normal!

With that in mind, we both were getting tired of the routine. Tired of hanging in the back yard, tired of watching movies or shows, tired of puzzling. Just tired of everything. I could tell Chris needed a break and needed to do something different. So we decided to do a quick one or two day trip somewhere in the province. I wanted it to be somewhere within a few hours drive but not where it was likely to be really crowded. That ruled Banff out. For some reason I've been wanting to go south to Waterton for a few years now - mostly because I've never been there (if I was there as a kid I don't remember). So that's what we picked. Grabbed our stuff, hopped in the SUV and off we went!

Chris drove on the way there which was nice as it let me relax and take in the scenery. It's actually a quite pretty part of the province and I got a kick out of watching all the wind turbines in action near Pincher Creek. We used the Waze app to navigate and it took us on some back roads to get there, but at least there was hardly any traffic.

We paid $16? $18? each at the gates and headed into the town to find our hotel. Waterton is surprisingly small and as such, there's really only about 3 hotels in the townsite itself. The famous Prince of Wales hotel is located just outside up on an embankment overlooking everything. Originally we were going to stay at the Bayshore Inn, but after reading a bunch of reviews Chris decided we'd stay at Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort instead. The first place has the benefit of being right on the lake, but as we quickly found out everything is located in a 5 or 6 block radius anyway. So the place we were at was only a couple streets over. We checked in, dropped our stuff off and hit the restaurant/pub there to grab a bite. The server was masked and the tables spaced out, but we were disappointed as the outdoor patio that looked so nice on the website wasn't really ready for use.

Our room was ok. Clean, but dated. It reminded me of the lodges you have at Banff Tunnel Mountain. Sort of a townhouse type setup with two units below and two above. Our room had a kitchenette as we thought we might use it if we stayed two days, but as we only ended up spending the night it sort of went to waste. Once we got in we went around like crazy people sanitizing everything we were likely to touch.

From there we wandered around the town a bit, eventually going to where we were going to stay originally and had a drink and an appetizer on their outdoor patio. That was pretty nice as it overlooked the lake. Again, all the staff and servers were masked up and the tables well spaced apart. Afterwards we wandered along the beach and it was quite pretty. We overheard a waitress at the table next to us saying that over the long weekend the place was a gong show with scenes similar to what everyone saw on the news at Sylvan Lake - she said you couldn't find a spot anywhere on the beach. So we're glad we went the week after the long weekend. We never felt crowded while we were there.

We hit a couple other pubs after that and then called it a night.

The next morning we got up and went to one of the cafe's Chris had read about and had coffee and breakfast while watching people along the main street. Then we packed everything up, checked out, and headed to the Prince of Wales hotel to check it out. Despite it being the prestige hotel there it didn't have overly great reviews. It's definitely neat, but smaller than I expected. Basically you pay extra for the name and the location and like everything else there was looking a bit rundown. But we're glad we got to see it. And then we were on the road again.

We did a quick stop in Nanton and visited their famous ice cream shop. I'm now a firm believer that all ice cream should be served in a chocolate dipped waffle cone...we also popped into their 'bar' for a beer but mostly to use the washroom as I didn't think I'd make it the rest of the way. The regulars there were what you'd expect at a small town watering hole (I felt out of place without a baseball hat) and we were quite relieved to hear the local barfly exclaim after getting off her phone that her Covid test came back negative. On that note we left and headed for home. And that was our big (and only) vacation for 2020. Crazy to think that originally at that time we were going to be on a cruiseship off of Iceland.

Here's some pictures of our epic 2020 vacation:

Wind Turbines near Pincher CreekWelcome to Waterton National Park!Wandering along the beachChecking out Cameron FallsFor some reason this sign made me laugh
Chris being Chris...The iconic Prince of Wales HotelInside the main lobby areaView of Waterton townsiteA quick ice cream stop in Nanton

For me it's back to work again tomorrow. I'll be heading up to Edmonton as there's some stuff I need to get done there and I really don't want to push it off any longer. At least I'll be able to see my Mom - although I made it clear that we'll still have to be socially distanced. At some point in the next few weeks I'll also have to make a trip to Grande Prairie, Fort St. John, and Fort McMurray. As such I'm going back and forth in my head whether to fly there or drive. I normally dislike driving such long distances, but the thought of getting on those small ass regional planes where you're literally touching the passenger next to you in those cramped seats obviously makes me nervous.

Although this last drive wasn't to bad but I also had Chris with me. Hmmm. Maybe I can convince her to come with me and see the wonderful sites of Northern Alberta and BC. You think???

Crazy Bird People - Jun 18, 2020
Robin

Guess I can't say week whatever of lockdown anymore as things have 'opened up' once again.

For Chris & I, all that has really meant is that we've gone out to the pub a few times. The first time we went to State & Main which was one of our regular spots before all this began. We were obviously a bit nervous, but also tired of living in fear. When we walked through the doors all the staff was wearing masks and basically every 2nd table was 'closed' to ensure social distancing. The menus were all disposable and our waitress was not allowed to put our food or drinks in front of us, instead putting them on the end of the table and we had to pull them towards us ourselves. In addition, she wasn't allowed to remove our plates and glasses as they had a dedicated person wearing gloves who did that. In the entire place we were only the second table that had people eating in. Everything else was takeout. But overall it was nice. As I told our waitress, for a moment it was almost as if everything was normal again.

We also went to the Tipsy Pig which was another of our usual hangouts. But they didn't fare as well in the reassurance department. The manager and the guy serving the food weren't wearing masks. After we mentioned it to our waitress they put them on but most of the time had them around their chins. Buddy couldn't seem to grasp the concept that it was possible to talk to someone with a mask on. But they had just opened again and everyone was getting used to things so we gave them a pass. However we went there a couple weeks later and things hadn't improved. The same guy was again serving food without a mask, and this time talking over the food he was serving and Chris & I got whigged out and told our waitress - who this time was the manager - that we were leaving. I think this is the first time both of us has ever got up and left a restaurant. So it looks like it's State & Main for us going forward. Which sucks, as we want all these places to succeed.

Other than those tentative steps at normalcy it's been the same routine for us. I'm still working from home, Chris does the running around for groceries when needed, we're enjoying our back yard when the weather's nice, and social distancing with the neighbors on the weekends.

The biggest enjoyment for us now is that we have a Robin's nest under our deck with four chicks in it. So we routinely check on them and watch as they get fed. The best view of the nest is from the patio door in the basement and we use a pair of binoculars to watch their activities. When we're in the back yard we'll keep track of the parents as they forage for food and take turns flying to the nest and feeding them. In addition to the Robin's, we also have another nest of Sparrows? in the exhaust vent of our fireplace. While we can't see that nest as well, we still make note of them flying in and out of it. So the joke now is that in addition to being crazy cat people, we're now crazy bird people as well.

The other thing that's new is all the artwork we bought a couple years ago on our 'free' cruise was finally paid off and started showing up the past few days. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight, we never would have spent all that money. But it is what it is and they're here now so we're going to enjoy the hell out of them - once we figure out where to put it all. Currently they're all lined up against a wall in the basement so we're going to crack some bubbly and pretend we're all sophisticated and shit while we admire our pieces.

Other than that life goes on. I had a filling fall out a couple weeks ago and I'm scheduled to see the Dentist next week. I'm nervous enough about that I'm on the fence about cancelling. But if I don't do it now, then when? Covid numbers are likely to spike come fall, so statistically better to get it over with sooner than later. And I know they'll do temperature checks and will be wearing PPE etc. But if they're asymptomatic and I'm sitting there with my mouth wide open inches from the Dentist's for upwards of an hour - if they're infected, then I'm infected. Period. So it's literally rolling the dice with my health.

Such is the 'new normal'.

Stuck In Neutral - May 21, 2020
Corona World

Week 10 of lockdown.

Phrases I'm officially tired of now - 'the new normal', 'we're in this together', and 'in these challenging times'. I also find the newly spun commercials to be extra irritating. I get they had to adapt their messaging, but whereas initially during the height of fear they brought reassurance - I think I almost cried the first time I saw the A&W guy talking to the camera from his home - now they just serve to remind us that we only exist to continue greasing the giant corporate money wheel. If you thought the .01% before were obscenely rich, this pandemic has been a gold mine for them. Consolidating globally even more wealth into even fewer hands. Soon only the rich will be able to go to a sporting event, eat at the few restaurants that will be left, attend a concert etc. etc. Everyone else will continue their meager existence struggling to make ends meet as taxes and service fees go up and up.

In case you couldn't tell I'm rather bitter and jaded at life right now.

I just have no motivation or drive or desire for anything anymore. Previously I had planned everything out as to what I needed to retire in roughly 9 years and then the virus came along and nuked those best laid plans out of existence. Had a work meeting recently and found out my income has dropped this year by now 75%. Not sure if I'll even have enough money to make it through the end of the year. Going on vacation is now a thing of the past as a result - even if you could coax me onto a plane which as of now there's no way in hell.

So I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels. I'm working just to pay the mortgage and that's it. No money left to save or invest. And with no vacations, nothing to look forward to anymore either. Just the same dreary routine everyday.

Originally I thought working from home would be great. With the extra time not spent commuting I'd finally be able to get around to all those projects I wanted to finish. Hasn't happened. Again, just no motivation. And while I'm still going on my daily walks - about the only thing keeping me sane right now - I've still gained 10 pounds which I attribute to eating more by virtue of being bored.

We were supposed to go to the zoo later today as part of a VIP only reopening. Several weeks ago I had made a donation to help keep them afloat and as a thank you donors were exclusively invited prior to it being reopened for the general public. You got assigned a time slot so there'd only be so many people visiting at a time. But we woke up this morning to a downpour. The rain alone wouldn't have stopped us, but the gusting wind made holding onto an umbrella difficult. So we sadly had to cancel. This would have been only my third trip out since everything began back in March.

The first trip was to the bottle depot over a month ago and only because the bin was to heavy for Chris to take by herself. And then this past weekend we went to one of the Home & Garden places. Despite the risks I was determined that we'd at least have flowers for our planter out front. It wasn't that bad an experience. Everyone lined up outside as they only let so many people in at a time. I'd say just over half of the people (including ourselves) were wearing masks. And they had sections marked out in the line so you wouldn't get to close to each other.

Flower Planter
Flowers Are Planted!

Our neighbor Lynette also grabbed some flowers as she has an identical planter next to ours. Unlike us however, she always buys them in a large pot and then just plunks the whole thing in and covers the edges with dirt. Whereas we end up buying the individual ones you need to push out of the plastic containers they're in and plant them one by one. Obviously hers is the easy way. But hopefully in a few weeks they'll bloom and we'll have something pretty which will cheer us up on those days like today when I'm down in the dumps.

Be kind to one another and stay safe.

Pandemic Birthday - May 3, 2020
Happy Birthday

Another year older. Definitely not any wiser.

Obviously with everything going on my birthday this year was going to be less than ideal. I wasn't super down in the dumps about it - at least it wasn't my 50th - but ya, I was a bit mopey about it. They were even advertising T-shirts on Facebook pointing out your birthday was during the Pandemic. And no, I didn't buy one. But it is what it is and I couldn't do anything about it so was resigned to it mostly just being another day.

Chris did say she was going to make me her yummy waffles for breakfast, so honestly I was just happy with that. Then as the afternoon came we hung out in our pergola in the back yard and enjoyed the mostly nice weather. I figured we'd probably watch a movie later and then go to bed. And that would have been my big day.

But after dinner she said, let's go out front and she had one of her funky hats on and made me wear a pimpin purple hat (hats are her thing). So I knew something was up. Outside she had balloons and when she moved her lawn chair to near the end of the driveway it kind of clicked and I said 'is this a drive by?!?!?'. But even then I figured it'd just be the neighbors or something.

So I was absolutely gobsmacked when what, at least a dozen, of my friends and family drove by banging pots, honking horns, blowing bubbles even, with their vehicles all decorated with balloons and signs saying Happy Birthday. Everyone else in the neighborhood either came out onto the street or were looking out their windows wondering what the heck was going on.

Cute Couple
What A Cute Couple!

I had the biggest grin ever and I'll be honest got a bit choked up. I can't remember the last time I was so touched by something like that. I'm so absolutely lucky to have Chris. She's always thinking of others and wanting to make them happy. It's just who she is. And of course a massive thank you to everyone who came out. In the end it was one of the best birthdays ever! The only thing that sucked is other than a few quick chats I couldn't really hang with anyone - but such is the times we live in.

I'd normally go on to give an update and/or thoughts on the Pandemic and how we're coping etc. But I'm in a real happy place right now and don't want to end on that note. I'll save it for another day. For the first time since all this started I've been able to truly relax - both physically and mentally the past few days.

Be smart, stay safe, but also start to live life again.

In The Thick Of It - Apr 10, 2020
Covid Notice

Ok, week 4? 5? To be honest I've kinda lost track. But Chris & I are still here, and so far, still healthy.

I think like most people we've gone through all the stages you're supposed to go through when dealing with trauma. First couple weeks were fear, then came a general numbness, and now you're just dealing with it the best you can and occasionally hopeful as you look to the day when this is behind us.

As yesterday was super nice we hung with the neighbors like in the old days, this time however with each of us in our own corner of the yard. And everyone using their own bathrooms or running back to their own houses to grab another cold one. Such is the new reality we find ourselves in. Chris really needs these occasional interactions. She's such a social person that this has been really hard on her. I'm a hermit at the best of times, so in terms of socializing, it hasn't been to bad for me. Honestly I'm more upset at the idea of what's going on than the actual experience itself. My biggest thing right now is not being able to see my Mom. I've always been good about calling her at least once a week, but since all this has happened I usually give her a shout every few days just to touch base and make sure she's coping ok. At least Chris and I have each other, but she's all alone. Apparently her neighbors haven't even bothered to check on her all this time, which pisses me off.

Work wise things have been an adjustment. The first few weeks were a mad panic as our company suddenly had to figure out how to get everyone working from home essentially overnight. Although I no longer had to do the daily commute to the office in the end I was connected more than ever - plus having to run in every Sunday to do work that needed to be hands on. Some of us are busier then ever, but I suspect for some this has been basically one big holiday - it is what it is. At least I still have a job.

Financially, like most everyone else my savings took a huge hit, but this past week the markets did pretty well, so some of that has been clawed back. I did also, despite our present cash crunch, take the opportunity to bump up some of my holdings for some of the more beaten down stocks that I thought were a bargain. Later this week I'm also going to arrange to reduce our mortgage payments. Just over a year ago we significantly bumped up our bi-weekly payments over what was required. But until things return to some semblance of normalcy I'd rather have the extra cash sitting in the bank in case it's needed. I've also filed our taxes and we both get (modest) refunds. So I'm counting the days until that gets deposited into our accounts. Overall we've taken probably a 50% pay cut this year. But we'll get through it.

Apparently the Russians and Saudis and the West are in talks to reduce oil production to raise prices and bring stability for the next couple years - by which point consumption will have hopefully returned to pre-pandemic levels and this nightmare will hopefully be a distant memory.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, in news that in today's light seems laughably unimportant now, we had purchased a new dining room table. Well it finally got dropped off just over a week ago. Before they would have come in and assembled everything, but now they simply drop it off on your driveway. However the delivery guy was nice and agreed to bring it inside our garage while Chris and I waited on the door landing. The plan was after having it decontaminate for a week to bring it in today and assemble it. But I'm feeling rather lazy now, and it's also heavy as hell. So we'll see. It's hard to get motivated for much these days.

One final note...I can't help but notice the smug satisfaction of people on my Blu-ray group after having to endure taunts for years along the lines of 'physical media is for old people' or 'physical media is dead' - well now that streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube have lowered their quality to reduce strain on the internet who's laughing now!!! I recently went through my library of roughly 750 movies and I have enough Blu-rays that I haven't watched yet to last me awhile. That said, I was really looking forward to the Dr. Who release starring Sylvester McCoy (old School Doctor Who) which I should have had delivered by now. But I got an email from Amazon a couple days ago basically saying because they're only prioritizing deliveries of 'essential' products my shipment has been delayed for an unknown period of time. Sigh.

As before and always. Stay safe!

End Of Times? - Mar 15, 2020
Coronavirus

Wow. Where to start?

Crazy what a month makes. Infection count has increased by a factor of 5 since my last post. The good news is number of new infections in China continues to drop. The bad news is each country in the rest of the world is on their way to possibly similar numbers. While I was petrified back in January I was still hopeful it'd end up contained 'over there'. Well 'over there' is now 'over here'. That reality really hit home when I was watching hockey Thursday night and they announced that the NBA was suspending their season. Watching the commentators it was like someone had died and you could have heard a pin drop. I knew then that things weren't going to be the same again for well, no one knows.

I alternate on an almost daily basis between hope and despair - 'We'll keep a lid on this and hopefully by summer things will be back to normal' to 'everyone in our family will be affected and we'll be losing friends and relatives'. Of course in the midst of a global crisis Russia and the Saudi's decide to get into a pissing contest tanking oil to lower than it's been since I've been a working adult. I mean, why not right? So now in addition to the worry about my health I also have to be concerned about even having a job. Thankfully my employer like many other companies has embraced people working from home, and I was given the ok to do the same. If nothing else that should reduce some of the constant stress I'm dealing with as I won't have to worry that the next guy coming into my office is contagious.

Obviously I'm also worried about my Mom. But bless her heart, her attitude is one which I find most elderly people have - that of being resigned to one's fate. Whatever happens will happen and she's not going to worry about it.

Also stressed out from the market collapse. Like most people I've lost a quarter of my retirement savings. What really pisses me off is that a few weeks ago while the markets were still hitting record highs I told my advisor that I thought I should switch to cash. He gave me the standard responses of no need to panic etc. And instead of going with my gut I deferred to his 'expertise'. Of course now the POS hasn't contacted me since.

As for us, we managed to beat the shopping insanity by about a week when I convinced Chris we should 'stock up'. And while we didn't go crazy and bring home 3 carts full of toilet paper, we did make sure we at least had several days worth of non-perishable stuff. The Government has been trying to drive home the fact that our supply chain is still intact and people don't need to panic. Hopefully after a few days people will get the message.

We're also changing our behaviour. While we did go to the neighbors on Friday for our usual weekly get together we all kept our distance from each other and turned down an invite for yesterday. Normally we'd be at Good Earth this morning for coffee, but decided to stay home. While I feel bad as we know and really like the owners there and worry that'll they'll survive things financially we also want to minimize our exposure. We also sadly cancelled our 'almost-100' birthday party for Kit Kat.

So there you have it. Hunker in, phone/text loved ones and check in on them, avoid unecessary contact with others, wash/sanitize your hands religiously, but also try and relax - you want to keep your immune system healthy!

Stay safe everyone!

Dry Feb - Feb 7, 2020
Canadian Cancer Society

A friend of ours - Dennis - posted on Facebook that he was doing Dry February.

What was that I asked myself??? The concept is obvious, you agree to abstain from alcohol for the entire month and in the process help raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. I talked it over with Chris and we both thought it was a great idea so we signed up as well and created our own team to which Janice also joined. My previous attempts on my own didn't go so well, but now I'm committed. Between not wanting to let my team or people that have already donated down as well as doing it in my Dad's memory I know that I'll be able to stick it out. So far it's been a week and been not to bad.

Although last night was a bit hard as my usual routine at the end of the work week is to go out to the pub for a few pints. Instead I stayed home and had some alcohol free beer, which honestly, tasted like crap. On top of that, Chris & I also decided to not eat out this month (other than our usual morning coffee on the weekend). So by the end of the month we'll both be super healthy right? Right?!?!?

Of course as I'm typing this, it's early in the morning and I have an optical migraine which is really, really annoying. What's an optical migraine? Remember when you were a kid and had that kaleidoscope tube thingy you'd hold up to your eye while rotating it? That's pretty much what I see right now. Not only does it make seeing difficult, but the shimmering makes you feel nauseous and disoriented as well. I had my first one a few years ago and would get one maybe once or twice a year. I've now had two in the past week. And I can't seem to sleep through the night anymore either. Always waking up at 4am almost like clockwork. Not a huge deal on the weekend or like today when I have the day off, but extremely annoying when you have to work.

But could be worse right? At least I don't have this new virus - looking at the handy countdown to oblivion website I see that it's currently at 32,000 infected and growing exponentially.

A number of people have the attitude of 'it's no worse than the flu'. Well the flu doesn't have a 2% mortality or a 25% critical care rate and from what we're seeing isn't as infectious. I don't buy the official line that this all started at a seafood market in Wuhan either. The first recorded case had never even been to that market. And while the media doesn't want to cause panic, I get annoyed when they say that you only get ill from 'close contact' with someone whose infected. With the first case in Germany they got infected after having a meeting with a Chinese national - presumably sitting across a table from them. With the first case in Japan it was a tour bus driver who was wearing a mask. So how close is close? 2m? 3m?

And beyond the arguments of how bad the actual virus is, the disruption to travel is insane. You couldn't pay me to go on a cruise right now. All it takes is one person coughing and suddenly the entire ship is quarantined for 2 weeks. Someone feels ill on your flight and suddenly you're rerouted to a different destination etc. etc. Depending on where this all goes, we might even cancel our Vegas trip. Hopefully like with SARS this peters out come summer and is a one-off. However some are suggesting this will become a seasonal thing - yet another virus added to the growing list of shit we have to deal with on a regular basis.

Oh well, you still have to live your life.

We got a special invite to a 'store closing' event at our favourite furniture store where we've bought a bunch of overpriced items in the past. So we went and checked it out and ended up buying a new dining room table and chairs. The one we have is pretty beat up and the new one besides being all nice and shiny is also larger. It's also glass, which we said we'd never buy, but we weren't able to agree on the other choices and both really liked it so that's the one we picked. Overall we got everything for roughly 50% off.

The world might be coming to an end, but at least we'll have a sweet new table!

Welcome To A New Year - Jan 12, 2020
New Years

Well we made it to 2020.

In past years we'd go over to the neighbors to ring in the new year, but this time we went to the local pub which had a band playing and hung out there for a few hours with the one set of neighbors as well as Alpha & Nancy and Kim & Jamie. We wanted to come back to our house before midnight and continue celebrating, but in the end just Kim & Jamie came back with us. So we cracked the champagne and watched the ball drop on TV. Not the most memorable evening, but still sufficiently fun.

I'm not really one to make resolutions, but it's natural to start planning out what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. I did for a moment think about having a 'dry January' - that lasted about 2 days. A combination of crappy weather and being stressed out about world events put a decisive end to my best intentions.

This week is supposed to be brutally cold, and I get that it's winter, but I'm hoping things improve soon as I'm dying to get out walking again. I'm still at the weight I was at when we got back from our cruise and my cardiologist is bugging me to see him and have more tests done. I don't want to do that until I'm back on track and closer to my target goal. One health related change I recently did after a bunch of research is to start taking CoQ10 supplements. A number of studies have found that people in heart failure taking it still had shitty outcomes, but it was 50% less shitty. All I know is there's really no downside to taking it. CoQ10 is some type of enzyme and for whatever reason people in heart failure are deficient in this enzyme and for people in Afib it's been shown to improve heart rhythm.

In addition to trying to work on my health we have decided to cancel our Europe trip this year. I'm starting to run out of years before I'm at the age where I want to retire and need to get serious about money matters. With our 50th coming next year, we decided we'll do our big cruise that year instead. We've also talked about doing a weekend trip to wine country in BC and we'll put out the invite to friends and family to join us. As for this year I now get an extra week of holidays so I don't feel the need to stockpile my flex days and plan on essentially taking every 2nd Friday off throughout the year. With the yard finally done Chris & I are looking forward to spending as much time out there relaxing as we can. Other than a work trip to Vegas I think we're staying put. We want 2020 to be an easy going, stress free year.

 This weekend was pretty easy going. Went to the pub one night, hung out and watched our shows the other. Last night we had the neighbors over to watch the Flames/Oilers game. Naturally the Oilers lost (I even wore my jersey!) and had to endure the merciless taunts from everyone else. Sigh.

That's about it for now. Back to the grind tomorrow.

Stay warm!