Fun Time In Banff - Dec 8, 2018
Downtown Banff

Wow. I can't believe the year is almost over.

A quick update on my health. As detailed previously, I've gone off my heart meds, instead hoping that lifestyle changes will be enough to keep me healthy. I have a follow up next month with my cardiologist and will have another holter monitor test and echocardiogram done. He seems convinced I'm bound for heart failure again, I'm convinced I'm not. Guess we'll see who's right in the end.

I've continued with the walking but I've also been throwing in some strength training with my Bowflex. So far I've lost 30 pounds and have 15 more to go to my initial target. I say initial because obviously if I lose more great, but for me this is the goal I'm striving towards mostly psychologically but also practically - for our upcoming Hawaii trip we want to do a helicopter tour and we have to be under a certain weight.

I wasn't sure how much longer I'd be able to keep walking outside now that Winter is here, but so far the weather has cooperated. That said, last weekend I was out walking and slipped on the ice and landed on my head. I've talked about it in detail on Facebook, but I may or may not have lost consciousness and when I came to I didn't know where I was, what day it was, what I had done the previous night etc. Thankfully I somehow managed to text Chris and she came and got me. We called the Health Link and they had us call an ambulance and the Paramedics checked me out. They advised me to go to the hospital as I might have had internal bleeding but I declined. My head still hurts to the touch but I'm fine now - other than sadly the 'ringing' in my ears has returned after having previously stopped.

Lake Louise
Lake Louise Fun

The big event last month was Chris' birthday where we went to Banff along with the Blanices and Maury (what we now Mathew and Dori) plus all the kidlets. It was a lot of fun. I always wonder why we don't go there more often as it's so close by and we always enjoy going there. Hailey and her friends also came out the one day and we went to Lake Louise which I hadn't been to since I was a kid. It was a little breezy on the lake but the scenery was gorgeous. We also went to their Christmas market where we got to peruse the various vendors, hang out by the fire, and see all the animals.

Coming up we're doing a family Christmas in Kananaskis which we're looking forward to and then it's New Years and 2018 will be at a close.

Overall it's been a pretty decent year, but I'm really looking forward to the next one. Not only do we plan on going on two kick ass cruises but we should finally be getting the yard finished. And depending on how the money situation works out - we may end up going Solar next year as well. I'm in the initial stages of talking to various installers. We thought we might look at doing this in a few years, but I'm worried with a likely change in the Provincial government, the current rebate program might get cancelled. So better to do it now.

Here's hoping everyone has a safe and fun holiday season!

Never Ending Health Woes - Oct 7, 2018
Broken Heart

Yes, it's going to be one of those health update posts...

Early last month I woke up wondering what the hell that low frequency rumble was reverberating throughout the house. It was driving me crazy so I stormed outside wandering around the neighborhood like a crazy person at 3am trying to identify the source. The only thing I could think that might be causing it was a neighbor's pool pump about six houses down that was rattling away. So I went home, typed out a letter asking if he could do something about it, and put the letter under the wipers of his truck.

The next day I wandered around the house and noticed the noise was worse in certain areas of the house than others. I had to resort to sleeping downstairs on the couch because I found the noise from the refrigerator helped drown out the other noise which was preventing me from getting sleep. After several days of hardly sleeping I was worn out, extremely bitchy (sorry Chris), and super frustrated. Of course not being able to sleep I would spend my nights surfing the web and reading all these horror stories about 'the hum' or how it could be this or that thing in one's house causing it. So roughly a week later when I got home I shut off all the power to the house, turned on all the taps etc. trying to at least isolate the cause because at this point I was convinced it was something in the house causing it - most annoying, Chris couldn't hear it at all. None of this worked as I was still hearing the noise.

I then hopped in the car with a pair of noise cancelling headphones and drove a few blocks away, would stop the car, put the headphones on and would still hear it. So I'd repeat this process driving further and further out. Eventually I drove 30km away out in the countryside where you could hear a pin drop. Turned off the car and instantly the noise enveloped me. It was at that point I realized I had Tinnitus. Obviously I had read that as being a possibility early on but had dismissed it as it's usually described as a 'ringing' in the ears - whereas I had this low buzzing/rumbling.

So I went to my GP, she looked at my ears and said she didn't see anything unusual, no large buildup of wax, no infection. I then went to a hearing centre where they put me in a soundproof booth and tested my hearing. It came back as better than normal. I hadn't been exposed to any loud noises recently (no concerts) and as I work in an office I'm not exposed to unusual noise levels either. The only thing I could think of was as part of my ongoing efforts of trying to deal with my Atrial Fibrillation (AF) my cardiologist had been upping my dosage of Bisoprolol to try and slow my heart rate down.

So then I go online and read all these horror stories as to how this class of drugs (Beta blockers) cause all kinds of side effects - including Tinnitus, although supposedly rare (lucky me).

In addition, despite all the walking I'd been doing (averaging more than 100km a month) I was actually gaining weight. At the worst I hit 299lbs. Of course when I mentioned my frustration with that to my GP she said the kneejerk response of 'well even though you're exercising you can't keep eating crap' - assuming that all I'm doing all day is downing pop and eating cheeseburgers. I felt like punching her in the head. Then I read that another gem of a side effect of this class of drugs is - you guessed it - weight gain! Essentially they can suppress your metabolism by up to 50%.

So here you have people taking this drug to slow their heart, which in turn makes them fatter, which in turn puts more stress on their heart - and of course the Doctor's solution is to simply increase the dosage making the problem even worse!!!

At this point, much like I did a few years ago with that hideous drug Amiodarone I said enough and stopped taking it. Which as I read you're not supposed to do as you can actually end up having a heart attack or thyroid storm as your body is suddenly swamped with all the adrenaline which up until then had been suppressed. But I was desperate to make the Tinnitus go away and terrified that the damage was already done and would be permanent. You read about people offing themselves to get relief, and honestly, I get it.

Fast forward to now, roughly a month later and the noise is still there, but much reduced and to the point now where I can at least get a decent sleep. In addition, with no other changes to my lifestyle besides stopping my medication, I dropped 20lbs within two weeks. I also for the first time in over a year (about when I first started the meds) was getting a good night sleep - not just in duration but in quality. I would actually wake up and not feel tired for a change. Apparently insomnia/sleep problems is yet another known side effect.

As for my routine of walking, it was no longer a major effort - previously it'd feel like I was moving my legs through wet cement and I'd get home and almost immediately need to lie down for a nap as it would feel like I was going to pass out. In addition, with the MapMyWalk app that I use it showed that I was shaving an entire minute/km off my time which is huge.

Kardia Mobile Sensor
Kardia Mobile Sensor/App

My hope was through continued exercise and just trying to be healthier I would be able to keep my heart rate down naturally and avoid the pharmaceutical nightmare of the past. But I had a 24hr holter monitor a couple weeks ago and was dismayed that my average heart rate was around 100. I was actually frustrated because I had downloaded an app for my iPhone called Cardiio which would record your pulse rate and was taking it several times a day and on the day of my Holter test it was recording high 70's to low 80's. In addition, with Chris' issues we had purchased a medical grade blood pressure monitor while I also used and recorded twice daily and it had similar (maybe slightly higher) readings.

So once again I was super frustrated and trying to make sense of the disparity in readings. So I then bought another device which had good reviews and apparently which some doctors are using to monitor their patients. After having it just a couple days it unfortunately seemed to confirm the results of my holter monitor - it was giving results in the low 100's.

As an example, I just did a comparison of all three within a minute of each other:

Lifesource BP monitor - 93

Cardiio Heart Rate app - 80

Kardia Mobile ECG app - 111

Now bear in mind that with my AF it's possible that the first two simply aren't able to accurately determine your heart rate because of the inconsistent pulse. But the Kardia device is designed to detect AF (which it does for me) so I'm guessing it is more accurate.

As a comparison, I had Chris who is not in AF do the exact same test, this is her results:

Lifesource BP monitor - 68

Cardiio Heart Rate app - 70

Kardia Mobile ECG app - 65

So the conclusion is that for a person in sinus rhythm all three give fairly accurate results, but for a person in AF they can be off by as much as 30%.

Obviously my Cardiologist was quite concerned with me stopping the medication, but to his credit he didn't outright dismiss my allegation that it caused the Tinnitus. He came up with another drug - Atenolol - which supposedly doesn't have that listed as a possible side effect, however I did notice that it's perhaps the worst for causing weight gain. I just can't freakin win. If after a couple days of monitoring my heart rate is still around 100 I'm going to go on the Atenolol although at a low dosage initially (my Cardiologist wanted my on 3 times the minimum dosage - um, no).

As he mentioned, if I can't keep my rate under control either naturally and I'm not willing or able to tolerate the drugs my only other option is a pacemaker. A pacemaker! I'm not even 50 yet!! Sometimes I think I should just kill myself.

You Had Me At Weiner Dogs - Sep 9, 2018
Weiner Dogs

A new month, a new rambling update…

Just got back from a lovely walk. As mentioned last time I've been walking up a storm this summer. I walked over 100km in July and also managed to walk over 100km in August. Now that it's September I'm hoping to go for the trifecta this month as well. Of course with all this exercise you'd think I'd be losing a bunch of weight right? Sadly no. Nothing. So that's extremely frustrating. But I'm going to continue on anyway because, well, why not?

A couple weeks ago we went out to one of the companies we're looking at to do our back yard pergola. Got to kick the tires so to speak and get some rough pricing. Then in the afternoon we met with someone from the other company and detailed our vision and threw some ideas back and forth. We'll likely end up going with them, although I'm waiting to find out from the other guy if they're going to be carrying this one product line I have my heart set on next year or not. No, these aren't your typical slapped together wood pergolas. They're made out of heavy duty aluminum with rain and wind sensors, one-way privacy screens and/or sliding glass panels with built in shutters. In addition to us having electrical, gas fire-pit, and outdoor speakers tied into our whole house automation system.

Yesterday Chris & I met Tracy, her friend Nyree and the kids downtown to attend the Circle Carnival festival. It was basically a big music event with food trucks and beer gardens galore. However the real reason Chris wanted to go was because they also had wiener dog races. Although we aren't dog people, wiener dogs tend to delight us. I'm not sure what theme the organizers were trying to go for - best guess was a Victorian/Steam Punk vibe. Although a lot of people just made it an opportunity to dress up weird. It was a fun time though. There were a few grey hairs in the crowd, but I did definitely felt a bit old and out of place. Still, beer is beer. We were actually reminiscing recently how much we missed X-Fest which was the local alternative radio station's yearly two-day concert. We attended a couple of them in the past, with the last one being three years ago (can't believe it was that long ago). For whatever reason they stopped having them, but we were thinking this could maybe take it's place. We'll see what happens next year.

Circle Festival
Circle: The Traveling Food, Beer & Music Carnival

Now that summer is over we can look forward to six months of misery. But at least we've got something going on every month. Next month we're going to go see Craig Ferguson and spend the night at the casino hotel there. In November we're going to have a staycation to celebrate Chris' birthday and hang out downtown, and in December we're going to Kananaskis to have Christmas with the family. And then it's the new year! So hopefully all the activities keep me busy and fend off the end of the year doldrums.

Hazy Daze - Aug 17, 2018
Calgary Smoke

Cough. Hack. Sneeze. No, not a cold, just the lovely haze from the forest fires next province over. Apparently this is now going to be the new normal. So we'll now basically have just one month of Summer as the 2nd month will be spent inside trying to avoid hospitalization from smoke inhalation. I guess it's still better than snow and winter.

Right? Right?!?!?!

This week has been a bit of a weird one. I was on a training course, but instead of being in a classroom as I've normally done in the past, this time it was an online course which meant I got to do it from home. It was still instructor led and being taught in a classroom with a student in Toronto. In addition to myself there was also another student taking it online in Norway. Truly a global setup - so that was kind of neat. Although I didn't have to do the daily commute to work I still had to getup at my usual time due to the time difference. The course itself was on administering SUSE Linux. So I'll now be able to be an L33t Hax0r (elite hacker). Hey! Look at me, I should be on Mr. Robot.

The week before that I had a few days off which I just spent hanging around the house. Although we held off on any big projects this year, I did manage to get a bunch of smaller maintenance type things done. I fixed a big, long crack on the concrete steps at the front door. Took me several attempts with the crack filler and mixing in sand before I was satisfied with the results. We contacted the Gutter Doctor to come and fix an issue with the eavestrough over the back deck. Whenever snow would melt or a hard rain would happen the water wasn't going into the gutter instead of was simply following along the wall and then dripping down onto the deck. The day before buddy showed up I also noticed that some of the wall flashing in the front of the house was lifting up so I had him fix that as well. We also had one of the landscaping lights that had burnt out in the back yard fixed. Finally I fixed the central vacuum exhaust flap that had broken off on the side of the house. So I was pleased to get all that accomplished.

Speaking of accomplishing mentioned previously I was in a contest last month to see who could cumulatively do the most walking. Mid-way through I realized that 100km was possible so I made that my goal. I'm extremely happy to say that I was successful! I ended up walking 103.3km. My competitor Jay sadly didn't do as well - oh well, in your face Jay!

Last weekend Chris went to the neighbor's cabin on the lake which is somewhere near Red Deer. For the past few years the whole community there has had Halloween in Summer. Everyone get's dressed up, takes the kids trick or treating, and the adults will basically get hammered. I declined to go as frankly I'm afraid of what a shit show it would likely turn into. Plus I'm sure my liver was relieved. But Chris had fun even though it turned out to be a bit more subdued this year as the host Colleen ended up with the stomach flu and was sick the whole time. They keep working on me to go, we'll see, maybe next year.

Cat IV Treatment
Poor Sick Kitty

And in some not great news, we took our beloved JC in to the Vet for a checkup and her blood results weren't good. She's apparently in stage 3 of kidney failure. Naturally I Googled the hell out of that and the consensus is that while it's terminal it's treatable - meaning she could still be with us for a few more years. In the interim we're slowly moving her onto a new special diet and we also have to give her IV fluids every few days. She had her first treatment today and it wasn't as bad as we feared. Unlike with people you're not injecting into a vein, you just need to put the needle under her skin which you do by pinching a spot on their back. She fussed a little bit but we're hoping she'll get used to it over time. She's old and we knew that we'd be facing something like this eventually. But coming only a few months after losing Mindy it's a kick to the gut.

Lazy Daze - Jul 20, 2018
Summer Sun

Ho hum. Another lazy summer day. Not much new and exciting has been going on, but I feel obligated to give some sort of update on here.

Summer so far has been good. Mostly spent just puttering around in the yard, weeding, watering, mowing, lounging. One of our outdoor lights has burnt out, and after looking it up was annoyed to find that you can't simply replace the bulb you need to replace the entire light at $250 a pop. So we called the company that did our yard hoping that there's at least a year warranty on them. This is the same company I was in contact with earlier this year to get the yard finished and who I was waiting on a final quote from and then they just seemingly dropped off the face of the planet. So we're somewhat curious if they're actually going to follow through with replacing the light.

I've also been doing a bunch of walking - although today the laziness factor is rather high - awhile ago my bestie Jay challenged me to a walk off which originally was going to be in May, but as we were gone for half that month I suggested July instead. We're both using the MapMyWalk app which tracks your route, calories, time, distance and sends you weekly and monthly summaries. At the of the month we'll compare and see who 'won'. I'm a bit frustrated though, unlike last year which I lost quite a bit of weight from all my walking I haven't lost anything this year. That coupled with the fact I'm having issues - namely I'll get home from a moderate walk and feel like crap, get dizzy, and almost pass out. I think my meds need to adjusted. Specifically the one I'm taking that lowers my blood pressure. My blood pressure has always been good so I originally questioned it when I was prescribed it but was assured that it was needed. Well now I'm calling bullshit because I can't keep on like this. Being dizzy at work, struggling to stay awake etc.

I got a message from my heart doctor with the results of my last test. If the test was good then he'd only see me once a year and I'd just continue taking my meds and life would be peachy. But in the message he stated he's going away on holidays so he's sending a letter to my regular doctor to discuss the 'plan' going forward. Whatever the hell that means. In my mind it means I'm obviously dying and only have a few days to live. Chris thinks it's likely all sunshine and rainbows. Either way I'll find out in a couple weeks when I have my appointment.

Holiday wise we're done for the year. Chris was wanting to go with our friends to Mexico in October, which I know would be fun, but my time has already been allocated for the year. I had to remind her that technically we've already been on three trips this year. Even though it oddly seems like forever ago. Money also being a factor. I'll admit I'm having more than a bit of buyers remorse from buying all that artwork on our last trip. That said, once they're here and gracing our walls I know it'll make us very happy.

That's it for now, off to do some more puttering!

Rainy Day Fun - Jun 23, 2018
Rainy Day

Hanging in the garage watching World Cup Football (Soccer) while it's pouring rain outside.

I had all kinds of plans to be productive today, but with the weather that all went out the window. So I might as well update the news instead. World Cup you say? Yes, somehow I started paying attention several years ago while I was in Vancouver on a course and it was being broadcast everywhere and I slowly but surely got into it. Then last go around I was taken by the plucky performance of little known Iceland and I've been cheering for them ever since. Sadly though it looks like their chance of advancing this year is hanging by a thread.

Besides confusing my friends with my sports viewing habits this month has been nothing but a blur of work and various doctor appointments for both myself and Chris. I usually don't talk about work, but recently I've been super stressed out. We've been having issues with one of our email servers and no one can seem to figure out what the problem is. Meanwhile users are getting annoyed and my manager is less than thrilled. It's gotten so bad that at times I've really been questioning how much longer I want to keep doing this. Especially when there's been a number of co-workers who have retired or will be retiring soon. While I'm happy for them, I won't deny there's a large degree of jealousy as well. Honestly if we hadn't moved and bought this ridiculously expensive house things would very likely be different right now. But then there's times where I really appreciate what we have - whether it being able to enjoy my garage as essentially an outdoor living space, watching movies in the home theatre, or hanging out in the back yard.

Speaking of that, for Father's Day, or what we like to call 'Auntie & Uncle's Day', Hailey swung by for a visit and we hung out in the back and played ladder ball and caught up. After she left I just stayed outside and did some weeding and general puttering. When that was done I just plunked down on the lawn chair and watched the world pass by until the sun began to set. It was one of those rare perfect days.

As for our usual health woes Chris had a holter monitor test whereby they hook you up to a machine that records your heart for 24 hours. This was in response to when she started feeling crappy while we were on vacation. She got the results a few days ago and she is in rhythm which is a huge relief to me, although she did have one episode of tachycardia (where your heart races) but our doctor said sometimes that happens even to healthy people. What was more concerning was that her heartbeat 'wave' was abnormal. So they're going to send her for more tests. As our doctor said while we were discussing the results 'what are we going to do with you two'…

A couple nights ago they had the 2nd annual food truck festival in our neighbourhood so we went and checked that out. We were smart this time and took chairs so we could sit while the other person went and waited in line to grab something. They had even more food trucks this time which was cool. I was enjoying things until my donair decided to literally explode all over me. It was like I had showered in donair sauce. But at least Chris found it amusing. Next year I think we'll have things perfected. In addition to chairs, we'll likely take some wine, and maybe a game to play and position ourselves a bit better as we were close to one of the roads where all the ice cream trucks decided to park. I love the 'ice cream!' jingle as much as the next person, but it got a bit old after hearing for the thousandth time. Normally after such an event we'd be tempted to cross the street and go to Pour, our local pub, for a few drinks - but we found out they were unceremoniously shut down yesterday for not paying their lease.

And going online it looks like the owner laid off all the staff without a final paycheque. So that sucks. While it wasn't our favourite place it was ok, and nice and close.  This coming on the news of Tudor Rose, another of our pubs we'd frequent although admittedly less since we moved, also shutting down. I hope we're not going down the road that England is whereby pubs are disappearing because no one can afford to go out anymore.

Maybe I should quit my stressful job and take over the local watering hole. I mean how hard can it be right???

Alaska Cruise - May 21, 2018
Celebrity Solstice

Well we're back from our various trips and vacations.

First up was a trip to Vegas for work to attend Dell World. The most exotic place I'd been to previously on work's dime was to Vancouver so for me this was quite something. The first day or so I was basically a deer in the headlights trying to figure out where everything was and how it all worked. Over 20,000 geeks descending upon the Venetian for a week of seminars, labs, and a music concert by none other than Sting. It was a fun week even if the weather was uncharacteristically wet for a couple days. Oh, and I did manage to actually learn some things related to my job which is always nice.

Sadly after getting back Chris started to get sick. I don't know what it is, but half the time we go to Vegas one of us gets ill. And no it wasn't from any hard partying. Other than the night of the concert we were both somewhat restrained in our festivities. She went to the doctor when she got back and they said it was her asthma acting up and put her on some antibiotics. Then just before we left for our Alaska cruise she went for a follow up and they said she was getting better. Half way through the cruise she started getting sick again. So went to the medical clinic on the ship and they said she had bronchitis and gave her more antibiotics plus a few rounds of breathing through a inhaler mask. Fast forward to today and we spent a big chunk of the day at the hospital because she was having heart issues. After poking and prodding her and taking a chest x-ray they basically said she was fine. The heart issues were temporary and may have been caused by the asthma medication she was taking. Her chest X-ray came back clean. So who the hell knows. Of course I'm sick now as well, but unlike her I think it's just a cold. Sigh.

Despite the health issues we had a great time on our 'free' cruise - we saw some amazing scenery and it was enjoyable getting away from the world and just not giving a crap about what was going on in the news. Trump? Don't care. Terrorist attack? Don't care. Royal wedding? Don't care. Waiter I'll have another cervasca please. As I usually do on our cruises I wrote up a little journal of our experiences, and while I never got around to finishing it (missing our last couple days) here it is for your reading pleasure:

Currently Sunday? morning, docked in Ketchikan.

Wasn’t sure if I’d blog about this trip or not because it doesn’t really feel like a normal vacation - as we were comped the trip this time. Because we’ve bought so much art on our cruises in the past that Park West, the company that runs all the art auctions offered us this free trip to Alaska. We’ve been offered them in the past but turned them down as they were Caribbean cruises - which we love - however getting there was a pain as we could never get flights on points and I refused to pay for the flights for a ‘free’ trip. But as this one was out of Vancouver we went for it.

We’re on the Celebrity Solstice and if we haven’t been on her before we’ve been on her sister ships the Equinox and Reflection - so ship wise nothing new. But we like this class and Celebrity is our favourite cruise line.

Unfortunately Chris got sick when we got back from Vegas and although she seemed to be getting better before we left yesterday I had to take her to the medical facility to get an asthma treatment where she has to breathe through a mask for a half hour. She’s there again right now for another treatment. Hopefully things improve.

Despite that’s it’s been a good trip so far. This is probably the first time we’ve been on a cruise where we haven’t booked any excursions and we’re just gonna take it easy and relax. Partly because we’ve been here before and honestly I don’t think anything will top our experiences from last time and partly because I just really want to take it easy this cruise. The past few months have been pretty trying and we both really need this time to rejuvenate things...

Of course the reason the offer these trips is they’re counting on you buying even more art. They certainly are treating us like VIP’s and wining and dining us. We get to go to private art auctions and get to bid on works not shown to the general public. They even flew in the son of one of the featured artists who died a few years ago to talk about his work. I even got a fist bump from him as he liked my Commodore 64 shirt - yes, we’re totally classing the place up. We haven’t bid on anything yet, but yesterday over $200,000 was spent at the first auction. Not quiet in the same league as the regular ship auctions (update: in the end over $600,000 was sold).

Today after Chris gets back we’re just going to wander ashore for lunch. I’ll probably have some crab and maybe a few pints and then tonight we have another event where they’ll ply us (me) with free booze in the hope I lose reason and whip up that bid card.

Last sea day. Sadly the cruise is almost over. This ‘free’ cruise has naturally been quite expensive as of course we ended up buying more art. The first featured artist was this charming Korean man named Sam Park. While his style which is impressionistic isn’t really our thing we did end up getting a work of his which was a scene from Venice. Not only because we’ve been there but because we figured it’d be a good companion piece to another painting we have which is of a similar style. Today we got suckered into buying not one, not two, but three pieces from the artist Jim Warren. He’s more along the lines of what we typically like but unlike most artists he’s perfectly comfortable working in any number of styles. Now we just need to figure out where we’re going to put it all.

As for the cruise itself, we went ashore for a little bit in Ketchikan. I wandered around the town in the morning, remembering it from the last time we were there. It was a bittersweet experience as this was the last vacation we did with my parents while my Dad was still alive. We had such a great time that day with them. For Juneau it was crappy and raining so we just stayed on the ship. At our last Alaska port of Skagway we wandered around the town a bit and bought some touristy stuff and hung out at a couple of different Saloons. At their most famous one the waitresses were dressed up from the late 1800’s in corsets and bustiers with their ample cleavage spilling out. I’m sure I had a big grin on my face the whole time.

Wildlife wise we saw a bunch of bald eagles at the various ports and some whales breaching some distance from the ship . But the best was yesterday when a pod of porpoises came alongside the ship and were swimming directly below our balcony.

We’ve been pretty busy with all the art stuff, but last night the casino was nice to us for a change and Chris and I were on a slot machine across from each other. We both got multiple free spins and it was fun watching each other’s winnings grow in what was basically a race to see who’d win the most. In the end we won roughly $350. Not exactly huge, but considering how badly we done at the last few casinos both on ships and in Vegas we were pretty happy.

Tomorrow we’re in Victoria and I’m hoping to go to the restaurant we were at last time and gorge myself on crab and lobster and do some pub hopping. The ship leaves at midnight, so there’s the possibility we’ll have some runners to keep an eye for.

While we were in Victoria as I knew I was starting to get sick we toyed with the idea of simply getting off there and flying home that night and skipping Seattle. We went so far as to ask the ship people about us taking off and they grumbled because we didn't arrange it beforehand but said because it was a health issue that it'd probably be ok, but by the time they got back to us to give us the ok it was to late to have made the last flight out. So we sucked it up and got off in Seattle as planned. In the end I'm glad we did as I started to feel a bit better and we had a nice day there.

We finally were tourists and did touristy things like going to the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Art. The needle was frankly a waste of money as once we got up there we realized it's currently under renovations and half the observatory deck was closed as was the restaurant and bar. But as we both joked we can at least now check it off our list. The museum was a better experience and they had some pretty neat displays in there. We also got to ride the tram and it's possible we were even on the local KIRO nightly news as they were filming right next to us and interviewing the conductor as it was some special anniversary since they built the thing. Later that night we had a yummy dinner at PF Chang's to celebrate our 11th Anniversary. And thus ended our latest get away.

As is happening more and more, we didn't take a tonne of pictures, but here are some highlights:

Waiting to depart VancouverSail away on the heli-pad!I missed this little guy last timeDid someone say glacier??My favourite picture of the tripThe quaint little town of Skagway
Serious cruisers take serious picturesFancy lobster dinner at fancy French restaurantGeorge takes a selfieView of downtown from the Space NeedleHa! Loved this movie!I think we have a problem...
Happy Anniversary! - Apr 1, 2018
15th Anniversary

Unlike the lame Facebook posts of today, there's no joke to be found here.

As per the graphic, this little personal website of mine has been up and running for 15 years (as of a few weeks ago) now. Heck, I've been blogging before blogging was even a word! As has been mentioned previously I had hoped to have the site redesigned for the event, but the combination of lethargy, general busyness, and a hard drive crash have all conspired to prevent this from happening.

I had a reminder last week that I should really get on it when I went to post an update and it failed to connect. After much head scratching and a phone call to my provider I was kindly informed that they no longer support Frontpage extensions (gee thanks for the heads up). So I had to revert back to updating via FTP which is a pain. So yes, I really need to get with a newer platform.

Last month I made the decision to have a 'dry March' and not consume any alcoholic beverages. Mostly to prove that I could do it but also as I had a scheduled MRI and wanted to try and be as healthy as possible for it in the hope that when I meet with my cardiologist it'll be all unicorns and rainbows for me. I mostly succeeded although I did have a few on St. Paddy's Day. Being a long weekend I celebrated this weekend much to Chris' annoyance who is tired of waking up to me rocking out in the garage at 4am. But I'm going to give it another go this month, because really April is such a waste of a month to begin with. We'll see how it goes.

Chris' Dad & Lori were here this weekend for a visit which was nice. Kim, Hailey, and Michael were also here for our traditional Easter Rib Dinner. Ok, so it's not actually a tradition, but maybe it should be. Chris has been in love with her Instant Pot ever since she got it, while I still prefer the slow cooker. So we decided to have a Rib-off to see which was better. I had to swallow my pride as I think hers came out on top - but only because I messed up the heat setting on mine. Normally I would have done eight hours on low. But we only had six hours to cook and instead of putting it on high, I kept it on low - as a result my ribs while tasty were a bit chewy. So really it wasn't a fair fight.

With regards to getting our back yard finished - phase 2 of our project - there's been some interesting developments. Basically the people who did all the landscaping have apparently dropped off the face of the Earth. So we brought in a couple different companies and met with them earlier in the week. We explained our 'vision' to them and they're going to come back to us with some design ideas and a quote. We decided we're not going to have a deck built after all and will instead just extend our patio stone into the designated space where the pergola will be built. This should save us a bunch of money as a result. Over the next week or so we'll pick a company to work with and get the ball rolling and hopefully be able to enjoy our completed back yard in time for summer.

N'Orleans Cruise! - Mar 3, 2018
Celebrity Reflection

Back from our trip, as always I've kept a journal of our adventures. Enjoy!

Currently sailing up the mighty Mississippi River. For some reason I find it bizarre that a Cruise ship, especially one as large as the Reflection can do that. It’s considered a Sea day today, but we dock in New Orleans around 6:30pm. First day the weather was good, hot but not crazy, some clouds, humid. But today is overcast and rainy and a little chilly.

Getting to Fort Lauderdale was a bit of an adventure, we were an hour late taking off as we had to de-ice. Then on our approach into Toronto the pilot aborted the landing at the last second and gunned the engines, banking hard as we climbed to come around for a second attempt - apparently another plane hadn’t cleared the runway. We managed to make our flight with no time to spare. Then I ended up sitting next to another passenger that was a barrel of snot and could hardly breathe. I was in hell for the 3.5 hour flight as all I could focus on was that sure as shit I was gonna get sick.

Not that I helped matters as after we got on the ship we all proceeded to tie one on. Things were going good, it was fun and relaxing, enjoying the start of our vacation with a nice manageable buzz going - until we hit the Martini Bar. Then as usually happens it was downhill from there. Both Kim & I ended up getting sick which I haven’t done in years. Needless to say our next day was pretty slow.

The ship is nice, it’s a bit bigger (extra deck?) than the Equinox/Solstice, but basically the same. For the first time ever we have a regular balcony cabin and not a suite. Not having a butler is weird. But we still got a Concierge class so that combined with our Elite status still gives us a bunch of perks. The demographics is all old people - we’d be considered young on this trip - which we found odd considering we’re going to Mardi Gras.

Currently in the middle of the ocean enroute to Grand Cayman. The big easy was a lot of fun, but surprisingly gross, grimy, and industrial. After we were cleared to disembark we beelined it to Frenchmen Street which we had heard from several people was the place to be - basically where the locals went to have fun. We tried to get in to The Spotted Cat which our neighbors had recommended but there were no tables to sit at. The next place we tried you could only get a table if you were eating - my patience was quickly running out when we finally found a club that had space at the bar so we bellied up there. They had a blues band playing and while not amazing, they were enjoyable to listen to. The bathroom situation was interesting though as the toilets had overflowed and they closed them on the main floor forcing us to go upstairs. There I was less than thrilled to find a bathroom attendant inside. I’m a shy enough pee-er to begin with, never mind having to go a foot away from someone watching you and then be expected to tip him after.

We stayed for several songs and then wandered to another club. We quickly learned that the time to go into a club is between band sets as once someone started playing the place would quickly fill up. This place was pretty scuzzy and reminded me of the shitty university clubs I used to go to back in the day, but the band was really good and soon the place was jumping. They were a cover band but played a wide variety of songs and had lots of energy. It was a really fun night.

On the second day we wandered ashore in the early afternoon and ended walking the length of Bourbon Street. Even at 2pm the place was crazy full of people. You really had to watch where you stepped as it was easy to slip on all the beads on the ground. From there we grabbed the public transit trolley to go see their famous cemetery but we arrived just as it was closing. Somewhat deflated we found ourselves back at the start of Bourbon Street. Chris and I decided to stay and party while Kim went back to the ship. We spent several hours there bar hopping and taking in the um, lovely scenery and Chris acquired many beads. With the right group of friends it would be a blast to party there. We didn’t stay too late though as we had to be up early for the big parade.

The next morning came and we were all so tired that even we had bought tickets we said screw the parade and just rested instead. But by lunchtime we got our oomph back and when it looked like the parade stands weren’t that far away we wandered up there. As the parade was basically a non-stop, all day event we still managed to experience a decent amount of it. Although after awhile it started to all kinda be the same. All the floats were the same with just a different character on front and they all threw out the same assortment of beads and other trinkets. I’m glad we got to see it, but personally I think the Stampede parade is better.

We then hit Harrah’s casino on the way back and wasted some money. Or at least I did, everyone else seemed to be wining left and right. When we got back onboard we got our drink on and had a yummy dinner at the specialty restaurant up on the lawn area of the ship and said goodbye to the Big Easy.

Second last day in the Caribbean. Just got up to the sun rising and still enroute to Cozumel and breakfast has been ordered. We had so much fun yesterday with the stingrays. On our first cruise oh so long ago we went there and had a great time snorkeling and watching them below us. This time however we stopped on the sandbar where the water was only a few deep and you could stand. I had a blast swimming with them and touching them as they went by. I’d hold out my hand and they’d think I had food and swim up to me and lunge at my hand bumping it with their ‘nose’. We spent a good chunk of time there before moving on to one of the coral reefs. The water there was really rough and my snorkel kept closing on every 2nd breath, so I quickly went to get back in the boat and while waiting for some douche who was standing on the stairs to get a new mask got pushed up against the boat by a wave and scraped the crap out of my leg. So I was a bit of a grumpy bump, but on our last stop it was a bit calmer and I made out ok. Saw some more stingrays and fish and corals.

On the trip back to shore one of the guys cut open a conch shell he had snagged from the ocean shore and we saw how they get the ‘meat’ out and they sliced it up and gave everyone samples. They said Chris could have the beautiful shell, but I didn’t think the border dudes would have allowed us to bring it back. Unfortunately it was a short day as we had to be back on board by 3pm. So we only had time to have a quick rum punch at one of the dockside tourist trap bars before catching the last tender back to the boat.

Homeward bound sadly. Relaxing on our deck listening to the crashing waves while Chris is packing our stuff and getting organized for tomorrow’s departure off the ship. Yesterday’s stop in Mexico was fun. We actually managed to venture beyond the tourist trap village this time. Cozumel was the last stop on our very first cruise and it was fitting that the Carnival Valor which was our first ship was docked alongside us. We had booked an afternoon visit to the Mexico Discovery Center where we learned a bunch about the country and it’s history. We also got to grind up cocoa beans and make our own chocolate. And we finished with a Tequila tasting tour. I’m glad we didn’t just do the usual stay hangout at a bar all afternoon. That said, it was our final stop so we did hit up Senior Frogs before getting back on board. Chris & I were in a party mood but Kim wasn’t feeling it so we soldiered on without her.

Chris is looking forward to getting back but as was the case on our last big vacation I don’t want to go home. I’d be perfectly content delaying reality for a little while longer.

We didn't take a lot of pictures this trip as I didn't take my camera. There weren't any from Grand Cayman and some from Bourbon Street we um, obviously couldn't show. But here's some of what we did take:

Cruising up the mighty MississippiYes, we bought more artPartying on Frenchman StreetRandom stranger selfieGarbage from the first night's parade
Walking along Bourbon StreetVisiting the famous cemeteriesBourbon Street selfie!They weren't fans of the placeLet's follow her!
Mardi Gras Parade float...and another oneNext to our very first cruiseship, Carnival ValorYay! Tequila tasting!Can you tell where we were?
Shooters and a nipple pinchThe ship atrium was pretty coolSadly George didn't make it ashoreKim hits the arcadeThe sun sets on our vacation...

It was a fun vacation, we can't wait for our next cruise in a few months to Alaska!

Heartbreak - Jan 29, 2018
Crying Eye

Words can’t express how sad I feel right now….but I feel I need to at least try…

After 16 wonderful years we finally had to say goodbye to our cat Mindy. She hadn’t been doing well for a few months now and only a couple days ago Chris had asked my opinion of when it was 'time'. I replied that as soon as she couldn’t get around we would take her in to be put down. This morning she texted me to call her and when I talked to her she said the time was now. So I came home, we called the vet and went in. Before we left we both hugged each other and had a good cry. Mindy was next to us on a blanket on the couch curled up and sleeping. On the ride to the vet we dispensed with the usual cat carrier and Chris just held her in her arms and she was alert and taking in the wonder of travelling in a car and getting to see the scenery passing by. All I could think of was that she was taking in this new experience as we were taking her to her death. When we got there I didn’t even have the balls to go in and be with her in the end. I just couldn’t do it and I feel forever ashamed that Chris had to do it alone.

When we got home and walked through the door it really hit me that she was gone. It seemed so surreal and wrong. Something that was a fundamental part of lives for as long as we’d known each other was missing. The house suddenly didn’t feel like a home and instead just felt empty. We still don’t know what was wrong with her. We had test after test done on her and everything kept coming back ok. But she kept losing weight despite everything we did. She was moving less and less and in the end falling down. She couldn’t go on like that.

Some might be tempted while recognizing it’s always sad losing a pet to say just that - that’s it’s just a pet. And after losing my Dad I’ll admit that my outlook on a number of things forever changed - but the hurt I felt today I haven’t felt since I lost him. Not having children, perhaps we feel this loss more than some would.

Despite the sadness, a couple things bring a smile through the tears. On the last couple nights she was with us she slept with Chris through the night which is something she’d never done before. And in the past few months she was a permanent fixture on Chris, cuddling with her throughout her final days. As for me, two nights ago we were watching TV and I had a craving for Creme Soda which I haven’t had in years and we just happened to have a bottle. When I sat down with it Mindy perked up sniffing the air and came over to me and was all over me wanting to know what I was drinking. It was hilarious.

Our Sun Kitty

I went through years worth of pictures and there were so many of her to choose from, I really liked one where she was standing on her tail which is what she always did due to her short front stubby legs. But I think this one is what I’ll immortalize her with - because if there was a sliver of sunlight anywhere in the house, she would find it and soak it in.

Goodbye Mimmer.

Happy New Year! - Jan 20, 2018

Welcome to 2018!

As mentioned in my last post New Years was fairly subdued. We went over to Chuck & Tracy's and spent most of the evening with them. Funny story, anyone who knows me knows I'm a cat person and am pretty ambivalent about dogs. And on the dog scale small dogs are much further down on my appreciation level. But I met their new dog which is a Chihuahua and fell in love with him. Apparently he's not crazy about men but by the end of the night we were best friends with him hanging comfortably on my lap. We left in time to get home before midnight which was probably a good thing as I hear someone was up to 8 in the morning spilling wine everywhere...

When we got home we dutifully headed to the neighbors and did the countdown and the smoochy smooch. Another year was done.

So by now I'm supposed to have bought a new gym membership and pledged to be healthier right?? Well I haven't made any resolutions, but I was going to try and have a 'dry' January and not drink at all. You know what they say about best intentions...we went out one night while the World Junior Hockey championship was on and I decided to have 'just one beer'...needless to say it was a late night and I felt like crap the next day. Ok, so maybe I'll try a dry February. Nope, going on a cruise. Perhaps March? Ya, let's go for March.

I had planned on updating this website and bring it into the modern era - well somewhat modern anyway. Early last year I had begun tinkering with Microsoft Expressions which was their web design software that went end of life but which they made free after. I was somewhat well underway with getting familiar with it and migrating this site when my hard drive crashed and I lost everything. I've only recently looked at it again and it's disheartening having to start from scratch again. Pretty sure I won't meet the 10 year March anniversary of getting it done, but I do hope to get it complete sometime this year.

I also recently jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. I was literally sick to my stomach when I realized that had I got in when I first heard about it I would have been able to retire. But back then I didn't really understand it so I ignored it. So in the spirit of FOMO (fear of missing out) I signed up on an Exchange and started trading. Of course as with most things, by the time the mainstream media notices and Joe Sixpack hears about it the window of opportunity is largely gone. But we'll see. Although Bitcoin is what everyone is talking about I'm more interested in Ethereum which I think will end up dominating. It's been fun watching the wild price fluctuations. Unlike some people, I haven't mortgaged my house to fund my holdings so I'm not about to jump off a bridge when it's tanking. At last count I've made a whopping 2% on my investment.

Not much else is new although in a nod to our getting old Chris & I have recently discovered the joy (frustration) of jigsaw puzzles. Our kitchen table is now a work area to some monstrously hard puzzle from famed maker Cobble Hill. We're almost done but now all the remaining pieces don't have any identifiable markings so it's simply trial and error to get them to fit. So ya, in addition to reading books before bed we're now full fledged puzzlers. Next up we'll be playing bridge with the 'girls' on the weekend. Sigh.