Sunday, November 22, 2009

Words of Wisdom

This was, interestingly enough, found on a humour site. The veracity of the words goes far beyond humour though.

Words of Wisdom

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that was going on inside himself.

He said, "My boy, the fight is between two wolves."

That certainly got the boy's attention.

"One is evil," the old man continued. "Anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."

"What of the other, grandfather?" the boy asked.

"The other is good," he said. "Joy, Peace, Love, Hope, Serenity, Humility, Kindness, Benevolence, Empathy, Generosity, Truth, Compassion and Faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Do we all have such wolves fighting inside us, grandfather?"

"Yes," the wise old man said.

"Then, which wolf wins the fight?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


That's how I'm feeling this week.

It's been a week away from home - except for the quick jaunt home last night to pick up a piece of equipment that I ... err... forgot at home. Whoops! Good to see Mrs. Spit and the fur-children though.

The week started with us at Marriage Encounter - not attending, but supporting. Thanks to Mrs. Oblivious, we got saddled with a couple with young children. And wasn't that fun? Mrs. Spit and I both get awkward when we're asked in a social situation "Do you have children?". This was a social situation, faith based, where the couple just came off a demanding weekend of immersive intimate communications. So we can't blame them for asking. The other side of that is that it sucks to say that no, we don't have children, and we don't want to throw a big, wet, fire blanket on top of the party atmosphere and explain that Gabriel died almost two years ago, thank you.

So this week, without intending, I've totally slacked in my blogging. Last night I had zero internet at my hotel (go figure that one out...) so I have an excuse, kind-of. Time to pick up my socks though.

So, even though I'm out enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, it's been a meh-bleh week for me. About time for me to spend some time at home, working in the office, home every night. Yeah... looking forward to that!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow no...

A friend has offered to take me to the mountains and teach me to snowboard.

This is daunting.

I want to learn - just ask Mrs. Spit.

Why does it take so much kit to play in the snow? (see definition 7 here, if confused by my use of the word 'kit')

I'm not too verbose this post. But I WILL post! By the power of Greyskull!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In memory everlasting

All we have of freedom, all we use or know -
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.
~Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue, 1899

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in the year 1918, the German High Command signed the Armistice that marked the end of the Great War. Today we take time to remember those troops who have perished in war. At first it was for the remembrance of those who died in World War One - as we came to name it. Now it is
the remembrance for those troops lost in the intervening conflicts, whatever the name of the conflict. For good reason, we read the words of the poem In Flanders Field today, and remember. As our young men and women continue to fight and die in different quarters around the world, it is to us that the responsibility for remembrance falls.

For today is celebrated as Remembrance Day within the British Commonwealth. Today, we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bleh day

Yeah, it's one of those days. Nothing on the blog, feel like crud. Left work early to go home even!

I don't think it's anything really serious... going to bed now though. Preventative medicine.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mars - an alien place

Not much to say today.

Check out these photos and descriptions of Mars.

Isn't science cool?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The mark of a humble man

A couple of years ago, after I had heard that Brandon Sanderson was going to be the author of record to finish the Wheel of Time, I picked up and read his first novel: Elantris. I knew after reading this excellent work that Brandon was an author worth the name, and from then I looked forward even more to the release of the next Wheel of Time (WoT) novel.

Not only is Brandon a published author of several books (Elantris, Mistborn Trilogy, Alcatraz Series, Warbreaker) but he is personable and more than a little bit humble. When I sent an email to the contact listed on his website, I expected it to make it to him but that was as far as the interaction went - or so I thought. When I received an email reply from him directly, I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, given that he's being... overwhelmed? with new fans as a result of WoT, this might be one aspect of his life that has to change out of necessity. Not only does he write WoT, he also continues writing his own creations - he released a new Alcatraz novel just over a month ago!!! To top that seemingly crazy strategy off, he also instructs creative writing - fantasy of course - at Brigham Young University.

Coming back to humble, here's the quote that inspired this whole post today, taken from his blog posting of today where he talks about his involvement with WoT - particularly in light of The Gathering Storm smashing its way to the top seller on multiple book seller listings.

Beyond that, the strength of this book is directly tied to the excellent storytelling that came before it. It doesn't take much experience with construction to realize that the foundation of a building is far more important—structurally—than the roof. Robert Jordan's skill with worldbuilding, characterization, and plotting was amazing. Working on these books has only increased my respect for his abilities.

None of you ran out to get the book because of me. My job was, and continues to be, to stay out of the way and let you enjoy the story that Robert Jordan wanted you to have. I am honored and humbled that so many of you have enjoyed the book. Thank you for what you have done in giving me a chance to prove myself to you.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Who is surprised?


Yeah, scary, I know. Right now the focus of the world is focused in the area of the 'stans' pretty heavily. The spectre of the Taliban and al Qaeda has been brought into the news media's top sheet quite often in the past several years.

Now, the ever lingering question is this:

We know that many of the leadership escaped from Afghanistan into Pakistan. We know that Pakistan is ostensibly a partner with western nations in the attempts to eradicate these leadership elements. We have seen Pakistani forces engaged in operations against the 'tribal regions' where these two groups are supposed to be hiding out. Why are we not seeing results after years of effort on the part of several governments?

Perhaps the reason is the one we don't want to think about. They are in cahoots with the Islamabad government - or at least elements within it. And guess what? That's exactly what a French (as in France, not Quebec) author is saying. "The central government has lost control of certain elements of the army and the ISI, an intelligence service that no longer has the trust of its foreign partners."

Or, as Charles Dudley Warner put it in the 19th century:
Politics makes strange bedfellows

Plus ca change, plus ca change pas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Line 'em up!

Sometimes, when people ask me what kind of books I like to read, I get a strange look at my answer: science fiction and fantasy.

Sure, I have enjoyed books from many genres, but SF/F keeps drawing me back in. I enjoy the alternate times, alternate worlds, potential futures, and of course, completely made up environments where magic is real and the quests epic.

Sometimes, when the stars are aligned, the tea leaves read, and everything else comes together at the right time and the right place, the general public gets a head's up that there is something other than "general fiction" available at the book store. I refer, of course, to the dreaded best-seller's list. So imagine my delight when I heard that my newest read will be shown as having dethroned the less than stellar Dan Brown formulaic fiction from the top of the NYT Bestseller list.

Yes indeed, The Gathering Storm debuts at number 1. Just goes to show you, there are a lot of us fans of fantasy out there! ;-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too cool... go to school!

Not much to write about, but Mrs. Spit tells me that I'm a slacker if I don't do SOMETHING.


So I present to you, tacit evidence why kids need science. And yes, I've been called a nerd most of my life! :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Now that we're done with the folly that is Halloween, we approach Remembrance Day.

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, we remember. We take a moment of quiet in a ceremony that started as a result of the Great War - what we now call World War One - but which has grown to encompass the losses in all military conflicts.

Whether or not you be British, this presentation is ubiquitous in it's truth and scope regarding the young soldiers, sailors, and airmen that our governments send into harm's way.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Write then!

Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month?

Truly... how did you get by without knowing that? Then again, seeing as how I have lately had problems writing a couple pithy comments into a blog, I'm not sure I'd want to attempt a 50,000 word novel! Almost 1700 words... PER DAY?!? Yikes...

I have a friend who is over 3500 words this weekend already. But then again, she's been planning this work for at least a month now. Plans... creative writing needs plans!

If you're curious, here's the location link for NaNoWriMo.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy stupid outfit day

For the first time in...

You know, I have no idea when the last time is that I wore a costume. Maybe 94? That's my best bet. Ahh, the heady days of university. All kinds of opportunities to be... sociable!

So I'm headed in to work dressed as a lumberjack. Not in the Monty Python style, but actually wearing clothes that men carrying saws with a 48" bar will wear in the north of B.C.

Why do I have these clothes lying around the house? Well, that's a story... as I used to walk around the wilderness of northern B.C. carrying a chainsaw. That I was ALSO part of a crew of guys carrying survey instruments, and we switched off who carried what, might have some significance to this story. I won't need a jacket tomorrow though... even with the snowfall! Thick wool pants, heavy shirt, and a wool overshirt... yeah, it's toasty!

Too bad about the plastic axe. However, as there was a half-mad man holding an office building hostage with a pistol last week - a block from my office - maybe NOT looking like an axe-murderer is a good thing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wow, bad park!

You know it's bad when a parking 'incident' from York, Ontario, makes it onto the Top Gear Blog!

Alas, if you're a member at a fitness club, and you happen to drive OVER the vehicles of other patrons, don't be a yutz and leave the scene! The police, they don't take too favourably to this. Even if you happen to own a cheap little car like a $60K BMW M5.

If you want to drive over other people's cars, do it in a monster truck, driving over cars bought from the junkyard. Especially when there is a security camera covering the parking lot...

Progressing through it

The Gathering Storm...

Not done yet! But I just finished up the scene, for lack of a better descriptor, that I will call the "fireside chat"

A long way to go...

In other news, this was my mastiff tonight:
cute pictures of puppies with captions

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Move along...

Nothing to see here...

funny pictures of cats with captions

Regular blog expressions to come later, once I've gotten through more of The Gathering Storm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

But... it's hard!

I find it amusing, in a completely off-kilter way, that the US military machine is finding out what we've known for a long time:

Afghanistan is hard.

I've got friends and former classmates who are either there, in the field, as I type this, or who have had multiple tours through the meat grinder that is Afghanistan.

Now that the US is withdrawing from Iraq and sending more troops BACK to Afghanistan to fight in a fight that it unanimously declared complete before charging off to Iraq in the first place - when it was far from won - it is learning some hard lessons.

Then again, the warnings of the pundits from before the initial invasion are not so much scare tactics now. The country that beat up the British Empire and the Soviet machine is continuing to try and beat up the rest of the armies sent there.

I don't know the answer to the bigger questions, but I do find it amusing in a vaguely perverted sense that what non-US military forces have been saying for years is being realized anew by the present commanders. It's hard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One more day...

Yes, it's true... tomorrow "The Gathering Storm" comes out.

I might be reading a little bit this week... though, it's only like 400,000 words long or so.

Mrs. Spit could do crack that off over a lunch hour or two!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Comic relief

There once was a time when I would look forward to the daily newspaper arriving at home. I was young and didn't care a bent wiffle for the news on the front page, or local news, or the sports news. Give me the comics!

I had several that I enjoyed. I think fondly back to the days of B.C., Wizard of Id, Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Garfield. These were the comics of my youth. They were humourous and enjoyable. And no, blogger, I don't like that you think I misspelled humourous!!! As my good friend in Australia commented on my FB page a while back: "Have a day with good humoUr!"

Fast-forward a couple of decades. I don't get the newspaper anymore. We found that it, more often than not, ended up on the recycle pile, unread. We get our news online now, or via the radio - why would I want ink that bleeds on my hands? Even when we did get the paper, I didn't much care for the selection of comics anymore.

And then I found the joy that is webcomics. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, I get my daily comic fix through my RSS feed - another Google product, go figure. I enjoy that the comics I read are created by people who are doing it for their enjoyment. Several of these fine folks have figured out how to make a living by doing an online comic. And you know, they are pretty fine!

Here's a list of my favourites, in alphabetical order:
Abstruse Goose - there are days I don't 'get' it, a strip for science geeks
Air Force Blues - written by an active Airman, ostensibly a strip about some fighter jocks...
Dilbert - ok, this isn't really news to anyone, but I enjoy my daily fix!
Girl Genius - have you heard of SteamPunk yet? A very long running strip (Nov 02) that promotes itself as "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!"
Looking for Group - a fantasy comic that started as poking fun at WoW
Not Invented Here - software developers, and the live therein.
The Phoenix Requiem - I'll let the page describe it better than I can: "The Phoenix Requiem is a Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy story about faith, love, death, and the things we believe in."
Surviving the World - a photocomic by an engineer. Sounds dry, is anything but.
Unshelved - a comic about... librarians? Indeed... the inner workings of every bookworm's favorite place, somewhat
XKCD - my kind of art - stickmen! Comics that often benefit from deeper geek understanding

Some of these you can just jump into at any point. A few need to be read from the start to understand what's going on. Here is another function that webcomics excel at! You can either buy the author's printed versions, or go into archives and read from day 1. Looking for Group, Phoenix Requiem, and Girl Genius all need the complete story to be fully understood.

Does anyone else have some good reading that you can suggest?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Adversity, part two

I got a short note from my friend, June. It said so very much in so few words:

"Aunt May died this morning."

The family is, of good reason, sad that their sister, aunt, and great-aunt has died. But in the same breath, they are happy as well. It's a crazy thing, except when you remember that she had been suffering from cancer for over six years. The last weeks and months were especially bad, with the pain passing through the ability of the painkillers to attenuate it. May, in her death, has been released from suffering.

And so, now the family grieves, while sighing a sigh of relief at the same time.

Some days, living sucks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting away from it...

I'll bet you've never considered this question before: Within the continental US, i.e. the lower 48 - what is the furthest that you can be from a golden arches location?

The answer is pretty scary, actually. You have to go to the far reaches of the country, but the furthest by car you can get is 145 miles, 107 via crow transport. South Dakota, I never knew ya!

Someone has gone to some effort to show this. Here's the short form:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That time again

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another year gone. Not sure I'm any wiser.

Oh well! Life's too short to be serious all the time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Surprise, it's your old companion!

I was looking for a term to describe how I felt on Saturday. It wasn't easy. Thanks to this culture of ours, my mind went in the direction of sports descriptions. And frankly, it does a good job of describing how I felt.


Now, to clarify, here's the definition according to my handy source, dictionary. com:

blind-side or blind·side (blīnd'sīd')
tr.v. blind-sid·ed or blind·sid·ed, blind-sid·ing or blind·sid·ing, blind-sides or blind·sides
  1. To hit or attack on or from the blind side.

  2. To catch or take unawares, especially with harmful or detrimental results: "The recent recession, with its wave of corporate cost-cutting, blind-sided many lawyers" (Aric Press).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Sounds really academic when you see it in black and white, doesn't it? And when it's academic, it doesn't seem as bad, or as dramatic. So I must show you in more graphic terms what it means.

(image from here, in case you're interested)

Someone in that photo is about to be surprised by a rapid and forceful encounter with the turf.

That's what I felt like on Saturday morning. I felt like I had things in control, and then seemingly out of nowhere, I got tackled by grief. And like the quarterback, I was slammed down pretty hard, getting my wind knocked out of me. I was caught completely unawares.

Saturday morning I was sitting, waiting for my winter tires to be installed. I had my book with me and I was reading, killing time. And that's when I got blindsided. I had the sudden realization that I wouldn't be able to use tasks such as getting new tires to introduce my son, my Gabriel, into the world of men.

Really, a tire store is a guy's place. You walk in the door to be assaulted by the smell and sight of new rubber. There are tires and wheels everywhere. The sales staff are in work clothes, ready to help you and explain the world of tires to you. You have tires in all flavours, from sporty, to winter, to off-road, to the imminently boring yet necessary cheap tires for small cars. In the corner the popcorn machine churns out it's perfume (at 7:30 in the morning at that). There is a 24 hours sports channel going on the TV. You have a remote monitor readout so you can watch the guy doing wheel balancing. Techs going in and out, especially paying homage to the coffee maker.

And it hit me. I wouldn't be able to explain that corner of the world to Gabriel. Pass on the pearls of wisdom from my own father - such as "Brakes and tires, as long as those are in good condition, the rest is negotiable. Without those two, you have no control and you're not safe." As I looked around the store with a child's eyes, I saw all that needs explaining to a child. How to read a tire. What is the purpose of having different types of tires. Why we were buying four winter tires and not just two.

This little corner of the world had a plethora of lessons that I will never teach Gabriel. I will never take him for a morning away from home, introducing him to things that a guy needs to know.

Later in the day, Mrs. Spit and I went to a baby girl's 'tea party' - also known as an open house for this couple's friends to come and meet their recently adopted infant. I can't say that I was excited to be going, but we have to continue to live.

Mrs. Spit handed me the little girl to hold, though I must admit that she offered me the chance to abstain. I held the child in my arms, and even held the bottle while she went to town. It was enough to rip my heart out to hear Mrs. Spit commenting to others that I am so very good at holding babies, and that babies seem to love it in my arms. I wanted to hand off little Ivy and leave, now. But I couldn't - though I did take the first available chance to hand her off.

It's been almost two years since my little Gabriel was swept out of my life. I thought that I was doing pretty well in my grief. I thought that I had been through the worst of it, and that I could go forward with life with remembrances of Gabe, but without the searing pain of his loss laid open like a fresh wound sprinkled in salt. I thought that, since I was able to attend a remembrance walk earlier this month without wanting to run away to escape the pain, I was living with and adjusted to my grief.

The football analogy breaks down at this point. Sure, quarterbacks get blindsided, but it happens pretty regularly to them. As they are used to it, they are able to stand up, brush off, and carry on. I'm not able to do this. Instead, days later, I am still dazed and bruised from the experience.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Being sick sucks

I'm working on a post. Really. It was going to post today.

But I feel like something the mastiff has chewed up right now, so it's got to wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the rain came down

Wow. Talk about rain. We sure don't get anything like the rain in Interlagos, Brazil!

Formula 1's penultimate race runs Sunday in Brazil - 10 am local time here - wow, I get to sleep in massively! Much nicer than 6 am local time here.

How fitting that the final pole-sitter is a Brazilian who hasn't been on pole in years. This after the one hour qualifying session ran close to four hours. Nuts.

And then I saw a news piece where King Bernie is suggesting that it will be more exciting if Button doesn't win the driver's championship until the final race of the year. Awfully sporting of him, don't you think? I'd rather see Hamilton in the cat-bird seat, but it's not his year to repeat as champion. Car just hasn't been there this year. And in Brazil? He and Kovi are breathing exhaust fumes off the start, 18th and 17th respectively. Yikes!

And to think, TSN cut their coverage of qualifying after a paltry hour and half... Philistines!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting tyred*

It's now officially not summer any more. We have had snow and ice. Did I hear a groan?

The Spit-mobile is shod with the OEM 'all-season' tyres that came with it. Obviously the person who came up with the concept of naming these tyres was not from a part of the country that has frozen water fall from the skies. If you look into it, you'll see that all-season as regards tyres is synonymous with 'roads that are dry, or have been rained on'. Seriously, they are not all-season when your seasons include snow and ice. As the OEM tires, after 50,000 km, have been chirping and singing under non-extreme conditions already (normal driving), they are up for changing. And on the skiff of snow that we had this week? Yikes! At least we know that the circuitry is functioning on the ABS!

Wednesday I went into a local outlet of Kal Tire to inquire about some winter rubber. They had the specific tyres that I want in stock. In fact, they are the only retailer in Canada to stock Nokian tyres. The previous Spit-mobile has been shod in Nokian WR tyres - a tyre billed correctly as 'all-weather.' So we have the bonus of both excellent customer service, and tyres that rock. The only thing is that the location I went to informed me that they don't make appointments for tyre installs, first come - first served. Ok I thought, I can go in early, wait for the install, and be on with my day somewhat late.

Yesterday morning I arrived 20 minutes before the doors open (7:10 am) to find a lineup of 10-15 people standing at the door. So much for THAT idea.

Saturday will be attempt number two to find my new winter rubber. With luck, by the time you read this - unless you're a real early bird - the new tyres will be on the Spit-mobile. Otherwise I don't know WHEN this will get done. Leave my car there all day? Pigs fly I hear...

I just want the winter tyres that we promised ourselves years ago that we would buy!

*British spelling used for kicks here

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bullet the blue sky

With apologies to U2 for borrowing their title...

You know how the internet is a bastion of wild and crazy videos? Sometimes you see something that leaves people talking about it around the water cooler: "Hey, did you see the one with the baby carriage under the train?" (for reference, here's that link)

And now, to use the term of the infamous comedy group, Monty Python, who was just lauded with a BAFTA, for something completely different.

I came across this link via a link from a military related blog that I read. It's about bullets. Now, before you roll your eyes to the sky about how such a topic could be interesting, bear with me.

Have you ever seen a rifle bullet spinning as it passes through the air? How about impart spiral grooves to the expanding mass of ballistics gel? These are just two of the things that you can see when you watch this ten minute video. In a video worthy of the MythBusters, Werner Mehl from Kurzzeit puts together a video, music by others I believe, of some super high speed footage. How fast is super? 1000 frames per second? 10,000 fps? Not even close. This is purported to be short at one million frames per second. Yeah, 1,000,000 fps. That in itself is pretty amazing.

I was fascinated to watch how different bullets impacted on the steel plates. How bullets reacted when hit with ball bearings (? - not sure what they were) in flight was pretty wild. To see the side of a bullet sheared off when it hits the edge of armour plate was cool. The... unpeeling of a rifle round as it self-destructs against armour plate, including the play of reflection on the metal as it continues to spiral against the plate was indeed fascinating. It also shows the effects of hollow point bullets against ballistics gel.

The lessons today?
1. technology allows us to see some pretty cool things that are otherwise unviewable
2. always set the brake on the baby carriage on a windy day

Less than two weeks to go...

It was four years ago that book nine of the Wheel of Time was released. It seems like forever ago. When Robert Jordan died two years later, there were a lot of fans who feared that they would never know the ultimate conclusion to the story. We would never read the final scene that RJ had in fully fleshed out and completed in his mind when he first put pen to paper to write the first book.

Thankfully, a young author and fan of the Wheel of Time was picked by RJ's widow to continue the series to its completion. Brandon Sanderson to the rescue. He's a good author - and busier than a one-armed paper hanger right now. Not only has he been writing like mad to complete the saga of Wheel of Time, he also has his own projects that he is still writing.

So, like many fans, I'm waiting for October 27th to role into town. I have the book on pre-order at my local, non-chain, book store. The same book store where I retreated to help me find hard cover copies of the first six books in the series a few years ago. When I went to Chapters, they said "Sorry, they are not in our computer, we can't get them." Audrey's, on the other hand, scoured Canada and found new copies of the series tucked in out-of-the-way places. After about 45 minutes, I was making my order and leaving, a satisfied customer. Yeah, I'll keep giving them business!

And then came along a wrench in my plan. Dear Mr. Sanderson posted on his blog, about two months after I had pre-ordered my copy, about the book signing tour he would be taking. If I wanted to go see him, however, I'd have to drive to Washington State - no crossing the border on this tour. However, he did set up a deal with a store near his home, where we rabid fans could order a signed and numbered copy. I have three signed books in the series so far, and here's a chance for another one. Yeah, I got my order in post-haste.

Now for the rub, do I cancel my local order and wait for the post to bring my signed copy? Or, do I keep it and have two copies? Yeah... like any true nut-case... err... fan, I'm going to get my copy and start reading right away. When the signed copy comes, I'll read it and then extend the shelf-space needed for the whole series.

Anyone want a slightly used copy of The Gathering Storm? I'll have one to give away come early November!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


To truly know a person's character, you need to see how they respond in a crisis.

We all want to think that in a crisis, we would be like John Wayne, unflappable and able to take charge and get the job done. Sadly, the truth is that we are not all like that. We can be moved off our center by events.

Last night I was playing a game on Facebook, Farm Town. I saw that one of my internet friends was online and playing the game, so I went to check in. We started to chat. This lady, call her June, lives in Montana. She was sitting with her daughter, Violet, just mucking about with the computer. She started the conversation by telling me that things had been pretty crappy lately. And then the story of how she got to be playing Farm Town with her daughter came out.

June's Aunt May is dying. She is afflicted with both a blood and a brain cancer and has been suffering for about six years now. She is now at the point where the doctors have said that there is maybe three weeks left. And she is in some pretty major pain now. June just wants her Aunt to be comfortable. After all of this time of lingering illness and pain, she just wants her Aunt to be relieved of the pain. She is reconciled to what this means.

June's mom, Sue, is another story. Sue is everything that May is not. Sue is one of those people who refuse to live in the same world as the rest of us. She refuses to accept that her sister is dying, because that would hurt her. She thinks that June is terrible for comforting May, and for telling her that it would be ok for her to die. She is, in a word, selfish. So selfish that she got herself and her daughter thrown out of the hospital last night.

What do you say when a friend tells you something like this? That her mother came into the hospital room where she and her aunt were talking about wanting the pain to end. A talk where she consoled her aunt that it is ok to want to die to end the pain. Into this imagine the mother walking in and pitching a major screaming fit? Mother and daughter getting into a fight. Grand-daughter trying to separate the two women. Grandmother shoving the grand-daughter out of the way so she could get back to her own daughter. Aunt is still in the bed, in pain. June tells me that she ended up with Sue against the wall, apparently threatening to choke her in order to stop the insanity.

Why was Sue so unreasonable? To my ears, it sounds like she is in some pretty severe denial. She doesn't want to accept that her sister is dying. June tells me that her mother is incredibly selfish, and this is only the latest example of a life of selfishness. And Aunt May? Still in pain, watching the meltdown of her family in front of her hospital bed.

While we were chatting, June had to leave for a while as she had a long moment. Violet asked me "Is my mom going to be ok?" Pretty scary stuff for a high school freshman to have to endure. She was concerned because she's never seen her mom go off on someone like this. I tried to explain that, yes, her mom would be ok in time. Extremely emotional times lead to abnormal behaviours. Including her mom, who never runs from things, just wanting to curl up in a corner and hide.

It's a pretty blunt introduction to the psychology of stress for a young woman. In the end, we're looking at further estrangement of the mother from her daughter and grand-daughter, the victory of cancer over another good individual, and another day when I truly wonder at the fortitude of the staff of your typical oncology ward.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slasher apologizes?

Well, this is different. Not to mention wild that we can track this particular feature of the web to a single person. What a difference 30 years make!

BBC article link

And all these years I thought it was some obscure computer code requirement.

Space Travel...

... it's always cool.

Seriously, all intentional puns aside, this is a really cool map at the National Geographic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giving Thanks

It's two days after Canadian Thanksgiving. We have turkey yet to be consumed, along with other leftovers from the 'Dinner Party that Shrank', as I've taken to thinking about it. We started with 10, but ended up with 6 people at the table on Sunday night.

We always hear that an attitude of thankfulness should be an ongoing thing - 365 days a year instead of only at the official days demarcated for that purpose. Like so much else that we should do, it is easy to lose thoughts of thankfulness among the noise of daily life.

I am thankful for the blessings that I have in my life, including a wonderful wife, good health, stable employment, a warm home to call my own. I'm not being trite when I mention these either. When single I had times when I despaired of ever finding a partner to share my life with. I'd been terribly sick with pneumonia, been laid off when the economy took a nose-dive, and been sent packing when my lease was discontinued. Each and all of these add stress and strife to a person's life.

I'm also thankful for a friend and partner who tells me that I'm a slacker and should return to my blog. Mrs. Spit can be a firebrand that way! So here begins my work to reinvigorate my little corner of the net. This space will be coming back to life. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Angel Baby Father's Day

Happy Fathers Day From Your Angel In Heaven

Oh, Dearest Daddy
What can I say today
To help mend your broken heart
On this Fathers day?

You know I would be there with you
If only there only was a way
Although I am in Heaven now
It’s in your heart I will always stay.

Just like you where always there for me
I will always be there for you
Just look for a sign and you will see me
In each sunrise and each sunset too.

My love for you, daddy
Will always be true
You’re the best daddy in the world..
And that includes the Heavens too!

So I’m sending all my love
To You from Heaven today
And remember I will be with you
Just look for me on this Father’s Day!

I love you Daddy!

From your Angel in Heaven above

(Thanks to Cheryl for this.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


It's been a busy week so far...

Tomorrow I get to drive up to the job site where one of my Contractor's workers had an encounter with a very large timber member last week. The timber won - broken femur (closed, simple) for the worker. Tomorrow is the end of the job - THANK GOODNESS!!!

Anyways, to entertain you, this entertained me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cleaning up the joint

Today, officially, I am sore.

Why you say? Did you play too much golf on the wicked hot weather weekend that just passed? Did you lift heavy things for Mrs. Spit?

No. I did combine the two activities of lifting heavy things on a wicked hot (for here) day yesterday. As part of the city's campaign to keep the place clean, they hold "Big Bin" events over the summer. Instead of having to haul dead appliances to the recycling centers and pay a fee to get rid of them, or loading up the vehicle with a whack of garbage and taking it to the dump, where you pay by weight dropped off, the local citizenry gets to take it to the big bins and get rid of junk for free. They have tons of large bins and garbage trucks and the lines can be long as people flock to get rid of their junk for free.

In my annual (sometimes biannual) excursion this weekend, I volunteered for the local community group that, using 1 tonne cube vans paid for by the city, wanders the alleys of our neighbourhood to rid it of useless and ugly clutter. We actually charged $5 per item to haul away, though in some cases we just grabbed stuff that was obviously junk that the garbage collectors wouldn't have taken anyways.

We 'only' loaded my van three times. But the stuff you find! Old fridges that weigh a tonne (or so it seems). Wet soggy mattresses that stink. Washer/dryer sets - including one that promised "infinite heat". Now that I'd like to see! Gimme solar corona heat! Yeah! 10,000,000 degrees! Oh, really, infinite doesn't mean infinite? Another driver found a fridge made by International Harvester. Yes, the tractor people. How old was that?!?

And of course, the bane of any move, whether it be to the dump or into a new house - the hide-a-bed. Why do these things have to weight SO MUCH?!?!? Seriously. It's a small metal frame in a loveseat for crying out loud.

This morning I'm acutely aware of the soreness in my back from the workout yesterday. But it's a good pain. I know that I have contributed in a small part to turning my neighbourhood alleys into something a little more 'city' and a little less 'city dump', and that's a good thing.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I've been rather remiss and neglectful with the blog. Spring blahs. I know, most people have winter blahs, but I got a case of the spring ones.

I won't talk about the insensitive clot of a woman who brought a whiny child to the infant loss memorial last week, or about how, after Mrs. Spit read her memorial epic and everyone had gathered in the reception area, that she blithely commented on how her son was a 25 week baby, and he survived, after hearing that Gabriel died at 26 weeks.

Instead I will share with you something that I found today, via the interweb while cruising aimlessly. Sitting at home while Mrs. Spit is off to see a harlot. It seemed almost trite when I started reading it, but it quickly became evident to my tiredness fuzzed mind (I got home at 1 am from an away trip) that this text is indeed quite true and poignant. I've removed the pithy smiles and cuddles text at the end.

If someone knows the author of the text, I'd like to attibute it properly instead of to the ubiquitous 'Anonymous'.

The Difference Between Strength and Courage

It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.

It takes strength to stand guard,
It takes courage to let down your guard.

It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.

It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.

It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.

It takes strength to feel a friend's pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.

It takes strength to hide your own pains,
It takes courage to show them.

It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.

It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.

It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.

It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Touched by a quote.

May the love hidden deep inside your heart find the love waiting in your dreams.
May the laughter that you find in your tomorrow wipe away the pain you find in your yesterdays.
- unattributed

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Little Brother

When I was in high school, I read '1984' by George Orwell. For fun. We had just read 'Animal Farm' and I was looking for something else by the same author. My English teacher recommended that I read it. I did. It was pretty fascinating stuff.

Fast forward 20 years.

I just finished reading Cory Doctorow's book "Little Brother" and wow, what a ride. His website calls it a "young adult" novel, but it's much more than that. And to think that I downloaded it last year, started it, and put it down practically at the start of the book. Thanks to my friends for convincing me that it's worth a read.

Other's apparently think so as well, as it's up for both a Nebula and a Hugo award. In the Hugo award, it's up against some stiff competition - some pretty big names in SciFi in this list:

Best Novel
* Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
* The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
* Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
* Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
* Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)

The book's protagonists are certainly teens, but through the book some very large and current topics of discussion throughout the world are examined and questioned. Terrorism, security, and the rather free license that was taken in the name of both after 9-11 are both front and center through the book.

It's a fascinating read. As one commenter on his site says : "This novel is the modern equivalent of Orwell's "1984", written for teenagers." I highly recommend it. Excellent read.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A heart of pure gold

Thanks to a blog I read, I found this article on CNN.

What blows me away is that this guy is spending so much of his salary to help people in need.

There are homeless throughout North America. Here we are, worried about this present recession, and the numbers are only increasing. How many of us are only a paycheque or two from needing this sort of help?

I've met homeless here, and for many, they made bad decisions and lost everything. There are some that hold full-time jobs, but still need to visit the soup kitchens for whatever reason. How are they different from you and me? They're still human. They're still in need. The poor and destitute are not an amorphous concept in a far away land. They are real and they are here, regardless of how much society ignores them.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Driving 800 km, with most of it in a mild snowfall...

It's a shame this town isn't better serviced by regular flights.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caesar's Day

Beware the Ides of March. Sound advice, if you're in a Shakespearean play and you encounter some old hags dispensing it.

I've been watching far too much TV of late. This seems to go hand-in-glove with the fact that I've been out of town working far too much of late. But, as my Dad says, it pays the bills. My station of preference when I'm out of town generally defaults to the Discovery Channel, with the Weather Channel a close second in winter. Sometimes though, it's better to curl up with a good book.

I really wish, those several times that I encountered the subject of this blog, that I had been curled up with a good book instead of watching television. If wishes were wings, pigs would fly. There's a banking commercial out right now that shows a man. He's commenting that "That place, where it's not all about me anymore? I'm there." Of course the visual shows a younger man holding his newborn infant while in the hospital with his wife. Just thinking about it, my heart clenches from an invisible hand. My eyes tear.

It's not bloody fair. We were supposed to be approaching Gabe's first birthday. He was supposed to be born almost a year ago. Instead I sit here, with Gabe's ashes over my shoulder. I am still wracked with grief over a friggin' commercial for a BANK for crying out loud. Times like this, the suckage comes out of hiding and throws me around like a martial arts expert, and there's bugger all I can do.

I am not suffering from a knife in the back from my closest friend. No, this Ides, I'm just suffering from the cruel hand of fate snatching my son from my arms. I have to beware the Ides this year as the memory of the loss of my boy has come floating to the forefront of my consciousness once again.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's a good day

Happy Pi day!

And of course, Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein, extraordinary beatnik!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cooling passions...

Every news outlet in the US went gaga last year when it was announced that the Bristol Palin was pregnant. Then she and her boyfriend who did the deed were going to do the right thing and get married. This from a guy who had stated publicly previously on his MySpace page that he didn't want to have kids.

So it wasn't really a surprise when I saw on another blog that Levi and Bristol have broken up. It's sad that the private lives of a young couple are front page news on the interweb. It doesn't take much time to find multiple articles about it. And of course, being the staid conservative right-wing Christian parents that the Governor and her husband are, things are probably not rosy within the Alaskan first families home today.

Call me cynical, but the whole engagement was more a factor of the Presidential election campaign than it was young love coming to fruition. Which is really sad, because that child deserves to grow up in a family with a dad, not as another notch in the statistic called "unwed mothers."

Life goes on in Alaska... just like everywhere else in this 'enlightened' world of ours.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Anticipating early mornings

Thanks to a good friend of mine who was born in Great Britain, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Formula 1 Racing about 13 years ago. It's the primary reason that Mrs. Spit and I now have the TV package that we do - so that 18 weekends per year, I can get up at stupid times of the day to watch F1 racing live.

I will grant you, I could have a system like a PVR so that I could record the races and watch them later in the day. Besides the fact that I enjoy starting my Sunday mornings at 5:30 am on race days, I'd have to avoid several of the blogs I subscribe to if I miss the race. That being said, my television provider will give me a PVR for free, and I'll soon be signing up for one.

The major pain in the side comes when I'm out of town for work, and am stuck somewhere that doesn't have coverage of the race. That's the suck, so I'm really looking forward to being able to record things.

This year is going to be interesting, as there was a MAJOR change to the car construction rules for 2009. Thanks to Red Bull Racing, you can see first hand how things are going to change this year. Yeah, it's computer animation. Still extremely cool. Kind of like the weather right now. -40?!?!?! Holy Mackrel!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Cold?!?

I'm so happy that I'm working winter construction right now.

-14C air temp
-26C wind chill

-26C air temp
-38C wind chill

-39C air temp
No wind

-36C air temp
-44C wind chill

Thank Goodness the forecast for Friday is only -5C!!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Freezing on the job

Aaahhh... bridge work. It's so unlike other construction, I guess that's why we have a separate bridge department in my company? We're the loony ones who work construction in winter.

In Alberta, the joke goes, we have four seasons just like everyone else. We have to remind ourselves of this, because people from other parts of the country don't believe it. Others have spring, summer, autumn, winter. Our seasons are before winter, winter, after winter, and road construction. Maybe it's a result of the fact that winter often starts in October, and stretches well into April, that we have this self-deprecation in humour? But I digress. The other major departments in the company use winter as a time to STAY INSIDE!!!! Not us! Hey, let's work off of the ice!

Presently I'm working to repair this bridge. Well, I'm not repairing it. I'm watching others do the grunt work to repair it. The benefits of education! Though, as I explained to one of the guys on the crane crew, I sometimes feel guilty about not offering to help when it's obvious that another pair of hands moving something heavy would be advantageous. Then I remember that if I got injured by pitching in, I'd be hard pressed to explain to Workers' Compensation how I got a manual labour type injury from being the inspector on the job.

My job today and yesterday was to stand around and count. That's it. Really. I'm not kidding. I was observing pile driving again, doing blow counts. The difference is that on this job, instead of trying to attain a certain bearing capacity and stop, I was making sure that we got the piles deep enough. Hard ground within 15' of the surface made this an effort - especially when my engineer wanted us to be about 25' down. So, instead of stopping at 15 blows per quarter meter, we were up in the realm of 80 to 140 blows per quarter meter. Overkill anyone?

Here's what the bridge pier looked like this afternoon. We're basically making the old pier piles redundant with a new steel exoskeleton type arrangement to take the weight of the bridge off of the broken timber piles.

Did I mention that I was standing around? Doing nothing physical? As part of the winter construction aspect of this project, Old Man Winter blew into town with a fury. All weekend we have had either a winter storm warning or a wind chill warning in effect from Environment Canada. Saturday we had blizzard conditions most of the day. Not terribly cold (-20C/-15C), but the wind was fierce, gusting to 50 kph! Saturday night the bottom fell out on the barrel. Started the day off with wind chill around -35C. The temperature didn't rise above -20C, and the wind was present all day long. According to the "what happened" today info online, we had windchill down to -39C today. I had frozen drops of condensation collected on my eyelashes, and my eye lids had frost on them.

Thankfully, that's the last of the tasks that requires me to stand around outside for long periods of time. The rest is all checking, measuring, recording, and retiring to the heated pickup truck! But, for fun, here's a photo of me yesterday. I can almost button up the vest in summer time... but here I have a lot of clothing on underneath it. I felt like the Pilsbury dough boy with insulated overalls and jacket, quilted jacket with hoodie, two sweatshirts, t-shirt, polypropylene long underwear, balaclava, touque, insulated work gloves I can still write with (not warm enough for today though!), and steel toed Baffin boots.

The nice thing about this kind of work? I'm on my own schedule away from some of the office 'stuff' that gets tiring at times. Staying in hotels alone and away from Mrs. Spit? Yeah, that's the down side of the work. But, as my Dad likes to point out, it pays the bills. I wonder where my pragmatic side comes from?

More to come on this and other projects.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The silence

It's been just over 14 months since the death of my son, Gabriel.

If he had survived his birth, I would be spending much of my time at home chasing around a toddler, making sure that the house is not hiding any surprises for him to find and surprise us with.

Instead, I can see my son in the same place every day that I am home. His ashes sit on a shelf erected for that purpose. I will never see my son grow from infant, though childhood into adulthood. I don't even know what colour his eyes were. As Mrs. Spit and I were discussing possible eye colours a possible future child might have, this thought came to me. You see, Mrs. Spit has a gorgeous set of blue eyes. Her eyes remind me of a clear afternoon sky during a prairie winter. Me? I have eyes that change with the light, the time of day, maybe even with my mood - I've been blessed with eyes that get called hazel, because nobody can ever figure out what colour they are at a given time. The mystery thus becomes a question of what eye colour do we pass on?

Yesterday morning, I had the express displeasure of sitting through a "tri-party" meeting regarding my construction project from last summer. I drove 8 hours to and from this meeting from the project I'm presently working on. We had a joint meeting with the contractor, the client (the provincial transportation department), and the consultant (us). I was there with my senior manager and my construction engineer. Two hours of discussing what went wrong last year. This with the contractor who doesn't like me anymore - he thinks I have a personnal agenda against him.

There were a number of items where eyes were turned to me in a blame-casting manner. Indeed, the biggest problems we've had on the job stem from actions I took at the end of the job, in error. We had a "process" problem, which had we done things differently, would have led to a much friendlier conclusion to the job.

The manager from the transportation department was at Gabriel's funeral. Both of my engineers that were at the meeting with me came to Gabriel's funeral. How do I point out that last year was the worst work-year of my life? As I have my manager reminding me (somewhat in jest as I'm putting in major OT hours right now) that it's salary review time this month, I recall that I struggled immensely last year.

So there I sat in this meeting, thinking to myself that had things occured differently, I would not have struggled to finish one problem construction project. I would not have dreaded working with that same contractor on a new project last summer. I would have been able to focus more clearly on what I needed to do, and when it had to be done. In this unfair world that we live in, I was expected to bury my grief and continue on as though Gabriel's had never happened. I sat, with a metaphorical target painted on my forehead for people to place blame. I had to say "yes, I screwed that up." or "yes, it was an error that this happened" when I wanted to say "Look, my son died. I should have taken months off of work to grieve him. I didn't. As a result, you got less than I am capable of. Get stuffed."

It still hurts me deeply and intensely when I think of all that isn't, because my son is dead. It hurts me that people don't know that the new me exists. I have to wrap myself in a blanket of silence lest people think I'm a simpering pity case who can't function in the world. Engineering and the construction industry isn't for the emotionally accessible. It's takes someone thick-skinned and hard-nosed. If you can't take someone swearing at you because you're telling them to do work according to the rules, then there's always other work.

The silence took me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The story after...

When you watch a movie, do you ever wonder what happened to the 'other' guys?

Thanks to, the Star Wars geek in me got an answer tonight. Oh yeah... also a big thumbs up to stumble-upon for presenting this to me tonight as well!

Friday, March 6, 2009

New day, new hotel...

The hotel room isn't quite as nice to look at. But there you go, almost 1/2 the price of where I was Wednesday night as well.

I'm wiped. Can't sleep.

This weekend I hope to further the bridge repair information posts! But now, my bed is calling as it's an early day tomorrow.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Behind the 8 Ball

Working out of town. It leads to different experiences.

Take this trip that I'm on. I picked a hotel where I've stayed before. I don't recall having problems here before. Alas, after 1 night of a planned 12, they are sitting firmly behind the 8 ball.

It started well. I checked in last night and was told that Tuesday night was Customer Appreciation Night, and that there would be free pizza and beer in their Continental Breakfast area. Fabulous. A dinner I don't have to pay for. Or so I thought. I paid for it later in the evening, with heartburn from the Boston Pizza pizza. It could have been the Molson Canadian beer as well - there's a reason I drink Guinness - it's GOOD beer!

Then I went up to my room, where I had planted my gear an hour earlier. Just in time to see another guy closing the door to my room. WTF?!? And my key-card, which had been given to me earlier, didn't work. The guy said that the desk had given him the key-card that worked in my room. So I traded him and didn't think much more on it. Yeah, I'm typing this with the dead-bolt engaged. But this is standard practice for me while in hotels. In THIS room, it's the only thing holding the door closed... but on to the rest of the story (RIP Paul Harvey)

I tried to setup my PlayStation to relax by playing some Tiger Woods Golf. The TV even had the video/audio RCA jacks at the front - making connection easy-peasey, right? Yeah... So the TV was as snowy as the weather was this morning. Bad connection or something. And then I couldn't figure out how to change the TV to use the a/v input. Casting off my disappointment, I went down to the front desk and reported that the TV wasn't working. When I asked about the a/v input, I was told that it was disabled by the LodgeNet system (this is their TV/Pay-Per-View/Gaming On Demand system). Great. Just, Great. I lugged my PS3 up with me to be able to look at the box. Oh well, that's why I have my laptop.

This morning I grabbed my laptop bag and went for breakfast at their Continental breakfast. Why is it that people on the continent (which one? Antarctica?!?!) eat toast, apple turnovers, and juice for breakfast??? Meh. It's free, and when you're eating in restaurants for all your meals, free is good. Oh yeah, this reminds me. They have a microwave and a mini-fridge in the room. Great, so I could buy cheap microwave foods and cook for myself? No. No freezer. No cutlery. No dishes. But there's a kitchen sink! Pshaw....

I spend my day freezing in the -20C windchill, trying to instruct an electrical engineer in how to drive piles, and generally doing my job on my construction site - fixing the leaning bridge I posted about last week. I talk to the guys in the local office and ask about the other hotels in town, as I'm already doubting my choice after 1 night. They mention another one that I've stayed in previously. I think seriously of moving to that hotel.

I return to my room, dump my computer on the bed, and turn to the TV. I turn it on - aha! No snow, and a real picture. Oh... what's this? A nasty-gram from the maintenance person. Telling me that if I muck with their TV again, they will charge me to fix it. Yes, they're accusing me of vandalizing the TV in my attempt to hook up my PS3. They tell me that I am ONLY allowed to use their gaming system, built into the "LodgeNet", and for which pleasure I have to pay extra. Hmm... there are no big signs, or little ones, anywhere that I can see TELLING me this. My a/v plug is still hanging on the PS3 beside the TV armoir... and there is only 1 a/v input of that type on the whole TV - on the FRONT of the TV. Is it my fault that the co-axial connection was busted? Um... no.

So now I'm steamed. I grab my book and head for supper - not walking to the slowest Boston Pizza in creation next door to the hotel. I close the door. I remember that this morning the door didn't seem to automatically seat fully. Looking at the jam, it appears closed fully. I push the door. It opens. I pull the door FIRMLY into a closed position. I push the door again. It opens, again. The door handle still doesn't open the latch, yet the door is completely insecure. A not-too-firm shove pops the door like a can of Pringles. Now I'm a little concerned. My room was apparently open to anyone all day long. Not cool. I could have had my PS3 stolen - again.

Last night I initialed against a room rate of $145 per night for this not so "Super" room at a hotel that, to my mind, just sank their "8" ball on their second shot. I go to the other hotel. Their rate, which isn't the actual rate they're going to charge me because my company does so much business there, is $82 per night. Includes the same kind of free breakfast. Actually, theirs is better. It's a motel instead of a hotel. Heck, this makes life easier, really. No tromping up 4 flights of stairs to my non-secured room. Yes, I try and skip the elevator when I'm not carrying my luggage. So I reserve a room for the remainder of my stay in this little town. Easy to effect when I am checking out of my present hotel tomorrow morning.

Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to driving home tomorrow, having a night with my wife, then driving back up to this town for another week in the winter construction business. Two days. Sixteen hours of driving. Yea. Haw. Thank goodness for satellite radio and my mp3 player. But it gives me a damn fine excuse to leave this overpriced, under-serving excuse for corporate accommodations. Why you ask? I have to. I have to drive home, as I HAVE to attend a meeting with the contractor who hates me in the morning on Friday. Followed by driving back to this lovely little northern Alberta town. Pardon if the sarcasm drips on your keyboard.

The oak tree that broke the camel's back was impugning my integrity. Everything else was additional to that, I still wanted to change hotels before that note. Afterward? I almost packed my bags and left tonight. Instead I've left them a nicely filled out comment card, commenting on what I think of the service I've been provided. I didn't even use profane language, but my oh my, I was tempted.

Lastly, in the same way that I put a PS on the comment card, it's a PS on my post. They have this whole "Project Planet" thing in the rooms, about saving water by not forcing them to wash every thing, every day. Sure, they didn't change the sheets - they do this every 3rd day when someone stays for an extended period. However, when they give the hotel gives instructions to hang your towels to dry if you don't want them to provide new ones, and then turns around and ignores their own attempts to save water? Further gasoline on the fire in my books.

I haven't specifically named the major hotel chain directly, but as my readers are all intelligent, I'm sure you've figured it out. To this chain I say: No hasta la vista, baby!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ice crossing, part deux

It was a very long day on Wednesday. After getting up at 5:30 and hitting the road at 6:00, arriving at my destination at just after 10 am, I had a day of meetings:

- First was meeting with my local co-workers about the meeting we were going to have with the client.
- Second was meeting with the client and the contractor representative - this for the repair of the leaning bridge.

Then lunch. At least my local office manager bought lunch for us - instead of being on the hook for my own meal.

- Third was another meeting with the local guys (all two of them, it's a very small office) about the second construction project I would be involved in, though this one only on the periphery.
- Fourth was meeting with the client (same one) and the contractor representatives - three of them this time instead of just one. This was more contentious as we had more challenging issues to talk out. Odd, as installing a culvert is much easier and less technical than the repairs we're doing to the leaning bridge! Then again, it's rather unusual to install a culvert in winter.

We finished up just before 4 in the afternoon. The local manager suggested that I could just get a hotel room and drive the 4+ hours back on Thursday. Certainly, this was an option. However, and this was a big however, I had another meeting an hour the other side of my hotel at 9 am the following morning. Not my cup of tea!

Driving back, I opted to again take the ice bridge. The sun was on it's way down in the western sky. This of course led to a large shadow across the river due to the deep river valley. After explaining to Mr. Minivan that the road would indeed support him, I made my way up the highway.

Being me, this led to me stopping just up the road and taking more photos. It really is a pretty valley. This photo (if you click on it for full resolution) really shows you the scale of the crossing. It would take a mighty big bridge, tucked in the far north-west of the province with very little population, to span the Mighty Peace. Visible on the far bank you can see the river ferry pulled out of the water for the winter.

A few hours later, I pulled into the parking lot of my hotel just over 14 hours after I had I left it.

Sure, winter can really suck at times, but it does lead to some interesting experiences on occasion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crossing the Peace River

It was a beautiful day today. Clear blue skies. Not a cloud to be seen. I got to see both the sunrise and the sunset as I drove. The only downside? Two, actually. 1) it was -37 degrees C this morning and 2) I was on the road at 6 am and got back to my hotel at 8:15 pm, with two meetings and 900 km of driving in between.

Today I did something that was, for me, a unique and new experience. I drove across the Peace River. Sure, everyone drives across rivers every day. Except that I was driving across the river surface, not across a bridge over the river. Of course, it was an ice bridge - which in this case was just driving across the river where the ferry runs when it is not clogged with ice. The nice guy with the grader keeps the surface clean, and there are delineator posts so that people don't get lost.

Yeah, nice day for a drive. I even got to tell a guy, after I drove back across the river, that it was perfectly safe to cross the river and that I, like he was at that moment, was a touch nervous the first time I drove across it as well!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Off to fix a bridge

No great or big post today as I had to go to bed early, to get up early, to take a 4 hour drive to a pre-construction meeting for a bridge repair. Then it's 4 hours back to my hotel (yes, that's a pot-load of driving in one day). Chances are good, if you're reading this during the daytime hours, that I'm behind the wheel of my work truck at 105 kph.

Thank goodness for cruise control!

What will I be working to fix? Well... here's what the bridge looked like from the road. For reference, there really SHOULD NOT be a dip in the bridgerail. EVER.Here is WHY the bridgerail looks so funky - the classic 'leaning tower of bridge pier' pose. An indication that something is seriously wrong with the foundation of this bridge.So, it was either fix the bridge, or replace it. In the interim we closed the bridge. Or rather, we told the County, in the strongest terms, to close the bridge. Which advice the County promptly ignored and continued to drive school buses across this bridge.

Let's see... the safety of our children is how important again? But the bridge is still standing. Why should we close it? It's inconvenient to drive the extra 10 km / 6 mi. to the west to detour around the bridge. Never mind that the advice of our consultant's senior bridge inspector (engineering technologist), their bridge engineer, the government's bridge manager (also an engineer), and heck, the two engineers that the contractor hired after he got the contract are all telling us we shouldn't be driving on this bridge. Let's let Joe Q. Public continue to drive on the bridge.

Yeah, it's the sort of thing to give people in my line of work nightmares.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's K2 day!

Today is the day that Amazon is shipping the first Kindle 2 ebook readers.

As my Kindle 1 has some screen issues... something to do with difficulty reading print on screen when the screen is blurred, or something like that.

Have I mentioned that the Kindle is a most excellent device? Indeed it is... it's helped me re-immerse myself in my longtime love of reading.

I've very excited about the thought of getting my new Kindle from my friend in the states. She's a trooper!

Walking on water (river training 2)

I attended a course last week on "ice safety" all about how to be safe while working on ice. Rather timely, as this week I'm spending a fair amount of time walking on ice to monitor work on my river training project.

As I mentioned, the river is eating away the bank. This photo shows the view from the level of the river, instead of from the bridge. The bank that's been eaten away is directly in line with the abutment:

As you might imagine, washing the abutment away would make it tough to drive across the bridge. Cars don't yet have the ability to hover. The last 'setting the scene' photo that I'll post follows. It's the view of the bridge from past the location of the spur. The trail of footprints entering the frame from the right-centre is approximately where the spur will be centered when everything is done.

While the labourer was walking around, she mentioned that she thought she heard the ice cracking. Well... if it was cracking, then there are issues! The ice is seriously thick at this site - to everyone's relief. But last week when I took these photos, we didn't know that yet.

The last photo shows the layout of the guidebank near the bridge. The painted lines are about 5' past the furthest extent of the rock that we are laying in to protect the new bank. I talked to my engineer about it, as it looks like we're going way the heck out into the channel. The answer? Well, apparently the OLD bank used to be out where the painted lines are on the ice, and the vertical banks to the east were once forest situated well away from the river. To put it into perspective, the river used to run straight through the center span of the bridge (seen above) and it is still aligned perfectly downstream of the bridge.

The excavator in these photos is prepping the area so that there was space to start building the new bank, excavating the toe of the bank and so forth, as I'll expound upon later. Hopefully it takes me less than an hour to upload the photos next time! Stupid slow internet at my hotel...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Training water...

It's that time of year again. Err... right. Not quite. Mrs. Spit would tell you that it's not a particular time of year, it's any time of year. Time for Mr. Spit to be sent off to the middle of some remote part of the province for his job.

This time it's a venture into hydraulic engineering. In the business, what we're doing is "river training" and it's not quite as exotic as it sounds.

Unlike my dogs - well, maybe the Collie, the Mastiff is more 'willful' and not as willing to accept direction - you can't really "train" water. However, it can be directed. When we create structures in a watercourse (i.e. a creek, stream, or river) to cause the flow to be directed to flow where we want it to, instead of where it is tending to do so naturally, we are in essence, training the river.

The project I'm dealing with right now came about as a result of the river deciding (pardon the anthropomorphizing) to leave its normal path and carve out a new path. The problem is that it happened right at the location of a bridge carrying a highway. As you can see in the photo below, this resulted in a long stretch of vertical banks, as the river moved further east and eroded the east bank.

If the river can't be brought back into a more disciplined flow pattern, ultimately it would wash out the road behind the east abutment to the bridge - not generally a good thing.

As a result, we are going to be installing two structures at this site. Upstream we will be placing a small spur, while closer to the bridge we will be building a large guide bank. The spur will take the energy of the river and direct it away from the bank. Then, as the river approaches the bridge abutment, the guide bank will guide the flow around the abutment to ensure that it both flows under the bridge and does not erode the bank further.

More to follow...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter-time blues

Sorry for the delay... I've had a real dearth of topics to discuss. Or rather, a lack of get-up-and-type motivation. Not really the blues...

About 14 months ago, while out in the frozen north, I came across this frozen pond at sunset (about 4:30 in the afternoon or so). It was cool. About -20C or so... but neat to see a red sunset in the winter. The closest town is about 60 km from this site, out in the boonies in the north-west section of Alberta.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Playing with light

I won't attempt to recreate the story behind the ring, as Mrs. Spit did a masterful job yesterday.

As I'm more than a little science minded, I had to take the opportunity to play a little bit. With a focused monochromatic light source* at hand, I had to try my hand at making the engagement ring that Mrs. Spit got 8 years late into a 'sparkly' show.

*read 'red laser' and everything makes more sense.

The most surprising thing about this little experiment was not just how amazingly bright the diamond appears, but how the reflections shoot outwards in many, many directions - including back into the eye of the one wielding the laser! It was truly a representative example of the definition of 'brilliant' - fitting, as it's a brilliant cut diamond.

This photo brought to you by the power of the Canon Super Macro mode on the replacement camera - replacing the one that the low-down-dirty thieves swiped back in November. Sorry for the pixelation - it comes from a massive reduction in resolution for purposes of the post.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Small town, BIG food!

I'm out driving around in north-eastern Alberta today. Driving down the highway I see a sign about "world's biggest pyrogy" and think to myself - "Cool! Haven't seen that one yet!" and turn up the road.

After a slow cruise down Pyrogy Drive... I found this little morsel.

Yes... it's big... That's a 3' high fence.

And the Pyrogy Cafe across the street? Closed. I was more than a little disappointed! I thought I'd have a great lunch in a town of 580 people, but nope... maybe come summer?

Monday, February 2, 2009

That time of year again

Winter. I'm sick of it.

This morning I heard from a friend that Pux-o-something Phil saw his shadow. Pshaw!

In Alberta, we have no such rodents. Other than gophers and they're not good for much.

It's that time of year. Winter feels like it's been here bloody long enough and I'm about ready for it to end. However, I live in the frozen north, so there's lots of winter left. Luckily we get less than our fair amount of snow. You don't have to shovel cold, only endure it.

I'm off for a day of driving in the country, inspecting some large culverts and small bridges. If it were a just cause, it would be inspecting large bridges and NO culverts. That's just my personal bias though, because I hate culverts.

Oh yes, it's a day of slogging around in my winter boots (steel toed), my insulated overalls, jacket, wool gloves, toque and safety vest. I just hope the snow isn't too deep where I'm going, or the air too cold, lest it remind me that winter is a nice time of year.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Sick today

Sorry, no thoughts today. Spent most of the day sleeping, slightly stoned on cold meds. Hoping tomorrow is better. Caught a viscious head cold.

Mrs. Spit tried to take the blame. Given that the 'common cold' isn't a single bug, I'm not so sure I'd blame my dear wife for this... especially as many people at the office have been sick of late.

I'll have to see how I'm faring in the morning... ugh...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rock.. on!

I haven't had a lot of time on the net this weekend. See, it's all about spending time relaxing on the weekend. This weekend I am playing with my new PlayStation game.

Yes, it's true. I broke down and joined the ranks of the music gaming world with the purchase of Rock Band 2. Just call me the little drummer boy! I'm having a blast.

Mrs. Spit wasn't too happy when she came home this afternoon. She was hoping to have a small lie down before jetting off for an evening of music with her mother. And here I was, banging away on my plastic drums. So, in the pursuit of marital relations, I'm downstairs now, about to go and spend some time reading.

Just as well, the "Rock Throne" was made of smaller and younger posteriors than mine! Bring on the couch!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

There are days...

There truly are days when I question my own sanity. What other reason can I put forward?

This morning I did the insane... I went shopping at Costco...

This is one of those days...

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Quote for Friday

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! - Emerson

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Memory of Hope

Life moves inexorably forward. No matter what might be of concern to me at the moment, in the greater picture, my woes will not matter a whit to the universe. Life and death are a constant reality on this little ball that we call the Earth. That my son was born early and did not survive the hour, while a ripping tragedy in my life, has no real consequence outside my sphere of influence, let alone the path of the planet.

I'm in a difficult place right now. I am working to move forward in life while at the same time, still feeling the pull of the loss of my son.

According to the Kubler-Ross model of the stages of grief, people go through the following stages of grief:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

Kübler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.

As I think back over the past 13 1/2 months, I can see times when I experienced different aspects of this psychological model. Heck, I cycled back and forth between stages at times. Times when I (months afterward) didn't want to accept Gabriel's death, or wanted to just sit in a sullen cloud of doom, doing nothing. Worse was when I thought I was in an state of 'acceptance' and then found myself slipping back down the ladder.

I've felt like my sense of self, as newly defined as a dead-baby-dad, was in a fluid state. Times like that I wasn't sure what I wanted anymore. Not sure of what to do, how to act, who to be. I'd be feeling generally fine, and then I'd watch Mrs. Spit get set injured by the selfish actions of someone, or by the sight of a newborn and have to stand with her in her pain. This invariably would prick at my own mental stability. Sometimes I could help her weather the storm without much effect - a boulder of granite. Other storms I would help her with effect - a boulder of siltstone.

Of late I am feeling more lingering sadness that my son is dead. Instead of being forefront in my waking consciousness, it rests on a ledge in a corner of my mind. It is similar to how my son rests on a shelf in my dining room, contained in a tiny urn. It's a tacit, permanent location, but it doesn't overwhelm me.

A huge part of healing, for me, was completing the bookshelf construction. Whereas Gabe's shelf is a small reminder of his passing, the zone of construction that constituted 70% of the floor space of my little house was the hulking brute of a reminder of his passing. Every month that passed with it not done was a reminder that it was started when Gabriel was a little ball of growth within Mrs. Spit. Hope for our future as a family, and hope for the renovation were wrapped up together in my mind. Finishing the renovation not only allowed us to start enjoying our house again, it allowed me to leave that ugly, unhappy part of my life behind me.

Today I truly feel like I'm at a point of acceptance. Not resignation, not hopelessness, but acceptance. Gabe's death affected me more deeply and more widely than I would ever have imagined prior to his birth. The new normal is starting to settle around me like a comfortable old coat. I could never have worn it two years ago, but now I can.

I have hope for the future of my family, but it's different now. Thinking back, the hope that I nurtured around Gabriel was shiny, bright, and innocent. If we succeed in trying to conceive again, there will be a new hope, different in so many ways, yet strangely similar. My memory of hope past will never be made more than a memory again.