Damn, frickin’ potholes!

I know it’s part of living in snowball city, but I still hate them. I especially hate the ones you can’t see at night until you either graze them or hit them. I went through a substantial one Monday night as I was exiting the Deerfoot. It was hiding under a puddle and of course it was under the bridge and it was dark and my windows were gummed up with spray when I went through it. It made the most horrendous sound and I thought for sure I’d either blown the tire/popped it off the rim or cracked a shock/strut. I had slowed down to 65 (instead of 100), but still it was too fast. I managed to make it home and nothing appeared to be damaged. I drove to work both Tuesday and Wednesday without problems. It was only by chance last night that a co-worker was walking as I was pulling out of the parking lot when she flagged me down. She said it sounded like I was dragging something or my engine was acting up. Nothing was obvious in the dark, so I drove on with my window down and I heard it too. I pulled over into another parking lot and looked under the car. A cover under the engine area had popped open and was dragging (possibly since Monday night). I couldn’t push it back up, so I called Simon to let him know. (He was out at his second event of the evening and I was supposed to pick him up and drive home.) I drove to Knibbe Automotive via Memorial and Crowchild to limit my speed and, hopefully, to prevent the cover from being ripped ff completely. I called them and left a couple of messages and then took the train home.
I finally got through to them this morning and apparently it was just the underside cover (they’ve had a few given the road conditions around town). They re-secured it, changed my oil (it was nearly due so I figured get done while it’s there if time permitted), and checked for other damage from the pothole fiasco (nothing found). Now I’m just waiting to go and pick it up.
I was worried it would be a major issue or that they couldn’t get to it today. Another storm system is coming through and Simon’s car doesn’t have snow tires, so I’d be forced to use public transportation to get to and fro work tonight during a snow-freezing rain storm which would be at least an hour’s commute if everything ran smoothly (and we know it frequently doesn’t when the weather goes south).

Preparing for the Big Thaw

Calgary is expected to experience the chinook effect over the next week with forecasted temperatures reaching 16 degrees! This last happened back in 2009 and, apparently, it was a mess in every possible way across the city. In preparation for that event, I’ve been following advice and scraped away as much snow and ice build up away from the foundation of the house as well as making sure the drainpipes are clear/exposed. When I went out back to do the same, I was amazed. We had had this one replaced a few years back because it was old and tatty and was prone to build up. Well, this is what it currently looks like:

Hopefully it won’t warm up too quickly and cause flooding issues.

Big Trouble in Little City

This morning I received an email from my supervisor informing us that all classes had been cancelled due to an emergency evacuation this morning and to inform our students about the cancellation. So I updated my class website and emailed all those that I could thinking nothing much of the evacuation. It was probably a broken water main or a gas leak or something of that sort. It wasn’t until I put a post up on Facebook that I learned the truth. Stephanie was the first to respond with:

It was a real Joe Dirt moment : Whaaaaaat?!  I immediately scoured the news sites to find a story about it and eventually found it on Global News Calgary. I also sent it to my supervisor.  I doubt there is/was a bomb, but this is as close as I’ve come to a situation like this.  I’ll post updated news stories as they become available.

Part of me wishes I had been a fly on the wall when they were announcing/carrying out the evacuation.  Columbia is in an industrial park, so there are many other businesses on site and no central communications system in place. It’s not like in high school where the principal can come over the PA system and direct everyone. It’s more a matter of phone calls, emails, and texts flying back and forth and people going from classroom to classroom informing teachers.  There are only 2 exits from this site and I can only imagine it looked like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie with cars everywhere, people running around willy-nilly (some with children) on icy surfaces, and traffic jams all topped off by the fire department, the police department, and the bomb squad showing up. Where’s John McClane when we need him?

Even if this was a hoax, I imagine security measures will be examined and/or beefed up. Maybe everyone will need a special pass to open building doors or every vehicle will need to have a parking pass and be registered or something.  I’m guessing some training for doing evacuations will happen too.  We have a procedure for lock downs, but that would’ve been useless today.


The president of the college sent around an email today with a bit more explanation:

“As you may be aware Columbia College received a bomb threat March 7 at approximately 10:45 am. We were informed that a bomb would go off in the next 30 minutes (11:15 am)”

As predicted the college will be reviewing and amending their emergency response procedures in light of this incident.

Hello from Palm Springs, 2018

This marks the third year in a row that I’ve attended the Esri Developer Summit conference in Palm Springs. It’s a great conference, and I always learn lots. It also happens to be in Palm Springs where the temperatures are like a Canadian summer while my poor family shivers in the snow.

The flight here was uneventful. I flew from Calgary to Vancouver and then to Palm Springs, and I will do the opposite on the way home Friday. I am rooming with Chris Macleod this year. He’s a pretty good roommate. Snores a bit, but not so much that it disturbed me. I had my earplugs ready to go on the bedside table, but I didn’t feel the need. Tonight he, Steven, Mohamed and James from the City of Burnaby and I went to Rio Azul, a Mexican place. It was good food and not too busy. I managed to find food that did not have avocado in it, so I’m feeling fine.

Pay no attention to the large margarita… 🙂

Not a lot to report. I ran into Chris Spicer and Colin Newall at breakfast today. Was good to reconnect with them. Chris showed me a picture of his daughter Savannah trying on a dress for her junior prom. I remember changing that girl’s diaper at our place.

Snowboarding today, palm trees tomorrow

It’s the last day before I jet off to Palm Springs for the 2018 Esri Developer Summit. What better way to celebrate the difference than to play in the snow today?

We’ve had a ton of snow this winter, but instead of that being a blessing, it’s actually been a hindrance. The combination of the dangerous roads and frigid temperatures has actually confounded at least four ski days. Today it was cold (-13), and it snowed Friday and part of Saturday, but we went to Nakiska anyways.

The conditions were interesting. There was an amount of powdery snow everywhere, but the cold temperature really made the snow sticky. I found myself hopping my board to try to get to the bronze chairlift because I didn’t have any momentum. I ended up having to unfasten one boot and push myself along. So then Ian and I went up the Silver chairlift, and then met up with Miranda and Tammy and went up the Silver again.

I had time to stop and enjoy the scenery on the way down, so took a few pictures.

Miranda and Ian, ready to go

Tammy and I. Sorry about the fat finger!

It was a gorgeous day. Every way you looked, it was a real-life postcard.

Ian waiting

And to top it off, on the way back we had a laugh: at a highway pullout about halfway home, there was a person next to their car, pants at half-mast, squatting. I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Didn’t get a picture of that.

Happy Birthday, Tammy!

Today Tammy hit forty-six years old. It probably wasn’t her ideal birthday day, given that it was a Wednesday, and I worked the day and she worked the evening. But we did what we could to be together.

First, we all got up before I left for work so that Tammy could unwrap prezzies. She liked the gift from Ian.

Minecraft chicken farm Lego

But she loved the new coffee grinder!

Mine! All mine!

Miranda made her some eucalyptus fizzing bath salts, which smell awesome.

Then I was off to work and the kids were off to school. I came back home at lunch hour and we walked down to The Last Straw pub for a nice lunch. She had the bacon and blue cheese burger. We both worked at the dining room table for the afternoon before it was time for dinner and then she was off to work.

I went to Bow Cycle to take part in what might be the last shop Zwift ride of the season. In about two weeks, Bow Cycle will shift to summer hours, so the shop will be open in the evening. No sign of the roads being clear enough to ride on though. A huge buildup of compact snow on our street still.

Paul, me, Adam and Mark. Tara took the photo.

Soon Tammy will be home, and we’ll have a drink to toast her birthday.



Conference -Day 2

I’m afraid I wasn’t as gung-ho as I was yesterday. I was awake early, but I overdid it in the gym and I think the Exercycle used different leg/butt muscles. I’m hoping the stairs will be enough exercise for today.

The day started with checking out of the hotel and checking my suitcase at the front desk. I wasn’t about to wheel it around the conference today. Besides, the bus will pick us up at the hotel at 5-ish. There were no keynote speakers so it was a breakfast of egg McMuffins or burritos and fruit and straight off to the sessions.

The first session was called: First and Second Language Acquisition and Learning-American Sign Language and English. It was something completely different. I don’t have and deaf students, but I’ve always wondered about sign language and ESL. It was very interesting, especially the approach to L2 acquisition and the link between L1 and L2 when it comes to language learning.

The second session was Multi-level, Minimal Fuss. This session showed creative ways to alter activities and tests for multi-level classes without having to research for hours to have separate things for each level.

Then it was lunch. It was butter chicken with salads, buns, and beets. There were also 3 kinds of pizza. The dessert was key lime cheesecakes with mango cooliss.

The third session was Anything but routine, routine. This was a workshop in using daily agendas to both inform the class of the day’s agenda and give them real workplace skills.

The final session was Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Module. This had to be the best of both days. There was instruction on how to make modules as well as numerous resources to use in the process and for lesson planning. It’s the PBLA Training we all should have had and it was just a home grown workshop from the Edmonton Catholic School Board.

Most sessions ended early and the closing speech was only 10 minutes long. By Monday everyone will be emailed a link to access all handouts, slides, and videos from all the sessions. I can’t wait.

Now we’re en route home. It’s a smaller bus with no bathroom. We’ll be stopping in Red Deer for supps and bathroom break. W should be home around 9.30/10.00.

Conference – Day 1

My day officially started at 4.30 when the crashing waves from my ambient playlist jolted me out of sleep.  I had been dozing in and out since 1.30. I lay in bed trying to block out the noise, but had to get up and turn it down. Unfortunately, it no longer drowned out my snoring roommate. (Tonight I will turn it down a bit so the transition between songs isn’t so drastic.) By 5.00 I thought, “screw it, I’m getting up.” I went to the fitness room and started on the bike. It was one of those typical gym exercise bikes, not upright like a real bike, so I changed to the treadmill after 5 minutes.  I wasn’t the first person there.  Some guy was pumping iron. By 6.00 I was back in the room and getting ready – my roommate was still sawing wood.

I woke her up at 7 and by 8 we were at the conference centre.  We had a delicious breakfast (sorry forgot to take a pic) of bacon, scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, pastries, juice, smoothies, and coffee/tea before the welcomes, introductions, and keynotes got started. After that was a quick break of muffins, hummus and pita, and fruit before the actual session started.

I went to the PBLA Digital Tracking Tools session first.  It was interesting to see the behind-the-scenes, but more aimed at program supervisors. Then it was lunch.  There were a few options. I went for the caesar salad with meatballs and tomato soup. There was a biscotti-tiramisu dessert as well.

After lunch I went to the Maximizing the CLB Support Toolkit session where I got a refresher on this toolkit/manual. It was good to look at it again after having taught a few sessions.  Now I think I can better plan assessments. There was another short coffee break after this and then the final session: Task Based Planning – Starting with the End in Mind. There were so many people wanting to participate we had to move to the dining hall to accommodate everyone.  It too was a refresher on module planning and assessment building.

There was a quick 15 minute closing and door prizes (I didn’t win anything) before it was all over. I headed back to the hotel and emailed everyone to see who was doing what.  (Unlike the other groups here, we sure don’t have any organization for extra-curricular activities.)  we found out last minute that a few went to a local pub. Cleo and I hustled over to the Sherlock Holmes pub.  I had a Guinness and a fish taco. Both were delicious. The rest had burgers and fish and chips. We all headed over to the Westin for the networking mixer. It was pretty low key. The drinks weren’t free and the food was up-market. I had a few olives and zucchini before I left. To be honest I was tired after the conference.

So far I haven’t learned much new, but revisiting materials I greased through to get certification back in the beginning was worthwhile. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

The Night Before the Conference

Tomorrow and Thursday is the ATESL IRCC-funded Language Training Learning Event at the Shaw Conference Centre here in Edmonton.

Our trip got off to a slow start because the bus was late. On the plus side we had a replacement driver and a full-sized coach with a bathroom! We stopped in Red Deer for a take out supper at Tim Horton’s. We managed to roll into downtown by 7.10. The Westin Hotel was the first stop and the bus got stuck in their parking lot. 😆 I’m rooming with a fellow teacher, Cleo, and we’re on the sixth floor of the Marriott Courtyard with a view of the river. We’ve already checked in, so we just need to be at the Centre for 8 to get the provided breakfast. Lunch and snacks are also provided each day.

I anticipate there will be a zillion ESL teachers at this thing, so I’m not sure what workshops I’ll be attending each day. I’ll attempt to update at the end of each day. There’s a networking mixer tomorrow night, but other than that I don’t know of any other plans.