My First “First Class” Flight

Okay, it might not have been out of the golden age of air travel, but I have to say that being upgraded to Premium at Westjet was a significantly different experience on the way to Toronto today. It started when I accumulated enough Rewards Points to get to the Silver level at Westjet. Flying in and out of Victoria and Calgary over the last 15 years has always meant better routes with Westjet than Air Canada, so I’ve been slowly racking them up. Then, when I went to check in on Monday morning, I found that my seats for YYC-YYZ and YYZ to YHZ were 1-C and 1-F, respectively. At first, I thought I’d screwed up when I booked the flight and gotten a business-class ticket by mistake. But I ruled that out and then later found the emails from Westjet in my inbox informing me of the upgrades.

I was psyched to get the elbow and legroom, but the benefits were numerous:

  • First on and first off the plane (literally the first off),
  • Bottled water
  • Breakfast (a cheddar and bacon wrap)
  • Banana bread
  • OJ (full tin, served in an actual glass
  • Hot towel (offered, but not taken)
  • The guy across the aisle was having Bailey’s and coffee, so there was more I could have enjoyed, apparently.

In other news, I managed to finally watch the last 15 minutes of Tag, and then I watched The Meg and then the first half of Ready Player One. I expect to be able to watch the second half on my flight to Halifax. I also had plenty of room to have my iPad/Brydge keyboard on my lap, and got an important document and message off to Jacob before my fight left.

I hope I get upgraded on the way home, but I won’t hold my breath.

Where’d the Power Go?

Today started well. We got up early and were out the door to go skiing. It was -17 in Calgary, but there was a warm front moving in. The traffic moved well and the highway was bare. At the mountain it was hard-packed, groomed snow with a light snow falling and about -2. Perfect.

Ian and I got seven runs in, including going up the Silver chair. Tammy and Miranda managed five.

Ian near the top

We got coffees and hot chocolates and were on our way home by 11. Then, when I was pulling onto Highway 40, suddenly the Golf’s engine lost power. Like hitting the rev limiter, but I didn’t. I pulled over and restarted the car. The check engine light was on and the car was barely making enough power to get up to highway speed.

Gentle hills were a challenge and on the steeper ones it slowed down to about 30 km/h. The Golf had turned into a Rolls-Canardly: Rolls down one hill canardly get up the next.

We limped back to Calgary. Tammy has dropped the Golf off at Knibbe Automotive, but they won’t open until Monday.

Is the Golf’s ninth life up?

A Shift Back To Winter

Since the bit of snow that we got on Christmas Day, the weather in Calgary has been unseasonably warm and dry. Even our street, which often has hard-packed ice that lingers well into the spring, was clear. It got to the point where we all went for bike rides on Sunday the 13th. I went for a 47-km solo ride, and Tammy and the kids rode 10 km to the library and back.

Yours truly enjoying a mid-winter ride

But this week, the temperatures dove down under freezing and it snowed yesterday. Before the snow was an ice fog, which always leaves the trees in a beautiful state.

Ice crystals on tree branches

Today it’s -17 out there. It’s supposed to be back above zero tomorrow, but we’ll wait and see. I’m off to Halifax next week. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with my air travel.

Miranda’s class went to Bowness High School for a field trip yesterday. She has put her application in to Sir Winston Churchill High School for the International Baccalaureate program for next year, but if that doesn’t pan out, she will attend Bowness. She was impressed by the various programs there, so it’s good that she is excited about Plan B.

In other news, I have jumped back into writing/editing mode. I have three novels that make up a long story, which I started in November 2015 with All Too Human, then followed up in 2016 with Outpost Tyranny and I partly completed between 2017 and 2018 with Who Writes the History Books. WWTHB is probably about 30,000 words from completion, but I decided to go back and revisit everything up to now to ensure continuity and to fix any outstanding edits. I am enjoying that process, and what I’ve done is created a PDF copy of the novels, and I am using the PDF Viewer app on my iPad with the Apple Pencil to make red-pen markup that I will incorporate later. It’s allowing me to scribble quick notes instead of worrying about getting everything perfect. Once I get to where I left off in 2018, I think I will be ready to push through the last part of the book.

This is exciting for me, because it’s been a long time coming, and I can envision the end.


Ian the Movie Maker

We left Ian alone for a few hours today, and the next thing you know, he’s creating little movies with the iPad. The first one is a little story about two boys and one of them is mean and the other gets revenge.

The second one is just a little experiment with special effects:

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me. 🎥


This morning, I was talking to Ian about forced perspective, which is a very old technique to make things look at different scales. We tried some still photos, and then we put together this short clip, Climbing into the Purdy’s Bag. Enjoy.


Kids’ Growth

I’m only a week late, but I remembered to measure the kids today.

I think it’s safe to say Miranda is about as tall as she’ll get, while Ian is just starting into his growth spurt.

Not Fair

I have two full weeks off. And what happens? I get sick twice and hurt my back.

I can’t complain about Dad’s visit: I was feeling well (except for my back) for all of it, but then he wasn’t feeling well for the last day of his visit. We managed to get one day of skiing in, but now I’m suffering with laryngitis.

I suppose I’ve had a pretty good run of good health in the last few years. Since the kids have grown out of the “picking things up off the floor and putting them in their mouths” phase, it’s been better.

First Ski Trip of the ’18/’19 Season

Considering Nakiska has been open for a while, the weather and my health have been getting in the way of us heading to the mountains. But no more: the kids had their eye exams this morning and we went straight from there to the ski hill. It was sunny and windy in Calgary, but cloudy and snowing lightly at the hill. There were a couple of inches of powder and it was about 1 degree. With the fresh snow on the trees, it was very picturesque.

A winter wonderland

I have been trying to shake a sore throat (combined with a headache) since the second of January. When I woke up this morning, I thought I would only be the chauffeur on this trip, but I felt better by the time we got there. Ian and I managed to get in six runs off the Bronze chair before Tammy called it quits.


2018 Retrospective

Hear ye, hear ye! 🔔 The end of the year is nigh! ‘Tis time to reflect on the year that was.

As usual, a lot happened. Maybe not all of it was earth-shattering news, but everyone is continuing to grow and do new things.

Miranda turned 14 (it’s always weird to reference that, one day before her next birthday every year) and she’s well into teenager hood now. Her eyes finally gave in to genetics and she has glasses now. She also experimented with a couple of new haircuts: short and shorter. Her biggest event of the year was her trip to Montréal and Québec this spring. When the weather and traffic didn’t cooperate, she got a couple of extra days. She made a post about the whole trip. She also showed an interest in role-playing-type games (she’s always liked Baldur’s Gate/Champions of Norrath and the Lord of the Rings). If we can find the time, she’s a willing participant in the Order of the Stick. Her braces came off late in the year. Yay!

Ian kept a low profile early in the year. He was in posts about family events like skiing at Nakiska and our West Edmonton Mall trip, but it wasn’t until summer came that there were posts about a field trip to Heritage Park and his new road bicycle riding exploits. He’s growing, and was tall enough to go on some new rides at Calaway Park this year. He continued to be interested in programming, but still has more enthusiasm than focus. Another long-term project was reading the Wheel of Time together. He turned 11 in July, and had a sleepover with Ben, a family birthday party and a party at Southland Leisure Centre. He even posted to this site a couple of times, including a loving look at the iPhone XR.

Tammy was quiet this year. As always a part of everything, but the list of solo stories was short. There were her new Sam Sparks glasses, and her 46th birthday. Her new job got exciting when there was a bomb threat at the college. She’s driving her Golf a lot more, and some wear and tear can be more stress-causing than others. She got a chance to meet up with some of her former students from Switzerland this year, and she got back on the horse and donated blood as well. Her biggest story was having a business trip to Edmonton! She got to partake in a multi-day ESL conference. The rest of the family survived her absence, if barely. 😁

Most of the stories about me or the things I did seemed to be about information technology, cycling or home improvement. I suppose that’s not too surprising. I had four rounds of programming news, where I improved the FFF mobile app, did a proof of concept of aligning FFF records with bank records in Python, then developing a Mac app and then enhancing it. I had issues ordering new decals for my Roubaix, but managed to get them and apply them in the end. Tammy and I made a handful of lunch dates at the Last Straw Pub, but the only date night was going to see MAMIL in Eau Claire. I might need to work on my relationship skills. 🤔 I turned 45, which seems like a lot. The most notable thing that happened this year was getting to see a Stampeders game from the ENMAX private box. That was quite the experience.

Our cat Squeak celebrated her 20th birthday this year, making her our longest-lived pet ever. Even Dad’s visit at Christmas couldn’t do her in. Meanwhile, Stephanie “I’m not getting any more pets” has added a second cat to her family: Willow.

The house almost seems like one of the family in these retrospectives: it’s changinghaving problems and getting smarter all the time. Sometimes we have to change it when we change as a family, like finding a place to put all the bikes in the winter. Or it can just be tidying it up. Or it can be the geography we live in, with a new rec centre opening or a brush fire that was too close for comfort. No matter what, it’s our home and has been for over five years now. The occasion of our fifth anniversary spurred on a great family photo, if not the official one for 2018.

I always like to highlight the arts and music in these retrospectives, and in the first half of the year, it was Stephanie and her kids who were the best, with their painting nights. Keep it up! The kids had their piano recital, which might be Miranda’s last as she stopped piano lessons. She still plays but wasn’t interested in lessons this fall. Ian had a couple of successful tries at playing the drums. Miranda continues to do a million and one craft projects, much more than she posts about here. And as usual, November was National Novel Writing Month. It was the 11th year for Tammy and I, and both Miranda and Ian took part. We were successful by all measures. I didn’t finish my novel, but I am excited to keep working on it.

We had a couple of visitors: our friend Cindy came to Calgary to visit her family and attend the Comic Expo, and we got a chance to have dinner with her, and Dad came twice: once in July and once again at Christmas. By coming in July, he got to see and do stuff that doesn’t work at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I had only a handful of trips in the first half of the year to Hamilton, Palm Springs and Tech Trek, but then rounded out the year with Winnipeg (a first for me!), Toronto, Edmonton and Regina. We had our annual pilgrimage to the coast in August. Before we left, the weather in Calgary was extreme, with a new record high of 36 degrees set, and the smoke from BC wildfires choking off outdoor activities. It seemed that we drove through the smoke to blue skies, and the clear air persisted long enough for everyone to ride in the Tour de Victoria, then the smoke closed in on Victoria, too. We tried some different indoorish activities, but the smoke didn’t let up until we went back home again.

It was a good year for us. Here’s hoping for more good stuff to come in 2019! Happy New Year!


2018 Cycling Roundup

Don’t worry, the general 2018 Retrospective is coming tomorrow. Today, I met my distance goal for cycling: 9,000 km for the year. With that, I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the cycling year.

As I mentioned, I met my goal for the year, but my initial target was 8,000 km. In October, it was clear that I was going to pass that, so I upped my sights.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but back in 2014 I wondered how I would ever top 3,000 km.

But enough about me. If 2018’s cycling story was about anything, it was about the rest of the family. Both Miranda and Tammy joined the Bow Cyclist Club, and Ian was one of my biggest riding partners.

It all started in January, when I enrolled Miranda and myself in the Bow Cycle Service School. Miranda had “inherited” Tammy’s bike the previous year, but it was her opportunity to tear it apart and make it her own. I took my Giant commuter and replaced its drivetrain with a 1x system, which was my major cycling investment of the year.

The spring took its own sweet time coming, so while there were a few rides in March and April, nothing really started happening with regularity until May. Then the 2018 pattern established itself: I commuted pretty regularly, rode on Wednesdays and Sundays with the BCC (and Miranda would join on Sundays), Tammy would ride the Tuesday morning ladies’ ride, Tammy and Miranda would ride the Thursday night ladies’ ride with the BCC, while Ian and I would go for a spin along the pathways.

I had two early season “special” rides, both in June: the MEC Century Ride and the Gran Fondo Badlands. Keith came out to stay with us to take part. The weather cooperated, even if the integrity of our tires did not.

Ian turned eleven this year, and while his legs might not be long, he was super enthusiastic about riding his new road bike this year. I got the bike for $275 from Tara, whose son had outgrown it. Ian’s first attempts at riding it were comically tentative, but soon he was pushing himself to try new things, including riding up Canada Olympic Park and registering for the Tour de Victoria. That forced an additional bike rack for the Tiguan, as the Biickerts were all represented in the Tour de Victoria this year. That was the highlight of the year.

The weather didn’t cooperate very well this year. Calgary was choked with smoke through August from the BC wildfires, Victoria followed suit while we were there (thankfully not on the Tour day). Then winter arrived early. There were some further BCC rides in October, but only for the hardcore. For Tammy and Miranda, the season was over when we got back to Calgary from Victoria.

Faced with the prospect of a long, long winter, I opted for variety in the form of a set of cycling rollers. Technically an early Christmas present, it has already been a welcome change from Zwifting every day.

Stepping back and looking at the year again, it was huge steps forward for Tammy and Ian. Tammy will end the year with more than 4,300 km. That’s huge! Ian stepped up and rode lots and with enthusiasm. For myself, I can’t help but think that it was a bit of a step backwards. I know I didn’t reach the levels of fitness in the summer that I did in 2017. I only rode three centuries, instead of six or seven in 2017, depending on how you count them. I was very regular and my totals show it. And there is something very rewarding seeing the others reach new heights.

But looking ahead to 2019, I have already agreed with the BCC that I would shift to leading the Saturday ride instead of the Sunday ride. That will hammer me into shape: 90 hard km instead of 45 easy ones. I also am pondering entering the Tour de Bowness next August and there is something new called the Alberta Gran Fondo Series for 2019. Who knows, I might get back to 2017 levels next year.