Hello from Virden, MB

Today was the travel day to get from Calgary to Virden, Manitoba. It’s a little town just inside the Manitoba border. It’s two hours and 45 minutes from Regina, two hours and 30 minutes from Winnipeg and an hour from Brandon. Michelle and I are here to see Tundra Oil and Gas for the next few days and we had to figure out the best way to get here. In the end, we elected to fly to Regina and then drive from there. The weather cooperated, with the temperatures swinging into positive territory and sunny skies. It could have been blizzard conditions.

Entering Manitoba from Saskatchewan on Highway #1. Not much to see.

Michelle and I rented separate cars, because she is staying one more day on site after I leave. So it was a caravan from Regina. But not before we stopped for lunch at Victoria’s Tavern in Regina. I had eaten there before on a trip to see SaskEnergy, and so had Michelle on another trip. She wanted (very badly) to have their Stuffed French Onion Burger:

Gruyere cheese stuffed chuck patty topped with swiss cheese, caramelized onion, crispy fried onion, and roasted garlic mayo. Served on our house made swiss cheese bun.

We rented our cars at the airport and then drove downtown for lunch. It was 1:30 by that time. The burger was good…

Updated Tuesday Night

The first day of the workshop is done, and it went well. It was a full day of discovery. I went for a walk this evening before supper and took a few pictures of Virden.

Why Can’t the Whole Winter Be Like Today?

We spent February huddling in our house as the temperature stayed well below “fun”…

But now it’s turning around. The snow is starting to melt in Calgary and the mountains are just at the right temperature for playing.

Tammy the professional snowboarder

This weekend, there were two planned activities: going to Nakiska and going to the theatre to see Captain Marvel. It’s already March, and Nakiska will be closing in a month, and we’ve only been twice so far this winter, thanks to a warm December and a frigid February. I figure we will get out once or twice on Spring Break (next week) and that might be it for this season.

My original thought was that we would go skiing on Saturday and see the movie on Sunday, but when Tammy and Miranda looked like something the cat dragged in when they (finally) got up on Saturday morning, I knew that wasn’t the day for skiing. So we went to see the matinee of Captain Marvel. It was good, in a middle-of-the-road Marvel movie way. It was solid. But then any movie with Sam Jackson in it is worthy… They did a good job of de-ageing him. Phenomenal, really. Of course, the real movie that we are waiting for is Avengers: End Game, but that will come after the end of skiing season.

We got to the hill nice and early, and we were already on our fourth run or so before there started to be a bigger number of people on the slopes. In fact, Ian and I were talking about it at the beginning of one run: we’d expected it to be busier. It turned out that most of the people were at the Silver chairlift, while we were having fun on the Bronze.

Tammy was tired by about 10:30, so we took off our ski boots and put them in the car and then enjoyed a few runs down the tube park. That’s the first time we’ve used our passes this winter.

The whole family tubing

Hello from Palm Springs

It’s Esri Developer Summit time again! I am in Palm Springs, taking in the sights and sounds and learning all that I can.

The weather is nice, but not hot. It’s been raining here lately and much cooler than usual. Still, considering it was -22 when I left Calgary yesterday and +21 when I landed here, I am not complaining at all. I was out at the fire pit at the hotel last night with Dave Hamilton, Matt English and others who came and went. I introduced Dave to the Godfather (the drink, not the movie). My roommate this year is Chris Dupont.

Today is the first official day, with the plenary session in the morning and technical sessions starting in the afternoon. Here we are ready to go at the plenary this morning.

The one pain in the butt so far is that the J key on my Bridge keyboard for my iPad has come off. A tiny little plastic bit has broken. I should be able to fix it with some Crazy Glue, but I am glad that I brought my MacBook as well: it is not my main note-taking device.

Updated Friday Morning

It’s almost time to come home. This morning I’m up a little early to meet some co-workers at Sherman’s for breakfast. Then I will probably get one session in before checking out and heading for the airport.

The conference has been great. Long days and constantly having to choose between or among different sessions that all sounded worthwhile. There were only two in three days where I wanted or chose to leave to see something else. The weather has been behaving. While the forecast from last week threatened rain, there have only been two precipitation events: Tuesday night when I was asleep, and Wednesday at lunch when it was barely spitting in the sunshine. It was quite refreshing, actually.

Last night was the party and the weather was a little cool, but it was warm inside where the annual dodgeball tournament was on.

Dodgeball semi-finals

I didn’t participate in the tournament: I am a large target. Instead, I chose to try SAFE Archery Hoverball, which was challenging. Oh, and I blew up the Death Star.

I discovered that Michelle is very competitive when it comes to air hockey, but she and Konstantin met their match against a couple of other guys.

I have been able to FaceTime with the kids and Tammy most nights this week. It’s been a challenge with Tammy working in the evenings, but not too bad. It will be good to be home.

Updated after arriving home

Friday’s travel back to Canada was problematic for a lot of people I work with. I was pretty lucky, only getting delayed about an hour and then another half hour waiting for my bag to show up. My delay was caused by a plane having a mechanical issue and being parked at a gate in Palm Springs. When the Calgary plane arrived, it had nowhere to park, and was sitting on the tarmac for an hour. We felt like we were chasing it around the airport as first it was supposed to park at Gate 8 (where the borked plane was), then it taxied to Gate 17, and then back to Gate 8. Since I had a non-stop flight home, I was only inconvenienced, and so were Tammy and the kids picking me up.

Others were not so lucky. My roommate Chris ended up having to stay an extra day in Palm Springs because his flight was cancelled. Many of the Esri Canada staff from Toronto were going to be delayed into San Francisco and so would miss their connection. There were three people from Ottawa on my flight to Calgary, and they missed their connection.

It was the wind. The wind is always a problem at PSP. It has a lot to do with the mountains to the west and the fact that it only has one runway.

Today, the wind was blowing from the north-east, which put gale force gusts right across the runway. There’s no option to change runways to point the nose into the wind for landing and takeoff. When I arrived at the airport, the wind was strong enough that you had to hold onto the car door to prevent it from slamming shut. Planes that were trying to land were getting redirected to other airports, and since those planes hadn’t landed, the flights out of PSP on those planes were either delayed or cancelled. This happened to me in 2016 and I was lucky to make it home.

Some people fly to Los Angeles or Phoenix and then rent a car to drive to Palm Springs, but that’s adding considerable time and expense to the trip. I don’t imagine that I will do that in the future, and will continue to roll the dice with Palm Springs International Airport.

Leveling up on the Rollers

Today I did something that I’ve never done before: I got onto the rollers without any support to stand on or hold on to.

I got the idea because Tammy had cleared a big space in the bonus room so that she and the kids could do a workout together. I figured that this was an opportunity to set up and not worry too much about crashing into something if it went poorly.

It took about 5-8 minutes for me to be successful the first time. Then I rode for 10 km, stopped to towel off and have a drink and then did it again. The second time was way better. Then I stopped at 30 km and called for someone to take a video of me doing it. Miranda answered the call. Now I’m thinking about moving the rollers to the basement, since I don’t need to hold onto the treadmill now. Then I can get up early and get a workout in without bugging anyone. The possibilities are mind-boggling!

It’s Cold, But We’re Going Sledding, Dammit

The temperature got up to +1 yesterday afternoon, letting us think that this long cold snap was over, but then it was -16 when I got up this morning and it’s been hovering around -17 all day.

But it’s a testament to how stir crazy the kids are getting that they raised no objections when I suggested going sledding after lunch today. It was cold, and we only were out for 30 minutes of sledding, but it was worth it.

Miranda heading down (left) and Ian crashed (right)
Tammy posing for a selfie with the Abominable Snowman

Finally Not Housebound

It has been a long cold stretch, filled with quiet times at home. That’s not a bad thing, but I think we were getting a bit stir crazy. I had pencilled in today as a possible ski day. The long-term forecast had predicted it was the day the weather would break, and the kids had Thursday and Friday off. I took the days off work as well.

The weather report in the morning was not looking good. -21 with a windchill down into the -30 range. But by midday the temperature was supposed to shoot up and snow by evening. We decided to delay our departure for Nakiska until 10, hoping to hit the hill just as the temperature rose.

It worked. We were dressed well, and it was -15 when we got out of the car, but the temperature rose to -9 while we were there. The day was beautiful and sunny.

Ian and I on the Silver chair
Miranda on the Bronze chair
Tammy following after

It was a great day on the slopes. Well worth the wait.

The End of the Eye of the World

Tonight, we celebrated a little milestone: Ian and I finished reading Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World together, and I finished reading the French-language version of the same today, too. We started reading them back in the summer last year, and it has taken time, but it has been a good experience together. And my French reading skill continues to improve.

We even celebrated with a cake:

The ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai

We didn’t really make a cake to celebrate it, but it was my job to decorate it, and if I chose a topical theme, that was my choice. 😄

We also ordered Ian a new Rubik’s Cube today, but more on that later.

First Step on the way to IB

On Wednesday, Miranda got her letter from Hogwarts from Sir Winston Churchill indicating that she had been accepted as a candidate for the International Baccalaureate program.

On behalf of Sir Winston Churchill High School’s Area 1 Selection Committee for the International Baccalaureate Program (IB), we are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a Grade 10 student at Sir Winston Churchill High School for the school year commencing September 2019.

You will begin in September as an IB candidate. Grade 10 students at Sir Winston Churchill High School apply for admittance into the IB Program in November/December of their Grade 10 year. Acceptance is based on grades and SWC teacher recommendations.

As you can see, this does not mean that she will be accepted into IB for Grades 11 and 12, but we have confidence in her. This is the first step.

On Thursday night, Miranda and I went over her Grade 10 course selections and planning Grades 11 and 12 with the material we got at the orientation night in November. There are two sessions coming up where incoming IB candidates need to go to SWC to speak to counsellors and set their Grade 10 courses.

We’re very proud of her, and so is her teacher, Ms. McRae, who gave Miranda a card on Friday:

Congratulations on your acceptance to the IB program at Churchill — We know your future holds amazing things!

Damn straight. 😁

Brr! It’s Cold Out

We’re getting our blast of winter weather. It’s minus 23 out there and going to get colder tomorrow. Not a lot of incentive to be outside. So we stayed inside and put a puzzle together.

Tammy, Ian and Miranda almost done

We’ve had this puzzle for years, still in the think wrap. I was trying to remember exactly how long we’ve had it and failed. One Christmas in Sooke anyways.

The finished product – Dragon Hunters

And, of course it’s Groundhog Day, so we watched the movie this evening.


Hello From Peggy’s Cove

Tonight, I got a chance to get out of downtown Halifax and do a bit of sightseeing. When the second day of the workshop wound up, my co-worker Heather and I drove out to Peggy’s Cove. It sounds like it’s a really busy tourist trap in the summertime, but at sundown on a Thursday in January, it was deserted.

A ghost town in the fog

Crashing waves from the Atlantic and the lighthouse

Heather and I on the way

We then proceeded to Rhubarb, a little restaurant along the way, and then to her house. I got to meet her boys, Charlie and Graham, and her husband Craig then drove me back into Halifax on the way to his curling game.

Tomorrow, I fly back to Calgary. In premium class again!