Hello from Edmonton

Tonight is the night between days one and two of a workshop with ATCO. This morning was a super early one to get to the bus station downtown for 6:00 am. Mary and I were on the bus to make it to ATCO for a 10:30 start. It was an interesting day, with more than a little chaos in the workshop. For most of it, I was not leading which is unusual. JP was here from Toronto. He is part of the Utilities team and today was focusing on the solution for ATCO. Tomorrow is the solution architecture part of the workshop and I will be in the spotlight.

This evening, our team met at the Marc restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, Mary, JP and I went for a walk down to the Alberta legislature.

Me, JP and Mary

The Leg. JP in the foreground.

I will be on the bus back to Calgary tomorrow evening.

Actually Writing in a Coffee Shop

It’s April and that means it’s time for Camp Nanowrimo. I don’t always participate, but when I have a specific writing or editing goal, I do. This month I am working on finishing my latest novel, but with the amount of travel and other things on my plate I have forgone my typewriters. I have almost exclusively using my iPad Pro with the Brydge keyboard. I have tried using my MacBook Pro with BBEdit, but the keyboard on the MacBook really doesn’t work well for me. To the point that I’m glad that this isn’t my own computer and I will be able to give it back someday.

Not using a typewriter means that I am more portable and can sit down in a Starbucks and start working. And that’s what I’m doing. Miranda’s prowling the Indigo books and I’m at a table with a grande dark roast coffee. It’s a strange feeling. Sort of exposed and yet private at the same time.

I still love my typewriters. I am more productive with them than using a laptop or iPad like this. But it is a nice change of pace.

Home Security Update

Tammy and I have been talking for a while about whether or not we wanted to continue with our existing home security system. It was installed within a month of us moving in by the good timing of the Vivint person coming by door to door. In the (almost) six years since, there have been some annoyances:

  • The video camera has always been flaky
  • The horrible resistive touch screen on the main panel
  • Difficulties with the overhead garage door sensor
  • Inability to add additional devices or get updated devices
  • The Apple Watch app, which was so useful to begin with, stopped working with WatchOS 5

With these things, and our move towards Amazon Alexa in our smart home and the maturation of these technologies that didn’t exist in 2013, the monthly bill was getting more and more unpleasant to pay. We even called them a few months ago to see what opportunities there were to upgrade the system, but got nowhere.

Then we got a cold call on the weekend offering a complete upgrade of the system, additional components and installation. 🤦‍♂️

Today was the day and while there were a couple of hiccups, everything is up and running now. The installer relocated the panel a little which left a hole in the drywall that I will have to fix & paint. The list of new and/or replaced stuff:

  • Updated main panel. So much nicer.
  • Updated smart thermostat. Much simpler and easy to use.
  • Updated indoor camera.
  • New doorbell camera.
  • New water flood sensor.
  • Keychain fobs to arm/disarm the house.

It’s all controlled by a new app, and the new app has an Apple Watch app! We are back in business. Lost Amazon Alexa control for the time being. It’s not available in Canada. But with the better main panel and the watch app, I think it’s a much better (and probably more secure) tradeoff. ⌚️

Got rid of that extra WiFi hotspot that supported the old system, too. The new one is wired into our existing network.

Miranda arriving home, spied by the doorbell

Family Ride Down and then Up

Last weekend, when I was leading the BCC Saturday Ride out to Cochrane, I got into a little trouble when picking a route through the town. I was relying on another ambassador on the ride to know the route, but he turned back early because he wasn’t feeling well. So it was a bit of a gongshow.

This morning I resolved that I would scout out the right route, so that I would know where I was going. I “invited” Tammy to join me, and when Ian heard we were going, then he was in. I’m not sure if Miranda volunteered or was guilted into it, but I’ll assume it was voluntary.

I rode out first, and met everyone at the top of Cochrane hill. That got me a good 26 km before the family ride started. Then we all rode down the hill, through Cochrane along River Ave, then across the river and into the residential area on the far side. Then I went up the hill as far as Highway 22 so that I would know the route for the club, and returned to join Tammy and the kids for coffee & hot chocolate at Cochrane Coffee Traders.

Then it was time to climb the hill. It took a little while, and Tammy had a blood sugar crisis partway up, but in the end we all made it with smiles.

Ian enjoying the view halfway up

Then Tammy and the kids drove home and I hoisted the sails: a lovely tailwind all the way home along Highway 1A. That was their first time up Glen Eagles hill, and it won’t be the last.


Today my car finally sold. I put it on Kijiji back in February. The initial response was slow, but by March I had had a few interested parties ask about it. It wasn’t until late March that I actually had someone come and look at it. He was impressed with it, but ended up going with another car. However, he told his friend who ended up buying it. He was hot to buy something by the weekend, so we met halfway at Southcentre Mall today. We had a quick drive around and a few questions. He wanted a dealer inspection done and offered to pay $5000-5500 which was lower than what I was hoping for ($6500). After a few texts and calls and a talk with Knibbe (in lieu of an inspection) he offered a firm $5500 cash, which I eventually took. He and his friend came and got it after 4. We filled out and signed the Bills of Sale and away they went. Not soon after I was down at Plates deregistering my car and returning the plate as well as depositing the $$. I have to wait until Monday to cancel the insurance.
I loved my car and I was sorry to see it go, but it was starting to become randomly unreliable plus we don’t really need 2 cars. I would’ve liked more money for it, but I got market value (and it was more than a trade-in). In the future we’ll probably need a second car once the kids learn to drive. Maybe by then there will be more electric options (and rebates) available.

Hello from Vancouver

This trip has been a quick one: I flew into Vancouver yesterday afternoon and now it’s 4:45 and I’m in Vancouver Airport at the White Spot waiting to head home. I was here to do a one-day workshop with E-Comm 911. I haven’t met with them face-to-face since late 2015, so it was a bit overdue. I like working with them. I have worked with them on their emergency map viewer since 2008.

The weather was nice when I got here, but got rainy today. That was okay, because David picked me up from the hotel and drove me over to the offices this morning.

I took the SkyTrain from the airport to the hotel for a laugh yesterday. I took the Canada Line downtown, then transferred to the Expo Line and then the Millenium Line and walked the last few hundred metres to the hotel. It was more fun than taking the taxi, which I just did to get to the airport.

The workshop went well, and the client is happy with the results. Now I need to write the document as quickly as possible, because I meet with SaskTel on Monday and the National Energy Board on Wednesday next week.


Spring Break Comes to an End

It has seemed like a long week off, which I believe to be a good thing, but all good things must come to an end. This past week, I have taken vacation at the same time as the kids, so it’s been good family time off. Tammy had to work four evenings last week, but we’ve had the days together. Tammy has been working out every day with the kids. They’ve been doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. I have to applaud them. They have kept at it, and I’d say even Ian is enthusiastic about it. I joined them today (more on that below). We had a good Earth Hour. It is an excuse to power down as a family and spend time together in the candlelight. We had a good long family talk in the living room and didn’t turn the lights back on until well after the hour was up.

We didn’t really go anywhere on this time off, except yesterday when Tammy and the kids went to T&T Supermarket. There they managed to find lots of oriental treats like miso, mochi and super hot ramen noodles (that was Ian’s pick). We had some of the ramen today at lunch and even with the sauce at 1/4 strength it was about all they could handle. I did a bit at 1/2 strength and it was not popular. 😁

The super weather that we had the week I was in Virden has dampened somewhat, but it was enough to kill our skiing season. When we went to Nakiska on Thursday, we found that the Bronze chairlift was not in operation. I guess the very bottom of the hill was melting beyond saving. That was the first time that we’d been surprised like that: I don’t think either Tammy or I were anticipating that. Tammy got a drive out to Nakiska and not much else. I, on the other hand, had the best run of my life. I was carving my heel edge like I had never done before.

There’s the feeling that spring is around the corner, but everything is still dead and grey-brown. I had my first Bow Cyclist Ride on Saturday (the loop out to Cochrane for coffee), but I think riding will still be intermittent for a bit yet. We had our first BBQ of the season: some burgers.

Today was the last day before back to school for the kids and back to work for me. Tammy is now off for the next two weeks in between semesters at college. Too bad the timing wasn’t better. We “celebrated” with a movie day. We rented The Dead Zone and then Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse off of iTunes. Then we all did a cardio workout to get the blood working. There is just barely enough room in the bonus room for all of us in there. Then the last movie was Solo: A Star Wars Story off of Netflix. My opinion was that they were all good movies, if very different. The Dead Zone was Tammy’s choice, and I think it was the best surprise of the day. We were zipping through iTunes and Tammy spotted it.

My next weeks are going to be very full at work, with a trip to Vancouver on Tuesday, then Edmonton mid-month and Regina early in May. There are other engagements in between and there will be documents to write. I’ve managed to put most of that out of my mind for the week, but I note that as of right now, I have 128 unread emails for work. With that and four meetings tomorrow, I doubt I will have time for much else. Somehow I will have to reserve the time and energy for Camp Nanowrimo. I have got everything in line for finishing my latest novel this month. I have been editing since January and everything is in good shape.

Starting Cider

It’s been a while, but I finally got around to starting the process of making apple cider. We harvested a huge amount in September and made lots of apple products, but there was so much left over I decided that I would try my hand at apple cider. Of course, there’s big difference between deciding something and doing something. At the time, I tried to figure out what equipment I would need and it was too confusing so I put it aside. Then this weekend I watched this video and decided I was over-thinking it.

The biggest question was how to juice the apples. Buy a juicer? Use the blender? Food processor? The juicer that the guy in the video is using is this one, which is $200. I decided to try using the food processor (the attachment on Tammy’s Bosch mixer). It’s not a big one, but as it turns out, it does a pretty good job. The next thing to figure out was straining the pulp. What came out of the food processor was like applesauce. First I tried a strainer and a bowl that fit inside it to create a press, but Tammy pulled out some cheesecloth and that was much better.

The whole family pitching in

It took a while. One person working the food processor, two squeezing the cheesecloth bags and one person “roving”: chopping apples, helping out where needed.

The test bag of apples (with the strainer press) yielded about 1/2 litre of juice, so since I had 18 bags in total, I expected 9 litres (2 gallons) of juice. Tammy and I went to Grapes to Glass and the fellow there was very helpful, setting me up with the necessary bits and bobs, including a 3 gallon carboy.

It turned out that the cheesecloth filtering was much more efficient. We were using one of Mom’s old Tupperware bins for collecting the juice, and it was filled after only 13 of the 18 bags.

Collecting the juice

Eyeballing it, it’s probably more than 2.5 gallons, so we called it quits and tossed the rest of the apples in the green bin! ♻️ Then Tammy had some insane laughter as we started to clean up… there were applesauce and apple seeds everywhere.

I have put the Campden tablets in (which turned the juice from ruddy brown to a apple-cidery yellowish colour) and tomorrow the yeast goes in.

Updated on Day 2 (Tuesday)

This afternoon, I took the next step. First thing was that I noticed there was about an inch of sediment in the bottom of the tub. That, combined with the fact that there is only about an inch of breathing room between the top of the juice and the lip of the tub, convinced me to siphon off the juice prior to adding yeast. I sanitized the equipment with the Sani-Brew powder that we got yesterday and rinsed everything out. Then Tammy helped as I transferred the clear(er) juice to the carboy, leaving the “applesauce sludge” behind. That sludge is now being drained ready for pasteurization and eventual consumption…

Juice back in the tub, applesauce draining

We then added 2 cups of white and 2 cups of brown sugar as well as 2 tsp of the yeast nutrient, and one packet of Lalvin EC1118 wine yeast. The plan is to now leave the tub open for a couple of days before transferring it back into the carboy for aging.

At this point, I’m sure we’ve already screwed things up. 😄

Updated on Day 4 (Thursday)

The photo-cider has now had a couple of days in the tub. There was a thin layer of foam on the top, but there was no risk of it foaming over. I sanitized all of the gear and then Tammy and I siphoned the liquid out of the tub and into the carboy. I used distilled water to:

  • Fill the siphon to get it going,
  • Top up the carboy to reduce the amount of air in it, and
  • Fill the bubbler.

It’s now bubbling away.

Ready for its two-week fermenting

The next steps will be figuring out if we have enough bottles and how to go about capping. I can order a capper and bottle caps and likely will. If we don’t have enough bottles, then I’m sure we can get some more.


Updated on April 27

We’ve been waiting for the cider to clarify, and we tried some dilute gelatine last weekend, with limited success. So today we went to Grapes to Glass and got some clarifying agent.

Clarifying agent

Within hours, the cider had really transformed.

Sedimentation at its finest

Updated on May 5

The job’s done. This morning, Tammy and I siphoned the cider into the Tupperware bucket, added about 2-3 tablespoons of crystalline Xylitol and bottled it.

First bottled cider

Tammy put one Cooper’s Carbonation Drop in each of the small and large bottles, and two in the big bottle and the growler. We will see exactly how fizzy they end up.

Now to wait. Probably July to August.

Changing Sports

The weather in Calgary has been unseasonably warm this week, hitting highs of 16 degrees. The snow is disappearing rapidly. In fact, when I left for Virden, you couldn’t see our lawn at all, and when I got back there was only one patch left, and it’s gone now.

The results are:

  • My first cycling commute of the year on Thursday,
  • Buying a badminton set on Friday, and
  • Going for a bike ride with Peter and Justin today.

Thursday was my only day in the office this week, since with the extra time traveling and working in the evenings meant I didn’t need to work Friday. But I had to work for it: Thursday was a hectic day and with lots of meetings and phone calls. It was a good thing I rode my bike: it kept my attitude positive the whole day.

The badminton thing is something that I’ve talked with Ian about: he’s playing it in gym at school and enjoying it quite a bit. We don’t have room in our yard to set up a net, but there is the big field only a short walk from our house. Badminton sets aren’t exactly expensive, so it wasn’t a big deal to pick one up. But there was one in particular at Canadian Tire that caught my eye as being easy to set up and transport.

The picture from Canadian Tire’s website

We got it home and set it up indoors, which is a good thing, because there is some initial “putting together” to do, and then it’s ready to set up and tear down. It’s really quite brilliant when torn down: it is all in a tight package that’s easy to carry.

The net set up in the living room

The field is still too wet to play on, but it won’t be long. Miranda, Ian and I contented ourselves with whacking the shuttlecock around the driveway.

Today’s ride was an ad hoc affair. Tara had been talking about declaring an unofficial club ride this morning, but the weather forecast had a chance of snow. Peter reached out on WhatsApp, and he and I agreed to meet at the shop and go for a ride. Peter ran into Justin on the way to the shop (figuratively) and he tagged along. It was nice to be riding and actually in motion.

Justin and I (I’m the one with the huge butt in front!)

We had fun. Snow is still threatening for overnight, so it might be a bit before there’s an encore.