Thursday, December 25, 2014

Vacation at last

As you'll recall, we had a very nice vacation in Nova Scotia in September. We rented a lovely little cottage on the far end of Crescent beach, and aside from the very minor inconvenience of having to keep track of high tides, it was perfect. Quiet, relaxing, I got a tonne of writing and editing done, and met some new friends.

Then it was full steam ahead at work. I've been looking forward to vacation for a little while now, and I'd better enjoy it, because it will be full steam ahead till the end of March.

We aren't going anywhere. We want to stay home and relax. I've lots to do, but I can do it on a putter schedule, rather than a frantic all out banzai attack. There are things on my list.

The very first of which, I am disconsolate to report, is a fail. IKEA has changed their wire bottle racks. They used to look like this. One side slid into the IVAR holes, and the other had one of the metal pegs. They were perfect, so of course they were discontinued.

Now they are thin flimsy constructs that have to rest on a shelf. This doubles the cost, and reduces the amount of storage. I was in IKEA yesterday to buy, and decided not to. I'll have to do more research on what to use. Unless, do any of you have the old style bottle racks you don't need/want any more? If you live in Calgary I'm sure we can work something out. If you store lots of wine bottles tell me about your system in comments, please and thank you.

There will be much other puttering and tidying down in the basement. The main reason was to find a place to store more wine, but the other is to deal with clutter. This applies to my books as well. Lots of clutter there too. Whoever suggested I buy Let's Get Digital, thank you! I'm about half done now, and can't see any reason why I shouldn't self publish. Rather than explain to a publisher why they should buy when it goes against every rule of their paint by numbers expectations, I'd rather explain to someone who is at least willing to part with 2 or 3 dollars and try. I figure anyone that reads my blog at least every now and then is a potential audience because the books are much better written than the blog.

Even though it is the season of too much food, (remember that kilo of chocolate? Gone!), I'm still moving the bod. Monday and Wednesday I swam. Monday was CSS intervals in a 50 m pool. This is harder. In a 25 m pool I can do 25 x 100 in 1:50 w 10 seconds rest. In a 50 m pool I was knackered after just 15, and had to hustle to make it.

Then on Wed I had the whole training pool to myself. So calm. So peaceful. Such a contrast to the Co-op later. I decided to just swim for a while and see how it turned out. The 2 K went by in a hair under 38 minutes, nice and easy, except for a couple laps I had to hustle to make up for sloppy flip turns. Overall the pace was very even.

Afterward I picked up my prize! Yes, a prize, which is always nice. I was a weekly winner in the Talisman we inspire contest. Michelle nominated me, and I was thrilled about the whole thing. Here's the goodies: a gym bag, tech shirt, towel, lanyard, earbuds, a little wrappy thingie for the earbuds, a water bottle, and 3 facility passes. Nice! The best part is that I'm entered for a draw to win an annual pass. Pretty good odds there. I'll let you know how it turns out.

There was a bit of shopping to be done, not for gifts, just regular stuff unfortunately timed. Lee Valley was good. Even IKEA was good, though they didn't have what I wanted. But by the time I picked Linda up from her half day at work and we went to Co-op, it was a madhouse. I watched a couple guys yelling at each other about parking. I wasn't worried much about a fight, they were both older than I am. Linda said inside was just crazy too.

We had a peaceful afternoon and evening at home, tidying and putting up the tree. Celina wanted to help. She is in all the photos of the tree.

Some of the ornaments that didn't make it onto the tree this year.

We tried hanging some stuff in the front window, with predictable results.

Done. Celina thinks it's just for her. She's already dragged down some of the cloth ornaments and carried them off. We can't tell if she thinks she is rescuing family members, or capturing things for later ravishment.

We had a lovely quiet morning, sleeping in, opening gifts, watching cats high on catnip. For some reason I got into watching a bunch of clips of the minions being silly. I might have to rent those movies during vacation.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

An early Christmas in some ways

Friday I had posted my last blog (Still) (which a bunch of you haven't read, I think, but that's ok,) before going to work.

Then good things happened at work too. One is the raffle prizes. I'd bought a bunch of tickets. There was a little bag beside each prize, and you could put in as many tickets as you liked in any bag. The Keurig machine didn't get any tickets at all. But there was lots of wine and chocolate prizes and I spread my tickets around them. One of the gift baskets was enormous! I didn't put any tickets in that one because I didn't think I could carry it.

My buddy Sean had texted me saying he was walking by the building and could he buy me a coffee. Of course! This happened during the draw, and we had a wonderful chat. Then I came upstairs to find the people up and down the office hall just buzzing. Someone in our corner won, they told me, given the sequence of tickets. There I was, checking tickets, with two people trying to look over my shoulder. They're both shorter than me so it was tough. And it was me. I'm not sure if you can see, it's a kilo of chocolates. You can see who was interested in them.

After I went out for a drink with some of the people on my team, and that was a very nice conversation too, for several reasons.

I'd had a really creaky yoga class on Wednesday evening, and my hips have been stiff and sore since. I slept in on Sat, then puttered about the house in a low key way, having an afternoon nap and everything.

I've been spending some time down in the basement starting to scope out where to put something like 150 bottles of wine. I can see where my winter project is going to be some de-cluttering and reorganizing shelf space. Linda is quaking in whatever she has on her feet. Maybe I'll find the long lost cowboy boots.

There were some nice sunrise shots on Saturday. Plus other kitty shots. There is a kitty in both of these shots. The sunrise shots themselves were nice, but I like the reflections.

Curtis resting up from his exertions of dominating his humans.

This is almost a chinook arch. Usually there is a patch of clear blue, and a wind driving the clouds away.

The message here is obvious. I have clearly failed in some obligation to the cats.

 Linda has been decorating.

Sunday Michelle and I went to Talisman pool. Her swim has improved so much! Even though she was saying it wasn't quite as good today. We found one drill that was fun for her, and is helping her stroke. I got in lots of drill as well. When I got home I found out that Talisman had selected me as a weekly winner in the "We Inspire" contest. Michelle was so nice to nominate me.

This afternoon was a nice soothing day cleaning and bleaching bottles. Between the pool and bottle washing my phone doesn't know who I am anymore. Have I ever mentioned that BBQ rack of lamb is just about my favourite thing ever?

I'm thinking of a big swim on New Year's Day. I did one a few years ago where I ended up swimming 7 K. Maybe during my vacation between Christmas and New Years I'll start swimming and see where I stop. Perhaps not New Year's Day, we've been invited out to a party, and it's a rowdy bunch. I might not be in any shape to do anything after, let alone a big swim. I'm still in nowhere near the shape I was then, so who knows how it will turn out.

Friday, December 19, 2014

So, still, several things

I am still open mouthed with astonishment at the recent events in Alberta politics. I listened to Ms. Smith do an interview last night, and words fail me to describe what I think. How on earth can anyone ever trust anything she ever says again? If she told me that was a pretty sunrise (see below), I'd check both a watch and a compass. I think that she has destroyed both her own reputation, and Mr. Prentice has badly sullied his own by taken on the defectors. Naked power ambition all round. The recall effort underway will come to nothing. We are going to have to wait till the next election to turn them all out. If you're an Albertan, I strongly recommend you google the Alberta Party.

I am still hobbling around a bit, not running. There was some pretty amazing pain in yoga class. Not screaming out loud pain, but an 'oh my goodness that hurts much more than it should and I don't think I'll even think about doing that anymore.' I couldn't even do savasana.

I am still considering getting back on the bike trainer.

I am still unshopped for Christmas. Anniversary, yes. Christmas no. Maybe today after work. But there's still almost a whole week!

I am still making progress swimming! Yay me! Tuesday was 1.5 Km in 28:10 or so. The first K was 18: 45 nice and relaxed, and I struggled a bit with the last 500 m. On Thursday I was trying the CSS thing again, doing 100 m in 1:50 on 2 minutes. I was aiming for 20 of them, and did 25. Or maybe it was 26. I got my count all tangled up. You'd think it would be easy to remember if you've swum 50 or 100 in a set, but no, a couple times I had to look at the clock and think about it.

I am still working on my book, when my lap isn't overrun with cats.

There are still pretty sunrises. This is from Talisman after the Tuesday swim.

What are you still up to?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mouth Open w Astonishment, a rant

I have commented in the past about Alberta being a one party state. The current PC government is 43 and counting. (It seems like much longer!) They call themselves the Progressive Conservative party, but it's just a name. They really believe in power and the uses and abuses therein, being a front for the oil companies, with a side of political dinosaur.

Lately, Wildrose Party came along and siphoned off the older, whiter, angrier, and generally more extreme members.  They were doing well to get elected, then the public found out about their Lake of Fire, and that's how we ended up with Alison Redford.

There were lots of people that thought the PC party were done like dinner over Redford's excesses and other PC stupidities. WRP was going pretty well in opposition. One could easily argue they are the most effective opposition yet. As a result of their activities, Redford doesn't work here anymore, as the saying goes. A guy named Jim Prentice became the premier in a cakewalk, even without a seat in the Legislature.

What with one thing and another, there were 4 by-elections called recently. The PC faithful were pretty sure they were going to win 2 of them, and reasonably hoped for all 4. Various observers thought that Prentice would win his own seat, the fledgling Alberta Party would make a fight of one of the ridings, and WRP would pick up the other two. The WRP thought they were going to win all 4, easy peasy.

It didn't work out. The PC won all 4 quite handily. Soon after, a couple of WRP defected to the PC party, including some of the harshest critics of it. And now, the leader of WRP, and her deputy leader, and (accounts vary) 5 other elected members are crossing the floor for promises of cabinet posts and uncontested nominations in the next elections. This a few weeks after "no more defections."

To say the membership is beside itself with outrage is understating affairs. I would not be surprised to hear there was a torch-lit mob somewhere in Alberta last night. (The torches to keep warm, the pitchforks for flinging the muck where it belongs.)

Nobody knows how all this is going to settle out yet. The PC caucus is supposed to meet today and decide if they want to accept the defectors. Supposedly it's a done deal. But they rebelled over the bigoted and controversial bill 10, that kowtows to the Catholic church and other social regressives that think it's ok to torment children to death.

What I don't understand is why the PC's would accept them? They have a strong majority, they don't need the votes. They've already stolen many of the WRP policies. The WRP has spent the last several years castigating everything the PC party said or did, and often rightly so. Good for them. And now they join?

The only way this makes sense is that it's a reverse takeover. Prentice is really a WRP in PC clothing, destroying the Progressive part of the Conservative party. He's already had one episode of pandering, and if the PC's absorb the WRP, we'll see lots more.

Right now there are 3 other parties in Alberta, The Liberals, the New Democratic Party, and the Alberta Party. I've said it before, and I've said it again. The Libs are a tainted brand name. They will never be elected government in Alberta, even after Hell freezes over or Harper turns into a nice guy. The NDP mean well, and mostly stay true to their principles, whatever that means. They will never get elected either. The left wing policies are very difficult for Albertan's to swallow, but maybe that will change. The Alberta Party is a reasonably centre of the road party. The platform I read a little while ago is a reasonably sensible, reasonably defendable document. The problem is they are unknown.

So what happens now? There's still more fur to fly, and dust to settle. It looks like Alberta is going to lurch further right, unless the mushy middle gets it's shit together behind the NDP or the Alberta Party. There's got to be a merger there, or something. I confidently expect voter turnout will go down again, being pissed off with the whole situation.

In the meantime there is going to be a lot of frothing and screaming just in time for Christmas. Wonderful. This is the most exciting event in Alberta politics in decades. In fact, nobody has found an example in the entire parliamentary system of the leader of the Official Opposition crossing the floor to the government.

Now is the time for Alberta voters to get it together, and start pushing their elected officials to start doing the right things. The PC's have demonstrated outright incompetence over the last decade or so. They are fat and arrogant in power. The actions Prentice took right after being selected as leader are not demonstrations of competence, they are cleaning up messes that should never have happened.

But they've had a scare in the last election, and the unexpected fury over the egregious Bill 10. I'd like to think they aren't complacent again, yet. But soon. Next time, Albertans, we've got to vote someone else. We must remember that politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often, and for the same reason.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So, that Christmas thing

I ignore it as much as possible, and this was a very successful weekend on that front. Yay me!

Technically, I had my one Christmas party on Friday. They called it a Christmas party, but no. I appreciate the desire of the company to put on a party, but there weren't many people there, and even those ones weren't in a party mood. The price of oil falling into a pit hasn't helped. Neither has the price of the company stock. It's public record that it opened 2014 above $9 a share, and closed last Friday at $2.50 a share. I'm sure glad I didn't buy when I started.

When I compare the number of people I actually knew to talk to this year, compared to in 2012 when I had barely worked there 6 months, there is much less than half. Many of them don't work there anymore. Lots of people that I do know, didn't attend. So of about 480 people or so, I knew 5 people well enough to chat to, and adding in the spouse of one coworker that has come to the last several parties makes 6. Then band fired up and killed any remaining chance of conversation. We bailed.

Saturday was a delightful day starting with coffee and treats. Cat cuddling. Working on my book. Reading. Relaxing. Watching it snow off and on. Watched a bit of DVD. Enjoyed not being out in the traffic.

Sunday was a bit more active. It started with a huge line up of cars trying to get into the Talisman center. I had to show my membership card to park. I've never seen so many people there. A swim meet will do that, I guess.

Michelle and I headed over to the training pool and found a lane to ourselves. I worked on some drill and technique, and gave Michelle some tips. Her swim has improved enormously! I really enjoyed cruising along, not really caring about time, but really focussing on water feel and trying to improve my catch.

After a nice coffee I was home looking out at a beautiful sunny winter day. I haven't run for about a month, and decided it was time again. That only lasted 2 K before I could feel my right leg being unhappy with me and decided to stop before I had to stop. A nice long stretch session after felt really good. What's that you say? My core streak? You mean the one I haven't mentioned for a few days? Well, yeah, there's a reason for that. Moving right along.

BBQ bison burgers for a late lunch, early dinner. Wine. Are you distracted yet?

After working on The Bone in the Digester for better than 20 years on and (mostly) off, I just figured out who and how it was done. Which means I have to rewrite. I'd always known I had to, some of it is pretty bad. But now I have a purpose. I'm going to have a busy Christmas buried in my laptop and I'm going to love it!

Lastly, cat photos!
Celina likes to snooze with her nose buried in her paws. She's a hard snoozing cat, even petting her doesn't wake her up. She just settles in more.

Curtis had just kicked the rival object (the laptop) out of my lap, and settled in with an air of ownership.

Both of them snoozing. It's hard to use a laptop at times like this.

One never knows when a paw will reach out and try to bring us down.

This was just as I got home from swim this morning. I woke Curtis up.

Celina just waking up from a snooze in the sun.

Celina is big on snoozing in the sun, and today was very sunny.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Proud, yes proud of my inadequacies

Our cats have made it clear that we are completely inadequate as humans. Failures in every respect. Not enough lap time. Not enough crunchies and too much wet food that's good for them. We banish them to the basement at night. We don't appreciate them singing the song of their people. We are stingy with the catnip. We don't have near enough cat toys for them, and we don't play with the ones that are here often enough. We don't pet and scritch them often enough, or in just the right spot. We don't let them out so they can hunt their mouse and supplement the completely inadequate diet we feed them. It goes on and on. We hear about this at length. Often. Frequently. In 2 part cat harmony, such as it is.

Now for reality. We poll other cats regularly, and we are assured we are the best humans ever, that that all these other cats would like to live the life of Curtis and Celina. Every other cat we talk to! Every time! There we are, out working our fingers to the bone to afford the best food ever for them, and we get no recognition. None at all. We provide the best windows, and more cat toys than they know what to do with. Even a laser! What more do they want?

So while they might think we are inadequate, I'm proud of it! PROUD, do you hear me you little fur bearers? Here they are, enjoying the life. One of my work buddies was fond of the phrase, "I aspire to the lifestyle my wife and children have." For me, it's the cats.

Today was the first day trying to swim the CSS thing. Look here if you've missed recent blogs.

That 1:52 is a pain in the patootie, and from previous experience I knew it would lead to trouble. So I rounded things off, and decided to try to swim 100 m (short course) in 1:50, with 10 seconds rest. It all went really well, so I think I'll stick with that for a little while and see what happens.

Today the first one was 1:45 without even trying. Then the next 19 were never slower than 1:51 or faster than 1:48. I'll take that for consistency. The first 1000 m was easy and relaxing. It got a bit tougher over the next 500 m, having to work a bit and think about timing. The 1:51 happened here when I had a sloppy flip turn. The last one was 1:49 but I was working a bit there.  By the end I knew I'd had a good workout. My arms were tired by not falling off, and my lungs had that well aerated feeling.

The idea is to be aerobic the entire time, and I was. Whereas 4 x 50 at 45 to 50 seconds, on 60 seconds will get me out of breath pretty quick, a 1:50 per 100 pace is do able. Heck, twice now I've swum 1K at that pace without stopping. Perhaps this will get me swimming further at that same pace.

The idea for the next little while is to do this once a week, on about the same timing. It's convenient at least. Trying to go a much quicker is going to get anaerobic pretty quick. One long steady swim a week. And once a week do what I feel like doing. I have a goal. I need to be in shape for the Calgary 70.3 swim leg as part of a relay team.

I had the pool to myself for most of the swim, which was very nice. I could see the clock easily and didn't have to worry about someone else in the lane messing up my timing. While sitting in the hot tub I was the only person in the building, other than the life guards. I love the sound of the pool when it's quiet like that.

Some days I think I need to build a house that has an indoor 25 m pool. That's 81 feet, and our lot is 150 feet long, but the back yard garden takes up 32 or 33 feet, and there's a utility right of way beside the house. Then again, at about $800 per year, I can buy a lifetime of pool membership cheaper than building a pool. But so much less convenient.

You are missing lots of cranky

I've started this a bunch of times, and it all quickly descended to a bullet point list of cranky. Let me just say the drivers this time of year piss me off, and leave it at that. Another month till I go to a mall.

I had a very nice long course swim on Monday, a little under 20 minutes not working too hard on pace, but trying to find and stay in rhythm. It came and went.

There was a novel writing brainwave, and I'm now busy rewriting the first thing I wrote, starting many many years ago. I can't wait for vacation in a few days. Really.

And lets see. My fingers are still trying to sneak in a bullet point list on me. I'd better wrap this. Nobody wants to read cranky.


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