Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not So Friendly Skies

Maho Beach Airplanes

Up until now, when a person flies from a Canadian airport to any destination that requires using USA airspace, their names had to be compared with a list of “No Fly” names submitted to the airlines from the USA. This means simply flying through USA airspace, not landing in the USA. If a flagged name came up, the airline had to notify Homeland Security.

This was bad enough but now we have a Bill before the House Of Commons that, if passed, gives the USA access to passenger lists and final say on who is allowed to board any flight that enters USA airspace. Passenger lists must be presented to the USA 72 hours prior to departure for approval of each and every passenger.

This means if you are flying from Canada to Mexico, South America, Cuba or even into Toronto from most of Canada, you are crossing into USA airspace and Homeland Security has final say if you are allowed. It also means an end to "Last Minute" deals on vacation packages if the time is too short to submit passenger's names.

So who is on the “No Fly” list? There are not that many known terrorists so the list must be inflated with many other names. Political activists? Members of certain political parties? Certain nationalities? People who have called George Bush an ass? Who knows!

If this Bill passes then the hundreds of Americans who vacation in Cuba by flying from Canada will be “outed” to their own Government and either kicked off the flight or interrogated when they return home.

There is substantial opposition to this Bill growing among the Opposition Parties which in fact form the Majority in Canada’s Government. It is possible this Bill will fail in a vote or even more likely that it will be withdrawn by the Government. Lets hope!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Brooks and Linda came up for the weekend. It was a nice visit and for once we did not have any projects lined up for them to help us with. We are 2/3 done with the small bathroom but as there is no room for more than one person in there working, we put that project on hold until tomorrow when we will grout and cut new baseboard.

We were talking about vacations and their need of one so we decided to all go together to Cuba in October for Brooks' 40th birthday. We looked for a deal on the Internet but could not find any really good deals so we will keep watching. It will just be eight days as they cannot leave their business for too long. Brooks and Linda have been there before so know their way around. We will have an all inclusive in Veradaro and leave for a couple of nights in a B&B in Havana. I will get to see Hemingway's chair in the El Floridita bar, another thing to check off the "Bucket List". If you look closely at the first photo you can see "Papa's" statue at the far end of the bar.

Here is Papa's statue in front of a photo of Hemingway and Fidel Castro:

The chair beside him is where I will order a mojito!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Still Tiling...

We are still working on the floor in the small bathroom. We took out the vanity and decided to replace it. We did not realize these things are so expensive but once we started looking we were committed. We found a nice one with five drawers and a china top and basin for $700 that we bought. It is black enameled birch with a matching mirror. We also bought a new toilet. so it will be a $1000 project when it is all added up. It will make it look like the Queen's bathroom!

We put the old vanity down at the end of the driveway with a "Free" sign on it and this morning a pickup stopped and a man and woman loaded it up. Beats hauling it to the dump.

Yesterday we cut and dry laid all the tiles. Tomorrow we will cement them down. The walls and ceiling have to be painted before the new vanity comes in as well as a new drain installed so it will be a couple more days. As usual, it turned into a much larger project than we planned.

We took today off to explore the new WalMart that opened this week. It is a "Super Center" with a grocery department but unfortunately, no auto center. It does not have a very large parking lot so I will be curious to see if they allow overnight RV parking. I hope they do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So, What Is The problem?

My dog shits in your yard, I clean it up! Your oil well leaks in my gulf, you clean it up! Make it like it never happened. Why is this a problem? If you want a dog (or oil well) you must be prepared to accept the consequences. Dogs shit. Oil wells leak. Don't come crying to taxpayers when the dog shits! That is what they do! Why is this a problem?

Now Republican Bobby Jindal (Gov Louisiana) says he would rather have more oil wells leaking into the Gulf then to loose a few jobs. A judge agrees with him. But wait, that judge is personally heavily invested in Big Oil!

Why do we call them GOBP? They don't want to clean up after their dog. Or the oil. The Government should mot be apologizing to BP but should instead be telling them that the WILL remove every trace of that oil from the Gulf and its shores. Period.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oil Spill From Space

This is what Republicans (now known as the GOBP) are saying Obama is being too mean to BP over. One hundred and sixty million gallons and still counting!

Oh, My Aching Bones!

I am 65. Everyone knows that except me sometimes.

This morning I tackled one of the major jobs in the job jar: tiling the en-suite bathroom floor. It has been sitting in the job jar for years and last year we actually bought the tiles. The job got pushed back until it was too late to do it before we left for Mexico.

The existing floor covering is carpet, thanks to a previous owner. Can you imagine anything more disgusting than carpet in a bathroom? Yuk! Norma is the only one to use that room and she is much "tidier" than me so that is the only reason it has not been done sooner.

Today I removed the toilet and vanity and ripped up the old carpet. It actually was not as bad as I thought it might be. The carpet was a little rotten under the toilet but there was no sign of long term water damage. The tack strip around the outside of the room was the worst job. It is impossible to remove that stuff without damaging your hands and I again proved that. My hands are bleeding, I ripped a sock on a nail that I failed to pull and I tore my jeans on another. Par for the course.

I cut out the concrete board to fit the room and tomorrow I buy some thin set to lay it with. Then I will dry lay the tiles and make all the necessary cuts. Several years ago we bought a cheap $100 wet tile saw. Most people rent them when they need them but I figured if I used it more than three or four days I was ahead and I certainly have done that. The next day Norma will lay the tiles. She has more patience to get them "just right" than I do. I would be good at laying them the "Mexican way". Down there none of the tile floors are perfect. Tiles are not exactly square, edges are chipped, colors vary slightly tile to tile and grout lines are not perfect but the end result is beautiful! Here, everything has to be perfect and a buyer will walk in and say, "this grout line is 1/32 of an inch wider than the rest. We will have to re-do the floor". I do not have the patience for it.

The next project is to tile the main bathroom. But not before a few days rest. I am good at resting!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fathers Day

We had a great Fathers Day down at Brooks and Linda's. Our ten year old granddaughter Sierrah was there as well as Linda's mom, Janice. I always have fun with Janice! Her and I sing great Johnny Rivers duets together! Brooks and Linda's neighbors/friends Mike and Audrey came over so it was a great evening. We stayed just the one night and left after breakfast. On the way home we found a nice restaurant in French Creek on the Old Island Highway that we have never been to and stopped for brunch.

Sierrah asked her dad to make her a planting box for her vegetable garden at home and Brooks told her if she wanted one, she could build it herself and he would help her. That was great news for her as she loves anything to do with working with her hands. She takes after her dad in this. Brooks cut all the pieces for her and then she laid it all out and went to work with the nail gun (don't worry, she had safety glasses, the nail gun was on safety and we were close by). She did an excellent job and finished the project up by drilling a bunch of drain holes in the bottom. She will be growing tomatoes and peas in this one.

She wants to learn all about the fencing/decking business as she says she fully intends to work for her dad and to buy the business when he retires. In her spare time she will be an artist and I don't doubt her in the least!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Eagle Lunch

We bought a sockeye salmon to take to Brooks' for dinner tomorrow. We trimmed it out so I had a bag of scraps to feed to the eagles on the beach out front. I know they have a nest somewhere behind the house as I can hear their conversations but I have not been able to spot the nest.

I placed the bones and head on a large flat rock, retreated back a ways, sat down with my camera and waited. In about two minutes a couple of seagulls landed but saw the circling pair of eagles and decided that discretion was the better part of valor and left. The eagles circled a couple of times until they decided that I meant no harm and swept in. The first one landed and grabbed the backbone, followed closely by his/her mate who grabbed the head. It was all over in a few seconds. They did not leave a tip but I got the photos.

These photos were a test of my new 18 - 250 Tamron lens. I decided to return the 18 - 200 that was sent in error and to get the one I wanted in the first place. I am happy I did.
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Reflections on Retirement

old-man-1-1000x1500 father-time

Our Pension Plan is very rich and everyone’s retirement is guaranteed no matter what happens to the company. The fund is not controlled by or held by Telus but is controlled by elected Union Trustees and appointed Company Trustees. Retirement age is determined with a a formula allowing retirement when you reach age 55 with a minimum of 25 years service. Sort of an “80” formula. This was all gained by decades of successful bargaining and lots of work convincing our members to have part of negotiated increases put into the Pension Plan instead of pay raises in their pockets. I took advantage of this on the day before my 55th birthday with 34 years service and retired with about 75% of my exit wages. There have been a couple of small increases since then to try to keep up with inflation.

Our Union put on seminars for everyone as they approached the “magic age”. There are about twenty choices you have to make when you retire determining if you get more now and less later when the Government pensions cut in. You also have to declare what percentage you leave your spouse. All this controls what your pension cheque will be. It is all a little overwhelming to face these decisions at the same time as all the other life changing things are happening. It is important to get good advice and these seminars are valuable as one step in this process.

At the end of the two day seminar they asked the question: “What do you most fear about retirement”? Most people chose “money problems”, a couple of single people chose “loneliness” but one fellow I worked with was the only one in the room to choose “boredom”. I can understand the first two concerns but boredom? Man, that is the last thing that concerned me! Actually I found it impossible to answer this question. I had thought it out and planned to the point that I had answered all these concerns myself. I had my finances in order, the house was paid for and I had a sizeable “rainy day fund” hidden away. I knew I was going to be doing lots of travel and splitting my time between Canada and a warm climate. I had paid cash for our “starter” motorhome.

If I had a concern it was the fact that this would be the first time I would be spending extensive periods of time with my wife. All through my career with the phone company, I travelled extensively and was seldom around during the week. Norma was the same with her job working for the local Member of Parliament and her work with the New Democratic party. These jobs kept her away as much as me and our only real time together was during vacations. When we moved to Vancouver Island, my job was in Campbell River and hers was hundreds of miles away in Vancouver and then Victoria. We only saw each other on weekends, and not all of them. This was going to be a great lifestyle change for both of us!

That was ten years ago and we are both still alive so it worked out. The “rainy day fund” is still waiting for some rain although it took one hit when Norma needed extensive dental work and another when we dipped into it to buy the new motorhome. All in all my decision over which of the twenty some pension choices to take is proving to be smart. I got a raise at 60 when I took the Canada Pension Plan payments early and then another raise at 65 when the Old Age Pension started. Our income is enough to live and travel on and the fund is building itself up again. Life is good.

Off To Brooks'

Our son invited us down to Shawnigan Lake for Father's Day weekend. It is a four hour drive but well worth the trip because he is an excellent cook! Our littlest granddaughter, Sierrah (10), will be there and she is in the process of building her own garden so that will be fun.

Our deer ate the tops off all Norma's lilies this morning before she got up so she is worrying about what will happen to the rest of her flowers if she leaves. I am telling her she is just like her dad who would never leave his property in the summer for the same reason. I don't think that scored me any points!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Big Day

Today is a big day for the huge LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community in the USA. Today is the day for final arguments in the California trial to overturn Proposition 8. Prop 8 is the controversial law passed by referendum that took away the rights of gay and lesbian citizens to marry in that State. The passage of Prop 8 is being challenged on Constitutional grounds. The lawyers for the plaintiffs are David Boies (Democrat) and Ted Olson (Republican), the two powerhouse lawyers and strange bedfellows who faced off in Gore v. Bush are now on the same side, fighting for equality!

The plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger are Kris Perry & Sandy Stier and Paul Katami & Jeff Zarrillo, two couples who want to be married but cannot because of Prop. 8.

Kris and Sandy have been together for more than ten years and their family includes four boys. Both are in public service - Kris leads a childhood health and education agency and Sandy works for a county health department. Their home life centers around their kids, with PTA meetings, soccer and music lessons taking up much of their free time.

Paul and Jeff have been together for nine years. Jeff is a general manager for a movie theater company and Paul is a business owner. They own a home together and are proud uncles. The powerful testimony of the plaintiffs, along with the presentation of 17 witnesses and revealing cross-examination of the defendant-intervenors' witnesses, clearly exposed the unconstitutionality of Prop. 8.

I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon to support this challenge as I felt (and still feel) that what the gay community and their friends stand to gain with a win is far outweighed by what we stand to loose with a loss. Whatever the outcome of the California case (and I sincerely hope for a strong win), the question will end up before the US Supreme Court and my concern was that placing the issue before a right leaning Court would be taking too big a chance.

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean (speaking of strange bedfellows) was among those who worried early on that the case has high stakes:

“It would be wonderful if Olson and Boies were to succeed. It will be a disaster if they fail. While they will go on to their next big case, untold thousands in the LGBT community could be devastated by their failure. Olson and Boies are placing at risk the slow, state-by-state, steady progress that has been moving apace across the nation.”

You can follow the final arguments form both sides on the Internet. The Judge's decision should follow soon. One site that is following the case closely is Pam's House Blend Blog.

It is very presumptuous but the questions the Judge presented to both parties to be answered today seem to indicate that he is preparing to come down on the side of the plaintiffs and overturn Prop8. This is a very good sign!

The problem that I have is that I am totally incapable of understanding how one segment of society could possibly consider themselves better than any other segment based on something that is totally beyond their control. We cannot choose our colour, sex or sexual orientation so how can you being one and me being another make me better than you?

We can however, choose our religion so those who have chosen to join a hate based religion should maybe start thinking of joining a more tolerant religion or, better yet, becoming an Godless Socialist like me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Busy As A Bee!

At least someone is working around here today!

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Friday, June 11, 2010


The World Cup started in Cape Town's brand new stadium this morning with a match between South Africa and Mexico. Guess who I was cheering for?

No hosting country has EVER lost an opening match! Ever!

South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal gave them an early lead but Mexico's Rafael Marquez tied the game for a 1:1 draw. I did not get to see it but I will have to tune in for their second match.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Lens

When my first Old Age Pension cheque arrived I decided to celebrate and buy a new lens for my Nikon D200. The one I had was fine but I always wanted a little bit better one with a longer zoom reach. I eventually ordered an 18-250mm Tamron lens but when the dealer sent it, they made a mistake and sent the older 18-200mm instead. It came from the USA so the shipping and brokerage fees were quite high so I had a decision to make. Should I be happy with the one I got or should I exchange it for the one I wanted and pay the extra costs?

The original dealer (Samy's Camera in California) could not get the 18-250 so I ended up ordering it from Beach camera in New Jersey. They gave me a very good deal, selling it to me for fifty dollars less than what it was listed for on their website for. They had recently raised the price from $279 to $329 but agreed to sell it for the lower price. Their shipping cost to Canada is $29, making this a very good deal. The brokerage fees will remain a mystery until I receive the package. The fees for the original were $60. Sometimes I get charged and sometimes I do not. Even with these added costs it is still much cheaper than buying it in Canada where the best price I could find was $450 plus 13% tax.

The old Sigma 18-50 is for sale with my Nikon D70s. I hate selling it and will be happy to keep it as a backup if it does not sell.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Wish We Were Back In Mexico!

Sorry Little Guys! I brought you from your sunny home in Mexico to sit here in the rain!
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Passing Orcas

A pod of Orca wales went by just before dusk tonight. By the time I noticed them they had just about passed the house so I grabbed the camera, jumped into the car and headed down the highway. They were moving fast but I managed to intercept them at the city pier where they put on a show.

I think this is the same pod that Les photographed going past Nanaimo yesterday. They are probably headed up to Robson Bight for the summer.

Craigslist Ripoffs

I am selling my Nikon D70S on Craigslist, asking $475 for the camera and a Sigma lens. Almost immediately I got two people offering more than I was asking if I would ship it overseas:

Here is the first,

I actually need this shipped to my niece "Ilori" abroad I would have picked it up but i do normally have a mad shift at work because i am seriously busy at work during the season. I will pay $600 CAD including the shipping charges to the Destination.... Kindly get back with your PayPal Email address for the payment so i can pay you via my PayPal account and you do the shipping on my make the whole transaction easier for us if you dont have Paypal account you can log onto and get your account in less than few minutes as this is the best option for me.......
Kindly get back ASAP,,,,


I'll like to buy your item and pay you with cash through my PayPal account.. Currently I'm out of the State and won't be available for pick up. moreover, I'm buying this item for my company agent located oversea as a gift, i`ll add the sum of $150.00 to the amount to cover the shipping expenses to him through (USPS) Global Express mail International 8-10 days business. i want you to send to me your PayPal account id, so that immediate payment can be done, and if you are new to PayPal, you can easily log on to and set up an account with them with either your Bank account Information or your Credit/Debit Card details and its simple and easier, just in few secs; you get your account activated. PayPal is very secure and reliable.. anticipate a favorable response from you.

So what happens if I bite at these generous offers and send him my Paypal account information? In a few days I get an email from Paypal telling me the money has been deposited into my account. I send the camera overseas and then try to use the money held in my Paypal account only to find out it is not there. The email I got from Paypal is a fake and there never was any money deposited. I am out the camera and about $50 shipping costs.

A variation on this scam is where they offer to mail me a bank draft for more than I am asking. I get the bank draft and deposit it. The money goes into my account so I send the camera. A week or so later the bank tells me the bank draft was counterfeit and they take the money back from my account.

Always remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A good indicator is that they do not ask any information about the item and it is usually being purchased for someone else, usually overseas. They also typically offer more than you are asking if you would be so kind as to ship it for them.

Be careful, it's dangerous out there!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

If You Get Trapped Downtown

We have learned from experience what to do if you make the wrong turn and get trapped downtown in a Mexican city with the motorhome. This has happened to us three times and every time we have had a happy ending. As well as being downright silly, it is also illegal to drive a dual wheeled vehicle in most cities. The streets and traffic lanes are very narrow, streets are not well marked, no-one obeys stop signs or speed limits and it is generally a madhouse. Not the place you want to be in a fifty foot combination motorhome and tow car!

What we do as soon as we realize we are in trouble is pull over. We get out and flag down the first cab that happens along. We show him the map and make sure he knows where we want to go and make sure he understands that he is to deal with any polica that may stop us. After warning him to drive very slowly, Norma gets in the cab with the walkie talkie, everyone turns on their four way flashers and off we go.

For some reason, when the police see you are being lead and have your flashers going, they leave you alone. Taxis are very cheap in Mexico and even though Norma tips way too much, we always find our way safely out of town using this method. One has to swallow one's pride once in a while. A tough thing for a man to do!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Neatest Thing That Happened In Mexico

The neatest thing that happened to us this year was in Villahermosa. We had to change highways there and of course we hit the city just as rush hour was nearing. The highway from the Gulf Coast that we were on continued on into the heart of the city where there is no room for a motorhome! The highway we wanted turns off to the right just as you enter the congested area. I had moved into the second lane of three to avoid the double parked vehicles near the university and suddenly, there was my turn! I was in the wrong lane with no hope of moving over. The light had turned red and there we were, stuck!

A small bus was beside Norma's window with the driver waving frantically at us. She rolled down her window and he told us we could not take the rig downtown. We told him we wanted to be on the highway north and he started giving rapid directions in Spanish that we could not follow. The light had changed by now and the horn choir started up. He called at us to let him in front and he proceeded to go off his route to lead us about six blocks to another entrance onto the highway.

We pulled up beside him and offered him some money which he refused. The bus was full of university students who were all laughing and yelling at us in their best English and snapping photos with their cell phone cameras. We thanked them, waved for the cameras and pulled onto the highway. It was another case of a potentially horrendous situation turning into a memorable, happy Mexican adventure.

I cannot imagine this happening anywhere north of the border. Buses just do not go off their routes to lead stupid tourists around town. I am sure any driver caught doing it would face severe discipline. In Mexico it is "No Problema". Another story to tell their families at dinner.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Internet Radio

This is probably another one of those "Everyone knows about this but me" things again but one of my commentors told me about "Radio Time". It is an Internet radio site that lets you listen live to radio stations from all aver the world. I set mine for the local Vancouver talk radio station CKNW so we can keep up with BC news and politics on the road and also some USA talk radio programs I like to listen to. It works great!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

History Repeates Itself

How short is the Israeli memory? Maybe they need a reminder...

On July 11, 1947 the SS Exodus set sail from France carrying Jewish Emigrants. Its destination was the British Mandate of Palestine, a desolate piece of Mediterranean Desert subject to British control through a 1922 instrument passed by The League of Nations.

These Jewish people, mostly Holocaust survivors, were seeking a land of their own. A homeland or a Jewish State, a place to call "home". They had no legal rights to this land and on July 18 the Exodus was confronted in International Waters by the British Royal Navy cruiser Ajax and a convoy of destroyers. Refusing to obey orders to stop, the Exodus was boarded by British Sailors who after meeting some token resistance from the Jewish Emigrants killed several passengers and crew of the Exodus. Again, this occurred in International Waters where the British had no legal jurisdiction.

Sound familiar?

Attacks on shipping in international waters is piracy. In the old days pirates were hung from the yardarm. Now, State sponsored piracy seems to be gaining word wide acceptance. Or is it? Piracy is piracy, whether committed by Somalis or Israelis. In either case it must be met with international condemnation and action. It cannot be tolerated by a just society.

Taking the position of "We don't know enough about it to form an opinion" recently voiced by Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State is a cop-out! We know all we need to know about it. A ship carrying aid was attacked in international waters and people were murdered. This is an illegal act and cannot be justified in any way. The USA had no problem condemning and threatening North Korea after the alleged torpedo attack on a South Korean ship. Nor do they have a problem condemning Somali pirates! What is the difference? What more is there to "find out"?

Israel is saying they had no choice because their commandos were met with resistance. Well, when someone illegally boards a ship at sea they should be met with resistance! With this action Israel has destroyed a sixty year old friendly relationship with Turkey. Their only ally in the Islamic World is now gone and the West's tacit approval of this action threatens to alienate Turkey from the rest of the Western World.

Another flotilla of aid ships is heading towards Palestine at the present time. Is Israel going to further infuriate the world by attacking them as well? What if it is escorted by Turkish Navy vessels? Will Israel engage them? Is Israel trying to start a war?

Israelis must remember the Exodus. They must remember when they had no country to call their own and took part of Palestine for their own. Israel has enjoyed decades of world support and maybe have gotten too used to it. They must lift the illegal, immoral blockade of Palestine immediately!

The Exodus:

Rain Rain, Go Away!

It has been raining pretty much since we got home at the end of April. Our letter carrier, whose husband watches the weather sites says it will rain every day for at least the next two weeks! It is depressing. Norma is way behind in her garden work and my outside projects are piling up. I have to replace the tail lights on the car dolly and do some wiring in the motorhome to install a second StarChoice receiver in the bedroom. This involves crawling under the rig which I do not want to do with water running under it! Everything is on hold.

Our son has a fencing company in Victoria. I talked to him last night and he says they have been working in the rain for ten months! He and Linda, who works right beside him, are looking for a quick escape to a sunny climate for a few days even though it is coming up to their busiest time of the year.

It has to stop! We have used up all of our allotted "Out of the country time" and are stuck here. This crappy weather does not extend everywhere in Canada however. Our friend Rae is in the Yukon and is reporting very warm weather up there. Maybe that is where we should go!