Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mexico vs Nederlands!

This will be the first World Cup game I have watched this year. I am supporting Mexico of course because of the close ties I feel with that country. Mexico has done quite well so far and has the best defense of the two teams. Holland, on the other hand has the best offence and will be vocally supported by our Dutch friends Claudia and PJ. It would be great to be with them, Claudia's enthusiasm is contagious!

I think it will be a close game.

Well, too bad. Nederlands was my second choice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Graduate!

Our oldest granddaughter, Jayde graduated from Grade 12 today! Congratulations, Jayde, we are so very proud of you! You can do anything you set your mind to and no matter what you choose, you will always have our love and support!


Brooks and Jayde

Colleen (Jayde's mom) and Jayde

LindaLee, Brooks, Jayde and Sierrah

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fifty Years Ago Today, June 21, 1964


The Right To Vote cannot be taken for granted. Even today there are attacks being made on the most basic of rights. Do not forget the sacrifice these and other people made to help preserve this right. Register and vote!

Mississippi, 1964:

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney had only just begun working on the Freedom Summer campaign to register black Mississippians to vote when they suddenly disappeared.

Schwerner and Goodman were two Jewish men from New York—they had been there less than a week—and Chaney was a local black activist. They had just finished investigating the bombing of a nearby church when they were taken into custody under false pretenses, and never again seen by their fellow volunteers.

The disappearance of these three men sparked national outrage, and the FBI converged on Mississippi to investigate. They discovered that on June 21, 1964, immediately upon being released from custody, the young activists had been brutally beaten and murdered by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob. The FBI's investigation led to the first successful federal prosecution of a civil rights case in Mississippi. 

Wired and a Talk With My Money Guy

Yesterday was the day to go down and get wired for my 24 hour heart monitor. They attached five sticky pads and electrodes to my chest and plugged them into a small pager size device that hangs on my belt. I was instructed to carry on as usual and return the device at 3:00 today (Friday).

Well, how do you "carry on as usual" with a bunch of wires hanging off your chest. Sleep was very difficult as every time I turned I had to deal with the wires and device. After about four hours sleep I was awake and reading news sites on the computer. I napped a bit more before finally getting up and making breakfast at 8:30. Now I am "acting normal", whatever that is.

Wednesday I went down for my semi annual chat with my money manager. He proudly showed me he was averaging 5.8% for me on my investments which is actually pretty good in today's financial climate. He also pointed out that I would be turning 71 in 2016 which is the year I will have to start taking minimum payments out of my tax deferred savings (called RRSP's in Canada). These payments will of course become taxable income in the year they are taken out. This money is what I have been calling my "Rainy Day Fund" and we have dipped into it a few times. $30K to buy the first motorhome, $40K when Norma had her dental implants and much smaller amounts several other times to cover unexpected or unusual expenses. The balance of this fund has not come down too much over the years because the fund has done fairly well as an investment. The problem with these deferred tax plans is that you can't defer them forever and eventually you have to pay tax on the principal as well as the amount they have gained within the fund. The hope is that your tax rate will be lower when you sell them than it was when you bought them and in theory this works but tax still has to be paid and that is always a pain. If I had to do it all over again I might seek out a better way, if there is one. Adding these payments to my pensions means I am bringing in more now than I ever did when I worked so in my individual case the theory does not work as well. Who knew? The only thing that saves me a little is "Income Splitting" between spouses in cases where one spouse earns more than the other. This little gift from the Canadian Government could be taken away at any time but if they did, they would have millions of old people waving pitchforks, canes and walkers at their gates.

I can take the money out monthly or annually, my choice. I guess I will take out the full annual amount in March and use about 30% of it to pay the increased income taxes in April. I don't know what I will do with the balance. Spend it foolishly, I guess.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sunset Rose

This is beside our front door. It very seldom survives the deer attacks but this year it looks like it may make it. It is a beautiful colour and comes from a bush that Norma's dad gave her many years ago.

Here is a more welcome garden visitor bellying up to the suet bar:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Up Close

Norma's roses are blooming and the deer are lined up, looking longingly through the fence. One came up the driveway yesterday and waited outside the gate, almost like she was expecting someone to open it for her. "I have lunch reservations".

Monday, June 16, 2014

Is Summer Here?

Finally a nice enough day to get some shots of Norma's garden.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Fathers Day To All The Dads Out There!

Here is my dad on the steps of our house in Edmonton, Alberta, shortly after he finished building it all by himself. Probably in 1944, the year before I was born. It was less than 500 square feet, probably too small to be legal today. He built it over time without a loan or a mortgage and they did not have much money. My older brother had a room in the basement, older sister in the attic, me and my parents on the main floor. My bedroom was about 6 X 8 and the stairs (almost like a ladder) to the attic were in my room. It was during the war and you could not buy copper so the plumbing was salvaged. The bath tub was a real bonus, salvaged out of the junk heap at an Air Force base where he did some carpentry work. I think that was why my room was so small, he had to move a wall a couple of feet to make room for the addition of the tub. We lived in it until 1955 when we moved to Vancouver and sold the house for a little over $5,000. It was well built.

Here it is on Street View. 11407 84th Street NW. The house is still there and it doesn't look like many changes have been made to the outside. The other houses are later additions to the neighborhood. There was no other house for several lots on either side of us.

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Gone!

We had a perfectly serviceable barbecue. It was of the black painted variety and I agree it was a little rusty and the burner had a "hot spot" but it passed my test, it still worked. Yesterday, Norma snuck down to the store, sale flyer in hand, and returned with a brand new, stainless steel BBQ. I am sure most of you have bought these "assembly required" devices. I probably should have a head start having assembled complicated communications equipment from boxes full of parts in my work life but this monstrosity almost had me stumped. Norma came out to "help" but that turned into an almost argument so she retreated into the house and left me with it.

I finally got it to look mostly like the picture on the box and had only one screw and two washers left over. I hooked up the tank, turned on the side burner and what do you know, it lit! "Yes Norma, you can put the fire extinguisher away"!

By now Beau, Norma's lawn boy was here so I asked him to help me carry the old rusty BBQ down to the street. I had printed two signs, one for each side that said, "FREE - WORKS" which I taped to the sides facing traffic. About six minutes later Beau called into the house, "It's gone"! Some guy in a truck stopped, asked Beau if it really was free for the taking and loaded it up before Beau could offer to help. The old, rusty, expired tank went with it and still had propane in it so the lucky new owner could cook with it that night if he wanted.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Passport Day

Our passports expire later this month so yesterday we got them renewed. It is a much simpler method now than it was in the past when we had to get our lawyer friend to sign off that he knew us for however many years. Now we just have to list a couple of character witnesses, hard as they were to find.

First job was to download the applications off the Internet and fill them out. Then it was off to get photos taken. Norma made me wear my white Guayabera shirt and she wore her fancy white Mexican shirt as well. We drove down to PhotoTech, a local camera store with a photo studio in the back. The first thing the photographer said was, "No white shirts"! He then handed Norma a camo colored photographer's vest to put on which she refused. "Camo!, she said. Do you want me to look even MORE like a terrorist?" He retreated to the camera store and returned with another vest, this time solid black.

"Glasses off and no smiling" he said as he quickly took two shots of her. My turn was next. The vest was too small but what the heck, the photo was only from the neck up. We were both hollow eyed and frowning in the photos, not the kind of people any civilized country would want as visitors. The photographer said they were "just right" and we would not be sent back for retakes. He stamped and dated them. The next shock came when he handed me the bill. $18 each after tax! It wasn't that long ago they were offering passport photos for $9.99. Oh well, we pay what we have to pay.

Then we drove down to the Canadian Government office in Courtenay, 40 or so kilometers away where we got the applications approved, forfeited our old passports and paid the bill. $160 each, double what we paid last time! At least these are ten year renewals, something new for Canada as they were always five years in the past. She said they could take a month to five weeks but are usually mailed out in three weeks. In the meantime we can't leave the country. We are prisoners.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Says It All

K9 dog, Danny sniffs the stetson of his partner, slain Const. Dave Ross, during the funeral procession for the three RCMP officers who were shot and killed on duty. Photo taken at their regimental funeral in Moncton, NB on Tuesday, June 10. Danny will be going back on duty with a new partner but right now he seems to be saying, "Come on Dave, quit hiding, I'm bored. Put your hat on and lets go chase some bad guys". Danny could later be heard crying during the funeral.

This is a big deal in Canada where this type of thing rarely happens. The last time was in 2005 when four RCMP officers were shot and killed by a sniper while they were raiding a marijuana grow operation in Alberta.

Just two days ago a female Vancouver City Police officer was wounded during a gun battle with an attempted murder suspect in Vancouver. American style gun violence is spreading to Canada.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Now that that little scare is over with it is time to carry on with life. I booked a short trip to Kitchener, Ontario to visit my sister in August. I used some of the Aeroplan points Norma has accumulated to pay for it. It is the first time I have used these points and they do not make it easy. I wanted to go in July but the only flights I could book restricted me to only five days and that is too short. The one I ended up with leaves August 17 for eleven days.

My big sister just turned 87 so it is time I made the trip. I have not seen her since June of 2011. She married and moved east shortly after I was born so we have never lived close to each other although we have always been "close". It will be great to see her.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Perfect Storm

The ER doctor referred me to a heart specialist and today was the day. I went to see Dr Dhansay, a friendly, personable, way too young to be a specialist fellow who had me go over the whole day that the problem happened. He then did an ultrasound of my heart, took my pulse, blood oxygen level, blood pressure while I was laying down and blood pressure again when I stood up.

We sat down and he asked if there was heart disease in my family and I told him both my father and brother had died from heart problems, both in their 80's. He said my heart was in "good shape, very good shape in fact"!

He said I had experienced the "perfect storm" of triggers for someone susceptible to Vasovagal Syncope. Hot day, sun, dark clothes, empty stomach, low blood pressure (normal for me), a little dehydrated and a little bit of alcohol. The blood left my brain causing me to go pale, sweat, have confusion talking, slur my words and experience over-sensitivity to light. When I sat down, that was good, but standing up was bad. The blood left my head and down I went. When I lay on the ground the blood went back to my brain and I started to feel better.

He said it was good that I had warning both times it happened (Saturday and 12 years ago in Toronto) and that the worst kind of black-outs occur with no warning. If it happens again I should lay back with my legs elevated and have someone bring me a glass of salt water to raise my BP. He said heart doctors usually tell patients to reduce or cut out salt but my case different. He said I might even want to carry salt tablets in my picnic basket just in case.

He is scheduling me for a full heart ultrasound although he already knows what the result is going to be. I told him I had an appointment for a 24 hour heart monitor and he said it was really not necessary but to go ahead with it, it will not hurt. He said he could give me a stress test (treadmill) if I really wanted but seeing I had no chest pain it was not called for. I told him "No thanks, I had one last time and it just about killed me"! He said to be sure to eat, specially before drinking and that because I had sufficient warning signs and time to react he was not going to restrict my driving (!!!) Shit, I never thought of that, he could have taken away my driver's licence!

So, there you have it! I am officially "fine". No restrictions, no prescriptions and I am still driving. Life is Good!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Still Kicking

Thanks everyone for your concerns. I am feeling fine, probably 95% and I don't know if the remaining 5% is a result of nerves or what. I have been having trouble sleeping for several weeks but this morning I slept in until 9:00, much better than my customary 6:30. I am taking it easy but doing everything I normally do. The more I talk to people, the more people I find who have also worn the 25 hour heart monitor. It is no big deal and will prove out the ER doctor's assessment.

Don't worry, be happy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reports Of My Recent Demise Have Been Greatly Exagerated

Yes, I got to ride in an ambulance with flashing lights and to experience the hospitality of our local hospital for a few hours but I am home and I am fine.

On Saturday afternoon we were at a retirement party for Nancy, a woman I worked with here in Campbell River. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon and we were in Nancy's back yard. It was about 6:00 and I had finished my first beer and had just opened my second, sticking to my "one beer an hour" rule. I suddenly started to feel unwell, like I should sit down. My vision went "funny" in that the sky looked ten times brighter than it should be, sort of like when you get eye drops to dilate your pupils. I remember thinking I should find Norma and tell her I had to go home but that she should stay and enjoy the party.

I have no recollection of what happened in the next few minutes. Janet Stevenson called the next day to say I was talking to her about our winter in the south when I slowed down like I was searching for words and then I started talking nonsense and walked away from her mid sentence. She said my face was very white and my eyes were darting all over. She turned away and heard the crash as I fell into Nancy, who I probably outweigh by a hundred and fifty pounds, knocking her to the ground and skinning her knee. Chairs and drinks went flying.

I woke up on the ground, sweating profusely with someone holding my head in their lap and a woman (who turned out to be an off duty RN) holding my wrist. John, one of the first aid guys from work was kneeling in front of me asking me questions. I was feeling better by the second and was answering his questions correctly. The sky was back to it's normal color. Someone had called 911.

The ambulance arrived and after checking for damage from the fall and taking my vitals they put me in a chair and then onto the stretcher. I was feeling pretty good by then and actually managed to crack a joke about stealing the attention off Nancy and her retirement party. In the ambulance they took my pulse (55) and my blood sugar (10.4). My blood pressure was 60 something over something I did not hear. This is low even for me as my BP is always on the low end of the "good" scale.

At the ER they quickly did an ECG which I passed with flying colors and then they took blood, looking for chunks of my heart in the blood or something which they found no trace of. They said I had to wait a minimum of six hours and then have the tests again so I settled down in my curtained cubicle in my chic backless gown and listened to the late night entertainment.

All the stories of Saturday night in the ER are true. There was no full moon but the place was a zoo! The drunk next to me was cursing everyone and wanting to fight until security came and threatened to handcuff him to the bed and a nurse knocked him out with a Valium. Some woman screamed constantly for about two hours. A very young girl on my other side was being lectured to by a nurse about why taking locker room drugs to suppress her period for months had led to her passing out and was a dumb thing to do. Sometime after midnight I asked a nurse for a sandwich and a glass of water. Sleep was impossible until a nurse came in with a pair of very effective earplugs but by then it was about 3:00 AM.

At 2:30 they took more blood and another ECG and said because it was so busy it would take the doctor an hour or so to get to study the results. At 4:00 AM a nurse came and told me to get dressed, that I had passed the tests and could go home. The doctor came and told me there was nothing wrong with my heart and that I had not had a stroke. He said there were many reasons I might have passed out but he had ruled out the serious ones. He said because they had initially suspected my heart he was required to send me to a cardiac specialist and to have me fitted for a 24 hour heart monitor but he repeated that in his opinion, my heart was fine. I called Norma and told her to be waiting by the door with some cash (she had taken my wallet home with her), called a cab and went home. It was well after 5:00 AM when I got to bed and friends started calling a little after 8:00 to check on me.

On Monday I called the heart monitor people and have an appointment in a couple of weeks and the specialist has not called me yet. I am feeling great except for being tired after missing a night's sleep. Once again Nancy, I am sorry for "crashing" your party and skinning your knee!

Life is Good! Considering the alternatives.