I studied political science and government a bit in university when I got my B.A. in history. I understand the Canadian political system and how it works. Because of this, it is so painful for me to listen to Steven Harper speak about the his government's defeat because he is appealing to people's basest and most ignorant fears: "the country will fall apart! the separatists will cause Canada to split! a coalition government is not democratic! members of the opposition parties do not have a right to lead the country! run for your lives!!!" All the political scientists are saying that a coalition is fair and legal, but the PM doesn't think so.
In fact, P.M. Harper is absolutely wrong on all of these counts. Many other parliamentary governments all over the world operate successfully with coalition governments. It's really the first leader who presents a viable majority to the head of state (in our case it's the governor general) who gets to be P.M. Take this information from wikipedia:
Countries which often operate with coalition cabinets include: the Nordic countries [Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark], the Benelux [Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg] countries, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan and India. Switzerland has been ruled by a loose coalition of the four strongest parties in parliament since 1959, called the "Magic Formula".
On October 31, Amber and I got to go on a date. But my mom was there too. But she wasn't really with us, she was on the stage.
Debby Allan brings her comedic strengths to Deathtrap as Sidney's nosy, psychic neighbour Helga Ten Dorp. Allen, who like Falk and Newton are well-known to Central Alberta Theatre audiences, doesn't miss a beat showcasing her engaging and energetic talents in a fresh theatrical setting.Congrats mom! We enjoyed the show, even though we may have soiled ourselves.
10 Conservative4 Liberal5 NDP1 Bloc Québequois6 Green
108 Conservative80 Liberal54 NDP31 Bloc Québecois27 Green
It took a couple months to work up my will to visit a garage again after getting gouged on my first visit after returning to Canada. My car stereo has a security code that is required if the power is disconnected (so stealing the stereo is pointless). As I bought the car as a recovered stolen vehicle, I didn't have the code.
What's really cool though is that in the past 30 days, thousands of dollars have been deposited into my account in the form of payment for our car in Guatemala, back payments of child tax credit and child care for my daughter, GST cheque, and funds from Impact Ministries (they agreed to give us a 3 month cushion when we moved back to Canada). Plus I get paid tomorrow for my job. Amber has picked up a few days of substitute teaching this month too which wouldn't have been possible without having my sister-in-law living with us to care for Blaise and Acadia.
All the stress could come back when I go to buy winter tires and a block heater for our car in the next month. Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets.
I had to get up at 11:30 pm to pee. I peed longer than a thawing Austin Powers.
Amber borrowed a Raffi Concert DVD for our kids from the local library. She grew up listening to his songs like Baby Beluga and Little Toy Trains - I didn't. I have to admit, his gentleness, meaningful (though sometimes silly) songs, and the way he has promoted his music really impresses me.
Come on baby...don't fear the reaperI had heard this song before, but never paid much attention to it. I borrowed my friend's truck a couple weeks ago and he had the oldies station on and "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult came on. I started singing along. Last night I played Rock Band for the first time on a Wii (what a blast!!) and sang lead on "Don't Fear the Reaper." Today, I couldn't get the stinking song out of my head.
Baby take my hand...don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly...don't fear the reaper
Baby I'm your man...
My niece Abigail was born to Saison and Dean at the end of July.
My nephew Kai was born to Salomé and Brad last night.
I just realized that these little ones are going to cost me money. I better start appealing to my sisters (2) and sister-in-laws (4) to limit the number of their offspring or I'll be broke with birthday and Christmas gifts down the road. On the positive side, I'll get to corrupt (in a good way) some children that aren't my own.
So, congrats to the new parents. I look forward to watching them grow into admiring neice and nephew.
As penance for having complained to my wife for the past few weeks about having to live in the world's largest horizontal apartment building (NW Calgary) and about the high cost of living, I've decided to force myself to come up with a list of positive things about living in Calgary, AB.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Late last night I ended up watching the interview that Rick Warren hosted with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (watch it here). I was deeply impressed. When I was in Guatemala I didn't have much of an opportunity to see video of Obama and I was limited to distilled sound bytes in news articles. After hearing this guy give frank and heartfelt answers to questions on leadership, morality, America and government, I'm sold. The man has principles! I didn't watch the interview with McCain for two reasons, it was 2 AM and I'm sure I would have disagreed with him (especially on the war issue).
This is something that has been weighing on my heart for some time now. After witnessing the unjust wages in Guatemala and in Canada, I thought I would share some thoughts.
Doctor in Calgary: $724
Top Accounting Executive in Calgary: $479
Lawyer in Calgary: $448
Realtor in Calgary: $354
Teacher in Calgary: $257
Mechanic in Calgary: $214
Sales Clerk in Calgary: $135
Doctor in Guatemala**: $36
Policeman in Guatemala: $23
Teacher in Guatemala: $15
Bank Clerk in Guatemala: $9
Agricultural worker in Guatemala: $3.50
Housekeeper in Guatemala: $2.50
Democracy: People are free to pursue the careers they choose to and society benefits when all people enjoy the basic necessities of life. The government's responsibility is to its people. Workplace justice can be a focus.
Capitalism: Reaping maximum profits is the focus. China is the world's best expression of capitalism.
*Meaning that their wages are calculated only for those days worked - a teacher works 40 weeks each year, so his salary would be divided accordingly. Most Canadian jobs were given 3 weeks vacation, the Guatemalan ones weren't given any vacation time.
I haven't been too taken in by these Olympic games. I always enjoy watching different events and this is what I want to comment on. Where I'm staying, there are three channels that offer coverage of the games: CBC, Radio Canada, and NBC. I've noted that neither NBC nor CBC so far doesn't stick to any event to show a good portion of the competition, but rather offers highlights of their own country's competitors only. They both have way too much interview commentary as opposed to raw competition footage. Radio Canada (a francophone channel) on the other hand sticks to an event and shows a full competition even if the competitors aren't from Canada. I like that more.
On August 6, 2000 Amber and I were married in Smithers, BC. Our first night together as husband and wife was spent at the magnificent Logpile Lodge just a few minutes drive out of town.
Exactly eight years later, Amber and I spent our anniversary at the same lodge. April watched our kids for the night. This time we were much more rested and we enjoyed the complimentary drink upon arrival and the fabulous view from the balcony. In the morning, as I was reading my Bible, a hummingbird buzzed above my head. I thought it was a dragonfly. Breakfast was amazing and incredibly filling - juice, coffee, muslix/yoghurt/fruit, fresh bread toast and jam, bacon, eggs, and roasted vegetables. I also ate half of Amber's waffles.
So Amber, it's been a pleasure being your husband these last eight years. You're a trooper!
I've travelled over 28 hours on the bus in the past 2 weeks. Pretty glad I didn't go to Winnipeg last Tuesday night. I wasn't worried as I boarded the Greyhound in Edmonton late last night because a teenager rooted through my dirty laundry (and everyone else's). And the murderer is police custody.
I had to retrieve my car in Chase, B.C. a couple weeks ago so I hopped on the bus in Red Deer in the evening and arrived the next morning. I enjoyed the view of the mountains as we approached Calgary at dusk.
Bus depots are certainly an intriguing place. People from every walk of life are laying on the floor, drinking bad coffee from vending machines and anxiously waiting with their luggage at vague boarding gates. Everyone tends to keep to themselves as there aren't a lot of children to break the ice.
In Calgary a woman interrupted my Tetris game to tell me that she was on a trip to see her mother on her deathbed. Her fear was that she would get there after her mom had slipped into a coma. We visited until it was time to line up and then again hours later at our layover in Salmon Arm.
The bus driver thought somehow that not everyone would fit onto the bus bound for Vancouver from Calgary, but I ended up with two seats to myself. The buses aren't built for comfort. I managed a couple hours sleep switching between fetal and sprawled out positions. The greatest discomfort however came from our bus driver who would leave the lights on for our 10 minute stops (every 45 minutes or so).
I remember hearing my sister-in-law, April, talking about her cross-country bus trip. She did a fabulous imitation of the drivers as they announced each stop and the rules of conduct on board the bus. Each fragmented phrase was held together with raspy breathing into the microphone. Our driver often told us that if we missed reboarding (I never disembarked for the courtesy smoke time) the bus that we shouldn't worry, another bus would be on its way in 14 hours.
Dreary and dehydrated at dawn, I sat in the Greyhound station in Salmon Arm, BC. I leafed through a free seniors newspaper then asked the desk worker if she knew of a free internet hotspot nearby. A warehouse worker shouted out that the Best Western next door did. I guess I could have tested the frequencies myself because sure enough, I had a free connection on my iPod Touch and was able to check my email and send a message to my wife.
My second trip was substantially longer, but far more direct with just a 50 minute layover in Prince George. After buying my last minute ticket, I sat playing Tetris. A hooded, overweight and sweaty young man plunked down beside me and told me the security was freaking him out. I asked him why. He exasperatingly recounted some incoherent story about the guard smoking up on his off time. Then he turned and looked at me. "You're not the guy I was talking to before, are you?" Nope. He quickly got up and left.
Everyone on the bus had their own pair of velvet seats for the night ride through the Rockies. I had stayed up very late the two previous nights so I had a hard time drifting off, especially with an overweight teen snoring behind me. I listened to some tunes I hadn't listened to in a long time on my iPod and slept between Hinton and Jasper.
Arriving in Smithers a few minutes late in the mid-afternoon, I was greeted by a payphone that was torn to shreds (bears?). Amber eventually came to get me. I was whisked off to Tyhee Lake where I chased my children in the grass.
Some of my worst memories involve my cars. So after running into some hitches with my latest car I started reminiscing about my past cars. Stop. Reminisce means to "indulge in enjoyable recollection of past events." That's not what I'm doing. I'm recalling.
I got my first vehicle on the road when I was 23. It was a 1981 BMW 320i and I was thrilled. I had to get it inspected before I could register it and after a couple problems I was driving it back to Lacombe from Red Deer. I thought I would stop and fill up before leaving the city. That's when I discovered the leak at the top of my gas tank. Then it was the fuel pump. Then it was a short on my battery connection. Then it was my starter. Then I smashed it into an oncoming tractor trailer. RIP.
My second car was purchased with my new fiancée, Amber, just before we wed. It was a 1997 Toyota Tercel. Insurance was insanely high because of the ice I skidded that wrecked my first car. We near Edmonton Centre and then in Montreal, but when we moved to tiny Spruce Grove a thief broke into the car and wrecked the lock in our driver door.
Number three was our little 2001 Kia Rio in Guatemala. We drove it for nearly three years and had zero problems with it. The only real time it gave me stress was on a 2-day trip to El Salvador where I got my first flat tire abroad which meant figuring out where to repair it (it turned out that it was just around the block and cost me US$1). And then as we were leaving El Salvador, an insane man attacked our right rear fender with his foot, efficiently denting it.
Our latest wheels are imported from BC and Germany before that. It's a 2000 Audi A4 that we got for a good price. Sadly the troubles began early on as the mandatory out of province inspection declared that it needs about $3000 worth of work. Good times.
A couple days ago I had to pick up our vehicle in BC and drive it to Red Deer. The trip took me on much much of the road that I cycled five years ago when I crossed Canada. It was the first time back on this section and the memories just flooded back. I was amazed at how nothing on the road was unfamiliar; there was a preternatural knowledge of every hill and twist.
Upon my return to Canada, I find myself marveling at how easily I am able to adjust to my new life (mind you, I'm not working yet).
The traffic is regulated by laws.
The internet is lightning fast.The electricity doesn't blink off.
It is dead quiet at night (and mostly during the day too).I can use my credit card everywhere - so no cash in my pockets.DVDs can now be purchased as low as $3 in bargain bins.I can drink beer and wine (in moderation of course).There are no bugs in my bed.There is hot water in the taps.I can flush toilet paper down the toilet.The public library offers thousands of books and hundreds of movies on loan for free.I can check out groceries by myself at Save-On Foods.
Not having to have my guard up against theft.The sky is huge.There is a dishwasher in our house.My shower has pressure.The post office has regular and frequent hours of operation.The radio stations offer a wide array of music and news items.My family can call me on their first try dialing.The local movie theatre has films in English.We have grass on our front lawn.The fresh fruit can be bought easily without bruises and rot.Everything has price tags.
The opportunity to build a relationship with almost everyone you buy from (from the gas jockey to the chafa salesman).Bargaining prices down if I felt so inclined.Not being conscious or fearful of ever getting a speeding ticket.Cheap and tasty street food.The gorgeous mountains and greenery.Being able to practice my Spanish and the challenge to learn on a daily basis.The friendliness of everyone I met.
This is my fourth Apple computer. I bought the iMac G4 (the one with the swivel screen on top of the half globe) way back in 2002. I sold it and replaced it with an iMac G5 in 2005. In 2003, I also purchased a 12" PowerBook to use at work and for travel.
Now, I have the newest iMac and wow! does it rock.
2.8 GHz Dual Core Intel ProcessorI could probably have made due with my G5, but with the bonus of a free iPod and printer and the incredible ease that video editing now becomes plus the fact that I can get another 3 years of Apple Care, I think it's well worth forking out the extra $1000 after selling the old one.
2 GB of RAM
500 GB Hard Drive
Dual Layer DVD Burner
Built in iSight camera & decent speakers
Sleek new keyboard and mighty mouse
So here I am blogging from the thing!
More on the iMac later.
We flew in to Edmonton on Friday night with over 460 lbs of luggage. We flew over bright yellow canola fields and around thunderstorms before landing and meeting my sister and bro-in-law. As we pulled out onto the highway, bright rainbows had settled onto Leduc and Nisku.
My son turned 3 today. We left Canada when he was 2 1/2 months old.
The funniest thing isn't only that it takes forever for this conversation to happen. It's that he talks so slow! "Le haaaaaa-bla Donnnnnnn Mi-guelllll."
Zaak: Good evening Miguel.
Miguel: Mr. Miguel is talking to you.
Zaak: Hi Miguel. I can lock the gate tonight.
Miguel: Can you lock the gate for me tonight?
Zaak: Yes, I can.
Miguel: Would you do me the favour?
Zaak: Certainly. Yes.
Miguel: Well, thank you.
Zaak: No problem. Good night.
Miguel: Same to you.
Along with these friends we took a 3-day road trip to the east. Our initial plan was to take a 6-hour gravel road, but a bridge washed out in the middle of it, so we took the 4 1/2 hour paved one.
On our way to Rio Dulce we stopped at the ruins in Quirigua. One of the stone carvings is portrayed on the 10 cent coin. The park is quite beautiful with a large field with massive stelas rising from the earth.
The ruins date back about 1200 years on average and they include a ball court and several ceiba (the national tree).
There is a jade museum at the entrance and this little idol reminded me of Donnie Darko's rabbit.
The ruins are just 6 km off the highway through a Dole banana plantation.
Our family stayed at the Tortugal marina and hotel right on the Rio Dulce which connects Lago Izabal and the Caribbean. It's a very inexpensive place to stay with a great restaurant. The only access is by boat taxi or on foot from town. We stayed in an isolated bungalow where the kids could run around naked.
The water is incredibly warm and there is some terrific swimming at the hotel, just not shallow water for the kids.
The Tortugal has a large library. This book was in our room (the title had me laughing all weekend) (the title has something to do with pupate state, but the book was on government). I stuck to 2006 issue of The New Yorker. Read a great article on Deep Springs College in California - very independent of thought where half the learning is on the ranch and the other half in the classroom (at the ranch).
We headed out to Puerto Barrios, one of the three major ports in Guatemala and the only one on the Atlantic side. We hired a boat (after some severe bargaining) to take us to Livingston and Punta de Palma.
Amber and I had been to Livingston before and there wasn't much desire to return; it's just tourist shops, drug pushers, and hair braiders. We had lunch there and hung out until the rest of our crew was ready to go to the beach.
Punta de Palma is just 10 minutes away by boat from Puerto Barrios (a gross port city), but it's a gorgeous beach with calm, warm, shallow water. The kids loved it and so did I. A real change from cold Tactic.
The Castillo de San Felipe was built in the 1500's to protect Spanish trading posts in Lago Izabal from English and Dutch pirates. We could see the castle from our hotel. We spent our last morning of the holiday walking around the site and then hanging out on the shore of the Lake. Along the walk to the castle, we passed a cinnamon tree and an allspice tree. The leaves smelled delicious. It is a beautiful place!
On Monday morning, dudes from my church gathered together on the new church property wielding machetes. We tore through the back part of the land that descends on a creek and a spring. We had to make a path for surveyers who are coming next week to do up plans for new construction.
We killed a lot of plants. A lot. There were another dozen guys that climbed the hill before I took this photo. We cut around coffee plants and larger trees. We ran into some wild rhubarb too. The guys said it took away thirst.
Someone behind me even killed a water pipe. I got all wet in the process.
The guys kept asking me if I was tired after an hour. I wasn't tired, but my hand was sore. They would say, "it's probably your machete that 's tired," and then they would lend me their file. Despite my best efforts (which didn't include wearing gloves, because no one else was wearing gloves), I got a hand full of blisters and scratches.
I've installed my last stove. The owners asked me in December to hold delivery until their new house was built (I delivered my second to last stove in May for the same reason). Their house is in Chitzujay, Cobán - up over the mountain to the north for 30 minutes of back roads.
The drive was pretty insane. I had Impact Ministries' Toyota van with the stove, Blaise, and 5 people from the family in the back. Switchbacks with washed out cement tracks on the steep parts were freakier than the cliffs.
Blaise was a real trooper. The kids loved him and he played with them really well. They gave him a green short and fat banana and some sugar cane. I got a cola.
I worked with the father to set up the stove. We had to build a 6-inch dirt platform for the stove because the stove pipe wasn't long enough to reach the high ceiling. The family is Q'eqchí and the mom doesn't speak a lick of Spanish so it took a while to explain how to care for and use the stove.
On the drive back to Tactic we could see the landmark church in Chi-Ixim to the south of us. The church towers high above our town.
Later the same day, I took Amber with me to get a photo I needed to send to a donor. From Cuyquel, we could see the same church in Chi-Ixim to the west of us.
It was nice for Amber and I to get away - thanks to Jess for looking after our napping babies. After a terribly bumpy drive that Amber had to weigh the back of the van down just to get up some climbs, we had a 20 minute walk down and up and down a street and some corn fields. The recipient family wasn't home, but I got a picture of their house construction.