Saturday, October 20, 2012

Just a little cleaning

 Please note: Story below has nothing to do with this image. I just like the photo.

Cleaning up my computer today and came across this bit of writing I had done for the Canada's Writes 2010 competition. This was to get us through the qualifying round and into the interview stage. We had been told to write a movie pitch in 200 words or less and have it based loosely on one of the top 50 Canadian Songs. I chose the Ian and Sylvia classic "Four Strong Winds" and came up with the following.

I post it here because I think it is cruel to write a story and then not set it free. Much like a butterfly in a glass jar. Or perhaps in the case of my writing, more like keeping a slug in a tin can - not quite as pretty but still deserving of a bit of freedom:

The movie “Four Strong Winds” has nothing to do with the Ian and Sylvia classic but they do make a brief cameo appearance as one of the country music acts that are a backdrop to the real action of the movie.

Four Strong Winds is actually the title of the great Canadian Chili cook-off that occurs every year, concurrently with the Halfway First Nation’s rodeo.  The movie follows the antics of Shorty, Mel and Hank who are entering the competition with an eye on the $10,000 prize money – money needed to save their ranch.

Shorty, the camp cook, is trying to stay on the wagon but the temptations are many especially since his recipe calls for a fifth of Scotch. Mel enters the pony express race and is fixing to dope up old Stewball, but Viagra, instead of speeders , make it into the equine cocktail with nearly fatal and very embarrassing results. Hank is entered into the talent show and becomes romantically involved with Barbara Budd (the celebrity judge.)  Barbara is also the wife of a homicidally jealous husband.

Will the crew win the purse and save the ranch? Will Stewball or Hank find true love?
Watch the movie!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to fix a pool pump

So with the temperatures finally getting up to seasonal norms, which in Kamloops means hot enough to melt asphalt, and to reduce car-left DVDs into weird globs of molten plastic, I thought it time for me to get the pool back into operation.

The pool, left in active for 8 months, had turned a lovely shade of green and large dark forms were seen to be lurking in its shadowy depths.

My attack on the algae pond was based on both a chemical attack and physical assault. The chemistry employed was simple. Keep pouring chlorine into the water until such time that the water became toxic to all forms of life. The fact that a passing sparrow fell out of the sky while attempting to fly across the pool told me that I was nearing the point of sufficient chlorine levels. I could have bought those little test strips but I always opt for the "canary in the coal mine" method whenever possible.

The physical assault required me to fire up the pool pump and suck up the dead algae monsters through a super sucker pool cleaner and then expel the mess out through the discharge/waste valve on the pool filter.

The pump had been doing yeoman's duty for the past two days but today, round about 10 a.m. I heard a sound like bones and glass being run through a blender coming from the pump house. About half an hour later I decided I should check on things.

The dull red glow from the pump's motor was the first clue that something was wrong. The fact that no water was either going into, nor coming out of, the pump was another clue that it was not performing as designed.

Fortunately I had learned from an uncle of mine that most things can be fixed by turning them on and off a number of times. Sometimes if you apply a sharp force with something like a hammer at the same time that you are turning things on and off it will speed the healing process. It is a good thing that said uncle went into something other than small appliance repair because the aforementioned remedy did little to fix the situation. In fact it may have made matters worse.

I knew I would have to put all of my mechanical knowledge to bear and start taking things apart and poking at the inside of the pump. I managed to disconnect about twenty different hoses that were attached to the pump before finding the one that I actually had to remove to give me access to the impeller.

An impeller, for those of you not in the know is a dark piece of black magic that causes water to go from one place to another. No one really knows how they work and their inner workings are best left to the realm of witch doctors and voodoo queens.

I found a sharp screwdriver and gently started to poke about in the very bowels of the machine. At one point I could feel the screwdriver plunge into something that was either a drowned hamster or perhaps a piece of rubber that served as a seal in the back of the pump. I didn't know which was worse to be poking at but at this point I didn't much care. I made a few more stabs that would either dislodge something that shouldn't be there or perhaps puncture something that should.

In a few short hours I had all of the hoses reconnected to the pump and was ready to test my handy work. With hammer in hand - I gave the pump a couple of whacks for good measure as I flipped the switch on and off before leaving it on for good.

Gone was the sound of grinding bone. Back was good green water and chunks of algae swirling around in the pump's filter chamber before being spit out into the Kamloopsian sewer system. Buoyed with my success I think I may take my hammer and try to fix my laptop that has been sounding funny ever since I tried loading up two DVDs at once.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Don't know my *** from a hole in the ground!

A hole in the ground

So yes, I do know what a hole in the ground is. This particular hole is special in that it is the burrow entrance to the lair of the Spadefoot Toad. The Spadefoot Toad is a little fellow, about the size of a quarter, and doesn't do a heck of a lot.

Their main claim to fame is the hard little digging apparatus that they have on their hind feet that allow them to dig their subterranean fortresses of solitude. Don't confuse the Spadefoot burrow with  the pocket gopher hole which is somewhat larger and normally has a mound of loose dirt heaped over it.

I was wondering the other day as I am wont to do, "What would happen if we had no Spadefoots in our ecosystem?" The Spadefoot does not eat a lot nor is it eaten on by a lot. 99.999999999% or more of the population in BC has never seen a Spadefoot nor do they really care to see one.

So my first guess is that not a lot would change if for some reason all of the Spadefoots were wiped out. So why is it important that we preserve this little guy? I guess it is because we recognize the importance of bio-diversity and the need to maintain complete eco-systems. If we protect the Spadefoot, at the same time we are protecting all of the ecosystem that allows the Spadefoot to survive.

To me, the Spadefoot is the poster child of the grasslands ecosystem. It is unseen and inconsequential of itself, but it represents a much larger entity.

But that is enough about holes in the ground and such. I just wanted to post an entry on Canada Day to show that I was being patriotic by not doing any work at all today and just indulging myself in a few of my simple joys like writing.

To all of my fellow Canadians I wish you a happy Canada Day.

Monday, May 28, 2012

International Herp Day

First Annual International Herp Day

Yes, it is an ambitious title but we do have friends around the world that care about and love to share information about reptiles and amphibians from their part of the world.

So how does it work? It’s really quite simple: on the first Sunday in June we are encouraging amateur herpetologists to spend the day in the field with their notebooks, cameras and gps’. Record all of the ‘herps’ you find with as much data as you feel is relevant: species, size, sex, location and any field notes you feel are pertinent. Oh, and take a picture as well. All species recorded between midnight to midnight of June 3rd will count towards our efforts.

Your sightings along with their pictures can then be emailed to us at and we’ll create a google map and photo gallery to share your finds. Please note that due to the sensitive nature of many of our sightings we ask that you provide only a general location for your sightings. So a nearby city, lake, mountain peak, etc. and an approximate  radius that the species was found within from the landmark. So I might report the two rubber boas that I found last week as occurring within 5 kilometers of Kamloops lake.

This first year will be a pilot project to see what type of data we get and what you are interested in – we are purposely leaving it open-ended.

Regulations vary from province to province and country to country so please ensure that you follow all regulations that apply to herping and of course please treat all of the individuals you find with the care and respect that they deserve.

We look forward to your photos.

PS Please pass this along to any herp-o-philes that you think might be looking for an excuse to spend the day looking for and taking pictures of these weird, wonderful and quite remarkable creatures.

 Gopher snake

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back at it - finallly!

Me at work!
My lack of posting has been primarily due to competing interests for my time: family, work, video, work, and more work seem to be winning out over my love of writing. This last week, while technically work related, was far from being a grind.

My friend and former boss, Jason Fimrite, had invited me on a junket to Sarasota to partake in a two day E-bootcamp. The e-bootcamp is the brainchild of Corey Perlman, an internet savvy marketer who has a lot of good advice for businesses looking to increase their presence on the web. Because the seminar is not highly technical, it is a great starting point for managers and those just venturing into the world of web-marketing.

The other thing great about the seminar was that it was held in Sarasota Florida. If one had to choose, say between Rainbow Lake in northern Alberta and Sarasota in south Florida, for a seminar location, I think the latter would win 99 times out of 3.

Via Toronto (not Viva Toronto)

The trip down was uneventful and as always, I got singled out in the screening process as a potential terrorist threat or Colombian drug lord. It’s the moustache I tell you. I am sure my picture, or one close to it, is in all the security training manuals and consequently when the security guards see me their eyes light up like kids who have just found out that there is a Santa Claus.

Anyways, after making my way through the gauntlet I made all my connections and soon found myself stepping off the plane into a warm Florida evening. Our hotel, the Hyatt, was just across from the airport and after dumping our bags we headed out to capture some of the high paced nightlife. We did not know at the time that Sarasota is known as “God’s waiting room” and is so called because of the fact that 99% of the winter population there were also present at the signing of the “Declaration of Independence.”

We did however, manage to find some excellent restaurants. We tried out some Peruvian and Mexican cuisine, skipped on a reportedly excellent Italian restaurant, and ended up in a nightclub called Ceviche. Ceviche is basically pickled fish and although not as good as gramma’s rollmops they are a very close second.

Ceviche served great food but more importantly served up some great entertainment. Cabal, is a five piece Latin/World band that rocks the place every time they play there. It’d be great to see them make their way up to the Roots and Blues festival in Salmon Arm as I’m sure they’d be a huge hit with that crowd.

But all was not just beer and hot Latin nightclubs. We did spend a lot of time learning about Search Engine Optimization and how to squeeze more mileage out of an internet site. Some of these techniques I’ll be putting to use for Jason’s newest company, Forensic Data Recovery Inc.. FDR is a reseller of the top forensic software and hardware out on the market now. And for those who don’t know, forensic software is the stuff you use to find out what was on a hard drive and when it was put there – even if it has been deleted.

I’ll be writing a lot more about FDR in the future as I’ll be working with Jason on some of the more interesting aspects of the business. By interesting I mean the going to jazz clubs and seminar in sub-tropical regions.
But a cold, grey, winter morning awaits and I must shovel a walk and head back to the salt mine.