Friday, December 29, 2006

Almost There...

Well we’ve just about survived another one.

I’m usually a pain at this time of the year but I’ve been in a department store setting for going on 34 years now and unless you’ve been in that position you have no idea what it’s like. I won’t go into details (unless you insist) but suffice to say that there can be many 18 hour workdays in the days leading up to December 25th.

The last 3 years have been great though as I haven’t been assigned to any one store but travelling and doing training or just helping out whenever and wherever needed instead. I call myself the ‘Designated Hitter’ for The North West Company as when they need something done I head in and can usually get the job done for them. Not being posted full time at one spot means that I’ve been able to duck most of the late night closings and early morning openings. I feel a little guilty about this but hey… I’ve done my time and put in the long hours when it’s been called for and yes… I’m starting to feel I’m just getting a little bit too old for this sort of thing.

I started my career in 1973 at Mistassini, Quebec. If you’re wondering, that’s about 60 miles north of Chibougamau and one of the very few stores where we have a year round road into town. Many of our stores still have only fly in access although the more southern ones now have winter roads open for a few weeks during which the entire years freight has to be moved into the community. We didn't have telephone there at that time and I still don't have one now in 2006. (As explained in a previous blog entry there are no telephone lines available where we live.) Don't worry, I’m not going to get into my entire work history with you right now but maybe we’ll have a series of write-ups later on about different locations and experiences. Or you may just have to wait for the book I keep telling myself I’m going write some day.

The best thing about all the travel and transfers for work was if I hadn’t…

I wouldn’t have met the fantastic lady that allowed me to become her husband of almost 29 years now… WOW! She was Office Manager in Fort George (now Chisasibi) at the time we met and I was still a green trainee learning the ropes.

We wouldn’t have had a great bunch of kids. Don’t tell them I called them “great” or they’ll think I’m getting soft in my old age!

I wouldn’t have seen the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

I wouldn’t have visited every Province and Territory. Except for New Brunswick and P.E.I.

I wouldn’t have moved to Manitoulin Island, the best place in the world!

Looking back it’s been fun and there aren’t too many days that I’d want to trade away, except maybe for a couple sealifts and midnight freight planes.

Actually, it’s getting harder to remember any of the bad days at all. Maybe it is time to start working on that book. See you next year, everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Out Of The Way Telephone Service

Now I have nothing against Amtelecom or Bell Canada or FirstTel or any of the other great telephone companies in the country but...

We live way on the outskirts of town and the last quote we received from one of the above mentioned companies was in the neighbourhood of $4,000.00 to run a telephone line to our house. Cell 'phones also do not work in this area but we do have TV through Bell ExpressVu and internet through Xplornet. Last year I signed up to Skype for a computer telephone service and so far it's worked out great. Occasionally the signal seems to fade a bit and the voices come out weird but on the whole there have been very few problems.

Anyway, just wanted to mention that they've got a good deal on this month and I just renewed my subscription. We're getting unlimited local and long-distance calls anywhere in Canada or the US through to the end of 2007 for only $17.50 total. Can't get a better deal than that I think... and no, I'm not getting a commission from this one!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Great Opportunity!

Sorry, but I just can't say enough about the future that this organization offers. I've been looking for years for something like this that I could truly trust and have become convinced that this is the one. I can't find any gimmicks, drawbacks, hidden agendas or anything else that's anything but 100% positive. Click here for more information. No obligations, just possibilities.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Churchill or Bust!

I thought since “Life On Manitoulin” had mentioned she wanted to visit Churchill someday that I would put a little blurb up here.

First of all you have to decide which you want to see, beluga whales or polar bears. The big season for the white whales is August while prime polar bear time is now running from late October into November. There is of course a good chance of seeing the bears at any time of the year but the beluga are limited to the summer months. Without a bit of stretching the truth I happened to go for a walk one evening in August of 2005 and there were hundreds of them popping up to breath as far as I could see up the river. At any one time there had to be at least 50 spouts visible on the water. I never saw that many at one time again but you could always see a dozen or so around the beach behind the hospital and elsewhere along the coast. One great way to see them is to take one of the many tours offered by "Sea North Tours." If you are at all interested in history take their “Beluga and Fort Tour” which will take you across the river to Prince of Whales Fort and either on the way over or way back (or both) you cruise along in the boat with the whales swimming right along side you. Again, you may or may not see a bear and you just take your chances on that.

If you want to see polar bears then the main time is when the ice is starting to form in late October and early November. The old timers tell me that this is getting later every year as the seasons are getting warmer. I was reading somewhere recently that the bears are now actually getting about one month less time to hunt seals than they used to. This is also making them hungrier and more impatient while roaming up and down the coast so when you see one of the many warning signs… BELIEVE IT!

I personally know of one guy last summer who went past the sign behind the hospital to get a closer look at the whales and when he looked up the beach there was a bear ambling towards him! John was smart enough not run but just backed away slowly and made his way to the back door of the hospital… which was locked. It’s OK, he made it around to the front and got inside but if that bear had been very hungry the ending may well have been different. Best way to see bears? Book at tour with “Tundra Buggy Adventures,” You’ll be warm and safe and still see the bears from just a few feet away.

Normally I’m just passing through Churchill but one time I was there for a few weeks and flew up on a Calm Air Saab 340 and took the train out. I really enjoyed the train as I got a single roomette for the two night journey to Winnipeg. It’s got a very comfortable seat with a great view out your window, a sink that folds down from the wall, your own private toilet and a bed that rolls out of the wall. I must say getting in and out of the bed was a little tricky as when it is pulled out there is absolutely no floor space to stand on while getting in. (Did I mention these roomettes are small?) Anyway, I found the best way was to slide the bed half way out, get up onto it, and then grab the window frame and pull it the rest of the way out and lock into place.

There is a community shower (very clean) at the end of your car and you can wander down to the lounge / dining car to relax, chat with your travelling companions or have a quiet drink. Oh, I shared the dinner table one night with a nice old couple from the Waterloo area who are retired and spend part of their summers “riding the rail” and seeing different parts of the country. They were going to be driving back to Waterloo from Winnipeg and were of course driving through Manitoulin on the way in order to save some miles by taking the Chi-Cheemaun and also to stop at 3 Cows and a Cone for some delicious Farquars Ice Cream!

Another point about the community is that Churchill is a major seaport. It regularly has huge ocean freighters in port loading up with wheat that arrives in town by train. There were two from China in town loading while I was there.

Churchill was also the location of Canada’s only space port, the remains of which are still there. At one time there were plans to build a huge operation that would have rivalled Cape Canaveral and many rockets were actually fired from this location.

If you are into Northern Lights then this is the right place for you, in the winter of course. There is one building way out away from any lights with glass domes on top so you can sit back nice and warm with your hot cocoa and watch the show going on above you.

All in all, Churchill is a great place to visit and I definitely want to get back there some day for at least a week. To tell you the truth if I’d been posted there with Northern Stores years ago I would have never left… but then I wouldn’t have discovered Manitoulin, which would have been a tragedy!

Here's a few more Churchill photos if you're interested.


I don't know abaout you but a sled on grass just doesn't equal December for me...


I just found a great blog. Some of you know that I have been collecting quotes for years and Sayings and Quotes has tons of great ones. How about...

"Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true."

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory."

"Misery is almost always the result of thinking."

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."

or especially...

"A cup of coffee shared with a friend is happiness tasted and time well spent."

... ain't it the truth?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Follow Up to "My Choice"

There is a story in the New York Times this morning about the second hand smoke from outdoor wood boilers you can use to heat your home. Personally I like these things as they are environmentally friendly, cheap and easy to use. I wish we'd put one in when we built but one reason we didn't was this exact concern. What would the neighbours think about my smoke floating in their doors and over their hanging laundry every day? We went with propane for everything and so far it's worked out great.

Anyway, the basic gist of the story is that there are all kinds of lawsuits filed from people who don't like the smoke. They are claiming that the hourly pollution from this type of heater is equal to 45 cars or 2 heavy duty diesel trucks.

The point of this blog entry? There are more things than cigarettes that are health hazards and clouding up the environment, but I sure do like a good campfire!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

You can make the big bucks...

OK, I’ve got to tell you all a secret… selling Watkins products is FUN and please PASS IT ON!

To top it off if you ask me right NOW (after January it will be too late), I can tell you how you may qualify for up to $400.00 in free goods and services from Watkins and The Summit Group. It was a great deal when I signed up last August but they’re offering even more incentives and perks now.

The best of it all is that you can get yourself a healthy discount on household products that you buy every week anyway. Why not buy and use some of the best products in the world and get that discount for yourself and yes, I’ll say it… products that you can then sell to your friends, neighbours or on behalf of your favourite charity. You won’t believe the support and training that is yours for the asking when you sign up as a Watkins Associate and become a member of The Summit Group. Don’t believe me? JUST ASK!

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Choice

"Since the bill for the province-wide smoking ban was passed on June 8, 2005, anti-smoking lobby groups have vowed they would fight to make the law even tougher and have pursued measures such as banning smoking in parks, hotel and motels, in any open-air place within nine meters of an entrance or exit, and even in private cars and homes."

The above is from the My Choice web site. I regularly check out a number of sites which keeps people like me up to date on what new rules, regulations and invasions of privacy the government and closed minded people are trying to force on the rest of us. I’ve ranted on my blog and web sites before about things like this but it seems like it doesn’t matter how much we forfeit somebody always wants more.”

No, I’m not a smoker now except for a couple cigars a month, which I enjoy outside while the wind is blowing away from the house so it doesn’t bother anyone. I won’t go into how many cigarettes I used to smoke a day as I’ve discussed that on-line before but I quit cigarettes probably about 15 years ago when they started to interfere on my ability to do my job.

Actually it was probably the petty jealousy on the part of my co-workers that made me quit. After all, I was in such better physical shape then they were with all the fresh air I got being outside more and the extra exercise my body got pumping the blood through the nicotine clogged veins and arteries. They also didn’t like the way I tried to out-do them by contributing more than my fair share of money to the government in the form of tobacco taxes. Here they were struggling every day to figure out more ways they could cheat on their income tax so the government wouldn’t have enough money to fix our roads or build schools and hospitals, while all the while I was gladly donating about $10 per day to these worthwhile endeavours. Yes sir, my hats off to all those non-smokers who are now complaining that the government doesn’t care about them any more because of all the cutbacks in services they once were able to provide so freely. Oops… I’m ranting, aren’t I.

Oh well. The latest topic apparently being discussed by the anti-smokers is to ban all smoking in multi-unit dwellings. This mean condos, apartment buildings, your duplex maybe even our camp grounds. Which reminds me, I wonder why no one has complained about wood burning stoves in homes or campfire smoke or carcinogens on the marshmallows and hot dogs everyone holds over those same campfires. Second hand smoke? What about all those people who are deathly allergic to peanuts? Well, we’re just going to have to ban people from cooking with peanut oil in their apartments because their neighbour three doors down just might breathe in the fumes and have a reaction. I know, I'm going too far, but who will tell the government when they've done the same? The voters? I don't think so, the people in power these days just seem to be the ones with the best PR team. Enough for today… anarchists of the world unite!!

Hey! Don't be afraid to disagree with me and post your comments. Win or lose, I do enjoy a good debate!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rain, Rain Go Away...

I’m a little bit ticked off with the weather today. It took me all of 4 hours to clear our driveway and parking area of all the snow one day last week and here it is pouring rain and melting it all down to the gravel again. Oh well, guess I needed the exercise anyway.

I’ve been threatening to get a snow blower since we moved to Manitoulin from Moosonee several years ago but have so far resisted the temptation. It would be an investment of over $1,000 for a decent one that would do the area we have and I can think of better things to do with that money. Plus… did I say I needed the exercise?

Not having this modern mechanical aid gets me out and into the fresh air for at least a few hours and other than numerous trips to fill my coffee cup is just about the only thing that moves me away from my laptop. Our telephone service is Skype over the internet and I don’t even watch TV anymore. I can get everything I need on the computer and even watched the space shuttle go up live the other night. I check out several news services hourly and have steady RSS feeds of new from the north as well as curling and of course Manitoulin news, photos and blog entry updates. So you can see that I seriously need the time away from the PC that these occasional snow dumpings give me. Besides it’s great to sit down afterwards with a fine cigar on the newly shovelled deck to feed and watch the birds for an hour or so. And, did I mention that I need the exercise anyway?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Woody Was Here!

I've finally seen one! We've known these things were around the area because of the huge holes in the trees out back and the sounds we've heard when they were being made but I'd never actually seen one until just now. It's a Pileated Woodpecker that stands about a foot and half tall and can have a wingspan of up to 30 inches. Of course it would have been even better if I’d been able to get my own photo but he didn’t hang around long enough to strike a pose for me. I therefore had to steal this one from “All About Birds” and you can check them out for more information. Wow… made my day!

Before the morning coffee...

Been taking a few photos the past couple days. It’s been nice not to have to shovel yesterday or today, as I’m just getting too old for that kind of stuff. We’ve got a couple of great teen-age boys but you know they’d rather spend their time with their buddies playing video games than helping the old man clear the driveway. (Just kidding guys, you’ve helped out a lot, THANKS!)

Anyway I just spent an hour sorting out all those recent photos and touching them up a bit. For the fun of it I experimented a little with the special effects features of Paint Shop Pro, some of which were OK and some not so hot. One that I did like is this version of sunrise through the trees at the end of our driveway with a “topographic” effect. Sort of matches the way my eyes focus before my second coffee of the morning!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Snowflake Fair

Well Gloria and I had our first public outing as Watkins Associates yesterday with a table at the Snowflake Fair in Mindemoya. It was a great turnout and Maja Mielonen of Maja’s Bounty is to be congratulated for doing such a great job of organizing the event.

THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by our table to say hello, pick up a catalogue and pick up an item or two. Those of you that placed orders with us have yesterday had their requests passed on to the Watkins supply centre last night and your items are on their way now. You should have everything this week, weather permitting.

It was great to finally meet Christine and Dylon and we’re going to have to get together for something more substantial than a fast hello across the tabletop. Not too sure when that will be however with all that is going on at this time of the year but let’s not make it too far in the future!

Thanks again to everyone and we’ll be in touch soon.

P.S. Don’t know if the “Snowflake” theme had anything to do with it but this is what I awoke to this morning. Time to get the shovel and Watkins Liniment out!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Look, Up In The Sky! Oh, it's a plane...

I don't know if anyone else out there is an aircraft nut like I am but one site I check out several times a day is Flight Aware. Here is the link and map of what is flying over Manitoulin East airport (CYEM) as I write this entry. Note the nasty weather moving in from the southwest.I've also been known to run in from outside to view this site to find out what plane I just saw going over. Check it out, you'll be surprised at some of the flights that pass over us.

OK, My Turn

I have no problem stealing and using good ideas so I'm copying this idea from Life on Manitoulin who copied it from Ms. Mamma who probably copied it from someone else and so on and so on. What you do is take the list of top 100 songs from the year you graduated high school, bold the ones you liked, strike the ones you disliked and just leave neutral tunes alone. A lot of the ones I show as neutral I don't even remember at all. Oh, and I'll send a free 2007 Watkins catalogue to whoever sends me the correct year this list of songs is from.

1. Killing Me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack
2. You're So Vain - Carly Simon
3. Touch Me In The Morning - Diana Ross
4. Sing - Carpenters
5. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life - Stevie Wonder
6. Midnight Train To Georgia - Gladys Knight & The Pips
7. Daniel - Elton John
8. Papa Was A Rolling Stone - Temptations
9. My Love - Paul McCartney & Wings
10. Yesterday Once More - Carpenters
11. Dancing In The Moonlight - King Harvest
12. The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia - Vicki Lawrence
13. Let's Pretend - Raspberries
14. Brother Louie - Stories
15. Could It Be I'm Falling In Love - Spinners
16. Frankenstein - Edgar Winter Group
17. Me And Mrs. Jones - Billy Paul
18. Give Me Love - George Harrison
19. My Maria - B.W. Stevenson
20. I Got A Name - Jim Croce
21. Delta Dawn - Helen Reddy
22. Half Breed - Cher
23. Love Train - O'Jays
24. Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree - Tony Olando & Dawn
25. Pillow Talk - Sylvia
26. Something's Wrong With Me - Austin Roberts
27. The Morning After - Maureen McGovern
28. Rocky Mountain High - John Denver
29. Pieces Of April - Three Dog Night
30. We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad
31. Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend - Lobo
32. Playground In My Mind - Clint Holmes
33. Angie - Rolling Stones
34. Kodachrome - Paul Simon
35. Superstition - Stevie Wonder
36. Also Sprach Zarathustra - Deodato
37. Neither One Of Us - Gladys Knight & The Pips
38. Oh Babe, What Would You Say? - Hurricane Smith
39. It Never Rains In Southern California - Albert Hammond
41. I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby - Barry White
42. Angel Claire - Gilbert O'Sullivan
43. Last Song - Edward Bear
44. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - Bette Midler
45. Stone In Love With You - Stylistics
46. Wildflower - Skylark
47. Crocodile Rock - Elton John
48. Drift Away - Dobie Gray
49. Will It Go 'Round In Circles - Billy Preston
50. Live And Let Die - Paul McCartney & Wings
51. Little Willy - Sweet
52. Smoke On The Water - Deep Purple
53. One Of A Kind Love Affair - Spinners
54. Diamond Girl - Seals & Crofts
55. Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got) - Four Tops
56. Do You Want To Dance - Bette Midler
57. Funny Face - Donna Fargo
58. Long Train Runnin' - Doobie Brothers
59. Why Can't We Live Together - Timmy Thomas
60. Top Of The World - Carpenters
61. Peaceful Easy Feeling - Eagles
62. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown - Jim Croce
63. Do It Again - Steely Dan
64. Dueling Banjos - Eric Weisberg & Steve Mandell
65. How Can I Tell Her - Lobo
66. The Cisco Kid - War
67. Danny's Song - Anne Murray
68. Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu - Johnny Rivers
69. Call Me - Al Green
70. Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
71. Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
72. Your Mama Don't Dance - Loggins & Messina
73. Freedom For The Stallion - Hues Corporation
74. Stuck In The Middle With You - Stealers Wheel
75. Soul Song - Joe Stampley
76. I've Got So Much To Give - Barry White
77. The Cover Of The Rolling Stone - Dr. Hook
78. Right Place, Wrong Time - Dr. John
79. Money - Pink Floyd
80. That Lady (Part 1) - Isley Brothers
81. Hocus Pocus - Focus
82. Sweet Surrender - Bread
83. Ventura Highway - America
84. Masterpiece - Temptations
85. I'm Doin' Fine Now - New York City
86. Feelin' Stronger Every Day - Chicago
87. Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
88. Loves Me Like A Rock - Paul Simon
89. Break Up, To Make Up - Stylistics
90. Daddy's Home - Jermaine Jackson
91. Jimmy Loves Mary Ann - Looking Glass
92. Reeling In The Years - Steely Dan
93. Operator - Jim Croce
94. Good Morning Heartache - Diana Ross
95. Living In The Past - Jethro Tull
96. The World Is A Ghetto - War
97. I'm Just A Singer In A Rock 'N Roll Band - Moody Blues
98. Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting - Elton John
99. Jesus Is Just Alright - Doobie Brothers
100. Ashes To Ashes - 5th Dimension

How about movie lists next... what's your top 10?