Friday, September 26, 2014

Alberta Impressions

Many people do not consider the prairies to be a destination worth to visit, but traveling through rural Alberta can have many rewards. That is if one has an interest in history as I always had. Rural Alberta is interesting because there are still so many signs of the early days when settlers first had arrived ready to take the land under their plow. Central Alberta is full of old grey buildings, some of them built of logs others just sticks and beams. Many leaning against prevailing winds, some of them overgrown by trees. The buildings are small, witnessing of the need to get them raised fast. Summers often were short and winters could be extremely long and gruesome with relentless blizzards beating upon the land, making transportation of any kind impossible. Isolation on hidden-away farmsteads miles from neighbours could have terrible impact on the people trying to survive on a rather moderate if not downright meager harvest.
20140925_155037-001                           A homestead ducking down in a depression

Most recently I came across an old homestead sitting in a depression of the terrain like it was meant to huddle down and stay out of the worst weather. But these depressions were also snow holes where snow depth could pile as high as 10ft or more.
On my walk down to the main house I passed 2 outbuildings beaten to the point of being totally useless. But then there wasn’t anybody around to use them either. Junk was piled all over the place and I had to watch my step not to get stuck in old wires or open cans. The last wind had already blown much of the leaves off the trees. And trees had grown all the way to the porch steps like it was ready to consume the pitiful looking rest of the building. The front door was not locked and it opened with a screech. Inside, junk was spread out a foot deep. Old work clothes hung on nails along the wall, a table, covered in junk was the last loose piece of furniture. The adjacent room had an old stove by the wall. Prairie wind was whistling through broken windows.
What had happened here? Who had lived here and who had grown up in a place like this? What had become of them?
I had to look around, was stunned by my surroundings, unable to move, staring at the decay left after human habitation. Then I remembered… I was trespassing here. I was a stranger and with a shudder I turned around, walked out and made sure the door was shut behind me. My van was up at the dirt road and if somebody would come along they might get suspicious.
But experiences like this can provide for a better understanding the history of the settlers. Alberta has a number of good history museums, Go and visit them and you don’t need to be a trespasser if you want to take pictures of the old buildings.

Thanks for dropping by!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Unbelievable Simplistic Credit Card Fraud

Just to be clear from the outset: You are NOT supposed to copy this recipe for getting other people’s credit card information. Rather than that it is meant as a heads-up for you to keep a watch on your envelopes in which you receive your new Credit Card.

Here’s what happened over here:  2 months ago I lost one of my Credit Cards. I reported it missing and was promised a new one within a week. Well, that week eventually turned into 2 months. Anyway, when that piece of plastic finally arrived I discovered that the entire front side Credit Card information could be felt through the paper. And I mean FELT. Someone had managed to press the raised letters through the paper and it was plainly readable on the outside. You remember the old-fashioned CC-slider machines? That very same way was used on my Credit Card just by rubbing a thumbnail across it a couple of times. How would you like to have the mail carrier be able to read your Credit card information?

Of course, I reported this to the Credit Card company which immediately canceled the brand new card.

Let’s just say I had not discovered the attempt to steal my Credit card information I would have activated the card in good faith which would have enabled the fraudster to start using the stolen information. The trick is to let YOU do the activation then start abusing the card. And of course that kind of information can be sold to the highest bidder on the internet.
Notice also that no high-tech hacking or phishing is required to get this fraud going.

The big question remaining is where has my Credit card been over the past 2 months and who has had access to the letter. A letter containing a Credit Card can easily be detected in the mail and be tampered with.

There is an easy fix for it though:
Credit Card companies should start sticking new cards into a card-board pocket or even better: use hard paper envelopes.

Until that happens here’s what you should do when receiving a card in the mail:
Check the envelope whether you can feel anything odd on it. If you can actually feel and see the card info through the paper call the card company and get their attention and do NOT activate the card, as you will just be doing the job the fraudster has been waiting for.

Besides I talked to the Fraud Prevention Unit of the Card company I also contacted CTV. And they came out here within 2 hours and conducted an interview with me.

Monday, September 22, 2014

If I Had Known All This…..

….when I was 15 years old I would have leaped 10 feet into the air and hit the ground running.  Running west across the ocean towards this great country called Canada. Of course, 15 years of age is a bit young, but I’m just saying.  Driving a coach through the wilds of this country is the dream which has been lingering for so long.

When I am driving north my thoughts are wandering way back into the past and I can see myself turning the pages in that great book of Canada, I can see myself how I left reality by diving into a world of my own where nobody else, yes nobody, had access. And nobody would understand. So I didn’t really talk much about it to others. My parents knew, of course. What they really thought of it…..I have no idea.
And the dreams were extensive. They stretched far up into the north where winter lasts 8 and more months, where wild animals still ruled.

                                                      The Liard

    The Yukon                                                The Athabasca

My dreams led me down mighty rivers like the Liard, the Nahanni, the McKenzie, the Yukon, and yes the Athabasca. I was living in a tent or a solid log cabin during the winter, scouting out the wide-spread wilderness during the days. At night I was listening to the howls of the wolves and during clear winter nights I was watching the mystical Aurora Borealis, the dancing Northern Lights, which had always held my interest since I read about them in A.E. Johanns travel tales. 

No, I have not gone down all these rivers – not yet anyway, but when I cross the Athabasca with the bus I can’t but remember all this and imagine myself down there in a kayak or canoe. My tent is set up for the night and I just come home from a long excursion. And who knows, maybe I never will do all this, but my dream brought me into this country where natural diversity is so overpowering and so vast that a life span will never be enough to see it all.

Powerful dreams can lead us places and make us choose a different path through our lives. I have taken turns in my life I wouldn’t have done without my big dream.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Summer Is Back In Alberta

Do you remember this picture?
20140908_085036 This was SEPTEMBER 08.

The picture below I took this morning. It’s the weather man on GLOBAL, showing us that summer is back in town.
And not only in town, but over the entire province. Look at Grand Prairie. Yes, that’s 30Celsius. And we are only one day away from the official start of fall.

The pic above I took at a  gas station. Would you buy 2 pop cans for the sweet price of $4.44? And we all know that the energy drinks are not good for your health. But by then you have probably turned into…..a Rock Star. 

Oh my……

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Stroll Along The North Saskatchewan River

It is a day off work and since fall colours are at their peak I decided to take a drive to capture a few impressions of the fall season.
Taking the Yellowhead Highway (TC16) west I turn south onto Hwy 60 which runs down to the town of Devon. Years ago I took a stroll a long the North Saskatchewan River and I want to do that again. Hwy 60 takes a long dip as it descends into the river ravine.

20140919_101416A steel bridge resting on mighty concrete supports leads across the wide river.
The town of Devon is just south across the river and I turn into town to find my way along the steep small river road which leads down to the boat launch and the newly created Voyageur Park.
20140919_104546 20140919_103412
And to make it very clear for dog-owners: There is no poop fairy along the river.

After parking the van I find a path through the dense bush but leave it soon for finding better views along the river. During the fall the water level is low and I walk right along the hard shore line.
The sun makes the opposite side glow in the most beautiful fall colours. 
A single angler is sitting on a rock reading the newspaper, while waiting for the fish to bite. We have a brief talk before I turn back. A couple is doing their stroll with 2 beautiful retrievers in tow. Out here people seem so relaxed wishing each other a Good Morning. Just 1 kilometer in town they wouldn’t do that. Nature is bringing out the better of us – no doubt. Just a pity that so much nature has been destroyed.
20140919_102813-001Ironically, the town of Devon owes its existence to one of the largest oil discoveries in the world. On 1947 February 13, the Imperial Leduc #1 well struck oil, and the new town of Devon was constructed shortly thereafter by Imperial Oil to accommodate its workers. The company was determined that the town would be well-planned, and Devon holds the distinction of being the first Canadian community to be approved by a regional planning commission.

Thanks for the stroll!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Big Step Forward

Throw the dice….the dice have fallen. We have found a place to spend the winter – 2 minutes from where my Inter-City Bus is starting every day. Also minutes from all shopping, and if Bea wants to work part time there is ample opportunity in “umpteen” hotels along Stony Plain Road.

A cute little bungalow where we will have the main floor for ourselves. I saw the ad this morning 15 minutes after it was posted. I responded immediately and got an answer. And this afternoon I went to see the place and made the deal.
From October 15 we have a 6 months lease through the winter.
The wait is over. On October 01 I fly to New Brunswick and will accompany Bea on the 5000km journey through the country. I cannot say how much I look forward to reunite with my home, even if it will be for a few days only. It’ll take a week to cover the distance to Alberta, but it’ll be a wonderful trip, I’m sure. And then life will return to normal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pratar Ni Svenska?

You wouldn’t think that there is one person in the entire North America who hadn’t ever heard about the Greyhound Bus, right?
At least that was what I thought and my face must have given my surprise away, for the young lady hurriedly added that she wasn’t “from here” but had just arrived by air from Sweden.

SWEDEN?  Jo da måste man jo prata litegran scandinavisk. Og oss Norske kan jo førstå litegran Svenska. 

Hehe…. did I throw you off here?  Finally I could try my Norwegian again on this young lady and now it was her turn to show some surprise. She was on her way visiting a family in High Prairie for a couple of months working with horses there.
It never ceases to surprise me that so many girls seem to have it in with horses. Talk about horse whispering!

Anyway, she was on my bus today and when we crossed the Athabasca river I did provide some extra information for her using the microphone. By the way, it was the most glorious weather with an absolutely clear blue sky, glowing fall colours and temps reaching past the 20C mark. If life could be like this every day, what a feast it would be.

Have a great feast!

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Else Is Happening?

You know I am here on this property of an Edmonton RV-dealership and the agreement I have is that I am performing a form of light security. So far there has been precious little to do for me (Thanks God) but all that changed the other day when I did an early morning check-around along the many RVs parked here.

All-of-a-sudden I noticed a young man appearing out of one of the travel trailers. When I asked him where he came from he started talking a lot of gibberish, nothing of that making any sense to me.
Clearly, he did not know where he was and he seemed to be intoxicated, something he later admitted as having been drunk the evening before.

I placed a call to the owner of the RV-business who asked me to call the city police, which I did. All the time the suspect was staying around the property. Now, it is regrettable, but the police needed almost 2 hours before a cruiser pulled in. By that time it was discovered that suspect had started a fire in said travel trailer, which fortunately had not entirely lit up the trailer but yet damaged it beyond repair. He had started a fire in a plastic trash can, which in turn had melted and blackened built-in furniture.

Needless to say the suspect was taken under arrest and finally left the property in the cruiser.

Then this morning I was watching the dreaded morning news and heard that an arrest had been made for a person from that very same point of origin as our culprit was. That person had fled the scene of an accident and had been wanted by the police.
Our suspect had all bloody hands, which we thought had occurred under breaking through a window, but may as well have been caused under the mentioned accident, which by the way had been caused by the intoxicated driver. After the police officer had left, we found further evidence of a break and enter into the main building plus yet into another trailer. Blood everywhere!

Am I reconsidering my duties here? No, not so far, after all it has been pretty peaceful most of the time. But then….this is a big city with all its strange occurrences.

It is also the most ideal location for me getting to my job with only about 7 minutes of driving time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

So Glad I’m Not In Calgary

It’s been three very cold days. actually this is the third. Edmonton saw snow only on Monday. Calgary has enjoyed the pleasures of cold wet snow for the last 2 days and this morning it’s the third day with snow. The Bow Valley received more than 7 inches of the beautiful white stuff. People are exasperated, mad, and unbelieving. It simply made for the talk of the town. I’m scrambling to stock up on propane as one tank after the other is running empty. Luckily the propane price is still low and even the gas price is falling again.
I had actually the day off yesterday but received a call for help just about when I was ready to start supper. A bus had encountered electrical problems which caused the heater to shut down. Of course, this happens on a cold day in Alberta. So I drove to town grabbed another bus and drove north to rescue the freezing passengers. I was back in my trailer at 9pm. My supper was still there…..cold. Well I warmed the stuff and went to bed.



Snowfall warning remains in effect for the City of Calgary and much of southern Alberta

Calgary is getting another dose of winter in the waning stages of summer on September 10. A snowfall warning is in effect for the city and most of southern Alberta.
You want to know what’s funny?  Well coming weekend we are supposed to be back in the summer.

Can you spell C-R-A-Z-Y ?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oh Geez….Look Out The Window!

I was kind of prepared that it would be a cold day today but look what I found!

Yes that is SNOW. And it is still snowing as we speak. This is not December 08. It’s not even November yet,, nor October. We have September 8 and it is snowing in the Capital of Alberta. Now, I am always for a good joke, but this not just for laughs. This is SERIOUS. Winter came looking for us with his cold and wet hand.

Just 2 days ago, Sunday we had the warmest summer day with temps going above 21C. What are the weather gods doing?

Good thing I have the day off today.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

North of the Athabasca

It is the end of August. Up here the first trees are showing the colours of a new fall arriving soon.

I have been on this road for more than 2 hours. Highway 44 in Alberta runs north for a long time until it turns west running along Lesser Slave Lake. When we have passed the turn-off to Hondo the road disappears from sight for a second as it dips down to the mighty Athabasca River. Originating from the area of 11874ft. high Mt.Alberta and 12293ft. high Mt.Columbia on the border to British Columbia, the river is northbound, and as part of the largest Canadian river system, after first merging into the Slave River which again merges with the McKenzie River, finally ending up at the Arctic Sea. Down here it is still a clean northern river. First after passing through the Canadian Oil Sands at Ft.McMurray it is being contaminated with chemicals. We are crossing the bridge and I want to stop to take in the grand view along this river. Big rivers have always fascinated me, partly because I used to kayak when I was much younger.

But my attention must stay on the road. I have passengers on the bus and the large vehicle could easily hit the curb, as the bridge is quite narrow. The pavement is broken and bumpy. Just 10 minutes ago we were driving through relatively lush northern forest, interspersed with grazing grounds for cattle, but now, north of the Athabasca, the road climbs in elevation until it reaches the high plateau of the northern outskirts of the Swan Hills.

And the landscape has changed. Instead of at lush forest I am now looking at miles and miles of burnt boreal forest. I get the feel of being much father north than I really am. It must be the loneliness of this landscape, the seemingly endless perspective. The power of a serious of lightning strikes that caused this landscape to change. Between millions of burnt trees new growth is striving up, eager to hide the results of the biggest wild fire this area has seen in decades. It is now 3 years ago that major parts of the town of Slave Lake fell victim to these fires.

The people of Slave Lake have rebuilt their town. New houses have come up everywhere. And as humans rebound so does nature up here on the plateau, just east of the town of Slave Lake. As we descend off the hills the deep blue outline of Lesser Slave Lake comes into view. The name deceives a lot. It is a lot lesser than the Great Slave Lake much, much farther north in the North-West Territories, but it is still a huge water body. My colleague driver Gordon thinks Lesser Slave Lake is just a minor puddle. His statement must be part of a northern attitude where the grandness of nature has caused people to use special terms when they talk. And they don’t talk easily. You are a stranger to them, so they have the right to be suspicious. As a bus driver though I find easier access to them. They need to talk to me, tell me where they want to go and when they want to return – if they return.

A Black Bear is crossing the road about a 1000ft. ahead of the bus. Reaching the left side he dives head first into the new growth of brush. Wildlife has returned after the big fire.

20-30 years from now the burnt forest will be hidden between the new growth – until the next fire restarts the circle of life.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are YOU On A Cloud?

If you are, you shouldn’t be all that surprised if your data have gone astray. And with “astray” I mean STOLEN and abused. So you are not a celebrity, you say? Hmm… what if other accounts are attached to your iCloud? I would worry about data security. But I am not on a cloud. I will never be. My pics are stored at home. In a safe place. Offline. Now, APPLE says they fixed the flaw. Too late?

Well, if you are not a celebrity…..

What else is happening?

Oh there is the newest American report about a trigger-happy Arizona family wanting to teach her 9 (nine!)-year old daughter how to fire an UZI-machine gun. I bet they thought she should be able to defend herself if attacked. Would she be getting a machine gun on her 18th. birthday? Unfortunately the gun was a bit too much for the little girl and she accidentally shot her trainer. Will there EVER be established common weapon sense in that country?

Talk about being on a cloud.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Pig. Lifestock Or Pet?

This morning I was shaken by the local morning news relaying a story about a family’s pet. It’s all about Eli, a pot-belly pig in Sherwood Park, Alberta.
Just look at the internet headlines this morning:

UPDATE: Strathcona County tickets owner of pot bellied pig


And just look: It’s been going on for quite some time:

Alberta family has to give up pet potbellied pig

Keeping livestock in a house runs afoul of Strathcona County bylaw

CBC News Posted: Jun 03, 2014 6:36 PM MT Last Updated: Jun 03, 2014 8:29 PM MT

Eli the potbellied pig lives with Michelle Kropp and her family in Sherwood Park, Alta.

And now they go to court?

Court date set for Eli the pot-bellied pig in Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park pig owner to return Pride of Strathcona award until the county lets her pet stay

EliPot-bellied pig Eli on the front porch of his home in Sherwood Park Alta., on Tuesday June 3, 2014. Eli's family may have to give him up following a bylaw complaint. David Bloom/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

Strathcona County family may have to say goodbye to pig

A woman whose pet pig is being ordered out of her Sherwood Park home says she will return the awards the county gave her for her animal-assisted therapy work.

Pot-belly pigs have no quality as lifestock in our society. They are pets and will always be pets. Actually they don’t bark, like many neglected dogs, they don’t leave poop, as they don’t need to be walked along the curb or through the park. In fact I think they are no nuisance at all to any neighbour. Yet a complaint was made against this Sherwood Park family and their beloved pet.

And what about those types who like to have Boas and other dangerous serpents in their homes? Is that illegal possession of WILDLIFE? Why not make a new bylaw, you stupid counselors?

Is it more fun to destroy the pleasures of a family who loves and cares for their pet?

Or is it that Strathcona County has too much time on their hands which they would like to spend in court.

Shame upon you!