What the heck is this all about? I sign a contract for the courtyard renovation on December 11 and all of the workers go home on December 12 because it is raining. I am writing a letter to the home owners association suggesting that Canadians should get a reduction in Condo fees for every day it rains here. We have had 2 days of rain this year. Nuts (just kidding.)

We are having the courtyard demolished and rebuilt. Yesterday an army of labourers descended on the courtyard at about 8:00 AM. They started by digging out all of the shrubs, vines and other plants. Then they started with sledgehammers - thump, thump, thump. Finally the bobcat was brought in to lift chunks of cement out into the driveway where they continued to whale at them with sledgehammers until they were small enough to pitch into a trailer and cart off. I wonder if these cement chunks are recycled or if they go to the dump. Come to think of it the plants were treated pretty well too - I wonder if they are being taken to a plant emergency ward. We had not watered or taken care of the vegetation over the summer so it needed some help. Maybe after being nursed back to health they will find their way back into a garden (not here).

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Today they finished up the demolition and started digging trenches for gas lines (gotta have a fire pit and BBQ you know).

The plan is to use "pavers" in the courtyard. Carol and I call them inter-locking brick, but here they are called pavers. They have been chosen and they will be laid after the gas lines and irrigation system is installed.

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It rained last night. It was a good rain, preceded by lightening, and lasting about 3 hours. Some Californians are worried about the lack of rain, and are tearing up every piece of grass and replacing it with rock and desert scape. Both look good. Friends from San Francisco have lived through three droughts in their life and caution people to not over-react. When the rain comes back (and it will) there will be a need for grass and roots to prevent mud slides. But knee-jerk reactions are so much fun, and the city will pay you to rip out grass. Not much, but it seems a bit like going to Macy's and getting 10% off if you will apply for their credit card. I am on the wait and see side.

I decided to not run for the board. A little bird at the Toronto East General and the Eisenhower told me to settle back, have a beer and smell the tennis ball. The bird did not have a clue what he was talking about but the advice was good.

Stocking Stuffers

Carol grabbed the mail out of our mail box tonight. Of course there was no mail, but we did get some really good brochures. My favourite is titled "Give the Gift of Peace of Mind" It is suggesting that you give a radar detector for Christmas. The Christmas Offer Includes:

  • Worry-free Holiday Gaurantee means no-hassle returns through 1/31/2015.
  • Free StickyCup Mount with select detector purchase ($29.95 value).
  • 30% Discount off each additional new detector purchase of $299+.
  • Free Holiday Shipping
  • Plus - Holiday Payment Plans starting at $19.95 per month.

Then came the section on Stocking Stuffers. Does Santa have a radar detector on the sleigh?

Joshua Tree Camping

Carol is planning a camping trip to Joshua Tree national park. Unlike the old days when she would sleep in a garbage bag on the ground, she wants a teardrop trailer for the adventure. I have always wanted one of these so the chance to rent one is really exciting. I will need to have an electrical hookup installed on the car but the bike hitch should haul it. All of the comfort of home in 75 square feet. It makes Bronwen's condo look large. Joshua Tree is a great park for walking and star gazing, and I bought a lifetime pass to the US National Park system this year. I am really looking forward to this.

30 Degrees

california

We are having a lovely end to the summer here in the desert. We have been experiencing warmer weather and more sunlight than at any time this summer in Collingwood. The tennis has been good. Carol and I have been playing nearly every day. She pretty well has her tennis/dance card full until we head home in the spring. I have been playing regularly but I do not have my schedule fleshed out for the remainder of the year.

We had a little stumble last week. On Monday I had a call from the followup system at Toronto East General Hospital. The ultrasound results from October 24th showed a "poorly visualized abdominal aortic aneurism" and they wanted me back in Toronto to perform a CT scan. This kinda news can take the wind right out of your sails. Once we had recovered our wits and I had discussed everything with my surgeon, we decided to have a CT scan done here in the desert.

I am a registered patient at the Eisenhower Medical Centre. For $342 they would perform a CT scan within 48 hours. Done. the report - "no sign of an abdominal aortic aneurism". I was able to check my results on line and forward them to the surgeon all within the 48 hours. Everything is fine; here is the surgeon's response:

Looks good to me Fred. No sign of an aneurysm. Carry on with your trip in California and enjoy yourself. R  

Rajiv Singal MD, FRCSC
- Endourology, Urologic Cancer and Robotics Surgery, Toronto East General Hospital
- Lead Joint Surgical Robotics Program, Toronto East General Hospital/ Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
- Supervisor, Endourology Fellowship, Toronto East General Hospital, University of Toronto
- Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
- URL:  http://www.rajivsingal.com

Isn't that a nice medical story? Of course I am as pleased as Punch

!Hint: 'As pleased as Punch' derives from the puppet character Mr. Punch. Punch's name itself derives from Polichinello (spelled various ways, including Punchinello), a puppet used in the 16th century Italian Commedia dell'arte.

Our home's courtyard is a disaster. The plants have been left to die, the exterior wall is still in construction mode (but the construction has stopped, think Admiral's Place, or the Shipyards, or for that matter Blue Shores), there is construction sand where there should be gardens. All we need is the rusting hulk of an old pickup truck, or a dumpster to finish the scene. Carol is trying to get some work done, but as soon as she tells the builders that she has not decided between interlocking brick or a tile floor for the patio, they all pack up their tape measures and disappear.

We want it done by Christmas; this is their busy season - a rock meets a hard place.

Gotta go bike riding.

This was sent to me this morning by Jamie and Marsha McPherson

From the BBC - by John Cleese.

ANNOUNCEMENT

  • The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved."

  • Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

  • The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

  • The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

  • Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

  • The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

  • Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

  • The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

  • Americans meanwhile and as usual are carrying out pre-emptive strikes, on all of their allies, just in case.

  • And in the southern hemisphere...

  • New Zealand has also raised its security levels - from "baaa" to "BAAAA!". Due to continuing defence cutbacks (the airforce being a squadron of spotty teenagers flying paper aeroplanes and the navy some toy boats in the Prime Minister's bath), New Zealand only has one more level of escalation, which is "I hope Australia will come and rescue us".

  • Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be right, mate". Three more escalation levels remain: "Crikey!", "I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend" and "The barbie is cancelled". So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Origins:

This spoof of the various systems implemented after the 9/11 attacks to warn the public about the possibility of future terrorist activities, melded with stereotypes of several different nationalities, appears to have originated in July 2005 (just after a series of terrorist bombings hit London's public transport system earlier that month), with its early forms being a fair bit shorter:

  • As London is hit by the second wave of bombings in two weeks, the Government has raised the terror warning level from 'miffed' to 'peeved'. Whilst many people commented with respect at the stoical attitude of Londoners to the first wave of attacks, Londoners are losing their traditional reserve and may soon require the terror level warning to be raised to 'irritated' or even 'a bit cross'.

  • A government spokesmen commented upon the seriousness of the situation. "London has not been a bit cross since the height of the Blitz in 1940 when supplies of tea ran out for almost three weeks", said a representative of the Security Services. "It is as a mark of the seriousness with which Londoners are taking the situation that we have recently been forced to re-categorise suicide bombers from 'tiresome' to 'a bloody nuisance', and the last time we had a 'bloody nuisance' warning level was during the great fire of 1666."

  • On the streets, Londoners reacted with uncharacteristic anger to news of the latest attacks, with some members of the public reacting with harsh language to the news that they might be delayed on their homeward trips by up to twenty minutes.

  • "It really is the absolute limit," said Reginald Boggis, 42, of East Ham. "These terrorists. Not content with blowing things up, they then have to spoil the day for everyone. That's just irritating, that is. If they wanted to get things changed, they should write an angry letter to Points of View. That's what my wife and I always do."

  • Tony Blair is expected to make political capital out of the situation as soon as his focus groups report on the mood of the nation.

  • In other news, Britain reeled today at the news Australia were all out for 190 runs in the first test. "Good heavens!", said cricket fan Stan Higginbottom. "We showed the Aussies, what for, eh? What's that? More terrorists? Well, that's bloody typical, isn't it?"

From there, this item followed a pattern very similar to an earlier satirical piece about the UK's revoking the independence of the United States: What began as a simple bit of humour penned by an anonymous wag and set loose on the Internet was successively fleshed out and embellished by many different hands, growing longer and longer, until someone erroneously attributed the whole thing to English comic John Cleese, a former Monty Python trouper. And once a famous name gets stuck to a formerly anonymous piece in search of a recognizable author, it virtually never becomes unstuck, so just about every copy of this item circulated over the last several years has borne a legend incorrectly identifying it as "by John Cleese." (This false attribution is discussed on John Cleese's official web site.)

As is typical with such items, it is periodically resurrected and updated to address current events, so versions circulated in mid-2013 replaced the opening reference to the 2005 London bombings with a mention of "recent events in Syria" (i.e., a civil war taking place in that country).

Carol is trying to get herself a little fitter. I declined when she asked me if I wanted to go for a walk this morning. I am not nearly as desperate to be fit. On the walk she met some people from Vancouver, other tennis players. Carol arranged for me to play tomorrow morning. But I only have the red shoes that I wore last spring. I did not play enough to wear them out over the summer. I had planned to start with new shoes and work the old red ones in occasionally to ensure that they get sufficient miles before hitting the bin. They are a bit of an affront to the old tennis folk. 1 2

Today I had to run out and purchase new shoes, and get a racquet strung, and buy balls, and some socks that would go with black shoes, and put up with a lady trying to sell me a condominium nearby. She actually asked me to take the tour of the complex (gaining a coupon for a free night in the condominium complex) so that "she could make some money". Yikes. Hope I play well tomorrow.

Palm Desert

california

What kind of person leaves a dozen Corona in the fridge when they leave a place in April, knowing that they will not return for 6 months? A very shrewd person. One who is accustomed to planning and thinking ahead. A resourceful person that you would like to have along to make the ride smoother. Someone that you could call your best mate. Me.

Winslow, AZ

california

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All is good. The weather has been perfect - 30 degrees through Missouri, 25 degree through Texas, and 20 degrees through New Mexico. I have taken a shining to Big Flats Lager - a six pack for $3.49 - it is the Walgreens brand. I thought that I should scan the internet to see how this beer is being reviewed by my fellow beer critics. I found this lonely review that kinda sums it up: "Even for cheap beer, you can do better. If Big Flats were available as the cheapest option in a bar (which it isn’t), I would buy it. But I would probably get in a fight that night too. This is not the brew to pull out to impress your guests, though it does get the job done in a pinch. For my real drinking on the cheap, I’ll stick with Simpler Times lager from Trader Joe’s. It costs the same, and packs a bigger punch, with a flavour that I’ve either already gotten used to, or is possibly even somewhat enjoyable."

Amarillo, TX

california

All the way to Amarillo with our bikes still intact and without any sleet or snow. It has been a wonderful trip. Gasoline started at $3.09 per gallon and has fallen to $2.69 at our last purchase.

Here are some recent additions to my travel equipment. You would think that with this equipment I would be able to make a pretty good cup of coffee each morning. unfortunately that pretty little .5 litre kettle quit on the 3rd day. A quick shout at the manufacturer and they have agreed to ship another one to Palm Desert. That does not help here in Amarillo tomorrow at 6AM.

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I see that Collingwood (unlike Toronto) has decided to go with the incumbent mayor. My first thought is that it is too bad, but my second thought is that the number 2 and 3 candidates for mayor were not that strong, and in spite of my dislike for her, she was about the only choice. I wonder where the OPP investigation goes now? Can the mayor really keep OPP costs in line while they continue to investigate her?

The new Deputy Mayor will be strong and all of the terrible incumbent councillors are gone. Good riddance to Ian Chadwick. Madigan is the only "what were the voters thinking?" councillor elected.

This group could be useful.

Road Trip

california

We are off and running - to California. Thursday night we stayed near the intersection of Finch Avenue and the 400 so that I would be able to get to my tests at Toronto East General early Friday morning. That evening Bronwen and Glenn came out to the hotel to meet us for dinner and a last chance visit. Handed off the 2nd car to Bronwen for her use over the winter.

Tests on Friday morning probably went OK. None of the technicians burst into tears while their equipment was peering through me. I made arrangements with Dr Singal to email me the results as soon as he sees them and if necessary we will turn and return for consultation - like that is going to happen! Normally he sees me right after tests, but Friday he was wisked away by an emergency surgery. I walked to Katies afterward to meet Carol, visit with Billie and have dinner with Katie and Jason. We had a very nice surprise - Dave (Carol's brother-in-law) dropped in for dinner. He was visiting his family in Tillsonburg and Port Dover and drove the 2 hours just for dinner. It was our first visit since Sue's funeral.

Our first real night on the road was spent in Woodstock. Sometimes this first stop is just a symbolic gesture on my part to get out of Dodge. The 2 hour drive does not get us closer to California but it gets us on the road. Saturday is a real drive ending in Fort Wayne Indiana. The important part of the first day of driving was finding new jeans and t-shirts and abandoning old ones along the way. Today I am looking to replace my socks somewhere beteen Fort Wayne and Springfield Missouri.

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