Saturday, March 31, 2012


On a scale of 1 to 10 (in which 10 is amazingly enjoyable, and 1 is deplorably wearisome) shopping ranks about .05 in my books. The exception would be if I were shopping for a new tool that I both wanted and could afford, or a horse under the same conditions. Since those types of shopping experiences come less often than Haley's Comet, the overall rating of .05 still holds.

If you narrow the criteria down to rental house shopping, the rating drops even further. This is  unfortunate, since we need a place to live when we move to Thunder Bay, and landlords don't generally shop for tenants . . . which makes it incumbent upon us to shop for them. While I am not an authority on looking for landlords, I've drawn the conclusion that 99.9% of Thunder Bay rental houses fit nicely into one of the following categories:
  1. Too small
  2. Too rough
  3. Too expensive
  4. Too late (someone else found it first)
My eternal optimism is being severely tried, but I still cling to the shred of hope that the .1% house will show up before we go crazy looking, or at least before June 1, which is when I gave notice that we would terminate our rental in Upsala. When a friend asked how things were going I said,  "Other than the fact that my job is temporary and I don't have a place to live, everything is great." He said he liked how I looked on the bright side.  
There are other bright spots as well. I met some very nice people who were offering a very nice home (that was too small), for an attainable price. Three out of four is good, but we're still holding out for that .1% house. When I told the owners that I had been the fire chief in Upsala for a lot of years, the husband said, "I floated a truck for Upsala Fire Department about five years ago." I remembered the occasion, confirming the widely accepted belief that the world is getting smaller. If you don't believe this unscientifically proven theory, check out my small world post from November of last year.

Incidentally, Stephen Harper has gained fans since my discovery that an onion ring out ranked him in Facebook popularity. His fan base now exceeds 70,000, while the onion ring seems to have stagnated at just over 160,000.

On a different theme, I had a brief brush with superstition the other day. When I made arrangements for the Pre Service Fire students to do extrication training, I found out that the scrap yard was a sea of mud. I scrambled to find another location, but it's hard to beat a yard full of old cars as a vehicle ex training ground, muck or no muck.

We went ahead with the original plan, and when I went to check on the crew later in the afternoon I mentioned to the instructor that, looking on the bright side, at least it wasn't raining. He didn't say anything, but I had a "knock on wood" feeling that I shouldn't have said that. Since I'm not superstitious I didn't knock on wood, and the next morning we woke up to 10 cm of wet, sloppy snow. The only thing worse than a muck hole as a training ground is a muck hole covered in sloppy white snow-soon-to-be-water.

In my own defense, I have squared off with the fire gremlins and beaten them at their superstition game. You can read about it in the latter half of my January 2010 post.

Speaking of superstitions, my brother Paul spent some nights a while back taking shots of the Northern Lights (which some folks say portend various things). He made a slide show out of five hours of footage, taken at thirty second intervals.

You can see more of his stuff here.

To finish off this hodgepodge post, here is one of my favourite Youtube videos which, if you are a loyal reader, you may have seen in one of my archived posts. If you like guitar it's worth the two minutes and thirty-six seconds to watch it. Nothing to do with firefighter training, house hunting or superstitions, but I plead Blogger Sovereignity.

Hey, if I can't be King of the World, at least I can call the shots around this piece of cyberspace.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Down but not out

I've been derailed.

Up until the middle of December I was firmly on track, fuelling my literary steam engine with life experiences, opinions, and reflections on things meaningful and absurd, hilarious and heartbreaking, significant and frivolous.

That's a lot of fancy words just to say I seldom lacked blogger fodder.

To continue my diatribe, up until the middle of December I forged onward with single-minded determination toward my literary destination, which lay (I was certain) somewhere out there in the never-never Shangri-La of bookish self-fulfillment. Then it happened. Change.

Back when I first accepted my current position with Confederation College, I mused about whether change was good. My friends and acquaintances assured me that it was. I maintained that change was neither bad nor good, it just was, like it or not. The final word, of course, is that change is like anything else in life. It is what you make it to be. The change from fire chief to training manager has been good for me, and I am working hard to make sure it stays good. I wasn't expecting the change to affect my other life so much, however. In short, my blogger fodder dried up.

I don't think the world is any less meaningful or absurd (etc. etc.) than it was in December. The fire service still needs help, terrorists are still crazy, and Stephen Harper still makes a broad target for any self-appointed satirist that chooses to aim in his general direction. For some reason, however, none of it compels me to write like it once did.

Wow. This is a really glum post. Time for some Paul Combs artwork, in honour of International Women's Day (which, in my mulligrubbed state, I failed to commemorate, along with Family Day, Groundhog Day, and March-Coming-In-Like-A-Lamb Day). In all seriousness though, women continue to play a significant part in Upsala Fire Department history, as do a menagerie of other good folk. When someone needs a firefighter, they generally aren't fussy about trivial things like gender, race, colour, or career.

Speaking of women, the female fire bloggers out there are proof that the world still turns, even while I sit on the sidelines. Check out Laura King's blog, and Jennifer Mabee's blog.

The world still turns in Upsala too. I continue to keep my pager turned on when I'm home, and people still dial 911.  My daughter caught her hair on fire blowing out the candles of her 14th birthday cake, and we didn't call 911. Phillip capitalized on the mishap and posted the following on Facebook within seconds of the event:

Upsala News: Deputy Fire Chief's daughter catches hair on fire while blowing out cake! --- true story, it just happened :) I wuv you Vanessa!

Speaking of Facebook, I received an email last night saying that Andrew (who is sometimes called Hollywood) had posted a photo of me. "Nice," I thought. "Andrew is thinking of me even while he's in Florida basking in the subtropical sun." Turned out that both Andrew and Graham (the Shark) were in Florida thinking of me. I clicked on the link and found this.

I'm guessing they were Facebooking under the influence, as I don't think it looks like me at all.
This morning dawned clear, but not too cold, and by 4:00 the temperature had risen to a balmy 15 degrees C, perfect for snowman building.

I considered posting the photo on Facebook and tagging the snow people as Andrew and Graham, but since I rarely drink, I wouldn't be able to write it off as an act committed while under the influence.
My brother Paul has been on the prowl for the past few nights, snapping photos of the auroras which have been very active recently. Here are a couple shots.

In my October 25 post I surmised that the auroras portended a mild winter. Based on indisputable data from January, February, and March, I wasn't far off the mark, at least about the mild winter part. I'm not quitting my day job yet, but if I hone my prognostication skills, they might at least develop into a hobby that brings in extra retirement cash. Provided I am actually able to retire someday.

Speaking of hobbies, Paul has been spending a little too much time wandering the bush at night photographing auroras.

You might be able to follow this link to see more of his aurora shots, along with other photographic whimsies (I'm not sure if you have to be friends or not).

Just to prove that I haven't been completely derailed, and still think about things that used to turn my world, here is a link to an update on the Meaford trial. Only one charge remains of the six, with a trial date set for April 30.

Part of my derailment stems from the fact that I'm not as heavy into the volunteer service as I was when I was chief. Another factor (perhaps the main one) is that I spend an inordinate amount of time at my very new career, and rarely have time to let my mind ramble in a manner conducive to blogging. The final nail in the metaphoric coffin is that I have little time to follow fire service news, another frequent source of blogger fodder.

Enough excuses. Change has come, and I am adjusting to the new normal. No promises on when I will be back on track, or even whether I'll know what "on track" looks like in this brave new world. But derailed or not, I like blogging too much to abandon ship altogether.

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