Same as it ever was

There is no word yet on our son’s biopsy. No CT scan scheduled yet. It’s the waiting game. We’ve been here. We’ve done this. It is a different time but it feels familiar.

School has been going well, well, well enough. The first exam part 4A1 resulted in a mark of 86 while the second exam part 4A2 resulted in a mark of 75. Next Friday is the final. In November part B starts provided the final is a success. The 75 threw me a little bit. It isn’t that it is a bad mark it is just that it is not reflective of how well I felt I did in the exam. It is ironic that I thought the first exam had not gone well at all. Fingers crossed.

My LinkedIn blogging hasn’t really resulted in any traction. It doesn’t matter that much. It is nice to be able to blog about things which are work related and not have it intrude on the personal blog. The real point of the blogging on LinkedIn is to give prospective employers an idea of who they are hiring. In the work related blog as with my personal blog I only write what I believe which may or may not be of interest or liked. I’m of an age where it seems best that whomever hires me knows ahead of time what they are getting. If they still want to hire me then it’s probably going to be a good fit.

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In for a penny in for a pound – NAIT continues to be NAIT

Heading into the 4A final for Power Engineering I had a few questions so sent off an email, as we are told to do, to ask a few questions. Here is the exchange

Me – Good afternoon,

Studying hard for the 4A final. I have a few questions (well more than a few but these ones bother me the most).

Are diagonal stays or through stays more common on firetube boilers?

Are all safety shut off valves automatic? (sounds obvious but is there a manual override?)

How do you test if a safety shut off valve is working without tripping the condition that causes it to function automatically?

What type of valve is used for a SSOV? Gate?

How many SSOVs are required?

Sorry for all the questions but I can’t seem to settle my curiosity on this with the book.


NAIT: Do you have the ASME code book?

Me: I’ll take that as a look it up yourself answer.

NAIT: No, but the answer are in the ASME. Do you want me to just tell you or do you want to try and find the answers and if you can’t I’m more than happy to help.

Me: I have the ten volumes. Will find it.

NAIT: You don’t have just the extract?

Me: No extract in library just volumes 1 – 10 in all it is 16 books which is still brief in comparison to the 37 volumes for the full ASME @ $16K


Yes the cost of the ASME full set is $16 000.00.

For the record there is NO ASME extract anywhere to be found in the online library, none was delivered with the books I ordered and none is available for download on the Power Engineering site – at least none that I can see.

In the realm of self study NAIT continues to deliver on what I perceive to be the concept of: if you signed up for self study, you’re on your own.

Brilliant money making technique.

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Always an adventure

Earlier this summer our son started having some stomach discomfort. He kept putting off going to the doctor but eventually he did make the effort. After several on again off again bouts of burning pain he made his way to the emergency room. The first go around they ran some blood tests which came back negative. Second time around they ran some blood tests and took an x-ray and it came back negative. The third time around he was experiencing pain on both sides of his abdomen. When they were drawing blood he seized and went unconscious. Again he was released. This past week he went in again after passing a lot of blood.

This time the doctor seemed to pay more attention which may have been because our son passed out in the emergency room. A GI consult was ordered and after a day of prep and about 36 hours without food a colonoscopy was performed. Things went well at first and our son was watching the monitor as the camera worked its way along the colon. Then the doctor found some unusual growths and took tissues samples for biopsy. The GI specialist has ordered a CT scan and now we are waiting on the appointment.

If nothing else life is always an adventure.

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Back at it …

This past week has been a blur of work. Taking time off always results in the same scramble upon return. Makes me wonder sometimes why we take time off.

Not much is going on really. Our daughter starts school after Labour Day, our son is in the same boat. All in all summer has come and gone and we are not much worse for wear.

Finances continue to be a problem. There are things which don’t help like compulsory health insurance which is bleeding 10% off my salary every pay period. I’ve been digging into my savings every month since the rates changed in January. Add to that the increase in property tax and school taxes which just came in and comes to $2400.00 a year or $200 a month and things are starting to look more bleak than they have in a long while. You have to wonder how it is that someone who is gainfully employed and carrying no credit card debt or consumer debt, buys yellow label food, and thrift store clothes cannot afford to keep a house. Well I wonder that anyway and a lot of stress goes along with that wondering.

Coming soon….school fees, books, tuition, registration fees, license fees. All the choices I have are Hobson’s choices. Makes life interesting if not always fun.

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Moving to Donna

A Montreal comedian working open mic at the Comedy Nest a few months ago said, “What I want, as an Anglophone living in Quebec, is a better quality of call centre to work in.” An Anglophone is the term used in Quebec to refer to those whose mother tongue is English. The line may not seem funny to anyone living outside of Montreal but the comic had to pause to let the laughter fade before moving on with the rest of his set. Job and career opportunities in Quebec, even in the theoretically cosmopolitan Montreal, pale in comparison with the rest of the country and those opportunities are even more limited if someone is a member of a minority community.

At the moment I am at Edmonton International Airport enjoying a Tim’s Coffee and bagel. Along with The Hudson’s Bay Company, car dealerships, the major Canadian banks there isn’t much familiar about Edmonton. It is a whole different culture. As a Quebecer, in as much as I pay taxes, I have grown up with certain expectations of society and my role in that society. Traveling to Edmonton and spending some time speaking with men and women working there and seeing a job market which is open to everyone left me with a sense of disbelief. I did ask, repeatedly, if it was all for real. The amount of work available in Alberta as a whole, and Edmonton in specific, is stunning.

The litmus test for jobs in Edmonton, so I have been assured by men and women of varying ages and ethnicities, is: can you do the job?

While in Edmonton I had the chance to meet some nice people. Everyone I met was helpful and encouraging of my eventual relocation after our daughter has finished high school and first year CEGEP. It won’t be easy to leave Montreal and move 3500 km across the country but I can’t help but feel it is the best thing I can do for myself and our daughter. Our son plans to remain in Montreal and pursue a career in acting which makes more sense than trying to do the same thing in Edmonton.

I am, in fact, moving to Donna. We are a good match. We are good for each other. The plan is still to relocate in the summer of 2016. There are a lot of differences between Edmonton and Montreal but the differences don’t matter that much. I live in a suburb and in Edmonton I will probably live in a suburb. We shop at a local mall and the chances are that isn’t likely to change. The majority of all our lives is spent at work, with those we love and friends. In Edmonton I will find work, our daughter is coming out with me and Donna is there, friends will come whether through badminton or running or cycling or photography, there are always people wherever you go who share your passions.

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Only Quebec could come up with this

Our son is about to start university at Concordia in the prestigious Theatre Performance program. We are not well off, struggling financially on one meager income, there’s no actual easy way to phrase that so I will leave it there. With that in mind our son decided to apply for loans and bursaries in addition to the traditional working through the summer. All of this makes sense until the actual process of making an application for loans and bursaries where we ran into the following information.

A two parent family sending a child to university have as a required contribution $0 on the first $41 000 and 19% on the remainder.

A single parent family in the same situation have as a required contribution $0 on the first $36 000 and 19% on the remainder.

If the numbers look a little odd they did to me too. Trying to understand the logic behind requiring a larger contribution of pretaxed income from a single income family versus that of a two income family is a little difficult. What could the logic be?

Possibility one – a penalty for carelessness.

Government: And your spouse?
Me: Sorry, we lost her.
Government: You lost her?
Me: Yes, two and a half years ago.
Government: How do you lose something so big as a spouse!?! That’s just being careless. You will have to pay more as a penalty.

Possibility two – the death in the family has had a liberating effect on finances

Government: And your spouse?
Me: Sorry, we lost her.
Government: So then that means you spend less on clothing, entertainment, hot water and food because there is one less person in the family.
Me: Well, yes, but we also lost her income.
Government: But the net effect is that as a family you are actually spending less money than you when your wife was alive. Correct?
Me: If you put it that way then, yes.
Government: There you go then. You will have to pay more as a penalty.

For the life of me I cannot figure out what the thought process may have been but it is damned frustrating. Our son tried doing the application as if his mother were still alive and got one number. When he recalculated using our actual situation the amount he could access was exactly $1000.00 less. Quebec sais faire.

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Out and about

Kieran has been here for a week now and we have managed to travel a bit in that time though at a rate which might seem a little weird. Everything has to be compressed because our son is working Monday to Friday normal business hours and our daughter is enrolled in classes for the summer to bring up her math and science to the advanced level she needs to get into the courses she wants in CEGEP and eventually university. This leaves very little time to actually do things as a family or group. (Photos in the gallery – full sized for printing so be patient)

We have managed to do a little walk about downtown along St. Catherine between Metcalf and Papineau which is a good hoof especially if you start in Chinatown head west then east and back again. Kieran had a smoked meat sandwich which failed to impress. Oh well. It’s a Montreal thing. He seemed to enjoy the walk about though we didn’t actually do anything other than walk and talk.

We had a down day then our daughter and I took Kieran on another walk about. This time we went to Old Montreal and inflicted poutine on him. Poutine is a mixture of french fries, curd cheese and gravy. Kieran, not content with the traditional order, added pulled pork as a garnish and washed it down with a little local hard cider.

pulled pork poutine

Kieran v Pulled Pork Poutine

It is surprising how tiring just walking around looking at stuff can be.

The big trip was one of those things which probably sounded good at the time. Kieran wanted to see Niagara Falls but Niagara Falls is wicked pricey. I decided that Hopewell Rocks would be close enough, inexpensive enough and interesting enough to makeup for not going to Niagara. Not sure it worked out that way. Hopewell Rocks was once shortlisted as a possible World Heritage site and while it didn’t make the final cut (who knows why) it is a magnificent thing to behold. The downside is that it is an eleven hour drive from Montreal. Ten hours to Moncton and then another hour to the rocks.

We drove almost nonstop from Montreal to Moncton only taking a gas and lunch break in Edmunston. We rolled into Moncton and into our hotel, the Delta Beausejour, while there was still some daylight and a music festival in full swing. We were really bushed from the drive – well I was really bushed from the drive – so we went to Alexandra’s Pizza on Main (the best pizza in Moncton and better than any I’ve had in Montreal) bought the boys each their own pie while our daughter and I shared a small cheese pizza and some fries.

Pizza from Alexandra's on Main in Moncton.

Pizza from Alexandra’s on Main in Moncton.

After pizza the boys went off to find women and drink while our daughter and I did a little walk about along Main to see what we could see. In truth Main Street is kind of nice but Moncton is a small city and they roll up the sidewalks pretty early in comparison to Montreal. There was a nice theatre which would have made a nice picture had I brought a tripod. Lacking a tripod I tried to use a post on the side of the street and was bent over taking the picture when Hank, a local guy down on his luck, came over to see if I was okay. Hank had a close trimmed mostly salt with a dash of pepper beard and a face which has seen more sun than most and the kind of crows feet that say he’s laughed more than most too. He had old school large bore tattoos which had, no doubt, once been black but now were blurred blue and faded. He asked for a little spare change which as it turned out was jangling around in my pocket with nothing to do for the rest of the evening.

We were both asleep when one of them made their way back to the hotel. It turned out to be our son who managed to make it into bed without any of the static sparks from the hotel carpet igniting the fumes from his breath. My fitful sleep was made more so by the phone ringing at two thirty in the morning. The front desk called to tell me that my son had made it back to the hotel but had forgotten the room number. Kieran made it upstairs a few minutes later.

There is nothing to be done with two twenty year old men who’ve had a few too many because they will snore. It is the nature of the beast. One was sawing lumber the other was milling it. Our daughter can sleep through anything but she had not been woken up several times already. I on the other hand could not find rest between the two so picked up my sleeping bag and pillow and made a bed for myself in the bathtub. It was uncomfortable but I did manage to sleep between three and five thirty. In total I probably managed about five hours sleep after being awake for sixteen hours, ten of which was spent driving. On the upside the early morning in Moncton is beautiful and Tim Horton’s was empty.

Footpath along the river in Moncton.

Footpath along the river in Moncton.

At Tim Horton’s I ran into Hank again and we had a coffee before I toddled off to the river to have a walk along the footpath there.

There are a lot of runners in Montreal. On the mountain on any given day there are hundreds of them. Thousands and thousands across the island of Montreal but Moncton seems to have a running tradition and time which brings many of them together on Sunday morning along the river. Who can blame them? Beautiful scenery and a cooler run than on pavement. They were legion.

Moncton runners

Moncton runners

After a little morning constitutional I returned to Tim Horton’s and picked up some breakfast, water and juice for the kids. The goal was to get out and to Hopewell Rocks for around eleven when the tide had gone out and the sea floor was accessible. The kids had other ideas involving sleep and boozer gloom. By dint of cajoling and nagging they did manage to clear the room by a little before eleven and we were on the road again.

The drive to Hopewell was uneventful but it was brutal hot, humid and sunny. From the car park to the beach is about 800 meters which doesn’t take long to walk but there is a shuttle if you have any difficulty walking. We hoofed it on down and went straight to the beach. In all we spent about two hours at Hopewell Rocks before starting our journey back to Montreal. We finally hit the road around noon and by 14:00 I was struggling to keep my eyes open as the kids drifted off to sleep. I’ve come up with exercises which I do when I am feeling sleepy and driving. Simple isometrics with big muscle groups helps to get the blood flowing and increases alertness. So lots of leg tension, stomach tension, buttock tension and eventually they eyelids relented and full alertness returned. Aside from a brief stop at a gas station to get gas and pick up a few snacks, we drove straight through from Hopewell to Grand Falls where we decided that Kieran had to do the Zip Zag zip line over the gorge.

Zip Zag in Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

Zip Zag in Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

The Zip Zag is a little pricey but worth it when you consider that to get two people safely over the gorge it requires five people who do it professionally. The zip rides themselves are only about a minute each but they are exciting. Kieran seemed to have fun as did our daughter who was doing it for her second time.

After the short respite from travel we headed out on the road again and arrive back in Montreal shortly after midnight.

In all we probably spent about twenty two hours in the van covering a little over 2200 kilometers. Probably not the most adventurous trip he’s ever taken but I venture to guess probably the longest drive Kieran’s every been on.

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A British has landed

On the left our cousin from England - first stop Tim Horton's

On the left our cousin from England – first stop Tim Horton’s

The plane landed ahead of schedule which worked out just fine. He arrived, we recognized him and took him immediately to Tim Horton’s for a little snack and a chat. It wasn’t a terribly exciting first night. We had a little Chinese food from Chow’s and then he and the kids went off to see on of our son’s friends. And that was it for the first day. The plan for today is just to mosey on downtown for a bit later in the day, do a bit of a walk about and have a bite to eat. We’ll see about some other stuff later in the week.

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Kind of an oddity

In truth I don’t know who reads this blog nor why they read it. There is traffic and page views and once in a while there are comments.

With this in mind it struck me as obvious that making a small post on the site LinkedIn would go all but ignored. The network of contacts I have on LinkedIn is small and not nearly as Alberta centric as I would like it to be. So I posted a little thing that I had been thinking about as it relates to my field as a computer technician. The post was called COPE – a supportable alternative to BYOD. Be honest. Would you actually read an article in a magazine with that title? At best I thought perhaps a couple of fellow techies would read it and give me some feed back. As of this writing the article has been viewed thirteen thousand times, it has been tweeted and liked on Facebook. Not really what I expected at all.

There is something to be said for having so many people read something you’ve written even if the numbers are small in the scheme of things. It makes me want to do better the next time. With luck that is what will happen. I have a topic in mind and have been fleshing it out. In the meantime I suggested some story ideas to Liverpool FC after an acquaintance emailed me a link to their page requesting story ideas. They’ve responded with interest so we’ll see where that goes. Meanwhile back in photography my 500PX gallery has been getting a lot of positive attention. I have to hope it is because my photography is improving.

It is nice to have successes, however minor.

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A passion for steam

Steam is a wonderful thing. It can be wet, it can be dry, it can power cities, break apart cast iron valves it is a very efficient way to transport and transfer energy. It is at the center of power engineering or stationary engineering as it is called in Quebec.

The deeper I get into the power engineering course (about a month of study left for the first half) the more interesting everything becomes. It is a world completely alien to the computer tech world in which I work and also a world apart from almost any other career of which I have heard. The part of this world which interests me the most is that of super heated steam and environmental safety. Of course the power engineers probably don’t get to work much on the environmental safety side of things but it is an intriguing area and one which the industry must pay close attention.

Super heated steam and power generation are interesting. We all use electricity every day. In Quebec we use hydroelectric energy but most of the world runs on power generated by power plants which means steam. The facilities are huge and complex and I cannot imagine how anyone could not be interested in the subject. Simple things like being able to identify valve types, pipe types, how the steam is produced and recovered. All these things are endlessly fascinating to me which, all things considered, is just as well.

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