Sunday, 30 September 2007

Peregrine Wars

Peregrine sightings from my office have dropped, but they're still around. This week, there was a pitched battle between a peregrine and a crow. No one won. The picture's awful but it certaintly captures the moment.

Hiking the trail that wasn't there

I'm on emergency call out this week, so can't go too far from home. Saturday dawned brilliantly sunny when it was supposed the be misery, rain and snow. So we decided to go on a short hike, and I picked Windy Point Ridge. The trail is short (1.5 km) and steep, climbing 275 m.

Or it would have been if we could have found it. We spent 40 minutes wandering the side of a mountian, going ever higher looking for the trail. We found cow pies -- lots of them, and all fresh, as there was a herd of cows contentedly muching all around us. The hilside was getting steeper and steeper, the footing worse and worse, so finally we said enough was enough, as the view up the Sheep River Valley was already fine. We only made it up about 175 m.

This first shot is a panorama of the river and valley.

This is looking back towards Sandy McNabb. Foran Grade Ridge (which we hiked a few years back) is on the left.

This is looking up the valley, with Mt. Burns, Gibralter and Shangra-La-She and the rest of the Highwood Range from right to left.

The mountain views are pretty cool, especially at this time of year with the snow capped peaks. Here's Junction Mountain, with Junction Lookout visible.

At the end of the hike, we were putting junk in our car and who should wander up but a friend of Karen's who had been hiking the same hike as us. They had just grunted up higher than us, and a trail had appeared nearer the top than we went. Apparantly, it was a popular trail today. There was a guy sitting on the top watching the raptor migration, a researcher from U of A counting bighorn sheep, and a family all wandering up to the top from the back side of the ridge. So much for our trail finding abilities.

We saw at least 3 different raptors; a Prairie Falcon zipped right past us

a Ferrgenous Hawk soared overhead

and a very big red tailed hawk went by very high.

It was a great day to be in the mountains.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Week 21, and Finally Making Progress

It has been 3 weeks, and you can guess that the reason for no posts is no progress on the kitchen. You would be basically right, though some minor work (like installing the glass in the back door) was done on week 19.

We also received the counter stools that we ordered when the counter top was fitted, and they work perfectly.

We finally got frustrated and last week sat down with our designer and constuctor. As usual, they said "we'll get back at it Monday," since parts were starting to arrive, such as the lights and the long awaited hood fan.

Sure enough, they were here Monday, but very little actually got done. Yesterday we arrived home to the lights having been installed, and not surprisingly, were surprised, as many things they installed weren't what we wanted. Discussions with our designer were weird; he claimed to have ordered some of the lights months ago, when in a meeting on August 3rd to select lights, we were told he hadn't ordered any. We had 7 pendants; we wanted 3. Two were dangling over the diningroom table, which can't work because the table isn't centred. The ones hanging there were supposed to be the ones hanging over the peninsula, and the ones over the peninsula were the wrong size. The ones in the hallway were the wrong fixtures and... well, you get the point.

Today, the hood fan was finally installed, and it looks great.

It makes a standalone difference in tying the rest of the kitchen together, pulling out the silver in the backsplash tiles and the aluminum in the tambor cover.

My little baby freezer also arrived today. This was purchased by a friend of my designer in New York City, carried up to Montreal, then freighted to Calgary, where they screwed up the address and sent it back to Montreal, where it was freighted back to Calgary and finally installed today.

The reason I went to so much trouble to find this is because the smallest freezer available for sale in Canada is 4.2 cu.ft., and that tiny thing is all of 1.3 cu.ft. In the 'States, you can pick up one for about $80. But Haier, the manufacturer of this one, doesn't sell them in Canada, and neither do the other three manufacturers who have them available in the US.

There is still much to do. We're missing the panels for the fridge doors, we're still arguing about the cabinet doors, I have a spare fridge in my garage that they were supposed to dispose of in July, drawer inserts are missing, and we asked them to change the colour on one of the walls to try and make the countertop fit better, among lots of other small stuff. But the hood fan, freezer and light have made me fully functional -- after a mere 21 weeks into a job that was supposed to take 10.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Powderface Ridge -- North Summit

North of Powderface Ridge (see the June posts for that hike) is a lower summit with an unofficial trail leading to it. Putting the kitchen back together had made it weeks since we climbed a mountain, so we thought we would try it.

It turned cold this week, and some snow started appearing on peaks. It thunderstormed in town and was pretty chilly, but we didn't expect the trail to be snowy. We were wrong.

Strangly, the snow was down low. Up high, it had all melted off the meadow. The trail up climbs 25 minutes and 180 m to Powderface Pass. The traditional thing to do is turn right and climb Powderface Ridge as we did in June. Others continue straight down creek (popular with mountain bikers). We turned left headng northwest, following a weak trail through the trees, and in about 10 minutes, you pop out into meadows. Here's KC on the ridge just after getting out of the trees.

The meadows are rolling with 4 small summits. The first thing you see is downtown in the distance.

You are surrounded by peaks, with Nihahi Ridge dominating the west, and Prairie Mountain the east. The best part is that it's only about 100 m to to highest peak from the pass, and the walking is dead easy. You can wander for about 40 minutes to get to the farthest north point of the ridge. From there, you get a pretty view up the valley, with the Fisher Range on the left, Jumpingpound Ridge in the centre, and Moose on the right. Here's a panorama from the north end.

This is looking back on the meadows from the north. Powderface Ridge is on the left; the peak on the right is an outlier of Powderface. So the meadows are essentially flat or rolling at worst.

The snow covered peaks of Glasgow, Cornwall, Outlaw and Banded Peak were spectacular today.

It was an interesting day for wildlife. We saw a family of 3 spruce grouse...

various ground squirrels...

...and red squirrels.

There was also a lot of neat birds in the trees; blue headed vireos and a golden crowned kinglet.

So this version of the Powderface hike is shorter, easier and less busy. We saw no one in the meadows, but observed literally dozens on the traditional Powderface Ridge. They are missing out.

Why the Hood Fan has not been installed yet

They lost it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

New Guitar on the way

I have been very happy with my Yamaha acoustic electric that I got late in 2005, but the more I play it and try to record with it, the more I realized I needed some kind of electric guitar. I started to research, and learned a lot about single coil vs humbucker pickups, Fender vs Squier and Gibson vs Epiphone. I was leaning towards some kind of Strat style guitar with an HSS pickup configuration when I stumbled upon the Variax. It's 25 guitars in one, in that it models the sound of many guitars, including all that I was really interested in. Hard to find new in Calgary; and it was in the $600 range new, meaning I wasn't interested given how little I'm able to play.

Then I saw a used one on eBay, and 5 days later, a Variax 300 was mine for about half the price of a new one.

I haven't got it yet; it won't be here for about a week, and it will take me a while to figure it out. But here's the best demo video I have seen of it. Now, this is the Variax elecronics hiding inside a custom guitar. Mine is Sunburst and simple. But just listen to how this sounds, and how many sounds you can make.

Susan's Wedding: A Labour Day Classic

I've always said they way you can tell you're getting older is you stop going to weddings and start going to funerals. Well, with two weddings in two consecutive weeks, we've been feeling mighty young.

The first wedding was for Steve and Teresa. Steve worked for me in 2005 as a co-op student, and also house sat for us while we were in Italy (they also killed my cat, but that's another story). The "wedding" we went to wasn't really the wedding; they had done that in Ireland in July. So this was Reception #2, which enabled Teresa to wear her wedding dress a second time.

I had fun seeing most of my whole team from ConocoPhillips: Sheila, Anh, Lynda, Bill and Gary with their respective spouses. Nice to catch up with y'all (note to Lynda & Bruce: I will have you over. Soon).

The second wedding was Susan and Rick's on the long weekend. Susan has been Karen's best friend since 4th grade. For a time, when she was still painting seriously, we were patrons of her wonderful art. Karen was chief witness (there were no bridesmaids, but if there were, she would have been maid of honour); I was music man.

Susan was quite the self proclaimed "bridezilla" leading up to the wedding; I suppose when you've been waiting 50 years to get married, you're entitled. Still, there's a certain amount of charm to Susan acting a lot like Teresa; sweating cakestands and cupcakes, making the flower arrangements, finding the right coloured little doilies for the table and purses from Winners. The weather was nicer two hours later, but it was fun.

Karen and Fred the Best Man made a lovely couple. Maybe I should buy a pair of black leather pants.

Kitchen Update, Week (N+1)^2

We've officially lost track of what week we're on. Nothing more got built or done in the last two weeks except the grouting of the tile.

I mentioned that we spent Sunday, August 19th lining shelves. The following weekend, we actually brought the boxes containing the kitchen up from the basement (all 37 of them), unpacked, put stuff away, moved it, moved it again, rearranged, and... well, you get the picture.

Unpacking was entertaining. None of the boxes were labeled, so each one was a surprise. Dishes in one, then food, then the liquor cabinet, then endless platters, then more food. It was nice to get real ingredients back.

So 37 boxes of stuff turned into 3 boxes for the Goodwill, 8 boxes filled with packing paper, and the rest we found space for.

On the long weekend, we dedicated one day to restoring our living room to livability. KC of course had to rearrange the furniture (everyone needs a hobby). Other rooms are therefore returning to some sense of normality; our living room chairs are no longer in the bedroom, for instance. But we still have hung no art, and we are "missing" specific bits of furniture we need to acquire.

So what's left to do for the Reno that Never Ends?
• Install glass in the back hallway door;
• Paint the back hallway door;
• Install cable lighting in the entry corridor and dining room;
• Install pendant lamps over the sink;
• Install the hood fan;
• Change the shelves in the hall pantry to full depth;
• Replace cabinet doors that were marked when we got them;
• Replace the bi-fold cupboard doors with ones that open normally;
• Fix the trim so it doesn't catch on the red doors;
• Get proper inserts for the cupboards beside the sink;
• Finish the backsplash under the window;
• Replace the wrong coloured drawer trim on the bank of drawers;
• Get proper handles installed on two doors still missing them.

And we have a list, too, of things we have decided need changing. This includes (but is not limited to):
• Changing the paint colour on the wall around the window and the wall next to the fridge from blue to yellow (Elk Tan). We figure this will help the countertop blend in;
• Finish the cupboard bank up to the ceiling. We asked for this in the first place, and don't want something gathering grease and dust. The rope lighting up there does nothing for us.

Week (N+1)^2 x 2 here we come.

Thoughts on Renovations