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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Anniversary Presents

It was December 23, 2011 when we actually moved into our new house, only 129 days after we took possession of it. You can read about that eventful day here.

So it seemed somehow fitting that when we got home from skiing on December 21st this year, we arrived to a new kitchen that was essentially finished. Electrician dude was in on the last work day before Christmas to fix up some things that weren't working, and releasing us to "move in".

Now, we are not totally done. We still have a "but" list of items. There is still wiring to change out in the garage. There are shelves missing from cabinets because the sent the wrong ones. There are doors on some cabinets with the wrong hinges. There are bases missing from other cabinets. There are repairs to be made on one of the trim strips because the laminate has delaminated. A drop in bit of quartz countertop has not yet been cut.

But we are essentially done, almost one year to the day after we moved in, giving us an anniversary present for our first year here.

And it looks good.
Missing counter bit in the middle 
Eating peninsula 
New laundry area in the back 
Screaming for art to be hung
And so we did what we designed the kitchen to do: we entertained. We had folks over for dinner on Dec 22 and again for our annual Christmas Eve lobster extravaganza (which I wrote about in 2007 and last year).

Now we just have to get rid of the old fridge, move the stuff from the old basement room to the new basement room so we can paint the floor, move it back, move the freezer and beer fridge back where they belong, complete the landscaping, connect the sump pump drain, and clean up all the "but" list things...

Maybe we're not quite done. Sigh.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

13,640

There are those who might call me a competitive person. I never think of myself that way, though I do compete with myself on some things.

Skiing is one of those things. I like to challenge myself, tacking new places and runs that I don't get to very often, and skiing more/farther/longer than previous years.

I am silly enough to keep skiing stats. I used to report my stats here before I started contributing to the Powderwatch.com blog. Now that I write over there, I don't write too much about skiing here.

But today was a bit of a "red letter" day. As I mention in today's Powderwatch post, I had the happenstance to be very early to the hill, stuck at the hill until late, and skiing on my own. So I decided to go for as much vertical as I could today.

The easy way to do this would have been to find something groomed and rip up and down it. But 6-25 cm of snow fell last night, so there really was no corduroy around, just acres of powder. So I skied it like I normally would, only more of it.

And I skied 13,640 vertical meters in 25 runs today. That's 44,750 vertical feet.

My best day ever was April 1, 2001, when I managed 15,430 m (50,623 vertical feet) in 29 runs on a day with a lot of groomed runs, sunshine and 10 cm of powder.

My second best was April 12, 1997, when I estimate that I got 14,263 m (46,795'). My altimeter was broken that day, so I kept track of my runs and calculated the vertical. It was a groomer day with sun and no new snow.

Today was my third best day ever, and even more impressive an accomplishment as the weather wasn't good, there were no groomers, and there was tons of new snow.

I wonder if I will ever get a chance to break 50,000' again.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Chicken wings

It's official. We're in the kitchen and cooking.

The electrician dudes came back today while we were out skiing to finish, and they sort of did. The lights on my porch still don't work, and I have a plug that doesn't work yet, but my hood fan works.

The hood fan dude came back and installed the stack and chimney...
Fan done
...scratching my newly painted ceiling while doing it.
Who fixes this?
Having been cooking outside since mid July, I had a serious hankering to bake something for dinner on my first night with a stove again. I have been craving home made chicken wings for a while, and telling everyone that it would be my first meal in my new kitchen.

So I roasted up a batch for dinner tonight. They were awesome. Even my contractor knew it was wing night, and he sent me a text accordingly. I also boiled up some ribs for broiling tomorrow. It's nice to have my stove back.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The End is always Tomorrow

As of last Monday, here's what was left (and when it was supposed to be done) before our kitchen project was finished:

  • Final painting (Monday)
  • Grouting the backsplash (Monday)
  • Kitchen cabinet "but" list items (Tuesday)
  • Installation of the hood fan (Tuesday)
  • Completion of the electrical (Wednesday)
Based on this, we shut down our temporary kitchen space and moved to our new kitchen space on Sunday in anticipation of completion. We even used the kitchen space as prep zone on Sunday night (though I'm still cooking outside in -15° temps). Now, we did this in part because a friend from Ontario started staying with us on Monday night, and we needed to turn our guest room back into a guest room. But still, we're supposed to be done Wednesday.

When we started the week, everything was lined up for a Wednesday finish. All the trades were scheduled. But...

It's Canmore.

Monday, the painter dudes came and wrapped us up in plastic and drop cloths.
Everything we need is under wraps
Made it kinda hard to access anything to cook. Then the grout dude delayed a day -- meaning he got in the way of the kitchen dude. They made a mess on Tuesday, and all the while the painter dudes were still painting (which in the end took 3 days, not 1).

Kitchen dude spent several hours re-installing the fridge, and the panels on the front of the fridge. He was also able to finish some other stuff, like the wine rack interior...
Better
...and the toe kick under the dishwasher, but he has still not received many kitchen "but" list parts we thought we would have by now (glass shelves for one cupboard, a latch for another, bases for 2 others, a replacement door, a replacement trim bit, etc) so he won't be back "for some time". 

Accordingly, hood fan dude was delayed a day, and only got in late today to partially re-install the fan.
Panels on, grout done (but not cleaned) and fan partially installed
And thus, electrical dude got delayed a day (now supposedly here Thursday) and after he's done (hopefully in 1 day), hood fan dude STILL needs to come back to connect the vent pipe and put on the chimney cover (probably Friday) after the electrical dude is done. A 1 day hood fan job becomes a 2 day job.

In typical Canmore time, what was supposed to be 3 more days of work turned out to be 5 more days of work -- 66% longer than expected.

It's seeming these days like the end of this project is always "tomorrow". As the immortal Frank Sinatra once sang:

Let's forget about tomorrow,
For tomorrow never comes.

Monday, 10 December 2012

He's back again!

My pine marten was back again today, and this time, he really didn't seem to be in a rush to leave, so I got lots of photos.
What a face 
Hunting 
He was following vole tracks 
What does he smell?
It turns out the little dude was hunting for something up in the tree:
What's up there?
"Up there" is my suet feeder.
Found it!
But when he found it, all he did was sniff it and move on. He never attempted to lick it or break into it (knowing him, he would have chewed through the bars in a heartbeat). No, he got into the tree, sniffed it, then moved on to track the voles.
Outta here

Friday, 7 December 2012

A newbies thoughts on Twitter

I'll admit I wasn't a Twitter person until about 2 months ago when someone had to step up to the plate and pick up the Friends of Kananaskis twitter feed given the imminent departure of our program coordinator (recall that I am a Director of the Friends).

Being a smart guy about these things, rather than screw up the Friends twitter feed with newbie mistakes, I decided to create my own Twitter feed, and "practice" there. Tweeting's not hard, but it does involve a rather unnecessarily complex vocabulary all its own.

So I have now started tweeting as the Friends of Kananaskis, too. And I have learned much about tweeting.

First, Twitter really boils down to "producers" of tweets, and "consumers" of tweets. As myself, I consume tweets. I consume the tweets of my ski area to see how much snow there has been and what runs are open. I consume the tweets of the road reports and the avalanche forecasts. I consume the tweets of my local papers.

As the Friends tweeter, I produce tweets that my followers (consumers) want to see, including hiking and mountain biking condition reports and current weather information. I re-tweet information my followers will care about if they don't follow the reports of the avalanche and public safety guys.

As myself, I could give a hoot about the latest ramblings of Lindsay Lohan (a producer of tweets). As the Friends tweeter, I could give a hoot about Lindsay Lohan, because we're in the hiking trail maintenance business, and Ms. Lohan is in the "get into trouble" business.

So key Twitter learning #1: understand if your a producer or consumer of tweets. Act accordingly.

Second, I find Tweets MUCH less interactive than Facebook. MANY Facebook status updates could be tweets, but Facebook is far more interactive about the way we deal with those posts (note: the Friends has a Facebook account which I will also soon control). I can ignore a Tweet or Facebook post. But if I care to comment on, or enter into a debate on, said information, it is MUCH easier to do so on Facebook than Twitter.

Third, Twitter's main value is its immediacy. But you need to continuously follow your Twitter feed constantly in order to benefit from that immediacy. Examples:

  • I get to the ski hill, and a section is closed for avalanche control (I knew that would be the case from the morning Snow Safety tweet I read at breakfast). I ski a bit. Then I learn that that closed section is now open and dozens have been in. They found out because they saw it open. But at least one person came a'running because he saw the tweet that it was open. Well, I don't look at the twitter feed on the ski hill (but obviously, some skiers do). So unless I'm monitoring the feed, the producer's info isn't available to me as the consumer.
  • I am driving to Calgary and "on the road". The AMA road report tweets that the road is closed/blocked for weather/accident (great, immediate info about a traffic snarl I could avoid). But I drive right up to and am stuck in the traffic jam, because I can't access the immediate tweet unless my iPhone or computer is on the Twitter feed continuously (while I'm driving, which happens to be illegal where I live).

So Twitter's an interesting idea, but I'm really struggling to see the value, unless you have nothing better to do than sit on the feed and watch it all day long. I have 6 followers, the Friends have 56. Perhaps the reason that the Friends of Kananaskis don't have a lot of followers is because whomever set up the Twitter account spelled Kananaskis wrong.

I'm just glad that no one will live or die based on the info in the Friends tweets.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tiled

Tiler dude returned first thing this morning, and in a matter of hours, tiled both behind the sink...
Tiled, not grouted
...and behind the stove. The plumber dude was also here, and he hooked up the stove, though I can't use it since we have to wait for a few days before re-hanging the hood fan, plus the fan's wiring has to be reconnected.
Wonder where the fan will go?
The tile needs to sit for at least 3 days before it can be grouted so the grout colour doesn't run, so it may be Monday before he's back.

The painter dude was also here for a short while, painting the closet where the washer/dryer will live. We could move them upstairs, but need the electrician to put the plug in place, and the infamous "somebody" to connect the dryer vent.

Countertop dude also came by and took away the slab of quartz, leaving me with a sheet of corrugated plastic sign board with which to cut a template to fit the space. Not sure when he'll have the quartz cut, but it's really no rush.

Tomorrow, we are supposed to have cabinet dude installing the panels for the fridge.

Monday, 3 December 2012

More whoops

The fridge got put in place on Saturday. Somehow. By somebody. One of those processes we're glad we didn't see.
Awaiting front panels
The hood fan got installed, too -- mostly.
Fan in place, but no chimney cover
You can see that there's no chimney cover for the exhaust pipe. The installer dude took it away to cut it to size. I thought this would be a problem as I thought you first put the fan in place, then tiled the backsplash, and the backsplash dude was due today.

Well, the backsplash dude arrived and it turns out I was really wrong -- in great part because we are using small (1" square) glass tiles, the tiles must go on the wall before the hood fan and chimney. So the fan had to come off the wall, then the wall could get tiled, then the fan has to be re-mounted. All that work installing the thing on Saturday was for naught.
Hood fan removed 
Back to Friday
I thought the tiler dude could install the backsplash behind the sink, but also apparently not, at least not without some adjustments. Turns out that in our not-very-square house, the gap between the wall and the back of the countertop is too wide to mount the tiles.
The gap at the back
It starts at the cabinet on the left, but is gone by the pencil mark
Tiler dude wanted us to place a very thick skim coat of mud on the wall to level it out. We don't like that idea because the mud dude is the messiest slob on the planet, and it would take at least a week of daily mess making to build up. Our solution is to cut a filler strip of countertop (from the sink cut out) and glue it in place, kinda like this:
Gap filled by a wedge of wood. Tile sitting on that wood.
It will mean a seam in the laminate. It will mean a slightly visible repair job. But better that than the mud dude making a mess again.

So one of my contractor dudes came by, and voila, in 30 minutes, the gap was filled and you can barely tell we had a gap at all.
Small wedge in place
Now, when do you suppose the tiler dude will return?

Friday, 30 November 2012

The left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing

We are so close to finishing the reno that we can taste it. But "close" and "finished" aren't the same thing. Today was one of those days that really demonstrated how far apart these two things are.

Our floor installation was finished earlier this week, and it looks great.
As the grout is still being cleaned up
On Wednesday, the dishwasher and fridge were delivered.
Dishwasher slid into space
Miele delivered the dishwasher within the 3 hr window they promised, brought it into the kitchen, unpacked it and took away the packing materials.

Canmore Courier were 4 hours late delivering the fridge (bringing it at 6 PM), delivered the 350 lb monster with one guy and no dolly (meaning they couldn't get it off the truck without my help), and struggled to get it into the garage on the palate jack because the thing was too tall to fit under the garage door. Thursday AM, two of my contractor dudes arrived, and it took almost an hour for the three of us to grunt it into the kitchen, where we could unpack it. I asked if they were installing it. Nope, they answered. Beyond their capabilities. "Someone else" was installing it.
Ready to be moved into place
Today was one of those days where you learn there is no such person as "somebody". My contractor thought our kitchen dudes were putting the fridge in place. The kitchen dudes arrived today and said they had expected the fridge to have been fully put in place by "somebody", ready for front panels. The kitchen dudes wanted to put the panels on the dishwasher, too, but were also expecting "somebody" to have put it in place already. Getting it "in place" meant having the electrical dudes wire in connections for it, and plumber dudes connecting the water and drains, neither of which was done. So Friday was a mess of phone calls, finger pointing and recriminations among unhappy worker dudes about which "somebody" was supposed to have done what when, and why it wasn't their fault. I missed most of it; I was skiing. KC took the brunt of the unpleasant conversations.

However, they did install the missing cabinet...
In place
...the sink and taps...
It works, and we're using it!
...and the panel on the not quite installed dishwasher.
About the black bit on the bottom...
But in happiness comes sadness. Three months ago, we bought an instant on hot water tap. Today, they tried (and failed) to install it. It doesn't fit our layout. Whoops. So now not only do we have a tap system we can't use (and don't have a receipt to take back), we need to rush order a new one.

The hood fan is supposed to be installed Saturday, the backsplash Monday, the final electrical Monday...

...but at this moment, a 350 lb. fridge sits in the middle of my kitchen, and no one has established which "somebody" is supposed to install it.
Looks lonely

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

He's back!

Look who was in my backyard today!
What does he see? 
Skulking on the fence 
The endless search for mice 
Very cute
He stayed on the north side of our house, jumping between our yard and the neighbours. If he heads south, he's in trouble just like he was last time.

Not 2 minutes after he left, a squirrel showed up. Brave of him.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

More on the Reno Progress

The tiles that were supposed to arrive Wednesday now won't be here until first thing Friday. Gotta love Canmore time.

The kitchen dudes came back yesterday to go through the "but" list of items yet to be done. During the inspection, a bunch of little buts were squared away. They found two doors that weren't constructed properly (one is warped, one has a delaminated section) that will be replaced.

You may recall I mentioned here that we had blown the design of the wine cupboard by making it have a capacity of at least 72 bottles (fill it up and it would have pulled off the wall). That was our fault, not theirs. Well, we mentioned it to the kitchen dudes and they suggested we just pull the X out of the cabinet, and make a new one out of 2 shelves. We thought that could be a challenge, but turns out the X is held in only with 1 small pin, because its designed to jam in the box. About 2 minutes of wiggling and the X came out.
Before...
...and after
As I mentioned, the heating pads and floor leveling was done last week while we were away...
You can make out the wire pattern
...and the pot lights were installed in the ceiling.
Lights in. Pendant drops moved, too
So now the tiling will start tomorrow, maybe, if the tiles arrive.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Home, but...

We arrived home from Maui late in the afternoon last Friday, and it has been not stop craziness since we landed. Some brief updates, with more details (and photos) to follow:

The Reno

Just before we got home, they installed most of the lights so now we can see in the dark (though it took us until Monday to figure out that the switches worked). They also put down the in-floor heating and levelled the floor, with the intention of laying down the floor tiles starting first thing Monday. Our floor tiles arrived while we were away. We picked them up and, on Sunday night (mostly by flashlight), started testing out the tile pattern we worked up. But something just didn't seem right to KC. In the daylight first thing Monday morning, KC figured it out: we had the correct tile shape but the wrong tile colour. The installer arrived about 10 minutes after we figured this out. Panic call to tile supplier; new tiles should arrive Wednesday, and the installer will come by Thursday to start. Update: In typical Canmore time fashion, the tiles did NOT arrive by close of business Wednesday. No Thursday install. Now maybe a Friday install start. Maybe.

On the bright side, we found out tile pattern we designed on paper wouldn't have worked anyway.

Appliances, we were told, could be delivered any time. We called to make the delivery arrangements, and learned that, more accurately, the appliances can be delivered any time so long as its a Wednesday. So they will come on the 28th, after which the last of the rest of the stuff can be done. We might -- just might -- be finished by Nov 30.

Other Stuff

We flew in Friday night. I worked as a SnowHost on Saturday, which you can read about on my other blog here. There's something inherently psychotic about being in Maui and +28° one day, and skiing 2 days later at -8°.

Sunday we spent all day in a season wrap up session of the Bow Valley Stewards. That's the group where we plant plants (or rip up plants) or do other "stuff" to enhance wildlife habitat in the Bow Valley. Great talk on the white nose syndrome that's killing North American bats.

Monday, I had two meetings. The first was with the MD about our condo complex, associated with land we own that is affected by the annoying development that's going up the other side of the creek that we don't like and have been trying to stop. Then the Condo Board -- of which I am Chair -- had an impromptu discussion on the upcoming budget that lasted an hour.

The second meeting was with the Trails Coordinator of the Friends of Kananaskis, the non-profit who's Board of Directors I am on. We talked mostly website development and IT stuff.

Tuesday, we had to get snow tires installed on both our cars. Then I had a Friends Board meeting in Calgary, plus a meeting with a website designer. It was a joyous hour long commute through a raging snowstorm to get to the meeting, and another one to get home -- so it's a really, really good thing we got the tires on.

And you thought retirement was sitting around with your feet up.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New Maui hike at Kahakapao

Always on the lookout for new stuff to do here, I got wind last week of a "new" upcountry hike that has opened up on the hillside above Makawao. An article then appeared in the local paper talking of a lost hiker rescued up there, which confirmed it existed. A bunch of 'net searching and I found info on the Kahakapo Trail in the Makawao Forest Reserve. After visiting the bird sanctuary the other day (which is in the same vicinity), we went to find the place.

Like most trails on Maui, finding the trailhead is a pain in the butt. See below for directions.

I looked hard on line for trail maps of the place. I liked this sketch map a lot, but it's wrong. Wrong as in nonsense. Wrong as in "missing a ton of trails". Wrong as in "not even nearly to scale". I found a site where someone took that wrong map and superimposed it on the sat image of the area. Really bad.

But I did find an real Division of Lands and Natural Resources map of the "official" trail, and enough info to tell me it was a 5.6 mile (10 km) loop that gained 800 ft (250 m). Looking at the official map you can see how bad the sketch map is.

So off we went. Initially, we weren't planning on doing the whole thing. But it's such an easy hike, we were able to walk it in 3 hrs. Here's our GPS track set in Google Earth.
The big picture 
Zoomed in
It's not that interesting a hike. There's no birds to speak of, native or otherwise. There's nothing to see and no consequential views. The west side of the loop and the top half of the east side are just lots of eucalyptus trees.
The "road" at the start
There's a few koa trees, the odd native fern. Low down on the east side, you walk through a native fern grove.
Lots 'o ferns
The "lower east side" also has monoculture pine forests...
Pines with no understory
...and Cook Island pine forests. The main trail is really well marked and impossible to lose. So as I said, it's really blah hiking and not worth it as a hike. Except...

Since I have started to volunteer with folks who build trails for hikers and mountain bikers, I pay attention to trail design. This is one beautifully built trail. You climb 800' but you can't tell you're doing it. You zig and zag, and wander seemingly aimlessly but purposely. The climb is never tiring, though eventually you catch on to the fact that you could just shortcut most of the zigs on...

...an amazingly well designed set of mountain bike trails. The main hiking trail has an easy enough grade to ride up for anyone, and the west side of the loop has just an incredible maze of beautifully designed single track downhill specific mountain bike trails.
Technical swirls in a natural gully
This whole place is trail art. The mountain bike trails flow with the land. The main loop trail was built in 2010 by the Na Ale Hale trails group and the Sierra Club, but the mountain bike trails were added by the Maui Mountain Bike Alliance. They did an awesome job.

And it's been successful. Despite limited info and practically no directions or signage, this is the first trail I've ever been on in Maui that's busy. Busy as in at least 20 vehicles in the parking lot, more than a dozen bikers and handful of hikers on a Saturday afternoon.

If you're a mountain biker, you gotta try this. If you're a hiker, I still recommend the Waikoa Loop Trail off Waianapanapa Road for better birds, views and a cloud forest.

Finding the place:

This link will highlight the route for you on a map.

Go into Makawao to the 4 way stop. Head towards Haiku on Makawao Road. In about half a mile, turn right onto Piholo Road (just past the church, school and cemetery). Just over a mile up the road, veer onto your first left (Waiahiwi Rd) where you will see your first little brown sign for the Makawao Forest Reserve (as in the rest of Maui, there's little itty bitty brown and yellow signs that point the way to the trailhead -- when they put them up and they don't get wrecked). Wiggle your way along this road for a quarter mile, past Ehu Rd., and turn right onto Kahakapao Road (no signage here at all). Follow the road uphill, and arrive at a gate with a bunch of trail signs. This gate is locked at sunset. Drive through the gate, and go very, very slow from here on. Between here and the parking lot 1 mile ahead are 4 wickedly deep, car eating drainage channels crossing the road (like upside down speed bumps). Unless you have a truck, creep over them slowly at an angle and you should be OK (my Ford Focus made it fine). Park in a well marked gravel lot.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Zip, zip, zippin'

My daughter was here for a week on Maui with us (starving new grads never turn down free accommodation, even employed ones). We took her on a snorkel boat trip to the Kanaio Coast and Molokini, and got to drift snorkel the back wall of Molokini. You're in ~300' of water with ~150' visibility, and you get to see the wall of coral disappear down into the depths. It's VERY cool.

But not, apparently, cool enough for her. Neither was blasting around at 40 kts on the speed boat we used to visit the place. No, on Wednesday, she said she wanted to go ziplining, and not just on any zip line, but on the Flyin' Hawaiian Zipline, featuring the 3rd longest single zipline in the world. As would any dad hoping to buy her affections, I said I would join her.

The line runs above the two golf courses on the north side of the central valley. They start you with a short little 200' line to practice positions.
One has landed. Another is on the line.
Then the first main line is a little 2,600' sucker that gets you going ~85 km/hr (according to my GPS).
My daughter blasts off with screams
The next one is ~2,100' and I peaked out at 91 km/hr. The next is 2,500'.
More screams
Around here I figured I could hold my camera and make a movie (while going 60 km/hr).
More lines came, including one you could ride backwards.
Ready, and... 
...fly while hanging upside down.
If I could film me, I could film my daughter. Love her landing.
All roads lead to the monster. The last line is a whopping 3,600'. That's 1.09 km. You can barely make out the end from the starting platform.
Ready to launch. The end is over by the road in the distance 
Flyin' Hawaiian
I did it too. Here's my landing.
Stylin'
Along the way, you get bi-costal views.
Kahului
Kihei
Here's the route as seen in Google Earth.
The lines are numbered
When I dropped her at the airport, I asked what her best thing was while on the island. Was it my cooking? No. Was it the great beach time? No. Was it the beautiful sunsets? No. Was it the killer boat trip and snorkeling with turtles? No.

It was the Flyin' Hawaiian Zipline.