Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day Of Mourning

Today marks the rather sombre National Day of Mourning, commemorating those who have been killed or injured on the job or who have suffered a workplace-related illness. We've been fortunate at work not have suffered anything terribly serious. I think that as an older worker I'm in a little bit better shape when it comes to recognizing hazards and pacing myself so I don't get hurt, though of course I don't want to sound complacent here.

At the risk of sounding overly partisan here, I think Suncor has a pretty solid safety record. Of course no plan is perfect but safety is something that is a major focus and is definitely hammered home during our weekly safety meetings.

The sad reality, however, is that not everyone arrives home safely at the of the work day and so in recognition of that, all the boys on our shift observed a moment of silence before the start of the work day this morning.

Safety is something that is always at the forefront of my mind with a young family. Everyday I pass a sign on site picturing two little girls with a caption underneath reading, "Please drive careful. Our Dad works here." That pretty much sums it up for me.

Proud Big Sister

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Know I Shouldn't But...

So here we are in the heart of Alberta during a federal election. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion which party candidate will take Fort McMurray-Athabasca. In the entire 45-odd history of the riding, constituents have always elected some flavour of PC/Conservative/Reform/Canadian Alliance candidate. Yes, the current government could run a bag of hammers in an election and it would be sent back East to Parliament Hill in due course.

I'm no political scientist here but I'm guessing Layton's plan to tax big oil companies will take off like a lead balloon here. Any talk of "cap and trade" is political suicide here. My guess is that it will be viewed largely as another version of the much-maligned National Energy Program. And we all know just how much that endeared Trudeau's Liberals to the folks out here. Speaking of the Liberals, their candidate is from Lac La Biche and isn't as well known here. The Liberals placed a very distant 3rd here during the last election and barring a miracle, I doubt they will make any substantial gains. Which brings me to the Conservative incumbent. I was actually familiar with his name before I even moved here and he's the hometown boy. Given that Fort McMurray is by far the largest community in the riding, he is very well-known and suspect that, barring some major gaff, he will easily be re-elected. And as for the Green Party, while I think they have some good ideas, I just don't think they will be taken very seriously out here. So there, you have my very earth-shattering analysis. Really about as exciting as this entire campaign has been up to this point.

I did want to add though that I am a little disappointed that none of the party leaders have shown up here yet, though with a week to go there is still time. I just find it a little bizarre, given that this is one of the largest ridings in the country and the home of the oil sands of course, which figures so prominently on the national agenda. At this point, I don't doubt who will win but I am following the NDP surge with interest. Really, its about the only thing that's made this whole election charade worth following in my mind. And, yes, I will admit, I've been pretty harsh on Layton in the past, but I will readily admit to a certain respect and admiration for the man even if I would never vote for his party (sorry great grandpa Harold).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not So Surprised

Having traipsed around the North over the past 10 plus years from the Northwest Territories to Nunavut and the northern parts of 3 western provinces, I can't say that this poll really surprises me all that much. Granted, we're talking about a huge chunk of real estate here, but is it really hard to say, for starters, pick up and atlas and note that Inuvik and Iqaluit are not the same place? Or that Nunavut is a territory?

I suppose on the positive side, I can say I've been to many places most people never get to see or experience, and while I certainly don't mind sharing my experiences through this blog or my Nunavut blog,it is kind of nice to know that there are still places that haven't been completely inundated with hordes of people.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011


We suspected from all the ultrasounds Gabriel would be a hand sucker and/or a soother baby. So far he hasn't disappointed. Just can't those hands out of his mouth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"I Work At Site"

I have no idea who made this, but a certain video spoofing Fort McMurray's dating scene has been circulating at work and on the local airwaves. If you live here or have spent any time here, it makes perfect sense. And if it doesn't make sense, well, laugh anyway, because we Albertans have oil and guns and an election no one wants. I kid, I kid. I don't have any of those things though perhaps our hapless Steve does.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Big Snip

Well, this may be a bit of a delicate topic but it is what it is so here goes. Lisa and I decided to have Gabriel circumcised and while we know this brings up a debate with strong opinions on both sides, in the end we decided in favour of it for reasons of hygiene and also so that the little guy will look like his two older brothers and not grow up with a stigma of being somehow "different". So this afternoon, Lisa took Gabriel in to the hospital for his snip-snip. Who knew such a delicate procedure could cost so much? $400? Ouch! That's pain. Didn't they just do these things back in the day as a matter of course? Oh how times have changed!

Anyhow, to spare you all the details, the little guy came through it not too badly. There was a lot more bleeding than Lisa expected necessitating some disolvable stitches. Lisa also kinda passed out but is just fine now. Gabriel....well, he's resting comfortably in my arms now as I peck out this post with one finger, none the worse for wear.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sunday Jaunt

This past Sunday morning I decided to take advantage of the mild weather and get out for a walk. One of my favorite places is the river valley and since it had been quite a while since I had last ventured down there, I figured that morning was as good as any. I took along my camera and binoculars as well. While it is still a little early in the season, the particular stretch of trail I had in mind has always rewarded me well when it comes to bird life. As it turned out I didn't see anything out particularly eye-popping like the pileated woodpecker Nick and I came across last time we were out, but it was still a good way to get some exercise.

Basically I saw pretty much what I expected to see for this time of year - a couple a grey jays, some chickadees and the ubiquitous magpie. I did manage, despite a general lack of coordination to get fairly close to the whiskey jacks and chickadees but wasn't able to get the camera ready without spooking them. Clearly, my bush creeping skills have gone a little sour over the course of a long winter. A one point I thought I heard a woodpecker though I couldn't locate him through the dense brush.

Not seeing anything else of interest I decided to head down this little goat trail to check out the thaw of the river.

While you can't tell from the above picture, there is a good 200-foot drop off right beside this little path to the river below.

Ice along the shores of the Athabasca to the south of the city.

Shot of the Horse River feeding into the Athabasca across from our very lovely water intake station. The Horse River Valley was at one time home to a salt factory and a fledgling community back in the 1930's. Its an area I really look forward to exploring more thoroughly in the future.

While I enjoy a good brew once in awhile, I find it really distressing the amount of empty beer cans I came across along certain parts of the trail.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Foot

I continue to be amazed at just how much of a resemblance there is between Gabriel and me. Not only has he inherited dad's dashing good looks but he also has my big feet (although I'm sure he will be much more coordinated than I was!).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Bath

Couldn't resist sharing a few photos of Gabriel's first bath after he came home.

Why? Why?!

Ah! So nice to be clean and chilling out.

I can also add, too, that the remainder of baby's umbilical cord fell off this evening.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Finally, after a loong northern Alberta winter that seemed it would never end, we are getting our warm up. The mercury has recently been flirting with the low double-digit mark. We did get socked with a good snow dump last April, but the majority of our snow has now melted so I'm hopfull it will be a long time before we see it again. The only thing left now is the ice on the Athabasca.

This is only our second spring here so we don't have much to go on. Last year I recall the river break up occuring a few days before we moved into the city here. This year its a little behind schedule, or at least year's break up date. Anyone who has ever experienced the sight of breaking ice on one of our great northern rivers knows it can been quite the spectacle. The ice has been growing noticeably thinner, at least on the stretches I can see when I'm up at work so I'm sure that any day now, break up, which I take as a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner, will be underway.

For now, we just watch and wait.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Even Grander Tour

Back when I began working for my current employer I wrote about how I ended up taking a grand tour of Suncor when I didn't get off at the right stop. After that, morning transportation became pretty routine. I actually reached the point where I became rather lackadaisical about catching the bus. A couple weeks ago I managed to take an even grander tour. Not just of Suncor but of the entire oil patch.

I got on my bus one morning and while it was quite full, I managed to snag a seat next to another guy I know who works at our town yard who occasionally comes out to work at our Suncor site. After exchanging pleasantries, I did what I usually do during the morning bus ride....I fell asleep.

A short time later, my fellow worker nudged me awake. "Darcy, where the hell are we? It's 7am* and we're still on the highway!" At first, I thought he was pulling my leg, until I saw a sign along the highway for Firebag, one of the last projects up Highway 63 before you hit the winter road to Fort Chipewyan.

As it turned out, we were on the bus to the Aurora mine...not just one of the last stops, but THE last stop before the highway turns to gravel. We had overshot Suncor by a good 35km or so.

Now, in our defense, there happened to be another fellow on our bus who was also in the same predicament as us. By some weird coincidence, he also worked for a scaffolding company at Suncor. I guess the bus line just had it in for scaffold workers that day.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, as it turned out, we managed to get a shuttle back down to Suncor. Normally we would have been on the hook for getting to work but in this case, the bus line had messed up. Our regular bus to Suncor is 5A. Now, is just so happened it was very late that morning. While waiting for our bus, a second bus, a bus up to Aurora (also labelled 5A) just happened to take a wrong turn onto our bus route. As a result, we jumped on by mistake. As luck would have it, we only lost an hour's pay after turning up half way through the morning. So that was good. The good-natured teasing we got from some of the other guys after relating our little story was something else.

*My shift at the time began at 7am. Usually the bus made it there on time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pee Pee Teepee

Lisa bought these handy little things some time ago. Unfortunately I couldn't post about them back then because in doing so it would have given away the baby's gender which we wanted to keep as a surprise. So here we go, the very functional pee pee tee pee, which I'm sure will be much appreciated over the coming months, and indeed has already been put to good use already.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Looking Back

The month of April marks an important milestone for the family here as we officially moved into our house here one year ago today not long after taking possession. The past 365 days have seen tremendous change - Lisa started her day care shortly after the move; An April snow storm threw us for a loop; the kids started at a new school late in the school year but adapted quickly; I stepped back from my teaching career and took up a new position in the oil patch to give me more family time....and yes, we just recently have welcome a new addition into the family.

There's certainly been a great deal of change and its been quite a ride. Who knows what adventures and tribulatons the next 365 days will bring?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Turn Around Shut Down

I don't post that often about work because I generally don't have a lot of time. During a typical shift I can spend up to 13 hours a day out of the house when you factor in transportation times and also, its not always that exciting working in -40C.

One thing I did want to mention though was Turn Around and Shut Down. No, its not some sort of exotic dance but rather a time frame in which the various plants on site are "shut down" for annual maintenance. This is a particularly busy time for the company I work for given that in preparation for this maintenance, all the scaffolding in the various plants must also be removed, cleaned and replaced. And we're talking about an awful lot of scaffolding here. I honestly never realized just how much scaffolding there is at Suncor alone. And "shut downs" occur at many different projects aside from Suncor of course. My employer also holds contracts with Syncrude and Nexen and I'm sure a few others I'm not aware of.

Anyway, what all of this means for little old me is that I can expect to be busy until at least the end of next month. While I will continue my original weekend schedule, starting Monday, I will begin and end work an hour later. I'm not sure quite at the moment about my busing for work, but at least I'll have an hour to sleep in and think about it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Eyes of Blue

Elijah with his little cousin Jayce.