Sunday, November 25, 2012

Snip and Chip

After a few near-sleepless nights I was finally able to get the cat in to the vet to be spayed Thursday morning.  Medically referred to as an "ovario-hysterectomy", I refer to it as "glorious silence."



I also had her implanted with a microchip so she can be identified in case she pulls a Houdini and disappears on me.  The chip itself is only about the size of a grain of rice (implanted between her shoulder blades) but I still like to refer to her as my silent bionic kitty.   Give the incision about a week to heal up and she'll be back to her regular self (minus the urge to seek out prowling males for extra-curriculars.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Cookie Didn't Fall Far From The Tree

I'm not sure exactly when, why or how this happened, but growing up I always liked cookies.  Peanut butter and chocolate chip, were favorites, and I always looked forward to mom baking up a fresh batch of ginger snaps during the Christmas holidays. She made ginger snaps at other times during the year of course, but some reason, I've always associated ginger snaps with Christmas.  Pushing inexorably toward 40 Christmases now, that adds up to a lot of cookies.  Thankfully, I was blessed with a fast metabolism because by rights I'm sure I'd weigh something like 400 lbs otherwise.

I guess most fathers get nostalgic from time to time and that's why this photo of Gabriel brought these little memories to mind this evening.





Friday, November 9, 2012

An Open Letter to Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona

I will preface this post with the following -

Generally, I don't comment on political topics that often.  Mostly, this stems from my disdain for politicians in general.   Also, it is connected to my workplace and one thing I've learned  over the course of my working life is that its never a smart idea to bite the hand that feeds you.  In this case, though I thought I'd make an exception as there has been an issue floating around that has generated some chatter, namely the issue of a random drug testing policy for one of the big sites here.

A local union took issue with this proposed policy and the matter went to court.  The union sought and won a court order preventing random drug testing of employees and contractors....an order that Suncor is now contesting in court.  Apparently, a union lawyer thinks that  random drug testing can "cause psychological trauma for workers."

Yeah, peeing in a cup was an unbearable hardship for me when I had to do it prior to being hired on by a contractor a couple years ago.

Anyhow, NDP MLA Rachel Notley has put her two cents into the mix  and of course back the union's position.  Yes I know....NDP.  They do apparently exist here in Alberta, albeit in ridiculously small numbers.

Dear Ms. Notley,

Firstly congratulations on winning your seat in our most recent provincial election.  I admire your tenacity and courage in pursuing a political agenda that has been overwhelmingly rejected continuously by the Alberta electorate for years now.  Thank you also for visiting our fair city.  It's always nice to have out-of-towners turn up here d tell us what to do.  I do think that sometimes as a politician you forget that I don't work for you but you in fact work for me.  To that end, please don't dictate my health and safety to me.

Unlike most politicians, I have nothing to hide.  I have absolutely no problem with random drug testing.  Just as police officers do random stops for drunk drivers, I have no problem with peeing in a cup.   I am not a user now, nor have I ever been.  I guarantee you that my job area and scope is much more dangerous than yours.  In fact, I was down in the plant just yesterday with a small crew.  Trucks, forklifts, pipes, valves, overhead workers, steam, high decibels, H2S and I could go on.  Its an inherently dangerous place.  I have a son, a mortgage and a cat that misses me when I'm gone which means I have a lot of responsibilities and like to work and come home safe.

I've worked out on site for a couple of years and I admit I've had a couple close calls but I learn from them, re-focus and soldier on so to speak.  There are many things I do every......single.....day to keep myself safe and if random drug testing should be another, then so be it.  Again, I have absolutely no problem with it.  I can only control what I do...my actions, my decisions my frame of mind.  What I can't control are the actions, decisions and frame of mine of others around me on the job.  This is where you need to do your job and support, not detract from, random drug testing.  Remember, you work for me.

I won't go so far as to say I would hold you personally responsible should, knock on wood, I was ever injured in the workplace by someone impaired by drugs or alcohol but let's get with the team here.  This is a workplace safety issue and I take it very seriously.  My safety is more important than some mystical psychological trauma of urinating for a good reason.  Unlike most politicians, I have nothing to hide.

Sincerely,

Darcy Steele

Proud Fort McMurrian by choice




Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Confederation Overpass Opens

I was beginning to think I'd never see it happen, but after a few delays, the Confederation Overpass opened for traffic today. While I normally doze off on the bus ride to work, I'll suck back a little extra caffeine tomorrow for the ride in so I can see how things go.  I would have seen it on my ride home from work earlier this evening if I hadn't have dozed off.  Theoretically, with the Thickwood overpass (which opened last year) and the Confed. overpass now in place, you should be able to travel Highway 63 north out of the downtown core without delays.

Except...there is still road work ongoing between the two overpasses and two of our three bridges are being worked on.  Add to that the fact that even after you travel pass the two overpasses, you still hit a set of lights at the industrial park, plus the temporary delays you run in to north of ALL THAT around where they are going to build yet another overpass to the future subdivision of Parsons Creek.

Don't get me wrong here.  This infrastructure is sorely needed and the Confed. overpass plays a vital role in this.    I just think it will still be some time before traffic flow here is smoothed out, or at least as smooth as it can be for such a bustling place like Fort McMurray.  All this infrastructure has been ongoing ever since I moved here two-and-a-half years ago so I've never known what it was like without it.   Given how long it takes the government to twin a highway, I'll take what I can get.  The road ahead has gotten shorter, but only just by a little.

I won't get an opportunity to do it for a couple more weeks at least, but next time I'm able to, I plan to catch a Timberlea bus from downtown just so I have an opportunity to travel over the new overpass.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Avian Acrobatics

I must profess that my inner 5-year-old emerged yesterday when I noticed a blue jay (two of them actually) at the backyard feeders. Since I've lived here I haven't been lucky enough to see one in the backyard (or front yard for that matter). I would see them in other yards but never mine. Until yesterday. A tenant told me she had seen them earlier in the week but since she described them only as blue and white birds that scared the other birds away and could barely fit on the feeder, I assumed they were magpies and thought nothing else of it.

Over the course of last two days this jay has been a pretty regular guest....with a ravenous appetite.  The feeder in the second and third photos was filled Saturday morning and by early Sunday afternoon it was, as you can see, already half empty.



I had fun watching this guy bending himself into a pretzel to eat.


It's looking like a very entertaining winter season already.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grand Central Station And The Usual Suspects

Its been overcast here for most of the past week so I haven't been all that motivated to venture too far from the house on my days off. Fortunately, I only have to gaze out a window to do a little birding. So far, I've seen most of the usual suspects that frequent the house for this time of year. And they've been hanging around in larger groups and for longer than they normally seem to.

Blue Jays! I don't usually see them around the house that often, so seeing a couple was a treat.


Female Pine Grosbeak.  Last year I could count on seeing the odd one mixed in with a group of Evening Grosbeaks.  Perhaps it was a low spot in their breeding cycle as I've seen a great deal more here in the past couple days.


Bohemian Waxwing along with a crowd of House Sparrows.  The sparrows have been showing up in HUGE numbers no doubt attracted by the feeder I moved from the backyard to the front.


And speaking of the backyard, it was pretty empty today other than the odd Junco (and squirrel) that decided to take advantage of the lack of crowds in my front yard trees.


I'm still waiting for the Evening Grosbeaks and and Redpolls to turn up but for now all the usual suspects for the winter months have arrived at the station.