It All Started with the Slugs

It was warm enough yesterday that Ian and I slept in the tent in the backyard. Before I got into the tent I noticed that there was a slug inside (we don’t see slugs very often and I was very excited). I picked it up and showed mom & dad, then went back outside to put it down on a leaf when I found another on the stone stairs. This one was about twice as big as the one I just put down and was, therefore, twice as cool. I brought this one inside on a leaf to show my parents and then washed my hands with salt.

I thought that it was just luck that I found two slugs, but this was not the case. When I woke up at 6 am it was a bit chilly and there was still morning dew on the grass; however, this is when I noticed that there were slugs all over the outside of the tent. I eventually got up to go back inside because it was just a little too cold for going back to sleep.

About two hours later, after a continuation of my sleep and a blueberry bagel, I went back outside to find slugs. There were a lot of slugs. Dad/mom found an article while I was asleep that explained that, because we’ve had so much rain this summer the slug population has exploded (Slug fest: wet summer creates slimy problem for Alberta gardeners). Now that I was awake and had good light, I took pictures of the slugs.

Later that morning I took Murph out into the front lawn (where he proceeded to chew on grass). While I was sitting on the lawn pulling grass out of his mouth a dragonfly came and landed on a flower in the bush next to me. So I wrapped Murph’s leash around my arm and pulled my phone out. I ended up getting some pretty good pictures until Murph pulled me over to the next bunch of flowers🌼.

After bringing (carrying) Murph back inside I went into the backyard where mom & dad were eating corn muffins with jam. After eating a muffin I grabbed my phone and took pictures of flowers. (I have no idea what type of flowers these are)

After I ran out of flowers that I could reach, I started looking for bugs. There were wasps everywhere (but I’m not getting close to those jerks) and I found spiders easily enough🕷. None of my spider pictures were very good because I refused to get within two inches of them after one displayed its gold medalist sprinting speed. In the end I took pictures of the third most common bug in our backyard: bees. I got pictures of honey bees and our giant casserole bumble bees🐝.

Ta-dah      [All pictures were taken before lunch]

I tried to take a picture of the wolf spider that lives in the basement, but the lighting is terrible down there.


A Few Things

A few things of note have transpired lately. None fully worthy of posts, but you put them together and you’ve got something.

The first is the ongoing saga of my work MacBook. I took it in last Sunday for repairs. It was showing signs that the battery was swelling, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. (When batteries swell, they are failing and are a fire hazard.) The MacBook had already started giving me problems with the keyboard and the upper left USB port hadn’t worked in over a year. Since I was taking the Azure training last week, I felt I could do without my laptop. I set myself up at the Mac Mini in the dining room and took the course there. The repair was supposed to take 5-7 days and the Apple Store tried to call and sent an email yesterday asking me to call the store. Unfortunately, I was in class and Tammy was teaching so neither of us answered the phone. And I didn’t check my email until just after the Apple Store closed at 7 that evening. I called them this morning and as it turns out, after they fixed the top case and the USB port, they ran diagnostics and the TouchID sensor didn’t pass. They replaced it but it still didn’t pass. So they have ordered a new logic board and that might arrive sometime next week. I have one day of work next week on Tuesday, for which I will set myself up in the Mini again. It’s really not bad. The computer, while old, isn’t too underpowered compared to my laptop because we bought the “good one” and it has lasted. (Geekbench for the Mini: 678 single core, 2814 multi-core, vs. 917 single / 3680 multi for the MacBook) I have replaced the hard drive with an SSD, so that’s fast too. And my Thunderbolt Display (27″) is hooked up to it. I can’t complain!

The second thing is my ongoing “chest ache” when exercising hard. I have been following doctors’ orders like a good boy, but this morning I decided to try riding on the rollers. The rollers are a good way to get a cardio workout and you can dial in the effort. And I’m unhappy to report that the ache was there during the workout. I can’t say that it’s any better than it was, despite weeks of layoff. Still no notion of what it is caused by. I will make an appointment to consult with the doctor again.

Another thing was our rude awakening this morning. At 5:50, the doorbell rang. It’s not loud from the bedroom, but it was enough to wake me up and Miranda, too. We met in the hall, blearily looking at the Vivint app on our phones, trying to figure out who would be ringing so early. But it became clear that there was no one there. And it rang again a minute later, and again a minute after that. By that time I was in the control panel and decided to reboot the doorbell camera. After I did that, it didn’t come back online and I rebooted the control panel too, for good measure. When it became apparent (after about an hour) that it wasn’t going to fix itself, I got online with Vivint support. It got fixed pretty quickly by deleting and re-adding the doorbell to the system. The ghost doorbell didn’t recur, so I guess it’s fixed. Not how I wanted to start the day, considering I’d been getting up at 5:30 every morning this week in order to be ready for my class at 7:00.

And Tammy made red bean and sweet cheese strudel and cleaned out he pantry. She’d bug me if I didn’t mention that. 😉

Happy 13th Birthday, Ian

Ian’s 13 years old today! He’s really been looking forward to it. I don’t ever remember him counting down to his birthday like he did this year. At the moment, he and Tammy are off and getting his birthday dinner: some shawarma platters from the Pita Basket. And wearing his new mask that Miranda made for him.

The birthday boy

Thanks to Tammy and I working today (and I’m in a LearningTree class on Eastern time, so it starts at 7:00 am!) his morning was a little different. I had a light breakfast because when the rest of the family was up, they had Egg McBagels and I had one too, while I sat at the computer in class. Then, when I had a break at 8:30, he got a chance to open presents.

Miranda did a fantastic job of making the mask. It’s Totoro, from My Neighbor Totoro, the Japanese movie. We watched it as part of our family movie night a couple of weeks ago. The most confusing gift was the middle one: the chains and fasteners. It made a lot more sense when he went out to the garage and saw the supports for a slackline that I’d made.

After we finished work, Tammy, Ian and I went out into the 29 degree day (figures that it would be the hottest day of the year) and dug the trenches for the anchors. Here’s the result:

Not ready yet, let the soil compact a bit and dry out

Now it’s shawarma time. Given how tired we are after digging in the heat, I think we’ll all feel a bit like these guys:


Mmm… shawarma.

Ice cream pizza for a birthday cake!

Russian Duolingo

I’ve mentioned Duolingo on here a few times before. It’s strangely compelling. Sometimes it just finds a way to fit into my schedule and before you know it, it’s a regular thing. I have done a lot of French study with it, and that has worked pretty well, up to the point where you want to be able to speak. And that’s where it falls down. I can read French pretty well now, but I don’t dare open my yap in a work meeting where the customers are speaking French.

Beyond French, I have dabbled with some other languages on there. I did a fair bit of German (which Tammy continues to do regularly), some Dutch, Japanese and even Esperanto. I was curious about that last one. I’d heard of it and understood what role it served, but I wanted to know what the language was like. But one thing I learned is that the language modules on Duolingo are very uneven. The most popular ones, like Spanish, French and German have much richer lessons with more oral exercises and recordings of people speaking. When I tried the Russian one a couple of years ago, it was pretty weak.

I was looking at my bookshelf about a month ago (Hey, it’s a pandemic. Staring at the wall is normal.) and I spotted the Russian language edition of The Lord of the Rings that Tammy had given me a million years ago. I’d had ideas of being able to read it, but the lessons with Sasha didn’t really pan out. I picked up the Russian textbook and started reading that, and then a different one. I still find the language interesting, but trying from a textbook is not the way.

So I fired up Duolingo again. And then things got interesting.

  1. The Russian language module in Duolingo has really improved. Certainly as good as French from two years ago.
  2. Last year, Ian gifted me an app called Nebo for note-taking for my birthday. It is magical how it interprets handwriting and converts it to text. I created a Russian language notebook in Nebo and… wow.
  3. Duolingo has added something called “leagues” that are leaderboards for learning a language. Call it silly, but when you find yourself doing a dozen exercises in a day to move up the leaderboard, that’s game theory in action.

I now have a streak of over a month in Duolingo again. And this time, I am doing most exercises on the iPad. Every sentence, once I translate it / speak it /whatever, I then write it down in Russian in Nebo. It then recognizes my writing and turns it into cyrillic text. That way I can know that my writing is at least recognizable by the iPad.

Translate to Russian, then write in Russian and it turns into cyrillic

The combination of reading, listening, speaking and writing has been working really well. Ian asked me why I was doing it, and I really don’t have a good reason other than it’s fun. Maybe it reminds me of when I met Tammy back in Russian class at UVic. Maybe I just really like writing and learning. You only live once.

New Barbecue

Statistically speaking, we were due. We bought our old barbecue in July 2011 and the one before that in the summer 2001 (no post on the ii News for that, though). Who knows, the Cuisinart might have made it to the end of the summer if its left burner-cover (heat diffuser?) thing hadn’t rusted through and collapsed. But with us getting ready to call a hauling company to remove our deck building waste, it makes sense to send the old barbecue on its retirement cruise.

Tammy and I went to Home Depot today and picked up a Weber E-210 Spirit II. I did a bit of research this time and I think I’ve got a winner. The Wirecutter picked the E-310 as the best propane grill for 2020. The E-310 was sold out, but the E-210 (the two-burner size) was available at the Tuscany store.

Tammy and I put it together in about an hour. There was more to construct than with the Cuisinart one. But overall, there was no real problem.

Tammy as we start the initial burn

One thing about this barbecue that I think I’m going to love is that the tank is accessible and it has a meter, telling you how much gas is in the tank. No more guessing or having the fire go out halfway through grilling some steaks.

The tank was almost empty

We’ll expect another post about a new BBQ no earlier than July 2030, okay?


Tammy took the barbecue for a test grill today.

Dreams are made of this

A Tale of Two Announcements

This morning, Tammy and I wake up not knowing what to expect in September. Yesterday, Calgary City Council passed a bylaw mandating masks in indoor public spaces. The number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta and in Calgary in particular have been going up in younger demographics. It’s not as bad as the States, but it’s much worse than it should be.

And yet in the evening, the provincial government announced that schools will re-open with near-normal operations in September.

One of these is wrong, and I’m pretty sure it’s the second one. Remember, the kids got sent home when there were only about 100 cases in all of Canada. Now we’re at over 100 cases per day in Alberta and most are in the Calgary region. 🧐

Tammy, the kids and I have been doing a good job of isolating in the past 129 days. We’ve been making decisions to not have the kids playing in each others’ houses and enforcing masks when we go out. To suddenly have the kids in classrooms with inadequate protections seems an awfully stupid thing to do.

As parents, I’m not sure what we can do about it. Wait and see?


And it begins: the push back. Like I said, wait and see. When you have the teachers saying that they are updating their wills in anticipation of going back, this is not going to go well.


It took a little while, what with the cycling club picking up again and the weather being so stormy, but today we finished off the two new lattice panels and mounted them.

There are some bits and bobs to do but that was a big “finally”.

Unfortunately, the reason for my productivity is that I’m under doctor-mandated “rest”. Dr. Sadiq doesn’t want me to exert myself while we’re trying to figure out why I have a strange feeling in my chest when I’m exerting myself. So far the tests haven’t figured out much. It would have been a big cycling weekend, too: today would have been the Saturday ride, and tomorrow the ride is starting out of Banff and heading towards Lake Louise. It’s a wonderful ride. Poo.

Comet Watching and Cat Walking

It was a pretty action-packed day yesterday, by pandemic standards. I had a workshop with the City of Prince George, there were soft tacos for supper, it was family game night (we played Five Crowns) and I had my game night with my co-workers in Vancouver (we played Race for the Galaxy). But it got even better than that, with us putting the harness on Murphy and taking him out into the front yard a couple of times and then Tammy and I walking out late at night to look at the comet NEOWISE.

When we took Murphy out onto the deck during our renovations, we tried just letting him be, with the leash hanging on a hook. That didn’t turn out well for two reasons:

  1. He tried climbing up the railing and would have succeeded if we hadn’t grabbed him and
  2. When he “backs up”, he can get out of the harness.

Yesterday, I figured actually taking him out on the leash and “walking him” would work. If he tried to back out of the harness, I could just give him some slack and it wouldn’t work. It was successful: it wasn’t exactly “a walk”, but he did do a bit of exploring and rolling around. I think if we’d left him alone he would have been happy to stay in the garden, lying among the plants.

We took him out twice, once after lunch and again before supper. So exciting for Murphy!

Since tonight was my game night and that ends near 11:00 and it was a clear night, I told Tammy that after the games I was going to walk up to the park to see if I could spot the comet. When I was ready to go, she was ready, too, so we went together. At first, I took the wrong pair of binoculars (the broken pair: they’re in the garbage now) and we got long-sleeved jackets to ward off some mosquitoes. When we got back to the park for the second time, I spotted the comet right away. It had gotten dark enough to see it. We had a good time, watching the sky. We say the International Space Station pass overhead, and we could see at least two of Jupiter’s moons. Looking at Sky & Telescope’s calculator, I am pretty sure we were seeing Ganymede and Callisto. I thought I could see another moon close on Jupiter’s right limb, and there’s a pretty good chance that was Europa.

The comet itself was bright enough to see easily without aid, but through the binoculars was clear and easy to see the head and the long, curving dust tail. We didn’t try taking a picture of any sort, just enjoying the viewing and the night. Was almost midnight when we returned home. 😴

Diy Mask #3

Finished making a new mask last night and I’m rather proud of how it turned out. This one is an album cover that I painted on using fabric paint. I was able to use a paintbrush and apply thin layers when painting this one because the fabric is lighter than the paint colours I was using (unlike my kid loki mask). The album I painted on it is Love Run by The Amazing Devil and the original is actually supposed to be upside down, but people (dad) would keep telling me I have it on upside down.

Instruction video for the mask:



Original album cover

More Masks

As things are slowly re-opening around Calgary, I am finding myself out and about more than before. It’s good to see a lot more people wearing masks. It feels more and more normal to wear one, especially when I’m shopping and I think about the risk that the people in the shops are taking day in and day out. The least I can do is wear one to help keep them safe. My original fun animals mask is still working great, but I wanted to try making some more that were a bit more… subdued. Cooler? 😎

And yet Miranda was the first to try her hand at making another mask. She made one that had more of a supervillain vibe. She used this video’s pattern and decorated it with the Kid Loki armor pattern from the Marvel comics with fabric paint. And when she did that, it got me off my butt and sewing.

I chose to try the pattern that Brianna used, because it was quite a bit simpler than the one we made. I picked a couple of older t-shirts that I didn’t mind cutting up and would be a good look on the mask. I used the Cricut Maker to cut the fabric (t-shirt material is stretchy and the Circuit cut it beautifully). The North of Hadrian’s mask couldn’t have ended up better. The logo ended up perfectly positioned. I can’t take credit: it was more of a fortunate accident. Each of the masks has a liner from the other shirt: the inside of the black mask is white and the inside of the white mask is black.