It’s Happened

There’s a COVID case at Miranda’s school. It’s in Grade 12 and the affected students have already been informed and are isolating at home. We’ve been informed, but nothing changes. The school is not closing for this.

More bulletins as events warrant. 🦠

Updated

And now there are three cases at Sir Winston Churchill HS:

We have been notified by Alberta Health Services (AHS) that a case of COVID-19 has been diagnosed in an individual from Sir Winston Churchill High school. This is our third confirmed case. Our school remains open to in-person learning for all students, and we are working closely with AHS to ensure necessary measures continue to be in place to protect all staff and students. This includes the cleaning and disinfecting of all items touched by the individual, and the removal and storage of all items that cannot be cleaned and disinfected (paper, books, etc.) in a sealed container for a minimum of 72 hours.

We’ll see what happens next…

Is Winter Here Now?

Sure, the weather turned last week, but an inch of snow with daytime temps in the single digits on the plus side of freezing does not make “winter”.

This weekend may have changed my mind. It has snowed off and on since Friday and the high temperatures each day was below freezing. It’s not a lot of snow on the ground, but the snow and the cold brought any outdoor plans to a halt. Both BCC rides were cancelled, even though we have a history of riding even when the conditions are marginal. I have activated my Zwift account for the winter and riding in the bonus room. There’s a pretty decent chance that the weather will return to normal before winter truly has us in its grip, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

In other news, We have ordered two bikes from Bow Cycle. Yes, two. 😁 One for me and one for Ian.

Ian needs a new bike to ride to school/with friends/other mucking about. This summer, he put a lot of miles on his Cube 240 that we bought for him in 2017. The rides didn’t all end well, but we’ll chalk that one up to experience. Ian has grown a fair bit since 2017, and the bike isn’t big enough any more. Ian and I talked about what he wanted, and it’s a replacement for the Cube. His Giant road bike should be fine for 2021 at least.

Ian on our ride to Best Buy

For me, I was considering a gravel bike all year. In fact, in a normal year I might have looked into one for the start of the 2020 season but with the pandemic, the delayed start of the club season and then the extra responsibilities to keep everyone safe, I didn’t. But late this year, Tammy and I talked it over and I had a green light to get one for next year. The BCC started gravel rides last year and they really took off this year.

What’s a gravel bike? It’s a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike. It comes out of the European tradition of cyclocross racing, but not having to follow the strict bike rules of cyclocross racing. Imagine a road bike that’s more rugged, with relaxed geometry and knobby tires for a mix of dirt and paved roads, with some trails mixed in.

Why order now, just as the snow starts flying? Because one of the unforeseeable side-effects of the pandemic has been a shortage of bikes.

The pandemic has rearranged so many parts of this economy it’s hard to keep up. But we can add one more: bikes. There is a national — international, even — bike shortage. It’s been going on for months and will continue to go on for months. It says a lot about how many of us are coping with pandemic reality, and says a lot about supply chains too. If you have been to a bike store recently, you’ve probably seen some disappointed people.

Marketplace.org

Knowing this, I originally thought that I was “ahead of the curve” when reaching out to Kurt at Bow about buying bikes to be ready for 2021. Turns out I was wrong. Bikes are back-ordered.

The first bike that I got in touch with Kurt about was the gravel bike. I wanted to take a look at the Norco Search XR S2, a steel-framed bike. When the reply came back, I was somewhat shocked that by ordering now, I would get the bike in May next year. 😱

I figured that might only be because this is a bit of a niche bike, but surely Ian’s mountain bike wouldn’t be that bad. Wrong. We ordered the Norco Storm 1 in a nice red, but when Kurt replied, it wasn’t good. The earliest we could expect that would be September 2021.

He made a couple of suggestions of other bikes that we might have more luck with, and Ian and I settled on either a Specialized Rock Hopper or a Kona Fire Mountain. As it turned out, the Fire Mountain was actually available by November 2020! So Ian will actually be the first one to get the bike, assuming that when it arrives it is one that he likes.

So the moral of the story is, if you want a bike for next year, maybe you should call up your local bike shop and talk about ordering something…

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

For some families I’m sure that could only be said in an ironic tone, but I’d like to stop and say with sincerity that I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I’ve got a loving family who are all healthy. I’ve got a good job and it keeps improving (see the Azure training and certification that I got this summer and fall). Tammy’s moved up the totem pole at her work, too. She was tired of working the night shift and with the rise of COVID found herself full time and on the day shift. Now the supervisors are learning what a great teacher and resource she is. Despite having a bit of a health worry with that chest pain this summer (and still waiting to see the cardiologist—if I was actually dying I probably would have dropped dead before seeing them), I’ve picked my cycling back up and I’m back in shape again. Miranda and Ian are back at school and while we are still worried about what they might bring home, so far neither of their schools has reported an outbreak. Miranda is doing well as she always does and Ian seems to have learned a thing or two about being organized because he is really on top of his schoolwork this year. Murphy is super-relaxed these days. He helps me remember to stop and relax once in a while.

The weather has been fine this September and October. Nobody would mistake it for summer, but it’s been a relatively dry, warm and sunny fall. I had a Saturday ride yesterday and I didn’t have to layer up even through it was October 10th.

I think everybody is a little stir crazy, and that’s only going to get worse as the weather truly slides into winter. We’ve got our season’s ski pass already, so there is that to look forward to.

And pie. We have pie. 🥧

Thanksgiving lunch, ready to eat

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Another Test Passed

Today was the second half of the Azure exams: the AZ-304 exam for Solution Architect Design.

And I passed. Now I am a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert. (Until October 2022, anyways)

The stress is bleeding off now. Or maybe it’s the Godfathers. 🥃 I am not sure when the last time was that I felt under that kind of long-term stress to perform. The training courses were in June, July and September and then the exams in September and October. On one hand, it wasn’t like I would lose my job if I didn’t pass, but on the other, there was a part of me that didn’t want to have to go to my boss and the rest of the team and admit that I’d failed, either.

I passed with flying colors, too. My score was 919, and a passing score was 700. Today’s test was the one that I felt was most appropriate for my job and it’s nice to know that I did pretty well. But it didn’t start auspiciously. I was scheduled to write the test at 8:30 this morning. I got a bit of exercise in and a shower to clear the mind, and at 8:15 I started the process of signing in. It involves taking photos of yourself, your ID and the place where you’ll be taking the exam. But when it came time to launch the actual test, the secure app started up and immediately quit again. The person from PearsonVUE immediately contacted me through the testing app and we tried a few different things including grabbing Ian’s MacBook Air and trying that instead of my MacBook Pro. But it wasn’t working, so a long call to their support later, I was re-scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon.

This afternoon, the process worked just fine, and the test started. A couple hours later, I passed. I can’t say that I was particularly optimistic when I pressed the “Finish” button on the exam. Evidently I did okay, but I didn’t really feel it.

Sorry about the lack of posts here lately. I’ve been under stress. Miranda will have something coming soon: she’s been taking part in Inktober and absolutely killing it. As an apology, here’s a video of Murphy spooked by the frozen turkey.

Damn you, 2020

Now Eddie Van Halen has died.

It’s not the same unexpected shock as Chadwick Boseman, because Eddie has had a lot of health problems including the cancer that finally killed him.

But I can’t help but feel that part of my childhood just died. Van Halen music was basically the soundtrack of the time that I spent with Tommy in the early eighties. I didn’t have a large collection of music albums as a kid, but it included a mix of early Van Halen’s records, Women and Children First, Diver Down and 1984. Just last week I picked up the guitar again and finally learned the opening riff from Drop Dead Legs. I have never achieved greatness or even middling success on the guitar, but the riffs from Panama and Unchained are ingrained in my fingers.

I never really got into the later Van Hagar nor into the various reunions and reincarnations of Van Halen (although I always respected the mad father skills of getting his son Wolfgang to replace Michael Anthony on bass when he was old enough). But knowing he’s died makes me feel melancholy. RIP.

Passed a Test

This afternoon, I took a Microsoft Azure certification exam, and I passed! This was the Microsoft Azure Architect Technology exam, which is the first of two exams to pass to get the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification. I took a five-day course from LearningTree in late July and it was a wall of information. I took the prep very seriously, doing lots of practice labs, studying the course material and taking practice tests.

Yeah, about that. The practice tests are something that you purchase ($80 USD for 30 days’ access) and then you can run the test in a “study” mode or in a “certification” mode where you take the test like you would in the testing centre. Well, to make a long story short I only passed the practice test once, and that was the last time, on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t looking good. Heck, I only barely passed the Fundamentals exam back in January. I don’t administer Azure on a daily basis. I was trying to pass this exam on book and brainpower, and the practice tests weren’t looking too positive.

But pass or fail, the exam was happening today. And thanks to COVID, it was happening right here, at my desk. There were lots of rules about what you could and couldn’t have within arm’s reach, so everything came off of my desk. It was a nice opportunity to dust, anyways.

Totally stripped down desk (bookshelves empty)

I did my best to be chill when I was waiting for my test time (2:00), but got on the rollers for a half hour beforehand. I think that cleared my mind. It took about fifteen minutes to get into the test, having to take a selfie, photos of my driver’s license, and four of my desk from each angle. I didn’t speak to anyone during the “intake” or the exam. Once I was in, my camera was on and I wasn’t allowed to leave. No food, drink or breaks. I locked the door, because if anyone walked in, the test would be over and I would fail.

It took over 2 hours, and I was very focused on teasing every bit of information out of each question. The questions were like the practice tests, but somewhat different, too. It seemed there were more clues available, but that could have been my imagination.

Anyhow, now on to the Solution Architect Design exam. It’s scheduled for Thursday next week.

Fall colours

I felt like bringing on Fall so here’s a painting to display all of fall’s colourful splendours 🍁

Reminds me of mom and how she loved to drive down to the water through the turning trees ❤️

Mole or Not?

It’s a new really lame game: what’s that beauty mark? 😄

When I had my annual checkup with Dr. Sadiq pre-COVID, I brought a mole to her attention that was in my left underarm area. She had a look at it, but didn’t say much. So I was somewhat surprised when about a week later I got a call from NW Dermatology that I’d had a referral to them and they were setting up an appointment for me in September.

I assumed it was the mole, but I wasn’t certain. Today was the day of the appointment, and I met with Dr. Chia. He inspected my upper body and face for any signs of cancer (and found none) and took a look at the mole and at the subtle skin growths on my right temple. Right away, he said “That’s not a mole,” and then after looking at my forehead said “and neither are those.”

Sounds ominous, right? He identified them as seborrheic keratosis. They are symptoms of age, and nothing more. No worry and no need to treat them unless they are in a sensitive area or cause problems due to appearance.

The doctor is also a cyclist, and complimented me on showing no signs of skin cancer. Apparently spending hours and hours in the sun in short spandex tends to lead that way. I can’t claim to be the most rigorous user of sunblock but I do wear it in the summer on long rides. I guess that pays off. I told him that I have a redhead wife and son and there’s always a bottle of sunblock around.

Apples

Today’s job was picking the apples on the tree out back. It’s much easier with everybody helping out and we’ve already managed to pick, wash, cut the tops and bottoms off, bag and freeze them. 15 large freezer zip lock bags of apples. There’s no rush to turn them into sauce, juice or cider, but we will at some point.