Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

            I've been a lazy blogger this summer, sorry to say. It's been so beautiful and we've been so busy and being a Saskatchewan boy I know that I've got to make hay when the sun shines which means that when the weather allows it I have to be outside. I could write outside, I guess, but there's always way too much on the old to-do list to sit and peck away in the sun.
            I hadn't posted anything on this blog since we left for a vacation to the BC interior so I've added a few of my weekly columns. Have a look. Once the fall settles in and the summer activities slow down I'll be posting up some more stuff.            

IT'S OVER


            I seem to be suffering from the Post-Family-Reunion-Blues. You know how it is. You anticipate and wait and wait and wait for an event like a family or class reunion or a wedding or a vacation or something and then before you know it...there it was...gone.
            So it was for the 2nd Annual Rose and Lowell Hubbard Family Reunion that was just held in Regina on the weekend of the 14th, 15th and 16th of August. Our family has had many gatherings similar to this year's version but this is the second one that we have had since Mom passed away in 2013.
            Mom's birthday is the 30th of August so for the past while the family has traditionally met around this time of the year to celebrate her birthday anyway but as Mom's age advanced and her health slowed her down she made all of us promise to continue the gatherings even after she was gone. I'm pretty sure we would have continued to meet anyway but it's always a good idea to listen to your Mother.
            This year it was even more important that we get as many members of the family together as possible as the Hubbard sisters and brothers were down a sibling after our brother Jack recently passed. We all have to make the best of the time we have here on good ol' Mother Earth because things can change in a hurry and you just never know how different things may be in a twelve month span.
            My bluesy mood can also be attributed to the fact that our summer is dwindling down all too soon. As we tick off the summer events calendar we are reminded that there are more summer days behind us than in front of us. British Columbia vacation...tick...July 1st long weekend...tick...Geezerball Baseball Tournament...tick...August Long Weekend...tick...2nd Annual Family Reunion...tick...
            Then again, there are still two weeks left until Labour Day so there's a bit of time to cram in some more summer-type events. Hopefully the heat haters haven't been too efficient in their collective wishing for cooler temperatures but I'm afraid that's  also wishful thinking on my part. We did go from 37C to 12C for daytime high temperatures in 48 hours over this past weekend, though. Just saying. Are ya happy now? Brrrrrr...... 
            I guess the rapid drop in temperatures makes the retail outlets look pretty smart as it's a lot easier to buy a parka right now than it is a bathing suit. Go figure. What did they know that nobody else knows? Hmmmm? Was it a fluke? Yes, it was a fluke,  is the answer to that question  because there seems to be a jump on the next season's product lines earlier and earlier every year regardless of what the weather's doing. But I think I'm going to lump them in with the heat haters, too, as far as cold weather-wishing culprits go. Thanks a lot.
            Now I've just gone from bluesy to downright cranky so I'm going to follow some more of my Mom's advice and say nothing more if I don't have anything nice to say at all.


            "Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around."-Bill Watterson (1958-).

PHOTO SPEED ENFORCEMENT....MY VIEW

            Has anyone else been caught by the famed “Photo Speed Enforcement” program? No? Lucky you! I have and for me it sure created some mixed feelings about the whole process.
            My first thoughts on Photo Speed Enforcement ticketing is that it was lazy policing. How easy is it to set up a few cameras and catch speeders as they fly by? And where's the "human element"? What about discretion? What if there was a very valid excuse for speeding? Say... sudden explosive diarrhea? Or your wife is in intense labour pains and she's this close to delivering the baby? Will the camera know for sure?
            Actually those are bad examples. I don't think that if I was experiencing either one of those situations that I'd like a Police Officer pulling me over at any time. I'd take my Photo Enhanced speeding ticket lumps and get to the nearest restroom or hospital but I think you know what I mean.
            However, let's back it up to the $118.00 speeding ticket that I received in the mail that shocked and angered me. I'm like..."what the deuce? When the heck was this? Was this me?" because I'm not a speeder. No, really! I know everyone says that but I'm not! This is the third speeding ticket in my life and I've been driving for forty-plus years. And some of those years I was driving for a living and logging a ton of miles on the road. Oh sure, like most, I'll maybe push the limit a bit but I'm not a 20-30 kliks an hour over the speed limit kind of driver.
            You know what, though? Turns out that it was definitely me, or our truck with the very noticeable HUBZ vanity plate on the rear bumper. It was also the day of my oldest brother's funeral in Medicine Hat and we were on our way to the funeral home at the time of the ticket so it was definitely me driving. And I know that.
             Distracted driving? Yes, kind of, I guess. I was about to deliver my brother's eulogy in a short amount of time and I probably didn't have my head in the driving game. But that's no excuse. I was speeding through a school zone that I had driven through probably a hundred times or more. A school zone! 44km/hour in a 30 km zone. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Again, no excuses! Lazy policing?? I think not. Did I deserve the ticket? Damn right I did. Smarten up! Pay attention...you are endangering children's lives here!
            Let's back up again to the earlier point about discretion and the "human element". Maybe there are a few drivers who could schmooz their way out of the occasional ticket, or something, and there will always be the odd "judgment" call but the percentages would be so miniscule that, in my humble opinion, it doesn't offset the good that can be accomplished by policing our roads 24-7-365 with the technology that is available to us today.(I.E.-Photo Speed Enforcement).
            Do you know how many people speed through school zones and road crew work zones? Do you have any idea how many Highway Patrolmen, Highway Traffic Officers and road construction workers have been killed or maimed by drivers who were speeding or impaired or just plain inept at their driving skills? Even one is too many and we know that the number is a lot higher than that.
            I've put on an awful lot of kilometers on many vehicles over many years and my observance is that there are more people on the road than ever before and there are a lot more speeders than ever before. And excessive speeds, too. When they pass you like you are standing still going 110km/hour then we need to do something about it. And if it's too dangerous to police our highways with actual Police Officers then what are we left to do?
            On July 13th, 2015 a 19-year-old woman was clocked at 195kms/hour (121mph) on the Trans Canada highway west of Regina at 11o'clock in the morning. 195 Kilometers per hour!! I don't care, nobody should be going that fast and we shouldn't even be manufacturing domestic vehicles with those kinds of speed capabilities. It's just too dangerous. If you want speed there are places for that kind of thing. If you have a death wish at 19-years-old then have at 'er honey but take up cliff jumping or rock climbing or parachuting or shoot yourself out of a cannon if you love speed so much but don't drive down one of the busiest public roadways in the country 85 kilometers an hour over the speed limit endangering the lives of every other person on the road.
            Photo Speed Enforcement isn't cheap or cheesy or lazy policing. It is simply using the tools and technology at hand to reduce high-risk behaviour while lowering fatalities on our roadways and increasing public safety. That can't be a bad thing, can it?

"Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.", Jeff Cooper (1920-2006).

MEN BEING BOYS

            There appears to be a few items to discuss this week. Surviving and thriving at the fun-filled Hotter Than Hades Twilighter ball tournament, the rarity of the upcoming Blue Moon and the Saskatchewan Day mid-summer long weekend are all subjects that I’d like to touch on this time around.
            This past weekend the Eden Valley Senators baseball team travelled to Estevan as it was the host community for this year’s Master’s Twilight Baseball Tournament and Estevan’s designation as “Canada’s Sunshine Capital” was clearly on display as the sun shone brightly and the temperatures hit the mid-to-high 30C range throughout the three days of the tournament. Except for a brief and scary thunderstorm that hit late in the afternoon on Friday, the weather was sunny and hot, followed by sunny and hotter.
            Most teams would be a little whiny about having to play two out of their four games at eight o’clock in the morning but it was the best time of the day to escape the extreme heat of the afternoon games and even this heat lover appreciated the lower temperatures early in the day. Mind you, given the choice between playing in the heat over shivering through the drizzle and the 10C weather that we had to endure a few years ago at the tournament in Davidson, I’ll take the heat any time. They don’t call them the “Boys of SUMMER” for nothing. Besides, heat, within reason, is a lot better on the old muscles and bones than the cold is; but that’s just me.
            Once again, the fun level was higher than the baseball ability level but we don’t really care too much about that. It’s become the baseball-family reunion for the members of our team and their extended families. Some of the children of the players cannot even remember a summer when they haven’t attended a twilighter ball tournament. The player’s wives and children have always attended every game and our Eden Valley Wives & Kids Fan Club have become more well-known for their support of the team and their cheering style than the guys have with their ball playing ability on the field. It might even be easier for us to play the games than it is for them to watch us play but they are there every time.
            But, you know, as usual we had some great plays and some bad plays.  Ken Ede cracked a home run, which is always exciting, and there were just as many fine baseball plays on the field, like Daryle Roth’s running grab of a fly ball, as there were Keystone Kops “what the heck are they doing out there???” plays. Either way, it was pretty good entertainment.
            It was another eventful year as a few of our players accepted some long-term awards, including yours truly, which is a testament to our love of the game and commitment to the team. At times, it was hard to know if our muscles hurt more from laughing or playing, which is a good sign, and there’s never a lack of painkiller available in liquid, salve or pill form. There was even a bit of white lightening that somehow found its way into the campground, strictly for medicinal purposes, mind you, but now I’m starting to cross the line of “what happens at Twilighters stays at Twilighters” so that’s about all I’m going to say on that subject. Suffice to say it was another unforgettable tournament and it’ll be hard to top this latest version for fun but we’re ready to give it our best shot this time again next year.
            Now that I’ve taken up all the allotted room talking about the Twilighter tournament I will mention that this weekend it is both a Blue Moon on Friday the 31st of July and Saskatchewan Day on Monday, August 3rd. Too bad the Blue Moon wasn’t this past weekend while we were playing some of our baseball because, who knows, maybe it would have altered our results, but I digress. 
             Have a look at this Blue Moon as we won’t get another one until 2018 and then we get two…January and March and there hasn’t been a Blue Moon since August of 2012 so these celestial events are rarer than one would think.
            I don’t think the Saskatchewan Day Long weekend will quite compare to this past weekend’s fun a frivolity of the Annual Twilighter Pilgrimage but we’ll give it our best shot to have a fun filled weekend. I hope you do, too. Happy Saskatchewan Day everyone!

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”-George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).

LOSING AN OLD FRIEND

            Well we put July to bed under a Full Blue Moon and we’re on to the Dog Days of August now. The summer’s been a pretty hectic one for us and other than the odd bad weather day it has been a very nice summer. Weather-wise, that is. Some would think it too hot while others will think it’s not hot enough, proving yet again, you just can’t make everyone happy.
            Last week we happened to get one of the really bad weather days when that crazy wind blew through town making a nuisance of itself. In fact, it whipped around a big old tree that was close to our house and snapped off a huge branch leaving the remainder of the tree too fragile to salvage so the whole thing had to come down before the rest of it fell into the house. I hate losing beautiful mature trees but at least there wasn’t any house or human damage done, but still, it was like losing a family member.
            It sure saddened our three children when they heard the news as this was the tree where the tire swing had hung for years and years and it was also one of their favourite climbing trees. They have so many fond memories of growing up in this yard and many of them are tied to that tree and others which are, thankfully, still standing.
            Nolan remembered how he once fell awkwardly off of the tire swing and landed in a handstand kind of way giving him “green stick” fractures in both of his wrists. Well, maybe some of the events weren’t so “fond” but they definitely were memorable.
            Emily also recalled how a game of mini-golf around the house ended in a memorable way as Nolan connected on a ball a little harder than he was supposed to and the golf ball ricocheted off of that tree and was flying straight for Em’s face when she was luckily able to deflect it with her hand leaving only a damaged pinky instead of a missing tooth or a broken nose or something. Good times, good times.
            Thankfully we were able to employ the equipment and talents of Benny Baker and Richard Levai as they had the tree cut down, chopped, cleaned up and removed from the yard within 24 hours. Man, those guys can work! Thanks again for your speedy response fellas. Much appreciated.
            In my lifetime I have witnessed some pretty nasty weather including vicious winter storms, tornados and scary thunderstorms. I am not sure if I completely believe that the weather patterns are more severe and numerous now than before but it sure appears that way.           
            Maybe it simply appears that way because nine times out of ten when I look at the weather report on my computer or smart phone there seems to be some kind of weather advisory alert blinking away in red. Severe thunderstorm activity; extreme heat warning; tornado warning; smokey air advisory; heavy rain warning; strong wind advisory…and on and on it goes. It almost seems to be a bit of “the boy crying wolf” going on here, though. If we are in continual alert won’t we get complacent when they don’t develop? I hope not. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.
            I’m more of a glass is half full than empty kind of guy so as sad as it is to see one summer month pass by it’s good to know that we have a full month of summer weather to look forward to in August. We also have a lot of activity planned for this month which will probably make it go by a little too fast but it will be fun making more memories…fond or otherwise.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”-Dr. Seuss.

WHERE THE HECK'S MY BALL GLOVE?

            Once again, it’s time to dust off the old cleats and see if the ball glove is where I put it after I used it the last time, which was about a year ago, or so, I guess. Mind you, these things have a tendency to move around the house by themselves in the basement or in the spare room or in the hall closet or one of the other places that I know I put the stuff last year but now it isn’t where I knew I put it and, of course, it’s someone else’s fault that I can’t find my ball bag and with only two of us left living in this house and it’s not where I KNOW I put it then “you know who” must have moved it or something.
The conversation regarding the missing ball gear went something like this:
Yelling from basement, “Hey, have you seen my ball stuff?”
“Nope, where’d you put it?”
“I hung it up right here in the basement beside my hockey bag.”
“Is it there now?”
“Would I be asking if it was there?”
“Smarty-pants, if it’s not there then you probably didn’t put it there because I never touched it. Are you sure it isn’t under something, or maybe fell on the floor, or perhaps you did put it in some other closet or room?”
Exasperating sigh, “NO. I hung it up last year when we got home and I put it right here.”
“And you don’t remember moving it or putting it somewhere else?”
“What did I just tell you? No. It was RIGHT HERE!”
“Is it that black Co-op duffle bag that smells like stinky feet and Rub A-5-3-5?”
“Yeah. Probably. You haven’t seen it but you remember how it smells?”
“I don’t remember how it smells because it smells like the bag I just pulled out of the closet.”
“How’d it get in there?! I swear I hung it up downstairs right after the tournament!”
“Sure you did, honey. Sure you did. Here you go…have a nice practice” Or words to that effect. Humble pie has a terrible taste, doesn’t it?
Well, thank goodness somebody found my stuff because it’s “Geezer Ball” time again. Yup, the good ol’ SBA (Saskatchewan Baseball Association)Twilighter Master’s Division Provincial Playoff Tournament is being held in Estevan this upcoming weekend and the Eden Valley Senators are going to be there.
It’s hard to believe that this group of ballplayers and their families have been attending these events for close to a decade now. Daryle Roth assembled the core group of players back in 2006 and while there have been some additions and deletions along the way the majority of these guys will have played together in ten of these tournaments. Counting this year.
We have a blast trying to defy our ages and recapture some youthful exuberance, even for just a day or two, before coming back home to lick our wounds while promising to be better prepared for the event next year. Which we probably won’t be because, like the missing ball bag, we’ll forget where our pain went and just before next year’s tournament comes around we’ll be searching for some gumption along with our ball gear. Then, with a little luck and maybe more than a little bit of help ,we’ll put it together for another go ‘round.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”-Yogi Berra (1925-).

IMMORTALITY?....I COULD MAKE IT WORK

Whiling away this past winter’s hours Deb and I became fans of the television series Forever. The basic premise is that a New York City medical examiner dies 200 years ago while trying to rescue slaves as a doctor aboard a ship in the African slave trade and he becomes physically immortal. His long life has given him extensive knowledge in many areas along with very keen powers of observation making him an excellent crime solver while examining the bodies of the many homicide victims he is tasked to examine. His job as a medical examiner also gives him great insight into death and he is hoping to find answers as to why he never dies when killed; which happens in just about every episode. 
            Now, you’re probably wondering why I am all of the sudden a promoter of CTV and ABC Television shows, I’m not and the show is being cancelled after just one season, tsk, tsk, tsk, but the whole point of the information above is to tell you that the character in the series, Dr. Henry Morgan, somehow isn’t too happy with his immortality which goes completely against all human history as the search and desire for human biological and physical immortality has been sought after since the earliest recordings of mankind. Some scientists say it is merely decades away.
            I found it a little odd that, as we were travelling recently, I happened to mention to Debbie that I think a guy would have to be immortal in order to be able to see and live in so many, wonderful and beautiful places this planet has to offer and we were only covering a few miles in Western Canada for crying out loud! Think of the entire world! Even with all of their money Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or some other bazillionaire would have the financial resources but not the longevity to see it all.
            I’m talking about physical immortality here, of course, similar to the fictitious Dr. Henry Morgan, where you would stay around 40 years-old for a thousand years plus or so, not “life everlasting” as in eternal life, if you know what I mean. I’m thinking I’m never going to actually find out what it’d be like but I don’t know how “difficult” it would be to live for years and years.
Yes, I know, you’d want someone to not age right along with you, maybe, but still. And it would definitely be hard outliving all of your descendants but there’d be some upsides, too, I’m sure. Not being able to die means you could try anything. Bull fighting, cliff jumping, high-wire walking, chain saw juggling…you might want to check to see if your limbs would grow back first, you know, maybe start with a toe or a finger, or something…. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you’re getting the gist of my thought process here.
I don’t mean to bore you with another “how fantastic British Columbia is” story but it seemed to us that you could pull over pretty much anywhere out there and find a gorgeous place to live for a little while. I will also include the entire provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in there as well. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if you lived one decade in every spot you would like to call home it’d easily take you past a thousand years. That’s only 100 spots, if my math is correct. It’s barely a start.
As stated earlier, scientists are convinced we will achieve physical immortality soon but we’re supposed to be riding hover boards right now too, aren’t we? I am not sure, with 7 billion of us humans on the planet already, and the average lifespan rising, where we’d put everybody if they were to all live 1000 years plus but if science is able to make us not die it’d probably be able to figure that part out, too. I would hope.
I don’t think we’ll see it happen in my lifetime, but I’m working on my list of places to live, should the opportunity present itself.

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”-Woody Allen, (1939-).

TRAVELLING BEAUTIFUL BRITISH COLUMBIA

            Did anyone else notice my mathematically challenged subtraction in last week’s column? If you didn’t, then shame on the both of us. It was not Canada’s 118th birthday, like I stated it was; it was Canada’s 148th birthday on July 1st, 2015. I’m sure she’d be flattered that I thought she looked a lot younger than she really is, though.
            As mentioned in last week’s column, as well, we did get to celebrate the country’s 148th Birthday on the shores of Okanagan Lake watching the July 1st fireworks at Peachland, BC. In a province surrounded by spectacular beauty the quaint community of Peachland is, as promised, a beautiful peach of a place. It turned out to be a great place to spend Canada Day watching a parade, going swimming, eating ice cream and ooooing and aahhing at the fireworks.
            Of course, as with all good things, they must come to an end so after an eventful, full and fun 10 days in West Kelowna we had to say goodbye to our youngest daughter Emily and the beautiful Okanagan valley and make our way back to Kipling.
            In a reversal of last year’s trip, this year we travelled out to British Columbia via Highway #3 through the Crowsnest Pass and made the return trip through the Kicking Horse Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. I know it’s all mountains and rivers and forests and streams and winding roads but you wouldn’t believe the difference in the road views when you reverse the directions.
            The Crowsnest highway was built in 1932 as a Great Depression project and mainly follows a mid-19th century gold rush trail that had originally been traced out by an engineer named Edgar Dewdney. Dewdney later served as Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories and he was also the fifth Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. The Crowsnest Pass’s highest elevation reaches 1358m (4455ft).
            The Kicking Horse Pass and the adjacent Kicking Horse River, were named after James Hector, a naturalist, geologist, surgeon, and a member of John Palliser’s 1858 Palliser Expedition, who was actually kicked by his horse while exploring the region. It seems the name stuck. The Trans-Canada Highway was constructed through the pass in 1962 following the original CPR rail route. The Kicking Horse Pass’s elevation is 1643m (5390ft).
             Driving the highways through either of these passes can give you the willies at times but one has to admire the sheer determination and mind-boggling feats of engineering that were employed to complete the roadways through the mountains. The drive along Highway #1 from Golden through the Kicking Horse Pass was especially nerve-racking for me and I’m driving it on a finished pristine highway. Can you imagine what the road builders would have seen while they were constructing this thing? Yowza!
            I don’t know how they did it and I don’t know why they did what they did when they did it but the construction of those highways through those mountains is an absolutely awesome great Canadian achievement. And this tourist is happier for it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!

            Happy Birthday Canada! Wow! 118 years young. How are you going to celebrate your country's birthday? In style I hope. Me? I'm going to indulge in the festivities on the shores of beautiful Okanagan Lake at Peachland, British Columbia, with my wife and our youngest daughter. It can't get much better than that!
            They're in the midst of a super heat wave here in the Okanagan Valley and even this heat lover is finding it a little extreme. The upside is that it is hot and sunny, not cold and rainy, and there are about a million ways to escape the heat. The lake water is cool and refreshing and there are no end to the beaches around the lake. Pick a spot and jump in!
            The speedy passing of time is always astounding to me as it seems that we were just moving Emily out to West Kelowna a short time ago. In reality it was ten months ago already and as we were leaving her to her new life out here last year we were already planning the return trip to see her during her summer school break this year.
            I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the good life in Canada than to drive 1000 miles/1600kms across three provinces viewing the variety of vegetation, topography and breathtaking scenery along the way.
            As anxious as we were to see Em as soon as possible we managed to take our time driving out stopping to smell the roses along the way, as it were. We pitched the tent at Fernie Provincial Park and were blown away by the serenity, the mountain view and the sounds of the  babbling brook meters away from our campsite. The experience is highly recommended.   
            For a prairie flatlander, like myself, the drive through the mountains wasn't as nerve racking as I had anticipated. Even though we'd done this drive merely a year ago it still takes more than a bit of cruising to get used to mountain driving. There isn't much time to "acclimatize" yourself  to the conditions, either, as it seems you go from driving in bald prairie to climbing mountains in a matter of minutes.
            The highways of BC are great but the drive wasn't totally without the odd belly flip as we bridged over sphincter tightening gorges at least a thousand feet deep and snaked our way up and down mountain sides, hair-pinning all the way.
            We drove the Kootenay Pass which is known locally as the "Salmo-Creston" route along the Crowsnest Highway in the Selkirk Mountains connecting the communities of Salmo and Creston. The elevation at Kootenay Pass is 5823ft (1775m) above sea level.
            Interestingly enough, Kelowna's elevation above sea level is 1588ft(484m) while Kipling's is 2170ft (661m). Who'd a thunk it? That information is hard to comprehend while sitting on Emily's patio looking around at the low-lying mountains in the background.
            While I am not a world traveller, or anything, there can be little doubt that BC, and in particular the Okanagan Valley, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It's not hard to believe that Kelowna and surrounding district is one of the most popular retirement destinations in Canada making it the third largest metropolitan area in British Columbia.
            It's actually hard to find someone who was born and raised here, though. I've met people from Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, St. Alphonse, Manitoba and Dawson Creek, Yukon. You know, they say that there are six degrees of separation between every person on Earth. My thinking is that it's only three degrees for people from Saskatchewan. On our first day here I found one woman who is Bob and Kay McGaw's daughter Christy's best friend in Regina and another woman who is great friends with Lana Jones, formally from Kipling! Small world, eh?
            We'll be thinking of you back home while we watch the Canada Day fireworks over Okanagan Lake and we hope you'll be having as good a time celebrating as we will be. However and wherever you choose to celebrate Canada Day... I hope you did it in great Canadian style!


"It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she's something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of."-Emily Carr (1871-1945).

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