Archive for October, 2017

A Pathetic Halloween

As the family will know, I am having a problem this last week with a pinched sciatic nerve which is giving me back pain and pain down the right leg.  I know Yadahh Yadahh get over it.

But it has cut into our Halloween evening.  No carved pumpkin, no ghosts and goblins in the front yard and no me dressed up in my dirty old man costume to give out the candy.  ( particular talent that I have developed over the years)

We have one glowing snapping Calaca (a traditional Mexican skeleton head displayed during the Day of the Dead)  stuck in our front window.  We bought this in Mexico years ago.

Pat is in charge of the candy, so we are giving out Granola Bars tonight.  Granted with a chocolate coating, but still.  I, in my weakened condition, could not source the Hawkins Cheesies that I like to give out (knowing that I would get to snack on the remainder over the following month)

Granted we have a Korean family on one side and a Taiwanese lady on the other neither of whom give out candy, and half the neighbours already in their winter homes in Arizona so we could be the highlight of the block.



Another Friday Fish Meal

Last night was a rainy cool evening so I decided to make an oven dish.  As it was also Friday decided I would go into the frozen larder and bring out a slab of fish.

We are fortunate to have a buddy Harry, who loves to fish and spends lots of money to catch fish from his expensive boat.  He catches way more than he can consume so often gives us his excess.  Lots of salmon (specialty Rat’s Nose), occasional Halibut and Pacific Cod.

I pulled out a big piece from the deep freeze thinking it was Halibut but once thawed realized it was Cod.  Nice big fillet.  Nothing wrong with cod.  Unlike the east coast cod, the Pacific cod is mild tasting and, if filleted properly, boneless and with an amount of oiliness that it can be baked.

So I decided that I would prepare Cod en Croute.  Basically means you wrap the fish in phyllo pastry and bake.

It is essential if you are using thawed fish that you dry it thoroughly or the pastry will be soggy at the bottom.   This was a nice slab of cod maybe an inch thick (this technique does not work with thin fillets.)

To add the flavour that cod normally lacks I did not follow any recipe but spread a layer of goat cheese on top and then a drizzle of pesto.  Then wrapped it and brushed the top with egg yolk and baked.

It was divine if I say so myself.  Crispy on the outside, with the tang from the goat cheese and rich because it is cod.  I think I would add more pesto in the future.

My Education in Paleontology

I may be retired but still seeking education.  My kids are the first to affirm that their Dad is always open to new ideas.

So again this fall I am taking a number of courses at the North Island University campus.  This is under the auspice of Elder College.

One of the courses is on the local historical paleontology.  (I told you about the basalt stone)  Now there is no degree at the end of the course for me but also not exams, so OK.

Our instructor is an interesting character.  He actually does not have any university degrees but he has a lifetime of digging for fossils and is the local expert at our museum.  His background is as a handy man mechanic that drifted out here to the Island when his brother discovered the first bones for our most famous fossil the Elasmosaur.  Over the years Pat became the local expert and personally found and excavated a number of big fossils.

Now he is not the most gifted in presentation style.  He has a set of slides but he often meanders.  What he is good at, is telling stories.  He covers the essentials of the last 250 million years for our island but mostly talks about the search for fossils up and down the island.  Granted I think I mentioned our Island rose from the sea so all the fossils are marine creatures.

Our local museum is filled with marine fossils that he has found or been the leader to dig out.

Our class is less than 2 hours each week but at the end, not sure if we have learned much, but the stories are great.  Fortunately every second class is in the field where hike down into shale beds along a river or on a cut blasted out when they were building the highway up our island.  We get a chance to take our chipper hammers and try to discover a new species.

Education can be fun.

Alternate Model Builders

When I belonged to the Calgary Model Shipwright society in the 80’s, I was just as interested in looking at other enthusiasts who chose a different genre.  Guys who made WWII warships out of cardstock, and guys who would do kit bashing on plastic models.  (Kit bashing means you take the basic kit and modify or add details).  In those days, the majority of the members were still guys (and one woman) who made historical ship models out of wood.

Us wooden shipwrights are a dying breed.

I happened to be searching around UTube on TV one morning (fewer and fewer TV programs interest me) and came across Ted Hawksworth.  He has produced many videos (sponsored by a model parts supplier).  In the particular series I am watching, he is assembling a model of a UBoat from a Trumpeter kit.  This is not a trivial kit, it costs $600 and has thousands of parts.  So I watched a few episodes.  This could be me, chatting while taping my steps in model assembly.  Granted, plastic model kits.

It turns out this is a big industry for retired guys.  It has replaced model trains as the go-to hobby.  The great thing is that you do not need a big workshop.  Fascinating.  But the attraction is not just that Ted is assembling pre-made parts, it is his skill in painting.  Air brushing and adding rust details to make the tanks and planes and ships look real.

However, I am pretty sure my family appreciates my wooden models of ships.  I cannot imagine them mounting a beautiful 4 foot model of a WWII Uboat or the Bismarck or a Tiger Tank or a F 15 on their mantle.

I think I chose the right hobby.

An Interesting Fossil

This fall I am taking a class at college on the history of Paleontology of the Comox Valley.

Now here is the background.  Vancouver Island is not actually part of the North American tectonic plate.  It started at the bottom of the ocean west of South America and east of Australia.  As the plate moved northeast it came in contact with the North American plate which was (and still is) drifting west.  Our plate banged into the NA plate, slid underneath and lifted, creating the Rocky Mountains.  But part of this ancient undersea plate folded up and produced Islands.  These islands range from Catalina in California through the islands off Washington State and Vancouver Island all the way to the Queen Charlottes.  Yadah Yadah, a whole bunch of time passes.

The mud that covered the ocean bottom 100 million years ago turned into soft shale, incapsuling shells from billions of sea creatures.   As it moved north it became covered by a 100-meter thick layer of sandstone, and some volcanic materials.  Eventually as the Island folded up from beneath the ocean, it brought with it some of the deep shale deposits bearing layers and layers of dead sea life.    A million years of glacier runoff produced a cut called the Trent River that goes down to the bedrock, revealing the shale deposits.

Our Paleontologyinstructor organized a field trip to the Trent River, where we were given rock hammers to chip away at the exposed shale to hopefully discover fossils.  A bit of a hike from the highway, through forest, to arrive at a bend in the river, where at this time of year, you can walk across it (wearing rubber boots) to see the exposed shale cliff.

Now this is not like going to Drumheller where you might, with a hundred visits, find the toe bone of a land-based dinosaur like Albertosauras.  This is the sea bottom where you find dead clam shells and other sea creatures.

The wall of mud shale is surprising soft.  You can chip away and pull off layers with your gloves.  And every now and then you find a tiny bit of shell about the size of your fingernail that was a snail 100 million years ago.

22 of us in the class spread up and down the cliff.  Now this is actually a very important part of the Trent River.  In 1988 Mike Trask was stopping for a picnic on the shore of the river and recognized exposed fossils.  These turned out to be the complete fossil of the Elasmosaur, a dino-sized sea creature from 80 million years ago when our island was still the bottom of the ocean.  A very famous find, and the bones are a recreated as a highlight of our local museum.

I know this story is going on but bear with me there is a point.

So there we are chipping away at a wall of shale finding little fossils of tiny clams.  The instructor is Pat Trask, the younger brother of Mike.  He leads hundreds of children and adults on explorations to chip away at the bank and find traces of sea creatures.  As he pointed out (as I expect he has many times) we were maybe 100 meters from the famous fossil.

So there I am chipping away at the shale face.  Pulling off pieces roughly the size of a deck of cards, when I come across something that was not part of the face of soft black shale.  I thought it might be a toe bone from something exotic, and asked Pat to join me.  When we chipped it out, it was a rounded piece of basaltic rock.  The kind of rounded stone we find on the coast and in river bottoms all up and down the cost, but Pat said this should not be in the shale environment we were examining.  There should not be a small rounded river basalt rock buried in mud in the middle of an ocean from 80 million years ago.

He came up with a couple of theories.  The one that I liked best is that the Elasmosaur, like turkeys, would go to a river to swallow some stones to help grind their food.  Occasionally the stones passed through their systems and would be excreted, landing on the mud of an ocean bottom 500 kilometers from a river in South America, 80 million years ago,  only to be discovered by me.

Now that is the kind of story that makes you want to follow this paleontologist on future field trips.

A Sad Bankruptcy

Sears Canada is about to declare full bankruptcy and go out of business.  This is personally a sad story for me.

Many retail stores that we knew when we were growing up have gone out of business.  Eatons, Woolworths, Kresges, Consumers Distributing and Simpsons.  These were big deals when Pat and I were growing up.  We even bought (or rather Pat bought) her wedding ring at CD.  (I did not have the cash on me at the time.)

But the Sears closure is a particular blow.

My mother worked for Sears for many years, and through her, Blaine and I got summer and weekend jobs.  I started with Sears shortly after I turned 16, working Saturdays where I cleaned washrooms and swept office floors in the giant Catalogue Distribution Center in Regina.  Over the next five years I continued to work Saturdays while in school, and then immediately when school was on a summer break, worked full time until September.  I moved on to be an assistant to the electrical maintenance people, and eventually got a job (once I obtained my commercial driver’s license) driving trucks.  Not huge pay but steady.

The company was always generous to me when I needed time off to take my flying lessons, and gave me overtime when I needed money.  Mother worked happily for them until forced to retire because of arthritis.  Granted I did not make a lot of money, but it did support Pat and I in the summer after we were married.

I always thought this was a solid core company,  but times change.  Walmart and the internet took away the market.  Think of it.  Sears was big in catalogue buying with direct shipment to customers 50 years before Amazon.  But they just did not see the future on the net.

It is sad but a reality today.

They Joy of Retirement

I still exchange emails occasionally with friends that I had while working in Ontario.  I am pretty much down to one guy Richard on a regular basis and a few others for for emails.  It is almost 10 years.


I was one of the people interviewing Richard when he was hired.  A young guy with a Phd in Chemistry that Dr. Stephen Cohen and I were looking for to develop new products.  Guys that thought out of the box because we were trying to launch a group of new applications for the base stocks produced by our refinery that were unique. Stephen and I ended up agreeing with two guys, Richard and Joe.   This was during my marketing career.  We used to describe the team we had as Star Trek, going out and seeking new worlds.  Wonderful time.

Anyway, Richard and Joe  joined our team and we did develop many new applications, some successful, mostly not.  The successful ones are still big profit products for PC Lubricants.

Years passed and I moved on to managing a group selling factory fill lubricants to the big car companies around the world.  Joe is now an executive VP for refinery operations and Richard is the Director of Research and Development for the Lubricant group (that has long since been sold to an American company) (Stephen and I obviously did a good job)

Richard still keeps in contact with me as he manages the baseball dream team contest that we have been playing for 15 years.

Okay you are wondering where this is going.  Richard is much younger than I am but coming closer to retirement.  He asked how is my life going on.  How is retirement?

I told him that this is what today was going to be like.  While I have many connections to the Miata club on the Island I have also been invited to a sports car group.  Today is a wonderful sunny day, granted only 16.  Pat and I joined the group for a run that drove through the country roads and ended up at a pub (Salmon Point) on the ocean.  A typical Thursday for a retired person…..or so I told him.

Richard replied…. damn I cannot wait until I retire.


A Romantic Blog

My last blog was an attempt to go beyond the glorification of life in Paradise and enter into a new realm of soft emotive themes.  Love and fate

I wrote the previous blog thinking my followers would comment about how the story was inspiring and wanting share their experiences in finding love.

Instead, the only comment was “why did they buy a 17 year old Miata?”

Aww, I guess my blog was too deep and emotional for my audience.


Sometimes Fate Happens

It is often said that your true love is out there and fate brings you together.  Certainly true for Pat and I where we met at a dance in Regina.

But yesterday I heard an even better fate story.  We were at our Miata club BBQ in Nanaimo.  As the President I made a point to sit and converse with the newer members (a true politician)

Joe and Maria just bought a used 2000 Miata and joined the club to meet other members.  I asked about their background and an interesting story came out.

They were both born on San Miguel Island in the Azores off Portugal but at opposite ends of the island.  Neither family knew each other.

Joe’s father immigrated to Canada when Joe was 2.  His family comes from a long line of stone masons and they ended up in Victoria where Joe continues to work in the family profession.

Maria’s family did not come to Canada until she was 16 and they ended up in Victoria where her father worked in government business.  25 years ago they both happened to attend a dance at a German club because they had German friends.  He happened to talk to her and the subject came up that she was Portuguese.  Now Joe looks Italian and when he said he was also Portuguese she did not believe him until he spoke to her in the language.  Then they found out they both came from the same small island and one thing lead to another and they eventually married

Now that is fate.