Goodbye Bert

Tonight Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I joined a lot of people in saying goodbye to our good friend Bert Lang.  

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I got to know Bert while working with him at the Salvation Army Community Services where we worked many of the same shifts during the week, the always exciting 4-12 shift.  I worked 8-4 during the weekend which meant he relieved me each shift.  Bert was there early so we always had a cup of coffee together where he would criticize me for how I made my coffee.  In my defense, it was No Name coffee and I am not sure if Bert would recognize a fine cup of coffee if it walked up and introduced himself to Bert :-)

Later on after I had left the Salvation Army he asked me to help him find him a position elsewhere and I recommended him to my friend, Shaun Dyer who hired him at the John Howard Society and I was thrilled when they started to work together.

Despite us not working together anymore at the same agency, we worked closely together on social and housing issues.  Bert and I often talked when we needed professional advice and of course we had a close professional relationship.  Bert got along with most people so of course him and Wendy clicked but Mark also thought the world of Bert, partly because when Mark was with me at work, Bert knew where the secret supply of Coke was and would recruit him to help out at the Front Desk.  While it was our friend and co-worker who once joked with Mark that, “You don’t have to listen to your dad at the office,” Bert’s line was, “Mark is hard at work and needed a break”.  Bert validated Mark constantly and I will always appreciate that.

As Wendy wrote about it, we were very happy to be invited to Bert and Don’s wedding a couple of weeks ago.  Despite Bert being ill, it was a really happy day.

This was round three of cancer and it won this time.  Bert will be missed badly by everyone that knows him.

Donald (Bert) Sladden Lang of Saskatoon, SK, went home to his Creator after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer on Thursday, July 4, 2013.

He was born to the late Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang of Edmonton, AB on December 28, 1956 in Edmonton, AB and is survived by his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB.

Bert graduated from Ross Shepherd High School in 1974. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton, AB in 1997.

After a career in business, Bert joined the world of charity work for Non Government Organizations and was most proud of his work with The Salvation Army and The John Howard Society who recently named a new facility after him: Bert’s Place.

Bert will be remembered as a caring and loving person who worked passionately to improve the lives of others. His razor sharp mind and wit will also not be forgotten by those who knew and loved Bert.

Bert is predeceased by his Mother, Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang, of Edmonton, AB; and his brother, Roland Lang of Edmonton, AB.

Bert is survived by his husband Don Lafreniere of Saskatoon, SK; his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB; his sister Carol Lavold of Nevis, AB; his daughter Bethany Dodd, of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by two nieces, Pam Lavold Hennig, of Sherwood Park, AB, and Nancy Warwaruk of Nevis, AB; and one nephew Wayne Lavold of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by many other nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan.

Ford’s Power of Choice Event in Regina

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Last Tuesday, Jeff, Mark, and myself were invited to Regina to take part in Ford Canada’s Power of Choice at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  I was at the Escape with Ford event last summer, a day that I have called the best day of my life despite the angry glares that I get from Wendy, Mark, and now Oliver but I stand by my statement.  Ford events are those things that you should always say yes to.  Of course a couple of days before I get the itinerary and it says that it starts at 10:00 a.m. which means that we need to leave Saskatoon at 7:00 a.m.  We could have left later but I was driving the 2013 Ford C Max Hybrid and you would feel like a jerk getting a ticket in one of those.

The night before Mark was getting packed and his over the ear headphones were busted.  Mark takes good care of his stuff but the ear pad was off.  He never asks for stuff to be replaced but I went out and picked him up some new Sony headphones that XS Cargo had.  I left the box in the Ford C Max Hybrid and he was thrilled to find it in the morning. 

So at 5:45 a.m. I heard Mark get up and take all of the hot water in the house.  The kid was excited to get going to his first Ford event, even if he hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to convince Ford to let him drive a car on the RCMP grounds.  He still had a couple of hours to work out the details.  We drove over to Jeff Jackson’s place.  We had been there once before and I was assuming Mark had paid closer attention to where he lived than I did but then I realized it was Oliver who was with me.  That didn’t help at all.

Despite Jeff’s place being in the middle of Lakeridge, it doesn’t show up on Ford’s GPS.  I kept hoping I would get ‘Samantha’ (Ford Sync’s voice) to give me a warning about driving into unchartered territory but nothing.

It’s a horrible drive between Saskatoon and Regina.  There is no scenery at all.  I am sorry Davidson but your large coffee pot does not classify as scenery.  If only a town would create the world’s biggest hoe along the way.

I don’t know how much Mark enjoyed his new headphones on the way down as I think he was asleep by Dundurn and I didn’t hear from him until after we passed Lumsden.

When we got to Regina and I had Jeff, the guy with Apple Maps navigating for me.  That worked out as well as Apple Maps got us lost, didn’t update in time to make the turns and was pretty much useless. We should have stuck with either the Google Maps or the Microsoft powered map in the Ford GPS.  It was a loss for Apple, a win for every other map software in the world, including paper maps.

As we rolled into the RCMP Heritage Centre, Ford had a large tent set up and like the other Ford events that we have been at, there was food, information, and drinks everywhere.  Believe it or not, the photographer below was photographing the cars and not us.  I may be a big deal in Europe but not so much in Regina.

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As we were chatting, we noticed Greg Johnson, the Tornado Hunter roll up in his orange F-150.  It makes quite an entrance.  Of course Greg was only there for a short time as he had to go out and chase a tornado.

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To start of the morning we took part in a short presentation on the Ford electric vehicles and hybrids in a boardroom at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  Ford presentations are short, information packed and their specialists can answer your questions very well.  On this one we had a specialist joining up in from Dearborn, Michigan via Skype.

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“We pride ourselves on offering customers the Power of choice, including 15 vehicles with EcoBoost engines and five new electrified vehicles,” said Scott Kuzma, Ford of Canada’s assistant marketing manager, cars. “We are absolutely committed to top fuel economy with every new vehicle we introduce, and the Power of Choice Tour is helping people learn how they can achieve that in their own lives.”

You can read more about the presentation by clicking on the PDF.  Of course not only are Ford vehicles more fuel efficient but Ford is trying to cut back on the amount of petroleum products it takes to make them (which can actually use up more hydro carbons than it will to drive them).  For anyone who has read Jeff Rubin‘s books or column in the Globe and Mail, you know what a big deal this is.

Then it was outside to test drive the cars.  There was a 2013 Ford Escape, a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and a 2013 Ford C Max Energi.  Each test drive was done with a Ford Product Specialist who was there to answer any questions that myself (or Mark in the backseat) had.  While we were waiting to take some drives, there were other specialists to answer any questions.

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I took the Ford C Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Hybrid for quick test drives.  Both are great cars.   The Ford C Max Energi is very similar to the C Max Hybrid I just had but like the (way more expensive) Chevy Volt, it runs first on battery and then uses gas.  The transition from electric to gas was seamless.  I had several questions about battery life as the last thing one wants to do is spend a lot of money on an electrified vehicle and then replace the battery pack.  The battery packs on those last from 15-20 years which I think is more than acceptable and actually is quite exceptional.

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The Ford Fusion Hybrid is also a great car to drive.  I never really thought of the Ford Fusion as a luxury car but it is fantastic as a mid-sized sedan.  For a lot of people running kids around town, it has the size to do it and the fuel efficiency to make the trips a lot less painful (which I was reminded when gas was $1.30 a litre on the way up and back.

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They also had a 2013 Ford Escape but I have reviewed one previously and was going to drive another back to Saskatoon so I didn’t see the point in taking the SUV I love the most for another test drive.  

At the Escape with Ford event from last year, they fed us about 8 times.  This year we didn’t have the amount of stops but the quality was excellent with sandwiches, drinks and treats everywhere for us to eat.  I found out an interesting thing about Mark in that he is unable to eat a chocolate cupcake without part of it going up his nose.  I blame his mom.

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As we left Regina, we took the 2013 Ford Escape back to Saskatoon with us.  I stopped in Davidson to fill up the tank and while I was overtired, I made a horrible and inexcusable mistake.  I stopped at the roadside gas station.  Jeff and Mark went in to use the washroom and came out deeply scarred from the smell, sex toys being sold in the washroom and what Mark described as something oozing through the walls.  I think both of them now have PTSD.  That washroom alone is reason enough get a more energy efficient vehicle.  The less you have to stop at roadside washrooms, the higher of quality of life you will have.

I took a bunch of photos which have been posted to Flickr.  Mark posted about the day here and also uploaded his photos to his Flickr account.

John Howard Society Announces ‘Bert’s Place’

I just got a press release from John Howard Society that they are renaming their Emergency Receiving House (Avenue I in Saskatoon) slated to open June 1st will be formally named “Bert’s Place” in honour of my friend, Bert Lang. 

Bert and I worked together at the Salvation Army and he has made a huge difference in the lives of youth since moving to the John Howard Society.  Congrats to Bert for the honour and to John Howard Society for opening their new facility for at risk youth.

The Backlot Tour of City Hall

The other day I was asked with some others by Councillor Zach Jeffries if I wanted to go on a tour of City Hall.  I have been in a lot of City Hall over the years but I realized that it was the boring parts (although I did see Mayor Atchison’s office when I interviewed him).  Here are the highlights.

I parked in the City Council parking lot.  It felt like a crime.

On the hallway to the committee rooms and offices are old City Council photos.  We spent most of the time looking at those and seeing how every changed over the years.  Some lost weight, some put it on.  Others looked like they were 12 when elected to office (not naming any names)

We saw the cubicle farm that councillors call home.  They get 1/2 of one cubicle but it’s a small cubicle.  When you think of it, each councillor gets about 1/3 of a cubicle.  Only Councillor Loewen and Jeffries don’t have to share (anti social behaviour maybe).  They also have a small shared boardroom which if it was a stand alone office, would be small.  The cupboard was… well your judge it for yourself.…  Your tax dollars are not being spent on opulent furnishings for City Council.

Of course anyone who has ever watched Council live is curious about the small room behind council chambers.  For me, it was kind of like the teacher’s lounge, it was a place of mystery and intrigue.  I was wrong.  It is a small sitting room with bad art on the walls.  There is a pop fridge in there so if anything when your favourite councillor is ducking out of the action, he or she is getting a Fanta or a Tab.

The coolest part of the trip by far was when Councillor Jeffries showed us the maps that are hanging all over city hall.  We spent the longest looking at the 1913 Yorath Plan.

1913 YORATH PLANClick here for larger version

When Mayor Atchison is talking about waiting 100 years to complete Circle Drive, this is the plan that he is talking about.  Circle Drive was referred to as a boulevard but it does span the city.   C.J. Vorath was a map maker, not a wordsmith and Circle Drive was called the Main Outer Encircling Boulevard.  That and a lot more bridges.  There were plans for a Swastika Park which is kind of shocking until you realize that in 1913 and swastikas had an entirely different meaning and use.  We also had nine different bridges.  No word on how many of those were falling down.

In a somewhat unrelated note, this map was for sale in a comic book store in Saskatoon around 18 years ago for about $100.  I had always wished I had bought it then.  It is awfully cool.

Of course we saw some of the not-so-glamourous parts of City Hall like the dining room (meals are cheap there) and a lot of time in stairwells going back and forth.  No taxpayer money was wasted on elevators.

I have taken the Universal Studios backlot tour and now this one.  There were no giant gorilla’s attacking our bus on this tour but it was cool to see parts of City Hall that I had never seen before.  It was also nice to have the time to just wander through and look without having a meeting to be at.  Hopefully sometime in the future money will be available to post some of the cool stuff in there online.  There is some cool history in City Hall, not including the dated decor.

About Saskatoon City Hall

  • Saskatoon’s current City Hall is the fourth building to serve as the City’s civic administration office.
  • Council chambers is located in the north wing of City Hall.
  • This section of the building was designed by Scott, Bowers and Walls, and construction was completed in 1983.
  • The older south wing, which once served as the third City Hall building, was completed in 1956.
  • The first and second City Halls were located at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 21st Street, and in the old King Edward School (on what is now Civic Square) respectively.