Mark is now 15

Happy Birthday Mark!

He turned 15 today.  Despite his best efforts, he has made it 15 times around the sun without being tossed from the planet.

We celebrated in part on the weekend.  On Friday Wendy and I took him shopping and got him to pick out some new sunglasses.  He totally ignored the incredible looking sunglasses I picked out for him and instead picked some sunglasses that look like he is from The Matrix.  Whoa.

On Sunday morning we got up early and I gave him a MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and base.  For $8 the base makes the entire system a lot more secure.  Mark is pretty responsible but he is a teenager and therefore his coordination comes and goes. 

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

Wendy gave him a one person mess kit to cook with while hiking.  Oliver’s response was, “Only one person?  What’s Mark going to eat?”  He’s always looking out for his older brother.

We then took off to Prince Albert National Park and went hiking for the day.  We hiked the Waskesiu River, the Mud Flat Trail (where we got close and personal with some black bears), and hiked both sides of the Narrows.  Mark cooked us up some lunch with his new gear.  After a day of hiking and exploring, we went to The Angry Taco for dinner and called it a day.

Tuesday morning, we gave him the rest of his gifts.  Oliver gave him a frisbee disc golf set.

We all got him a Altec Lansing XL Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker which he has wanted really badly.  He was pretty happy to get one.

Altec Lansing XL Soundblade

Today after school him and I are heading out for a quick game of golf and then coming home to have some steak that has been marinating for several days.  It is starting out as a nice day.

So this is how it all ends

Tomorrow I am off to Prince Albert National Park to explore the Mud Creek Trail (and some others) with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.

It is a great trail to explore during the spring because of the high number of hungry black bears who feed on the fish in the stream.

Hungry black bears, a wound on my foot and a messed up ankle.  What could go wrong?

We are also up there celebrating Mark’s birthday (he turns 15 next week).  That birthday brings up the awkward conversations around learners license and driving.  As I told Mark, first let’s survive a bunch of black bears and then we can talk.

So… if is this blog and my Twitter go silent over the next couple of weeks, you know what happened.

If I had only picked up one of these.

So this was unexpected

If you remember, last winter I got really sick with a chest infection and flu.  I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t do anything.  Even writing my weekly column or appearing on The Saskatoon Afternoon Show was exhausting.    Shortly before this, my doctor just quit his practice and disappeared without anyone from his practice telling me. I was left without a family doctor (he wasn’t that great) so I went into a walk in clinic and saw someone who prescribed me some serious medication (that would come back and haunt me later).  On the same day I went into the doctor, I noticed my foot was badly infected.  The doctor assured me that the anti-biotic that she was giving me for my chest would kill that as well and as far as I realized, it had.

I eventually got better in early January but in late January I was out and slipped on some ice and really hurt the ankle.  It swelled up and has bothered me for months.  I have badly sprained things before and never thought that much about it.  A doctor looked at it and thought it was tendonitis which seemed to make sense to me. 

The swelling continued and got worse for weeks.  It would go down at night and return in the morning.  During that time I was having some of the worst fevers and chills that I have ever had.  I would get some cold that I would violently shake for hours at night and then get so hot as I would be burning up.  My night table still has gloves and toque in it when I would be trying to get warm.  Wendy thought it was something more serious but I just shrugged it off as a flu.

It wasn’t.  I woke up one morning to large ulcer on the bottom of my foot one morning. It was almost an inch deep.  I had no idea how long it was there but there was a trail of blood that followed me from the bed to the tub.  Long time readers of the blog know that I suffer from neuropathy quite badly.  When your feet always hurt, you tend to ignore the pain to cope.  Excruciating pain in my feet is the norm, not the exception but I knew right away I was in deep trouble.

My mother lost her right left to an ulcer just like this.  It took years but the ulcer won.  Here I was without a family doctor, type II diabetic, and freaking inch deep bleeding ulcer on my foot. 

So I went back to the walk in clinic.  I got lectured by the doctor over not having a family doctor.  I snapped back for him to recommend me one because the web thinks that many of them are quacks.  He looked at the list and said, “I wouldn’t recommend any of these to you.”  I know, I had been phoning and searching for months.  It’s hard to find a good doctor.  I have horror stories of being the only one in a waiting room but still being left for an hour.   Another one couldn’t remember basic things about me despite reading my chart in front of me.

The walk in clinic doctor referred me to the wound clinic at City Hospital.  I would start to go down there regularly were they would dress my would and tell me to come back in a couple of days.  I would be back with a different dressing.  Since I shower every day of my life and the dressing needs to be dry, I kind of would dress it again myself.  For all of the areas in my life where I am incompetent, this is the one thing I do quite well. 

Since then, they have done some circulation tests and a lot of treatments on the wound.  It is slowly healing but the foot was still infected.

During this I finally found a good family doctor.  The web likes him.  The nurses that I see almost all of the time all approve of him and he has updated magazines in his examination rooms.  He has put me one some extremely powerful antibiotics.  They were so powerful the pharmacist that we go and see was uncomfortable with them.  The good news is that they seem to be working.  I can see my ankle and foot tonight.  This is a big deal.

The bad news is that they make me really sick.  I am taking pro-biotics to counter the negative effects of the anti-biotics but the reality is that the rest of my body is hating these things as much as the infection in my foot is.  Another 12 days of this round of anti-biotics and then the hope is the diminished swelling the lack of infection in my foot will lead to some healing.

And some sleeping in.  I am back at City Hospital early tomorrow morning.  Hopefully things keep healing.  It has almost been six months of this and I am getting tired of it.

The White House’s Extreme Makeover

Some fun history from the New York Times

The White House Under Rennovation

In 1947, the White House was in danger of internal physical collapse. One day, while President Harry S. Truman took a bath upstairs, a great Blue Room chandelier threatened to crash down on his wife, Bess, and her guests from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The president later joked that he might have unexpectedly dropped through the ceiling naked on the ladies below, and he confessed that the incident made him nervous. The upstairs floor, he noted, “sagged and moved like a ship at sea.”

Upon investigating the situation, Truman was told that hasty renovations, demanded by various impatient presidents in the past, had led to the weakening or removal of load-bearing walls and other supporting structures. Beams were “staying up from force of habit only,” he was informed, and the mansion had become a firetrap. Truman later wrote that with so many thousands of visitors and presidential guests, “My heart trembles when I think of the disasters we might have had.”

The following year, his daughter Margaret’s piano broke through the floor of the family quarters. In August, Truman recorded in his diary that with his wife away, he had been “moved into the Lincoln Room — for safety — imagine that!” He wrote to his sister that the White House was “about to fall in.” That November, after the president won a full term over Thomas E. Dewey, the first family was whisked across Pennsylvania Avenue to reside in the presidential guest quarters called Blair House.

Had someone other than Truman been president, there might be almost nothing left of the original White House today. The cheapest, most efficient solution was to build a whole new presidential mansion. Some even suggested a different Washington location on a tract of land larger than the current 18 acres, as would befit the commanding new post-World War II stature of the United States.

As one of the most voracious readers of history ever to serve as president, Truman recoiled from that prospect. He also felt that witnessing the old White House being torn to the ground would wound Americans’ psyches. He instead approved a plan to shore up the outer walls, tear out everything inside and install a new internal steel superstructure (“of skyscraper strength,” The Washington Evening Star said) above a large new, poured-concrete basement. (The basement included a shelter from nuclear attack, where President George W. Bush was taken on the evening of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.)

The historian in Truman consoled himself with the expectation that after the gut renovation, much of the original mansion — paneled walls, hardwood floors, ceiling fixtures and other decorations — could be grafted onto the new steel skeleton so that the White House would remain authentically historic.

Of course like all renovations, it went over budget

With his renovation over the original budget, Truman and the commission that ran the project made a deal with the New York department store B. Altman & Company to fill the empty rooms — “at absolute cost” — with reproductions. As for other spaces of the mansion, ones away from public scrutiny, little effort was made to disguise the fact that they were completed in 1952. When Jacqueline Kennedy toured the mansion in December 1960 after her husband’s election victory, she became distraught. Referring to a dreary chain of city convention hotels, she observed that the ambience of the reconstructed White House was “early Statler.”

As Mrs. Kennedy pointed out, the White House is “the setting in which the presidency is presented to the world.” Thus she obtained expert help and appealed for donations of money and historical artifacts to help make the building, or at least its public floors, a treasure chest of American history. Her efforts were so successful (and enhanced by the work of later first families) that it is no wonder that someone visiting today’s White House might presume that the mansion has always been meticulously redolent of early American history.

But Mrs. Kennedy’s restoration left some backstage spaces in the White House untouched, and to this day those spaces look much as they did when created during the Truman renovation.

For example, adjoining the second-floor Treaty Room — which presidents from George H. W. Bush through Barack Obama have used as a home office — is a small, brightly lighted bathroom with exposed plumbing and a green-and-white checkerboard tile floor that looks as if it belonged to a 1952 hotel.

I really hope that Prime Minister Harper does the same with 24 Sussex Drive.  It is in serious need of repairs according to the National Capital Commission.  I know there are politics at play (and there should not be with 24 Sussex Drive) but I think the Prime Minister’s Official residence should reflect our country’s pride as well.

Saskatchewan lessons from Alberta’s Election

After watching the carnage from the PC Party crashing and burning last night, everyone in Saskatchewan seemed to have opinions on what the Alberta election meant for Saskatchewan.

For those on the right, they predicted a wave of people from Alberta moving from the business hating Alberta to the business friendly Saskatchewan.  They seem to expect that when Notley does the unthinkable and raise oil royalties, Alberta companies will flee for Saskatchewan (despite the fact that Peter Lougheed did the exact same thing decades ago.  They ignore the fact that the oil is in Alberta and therefore so are the jobs.  Also as Ontario proved during the Rae years, business will just stay put and vote in a new government before they move to another province.  Roots are important to people, they just don’t get up and leave.   So let’s cool down and ignore those idiots who have actually prediction an influx of a million people to Saskatchewan over the next couple of years and relax.   No one chooses a province based on partisan politics.  It is based on jobs and work.

Those on the left see this as another evidence of an orange wave.  I don’t think it was a move to the NDP as much as it was a total rejection of the PC Party of Alberta.  There will be some vote analysis done but I would suspect Alberta was a really frustrated electorate.  If Notley governs well, then great but if she doesn’t, then she will be done.   Also keep in mind that Alberta is a very progressive big government province.  It is just paid for by oil royalties.  It has lead the way in some of the most innovative housing, homeless, poverty reduction and education strategies in North America and do you know what, no one has cared.  In fact the Wildrose Party has pushed for more of those kind of programs, especially with seniors care.

I was musing online the other night that if I was in Alberta, I may vote for the Wildrose Party because even I don’t think Alberta’s big government social contract works in the long run.  They may be social conservatives in Alberta but they love to spend money. 

For all of the talk of the Klein cuts, let’s put that in context, the neo-Conservative NDP under Roy Romanow made even deeper cuts to fight our deficit.  Alberta may be the biggest spending government not lead by Bob Rae in history.

The big lesson from last night is that elections matter and polls this early out don’t.  That doesn’t mean that Brad Wall will lose and Cam Broten (or whoever the Liberal leader is will win) but it does mean that we have no idea what will happen a year out.  What looked like a political masterstroke to the chattering class five months ago didn’t survive last night.  Now it is the PC Party of Alberta who could be the weaker party in a merger with the Wildrose Party and the Liberal Party may not exist by next election in Alberta.

I heard a bunch of ridiculous talk that Brad Wall is still unbeatable but at different points so was Jim Prentice or Paul Martin.   I remember vote predictions saying that Martin would win over 200 seats and could challenge Brian Mulroney for the largest majority ever.  How did that turn out? Back in 1994, the Liberals lead by Linda Haverstock were well ahead in the polls in Saskatchewan.

In Alberta, Notley was at 10% not that long ago.  There was a feeling that the NDP would be reduced in seat count and only hold their base in Edmonton.

Last weekend I was out with some politicos.  We made some arguments that Brad Wall could win some more seats from the NDP or just as likely the NDP could gain a couple of seats in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert and end up with like 17 – 19 seats.  That is a fearless prediction folks, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party will either win some more seats or lose some more seats in the next election.  Take that prediction to the bank! (of course now that I have said that, things will remain the exact same)

In the end, the average voter doesn’t read this blog, doesn’t follow you and I on Twitter, doesn’t read Murray Mandryk or Andrew Coyne and is focused on getting by in their life and job.  They have things like hockey games to get their kids to and they worry about the noise their car is making far more than whatever stunt has just been played in the legislature.  Politicos may live and die on what is happening (and for that we have Andrew Coyne, Kady O’Malley, and Murray Mandryk) but the rest of the world doesn’t.

Before you scoff at me, in the last city election there were candidates out every night door knocking from now until the election.  All of them, winner or loser told me at one point in that cycle that it didn’t really make any difference this far out from the election, people weren’t engaged.

They pay attention when the writ is dropped and the lawn signs come up.  Right now the vast majority of people are going, “What happened in Alberta and how did the NDP win there? I thought that Prentice guy seemed all right.”  That is the end of it.  I actually read one detailed vote analysis in the United States that showed a surprising amount of people (enough to turn electoral votes) voted on how much rain they got that year and the year before.  If you are a politician and you just read that last part, you need a hug right now.

So the lessons to take from the Alberta vote.  Elections matter.  You never know what can happen and probably never say, “look in the mirror” to someone that you need their vote in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to take away from it.

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