Monday, May 10, 2010

Fat lady sings - Cowboy poet dies!

The CBC techies hard at work
Brent giving me an intro

Perhaps the title to this post is what I should have used as my six word entry in the final challenge of Canada Writes 2010. But I think it would have taken a lot more "perhaps' " and "what-ifs" to have had much of a chance against the other talent in the writing competition.

When all was said and done I think the whole exercise went much better than I had anticipated. My fixation with beer helped cover up and/or explained some of my lapses in writing and seemed to strike a chord with most of the judges and the audience. The irony of course is that my beer consumption rate is far below the average consumption rates for the typical Canadian male.

That is the beauty of being a writer though. You can create your own worlds, your own realities, and if you are good enough - you can invite others into those worlds.

I'm back in Kamloops now and I'm gearing up for some new projects: I have a pilot to prepare for a children's nature show we are trying to pitch to the learning channel. I have a radio play that I am wanting to pitch to CBC. I am burning incense and offering up chickens in a bizarre voodoo ritual with the intent of securing an interview with the people at TRU for a job as a research assistant. On top of all of that I am getting my solar system up and running and am trying to figure out how to spread the gospel about the benefits of augmenting the grid.

The solar project is going to take some work as I want to design a system that will automatically collect data from the system and post it onto a website so others wishing to invest in solar can see what the potential rewards are. For now I have a very low tech solution - I have thermometers on the intake and outflow sides of the solar panels and can record the differential in temperature. This differential, when multiplied by the volume of water going through the system will tell how many calories the system produces - a calorie being the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water one degree celsius.

So with my plate overflowing with projects again, I must sign off and get to work.

Peace out - keep your cinch tight and enjoy!

On the road to Winnipeg

Friday, May 7, 2010

Forget Snakes on Planes - Try kidney stones on planes!

I am sitting here, quite comfortably I hasten to add, in the well appointed Delta Hotel in downtown Winnipeg.

Addicted as I am to maintaining my blog I spent the ten bucks it costs to get a connection for the internet and am happily catching up on my emails, blogs and other posts. Quick aside: Why is it at the Super Eight or the Blue Bell Motel in Fort St. John you get free wireless internet but the more expensive the hotel the more they charge you for what should be a free item?

So the trip out was quite eventful. Apart from our plane being two hours late in Calgary, I had the unexpected joy of attempting to give birth to a four pound kidney stone. Those that have had the joy of kidney stones will know of which I speak, for those that haven't - try to imagine a rabid ferret trying to gnaw it's way out of your lower intestine. The trip seemed to take forever but we finally landed in the (and I don't know what colloquialism they use for Winnipeg is but you can insert it here) city and we were met by my bleary-eyed in-laws. It was shortly after midnight their time.

I am afraid I was not much fun as we made the one hour drive back to their place. Unlike the strong silent types I am more of a free spirit when it comes to expressing my pain and I was howling like a coyote with a leg in a steel trap. Their threats of taking me to the local vet/doctor must of had some type of physical effect on me and the stone finally stopped. As long as it doesn't start moving between now and the end of the taping of the show tonight I will be fine.

I met up with Marc and Jason at the hotel and had a good time chatting with people equally as warped as I. Both Marc and Jason are like Brainiac from the old superman comic books  - okay maybe they are not super-powered evil types but they are super smart and actually know stuff - I just know how to make obtuse references to stuff and they actually know what an obtuse angle is.

We made our way over to the CBC building where we met up with Saundra Vernon the other contestant and after quick introductions made our way up to write our one hour challenges.

Jill Walker, who looks after all of us contestants said I looked horrible but after I assured her that this was in fact how I normally looked she allowed me to continue to write. I was in fact feeling a little under the weather but had brought my secret weapons along: Mars bars and Tylenol. The tylenol would cut the pain and the Mars bar would provide mental alertness by depositing large amounts of sugar into my system.

I can't tell about what I wrote or how brilliant I was or wasn't but I did make it through the two hours and with the writing behind us we went out for supper and some drinks.

It was great being around people who shared the same sense of humour and could follow your logic no matter how convoluted it might be. I will sign off now and the next post will be after the competition and then we will never speak of the mother corporation again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Now I'm really gone!

Me and Ricco before being famous

So I checked my email this morning and I had a very good song suggestion by one of my co-workers from many years back. Alanna, with whom I worked in the newspaper business, has gone on to become a writer of incredible talent and covers international stories like the jet-setting heroines in those spy-thriller movies.

When I knew her however it was a much more mundane beat - reporting on the beer-belly league of men's hockey in Clearwater, BC and covering the escape of farmer Brown's prized Hereford. I sold ads for the paper and was allowed a small column on page 43 under the stipulation that I had to sell enough ads to make a 44 page newspaper. She has gone on to much better things - I went into the mountains and learned how to ride a horse.

Anyhow, she suggested I rewrite the words to Hallelujah and I did and here it is:

Two more beers Bro
Now I’ve heard there is a secret bar
Where rock still plays, and not so very far
But you don’t have the cover charge, do you?
What beer was this
The fourth, the fifth
I had a fall, I need a lift
But better yet I’ll have two more beers bro
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro

The scotch was strong, some say over proof
Next thing you’re dancing on the roof
But security and cops overthrew you
They cuffed you
And wino bill
They harshed your vibe, and your buzz they killed
And from your lips I heard the “two more beers bro”
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro
Two more beers bro

me and Ricco after being famous

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Farewell and adieu

Sunset last evening over Kamloops Lake

I had hiked out to my favourite little corner of Kenna Cartwright Park last evening - to get some more footage of the owls, stretch my legs and try to get my fix of bugs and snakes.

The weather had been miserable all day and there was a major round of hockey going on, so consequently I had most of the park to myself. The owls co-operated, the lighting even turned out to be all right as the storm passed and some of the setting sun's rays made it through the dead pines to illuminate my subjects.

After the obligatory 30 minutes of an owl sitting in a tree doing pretty much nothing, my mind wandered and I ambled off looking for other subjects. I found a Meadowlark staking out his territory and while filming that process I was treated to the chorus of coyotes from down the bluff.

But I must now pack my bags and get ready to head out for the bright lights of the 'Peg. I'm hoping they still take B.C. dollars at par out there.  I will be back in a few days and will have great tales of excitement and "daring-do" from my sojourn to the city.

Remember, never say whoa when you're half way into a mudhole!

Monday, May 3, 2010

May day - May day!

campfires are always a good source for inspiration

Okay, that was the distress call used back in the old days of radio and is probably still in use today - although I have not seen it employed in anything that didn't have Humphrey Bogart as the leading character. It is a crude derivative of the French m'aider and was something that was easily recognized over the cruder radios of the day and when repeated three times meant the caller was in "grave and imminent" danger.

So it is with me as I am staring at a blank screen and trying to think of pithy things to write to prepare me for the upcoming Canada Writes competition. Unfortunately I am pith-less today and all I can come up with is parodies that involve Captain Kirk, Spock and the ever outraged Bones.

I had put out a call to my facebook friends to send me what they felt was the ultimate Canadian song and will be rewriting those all day today. I found it amusing that the folks at CBC gave one of the finalists in the east the Anne Murray classic "Snowbird" to rewrite - obviously the contestant did not heed the advice given a few posts back and missed a great opportunity to wow them with a song about a dead cat.

I have a few good tunes in my arsenal now but don't wish to share them on the off chance that one of the producers sees that I have already covered the tunes and would have an unfair advantage over my fellow writers. On the other hand they might just take pity on me and give me that foot or two headstart that my gym teacher always gave me when I had to race against the other kids.

Well I will churn out a few more songs and then turn my attention to capturing some video from my last field trip.

Just need a good rhyme for Klingon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Let the sun shine!

 free heat - well almost free - probably a 3 year pay back where I live

I know I don't strike many of my new acquaintances as being much of an environmentalist - especially since over half of my wardrobe is camo - but I do believe in doing what I can to make things a little easier on our planet.

I will have to, at some point, trade in that big diesel burner I drive - but it was a necessity in my past life and I can't afford to part with it quite yet - the book value is about $12 and I doubt that I can buy a hybrid (even a used hybrid) in that price range yet.

So instead I make a difference in other ways. One of our vices is a swimming pool that came with the house we bought. One of the biggest costs of running the pool was getting it up to a temperature that everyone in the family thought was appropriate - somewhere between poaching eggs and boiling lobsters - and although I am more of the luke warm type of guy, I was overruled and we paid the piper in terms of a large gas bill.

A cursory exam of solar systems led me to believe that not only could we cut down on the greenhouse gases, we could also cut down on our expenses and I set about researching systems that would work for us. I shied away from plastic components as I knew they would not weather well in the sun and was worried about the freeze and thaw cycles of Kamloops. I settled on glass vacuum tubes that were relatively inexpensive and could be installed without a lot of fuss or muss.

I tracked down a dealer in Kelowna -Okanagan Home Center - and was quickly a fan of the proprietors Dave and Cheryl Kelly (email: Dave and Cheryl are good people to deal with and seem truly concerned about your satisfaction as a customer. They are committed to the solar industry and have tons of experience with pools and spas and had lots of good advice for a neophyte plumber such as myself.

It took me only two days to construct all of the panels (there is of course - some assembly required) and to plumb them into my water system. The system is incredibly efficient. I will post a video of how you can take water at about 10 degrees Celsius and raise it to the boiling point in about 35 minutes. Because ours is a large pool and we are high on the mountain where the nights get cool we need a fair number of solar panels to get the pool up to the temperature we want. Right now I have 5 panels and will probably add another 2 to get us into that slow boil range that is so soothing on old bones. Homes in the valley would probably get away with about 2/3rds of the panels that I need.

Check out the WSE Technologies website - that's where the stuff comes from and then give Dave or Kelly a call and they can get it out here before you can say "Al Gore was right".