Category Archives: Uncategorized

21 Sep

Random Thoughts – A Special Anniversary, Disappointment in Mayor Sendzik, Donald Trump’s Football Team

1. It was three years ago this week that I made what I publicly termed a “business trip” to St. Catharines. As those of you who know me know by now, it was, in fact, a scouting trip for a potential relocation. Less than a year later, I made the move and it’s turned out so much better than I could ever have imaged. Winnipeg, I’m not missing you at all.

2. Recently, our mayor, Walter Sendzik, invoked Allah’s name in extending well-wishes to members of the Muslim community for one of their holy events. This is the same mayor who eschews “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more politically correct “Happy Holidays” at the end of December. Very, very disappointed in you, Mr. Mayor.

3. On a similar note, how quickly do you think the NFL would act if Colin Kaepernick and his growing legion of anthem protesters were making offensive gestures about gays or Muslims rather than taking a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

4. Not that I give a rip about what happens at the upcoming Chipman Heritage Classic back in the Old Country, but for those of you shelling out a small fortune for the privilege of seeing the oldtimers game, it would be nice if the NHL edition of the real Jets would at least try to beat Gretzky and the Oilers. Just once.

5. Last night, I attended the WriteTricks event at Cowork Niagara in downtown St. Catharines. Left by the front door were a pair of heavy, fur-lined winter boots.

It was +26 C when I left the house and I was dripping with sweat by the time I got there. But some princess saw to it that her little tootsies didn’t get cold. As a good friend from the Old Country once said, the farther south you go, the wimpier they get about snow and cold.

6. Speaking of the Old Country, I keep spotting plates from that part of the world. On Monday, I saw one in downtown Welland and yesterday, I saw another one on Niagara Street here in St. Catharines. That place keeps following me around.

7. I am hoping to have two more books released before the end of the year. The first is a detailed week-by-week history of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, the team owned by presidential hopeful Donald Trump. I followed the USFL and the Generals with as much passion as I did the Jets during those years and I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally be able to chronicle the team’s history like this.

The second book, much shorter, is called The Contented Cows: Diary of a bad IT job. Officially a work of fiction, it details an astonishing two-and-a-half month stint inside the IT department of a major credit union, complete with a dramatic, yet quite plausible ending. It will be a must-read for those of you in the IT field or in the financial services industry.

10 Aug

Geek Humor from the Past

For starters, if you’re not a techie, you probably won’t find much in the way of entertainment in this post. You’re certainly welcome to read on, but you’re not likely to get it.

Many years ago, while sitting at my desk one day, a colleague came to me and asked for my help. For the sake of discussion, let’s just call her Maria.

I followed her to her desk, where she showed me her screen. Flustered and deeply distraught over something that had clearly been troubling her for some time, she insisted that “something was wrong with the operating system.” On her screen, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw user32.dll, a Windows system file, open in Notepad.

Instead of sarcastically asking her what she could possibly hope to accomplish by editing this binary file, assuming Windows would even let her do it, I calmly asked her to take me through what she was doing. She said it all started when she ran some module in a Microsoft Access database, so I asked her to run the code.

She seemed a little reluctant, as if she was scared of causing further damage to her apparently fouled-up Windows installation, but she acceded to my request. The code ran until the debugger stopped at a function, where it gave her an error message. Not being familiar with the specific function, I asked her if she checked the help manual for the function.

Little could I have imagined that the concept of online help was quite the revelation to poor Maria, whose eyes lit up like Christmas trees when I pressed F1. Imagine. Product help. Hey, you learn something new every day. Googling the function also hadn’t entered her mind at all either.

A 15-second investigation revealed that one of the parameters was wrong, so after a simple fix, the code miraculously began to work. The operating system wasn’t corrupt after all.

You don’t say.

Now you might be thinking that big, bad Curtis is just being too hard on poor Maria. She’s probably a recent graduate, and who among us hasn’t made a silly mistake or two at that point of our careers? Everyone has to start somewhere.

And you might be right.

Except that Maria wasn’t a recent graduate. She was actually older and more experienced than I was, and I had more than a decade under my belt at the time. A recent graduate probably wouldn’t even have had enough knowledge to head for the Windows directory and open up user32.dll.

I’ve seen a lot during my multi-decade career in IT. Few top this one. The thought process that led an experienced developer from a misbehaving Access function to editing user32.dll in Notepad is probably something I don’t ever want to know.

11 Aug

Ode to a Return to the Center of the Universe

Yesterday, for the second time I had occasion to enter
Ontario’s capital, otherwise known as the universe’s center

While waiting for the GO bus, there was a sight I wish I did miss
A fellow passenger gave his dog a big, wet sloppy good-bye kiss

As we sped our way around the lake, no ex-Winnipegger can resist taking a poke
At the Rapid Transit system, Winnipeg’s longest running joke


Curiosity must have been in the air when I was out past Brown’s Line.
Who was this guy standing in the median taking pictures of a highway sign

On Kipling Avenue, a jolly fellow on the sidewalk I did see
What is a bear that has no teeth, he asked of me

He clearly wanted to catch me off guard
As he tried to get me to apply for a credit card

I heard a weirdo near the end of my lengthy stroll
Ranting and raving at some poor, unsuspecting soul

It’s Toronto, what else can I say
It’s still a whole lot better than the city I left more than a year ago today

22 Dec

An Epic Struggle

Roughly imitating the style of David Thorne, following are the details of an epic struggle to cancel an alarm monitoring service for a house you no longer own or live in. Any similarity to current events is strictly unavoidable.

From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:31 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,


From: Accounts Receivable Department
To: Alice Borden
Cc: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, September 30 1:18 PM
Subject: FWD: Monitoring Service

Please process Mr. Thorne’s request.

-– Forwarded message —
From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:30 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

To whom it may concern,

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday, October 1 9:47 AM
Subject: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Good afternoon,

Please be advised we required 30 days notice to cancel your service.

The cancellation is processed 30 days from receipt of request to cancel.

Thank you,


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, December 16 9:10 AM
Subject: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

As of today’s date, we have no record of receiving your cancellation request & the October annual invoice has been issued.

Please call us to have this done. Alternately, you can send a signed written request to the Accounts Service Centre.  Please remember to include your account number if sending your request in writing.

From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Tuesday, December 16 12:43 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service


I am so sorry you missed the e-mail your accounts receivable department forwarded you two and a half months ago. For your convenience, I have enclosed it for your files.


-– Forwarded message —
From: Accounts Receivable Department
To: Alice Borden
Cc: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, September 30 1:18 PM
Subject: FWD: Monitoring Service

Please process Mr. Thorne’s request.

-– Forwarded message —
From: David Thorne
To: Accounts Receivable Department
Date: Tuesday, September 30 11:30 AM
Subject: Monitoring Service

To whom it may concern,

Please cancel our monitoring service. The service was paid for until the end of the month and we have since sold the house and moved to a different province.

Thank you,


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Tuesday, December 16 2:04 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, I am sorry, but we cannot cancel an alarm monitoring account unless you call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Wednesday, December 17 10:05 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, although your company provided us with outstanding service while we lived there, I don’t feel obligated to pay for monitoring at a house we no longer own in a province where we no longer reside. As I had requested two and a half months earlier, please cancel the service or, alternatively, send the invoice to the new owners.

Thank you,


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday, December 17 11:22 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, in order to cancel your alarm monitoring account, you must call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.

Please also provide us with your current address so we can send October’s invoice to you.

Thank you,


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Thursday, December 18 10:55 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, thank you for your e-mail. I would be delighted to pay for monitoring services for the new owners. Even though I’ve never met them, I’m sure they’re wonderful people. Please send the invoice to the following address:

Los Angeles, CA 94512
Attn: Mr. Mickey Mouse

From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Thursday, December 18 11:29 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

David, if you would prefer not to continue the service, you must call the cancellations office OR provide us with a written request.

If you provide us with a valid current address to send October’s invoice, because you have been such a valued client, we are prepared to waive the interest charges on the overdue account.

Thank you,


From: David Thorne
To: Alice Borden
Date: Thursday, December 18 4:15 PM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Alice, I can’t thank you enough for waiving the interest charges on an account I am desperately trying to cancel for monitoring a house more than a thousand miles away that I no longer own. It’s moments like these that I know I made the right decision in choosing your company over your many competitors in the field.

Nonetheless, as much as I would like to stick with your service, I really must cancel the account. For your convenience, I’ll spell it out for you more clearly.




Thank you,


From: Alice Borden
To: David Thorne
Date: Monday, December 22 9:33 AM
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: FWD: Monitoring Service

Mr. Thorne, as of today’s date, we have no record of receiving your current address where we can send October’s invoice. As the bill has yet not been paid, I regret to inform you that monitoring services at your old address will be suspended immediately.

To reactivate your account, please submit payment to our collections office.

Thank you,

Alice Borden

04 Aug

A Triumphant Return to St. Catharines

In the words of the General Douglas MacArthur, I have returned. Not to the Philippines, but to St. Catharines. I was impressed with what I saw during my exploratory so-called “business trip” last year and now I’m back to stay.



Welcome to my city.

As promised, here are the details of the move two years in the planning that, at times, I never thought was actually going to happen. Time seemed to stand still over the past year, yet as moving day approached, it sped up so fast that hours seemed like seconds. As you can imagine, so much was happening that the task of moving became overwhelming. Over the past few days and weeks, I was often reminded of the line I heard on a documentary describing the home front in the U.S. during the conflict in Vietnam, “America lived through more history than it could digest.” I think this line might apply to anyone who attempts a major move such as this.

After moving out of our old house, one that we had occupied for 15 years, we spent two nights at the Hilton near the airport before flying out on Friday.


I took note that they had a meeting room named for a former USFL player. Ironically, Bruce Laird of the Arizona Wranglers played in the 1984 Championship Game opposite Ken Dunek of the Philadelphia Stars, who is one of my Twitter followers.

For the most part, it was an enjoyable stay. There was a barking dog in an adjacent room, but they moved us and there were no further problems. The room was spacious and clean, the restaurant was surprisingly good, but the petty charges for parking your car and making local calls left a bad taste in our mouths. I left comments to that effect when asked by the Hilton for a review and also posted a review to In retrospect, we should not have been surprised by the nickel and diming. It is, after all, Winnipeg.


I needed no more evidence of that fact after spotting this classic sight across from the hotel. This shot might very well end up as the cover image of the book I am currently working on. Take pride, Winnipeg, indeed.

Interestingly, the tow truck driver who picked up our car for shipping couldn’t stop gushing about St. Catharines when he heard we were moving there. He had recently moved to Winnipeg from the Center of the Universe and offered yet another glowing recommendation of the area. When offered the keys to the club for the steering wheel, he declined and said, “You won’t need that in St. Catharines.” Quite the change from the auto theft capital of the Western world.

Bright and early Friday morning, we couldn’t wait to make a run for the airport. We were so anxious that we left some stuff behind in the fridge, but I guess that’s to be expected. It was again ironic that the shuttle driver who took us from the Hilton to the airport was also was looking to move to St. Catharines and had been trying to get a transfer. In the words of the late Richard Dawson, I detect a trend developing.

We breezed through security and had plenty of time to make a stop at Tim Hortons and check some e-mail. My Twitter followers can easily guess which post I made from the airport.


In a way, I was envious of this poor soul. Understandably, I didn’t sleep very well in my last night in the SPRM.


I checked the boards to see what gate we were leaving from, but I should have known better and just gone directly to Gate 5. You may understand. You may not.

During the wait, I noticed the seeds of a pair of future human rights complaints. First, in the airport chapel, the only brochures there were for Christian denominations. Later, I noticed only male and female washrooms.


There were no gender-neutral washrooms for people who identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Where’s this spirit of inclusion that socialists are so fond of trumpeting? Shameful, indeed. Or not.

A battalion of paramedics came rushing to meet a teenage girl who was being wheeled off an incoming flight. After they attended to her, she seemed to be all right. Perhaps she just had a panic attack once she realized that she was about to touch down in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.

I noted with interest that a QuebAir pilot asked to visit his brother, who was flying the WestJet plane we were taking. After they let him pass, the WestJet staffers remarked how odd it was that the brother of a WestJet pilot was flying for the “reds.”

At last, it was time to board. After all the passengers of the sold-out flight were seated, the flight attendant undoubtedly set a personal best for the time taken to read the canned speech about safety. This just in. There is no point to making the speech if no one can understand you.

Just before the plane began taxiing out to the runway, an ad for Smarties popped up on the screen in front of my seat. Once again, I knew I wasn’t flying alone. You may understand. You may not.


Tears of joy filled my eyes as I caught a glimpse of the Winnipeg skyline for the last time. This is the only city that I had ever lived in during the many decades I have walked the face of the Earth and as much as I will miss the dear friends I was leaving behind, I will not miss the city. I thought back to my Grade 12 English class when the teacher asked for a show of hands as to who planned to stay in Winnipeg. I was only one of three or four who put up their hands. Now, so many years later, I was among those who were leaving.


We took off down the newly refurbished runway to the north and I got what would be my last shot of a Manitoba highway. If you don’t recognize it, this is PTH 190, Winnipeg’s newest “expressway,” complete with traffic lights and a railway crossing just before a railway overpass.

Soon after leaving Greg Selinger’s sovereign airspace and crossing into my new home province, I set my watch one hour ahead from Central Daylight Time to Central Universe Time.


It was cloudy much of the way, but I got this shot of King’s Highway 17 somewhere between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie.


As we approached the Center of the Universe, my heart nearly skipped a beat when the flight attendant announced that we were making our descent into Winnipeg. Egad! I don’t want to go back. Ever. I think she quickly realized her mistake, but she didn’t bother to correct herself.

Once the plane reached the terminal, we had an excruciatingly long wait as the people in front of us were in no hurry to get off. These were many of the same people in Winnipeg who were tripping over each other in a big hurry to get on. I swear we spent longer waiting to get off the plane than we did in the air. Normally, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the delay, but we were pressed for time since we had to pick up the keys at the lawyer’s office by 5:00. Furthermore, there had been a crash on the QEW that had shut down the C.U.-bound lanes on the Burlington Skyway. Even though we were going in the opposite direction, I figured that the Niagara Airbus schedules would be thrown way off kilter.


Fortunately, we got on a bus within 15 minutes of our arrival at the desk and traffic was moving smoothly.




The only exception was on the skyway when motorists slowed down to get a glimpse of the crash scene.


On the way home.


Entering the Greenbelt.


Welcome to the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

En route, I had a nice little chat with our driver, Paul, while snapping pictures soon to appear on a Web site near you. He told me an interesting story about how accident rates plummeted after the former NDP government introduced photo radar, then rose again once the Liberals removed it. I told him how photo radar in Winnipeg was simply used a cash grab and a substitute for law enforcement instead of part of an effective road safety strategy.

Paul had someone else to pick up, so he dropped most of us off at the Vineland car pool location and Fran took us the rest of the way to St. Catharines. When heading down the 406, she went one exit too far and had to double back because she was listening to the signals from her GPS instead of the signals from her brain. Of course, I noticed that she didn’t get off at the proper exit, but I didn’t say anything because I thought she was dropping off the other group before us. She candidly admitted her mistake and told me the other group was headed for “Nig Falls.”  That awkward abbreviation for Niagara is far too close to a word not terribly high on the political correctness scale and I hope she has the good sense to simply use “The Falls” in future instead.


Almost immediately after touching down at the Avis car rental office on St. Paul Street, a “642” license plate passed by.


I would later spot this truck from New Brunswick a block away from our house.


Also nearby, this pet store was offering Siberian Huskies for sale.

Once again, I knew I was not alone and that I had a dear friend with me in my new home city. You may understand. You may not.


At the car rental place, I also noticed this sign alerting passers-by that you won’t need to be “empting” your wallet. I was hoping St. Cathariners would be able to spell better than Winnipeggers. On this point, early returns would not be positive. During my first four days in St. Catharines, I would spot a total of five such signs. Among them are as follows:


School “unforms” are “availble.”


For all your car “maintenence” needs.


Too bad the insect “controll” products are not included.

As they were getting the car ready, a young woman passed by sporting a skimpy halter top that might have fit her properly prior to her recent surgery that augmented a pair of body parts. Emblazoned on the fabric stretched so tightly that any sudden movement would undoubtedly cause it to rip was “Guess?” Ah, such class. For the record, the answer is silicone. Or saline. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the material they use in implants these days. She could have been strapping a couple of bottles of Elmer’s glue to her chest for all I know.

Fortunately, the rest of my early experiences in the Garden City would be much more positive.

We got the keys from the lawyer and walked into our new house. It was spotless inside and the previous owner left us with a nice card.


Toto, we’re not in the SPRM anymore.


Our agent, Diane Walker (no relation), came by the next day and also gave us a nice card along with a big fruit basket to welcome us to St. Catharines. She was very helpful during the entire process and I would like to publicly thank her for all her efforts. For my friends who have expressed an interest in joining me in relocating to the Garden City, I can offer a strong endorsement.

Touring the rest of the house for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice this:


There indeed was a “satalite” dish atop the house and, fittingly, it was a DirecTV dish. Many readers who I had the pleasure of working with at the Division for DirecTV Viewing Locally will understand the significance.

The previous owner also left us with a religious pamphlet. Apparently she is one of group of people who have witnessed something. I think most readers can figure out the rest.

The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac and the neighborhood is deathly quiet. There were no drug transactions, no booming noise coming from a nearby park and no one was outside pissing on the street. Everyone in the area seems quite friendly. I could get used to this.

Not that it’s right to let down your guard, but I feel so much safer here, not just because of the neighbourhood, but because of the community itself. It won’t be perfect here and I don’t expect it to be, but all indications continue to point to everything being much better than they were in Winnipeg. I know many of my friends in Winnipeg were jealous of my move and I’m happy to make you even more green with envy.


The view outside my room. The previous owner once had frogs in there, but the neighbor complained of the noise, so she got rid of them.

Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for most of our stuff to arrive from the SPRM, but in the meantime, I’ve had a little chance to do some exploring.


Fairview Mall, one of the two major malls in St. Catharines, informally doubles as the city’s largest nursing home. The food court is often filled cliques of seniors gathered together over cups of coffee from McDonald’s or Java Joe’s. It sure beats sharing the mall with marauding gangs of hoodlums or teenage princesses looking to add some more poundage to their wardrobe.

The Wal-Mart there was open at 7:00 am. On a Sunday. On a long weekend. Any merchant who dared to try such a thing in the SPRM would probably be locked up.


Not that I’ve checked at Winnipeg Wal-Marts, but I doubt they would leave such large quantities of torch fuel on the shelves there. Being an arsonist ranks in the top 10 of Winnipeg’s most popular occupations. Maybe even top five.

At the other end of the mall is a nice Zehr’s supermarket. When I was in line, the clerk was breaking open a roll of coins and dropped some on the floor. When he got back up, he joked that he had just thrown some money away. I replied, “You’ve got a career in politics ahead of you.” Kathleen Wynne has probably already personally invited him to join the Liberal Party of Ontario.


Monarch Park, one of the spots I covered last year.


This shot is for one friend in particular.


The sign at the head of the Welland Canals Trail. Rules are posted for General Trail Users, but none are posted for fans of other USFL teams.


A ribbon with “Love” imprinted on it. It sure beats a bottle of piss accompanied by an “F-you” from a passer-by.


It’s nice to see them honor the greatest goaltender in Winnipeg Jets history.


A scooter on the sidewalk, not the road. This is a sight you would not see in the SPRM.


For the benefit of one reader, a monument to the Polish pioneers. Evidently, I am unknowingly acting as my friend’s agent in following them around. But I’m sure it’s OK. It’s not a big deal. Sniff, sniff. Boo hoo. He will understand. The rest of you won’t.


Designated for what?


Most people don’t have as much in their car as this guy is balancing on his bike. I see an accident waiting to happen.

There’s still a long ways to go before I’m settled, but for now, I can at least take comfort in the knowledge that, at last, I am truly at home.

02 Aug

Touchdown St. Catharines

After a hectic and stressful week, I am back online speaking to you from my new home in the Garden City of St. Catharines. I know many of you who know me are anxious to hear more details and I’ll post them in the coming days. For now, I am thrilled to be a new St. Cathariner and I look forward to beginning the next phase of my life here.

10 Sep

Grass and the Miser

While out today, I spotted someone mowing a small patch of grass adjacent to a strip mall. It gave me a laugh as I thought of an incident involving a former employer and a similar small patch of grass. Perhaps the story will give you a laugh as well.

Before I begin, though I won’t name the employer, the owner is deceased and the company has long since gone out of business.
The fact that the company is no longer in business likely will not come as much of a surprise after you read this story. This is but one in a long series of comparable tales involving this foolhardy owner. He was skilled in his craft, but he was often left wanting as a businessman. As I look back, it was remarkable that the company stayed afloat for as long as it did.
This company had owned a two-storey building and it housed all of their staff comfortably for many years. A steady increase in business, however, had seen more and more staff come on board.
It got to the point that the building was literally bursting at the seams. A friend and I had jokingly suggested bunk desks as a solution. Like bunk beds, employees could work over top of each other. Perhaps the most senior employee would get dibs on the top bunk.
The company looked for more practical alternatives.
Across the street was a strip mall with a vacant office. A solution was readily at hand.
The owner and the property manager came to an agreement on the rent, though I’m sure that the negotiations were not easy. The owner was a notorious miser who would carefully track each penny that left the office.
As an example, there was a time during one winter that I had to wear a parka in the office because he had turned the heat down so much. It had caused such resentment that another staff member went as far as to call Workplace Safety and Health to no avail.
Everything looked to be on track with the nearby unit until the owner had found out that part of the monthly maintenance fee had included the cost of mowing a small patch of grass on the opposite side of the strip mall.
There was no grass next to his unit, so why should he have to pay for mowing grass, he said.
The property manager refused to lower the rent and the owner backed out of the deal.
Unfortunately, there was no other vacant office nearby. After much searching, he eventually found an empty building in an industrial park several miles away. He took out a second mortgage on his existing building to buy it and about a quarter of the staff made the move out there.
This arrangement soon resulted in many problems.
Staff were often shuttling between the two offices, resulting in an incalculable number of wasted person-hours. From my perspective, I began to spend so many extra hours on the phone trying to diagnose problems in the remote office that most often could have been easily solved with a five-minute trip downstairs.
This was in an era long before electronic communication became commonplace. The only network available to us was “sneaker net,” physically moving paper files from one desk to another.
Since so many items needed to be couriered between the two sites, the company had to hire an employee whose sole function was to act as a mailman. In addition, they also had to pay him a mileage allowance, since he was using his own vehicle.
In short, though those of us in the existing building appreciated having the space, the splitting of offices proved to be an unmitigated disaster. Bunk desks may have proved to be a better option after all.
Up until his dying day, however, I have no doubt that the owner was enormously proud of having stuck to his guns by refusing to pay for mowing that grass.
As they say, penny wise, pound foolish.
And that is why I will always chuckle when I see someone mowing a small patch of grass near a strip mall.

17 May

Cycling in Minneapolis

This past Friday, I left for Minneapolis for a four-day adventure that would include two days of cycling around the Twin Cities. I was a little under the weather, but I was well enough to go on Friday morning. Barely.
We were picked up bright and early and, along with a group that had already boarded in Brandon, we headed south for the border.
Before approaching customs, I noticed this new sign:
According to the newest published Manitoba map, PTH 75 turns east into Emerson and PTH 29 continues on to the border. After I got home I checked the latest update to the online Manitoba highway map and confirmed that PR 200, which previously ended at PTH 75 in Emerson, now turns west to meet it here.
It also means that PTH 29 has been officially taken off the books and that PTH 75 goes directly to the border.
Those are details that may only interest me, but, well, it’s my blog. In any event, I’ll have a little bit of work to do to fill in those details at
We passed into the U.S. and we were served promptly and professionally by CBP officials at the Pembina Port of Entry. While waiting for them to search the bus, I noticed that I was surrounded by a bunch of people wearing Blue Jays paraphernalia.
This was a baseball tour and though I wasn’t going to any of the games, I didn’t realize that so many people were going for the wrong team. In many respects, it’s a sad statement showing what power the media holds over the Canadian people.
20 minutes later, after a little bathroom break, we were back on the bus headed south along I-29. For the first time on one of these tours, we didn’t make a stop in Pembina at the Duty Free Americas shop. Since they wanted to get the group to the game at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis that night, they decided to skip the Pembina stop in favor of a stop there on the way back.
Soon after we passed Pembina, we had to suffer through several games of bingo. I suppose it’s not a real bus tour without it, but it’s getting more and more annoying each time I have to listen to those bingo numbers being called.
I noted with interest when we passed by the rest area past Exit 180. Years earlier, I had always called it the “Fort”, since there was a replica of an old fort there. That fort has now been dismantled and replaced with a brand new building. According to the sign, it’s also a Wi-Fi hotspot. How times change.
I also noted that most of the exit signs along I-29 had been replaced with new equivalents featuring ClearviewHwy typeface. This is the new standard font that is replacing the former FHWA typeface that had been previously used across North America. The S.P.R.M. is also in the process of replacing all of its signs with Clearview, including the trunk highway and provincial road markers.
Again, these are details that may only interest me, but if you’re driving down a highway and wondering why that sign looks a little different, now you’ll know why.
We made a brief pit stop at West Acres mall in Fargo before getting back on the road.
Our bus
Again, it’s not a bus tour without an annoying movie and this was no exception. Moneyball was the choice this time and though the movie wasn’t that bad, it was particularly annoying on account of the high volume it was played at. I liked the book better. There was more detail and it was quieter.
As we headed south east, I took note, as I did along I-29, that the side of the highway was clean and free of litter. This is in sharp contrast to many highways in the S.P.R.M., in addition to the trails in Winnipeg, that double as junkyards. Throughout my trip south of the border, I did not notice one single piece of litter on any of the trails I traversed.
I remember conversing with someone on an old BBS board many years ago who said that Canada has much cleaner cities than in the U.S. Not now they don’t.
We made a brief stop at Sauk Centre and I noticed this sticker on the back of the other bus we were following:
Do you really want to be on this bus?
In any event, the rest of the passengers loaded up at the liquor store next door and I think I was the only one on the bus who didn’t buy any liquor. We got to the hotel a couple of hours later and the rest of the group were on their way to the game shortly thereafter.
I later learned that, after Sauk Centre, a piece of wood struck the windshield of the other bus on the passenger’s side. Glass flew everywhere, but everyone was all right, including the driver. They got the windshield repaired that night, probably while everyone was at the game.
The view from my hotel room
The next morning, with the bike that I had brought along and stored in the lower compartment, I set off for the big city. Still a little tired and sporting a fever, climbing hills were particularly difficult, but I got on the Cedar Lake trail at 11th Avenue in Hopkins.
From there, the trail turned into the equivalent of an Interstate highway for a cyclist. There were benches, garbage cans, little rest areas, and all sorts of signage on the dedicated trail.

More important, however, was the people on them.

They were respectful.
When I was passed, which was often, I heard nothing but “on your left, sir”, not the “f— you, a—hole” that I would more commonly hear in the capital of the S.P.R.M.
There were no unleashed dogs, nor any joggers armed with the self-proclaimed moral entitlement to disregard every law in the land. Everyone stuck to their own side of the road and though, later in the day, the trail became quite congested, I can’t say it was a problem. The other cyclists were also well-behaved and stopped at stop signs and red lights. Imagine that!
I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t in the S.P.R.M.

My first major stop of the day was Lake Calhoun, a highly-scenic area near downtown Minneapolis.

Circling the lake are two separate trails, one for cyclists, one for pedestrians. Again, the separation is respected by the trail users.

Strangely, the bike path around Lake Calhoun was only one-way, but since I was circling the entire lake anyways, it wasn’t a problem.

I had to stop a number of times to take pictures.

This is a little lake just off the south west corner of Lake Calhoun.

I noticed this sign for the Linden Hills neighborhood.

“We look out for each other,” the sign says. Another indicator that I wasn’t in the S.P.R.M.
After finishing with Lake Calhoun, I spent a little time around nearby Lake of the Isles.

Back on the Midtown Greenway, I took note of one of the many Emergency call boxes along the route.

Knowing that, unlike the S.P.R.M., they actually have law enforcement agencies in Minnesota, there might actually be someone on the other end of the line who would care if you were in distress.

The Midtown Greenway passing under the Uptown Transit Center
I exited the Midtown Greenway at Nicollet Avenue and proceeded north into the heart of the big city. Unknowingly, I passed by an area that tourism officials call “Eat Street”.
What these bureaucrats like to call “culture” is, in reality, a collection of run-down, dirty, mom-and-pop-style restaurants that most people would be embarrassed to take their dog to. Despite my blocked nasal passages, I could still smell the foul odors coming from these restaurants and they weren’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
I did have an appetite, but I didn’t need a tour of the nearby Hennepin County Medical Center, so I kept going.


Passing the Hilton Minneapolis, I noticed one of the many depots for Nice Ride MN, where you can rent a bike. Swipe your credit card, take a bike for a ride, and return it to one of the many other depots around the downtown area.
After locking up my bike at the IDS Center, I stopped for a lengthy lunch break at Gaviidae Common before moving on.
I always make a point of touring Cancer Survivors Park in downtown Minneapolis every time that I am there.


Continuing on, I went past Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins.

I then followed the river trail and went past the historic Stone Arch Bridge.

I continued on past the I-35W bridge and stopped for some shots.

 Overlooking the Bohemian Flats park.
A view of the Mississippi River.
It was already mid-afternoon and with my tank already depleted, I decided to call it a day and turn around. My total mileage for the day was 36.06, not bad considering the condition I was in. It was an absolutely fantastic experience that I would highly recommend to any cyclist looking to escape the melancholy of the S.P.R.M. Please make sure you leave your inherent foul attitude at home first.
The next day, I decided to stick a little closer to the hotel. I was out on Bryant Lake Road near US 212 when my camera suddenly died after nearly four years and over 38,000 pictures. Fortunately, I was near a major shopping mall and Target was open at 8:00. Yes, that’s 8:00 am on a Sunday morning. No, I wasn’t in the S.P.R.M.
I picked up a replacement, the successor model to my dearly departed loyal soldier and, after a brief return to my hotel room, I was back in business in short order.
My first stop was the Bryant Lake Regional Park near the hotel.

It’s not the biggest park in the area, but it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re staying in Eden Prairie as I was.

In the afternoon, I went north and linked up with the Cedar Lake trail once again. West of 11th Avenue in Hopkins and into Minnetonka, the trail is not paved, but it is a crushed-gravel surface that’s still pretty good.

There are still some rest stops and scenic places along the route. I went west of I-494 before turning around at the Glen Lake Golf and Country Club and going back to the hotel after covering more than 31 miles.

Come Monday morning, it was time to get back on the bus and head north. It was an incredibly depressing ride. The trip had been such a good experience that I didn’t want to leave and the prospect of returning to the S.P.R.M. was making me feel ill.

Fortunately, we were headed in the opposite direction of Monday morning rush hour traffic.

The ride back was also quite scary. Seated opposite the driver, I could see him reading his e-mail on his BlackBerry, writing notes on a paper nestled against the steering wheel, and rummaging through papers and his CD collection. He was even packing his bag on the road.
Meanwhile, our tour guide was fast asleep. She was little more than a passenger on the trip and she made me appreciate the good tour guides I have had so often on this bus trips.

North of Fargo, we spotted a series of wind turbine propellers being hauled south on I-29.

We were also treated to another annoying movie. Bench Warmersis the most juvenile and worthless production that has ever come from Hollywood. Bar none.
As we passed the Crystal Sugar plant north of Drayton, I saw a billboard that read “God Bless America”.
There should have been one nearby that read “God Save Canada.”
It was at that time that, so close to the border, I felt like we were about to cross from West Berlin into East Berlin.
Our last stop before re-entering the S.P.R.M. was the Pembina Duty Free Americas store.

As I sat near the border waiting for all of the liquor boxes to be loaded on the bus, I stared across the 49th parallel into the abyss of the S.P.R.M.

After having yet another positive experience in the Twin Cities, I wanted to throw up knowing what I was about to return to.
We pulled up to the customs office and a young man with tattoos on his arm came on board, followed by a younger woman. He asked the driver how many people were on board, then he got on the microphone and asked everyone to pass their Je Declare forms forward.
“Everyone here Canadian citizens, no permanent residents or other special status?”
“Everyone’s aware of their exemptions? Alcohol and tobacco. Anyone have anything they shouldn’t have?”
The two of them split the stack of Je Declare forms, making sure all the boxes had been ticked with an answer. One couple didn’t tick anything in a box, so the guy went to the back to find out why. A few minutes later, he returned and sent us on our way.
He didn’t even ask to see our passports.
I feel so much better knowing that our borders are so secure.
Or not.
After crossing the frontier into the S.P.R.M., a gust of wind nearly took control of the bus. The driver had an iron grip on the steering wheel and managed to get us through it in one piece, but it was only a stroke of good fortune that he wasn’t involved in one of his many other activities at the time.
In the immediate aftermath of the gust, with threatening skies still very much overhead, he started packing his bag again and persisted most of the way back to Winnipeg.
At the Salisbury House on Pembina, we got a new driver.
Mr. BlackBerry was replaced with Mr. I’ve Never Driven A Bus Before.
He couldn’t figure out how to release the parking brake and only after a half hour on the phone with someone from the office did he get it released. Even when we did get moving, he had a lot of difficulty negotiating some tight corners and he really wasn’t aware as to where he was going.
We finally got back to our dropoff point and I got back home safely, albeit almost by accident.
As good as the experience was, I felt like it was a cruel hoax. I saw how good life can be south of the border and it made the S.P.R.M. look like a rotten, third-world country by comparison. My eyes have been opened like never before.
I need to seriously look at emigrating to the United States. Or leave Winnipeg, at the very least.

06 May

Is Armageddon Next?

Over the past couple of weeks, deeply alarming and unusual events have threatened the very foundation of human existence.
Consider the following:
The Arizona Screaming Weasels, officially known as the Phoenix Coyotes, nee Winnipeg Jets won a playoff series.
Not only did they win a playoff series, they beat someone other than the Calgary Flames.
Never before in their NHL history has this happened.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Weasels won a game in the second round of the playoffs.
Again, it was a history-making event. The NHL Jets never once accomplished this gargantuan feat.
Then they won another game in the second round of the playoffs.
And a third.
These events support only one logical conclusion.
The world is about to end.
Or perhaps not.
But it’s probably a much greater foreshadowing of the pending Armageddon than someone reading tarot cards in the back of a coffee shop.
Winnipeggers thought Armageddon was coming when the Jets left in 1996. Maybe now it is.
Stay tuned.
18 Sep

Ode to the Provincial Election

It’s Greg and Hugh, both wanting to be your honey
While bribing you with your own money
Under the NDP, the financial house needs mending
Yet Selinger brags about his wild spending
Throwing money at Chipman and building a 30,000-seat saloon
Flood victims struggle and roads crumble, making him look like a buffoon
We turn to McFadyen, a man with no substance at all
Yet can smile wide when you meet him in a store or mall
He stands for nothing despite many a plea
His only redeeming quality is that he’s not a member of the NDP
If asked whether two plus two equals four, he would stop and lament
Then issue a statement that read “no comment”
Manitobans need a real option
Not more taxes and spending or an unknown concoction