Taking a Break

Hello dear Readers

I am taking a brief sabbatical. Several things have piled up on my plate in the last few weeks, and I need to deal with them. No, nothing life-threatening or anything of that sort. Only things that keep you awake at night worrying about what to do about them. That require all your energy and focus.

Never fear, I will return, although my ETA is yet to be determined.

#Sabbatial #MargaretGHanna

A Cell Phone Saga

OR: Old People Learn New Tricks (maybe)

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to up my game – I ditched my old cell phone and upgraded to a new(er) one. It’s not that my old (and I do mean old) cell phone didn’t work any more. It’s just that it was, well, old. Eight years old, in fact. In the schemes of things technological, that makes it the Homo erectus of cell phones. Capable of doing basic things but don’t expect much.

At least it wasn’t a flip phone. No, I had moved beyond that many years ago. We call flip phones “dumb phones.” Just try to thumb out a text on a dumb phone. No, mine was a little more advanced than that. If today’s cell phones are Ph.D. educated astrophysicists unraveling the mysteries of string theory and Darth Vader, I mean dark matter, well, mine was a high school dropout digging ditches. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ditches come in handy some times.

My husband had received a “Please come back to us” deal too good to refuse from one of Canada’s major telecommunications carriers. We had a burner phone – you know, one of those phones that the movie crims use to negotiate their nefarious deals – that was a lot newer than mine. We bought it to use when we are in the USA, but we haven’t been there for over a year, thanks to COVID, so our time on it had long expired. The Too-Good-A-Deal-To-Refuse offer said I could migrate my existing phone number so I thought, why not put the new SIM card in the burner phone. I would have a new(er) phone and a better plan than my previous one. What’s not to like?

The major telecommunications carrier (MTC) assured us it would be so very easy.

MTC didn’t realize they were dealing with old people.

We put the SIM card in the phone and called the MTC number. The dance began.

I had to call my soon-to-be former carrier and advise them I was cancelling with them. And then explain why I was cancelling (“your lousy plan cost more,” I said). Back to the helpful young MTC man who wanted to know my former account number. Back to the soon-to-be former carrier and ask for the account number. Back to MTC. “Text this code to this number,” the helpful young MTC man said. I did. “And now this one,” he said. I did.

“You should be up and running,” he said. I called our home number. It rang. Good. I called up the installed browser, my e-mail. All fine and dandy. Yippee! New phone.

Not so fast.

Next day, I arrived well ahead of a scheduled appointment. No problem, I thought. I will just sit here and surf the internet.

Oops, no internet connection. WTF!

I punched on-screen icons. I lost myself in a maze of menu threads. I stood outside the car. I held the phone in various positions. Nothing. Nada. Diddley-squat.

But, but, it worked at home so why not here in the middle of a parking lot? Oh, darn, WiFi was enabled. I had been doing everything at home via our home WiFi! I said various words not to be repeated here.

Once home, I called MTC. Another helpful young MTC man led me through a maze of menus to something called APN. Don’t ask me what APN means. Or why it exists. Or why it needs a code. But it was code-less, causing APN to fly into a fit and refuse me access to the internet. The helpful young MTC man gave me a code, APN was happy, and I was on-line. Sans household WiFi.

It took only two days and about three hours on the part of two exceedingly patient helpful young MTC men to accomplish this “quick and easy” task. Sigh. Being old is such a joy.

In another eight years, maybe I will upgrade again.

#CellPhoneSaga #ModernTechnology #OnBeingOld #Acronyms #MargaretGHanna

A Pandemic Rant

I get it.

You’re sick and tire of vascillating on-again, off-again restrictions. You’re sick and tired of being barred from bars, from restaurants, from your friends’ backyards. From malls and rock concerts and churches. You’re sick and tired of this whole COVID thing and you just wish you could get back to normal.

Well, guess what? So are a lot of other people around the world who are enduring, or have endured, much worse. For example:

Syrians have lived through 10 years of bombing and displacement. You think they’re not sick and tired of that?

The people of the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo who have lived through how many years of civil war?

How about the millions of Rohingya who fled persecution from the Burmese military and now find themselves squatting just inside the Bangladesh border, no decent shelter, no sanitation, no schools, no hope of ever going back home, and not wanted by either country?

Or the Uyghurs herded into “re-education” camps where they can be “re-educated?”

Or the millions of parents who watch their children starve to death and who themselves face a bleak future, if any future at all.

What about the people of Afghanistan who have endured at least 40 years of various countries invading their country (all with good intentions, or so they claim), who (especially women) have endured repressive prohibitions concerning dress and schooling all in the name of some perverted extremist horribly-gone-wrong version of Islam.

And closer to home, what about the thousands of First Nations who live on reserves with boil-water advisories since as long as anyone can remember?

You think all those people are not sick and tired of what they are enduring? Would you rather change places with them? I’m sure they would be only too glad to change places with you.

What I don’t get is this: Why is it we always choose to compare ourselves with those who have more, or against some half-remembered supposedly idyllic time of yore? Why can we not count our blessings and be thankful for what we have, here and now?

We are not being bombed. We are not being driven from our homes. We are not living in refugee camps. We, okay, most of us, can drink the tapwater. Women aren’t required to cover themselves from head to toe in order to go to the grocery store. We can go to the grocery store without fear of being blown up by an IED. We don’t have tanks running up and down the streets. Our children aren’t being co-opted as child soldiers. We don’t have to worry about becoming “disappeared.”

We have so much compared with so many people in the world who have so little. We have government support programs to help us through the worst. We have food banks. We have vaccines. We have “peace, order and good government,” regardless of what you think of our current government.

Maybe right now we can’t come and go exactly as we wish but there’s a reason for that – a pandemic is raging. And those pesky restrictions – there’s a reason for them, too. Wearing masks, social distancing, going only where and when it is absolutely necessary and getting vaccinated are the only ways we will beat this pandemic.

So, stop whining, stop protesting and get on with being responsible citizens who show care and respect for each other. That’s the only way we will beat this pandemic. That’s the only way we will once again live restriction-free.

#PandemicRant #PandemicRestrictions #LessFortunateOthers #PandemicProtests #BeingThankful #MargaretGHanna

A Taste of Normal

We received our first COVID vaccine shot almost three weeks ago, so we are feeling a bit braver than before about venturing out.

This week, we went shopping. And I don’t mean grocery shopping.

My husband decided he needed some new clothes. After all, it’s been only two, maybe three years since he’s ventured into a clothing store. D’you think maybe it’s about time?

Unlike me, he does not believe in buying clothes at the local thrift store. “Who knows who has worn those?” he asks. “That’s why I wash everything before I wear it,” I reply. “Besides, I’m doing something good for the environment by not buying clothes that have been made by some poor overworked, underpaid woman in Bangladesh labouring away in some dingy and dangerous factory that then requires emitting who-knows-how-many tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air to ship said clothes across the Pacific (or through the now-unblocked Suez Canal) to Canada.” (See my earlier post about “upcycling.”)

No, my husband buys his clothes new. Off we went to our local not-Walmart clothing store that specializes in casual and work wear for men and women.

Who knew trying to decide between this brand of pants and that brand of pants could be so much fun? Or this shade of green T-shirt versus that shade of green? Socks with psychedelic patterns or boring old grey socks? Plaid shorts or plain? Hiking boots or just a good quality pair of running shoes?

An hour-an-a-half later, we hauled our – his – stash to the check-out. The clerk smiled as she scanned the tags. “Men go shopping once a year,” she said. Oh, so true. A few hundred dollars later, we left the store.

This taste of something approaching “normal” life was certainly tantalizing. The question is: how long do we have to wait before this “taste” becomes “everyday?”

Alas, COVID variants are running amok here. The B117 (UK) variant is now the dominant strain in Alberta, and the P.1 (Brazil) strain has just raised its ugly head in a “significant outbreak” in three communities. Hospital beds, especially ICU beds, are filling rapidly with younger patients, and doctors and nurses are warning of looming disaster if serious steps are not taken to break the curve. Our Alberta politicians have finally woken up to the fact that encouraging citizens to “do the right thing” is totally inadequate because many stubbornly refuse to “do the right thing.” As of a couple of days ago, they imposed additional restrictions on restaurants, gyms, stores and public gatherings. Only time will tell if those restrictions will have any impact.

We may have to wait a few more months for our little outing to become “everyday,” but at least we’ve had a taste. And how delightful it was!

#PostPandemicShopping #ManShopping #ClothesShopping #COVIDVariants #MargaretGHanna

Snow Squalls, White-outs and Ice

One of the benefits of being retired is you don’t have to go anywhere unless you need to, or want to. We especially enjoy that benefit when the weather snarls at the world.

Such as when March decides to go out like a lion (Growl! Roar!).

The front blew in Sunday night, and I do mean BLEW! Raging winds averaged 70 – 80 km per hour, gusts up to 120 kph. The house shivered and shook all night. Hard, pelletized snow screamed down sideways. The mercury shrank into the bottom of the thermometer and refused to budge. Uh-uh, no way!

We woke up Monday morning, snuggled warmly in our bed, and listened to the traffic report. Roads were in terrible condition. One driver phoned in to report “Snow squalls, white-outs, and ice.” That was par for the course everywhere. Our hearts went out to the poor souls who had to drive.

Now, in these circumstances there seem to be two kinds of drivers. There are those who “drive to the weather” – they slow down, turn on their lights and, if conditions are really bad, activate their warning lights. They usually make it to work unless . . .

But then there are those who think just because they are driving some honkin’- big, four-wheel-drive SUV/pick-up with all the latest bells and whistles, they can still drive a million miles an hour down the highway until they suddenly find themselves doing a 180 or a 360 whoop-de-doo and ending up in the ditch, right-side-up if they’re lucky. Or worse still, they smack into someone who is driving “to the weather.”

And, sure enough, Monday morning there were smack-ups, mostly just your usual two- or three-car fender-bender encounters of a too-close kind. However, a big “smack-up” on the Trans-Canada Highway near Brooks, AB, made even the national news. About 70 vehicles were involved, cars, trucks and semi-trailers.

Now, I am not surprised that such an event occurred near Brooks. My family has known for decades that particular section of the Trans-Canada is jinxed. Whenever we drove to Alberta to visit relatives, if anything were to go wrong, it would go wrong around Brooks. Flat tires. Dead fuel pumps (twice! On the same trip!). Hail storms. Blizzards. You name it. If we made it without incident past Brooks, we were home free!

No, what surprised me was the number of vehicles involved – 70! The Trans-Canada through Alberta is not the 401 in Toronto. Or the I-5 through Salt Lake City. Here, you’d be lucky to get 70 vehicles over the course of an entire day. So where did all those vehicles come from to end up in one great (and thankfully, not deadly) pile-up? Therein lies the mystery, for me.

Monday, the front moved on to harass neighbouring provinces and states with snow squalls, white-outs and ice. And power outages. And accidents.

March is such a lovely month!

(P.S. My apologies to the residents of Brooks – it’s not your fault that section of the highway is jinxed.)

#MarchLion #MarchWeather #Blizzard #SnowSqualls #TransCanadaHighway #BrooksAlberta #MargaretGHanna

Springtime (?) on the Prairies

Daffodil, the silly girl, was poking up her head,
And Tulip, not to be outdone, arose up from his bed.
They both agreed, “Spring must be here, the sun is shining strong.
It’s time to show our glorious blooms. It’s time to sing our song.”

Then up spoke grumpy apple tree, wet blanket if ‘twere one,
“You should take care, it’s only March. I wouldn’t jump the gun.
Too many Marches I have seen as warm as mid-July,
But then come April, bitter frost, and May, the snowflakes fly.”

“Go back to bed, you silly fools. Remember spring last year?
You froze your little bloomers off!” But neither one would hear.
They grew up green. They grew up tall. They grew like it was May.
And sure enough, just two weeks on, they lived to rue the day.

#Spring #SpringSnow #Poem #SillyPoem #PrairieSpring #AlbertaSpring #MargaretGHanna

Which Way Challenge: The “Big Hill” (BC Hwy 20)

The British Columbia Department of Highways said, “It’s impossible.” The citizens of Bella Coola and Anaheim Lake said, “Oh ya? Just watch!”

The top of the hill and the bottom of the hill were no problem. It was the bit in between. The cliff. The “straight down.” The “Big Hill.”

For two years, the citizens laboured. They dug by hand, pried out rocks with jackhammers (the rock was so hard it dulled the bits in no time flat), tossed said rocks over the edge (and listened to them ricochet down the cliff), and bulldozed wherever possible (one slipped off the trail but, fortunately, was able to be winched back up). By dint of hard work, determination and a sense of “up yours, government!”, they transformed that former goat trail into a vehicle trail.

In September, 1953, two bulldozers – one from above and one from below – touched blades mid-way down the “Big Hill.” The “highway” was complete. It had cost $1300 per mile (1953 dollars) to build, plus uncounted hours of volunteer labour. The Minister of Highways attended the official opening and paid off the debt of $8700.

The highway is still considered one of North America’s dangerous highways. It’s narrow and winding; some sections are single-lane only; and there are no guard-rails protecting drivers from a “sharp drop off pavement” to the valley below. Thanks (?) to two serious and steep switchbacks (and a few lesser ones) and a 15% grade, the “Big Hill” drops 5000 feet in seven miles. It gets the heart pounding.

Just before the second switchback on the Big Hill, time for a breather. And yes, after we negotiate the switchback, we’ll be on the road you see in the middle of the photograph.
Thanks to “Alive and Trekking” for this challenge.

#WhichWayChallenge #AliveAndTrekking #The BigHill #BCHwy20 #DangerousRoads #MargaretGHanna

Freedom!

My husband and I received our first COVID vaccine shot (Moderna) on Tuesday. I have never been so excited about getting a poke in the arm.

My husband has numerous pre-existing conditions, so this past year we have been exceedingly cautious. Some have called us “prisoners.” We’ve called ourselves “prudent.”

Our only regular outing has been to the grocery store, always at “Old Farts” hours (7:00 am to 8:00 am), and after we’ve put away the groceries, I’ve wiped down every surface we’ve touched (and any we thought we might have touched). When absolutely essential, we’ve visited the doctor and dentist. Even more rarely, we’ve ventured into hardware stores or the post office. We’ve ordered on-line to be delivered and ordered for curb-side pickup. We’ve quarantined mail and parcels for three days once we’ve brought them into the house. We’ve social-distanced, worn masks (long before our fair city decreed it obligatory), used hand sanitizer and wipes, and washed our hands till we thought the skin would fall off (or run out of soap, whichever came first).

But now! Now it feels as if we have left prison and are living in the half-way house. Freer, although not entirely free. We will still wear masks (we’re double-masking now that the “variants of concern” are running amok), we will still social-distance; we will still be careful about where we go and when we go there.

But now! Now, we can visit friends and relatives. Maybe I will work up the courage to venture into my favourite shopping venue – our local thrift store. And maybe get a real haircut and . . . .

We don’t know when we will receive our second Moderna shot. The Canadian government has royally screwed up the vaccine situation, leaving us dependent on the good graces of other countries. But we – my husband and I – are on our way.

Yay, freedom!

BUT that freedom has come at great cost. Over 22,250 people have died in Canada and millions around the world. “Long-haulers” continue to suffer COVID symptoms with no relief in sight. Front line workers suffer from exhaustion and burn-out, or PTSD, or worse still have died of COVID. Millions have lost jobs or businesses because of COVID. Millions are hungry or homeless because of COVID. Uncounted numbers have committed suicide because of COVID.

The moral of the pandemic is this: none of us will be free until everyone is free. So, don’t dilly-dally. Get that vaccine as soon as you can. Help us all be free.

#COVID #Pandemic #COVIDVaccine #Freedom #ModernaVaccine #NotesFromIsolationWard #MargaretGHanna

Which Way Challenge: Moki Dugway

Just a little northwest of Bluff, Utah; just on the north side of the Valley of the Gods, we found one of our favourite roads.

The Moki Dugway is not for the faint of heart, those afraid of heights, or those for whom “sharp drop off pavement” causes coniptions of anxiety. It is only three miles long, but in those three miles it descends 1100 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa to the Valley of the Gods below. Don’t even think about taking your RV or dually on this road.

It was built in 1958 to haul ore from the Happy Jack Mine on Cedar Mesa to the mill in Halchita, near Mexican Hat, in the valley below. At least one ore truck didn’t make it.

If you love tight switchbacks, corners you can’t see around, steep descents, and a road that seems to disappear either into the upcoming rock face or over the upcoming edge, it is your cup of tea. It certainly is ours.

Thanks to “Alive and Trekking” for this challenge.

#WhichWayChallenge #MokiDugway #DrivingAdventure #BluffUtah #ValleyOfTheGods #TravelAdventure #MargaretGHanna