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September 2016

 

 

 

 

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Background Image: My 40-year-old cactus blooms

Thursday September 1st 2016

Environment Canada
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Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I'm back writing.  Will catch up soon.

I did deskwork and then made supper for five.

Mathematics, which most of us see as the most factual of all sciences, constitutes the most colossal metaphor imaginable.
Norbert Wiener

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Friday September 2nd 2016

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I caught up the books and did some tidying. In the evening, I spent a few hours on the diary.  I've resolved to spend less time writing and more time doing real things.

Having said that, I spent far too much time on the following...

*   *   *   *   *

Is the Alberta Beekeeping Community About to Split into Opposing Camps Again?

Typically it is mostly commercial beekeepers who can afford the cost and the time to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission (formerly the Alberta Beekeepers Association), and that gives a small group an advantage over the majority.  If the small group is considerate of that fact and their responsibilities to all Alberta beekeepers and do not take their mandate for granted or take advantage of their position, then all is well.  If not, a rebellion occurs.

Decades  back, the controlling members of the Alberta Beekeepers Association (ABA), the predecessor to the current Alberta Bee Commission (ABC), assumed they did not need to care about hobby beekeepers and side-liners, and lost touch with the majority of Alberta beekeepers.

They assumed they could do as they pleased, convinced the government they had a mandate, and a beekeeping commission was thrust on the beekeeping population. 

The promoters of the plan went through the motions of consulting the beekeeping majority, but ignored opposition and did not allow most beekeepers to vote. That was a huge mistake. People who might have supported them galvanized in opposition. The Alberta beekeeping community went through an ensuing 'civil war' that resulted in the newly formed commission being dissolved and beekeepers being persona non grata in the Green Building (government offices) for years after.

"Battle lines being drawn. Nobody's right if everybody's wrong""

Many years later, a new attempt to form a Commission was made and care was taken to ensure communication with all beekeepers and reassurances were made that we would not make the same mistake again.  Some of us knew differently, but there was little if any opposition and the ABA turned into the ABC.  At the time, I think the ABA represented about 96% of registered hives and attempted to include all Alberta beekeepers with low membership rates for small operators.

Of course time passes and people forget the lessons of history. The new Commission has been in place long enough that insiders who were not around for the last beekeeper revolt to take the Commission and its discretionary and taxing power for granted and forget, at their peril, that they need the support of the whole beekeeping community.

That brings us to the present.

Yesterday, out of the blue, rather than the usual annual invoice for voluntary Commission membership, I received a note in the (snail) mail suggesting I subscribe to Alberta Bee News (ABN) and mentioning that I am no longer eligible for Commission beekeeping insurance.  I received ABN automatically as a member without asking ever since the time, decades back, that it was established and called The Skeptic. (In fact, I was the primary advocate for establishing the publication and encountered a lot of resistance against establishing a regular newsletter.  It took years to get it running and at one point, my wife and I actually published one addition).

The insurance in question is a low-cost coverage for bee-related incidents and just provides a layer of coverage where home owner and other policies are deficient.

Although ABN has gone through  many transformations since inception, the present iteration of Alberta Bee News contains very little of value other than ads, articles by my friends, President Grant Hicks, and Provincial Apiarist, Medhat. (Even if we are all pals, we often disagree strongly on crucial issues).

ABN also serves as a vehicle for the obligatory but deliberately futile 'help wanted' ads that commercial beekeepers have to publish in Canada to satisfy the Federal authorities before they can hire foreign labour. 

Publishing in a Canadian trade magazine is an exercise in "going through the motions". Nobody wants to hire Canadians. I did and that is one reason I retired early. 

With few exceptions, Canadians feel too entitled to work the hours and in the conditions that beekeepers do -- all hours of the day, with random days off, in scattered locations, in dirt, and with stings --  while foreign labour considers the same conditions to be attractive and therefore perform well.

Alberta Bee News is generally padded with a few semi-relevant articles lifted from other sources. ABC Members receive it at no cost.  It should be online, but apparently is not. 

I noticed that last year the Alberta Bee News format changed from a cheap but practical format (with a horrible 'superbee' on the cover) to heavy, glossy, paper, with full colour that surpasses the quality of successful beekeeping trade mags, and wondered: who is paying for this boondoggle?  Alberta is in deficit, and beekeepers are facing low prices, with some facing bankruptcy and the Commission is spending freely on fluff.

Now, apparently -- seemingly without consultation or explanation -- as of sometime this year, it appears that smaller beekeepers like myself are no longer offered membership by the Alberta Beekeepers Commission or insurance and are not presented with the option to be, and are thus off the communication list unless we pay an exorbitant subscription fee since our formerly modest and self-sustaining newsletter has apparently turned into this expensive monster.

The newsletter once covered its own cost of printing and mailing by selling ads.  Now they need $78/year?  Really?!

This same info could be sent by email at almost zero cost.

Searching the Commisssion website for more information, (Sept 2, 2016) I can find only this:

"Producers with less than 100 live colonies: May participate as a voting member with full benefits and privileges, however must pay for 100 colonies ($50 + $65 +GST) May participate as a non-voting member, which entitles you to the magazine “Alberta Bee News” ($50 +GST) and the right to obtain liability insurance."

I gather this is old info? 

Although money and effort is lavished on Alberta Bee News monthly, the website -- a potentially permanent and convenient source of information  --is never particularly current or clearly organized.

Bee News has seldom published much of any use to anyone other than AGM resolutions and minutes, mention of committee and executive actions and words from the ABC president and Provincial Apiarist. Nonetheless, producing Alberta Bee News seemed to always take up much of the manager's time and produce a monthly deadline crisis.  Apparently, now the organization needs additional staff.  To do what?

The only value to me in Alberta Bee News is info on what the Commission is doing and anything that affects beekeepers directly in Alberta, and that should not cost the better part of a one hundred dollar bill.

Sadly, since we don't get update emails from the Commission, or have a relevant and timely Alberta Bee News website, Alberta Bee News is the only news we get from an organization that claims to represent Alberta beekeepers.

For general beekeeping news, for example,  B.C., has a far more comprehensive and meaningful publication and there are other comprehensive industry-wide  publications -- both hard copy and web-based.

Even though I skim every issue of Alberta Bee News in case there is something useful, I had not heard about being thrown under the bus until now, and this is real news. What's that about?

Communication is very important to avoid misunderstandings, especially in a far-flung industry such as beekeeping, and as imperfect as it is, Alberta Bee News is at least an attempt.  Discovering that the Commission effectively disenfranchise Alberta's small beekeepers is a shock.

What small beekeeper is going to pay $78/year for that rag?  Anyone who thinks that more than a few will is out of touch, unless deliberately reducing circulation is the goal. In spite of its pretentious appearance and unjustified cost, there is nothing in Alberta Bee News that -- if communication and "Keeping in Touch" were the intent -- could not and should not be sent out in a monthly email to all stakeholders, and that includes all registered Alberta beekeepers.  The Commission's lobbying and machinations affect us all.

Frankly, if truth be told, I doubt many commercial beekeepers would subscribe to Alberta Bee News if they had to pay $78/year, and I wonder how many do more than glance at the president's message, glance at Medhat's article, look to see who is advertising for how many labourers, and toss it.

When I can get ABJ or Bee Culture for less and receive the CHC newsletter, all of which have real, original content, why would I want Alberta Bee News except for  -- wait for it -- actual  Alberta bee news?  Who knows, maybe I won't get CHC news anymore either?  Perfect!

The ABC website and email are the obvious alternative and cheap ways to communicate news and publish, if communication with a wide audience is the goal, but when we look at the website, the BeeNews page is empty. How hard would it be to publish each month's magazine in its entirety there?  Other, forward-looking organizations are eliminating paper publications.

From this and the announcement that the current board and staff cannot keep up with projects, and that more bodies (and accompanying expense) are required, it appears that the Alberta Beekeepers Commission has fallen into making what Peter Drucker called, "Investments in managerial ego".  The unnecessary hard copy, glossy publication is one example, added bodies are another, and I see more boondoggles coming. Stay tuned. 

Where is the money coming from? Unnecessarily high hive levies on Alberta beekeepers.  I understand the Commission coffers are flush with accumulated fees.

Personally, I can assure you from experience that it is much easier and much cheaper to use websites and emails than sending copy to the printers, then collating, and mailing -- and a wider readership is assured since after creation costs for the issue, each additional copy and each additional delivery is virtually free!  Some organizations even publish a weekly magazine by email.  It is dead simple.

If there is a wish to control the circulation, a password can be assigned to those authorized to read the contents, but I don't see any secrets there, and if there were any, mailing out hard copy would seem to be equally unsecure. Anyone can scan it and send it on.  (At almost zero cost :)

*   *   *   *   *

This huge miscalculation -- dropping small beekeepers without consultation or alternative -- is everyone's loss. We've been here before. Years back, there was considerable mistrust and acrimony between the hobbyists and sideliners and the commercial beekeepers.   The former felt they were being railroaded by regulations lobbied by the latter without representation or consultation and the latter pretty well ignored the former.

I was in between, as I was building up and not quite commercial in scale, a member of the ABA board, and also working as an inspector part-time.  The solution to me was obvious, and I promoted finding ways to bring all Alberta Beekeepers into the Alberta Beekeepers Association in order to establish dialog and co-operation. 

It was clear to me and few others that we are better off with everyone inside the tent pissing out than with many outside pissing in, to use a crude but clear analogy.

Membership was made easy for hobbyists and events were arranged to meet their needs and interests. The ABA came to represent virtually 100% of Alberta beekeepers and the misunderstandings and suspicions between the two groups faded away.  Sure there were disagreements, but mutual respect

I also lobbied hard when on the board to get a newsletter started.  That was the beginning of Skeptic, which became Bee News. I also set up a website back when nobody saw any use for a website, but internal politics and power struggles pretty well neutralized any real benefit. In spite of offering the service for free and to follow any directions given by the board, some in the ABA did not like any idea that they had not though of first and the ABA set up its own site and then neglected it. There is a pattern here. 

Currently, I am told there are about 200 commercial beekeepers and 1,200 registered beekeepers in total.  If the Commission shuts out the small beekeepers and they organize, the Commission will find itself out-gunned.  After all, the hobby group includes lawyers and other professionals with connections.  As I say, it is far better to have everyone in the tent...

If the Commission needs more people on board to do the work, maybe the work of the Commission has become too much for the current staff and board to handle.  How could that happen?  It always does. 

Inevitably, in a funded bureaucracy, low-return projects are elevated to crucial objectives. 

Maybe the Commission just needs different people, with different priorities, not more? I've watched as the organization dug a big hole.  Too much easy money has gotten what was once a modest organisation into trouble.

Even back when the organisation could not extract funds from beekeepers by a compulsory levy, I recall the huge effort the ABA put into cookbooks, first planning and printing them, then distributing and selling them. The project consumed the Association's funds, much of the executive and office resources, and displaced other more rewarding and relevant activities.

Did these nice cookbooks actually further the goals of the organization? No.  No more than a glossy unaffordable newsletter dressed up as a magazine does, BUT they made the people who promoted the project feel proud and important even as they distracted the organization from more important goals.  They were nice cookbooks, but as a marketing tool, they were as effective as spitting into the wind.  The same effort directed into more sophisticated marketing efforts pointed at a larger market would have paid off much better.

The cookbooks were somebody's baby and we all paid for the time and material that should quite probably been directed to more useful and productive goals or conserved.

I sat on the research committee years ago.  We had a pot of money for research and potential recipients made proposals.  I was amazed at irrelevant and sometimes capricious requests for funds we received and refused. Just because we had money did not mean we had to spend it.  I notice that after that time some really unproductive grants were made.

Work always expands to match and exceed current resources.  Forming a Commission and  collecting mandatory fees has created an attractive pile of money that just has to be spent and I am surprised it has taken this long to come to this point.

Our organisations have happily spent our resources to increase our costs and paper burden, rather than resisting pressures to meet unrealistic standards and now we are uncompetitive in our own markets. 

Who could have seen this coming?  I sure did.  Now we are looking at more of the same and more costs.  It is time to cut costs, not increase them.

I wonder how many beekeepers are requesting their levy money back?  Is it still possible?  If so, this is the only way to bring a runaway organization to heel -- starve the beast -- and it looks to me as if the ABC has a huge surplus and is spending wildly.  If we did not need any other indication, the move to a glossy, costly magazine format to convey a minimal amount of information is a sure sign, and in a day and age when individual beekeepers are tightening their belts and when smart organizations are eliminating paper communications and going to email newsletters and websites.

Anyhow, enough of that.  Looks as if Alberta beekeeping politics is becoming proud and out of touch again.   It's a cycle.

Just sayin'.

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
Francis Bacon

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Saturday September 3rd 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers late this afternoon with risk of a thunderstorm. High 21. UV index 4 or moderate.
Tonight Mainly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers. Risk of a thunderstorm early this evening. Lo
w 6.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I am catching up the diary a bit, and wrestling with Windows 10.  Although the underlying code runs much better than Windows 7 was, the GUI and the intrusions from the O/S are extremely annoying and have used up days and maybe weeks of my time over the past month. In many ways, W10 resembles adware, trojan and virus combined.  W10 is the best advertising for Apple Macs that anyone could dream up. An operating system should just do what it is told, not try to run the user, spy on the user, and sell the user to outside entities. 

I also updated yesterday's rant.

Mathematics, which most of us see as the most factual of all sciences, constitutes the most colossal metaphor imaginable.
Norbert Wiener

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Sunday September 4th 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers this morning and early this afternoon. High 14. UV index 5 or moderate.
Tonight A few clouds. Low plus 3 with risk of frost.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I spent the day cleaning up and writing  At six, I was at The Mill for supper.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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Monday September 5th 2016

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Today is Labour Day.  That means little to me.  I had thought of going to Birch Bay, but am a bit groggy and the weather is marginal for boating.

When I got up, I heard something and went out the back door to look.  The garden hose was lying on the ground and running full flow. 

The yard was flooded, water filled the window wells and water was running under the gym door.  I checked downstairs and there was puddle, but the drains were handling the flow nicely.  I turned off the hose and thought back. 

I must have left it on when I washed out the extractor the other evening.  I had found the extractor sitting outside and sticky where we left it when Jon's family and I extracted a few frames just for fun.

Although honey can sit forever coating an extractor and do no harm, diluted honey in an galvanized extractor can turn to vinegar and do damage.  

Rain was starting, so I washed it out. The rain had begun the job. I must have been distracted and forgotten to shut off the tap.

When was that? A day ago? Two?  Whenever it was, I'll get a big water bill.  I'm glad I did not decide to go east for two weeks as I had been considering.  Who knows how much water would have been wasted?

Zippy is much better now and is eating more.  I am beginning to think she had lice before she went to Ruth's for a month.  She was shedding a lot in recent months and I was seeing dog hair all over, causing me to vacuum far more than I remembered doing previously. I had not added two and two to discover the cause.

I did some writing today, some North End cleanup and then cut some grass.  While outdoors, I tried starting the truck and it started, then quit.  I started it again and it ran, then quit. This pattern repeated with the truck running sometimes for a minute, and sometimes seconds. 

I am now sure there is a bad electrical connection, probably at a plug or connector somewhere in a wiring harness. I had feared it might be the IPC unit ($600), but this tends to eliminate that.  This truck has other gremlins and I have to wonder if it was submerged in a flood at some point in its past.

Cooper Boating is planning to expand my Vancouver Island Circumnavigation in July this year into a larger flotilla next year and we began the planning online.

At five, I called the IGA and they were open until 6.  I checked the Three Hills Pool online and it appeared to be open, so I packed my bathing suit and towel and went to town get a few items and have a swim.  The pool was closed, but I did get groceries.

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.
Milton Friedman

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Tuesday September 6th 2016

Today Sunny this morning and early this afternoon then a mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon. Fog patches dissipating this morning. High 18. UV index 5 or moderate.
Tonight Partly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers this evening and risk of a thunderstorm. Clearing overnight. Low 6.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I woke up early and could not sleep, so I got up.  The living room was cool, so I went downstairs and discovered that the bin auger had dropped a bolt and was not pulling.

The bolt and nut were nowhere in sight, undoubtedly having gone up the final auger to the burner. There was nowhere else for them to be. 

I pondered the likelihood that the bolt or nut could jam the auger somewhere along the route to the burner and decided that reversing the auger to try to disgorge it would be futile. The clearances are such that the pieces will most likely go on up the auger, over the burner, and out with the ashes. Perhaps they were already in the ash pit.  I replaced the bolt with another, tightened the nut, then added a lock nut for safety and went back to bed.

Up again a while later, I decided to reassemble the ceiling light fixture I had taken down and cleaned the other day and got that out of the way.  I need to finish projects, not leave them half-done.

Today looks nice and I need to be more active, so hope to get outdoors and finish the lawn.  Maybe I can get the truck running.  I realise that I am hooped with no forklift and no highway truck. Managing the bees is restricted and taking things to the dump is not possible.

I was groggy yesterday and had a deep chest cough.  The cough is almost gone today and, today I am brighter, but now I have a limp and seem a little unsteady.  My hip is stiff.  I really do not understand my body and its rhythms.

The Bluewater cruising meeting is tonight in Calgary, and as The Rendezvous Watchkeeper, I'll be attending to make announcements. I had some success with the truck yesterday, so plan to look into a fix, and the lawn needs attention again, badly.

After lunch, I found the update for my van's navigation system on my doorstep, so I went out and began the software install, but found the disk would not read in the CD player.

I called the company and got a return order number, then tried again a few time and fiddled around, hoping to have better luck. Then I happened to notice a button on the display that said open/close and,  guess what, I have two CD players on the dash!  Pressing that button revealed a CD player behind the display, and and the hidden one was the one I needed to use. 

The software installation took over an hour, then the maps took another hour plus.  To run the upgrades, the key must be left 'on, and the van battery gave out in the middle of the process, requiring me to charge it.  I wondered if that brownout would brick the nav unit, but but the updates finished successfully in time for me to leave for Calgary.

Time for a new battery before winter, I guess. This one is seven years old and I have run it flat at least five times by leaving device chargers plugged in, and by leaving the ignition on, as I did this time, necessarily, to do the upgrade. 

Running automotive batteries flat greatly reduces their life expectancy, but seven years is about the limit in cold country, where winter starts at temperatures down to minus forty require strong batteries. This battery has good starting power, but the capacity must be getting low for it to discharge that quickly.

While that was happening, I decided to play around with the truck wiring and concluded that the issue is right at the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) harness connection.  I have to verify that, but tapping on it made a temporary fix and I was able to drive the truck.

I arrived at Tecumseh right around seven and found the parking lots completely full, so parked on the street.  The meeting went well and I arrived home around 2230.

Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.
Chester Bowles

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Wednesday September 7th 2016

Today Sunny this morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon. High 20. UV index 4 or moderate.
Tonight Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers early this evening with risk of a thunderstorm. Low 7.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast
 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I slept until almost 9.  The day is bright and cool and I am full of ideas for the day.  Having updated my nav system and having managed to get the truck running yesterday, I am optimistic about working out in the yard. I still have a cough, but am not limping. 

I also see that I am gaining a pound a day over the past few days and am up to 221.  I have not been eating excessively, so what is up with that?  I assume it must be water gain, but find it a bit alarming. As I say, my body is a mystery to my mind.

Grant replied in response to a note I wrote to the Commission after receiving a bill for Alberta Bee News in place of my normal membership invoice, saying everything is just fine and I should like things the way they are.

I don't think he understood my issues. He suggested I take them up at the Convention or local board member.

As I understand it, I am no longer a member and still I should spend the better part of a thousand dollars to attend the convention and protest when a letter or two should do the trick, or approach a board member of an organization that apparently ejected me without explanation?

How does that work?  Can the deaf listen?  These guys -- my friends as they happen to be -- are apparently the problem.

Am I going to bother debating this further? Protesting is a tarbaby, and life is short. I'm not the only person left puzzled by this.  Is this my battle?  Not anymore.

Inevitably, after sufficient time, incumbents in any organization lose contact with the population and that is why in government we have elections, and, failing that, revolutions.

Incumbents naturally talk to each other and the 'important' people (those who agree with them) and lose touch. I've heard it said that diapers and leaders need to be changed regularly and for the same reason. Who am I to argue?

Interestingly, in my career as a board member and participant in debates about direction and policy, I have almost always met strong opposition to my insights and been voted down or even told to sit down, but inevitably, not long after, someone else -- the 'right' person -- would miraculously get the exact same idea and things would then come to pass.  It is easier to plant the seed than to grow the garden.

I noticed recently that I did not have sunflowers this year or last.  One year a sunflower grew in a crack in our sidewalk.  The explanation?  My daughter and husband used to prank us by planting them in random places. A seed in the right place at the right time can have big results.  We'll see what comes of this issue.

Enough of this playing around at the keyboard.  An hour has passed and the world awaits.

I went out and the truck started right up.  I'll make sure the fix is permanent later, but today I am cutting grass.  Acres of grass.  I know now why the sore hip.  Holding an accelerator pedal at a constant position causes me grief after a while and that is what I have to do when mowing.  When driving vehicles, I always use cruise control.

I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month,
and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.
Thomas Jefferson

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Thursday September 8th 2016

Today Showers. Amount 5 to 10 mm. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 13.
Tonight Partly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers this evening. Low plus 5.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I slept late again today.  When I did get up, it was raining. 

After lunch, the rain had stopped and I went out to look at the truck.  IT started right up, but quit again after a while. Wiggling wires and the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) allowed the truck to start and run again, so I took four drums of ashes out of the basement to see how long it would perform.

The truck stalled again while on that job and I determined I'll have to pull the PCM and clean the contacts. The job is not intuitive, so the Internet and YouTube were consulted and provided answers, but I ran out of time.

I drove to The Mill for supper, and visited a while, then returned home for the night.

You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.
Jim Rohn

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Friday September 9th 2016

Today A mix of sun and cloud. High 20. UV index 5 or moderate.
Tonight Partly cloudy. Low 7.

Environment Canada
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I woke up early -- at 0400 -- and decided to go to Sudbury. I'll fly at noon.

I packed anand dropped Zip at Flo's, drove to Airdrie and rode to YYC with Mike and Attie.

My first flight was on a 787, and it was impressive.  Quiet and comfortable.  The entertainment centre was a bit balky, but an improvement over the one on the other Air Canada jets.

My connecting flight was not cancelled for a change and I was in Sudbury and at 1207 by 2100.  The flights took a little over five hours, including the one hour in Toronto between flights.  That's better than the twenty hours it took last time.

People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
Hermann Hesse

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   "If I make a living off it, that's great -- but I come from a culture where you're valued
not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away,"
-- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
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© allen dick 1999-2014. Permission granted to copy in context for non-commercial purposes, and with full attribution.

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