America’s best buy for a nickel…

I don’t recall when I first heard that phrase, but it contains such insight.

America’s best buy for a nickel is a telephone call to the right man – Ilka Chase

You cannot know everything.  Don’t even try!  Instead, take the time to cultivate personal and professional relationships with those who expand your horizons, have knowledge complementary (or orthogonal) to your own, and whom you can contact when you need advice, suggestions, or knowledge.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t strive to be the best, most well rounded expert at what you do!  Rather, there are always going to be areas of knowledge at, or just beyond, the limit of your understanding.   When that happens, don’t guess at it unless you have to – instead, if at all possible, talk to someone who knows that area better than you do.

The brush paints in both directions.  If you are conscientious and diligent in your own area of expertise, then you, in turn, will the a person to whom others turn to, when they need some sage advice in your area.

Don’t use this as an excuse to vacillate: when you have to make a decision, then by all means, decide.  When time frame or circumstances determine that you must make your best stab at a fix, go for it!  But, when you have the time and opportunity to reflect on something just out of your technical grasp, think about who you can contact to give you the advantage you need.  And, don’t hesitate to give similar assistance to others who call upon you.

Of Scoop Shovels and Men

My grandfather was born before the turn of the 20th century, supposedly in Luxembourg (although that is not really important), and, by his own telling, was a child labourer in the mines somewhere in Europe during the Great War.

I seem to recall my grandfather saying, “that’s better than a shot in the ass with a scoop shovel“, or something to that effect – I don’t recall if he really did say it that way, or even if he really did say it – but I’ve taken that saying to heart, you may hear me say it often, heh heh.

I’m pretty sure that my grandfather knew what a shot in the ass with a scoop shovel felt like.  I had no desire to feel it myself, and that’s one of the primary things that drove me to get an education and work in the tech sector.

I am too puny, too weak, too whimpy to man up and be a miner!

How Could They Possibly Improve on That?

My father told me a story about my grandfather, Michael Weiten.  The story goes like this: my grandfather lived on a hard scrabble farm just south of Makinak, Manitoba, which just east of the boundary for Riding Mountain National Park.  Now, during the 30s and 40s, apparently there were plenty of wildlife in the area, especially up near the park.  Don’t tell anyone, but my grandfather and the other hard-scrabble settlers in the area, would hunt near, and sometimes in, the park (shhhhh!).

My grandfather and his buddy, whom I think was Archie, used to hunt together.  Archie had an old wobbly Ford, probably a Model “A”, but quite possibly a Model “T” – life was pretty hard in the area.  My grandfather quite likely, had no vehicle.

Did I mention it was hard scrabble?  He used his back to clear land, build railroad, and build road.  Ugh, I am tired, just thinking of it!

Anyway, Archie and my grandfather had been out hunting (probably poaching) one day, and they were grinding their way back in the old Ford, bouncing down the rutted, muddy rural road.  They are talking about cars, the amazing technology they contained, and how it made life so much better than walking, quicker and more convenient even than horseback.

Archie pats his trusty Ford, leans over to my grandfather and says:

Yeah, Mike, they can’t improve on this much, can they?


For Those of You Who Need The Humour Explained…

Yes, that was probably 1935 or so.  The car was possibly a model “T”.  The roads in rural Manitoba up near Skane’s Crossing were probably mostly mud.   Maybe, just maybe, things have improved somewhat in the 80-plus years since then.

Waxing Philosophically for a Moment

I sometimes think of this story when I’m cruising in my DTS at 80 MPH down the Interstate, sipping my Diet Pepsi(tm) and listening to old Robert Johnson delta blues music.  Damn, grandfather would have appreciated the good life!  Because of his effort, I am able to live it.

Here’s to those who’ve gone before us.

16 March: Something out of the Movies?

There was a little mishap on Bell by the Fry’s this evening.

I had zipped down to Fry’s to get some groceries, and saw a bunch of flashing lights in the corner of the parking lot.  I had to look closely, trying to figure out what everyone was staring at.  There was  one car crunched, the other upside down. I think someone was still in the upside down car when I first arrived. Two police cars in attendance. When I was leaving, one was on the tow truck, and they were about to hook up the second one…

OK, not so dramatic, but I thought it was kind of unusual, kind of like out of a movie.  Remember that scene in Blues Brothers in the mall, where the cops are in their car, upside down, spinning?  Ha ha ha!

18 April: I come across a medical emergency :(

I watched most of the Jets vs Anaheim game, but needed to go for a walk.  Besides, I wanted ice cream 🙂    I took a stroll in the warm evening air.  I walked over to the Chase Bank near Cave Creek & the 101 Loop, took out some cash, but then decided that I didn’t need ice cream, so I walked back down to Union Hills Road and took up my “regular” route (at least it was regular until my whole system broke down 2 wks ago when I started working silly hours then flew to France!).

I was listening to the game through my phone, tuned through the Internet to TSN 1290 Winnipeg.  Curse that goal with 20 seconds left, grrrr!  Just as it was scored, I came up on 30th St and Union Hills, where there were two cars stopped, looked like maybe a collision – but it wasn’t.  One of the cars had been going westbound (coming toward me) on Union Hills, and had stopped along the curb just short of 30th St.  The other had come from the east, cut it off, and was parked at an angle in front of it.  Both front doors were open on the one along the curb.  A young man was standing in the open driver’s door, a young lady in the open passenger door.  The young lady was crying, sobbing, obviously upset, and talking into a cell phone; the young man was demanding that she give the phone to him.

A domestic dispute, perhaps?  Hmm.  I asked if everything was OK, she sobbed, “NO!”   It was then that I saw someone slumped in the driver’s seat.  Oh, no.

I asked if she had 911 on the phone – yes.  She handed the phone to the young man, just as a van pulled up, and an older man & two younger kids got out.

The young man managed the situation, was told to remove the lady from the car and put her on the pavement.  The older man & he took her out and laid her down.  I didn’t get involved (something which I feel somewhat guilty for now), but asked the kids to move the van behind the car so as to protect the rear.  They were not of legal driving age.  The young lady was in no shape to drive anything, anywhere, so I went back and flagged all the traffic over to the next lane.

Meanwhile, the young man started chest compressions.  The young lady was beside herself, “Where is the ambulance?  That’s my mom!  I can’t lose her!  I’m going to lose her!”

About two minutes later, a fire truck emerged from the corner at 32nd & Union Hills.  I shouted “four blocks!” and directed the truck in, then stepped back.

The firemen (yes they were all men) were slow & methodical, and I was wishing they would hurry up 🙁  But they got in there, relieved the young man from the compressions, and got the lady hooked up.  The older man was pacing, standing behind the car, clasping his hands, obviously praying.  The young man scooped up the young lady, took her to the van, where the other two kids were, and did his best to calm them down.

I asked the older man, if he was family (this was all very confusing to me).   Yes, that was his wife on the ground.  The young lady was their daughter, whom she was driving home when this apparently happened.  The young man was her boyfriend.

The ambulance arrived about two minutes later.  They got a strong pulse and regular breathing back!  The boyfriend was busy telling the daughter all this, that things were going to be all right, to be strong.  She was not doing well.

I recognized that there were three vehicles there and three drivers.  I mentioned to the husband that he should go in the ambulance, that the kids should deal with the cars, pick up one later.  He said no, he would follow.  I insisted that he go in the ambulance – “You have to, the cars are not worth it, let the kids deal with them.”  Suddenly, he realized and said thanks.  He went in the ambulance.

The daughter went to park the car along 30th street.  Again she was not doing well, so I directed her to a space under a streetlight, advised her to turn around to face the right direction (who knows if they tow for such things here, but it’s not a time to find out), to turn off her four way flashers, and to lock up the car.

The fire leader asked the daughter questions about the incident, like did the mother complain of any symptoms, did she say anything… etc.  No, nothing.  Then he turned to me and asked who I was.  I said “oh no, I’m just a passer-by, I have no knowledge of anything.”   And then everyone was on their way.

I continued my walk, shaken.  The hockey game seemed not-so-important now.  I stopped at the Circle K at the corner of 32nd and Union Hills for my ice cream, but they don’t have any.  I settled for some M&Ms 🙂

Life is short and can be taken from us at any time.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

And, to quote Percy Mayfield, Nothin’ Stays the Same Forever:
If you are a… thinking person… take the time… to pray!

07 April: Be Afraid… Very Afraid! Sleep apnea is a scary thing…

My scary CPAP machine!

One story of the trip over here that I just have to share, right away, before I forget.

Upon arrival in Lyon, after some 17 hours of flights & layovers, neither my colleague Sam nor I had any cash.  I had been advised to just withdraw some at the airport, from my account back in the USA.  Sam spotted a cash machine and I wandered over and pulled 200 Euros out.

Sam, however, had brought US dollars.  Nope, they won’t do anything here.  So we set out to find a place to exchange some US dollars for Euros.  She went over and asked at information, and we were told that there were cash exchanges on up on level 2, terminal 2.  So, we wandered off that way.

It turned out to be a loooooong walk… again.  At least a kilometre.  About halfway there, I looked back and realized that I had my suitcase, and my briefcase, but not my CPAP machine case.  EEK!

I ran back toward the main floor, where we had been.  There was an escalator up, but I had to take the stairs down, with suitcase and (ugh) heavy briefcase.  I got to the bottom, and there in the middle of the floor, was my CPAP machine case, yay!

As I approached it, three security guards who were standing there, waved me away.
“Monsieur, ne passez ici!”
 “No, no, it’s mine!”
“Eet eez yours?”
“Yes, it’s my CPAP machine!”

Man, did they look relieved.  They were suddenly on their radios, apparently cancelling the police/bomb squad, who were already on their way!

They gave me a stern warning.  I opened the bag and checked that all the contents were undisturbed (if you know me, then you know that I would stress about such things).  I apologized profusely, and left, thankful that they hadn’t blown up my CPAP machine, heh heh.

I recall now that I had the CPAP bag hanging off the back of my suitcase, but it destabilized the suitcase, so I took it off and set it beside the suitcase, as I waited.  Curses, forgot to check that I had picked it up again!  Wow, I’ll be more careful next time.

Oh, and yes, the machine is working fine.  Whew!  How would I sleep, otherwise?

My, but it has been a long time!

Yes, it’s hard to believe that it has been over a year since I last posted to my blog.  So much has happened since then!

I’m not sure why I took a long blog holiday.  I kind of lost my way, my will, my voice.  Part of my ongoing mid-life crisis, no doubt.  Yes, big changes in the past 5 years – hard to believe it all.  I would not have believed it, had I been told 10 years ago, what would happen (OK OK what I would do) and how it would all end up!

Do I lament the changes?  Certainly I have melancholy times… often… but less often than a couple of years ago.

Was it all necessary?   Regretfully, yes.

I am slowly coming to terms with who I have been, who I am, and who I’m supposed to be.  Let me explain a bit.

I was always very insistent on being correct, being right all the time.  Ever since I can remember.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I was.  Dave pointed this out to me, in not so subtle terms, when we were in university.  I acknowledged it, grappled with it, but really didn’t address it.  At times, I wasn’t a very nice person to be around.

While Eric was growing up, when Dayna and I were married, I struggled with this attitude.  Amazingly, she put up with it, and loved me anyway.  I mellowed in some ways, but under the surface, this need to be right, always was there.  Fighting to be correct, never losing to technology, never losing to technical problems, never losing an argument… yikes.

Then came the big shakeup.  I made big changes.  Sandy loved me, and I was on top of the world.  I mellowed and cooled.  It was all going to be OK.

But then I had to face the changes I had made.  The mess that I had made.  It rocked me to the core of my being.  I wanted to be with Sandy so much, but I had hurt Dayna and Eric so badly…  how could I?  I struggled, and tried to work things out… but the decision was kind of made for me.  I would be alone.

Not entirely made for me, mind you.  There were key points where I could have changed the story.  But for whatever reason, at the time, I decided not to.  Goof ball…  oh well, that’s where I was at.

Then came the cold, hard winter of 2012/2013.  Unemployed & homeless for the first time in my adult life, and relationship-less for the first time in over 25 years, I had to face my situation and the core of my own soul.  I tried and tried to work things out, but every attempt failed.

I was, of course, not out on the street – I lived with my mother for a few months (thank you, mom!).  I took money out of my RRSP and got a nice apartment downtown (thanks for Wayne Doherty’s brother Jeff).  Then pursued employment.  Eventually I was able to get a term position with ERLPhase (thank you, Krish!).  In that position, I was able to travel to India and make some wonderful new friends.  Then, just as the term was set to expire and be renewed, Jim Blake of Alstom Grid DIT in Phoenix Arizona, offered me a job there, with relocation.  A chance to get away!  I took it, zoom, zoom!  And warm winters, to boot, ah yes (warm summers too, but more about that another time).  

I’ve had a few short relationships in the time that I’ve been in Phoenix.  But somehow I haven’t been satisfied, haven’t been motivated, haven’t been enthused.  That’s all on me.  So I needed time to think.  That’s what I’ve always needed.  And now, that’s what I’ve got.

I’ve connected with a church in Phoenix, Mission Bell United Methodist church, over in north Glendale.  I joined as a member last fall.  It’s very nice.  Not without its challenges (a church isn’t a church without challenges, it seems), but great people and a very comforting atmosphere.

I’ve stuck with my 12 step program, Emotions Anonymous.  I have not been all that good at progressing in the steps, but I am working on them.  It’s not the destination, but the journey, that defines us, after all.

And now I am finally coming to grips with my attitude towards success, and having to be perfect, be right all the time.  Accepting the grace of God that the church reminds me of.  Accepting where I am, the situation that I’m in.

It’s a journey, all right.  And it’s not over.  I have much more to learn.  More mellowing to do.  More about myself to understand.  But I’m making progress.

So, what do I regret?  Only the pain that my challenges, my journey, my troubles have inflicted on others.  Interestingly enough, the amends that I have to do as part of the 12 step program, are intended to assist in finding release from this.  Perhaps soon…

I will start up entries into this blog again.  In fact, right now I’m in Lyon, France, on a business trip… wow what a place.  Never heard so much French spoken in one day (ha ha, I’m in France 🙂 ).  Much to write about, just about this trip.  Oh yes, and the bomb squad being called to deal with my CPAP machine that I accidentally left lying around at the airport, yikes!!  And about the desert in bloom.  And so much more.  Watch this space.

19 May: An Infant Brother’s Grave – So What *is* Life all About, Anyhow?

Today, my mother and I drove to Brandon, Manitoba, to visit my infant brother’s grave.  Darren James Weiten was born 23 October, 1967, and died 2 days later.  He had a blood hook-up condition, was a “blue baby”, and in those days, did not have any prospect of survival.

19 May 2013 – putting the toys back onto Darren’s grave

Sandy and I stopped and found the grave last summer, when driving back from a ham radio swap meet at the International Peace Gardens.  It was her idea to put a toy car on the gravestone – and artificial flowers – to celebrate the tiny life that the stone is a monument to.  I salute you, Sandy – only a mother could have any understanding of the pain of such a loss, even if you have not felt it yourself.  Later that same day, she decided that pinwheels would be appropriate to add, but I didn’t get a picture of them on that day.

17 August 2012 – Sandy and I initially put toys on Darren’s grave

Two months later, while pondering my personal future, I drove alone to Brandon and back.  I went to the gravesite, and discovered that all trinkets & toys & things would be cleared the next day, as part of their fall clean-up.  I took the articles and put them away to put back this spring.
14 October 2012 – I go for a drive to think things over, pick up items just before fall cleanup

I’ve often pondered the meaning of life.  Why does one child get lucky, survive the problems of infancy, and go on to live to an adult?  Why is another stillborn?  Why is another born, only to die a few short days later?  And why would a child be taken from us while a teen, or an adolescent, or…?

This just seems to be somehow unfair.  Just like it is unfair that some are afflicted with mental illness; others with tumours and physical ailments; and some of us just hurt each other with our words and actions.

I’ve decided that such questions will never be answered while we ourselves are mortal.  When we’ve met our infinity, our maker, hit the singularity (as engineers like to say), then perhaps we shall understand.

Time flies when you’re having fun! …and sometimes even when you’re not.

Wow.  It is difficult to believe that it has been over 2 years since I made a blog entry.  It certainly has been a crazy ride.

I disassembled my life and tried to reassemble it again.  Then somehow it came to pieces.  Or was it, that I came to pieces?  No matter.  Now I find myself in rebuilding mode… again.  That’s OK, I am handy with a wrench!  🙂

Let me say this though – I have become an evangelist for counselling / analysis / therapy.  If you find that you have angst in your life, that you are unsure of direction, that you stress about the future, you owe it to yourself to get help.  There are counsellors out there who will help you figure things out, straighten things out, and get back on track.  Yes, it can be costly, although it doesn’t need to be – many therapists have sliding scales based on income, and there are services that are provided at low cost or even free of charge by agencies in town.  But, regarding the cost, what’s more important than your mental well being?  Because that’s what we are talking about here – your mental well being.

In my case, I was advised to look for a therapist with a social work background, who works in their own practice.  The “Psychology Today” magazine has a great resource on their website which allows you to view practitioners in your area, see their credentials and a short summary of their background.  I found it quite useful.

Another great resource is Emotions Anonymous (EA), a 12 step program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – in fact, very similar to AA in many ways, and somewhat derived from it too.   The 12 steps seem very simple, so simple that it’s difficult to understand how it works – but that’s the point, don’t try to understand it, just do it – and it works.  There is a meeting locator on the EA website that can help you find an EA meeting to attend – and you will find love, support, and help there.  Really.

So, life goes on.  And on.  Thank God for that, huh?  🙂

A word about my next several blog entries.  I’ve been keeping notes about this trip, but haven’t had the chance to update this blog until now.  So, you are going to see a flurry of blogs about the past week or so, but all created close together.   Sorry but that’s the way it is.  I’m over here on business, and I’ve been busy busy!

And now, on with the blog!  I have much to talk about.  2 years in the making!  Well, mostly about this trip to India, which I am actually am out on at the moment.

On the way home again – 5 January

How do you start the day in Bucerias, Mexico, at +25 C and end the day in Winnipeg at -20 C?  Well, you take a taxi from the condo (sniff, sniff) and get on a plane.

Breakfast in Mexico…

We ordered up a taxi yesterday, but I guess my reputation precedes me – they sent a 12 passenger van!  Well it was a nice enough vehicle, but we sat in the first row behind the driver, which was very cramped – there was some kind of a compartment across behind the front seats.

Asked for a taxi to the airport, got a van…

On the way to the airport, we saw something interesting – notice the nativity depicted above the Wal-Mart entrance.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t see that in Canada!

Look closely and you will see the nativity depicted above the entrance!

And we saw a VW “thing” while on our way to the airport.

VW “thing” – we saw a few of these in Mexico.

Eric had arrived home a few days before, so he came to meet us at the airport.  It turned out that he couldn’t track down keys to my De Ville, so he had to bring Dayna’s little Alero to pick us up.  Oh well, we fit in just fine.

Reluctantly back in the ‘Peg!

So Winnipeg is a little chilly compared to Mexico, but at least it is home.

By the way, when I had remote start put into my car the following Saturday, they found the other set of keys.  I think they were under the seat, sigh.