Spending a little cash for a little cache.

by Mark Zaugg 27. May 2007 22:15

A decent weekend with the kids - not quite according to plan, but when are they ever? 

Friday night we did a quick stop at home, fed the animals, fed the pets, then cracked open the piggy banks for a little practical lessons in the world of budgeting your money. 

Of course, it's a lot easier when you're basically budgeting to shop at a dollar store to get trinkets to scatter about the countryside.  And, of course, all the change literally came from Dad's wallet in the first place.  Still, I think it was one of my more clever ideas of freeing space in the piggy banks and keeping the kids involved in geocaching. 

The kids spent about $8.00 each, give or take, and we took our collective treasure and put them into a Spira lunch bucket and prepared for a day of traipsing about the countryside. 

To go north or to go east?  I was determined that if I was going to go somewhere, I was going to take the Habitat for Humanity Travel Bug to one of the nearby cities that actually had an affiliate.  I favoured going to Brooks and touring the area I grew up.  Fortunately, I only had to say, "Dinosaur Provincial Park" to convince the kids I had the better idea. 

Saturday morning after breakfast we lazily packed the car and the dog and stayed out of my Lady-love's hair as she stained the new deck furniture.  We drove down to Brooks where we saw an amazing Show and Shine, filled up, and trucked on down to the Brooks Aqueduct where we were to find our first caches.

The geocache is called "Romans In Alberta?" and we were hampered by extraordinarily friendly grounds staff who talked to the kids and I so much about the aqueduct and the area at large.  When I told one of the fellows I grew up there he was able to tell me all sorts of details of the area and the people who lived there.  The kids and the dog found another Border Collie and they amused each other while I chatted with the people at the info centre.

It's really hard to poke around and do a serious dig to find the cache itself when you're also torn between just yakking the day away as well.  We gave up after what seemed like an hour on site and moved on.

Next cache was relatively easy.  My son proved once more hey can't walk and drink at the same time, tripped in a hole and cried as he banged his elbow.  I went back to get him back on his feet and comfort him and, lookie here, I just found the cache, guys!  It wasn't sealed very well, so everything inside ranged between moist and wet.  We dried out what we could, sealed it with a fresh ziplock, my son was VERY insistent the pearl bracelet was his gift for my Lady-love, and we were off to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The shame...  The shame is complete at this point..

We stopped at the top to overlook the park - that all went fine as I took my bearings and noticed the first of three caches was right below us down the hill.  Great, park at the visitor center and we'll hike in.  There's my first bad idea.  Try as we might, we wound up hiking up the side of the road instead of moving into the valley.  We took a couple looks down trying to find a suitable way to the bottom, but it was far too muddy and slippery to bother.  On the other hand, I saw one of the few trees in the valley standing alone and took a mental bearing towards it.  Circling back, we found a set of stairs which took us to the group camp where we were supposed to start according to the directions.

My only excuse:  There was a very large RV parked across the SW corner of the campsite.  On the other hand, there was a suitable looking path leading to the SE towards the dead tree I saw from overhead, and the tree I had targeted was somewhat to the south and west from there.  We struck out boldly towards where I was certain we'd find the tree we were destined to find.  And the Sandy Hill Creek (I believe that's the name, anyways) was directly in our way.  We find a suitable crossing with rocks we can step across.  Theoretically.  Okay, the kids have hiking boots, I've only got my runners, but we'll get through just fine.  It's not like we're going to have to cross it more than twice.  And I was insistent that they bring dry socks with them and leave them in the car for when we got back.

Arrive at the dead tree, cut down towards the living one.  The path has utterly vanished, any basic path is equally marsh, and my shoes aren't getting any drier.  We end up struggling our way to the big living tree where I was aiming and...  We were 200 m away from where we were supposed to be.  Granted, I still didn't know where that was, but by that point it was actually north and west of where we were.

Doing our best to move west again, we encountered that damned creek three more times.  That is the very definition of "meandering", and "uncomfortable" and "futile to try to cross because you're only going to find a much worse crossing you have to get through next time".  Apparently we ended up on a thickly grown peninsula with little to do but whack our way through the brush to get to yet another steep bank we're trying to coax the dog across.

Well, that's a little unfair.  The dog was more than happy to splash through the middle of the stream.  If it was his choice, we likely would still be there.

Finally I lost my patience and my cool.  "That's it!  We're giving up!  Straight to the cliff and we're getting out of here."  Five minutes later, the mosquitos clouding around us, I hear the friendly chime from the GPS to say, "You're approaching the cache!"  Sign the log and we ran like an Albertasaurus was on our tail.

We were spent and decided it was time to go home.  Like the fool that I am, I didn't turn off the GPS, but instead discovered we were driving right by Rock Lake, the site where I caught my very first fish.  We did a quick tour of Rosemary, where I showed the kids placed I'd lived growing up.  Also a quick plug for R&W Furniture in Rosemary, because they've got a great map of the town.  Pretty much includes all you need right there.  The Rec Centre is all new to me, but most of the town is more or less the same.  Had some of the locals wondering who's gawking up and down the streets, I'm sure.

After that it was just roll home as quickly as we could.  One would say almost a little too quickly.  There's an art to driving the country highways in Alberta...

Great fun!  Next time, we'll hit more near home and get the numbers up a little.  And we have a coin to deposit sometime soon....  Hmm....

Depression and separation

by Mark Zaugg 23. May 2007 22:54
"Men and women whose marriage has broken up have a higher risk of being depressed than people who remained with their spouse, according to a new study. However, men appear to take the separation harder." 

Statistics Canada has gotten substantial coverage of one of the most important surveys I've taken notice in a long, long while.  The title is "Marital Breakdown and Subsequent Depression" and it highlights a very significant trend I've noticed in my own life and others I've known through various forums.
"Men aged 20 to 64 who had divorced or separated were six times more likely to report an episode of depression than were men who remained married.

Women who had undergone a marital break-up were 3.5 times more likely to have had a bout of depression than were their counterparts who were still in a relationship." 

Guys, I hear ya and I've been with you.  I took a big hit when I separated and it reverberates through my life still.  I hope it makes me smarter and more resilient, but some days I presume it only makes me wary to repeat the same ol' mistake once again.  Not that I don't find new mistakes I can use to fill in the gaps.
"Research has suggested that for men the loss of custody or a change in parental responsibilities is one of the most stressful aspects of a break-up. According to the analysis of NPHS data, 34% of men, compared with 3% of women, whose relationship ended experienced the departure of children from their household."
I certainly consider the "change in parental responsibilities" (to use their words) as the single most stressful point of my life, let alone my separation.  The abject failure of the legal system to, so far, be able to provide a reduction in that stressload by realizing a more fair alternative is one of my priorities I wish governments and legislation would address as soon as possible.

Sometimes I take flack for being too personal here, but damn it, this is an important finding and if the courts and the parliament doesn't take notice we need to shove it down their throats.  Get the judges and politicians better at addressing all the parties concerns, and make better avenues available that don't involve lawyers and thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars of fees!

And everyone, men and women alike, when you endure separation from your partner, be aware that you are at higher risk of depression.  Other pressures will arise - financial, lack of social support and a whole plethora of issues which will be personal to you.  The best defence is to try to reduce the pressures - try to find amiable solutions, resist the urge to "win" and play zero-sum-games with your formal partner, and talk to your good friends and find new friends who have experienced separation before who can steer you through the quagmires and pitfalls and help you come out of separation as a stronger and more complete person.  Then go offer support for someone you know that may have experienced a separation.

The study also gives us hope:
"The study found that most people who experienced depression in the post-relationship period were no longer depressed four years after the break-up. But for a sizeable minority, depression remained a problem."
If you're going through it, I empathize with you.  I've been there myself and it's a hard fight to battle out of a depression.  Talk to your doctor, talk to your friends or post an anonymous comment at then end of this entry right here.  Just don't give up, don't stop trying to be a better person and never, never, not ever give up on being a parent to your children if you have them.

I really believe that the process of falling in love is also the purpose of falling in love.  Some of us are blessed that we get it right the first time round.  Others have to learn from our own mistakes, but at the end we can find the happiness we seek.  Each person we meet has a lesson for us, if we're willing to listen.  Sometimes we don't want to hear the lessons, but we always need to learn.

I'm ready for my holidays now....

by Mark Zaugg 22. May 2007 01:25

"Honey, did you get the gardening done?" 

"Nope." 

"Did you go shopping for the stuff you needed?"

"Nope."

"Did you get the renovations completed?"

"Nope."

"Did you do the laundry?  Take out the garbage?  Start the dishwasher?"

"Nope, nope and nope."

"Did you do anything to lift a finger around this place?"

"Not really.."

---

So much for dream vacations.  Although I haven't much to complain about.  My Lady-love was as wonderful as ever.  She was quite insistant that I do relax at least a little bit.  So I'm looking at the list I accomplished.

- Yardwork, done in spades (pun fully intended).  Does the yard look great?  Well, it's managable.  That's a good start for the year. 
- Renovation projects?  Completely untouched both of them.  Win some, lose some. 
- Shopping, I did far too much and got considerably over-wound from it.  Sorry, Lady-love, I'll try to not do that. 
- On Runescape I wasted pretty much my whole time spent playing this week to get a damned gout tuber in order to finish the last quest.  On the bright side, I'm caught up on quests.
- GPS has been bought and I'm up to 7 geocaches found.  I'll log them tomorrow and get caught up.  Plus I picked up a travel bug this week.  I'll choose where to set it free sometime over the weekend and loose it again. 
- Paperwork, uh-oh.  My plan on that was to do it yesterday and today to gear myself back up.  Instead we...
- Invited a friend over.  We met up with my Lady-love's sister Saturday, I got to visit with Babcia for a bit, and I spent some time with Plankbo and CAMZ.  And the bonus that I'll pester Bug in the near future to catch the McKenzie Brother's special.
- Reviewing Time Management for Sys Admins, completely untouched.  Bah, I'll be bussing tomorrow with my iPod and probably book in hand.
- I didn't even do warm ups for Tai Chi.  Considering I'm still uncertain if I'll go tomorrow at lunch or not, I feel kinda lousy over that one.
- Update the blog a little.  Well, I got somewhat regular updates done, I've added a few people to the blog roll, and I have a bunch more I forgot about (sorry, kids, I'll get you in there when I remember).  Oh, and I've updated the "News" box to keep track of how badly my Lady-love spanks my bottom playing Cribbage.  That's gotta count for something, ja?
- Going out for lunch or something...  Err...  Lady-love?  How'd I do?

Looks like I mostly covered my bases.  I'm satisfied at least..  Perhaps not relaxed, but they'll probably let me through the door tomorrow.

Let the games begin anew...

Vacation - Day... HEY! I think I lost track!!

by Mark Zaugg 20. May 2007 00:40

Oooooh, why do I do that to myself?  WHY? 

So the Lady-love decides to go to the super-duper-mega-confabulous garage sale in Okotoky.  That's not the bad part. 

I, on the other hand, decide that I'm going to go down to the Babcia's house and wire 'em up with ethernet cable running hither and thither.  That's not the bad part. 

In order to do so, I have to taunt myself by going to work to get my spool o' cable and my crimpers and risk that urge to read just one email even though I know very well it's against the very nature of email to read just one, and in the event that you actually do stop at one, you usually stopped because the consequences were so brutally horrific that you sit in stunned disbelief staring at the monitor with eyes agape and a small trickle of drool running down your chin from the corner of your mouth where you teeth used to be before you swallowed them.  But that's not the bad part. 

I even decided that it would be okay if I downloaded a few waypoints of geocaches onto my GPS so I could look for a few while I was in Okotokyo during my free time.  I didn't get to bed until after 1:00 AM, but that's not the bad part. 

The bad part is that I decided on my way back from the office that it would be okay to buy some beer.  18 beers on a Friday night.  I have no idea why I punish myself so..  At least I know I'll get to the other 16 sometime before the end of next month.  Just when the hell did I become such a lightweight anyhoo?

As for the rest of it:

1.  Lady-love had a wonderful time roaming the streets of Krakatoatoks with her street-born band of thugs.  She picked up a couple of nifty things we needed around the house.  I can't quite be sure what they are, but I can be certain they didn't all fit into the car and I'm pretty sure that at least one of them is Bug's old chair from when we were room-mates and the "Zarquilian Mafia" days.

2.  Drill from the bottom up, don't mind the vapour barrier, and let the cable fly.  My motto for a perfect kitty-cat-5-e installation.

3.  I'm still pretty much blissfully unaware of what's happening at work.  I fear Tuesday like I've feared few other days.  But I've got two more weeks between here and there.

WHAT?  Two DAYS?  AWWWWGH!

4.  Took Babcia and Opa out Geocaching.  Hit four stops, found two, missed two, and introduced them to parts of the town they never knew existed in the ten years Mom's been down there.  I love this sport.  I can't wait to find the cache with a human eye.  (Isn't that the criteria for sport, after all?)

5.  Smoke me a kipper, mate.  I'm grabbing a beer, a fist full of popcorn, and collecting a dog around my feet to gather the crumbs and I'm crashing.  I'm feeling a little sleepy...  Maybe I'll drink half the beer and leave the rest on my desk for a week.  Or perhaps I'll just open it and then put the rest in the fridge to chill and de-fizz.  Or I'll put it on the counter and call it American..

Vacation - Day Three, Four, Five, Six

by Mark Zaugg 18. May 2007 09:24

Same old, same old, don't you think? 

A couple things I'm learning quickly.  Shopping for crap is just about the worst thing I can do on a vacation.  I buy junk I don't need, then I worry about racking up too much on the credit card.  Plus the annoyance that I've had to deal with queuing up for bad service to not find what I was looking for in the first place. 

I'm tired of waiting around, wasting my time pointlessly to pick between one flavour of junk I don't like and the other flavour of crap I hate.  It hasn't been entirely horrid, but one bad experience puts me off the rest of the day. 

Something funny got mentioned to me.  It was actually in reference to my daughter where she was described as "really high energy.  Nothing wrong, she was just really geared to go non-stop."  Most of what got described applied equally well to me.  We get extremely fidgity when we have to sit around too long.  We want to get out and do something - anything - rather than slowly go brain dead and rot away life.  It's part of what eats me away so much while waiting for a Customer Service Representative to finally come around and giggle, "Geez, guess we musta run out of them.  Have you tried looking around the store?" 

Why no, miss, it appears that I've been wandering the isles aimlessly for the past hour hoping I may run across what I was looking for by random chance instead of querying that inventory control system I know you're using because you insist on scanning each and every item individually in order to strangle any possible gasp of efficiency out of the process at all.  In fact, I was really only hoping to waste a little of my life's breath until I could arrive at the till in order to pay for the half of my purchase that I could actually find without the assistance you promised me "in two minutes" 15 minutes ago because I really wouldn't want to dimish the significance of hearing you discuss the forecast, your boyfriend, and precisely why you shouldn't have dressed the way you actually chose to dress yourself this morning without taking plenty of time to let your witty small talk distill into full splendour. 

Lest Mr. Bug thinks I'm starting to work myself up into a rant...

So one of the things I picked up is a Garmin eTrex Vista Cx handheld GPS with mapping capability.  It's a long name for a small gizmo you carry around when you go hiking.  It'll map where you are, keep a trail of where you've been and give you a compass to let you know which way you're going.

Which simply means the kids and I are going to go out geocaching together lots in the near future.  We went out for our first time Wednesday evening.  Record?  Couldn't find the first micro, overshot the second one, called it a night on account of bugs.  Note to self:  Wear good shoes and bring insect repellent.  That's probably good advice for life.

So other than hours and hours spent pointlessly in stores (my Lady-Love knows there is a moratorium on me shopping the remainder of my vacation -- unless we run out of potato chips), the time gardening has been okay and the yard's looking in shape.  I've got a great excuse to get out there and find a few caches around the city.  Life is pretty okay.  I guess.

Although, between you and me, I'm about ready to go back to work so I can relax a little...

Vacation - Day Two...

by Mark Zaugg 15. May 2007 09:29

Remember all that crap about "I will manage my vacation so that it won't become Project Management?" 

Remind me that if I have to walk into any other store again, it damned well better be on my terms and I'm only getting something I really, really want.  Blech. 

Coffee's on, I'm waiting for an hour or so to start up the lawn mower, and I get to my plan of Suburban Domestic Bliss or else, damn it!

Vacation - Day One...

by Mark Zaugg 14. May 2007 03:27

So this is officially a vacation, eh? 

I'm a little underwhelmed.  It turned out to be a regular day of chasing about, trying to cram a full 28 hours into the standard Earthling-sized day.  Bah!  Mere mortals! 

I dropped the kids off for Mother's Day, the dog and I did a little cruise about the country side going hither and thither, and I still managed to get home in time to watch the Formula 1 race.  Truth be known, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot I tried to cram in over the day.  After the race I fired up the game cube for some exciting "Lights, Camera, Pants!" action until the frustration of me sucking at Goo-Ladiators overwhelmed me and I gave up and played Runescape for a few hours.  I did my regular round of the blogs, ran upstairs to catch Holmes on Homes and called it a night.

I've felt the grind happening over the past while and my Lady-Love has convinced me that we need to take some time off.  She's right, of course.  So I've been trying to think about the stuff I want to get done this week.  Nothing too fancy.  Just do a little yardwork.  And maybe work on a small reno project or two.  And I want to do a bit of shopping and pick up a few things I've been neglecting for months.  And I ought to take a bit of time and play Runescape and just work on a level or two.  And I'm really liking the idea of buying a GPS unit and going Geocaching - just an excuse to get out there and hike a bit.  And I'd love to catch up on my paperwork and get that out of my hair (and my Lady-Love's line of sight).  And I'd really like to just up and get out of town for a while.  And I want to cook all week and maybe have some friends over and we'll have a BBQ or something.  Well, maybe I should settle for getting in touch with everyone and at least send out emails or something.

Oh right, isn't this why I needed vacation time in the first place?

Planning my week off is every bit as hard as work where I have a routine laid out for me day to day.   It's the one part of the Time Management book I don't have a grasp on yet - setting short and long term goals and writing them down.  I've got my airy-fairy list of wants, but nothing concrete enough to be able to figure out just how to get from here to there, where ever "there" may actually be.  I'm feeling more like I'm trying so hard to tread water I've forgotten how to swim.

Oh right, isn't this why I needed vacation time in the first place?

I'm trying to not address this week as a fire waiting to be put out.  I'm good at that, but I'd love a week of not putting out any fires.  Tomorrow I'll plan on shopping for clothes, maybe a short run over to Costco, and get some yard work in.  I've got an unofficial plan to take my Lady-Love somewhere nice for lunch unless we plan on getting out of Dodge for a few days.  Just keeping things small, managable, and relaxed for a week.  There's a hard enough goal right there.

"I will manage my vacation so that it won't become Project Management."

Yeah, score one for the stressed out sub-uber-geek with the large cup of coffee.

Today's fortunes

by Mark Zaugg 7. May 2007 21:20

Dad:  Your respect for others will be your ticket to success. 
Rebekk:  You shall soon make a long, overdue personal decision. 
KA:  A movie you watch will make you reach for the stars. 
Lady-Love:  Your every day will be filled by love, adoration and a furry face looking to mooch popcorn.

Ce soir...

by Mark Zaugg 3. May 2007 23:23

Mesdames et messieurs, 

 For dinner tonight, Chef Zaugg has prepared a sirloin tip sauteed gently in a poivre Cajun sauce avec onion et mushrooms tossed in a crisp et dry oak-aged Chardonnay.  It shall be accentué together with riz brun et riz sauvage avec garlic roti and thinly sliced avocat

 After dining, you shall be graced with strawberries et pitaya (dragon fruit). 

 Please enjoy ce soir's gastronomic experience.  Chef is most pleased to present it to you because he really thinks his Lady-Love is particularly wonderful. 

 The mood shall be set through the melodious sound of The Vesitbules, the Grateful Dead, Screaming Jay Hawkins and, of course, the Rheostatics.

Appréciez, si vous plait.

Just how cool is THIS?

by Mark Zaugg 27. April 2007 11:24

Stephen Hawking, a paragon of geeky coolness, and I hear he's pretty smart to boot, just went for a ride on the Vomit Comet.

Add a parabolic flight to my wish list.  Go Zero G has Professor Hawking's flight covered on the front page.

Here's a link to The Age's coverage where I discovered it first thing this morning.


I really admire Professor Hawking.  He turned hard concepts simple and popularized common sense ideas for the long term existance of humanity at large.  I stand amoung the legions who would be honoured to comingle our barf in sub-orbit someday.


Welcome

Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.

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