Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Zip-Line Mania

Probably the best extra sideline trip of the Puerto Vallarta vacation was the ‘Outdoor Adventure’ tour which is conducted by the Vallarta Adventures Company. We were already interested in doing the canopy zip-line trip, but after I read about the upgrade, we decided it might be too interesting to pass up and booked it for ourselves through our flight travel guide. Basically, the adventure begins with a 20 minute (longer from hotels not in the south zone) open boat ride south along the Pacific coast to a small village – Boca de Tomatlan – where you transfer to a large 4x4 vehicle (intriguingly named a Unimog) which jolts you up a bumpy road for 15 minutes to their property in the Sierra Madre mountains where the actual adventure starts out. Once they have you donned out with the climbing harness, helmet, heavy leather gloves and have issued a number of cautions, safety procedures and general instructions, it is time to mosey over to the mule corral. Except for the longish ears, a mule is pretty much the same as a horse: swing up into the saddle from the left, pull reins left to go left, right to head in that direction, heels sharply into the stomach area to get moving or speed up, back lightly on the reins to stop and a hard tug to back up. Once aboard, I presumed it would be much the same as a guided horse ride with the steed following the well marked trail without wavering. Surprisingly, the mules respond well to the commands and reins, moving according to the rider’s instructions all the way up to the dismounting area. Then, it is about a 200 foot climb to the first zip-line – one of about eight – which are not overly steep and each with a flat out run at the bottom towards the platforms. Double rigging and an online braking system provide excellent safety features. If you are so inclined, there is plenty of opportunity to look around on the descents to gaze at the jungle, mostly trees, the river and a waterfall. There is one 50 foot vertical rappelling section down a waterfall where I discovered the safety line cinches quickly if your downward travel exceeds their speed allowance even if you are in complete control. Still, it was fun to do this particular item as you ended up thigh deep in cold water at the base of the falls. One of the shorter zip-lines was designed simply to allow you a fast run down for a major splash ending into a deep pool of very cold water. Unfortunately, most of the others on this trip, despite much cajoling and encouragement from the guides to keep their legs up to cause a big splashdown, tried desperately to land standing up rather than taking the plunge and ended up just as wet. Included on the way down were a crossing on a two line commando bridge about twenty feet long and a v-cable bridge of similar length over the stream. The balance of the walk back involved sloshing through the stream three or for times until we reached the jump off centre once again. While we did not mind tipping the Mexican guides, who were quite the jokers during the trip (not the photographer), the asking prices for the pictures was both astronomical and almost scandalous. A single photo cost $17 and for the whole set, of maybe twenty, $150 – an extreme price considering the cost of the outing was only $75 per person (down from the online and brochure price of $95.) which we felt was an exceptional deal. We did purchase a slightly overpriced mug with a rappelling theme on the front as a memento; since there was no way we would buy the pictures, plus which we agreed they had turned out poorly anyway and had only a couple with recognizable faces. And then, it was back into the Unimog for the trip straight back to our hotel. Definitely an adventure tour I would recommend to anybody and an enjoyable – really thrilling for many – way to spend six hours.

Immortal Concrete

Probably not a square block of any town or city is spared the ignominious attack of the sidewalk graffiti impressionists. Lurking in the shadows, they await silently the opportune moment to glide in and deface the newly brushed face of the virgin concrete before it has time to cure and harden to its impervious state. Unable to defend itself against the onslaught of poking fingers, wet palms and smelly shoes, the freshly poured cement walkways immediately bear the inset scars which will last their lifetime. For some people, it appears to be a way of leaving their mark on the world; maybe the only way they know how or are able. But even if noticed, how many passer-bys would bother to consider who R.L. or Mary or the ‘Prince of Main Street’ were or still are or even care? Does anyone actually return and gaze lovingly at their ‘masterpiece’ or is forgotten before the indent is even cured? Hardly inspiring to bring the kids or grandchildren for a family viewing decades later to point out how to waste time and reveal your total absence of talent. More inane are the losers who force their dog to imprint its paws. Easy to tell as the prints are located side by side in a quite unnatural position for a canine. Of course, it may explain the sight of someone having a long, intimate conversation with their pet stopped on the sidewalk pointing down (unless they are attempting to have the dog pick up its own doo-doo in the waste bag) explaining whose little wee paws adorn the walkway. However, the though occurred to purchase a concrete saw, sneak about after midnight cutting out the designs and putting them up foe auction on E-Bay!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Squirrel Saga – Part Three

Lucky me! It only took a couple of weeks for the pest professionals to show up on scene. Once here they managed some cursory glances at the balcony and roof areas, haughtily lending their expertise to the problems at hand. Their demeanour was somewhat less than impressive – I imagined a panel of squirrels sarcastically shrilling in laughter in the background – but these days being high in demand allows them a certain swagger. Since I am not, of course, a highly educated (one of the local companies requires a university degree – a BA in foreign languages possibly?) trained technician both my opinion and presence were dispensed with in scant minutes. Later in the day, I learned that their considered solution was the appropriate placement of a humane trap on the roof directly in the daily path of the unwanted pests. After two or three days, I had received no word on the progress of the techies while above my head the squirrel (s) were continuing on with eating, chewing and scurrying parties, although they were early to bed and early to rise – which as summer approached was now occurring in advance of the alarm clock shrilling its summons. Once I received the go ahead from the manager, I merrily made my way back up to the rooftop to check out the situation. So I sidle over to the wire trap and the first thing obvious is the lack of bait, yet the door is still not sprung. Using a small stick, I pushed down on the trigger platform to discover the linking mechanism is bent, and further along near the door flap a return spring is caught up in the wire mesh. It had made it a cinch for any squirrel or rat to simply walk in to score some free food and exit safely to go about its business. With a little bit of judicious straightening and re-jigging, the trap was returned to working order; then it was merely a matter of placing a tasty treat of crackers and peanut butter as an inducement to enter. Normally, it should only take one or two days to catch an unwary varmint if they travel by in close proximity and catch the scent; however, four days later with no captive and the bait intact, I rechecked the mechanism which was still functioning perfectly. Either the prey had developed super intelligence or they were not frequenting this location at all, in spite of the expertise of the pest control men. Since there was a history of previous success of capture on the deck outside my unit, I offered to relocate the trap which also made it easier to check its status. Besides, I had grown bored with running down the hall, scaling up the wall ladder, twisting open the roof hatch, walking across the crunchy, wet, sticky roof surface, checking on the bait, and then returning in reverse order after another failed outing. In addition the rain kept liquefying the peanut butter and destroying the cracker, forcing me to either make separate trips to replace it or remember to bring some along each trek to the roof. With the trap in hand, the next consideration was placement – not really a monumental decision as the deck is five feet by ten feet – so the far end became the obvious choice. And then, rather than continually replacing the bait, part of the trap was wrapped in a cut up garbage bag to provide protection from incessant coastal downpours. Early the following morning, I slathered a Ritz cracker with a huge, heaping gob of crunchy peanut butter, adjusted the spring door mechanism, arranged the tantalizing tidbit on the release platform and with an Oil Can Harry snicker placed the trap outside. Now, Mr. Squirrel and I could play the waiting game, the eventual reward for me, the tinny snap of a sprung wire mesh trap door; for him, a possible vacation to a far away park.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Rain, Rain – Go Away

Drip, drip, drip! Not a slur at anybody, but the near constant, psychic water torture emanating from the gutters and roof edge as the weather lords attempt to maintain the west coast rainfall average. So far the year has been painted a pallid grey hue with few breaks and the current forecast contains no uplifting possibility of liberation. The Pacific Ocean Regulatory Association throws out a wet blanket every opportunity, seemingly bent on preventing any three consecutive days with the presence of the sun. Any memos they’ve received regarding the public requirements for minimum amounts of vitamin D must have been shredded, and then quietly submerged into one of the Gulf of Georgia dump sites (nobody is supposed to have knowledge of these even though the federal government awards permits for disposal firms). Despite the fact there are five or six cities in eastern Canada with higher yearly rainfall averages, there are periods when Mother Nature appears intent on spreading precipitation over as many days as feasible on the Pacific coast driving everyone into a state of waterlogged depression. So far, close to 950 mm of mainly rain has fallen this year with the normal average being about 790 mm. With more than two months left, there are considerable chances to easily exceed the yearly average of 1150 mm; of course, these heavier years are needed to balance the ‘dry’ ones which occasionally sneak in under the radar. If you are an outdoor person, it becomes a crap shoot to pick the best times to venture out for a run or hike. Sometimes you win, most times at the half way point, a particularly nasty storm cell opens like a giant clamshell and follows you all the way home. Although, I am honestly anxious to expound further on the nastiness of incessant rainfall, the continual thumping of running shoes bouncing in the dryer has eroded my concentration.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Squirrel Saga – Part Two

After a period of great reluctance – hoping the upstairs neighbours would become a permanent fixture – management, tired of the continual prodding, agreed to place a humane trap on our balcony albeit with scant confidence in capturing the pest. Much to my surprise, only a couple of days later I heard the snap of the trap door closing shut. Was it the squirrel, a Norway rat (does sound upper class for a varmint) or another bungling critter? Taking a few steps to the slider, I was pleased to find ensconced in the cage and butting his pointy head into the wire mesh, a rather upset squirrel that had lost all interest in the peanut buttered cracker. Now all I had to do was inform the manager to spirit the prize away to wherever surplus pests are quartered. Once I realized nobody was on duty, I returned to discover that the captive had fled the scene by simply pushing up the faulty door at the opposite end which suffers from a broken spring. So, Mr. Squirrel is not overly intelligent, however the management team is even less so. Based on the deep belief that a scared squirrel is one on the run and subsequently too overwrought to attempt a homecoming, the decision is made by the professional managers to close off the entrance/back door above the veranda. Therefore, I am treated to three agonizing hours as a qualified fumbler attempts to restore the integrity of the soffit vents. Amazingly, it required this amount of time to apply and staple a 15 foot stretch of 4 inch wide - 3/8” wire mesh to patch the existing hole and supposedly prevent further occurrences. Ahh! But one should not be so fast to accept a lifetime guarantee. Within days ‘peanut breath’ or his cousin could be heard scraping, gnawing and scurrying above our heads from sunup to sundown, occasionally poking his head and beady eyes around the corner of the building to give us the razz. As I expected, neglecting to close the ‘front’ entry presented an open invitation for my friend to return home or a neighbourhood newcomer to declare squatter’s rights. Once again, I was enthralled by the opportunity to plead my case for the forcible removal of the unwanted guest. On the way to knock yet again at the manager’s door, an open unlocked access hatch presented me a chance to sneak up to the roof to check out the situation for myself. Immediately evident on a cursory inspection were the piecemeal efforts to control the ingress of any nuisance animal. Every chewed hole in the plastic screening had been dutifully covered with a strip of wire mesh, and it would appear each time, a squirrel would simply move over one joist space to chomp out a new entry. Equally evident were the little piles of stucco below every past access gap and also under the current entrances. Unbelievably, the squirrels always remained one step ahead of the dominant intelligent beings. Relating my observations was met with blank stares as though I was pretending to present myself as a world authority on rodent removal. None-the-less, management informed me that plans were already in the works to hire some outside ‘pest patrol professionals’ to evict the present nuisance tenants and prevent any future occurrences. The promise came across as so sincere; it allowed my gullible side to accept the statement as a warranty of their good faith and a guarantee of satisfaction for elimination of the problem pests.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Squirrel Saga – Part One

In the beginning, it was an innocent incident. I happened to be staring out the sliding doors to the balcony when a smallish grey squirrel poked its head around the corner of the building. Now I live on the third and top floor of the building, no surprise seeing a squirrel at that height, especially if scampering about the treetops, but it is still amazing to watch one hanging motionless on to a stucco finish – even though it has a rough texture – and moving quickly across the surface as if it was on the horizontal. Only the slightest squeak from slowly opening the slider and the squirrel disappeared abruptly back behind the building’s edge. Since there is nothing up here worth eating, it appeared to be simply a chance encounter as he travelled in search of sustenance and would unlikely not return. That was not to be!
Only three or four days later, I became aware of scratching and clawing noises which I assumed were emanating from the exterior of the building. Going into silent mode, I peered out to the deck and then stuck my head out the window to attempt discovering the culprit’s identity. Whatever it was had already left either due to disinterest or my stealth mode was like lumberjacks arriving. So I assumed crows had been using the edge of the gutter to hold a meeting or using it as a watering hole which they do regularly; and then, flew away shrieking in anger at being disturbed. Fast forward to the weekend and fresh coffee in hand, I decide to enjoy the sun sitting out on the deck. Just as I stepped over the raised threshold a chattering broke the silence, and quickly gazing upwards I’m was looking into the eyes of a downward facing pesky squirrel splayed against the wall. No standoff occurred: squirrel bee lined it around the corner while I’m left gawking. However, due to the high interior ceiling, the eave meets the outside wall at almost ten feet, and there up in the corner was a brand, spanking new hole chewed through the plastic strip which serves as the air flow gap. As it turned out, Mr. Squirrel had been busy gnawing a handy new backdoor for his new digs.
Now I reside in a strata complex, so what with a council, an on site manager and a management company, you would naturally assume having any number of critters living in the common roof space would be frowned upon and action would be taken. Faulty reasoning on my part, as the entire building has suffered from pest invasions for years and skimpy patch work efforts have been made to control the ingress. Occasionally, a transgressor is caught in a humane trap, carted over to a local park and released with the good wishes of the management even though there is evidence to suggest squirrels are capable of finding their way back from a distance of miles. And then, any holes are carefully covered over with some metal mesh as if this is the final solution. In reality, the returning offender or a possible new tenant merely needs to proceed to the adjacent roof joist space, chew through the plastic strip or simply push its way through to gain entry.
As I awaited word from the management deliberation process on any solution, the roof tenant appeared to be starting up renovations to his unit. On sunny days, I hardly notice anything, while on rainy ones the chewing and scurrying would last from three to four hours at a time. Did the place require that much fixing up? Or was I just blessed with a demented rodent?

Friday, 23 March 2007

Grizzly E-Mail

Not that I’m taking any sides in this decision, but I wonder if anybody bothered to consult the grizzlies before lifting protection. After all, it is their hides on the line – literally – and they deserve a heads up before the first shot is fired.
I’m thinking a face to face meeting would present some dangers for the human delegate if disagreements turned somewhat hostile. Just those claws drumming on the meeting log would send a horde of goose bumps up my spine.
I considered snail mail, but since grizzlies eat just about anything including snails, I figured that postal people or Fedex guys would also be fair game.
Dropping leaflets seemed to be an excellent option until I realized education benefits had never been extended to the grizzly population. Come to think of it, I never noticed a library out there or even a newsstand; of course, grizzly bears are not known to hold down any 9 to 5 job too long except for the Hollywood star types.
Then it dawned on me. The wildlife service has gone to considerable expense to equip the bears with radio collars, so it should be an easy matter to add in a phone and e-mail service (a few cell towers in the park shouldn’t bother anyone; if it does tell them to get a life).
Maybe the authorities can send out a group e-mail warning to the grizzlies, 24 hours in advance regarding new hunting regulations, which will give them adequate opportunity to cover their asses.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Pardon the Soup Stains

Aren’t we all in love with green – not talking Irish – the environment? Then we should all congratulate the ‘new’ Conservative government on the budget program to institute rebates for purchasers of selected vehicles – those that restrict gas guzzling to less than 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
Now the way I see it, it will become a subsidy for the poor automobile dealers who are having a difficult time feeding at the Ottawa trough. Seems the big auto companies keep pushing them out of the way; as quickly as they knock one factory down, they wheel into the capital, hat in hand, to demand taxpayer money to fund a new factory or major addition. How long until the dealers punch up the price of the selected vehicles to match the potential rebates? Appears reasonable since the customers will get their money back after filling out a few bureaucratic forms. So each of us will contribute to the green cause at the end of April. Of course, maybe the automobile dealers have a better lobby in the capital than I thought. Well, I pray for their sake they use the extra money to clean up their ties and shirt fronts before the manufacturers decide the money belongs to them by raising wholesale prices.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Dancing Fingers

So I imagine poor Bill was sitting alone in his office fretting over all the nasty e-mails; of course, maybe his potty mouth had driven away his secretary or legislative assistant - or both - one of whom should have been handling this relatively minor task. Instead of taking a deep breath and perhaps deleting the offending missive or more intelligently moving it to a holding folder, poor Bill decided to have an attack of finger diarrhea. Pound away at a defenceless keyboard to vent his spleen into Internet space.
Not to worry though Bill. Even if you wrecked your computer, the paying public will ante up to purchase you a brand new one. With luck, you may get one with Vista installed. It has little pop-up warnings to prevent total stupidity. Not that your boss - isn't that the Hawaiian drunk? - will truly hold the transgression against you. After the disgust at your idiocy subsides in three or four months, you'll be welcomed back to Cabinet with a new upgraded portfolio and back pay.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007


It has taken so long to sign in that I've forgotten what I was going to say. Had a URL ready and copied, but lost it in the turmoil of losing the ability to access the blog spot. Started this last month. Have yet to have the opportunity to post a coherent thought.
What to do? What to do?