Sunday, May 27, 2007

Alberta Reports - Number Ten

August 31, 1998

Since my time here is just about done, it’s time for some final updates.

Computer Update:
Bernie’s computer went out again last week. This time, his computer no longer recognized the CDRom. It wasn’t a question of not having the proper drivers installed, the computer simply couldn’t find it. He brought it back Saturday evening, after the CDRom had been repaired, and the keyboard cleaned and serviced. No sooner had he fired it up did he begin pulling out what little is left of his hair. The newly-serviced keyboard’s “A” key wasn’t functioning.
Just in the twelve weeks I’ve been here, the computer has been in the shop three times. Everything on the computer except the case (and I expect that to fail any day now) has been replaced at one time or another, and many items have been replaced twice or more. It’s on its third CPU, second motherboard, third cache RAM, second keyboard, second CDRom drive, second hard drive, second fan, etc. You get the idea.
The latest trouble started when Bernie recently purchased a drawing tablet. It took a little work to install, but eventually he got it working. The only trouble was during the installation procedure, the computer lost track of all the other device drivers, and everything else stopped working.
Bernie spent an evening re-installing Windows and drivers. Been there, done that. Not fun. If Bernie ever has an ulcer attack, I’ll know why.
But at least the mouse works. Most of the time.

Livestock Update:
The duck wounded by the coyotes died later the same day. Since then we haven’t lost any other animals, but the coyotes still come around most nights. Every few nights they come close enough that Bernie runs outside and fires off a few warning blasts from the shotgun. He also swears, yells, flaps his arms like a giant chicken and curses them; the yelling doesn’t chase the coyotes away, but it helps him feel better.
One of the chickens surprised everyone by hatching five baby chicks. They are so cute! We found them when they were just a couple of days old, and you could have put all of them into your hand. Now they’re bigger and one chick is quite a handful. Unfortunately, two of the chicks died about a week ago, but the survivors are strong and healthy. (And so darn cute!)
Some more lambs are going off to slaughter soon, maybe even this week. It looks like Paula and Bernie have decided to get rid of most of the animals before winter, keeping only a few chickens. This means Arthur the Goat is not long for this world, either. I’m going to miss him.

Stardom Update:
Last week, Paula and I went to a recording studio to record some of our essays. We plan to try and sell them as commentaries to the new Victoria CBC radio station this fall. Paula’s an old hand at this and did her job quickly and smoothly. This was a new experience for me, however, and I was a little nervous. Out of the three pieces I recorded, I felt only one was really good. I talked too fast and my pitch was too high (sometimes I sounded like Woody Woodpecker on helium). I also hadn’t had a chance to practice the pieces and change words that were going to cause spittle storms (“exists” for example), or phrases I knew I was going to stumble over, like “mindless drone-toadies of the corporate thought-cults” Sure, that’s a great line, but when you’re nervous and speaking way too fast, it becomes a landmine just waiting to go off. Still, it was a good experience, and at least now I have something on tape.

Season Update:
Winter is on the way: the Canada geese are flocking up and heading south, all the fields around us have been harvested, Bernie has spotted ravens, we all feel the ice in the wind at night, and mice are getting into the house and looking for places to winter (and now Shadow is earning her keep). The really hot days are gone now, the 30s and 35s replaced on the thermometer by mostly 20s and 22s. There have been the occasionally days when the mercury has barely clawed into the teens. Nights are cooler now too, and although there hasn’t been any frost yet, most of us think it’s just a matter of days away.
Here on the farm, all the crops are done except tomatoes, which are still producing but are on their last legs, and, surprisingly, some of the strawberries, which have given a good second crop. Otherwise, all the fields here are already mowed and will get plowed under not long after I leave.
This means our produce supply at markets for the last couple of weeks have been pretty skimpy, and this has been reflected in lackluster sales. (Bernie figures total sales this year were a little more than last year – but it was all sold three weeks quicker than last year.) But Lila and I did last Saturday’s big St. Albert market (and my last market of the summer) by ourselves, and we did pretty well, bringing in the best sales total of any market for the last half of August. But Lila wouldn’t Riverdance with me.…

Undiscovered Jewels Update:
Last week, we all made an amazing discovery, the original “Little Shop of Horrors” (1960). Legend has it the script was written over a weekend because Roger Corman had unexpectedly found himself with a store-front set that was going to be empty for two days before it needed to be struck. Not one to waste an empty set, or any money, the script was written over a weekend and Corman shot the film in two days. Despite being very obviously a low budget film, the script is funny and sharp and the performances are terrific, especially Jack Nicholson making his screen debut in a brief but wonderful scene as a masochistic dental patient. This is a very funny film and well worth seeking out.
Our discovery this week was “The X-Files” episode entitled, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space.’” The episode is a flat-out comedy that turns the entire “X-Files” format right on its little gray head. See David Duchovney go, “Eeek!” Discover the truth about those alien autopsy specials on TV. Learn the secret of the men in black. Find out exactly what kind of videos Mulder watches late at night. This episode manages to play off and satirize the usual “X-Files” riffs, yet still remain true to the series’ dark, brooding nature and conspiracy-tinged story line. It’s a well-written, smart piece of storytelling that also manages to be quite touching on occasion. The laughs are out there. Trust me.

Special Effects Update:
We missed the Persieds meteor shower of mid-August thanks to all the forest-fire smoke. It was so thick that we didn’t even bother to try. But now that the sky has cleared, the Northern Lights continue to dazzle. Bernie still claims this year is the best for the lights he has ever seen. Last night we were trying to figure out why they have been so spectacular. Ozone layer depletion? Increase sunspot activity? We finally decided to blame El Niño. And why not? It’s been blamed for everything else. I even blamed El Niño for how badly the Canucks did last season.

Travel Update:
The plan is to leave early Thursday morning. Paula and Bernie have decided to send Ben to school in Victoria this fall, so I’m playing delivery boy. I’m hoping to make the 5:00 PM ferry to the island, so I’ll be getting up on Thursday at 3:00 AM The truck will be full with my stuff, my new barbecue, some frozen lamb I’m shipping for Paula, and Ben’s stuff. There will also be plenty of loud music to keep me awake. I should hit the mountains around seven or so in the morning, and hopefully they won’t be fogged in as when I came out in mid-June (where does all the time go?).

So now I’m in pre-packing mode, trying to visualize how I’m going to fit all this stuff back into my truck. I’m saying goodbye to new friends I’ve met, and old friends I didn’t see enough of. I’m thinking of this adventure as it ends, and new adventures just around the corner.
I miss my cats.
I’m surprised at how little I miss Victoria. I miss my people there, my friends and family, but I don’t miss the city as much as I thought I would. I guess what that great scientist Emilo Lazardo once said is true: “Home is where you hang your hat.”
So for the next little while, my hat is hanging in my truck so I can take it wherever I go.

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