My Life on the Road: Headed for Texas, crazy cold in Claresholm

With my wife's gig in north central Alberta spinning down for another year and the cold charging hard at us like a bull moose in rut, it's once again time for us to head south. This year, thanks to the two weeks it took me to replace a lost passport, we started off later than we would have liked.

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We left Calgary late in the day. No matter how much lead up we have, there always seems to be a few last things to do. Saying goodbye. Picking up snacks for the road. Double checking our rig's engine, air bags, air brakes, tires and all else. Even after receiving my passport last Friday, we waited until today--Wednesday. The weather was too coarse to risk in the rig.

We aimed at Lethbridge as a first night target. Not far, but out of Calgary and within reach of the border early tomorrow morning. As the dusk settled in, we noted that our headlights were not up to the task of leading us. The bulbs would need to be replaced. But not tonight. We made for Claresholm: a highway pass-through town on the road south. By the time we pulled off for the evening, it had already hit -10. We lurked through town, the size of a semi truck with our Jeep in tow, searching for a dark corner of asphalt to call ours for the night. On with the generator. On with the furnace to warm our dog and our bones. Read the rest

Canadian government growers can't keep up with Alberta's demand for weed

While cannabis may now be legal to smoke, sell and possess across Canada, the demand for bammy is harshing the buzz of many an Albertan. According to the CBC, certified cannabis suppliers are having a hell of a time trying to keep up with demand. The problem is cropping up at a time when the provincial government continues to dole out licenses to operate dispensaries in the province, putting an even greater strain on the amount of marijuana available in big sky country.

From the CBC:

Not all retail stores are necessarily open this weekend — a shortage of stock on the AGLC's retailer website means some new stores aren't able to order any cannabis at all to stock their shelves, and those that have run out can't order enough to restock.

The AGLC is the province's official supplier of cannabis, offering products from 15 licensed producers.

In Edmonton, Numo Cannabis has closed its doors after running out of weed, according to a sign on its door. Another Edmonton store, Alternative Greens, was also closed Saturday after running out of cannabis.

It's not just retail locations that are coming up with bupkis to sell. the AGLC's online portal doesn't have a shred of cannabis to sell, either.

The shortage likely hasn't come as a surprise to anyone keeping tabs on the Canadian cannabis rollout: licensed resellers have been complaining about their inability to order product since September. Given that shops in Alberta are only able to order a weed resupply once a week, it could take some time before the province's dope supplier finds a way to keep up with demand. Read the rest

World class trumpeter plays for stranded Canadians who, like him, are trapped in the snow

If I weren't in Ontario on assignment right now, I'd be home swearing under my breath at the foot-deep blanket of snow that ambushed Alberta. Jens Lindemann wasn't lucky enough to dodge the storm.

Lindemann, who grew up in Alberta, is a world-class trumpeter who's played for Queen Elizabeth II and soloed at Carnegie Hall. He, along with scores of other travelers, was stranded in the snow on the highway between Calgary and Canmore for close to ten hours with no help from emergency service personnel. It's not that no one in our provincial government gives a shit, rather, they're currently overwhelmed. We were hit so hard and so early by a massive snowstorm that Calgary had to request other cities from around the province to send in plows and personnel to help it dig out. It's that bad.

To make being stuck on the road and, in some cases, in the ditch, a little less miserable, Lindemann popped out of his car with a trumpet and plastic mouthpiece (lips sticking to metal are no fun) to serenade his fellow travelers. If the honking horns are any indication, the performance was appreciated. Read the rest

Let me tell you about living my life on the road

In passing, I've talked about the fact that my wife and I are full-time nomads. Lemme expand on that.

A few years back, we bought a 21-year-old RV with the intention of living in it while my wife completed her degree in Vancouver, Canada. Typically, winters in Vancouver are mild by comparison to the rest of the country. The climate is similar to what you see in Seattle. Not so while we were there. It dropped to below freezing for weeks at a time. Snow, a largely unknown commodity in British Columbia's lower mainland, hung around for months. We were cold. We blew through hundreds of dollars worth of propane trying to stay warm.

We were poor.

Shortly before we were to make the drive over the mountains, I was informed that, after five years of service to a site that I had built, my services were no longer needed. It shattered me emotionally and financially. I was sent scrambling to find enough work, piecemeal, to make end's meet. There was cash coming in barely enough to keep afloat. Staying in a campground in the lower mainland costs around $800 per month. We couldn't foot the bill. We made do. Weekly, we would sneak into a local university sports complex for a shower. On one occasion, we had to decide between buying food or propane for heat. We chose food. This ended up costing us $1200, money that could have kept us going for months, to replace our hot water tank as it iced up and cracked in the cold. Read the rest

Canadian government investigating mall's use of biometric surveillance

Last week, it was revealed by a sharp-eyed Redditor that the information kiosks at a mall in Calgary, Canada, were full of software designed to track the age and sex of anyone that stopped to use it. Pretty damn greasy. Greasier still, the management company that operates the mall, Cadillac Fairview admitted that the software was in use at a number of its other properties. The greasiest bit out of all of it? They shrugged off privacy concerns raised by a number of news outlets as there’s nothing in Alberta’s laws that keeps them from doing it without permission, or warning mall patrons that it’s being done.

Well, that was last week.

From The CBC:

The privacy commissioners of Alberta and Canada are launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology, without the public's consent, in at least two malls in Calgary.

A notice posted Friday to the Alberta privacy commissioner website says the investigation will look to determine, "what types of personal information are being collected, whether consent for collection or notice of collection is required or would be recommended, for what purposes personal information is collected, whether the data is being shared with other businesses, law enforcement or third parties, and what safeguards or security measures are in place to protect personal information."

It’s said that Alberta’s privacy commissioner opened the investigation, based on the level of public interest surrounding the issue of whether or not it’s cool for property owners to collect biometric information without a visitor’s knowledge or consent. Read the rest

Calgary malls caught secretly using facial recognition to characterise shoppers' age and gender

Calgary's Chinook Centre and Market Mall -- operated by Cadillac Fairview -- have been caught running background software that analysed the footage from the CCTVs in the malls' electronic directories to guess at the age and gender of visitors, without consent or notification. Read the rest

Kayakers take an intentional 100 foot drop off a water fall

Ram Falls is about 20 minutes from where we're staying for the summer. It's a lovely patch of outdoor beauty. We have a lot of that here. As with the provincial parks that surround the cities of Jasper and Banff, It's a great area to camp in, hike or, you know, fall the equivalent of a 10-storey building off a waterfall in your kayak.

Last week, whitewater kayakers Edward Muggridge and Aniol Serrasolses decided that the time was right to take the 100 foot plunge over the falls. Apparently, the conditions were right.

From The Calgary Herald:

“With whitewater kayaking, you want to have a waterfall that has a combination of a deep enough pool and enough volume of water flowing over the actual lip of the falls,” Muggridge said.

“You want to be able to have enough aeration in the landing and a deep enough pool where you can safely descend the drop. It’s definitely a really risky game and it takes some serious precision and mental focus to be able to pull something off like that.”

I'd rather walk, thanks. Read the rest

Pipelines considered pointless: Big oil seems to be (finally) abandoning Canada's filthy tar sands

Canada's tar sands -- rebranded in this century as "oil sands" -- are the source of some of the world's filthiest and most expensive oil, which can only be extracted by burning tons of already-refined oil to boil tons of sand, producing a product that sells at a global discount because it is so adulterated. Read the rest

Conservative Alberta politician changes sides over Trumpism, gets gendered death threats and slurs from the Tory base

Sandra Jansen was elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, but now she sits with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, who took the provincial government is a surprise upset that was driven by a mix of a split in the right (the Conservatives are mired in infighting with the ultra-right Wild Rose Party) and the decline of the oil industry. Read the rest

Pro-tar-sands activists say dirty Canadian oil is better because "lesbians are hot"

The "In Canada lesbians are considered hot!" campaign is the brainchild of Robbie Picard, a tar-sands booster from Fort McMurray, Alberta. Read the rest

Kickstarting a DIY back-yard Tar Sands Kit

Jeff sez, "Turn pristine ecosystems into high-octane fuel in your own home -- all ages!" Public Lab'skit helps you understand the devastation and health risks from tar sands extraction by letting you boil your own back yard for oil. Read the rest