26 Jan

Small Town Vs. Big City

I just had a friend return to Canada after living seven years in China. He lived in One of the biggest cities in China. Once he sent me pictures of the view from his apartment. What I saw was smog. It was quite frightening actually. He must have nerves of steel to live that close to so many people. He’s been writing about his observations about “Canadians” since he now feels a little bit like a third wheel while his blood thickens with the Canadian cold climate again.

In an email he suggested a theme to my next Hepburn Home Page entry. He wrote “I’ve always been curious to know how you find life in a small town versus the big city. I guess Wiebo vs. Rocky about sums it up.”That does about sum it up. I’ll explain since it’s an inside joke. Rocky is the name of our old boss when we both lived in Calgary, A city made consulting entrepreneur. Wiebo is Wiebo Ludwig, a redneck, convicted on five charges related to bombings and other forms of vandalism against oil and gas installations.

Comparison #1: What Puts Bread on The Table

…. The sooner we run out of oil, the sooner we can . . . replace our plastic fetish. 

When I lived in Calgary, I was all for the oil patch.  It was where I made my money.  I believe that the oil industry is a necessary evil.  The sooner we [the human race] run out of oil the sooner we can get something better to replace our plastic fetish. Heresy!  Calgary is the petroleum capital of Canada. Don’t go bashing the oil industry in downtown Calgary or you might regret it.  So, was I ever shocked when I moved out here and found a lot of people did NOT like the petroleum industry.  Where I live, agriculture is king!  Oil is just what goes in the tractor and those bastards [in Calgary] are getting rich off it too.  You don’t talk openly about the farmers that also work as gas battery operators and drive pickups with “BP” logos on the side. Now I’m cursing those caravans of TriCan frac trucks when they pass me on the highway.

Comparison #2: Plastic Vs The Real Thing

In the city everyone uses plastic money, maybe cash.  In the country everyone uses barter, maybe cash. Hutterite definitely cash…or beer. In small town Alberta there are 6 businesses that I deal with regularlythat ONLY TAKE CASH or, if you believe, a personal cheque. I can get my eggs, beef  and bread from local sources but cash is the only way to pay.  I paid cash for lots of my home construction.  The phrase would be something like “How much depends on whether you need a receipt or not.” I pay cash! No-receipt-price please.

Comparison #3: Blame The Government, But Not the Same Government

Government services are very different out in the country, on every level  We recently had a dump of snow around Alberta.  shortly after the snow stopped I was in Innisfail, Red Deer and Edmonton. People in Edmonton would be mad as hell that they couldn’t get down their street without getting stuck.  All snowplows were busy with the main thoroughfares before going to “priority 2” streets and will probably never get to the residential streets.  Innisfail had most roads plowed in a week. Yes, they have fewer roads by far, however I think they only have 3 trucks, a grader and a front-end snow-blower.  I honestly think that Red Deer did the best job of removing snow this year so far.  Where I live, the snowplow will make it down the road within 48hours after it stops snowing; I consider that really good service.  For my relatives on the gravel side-road, they will be plowed out 3 days after any winter storm.  I was visiting a friend in Edmonton and he has a really long sidewalk: 50 feet.  Poor Muffin!  Try my driveway: 700 feet, and if it’s not plowed out by the mailbox, your postal worker will deem the box site “unsafe”.  Your mail delivery will be cut off…forever, forcing you to get a PO box number 10Km away.  So now you know why I’m out there in -30deg.C weather clearing the snow from the mailbox if nothing else.

I’d be lucky if an ambulance made it to my house in under 30 minutes (don’t forget that’s an hour to get to a hospital if I wait for EMS to take me).  I have never seen a speed trap on the highway to my house.  I have no garbage collection, cable, sewer or water service.  The power goes off once in a while and I consider it to be normal.  When the power does go out I usually wait 3 hours before calling the information hot-line to find out what’s going on.

Comparison #4: Between You and Your Neighbor

The concept of boundaries and good-will in the city has always made me laugh.  I’ll give you a little story about when I lived in Calgary.  I had a house in the middle of the street and one neighbor was a hard working single woman I’ll call Ms Safeway.  Across the street there lived a macho egotistical married man we called the Parking Nazi.  He was obsessive about parking his truck in EXACTLY the same spot every day.  The parking Nazi didn’t get along with Ms. Safeway.  I was new to the neighborhood and was cutting my little tiny patch of front lawn and noticed that Ms. Safeway, working long shift work, had not cut her lawn.  “It’ll take another 3 minutes to cut her front lawn too!” I thought and proceeded to cut her grass too.  Parking Nazi ran across the street and yelled.  ” I wouldn’t do that!”
“Why?” I asked
“Well…she probably would not like it!” He said, throwing up his hands and walking away.

I sat there for a moment trying to imagine why she wouldn’t like it.  I finished mowing her lawn.
I found out later that Ms. Safeway had parked, years ago, in Mr Nazi’s parking “spot” and Mr Nazi was forever trying to get revenge.  So much so that he tried to stop me from doing a good deed for Ms. Safeway. Ms. Safeway made this clear shortly after thanking me with a potted plant.

I find this boundary concept everywhere in the city.  mowing the lawn:  Don’t cross that invisible boundary between you and the next-door neighbor!  Shoveling the walk in winter? Don’t do theirs!  You could use the edge of the snow as a survey line between the fellow that cleaned his walk in the morning and the guy that does his after work.  Silly little children.  I always shoveled well beyond my own sidewalk.  Doing my own walk simply was not enough exercise for me.

…. the rancher owns roughly 83 million square feet of land.

City people talk about how so-and-so’s fence is 1 foot on their property! “And they won’t pay their half to fix it!”  I became brainwashed with these ideas, then moved to the acreage.  I wanted to fence the north part of the acreage so I could put a new septic field in the ground and keep the neighbors cows from walking on it.  I found the survey pin and was fencing when the neighbor – a rancher – came by to talk.  I was eagerly explaining that I had truly found the surveyed corner pin and wasn’t cheating him out of land he owned.  The rancher looked quite puzzled the whole time I was explaining this. I found out he owns 3 sections of land! For you city people that’s aproximately 1/3 size of metro Calgary or roughly 83 million square feet of land.  Does he care about 2 feet this way or that?

Links I like

The links I like section is back and it up for trawlers looking for good fishing with a net.  The link is here.

09 Jan

2010 Christmas Edition of the Hepburn Home Page

Well, It’s 2011 and the Christmas Edition of this Blog never made it to the press.  Here’s why:

Before Christmas I opened a package containing at least7 different virus that auto-ran.  My virus scanner caught the first one.  Six more infected the computer.  It was so bad that at one point I couldn’t get Windows to boot. I’m fairly sure I wasted two weekends working on getting the system up and running.  The system was sooo messed up that I finally called Microsoft Support.  I’ve NEVER done this before, either as a software tester, computer hardware administrator or as a web developer.  I was impressed, slightly.  The support people (a different one each day) were helpful.

So, here is the letter that was sent out to family and friends, however, if you want to see the nice version you can view the pdf :   2010christmas    [written by Gracia]:


Hello, friends and family of the Hepburns.

This year, out letter comes from the newly formed Edmonton Hepburn base, right smack dab in the middle of the city. Our family has gone through some pretty big changes this year, so here’s an update.We started off the year with a birthday celebration of epic proportions: Thomas turns 40! We celebrated the occasion with a trip to Banff. We enjoyed our time immensely, and can’t wait to celebrate Laurie’s big birthday!We were involved in several extra-curriculars: Kiersten was skating and taking piano lessons, while I had a role in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and coached skating. Our parents were busy as well, shuttling us around to our various activities, finishing up jobs around the house, and occasionally doing some work.In June, I graduated high school and the Hepburns embarked on yet another glorious summer. We all travelled to Toronto for a wedding and Tom, Laurie and Kiersten stayed behind in Ontario for a well deserved vacation at our family cottage. I flew home early to continue work, and celebrated my 18th birthday while they were away. The house was still standing when the family arrived home, much to their relief.Soon, it was time for me to move out of the Hepburn family home. I brought all of my most important things with me, and made my way to my new home: the University of Alberta. The rest of the family was distraught without me, but eventually their lives returned to normal.Kiersten started grade 6, and Tom and Laurie went back to the daily grind. Kiersten is a busy bee this year: she spends time missing her fabulous big sister, taking riding lessons, taking piano lessons, and skating her heart out in private lessons. I am taking classes at the U of A and loving every moment of it.So, that’s our year at a glance. We all wish you a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year!Sincerely, The Hepburns written by Gracia Hepburn