Thailand Itinerary, Try #1

We spent a lot of time coming up with a fantastic itinerary for our upcoming 5 week trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Highlights include a few days in Bangkok, Angkor Wat, lazying about the Mekong in the lesser traveled NorthEast Thailand, and several days in each of Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Ko Phangnam.

Alas, it was not to be.
Emma broke a bone in her ankle 11 days before our departure and we decided to postpone our trip by one week to ensure that Emma has a proper recovery. She was instructed to not put any weight on her foot until seeing the orthopedic doctor and we have to stick around until we see a doctor.

No fear though, as we have come up with a 4 week itinerary that is still pretty great. We decided to cut out the NE Thailand portion, which is a bummer for me because that is one area that I have not visited. However, the NE is probably the least “exciting” of our plans and it makes sense to cut it for the rest of the family. Oh well.

Fall Memories

TN8-13 AnnSo Hunchuli at ChomrongI stepped outside this morning and the crisp, sunny air and the neighbour’s incense instantly triggered a memory for me. Days like today always remind me of my trekking in Nepal.  I don’t think a fall day passes without me thinking about my trip there in 1991.  Well, as long as it’s a fall day without rain.  I don’t recall getting any rain while I was in Nepal.  This morning the reminder was stronger because the incense that I smelled was one that I remembered from Nepal.  I don’t know the name of it and I can’t remember exactly where in Nepal I smelled it, but I’m sure it’s the same.  It’s amazing how strong “smell” memories are.

Windsurfing – It’s Back

So I’m sitting there, wondering about kiteboarding. I’ve heard that the equipment is easy to carry around, it’s pretty easy to learn, and you can kiteboard in all sorts of wind from weak to strong. I had been thinking about kiteboarding for while, mostly since I saw some people do it on the beach north of Puerto Vallarta two years ago. It seemed like a great vacation sport.

How much does it cost to get gear? How often would I use it? Where would I go? And then it hits me. I’m a teacher now. Summers off. And there are consistent winds up at Squamish during the summer for windsurfing and kiteboarding and I still have all my old equipment. Now that my kids are getting older, I can leave them at home and take off for several hours. So after about 18 years of not sailing, it dawned on me that now was the time to start again.

Before I went to Squamish for the first time this year I wondered if my equipment would work. I figured my sails might fall apart, maybe my board would delaminate, who knows what could happen. I also wondered if other windsurfers would be older than me, younger or around the same age. My guess was they would mostly be older. I checked out my gear and everything thing looked to be in good working order, in a 1990’s sort of way.



My first trip to Squamish was on a Tuesday. I get there and it’s a lot busier than I thought it would be. It was sunny, the place was full of kiters, and it was WINDY. When I first arrived, I spoke with a fellow that just finished his day on a 5.3 sail. He was heavier than me but advised that it would be an ok size. I was looking for advice because I hadn’t really had to judge wind speed for a very long time. The anemometer read 23 knots with gusts to 26. While I was trying to rig my sail, I noticed it getting windier. 20 minutes later my 5.3 went back in the van and I was rigging my 4.7. By the time I had all my gear ready and wetsuit on, the anemometer was saying 27kts with gusts to 30. I was getting a bit nervous. Squamish has a few unique features that make it a great place to sail but also a tricky place. First, the launch is on a very long and narrow spit that sticks into Howe Sound at the mouth of the Squamish river. If you launch a windsurfer on the lee side of the spit, you can get a big wind shadow. If you launch on the river side you have to deal with a strong current that flows downwind. This current forces your board straight upwind. It’s very difficult to “beach start”, because you can’t hold your board across the current, it will flip over. As well, if you get the clew of your sail in the water, the current will sweep over your whole sail. You don’t want to spend too much time in the water because it is only around 6C I think (glacier and snow melt fed river). On the plus side, the Squamish Windsports Society has decent facilities there to help with rigging and fixing up the launch areas, and they have rescue boats if you get into trouble.  Kiters all launch on the lee side of the spit since they don’t have to worry about the wind shadow from the spit itself.  They also would have problems launching with an onshore wind, which there is if you launch on the river.


I decided to launch on the lee side of the spit and I didn’t have any problems getting enough wind. I was pretty nervous entering the water because I knew it wasn’t going to be some leisurely sail. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that I was way over powered. My older sails don’t have as much range as newer sails, so my 4.7 works best in maybe 23 to 26 knots. Newer sails work across a much wider range of wind. I think if I had a modern day 4.5 sail it would have been perfect. I’m guessing that a new-ish Sailworks Retro 4.5 would work 2.3 to 30 for me.

I only sailed out and back a few times. I didn’t make any of my jibes (turns), of course. Each fall results in a bit of swimming and maneuvering, and fighting with the rig. It all takes its toll on arms that haven’t done much exercise in 18 years or so. With the strong winds and not having my rig tuned properly, I was pretty exhausted after only 45 minutes.

All in all it was a good day. I had likely gone faster on my board that day than I’ve ever gone in the past, it’s a fun feeling. By the end of my short session I was getting my gear tuned a bit better by improving my harness line positions and mast position. I returned to Squamish 2 more times last week and each day things went smoother and smoother for me. I sailed on my 4.7 these days as well, in winds from 23 to 26. It was pretty much the sweetspot for me and that sail.  It’s been a good total body workout for me too, much different from running and cycling.

I’m hoping to get up to Squamish at least 5 more times this August, but the more the better.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Monthly subscriptionitis is a deadly disease and one that is difficult to avoid.  Our house currently has monthly bills for internet access, land phone, unblock-us (ip spoofing), Netflix, Mercy’s cell phone and my cell phone.  It all adds up to a lot of cash.  The cell phones are especially expensive we pay about $180/month.  That gives us 400 minutes of talk time ($30 each), 6gb data ($30 each), system fees and some extras (call display, text messaging).  Over the past couple of years I’ve used my data for tethering my computer at work, but I think I’m done with subsidizing public education. So I looked into how we could slim down the cell phone bill by cutting back to 2gb of data.  Amazingly, it gets more expensive.  Our 6gb for $30 has been grandfathered in and is way better than anything offered now.


Checking out Fido or Koodo, I determined that they really don’t offer anything cheaper.  However, Wind Mobile does offer a much reduced rate.  Reviews on Wind are pretty mixed though, with a lot of complaints about coverage.  Their monthly no-contract rate is so cheap that I thought it would be worth checking out for a month.  The only problem is that I would need a phone that works on Wind, because my current Note 2 does not.


This is where Microsoft enters the picture.  They just started selling the 640XL, a mid-range 5″+ phone for $340.  It’s not the greatest phone in the world but the size is good, the battery lasts a long time and the processor is fine.  And they have a 30 day money back return policy.  So I bought a Lumia 640XL, took it to Wind, and then got a 1 month 2gb package for $35.  This package gives unlimited calling, messaging, voice mail and call display.

Wind data is only 4G, so I expected it to be quite a bit slower than my Note 2 on LTE. I wasn’t disappointed.  I also found lots of places where the data didn’t work very well, such as at Main and Terminal and Broadway and Commercial.  But whatevs.  I decided to stick with the phone, cancel my Rogers phone, and save $45/month.

The day after cancelling my Rogers plan I went to Spanish Banks.  Lo and behold, Wind wasn’t great there.  And you know what? The world didn’t end, no one got hurt and I didn’t get lost with no way of contacting the outside world.

So far I’m really happy with Wind.  Sure, their service sucks in places but that’s a compromise I am glad to take.  I’m acquainting myself with free WiFi hotspots and it’s all good.

Postscript: my wife called Rogers to cancel my phone and it had already been canceled from when I ported my phone. I couldn’t believe it would be that easy.  Rogers also tried to offer my wife a sweet deal.  They told her she could have unlimited talk and 5gb of data for $95.  Uhmmmm…. their best deal was worse than what she (and I) already had.

New Bike Gear

PumpGlovesI’m another one of those periods again where some of my sporting gear is wearing out.  Most of that nice, quality bike stuff that I bought 16 years ago is slowly being replaced. Yesterday’s damage came to $150 at MEC.  I needed to get a new chain ($10), some new cool weather gloves ($60) and a new bike pump ($50).  The bike pump was strictly needed, I still have my old Silca pump.  The Silca continues to impress me – I’ve never even replaced the rubber gasket that clamps to the tube valve.  I just shove the the end onto the valve and pump away.  However, it is getting harder and harder to get a good seal with the Silca.  On top of that, I’m not every confident in the accuracy of the pressure gauge anymore.  The kicker is that new pumps have ends that automatically adapt between presta and schrader valves.  Since I’m often pumping my kids’ tires, this is a welcomed feature.

The chain was a different matter.  Last week I decided to replace the chain on my commuter bike. I measured the stretch to be 1/8″, which typically means that the cog likely needs to be replaced too.  I was fine with that, since I wanted to try running a 20T cog on the back instead of an 18T.  My commuter bike uses the Shimano 8 spd Alfine internal hub, and using the 18T cog I almost never went into gear 7 or 8.  So I figured I would get better use with the 20 T.  Anyways, I went to a LBS (local bike store), Bikes on the Drive.  They sold me a BMX chain which they said would work fine on the Alfine.  On the back of the packaging the chain was listed as being good for BMX and single speed, so their recommendation seemed reasonable.  After using the new chain for a week though, I noticed some pretty big problems. I don’t actually know what exactly was happening, but every 3 minutes or so the chain would feel like it was skipping or catching on something.  A couple of times it really seemed to jam.  I looked into things a bit more and measured the chain – it was a 1/8″ width chain.  A few searches on the internet suggested that 1/8″ on the Alfine is too wide.  The Alfine needs a 3/32 chain.  That matched my observations – I thought there seemed to be a lot of play with the chain.

Long story shot: put a 3/32 chain on the Alfine.  I now have a SRAM PC-830 and I hopefully it will get the job done.

Top Fassbender Twists

Every time I hear Peter Fassbender on the radio, I get really angry. He presents a lot of information in a way that is anywhere from mildly to extremely misleading.  The following are my top misleading views from Fassbender.

Mislead #1. The government is adding over $350M to a class size and composition fund.

Actually: The government is continuing with the existing $70M LIF (learning improvement fund).  This fund and amount has been in place for 2 years.  It is acknowledged that current funding is not sufficient.  They want to put the $75M LIF into the contract for 5 years, which is the $375M that Fassbender is talking about. It is not new money, it is an extension of what is currently used. Furthermore, Fassbender is not clear when he talks about the $375M. It is NOT $375M per year.

Mislead #2. The BCTF is not negotiating.

Actually: Anyone can go to the BCPSEA website and download the proposals from May onwards. From this, you will see that the BCTF has removed a lot from their original positions.  Most recently in August, the BCTF dropped the CS&C fund demand from $225M to $175M.  You will also see that the government has essentially not moved on any issue since mid June.

Mislead #3. The BCTF is asking for almost twice what other public sector unions got.

Actually: The BCTF’s wages are less than the rate of inflation and close to what other unions got (maybe it’s less, I’m not sure). Other benefits are about $5M I think, which is probably close to other unions.  However, the BCTF is also asking for an increase in prep time for elementary students.  This is a significant cost, put at around $65M. The government calls this a benefit.  Given that other public sector unions probably have no need for prep time, it stands to reason that any allowance for this issue would be more than what other unions got. If a person were to view prep time as something other than a benefit, then BCTF is getting the same as other unions in terms of wages and benefits.

Mislead #4. The government would have to raise a tax, such as a gas tax hike, to pay for the BCTF’s demands.

Actually: There are many ways to find money. Many people suggest closing a property transfer tax loophole that is allowing foreign investors to purchase multi-million dollar homes and properties while paying almost no tax (PTT).  Secondly, it should be noted that de Jong and Fassbender talk about gas tax, which is a regressive tax.  Regressive taxes hurt lower and middle income people more than higher income. Why wouldn’t they suggest a progressive tax (if a tax is needed at all)?

Mislead #5. The government has put $1B into education since 2002.

Actually: The government also downloaded many costs to the school boards, such as wage increases and hydro increases. There’s also this little dirty secret out there… costs have gone up in the past 12 years.  For a reality check, see this letter from a principal at a Coquitlam elementary school. They’ve seen their budget drop from $181,000 (2002) to $23,000 (2014).

Mislead #6. The contentious E.80 statement is harmless

Actually: a few lawyers have chimed in publicly stating that the “supersedes” statement is indeed something that the BCTF should have removed. It can set a lower standard from which negotiations would start from after the appeal at the BC Supreme Court. It also begs the question as to why this statement is not being removed, if it is so harmless.

Mislead #7. The BCTF have not given written proposals.

Actually: I’ve read through the proposals on the BCPSEA website. I think that must mean they’ve been written down somewhere, somehow. Government has also said that it took 2 days to get the binding arbitration scheme written down from BCTF. Personally, I could care less about this stuff.  It’s a distraction and disingenuous at best. It is obvious that both sides know exactly what is on the bargaining table, and insinuating otherwise is misleading.

Now, I’m biased in that I’m pro-teacher. But even when I try to get critical on Jim Iker, his explanations are pretty clear.  I may not agree with all of his choices or tactics, but I don’t think he is misleading anyone.  Iker’s main gripes are:

1. the government hasn’t put any new money into CS&C – true

2. the government hasn’t been negotiating – I’ve read the proposals, and would say this is true. The government is holding firm from beginning of June.

3. teacher wage demands are reasonable – fair enough

4. teachers in BC are among the lowest paid in Canada – true if you believe Stats Canada

5. teachers should get a bonus to make up for 3 years of 0 in wage increases. He says this amount is negotiable – true

Next entries »