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Writer-s-Bloc

Vancouver Island adventure

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

On the first day of holidays, my true love sank in quick sand, and our dog got zapped at the Air B&B's dew-covered land.

On the second day of holidays, my true love, dog and I, were, thankfully, in-ci-dent free.

Day one started normal enough. We went to church, and the Air B&B proprietor, whom we will call Ralph, offered to watch our dog while we went to the service, which was great.

While we were away, all hell broke loose when he let the dog out in the fenced yard and forgot that the electric fence was still on.

The wire was juiced in one section to keep the raccoons out of the pond; otherwise they would go fishing in his stocked pool.  He remembered his error just as Tig'ger went over to the fence.

Horrified, he yelled stop, but too little too late, and she touched her nose to it and got a good jolt, then took off running.

She thought Ralph zapped her deliberately and for the rest of our stay with him, she would not go near the good-hearted, disabled fellow, even when he bribed her with treats.

Due to Ralph’s physical limitations, he couldn’t get to the power source to shut it off fast enough, and injured his foot while trying. The poor, dear senior felt terrible for traumatizing the dog.

He finally coaxed her into the house and she stayed put in the bedroom that we were renting and would not come out.

After that experience, she eyed him suspiciously and would growl softly when he came near. She didn't understand he was trying to prevent the shocking experience, and didn’t intentionally zap her.

We returned to a remorseful Ralph, and a sulking dog. We then took her off his hands and went to the beach in Parksville, where more trouble awaited.

Being land lubbers originally from Alberta, we were unaware of the water that lurked below the sand. I thought it was freaky to see water bubbles form around my feet as I walked, but we carried on. Len went ahead, and sank into the quick sand.

The sand suction cupped him real good, and he lost one shoe then another; with each step, he sank past his ankles. He’d lift one foot and sink it again.

It took every ounce of his strength to get out. The dog thought it was a game and she ran circles around him and wrapped her leash around his legs. He was lassoed, unable to move.

I was laughing my head off. Suddenly, I realized the situation was dire, and said some prayers aloud.

Len managed to unhook the leash from the dog’s collar and unwrap himself, and with grim determination retrieved his shoes from the muck, nearly plunging in, head first.

With each step, he would sink again and again and, finally, with a loud grunt and groan hurled forward, onto drier land.

It was hard getting all that sand out of his shoes, and we cautiously made it back onto the rocky shoreline.

Len was exhausted, so we climbed up onto a grassy, open field and were harassed first by a guard dog that I prayed would not jump the fence.

As we walked gingerly on the edge of the grass, we were then yelled at by a man who said to get off his neighbour’s property.  Len politely explained what happened, but the guy said it wasn’t his problem.

All blooming heart, I tell yaw.

We climbed back down onto the rocks and to the safety of the vehicle, breathed a sigh of relief and drove away.   

I could not help but wonder what day two would bring.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Glenrosa woman whose dog, a mini Australian shepherd, when not running circles or bouncing off electrified fences, saved her from a bear two years ago.



144253


Just say no to new

By ​Tara Tschritter 

Ahhhh, home renovations. The very thought conjures images of chaos, dust, decisions and delays.

So why would anyone in their right mind ever embark on such a journey? Well, it turns out there are a number of very compelling reasons.

Many of us love the idea of reducing our impact on Mother Earth. Why buy new when we can refurbish and reuse?

Trends toward online marketplaces and brick-and-mortar re-stores are on the rise, for good reason. Most of us agree that our homes and our communities have more than enough things. If we can reuse what is existing, we respect our planet and our future.

This values-driven reasoning for renovating is often complemented, or even replaced, by more practical reasons for choosing renovation over a new build.

Reusing existing infrastructure is more convenient, accessible and often more affordable than building new.

Some homeowners leverage existing home equity to obtain loans to complete their renovation project. 

Using our existing asset frequently costs less than starting from scratch.

In addition, homeowners may be able to stay in their home while a renovation is being completed, eliminating the need to pay for temporary accommodation.

Upgrading to energy efficient insulation or windows etc. can reduce monthly utility bills.

If you are considering a home renovation there are some important things to consider.

What is your goal?  Do you hope:

  • to generate revenue
  • to increase the comfort, usability and style of your home
  • to increase energy efficiency
  • or are you sprucing up to sell?

The amount of time you plan on living in your home post renovation should be considered in relation to your goal.

Don’t ever overlook good design

We have all driven by houses and thought, egad, that new façade is no better than putting lipstick on a pig.

Ultimately, timeless and tasteful design ensures that the time, money and resources you put into renovating your home do not go to waste.

Nobody wants a home that looks like a compilation of a million little patchwork jobs rather than a well thought out, intentional design.

Another thing to consider is possible hidden costs

Do you have the budget to deal with getting old electrical up to code or asbestos removed?  Are there any possible structural issues?

Ensure you have a good contractor assess these issues prior to beginning your job.

This pre-emptive assessment is the best way to avoid getting in over your head.

When putting money into your home you are wise to consider if you will get a good return on your investment. The reality is that our homes are likely our biggest investment.

When treated as such, our home-improvement project choices become more practical and beneficial over the long term.

As a small space construction company, we first became interested in renovations with the realization that the concepts of living in smaller spaces and renovating existing spaces both accomplish many of the same goals.

We can consume less, reduce our monthly utility bills, generate income and feel better about our environmental legacy. 

“At its best, preservation engages the past, in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William Murtagh

Tara Tschritter is the owner of a Kelowna base contracting company. Little House Contracting specializes in building and renovating small homes. Find out more at www.littlehouseco.com



Don't sleep with your horse

By Wild Bill Martin-Ock
(As told to Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel}

The horse blasted through the tough canvas material like it was a paper bag, leaving a gaping hole in the shape of his outline — just like you'd see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

It should have been funny, but it really wasn't.

Seconds earlier, the gelding, Sparky, had awakened from a nice, warm sleep in the cozy tent. It sure beat the -30c blizzard conditions outside. He lazily got up from the ground, front legs first, bumping his head on the side of the tent.

That’s when things got really crazy.

The horse flung his head around like a giraffe, whacking the centre pole, and then the tent came crashing down around us. The terrified beast instinctively kicked out with his back hooves, and knocked over the wood stove.

By this time, we helpless men lay there staring in disbelief, trapped in our sleeping bags on our cots. During the ensuing chaos, some men shrieked, others cussed, while a few begged for divine intervention.

Those flailing hooves, bearing 1,000 pounds of fury, were projectiles, which we hoped desperately, to avoid. One hoof packs a deadly wallop, one ton of force per square inch of hoof.

The horse wasn't aiming to hurt anyone; as he was just stampeding around, scared spit-less.

I heard a shrill scream, like that of a little girl, and feared the worst, then realized that scream was mine. We all flopped around in our bags like seals on a crowded beach.

Miraculously, no one was trampled, kicked or injured, and that wood stove was cold by then, but the ashes from it covered everything.

I do believe The Man Upstairs was listening to our cries for help, no coincidence there. Nonetheless, my hunting buddies were unimpressed, and sure were mad at me.

"You dumb blankety blank, we told you not to bring your horse into the tent for the night," they yelled.

My ego was bruised.

I was sure Sparky would have been well behaved, as he followed me like a dog into the tent the previous night. Sparky was grateful to be in from the cold, while his equine companions whinnied and stomped their feet jealously outside; in the blowing snow and howling, icy wind.

It was late November of 1980 in the Alberta foothills. My horse then shook the snow from his back, nudged me with his muzzle, and lay down, folded up his legs, and slept like a baby.

All was well until all hell broke loose in the morning, when the baby awoke, and temporarily lost his mind.

I should have known that the strangest things will spook a horse, even the sound of his own flatulence.

No harm, no foul though. Hence I was left behind to fix the tent, with threats upon my life, I might add. Thereafter, I found a couple of tarps; duct tape and bailer twine to patch up the tattered mess.

The Red Green stars would have been proud of the job I did.

After accomplishing that task, I parked the trucks, nose to nose at the mended end of the tent, which would provide a buffer from the wind on that weakened spot.

Livestock panels provided a small corral for the horses, while a tarp covered the top of it to give them some protection from the elements.

When I was finally satisfied with my makeshift repairs to our rustic tent, a remorseful Sparky and I headed out alone to hunt.

I bagged a moose two miles away from our camp, and it dressed out at 250 pounds. I had it hanging back at our camp in the early afternoon when the guys came back.

They were sheepish and empty handed. Hence we were all thankful for the moose liver and beans we had for supper that night.

Later on however, we experienced a rather chilly night’s sleep, due to the draft from the cold air and snow particles blowing in through the cracks in the renovations.

The experience would have been a real hit for a Reality TV survival show, nowadays. However, nobody had a camcorder back then, nor did we even think to bring a Polaroid camera.

We were just glad to survive the ordeal unscathed, and got the last laugh at Old Man Winter's efforts to freeze our sorry hides.

Another life lesson learned, this time in Tenting 101. Don’t share your tent with a horse.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is self described as being a somewhat eccentric humorist writer.  Doreen got her writing style and inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck who is reputed to have said, "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humour and hurt."



140018


Collision with reality

By Bill Downey

There is a huge, and dangerously misleading, misconception at play in the motorcycle world about who's at fault when motorcycle collisions happen.

To quote the B.C. Coroner's  document Aug. 29, 2018 (Motorcyclists Deaths January 2008 t0 July 2018):

Contributing Factors Summary

  • Analysis of completed investigations from 2008 to 2018 found the following:
  • 57% of motorcyclist deaths involved more than one motor vehicle
  • Motorcyclist speed was contributory to 38% of deaths, and motorcyclist impairment to 34% of deaths. Overall, motorcyclist/motorcycle factors contributed to 70% of deaths.
  • Environmental factors contributed to 23% of deaths, and factors related to other motor vehicles and their drivers contributed to 14%.

Note: Percentages may sum to more than 100, as one death may have multiple contributing factors.

Let me be very blunt here. The hard and unblinking truth about motorcycle collisions is that we are the main authors of our own misfortunes.

Other drivers are not the primary source of the problem.

Closer reading of the coroner's statistics tell you an even more chilling story than they have articulated:

  • the "Environmental Factors" cited as contributory in 23% of deaths are all, without exception, the responsibility of the rider to identify, plan and equip for, and to prevent from harming them.

Considered from an informed and carefully researched perspective, 93% of  B.C. rider deaths in the past decade were the result of single or multiple rider factors, either wholly or partly.

I do not subscribe to the long-held belief that drivers do not see or care about motorcyclists as such; driver error and driver behaviours are not specific to the presence or absence of motorcyclists.

They are, in fact, shared by motorcyclists, who, it should be noted, are predominantly drivers of other vehicles for most of their vehicle trips.  

Contemporary research, led by a SFU researcher, very substantially challenges the presumption that drivers do not see motorcycles, by demonstrating through a series of controlled studies that drivers are at least as sensitive, if not indeed more sensitive, to the presence of motorcyclists than they are to other vehicles.

The fault is neither perception, nor volition.

It is instead a judgment error, rooted in the limits to human visual processing: it is extremely difficult for drivers to accurately assess the approach speed of other vehicles, up to and including trains.

Our initial common error rate can be as high as 50% (i.e. the approaching vehicle assessed to be travelling at 60 km/h may be moving as fast as 90 km/h.

This is an effect exaggerated by the narrow frontal size, and the location on the road (lane position), of approaching motorcycles.

This research series (Sager et al) is reported in the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals annual safety conference proceedings.

The sad fact is that we have been guided for years in the motorcycle safety world by the exceptionally naive and unquestioning acceptance of two types of essentially nonsensical claims that in other contexts would routinely have been challenged and/or dismissed outright:

Rider: "I didn't have time to react.”

You had a clear sightline to an obvious vehicle, which you ought to have known, and a reasonable person in your circumstance would have known, was very likely to cross your intended path of travel.

You did nothing to protect yourself in advance from that probable hazard until you were immediately upon it, leaving not enough residual time to respond effectively.

You chose to spend the time you could reasonably have used to protect yourself doing what, precisely?

  • Accelerating toward that hazard?
  • Ignoring it altogether?
  • Directing your attention to some secondary task?  

Extremely basic vehicle operation guidelines require operators to maintain adequate forward attention to identify potential hazards in good time, and to implement commonly known and practiced defensive strategies immediately.

Driver: "I didn't see him, he came out of nowhere.”

Well, no, he didn't. This isn't Star Wars, and research now confirms that it is not just possible, but actually most probably the case that you did see him.

You screwed up, because you were wrong about how fast he was approaching. Grow up and acknowledge your error.

On the first point, the rider involvement, a close reading of the various motorcycle crash causation studies since 1979 (see, for instance, "Select Risk Factors Associated with Causes of Motorcycle Crashes, NTSB, 2018) typically reveals that riders panic in situations of preventable collisions, and make them worse.

Evidence consistently shows that riders either make no apparent effort to avoid a crash, or make contributory errors in their responses (incorrect response, or failed attempt at correct response is the typical profile).

That means that riders tend to throw their (often inadequately equipped) bikes on the ground or into other vehicles in circumstances where crashes were neither inevitable, nor the making of someone else.

This is precisely the point that the B.C. Coroner’s report identifies:

  • riders crash who are speeding and/or impaired and/or on slippery road surfaces.

They are often, as well, unlicensed and/or inexperienced.

Other drivers contribute in some instances to the problem, but it begins in most cases with rider error — note the very high frequency (43%) of single vehicle motorcycle crashes.

Why we have accepted this blatantly inaccurate testimony from collision-involved drivers and riders, who in many cases we ought well to have known were making it up from false memory typical of trauma situations, remains a mystery to me.

Naivete is the nicest possible explanation, but it seems unlikely to explain such a broad phenomenon.

The problem is that this weak level of analysis has been reported unquestioningly by the popular media, and has been used for decades to inform not just rider training, but also public policy, with the net result that generations of riders have been abandoned by safety regulators.

These regulators could long ago have acted on other available guidance from sound research and epidemiological analyses to ensure that:

  • motorcycles are more appropriately and adequately equipped at higher mandatory minimum standards
  • more adequate and effective traffic safety enforcement was in place to address the very well-documented issues with speed, impairment, and licensing.

I do know, however, we won’t be able to ignore the hard facts of the motorcycle safety problem.

Why?

Because as we move into the evolving environment of more refined and effective collision-scene analysis informed by on-board Event Data Recorders, external monitors such as intersection safety cameras, and by increasingly refined Naturalistic Driving/Riding Studies, the evidence will be over-whelming.

These real-time tools and techniques are not subject to the substantial flaws of witness accounts, and are much less easily ignored in favour of the long-preferred "he said/she said" game.

We have to grow up sooner or later, stop trying to create artificial and dangerous divides between road user groups, and start to use the scientific evidence to create actual road safety measures for all road users.

Bill Downey, an instructor at Kelowna and District Safety Council, is an avid biker who starting riding as a teen.                                                                  



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About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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