December 28, 2017
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We are in the midst of a Canada-wide cold wave, with temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below seasonal averages. (Those are Celsius degrees, too. Each one is worth 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees.) The National Post reports that it was colder in Winnipeg this morning than it was at the North Pole, the South Pole and the Gale Crater on Mars, where the Curiosity rover is located.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Yet it was really only -30° in Winnipeg, and the three locations mentioned above are usually much colder than that. Still, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was -27° at its far northern tip. And the Canadian Forces Station at Alert in the NWT was -7°. That has to be a fluke, since Alert is farther north than any Inuit settlement. The sun will not be seen at Alert for another two months.
My car started Christmas morning at -28°. When I went to open the rear lift gate it was frozen shut (I washed the car last Thursday). But it unlatched enough to turn on the interior light above the door. I guess that was enough to run down the battery, because the car would not start two days later. The -31° temperature wasn’t in it’s favour either.
This is now our third winter with this car and I knew that I had plugged it in a time or two each of the previous winters. But I suffered a brain freeze in the cold weather and couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to find the plug for the block heater. I looked all over the engine compartment and the grill and found no sign of it. Eventually I noticed it just poking its nose out of a vent under the grill. I plugged it in and after a few hours the car started.
Today I went to Saskatoon. That is a 150 km round trip and depending how much we crisscross the city it could be as much as a 200 km trip. I got to wondering just where an electric car would die in this weather. Our car has a good interior heater and defroster, plus heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Add that load to the battery load in an electric vehicle and how far would it go? I believe a comfortable driver is a much safer driver than a driver wearing layers of clothing, felt-lined boots and two layers of mitts who can hardly see out his frosted windshield.
Forty years ago we had a little Asian car and in weather like this we had a choice between keeping ourselves warm or seeing out the windshield. It couldn’t do both at the same time. I won’t name the maker, because their cars have improved immeasurably since then. The car I’m driving now comes from another Asian manufacturer and is about as good as one can get for driving in our winters. What are the chances that electric cars might improve that much over the next forty years?
January 20, 2016
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The city of Saskatoon has been growing rapidly aver the past fifteen years. Among the many newcomers, there is a high percentage of people Of Asian and African origin, including several thousand Muslims. Two large mosques have been built and are reported to be full to over flowing. Many of these people are showing up behind the counter at Tim Horton’s, as cashiers in Walmart and in other such places of business. There are a number of African doctors.
I hear some Christians expressing troubled thoughts about the kind of people that are coming into the country. Some complain that many of them have an accent that is hard to understand. Others express worries about Muslims taking over the country and wonder if we will soon have jihadist incidents.
A more pertinent question might be what do these people think of the Christians they meet here? Do we seem like people who love our neighbours as ourselves and have no respect of persons? Really, if we want these people to form a proper picture of what Christianity is all about, we had better conduct ourselves as Christians.
Many of the Africans who come here are Christians. Denominations based in Nigeria have established six congregations in the Saskatoon area. Is that good or bad? It could be a sign that the existing churches didn’t offer a warm welcome to the newcomers.
Recently there was a newspaper article about a young lady from Pakistan who was a long distance runner and competed in the Olympics. The government of Pakistan was supportive, but some Islamist militants made life dangerous for her, so she came to Canada. Her advice to newcomers to Saskatoon is to get to know people outside their own ethnic communities, make friends and learn to know and enjoy their new homeland.
That seems like good advice to those of us who were born here: let’s get to know these newcomers, make friends, make them feel at home. It is those who feel marginalized in their new land who are most apt to be lured into extremism. The more we get to know these people the more opportunities there will be to show what Christian faith is all about.
January 19, 2016
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It is winter in Saskatchewan. Last night there was a heavy fog; the fog deposited its humidity on roads and streets where it formed a sheet of ice. After a rash of accidents in Saskatoon this morning, the police issued the following bulletin:
Speed limits are set based on ideal road conditions. THESE are not “ideal” road conditions. Please slow down.
January 6, 2015
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This crystallizer vessel was assembled at JNE Welding in Saskatoon and is on the roads this week headed to K+S Potash in Bethune. The unit left JNE Welding’s Saskatoon site on Thatcher Avenue at 5 a.m. January 6, 2015, heading northwest on Highway 16. It will spend the night in Swanson and arrive in Bethune on Thursday. Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix
Photo and caption come from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix:
This is the second of these huge evaporators that has passed through here. This one is now stopped for the night about one mile from us as the crow flies. There are 10 axles on the trailer, and I believe there are 16 wheels on each axle, a total of 160 tires. There is one semi tractor in front and one behind, with an escort of 4 or 5 pilot vehicles and one police vehicle.
December 2, 2014
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A few days ago my wife and I got to talking about a catchy advertising jingle of fifty years ago that was heard incessantly at this time of year. My wife even remembered all the words and sang them. It was the theme song of a government of Canada campaign to help building trades people keep working year round. It started with promoting the idea of homeowners doing interior renovations during the cold months, when carpenters, plumbers and electricians were readily available.
The idea of winter construction work took off from there. Nowadays the construction of new houses hardly slows down in wintertime. With the use of plastic sheeting and construction heaters it is even possible to pour concrete in sub-zero temperatures. The innovative campaign that began 50 years ago has been a resounding success, there is hardly a blip in employment for people in the construction trades during the winter months.
On another front there is still a need for some innovative thinking. It is said of Saskatchewan cities that they have the world’s most efficient snow removal system: it’s called spring.
It might have been better if my wife and I had never lived in Montreal. But we did spend four years in that city, which is reputed to receive the heaviest annual snowfall of any major city in the world. And they knew what to do when it snowed. It took an average of four days after a major snowfall to have all the snow cleaned up – major traffic routes, commercial streets, residential streets, sidewalks included. City crews and subcontractors worked in shifts around the clock; small tracked snowplows pushed snow from the sidewalks into the street, the snow in the street was plowed into a windrow down the centre of the street and then a loader would come along and blow the snow into a steady stream of trucks who hauled it to snow dumps. It was a marvel to watch the coordination and thoroughness of the job.
We had four inches of snow a week and a half ago. My wife and I were in Saskatoon four days later and the main thoroughfares had been cleaned fairly well. That was it, and the city seemed to feel they were doing a better job than in other years. Residential areas will probably not see a snowplow all winter. For most streets of the city the snow is left to be compressed by traffic into a rutted ice pack.
There was another eight inches of snow last Saturday and I have a doctor’s appointment in the city tomorrow morning. That will no doubt further my education on how to drive on icy, rutted streets.
I’m all in favour of reviving the old jingle and applying it to snow removal: Why wait for spring – do it now!
August 22, 2014
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A couple in the city of Saskatoon has been ordered to get rid of the chickens they are keeping in their backyard. Two city councillors came up with a whole list of reasons why it is a terrible idea to keep chickens in the city. Chickens attract pests, they are noisy, chicken manure smells. They might freeze in the winter and then the city would be blamed. Somebody might get ill and die from food-borne disease from eating a backyard egg with a cracked shell.
Let’s see now, are chickens as noisy as the dogs that bark in the middle of the night, or the next door neighbours whose patio party lasts until 1:30 AM? If the city is responsible for winter, why didn’t they come and clear my driveway every time it snowed? Are chickens in one neighbour’s backyard any messier than the cats that use my children’s sandbox for their litter box? As for eggs with cracked shells, I guess that would be a danger if you ate raw eggs.
How many chickens did these people have in their backyard anyway to cause such a furor on city council?
That’s right, three. It took three chickens to get these two councillors into a tizzy. The chickens are kept in a 40-square-foot, insulated coop. The neighbours have no objections. But the couple has purchased an acreage outside the city and plans to move soon. Problem solved . . . . until the next time. The newspaper article names four Canadian cities that do allow backyard chickens, as many as 12 in the case of Edmonton. I’m sure the question will come up again in Saskatoon.
Another councillor, with a little firmer grip on reality it would seem, suggested that people have become disconnected with how food is produced.