Sunday, January 31, 2016

Operation Red Nose Beach Party

In late January, Lesli Green (President & Founder, Operation Red Nose Sudbury) organizes a party for all the volunteers that worked for the cause during the preceding holiday season. Because it is held in the dead of winter, the theme is Beach Party.


Lesli, friends and students decorate the common area at NORCAT with lights, Tiki bars and summery things. A hot buffet and entertainment are provided. The amount of work is prodigious.

There was a wrinkle this year. Rick Watt, the head honcho of the Belleville/Quinte Red Nose program decided that he would like to attend. He would be arriving by plane early Friday afternoon while Lesli and crew were decorating. I agreed to meet him at the airport and take him to the Hampton Inn at the south end.

Our plan was to take Rick out for supper as an opportunity to get to know each other and discuss Red Nose methods. The idea of sharing strategies and tactics is always good and usually leads to adopting some best practices.

Because Lesli never gets to unwind and have a few drinks, Sandy and I went and picked her up at her home in Lively. We then collected Rick at the Hampton and headed to the Tap House Grill & Pub on Regent Street. The food was good and the company was convivial. Later, Lesli's daughter Molly, who is home from her studies at Texas A&M arrived with her Texan boyfriend in tow. She had driven to Toronto (via North Bay due to a Highway 69 closure) to pick him up at the airport and treated him to a dandy Northern Ontario snowstorm on the way back.

Rick Watt and Leslie Green at the TapHouse Grill

Sandy, Lesli and Rick

I am sober.  Really!!!!


Sandy and I met Lesli and Rick at Perkins Restaurant for breakfast. After we ate, Lesli headed for NORCAT to finish the party preparations. Rick and I dropped Sandy off at home and then I took him for a driving tour of the Sudbury Basin while discussing Operation Red Nose procedures in our respective areas.

As we were completing the loop, Lesli phoned to ask if we could pick up some ice on our way back. The cubes were easy but I guess blocks of ice are not that popular in mid-winter. It took a while to find them. Then I took Rick back to his hotel to prepare and ran some errands before picking him up again. We picked up another volunteer and Sandy on our way back to NORCAT.

The beach party was a costume event. Sandy brought both our outfits including Crocs, shorts, tie-dyed Route 66 shirts (thanks, Sherm) and pukka shell necklaces from our Hawaiian trip all those years ago. Sandy was wearing a parrot head cap borrowed from a friend and I was wearing my uncle's old straw hat, complete with ostrich feather.

Sandy looking very summery

The Freedom Riders were out in force. I was proud to be a member after the way that they supported the program this year. Solid commitment to our community by solid citizens who like to play on two wheels.

It was a non-alcohol party. This was felt to be right because the optics of serving booze at Red Nose was thought to be less than pristine. The buffet largely came from the Caruso Club and made up for the lack of adult beverages. There was more than enough for the 100 or so assembled guests. After supper, Past Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion (and Freedom Rider) Paul Lemelin and his wife entertained the crowd. Then they had prizes. Guess who won best costumes?

Best Costume Winners

Red Nose Mascot Rudy The Reindeer

Hall decorations

We had our cake and ate it too

The party wound up around 9:00 PM. Lesli, Rick, Molly and her boyfriend headed for the Trevi Tavern with some of the NORCAT staff to unwind while Sandy and I went home.


I went and collected Rick at the Hampton Inn and delivered him to the airport. Then I picked Sandy up and we went over to NORCAT where we assisted a bit with the tear down. The swim club students, though, had it generally under control so we eventually wandered back home.

Students cleaning up on Sunday

A lot of effort goes into this party but Lesli feels it is necessary to recognize all the time put in by the volunteers during the season. I know we appreciated it. For most, this will end their association with Operation Red Nose until the call for volunteers goes out again next fall.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Goodbye Flip Phone - Welcome to the 21st Century

I can't remember when I got my Sanyo SCP-7050 flip phone. I'm guessing it was about 2007, but it could have been a year later. It wasn't too sophisticated and would not even take pictures, but it did have Bluetooth. I was able to use that through my GPS and intercom system to have hands free phone capability on the bike. It was also built to military spec and survived quite a few drops and other traumatic experiences.

By a strange coincidence, Sherm had the same phone. We didn't realize until we got together on the next trip. Great minds, I guess. It was a good phone as long as I didn't want any of the fancy on line features that came along with the Smart Phones. Hell, you couldn't hardly text except in an emergency.

While everyone else (including Sherm) was moving on to things with screens and browsers, apps and widgets, I kept trudging along since I hardly ever used my phone anyway. But recently, the old Sanyo showed signs of giving up. When fully charged, I would make a call and the phone would almost immediately show low battery. I don't know if it was the battery, the charging circuit or the read-out, but it was not worth fixing.

The choice for the upgrade was either Android or iPhone. Sandy already had an Android tablet and I haven't been a big fan of Apple's proprietary ways for years, so the choice was made. Biker had showed me his Nexus 5, a phone sold by Google (inventor of Android). I liked the look of it and also liked what he said about this running pure Android, which would make the roll-out of upgrades quicker and easier. As is the way with these devices, the Nexus 5 was obsolete after almost two years but the Nexus 5x was just released a couple of months ago.

I have been with Bell Mobility for twenty years. They sold the Nexus 5x at a reduced rate in return for signing a two year contract, but they only had the 16GB version, as did all the other providers who offered it. I went to the Google Store on line, ordered the 32GB version and a case, and received it two days later.

Now that I had the phone, I needed a provider. Luckily, there is a site that compares cellular providers across Canada. Bell, Rogers and Telus are all priced about the same. For $70, Bell will give you 1GB data and unlimited local calling or 500MB data and unlimited Canada-wide calling. The smaller providers, who also use one of the two tower systems across the country, are more competitively priced.

The comparisons can be difficult because the features differ a bit from company to company, but I was struck by the rates offered by PC Wireless. That is President's Choice, as in Loblaws, and they have a cell phone kiosk in our local Real Canadian Superstore. The basic monthly rate is $44 for unlimited Canada-wide calling and world-wide texting with pictures and video. There is a $6 discount if you bring your own phone. Data costs $10 for the first 500MB, another $10 for the next 500MB and then $10 per GB after that. But if you don't use the data, you don't pay for it.

Tessa, the PC Mobile rep in the kiosk, took my phone and put a mini-SIM card in it. Better her than me, the thing was tiny. Then she called bell and had my phone number transferred over. That's it, I was good to go.

For safety, I turned off the wireless data. I can turn it on if required but will rely on WiFi most of the time. No need letting the apps chew up bandwidth if they don't have to.

So I am in the 21st Century now. Feel free to text me anytime and watch for me checking in here and there on Facebook:-)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

R.I.P. Brian 'J-POB' Amaden V~20328

We were shocked to hear of the sudden passing due to natural causes of Brian 'J-POB' Amaden of Jacksonville, Arkansas. He is survived by his wife Holly and daughter Claudia. Brian was the son-in-law of long time VROC member Magellan.

At 38, Brian was one of the younger members attending our rallies. We will certainly miss his smiling face. Our deepest condolences to Holly, Claudia, Magellan and family.

Brian 'J-POB' Amaden
1977 - 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. Welcome to 2016.

We survived the Operation Red Nose New Years Eve. Business was steady but, by 4:00 AM when the phones shut down, there was no backlog and we wrapped it up.

There are no serious travel plans this year until May, when we have reservations in Maggie Valley for the South East VROC Rally. It is possible that we might stay down an extra week with the Freedom Riders, the trip that we cancelled last August.

Wolfman's Wandering Rally is being hosted in Taos, New Mexico from June 20th to 24th by Susan and Badger. The Aebleskiver Cat Memorial Rally is scheduled for July 20th to 24th in Solvang, California. Hopefully, we can arrange to be able to spend the month in between out west, stroking things off our bucket list.

The Freedom Rally starts Friday July 29th in Sudbury. As Assistant Rally Director and Treasurer, I need to be there but it will be a stretch. We will leave Solvang on the morning of the 24th and have almost 3,000 to cover before the 29th.

Interlochen, Michigan is scheduled for the weekend after the Freedom Rally. I am trying to convince Sandy to spend a few nights on a cot in our tent. We would rather not spend $100+ per night for a small motel, especially considering the exchange rate and the fact that we can camp for $10 per night.

The Eureka Springs VROC Reunion is going on again in September. Laura has taken over the organizing and, right off the bat, was challenged by the banks taking over Motel 62. She could not get confirmation that they would be able to honour our reservations so she made alternate arrangements with another establishment.

This itinerary all is dependent on my ability to get out-of-Canada health insurance and we can arrange suitable people to keep an eye on Sandy's Mom.

Closer to home, I plan to play a lot of golf and do some Ontario traveling. It would be nice to take the grandchildren somewhere. Maybe the Toronto Zoo or, for the older ones, Canada's Wonderland. I'm sure there are a lot of places that they would enjoy.

So the new year is chock full of opportunities and I hope we can make the most of them.

Oh yes, no need to make a resolution to quit smoking. I haven't touched a cigarette or other combustible product since June 4th. Wish me luck.