Tag Archives: Canada

The Canadian Gravel Experience

So we’ve been back on British soil for about a day after taking advantage of the early Easter to spend the school holidays in Canada. I’m slowly working through the pictures – delights to come include a bit of a cattle round-up, a cattle sale, plus a little bit of Canadian winter driving courtesy of their very own late season snowfall that we drove through on our way back to the airport.

By way of a taster, here is a slightly different drivers eye view to the one we took in the UK a couple of weeks ago. This one is a sample of the Canadian Gravel Road experience. Some of the lesser used roads are maintained with a gravel surface, although in some cases they could be regarded as fairly important, for example the most direct route from Buffalo to Oyen in south-east Alberta is gravel.

Anyway, this is the last seven or so miles of the drive to Beth’s parents ranch, so also gives an idea of the kind of countryside around where Beth grew up, and also shows that despite what one or two of Beth’s classes might have thought, she wasn’t taking pictures to avoid the trees. The prairie landscape is pretty typical of what you see around the area, with the only significantly treed areas being the river valleys. You also get somewhat of an idea of what Beth means when she talks about the “big sky” out on the prairie.

Slightly atypically we do actually pass another vehicle on the road, as the fuel truck had just made a delivery. It’s also worth pointing out that the prairie isn’t always this colour – on other occasions the same views will be green or white as far as the eye can see, depending on the time of year. This being the early spring view, currently the new green grass growth is hidden by last years dried grass – subject to the right amount of rain the same trip would look rather different.

A couple of other notes, the beeping part way down is the sat-nav deciding to reset itself for no apparent reason, and the vehicle we’re using is a second generation Toyota Highlander. Camera was my normal Fujifilm F50d.


Canadian Gravel from Richard Peat on Vimeo.

Flickr Stats Clears Up a Mystery

Untouched Snow

Although by making use of internet search tools I can track some usage of my pictures on Flickr – for example I have a saved technorati search that looks for sites referencing my Flickr URL that is common across all public pictures – compared to the level of statistics I can get for visits to any of my websites, information in the past has been rather limited.

What you might have missed though, is that Flickr now has a stats feature of it’s own – see this blog posting for the announcement – which was added to the site at the tail end of last year. It takes a few hours to get the information generated once the feature is turned on, but after that you get all sorts of interesting stuff about which pictures are popular, when and from where.

What it has allowed me to do, is clear up a bit of a mystery about one of my pictures. Most pictures tend to only get a few views – generally well below 100 for a snapshot. Some have had big bursts of interest because they were topical – this picture of the two-minute silence after the London Bombs for example. Others have been picked up by popular groups so get steady traffic, such as my picture of Wild Goose Island and St Mary Lake. However even the most popular of these are between 800 and 900 views. The one exception is the picture above, a picture of untouched snow at the ranch, that has a total viewings of over 3000 – even searching for the picture URL I couldn’t find where it was being used.

What the stats have now allowed me to find out is that a staggering 3070 viewings, that’s 79% of the total have come from the Canadian Yahoo Weather site – looking at the page it has a little boxout with weather pictures taken from Flickr. The picture isn’t in the current set – it’s only been viewed 4 times in the past month, but at least I now know where all the viewings came from!

For the Unbelievers

Talking to our friend Meli on the phone earlier in the week, I happened to mention the first place that Beth taught in Canada where they had a horse drawn school bus, because the temperature often got cold enough that the diesel in the normal bus would freeze.

It has to be said, that Meli didn’t believe me – and thought I was making it up to pull her leg or something. As a result, Beth has dug out her old photo albums to produce the photographic evidence, which she has uploaded to Flickr. The set does include pictures of the actual school bus. She has also included a few other old pictures as well with a set from her second school including one of those fantastic sunsets where it looks like the sky is on fire. Beth has written a bit more about the pictures on her blog.

Yes, Really! originally uploaded by Tahbepet

How Complicated Can It Be?

When I got the schedule change e-mail yesterday it didn’t seem like too much of a problem.

Options seemed to be to go for a different routing on the flights and come home on the original day, or alternatively just take the extra day. So I went home and talked to Beth, and with the options of a reroute via Calgary or Toronto, both of which would add to the cost of the trip without much benefit – we decided that the extra day would be nice, the only problem was that the car hire booking, that we did as part of the deal with the travel agents for the flights, had us returning the car on our original return day, so needed to be extended.

I phoned up Opodo, got through pretty much immediately, and the agent on the other end tried to change the reservation. Unfortunately the system wouldn’t let her make the change. Her suggestion was to try Hertz directly.

Calling Hertz I got bounced between three people, the last of whom explained that they couldn’t make the changes to the reservation as it had not been paid for on my credit card – the payment had come through from an Opodo account, so only they could authorise the payment.

Okay – back on the phone to Opodo, and we went through the whole can’t make changes to the booking routine again. Eventually their only suggestion was to make the change when we arrive in Edmonton.

Thinking about it, probably the best thing, as it seems to be so complicated to extend the booking would just be to head back up to Edmonton on the Thursday and be done with it – drop the car off and then stay in a hotel near to the airport and take in a few of the sights in Edmonton on the Friday. Aside from the West Edmonton Mall (which was sort of where Beth and I went on our first date) I’ve not seen much of the city…

A Halloween Nightmare

200px-sickoposter.jpg

This week alongside all the usual horror movies that get shown for Halloween, another ‘horror’ movie opened on cinema screens here in the UK – Sicko, the new film from Michael Moore.

First off, if your usual choice of cinema snack is a hot dog, particularly with ketchup, I’d seriously suggest something else for going to see this film. The opening sequence is an internet video of an American, who not having health insurance, decides to sew up a gash in his own knee. This gets followed up by a guy who, having cut the tops off two of his fingers with a table saw and again not having health insurance is told that it will cost $12,000 to reattach one finger, and $60,000 to attach the other – he opts for the $12,000 finger and the other one gets binned… But then it transpires that the film is not actually primarily going to be about people without health insurance, the main topic of the film is the people who have health insurance and can’t get treated either!

By way of comparison during the movie, Moore compares the situation in the USA with other countries in the world. The USA is pretty well unique in that it spends a larger proportion of it’s resources that anywhere else on healthcare, but according to a WHO report ranks only 37th. The choices of comparison though are interesting, starting with Canada – a system with which Beth is of course familiar, moving on to the UK with which I grew up, then taking in France, and finally finishing off with Cuba.

Perhaps the first comment I think both Beth and myself would make is that the film does portray both the Canadian and British health systems in a universally positive light. Certainly there is no talk of the multitude of stories about the British NHS in the press. Having said that, when you compare it to some of the horror stories from people in the US you realise that the basic fact that in the UK you’re not generally going be landed with a bill for a hospital stay, or visiting your doctor you realise that Moore is really showing basic principles, and is focusing on the core message, which is that all these other places manage to have affordable, accessible medical care for their people, but the US can’t.

I guess as we’re within the system, we probably become a bit blasé about the fact that when we can just go and see our GP, or even get taken to hospital in an ambulance without having to worry about the cost.

When Moore was putting the film together, he put out a request on his website for any healthcare stories and in return got tens of thousands of replies. Amongst those featured are a couple where the husband had multiple heart attacks and then the wife went down with cancer. Although they had medical insurance, they still had to pay an excess on each claim, and that ultimately has resulted in them having to sell their house. There are also people who on being rushed unconscious to a hospital after a car accident received a bill for the ambulance because she didn’t pre-clear the journey with her insurance company. There were also a number of examples of people whose treatment was denied by the medical insurers for a variety of reasons including technicalities over the initial medical forms. There were several people featured whose relatives had died – in one case a child with a seizure who having been rushed to the closest hospital was refused treatment because it wasn’t on the approved list from the insurance company. By the time the child was transferred to an approved hospital she was dead.

The finale of the film looks at the problems that some of the volunteer workers clearing up after the September 11th attacks have suffered – initially the government only agreed to fund medical treatment for those on the government payroll. Even though there is now a fund to support these volunteers the programme showed several who are suffering particularly breathing problems after working on the site, and who are struggling to make ends meet. From there, the film highlighted the level of care that is being given to inmates in Guantanamo Bay, and then went on to show the medical services that the average Cuban receives.

Certainly Moore could be accused of portraying the US system largely negatively, alongside a strongly positive portrayal of the Canadian, British, French and Cuban health systems. But even if you watch the film knowing that, and being aware of some of the issues in the other systems shown, you cannot fail to be shocked and disturbed by the state of healthcare in the USA. It also serves as a salutary lesson for whenever someone over here argues for how great a privately funded medical system would be in the UK – staff in parts of the US health companies are given bonuses for saving money for their employer by denying treatment. Walking out of the film, for all it’s problems, you do feel rather glad that we have the NHS. Having said that, once you’ve seen some the benefits the French get compared to the UK it’s enough to make you want to up sticks and move there!

Canada Pictures

Canadian Falls by Night

I’ve just finished uploading my pictures from our recent trip to Canada. Beth has another set from her camera that will be uploaded to her Flickr account over the next couple of days.

Currently all of mine are in a single set, but as with our earlier trip I’ll probably break down the three hundred or so pictures into more manageable sets too. I’ll also post about some of our adventures – including the float plane that took six attempts to get into the air…

As a quick overview, the first group are pictures taken at the family wedding which was the main reason for our trip, then pictures of Toronto. After that we spent a couple of days up at Parry Sound, and finally we finished off the trip at Niagara Falls.

Update: Beth’s pictures can be found here.

The Country the World Forgot – Again

A copy of this 2002 article from the Sunday Telegraph written by Kevin Myers popped up in my inbox this morning thanks to Beth. It turned up under the heading of ‘Proud to be Canadian’, and ‘Salute to a Brave and Modest Nation’, with a comment about it being ironic that a Brit wrote the article.

Typically, it isn’t actually a Brit who wrote the article, so it can’t be used as evidence that the British are improving in that respect. Kevin Myers, a regular columnist for The Sunday Telegraph until 2005, although English born was the son of an Irish GP who had emigrated to the UK to work. He now lives back across the Irish sea and works over there. One of the things he is known for is promoting awareness of is the role of the Irish within the British Armed Forces, particularly in World War I. Interestingly, this article does much the same for Canada, another country whose contribution often gets forgotten.

The article was written back in 2002, at a time of growing anger in Canada after four Canadian soldiers had been killed in a ‘friendly fire’ incident when a US F-16 dropped a 227kg bomb on the men. Almost two years later the pilot involved was eventually punished, but only after the initial charges were lessened to dereliction of duty. It has echoes of the ongoing controversy over the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, a killing eventually ruled unlawful by a British coroner, after an inquest marked by a lack of co-operation by the US and British authorities in providing evidence and witnesses. The US rejected the ruling.

The article highlights the contribution made by Canada to both World War’s, including the 15,000 who went ashore at D-Day, and whose contribution the BBC commentators during the recent anniversary commemoration totally ignored. It also highlights that the same is true in the entertainment world, where many well known ‘American’s’ are in fact Canadian:

So it is a general rule that actors and film-makers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality – unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer British. It is as if in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakeably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Just to reinforce that, check out the fantastic William Shatner version of the famous I Am Canadian commercial.

The original article, The Country the World Forgot – Again, can be found on the Telegraph web site, well worth a look to understand the largely forgotten contribution that Canada makes to the world. (Oh and whilst on the subject of contributions, check out which other national broadcaster is credited as co-producer on the new Doctor Who…)

Oh Canada originally uploaded by Megan *.