I hope you enjoy my blog, a collection of articles and thoughts regarding my interests. I'm a married father of two that loves to write about gliding, hunting, fishing, camping and any outdoor passion. Oh yah, I'm a quadriplegic. I hope this is informative to some, entertaining to others, and interesting to all. Let me know what you think. If you'd like an article for your publication, I've got words I haven't even used yet!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Quad Flyin' a Quad

This thing is a freaking blast! Once it is set up to know where home is, you simply give it some power and up it goes! Pushing forward on the right stick makes it fly forward, pulling back to fly backwards, right stick right, right stick left, and it slides that unit right and left. Left on the left stick rotates left, right on the left stick rotates right, easy! Helicopter? Nope, a quad copter!

Last Christmas I received a Phantom 2 quad copter from my wife (I'm so happy ... I promise to say nice things about her for three days!), I couldn't have asked for anything better! We (myself and my sweet lovely thoughtful wife, did I mention I would say nice things for three days?) easily adapted the transmitter with a couple of short broom handles, so that I can control it with my paws. Then we (my sweetheart and I)  pulled out the old book-reading-tray that was built to fit my gun rack on my wheelchair, and away we (guess who?) went!

You don't really have to know how to fly an aircraft to handle one of these quad copters. All you do (after your sweet lady buys you the ultimate gift of all time, a quad copter) is you set it on the ground with your transmitter turned on, then you turn on the battery for the quad copter and wait for the lights to turn green as this signals that it has found enough GPS satellites to find its way home. Then you calibrate the compass with a few simple maneuvers from your lovely thoughtful bubbly helper (who lets on like she would rather do nothing else but fly things), turn on the camera and your screen and away you go! If you get flustered you can always let go of the control sticks and it will stop where it is, in space, and just hover there! When the battery level gets low it will automatically take over, come back and land safely where you took off from, cool!

This thing will take HD video using its GoPro camera, flies for about 20 minutes, and you can watch the whole thing on a screen while you are doing it! What a hoot! Can you imagine receiving a gift that would top this? I cannot! How thoughtful! I guess it might be a bit of an invasion of privacy at times (and it is very much appreciated when your significant other points it out in her subtle way), but you just have to be responsible about where and how you fly it.

If you want to know more about how this works, and how easy it is to fly for a quadriplegic (or anybody), just send me an email and check out my YouTube page! End of day 1.

My Youtube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO8B5KVptDLln4h9tLE44Dg

Friday, 31 July 2015

Playing With A Mower

Earlier this summer my wife brought it to my attention in her subtle way, that her love of setting her butt on a tractor and mowing lawn for 8 to 10 hours every week was starting to wane. We decided that a new lawnmower that could handle more capacity would be in order. My brother and I did some shopping around and determined that the regular residential size units didn't look like they would handle the amount of lawn we have here, and us having the 'go big or go home' gene firmly entrenched in our system thanks to our father, we decided to go with a commercial John Deere unit.

The lawnmower arrived on schedule and budget, and was unloaded in the yard. After a quick demo and an exchange of funds, my wife was on and test-riding. A little while later she pulled up to the house, a devilish grin on her face. Hmmm ... I had the feeling an idea was brewing.

"I'm pretty sure you can drive this thing, it is really easy!" She said.

"Do you really think so?" I said hesitantly, knowing that Murphy seems to get quite involved in my new endeavors, especially if it involves things with engines, wings, floats, hooks, fire, knives, etc. etc. etc.

"Let's find out if you can!" She said, jumping off and running in to get our lift, a little bit over the top with enthusiasm methinks.

She hooks the lift up to a ring that is attached to the rafters in the garage, we fondly referred to this as the "meat hook". In a minute or so I am hanging near the ceiling, with great vulnerability I might add,wondering if this is going to work out as it does seem a little crazy.

The lawnmower is pushed underneath me, I am lowered down, and strapped in so that I can't flop around. Without belts I am kinda like trying to balance an octopus on the end of a broom-handle.

Soon we have the key adapted so that I can start it and shut it off in case of emergency, and off I go! After a little bit of driving around at slow speed (yawn) I am ready to up the throttle and try the mower! Everything worked out perfect!

Now I have been mowing the lawn all summer, and although I don't want to let on for fear of forfeiting any goody points, I absolutely love it! Driving one of these zero turn mowers is something that a lot of people that are wheelchair users can do, heck I have very little strength and no hand function, and it works for me!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Fruitcake On The Radio

Most of you know that I have been a Parrot Head for a long time now. I got an email from Steve Huntinton  saying that I was selected to be the "Fruitcake On The Radio" on Radio Margaritaville. I have never been a DJ on a radio station before so this was going to be quite an experience! I found out they wanted four songs, and a little bit of a talk in between.

I have been listening to Buffett music since I was a teenager. I have never been very good at leading a serious lifestyle, and for some reason his music just clicked. Then I was involved in that awful car accident, and in the hospital I needed an escape from the reality of the situation. My friends rescued me with a couple of Sony Walkmans, a bunch of batteries, and my Buffett tapes.

I could close my eyes and escape that hospital nightmare, touring the tropical places in those songs. My attitude got back to normal, for me, and I have since been able to live a pretty darn good and fun life thanks to my wife, family, and friends. I'm still not very good at being responsible or serious, but I guess the rest of you will just have to put up with that.

I put together a little slideshow to go with the recording of my two seconds in the limelight of being a DJ, although I did shorten the songs so it wouldn't be quite so long!

No sense in being too serious, we don't want to get to the end of the day and have to leave the park with a bunch of fun tickets in our pockets!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Camping Bliss ... uhuh ...

Most of you that camp have experienced the peer pressure of parking a trailer in a busy campground, just thought I'd collect some data and report the findings. Feel free to make your own observations utilizing the following guidelines, it is a fun and educational way to spend an evening.


To truly observe and appreciate all of the particulars involved in parking a trailer, one must arrive at the campground, and have their own campsite completely set up by Friday noon directly across from a carefully chosen target campsite. Acquiring such a perfectly situated site for yourself is in itself an art, but key to the success of the investigations.

The target campsite should be a back-in site (pull-through sites will contaminate the data) designed by the latest engineering software. The site should be complete with large overhanging branches, a post to mark the campsite, metal-fire pit, and utility pillar. All of these are to be strategically placed so as to be completely hidden from the driver's view at all times, leaving the sole responsibility for their avoidance squarely on the shoulders of the person directing from behind. This encourages spousal interaction (many couples have worked out their own sign language, however a universally recognized signal apparently occasionally gets "flipped"). You can detect proper placement of these obstacles by the lovely colorful paint-scrape marks inscribed on them by multiple cheerful campers starting their vacation off on the right foot.

Next, one must unpack and set up all of the scientific observation equipment needed to examine campers parking, undisturbed in their natural habitat ... including but not limited to lawn chairs, umbrella, notebook, cooler full of Corona, video camera, etc. Next place your lawn chairs at the front of your site in full view of all goings-on. You may notice other folks in the campground doing the same for educational purposes or merely sheer entertainment value. In Quantum Physics the "Observer Effect" states that "There is no phenomenon until it is observed", so nobody really knows if a camper, without an observer present, has trouble parking or not. It's kinda like "If a tree falls with no observer present, does it make any sound"? I think that Observer Effect must be at play, because of the 396 campers that I polled, 89% stated that they have no difficulty parking their RV. Our observations revealed that 29% was more accurate (our poll is accurate 99 out of 100 times between beer #3 and #4 while balancing on a $3 lawn chair between 5pm and 9pm on a Friday night in a rib-stained blue shirt). Note: when observing, one should be careful not to skew the evidence by laughing, cheering, mooning, or engaging in any other type of interaction with the driver during his/her attempts at parking their rig.

As the time approaches five p.m. one will begin to detect a certain anxiety on the part of drivers as they frantically race to grab the last few sites. It is imperative that you have a fresh Corona before the “Low-Beer-Light' comes on as there may not be an opportunity for replenishment once the action begins.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Horse Therapy

Horse Hugs

I had a pretty neat experience yesterday.

First we collected lemons. My regular chair had experienced the melting of some very important wires, and hence was in the repair shop. So I was left without my wheels, which is a bit of an inconvenience to a quadriplegic (ya think???).

So I arrive home, sporting my 1983 p.o.s. backup unit. Now if you think us gimps look uncool before, ya gotta see me in my ill-fitting backup MacGyvered-so's-it-at-least-runs unit! Unloading from the van we notice the 4x4 off-road chair sitting in the garage minding its own business. It fits me well and is comfy, but you may have noted from previous posts that this thing is not carpet and linoleum (or marriage) friendly, and as such has been banned by the appropriate powers from the inside of the house.

"Do ya want to ride that?" Terry asks, pointing at the beast.

"Sure!" I reply, wanting like always to stay outside.

Terry laughs, "I guess I won't see you for the rest of the day!"  knowing that I will  roam all over Hell's 1/2 acre in this thing .

"Anything you want before you go?"

"Maybe my sunglasses, a hat, and a tea, and I'll see you later!" I reply.

One great thing about living out in the country is you can roam around and explore for a couple of hours no problem. Terry hands me my stuff and off I go. I spend the next hour or so exploring the fish in the ponds, animals and birds. When I get back to the yard the horses are standing in the corral.

"You want me to open the gate so you can go see them?" Terry asks.

"You bet!"

Years ago way back in my first life, I used to like to ride horses. I haven't had a lot to do with them ever since my accident, but when I am outside I always call to them and when they raise their heads to look at me I wave back. Sometimes they will walk up to the fence and lean over to look at me for a few seconds, but that is about all the contact I have had with them. This was going to be new being in the pen with them and it was pretty amazing.

As soon as they noticed me in the pen, they were curious. Total, the big old standardbred, walked right over immediately and stopped with his nose close to mine and stared at me from close range. He then leaned down to sniff my feet. Then he did something unexpected, he gently grabbed the toe of my boot and lifted my foot off of the foot pedal! Then he sniffed my legs, and came up to sniff my hands. He gently grabbed my hands one at a time, and lifted them. Then it dawned on me, he was wondering why I couldn't move my hands and feet, he had noticed that something was wrong!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Soaring May 2014

Elk Island Park From 9,500 ft

"All out!" Bob hollers into the microphone from the back seat.

The Pawnee accelerates, straining the rope and spraying us with dry grass and debris. We accelerate down the runway and are airborne before the tow plane, what a blast!

I don't know about the rest of you guys but this was one long winter! At about the five minute mark of the flight the winter blues are long gone, and the grin pulled out and installed for the day! We took a tow to 3000 feet, and then released.

Even though it was overcast there was quite a bit of lift to be found. The first one we hit was averaging between 2 and 4 knots of climb, I wasn't going to turn it down and rolled left into it. One of the attributes I seem to have developed is persistence, much to the chagrin of the pilot that gets to ride behind me in the glider. I got to practice the skills learned flying the Condor online simulator, and I'm not sure how long we circled left but think maybe Bob ( who has the patience of Job) was either really really bored or having a good snooze! As we reached about 7000 feet or so  the lift stabilized and we were still going up at a steady 4 kts! I decided that "don't fix it if it isn't broke"  applies here so  we kept circling even more and rode that one all the way up to our limit of 9500 feet!

"Chipman traffic, Mike Juliet Sierra is over the field at 9.4," Bob reports.

 A while later while circling to the left we notice below us there is another glider circling to the right in the same thermal. Bob identifies the other glider as the PW5 from the club. I roll the glider right and switch direction so we are both circling the same way. Was it ever a lot of fun to watch the other glider and circle with it! The smaller lighter PW5 was climbing faster than us, and as he started getting close I decided to move on and head south.

What a fantastic flight! After nearly an hour and a half we decide to come back down and share the fun with other pilots that are waiting for the glider. Thanks Bob and the Edmonton Soaring Club for all the fun! Here is a short video of the landing, not my smoothest one as I touched down tail first on the hard ground.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Jaco Robotic Arm Fun

     I recently had the opportunity of testing a robotic arm on loan from http://kinovarobotics.com/products/jaco-rehab-edition/. A couple of University of Alberta computer science fellows made the 1 1/2 hour drive down to our place with all of their equipment. They are developing an interface that allows the arm to detect objects and reach for them automatically under command. They allowed me to test the software they are developing to help determine how much faster their interface was than commanding the arm manually with the joystick. The arm did have a lot of knuckles and bends, so it did take some getting used to in manual mode, although some movements were already combined and simplified already. The interface that they built made most tasks automatic and a lot easier to perform. They are definitely on the right track.

     The testing involved moving and manipulating different objects on a table. First I would select them with a mouse on a computer screen and the arm would reach out and align itself to pick up the object automatically. Then the arm would be put back into its home position with the touch of a button, and I would repeat the action manually with the joystick. The times to complete the tasks were compared. I suppose that it was a little bit of work, but being able to play with such a technically advanced piece of machinery was absolutely amazing, I had a blast! To a gear-head like me, this was heaven! Thank you so much to Katelyn Loshny who made it possible, and Camilo and Oscar for coming all the way out here with their multitude of techno-stuff, what a great day!