Alberta 2007 – The Road to Banff

Up early to hit the camera store. Contract for them to dump my 256Mb CF card onto a CD — it’s full, and I didn’t want to run out of space. Head back to the Athabasca, ate a wonderful breakfast in their charming dining room, and picked up the CD after breakfast for $12.

According to my route in,

Jasper to Banff is 138.21 mi. An easy 2 hour drive, right? No. Terrain, animals on the road. So much to see. Allow as much time as you can. We first considered driving straight through, Jasper to airport in one day. We are very glad we did not do that!

We got a great map from the Jasper info booth with mile markers out of Jasper where certain items are on the way to Banff. By the time we realized it, we were already several miles out, and resetting the odometer was a bit late, but we knew about how much we were off. Very helpful for locating overlooks etc. Just watch traffic behind you.

Athabasca falls

Mile X

The Edith Cavell Glacier has a 4 mile loop trail, and overlooks an icefield. We wanted to do it, but rapidly realized that we did not have time. Given another day or two, we could have done a lot more short hikes. Consider also the limit to the number of waterfalls you can see a day while remaining sane. But a glacier is a bit different.

Mile Y

Animals on road

Mile Z: Waterfalls along road.

Mile XXX: Columbia Icefield tour

This is one of the major attractions along the route. You are on the tongue of a glacier. This is cool. You must stop.

The large visitor center is across the street from the tongue, along the terminal moraine (the farther extension of the tongue, about 2km from present-day limit.) Eric, true to form, decided to get something to eat, and crammed down the food while we waited for our tour to depart. We gladly helped him with some fries.

We saw people hiking up the glacier. Bummer. We inquired about the hike, and the single trip per day leaves at 10:30A. So if you want to do this (and it looked neat, you just walk up the tongue, following the guide so you don’t fall into a crevasse) you need to get there early to get a spot.

At the time, we exited the rear of the building and waited for our bus. A coach pulled up and we got in; drove across the street, basically, and got out, back into the holding area for the next glacier truck. One pulled up with Calgary Stampede markings, basically a large bus with 6 HUGE tires with huge tread. Inside was all glass, somewhat warm, with metal bars around the glass, looking a lot like a roll cage. The road to the glacier was gravel and packed dirt, and we went very slowly; these beasts don’t have a fast gear. As we descended the 50% grade to the tongue level, I understood why. You need real low gears to get back up.

The truck pulled to a stop at the dock, and we got out to walk around a bit. Dave took his panorama shots, and we all filled our water bottles from the clear cold water running out of the glacier. Hard to describe, really, so I won’t try. Check out the pictures. Even pictures are no good. You gotta be there.

Back to the truck, up the hill at 2mph, and switch to the bus, and back to the Visitor Center. Perhaps a moving walkway ala airports wouldn’t work in this climate, but it sure would save a lot of time waiting to get on and off of buses.

Alberta 2007 – Jasper Evening

We stayed at the Athabasca Hotel in Jasper, centrally located and loaded with personality. It looked like an old Western hotel, and Eric’s room certainly did with a single washstand, and bed – and that’s it. He had a common washroom, which saved money but was not going to work for Bette. Rooms were nice, modern fixtures, good bathrooms. Stairs only, no elevator — at least I didn’t see one, but only has two floors, so no problem. Ice bucket was a Tupperware container, with paper-wrapped glasses ala 1950 motels. Our room was along the back of the hotel; look down, and a lovely view of the alley and some dumpsters and a gravel roof. Look up and you see a magnificent mountain range, shrouded in fog sometimes. We mostly looked up.

We had a beer in the hotel bar. Old-school bar; log walls, stuffed animal heads on the wall. Fun. Like being in the UP.

Bette and I walked up and down the street, visiting the train.

I asked the visitor center lady about places to eat. She suggested Evil Dave’s Grill, and when we asked the young man at the hotel desk about Evil Dave’s he said, “Oh yeah that’s a great place.” Two recommendations from locals is not to be sneezed at.

All the items on the menu were, well, evil and dark names. Even The Wendy, which Bette had for dinner, was Dave’s Ex-Wife. Fun menu, did NOT have Big Rock products, which was bad, but the Sleemans was OK. A very nice place, but bring some cash.

Eric went back to the hotel to game a bit with Shawn, and Bette and Dave headed out to look for dessert. We found a small coffee shop, Spooners Coffee Bar, up Patricia street a bit, deserted, and got a couple coffees and sat outside. After a bit, several other people seemed to see us and decide to go in. We should have gotten a commission.

Then off to bed for a big day tomorrow…

Athabasca Hotel, 510 Patricia St, Jasper
Spooners Coffee Bar & Eatery‎, 610 Patricia St, Jasper

Alberta 2007 – Friday – The Road to Jasper

Eric dropped Dave off at the airport at 5:00AM (thanks, Eric) and we met him for breakfast at 8AM. He was the worse for wear, since, at 12:30AM, the floor fire alarm went off, scaring the heck out of us, and he had to be up at 4:00AM to drive Dave. The worst is the mechanical voice stating. “We are investigating”. You just lay there and hope you don’t die, and listen to the fire trucks come. Then you go back to sleep. Maybe. Turns out Dave went downstairs to meet the firemen, and it was some control system that wasn’t right. Eric couldn’t sleep anyway, and being waken up by an alarm is not good.

After breakfast, we headed off to Jasper. Of course, we have to make it thru the traffic on 97 St and 1, which was so backed up with construction it took us an extra half hour to get out of Edmonton. After the escape, we made good time all the way to Jasper, stooping for gas once in Niton Junction. We stopped at the gate to Jasper National Park and a pleasant woman asked our plans and charged us for two days in Jasper and Banff. (35 CAD)

On the way, we discussed attractions. We wanted to be frugal, but heck, we were on vacation and wanted to see everything. Tina had recommended the Maligne Lake tour in Jasper, and based on the pictures on the Web, I wanted in. We called on the way – no reservations on the phone, and only two slots each in the two cruises remaining in our arrival timeframe.

POINT: From Edmonton, go directly to the lake – they sell tickets there too.

We went to the visitor center first, looking for the Maligne Lake tour. They directed us to the Brewster center down XXX street, but we had trouble finding it. We managed to walk down most of the streets downtown – it is small and very manageable, and eventually found the office, and signed up for the 3PM tour. We first stopped at the hotel, found our rooms not ready, and headed out to the Maligne Lake road, a bit XXX of Jasper. Well, the road is, but you drive at least a half hour to get to the lake from the main road.

We of course missed the big “P” sign and had to U-Turn to get into the parking lot. Ran into the ticket office, exchanged our vouchers for boarding passes and went into the visitor center / gift shop / snack shop to try to eat a bit. Eric needed to eat; I prefer to wait until we have a chance to sit. So he wolfed down a sandwich and we helped eat his fries, and promptly jumped onto the boat.

Edmonton – Thursday (Ricky’s, Blue Plate Diner, X????)

Bette and I went for an early walk thru the PedWay. We were always outside, since it was so nice, and from the Coast, there wasn’t much point to using the PedWay, unless you were on the way to lunch. We saw the legendary Chicken for Lunch, and noted the potential length of the lines.

Ricky’s All Day Grill for a low key breakfast. Just got there when they opened. Funny how few places are open early downtown. You’d think more people would be there early. We were.

Blue Plate Diner is a funky cute cafe with two outside tables and interesting art.
Spicy Bean beef burrito
Tofu on toasted wheat bread with spicy pesto
I had a pint of Alley Kat Amber Ale. Bette had a Hemingway — rum, maraschino liqueur, OJ and grapefruit juice. Yum. (Recipes I Googled had vodka, lime juice, you name it).

Recommended. Make reservations for lunch — we almost did not get in.

Dave and Eric went to the Moravian church in Edmonton — Dave’s family was in the church and Dave likes to visit them where he finds them. So he and Eric went out and found it. Then they dumped the car off at the Coast, and headed off to the tobacconist on 101 for a Cuban.

Bette and I found the tobacconist whilst we walked around that morning. The tobacconist was knowledgeable and had a large walk-in humidor. They asked for Cubans — he nodded, knowlingly, “Ah, the forbidden fruit.” Each gentleman was asked to describe his smoking style so a suitable match could be found. After selecting two cigars, getting them cut and a pack of matches, the boys went for a walk around town.

Dinner was at Boston Pizza in the Edmonton Mall. Bette was required by law to go to the mall,

Edmonton – Monday (Edo, Joey Tomatoes)

Stop in for lunch at Edo. Same stuff, still good.

Since neither Bette nor Dave, had been to Joey Tomatoes, we went there. Walked the 8 blocks from the Coast, with blue sky and puffy clouds. The weather had been gray all day, and we later discovered June is the rainy season for Edmonton.

Wlaked in and got the stools at the salad prep counter. Found the head salad dude was a political science student, and was leaving Joeys and Edmonton at the end of the summer to study in Ontario. His sidekick was good too — no problem.

I had the Panang Prawn Curry Bowl (Thai red coconut curry cream, prawns, bok choy, peanuts, sweet bell peppers & fresh cilantro over steamed rice. 15.99) and a dinner salad. Bette had the Ahi Tuna Salad (Seared rare Ahi tuna, avocado, ripe mango, field greens & cilantro ginger vinaigrette. 14.49) which they cooked a little more for her. We also saw that they parked a small cast iron skillet on the fish to give it better sear marks even though it is cooked raw. Eric had the Lobster Ravioli (Jumbo ravioli stuffed with Atlantic lobster, shrimp, ricotta cheese & crab, in a lemon dill cream sauce. 16.49) before and loved it, so Dave got that too.

Then the lightning moved in and the sky opened up with rain. Might as well have dessert.

For dessert, Bette & I split the (Everything You Ever Wanted In An Ice Cream Sundae Single plantation chocolate and vanilla bean ice creams with caramel and hot fudge sauces topped with whipped cream and embellishments. 6.99) We all split the Molten Chocolate Lava Soufflé (Rich dark chocolate cake outside with soft molten center, vanilla bean ice cream & raspberry puree. 6.99) The molten was very good. The Individually Baked Apple Pie (Brown sugared apples, toasted almonds, hand-folded puff pastry, caramel sauce & maple ice cream. 6.99) looked so good that we almost split that too, but held off.

The sun came out and we headed back.

Joey’s Mediterranean Grill 11228 Jasper Ave. Edmonton, AB T5K 2V2 Web

cimgnum – Canon Image Support

I use a Canon PowerShot A70 — basic, ok, easy that uses AA batteries (rechargeable, but resuppliable in a pinch). You never use the USB cable – too slow and sucks batteries. I pop the CF card and copy them using ThumbsPlus to my yearly image folder. But they all have stupid names like IMG_2620.JPG.

Using ThumbsPlus to analyze the EXIF information, I found a field called serial number. This number starts at zero and counts up for every picture. So if I could only change the filename based on the embedded serial number, I would have uniquely (for my camera) numbered pix.

Enter EXIFUtils. Using these command line utils, I rename the file to “C” plus the serial number padded out. “C” stands for “Canon”, and other cameras and scanners have a different code letter in my collection.

Then the highly useful Unix/cygwin util rename is used to replace all “-” chars with a null char — remove the dash. So IMG_2620.JPG is ultimately renamed to C3242620.JPG with a file date of the ORIGINAL time of taking the picture — so ordering files by date gives all the shots in temporal order.


"c:\Program Files\EXIFutils\exiffile.exe" /t /n C[cn-image-num].jpg .
rem change dash to null
c:\devtools\cygwin\bin\rename.exe - "" *.jpg

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Tequila Sunset Redux

Just found a bottle of Cuervo Reposado Tradicional Limited Production in the liquor crate. So here we go again with the taste test.

Cazadores Reposado: if you breathe it enough, it bites a bit. Nothing going down, but a warm glow down the throat. Take that, Nexium.

Cracker to settle, in my best wine snob imitation. (My favorite comment on wine snobs is from Dave Barry who said, “My wine analysis is pretty much to drink it and find more.)

Now the Cuervo Reposado. Definitely more of the Cuervo harshness in the nose. And the tongue is attacked by the stuff, and it finishes like turps. Better than the Cuervo Gold, much lighter in the aftereffects, but still harsh. I would not pay more for it over Cuervo Gold.

Winner: Cazadores Reposado.

Tequila Sunset

I heard a program on YouTube from the Today shows talking about tequilas. I hated the show — too much mugging for the camera and bad drunk jokes, but some good info. I love margaritas but never considered the tequila, except which one to buy, which is hard in a crowded aisle. I just knew you wanted 100% agave, and that eliminated the cheap stuff, $25 and under. Esteban at work recommended Herradura and Cazadores brands, but had no reasons why. I recently bought two bottles of more premium tequila, and with the wife out of town decided to try a little sampling.

First the Cuervo Gold. This is missing the 100% agave. It has a fiery nose, and goes down harsh. The amazing thing is the finish — 10 secs after you sip, the fire gets worse in your throat. Steely Dan was obviously on hash when the Cuervo Gold made tonite a wonderful thing.

Now a Cazadores Reposado. A Reposado is, by law, aged in oak barrels ala wine for at least two months. It has somewhat of a less fiery nose, and sipping it was orders of magnitude smoother. And the finish was good — no harsh burning, just flavor, but with a bit of fire to make you remember it is Tequila. The Cazardores website had a margarita recipe, read by a luscious pretend bartender, which I tried, and man am I flying….

PocoMail – POPFile integration scripts

I use PocoMail for email and POPFile for spam filtering. PocoMail eliminates all the script viruses and since attachments are just saved down to the disk in a folder, my AVG Anti-Virus just picks them right up. No Outlook specfic scanners. Nice.

PocoMail has integrated naive Bayes spam filtering, but my wife was using it and it was taking forever to train. I have been using POPFile for years, and just installed it on her machine. Wow. After training on 20 messages it was 90% accurate with four “buckets” (spam,personal,sales,work and the default unclassified)

Anyway, to kind of integrate with PocoMail, I wrote this PocoScript to attach a button on the GUI to bring up the POPFile web GUI on that message for reclassification.

{ Script: HeaderLaunchPOPFile
{ Created: 20040116
{ Author: David Chwalisz
{ Purpose:
{ Mode: This script is designed to run against incoming messages.
{ Modification log:
Set $OnErrorGoTo ErrorHandler

{ get the popfile link from the email
ReadHeader $link "X-POPFIle-Link:" %message

Execute $link



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Enjoy, and enjoy knowing that not every useful program is from Microsoft!