Edmonton, AB Day 2

Another challenge: communicate why an aviation museum might be
interesting, even if you have seen some before. Well this one in
Edomonton specializes to 50% on early “bush” piloting. Meaning the
Northern Territories in Winter.

Bush Planes

The pilot of this plane of the 20s or 30s took off from a lake too steeply for his load. The plane stalled and crashed. It was recovered decades later and restored at the museum

You needed not just a pilot but also a mechanic to fly along. Here is
what the mechanic did when they landed on some ice field or frozen
lake for the night.

At night:
- Cover wings and engine. Gather snow mounds around the engine to
 protect it from the wind.
- Drain the engine oil into a bucket
- Fuel the plane with a hand pump from barrels.

In the morning:

- Heat the oil over a wood stove or fire.
- Crawl under the engine cover, and use open flame kerosene heaters to
 heat the engine, without blowing up the plane. This effort took an
 hour or two.
- Retrieve the heated engine oil and pour it into the engine
- Start the engine, and remove all covers.

+ Green plane:

This plane crashed from a strong side wind. It was
 recovered recently.
See how a tree had grown through part of the

One of many other challenges was that compasses misbehave as you
approach the North pole.


Can I convince you that the pistons arranged in a circle behind this
wooden propeller have beauty?

Plane from the 20s
Wooden blades with copper tip cover
Just a few decades later: two layers of cylinders behind the propeller


For the longest time I was the only visitor. I grew used to cardboard
cutouts of brave and macho pilots next to their plane. So I first took
a figure sitting next to a Corean War era fighter plane as an
exhibit. I could not have been more wrong.

Bruce, the original Google, and master of topic pivoting

Bruce jumped up and took me under his wings for roughly two
hours. This volunteer may have beat all the others in (a) the lack of
pauses in his speech, (b) the breadth of his knowledge about the
world, and © his ability to pivot from topic to topic.

I frequently felt like a Disney cartoon character that keeps runniung
past the edge of a cliff, realizing too late that his arch enemy, the
hare, had unexpectedly changed direction. I cannot in this space
repeat all that Bruce discussed. But just the following table of
content with brief remarks here and there are an entry in themselves.

Background: Bruce was a radar technician in the Canadian armed forces
in the 60s. His specialty was a device that sat atop radar antennas
and sent pulses to incoming planes. The pulses challenged the plane to
return an identifier that changed every day. Bruce travelled all over
repairing these units.

Partial coverage of Bruce’s discussions:

  • Alaskan highway, built in 18 months during the cold war.
  • In the 60s B52s flew figure 8s over the Arctic. Each plane had a
     “home”. I thought “home” meant its home base. But no, the
     bomber’s home was a Soviet city where the pilot was to fly if the
     signal was given, never to return. The Soviet planes flew in the
     same area, and their homes were Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.
  • Woodrow Wilson: not a bad president; created the Federal Reserve.
  • The daughter of one of Bruce’s friends is a major in the US
     forces. She goes to work each day, turns on her computer, grabs
     her joystick, and flies a drone over Afganistan, taking out
     combatants (one hopes). Five o’clock she shuts down the computer
     and goes home. That’s how wars are fought now.
  • The Canadian tri-party system as compared to the US
  • Stalin was of small build. He was from Georgia, and so was Nikita
  • The Georgian language is different from surrounding ones. Influences
     from Persian and Turkish.
  • Israel’s Knesset and its suffering from party factions
  • The Canadian health care system is clogged up. So Bruce had to wait 8
     month for a hip replacement. However,
     “We never need to worry about ‘Oh, what happens if I get
     cancer.’ You won’t hear us worry about that.”
     “An American visitor told me ‘I’ll rather die before I go into
     an institution run by the government’.
     Well, I [Bruce] thought you may just have to do exactly that.”
  • In the 1870s the Canadian government advertised to Kansas and
     Nebraska farmers to come settle in Saskatchewan. Farmers would
     have several sons, but just one farm. So 100 families or so would
     get together and contact the Canadian governement. They’s say,
     “BTW, we are German Catholic.” Meaning “Don’t get any blacks or
     Lutherans mixed into our homestead areas.
  • You gotta believe in something. We may laugh about the Menonites,
     and their strict beliefs. But they are hard workers. And Utah: so
     Jesus came to Utah and there were the Indians and they are the
     lost tribe? Come on. But hey, they work hard. They are extremely
     organized. Lots of them in Canada.
  • The Australian health care system has both public and private
  • “An American visitor asked how much my hip replacement cost me. I
     say $36. No, really, the guy asks, how much did the operation
     cost you? I say $36, that’s the $6 parking fee my wife had to pay
     when she visited me six times in the hospital.”
  • In the 60s I worked up near the Bering Strait. Every day 10am a MIG
     would fly down the line on the Russian side, and we’d fly down
     the line on our side. And the Russians would send us messages:

“How come the clock in the officers’ mess hall is 10 minutes slow”
 “Congratulations to Sergeant Miller for his new baby.”

Those were all true. They knew all that somehow, and we did the
 same. The military got upset that the local Innuit would go back
 and forth to visit their cousin or something on the Russian side
 and vice versa. But I thought ‘Oh get over it, they’ve been doing
 that for thousands of years.’
 Janitors on the base could only be people who couldn’t read.

  • Menonites were originally farmers along the Volga.
  • Kim Yon Un is protecting himself. He sees Saddam didn’t have
     nuclear weapons, look where he is now. And Ghaddafi, he didn’t
     have nuclear weapons. Where is he now?
  • Origin of the Calgary Stampede
  • Attacks in Indonesia on Chinese merchants, and the similarities of
     attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany
  • [Asking me:] “What do you know about the Korean War?”
     [I stutter some knowledge, my mouth dried up from not talking].
     “Well you may know a lot more after the next couple of weeks.”
  • On nuclear war: “Of course, we can just stick our heads between our
     legs and kiss our asses good bye”
  • Use of flight suits for pressure control in US planes during the
     Korean War, as opposed to MIG pilots on the other side.
  • The distribution of political leanings across Saskachewan (hint: runs
     diagonally across the Province.)
  • Lyndon Johnson knew that passing the Civil Rights legislation would
     lose the South to the Democrats. And it certainly did, of course.

And so it went. When eventually another visitor arrived, Bruce turned
to him with undiminished energy. I was exhausted.

Bruce has not tired. He is ready for the next visitor

As I said Good Bye to the receptionist up front she asked whether I’d
enjoyed my visit. I mentioned ‘the volunteer in the back of the hall.”

“A yes, Bruce. We call him the original Google. Though you can get
sucked into a Bruce vortex.”

And who wouldn’t want to?

Edmonton Super Mall

They have a very large mall, which I visited years ago with the
kids. I had fun. As it turns out, I had fun because they did.

A tiny, minuscule part of the Edmonton Mall

I had a long discussion with these two arrogant young poster ladies.

These two told me right away: Andreas, you are out of place. You are not wanted here.

Why, I asked of these two, are you implying with that smirk on your faces that I am out of place? You impertinent, arrogant twerps? Why, I could tell you details about the history of farming practices in Saskatchewan that you’ve never heard before!

You think you own this mall, don’t you?

They do.

I had come because I needed a couple of items, and I’d figured those
were bound to be available on these world famous hectares of retail. What I
found was clothes and jewelry. An unfathomable number of stores that
had nothing to offer but clothes, or jewelry. The large interactive
directory display screens did not even include ‘Hardware’ in their
‘Browse by Category’ mode.

Once I perked up!

Oh, groovy! A retro store selling Hula Hoops. That I’ll check out. Maybe some demonstrations going on. Nope. Clothes.

Then I grew warm deep inside as I saw the one store that would have
what I needed. And was fun to browse as well.

Bingo! A marine supply store. I love those. Nope. Clothes.

But I do so love happy endings. And there was one. A store dedicated
to little metal action figures of what is likely an online game:

You could purchase little vials of metal paint, and go at it right
there in the store. Cool!

Painting little metal Warhammer action figures and buildings
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