Category Archives: Family

Spiller Family versus the Grizzly Bear

Very recently, my wife was booked to go to a conference in Calgary Alberta.  Having lived in Banff for 5 years back in the eighties, I knew it was my duty to make sure that she saw the beauties of Banff National Park.  I don’t think there are any more picturesque mountain views anywhere in the world!  So I did what I had to do and booked a long weekend on to the end of my wife’s conference and took her to Banff.

Day 1 was off to Lake Louise.  Our first stop of the day was to go up the gondola (or rather chair lift) up the mountain at the Lake Louise Ski resort for a great view of the Ten Peaks Valley.  My remembrance of the off season gondola ride was that there was a restaurant at the top of the gondola where we could get something to eat and a beer.  That is no longer the case.  Now, what is a restaurant in ski season is a nature interpretative centre with complimentary coffee the rest of the year.  Here we learned about the local grizzly Bears.  The rules, when hiking on the mountain:

  1. travel in groups of 4 or more;
  2. and, make lot’s of noise .

So, wanting to hike, we said we are only a group of 2.  The interpretative centre man said, “No worries.  The bears all denning (getting their dens ready for hibernation) on the other side of the mountain.  So off we went on the Kicking HorseTrail.    This video is a quick overview of our trip up the Lake Louise and our encounter with a Grizzly Bear.

Needless to say, it was very exciting start to our tour of Banff National Park. From there, we went to Moraine Lake, Chateau Lake Louise for drinks and snacks, and back to the Banff Spring Hotel for dinner with friends.  What a day!

Running milestone achieved

I have been running (again) for over a year.  In my younger days, I got quite obsessive about running.  At my peak, I was running 7.2 Kilometers almost every day.  I absolutely loved it.  At some point, life, smoking, and work replaced running…   a sad story, I admit.

Flash forward a couple of decades ( and a few years), and I am running again.  This time, running is my way to combat a 2 decade lifestyle as a web geek, more calories in than out, and really quitting smoking.  My wife and I often run together, which in itself, makes running far more enjoyable.  At this point, I am trying to run at least 3 times a week.  I have been running essentially the same route for 6 months or so.  The course, we (my wife and I) have chosen ends on a fairly long up hill stretch.  By the time we hit the top of the hill, we are both pretty much done.  I have been stuck at the same 2.8km distance for a long time.

Today,  I hit the top of the hill (and the normal end of the route) and was not ready to stop.  According to my iOS app, Route Mapper, I ran 3.58 Kms today.  Okay, maybe not a huge leap forward, but yeah!!!!





Spiller Family versus the Skunk Family – Part II

The day after our cat became the first skunking victim of 2013 of the family, our dog, Chase, became the second member of the family to get sprayed. If you have dogs and cats in our neighbourhood, you will inevitably learn to be wary of skunks especially in late July and August. We even go as far as getting flashlights out and checking the backyard out before letting the animals out. A sensible precaution that generally avoids late night de-skunkifying activities.

What was weird was letting the dog out mid afternoon on a blazing hot day and having a skunk waiting for him. The skunk was eating seeds from under the bird feeder. Skunk sightings in the day almost never happen. Anyway, the dog shot out, bowled the skunk over, and then turned to bark at him. The skunk merely got up, turned, cocked and… pop… skunk blast point blank in Chase’s face. Chase yelped and ran for the house and the skunk ambled off.

That night we learned another truth. The skunk or skunks had set up shop under our shed. The dog circling the shed and barking was a telltale sign. Okay, it is confession time. It was late in the season the year before when we got the shed and I started skirting the base of the shed before the weather turned. Instead of finishing the skirting, I filled the open areas with broken patio stones and temporarily covered the openings with wood. My neighbours, unknown to me, and before this ordeal, had named our shed “Skunk Motel”. It may have been empty for almost a year, but our open for business shingle was definitely out. So now that their nickname had proven true, I had to evict the unwanted tenants.

After hearing a bunch of people tell me stories of paying companies a bunch of money to get rid of skunks, I decided to see if I could do it on my own. I asked my favourite go-to expert, Google, for his advice. A number of blogs talked about putting balls of crumpled up news paper in every hole around the shed to track the comings and goings of our unwanted guest. They also suggested putting mothballs under the shed. Apparently, skunks are not a fan of that smell. So I threw an entire box of mothballs under the shed and plugged up the holes and waited to wave good by to our pest. After a couple of days, I could see the skunk was still coming and going.

Once again, I asked the expert, Google, for his advice. Several other blogs referred to a product that was available at the TSC stories that could be used to evict the skunk. The product was called Critter Ridder. The staff person at the store confirmed that it could be use to keep skunks away from the shed so that we could address the problem. I bought it and a bunch of heavy chicken wire. So far, my Google experts seemed to be on to something here. I followed the instructions and created an 1/2 meter barrier around the shed by spreading the Critter Ridder. I made sure our dog and cat stayed away from the error and waiting to see if the skunk would leave.

Later that night, we heard an awful ruckus by the shed, and then nothing. For two days, no skunk activity and the paper balls I had stuffed everywhere didn’t move. Hooray, the Critter Ridder product worked! Still, I didn’t wanted to be the third member of the Spiller family sprayed by a skunk in 2013, so I made a bunch of noise under the shed to make sure there was definitely no skunk there. No response. So, I look under the shed and could not see a Skunk. YEAH!!! Spillers 1, Skunks 0.

I pulled off the existing skirting and dug a trench a 1.5 feet deep all the way around the shed and the stapled chicken wire around the the entire perimeter of the shed and down into the trench. Then I backfilled the trench with dirt, and put the deckboard skirting back on. That baby was sealed tightly. No critters were getting under that shed again. The “Skunk Motel” was Closed!

You know that expression, “The best laid plans…”? Our Dog, Chase was happy to point out a slight flaw my closing of the “Skunk Motel”. As he happily barked at the shed later the same night, we discovered a very angry skunk trying to get out from under the shed. It was time to toss Google aside and call the experts.

So  I reached out to Wild Things Wildlife Control ( and one of their guys came over right away.  Step one, confirm skunk was there – check.  Step 2, he cut a whole in my chicken wire and put in a one way door baited with peanut butter to allow the skunk to leave, but not return.  Step 3, he sprayed a odour neutralizer under the shed to deal with any left over smells.  Then we waited a day.  When the Wild Things fellow came back, the skunk had left.  He removed his one way door and patched the barrier.  Job Done — thanks Wild Things Guy!.

While the Wild Things guy was there, I learned a few things:

  1. Critter Ridder is an irritant.  The skunk only discovers it when he cleans himself and would probably not connected it with the shed.  So Critter Ridder to evict a skunk probably doesn’t work.
  2. When skunk kids are involved, momma skunk doesn’t often leave until the kids stop coming back.  And kids are often seen exploring in daylight.  So evicting the kids may leave momma behind.
  3. All my noise making to make sure the skunk was gone?  Well skunks don’t live between the ground and the shed.  Mostly, they create a underground burrow.   So, the skunk was likely oblivious to my noise making.

The lessons to be learned here?  Don’t leave inviting places for skunks to live.  When one does get a skunk, call an expert, not Google.  And finally let’s use Google the way is was meant to be:

  • Self diagnosing major medical conditions;
  • Seeking self defense legal advice;
  • parenting advice;
  • and, getting directions to the nearest Timmies.

Spiller Family versus the Skunk Family – Part I

Around our neighbourhood in London, ON, seeing skunks is quite common, especially in late July and August. On one particular night, my wife and and I had tickets to see Styx at Rock the Park, a local downtown park weekend concert.  Unfortunately, all day the the weather was stormy with torrential rain and lightning.  The lineup for RTP was great, but we skipped most due to the nasty weather.  As the time for Styx came closer, we decided the weather was not going to improve, and opted out of going.  So home, warm and dry, we let the dog out for a quick pee.

Being long time pet owners, we are well aware of that moment when you let your dog out, hear the barks, and then smell that distinctive scent that can mean only one thing.  The dog has been sprayed…again.

What made this particular night at the end of July different was when the dog starting barking, the skunk moved and came face to face with our cat hiding nearby in the bushes.    The almost imperceptible pop sound that comes before that dreadful smell happened one second before the cat bolted faster than I have ever seen her move.  Our cat, Shadow, had taken the skunk spray point blank in the face.  For once, our dog, Chase, listened to us and came in, unscathed, when we called him and the skunk disappeared into the night.

It took a while to locate our poor cat.  She was in distress and hiding in the bushes at the front of house.  She wanted desperately in the house, but was not interested in being escorted in due to her unfortunate state.  It took her a couple of quick feints to try and get past us, before she realized that we were not going to let her skunky self in the house on her own.  While my wife tried to coax the cat close, I went to grab the usual supplies:  hydrogen peroxide; baking soda; and, dish soap.  For those that have never had to deal with skunk smell, tomato juice is an old wives tale and doesn’t work.

2013-07-27 22.16.28

A sad cat reluctantly submitting to a bath to get rid of the skunk smell.

Eventually, the  cat relented and my wife carried her, at arms length, to the kitchen sink.  Now normally, our cat is fundamentally opposed to baths, on principle.  It is a measure of how much distress she was in, that she didn’t transform into a dynamo of claws and teeth. She was in a miserable state.  Both of her eyes were nearly closed and she was foaming from the mouth and nose.  She was surprisingly resigned when my wife started applying the skunk removal liquid.  We got her well soaked except around her eyes and nose.


Cleaning the cat with the skunk smell removal formula

Cleaning the cat with the skunk smell removal formula

Once we had her towelled off, we let her go and she shot off to the basement.  She still had some of the spray around her eyes, but we needed a moment to figure out how to deal with her eyes and nose.  We were very afraid that she was blinded.   Since it was now late on a Saturday night, we asked our resident expert, Google.  It turns out that several sites recommended milk, of all things.    So with cat treats and a bowl of milk we headed down to the basement.  Despite her ordeal, she came when we called, took her treat and would let us wash her face with milk for minutes at a time before bolting away again.  We repeated the process several times before she started showing improvements.  The milk seemed to be providing relief.  By the next morning, her eyes and face were less swollen, if still a little stinky, but she was back to her old self.

Our first encounter of 2013 was now in the past.  The irony of our adventure was that the storm clouds ended up clearing just before Styx began their performance.  Styx put on a fantastic show, we heard (sigh), that ended with a fireworks display.   If we had gone, would the skunk have still been in our backyard when we let the animals out for their final pee?

PS:  here is the best skunk smell removal recipe: Mix 1 bottle of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide,  1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap in a container and apply to the affected spots of the sprayed animal.  Avoid eyes and nose.

Remember how you felt seeing your name printed in the Newspaper?

Have you ever had your name published in a newspaper?  It might have first happened when you were a kid, getting your name mentioned because your house league baseball team won their big game.  Or maybe later, it was in the High School when you were awarded an academic achievement that you made it into the newspaper.  Or perhaps, as a business person, your business was centered out for some community contribution.  Whatever the reason, didn’t it feel great,  just to know that your name was published in print for everyone to see.  That is the magic of the community newspaper.  Somehow, we always seem to overlook that when we talk about the future of newspapers.

Not long ago, my son’s band, Get Back, got featured in the London Free Press.  They are the youngest Beatles tribute band that I have ever heard of (the oldest is 16 and the youngest is 12).  I actually posted about it (okay, yes, it was shamelessly proud dad moment) here,  My point is, that everyone connected with the band (musicians, teachers,  mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and so on)  suddenly wanted multiple copies of the newspaper as keepsakes.  They asked the newspaper for PDFs of the pages for mounting in their musical school and in their homes. Many will include clippings of the article in photo albums and keepsake boxes for years.    These people are, as most statistics published recently imply,  no longer part of the newspaper’s core audience.  They are too young.   And yet…magic… newspaper magic.

When was the last time you heard about anyone ask for PDF copies of tweets or Facebook status updates to frame and hang or treasure forever?  That is silly.  It is a different experience and a different purpose.  Social Media is faster, more interactive, and yet, more fleeting.  It exists more in the moment  than in perpetuity.  So clearly, newspapers and social media can co-exist.

I think the above is probably at the core of a posting written by Douglas Idugboe in early July 2010.  I came across his article while this posting was in draft mode and I include it because it is a different perspective that arrives at the same point.  His article is here:

How Social Media is Saving Old Media  (July 6, 2010) (

In his posting he makes a case that shows that Old Media and New Media can co-exist.  In fact, he goes on to demonstrate the myriad of ways in which the two are compatible and where they can mutually benefit one another.  I enjoyed his posting and I suggest that you read it too before you simply write off newspapers to the bottom of the bird cage of media.

Do you have thoughts on this too?  Leave your comment.

Warning! blatant proud father moment….

My son’s band, Get Back, was featured in the London Free Press.  They are a Beatles tribute band with the youngest member being 12 years old and the oldest 16.  They are amazing… Okay.. I’m probably biased… You tell me.