Promoting Local

The other day I walked into my favorite restaurant and was immediately swarmed by the owner, the cook, and the waiter who all thanked me for mentioning their restaurant in The StarPhoenix and in an media interview I did.  They mentioned how people have come by because of what I say on Twitter and my blog as well.  I thought the whole thing was kind of cool but as I said, “I’m not the one making the killer lunch specials.”

We all know that social media advertising works but one thing is that I have never understood about how politicians don’t use it more to promote their own ward businesses.  Economic development is an important part of any politicians local goals and I think they ignore the platform that being elected and their social media profiles give them to promote just that to promote business in their ward or constituency.

While I want my elected officials to look at the big picture, promoting the underdogs in the ward can be a good thing and as Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi has shown, it’s something that can be easily done in the evening during quieter hours.  Whether as a mayor or a councilor or MLA, what cooler project would it be to visit and promote your constituents businesses and organizations to a wider audience.  I’m talking Walmart’s but the family owned businesses that make up our smaller commercial districts.

Does it make a difference.  You should check out my email when either Wendy and I blog about a local business.  I write about it, you click on it, some of you stop by and buy from them and people are happy.  More politicians need to do this.  If it makes a difference for local businesses when I do it, imagine what can happen when they do it.

Lifestyle Choices

So the Mayor of Saskatoon wrote a statement condemning the attacks in Orlando.  Personally I don’t get these statements.  He is the Mayor of a city of 250,000 people several thousand miles away.  If it as it seems now that the shooter was a deranged ISIL fanboy, what does the statement do.  Cynically I think the statement arose after a large vigil was held at City Hall last night and after seeing it, Atch realized that not marching in the city’s Pride Parade was a political mistake.

So when he does issue it, he uses the phrase, “lifestyle choices” which denotes that homosexuality is a choice that people make and they are not born that way.  It’s politer than saying, “sinners” I guess but the connotation for many is the same.

Today after it was pointed out by myself and others that “lifestyle choices” is offensive, the Mayor’s communications assistant Richard Brown sent out an apology for the phrase which brings up some other questions.  If the mayor read over the statement, did the phrase “lifestyle choices” not jump out at him as offensive or did he just not read a statement put out in his name.  Either way it is offensive.

Is it too much to expect a mayor of Saskatoon to read the statements that go out in his name and understand that certain phrases are offensive?  Is it too much to want a mayor to be inclusive of a good part of the population in his own city?

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today.  We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.

The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack.  His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.

He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling.  As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.”  He wasn’t.  His feet were killing him.  He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.

I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard.  It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this.  Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.

As we came into the Chipewyan Portage, I talked to Wendy and said we are staying here for the night.  He’s in pain and not having fun.  He wasn’t going to make it to Grey Owl’s.

I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved.  Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.”  I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was).  Of course we had two tents and it was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground.  We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure.  When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.

Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain.  He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.

Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm.  Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents.  We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.

The storm continued for most of the night.  The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night.  Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers”  near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.

At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by.  Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night.  Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances.  I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case.  I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking.   There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning.  It worked out the best for both of us.  For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.

Leave No TraceWe had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex.  We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously.  We packed out the garbage from the campground.  Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before.  The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.

Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying.  I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade.  Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.

We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before.  I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad.  She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it.  She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did.  That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood.  The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.

From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.

Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.

I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things.  Oliver put in a huge effort.  He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”

Exploring with the 2016 Ford Flex

As much fun as the 2016 Ford Flex is to drive around Saskatoon.  Today is why we have it.

Today starts the 20 kilometer hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

A couple of hours ago, we loaded the Ford Flex with a cooler full of ice and drinks (for when we are done the hike and get back to the Flex), topped up the tank with gas, tossed three loaded expedition sized backpacks into it and one smaller one for Oliver and a dog backpack for Marley and then headed out the door for Prince Albert National Park.

After we get into the park, we will register with Parks Canada and then head about 40km north of Waskesiu to the trailhead near Kingsmere Lake.  From there we are hiking 17km to the Northend campground where we will make camp before walking another three kilometers to Ajawaan Lake.

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After we check out Beaver Lodge, we will head back 3 kms back to our camp and call it a night.  Then its up and at it the next morning and back to the trailhead where that cooler of orange juice, Gatorade, Diet Coke, cold water and Coca-Cola awaits.  If we don’t make it back, you know we died a painful death at the hands of a bear in the wilderness.

Can you do me a favor?

Follow Oliver Cooper on YouTube

Oliver turns 8 tomorrow and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to shoot a Casey Neistat type video about his day tomorrow.  That isn’t going to be that hard to create or edit and I thought I would just upload it to my channel.  Then Oliver realized that he doesn’t have a YouTube Channel of his own and was stressed.  Last night I built one for him and you can find it here.  He ruthlessly micromanaged me while I made the edits today.

So he was thrilled with it until tonight when he realized he has no subscribers and is worried his video will be a flop.  Can you do me a favor and subscribe to his channel tonight or tomorrow?  A couple dozen subscribers would make his day.  That way when I upload this video tomorrow night, he’ll have an audience.

Thanks!

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

Fired

Today I got some good news.  I went into ambulatory care today at St. Paul’s Hospital.

St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon

Normally I go in there about 9:30 a.m. and there is 50 other patients in there but today I went in at 11:30 a.m. and there were four patients waiting.  I knew enough not to get excited.  There is no chance a surgeon would not be running late by 11:30 a.m.  Laws of nature prohibit it. 

So I waited for an hour.  Then another 30 minutes.  It was what I expected.

I used to be bothered by this but people are incredibly sick in there and I have overheard some of what nurses and doctors say to patients and caregivers.  It is life and death.  The other thing is that surgeon is really efficient.  Finally the hospital has sent down more nurses on busy days but I think the problem is a lack of surgeons and beds, not staff.

Finally I got to see her and she looked at my foot for like 20 seconds and then we chatted about the infection (not her department but there was a resident in there with her so she was explaining part of it) and then we chatted about walking.  That got her excited and she had some questions about that, nothing serious but more about why that far and the impact.  She then said “You’ve healed yourself” with that walking which I don’t know if I believe, I think my doctors and nurses have done a lot and I still have that infection but it was encouraging to hear.

The big news for me was that she let me know that while there are problems with the ankle, there isn’t anything serious going on with blood flow and circulation that will cause me problems down the line.  While she wants me to watch it, the other suggestion was to start wearing New Balance shoes.  Apparently those are the shoes more of us should be wearing so I will check them out when I need new shoes this summer. 

There is still the infection and cellulitis which I wish would go away but the ulcer is staying healed and that is a reason to celebrate.  So basically I was fired today as a patient and I was never so happy.

A week

His sunglasses are packed somewhere

I took this photo of Mark today just minutes before we drove him to Bedford Road Collegiate and dropped him off for his school canoe trip.  He is headed to Sturgeon Lake and if all goes well, he will return Tuesday.  If it doesn’t go well, this photo will help search and rescuers find him.

As we pulled up to the school, other kids were walking up with full body pillows and big luggage.  It reminded Mark and I over every failed exploration documentary ever.

The Expedition brought along fine china and suits from the best tailors in London.

Provided he does get back, we will take another trip on Saturday with the 2016 Ford Flex (Thanks Ford Canada, we appreciate it) to Prince Albert National Park.  After stopping in Waskesiu, we will pick up our back country permit and then we drive north past the Waskesiu Marina until we see this sign.

Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Then we take a big gulp, tighten up our hiking boots, grab our bags, and then start to walk for 17 kilometers until we get to Northend Campground.  When we get there, we will make camp, store our food up high and then push on for another 3 kilometers until we get to Ajawaan Lake and see Grey Owl’s cabin.

Once there, we will check it out and then head back to the campground for the evening.  I am told that nothing beats smokies and Kraft Dinner after a long hike in the backcountry so I will put that to the test.  Personally I think perfectly barbecued steaks would be ideal but Wendy doesn’t want to carry the barbecue and Oliver is balking at carrying a full propane tank for it.  It’s obvious someone hasn’t bought into my vision for the ideal hike.

As for gear, Wendy, Mark, and I all have expedition sized packs. 

I get to carry:

  • Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Clothes
  • Camera gear (
  • Primus Classic Stove and fuel
  • Water
  • Coffee Press
  • Stanley Travel Mug
  • Mess kit
  • Food
  • Hatchet (Northend campground has firewood but I need to split up kindling)
  • Headlamp
  • Multi-tool and knife.
  • Wendy is carrying

    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Pot for boiling food
    • Food
    • Water
    • Travel mug
    • Mess kit
    • First Aid Kit
    • Headlamp

    Mark is carrying

    • Eureka two person tent
    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Water
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Food
    • Lantern
    • Headlamp

    Oliver is carrying up

    • Sleeping bag (it’s fleece and a lot smaller than other sleeping bags)
    • Clothes
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Water
    • Food
    • Headlamp
    • Flashlight
    • Bushnell Backtrack GPS (he won’t need it but he got it for his birthday and is super excited about it)

    Marley is carrying

    • Dog food
    • Dog dishes
    • Bear bell

    We also have some things like GPS’s (which aren’t needed as the trail follows the lake but it is nice to know how much further), headlamps, flashlights, and some reading material for Friday night.

    Food is pretty simple.  We are all a fan of Marty Belanger’s hiking videos on YouTube and he has this short video on how to pack food for a multi day hike (I just refuse to use instant coffee).   He pre packs his meals into zip lock bags which do for each of us.

    Friday Meals

    • Breakfast at home
    • Lunch
      • Tortilla shells
      • Broccoli and Cheese Rice to go inside of shells
      • Cliff bars
    • Dinner
    • Kraft Dinner
    • Smokies cooked over a fire announcing to all Black Bears in Prince Albert National Park that we have food they might enjoy.  We will cook these 100 metres or so from campground as suggested by Parks Canada and common sense.
    • Chocolate bars for dessert
    • Tea and hot chocolate
  • Snack
    • Oysters over the fire

    Saturday Meals

    • Breakfast
      • Oatmeal
      • Granola bars
      • Hot Chocolate
      • Coffee
    • Lunch
      • Sidekick pasta
      • Tuna wraps with tortilla

    Raman noodles as needed and we do have enough food in case there is an emergency.

    The only thing that concerns me is that we both have two person tents and the dog likes to sleep between Wendy and I.  That could be for a long night where one of us is sleeping in the vestibule.   That person could be me.

    If all goes well, we will be out by mid afternoon on Sunday and back in Waskesiu for supper.   The Ford Flex has both air conditioned and heated seats.  I am unsure at this time which I will be turning on first as we leave the parking lot.

    This expedition does have it’s own website here.    We’ll be posting much more once we are done there.

    Inside the Svalbard Seed Vault

    Tucked away in a mountain located on the Svalbard archipelago in Norway, also home to The Northmost Town on Earth, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Vault is home to more than 860,000 plant seed samples deposited by dozens of different countries from around the world (even North Korea) and is closed to access about 350 days per year. But the folks from Veritasium were able to finagle a tour of the facility during one of its rare open days.

    This facility was built to last about 200 years and withstand earthquakes and explosions. It was placed on the side of a mountain so even if all the ice on Earth melts, it will still be above sea level.

    Other fun facts about the Vault: the temperature in the storage rooms are kept at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit to hinder seed growth/deterioration, the permafrost in which the Vault is built will maintain the low storage temp in case of electrical failure, GMO seeds are forbidden due to Norwegian law, and the first withdrawal was made last year by Syria because of the civil war.

    Saskatoon City Council Roundup

    • I updated the Candidate tracking page here. With Jeff Jackson’s candidacy, Evan Drisner and Charlie Clark campaign websites.
    • Jeff is a good friend of mine.  I am just tossing that out there in terms of disclosure.
    • A little shocked to read that Drisner singing the praises of Eric Olauson.  Most would have considered Olauson a terrible councilor that contributed little to the city.   He was unprepared for most meetings I watched, didn’t appear to have read his council packet, and was more interested in his version of partisanship than anything about constituents.  Yes he was elected as a MLA but on the coat tails of the most popular Premier in provincial history.
    • I have heard from several that Atchison’s fundraiser was not a success.  Corporate tables sold out but where full of junior associates and staff and the individual seats were less then half full.  Oddly enough people keep pointing out that Atch didn’t thank people individually or work the room.
    • Atch isn’t marching in the Saskatoon Pride Parade again.  I really wish this wasn’t an issue and that had done it before.  He is invited every year and every year he comes up with a ridiculous excuse (or just is silent) on why he doesn’t do it.  I’m not a politician but I too am missing the Pride Parade.  Wendy, Oliver, Mark and I are hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin that weekend.  We have attended in the past though.
    • For those of you who say, “It’s his personal choice if he wants to attend the event.”   Fair enough but no one forced him to run as mayor either. When you seek public office, there are certain obligations.  As almost every Canadian mayor and politician has shown, marking in a Pride parade is an important part of that.

    Sturdy Stone Centre

    Sturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in Saskatoon

    It’s ugly no matter what angle you photograph it from. 

    This 13 story building was built in the Brutalist style of architecture and opened in 1977. Floors 3 to 7 are used as a parkade, with the remainder of the building being office space. It was designed by the architecture firm of Forrester, Scott, Bowers, Cooper and Walls.

    This was formerly the site of the Standard Trust Building, a seven-storey office building. It was built in 1912-1913 and demolished in 1976 to make way for the Sturdy Stone Centre. Public concern raised about the demolition of that building caused the Saskatoon Heritage Society to be formed.

    Well this doesn’t look good.

    So the other day I was messing around with my photo project Bridge City and everything went wrong with the database.  My WordPress database was messed up.  The backup was less messed up but it was a mess.  I felt like hurling.

    For those of you know follow it, you know that I have uploaded about 750 high resolution photos of Saskatoon to the site, organized by neighborhood.  For the historical buildings in Saskatoon, I tracked down the architect and learned a lot about the city in the process.  There was David Webster the father and David Webster the son.  Many historical records claim David Webster as architect when he wasn’t and some historical records have contradictory information which often means the building construction is more complicated than we ever thought.  Personally I think at one point in our city’s history, if we didn’t know who the architect was, someone at the back at the room yelled out, “David Webster” and someone said, “sounds good” and that was it.

    The project has been a lot of fun as I have spent many a day off buried in archives and online tracking down a list of questions that I can’t find an answer for.

    Since the project is to document the important buildings in the city, it has gotten me off the couch and out in the streets, often with Mark and Wendy in tow as we try to capture the building.  This process has attracted building owners, neighbors, and even Saskatoon City Police officers to see what I am up to and then share some of what they know.  It’s been a lot of fun.

    The good news is that the photos aren’t lost but the information and research is.  For a couple of days I was torn between recreating the site or just posting the photos here.

    From a branding perspective, having my photography under my site and name makes the most sense but I really like being able to browse by neighborhood and creating a resource that is used by a lot of you.  For all intents and purposes my Flickr account does the same thing but I enjoy going through it, researching what I have captured and filling out the site.

    The plan is to upload and post 10 archival posts a night to Bridge City and of course one new one each day.  Hopefully the site will be back to where it was (and maybe even better) by late summer.   So if you are one of the people that checked it out and used it as a resource, thanks for reading, commenting, and correcting.  I love the input.

    I get asked all of the time why I spend so much time documenting and capturing the city.  Basically as a writer, I find myself writing about what is messed up with the city.  I write about social justice and City Hall.  I deal with politicians who look me in the eye and lie to me.  That kills one’s enthusiasm for the city you live in.

    Then I go out with my Pentax K-3 or a cheap point and shoot and I see the city in a different way.  The city slows down.  There is time for coffee and chatting.  I find myself falling in love with this city all over again.  In the end, carrying a camera and shooting some photos or video connects me to the city and it’s people.  That’s still kind of important to me.

    A blog about urbanism, technology & culture.