This guy is playing the accordion and making it look cool.
After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman. They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place. We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents. The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker. The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.
- I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera. She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade. This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes. It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it. I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary. A nice bonus for her.
- Mark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off. The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it. So far so good but it is early yet.
- Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography. Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom. He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
- Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera. it was used but barely used. Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens. I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
- The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter. I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras. Story of my life.
- I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera. He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it. It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount. Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account. That’s quality parenting right there folks.
- Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone. Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them. He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes. The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit.
- Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
- The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
- Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie. He’ll never take them off.
- Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug. It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
- Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks. He is going to need them.
- I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars. He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well. As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies. Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code. I hear beeping in my future.
- Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them. Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting. It should be fun.
- Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS. Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin. Mark isn’t so crazy about that. We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head. Something to inspire him with.
- Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs. Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
- Hutch got him an art set
- Maggi got him a compact camcorder. It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver. He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots. The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it. At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days. I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
- I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades. Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
- The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk. It seems to sum both of them up so well.
- We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.
- Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
- Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.
- Wendy gave me an Apple TV.
- Oliver gave me a rather sharp used F 1.7 50mm lens for my DSLR. He also gave me a LowePro lens case to keep it in.
- Mark got me The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells. (you can read a Toronto Star review here)
- Maggi collaborated with Oliver and gave me a Manfrotto compact tripod.
- Lee and Brittany gave me Battlefield 4. Now I have to go and fight the world myself.
- The dogs got me a lens! Err a coffee travel mug. Now I can pour myself a steaming cup of DSLR.
I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag
Well that’s enough from me tonight. We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner. Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.
The other day I ordered some Bose IE2 headphones off of Airmiles and they arrived today. I took them out and plugged them into my iPod and started to listen. I was amazed. There were parts of the music that I had never heard before regardless whether I had listened to it via headphones, dock, or plugged into some speakers. It was like rediscovering my music library all over again. The sound quality between them and the included Apple headphones or any other headphones I have owned isn’t even comparable. While I had some reservation about the ear tips, I don’t even notice them. They look really weird but fit really comfortably. After fiddling with my headphones for the majority of my time at the gym today, I think I may appreciate them. If you love your music and have never tried out a pair of high end headphones, you really need to. These are amazing.
I know audiophiles like to look down at Bose but I’ll be honest, I am not going to spend thousands on my stereo so these are spectacular.
Update: Sadly Nickelback still sounds like Nickelback. They can’t fix everything.
A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s. As usual, I start with the kids and move from there. If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.
Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard. Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever. Welcome to shopping for a teenager. Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.
I have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens. You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract. Everyone wins. The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre. It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid. It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you. If you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).
While Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80). It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model). All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.
Of course they will need some adventures to film. Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119). It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world. Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.
If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS. If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249). With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP). There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)
While my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7. There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active). The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio. It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos. While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.
If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit. I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.
If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.
Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic. Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great. A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag. If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.
Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II: A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.
Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.
In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.
This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.
In the latter quarter of the twentieth century, it became increasingly obvious that major historical manufacturers had lost their capacity to build a magnificent piano. In one case, the failure was precipitated in the early 1970s when CBS bought Steinway & Sons. Industry lore had it that the few remaining skilled artisans were permitted to work in Steinway factories, though perhaps not doing the fine refinements and regulation they were uniquely suited to perform. According to insiders’ reports, the newly jobless in unemployment offices local to Steinway’s New York facilities had, as their first assignment, to apply for work building pianos. As assets were sold or exhausted, and as forests across the world fell out of sustainable management for wood quality, it became increasingly difficult to purchase wood of the high quality that would have been standard only fifty years earlier. The ideal material — Sitka spruce grown to full mature size in a dense, sheltered stand — had all been cut years ago. No magnificent grand pianos were being built, though a few Japanese instruments came close, due to irreproducible flukes of soundboard or final finish quality; most American-made vertical pianos were of marginal quality, and in steep decline; Japanese pianos — especially Yamaha — were of uniformly consistent quality, and — especially Kawai — of uniformly high quality.
My iPod now has about 2,000 songs, and it is a source of great pleasure to me. I am probably still more heavily weighted toward the music of my childhood than I am the new stuff. There’s still a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Those are the old standards.
A lot of classical music. I’m not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need.
Thanks to Reggie [Love, the president's personal aide], my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I’ve got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff, but I would not claim to be an expert. Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things. Music is still a great source of joy and occasional solace in the midst of what can be some difficult days.
I don’t know how many of you use or have even heard of ccMixter but if you are doing any media production at all, it is a great tool. Today while working on a project for work I was looking for some music and I realized the song was a remix and posted to ccMixter which is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. I not only found the music I was looking for but someone else had remixed the original track which sounded even better.
Update: 2010 Christmas Gift Ideas for All of the Men in Your Life by Wendy is now online.
I do most of the Christmas shopping in our house which leaves Wendy to get my gift. I generally update my Amazon.com wishlist and use their universal wish list button to create on central wish list for her and Mark. Our goal is to be done Christmas shopping by December 1st every year and we finished everything up last week so we are good. Since I started posting the Christmas Gift Guides, people have asked me how many things I was asking for Christmas and the answer is I don’t want that many things but here is a short list of things I asked Wendy, Mark, Oliver and Maggi to get me for Christmas. Since they are done their shopping by now, I feel fine in posting this.
In case none of these gifts strike a chord with you, check out my Christmas Gift Guide for the Emotionally Distant Father.
A new Swiss Army knife :: I bought one for my groomsmen and myself from MEC 12 years ago and it is showing it’s age and needs to be replaced. This year might be a good year to do it. While I really like my multi-tool, a lot of days, I just want a pocket knife in my front pocket. I still have the worn out pocket knife that my grandfather had and a pocket knife in my pocket not only is handy but reminds me of him.
I couldn’t help but notice this Pathfinder watch from Casio. Is there anything this watch can’t do? It includes a digital compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer. It’s altitude measurement up to 10,000 meters in the air and 100 meters under water. For a lot less money, this version from Casio has a thermometer and digital compass in it.
I am still a fan of Timex Atlantis 100 watches which you can give with the stainless steel or the more traditional polyurethane strap. Timex also has put out these really nice looking NHL team watches. Not that I am biased but I think this one looks the best.
This is more for the cabin but I thought these dynamite fire starting sticks from Cabelas were a lot of fun. Though the contents of this sturdy wood crate will not move mountains, they will start your fireplace. One look at the realistic “dynamite” crate will have family and friends looking twice. Each cedar wood crate contains 20 fire-starter sticks. They are made of paraffin and sawdust for a long, hot burn. Each stick will burn approximately 30 minutes setting ablaze even the most stubborn wood. Plus, Cabelas sent me a $20 gift certificate a months ago because I responded to a question on Twitter for them and I need to spend it on something.
Snowshoes and Solitude :: We are a big fan of the show Survivorman around the house but one of the questions I always have is how we he do if his isolation lasted longer than 7 days. According to some friends who have seen the DVD, Snowshoes and Solitude goes a long way in answering that question and I am told it is worth watching and owning.
Survive! by Les Stroud :: This is a huge best seller in Canada and is by the creator of Survivorman. It’s a gift not only for me but will be fun for years to come as I hike with Oliver and Mark.
The Pod :: I have a camera and about four tripods. This is a great addition to the list because it is what happens when you combine a camera mount with a bean bag and it’s a lot easier to pack along on hikes.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Welcome Sign :: If I get this, I plan to hang it in the cabin but it would also look good at home. I also am hoping for a Saskatchewan Roughriders water bottle and a Saskatchewan Roughriders magnet. The water bottle is for our house. The magnet is for the Reimer’s front door which they painted Rider Green while at the same time still being Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans.
Harmonica :: While I still can play the alto saxophone (or as I and Homer Simpson prefer to call it, the Saxomaphone, I really don’t have the desire to get the rust off and I never learned to play by ear. The other night I suggested to Wendy, “I want to play the harmonica.” which threw her for a loop. After waiting for the punch line, she asked me why I would want to. At least it’s not the bagpipes.
The SAS Survival Handbook :: Mark and I are planning to do some hiking this summer and I think it would be fun to teach him some of the stuff found in this book and Les Stroud’s book Survive!. Mark loves watching Survivorman and I think we will have a blast learning this stuff together. Plus, Mark has already said he was going to eat a grasshopper kabob after watching this episode of Survivorman and wants to learn how to make a fire to cook them on.
NCAA 2010 for the PSP :: While I love the NFL, there is something about college offences and the ability to run a triple option attack is fun. Plus, I now know that Notre Dame can’t stop it. That being said, Madden 10 would be pretty cool and I can see if I can do more with JaMarcus Russell than Tom Cable can.
LittleBigPlanet for PSP :: I was over at my brother Lee’s place and he has it for the PS3. Mark was enthralled, Wendy had fun and even Lee was enjoying it. It looks fun, Mark will borrow the game, and I can see Wendy killing some time with it. Good enough for me.
I couldn’t help but notice these great customizable Denver Broncos shirts from NFL Shop.com.
I am not a big Bocce ball kind of guy but I know we would have a lot of fun playing this as a family at the cabin. It may in the end be a better Father’s Day kind of gift because of the weather in Saskatchewan, if you live in a warmer climate, it may be a fun gift for your father.
There you go, it’s not a big list but it doesn’t really matter what I get for Christmas but I thought I would post it to give some ideas in case you know of someone who is as insane as I am.
This is a local rockabilly band that is made up of some friends of mine. Regardless of what you think of their music, you have to admit that they have the best band name in the history of music.
I was just contacted by a media company representing a Japanese band asking me if they can use a photo I took in a video they are creating. They also asked if they could not give me credit for using it. I have had my works ripped off before but no one has ever asked in advance to do it. I am going to say yes just because I think it is cool they asked me first and because I want one of those shirts that say “I’m huge in Japan” and I want to wear it with some integrity
This morning Wendy called me while Mark and I were pulling into Royal University Hospital‘s parking lot and told me that she can finally come home which was a great way to start Father’s Day. After we stopped up at the Neo Natal Intensive Care unit to see Oliver (and get a Father’s Day card featuring his picture), we headed to Office Depot so Wendy could get my Father’s Day gift from Mark and Oliver which was a set of speakers for the cabin and a iTunes card. The speakers tested out okay and now I have to figure out what I want from iTunes.