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Christmas Eve

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.

Wendy

  • 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.
Fujifilm Finepix JX600
  •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark 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.

Olympis PEN EPL-2

Mark

  • 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.
Vivitar Action Camera
  • 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.

Oliver

  • 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.
Memorex CD Player
  • 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).
A $10 Vibe Camcorder

Lee

  • 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.
Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
  • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

Brittany

  • 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.

Me

Pentax f1.7

Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

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.

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Your Husband/Boyfriend/Father | 2013 Edition

It’s that time of year again when people start searching the web for Christmas gifts for loved ones.  For the last several years I have published a gift guide of what to get for your husband on JordonCooper.com and this year is no different.  So without further ado (and I know how much we all hate ado), here is my Christmas gift suggestions for your husband/boyfriend/father (and all of the other men in your life).  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments – Wendy.

Sony RX-100 II

Sony RX-100 II compact cameraIf you are looking for the world’s best point and shoot compact camera, here it is; the Sony RX-100 II.

  • It has a huge one inch sensor (which means better low light performance and more vibrant photos)
  • It features an extremely fast F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens which again will mean excellent low light photos and action shots.
  • Connection to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or if you have a new Android powered phone, NFC.
The New York Times called it the best compact camera ever made and it’s a great second camera to the serious photographer or outdoorsman in your life.  It’s small enough to always have with you and yet powerful enough to make sure he will always get a fantastic photo.  If your guy is one that loves the wilderness and is prone to do things like dump a canoe in the river, the camera is small enough to place in a waterproof Pelican 1010 container so even if he isn’t dry, the camera is.

Canon Powershot G16
Canon Powershot G16 CameraOther options to consider for less money is the Canon Powershot G16.  Canon combined a 1 1/17 inch sensor with a DIGIC VI sensor to create a camera that has DSLR type power in a point and shoot body.  The result is a compact, advanced point-and-shoot camera that produces high quality still imagery and full HD 1080p video with notable low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 12800. The sensor and processor work together to form the Canon HS SYSTEM, which helps to improve the image quality of dimly-lit shots by reducing noise and enhancing the overall clarity. Additionally, the processor offers a range of speed-related assets throughout the camera, including a maximum sustained full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 9.3 fps for over 500 shots as well as a High Speed AF system for maintained sharpness in a variety of shooting conditions.

Samsung WB30F
samsung_wb30f_redIf both of these compact cameras left you with a sticker shock (they did for me), you may want to check out this excellent Samsung WB30F.    It features 16.2MP CCD, 24-240mm (35mm Equiv), Optical Zoom Lens Capture HD 720/30p Video, Wi-Fi Connectivity, Panorama, Smart Auto, Smart Movie and smile detection.  Small enough to carry with you everywhere and a good enough quality to get you the photos you want.

        GoPro Hero 3+

        You have probably seen one of the hundreds of amazing videos that have been posted to the GoPro YouTube Channel or seen one of the many thousands of more videos that have been posted over the last couple of years with these amazing cameras.  While GoPro has competitors, none match the features that GoPro offers or any of the many mounts that GoPro has to secure the camera to your car, head, chest, poles, floatation devices, or bikes with ease.  For $20-$30 you can literally mount a GoPro on anything.

        Go Pro Hero 3+

        The camera itself is a lot fun with a super wide angle view, HD video, slow motion video, and time lapse features that allow you to film your ideas.  Jordon has one and has had a lot of fun over the years with it.  Your guy will as well.  An added bonus is that GoPro has released a free video editor so you can easily edit and upload your adventures.


        Fuji XF1

        Fuji XF1 digital cameraLightweight, durable aluminum body parts and synthetic leather covering enhance the feel of the camera in the hand, with texture that resembles genuine leather.

        The bright f/1.8 lens lets you capture quality pictures not normally possible with a compact camera. Noise is kept to a minimum without boosting sensitivity, while camera-shake and subject motion are prevented due to high shutter speeds. And thanks to the large aperture, you can also create attractive "bokeh" blurred background effects.

        With it’s retro styling, it’s also a camera guaranteed to be noticed even before you take those great photos.


        Moleskine hardcover notebookElectronics is cool but so is writing stuff down with pen and paper and nothing beats a Moleskine notebook and a quality pen to do that with.  You can find really nice Moleskine notebooks in any bookstore but for about half of that, you can find journals at your local Staples or office supply store.


        Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

        I purchased Jordon a pair of Bose IE2 in ear headphones last year.  He put them in his ears and could not believe the difference between them and the $20 headphones he had used forever.  As he said, "It’s like hearing my music for the first time again".  For Father’s Day, I got him a pair of Bose AE2 headphones that go over the ear and the sound was even better.  It’s easy to dismiss high end headphones as not being worth the money but I can really say that these are.  Both are incredibly comfortable and bring a bit of luxury to your world no matter where you are listening to them at.  Everyone needs a retreat and this does that.  I can’t recommend them enough.


        JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesIf you are looking for a less expensive option, check out JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.

        For over the ear comfort and sound at a great price, check out Sony’s MDR-ZX100 headphones.  We have a couple of pairs around the house and they are much loved and oft used.


        Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuffDetroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff | Jordon grew up with Detroit cable television and for many in our city, they have a close affinity with Detroit.  This is the story of what went wrong and is told from a personal perspective. Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

        The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006- by Paul Wells | This is the book that every one of our friends is reading or wants for Christmas.  In The Longer I’m Prime Minister, Paul Wells explores just what Harper’s understanding of Canada is, and who he speaks for in the national conversation. He explains Harper not only to Harper supporters but also to readers who can’t believe he is still Canada’s prime minister. In this authoritative, engaging and sometimes deeply critical account of the man, Paul Wells also brings us an illuminating portrait of Canadian democracy: “glorious, a little dented, and free.”


        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock | If the guy you are shopping for is a music lover, you will want to consider this amazing Samsung wireless speaker dock. Incredible sound and rich, warm styling makes the Samsung DA-E750 wireless audio dock the perfect addition to your home. The unique vacuum tube amplifier technology lets you hear music the way it was meant to be heard. Compatible with both Samsung and Apple phones, this device lets you stream music using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, or load it from a USB memory stick.

        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock


        SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf your husband is a fan of the radio (nothing better than baseball on a summer’s night over the radio), check out the SANGEAN WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio.  Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.

        Plus baseball just sounds better played on one of these radios.


        X-Mini II Portable Capsule SpeakerX-Mini II Portable Capsule Speaker | Jordon gave me one of these last year and I thought it looked cute and didn’t think much more about it but they work fantastic.  The big difference with the X-Mini II speakers is that you can link them together to create better sound as well as more volume.  We take ours with us everywhere and its nice at the cabin or even in a hotel room on a vacation.   There are some other two speaker options as well but you can find the X-Mini’s almost everywhere and they are about the same price.


        1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

        Keep your belongings, and yourself, stylishly organized with Kenneth Cole’s lovely messenger bag. Contrast stitching accents its rich leather body, while a short handle and long, adjustable strap keep your carrying options open. The flap closure opens up to reveal a roomy main compartment, complete with a full-length zipper pocket for your smaller necessities. Front gusseted pockets include a cell phone pocket to keep it handy and within reach.

        Soft, Columbian full-grain leather and casual, but polished styling make this messenger the perfect bag for work and everyday. The interior is simple, but versatile enough to carry a laptop, papers, books, etc. There is even a cell phone pocket plus organizer features in the front gusset pockets.


         
        Boeing Airmail Laptop SleeveBoeing Airmail Laptop Sleeve | Yes I am sure your guy has a laptop bag but he doesn’t have this laptop bag which will standout wherever he goes.  It’s both unique and incredibly manly at the same time while protecting his most precious possession, his Macbook or laptop.

        RCAF Large Kit Bag |  What an amazing piece of Canadiana.  This RCAF kit bag is a great value all by itself but then you add in the design and the coolness factor and you have a great gift for any fan of Canadian or military history.

        Red Canoe Dopp KitRCAF Dopp Kitt | Unlike many women who require a small suitcase for their toiletries, a traveling man needs only a few essentials to be happy. Nevertheless, a man needs a place to stow these items. Enter the Dopp kit.  Now you can get a $5 shaving kit from Wal-Mart but that has no class  What you want is something with personality and I think we can all agree, this dope kit has personality.  Not only will it keep you guy’s stuff organized, it will be something he holds on to for years and years.


        Whiskey Stones

        Whiskey Sipping Stones

        Sipping Stones is the aficionado’s choice for chilling a drink. It eliminates a common problem for all connoisseurs of fine whiskey: it cools your drink perfectly without the dilution from melting ice. Now all your favorite drinks are able to be served the way they were intended to be, perfectly pure and precisely chilled. Sipping Stones are non-porous meaning there is no odor or taste to tarnish your drink. And unlike ice, Sipping Stones provides a smooth chill that does not overwhelm the character of your beverage. Each set of Sipping Stones comes with nine finely crafted cubes made from soapstone, a safe alternative to ice. Sipping Stones is a great gift for anyone who loves the perfectly chilled beverage. Or you can use it as a conversation starter at your next party. Simply keep the Sipping Stones in your freezer until you are ready to chill your next glass of whiskey.


        Finally, how much fun would any guy have playing with an AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter.  It’s easy to fly, records in HD video and if he does crash it (you know he will), there is a large stock of replacement parts.

        AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

        That being said, the automated features of the AR Drone 2.0 make it almost impossible to crash making it stable platform to fly, do stunts with or film video with.  Take a look at the video below to see how it performs


        Netatmo Urban Weather Station

        Netatmo Urban Weather StationThe Netatmo Weather Station contains a unique set of sensors to monitor your living environment and wirelessly transmits all your data to your Smartphone. The Netatmo App displays your Station’s indoor and outdoor measurements into clear and comprehensive dashboards, graphs and notifications. All of your data is recorded online and made permanently accessible for you, on your Smartphone or PC. Seamlessly measure, track and monitor your Weather and Environment, indoor and outdoor, at any time and from anywhere. The Netatmo App is available for free at the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store. With the app you can:

        • Connect multiple Stations to your Smartphone or computer
        • Check the your Stations from any Smartphone or computer
        • Share the info on your favorite social networks

        We spend 80% of our time indoor, resting, playing with the kids or at the office. The Netatmo Station monitors your indoor air quality (CO2 concentration), and reminds you to ventilate, at the right moment. The Netatmo Weather Station allows city dwellers to monitor indoor air quality, get real-time updates on local Air Quality Index report and pick the best moments for outdoor activities.The Netatmo Weather Station also monitors noise pollution and measures home or office acoustic comfort.

        Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

        Bushnell 10x42 BinocularsBushnell Powerview Roof Prism Binoculars are designed to provide high-quality optics in a versatile and durable format at an affordable price. Constructed with a rugged, shock absorbing rubber armor for a comfortable, non-slip grip and equipped with the roof prism system for increased durability, Powerview Binoculars are suitable for multiple applications from sports to nature viewing. The 10×42 Powerview Binoculars offer powerful 10x magnification with larger, light-gathering 42-millimeter objective lenses that will perform well anywhere you use them–from a bird watching hike to a stadium. Meanwhile the BaK-7 prisms and multi-coated optics provide high-level image resolution and clarity. Additional user friendly details include a center focus knob for easy adjustments, fold down eye cups, and a tripod adaptable base. Bushnell Powerview Binoculars carry a limited lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship for the original owner.

        Purchase at Amazon.com | $69


        Tonx Coffee

        Give the gift of great coffee.  Tonx sources the best beans from exceptional coffee farmers who are as fanatical about tasty coffee as we are. To make the best cup, you have to start with the best ingredients. Tonx has years of experience finding and working with the best farmers in the world.

        They then ship that amazing coffee to your house.  It costs you $19 per 12oz shipment and you have a new shipment coming every two weeks.  That’s right, fresh coffee beans coming to your house every second week.  How awesome is that?


        He Likes Black Coffee MugHe Likes Black Coffee | This is a mug for Jordon.  Over the years I have given some cool (and not so cool) gifts but his eyes light up every time he sees a cool coffee mug.  Of course there are some limitations.  Your guy has to like black coffee but if he does, he will love this gift.


        Art Prints

        Jordon Cooper's prints for sale at Image KindI am biased because Jordon has been selling some amazing photographs of shots he has posted to The Daily but have you considered the gift of art this Christmas?  Image Kind has hundreds of incredible artists selling amazing art on archival quality paper.  Not only are you supporting local artists but you are getting someone you love something that they won’t get at your local big box store.  Check out his Saskatoon, rural, and travel galleries.  You may be surprised at what you will find there.


        Am I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

        Christmas Gift Guides for all of the important people in your lifeYou can also find all of the rest of the 2013 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!

        Anniversary and new site design

        Wendy is blogging about my anniversary gift to her and her site features a new theme and feel. 

        La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

        On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert.  We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert.  Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.

        Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.

        Adventure has a name

         Apparently it’s name is Oliver.

        Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get some work done when Oliver and Mark decided to go to A.H. Browne Park.  As a change, I suggested that they walk to Ashworth Holmes Park and check out the paddling pool.  They did and three hours later they came home with some video that Mark had shot on his camera.  The next thing I knew he had his SD card out and was uploading it to my Mac rather than his PC.

        So after dorking around for a bit, he found the movie trailer feature in iMovie and I know I wasn’t getting my Mac back anytime soon.  After an hour of them arguing over which clips to use, Mark came up with this.  Now I have to just sign him out of Twitter, Gmail, and figure out else he has done to my MacBook.

        Family time with Mark

         

        Mark snorting Diet Coke up his nose.

        Skimboarding Fail

        Make you watch Mark skimboard in HD and then in super slow motion (you have to click through to the YouTube page to do that)

        Alfred Gilkes

        Wendy doesn’t have a lot to do with her family but long after she was estranged from everyone else, her grandfather and her would continue to write letters to each other.  His life started in Guyana in 1906, he was orphaned at a young age, lived in a penal colony as a child, explored the interior of Guyana as a diamond broker, fought a tiger, and then travelled the world on some adventure or another.  When he retired he became a very talented tourist and wrote about that as well.

        If he had been born later, he would have been a blogger but instead he did it old school and typed out his autobiography for his family to read.  

        Wendy wanted to make it more accessible for Mark and Oliver to read and so we formatted about 200 pages of stories, uploaded them to Blogger and started to research every single thing he wrote about while adding hundreds of links and photos to the story..  After going through it about 15 times, we found two factual errors.  One could have been an OCR mistake and one he spelled out the name of something as he heard it is in English when it was actually a German term.  Okay, that and I am still trying to figure out what a tiger was doing in South America (zoo escapee?)

        Wendy isn’t done it yet but it is good enough to let the world know about it at alfredgilkes.blogspot.com where it is there for the world to read about.

        Ford’s Power of Choice Event in Regina

        Ford

        Last Tuesday, Jeff, Mark, and myself were invited to Regina to take part in Ford Canada’s Power of Choice at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  I was at the Escape with Ford event last summer, a day that I have called the best day of my life despite the angry glares that I get from Wendy, Mark, and now Oliver but I stand by my statement.  Ford events are those things that you should always say yes to.  Of course a couple of days before I get the itinerary and it says that it starts at 10:00 a.m. which means that we need to leave Saskatoon at 7:00 a.m.  We could have left later but I was driving the 2013 Ford C Max Hybrid and you would feel like a jerk getting a ticket in one of those.

        The night before Mark was getting packed and his over the ear headphones were busted.  Mark takes good care of his stuff but the ear pad was off.  He never asks for stuff to be replaced but I went out and picked him up some new Sony headphones that XS Cargo had.  I left the box in the Ford C Max Hybrid and he was thrilled to find it in the morning. 

        So at 5:45 a.m. I heard Mark get up and take all of the hot water in the house.  The kid was excited to get going to his first Ford event, even if he hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to convince Ford to let him drive a car on the RCMP grounds.  He still had a couple of hours to work out the details.  We drove over to Jeff Jackson’s place.  We had been there once before and I was assuming Mark had paid closer attention to where he lived than I did but then I realized it was Oliver who was with me.  That didn’t help at all.

        Despite Jeff’s place being in the middle of Lakeridge, it doesn’t show up on Ford’s GPS.  I kept hoping I would get ‘Samantha’ (Ford Sync’s voice) to give me a warning about driving into unchartered territory but nothing.

        It’s a horrible drive between Saskatoon and Regina.  There is no scenery at all.  I am sorry Davidson but your large coffee pot does not classify as scenery.  If only a town would create the world’s biggest hoe along the way.

        I don’t know how much Mark enjoyed his new headphones on the way down as I think he was asleep by Dundurn and I didn’t hear from him until after we passed Lumsden.

        When we got to Regina and I had Jeff, the guy with Apple Maps navigating for me.  That worked out as well as Apple Maps got us lost, didn’t update in time to make the turns and was pretty much useless. We should have stuck with either the Google Maps or the Microsoft powered map in the Ford GPS.  It was a loss for Apple, a win for every other map software in the world, including paper maps.

        As we rolled into the RCMP Heritage Centre, Ford had a large tent set up and like the other Ford events that we have been at, there was food, information, and drinks everywhere.  Believe it or not, the photographer below was photographing the cars and not us.  I may be a big deal in Europe but not so much in Regina.

        IMGP8173

        As we were chatting, we noticed Greg Johnson, the Tornado Hunter roll up in his orange F-150.  It makes quite an entrance.  Of course Greg was only there for a short time as he had to go out and chase a tornado.

        IMGP8178

        To start of the morning we took part in a short presentation on the Ford electric vehicles and hybrids in a boardroom at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  Ford presentations are short, information packed and their specialists can answer your questions very well.  On this one we had a specialist joining up in from Dearborn, Michigan via Skype.

        IMGP8179

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        “We pride ourselves on offering customers the Power of choice, including 15 vehicles with EcoBoost engines and five new electrified vehicles,” said Scott Kuzma, Ford of Canada’s assistant marketing manager, cars. “We are absolutely committed to top fuel economy with every new vehicle we introduce, and the Power of Choice Tour is helping people learn how they can achieve that in their own lives.”

        You can read more about the presentation by clicking on the PDF.  Of course not only are Ford vehicles more fuel efficient but Ford is trying to cut back on the amount of petroleum products it takes to make them (which can actually use up more hydro carbons than it will to drive them).  For anyone who has read Jeff Rubin‘s books or column in the Globe and Mail, you know what a big deal this is.

        Then it was outside to test drive the cars.  There was a 2013 Ford Escape, a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and a 2013 Ford C Max Energi.  Each test drive was done with a Ford Product Specialist who was there to answer any questions that myself (or Mark in the backseat) had.  While we were waiting to take some drives, there were other specialists to answer any questions.

        IMGP8184

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        I took the Ford C Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Hybrid for quick test drives.  Both are great cars.   The Ford C Max Energi is very similar to the C Max Hybrid I just had but like the (way more expensive) Chevy Volt, it runs first on battery and then uses gas.  The transition from electric to gas was seamless.  I had several questions about battery life as the last thing one wants to do is spend a lot of money on an electrified vehicle and then replace the battery pack.  The battery packs on those last from 15-20 years which I think is more than acceptable and actually is quite exceptional.

        IMGP8231

        The Ford Fusion Hybrid is also a great car to drive.  I never really thought of the Ford Fusion as a luxury car but it is fantastic as a mid-sized sedan.  For a lot of people running kids around town, it has the size to do it and the fuel efficiency to make the trips a lot less painful (which I was reminded when gas was $1.30 a litre on the way up and back.

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        They also had a 2013 Ford Escape but I have reviewed one previously and was going to drive another back to Saskatoon so I didn’t see the point in taking the SUV I love the most for another test drive.  

        At the Escape with Ford event from last year, they fed us about 8 times.  This year we didn’t have the amount of stops but the quality was excellent with sandwiches, drinks and treats everywhere for us to eat.  I found out an interesting thing about Mark in that he is unable to eat a chocolate cupcake without part of it going up his nose.  I blame his mom.

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        As we left Regina, we took the 2013 Ford Escape back to Saskatoon with us.  I stopped in Davidson to fill up the tank and while I was overtired, I made a horrible and inexcusable mistake.  I stopped at the roadside gas station.  Jeff and Mark went in to use the washroom and came out deeply scarred from the smell, sex toys being sold in the washroom and what Mark described as something oozing through the walls.  I think both of them now have PTSD.  That washroom alone is reason enough get a more energy efficient vehicle.  The less you have to stop at roadside washrooms, the higher of quality of life you will have.

        I took a bunch of photos which have been posted to Flickr.  Mark posted about the day here and also uploaded his photos to his Flickr account.

        Oliver is like a Bosh

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        Ever since the NBA playoffs started, when someone makes a mistake around the house, Oliver says, “You’re like a Bosh” and does the pose.  I’ve taught him well.

        Memories of my father

        My father left on January 18, 1982.  He told my mom the day before my brother was born.  He had found someone else and was gone soon after that.  I was in grade two and the explanation never played that well for me and our relationship kind of ended on that day.  If it had been up to me, I would never have seen him again.

        Of course under Alberta law, it wasn’t up to me and according the Court of Queen’s Bench, I had to spend a week at Christmas, Easter and the month of August with him.  Now he didn’t want me there for the entire month of August but the judge thought this was the way to go.  How crappy was our lawyer that my father got visitation that he never even wanted?

        So the August of 1986 I found myself in this trailer court outside of Edson, Alberta with my dad who just went to work every day and his wife who did not want us there.  You can imagine how much fun it was.  The trip started out poorly when my dad asked if we loved him.  Dumb question.  Of course I answered honestly and said, “no”.  Well you would have thought I said, I didn’t love him or something.  Oh right.  That’s what I said.  Well he wasn’t pleased and both tried to guilt us and get angry to make us love him.  I think we had already established that parenting wasn’t something he did well.

        He freaked out and got mad (that helped a lot) and his girlfriend is upset and yelling at how ungrateful we are and I am thinking that this is going to be a bad summer.  A couple of days later I called him to mom and told her how stupid it was.  She tells her lawyer and then the next thing I know, he writes to my dad’s lawyer and I am now in even more trouble (seriously, how hard is it to get a good lawyer in the 80s? There was so many legal drams on television that you would have thought they would have learned something.)  I didn’t care that much but then they said that they were planning to take us to Expo ’86 but I am too ungrateful and horrible of a son and blah blah blah.  The Expo ’86 comment was the wrong thing to say to me.  Here we were living so far below the poverty line in Saskatoon that the LICO looked like prosperity and I can’t go to Expo ’86 because I am honest?  That didn’t make me happier.

        About day three of them being mad, they were losing energy with their rage and brought home some rocky road ice cream.  Now who doesn’t love rocky road ice cream.  My dad sure did.  For some reason there was a box of Ex-lax on the counter and I realized, Ex-lax + rocky road ice cream could make this month a lot more tolerable.  

        Ex Lax Stimulant Laxative Regular Strength Chocolate 300670005481

        For the first time since my father left, I called him “Dad” as in “Dad, you want some rocky road ice cream?” and you could see that the thought this whole relationship was turning around. 

        I did what any twelve year kid would do.  I positioned myself between the counter and my father and I took the entire Ex-lax bar, broke it up and mixed into the large bowl of Rocky Road ice cream.  I gave it to him and then waited.  

        Nothing happened.  He ate the entire bowl and not a thing happened.  Being twelve, I was easily distracted and all of sudden someone ran by and went to the washroom.  I looked around and it was my father.  I had never seen anyone run that past before.  Looking back it was almost as if he was some form of drug.  Oh right.  The Ex-lax.

        Apparently an entire bar of Exlax takes some time to work.  Who knew?

        Exlax sign

        Then I was faced with a decision, my father was just about dying in the washroom and if I took responsibility for it, I would be dead.  Of course it wasn’t as if we had a good relationship to begin with and the summer of 1986 was the worse it ever got so I ‘fessed up pretty quickly.

        Plus it was kind of enjoyable to tell him that I was the one that had done this.  It wasn’t as if he could do anything about it being permanently attached to the toilet and everything.

        So I got yelled at and grounded and everything else but it’s not like I cared that much.  What does a grounding mean when you are stuck in a trailer park in Edson, Alberta?  If I had any regrets, I wish I could have given the same meal to a couple of lawyers in Calgary and Saskatoon.

        The only thing that really bothers me about this story, is that is really my only good father/son time with him.  Well it was a good time for me.  He may still be mad about it.

        The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

        Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.  A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.

        Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.  You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.

        NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

        If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.  I bought our bags on clearance for $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps I want.  They should do the job. 

        Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.  They had a loss leader going this winter and we got it then.  It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.   The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.  If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.

        Ozark Trail Tent

        If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.  Weight and size are a factor.  Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).  If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.  It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.

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        Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.  It is small but it will be only him and his bag.  I don’t know how long it will last him but once he gets to big for it, it can be used by Oliver at the cabin.  Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.  We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.  It’s small but it is light.

        We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.  If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.

        Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.  We picked up two at XS Cargo for $10 each.  We will have sleeping foams as well.   Walmart is charging $20 for their sleeping pads but we bought ours at a liquidation place for $3.  We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

        For lighting, Wendy bought me a new headlamp for my birthday and both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have a flashlight and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wonder out in the dark, we can be seen.

        For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.  Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.  I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in July, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

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        Coleman also has a propane stove which uses their fuel.  The big advantage was that you can get the propane at almost any store while you need to get fuel for the Primus at a specialty store like Cabela’s, MEC, REI.  The disadvantage of the Coleman stove is the weight of the larger canister and the stove itself.  in the end it made more sense to go with the Primus stove which is small enough to be tucked into our cooking gear.  Of all of the things we have purchased for this hike, the Primus Classic Trail Stove is my favorite.

        For backup we have a Magic Heat Stove and canisters.  I picked them up because they were cheap, good for winter travel, and lightweight.  I don’t expect to have to use them but we will take them depending on the weather forecast.  If it is going to be nice, we will leave them but if there is a chance of rain and the idea of fighting with wet wood doesn’t appeal, then we will take the backup stoves.

        As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sparks and we are set to go.

        As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.  There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.  It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.  Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.

        Food: Basically MRE’s.  We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.  We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.  Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.

        Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.  As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.  We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.  While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.  They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.

        Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, binoculars, and some cameras.  The idea is to keep the weight down as much as possible but at the some time we want to have some photographs and video.  I don’t expect to have cell coverage on the hike but it won’t matter as our phones will be turned off.  We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.  In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.  It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.  What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.

        We bought everything local.  While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.

        The problem hasn’t been getting the gear that we want, it’s the issue of realizing that everything we do take is going to have to be hauled in and hauled back out.  Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

        Five Years

        Oliver turning five

        Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far.  Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy.  The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing.  She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home.  I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.

        Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed.  I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.

        As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs.  A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first.  It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”.  Sadly their child didn’t make it.

        I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited.  Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was.  A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”.  There wasn’t much for me to say.  He asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.”  I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning.  I’ll be fine”.  At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.

        The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.

        We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand.  Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher.  Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.”  I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us.  Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.”  As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible.  She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee.  I took her up on her offer.

        Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room.  A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.

        The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs.  The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People.  There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby.  As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure.  As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA.  If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.

        Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out.  I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on.  Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.

        As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket.  I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.

        I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU.  Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee.  Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly.  A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.

        Oliver Scott CooperOliver Scott Cooper

        Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008.  Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.

        Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi.  Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature.  We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick.  It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.

        So now he is five.  Time flies when you repress some of those memories.

        Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:

        • Spiderman water bottle
        • Kick scooter
        • Green Army men
        • An NFL football (from Mark of course)
        • Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
        • Some new shirts
        • An Angry Bird hat

        He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt.  He is off to take over the world.

        Worst Father of the Year nominations are now open

        Of course there had to be some negative feedback for allowing Mark to review the 2013 Ford Explorer.  It basically revolved around the idea that somehow a brand was going to ruin Mark’s life and I think take his virginity.  Before we nominate me (again) for the worst father of the year award, let’s get the facts straight.

        Ford, through a public relations firm, gives me cars to review with no strings attached.  Well there are some strings.  I am pretty sure I am not allowed to enter them into a demolition derby or street race though Saskatoon.  I get them for a week or two and then pass them on to another reviewer.  If there is a string attached, I am often asked to arrange the transfer with the other reviewer which lately has been Jeff Jackson.  I sometimes pick up the car from Chris Enns.  We occasionally have lunch or coffee while trying to figure out how to keep the vehicles longer (it never works)  Once in a while there are tears like when I gave back the Ford Escape.

        Of course Ford wants favourable reviews.  All companies do.  No one wants to hear that the product is a piece of crap.  If Ford gave me a vehicle that was a piece of garbage, I would say that.  I have no problem with that.  I wasn’t overly fond of the Lincoln I tested and I said it.  I loved the Ford Escape more than anything I have ever driven, I wrote that too. 

        When Mark came to me and said, “I want to review the Ford Explorer.”  I pointed out that he can’t drive but he wanted to anyway.  We talked about what a review was and the need for him to be really honest, even if Ford didn’t like it.  We talked about integrity.  We also talked about being a jerk because it played well on the internet and how he probably shouldn’t be that guy.

        Like anything he posts online, he has to write it out because his handwriting stinks and he is in grade seven.  Handwriting matters.  He then typed up the review in Libre Office.  That was harder than handwriting it because children aren’t taught typing until grade nine.  When it started typing the review, it was a 2008 Ford Explorer he was reviewing, it was a 2013 when he finished up.  Then I finally finally edited it.  Like any young writer he struggles with sarcasm and often can sound mean, especially when talking about his little brother.  It’s why I often say, “don’t tweet that”.  With a perverse pleasure, I watched him struggle with a couple of paragraphs that “didn’t sound right”.  Welcome to my world.

        We then went outside (with his camera) and took some photos.  Oliver at that point had to get into the shot and with Mark’s permission, I took some photos of Oliver in the Explorer with him.  We then put the post together with Windows Live Writer and uploaded the post.  It took Mark a long time but he had a really clear idea of how he wanted the post to look.  I was glad he took the time even if I think some of it was stalling to stay up later than his bed time.

        Mark’s blog automatically posted the review to Twitter.  Mark had mentioned that he planned to review the Explorer the day before and some of Ford’s social media people asked him to tweet them the review.  One of the best parts of reviewing the Ford’s are their social media team and they were great to Mark.  While the response from Ford to the review was great, what was good about the experience was that Mark learned a lot about research, writing, and the importance of integrity in your writing (it also helped to have Mike Duffy as a comparison during this time).  He also learned through Ford’s social media team that big companies can have a human voice.

        I am not really that interested in protecting Mark from this work than I am helping him navigate it.  Sometimes what I do freak people out (it bothers some of our neighbours that Mark is allowed to walk the two blocks to Safeway to visit Wendy by himself and others are unnerved that he was allowed to walk down to Riversdale or downtown to see me after school).  Now some others are unnerved that he wrote something for a (gasp) brand.  He figured out how to navigate the westside.  He is now figuring out how to talk about products.  I think he will be okay.

        Mark’s review of the 2013 Ford Explorer

        Mark reviews the 2013 Ford Explorer.  Well he reviews the Explorer from his perspective in the back seat and manages to take a couple of shots at me at the same time.

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        Good luck ever getting into a car with me again.