Category Archives: family

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

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The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Mark turns 16 today

So Mark turned 16 today.  We got him up early, gave him his gifts, and then sent him off to school.  After I was done work, we took him out for a steak dinner at Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual.  Then it was off to find him his signature hat.  I am not sure I agreed with his choice but it was his.

Mark Cooper turning 16 years oldWendy and Mark Cooper

The other big news from the day is that Oliver is now an orange belt in Karate.  He passed his evaluation last week and got the big news today.  So we are proud of both the boys and had a nice night out.

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day today. You can see what we did on Wendy’s blog.  It was a great day and I am glad we had it but I wanted to write a bit about my mom.

Mom died in 1998 of brain cancer.  I was attending the University of Saskatchewan and I remember walking about of the U of S and going to the RUH where they kept her in palliative care because it was so much easier for my sister and I.  I would walk out of class and sit beside her for weeks hoping for whatever conversation she could have.  It wasn’t much.  By the time she was in the hospital, the tumor was winning and she treated me like I was a child.  She did that to my brother and sister as well.

It was a weird time.  Go to the hospital, go to class, back to hospital over lunch, back to RUH, grab supper at Alexander’s, then back to hospital.  It was like that for weeks.  I don’t remember feeling a lot of emotion at the time, she was dying and there wasn’t anything we could do about it and plus someone had to crack jokes around her and appear that we had our crap together as her kids.

Wendy and I were there with my sister when Mom took her last breath.  We called in a nurse because no one had died in front of me at that time, the nurse came in, assured us that she wasn’t in pain and then the doctor confirmed she was dead.  We cleaned out her room of personal belongings, paid for parking at RUH and drove to Lee’s high school where I told him that our mom had just died and then drove him home.

Wendy had called her parents to let them know that Marion had died but they were too busy interrupting her about how muddy the floors were in Brandon, Manitoba to listen.  It’s a conversation that still makes Wendy angry.

After that was done, it was up to getting ready for the funeral.  Mom wanted the burial to be first and then the funeral.  So we buried her and then went to the Saskatoon Inn for brunch.  Later was the funeral and I gave the eulogy.  My mom was a life long Progressive Conservative voter and proud of it except she had a lack of judgement in 1968 and voted for Trudeau.  She used to joke about this skeleton in the closet.  When I told that story at her funeral, someone  I didn’t know got up and walked out at that point.  No matter who that person was that walked out, my mom would have wanted that story told.

There was the funeral and the condolences and then we went home an ordered Vern’s Pizza.  It was really hot and wrecked the coffee table finish, something that bugged me for years every time I looked at it.  Then it was done.   I had felt nothing. 

I didn’t feel a thing until about a three months later when I was at home alone.  Wendy would work evenings and the phone would ring and for a split second, I would think it was mom.  I never knew how to deal with it.  I am a INTJ with Myers Briggs which means that I am what they call an underdeveloped feeler.  I don’t really under my feeling and it doesn’t understand me but the pain and loss was incredible.  Every day that phone would ring it was a reminder that she was gone. 

Stuff kept falling apart with the family.  My brother and sister were living together and struggling.  I didn’t know how to help.  All our lives lurched along for a while but we all seemed lost.  My sister and brother went to live with my father.  Wendy and I stayed here.  I knew it was the wrong thing but I couldn’t persuade anyone of it.

Life changed for my mom the day before my brother was born when my dad walked out for another women.  She was devastated and crushed.  She told me what happened a month or so later.  I still remember every word from that conversation.  I was eight.

All of our lives changed on that day.  It never got easier for us.  I was messed up, my sister was seriously ill and my brother was just days old.  There was court battles and visitation rights and financial struggles that never ended.  It took me years to get my head around what happened and what it did to me.  My mom bore the brunt of it.  Instead of making it easier for her, I made it much harder.  Sadly we never had the kind of relationship either of us wanted.  I was a rebellious oldest son and she needed me to to be a better and more responsible one, characteristics I came by later in life.  I needed to her to let me be a kid once in while and be a kid, something that the stress of the finances and her depression couldn’t let her do.

Despite me being, well a teenager, she was the one that would encourage me to be a better writer.  She read more short stories of mine growing up than any parent should ever endure.   Mom never really understood my desire to create.  She was trained as a math teacher which was about study and discipline, things I was never good at until later.  In many ways, I was the opposite of her.

Being the opposite of her, she saw a lot of my father in me.  To be honest, I think she was projecting because he couldn’t stand who I was either.  I remember her yelling at me that I was like my father once and going to myself, “I think he’d take that as an insult as well”.  I wasn’t like either one of them.  She was a math teacher, he was a driven oilfield consultant.  I was just a kid that wanted to read history.

Of course being a kid, I was never disciplined and yet it my mom’s incredible discipline that kept the family housed and fed.  I don’t know if I was much different than other kids but she spent most of our her life being disappointed in me.

When it finally started to get better, the tumor started to affect her.  Doctors blamed stress from her kids.  She did too.  She was angry and lashed out at me and I had no idea what was happening.  When we found out she had a tumor (on Mother’s Day), it was both horrible and allowed us to have some healing.   She managed to see Wendy and I get married and loved Wendy but within two months, she couldn’t talk anymore.  The next spring she had passed away. 

I think about her a lot.  Wendy’s family rejected her when she told them of her childhood abuse.  They don’t know our kids and I don’t think they would recognize Wendy if she passed them in a mall or on the street.  In the last conversation I had with my father, he made it clear how much he couldn’t stand me or Wendy.  I don’t even know if he knows Oliver exists.  It’s lonely having almost no family and as much as it was hard growing up, I knew Mom loved me.   It doesn’t seem like a lot but on a day like today when we know that all of the surviving parents can’t stand Wendy or myself, it is a lot.

My regret is that my mom never saw either her grandkids grow up.  I’m not a perfect parenting and to be honest, some of my parenting appears to be the work of a mad scientist but I think she would have been pleased in the kids of kids Mark and Oliver have become.   She was also scared that I would leave Wendy as my father had done to us.

I remember sitting there in the hospital telling her that I remembered every detail of the day she told me that my father had left and that I would never make anyone I cared about go through that again.  During the worst of Wendy’s depression I remember laying on the sofa thinking, “this isn’t as bad as that day was”.  It’s been almost 19 years and 15 Mother’s Days later and we are still holding on.  I wish she could have seen that part.

Heading back to Ogema

By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

New Windows 10 box

Mark wrote about this as well this weekend but I decided to upgrade his laptop this weekend.  His laptop runs Windows Vista and while it does a not bad job of it, it would need some more RAM to handle Windows 10.  I was pricing out the memory and the license for Windows 10 when I noticed that OTV had some Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop computers coming off lease that had way more power and were less than the Windows 10 license.  Not only that but they included a copy of the 64 bit version of Windows 7 (which of course upgrades to Windows 10).  The machine will handle a total of 16 gb of RAM so that was a plus as well.  I’ll add some more memory to this summer.

I picked that up with a $15 Logitech keyboard and mouse and took it home.  We had an extra monitor in the basement but as I go to grab it, Wendy and Mark tell me that  they threw it out in a cleaning purge.  Excellent.  So it was back to OTV where they had a 19.5 inch monitor on for $50.

Still it was cheaper than upgrading Windows and the RAM.

So we got it going, connected it to the interweb, and then used Ninite to download and install the freeware programs like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Chrome, Apple iTunes, Spotify and other programs.  The one thing I didn’t download is Libre or Open Office which I have come to believe are some of the most bloated pieces of software available.  Instead I was going to download AbiWord and have him use Google Sheets for a spreadsheet but I was in London Drugs where they had Corel WordPerfect Office Home and Student on for only $34.97.  It’s not Microsoft Office but it is a lot better than Libre Office in terms of speed and features.

This is off topic but I thought I would take a moment to mention how much I miss Lotus Smart Suite which included Lotus 1-2-3 but more importantly Lotus Ami Pro (later called Lotus Word Pro).  While I am it, I also miss Microsoft Works which I did an awful lot of writing on.  I really miss Works suites.  I wish someone would do one again.

The last bit of freeware software I put on his computer is Serif Publisher Starter Edition.  It is designed for beginners and gives him far more control than either WordPerfect or a word processor will give him.

I am kind of careful about fonts.  So many collections of freeware fonts have commercial fonts in them.  Years ago a graphic designer I know realized he had some illegal fonts in his collection and purged them and then put together some excellent freeware font CDs.  I installed them and then added some excellent commercial fonts that I have the license for.  He isn’t into page layout of print design but if he ever is, he will have a nice system for it.

I love my laptop and have no problems with it but the joy of a full sized keyboard and an almost 20 inch screen was pretty awesome as well.

The upgrade to Windows 10 took overnight to download but once that was done, it was good to go this morning.  Am always amazed at how powerful machine I was able to get him for so little money.  I grew up with DOS and then Windows.  After 4 years with a Mac and OSX, I like being back with Windows and the PC world again.

Cell Phone Down

Yesterday Wendy came to me all upset and said she had dropped both of our iPhones.  Mine was fine but her phone had a smashed screen.  I wasn’t that upset.  Those things happen although two in a month (ahem Mark) was kind of painful.  When Mark broke his screen, I went to Costco and bought him a Acer Liquid Z410 for $130.  I picked up a 16gb Micro SD card from Don’s Photo for $15 and he was set.  For being so cheap, I was really happy with his phone.  It also has DTS Sound in it so even without a Bluetooth speaker the sound is good.

Wendy felt horrible but I was secretly happy.  Our contracts come up this summer with Bell and I had no idea what phone to get.  I was tempted to get some unlocked phones from Costco and save the money on our monthly bill.  I’m happy with Bell (and Mark is with Virgin) but it’s nice to have options.  Now I only have to figure out what I am going to do.  I am personally thinking of a Windows phone but I am always tempted to go back to Blackberry or a Windows Phone.

Acer Jade Z

Instead of picking up the Acer Liquid Z410, I got her the larger Acer Liquid Jade Z.

Features:

  • Display: 5-in. IPS TFT LCD
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0 with EDR
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Operating system: Android™ 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Main camera: 13 MP AF with flash LED
  • Battery: Built-in 2,300 mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery with up to 7 hours of talk time
  • Wi-Fi
  • Capture 30 fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
  • 720p video recording
  • Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz, MT6732
  • Dual micro SIM
  • 16 GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • MicroSD™ memory card expansion slot (card not included)
  • In-cell type touch lens with direct bonding
  • Side keys: volume up/down
  • Power key on top of device
  • LED indicator lights for charging, missed call, new message, lower battery
  • Google virtual keyboard
  • GPS Satellite data updates

For $220, it was a steal (way cheaper in store than online). 

The only thing  I don’t like about it is that it was a pain to find a case for it.  I ordered one for Wendy’s and Mark’s from Amazon.ca.  The price is right but they won’t be here until the end of March because I assume they are shipping from Taiwan or China.

Some thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. We gave tickets to the boys and a BB-8 droid this morning.  They were up doing their thing and I reminded them they forgot (gasp) one gift.  They were shocked when they saw the tickets.  Then Oliver started to cry.  Really cry.  Heartbreakingly cry.  He saw Theatre 12 printed on his ticket and took that to mean he had to be 12 to watch the movie.  Once we had a that worked out, it was okay.
  2. The boys loved BB-8.  They were recording holographic images and having a blast.  The dog on the other hand saw a ball with a head on it and wasn’t impressed on being replaced as the centre of attention.
  3. As we drove to the Scotiabank Theatre we were early, Oliver wasn’t impressed.  When we parked, he leaps out of the car and starts to run to the theatre.  Apparently he was excited.
  4. I enjoyed the larger roll that Chewbacca played.
  5. It’s nice to see them bring back a swashbuckling character again in Poe Dameron
  6. I thought Kylo Ren was one of the worst villians of all of the Star Wars movies.   I did enjoy seeing him get his butt kicked by Rey.  I know he was wounded by when Finn scored some shots on him, you knew he was mostly the mask and nothing else.   This was the fallen Jedi that drove Luke into exile?
  7. Also, what is the purpose of Kylo Ren.  He didn’t really command anything.  General Hux was in charge and felt comfortable in challenging him.  Vader would have force choked him twice before the movie had reached half way through.  Ren seemed to struggle with more psychological issues than any of the other fallen Jedi.
  8. Yes it’s a franchise reboot but it needed to be.  Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, the midget who plays R2D2, they are all old and it’s hard to base a trilogy around them.
  9. How many times do you have to have your giant space weapon destroyed before you adopt a new strategy?  It’s like the dark side is controlled by Saskatoon City Council.  Stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
  10. Why so few Rebel pilots still?  The Rebel fleet is of a decent size yet they always keep throughing fairly insignificant amounts of fighters at the Empire/First Order when facing existenial threats.  A massive weapon that can destroy the galaxy you call home?  Let’s send 30 fighters against it.  I know Y-Wings have been around since the Clone Wars but a fighter bomber would have been incredibly helpful here.  It’s like the U.S. military with the F-35.  One kind of fighter should do it all…
  11. I don’t really get Leia in this movie.  Yes decades of war has been tough but she ignores Chewbacca who she has known since she was captured on the Death Star (she also didn’t give him a medal in Episode IV’s finale) and then now comforts Rey who barely knew Han Solo rather than Chewie who has known him and been his best friends for decades? 
  12. Then despite the entire movie being a desperate struggle to find Luke Skywalker and get his help again, she sends Rey to meet him with Chewbacca and doesn’t go herself?
  13. It was worth the price of admission and in two years I’ll be doing it all over again.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to those of you who are searching the web looking for something to read.

Quiet night around here.  It was my first day back at work after the unpleasantness of the previous week.  To be honest, I would have been far better off back in bed recovering.  I came home tonight in tremendous pain and I don’t think a lot was accomplished by me being at work but lessons learned.

The best part of the day was that it was over at four.  Wendy picked me up and we came home and I went to be for a while.  She ordered pizza and let me sleep until around 6:00 p.m.  We opened our stockings, inside was one of these. 

The Minnion, Kevin

Kevin is now in charge of the wifi.

Wendy gave me a new netbook (which is currently upgrading from WIndows 8.1 to 10).  I missed the entire Windows 8 experience and in the 5 minutes I played with it, I can see why so many of you hated it.  There was a new wireless mouse in there.

The boys got me a netbook bag as well as some hiking stuff.  They also gave me a bunch of books on everything from war journalism to The Generals by Thomas E. Ricks, a book I have wanted since it was released and I read this article in The Atlantic.  It will make some great early 2016 reading.  

All of them got together and gave me a Ricoh Theta S which should be a lot of fun.  If you have never heard of a Ricoh Theta S, it takes 360 degree spherical images, a kind of a virtual reality camera that is about the size of a Nintendo Wii controller.  It should be a lot of fun to explore with.

Probably the gift I needed the most was a 500 lumen lantern that Oliver gave me for camping this summer.  On a day where July seems very far away and the idea of hiking into the mountains seems even further, I really, really appreciated it.

Mark wrote about his day here.

Aunt Beth

I had a great aunt named Elizabeth.  The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking.  I always knew her as Aunt Beth.  She was my grandmother’s sister.  Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat.  She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks.  She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays.  Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why.  Probably to see us off for school.

She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement.  Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down.  She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas.  I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.

Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats.  Strong New Democrats and union organizers.  Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.

The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken.  Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle.  That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth.  So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards.  The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front.  It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays.   I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it.  This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.

It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom.  She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it).  That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.

I still miss her.  She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone.  We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.

Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for 5-8 Year Old | 2015 Edition

Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade Two, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.  You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.   If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin). You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

Fire Kids Edition, 7" Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case

  • Not a toy, a full-featured Fire tablet with a 7" IPS display and front and rear cameras. Add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage.
  • 2-year worry-free guarantee: if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked.
  • Unlimited, free access to 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited included
  • Best-in-class parental controls allow you to manage usage limits, content access, and educational goals

From $89 at Amazon

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.  The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.

$40 from Amazon

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf guns are all over our house.  There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.  If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.  Five bullets and lots of fun.

Only $28 at Amazon

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

There are a great gift.  Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.  So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.  Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.

$36 at Amazon

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

The old classic is still around. It includes 86 all wood pieces.

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

If you don’t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.

$129 at Amazon

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

How cool is this?  An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls. “Help me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on time.”

LEGO Kids Star Wars Storm Trooper Mini-Figure Alarm Clock

 

A great option for the kid who struggles to wakLEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Figurine Alarm Clocke up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock. Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.

The stories of Obi-Wan Kenobi / Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker by Ryder Windham.

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Nintendo New 3DS XL

New Nintendo 3DS XL

The New Nintendo 3DS XL system combines next-generation portable gaming with super-stable 3D technology and added control features. Take 3D photos, connect with friends, and enhance your gaming experiences with added amiibo support. The New Nintendo 3DS XL system plays all Nintendo DS games. Nintendo DS games will not appear in 3D. AC Adapter sold separately.

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

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Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.  Over the ear design also means that they won’t get headaches either.  It’s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the Nintendo 3DS XL

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Risk, The Game of Global Domination

Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years. Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Remember your first H0 model train set?  How about a set that is modelled after  Colorado’s oldest scenic line?  It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.

How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

The Hohner is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools

The coolest utility belt that doesn’t belong to Batman.

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Spy Gear - Ultra Range Walkie Talkies

Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.

More Holiday Gift Guides on JordonCooper.com can be found hereHoliday Gift Guides

Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for Your Brother in Law | 2015 Edition

It is Wendy again with my second Christmas gift guide of 2015. So you may have heard of Jordon’s brother Lee.  Lee is a great brother to Jordon, great brother-in-law to me, and an even better uncle to Mark and Oliver.  If you have a brother-in-law like Lee, here is some Christmas and holiday gift ideas for him.

Generation Kill

Generation Kill on BLU-RAY

Generation Kill is a television miniseries produced for HBO, based on the 2004 book of the same name by Evan Wright about his experience as an embedded reporter with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was adapted for television by David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright.  Jordon and Mark loved it when they saw it.   So will your brother-in-law.

Available at Amazon for $23

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones

The Sennheiser HD202II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.  They are some amazing headphones for a really inexpensive price.

DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone with 2.7K HD Video Camera

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Get him a remote control quadcopter controlled using an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.  You can record 2.7k Ultra high-definition live video streaming & recording to smartphone or tablet while flying which a wide variety of preprogrammed cinematic effects.  Plus it is a remote controlled helicopter.  How much fun will he have with that?

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

From dry rubs to glazes and from sauces to slathers, Lilly gives the lowdown on Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q’s award-winning seasonings and combinations. You?ll learn the unique flavors of different woods and you?ll get insider tips on creating the right heat?be it in a charcoal grill, home oven, or backyard ground pit. Then, get the scoop on pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, pit-fired poultry, and, of course, ribs.

Magellan eXplorist 310 Waterproof Hiking GPS

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The Magellan eXplortst 310 GPS receiver provides essential outdoor navigation with a high-resolution colour screen, waterproof design, paperless geocaching, and superior mapping, including preloaded World Edition and upload able map capability.  Jordon has one and loves it.  Your brother-in-law will love his as well every time that he leaves the road.  Make sure you include a Pelican 1050 waterproof case for $26.

Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

The board, which comes housed in a solid oak cabinet, is made of a high-grade, “self-healing” sisal that looks smooth and lasts for years. Scoring is handled by the pair of chalk scoreboards–one on the inside of each door–that make it easy to tally scores for several players at once. And below each chalkboard sits a shelf that holds a single set of brass darts (included), so you needn’t worry about misplacing the darts between games. It’s the oak cabinet that really stands out, however, thanks to its durable finger-joint construction and light oak finish.

The cabinet not only hides your board from view when you’re not playing and protects your wall from errant darts when you are, but also looks great amidst both traditional and modern furnishings. The cabinet, which measures 18.5 by 20 by 2.5 inches (W x H x D) when closed.  Plus its better that he is throwing things at his walls rather than your walls.

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Invented in 1866 by Alfred Nobel, dynamite’s cylindrical shape perfectly fit down the drilling holes used in mining operations. When the charges were set, the now-famous phrase “fire in the hole” was cried to warn miners of the coming blast. 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, 8″L x 1-1/4″W, 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 there is the joy that comes from yelling, “Fire in the hole” every time he lights a fire.

JetBoil Personal Cooking System

JetBoil Personal Cooking System

If your brother-in-law is an outdoors type, help him a little extra fun to his outdoor cooking adventures with the Jetboil Flash personal cooking system. The all-in-one Flash combines an adjustable stainless-steel burner and a 1-liter FluxRing cooking vessel in a single compact unit.

The all-in-one Flash cooking system boils 2 cups of water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or other meals.

To use, simply add water or liquid to the 1-liter cooking cup and fix it to the burner. Within two minutes, the Flash will provide two cups of boiling water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or a gourmet freeze-dried meal. It’s easy, convenient, and fun. Plus, everything you need stacks and stores inside the FluxRing cooking cup, including the burner and fuel canister.

Victorinox Handyman Swiss Army Knife

Victorinox Handyman Swiss Army Knife

If your brother-in-law is going to stop by and be helpful, he needs a knife that is up to the past.  The Handyman Swiss Army Knife is that tool.

If the brother-in-law that you are shopping for is into camping and the outdoors, check out the Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoorsmen and Adventurers  or my guide for the men in your life.

So another Christmas Gift Guide is done.  Hope you find it useful.  To read all of the other Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides, check out the list here.  If you have comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Click here for more holiday gift guides on jordoncooper.comHoliday Gift Guides

Winter is almost here

I read this in The StarPhoenix today.  It was enough that I wanted to cancel my subscription. 

A special winter weather statement has been issued by Environment Canada for the City of Saskatoon.

According to a warning posted Monday afternoon on the Environment Canada website, an “intense low pressure system with a strong cold front will sweep across Saskatchewan Wednesday bringing an abrupt end to the mild November weather.”

Behind the cold front, temperatures will plummet to normal for this time of year, with overnight lows falling into the minus double digits, the national weather forecaster predicted.

Alongside a drop in temperatures, Environment Canada also predicts blustering northwesterly winds, with central and eastern sections of the province hit the hardest by gusts between 60 and 90 kilometres per hour expected.

I guess this means summer is over.  Sigh.  I missed it.

Most of you know that Wendy struggles with major depressive disorder.  She has written about it a lot if you care.  It comes every summer and has been horrible since Oliver was born.  It manifests itself in some severe self-destructive behavior and since we are married and have two sons, it affects the boys and I as much or more than it does her.

You know what, for the first time in over 15 years, it never made an appearance.

Some friends have asked what the difference is.  She has been on medication for years and that hasn’t always helped as a large part of the depression is psychological but for whatever reason, it hasn’t hit this year.  I have some theories but here is the one that makes the most sense.

Two Christmases ago, I gave her two cameras for Christmas.  I was working at Don’s Photo and Wendy had asked for a new compact camera.  Well actually she didn’t but her camera sucked and she was accepting that fact.  I bought a Fujifilm JX600 compact camera for her and later that season, someone traded in an Olympus PEN EPL-2.  I got a good deal on it and bought it for her.  She cried when she opened the gift.  She said that she would never need another lens but a week later, Olympus had their 40-150mm lens on sale for $103 so she bought that for herself.

Last Christmas I bought her a 19mm Sigma f/2.8 Art lens which she loved.  Later on she bought herself a Sigma 60mm f/2.8 Art lens which I’ll be honest, I don’t know if she ever uses.  In March, I used some Christmas bonus money and bought her an Olympus OM-D E-M10.  It’s not Olympus’ professional camera but it’s a great camera and she loved it.

Being sick this summer, plans to go to the Fringe or the Jazz Festival were changed.  I would go home and sleep while Wendy would go out with the boys, always bringing the camera.  Instead of waiting for me to take the lead, she would just do something.  I realized that photography had made her more independent and helped her fix her relationship with Mark that the depression had damaged.

If they weren’t off taking some photos at the SaskTel Jazz Festival, they were off walking along Broadway grabbing a coffee and shooting some street shots, or going to Waskesiu to explore a trail or five.

I also think the positive feedback makes a difference.  When she would post about Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged crimes this summer, she would get hateful comments.  When she wrote about violence towards women in Guyana, she got hate mail and even angry responses from her (Guyanese) parents.  When she posted photos on Flickr, she got favorites from photographers she respected and questions about lens and settings.  Maybe finding the right community makes all the difference.

So yeah, personally it was a crappy summer with a leg that keeps getting worse but as a family, it was a great summer because for the first time in a very long time, the grey clouds of depression never came by.

Mark

Since Mark was attacked on Wednesday, some of you have shared some incredible stories of your own.  I have read them all, shared many with Mark, and will reply to most of them next week.    I am stunned at the amount of violent attacks that people have suffered, most of them random over the years but as many of you have said, no one seemed to care unless you know someone.  A friend of mind reminded me of the murder of Scott Asher who I went to school with.  Another one reminded me of a friend who still suffers brain injuries.  Random attacks with lasting consequences.

This isn’t the first time something random happened to Mark.  He was sitting with some friends at A.H. Browne Park one early evening and a guy threw a container of urine at the group.  Another day just a block away, a prostitute who was working the street at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon attacked him and Ollie demanding money.  Luckily they were able to run away.  Life in Mayfair.

I have been asked how Mark is recovering.   His jaw still hurts but it is healing.  His headaches are gone and he seems to be responding better.  He will walk to and from school tomorrow.  As he said today, he has to do it sometime and it may as well be on Monday.  The worst thing happened today when a friend’s mother offered to bring him cookies to make him feel better.  He can’t chew them.  Rather than risk more injury, Oliver and the dog have offered to eat them.

He has been out of the house walking the dog.  Tonight was his first time being out at night since the attack.  When I asked him if there was any problems he said, “other than walking the dog, no.” 

Most of the emails and people stopping by have been really helpful and kind.  Some of them were really weird and some are just dangerous.

  • A few people emailed me and suggested that Mark must be involved in drugs or gangs.  It’s like random violence can’t ever happen.  I understand the fear and the need to rationalize it but the need to blame victims isn’t helpful.
  • Some wondered if race was a factor and that got dark quickly.
  • One teacher,  yes a teacher told me that she thinks the only way that teens will be safe from the police is if they join a gang.  I really don’t know what to do with that one.  It Donald Trump crazy on so many levels.  I think she read the joke that Mark said to Darren Hill in which he said, “I don’t blame police unless I find out it was them that hit me with the Emergency Response Vehicle”.  Of course he had just finished reading about the police that ran over the dog three times and claimed they thought it was a coyote.  Anyways, it was bizarre to think that a teacher in Saskatoon thinks that “gangs are the answer”.  I also think I have read comments on The StarPhoenix over the years by that teacher where he/she espouses the same thing.
  • More than one person has asked if I would consider letting Mark carry a knife for his own protection.  Again, that is getting crazy.  Mark has a knife and he carries it in a backpack on hikes.  That it is it.  As I have told him, the only time to use this is for making a fire and if a Grizzly Bear challenges you straight up to a knife fight.  I can’t envision a single instance where any kid pulling a knife in self defense ends well and a lot of cases where it ends tragically. 

So yeah, appreciated the supportive comments, thought I would share some of the weirder ones.  Mark got a kick out of the weird ones too.  He’s going to pass on it, unless he find a gang of knife wielding grizzly bears, then he is in.

I have some more serious thoughts on it in The StarPhoenix tomorrow.