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friends

Friendship

“You’ve got an emergency. Who would you call at four in the morning, knowing they would get out of bed and do whatever they could to help you? Those are your friends. That reduces your Christmas-card list a lot.”

Piers Morgan

The Innovation of Loneliness

This could the most important thing you watch this week.

Goodbye Bert

Tonight Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I joined a lot of people in saying goodbye to our good friend Bert Lang.  

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I got to know Bert while working with him at the Salvation Army Community Services where we worked many of the same shifts during the week, the always exciting 4-12 shift.  I worked 8-4 during the weekend which meant he relieved me each shift.  Bert was there early so we always had a cup of coffee together where he would criticize me for how I made my coffee.  In my defense, it was No Name coffee and I am not sure if Bert would recognize a fine cup of coffee if it walked up and introduced himself to Bert :-)

Later on after I had left the Salvation Army he asked me to help him find him a position elsewhere and I recommended him to my friend, Shaun Dyer who hired him at the John Howard Society and I was thrilled when they started to work together.

Despite us not working together anymore at the same agency, we worked closely together on social and housing issues.  Bert and I often talked when we needed professional advice and of course we had a close professional relationship.  Bert got along with most people so of course him and Wendy clicked but Mark also thought the world of Bert, partly because when Mark was with me at work, Bert knew where the secret supply of Coke was and would recruit him to help out at the Front Desk.  While it was our friend and co-worker who once joked with Mark that, “You don’t have to listen to your dad at the office,” Bert’s line was, “Mark is hard at work and needed a break”.  Bert validated Mark constantly and I will always appreciate that.

As Wendy wrote about it, we were very happy to be invited to Bert and Don’s wedding a couple of weeks ago.  Despite Bert being ill, it was a really happy day.

This was round three of cancer and it won this time.  Bert will be missed badly by everyone that knows him.

Donald (Bert) Sladden Lang of Saskatoon, SK, went home to his Creator after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer on Thursday, July 4, 2013.

He was born to the late Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang of Edmonton, AB on December 28, 1956 in Edmonton, AB and is survived by his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB.

Bert graduated from Ross Shepherd High School in 1974. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton, AB in 1997.

After a career in business, Bert joined the world of charity work for Non Government Organizations and was most proud of his work with The Salvation Army and The John Howard Society who recently named a new facility after him: Bert’s Place.

Bert will be remembered as a caring and loving person who worked passionately to improve the lives of others. His razor sharp mind and wit will also not be forgotten by those who knew and loved Bert.

Bert is predeceased by his Mother, Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang, of Edmonton, AB; and his brother, Roland Lang of Edmonton, AB.

Bert is survived by his husband Don Lafreniere of Saskatoon, SK; his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB; his sister Carol Lavold of Nevis, AB; his daughter Bethany Dodd, of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by two nieces, Pam Lavold Hennig, of Sherwood Park, AB, and Nancy Warwaruk of Nevis, AB; and one nephew Wayne Lavold of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by many other nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan.

Bluebird Cafe

 

 My friend Darren Friesen playing in Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

John Howard Society Announces ‘Bert’s Place’

I just got a press release from John Howard Society that they are renaming their Emergency Receiving House (Avenue I in Saskatoon) slated to open June 1st will be formally named “Bert’s Place” in honour of my friend, Bert Lang. 

Bert and I worked together at the Salvation Army and he has made a huge difference in the lives of youth since moving to the John Howard Society.  Congrats to Bert for the honour and to John Howard Society for opening their new facility for at risk youth.

The Backlot Tour of City Hall

The other day I was asked with some others by Councillor Zach Jeffries if I wanted to go on a tour of City Hall.  I have been in a lot of City Hall over the years but I realized that it was the boring parts (although I did see Mayor Atchison’s office when I interviewed him).  Here are the highlights.

I parked in the City Council parking lot.  It felt like a crime.

On the hallway to the committee rooms and offices are old City Council photos.  We spent most of the time looking at those and seeing how every changed over the years.  Some lost weight, some put it on.  Others looked like they were 12 when elected to office (not naming any names)

We saw the cubicle farm that councillors call home.  They get 1/2 of one cubicle but it’s a small cubicle.  When you think of it, each councillor gets about 1/3 of a cubicle.  Only Councillor Loewen and Jeffries don’t have to share (anti social behaviour maybe).  They also have a small shared boardroom which if it was a stand alone office, would be small.  The cupboard was… well your judge it for yourself.…  Your tax dollars are not being spent on opulent furnishings for City Council.

Of course anyone who has ever watched Council live is curious about the small room behind council chambers.  For me, it was kind of like the teacher’s lounge, it was a place of mystery and intrigue.  I was wrong.  It is a small sitting room with bad art on the walls.  There is a pop fridge in there so if anything when your favourite councillor is ducking out of the action, he or she is getting a Fanta or a Tab.

The coolest part of the trip by far was when Councillor Jeffries showed us the maps that are hanging all over city hall.  We spent the longest looking at the 1913 Yorath Plan.

1913 YORATH PLANClick here for larger version

When Mayor Atchison is talking about waiting 100 years to complete Circle Drive, this is the plan that he is talking about.  Circle Drive was referred to as a boulevard but it does span the city.   C.J. Vorath was a map maker, not a wordsmith and Circle Drive was called the Main Outer Encircling Boulevard.  That and a lot more bridges.  There were plans for a Swastika Park which is kind of shocking until you realize that in 1913 and swastikas had an entirely different meaning and use.  We also had nine different bridges.  No word on how many of those were falling down.

In a somewhat unrelated note, this map was for sale in a comic book store in Saskatoon around 18 years ago for about $100.  I had always wished I had bought it then.  It is awfully cool.

Of course we saw some of the not-so-glamourous parts of City Hall like the dining room (meals are cheap there) and a lot of time in stairwells going back and forth.  No taxpayer money was wasted on elevators.

I have taken the Universal Studios backlot tour and now this one.  There were no giant gorilla’s attacking our bus on this tour but it was cool to see parts of City Hall that I had never seen before.  It was also nice to have the time to just wander through and look without having a meeting to be at.  Hopefully sometime in the future money will be available to post some of the cool stuff in there online.  There is some cool history in City Hall, not including the dated decor.

About Saskatoon City Hall

  • Saskatoon’s current City Hall is the fourth building to serve as the City’s civic administration office.
  • Council chambers is located in the north wing of City Hall.
  • This section of the building was designed by Scott, Bowers and Walls, and construction was completed in 1983.
  • The older south wing, which once served as the third City Hall building, was completed in 1956.
  • The first and second City Halls were located at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 21st Street, and in the old King Edward School (on what is now Civic Square) respectively.

A Darth Vader Piñata

A Darth Vader Piñata

I had planned to go to the cabin this weekend but last week Chris Powell came into my office and asked if he could borrow Mark this weekend.  A good parent would have gotten some details but I said, “Sure, what do you need him for?”  Chris said, “A human piñata”.  Sounds reasonable to me.

Later I asked, why Mark was going to be beaten with sticks and I found out he was planning to have a Star Wars themed birthday party for his six year old and he needed someone for them to hit with lightsabers and he thought Mark could take the punishment and be Darth Vader.

Now that is some fine birthday planning folks.  Not only is Chris putting on a good party but he has outsourced the pain to someone else.  Of course it isn’t all good.  We had a heated discussion at the office when we found out that Chris is not sending home party bags.  Chris’ weak argument is that parents and even kids hate bags full of toys that are designed to break in the car ride home.  If they do make it inside, parents just step on them and hurt themselves.

To that line of reasoning we say, “I want a guy with a parachute to throw down the stairs”.  That and Mark is now available to be rented out for beatings at your own kids party.

Christmas

Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together.  It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out.  We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.

Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie.  Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.

Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day.  This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail.  I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys.  We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up.  While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at  Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.

Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve.  While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more.  In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom.  He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.

Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet.  There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place.  While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay.  It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.

Mark

Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire C Android Smart phonewhile I got him a Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod).  I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday.  We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go.  Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today.  I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne).  He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel

In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle)  Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones.  The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better. 

Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it.  Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started.  He was pretty excited with that.  Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.

He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself.  It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee.  To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.

Oliver

All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com.  I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet.  I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him.  Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks.  He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.

Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas.  I immediately thought of this.

Stewie Griffin's tricked out

What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.

His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else.  He was quite jacked about it.  

Wendy

With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume.  We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about).  Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rod which she was horrified of.  Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake.  We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones.  If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas.  The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale.  Not sure where they got the money to get those.

Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day.  She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.

Lee

I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitool and case.  Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine.  Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck.  Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5.    ”Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much.  

He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open.  Once he got it open, he cut himself.  

Wendy put together a great beer can chicken gift set of a roasting pan, rubs from Cabela’s, and a grilling recipe book.  I expect some good beer can chicken this summer.

Because Lee was so insistent on lasagna for supper, we gave him a MRE lasagna and a spork as well.  He can now have lasagna while camping.  I think that was his favourite gift.

Brittany

Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card.  Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well.  Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know).  It just seemed to work well for us.  Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating.  It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.

Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked.  As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.

My Haul

I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals.  Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption.  I also got a Leatherman Skeletool.  To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure.  Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter.  It flies and crashes quite well around the house.    Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne.  Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.

The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them.  

Perhaps the purchase the surprised me the most is that the boys gave me Neptune’s Inferno which is a book about the naval battles at Guadalcanal

I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.

The photos can all be found here.

Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner.  I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold.  We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.

Monday

The weekend that was: The lowlight of the weekend was that I was fiddling with a power adaptor with my right hand and jerked my hand away violently when I got shocked.  Of course my right shoulder is the shoulder with the torn rotator cuff.  I have had both shoulders operated on, I have wrecked both MCL and ACLs, I have even had nails go into my feet.  Nothing was as painful as that pain was.  I just screamed in pain for a minute while walking over and sitting down before I passed out.

I was hoping the pain would pass but now every time I use my right hand, there is incredible pain in the shoulder which can’t be a good thing.  Back to my family doctor on Tuesday to see what we can do now.

On Sunday I watched the Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers at Jeff’s place with Sean.  Doing that brought up a lot of Detroit Lions memories and none of them are good.  Wayne Fontes, Scott Mitchell, Matt Millen, 0-16… at least the food was good.

On my to-do list this week: Other than seeing a doctor…

Procrastinating about: Going to see my doctor…

Book I’m in the midst of: The Triumph of the City by Edward Glaesar

Music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: The new Sheepdogs album.

How I’m feeling about this week: Pain.

Election Night Roundup

Last night Wendy and I had Sean Shaw, Jeff Jackson, Pat Lorje, and DeeAnn Mercier over to watch the results come in.    The wifi was reinforced, I bugged DeeAnn about her new job, the NDP jokes were sharpened, and I prepared a story about Joe Clark in case Jeff and I needed to reminisce.  

Wendy made a bunch of food, Sean brought over a bunch of food, and others brought over stuff as well.  We ate well.  Other than Obama’s personal victory, the win of the night was that Sean was able to get a box of candy for next to nothing.  It’s rumoured that when Karl Rove had his meltdown it wasn’t over Ohio but rather over what Sean paid for his candy.

All I know is that between Wendy and Sean there was more food here than at either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama’s parties.

It was a weird night of television.  We alternated between arguing U.S. politics and then would go argue a couple of city reports.  It got confusing.  In the end I think we all agreed that Barack Obama has not been strong as he should be on our north commuter bridge and I think Sean Shaw is thinking of running for a U.S. Senate seat.  It was all a blur.

Some things broke out on Twitter.  I was assailed for not inviting more of you.  Next time we have an election night, I will invite more people.  While we were all really happy with the election results, I was haunted all night by a comment by Coun. Lorje who reminded me that Mark is closer to growing up than I like to admit.  I worked on my first election when I was age and he already has a couple under his belt.  He reads the Economist.  Girls are starting to call for him.  Pat’s comment made me realize that I was soon to be a parent of a teenager.  I don’t think I am prepared well for it.  Mitt Romney lost the election, I entered into a mid-life crisis.  Maybe I can ask Mitt Romney for advice.  He has time on his hands.

Update: Take a look at President Elect Romney’s transition website.  Awkward.

Speaking of awkward, here is Ezra Levant giving his prediction that Mitt Romney will win big last night.  Awesome. 

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Thanksgiving weekend

Wendy writes about our Thanksgiving weekend over on her blog.

Mark

Mark Cooper

For those of you who think I am difficult, meet my son as I try to take a nice photo of him.  Of course he is on his netbook right now, typing this tweet to Sean Shaw.

If Sean wins in Ward 3, he has a deal to take over the live blogging of city council meetings. That’s scary enough, what’s scarier is that it already clicked in that he can use that ability for evil. I need to start controlling who he is folling on Twitter and online a lot more carefully.

Project: The Story of Saskatoon.

The other day DeeAnn Mercier and I were arguing about the hiking the food desert that she was a part of last year. I was talking about it being kind of pointless when Station 20 West was opening up when I realized how much people spend each check day to get to Safeway/Superstore/Wal-Mart in taxis which of course comes right out of the food budget. While Station 20 West will be a big part of the solution, it is still a long ways for people to get groceries. That lead to a discussion about some of the stats in the core neighbourhoods that we have heard over the last year and DeeAnn suggested visualizing some of those statistics into videos. The idea was appealing although relearning Flash (or more than likely Swish wasn’t appealing) As we brainstormed, debated, argued, and brainstormed some more we put together a framework that hopefully will tell the stories of what life is like for those below the poverty line in Saskatoon.

The plan is take look at a bunch of different urban issues that are affecting Saskatoon. Housing, drugs, crime, sex trade, income disparity, racism, urban design, food security, and even sports. Using video, we want to tell the story from the perspective of those struggling to get by but also what the City of Saskatoon, the Province of Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada, and service providers are doing about it. While the story of people struggling is told and the story of government initiatives are told, they are often told independently when in reality they are totally connected.

It’s also a chance to do a project like this correctly. Too often we have seen documentaries shot in Saskatoon that ignore the facts of the situation. They tell a sad story but miss the contributing factors, what others have done, and either ignore the bigger issues or place blame in the wrong places (sometimes on the individual, sometimes on the wrong part of the system).

It won’t be one episode but a series of 10-12 minute videos posted to our channels on YouTube and Vimeo with the goal of posting one a month. If you are interesting in joining our little project to explore and tell the stories of life in Saskatoon, why not contact us at jordon@collectiveimpact.ca or deeann@collectiveimpact.ca

You can find out more about our efforts at collectiveimpact.ca, follow us on Twitter (@TheCollectiveSK), YouTube (CollectiveImpactYXE) and Vimeo (CollectiveImpactYXE).  We’d love your help and feedback.