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.Â
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. Â Congrats to Bert for the honour and to John Howard Society for opening their new facility for at risk youth.
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. Â A good parent would have gotten some details but I said, “Sure, what do you need him for?” Â Chris said, “A human piÃ±ata”. Â 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. Â Not only is Chris putting on a good party but he has outsourced the pain to someone else. Â Of course it isn’t all good. Â We had a heated discussion at the office when we found out that Chris is not sending home party bags. Â Chris’ weak argument is that parents and even kids hate bags full of toys that are designed to break in the car ride home. Â 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”. Â That and Mark is now available to be rented out for beatings at your own kids party.
Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together. Â It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys. Â 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. Â While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at Â 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. Â While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more. Â 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. Â 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. Â There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place. Â While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay. Â It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.
Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire CÂ Android Smart phonewhile I got him aÂ Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod). Â I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday. Â We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go. Â Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today. Â 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). Â 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) Â Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones. Â The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better.Â
Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it. Â Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started. Â He was pretty excited with that. Â Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.
He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself. Â It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee. Â To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.
All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com. Â I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet. Â 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. Â Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks. Â 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. Â I immediately thought of this.
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. Â He was quite jacked about it. Â
With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume. Â We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about). Â Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rodÂ which she was horrified of. Â Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake. Â We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones. Â If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas. Â The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale. Â 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. Â She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.
I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitoolÂ and case.Â Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine. Â Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck. Â Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5. Â Â “Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much. Â
He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open. Â Once he got it open, he cut himself. Â
Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card. Â Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well. Â 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). Â It just seemed to work well for us. Â Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating. Â 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. Â As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.
I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals. Â 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. Â I also got a Leatherman Skeletool. Â To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure. Â Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter. Â It flies and crashes quite well around the house. Â Â Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne. Â Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Â 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. Â
I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.
The photos can all be foundÂ here.
Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner. Â 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. Â 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”. Â Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.
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. Â Of course my right shoulder is the shoulder with the torn rotator cuff. Â I have had both shoulders operated on, I have wrecked both MCL and ACLs, I have even had nails go into my feet. Â Nothing was as painful as that pain was. Â 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. Â 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. Â Doing that brought up a lot of Detroit Lions memories and none of them are good. Â Wayne Fontes, Scott Mitchell, Matt Millen, 0-16â€¦ at least the food was good.
On my to-do list this week:Â Other than seeing a doctorâ€¦
Procrastinating about: Going to see my doctorâ€¦
Book Iâ€™m in the midst of: The Triumph of the CityÂ by Edward Glaesar
Music that seemed to catch my attention this past week:Â The new Sheepdogs album.
How Iâ€™m feeling about this week:Â Pain.
Last night Wendy and I had Sean Shaw, Jeff Jackson, Pat Lorje, and DeeAnn Mercier over to watch the results come in. Â Â 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. Â
Wendy made a bunch of food, Sean brought over a bunch of food, and others brought over stuff as well. Â We ate well. Â 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. Â 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. Â We alternated between arguing U.S. politics and then would go argue a couple of city reports. Â It got confusing. Â 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. Â It was all a blur.
Some things broke out on Twitter. Â I was assailed for not inviting more of you. Â Next time we have an election night, I will invite more people. Â 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. Â I worked on my first election when I was age and he already has a couple under his belt. Â He reads the Economist. Â Girls are starting to call for him. Â Pat’s comment made me realize that I was soon to be a parent of a teenager. Â I don’t think I am prepared well for it. Â Mitt Romney lost the election, I entered into a mid-life crisis. Â Maybe I can ask Mitt Romney for advice. Â He has time on his hands.
Update: Take a look at President Elect Romney’s transition website. Â Awkward.
Speaking of awkward, here is Ezra Levant giving his prediction that Mitt Romney will win big last night. Â Awesome.Â
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 2012â€™s. As usual, I start with the kids and move from there. If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.
Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard. Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever. Welcome to shopping for a teenager. Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.
I have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens. You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract. Everyone wins. The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre. It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid. It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you. If you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).
While Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80). It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model). All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.
Of course they will need some adventures to film. Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119). It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world. Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.
If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS. If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249). With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP). There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)
While my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7. There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active). The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio. It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos. While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.
If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit. I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesomeâ€¦ 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.
I absolutely love this photo of Goat Creek Trail by Dave King and have been captivated by it since he posted it to Flickr. Itâ€™s a composite image of two shots from his Android. What a spectacular image. Check it out full screen on black for an even more dramatic effect. Here is another amazing wide screen shot of the Bow River.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas. After a daring battery run to Walmart on Saturday morning, we met up with the Sieberts for coffee/tea and to exchange gifts and Christmas cheer. After that we headed out to Warman to Lee and Brittanyâ€™s place for Christmas Eve dinner to open gifts. Wendy talked about the evening over at her blog but I was got some great gifts from Lee and Brittany including some DVDs and When the Gods Changed by Peter C. Newman, an iPad from Wendy, a Denver Broncos hat from Oliver, some big bear head slippers from the dogs, the Steve Jobs biography from Mark, along with a stocking full of fun stuff. Oh right, Wendy gave Mark, Oliver, and myself a Snuggie for Christmas. We arenâ€™t happy about it.
On Christmas we went over to the Reimers where I got a really cool book by Gloriaâ€™s great uncle Heinz Guderian who was a Panzer commander and later became the Chief of the General Staff during WWII. He wrote several important books on armoured tactics and I was thrilled to get a copy of one. It also confirms my belief that if Gloria hadnâ€™t married Jerry, she would be leading a war against a rival country. Kristy gave me a gift certificate for Indigo! instead of trying to figure out what to get me. Instead of getting a book to read, I went to Indigo! today and got a big one to write in. While we were there, we walked over to Best Buy and looked at iPad cases. We found one that works for now but I am planning to add a keyboard in the future but they were all out of stock.
Tonight we are chilling out, listening to Moxy Fruvous while taking down the Christmas tree and decorations. In a couple of hours we will be ready for New Years.
Canadian author F.S. Michaels has won Americaâ€™s prestigious 2011 George Orwell Award for the non-fiction debut MONOCULTURE: HOW ONE STORY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING (Red Clover Press, May 2011). Published by Red Clover, a new Canadian independent press, MONOCULTURE has been described as â€œa provocative investigation of the dominant story of our time.â€
ABOUT THE AWARD
The annual George Orwell Award, established in 1975 and given by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), recognizes authors who have made an outstanding contribution to the critical analysis of public discourse. Past recipients include author Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), Amy Goodman (co-founder, executive producer, and host of the award-winning national daily news program Democracy Now!), Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage, television host Jon Stewart and the â€œDaily Showâ€ cast, economist Juliet B. Schor, linguist Noam Chomsky, and cultural critic Neil Postman.
Congratulations! It is on my soon to be published list of my best reads of 2011. If you havenâ€™t read it yet, you really need to. The book changed how I look at much of the world around me.
I donâ€™t talk much about religion here any longer but I am Free Methodist and I do have an interest in how the denomination does. Over the years I have been a member of a couple of committees and working groups and have developed a respect for our Bishop and the national leadership team. Connected to that Jared Siebert has moved from the mecca of Free Methodism and HQ in Mississauga (formerly referred to as the Regina of Ontario on this blog) to Saskatoon. Itâ€™s great to have Jared, Katherine and their kids here and we had a fun Thanksgiving with them at the lake.
In addition to Jared having me come over with chainsaw to cut a forest down in front of his bay window (seriously, why do people plant/weed things in front of windows?), he asked me to spent a morning at The Two Twenty working out a communication plan for him and his role as church development within the denomination. We are still rolling it out (actually Jared is rolling it out, I just tell him what to do and criticize his execution of it) and once we get it going, Iâ€™ll do a post on why we chose the way we did. In doing some work on it I asked some friends what their denomination does for internal communications and the consensus was that they donâ€™t really. Money and time are the two biggest things to overcome.
While I wonâ€™t get into specifics, when we were talking about what he wanted to do, I was amazed how easy technology that has come out in the last year and is essentially free is making it easy to do it. One of the things we were talking about is going to take Jared (or his helper monkey) three minutes to do with some free software. A decade ago it would have needed $10,000 of equipment. When I do post what we are doing and why, you will be appalled/surprised at where we got our inspiration from.
A couple of weeks ago I realized that I hadnâ€™t taken any vacation days in 2011. I have three weeks and over a week of flex time to use so I decided to take some this fall. With Mark playing Kinsmen Football, I canâ€™t really get away or he doesnâ€™t get to practice so instead of getting to the cabin, I stayed in Saskatoon. The plan is to go to the cabin this weekend for Thanksgiving. Arlington Beach does a huge fall/Thanksgiving supper which is great and weâ€™ll eat well out there.
The week started with hanging out with Jared and Kathy Siebert who moved out from the GTA. Having a denominational stooge around is occasionally useful and it will be fun to have Jared, Kathy and their kids in Saskatoon. Somewhere in our conversations with them Jared said that he wanted to clear out some trees around his house so on Monday I went logging. I took over our chainsaw and we cut and cut and cut and we were still cutting the same horrible tree. It had about 50 large branches coming from the ground and I think it was regenerating itself as fast as we were cutting it. When we were about halfway done, Wendy and Kathy came out and said there was a lot more light coming in the bay window (why do people plant trees in front of bay windows?) We also managed to cut down two cedars that were a couple of stories tall. Both went down pretty much as we intended which kind of freaked us out. I honestly figured, Jared, myself, or a tree would be going through a window. In honour of my new skill I am growing a lumberjack beard and am wearing more plaid.
I also managed to chat with Cam Broten. Most of it was off the record but it was also a good discussion on the issues in my own riding. While Cam has been campaigning pretty hard for a while, I havenâ€™t seen any signs of the Saskatchewan Party candidate in my travels. Campaigns matter but I canâ€™t see this riding going to the Saskatchewan Party.
The highlight of Markâ€™s week was practicing with the Saskatoon Hilltops on Thursday night. Mark came home bloodied, bruised, muddy and in a bit of pain but really enjoyed himself. The Hilltops ran them through the same drills they ran with the Hilltop coaches and players giving tips and yelling encouragement. To be honest Mark was relieved. As a 4â€™10â€ receiver, he was at a loss on how to get open against a 5â€™10 defensive back who is taller, stronger, and faster than he is. The most important thing he learned was the intensity that the Hilltops practice with. I remembered how cool it was when a Saskatchewan Blade would come to my hockey practice but actually practicing with the Hilltops on their field was amazing for all the kids.
We are headed out to the cabin on Saturday after Markâ€™s football game in Martinsville. He is done at 3:00 p.m. and I hope to be on the road by 4:00 p.m. and be at Arlington Beach for a late supper time. Lee and Brittney are coming up on Sunday for the big Thanksgiving dinner with family, the Sieberts and about 300 other people. Wendy doesnâ€™t have to cook, I donâ€™t have to do dishes so we all win. I bought Mark a great flashlight and a headlamp this week with the intention that him and I are going to go for a late night hike. If I donâ€™t post here at all next week, there is a chance I was eaten and killed. Check with Wendy. I am back to work on Tuesday. Not that motivated to be back but I have another couple of weeks to take before the end of 2011.