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2014 Christmas & Holidays Gift Guide for the Men In Your Life

Hi, it’s Wendy.  Every year I write a Christmas Gift Guide for those of you who are shopping for the men in your life.  The highly organized of you out there are already searching for Christmas gifts (as evidenced by the increased page views of previous years Christmas Gift Guides) so I decided that I had better kick off the 2014 edition before I hand the rest of them of to Jordon (although I will return to author a post on Christmas gifts for the cook).  So here goes.  Let me know what you think of these gifts in the comments.

iPad Mini with Retina Display

Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display

I know recommending an iPad is like picking low hanging fruit but the new iPad Mini’s with a retina display is amazing.   The new retina display has over 3.1 million pixels, which is a million more than a HDTV.

I never recommend that anyone uses the back camera of a tablet ever (you look ridiculous while using it as a camera), but the front facing camera of the iPad Mini with Retina Display is high definition and makes Apple Facetime (or Skype) video calls look fantastic which could be a killer feature if you or your loved one travels a lot.   Staying in touch is important.

If the man you are Christmas shopping for is an iPhone or a Mac user, it’s an great addition (or upgrade) from a previous iPad (which may or may not support iOS 8)

Nexus 7 from Google (7-Inch, 16 GB, Black) by ASUS Tablet

Nexus 7 from Google (and Asus)

If the man you are shopping for is an Android user, check out the new Nexus 7 from Google.  It thinner, lighter, and faster. It’s not quite as sharp as the iPad Mini but it has a whopping 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  So even if he has an older tablet, this is a great reason to upgrade with Google’s flagship Android tablet.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.  He’ll love it.

  • He will love the technology, you will love the price.  It’s only $199 for the 16gb version on Amazon

Whether you get him an Android or iOS powered device, he is probably going to want to chill out with it which means he will need a great set of headphones.  Money doesn’t mean quality (most people find Beats by Dre to be over priced and provide underwhelming sound despite their popularity).  Here are some highly recommended headphones from well respected electronics website, The Wirecutter which tests hundreds of headphones every year.

Sony MDR-7506 Professional Large Diaphragm HeadphonesSony MDR-7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones

Here is what The Wirecutter said about them:

The MDR-7506 have been a studio staple for years, and there’s a great reason why: Not only do they have an even response across the entire frequency range, the 7506 have better sonic depth and dexterity than many headphones twice their price. Plus, they are durable, comfortable, and reliable. And at a current retail price of less than $90, their performance was better than some of the competition that cost almost twice as much.

If you are on a budget, The Wirecutter recommends the Panasonic RP-TCM125K in ear headphones.  We got a pair for Mark and he loves them.  For only $15, they were one of the best technology purchases that Jordon or I have ever made.

The Panasonic headphones won because they sounded the best. Hands down. They were everyone’s top choice in terms of sound fidelity. They have a nice overall balance with airy, mellow highs and present-but-not-dominating bass. They sound just as good listening to acoustic guitar as they do hip hop and rock. Nothing pierces, nothing muddies: every frequency plays well with the others. And as you’ll see with other contenders later, that’s not often the case in this price range.

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

So if your guy wants to share the music, movie, or game he is playing (let’s not share the game), you will want to check out the MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by Logitech.

Logitech’s UE Mini Boom works because it’s a speaker that you’ll actually use. It’s so portable it fits in a jacket pocket, but the sound it produces has enough power to clearly fill a room and preserve the most important aspects of the song being played. On top of that, despite retailing for substantially less than the original Jambox, pretty much every reviewer agrees that it performs better.

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by Logitech

The House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Audio SystemThe House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Audio System

A smaller option with a fantastic looking carrying case and carabineer that allow you to take this speaker even more places and on more adventures.

It’s small and protected enough to take with you on trips, back and forth to work or even take with you on a hike and day out of the city.

The chant gives you around six hours of listening on a single charge which is perfect for an evening around the fire or chilling out with friends.

Tivoli The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

If you know Jordon, you know that he is on 650 News Talk Radio twice a week with David Kirton on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show.  So I have to include a tabletop radio.  The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio has both an amazing tabletop radio experience with a Bluetooth speaker.

Tivoli The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

It’s costly at $269 but it would look amazing on any bookshelf while providing brilliant sound to listen to the Saskatoon Afternoon Show on or to listen to the podcast later on that evening.  Even if the guy you are shopping for isn’t a News Talk Radio fan, can you think of a better device to listen to ESPN Radio on while having a drink on the deck?  I can’t either.

If he is more old school and doesn’t mind some cords to connect his iPhone to the speaker, check out the Sangean WR-11SE AM/FM Table Top Radio 40th Anniversary Edition.

Sangean WR-11SE AM/FM Table Top Radio 40th Anniversary Edition.


Pentax QS-1

Jordon is a photographer and loves his Pentax K-30 DSLR.  He bought a Pentax Q this summer and loved it.  It doesn’t replace his K-30 (it offers none of the lens options or the low light performance) but is so incredibly portable and easy to take with you no matter where he is going.  It’s not going to be the camera he takes with him to photograph Nuit Blanche or to shoot Mark’s football games but it has been great to take with him when we are heading out for a walk, exploring the city or just chasing after the kids.  Pentax/Ricoh’s website gives you an idea of lens options but according to Jordon, you really only need four.

Pentax Q-S1 Mirrorless Digital Camera

The best camera is the one that you have with you.  If a Pentax Q-S1 isn’t what you are looking for, then take a look at the popular Nikon 1 series of cameras. The Nikon 1 J4 camera with 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm lens and 30-110mm telephoto zoom lens is a great combo.

Nikon 1 J4 Digital Camera with a 10-30mm and 30-110 telephoto lens

Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera

At $1300 it isn’t cheap but you wouldn’t expect the best compact camera in the world to be inexpensive.

Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera

The Fujifilm FinePix X100 was a milestone camera in the industry as one of the first large sensor, prime lens cameras to achieve widespread popularity. Its classic look, obviously cribbed from a certain German camera maker, were justified by the excellent image quality its 35mm equivalent f/2 lens could produce. It was also a rare example of a camera its maker continued to develop, long after it hit the market.  The X100T is is the third generation X100 and is better than ever.


Leather dopp kittA new leather Dopp Kit ($34) with:

He will love using the gift and you will love how he looks and smells after. (if the price of leather is too high, check out this great dopp kit from MEC)

LL Bean Canvas Duffle Bag

LL Bean Canvas Duffle Bag

LL Bean’s Adventure Duffle now comes in soft yet rugged cotton canvas for a lasting combination of durability and classic style. It’s more or less the same great bag that people have been using since the 1940s.  It now has a water-resistant coating and comes in a variety of colors.  Meets airline carry-on size requirements if not over stuffed.  It’s a great gift for the traveller.

Maglite LED flashlightMaglite

Men love flashlights. It’s part of what makes them men. He needs a small one on his keychain, a tactical one (a universal one works too) to take with him on adventures and and a more heavy-duty one in your house and garage. You can’t go wrong with a classic Maglite. The LED bulb will last nearly forever, and heavy-duty aluminum casing gives it shock and water resistance.

Stanley Thermos

For times when he leaves the houses and has to do manly things, he will want an amazing travelling thermos. Made with stainless steel, the Stanley Thermos is rustproof and BPA free. The 8-ounce lid doubles as a cup for your coffee, hot chocolate, or soup. Oh, and it keeps its contents hot/cold for 24 hours. Need more convincing? Didn’t think so.

Stanley Thermos

Kiwi Shoeskine Kit

Kiwi Shoeskine Kit

A shoeshine kit makes the perfect gift; it’s something that no guy thinks to buy, but every guy needs. Buy a quality kit in a manly wooden box that has all the necessary accoutrements to keep your loved one’s shoes shining like a sheet of glass. Included in this set are two cloths, a tin each of brown and black polish, two sponge daubers, two 100% horsehair brushes, a shoe horn, and of course the handsome wood box.


Atari Flashback

Depending on how old the guy is you are shopping for, he may have grown up with an Atari 2600 gaming console.  He can relive his wasted youth with this flashback system.  92 built in games, the console and two controllers for under $50.  What’s not to like?

Retron 3

If he is younger and wasted his youth on a Sega Genesis or a Nintendo, check out this system.  No built in games but it is a completely redesigned Nintendo and Sega system in the same system.  Blades of Steel, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tecmo Super Bowl, and Super Mario all on the same console.

Retron 3 gaming console

Timex Expedition Analog/Digital Watch

Timex Expedition Watch

I know watches are passé now that we all have our smartphones (unless of course your watch is a smartwatch) but sometimes you don’t have your phone with you to whip out 20 times a minute.  Other times you just need to look like an adult.  In those times you need a watch that is rugged enough to survive and smart looking enough to wear out on the town.

The Timex Expedition watches were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch and can’t bear the thought of having to shell out over $150 or more, this is perfect.

  • Full size watch, 3 time zone settings for traveling, Maximum style and performance with water resistant leather strap
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters, Indigo night light for low light conditions, Metal case construction for enhanced durability
  • 24 hour chronograph with lap and split option
  • Daily alarm
  • Easy to use 24 hour countdown timer

 

GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition

He has probably checked out the GoPro channel on YouTube (and made you watch some of them).  Whether he admits it or not, he wants one of these.  Here is why:

GoPro Hero 4

  • Built-In Touch Display: Frame your shots. Easily adjust settings. Play back videos and photos. Improved Camera Control: New dedicated button enables quick access to camera settings. Simplified menus make navigating settings easier than ever.
  • Fast, Powerful Photo Capture: Captures high-quality 12MP photos at speeds of up to 30 fps.
  • Built-In WiFi + Bluetooth: Delivers enhanced connectivity to the GoPro App, Smart Remote
  • Durable + Waterproof to 131′ (40m): Designed to withstand extreme environments and conditions. Wearable + Mountable: Enables immersive self-capture during your favorite activities. Compatible with all GoPro Mounts: 60+ mounts and accessories – and counting – for capturing a wide variety of perspective and activities. GoPro App + Software: Control your camera remotely. View and share your content. Easily create gorgeous GoPro-style videos.
  • Protune – Now for Video + Photos: Cinema-quality capture and manual control of color, ISO limit, exposure and more. Night Photo Lapse: Customizable exposure settings up to 30 seconds for single and Time Lapse Photos. Auto Low Light: Automatically adjusts frame rates for optimal low-light performance. High-Performance Audio: New Audio System captures clean, high fidelity sound and nearly 2x the dynamic range. Ultra Wide-Angle Glass Lens: Enables engaging, immersive footage of you and your world. Selecable FOV: Three FOV settings – Ultra-Wide, Medium and Narrow – allow for a broad range of perspectives. HiLight Tag: Mark key moments while recording for easy playback, editing, and sharing. QuikCapture: Power on and record automatically with the press of a single button. SuperView: Captures the world’s most immersive wide-angle field of view.

 

Cast Iron Pan

Cast irons pans last a lifetime, cook your food evenly, and even impart a low dose of iron to your food. He’ll be making you bacon and eggs every single morning with this thing.

Cast Iron Pan from Lodge

A Wax Seal

A wax seal

If you get him a great pen, he may actually start writing hand written letters.  What would be better then sealing those letters with a wax seal.  The fascinating history of the wax seal that dates all the way to the Middle Ages. The practice has changed very little since that time, and it’s easy to do yourself to bring some class to your correspondence. This kit contains one brass seal engraved with a letter of your choice, and four sticks of their supple sealing wax.

913rvlXmHPL._SL1500_Speaking of writing, every man should keep a journal. If he is having trouble getting into this manly habit, perhaps what he needs is a journal so handsome and inviting it’s hard not to write in it.   Wrapped up in leather, this journal will have him putting pen to paper in no time. Perfect as a travelogue for all of his 2015 adventures.

KA-BAR USMC knife

USMC Knife

First used by Marines during WWII, the KA-BAR USMC knife has since become standard issue among other branches of the U.S. military. And for good reason. He will feel 5x more manlier just holding it.

Craftsman 94 Piece Mechanic Tool Set

Craftsman 94 Piece Mechanic Tool Set

Craftsman is the gold standard when it comes to tools. This set comes with the Craftsman lifetime warranty, is made of alloyed steel, and better yet, will serve all your socket wrench needs. For the man in your life that isn’t terribly familiar with tools, this is a great set to have. It comes with two wrenches and 52 sockets, as well as a screwdriver with an interchangeable bit set.

Pocket Compass

Pocket Compass

If you know a man who spends a great deal of time outdoors, get him a nice pocket compass so he’ll never lose his way. Sure, GPS may be easier and more accurate, but batteries die and satellite connections can be disrupted. That’s when having a compass comes in handy. Get him one that he’ll pass on to his grandkids.

AlpineSwiss Leather Card Wallet

Jordon went to a super slim card wallet this year and has loved it.  This is the thinest wallet on the market and just makes a man’s life better.


2014 Holiday and Christmas Gift GuidesYou can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

The Hoth Tauntauns

The Denver Broncos reinvented in the Star Wars universe.

Hoth Tauntauns

Hey look, they just got their butts handed to them by the Toydaria Wattos.

Christmas Gift Guide for the Outdoorsman | 2013 Edition

In case you are shopping for the great outdoorsman, here are a list of suggestions for those who often prefer to outdoors rather than inside. Check out the other Christmas gift ideas that have been posted this season.

Straight from Ned Flander’s Leftorium, the MEC Left Handed Slingpack $21 | Wendy has had a sling pack for years and just about jumped for joy when I told her that there was a left handed version available. She may have actually wept a tear or two. 

Pelican 1050 waterproof case $18.68 | These are great camera/GPS/iPod cases. They are water proof, padded, floatable, and strong enough to take a lot of abuse in the back of your trunk or any backpack. While you may not use it when you head to the park, you will use them when you are packing for a trip and don’t want your iPod, camera, or phone to be crushed. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Shoes $70 – $130 | The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet like shoes do. If you have any questions, check out the reviews on Amazon.

Leatherman Skeletool CX $80 |  Now you’re ready to lighten your load and boost your survival skills — with Leatherman’s Skeletool. At a mere 5 ounces the new, full-sized multitool keeps weight and volume to a minimum without sacrificing quality and true functionality, and that’s what the Skeletool is all about. Many multitools have multiple options, but they’re often heavier — and they’re loaded with more features than most people actually need on a regular basis. Conversely, pocket knives are light and streamlined, but they render themselves useless when the task calls for a more versatile tool. Enter the new Skeletool platform, offering minimal weight, compact size and endless capabilities. And with the Skeletool’s integrated, removable pocket clip, you can easily clip this tool onto a belt, a pack, or a vest — with no sheath or tote required.

Cammenga Lensatic Compass $88 | This is the Rolls Royce of compasses.  It has been used by U.S. troops, foreign militaries, law enforcement, and special forces for years. A total of seven Tritium light sources provide readability in total darkness for 10 years without external power or the need to “recharge” using a flashlight.

Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS

Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS $249 |  Sharpen your cycling performance with Edge 500, a lightweight GPS-based cycling computer for performance-driven cyclists. Loaded with data, Edge 500 tracks your distance, speed, location and elevation with high sensitivity GPS. Add an ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely-tuned analysis of your ride.

Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System $99 | The Jetboil Flash cooking system utilizes the same efficient design as the now classic Personal Cooking System (PCS) but adds the additional convenience feature of an external temperature indicator. Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.   

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove $39 | The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Cabin: Two Brothers, Five Acres and a Dream in Maine by Lou Ureneck $17 |  Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce, Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life’s good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.

Double Nest Hammock $65 | The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.

Outdoor Coffee Press $40 |  Now there is no reason to bring that horrible tasting Starbucks Via coffee with you when you go camping or hiking.  Instead bring some fresh ground coffee or loose leaf tea with you and make some excellent coffee when ever you want with this outdoor coffee press.  Of course you won’t bring a bean grinder with you on most trips but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a good cup of coffee while on the road.  Of course you need something to drink it from.  You may want to check out some excellent stainless steel coffee mugs/beer mugs to drink from.

Zippo Hand Warmer $20 | The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a high-polish finish and a sleek, thin design so it easily fits into your pocket. The hand warmer is virtually odorless (great for hunters) and stays warm for up to 12 hours. Plus, it’s reusable with Zippo lighter fluid and includes a convenient filler cup and warming bag. Whether you’re skiing, tailgating at the game, hunting, sledding, or enjoying any other cold-weather activity, keep a Zippo Hand Warmer in your pocket and keep your fingers toasty warm.

Garmin GPS

Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator $168 | Garmin’s eTrex GPS series offers reliable satellite navigation, making it a favorite of hikers, hunters, and geocachers. The eTrex 20 is equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch color display, and ships with a worldwide basemap with relief. Add a wide array of detailed topographic, marine, and road maps, and start mapping out your next adventure.

Hennessy Hammock Expedition A-sym $143 | Next generation of Hennessy Hammock’s most popular model with all the key features including full velcro entrance seal, mesh pocket on ridgeline and webbing straps to protect the bark of trees.  The rain-fly is polyurethane coated polyester ripstop or silicone impregnated nylon and may be tilted to any angle, rolled up above, removed or used separately. The No-See-Um mesh and hammocks fabric will deflect wind to provide a calm space inside. Large area of No-See-Um netting to provide ventilation and keep insects outside the hammock. When properly sealed, the entrance design also makes sure no bugs get into your hammock.  All of this means that you can sleep almost anywhere.

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern $25 | Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike.  Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing.  They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and Amazon.com and are loved by all that use them.  Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Filzer UFO Light $8 | Alert vehicles and help keep track of your dog at night. The UFO light is designed specifically for runners, hikers and dogs. The light easily attaches to 1″ webbing, dog collars, clothing, etc… with a small carabineer. Five red LEDs put out highly visible red light in three modes – steady, flash and rotate. Its waterproof design makes it ideal for any weather.

Christmas Gift Guides and Ideas

If I missed anything or if my suggestion 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.

Column: Making Winters Work

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

A well-travelled friend once told me that Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan were the greatest places on Earth to be in the summer and the world’s worst places to live in the winter.

How much I agree with him depends on the wind chill.

Winters here are long and dreary, and they last from October until May some years. Not only does the snow linger, for many of us, the winter mindset dominates our thinking on all sorts of policies and decisions even during the heat of summer.

We argue about new ideas for the city all of the time. “We can’t have bike lanes because it snows half the year.” “The winter is too long to waste money on a pedestrian bridge.” “Money on parks is wasted because they never get used in the winter.”

There is much we don’t do because of this white stuff – even when we are complaining about the heat in the summer.

Other cities aren’t held captive to winter in the same way.

Many Nordic cities with far worse winters than ours have excellent bike infrastructure and keep the trails cleared year-round.

Edmonton struck a committee last year to help manage winters better.

I am not sure if I agree with the approach that Winnipeg and Calgary have taken with elevated walkways, but I was able to walk all over Winnipeg in -40 C temperatures with only a light jacket.

A report prepared for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region mentioned that nine of the 10 happiest American states are ones that feature cold winters, and listed examples of cities that do winter really well.

In Germany, Austria, and France, people look forward to outdoor holiday markets where they can find a festive atmosphere along with holiday decorations, seasonal gifts, and warm food and drink.

New York City has imported the idea and has set up massive outdoor markets across Manhattan. Before you scoff at the idea, look at the large crowds that come out in any weather to Wintershines. People will come if you give them reason to do so.

December is easy, but we have to make February tolerable. Winnipeg is doing an excellent job. The city pays a lot more for winter snow and not only can you drive around, the sidewalks are cleared. Imagine being able to drive and get around on foot. It can happen.

Winnipeg has also installed heated bus shelters at a growing number of stops. Even in -40 C with a brutal wind, I was able to take off my tuque, gloves, and unzip my jacket while waiting for a bus.

The city has slowly added winter warming shacks as attractions along its rivers. It started as a local idea, and now gets international attention from architects and designers. Those shacks get you out of the wind and give you an excuse to brave the elements.

No matter the weather, thousands of people are having fun all winter long.

Adding a few warming huts each year would make a cold and windy Saskatoon riverfront a lot more tolerable. It would also help connect the different business districts which are spread out because of our river.

Holiday seasonal markets would also be perfect in the Saskatoon Farmers Market. Who knows? It could even one day expand into something other than a weekend destination.

The first step is not warming huts or outdoor markets, however – it is to convince council to get serious about residential snow removal. And our business improvement districts must get serious about keeping sidewalks clear.

Then it relies on everyone figuring out ways to make winters more enjoyable.

Maybe it’s a restaurant opening its deck on milder days, or community associations holding outdoor parties in the winter, like they do in the summer.

It requires the city looking at ways of making our parks winter-friendly, perhaps with more fire pits, or ensuring bike lanes are cleared all season long.

It’s bus shelters that actually do keep us warm. Once we figure out how to shed the shackles of a cold winter and enjoy it, we will find out that even our summer months can get better.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Stuck in the Middle

I have linked to the Winnipeg centric photography of Bryan Scott before.  I have said for years that him and Sam Javanrouh are two of my favourite street photographers in the world.  Scott has a new book out called Stuck in the Middle and it is about what makes Winnipeg, well Winnipeg.

Stuck in the Middle

Here is an excerpt

For the sake of an exercise, pretend you’re a god. You can go anywhere you want, by any mode of transportation you desire. What you’re most likely to desire is to travel as far away as possible from the coastlines of the continents, where the vast majority of humanity resides. This is a logical desire, as all gods consider homo sapiens a nuisance, if not a pest species.

In geographic terms, they call such a place a pole of inaccessibility — the farthest location you can travel from any coast. In Eurasia, discriminating deities will wind up in the Gurbantºnggºt Desert, an arid patch of western China’s Xinjiang province, a few kilometres from the Kazakh border. In South America, misanthropic multi-dimensional beings may escape to the savannahs of the Mato Grosso plateau to enjoy the quiet company of Brazilian cattle. In Africa, the ultimate escape will place you among the pigeons and parrots of the Bengangai Game Reserve, near the tri-border confluence of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In North America, however, the farthest place from anywhere is already occupied — by Winnipeg, home to more than 700,000 people and zero gods. More than any other city on the continent, Winnipeg is stuck in the middle.

Head east from Winnipeg in a car, and it’s a 2,700-kilometre drive to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the general vicinity of Rivière-du-Loup. This coastal Quebec town is the birthplace of Alexandre-Antonin Taché, the first Archbishop of St. Boniface, a Cassandra figure who tried and failed to prevent the 1870 Métis unrest that established Manitoba and paved the way for Winnipeg to be a provincial capital.

Drive west from Winnipeg, and it’s 2,300 kilometres to the Pacific coast city of Vancouver, a railway terminus whose early growth originally mirrored that of the Manitoba capital, once Canada’s biggest railway hub. But after the 1914 completion of the Panama Canal, the Port of Vancouver became a more profitable shipping route, and Gastown assumed Winnipeg’s role as Western Canada’s most important city.

Drive south from Winnipeg, and it is 2,750 kilometres to Corpus Christi, a Texas city on the Gulf of Mexico. Visit the suburb of Flour Bluff, and you may find yourself at the corner of Winnipeg Drive and Manitoba Drive, where a series of nondescript bungalows pays homage to hopelessly bored Prairie-dwellers who actually did get in their cars and drive until they could not go any farther.

You cannot travel by car directly from Winnipeg to the Arctic Ocean. But it’s only a 1,700-kilometre train ride to Churchill, Manitoba’s seaport on Hudson Bay. The Scottish settlers who helped found the Red River Settlement that would eventually spawn Winnipeg had to travel through the vast emptiness of Hudson Bay, whose shores are patrolled by polar bears. Open up a Lonely Planet guide to Canada, and you will find as many pages devoted to Churchill as there are to Winnipeg. In the eyes of international tourists, the permafrozen tundra is more attractive than a city that simply has the reputation of being among the coldest in the world.

If you insist on technicality, the North American pole of inaccessibility actually is embedded in the South Dakota badlands. But Winnipeg has more than just geographic reasons to claim the continent’s extreme centre.

As a city of 700,000, Winnipeg is too small to be cosmopolitan but too large to be folksy. Big-city complaints about violent crime compete with small-town gripes about the absence of privacy and if you’re single, a terribly shallow gene pool. Major amenities such as NHL hockey are balanced off by a minor-league transportation network saddled with only a rudimentary rump of a rapid-transit system.

Far from the moderating influence of the seas, Winnipeg is subject to a highly variable, mid-continental climate, where winters are frigid, summers are steamy and both spring and fall can involve either extreme. The annual mean temperature of 2.6 C belies the 86-degree spread between the city’s hottest and coldest recorded temperatures.
Winnipeg also falls smack in the middle when it comes to economic growth, chugging along at a modest pace during the entire postwar period while almost everywhere else underwent rapid expansions and precipitous declines. Winnipeg’s eggs are divided among many economic baskets — transportation, manufacturing, insurance, food processing — as if the gods designed a living embodiment of a balanced stock portfolio.

But none of this speaks to the real manner in which Winnipeg is stuck in the middle: It is a city that inspires a profound sense of ambivalence among its residents.
This has nothing to do with apathy, as there’s no such thing as a Winnipegger without a strong opinion about the city. They either despise it or adore it, depending on the nanosecond and whether or not the bus came on time, the street happened to get plowed or the Blue Bombers won the previous night. While ambivalence of this sort is present in any city, only in Winnipeg does it serve as the defining character of the populace.

In many ways, Winnipeg is a fascinating place. It was born of an act of violent resistance, a unique occurrence in this country. It was the fastest-growing city in North America for a time. It was the site of one of the largest workers’ revolts in the Western World. It was threatened with destruction by floodwaters twice in half a century. It is the second-smallest city on the continent to boast a major-league professional sports team. It boasts a selection of architectural wonders that ranges from surviving railway-boom warehouses to 20th-century modernist buildings to a handful of hyper-modernist structures.

Yet Winnipeg is also the very vision of homogeneity and inefficiency. It’s a low-density city that can barely afford to maintain its sprawling, aging infrastructure. It is not overly walkable or pedestrian-friendly. It makes artistic decisions based on politics and political decisions that appear to be inspired by Dadaism more than any political philosophy. It has a disturbing tendency to allow property owners to neglect and eventually demolish heritage structures.

Winnipeg tends to infuriate Winnipeggers, who sometimes question why they live in the city. But when they consider the alternative, they dare not dream of living anywhere else. Even Winnipeggers who do depart for Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver never assimilate or fully lose their regional identity. They remain stuck on their birthplace, in the middle of the flat, snowy, bug-ridden, flood-prone and isolated prairie, where everyone seems to know everyone despite the impossibility of the arithmetic involved.

To add another onion layer to this already-tired analogy, Winnipeg is also stuck in the middle of two possible destinies. One involves maturation into a medium-sized city that learns to live within its means by choosing to reinvigorate its inner core, increase the density of its older neighbourhoods and build new residential areas that make financial and environmental sense.

The other is a slide back to mediocrity by conducting postwar development business as usual: the endless construction of new single-family homes, sprawling out into a distance where the roads and sewers and water pipes will never be as good as the day they are laid, because no future government will be able to maintain them.

Winnipeg is a city on the precipice of a momentous decision, one that really amounts to the cumulative result of a series of smaller decisions. For now, it stands between two futures and potentially many more. Pray to whatever deity you like to ensure the right choices get made.

This looks to be an amazing Christmas gift for any urbanist (or Winnipeg resident) on your list.

Christmas Gift Ideas for the Photographer | 2013 Edition

Looking at what to get the photographer in your life for Christmas?  Here are some ideas that are sure to make every photographers Christmas season.

I know it’s a lot of money but no photographer I know would not love to have their camera upgraded.  Check out Canon’s 70D, the winner of quite a few camera of year awards or the Nikon D7100.

Canon EOS 70D DSLR cameraHere is the highlights of Canon 70D

  • 20.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, 14-bit A/D conversion, ISO 100-12800 (expandable to H: 25600) for shooting from bright to dim light and high performance DIGIC 5+ Image Processor for exceptional image quality and processing speed.
  • EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF for improved continuous focus tracking of moving subjects, manual exposure control and multiple frame rates (1080: 30p (29.97) / 24p (23.976) / 25p, 720: 60p (59.94) / 50p, 480: 30p (29.97) / 25p), built-in stereo microphone, manual audio level adjustment with attenuator function to reduce audio clipping, and Video Snapshot with editing for expanded movie shooting options.
  • Canon’s innovative Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder with smooth, fast, and accurate autofocus; lets you enjoy instant and precise autofocus even when shooting stills from a variety of angles with the freedom provided by the Vari-angle LCD. 19-point all cross-type AF system (including a high-precision f/2.8 dual cross-type AF center point) with a wide area array for exceptional autofocus performance and greater compositional freedom when shooting with the viewfinder. Intelligent Viewfinder with superimposed LCD display provides approximately 98% field of view, and Multi-Aspect ratio in Live View broadens your choices in composition.
  • Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor II (approximately 1,040,000 dots) with smudge-resistant coating features multi-touch operation and Touch AF for an easy and intuitive experience, flexible positioning, and clear viewing even when outdoors in sunlight.
  • Built-in wireless technology allows you to wirelessly transfer your images to social networking sites through CANON iMAGE GATEWAY, share your images with wireless-enabled Canon cameras, or upload virtually anywhere on your iOS® or Android(TM) smartphone* with the free download of the EOS Remote app.

Highlights of the Nikon D7100

Nikon D7100 DSLR cameraThe Nikon D7100 Digital SLR Camera features a specially designed 24.1-megapixel DX-format image sensor, superior low-light performance, ultra-precise autofocus and metering, advanced video recording features, built-in HDR, mobile connectivity and much, much more. Enjoy speed, precision and convenience at every step, from shooting up to 6 fps to instantly sharing your shots with the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. Create dazzling Full HD 1080p videos and ultra-smooth slow-motion or time-lapse sequences.


Personalized leather camera strap

Personalized leather camera strap

Nothing says, “I’ve put more than the usual amount of consideration into your present” than having something personalized, and Ukraine-based Etsy seller Viveo has the perfect item for camera enthusiasts: a fetching hand-cut leather camera strap that can be personalized with up to five letters.


Manfrotto 190CX Pro Carbon Fibre TripodManfrotto 190CX Pro Carbon Fiber Tripod

The Rolls-Royce of tripods, especially for anyone with an aversion to lugging around heavy gear, the 190Cx is constructed of carbon fibre – a super-strong but lightweight material best known for its use in Formula 1 cars. That means that despite being able to hold up to 5kg of camera, lens and flash, it weighs a mere 1.3kg.


    AmazonBasics 62-Inch Aluminum Ball Head Tripod

    AmazonBasics has been quietly creating a name for itself as affordable and high quality photography gear.  It’s heavier than the Manfrotto tripod but is still an affordable and sturdy ball head tripod at a fraction of the price.


    Gerber Steady ToolGerber Steady Tool

    Military and outdoor specialist Gerber shows some love to shutterbugs with the Steady Tool, a multi-tool that features a tripod alongside the usual selection of stainless steel blades, screwdrivers, pliers and a bottle opener. The tripod works with compact digital cameras (up to 340g) and smartphones (up to 170g).


    Canon Camera Lens Coffee Mug

    Canon's 18-135mm zoom lens travel coffee mug

    It’s not a zoom lens (although they make a great Christmas gift too) but it’s a coffee mug based on Canon’s near-ubiquitous 28-135mm lens.  The stainless steel lining helps keep 12 oz. of your favorite beverage at temperature longer, and once you’re ready to break it open, you can remove the lid to use it as a small plate. Basically, it’s a good thing made even better.


    A 50mm Lens

    Nikon 50mm f 1.8 prime lensWhile most cameras kit lens covers the 50mm range, none of them compare to the 50mm in terms of sharpness, bokeh, and versatility.  It isn’t a reach to say that the one lens every DSLR should have is a 50mm.


    Sony DSC-QX100 Smartphone Attachable Lens-style Camera

    Sony DSC-QX100 Smartphone Attachable Lens-style CameraOne of the more interesting products of 2013 is the Sony DSC-QX100 Smartphone Attachable Lens.  The world’s first pro-grade lens and sensor combo that clips to your smartphone. Now you can shoot breathtaking, DSLR-quality pics and instantly share them online for more “likes” than ever. Sporting a 1” sensor and a Carl Zeiss f/1.8 lens, this innovative camera captures beautifully defocused backgrounds for that professional look you crave. It’s a dream come true for lovers of photography—and convenience

    Simply attach the compact and lightweight

    QX100 to turn your Smartphone into a professional grade camera to capture beautiful DSLR-like 20MP still photos.


    SD memory card carrying caseMemory Card Carrying Case

    You can never have enough memory cards but keeping track of them can be a pain.  That is why a memory card carrying case is such a great stocking stuffer.

    • Purchase at Amazon | $6


    • Photographer’s Wristband Set

      Photographer's Wristband SetGet the gift that says, “I have this lens and I’m using this wristband too."


      Leica DLUX 6 10-megapixel Digital Camera

      Leica is such an iconic brand that most photographers take notice of everything that they do.  Why not give the gift of a Leica Compact Camera this season?

      Leica D-Lux 6 compact digital camera

      The Leica D-LUX 6 perfectly represent pre-eminent Leica quality in a compact camera format. Its outstanding lens and the versatile capabilities for creative photography make it the perfect camera for capturing inspiring moments- in the typically brilliant image quality you expect from Leica. This new extremely fast lens makes it particularly suitable for available-light photography and creative experimentation with planes of focus and depth of field. Its full-HD video recording capability and numerous manual setting options can also offer even more creative freedom.


      Sony RX-100 II

      Sony RX-100 II digital compact cameraI have been a fan of the Sony RX-100 since it was released and the Sony RX-100 II is even more exciting.  When beautiful scenery inspires the artist within, capture every exquisite detail with the compact Cyber-shot RX100 II. You’ll enjoy extraordinary light sensitivity, breathtaking image quality and beautiful background defocusing thanks to a newly developed 1.0-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor and F1.8 lens.

      CTV Reporter Tom Podolec has been getting amazing images around Toronto’s Lester B Pearson Airport with the camera.  Check out this shot of a Jet Airways Boeing 737-800 in low light or this photo of a Cathay Pacific Boeing 737-300.  Fantastic and sharp images in low light that all of us would love to capture.


      Veho VCC-100-XL MUVI X-Lapse 360-Degree Photography and Timelapse Accessory

      Veho VCC-100-XL MUVI X-Lapse 360-Degree Photography and Timelapse AccessoryThe MUVI X-Lapse is the must have accessory for every film maker who wants to add something different to their movie edits. The MUVI X-Lapse enables a film maker to take up to 360° degree sweeping time-lapse images that when edited together create an amazing movie effect.It has both male and female standard 1/4 -20 UNC tripod screw threads for both mounting cameras on and also for mounting the MUVI X-Lapse onto a tripod, perfect for lightweight action cameras with a continuous photo mode such as the MUVI HD or GoPro or standard cameras with a time-lapse feature up to a weight of 750 grams. For cameras that are slightly top heavy the MUVI X-Lapse has integral fold out feet to support and distribute the weight. As well as using with camcorders/cameras the MUVI X-Lapse ships with a holder for iPhone/Smartphone and in conjunction with a multitude of smartphone apps enables even the most inexperienced user to make super cool sweeping time-lapse movies. Another option for the most creative of photographers is creating panoramic super wide angle photos by using the MUVI X-Lapse to slowly sweep a panoramic view while the camera or smartphone takes intermittent shots. NB -The MUVI X-Lapse does not come with an app or software but these are readily available on app stores and the internet.

      Create 90° degree (15 minutes), 180° degree (30 minutes), 270° degree (45 minutes), 360° degree (60 minutes) sweeping time-lapse films.


      12 inch Digital Photo Frame12 inch Digital Photo Frame

      You better get something so they can show off their photos.  Why not wow them with a 12 inch digital photo frame that has 4gb of internal memory so they can upload thousands of their favorite photos.

      It comes with a remote control and will play photos (yay!), videos (meh), and music (don’t do it).  The timer settings allow you to set the screens up and never need to manually switch them on or off again, whilst never wasting electricity – perfect for commercial use. The X12B comes with a fold out stand and wall mount holes (VESA standard 75mm x 75mm) as standard. Sleek design coupled with plug & play simplicity, this frame is ideal for your home, as a gift or for use as a digital advertising screen.


      Christmas Gift Ideas from Jordon Cooper.comIf you are shopping for someone who isn’t a photographer or are still looking for other ideas, check out all of the Christmas Gift Guides that are on the site.  You never know where you will find inspiration.

      Christmas Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2013 Edition

      Mark is turning 13 which means he is both more expensive and impossible to shop for.  If you have a teen, you know what I am talking about.  To help save you some pain and stress, I put together this Christmas gift guide full of ideas for your teenager this Christmas.

      The bad news here if you are Mark, don’t get too excited.  I know you read this and you aren’t getting any of it.


      GoPro Hero 3+

      Mark loves my GoPro Hero whenever I let him use it and now that he has gotten older and his having his own adventures, his desire to document jumping off cliffs, swimming in a summer storm, or biking single track wherever he can find it increases by the day.  If your teenager is like him, check out the GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition.  It is 15% smaller and lighter than previous models, it’s 2x more powerful—making it the most advanced Silver Edition camera yet. Wearable, gear-mountable and waterproof to 131’/40m, it captures professional-quality video at resolutions up to 1080p60 and 10MP photos at up to 10 frames per second. With faster built-in Wi-Fi, enhanced low-light performance and 30% longer battery life, the HERO3+ Silver Edition makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.

      GoProHero3 action camera

      • Purchase at Amazon | $300

      Nikon Coolpix S31 waterproof cameraNikon Coolpix S31

      Nikon has an entry level shock proof and waterproof camera for under $90.  It takes decent pictures, has a variety of creative filters and features and unlike other low cost cameras, allows a person to do time lapse photography.

      It offers 10 megapixel photography, 3x optical zoom, 720p HD video and with it being waterproof, it can be taken everywhere.  A great first camera for any teenager.  It also comes in blue and pink.


      Canon Powershot N

      Canon Powershot N cameraThe new PowerShot N opens up a new dimension of photographic expression, helping you express your personal style and flair with a whole new camera design, you know because the old camera design isn’t that cool anymore.

      The PowerShot N features an entirely new design, sporting a functional sleek shape. Shutter and zoom rings enable quick, intuitive operation, and a new 2.8-inch tilt-type capacitive touch screen offers amazing photographic flexibility; shoot diagonally, horizontally, from low angles or high for versatile expression. The camera features a new Creative Shot mode for artistic image capture, automatically creating an additional five unique images every time you take a shot. The 12.1 Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 Image Processor create the Canon HS SYSTEM for stunning image quality and low-light performance, ensuring every photo is a powerful statement. An 8x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens captures brilliant images with grandeur, from up close or far away.

      Record 1080p Full HD video when you want to express yourself with moving images, and know that the enhanced built-in Wi-Fi® of the PowerShot N makes sharing easier than ever. A convenient Mobile Device Connect Button also brings powerful new sharing capabilities with smartphone connectivity. Express your creative style with the PowerShot N and share with the world, all with a simple touch!


      X-Mini UNO Portable Capsule Speakers

      X-Mini UNO Portable Capsule SpeakersThe UNO is the first of the X-mini Capsule Speaker series to feature new ceramic drivers. Seen more commonly in industrial-sized speakers, the ceramic drivers have been scaled down to the pocket-size with the UNO, which delivers clearer and crisper sounds than ever before.

      Delivering on the promise of Sound Beyond Size, the UNO is petite in size but massive in sound. The UNO retains all the outstanding features of the X-mini Capsule Speaker range but ups the ante by offering sound quality that no other affordable speaker can rival.

      They sound pretty good but won’t provide so many watts that it could damage the foundation to your home.


      Sony MDR-ZX100 HeadphonesSony MDR-ZX100 Headphones

      Like most teens, Mark loves his music.  After he broke his old headphones the day before a big trip, I went out and bought him a pair of Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones.  The price was right and I have always enjoyed mine.  Mark fell in love with him and despite me asking him if he wants to upgrade, he keep saying no that these are the pair that he loves to listen to.  Since then I got Wendy a pair and she loves hers as well.

      They fold flat, sound even better after being used for a while and are comfortable.   Add it all up and for $16, you get an attractive set of headphones that sound great.


      Skullcandy Ink’d Heaphphones

      Skullcandy INK'd headphones

      Individual tastes matter a lot with headphones.  While I prefer my Bose IE2 headphones, Mark loves his Skullcandy headphones.  Skullcandy’s best-selling INK’D earbuds feature a customizable fit and 11mm speaker drivers that tattoo your temporal lobes with full-color sonic art. Select colors include an inline mic and control switch to keep you in touch with your tunes and the outside world. Skullcandy’s INK’d earbuds come with three separate sizes of silicone eartips (small, medium, and large) to help you get the perfect fit to go with your sound.


      Tony Hawk Birdhouse Skateboard

      Tony Hawk Birdhouse Skateboard

      Brand New Birdhouse skateboard brought to you by skateboard legend, Tony Hawk.

      • 4 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Wheels 53mm
      • 2 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Raw Trucks
      • 8 – Tony Hawk Birdhouse Abec 3 Bearings
      • Tony Hawk Birdhouse Hardware Black Grip Tape
      • Purchase at Amazon | $65

      In case you don’t know who Tony Hawk is

      He’s still a really big deal around the world.


      Acer Aspire V5

      Acer Aspire V5 Netbook ComputerI know tablets are the next big thing and we love our iPad but students have homework and have to learn how to write.  The best device for that?  A laptop.  If you are looking for one, check out this laptop by Acer.  It features

      • Windows 7 Home Premium – 64-bit version (let me be honest, you don’t want Windows 8)
      • 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 1007U processor, 4GB DDR3 memory, 500GB hard drive
      • 11.6-Inch LCD display (1366 x 768), Intel HD Graphics, Intel NM70 Express chipset
      • Webcam, Wi-Fi, 10/100 LAN, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB
      • card reader, 6.5-hour battery, 1-year limited warranty

      Once it is opened up on Christmas Day, head on over to Ninite for the free (and spyware free) software that will make this computer and excellent student (or work) computer for years. 


      LiteHawk Zoom R/C Airplane

      LiteHawk Zoom R/C AirplaneHow much fun would one of these be?

      Take to the skies with the LiteHawk ZOOM R/C airplane. It’s controlled using powerful 2.4GHz wireless technology, features a 17.5″ wingspan, and makes it easy to progress from take-offs and landings to more complex maneuvers. It’s made using high quality brushless technology, as well as light yet durable materials.  Several of the reviews say it can be easily controlled by even a novice pilot.

      More Information

      • Designed for outdoor flight with few obstacles and low winds
      • Boasting brushless motor technology,
      • 2.4GHz spread spectrum radio technology ensures a strong signal and compatibility with up to 80 different zoom airplanes
      • 17.5-inch wingspan
      • Manufactured using ultra light, anti-crush foam, the Zoom features carbon control links, a carbon reinforced elevator, reinforced leading edges of wings for added strength and a detachable landing gear for field or uneven surface landings
      • 10 minutes of flight time per charge
      • Radio features include a soft touch throttle control stick, power switch and rudder control stick
      • A variety of replacement parts are available

       


      Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

      Fender Guitar and AmpAffinity Series Strat with Fender Frontman 10G AmpThere’s no easier and more affordable way to get started on electric guitar than this value-filled Squier set. Opening this box opens a whole new musical future for you, with a great-sounding, cool-looking and easy-playing Affinity Series Strat guitar, a compact 10-watt Fender Frontman 10G amp to plug it into and all the accessories you need, including an electronic tuner, instructional DVD, gig bag, cable, strap and picks.

      Squier Affinity Series Strat is available in Black and Brown Sunburst, and features three singing, sparkling single-coil pickups on a classic single-ply white pickguard, rock-solid bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, skirted white control knobs and a sharp new gold-and-black Squier headstock logo. Fender Frontman 10G amp features custom-voiced built-in overdrive for natural grit and adjustable gain control that rocks guitar tones from tube-emulated overdrive to full-strength ultra-saturated distortion (perfect for blues, metal and the famous Fender clean tone), along with volume, treble and bass controls, 6-Inch Special Design speaker, closed-back design for heavier bass response, auxiliary input and headphone jack, and classic black panel/skirted knob/silver grille cloth looks. You get guitar, amp, accessories and instruction all at once, and more than ever it’s everything you need to Stop Dreaming and Start Playing!


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

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

      A city gets it’s own font

      Chattanooga Tennessee gets it’s own font.

      Chattanooga, Tennessee has the distinction of being the first city in the United States to have its very own typeface: “Chatype.” Designed by Chattanoogans Jeremy Dooley and Robbie de Villiers with support from fellow designers D.J. Trischler and Jonathan Mansfield, the Kickstarter-funded typeface was released on Oct. 31. “Every city needs a brand, to highlight its own distinctive offerings,” Dooley says. “Typefaces are ideal for such a large and diverse organization such as a city.”

      Dooley, who runs Insigne Design and sells his various fonts online through MyFonts, told me that the initial idea was to approach the city government for funding. But after some meetings his group decided that attaining public money would be difficult, run counter to the spirit of the project, and would require a lot of time to get people on board.

      “With Kickstarter, we bypassed the politics and bureaucracy and instead formed a grassroots effort through crowdfunding,” he says. “It was only after our success and after multiple city organizations enthusiastically embraced the face that the city decided to name Chatype as its official typeface.”

      Although the project began under a prior administration, the current mayor, Andy Berke, has embraced the broader design strategy of type as a civic unifier. Nonprofits and foundations dedicated to enlivening the city have also said they’ll use the font.

      One of the influences for this project was Metro Letters: A Typeface for the Twin Cities initiative by the University of Minnesota Design Institute, an experiment to understand the relationship between typography and urban identity. Inspired by this well-publicized 2003 project, Dooley, who started up his office in Chattanooga in 2007, sought out de Villiers, who had moved into town around the same time, as collaborators: “Being new to the area, we didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do, so we took a shot at this new font concept.”

      If Saskatoon had a font, it would be Comic Sans, you know because it’s hated by designers and included with Windows and therefore free.

      Guest Post: The 2013 Christmas Gift Guide for the Cook (and Foodie) in Your Life

      If you are shopping for a foodie this Christmas (or even if you are not) here is my broad guide to great Christmas gifts for the kitchen.  It’s a series of things that I love that make life in the kitchen better.  If you have any comments on things that I have listed or have things that I have missed, leave them in the comments. – Wendy 

      Inexpensive Christmas Gifts & Stocking Stuffers: Under $25

      Butter BoatButter boat

      This uses evaporative cooling to keep butter at room temperature without spoiling.  There’s a well for water, and then a butter dish that rests on top of it, and slowly wicks water through the ceramic.  The upshot is that as long as you change the water every few days, you can keep butter in the dish for weeks which is awesome considering Saskatchewan’s hot summers.


      Cookbook stand

      This holds the cookbook up where you can see it and keeps it from having something splashed all over it which if I let Jordon, Mark, or Oliver in the kitchen is very likely to happen.


      Ninjabread Cookie CuttersNinjabread Cookie Cutters

      Gingerbread was so last year.  Ninjabread cookie cutters make any cookie a lot more fun (and stealthily dangerous) to make and eat. 

      There cookie cutters are sure to be a hit all year round.


      Silicon Pastry Mat

      Silicone’s is both flexible and things won’t stick to it.  It’s ideal for rolling pastry and cookies.  It not only makes things easier on you but it means you can use less flour, resulting in a more delicate and tender product which means everyone wins.


      Thoughtful yet Inexpensive Christmas Presents:  $25 to $50

      Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich MakerHamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

      Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.


       

      CucinaPro Pasta Fresh machineCucinaPro Pasta Fresh machine

      Nothing beats a plate of truly fresh pasta. And now it’s easy to roll out your own at home. Whether the craving is for spaghetti or fettuccine, this sturdy machine handles the job with efficiency and style. Made of heavyweight chromed steel, with an attractive wood grip handle, Villaware’s pasta maker looks great on the counter and is easy to use–there’s nothing to plug in as this is the tried-and-true hand-crank variety. The easy-lock adjustable dough-dialer rolls thick or thin pasta, and it comes with spaghetti and fettuccine cutters. Cutters for tagliatelle and angel hair pasta are available separately


      Aeropress Coffee PressAeropress Coffee Press

      It makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavour with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).


      Belgium Waffle IronBelgium Waffle Iron

      Enjoy delicious fluffy Belgian waffles with the Hamilton Beach Belgian Style Flip Waffle Maker. Made with easy to clean non-stick grids to bake the perfect waffle with deep pockets to hold butter and syrup. The indicator lights let you know just when to add the batter and the removable tray and grids make for easy clean-up.


      Oxo Kitchen Scale

      A scale is really necessary if you’re going to do serious cooking because wherever possible, you should measure your ingredients by weight, not by volume.  A given mass of flour can vary a lot in volume, depending on things like humidity, temperature, and how long it’s been sitting.  A weight indicator shows the capacity left on the Scale before maximum capacity is reached. Press the zero button to offset the weight of a container or to set the weight back to zero to add additional ingredients. The display features large, easy-to-read numbers which measure in 1/8-ounce and 1-gram increments and the platform can be removed for cleaning. The Scale has a 5-pound capacity and two AAA batteries are included.


      Immersion blender

      Don’t buy a cheap one–stick with Braun, Cuisinart, or KitchenAid.  They aren’t cutting edge but if you don’t have one, you don’t know what you are missing.  I use mine for my making Caesar Salad Dressing, pureeing soups, and chopped a lot of vegetables.


      Black and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee MakerBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker

      With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless cleanup.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

      Purchase from Amazon | $48


      Wine Decanter

      Wine DecanterYou can get a $10 wine decanter at your neighbourhood grocery store but if you want to get a memorable gift, check out this etched globe decanter.

      • Use for port, cognac or wine
      • As you spin the decanter, its precious contents will also aerate to open up the flavour and allow your wine or spirits’ aromas to develop
      • Heat-resistant glass globe decanter features decorative etching of the world map
      • Includes glass decanter stopper and glass base

       

      Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot

      I have had a couple of traditional fondue pots and they are really a pain to keep at the right temperature.  This fondue pot solves all of that with electric temperature controls.  Designed for use with oil, broth, chocolate, or cheese, the set combines powerful electric heat with easy temperature control and handsome but tidy construction. The 3-quart stainless-steel bowl is lined with nonstick coating for keeping heated foods from sticking, and the stand, bowl, ring, and temperature probe all assemble and disassemble easily. A combination of finishes—brushed on the bowl and ring, mirror on the stand and handles—gives the unit a contemporary flair which will complement the great food you are sharing.


      Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman’s Charcoal Grill

      Lodge Pre-Seasoned Sportsman's Charcoal GrillIf you are a griller who loves to cook on charcoal, you will want to check out this cast iron hibachi grill.

      • Measures 19 by 10-1/4 by 8-1/4-inch; limited lifetime warranty.
      • 2 Adjustable heights temper cooking speed; wash by hand
      • Draft door regulates heat; coals accessible behind flip-down door
      • Cooking grate measures 17-1/4 by 9-inch; seasoned and ready to use
      • Rugged, charcoal, hibachi-style grill made of durable cast iron

      This rugged, charcoal hibachi-style grill is perfect for picnics, tailgating and car camping or patio. A draft door regulates the heat. Coals are accessible behind a flip down door. Grill has two adjustable heights. Seasoned and ready to use.


      imageBodum Tea Press

      A lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher. With its glass spout, body, and handle, the Shin Cha showcases tea colors beautifully but does require somewhat careful handling.


      All-Clad One Quart Saucier

      Little pans (especially high quality ones) tend to be overlooked as gifts but I use them a lot around the house in making things like gravy, au juice, or if I need a smaller portion of something.  I never thought it was that important but now that I have one, I love it.

      Burr coffee grinderBurr coffee grinder

      For grinding larger quantities of coffee beans for a coffee-drinking crowd, Capresso’s commercial-grade Infinity grinder handles 8-1/2 ounces of beans at a time. Sixteen different settings–four each in the four categories of extra fine, fine, regular, and coarse–let you adjust the grind to the specific blend of coffee and method of brewing. The finest setting is ideal for preparing Turkish coffee, which is a rare feature to find in a grinder. A built-in timer sets the grind for anywhere between 5 and 60 seconds so you can walk away without having to constantly press a button to continue the grinding process. The Infinity has an advanced conical burr design made of steel that is usually only found on commercial grinders. This burr design slows down the gears and reduces the amount of friction and heat to preserve coffee’s flavour and aroma. The coffee container holds up to 4 ounces of grounds and remains sealed during grinding. For safety, the bean container also needs to be locked into place for the Infinity to operate. For easy cleaning, the bean container and upper burr lift off so you can clean the grinding chamber with the included brush and wipe down the exterior housing.


      Cuisinart Griddler

      Yes you have a George Forman grill but this is so much more than that.  The Cuisinart Griddler is actually five appliances in one. A hinged, floating cover and one set of removable and reversible cooking plates turn the Griddler into a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, or half grill/half griddle. Dual temperature controls and indicator lights make this product easy to use.

      Cuisanart GriddlerCuisanart Griddler


      Extravagant Gestures:  $150 and Up

      81bW czYLEL._SL1500_Kitchenaid Convection Oven

      It’s a great replacement for the stove in the summer and a supplement to the oven when you are making a big meal or for parties.  We have a toaster oven at the cabin as our main oven and while I miss the size of my oven, I am surprised how much cooking and baking I can do with it and how much we use it.


      Kitchenaid Commercial Grade Stand MixerKitchenaid Stand Mixer

      The Professional 600 TM has a powerful motor that is crafted for commercial-style performance, the direct drive, all-steel gear transmission delivers unyielding power for professional results. The mixer can effectively mix up to 14 cups of all-purpose flour per recipe and produce up to 8 pounds of mashed potatoes. The Soft Start mixing feature helps minimize ingredient splatter and flour puff with gentle acceleration to selected speed after start-up. Electronic Speed Sensor monitors operation to maintain precise mixer speed. Commercial-style motor protection automatically shuts off the mixer when overload is sensed to protect the motor. Durable all-steel gears provide reliable service. The mixer includes a 6-quart-capacity stainless-steel mixing bowl with a contoured handle, as well as a professional wire whip, a burnished flat beater, a spiral dough hook, and a one piece pouring shield. Its multipurpose attachment hub with a hinged hub cover flips open to allow for easy installation of attachments. The Professional 600 Series bowl-lift design raises the bowl into the mixing position, and its solid, truly seamless one-piece motor head design is easy to clean and comes in a variety of fashionable colors.


      Kitchenaid Food Processor

      With its powerful motor, this convenient food processor quickly and easily slices, dices, chops, and purees, helping to reduce prep time in the kitchen. The appliance comes with a large 9-cup work bowl that makes it easy to create an entire meal from scratch. The unit’s extra-large one-piece feed tube accommodates whole fruits and vegetables and allows for continuous processing.

      Accessories include a stainless-steel medium slicing disc (4 mm), a stainless-steel shredding disc, a chopping/mixing blade, a dough blade, and a detachable disc stem, plus a plastic spatula, a recipe/instruction book, and a how-to DVD. The unit’s compact build means it will fit comfortably on any countertop, and its brushed stainless finish adds a touch of elegance to any modern kitchen. All removable parts clean up easily by hand or in the dishwasher. The food processor measures 9-1/2 by 7 by 13 inches and carries a three-year limited warranty with a 10-year limited warranty on the motor.


      Tonx Coffee

      Watch the video and then decide if the person on your list would love a subscription to Tonx at $19 per shipment.  I think many people in all of our lives would say yes.


      Christmas Gift Guides and Gift IdeasIf you are looking for more or past Christmas Gift Guides, check out this series of Christmas gift and idea guides that he posts each year on his website.

      Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife/Girlfriend/Mother | 2013 Edition

      I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewelry to stuff for the kitchen.  Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well.  I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year.  It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.

      Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments.  You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.

      Technology

      Tablets continue to be big and if she is thinking of upgrading her laptop, check out these tablets by Amazon, Apple, and Google.

      Kindle Fire HDX

      Kindle Fire HDX

      The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX packs a 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 1,920-by-1,200 IPS LCD display for quick response and sharp images. One of the more interesting features is "Mayday," a tech support system where a live Amazon employee appears in a video window on your tablet.

      The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX earned four-out-of-five stars in PCMag’s review, gaining points for its sharp screen, fast processor, and ease of use.  If you are shopping for a reader or a person who loves to online shop, this is a great choice.

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $254

      Nexus 7

      2013 Google Nexus 7

      Google’s flagship tablet, this year’s version is thinner, lighter, and faster – Nexus 7 brings you the perfect mix of power and portability and features the world’s sharpest 7" tablet screen – putting over 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.

      Nexus 7 is made by ASUS and packs a serious punch. With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, everything runs faster (or at least faster than the Kindle Fire HDX)

    • Purchase from Google | $229

      iPad Mini 2 (now with Retina display)

      iPod Mini 2

      iPad Mini 2 features a beautiful 7.9-inch display (now with retina display), iSight and FaceTime cameras, the A7 chip, ultrafast wireless, and up to 10 hours of battery life. And over 300,000 apps on the App Store made for iPad also work with iPad Mini. So it’s an iPad in every way, shape, and slightly smaller form.

      If she is an iPhone or Mac user, the integration with iMessage makes the iPad purchase a no-brainer.

    • Purchase from Apple | $329

      Amazon Kindle

      Amazon KindleIf you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic. Amazon Kindle ($69).  At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever (mine lasts for weeks).  It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading.  Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on commutes.

    • Purchase Amazon Kindle from Amazon.com | $69

      Kitchen

      Griddle

      Family Sized Griddle

      Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know.  They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for.  Since getting her one, she uses it several times a week and has become one of her favorite kitchen tools and has made cooking a lot easier.  She doesn’t know how she has gone without one.  Even at the cabin, where space is at a premium, Wendy bought one for up there. 

      If space is a concern, check out this compact apartment sized griddle from Presto.

    • Purchase family sized griddle from Amazon.com | $30
    • Purchase compact griddle from Amazon.com | $25

      Music

      iPod Nano | iPod Classic

      Apple iPod ClassicBoth the 16 gig and 160 gig versions hold thousands of songs and videos and can be taken everywhere.  I gave Wendy a 16 gig iPod Nano and she uses it all of the time.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display as well as FM radio.  You can also watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, 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.

      The new iPod classic comes with 160GB of storage in the same compact size, making it the take-everything-everywhere iPod. It’s available in quintessential silver or striking black. iPod classic also has plenty of battery life (up to 36 hours of audio playback or 6 hours of video playback), good looks (a sleek, anodized aluminum design), and other great features (Cover Flow and Genius playlists for creating perfect playlists). You can even rent a movie from iTunes and watch it on the go.

      Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon

    • Purchase iPod Classic from Amazon | $249
    • Purchase iPod Nano from Amazon | $169

      JVC Xtreme Xplosive headphones

      JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphonesWhile headphones from Monster, Skull Candy, and Beats by Dre get a lot of attention, you may want to check out these excellent JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme headphones.   $16 gets you an attractive bass booming set of in ear headphones that are great for everyday use.  Both Wendy and I have a pair and they get used all of the time with our iPod’s and provide a great sound at a price that is affordable.

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $16

      Sony MDR ZX300 Headphones

      Sony MDR ZX300 headphones Boasting 30mm drivers, the Sony MDR ZX300 headphones are designed for use in and out of the studio. These MDR-ZX300 ZX Series stereo headphones feature high-quality audio components; pressure-relieving, urethane-cushioned earpads for greater comfort and a noise-reducing, supra-aural design.

      We have three pairs of these in the house and they get used for everything from chilling out to music to editing podcasts.  They are comfortable, inexpensive, and they look good.

      They aren’t on par with Beats Solo or Bose AE2 but they are about $80 cheaper than either one of those (excellent) options while still giving you excellent sound quality.

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $23

      Bose Wave Music

      Bose Wave Music System

      The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos.  It looks great and will upgrade any home stereo system.  If your wife or girlfriend is a music lover, this is gift you are looking for.

      Its bold, detailed sound remains exceptional for a system of its size. Now, there’s even more to like. An advanced FM/AM tuner displays useful information like song titles and artists. Touch-top on/off/snooze controls and dual alarms make waking up a little easier–for both of you. You’ll appreciate these welcome additions, plus the same jaw-dropping sound, elegant finish and easy operation you’ve come to expect from this system.

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $500

      X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

      X-Mini MAX II Portable Capsule Speakers

      Developed in Singapore, the X-mini™ MAX II Capsule Speaker™ is expertly designed to be ultraportable and precisely engineered to deliver a superior sound. With a simple twist and lift, the avant garde capsule-shaped design unveils a pair of stereo speakers. These stylish speakers, which can also be used individually, pop open to reveal the patented accordion-like Bass Xpansion System™ (BXS™) which successfully mimics the resonance of a sub woofer.

      The logical choice for the itinerant music aficionado, the powerful yet compact X-mini™ MAX II Capsule Speaker™produces high-fidelity sound at any pitch or volume and is perfect in all environments, be it the boardroom or kitchen.

      Purchase from Amazon.com | $40


      Lifestyle

      Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

      Timex Women’s Ironman Watch Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat; a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $35

      Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss WatchWenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch

      Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement.

      Purchase from Amazon.com | $200


      Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

      Why not upgrade her camera this Christmas with a Fujifilm JX600?  It is a slim, stylish digital camera built to let you capture the moments that bring a smile to your face. With a 5x zoom, this 14MP camera has a CCD sensor to take crisp, clear images every time. Thin enough to pop in your pocket, it boasts advanced filter functions, takes stunning motion panoramas and records HD videos to preserve special moments long after they’ve happened.

      Fujifim JX600 Point and Shoot Camera

    • Purchase from Best Buy | $80

    • Bodum Tea Press

      Bodum Tea PressA lovely way to brew tea to your exact preference, the Bodum Shin Cha tea press combines elegant shaping with crafty functionality. The spherical glass pot features a stainless-steel plunge infuser inside and a stainless-steel lid. Fill the infuser with loose leaf or tea bags, add hot water, wait the desired amount of steeping time, then plunge. The plunger pushes the tea below the infuser holes, so brewing stops on a dime and tea does not over steep to the point of bitterness. To clean up, the unit goes safely in the dishwasher.

    • Purchase from Amazon | $67


    • Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

      Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm Lens Kit

      Photo enthusiasts rejoice! The new flagship of the spectacular Rebel Line, the EOS Rebel T5i, is here to renew your artistic side with amazing imaging features and full-featured functionality. Users will be impressed at how simple and intuitive it is to create breathtaking photos with ease.

      The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and Canon’s superb DIGIC 5 Image Processor. Combined with an extensive ISO range of 100–12800 (expandable to 25600 in H mode), the EOS Rebel T5i boasts crisp, detailed images, even in low-light situations. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

      The performance doesn’t stop with photos. EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF makes shooting high quality movies easy, and the brilliant Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor II makes composing fun. Seven Creative Filters, now viewable in real time, puts composition control directly in your hands and is just one of the many features of the EOS Rebel T5i that is sure to renew your special person’s creative soul.

      If cost is a factor, check out Canon’s still capable Canon EOS Rebel T3i for $599.

    • Purchase from Amazon.com | $799
    • Sign up for a free terabyte of space for photos and video at Flickr.

      Detroit from ORK mapsOrk Posters

      If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston,BrooklynLos Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.


      MEC Shoulder Bag

      MEC Shoulder BagWendy has had three different versions of one of MECs most popular bags.  The latest version has the vintage look of aged canvas, plus pockets and a slot for your iPad® or e-reader loaded with the complete works of Jack Kerouac.

      • Front flap has pocket.
      • Side pocket has Velcro® flap and a drain hole for your umbrella.
      • An outer pocket has a snap closure, one is zippered and has pen holder and inside pocket, the slot for iPad or e-book reader closes with Velcro.
      • Padded back.
      • Adjustable shoulder strap.

      This could be the coolest version yet.


      Christmas Gift Guides and IdeasAm I missing anything?  Do you have some great ideas I should be thinking of?  Let me know in the comments.

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

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

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

      Sony RX-100 II

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

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

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

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

            GoPro Hero 3+

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

            Go Pro Hero 3+

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


            Fuji XF1

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

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

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


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


            Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

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


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

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


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

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


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

            Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock


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

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


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


            1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

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

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


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

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

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


            Whiskey Stones

            Whiskey Sipping Stones

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


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

            AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

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


            Netatmo Urban Weather Station

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

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

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

            Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

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

            Purchase at Amazon.com | $69


            Tonx Coffee

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

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


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


            Art Prints

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


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

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

            No Way Up

            Luxury Spanish high-rise forgot to install an elevator

            No Elevator

            The Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain—standing proud in this image—was designed to be a striking symbol of hope and prosperity, to signal to the rest of the world that the city was escaping the financial crisis. Sadly, the builders forgot to include a working elevator.

            In fairness, the entire construction process has been plagued with problems, reports Ecnonomia. Initially funded by a bank called Caixa Galicia, the finances were recently taken over by Sareb – Spain’s so-called “bad bank” – when the mortgage was massively written down.

            In part, that was a function of the greed surrounding the project. Initially designed to be a mere 20 storeys tall, the developers got over-excited and pushed the height way up: now it boasts 47 storeys, and will include 269 homes.

            But that push for more accommodation came at a cost. The original design obviously included specifications for an elevator big enough for a 20-storey building. In the process of scaling things up, however, nobody thought to redesign the elevator system—and, naturally, a 47-storey building requires more space for its lifts and motor equipment. Sadly, that space doesn’t exist.

            Perhaps unsurprisingly, the architects working on the project have resigned, and it remains unclear exactly how the developers will solve the problem. Can we recommend the stairs?

            Is the future of…

            FI asks if this is future of airline websites.  As you can expect, WestJet designers look at AirCanada’s website who is looking at United’s who just looked at WestJets.  Industry sites often become less about the user and more about copying neat features from other sites.  The same happens with city and all sorts of other websites.  The end result is that Saskatoon’s new website will look like Edmonton, Toronto, and Chicago’s website and we go, “We’ve done a great job” because we are as cool as everyone else.  Instead we need to be doing a process like this.  Of course we don’t because while the end result isn’t the same, it’s not the same as Chicago, Edmonton, or WestJets.

            The Saskatoon Advantage

            So after watching the videos about Detroit, Edmonton, and Calgary, I give you the first video about Saskatoon that I found on YouTube that was published by one of our own agencies.

            Yes, the number one video by the City of Saskatoon is not about how awesome Saskatoon is, it is about the worst part of Saskatoon and how we don’t remove snow from residential streets.  Well done Saskatoon.  Of course SREDA has created Living Saskatoon but take a look at the videos, oh wait, there are none.  Just text, one photo, and some links.   It is like we aren’t even trying.

            In Edmonton’s white paper on how to build a more prosperous city, taxes were important but even more important was the creating and the sharing of the Edmonton brand to attract top people and businesses to Edmonton.  Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi talks about the same thing and the need to attract top talent to Calgary and they will create more jobs and wealth.  It was actually something that Regina’s Pat Fiacco did quite well for them.  While Saskatoon’s video about snow removal talks about how hard it is to live here, Edmonton is talking about how it makes them stronger and more competitive.

            Saskatoon on the other hand hasn’t quite got it yet.  We still think that if there are jobs, people will come but there are jobs in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia as well.  People are making money in Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw and yes, that is the competition.

            Saskatoon is home to Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (who is having a bad day today but they’ll bounce back), Cameco (bad last couple of quarters) and we hope they bounce back, BHP Billiton’s Canadian head office, a vibrant downtown, and a lot of outside investment by developers like Lefevbre & Company (you have to look at their website right now, don’t worry, I’ll wait), and success stories that are home grown.  You can make money in Saskatoon and have a great quality of life.

            Of course we need to start to realize that a) we need to compete with other cities and b) we can compete with other cities (and win).  That being said, we need to put on a better first impression than a video about snow removal.

            Of course here is one of Regina’s efforts.

            Maybe no video is better than that video.

            Right Here

            And is Calgary’s branding for why you need to be there.  Here is some of the videos from last year.

            These are all part of the Be Part of the Energy campaign that Calgary is running.