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Joseph Abboud Brown Elastic Front Pocket Wallet

For years I have used a leather wallet with a zipper around it.  To be honest I hate dropping my wallet and cards going everywhere.  This wallet works fine for it and lasts about five years before it needs replacing.  Lately Jeff and Sean have been going on and on about their Umbra Bungee Wallets which look cool but I have never liked carrying.  They have been going on and on about how slim they are which is something that is kind of important.  No one wants to have George Costanza wallet.

George costanza wallet

Last week I lost my wallet.  I am 99% sure it is in our house but I fear that it was tossed out by Oliver or Mark while cleaning.  I was going to swallow my pride and get one of those Umbra wallets but that would mean that I value Jeff and Sean’s opinions on accessorizing.  The next you know I’ll be taking council’s advice on how many bridge lanes the city needs.  It’s a slippery slope.  I was seriously thinking of getting a Bellroy Wallet but $60 for a wallet is more than I wanted to pay.  

Instead I looked around and found a Joseph Abboud Front Pocket Wallet which as you can see, is extremely thin and compact and minimizes the bulk of most wallets.  I bought it for $8.  In case you are thinking that I have lost it and have gone off the deep end, Walmart has a large selection of front pocket wallets, which I don’t know if that helps my point or destroys it.

Joseph Aboud front pocket leather wallet

Of course it is extremely thin now as all I have in it is my temporary drivers licence and my BMO Debit Card.  I hate losing wallets.  

In case you want to slim down your wallet, Bellroy has some excellent tips but I also discovered Stocard which really what Apple’s Passport should have been.  It scans and keeps track of all of my reward cards in one place.  Here is the screenshot of what it holds (and you now know what reward programs that I belong to)

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Once you enter in your member number (or let it scan in your card’s barcode) all I have to do is fire up the app and let the store scanner scan the barcode (or if that doesn’t work, touch the screen and your member number comes up right away).  Like most of you, I always have my phone on me so there is no point in carrying it and a wallet full of reward cards).  It’s free and you can get the app for iOS and Android.   I can’t recommend it enough.  That and it’s not an Umbra cardholder so we all win.

What It Takes to Be #1

 

Vince Lombardi turns 100 today.

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with ever fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.

Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

- Coach Vincent T. Lombardi

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

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

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

NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

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

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

Ozark Trail Tent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opportunity

Opportunity is missed by most...

Why your iPhone is stifling your creativity

From Fast Company

The value of boredom

Boredom has been defined as wanting to be able to engage in a satisfying activity and not being able to. Its sibling is downtime, both of which the smartphone–and the Angry Birds it implies–eradicates. Another way to look at boredom, Hall says, is to think of it as a creative pause where your mind can drift, which allows you to integrate your recent experiences into your present state of mind.

Sitting with boredom

So let’s get a little bit more refined in our terminology: it’s not that we should be in useless awful meetings, the kind that prompt the feeling of I’m so bored!, but rather that we resist the urge to always act on that gestural itch and give our brains a mindful break or time to daydream. Like any designer will tell you, absence has presence. Not doing is a kind of doing.

The boredom diet

In the same way that what we eat when we’re hungry has short- and long-term consequences, the actions we take when we’re bored have ongoing outcomes. So says NYU’s Gary Marcus: if you’re bored and use that energy to play an instrument and cook, you’ll be growing; if you drool before your television, you might be happy for a second, but that stimulation junk food will depress you later.

Since most of what we do on our phones is the daily dillydallying of social networks, playing games, and texting, your iPhone acts like an endless supply of Cheetos.

So before you dissolve into your screen, check your fingers for orange dust.

A better way to say goodbye

I was 12 when I first attended my first funeral.  We had a friend at a nursing home and Mr. Crawford lived next door.  We would go and visit our family friend and see him each time where he was quite nice to all of us, often giving me some money for candy and to get a coffee for my mom.

When he died, we went to the funeral chapel where his family went on at length about how horrible of human being he was and what a bad father he had been.  We just listened but I was shocked when the minister started his eulogy with, “He was a very bad man”.  

When I became a pastor, I did a lot of funerals.  Some of them were celebrations of life, others were horrible to perform and yes, I buried some really bad men over the years.  Each time I tried my best to respect the person and life that I was burying while keeping some sense of reality of the life they lived.

In the work I do now, our clients die very young.  The drugs, violence, lifestyle and alcohol takes it toll on your body.  Toss in HIV/Aids/Hep-C or cancer from the smoking and you have a really low life expectancy.  I have helped more than one mother clean out a locker in a shelter where the only thing she has left of her son was a pair of jeans, a jacket, and really nothing else.  I have always found myself hoping that there be something of value in there, a watch or a something of value for the parent to hold on to but there never is.  Many tears have been shed by family members during those times. 

In most situations I find myself boxing stuff up and realizing that for the most part, no one was going to come get it.  Months later my janitor asks me what I want him to do with the sealed box.  No one has come to get it.

Every couple of months I hear that a client that I had worked with has died.  In each and every case I fire up my computer and Google their name.  I search The StarPhoenix’s obituary website and I scour the internet to find out if it is true.  I rarely find anything.  Over the next couple of days I generally run into a member of the Saskatoon Health Region or the Saskatoon City Police and ask them. In every case I get the same reply that they have died.

They often die alone.  There is no media coverage, no obituary, no will, no assets, and to be honest, almost no one cared.  Many colleagues just block it out like it doesn’t exist.  The file is closed and they are done. Death has never bothered me, neither does the grieving process but in these cases I find myself not sure what to do.  The idea that someone has lived their entire life and there is no trace of it left seems wrong to me.

I guess as a blogger and a writer, I find myself in a situation where I write to process.  After a sleepless night last night thinking of a couple of people that I had known well that had died, I came in early to work to write something, anything about their lives as I saw them.  Of course I never know what do next.  I tweeted this morning that I was struggling with his and it resonated with people but I don’t know what to do next.  

Is the best way to mark one’s life to have a service provider eulogize them?  My first encounter with one gentleman was when he assaulted Wendy with a bottle of Listerine she wouldn’t sell him in about 1998.  Of course the other part of that story is that he would beat her at cribbage all of the time when she helped out at a drop-in centre.  Do you tell the stories of abuse, residential schools, the people that they hurt.

One of the people that recently deceased was a women that I wrote about two years ago in The StarPhoenix.  She had AIDS at the time, was pimped out by her boyfriend and was high for every single interaction that I had with her over seven years.  At the same time I appreciated every single strung out conversation we ever had and I was saddened and sickened when I would see her beaten and bruised.  It’s weird but I miss her.

They had a legacy with me and we have a bunch of stories that shaped me that are too bizarre to write here (somethings are only funny if you know the person)

The world doesn’t stop for death.  When you die, people come together, tell some stories, each some sandwiches, sing some hymns, and drink some coffee.  I am not asking the world to stop, I just think they should have some form of legacy.

In Toronto, they have a homeless memorial.  In Saskatoon we have a walk to remember those lost in the sex trade but at the end of the day they were individuals that lived and died in our city, it would be great if they are remembered as such.  The question for me to figure out, what is the best way to do that.

Greatest stadium design ever?

If Saskatoon ever gets a CFL team (and sells our financial future in the process), I hope it looks like this (with grass instead of sand).  You would have cattle grazing on the roof which would work well until they got spooked and came down over the roof during the middle of a key third down conversion.  Then again, it could liven things up a bit.

Stadium in UAE

Is this Dr. Evil’s newest secret lair? Actually, the “Rock Stadium” is a real concept for a sporting venue at Jebel Hafeet, a prominent crag located about 14 miles south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain. It’s not as ridiculous an idea as it initially may seem. Jebel Hafeet is not a barren, menacing peak like K2, but a popular tourist spot with a luxury hotel and pools fed by a natural hot spring. A stadium might fit right in geographically and socially: After all, the Emirati people love soccer (fine, football) just as much as anyone, welcoming the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 and the organization’s under-17 players this fall.

The stadium was designed by MZ Architects, a Middle Eastern firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere. The architects started out wanting to build a stadium in the Al Ain desert, but once they visited the area they were struck by the imposing and regal form of the mountain, which reminded them of a Greek amphitheatre. So they decided the best plan would be to hollow out the stone, using natural hills for seating and a grand entrance that sinks into the ground like one of the mountain’s many caves.

Column: Heavy Prices Paid for Low Taxes

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

If you happened to have watched the discussions during last week’s city council meeting about snow removal and business taxes in Saskatoon, you would have left with a clear impression: The city is having a hard time paying for basic services.

Lost in the rhetoric over how hard city crews work and how bad was the winter is a simple fact. Council voted against residential snow removal last fall, which created this mess in the first place. Even last week there were news stories about impassable streets.

The reason that councillors voted against residential snow removal was to keep property taxes as low as possible. As the city has proudly proclaimed for years, Saskatoon has the lowest property taxes in Canada among cities of a similar size.

That’s great if you hate taxes. But it’s bad news if you have to pay for things. With taxes this low, you will always have problems with paying for essential services.

If we are going to be the city of the lowest taxes, we will be the city of no snow removal, constant potholes and inferior public transit, because all of those services cost money. We have to cut costs somewhere, and we have cut them on snow removal and on road repair.

We underfund our road maintenance by more than $12 million a year, and that is just to keep our streets at their current levels. To actually repair and upgrade them would cost much more. Instead of paving roads, we patch them, which allows for moisture penetration. With the freeze-thaw cycle that faces Saskatoon regularly, our streets will continue to fail.

To its credit, council has increased spending on road repair, so by 2020 we will have almost reached the levels needed to keep our streets at 2012 levels. By that time the city will need even more money for road repairs, even if the streets are gravel.

Of course we can raise taxes. However, the problem is that once you go on and on about how low your taxes are, it’s really difficult to back away from that. We can talk all we want about wanting to be a world-class city, but you never judge a government by what it says so much as where it spends its money. In Saskatoon’s case, it’s not enough even to maintain our essential services.

There are two ways to deal with this.

One is to cut back more services and get out of a lot of what the city does, such as affordable housing, building parks and funding art galleries. The focus will be solely on roads, snow removal, emergency services and utilities such as garbage pickup.

This approach provides a great value for those that don’t need social services or amenities. They get lower taxes with no noticeable impact on their life in the city. It’s a blueprint that a lot of American cities have adopted. The problem is that no one wants to live or work in those cities once the boom is over.

The other option is to do what Edmonton’s city council just did. It adopted a report titled, The Way We Prosper, which made it clear that the old way using low taxes to attract business isn’t working.

Competitive taxes are important, but they are only a piece of the puzzle. Issues such as building a livable city and integrating Edmonton’s economic development agencies in a better way were listed as higher priorities.

Cities grow because of external market forces. More important than low taxes are the commodity prices that are driving our economy. If these prices bottom out, there is little that low tax rates will do to keep or attract businesses.

On the flip side, companies and people aren’t coming to Saskatoon because of low taxes on properties and businesses. They are coming because Saskatoon is a gateway to a whole lot of prosperity.

For all of Saskatoon’s aspirations of becoming a world-class city, we aren’t even raising enough money to maintain the city we have. Pat Hyde, manager of the city’s public works branch, announced last week that this will be the worst year ever for potholes.

When you don’t bring in enough money to maintain and clear streets, it’s going to be this bad for a lot of years.

There is a reason why our taxes are so low compared to other cities. Those cities know they can’t maintain their assets and provide services at the tax rates the city is charging.

This paper has called for an alternative to property taxes to fund civic services. Until that happens, we need to start charging more unless we want to see a further deterioration in the state of Saskatoon’s infrastructure. It’s a bill that needs to be paid sometime. As much as we hate it, it will require the payment of higher taxes.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Best sports quote of 2013

From the Associated Press

It was a product of dramatic, side-by-side racing with the new Gen-6 car that Bowyer credits with creating “more of what we love about NASCAR.”

And if tempers flare sometimes, so be it. Bowyer doesn’t think it’s gotten to the point where change is needed.

“We haven’t reached that,” he said during a trip promoting next month’s Talladega race weekend. “Obviously Denny got hurt, but that wasn’t an intentional crash. We’ve all seen intentional crashes. Jeff Gordon was an intentional crash. Now, if I would have crawled out of that thing or got helicoptered out of that situation, it would have been a game-changer, because that was an intentional crash and if it would have hurt me the repercussions would have been bad.

“What I saw was good racing in California, and that’s healthy. It’s side-by-side racing and oh by the way they were going for the win. You can’t ask for a better situation on a two-mile race track than to be coming off of four with three cars going for the win. And if they can have that on a two-mile race track, what’s Martinsville going to be like this weekend? Look out.”

Bowyer jokes about last year’s incident, which he calls “just one of those deals.”

“We’re not the smartest people in the world,” he said. “We go down the straightaway and turn left. That’s literally what we do.”

Adaptive re-use of an old baseball stadium

Do I wish that more cities would take this approach.  This…

Indy stadium 02

Into this…

Indy stadium 01

Indianapolis-based Heartland Design is working on the $22 million Stadium Lofts project, which broke ground a year ago this month. “We preserved quite a bit of the stadium,” said James Cordell, principal at Heartland, noting his belief that the project is the first conversion of a stadium to housing. “It’s just a very unusual thing to do.”

Bush Stadium’s stone art deco entrance and flanking brick walls have been incorporated into the new building, and the stadium’s steel canopy forms the roof. The existing structure has been shored up and windows added to the brick walls. To create space for a wood-frame structure housing 134 residences on three stories, the team removed the stadium’s staggered concrete seating platforms and support girders.

Bush Stadium’s unique shape, it turns out, makes for varied apartment layouts. “There are some very bizarre units in this building that we expect will appeal to young professionals and students,” said Cordell. A new glass-and-metal panel wall opens on to the former baseball diamond, with balconies overlooking the infield. Third-floor units will feature tall ceilings with exposed, original steel girders.

Dr. Larry Beasley on the OurYXE Podcast

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In case you missed it, Dr. Larry Beasley joined The OurYXE podcast on Thursday and talked about urban planning, architecture, homelessness, and fixing suburbia.  It’s a good interview and I learned a lot about how we can make Saskatoon a better place to live and work.

How to become a world class note taker

From the Atlantic  Be OCD and draw pictures

4. Be OCD About Your Notes
The more OCD you are about organizing your notes, the better. The Journal of Reading compared different note-taking methods and found that the most rigorously structured-those with hierarchal ordering and numbered subsections-were of the highest quality and accuracy. A two-column method came in a close second; these notes were arranged such that the left column contained the information from the given event (i.e. the meeting, lecture or talk) and the right column was used later to fill out follow-up points and highlight key themes. Although these notes were significantly more precise than freestyle note-taking, there was little difference in the ability of the note-taker to recall the material.

5. Draw Pictures!
The British Journal of Educational Technology found mind-mapping to be significantly more effective than just writing out notes. Mind-mapping brings visual structure to notes, usually involving writing one word in the center and drawing offshoots from it with related ideas and phrases. Researchers studying two groups of note-takers, those using the SmartWisdom method (a popular alternative mind-mapping system) and those writing traditional notes found that although there was no difference in the accuracy of the notes, the mind-mappers were able to present the information back with more clarity and coherence than their counterparts.

Michael Maltzan, “Identity, Density, and Community in the Un-Model City”

 

 

Affordable, sustainable housing in Houston

Fast Company has a feature on a great sustainable housing project in HoustonRow on 25th is a re-invention of the American Row house.

The Fords’ new company, Shade House Development, builds sustainable townhomes in downtown Houston. Shade’s flagship project, Row on 25th, was profiled in the February issue of Dwell. The row of townhomes in Houston Heights, a hip-ish downtown neighborhood, is a study in careful compromises–both economically and environmentally. “We feel there is a real desire for this kind of living,” Matthew told me recently over email. “We, as a firm, try to look beyond spread sheets and historical data to offer solutions for problems people may not even know they have.”

Back in 2011, the Fords (working with an investor friend, the airport developer Holden Shannon) bought a plot of land in the Heights and built a single town home on it. Shannon stayed in the unit whenever he was in town, making suggestions about the design that ultimately led to the final, revised layouts for the other eight homes they planned to build on the site. The two-story, 1,900-square foot homes are simple and light, with silhouettes inspired by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, a champion amongst vernacular American architecture fans. “The simplicity and privacy offered by Row is in direct response to the complexity and loss of privacy we are all experiencing due to being interconnected and ‘on’ all the time,” Ford adds.

The Best & Worst Political Strategies of 2012

I am really late on this one but it’s a great segment, including the world political strategists of 2012.