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When a cop approaches you in Saskatoon

I managed to tear my left quadricep while hiking in Drumheller (more on that later) last weekend.  It hurts worse than it sounds and I can barely walk.  Steps are almost impossible and even a slight incline is horrible to navigate.   I was walking downtown to my car and I was limping and wobbly when I was approached by two Saskatoon Police officers who thought I was intoxicated.  As they approached, I knew they thought I was drunk and two thoughts came to my mind.  

The first was the worst thing that will happen is they will make me take a breathalyzer.  I don’t drink so that isn’t a problem.  Then I realized the worst thing anyone could do would was to poke my leg but I wasn’t really at risk of that happening.  Still my second thought was, “DON’T TOUCH MY LEG”.

The officers got close, realized that I wasn’t drunk and I explained that I had torn my quad which got an immediate response and discussion about that.  Some jokes were made about the smell of A535 and then one asked how hard it was to walk.  I mentioned that it really screws up your balance but I was fine.  A final joke was made about being “wobbly is not a crime” and I hobbled to my car. 

I kept thinking about that non-incident compared to the craziness going on in Ferguson.  Even if the Saskatoon Police Officers were going to be jerks (and they weren’t) my biggest concern was a 2 minute delay.  Instead it was almost a five minute chat about stupid injuries, Louis CK, and getting old.  Wendy and I have been stopped by SPS offers while out taking some photographs.  While people are being ordered and arrested for taking photos in Ferguson, the officers we dealt with had some camera questions and just made small talk about photography.  

Not all Saskatoon Police officers have been like that (over the years) and I have talked to some friends who have never been on the wrong side of the law who are terrified of Saskatoon Police (I am not sure why) but when I am out and I see a beat cop approach, I have never been concerned to worried about anything.  I am old enough to remember when you WANTED a cop to approach you because they used to be your sole source of Saskatoon Blades hockey cards (that was a great idea in the day)

Sadly there are places in the United States who have legitimate reason to worry even if they have never committed a crime and that is an incredibly depressing thing to think about.

Mac the Knife

Wendy is upset (as she always is) because I thought this song

was a rip off of this classic McDonald’s commercial

Anyone could have made this mistake.  Anyone I tell you.

I may never live this down.

The weekend that was

On Friday evening we headed to the cabin for what we expected was going to be a wet and miserable weekend.  It was but we had a good time.

Oliver was quite sick on Friday morning which meant that Wendy took the day off.  His daycare has a thing about vomitting kids…  They picked me up at work and we were off to the lake and got in there in decent time.

I am nursing an incredibly sore hip so I hobbled in and went to bed.  The boys took Maggi for a long walk and swim in the lake and I was awoken by a wet dog looking to warm up with someone.  Saturday I picked up Oliver’s flu and felt horrible.  Wendy delegated the job of packing Oliver’s stuff to Mark and he didn’t pack any socks and underwear for Oliver so off to Regina we went.  18km of really soft and sloppy roads were not a lot of fun to drive but we made it to the highway.

The rain kept falling the entire time we were in Regina and the road was a slippery and muddy mess by the time we got back to Cymric.  It was a long slow drive back to the cabin where I managed to lose control once.  Not only that but we realized it was going to rain all night and into Sunday. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a gift of a photography book by Tom Ang, A Walkable City by Jeff Speck, a Black Rapid camera strap, and an podcast attachment for my iPhone.

Here is Speck speaking to TED.

So yeah the drive home was brutal.  The car was covered in mud and it was hard to keep it on the road.  For those who feel that Saskatchewan should be converting more highways into gravel, I respectfully disagree.  The sand base of that road makes more slippery then ice when wet.  So yeah, let’s pave the entire province. 

Happy Birthday Oliver

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to Oliver who turns six today.  Wendy has the highlights on her blog but it’s been an exciting day for him so far.

Why We Don’t Like Stories in Which the Mentally Ill Heroine Recovers

Basically people who recover undermine how psychiatry is practiced now.

The story of modern psychiatry, for many, is triumphant one. The quick-and-dirty history goes like this: Human ingenuity and scientific advances led us from the dark ages of hydrotherapy and solitary confinement to cognitive-behavioral therapy and expertly prescribed medications. While we used to believe the mentally ill were unwell as a result of wayward behavior or demonic possession, we now know that psychic anguish is the result of brain chemistry and nurture, and we’re working harder to analyze the former. We moved, in other words, from mental illness as a moral failure to mental illness as a medical condition.

But if you zoom in on the late 1940s through the early ’60s, a different battle is being waged—a battle between those who believed mental illness was biologically located in the brain, and those who thought mental illness was a matter of emotional disturbance. Back then, those intent upon transforming psychiatry into a reputable science (as opposed to a touchy-feely art) worked tirelessly to develop new methods of medical intervention for the mentally ill. The best-known method was “psychosurgery” (aka lobotomy), which was introduced by neurologist Egas Moniz in 1936. In 1949, Moniz won the Nobel Prize for his work on psychosurgery, and by 1951, the operation had been performed close to 20,000 times.1
Contrast this obsession with the physical brain—slicing it, shocking it, or tranquilizing it—with the ethos held by Chestnut Lodge, the elite private institution where Joanne Greenberg began treatment in 1948. The clinicians at Chestnut Lodge fervently believed that no patient, however psychotic, was impervious to psychotherapy. The champion of this viewpoint was the Lodge’s most famous employee, the gifted psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. Fromm-Reichmann was Greenberg’s primary analyst and, in both the novel and in real life, led her from insanity to wellness. In the book, Fromm-Reichmann is “Dr. Fried,” and Greenberg so positively depicted the humble German that for years she received letters from struggling fans desperate to track down Dr. Fried and undergo analysis with her. 

Fromm-Reichmann immediately recognized something special in her teenaged patient: Greenberg was quick-witted, well-read, and seemed to retain an appetite for life that many of the doctor’s older, chronically ill patients had lost long ago. Greenberg’s symptoms were often referred to as “florid”—interpretable, extravagant, and suffused with meaning, like a story. When Joanne was struggling, Fromm-Reichmann openly empathized. When she began to retreat, the doctor begged to follow. “Take me along with you,” Dr. Fried tells Deborah during a session. She insisted to her young patient that they must pose a united front. “I believe that you and I,” Greenberg has her say in Rose Garden, “can beat this thing.” And, together, that’s just what they did.

This narrative is a little too pat for our contemporary sensibilities. Perhaps that’s why the book is not as well known as, say, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. (The Bell Jar still sells briskly; the fiftieth-anniversary paperback edition is ranked 1,730 on Amazon, compared to Rose Garden’s 21,792.2) But Rose Garden does not appeal for another reason: It’s easier to think of the psychiatry of yore as entirely backward and as the poetic casualties of it—Plath, Arbus, Sexton—as victims of that ignorance. Their tragic stories, paradoxically, make us feel more secure in the march of psychiatric progress.

The demise of these women—and the subsequent autopsy of past mental healthcare failures that their paper trails encourages—permits us to rest serenely in the knowledge that the world is moving steadily toward a more scientific, humane psychiatry. But, one has to wonder if this is entirely the case. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann spent four years with Joanne Greenberg; she hiked up to the Disturbed Ward to see patients when they were lying limp in restraints. Now, psychiatrists evaluate patients for 45 minutes before diagnosing them and sending them off to fill prescriptions, and many patients go months between appointments. Efficiency is the goal here; medication the cure, meaningful human connection a distant second priority. It is increasingly rare to find a psychiatrist who also performs talk therapy, despite its many proven benefits.

This might be an even greater tragedy with regard to treatment of schizophrenia, where holistic treatment—that is, one that recognizes both the medical and the emotional components and allows for feedback between the two—might hold particular promise. According to Dr. Allen J. Frances of Duke Medical School and the author of Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life, “Cognitive therapy and social skills therapy are very valuable in treating schizophrenia, but they are rarely available.” And the idea of “complete recovery” is downplayed.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that my wife Wendy has struggled with depression for most of her life.   As she has written about before, like many others, she was sexually abused for an extended period growing up and it took a toll on her as she has grown older. It has never gone away and returns with a vengeance each and every summer and causes chaos and pain around here until fall.

This is the process we have to go through to get help.

She needs to go to her family doctor who prescribes depression medication and then writes a referral to the psychiatrist.  Since that is a year to two year wait, she goes back to her family doctor who ups her medication, ups it again, ups it again and then realizes it doesn’t work.  So then she is weaned off her medication and then the doctor does it again.  If that doesn’t work.  Repeat.

Finally she gets to see the psychiatrist (18 months later), she walks in, explains her situation, he tells her she has PTSD and then gives her a prescription for a stronger medication.  Out in 10 minutes.  

That medication may or may not work.  If not, she can go back and is back out in five minutes with a new prescription.  If it does work, it works for about 8 months and then when she tries to go back, she is told that her file is closed.  She needs another referral (and a year wait).

That is what is covered by Saskatchewan Health.  What she really needs is talk therapy as well which is not covered by Saskatchewan Health and runs over $100 a session.   Since it isn’t part of her health care or any kind of continuum of care, the therapist and psychiatrist don’t talk which means that once summer went spent thousands on therapy that did nothing because Wendy’s medication was off.

What we are told is that Wendy’s condition will be with her for the rest of her life and she just needs to keep taking her medication.  In some ways that may be correct but the reality is that it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is or as costly if we spent the resources to treat mental illness like we do other illnesses.  I think that is what makes people so uncomfortable, we know we can do better but do not because of a shortage of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in our system.  Heck we don’t even benchmark mental illness treatment in Saskatchewan.  How do we hope to get better when we don’t define success?

It’s been a frustrating process to see Wendy struggle like this.  Her public presence like many is far different then her private one and I have been more than willing to move to get her treatment.  We have explored selling the house and our stuff and moving south to the United States but the equity in our house won’t touch long term treatment costs.  So like a lot of families and people who struggle with depression, we stay and try our best to work in the cycle of madness and fight the assumption that mental illness can’t he cured.

Lawn Update

For some reason some of you care passionately about what I do to my lawn.  Here is my spring update.

  • The lawn weathered the winter far better than I thought it would.  We have one sparse patch and the dog did her best to kill some of it off but over all, it is way better off than I expected.
  • Some of that I credit to using fall fertilizer.  It made a big difference which I need to remember this fall.  
  • We have used six bottles of Killex on our lawn to control dandelions.  Some of you have success using the dandelion bar, I have never seen any difference.  I have no idea why it doesn’t work for us.  
  • Despite using six bottles so far of Killex, I have a boulevard of dandelions this morning.  It’s the same with everyone else but no one else is fighting it.  Also the abandoned lot behind us isn’t helping things.
  • I have fertilized heavily this year.  I used to reseed the dead areas but then I am naturing new grass every year.  This year I am fertilizing and then waiting for it to grow in.  I guess the idea is that I want more of the grass that is successful surviving our winter, not some stuff that is designed for a more temperate climate and looks good in the summer and then dies off.
  • I wish I didn’t have to fertilize this month but like a lot of houses in Mayfair, topsoil was never used.  It’s gotten better since we moved in but it isn’t ideal.
  • In the past I have spread out peat moss and compost to help with soil conditions but for the first time since moving in, the lawn feels spongy as a result of putting down stuff on top of the clay that we had before (I have said before, the biggest mistake I made was not bringing in topsoil and rotor tilling my entire lawn when we moved in).
  • I will be using compost tea later this summer.  I tend to fertilize every six weeks and around the start of July I will brew up a batch and apply it to the lawn.  The advantage of compost tea is that it promotes deep roots on grass and makes it hardier.  It is also environmentally friendly.
  • I will continue to leave the clippings on the lawn.  Grass is largely water and it makes a big difference to the soil after leaving it on the lawn for several years.  I do roto-rake to break up the thatch in the spring but when you have a clay foundation to your yard like we do in older neighbourhoods, organic material makes a big difference.  I water a lot less now that I did years ago as a result.
  • I do use some Roundup.  We have problems with an illegal ground cover (it’s banned by the city) crawling over our boulevards.  Killex won’t kill it so in the past I have just killed everything and then replanted a hardy grass.  I used it around my driveway now.
  • Bridge City

    A couple of months ago I discovered that BridgeCity.ca was available to be registered and I scooped it up.  I had wanted a domain to document Saskatoon on for years and this seemed to be as good as place as ever.

    Since then I have been uploading photos.  Most of them are of Saskatoon but a few are from outside of our city limits.  My inspiration for this has been the amazing photoblog Winnipeg Love Hate.  If you have never been there before, you really need to check it out.  Bryon Scott has done an amazing job of documenting his city and I hope to do the same for Saskatoon.  

    River Landing

    If you want to read more about Bridge City, you can find out the information here.  It’s RSS feed is here.  I have been managing to update the site four days out of seven.  Hopefully that will increase to five out of seven.

    Mark with his DSLR

    Happy 14th Birthday Mark!

    While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.

    He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months.  When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera.  Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.

    Pentax Kx DSLR camera

    After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).  

    Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses.  Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with.  I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it.  Until then he can borrow it.

    We also tossed in one of those Eneloop battery chargers and some amazing Eneloop XX batteries (best recyclable batteries on the planet) and a National Geographic magazine

    Mark and his Pentax K-x

    To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera.  I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.

    Mark blogs about his birthday here.

    Lessons Learned

    A couple of years ago my Gmail acct was accessed by someone in Hungary.  I am not sure how they got in but I changed my password immediately.  I lost several thousand email messages.  I implemented a difficult to type and guess password, used two step authentication and started to change up my passwords frequently.

    Over time I got careless.  I hated two step authentication and instead of a hard to type password, I used a much easier one.  A sports team.

    A couple of weeks ago I realized that I had become careless and “calgaryflames” was not a good password for my email.  I saw this post by Khoi Vinh and realized that I needed to up my game but never got around to it.

    Yesterday on the 5:15 p.m. Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable, I mentioned that I was a Calgary Flames fan and realized that I needed to change my password again.

    As I got home last night, people asked me if I was deleting tweets.  I wasn’t and decided to see what was going on and I could see tweets disappearing in front of my eyes.  My first thought was that Twitter was having a server error but then I realized that no, they were being deleted rapidly.  I tried to log into Twitter and could not.  That wasn’t good.

    I checked my email and that was locked as well.  After getting that unlocked and my old access back, I was able to have my Twitter password sent to me.  

    By that time, all of my tweets except for two retweets were gone (those two retweets disappeared last night).  At the same time I realized that my blog was hacked as was two other social networks.

    I have backups of my blog and I restored that database.  By that time I kind of noticed emails were missing.  Basically some of the messages that I had that were filtered a certain way were deleted.  It also looks like some searches were done and then the messages were deleted.  I have asked Google to see if I can get those back but from what I have read, they are gone.

    Gmail does log IP addresses that log into the service but those are dead ends.  When I searched them, they lead to an anonymous offshore IP service that hides IP addresses.  You know if case you have to hack someone’s account.   If you searched for “password” in my email account, that would have given you all of my passwords or the ability reset passwords.  That is what screwed things up for me and gave them the keys to other services.

    Everyone wants to know if it was just random or if someone was looking for something.  I don’t really know but my feeling is that they hacked the password, looked around, saw a lot of boring stuff, deleted some crap, and left once I started to freeze and re-access somethings.

    Did they find anything interesting?  No.  Things I hold in confidence are actually stripped of identifying information and forwarded to a secure account.  Traces of which are deleted from my email system.  So what they found are social media passwords (doh!), XS Cargo flyers (yawn) and recommendations from Amazon on what I need to read next.  

    So to avoid this from happening to you, here are the steps you need to do to keep your data safe.

    • Set up two-step authentication on all accounts that provide it
    • Use Diceware to create secure passwords for all your email accounts
    • Create a unique email address for your most valuable log-ins
    • Use a good password utility to create unique, strong passwords for every site you visit
    • Create fake security-question answers
    • Freeze your accounts with all three credit agencies
    • Don’t let Web sites store your credit card info
    • Hide your Who-is listings if you own your own domains
    • Set up WPA-2 encryption on your wifi router
    • Never click links in email
    • Prepare ahead of time for identity theft or hacking

    Turning 40

    Today mark’s my 40th trip around the sun without being tossed off.  I guess it also means that I am middle aged.  That being said, Time Magazine once said that 50 is the new 30 so I guess that makes me 25 or so.  Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    To celebrate my birthday, we have spent the last couple of days where it all began; in Edmonton.  Yes I was born in Edmonton.  I don’t like to talk about it because it wasn’t my choice and it is Edmonton after all.

    We got up at Sunday at 5:00 a.m., left Saskatoon at 6:00 a.m., were in Lloydminister for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and in Elk Island National Park by 11 a.m.  After talking some photos of some bison, it was off to Edmonton.  Wendy used some Airmiles to book a decent hotel, the boys have spent the last couple of days enjoying West Edmonton Mall and I got out in the warmer weather and took some photos around the city.  I’ll post them online when I get back to Saskatoon.

    I don’t really think of Edmonton as home.  I was born there and only lived there a year before moving to Rainbow Lake and then settling in Calgary for a decade.  Growing up as a Calgary Flames hockey fan, I used to despise Edmonton in the same way someone from Springfield thinks of Shelbyville.  Since things have changed (and both Calgary and Edmonton can’t play hockey),it is nice to be back, even if it does mean wandering up and down a mall.

    Invicta Watch

    For my birthday, the boys gave me a Pentax WG-10 rugged compact camera while Wendy gave me a GoPro 3+ Silver Edition and a really nice Invicta dive watch.  Maggi gave me a Denver Broncos sign that I will hang at the cabin.  Two of the four gifts say, “get outside more often” and after this winter, I can’t agree more.

    The plan is to have dinner with the boys tonight at a local restaurant and then head down to Winston’s for a Diet Coke with some friends.

    My brother gave me a DeWalt cordless drill and a bit set.  We are planning to build the deck on the cabin this summer and he included his ideas as well.  A 10×10 deck out back and a 8×8 deck in the front yard.  We should have it built in a day.

    Pentax 28mm Lens

    Pentax 28mm lens

    I dropped $25 and bought a Pentax 28mm wide angle lens today.  It is manual focus which is fine because I enjoy shooting in aperture priority mode and can manually focus a lens reasonably well.

    On my APS-C Pentax, it magnifies out at as about a normal lens (a normal lens is a lens that mimics how your eye sees life) which makes it a lens I am looking forward to using.

    It’s fairly sharp at f2.8 and gets better until its optimum setting at f8.  It still looks really good at f11 with the rather boring test shots I have taken so far (there is a polar vortex people, let me me shoot in peace).  I love my 50mm but this will get used a lot as a walk around lens.

    I don’t think it will get used a lot as I still need to pick up Pentax’s new 35mm prime lens and get a decent walk around lens but there is something to be said about using some old manual lenses while out for a walk.  Street photography has been shot this way for decades and it is something that I want to keep doing.

    The other reason is that I have it is that my mom had a Pentax ME.  Without us realizing it, she tossed it out while battling brain cancer (the cancer won) or else I would still have it.  I may not have her camera but it is nice to know I still shoot photos using some of the same gear she did.

    Either way, in the limited time I had to play with it today, it looks nice, has a decent bokeh, is sharp and was only $25.  What more can I ask for?

    Christmas Eve

    After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman.  They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place.  We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents.  The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker.  The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.

    Wendy

    • I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera.  She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade.  This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes.  It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it.  I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary.  A nice bonus for her.
    Fujifilm Finepix JX600
    •  Times Ladies Ironman Triathalon WatchMark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch.  Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off.  The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it.  So far so good but it is early yet.
    • Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography.  Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom.  He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
    • Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera.  it was used but barely used.  Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens.  I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
    • The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter.  I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras.  Story of my life.

    Olympis PEN EPL-2

    Mark

    • I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera.  He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it.  It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount.  Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account.  That’s quality parenting right there folks.
    Vivitar Action Camera
    • Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone.   Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them.  He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes.  The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit. 
    • Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
    • The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
    • Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie.  He’ll never take them off.
    • Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug.  It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
    • Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks.  He is going to need them.

    Oliver

    • I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars.  He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well.  As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies.  Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code.  I hear beeping in my future.
    • Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them.  Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting.  It should be fun.
    • Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS.  Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin.  Mark isn’t so crazy about that.  We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head.  Something to inspire him with.
    • Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs.  Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
    Memorex CD Player
    • Hutch got him an art set
    • Maggi got him a compact camcorder.  It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver.  He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots.  The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it.  At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days.  I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
    A $10 Vibe Camcorder

    Lee

    • I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades.  Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me.  The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
    • The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk.  It seems to sum both of them up so well.
    Mark and Oliver Cooper at Arlington Beach in 2013
    • We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.

    Brittany

    • Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
    • Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.

    Me

    Pentax f1.7

    Canon 17-135 lens travel mug

    I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag

    LowePro Classified 160 AW camera bag

    Well that’s enough from me tonight.  We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner.  Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.

    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

    What’s new around here

    Since I have been too busy to post much, here is obligatory catch up post.

    • I have had a lingering pneumonia for the last couple of weeks.  Lots of fluids in the chest which means lots of coughing up said fluids.  It has also meant a lot of sleepless nights.  So tired right now.  Being sick really antagonizes my neuropathy so not only am I in pain but I think it’s raining all of the time.  From the pot into the fire I guess. 
    • While things are going forward at Stewart Properties, it is slow progress on many fronts.  Some of the projects we have going will make a huge difference in the life of Saskatoon and are still really exciting.  The key word in that is slow and with not much happening as we wait on architects, government, and then it will be financing; I decided to pick up another job this fall and am working at Don’s Photo where I get to play with and talk about cameras and photography every day.  Its temporary but an enjoyable way to spend the day.
    • No one comes in upset at a camera store.  They are coming in because they a) have researched a product and want your opinion b) are so excited about a new camera they can’t sleep (it happens a lot c) are stressed because they broke their camera and are hoping you can fix it.  If you can’t fix it, they know it’s their fault but if you can, they are very, very happy.  (pro tip, hit the “Restore to default settings” button and see if that helps).  Most people leave really, really happy.
    • Favorite customers are on Thursday evenings when the hardcore camera enthusiasts come in to talk about things.  It’s quiet and you have conversations about cameras, technology, film, and amazing vacation stories.  One the other night ended with, “I took the picture and then the wolverine started to get closer”.
    • My time slot on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show has now changed on Mondays.  Instead of being on at 5:15 with Ian Goodwillie, I am now on with Bronwyn Eyre at 4:20 p.m.  Expect us to get a bit more political.  I am still on the air at 5:15 on Wednesdays.

    Distracted Driving in Saskatchewan

    Last week Ford invited myself and some other bloggers to the RCMP barracks in Regina to an event hosted by the RCMP, SGI, and Ford (via their Capital Ford dealership) about the dangers of distracted driving.

    RCMP

    After going to the closed course, we were joined by high school students from Regina who according to their media interviews, all drove while texting, surfing the web, and using social media and really saw nothing wrong with it.  The problem with it is that distracted driving kills more people in Saskatchewan than driving under the influence and RCMP are finding more and more accident scenes where there are no skid marks people didn’t even brake.

    They set up several stations.  One was a closed course about driving while texting.  That didn’t go so well.  Surprisingly at another station, most people could not even eat and drive at the same time (which reinforced what several cops have told me over the years), and another one features people fixing their hair and putting on makeup while driving.  The end result was there was pylons flying all over a course that was not that challenging.  

    Ford's Distracted Driving event in Regina

    What was scary was even as the kids got out of the cars and walked to their next station, what were they doing?  Texting.  It going to be a long road ahead if we are going to change this but it was a good start by Ford, SGI, and the RCMP in changing minds.  Of course who do they learn this behaviour from?  Their parents.  While kids text on the phone, parents in Saskatchewan talk and drive on the phone (and we aren’t talking hands free either).  It all needs to stop.

    The RCMP also had a crime scene investigation display where they had their Dragonfly drones out on display (I really wanted to fly one) and had a couple of accident scenes set up.  My only regret for the day was that I never asked the RCMP if I could test drive this.

    RCMP Tricycle

    How much fun would a high speed chase be on a RCMP tricycle?  I could have taken on any mall cop in the greater Regina area.

    I posted the rest of the photos from the day here.