Category Archives: personal

Valentines Day

It was a quiet Valentine’s Day.  That is more of a reflection of it being a Tuesday than how long Wendy and I have been married.

On Saturday night Wendy and I went downtown to Red Pepper for some Vietnamese food and a quiet night out.  It wasn’t busy and was nice to chat and talk.

Today we woke up and I gave her some gifts.  I had picked her up a plush Snoopy which made her laugh.  Growing up as a kid, I had a stuffed Snoopy that I called ‘Noopy.  So she made fun of me and all was good.  In addition to Noopy, I gave her a new necklace.  It was my attempt to be romantic and nice.  I also gave her some Toronto Blue Jays earrings because she is a fan.

Of course there was the chocolate.  There is always chocolate.

There was some exciting action but not the kind you are thinking of.  Marley developed an instant hate for Snoopy and tried to fight it within seconds of me giving the gift to Wendy.  The situation only escalated when Wendy called Snoopy “a good puppy”.  That enraged and then made Marley sad.

She gave me a 48 ounce Nalgene water bottle.  I have one always and two Swell bottles but the number one thing I heard from people going to Grasslands and also Yoho was how much water they should have brought while hiking.  She also gave me a book of photography called Abandoned Places by Kieron Connolly.  My kind of book.

Contextless Thoughts

  • A quick question for you to ponder.  Who is more radical?  Bannon/Trump or the GOP caucus in the House?  The House just repealed a requirement for background checks on those with severe mental illness before they buy firearms.
  • Don’t blame Trump for the failure of the Navy Seal raid.  It had been in the planning for months.  The U.S. military plans military raids, not the White House.  We have been sanitized by the idea that war in bloodless and the good guys always win.  That is a creation of embedded media and networks who are only allowed to show select things (for an amazing discussion of this, watch Deadline Iraq which examines why networks did not show most of the coverage coming their way) for fear of losing access of embedded reporters.  The reality is that in any conflict, your enemies have guns, RPGs, and things like Stinger missiles as well. 
  • If you are a photographer, DxO is giving away their amazing DxO OpticsPro 9 for free until the end of the month.  It will make organizing and editing your photos so much easier.
  • Looking for a cheap way to scan old family photos?  Google PhotoScan.
  • I think Trump has peaked too early. He has upset the U.S. Senate, he has upset a large part of the GOP, world leaders think he is a child, his own cabinet is upset at him, he upset Australia.  Instead of taking the Stephen Harper incrementalist approach to bring about lasting conservative changes in the U.S., he has spent a lot of political capital and accomplished very little that is going to be long term policy.  Don’s get me wrong, he is an authoritarian leader combined with the GOP in House of Representative pose a clear and present danger to democracy in the United States but now the courts and even the GOP Senate is starting to wade into the fight.  As Richard Nixon learned, they can’t be defeated.
  • I also think he is fighting his own Whitehouse.  I have never seen a Whitehouse leak that much information and it’s happening so quickly.  They are leaking so much damaging information about Trump and it seems to intentionally make him look like a child.  When those are the leaks that coming from inside your team, you are in trouble.  Again, compare that to leaks about Stephen Harper from the PMO.  Basically in a decade we learned that like all Toronto Maple Leafs fans, he would kinda sad when they lost.  When team Trump is fighting your own team and they all hate each other…. I have read Team of Rivals but this isn’t what Lincoln had in mind.
  • The reviews of PotashCorp Wintershines aren’t stellar this year.  I haven’t gone down to it but Twitter has either been unimpressed or skeptical.  Wendy and Mark are planning to go down tomorrow morning.  Anyone know how attendance has been?
  • I keep being told, “I stopped by Don’s Photo and you weren’t there.”  Just ask for me.  I am just in the back working on the Don’s Photo blog or posting something to some social media outlet.  I am not performing brain surgery back here.  I can still come out to chat about camera stuff or life in general.  It’s slower at work until the snow clears which means that I can get a load done, often up to 5000 words pounded out in a day.  It allows me to revise old posts and write some creative features from scratch.  The writing is fun but human interaction is important as well.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

We have a marketing campaign starting at work in a while that revolves around what staff have in their camera bags.    Here is my bag and gear that I pack to take along for day hikes into the mountains.  Of course I don’t hike with all of it but most of it will go with me to Banff and Yoho National Park this summer.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

The Bag:

Manfrotto Off Road 30 L Hiker Backpack.  Last year we spent hiking through the backcountry of Banff National Park.  This year we are spending part of it hiking the Alpine Circuit of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.  Later this summer we will hike almost 25 kilometers to three different alpine tea houses so my wife can drink tea.  Doing that much hiking means that I want a backpack that is comfortable.  With it’s external frame and hip belt, this bag does a pretty good job of carrying the camera and other gear that I want to take on longer day hikes.

The pack is packed and tossed in the back of the car.  I keep the Ricoh WG-4 in the front seat with me in case something interesting happens on the road.  When we get set up in a campsite or a trailhead, I evaluate what lenses and gear that I will want and then what gear I will carry.  At that point it often comes down to three lenses, the 18-135mm and the 70-300mm but I like having the 35mm and 28mm lenses for the trip.  I have long wanted a longer zoom lens but the SIgma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens is too big and heavy and my wife also shoots Olympus and has the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75-300mm F4.8 – 6.7 II Lens which is equivalent to the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and less than a quarter of the weight.  Actually since she is carrying it in her bag, it weighs nothing.

The Contents:

  • Pentax K-3: I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but the larger sensor and increased dynamic range of my Pentax means it will be the camera that I carry on those hikes.  I normally always have my grip on my camera but when climbing in the mountains, shedding weight is a big deal so it gets left at home.
  • Two 64 GB Lexar Platinum Cards.  Two 32gb Sandisk SD Cards as backup.
  • Three Extra Batteries:  That is excessive for most hikes but we like to stay at unpowered campgrounds because I find they have less partying.  While the washroom in the campground has power, it often has a powerbar full of cell phones being charged on it at all times.  I will probably pick up another two for this year. 
  • Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR: Over the last two years of hiking I have seen countless tourists carry and be frustrated with their 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on mountain hikes because it is too long to capture the views on winding trails or take in the views on mountain passes.  Sometimes your best option (especially in good light) is a more versatile walk around lens.
  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax:  Last year I watched people try to take selfies of The Boss (the alpha grizzly bear in Banff) with a cell phone.  That bear even eats other bears and has been hit by a train and just shrugged it off.  I prefer to not risk my life for a shot so I use this lens to keep some distance between myself and things that see me as dinner.
  • Pentax smc DA 35mm: Sometime during the trip I will head into Banff one evening and want to take some photos of the township or take some nice portraits of the family.  I am always torn over bringing this or the Pentax smc DA 50mm but on a APS-C camera, 50mm is often too long for street photography or if I am in a restaurant.  I lose a half stop of light with this lens but I get more shots in the end.  I really need to upgrade to the Sigma 35mm f1.4.
  • Pentax D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Many of you love macro photography.  I am not one of them and only bought this lens because of peer pressure.  My wife however loves macro with a passion so sometime on a trip I will find myself laying down and taking a photo of a flower and hating every single moment of it.  I just hope I don’t get bitten by something.
  • I won’t take it hiking with me but I will bring along my Pentax-M 28mm f2.8 lens.  It is manual focus but ideal for taking late night shots of the stars and the Milky Way.  The bad part of this lens is that I have to be awake in the middle of the night to use it.
  • Nalgene Water Bottle: For obvious reasons.  If it is a really hot day, I will also bring my Swell Water Bottle. You have no idea how amazing cold water tastes on a long mountain hike.  Why two bottles?  I have gotten sick then last two times I have had water out of a “pristine” mountain glacier stream. 
  • Gerber Scout Knife: Last year a male wolf came into our campsite and sniffed my head through the tent.  The wolf was between my axe and myself and all I had was this knife.  I like to think that if it came down to it I could have defended my kids with it but I have watched The Grey and know it would probably have won.  Luckily the wolf hadn’t watched The Grey and went back into the woods.
  • Adidas Saskatchewan Roughriders Receiving gloves:  I had some lightweight Nike jogging gloves for hiking but these are tackified in the fingers and palms giving you a firm grip on your camera.  If they are good enough to make the game winning catch, they are good enough for me to hang on to my camera.  They have been one of my best purchases of 2017. 
  • Niteize Carabineer light.  I have one of these on all of my camera bags.  If we are out too late or something goes wrong, I want to be able to be seen in the dark.  I also have one on my all black dog so I can see her at night.  It’s another one of those things that brought all sorts of people by our campsite who had children that wanted to check out the “blinking dog”. 
  • Panasonic HX-WA02 Camcorder: If I am going to shoot some video in the backcountry, I use this.  For this summer, I plan to upgrade to a Nikon Keymission 80 camera which is both lighter and smaller but has some really great features for hikers.
  • 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: For taller photographers, there seems to be only two alternatives.  The one is to carry a medium duty tripod so it is tall enough or carry a lightweight tripod on the trail and have to crouch over or kneel down when using it.  I prefer to crouch down.
  • Primus Classic Stove and Fuel: I carry one of this with me on cooler days and long hikes.  There is nothing better than stopping on a long hike and a cool day and cooking up a box of Three Cheese Kraft Dinner.  To save space, I toss the box and keep it in a zip lock bag.  It is the same amount of food as the the macaroni and cheese MREs but is about 15% the cost.
  • Clif Bars: They are easy to eat on the trail, give you a boost, and are edible even if not my favorite thing in the world.
  • Mess Kit: It’s not the best quality mess kit out there but it is lightweight and can cook the above mentioned Kraft Dinner.  Since contracting giardia twice in Banff over the years, I tend to boil up some water during that time.  If we are eating near a creek, I tend to boil the water up, pour it in the Nalgene and then put the entire bottle back in the glacier water to cool it back down. 
  • Nikon 10×25 binoculars: I have found myself hiking through alpine meadows that are frequented by grizzly bears.  Scouting it out works for me.  It saved me big time last year as I was able to see a grizzly feeding right in the middle of a trail I was about to walk down.
  • Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera: I look at this two ways.  It’s an addition camera battery and there times when I want a waterproof camera that can take high resolution files.   With the carbineer, I keep it clipped to the front of my pack.
  • Business Cards: I don’t know why but everywhere we went in Banff and Yoho National Parks people wanted to meet, pet, and take selfies or family portraits with my dog.  This generally led to them wanting to email me the photo or stay in contact with them. I gave out a ton of personal business cards and got some photos back of strangers with my dog.  Some said it was the highlight of their trip.  I don’t get it at all. 
  • Magellan eXplorist 110: There isn’t a lot of cell coverage once you leave the highways in the National Parks.  I have needed a GPS before but it is nice to check to know how much farther we have to go.   The last thing I do when I leave work on a trip is pick up a pack of Energizer Lithium batteries.  There are devices you want to have the best batteries on the market in them.  This is one of them. 
  • Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies.  This guide book is broken into multiple different books.  The big book is used at home for deciding on which hikes we want to go on.  Then we take the smaller and lighter trail guides which have the trail maps in them on the hike.   If there is one book that I recommend every hiker owns, it is this one.
  • A Lighter:  I get asked by friends if I have an alternative fire starting method like some fire steel or maybe a bow and rope to make fire without a lighter.  The answer is no.  I just carry another lighter.  I have never understood the principle of backing up a really effective method of starting a fire with a far less effective one.

Contextless Thoughts

  • My laptop had a 32 bit version of Windows on it for some reason.  After my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom stopped working, I had to upgrade.  The upgrade took all of 20 minutes.  Perhaps the easiest I have ever done in my life.  Anyone remember the two day job installing Windows XP and all of the updates was.
  • Instead of installing Microsoft Office on it, I installed Corel Wordperfect Office.  Apparently I am doing it for one reason only and that is in case Google Docs isn’t working.
  • qsqMtlHzp5EVhnINxH4saAOliver doesn’t read my blog yet so I can write this here.  Pentax is abandoning the Pentax Q line of cameras.  I love that camera and it is still pretty good but it has such a small sensor and has no room to grow with that lens mount.  Oliver really wants two things in his life.  A video camera and a camera where he can change lenses.  So for his birthday in June, we are getting him a Lowepro  Photo Hatchback BP 150 AW II.   In it will be my Pentax Q 10, three lenses and an older video camera that I no longer use.  I know I plan a head a little too far.
  • No I don’t know what drone I am going to get yet.  I asked Yuneec for a drone to evaluate or even if there was a shop around here where I could get a demo and they said no.  I am leaning towards a DJI Phantom 3 Standard but that could change.
  • Wendy writes a bit more about our holiday plans this summer here.  Apparently she wasn’t crazy about the rattlesnakes.
  • Kevin O’Leary isn’t some sort of genius businessman.  He bought up some crappy software titles, sold them cheap to Office Depot and Staples, inflated revenue and got lucky that Mattel didn’t do a lot of due diligence on the deal.  His deals since then have been really, really unimpressive.  He’s the guy the Conservatives want as leader?  I don’t think so.

I’m going for a long walk in 2017

Mark is turning 17 this year on Victoria Day long weekend.  I had suggested we head to Edmonton and go to the mall, grab dinner on Bourbon Street, and you know the routine.  Oliver was ecstatic and overjoyed.  Mark sat there, took everything in and said, “how about we go camping?”.  Oliver looked crushed.

We have a lot of discussions around the house that start with, “Okay, which direction do we go then?  North, south, east, or west?”  Prince Albert National Park is north.  Elk Island National Park was west.  Winnipeg was the east option.  South was Grasslands National Park.

Saskatchewan_-_Grasslands_National_Park_02

I like the idea of Prince Albert National Park but not on the long weekend.  It is both too busy and not enough stores or restaurants open yet.  Elk Island was inviting but no one was feeling it.  Winnipeg is a good idea but I didn’t feel like driving that far for the weekend.  Neither did Wendy or Mark.  So it is Grasslands National Park and a few days of hiking ahead of us.  Hopefully we don’t get charged by a bison or bit by a rattlesnake.

The next trip is going to be a more complicated one.  We are spending July 1st in Yoho National Park at Lake O’Hara exploring one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  It is restricted access and you aren’t allowed to drive into it.  The initial plan was to camp in there but after looking at what the campground is like (really, really small), we are going to stay in Lake Louise and drive into Yoho National Park for the first bus every morning and take the last one out every night.

Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park

 

If you are wondering why Wendy and I are working our butts off at the gym four days a week, it is to prepare ourselves for this trip and the climbing it will entail.

Later in August, we are planning to hit the road for a more traditional family holiday in Banff and Yoho again.  The logistics of this trip are still being worked out but right now it is a bit of a makeup trip after I got so sick last summer and almost didn’t go.  I was too weak to much of anything until our last full day there.

  • Sunday: Drive to Exshaw, Alberta and hike Jura Canyon and then push on and make camp at the Johnston Canyon campground
  • Monday: Hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House:  Order a tea, drink a tea, and the push on and climb the Big Beehive.  Feel like a bunch of bad asses for climbing two mountains.
  • Tuesday: Back to Lake Louise and head to The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.  Order a tea, drink a tea and then push on to see some receding glaciers and then explain to Mark and Oliver the realities of climate change is destroying the earth.
  • Wednesday: Rockbound Lake near Castle Mountain.  The tea houses are all about Wendy.  This is Mark’s hike.
  • Thursday: Get up early and head into Yoho where we will hike to Twin Falls Tea House.  This is what happens when Wendy picks the hikes.  The destinations all end in a “cup of tea”
  • Friday: Oliver and I are picking out the attraction on this day.  We want to take the A Walk in the Past hike in Yoho National Park.  It is a hike littered with old steam engines and boilers that exploded on the mountain and were tossed aside and are still there.  I told Oliver this is where the remains of Thomas the Tank Engine rest.  This is what happens in the real world when you upset Sir Toppenhat. 
  • I have no idea what Saturday will bring.  Mark and I were looking at options and all of them had large amounts of grizzly bears on the trail during the time when we are going to visit.  It may need some more work.

Finally Wendy and I are married for 20 years this fall.  We are going to spend a week in Banff with just the two of us at the Siding 29 Lodge.  We don’t have much for plans other than we are going to hike up Tunnel Mountain on our anniversary.

Tunnel Mountain in Banff

Neither one of us have hiked around Banff so we tentatively have plans to check out Lake Minnewanka and some ghost towns around Banff.  When I add all of these up, it’s about 70 kilometers in hikes.  Our most ambitious year ever.

In 2017 I Resolve To…

I guess it is time to post my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions.  I see Wendy posted her resolutions here which will have an impact on my life.

Hit the Gym Four Times a Week

Notice I didn’t say, “workout in the gym”.  I joined Fit4Less because I hate myself a few weeks ago. I then got really sick which was my bodies way of saying, “DON’T JOIN THE GYM.  KEEP EATING NACHOS AT 11 PM AND IT WILL ALL BE OKAY”.

I went for the first time today and did the 30 minutes workout.  My arms are so tired I can barely type.  The plan is to go with Wendy four times a week.  The weird thing is that I get free tanning as part of my gym membership.  I have not yet decided if I will tan myself orange or not.

I did go out and buy some new gym type gear for the gym.  I don’t know if that makes me sad or happy.

Carry My Camera Every Day

I am always so frustrated that I don’t do this and about a week ago I was looking for something and I found a camera bag in my closet that would be ideal to use every single day.  Umm, I hate being me some days.  I have the perfect mirrorless camera setup for some great photos, having it with me all of the time goes a long way in getting more shots in 2017.

Use Better Pens

For my entire life, I have hated Bic pens.  I don’t like Papermate pens.  I like uni-ball® Vision Rollerball Pens.  I always have.  I always will.

uni-ball® Vision Rollerball Pens

I prefer them to be blue.  Wendy likes black pens.  I prefer blue pens.  So why do I not have some of these in my go-bag?  Why do I not have them in my work bag?  Why do I not have one on my end tables for when I am inspired to write something down?  That’s unacceptable in 2017.  I will have blue uni-ball® Vision Rollerball Pens all around me at all times.  If I see notes that Wendy has written and they are in blue, well we will know what happened.

Fix Our Coffee

Something went wrong in our household in 2017.  Years after Wendy had learned how to make a good cup of coffee, she has somehow forsaken all of that knowledge and is making some disgusting cups over and over and over again.  Even the other day, we go in an get gas and she gets me a cappuccino to go.  I take a drink and I have to spit it out because it just wreaks of stale awful coffee.  I go, “It’s a machine!  How did you mess this up?”  Well she decided to modify it and make it better so she added stale coffee to a premade drink.

Not only that but so many times she will make coffee and it will taste like soap because the travel mug or the carafe never was rinsed out properly.  It’s weird, things went bad when Wendy started to drink coffee last year.  I generally make coffee but teaching Wendy how to make a good cup of coffee again will take some work in 2017.  Neither one of us is sure what went wrong.

Enjoy This Year

2015 and 2016 were write offs personally in many ways because my leg was so messed up.  I became a hermit and really became introverted.  My leg became my struggle and mine alone at times.  I got up one morning early to go to Royal University Hospital for a big meeting with some doctors.  Wendy was asking me where I was going and I hadn’t told her about the appointment.  When we would walk out, I would grab a coffee from Starbucks and not want to talk about it.

I was so tired that I would want to take in a Saskatoon Blades or Saskatchewan Rush game, take in a concert at The Bassment or the SaskTel Jazz Festival and then not go because I was tired and because I hated being out in public like this.   When I would go out with friends, often the first thing they would say to me was, “You look like —-“.  Other friends would tell me afterwards how worried they were about me.  So yeah, I found myself going out less and less and even doing less and less stuff with Wendy and the boys.

Part of it was that I was so tired last year.  Everything was hard physically and mentally.  Oh yeah this leg hurts badly.  All of the time.  For me the ideal day ended with me coming home from work, laying down on the sofa and sleeping until Wendy told me to go to bed.  No interactions and no people.  We didn’t even sit outside by the fire or have coffee on the deck last year.

So I want to enjoy 2017 more.  I want to get out and experience more.  I want to spend more time doing cool things with the kids.  My leg is screwed.  If it gets better, it could be years.  I am tired of waiting for it to heal.

Up My Fan Game

I have been a long time fan of the Notre Dame FIghting Irish, Denver Broncos, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Pistons, Calgary Flames and as much as I regret it, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  I need to pick up some jerseys, shirts, and hats in 2017.  If I am going to live and die with these teams, I should look it.

2016

This is what I didn’t like this year:

  • Brexit
  • Kellie Leitch
  • Donald Trump
  • Twitter
  • Global Warming
  • My right leg
  • Misogyny
  • Racism
  • Terrorism
  • Climate change deniers
  • The Ohio State University football team winning
  • Notre Dame’s football team losing
  • The way that Brian Towriss firing was handled
  • Huskies Athletics being handed over to a bunch of boosters
  • Token funding cuts to social service spending that is devastating to those that need it but really do nothing to cut the provincial deficit
  • The ongoing farce that the Global Transportation Hub and the government’s lack of transparency of what is going on.
  • Friends losing their jobs and leaving Saskatoon
  • Brad Trost’s leadership bid.
  • Facebook
  • Saskatchewan’s reaction to a carbon tax
  • The violence and crime in my neighborhood
  • Politics in general

This is a list of things I liked this year

  • Mark and Oliver 
  • Wendy
  • Meewasin Valley
  • Marley
  • Really all of the dogs at the dog park
  • Moraine Lake
  • Lunch specials at Spring Roll with Wendy and the boys
  • Mexican Coke
  • Spotify
  • Takakkaw Falls
  • Journalism
  • Twitter
  • Printing out photos, framing them and having them on my wall
  • Work
  • The rabbits that hang out in our yard all winter
  • Cold winter nights in the wave pool at the Lawson Civic Centre (having Mark and Oliver toss balls at my head)
  • Coffee at The Night Over and on the deck of City Perks.
  • Silverton Falls

Well that was a crappy Christmas

So back on December 24th I came home, ate some supper and then barfed it back up.  I use the term barf there because my mother disapproved of the term, especially in the context of talking about food.

I had been sick since December 16th when I ran an insanely high fever and had been running one ever since then.  On December 25th, I spent the day on the sofa all day sleeping.  On the 26th, I went into work for an hour and then headed home to take some pain killers for his horrific pain in my kidney.  The painkillers worked and I went back to sleep where I was woken up by more pain.  The cycle continued until 9:00 p.m. when the painkillers stopped working.

There were other things going on that I don’t want to talk about as well.  So I drove to Royal University Hospital where triage put me in a room and the nurses poked and prodded and asked a doctor for permission to start an IV and they gave me a pain killer for kidney pain.  It worked.

The weird thing was that I was feeling so bad for so long in other areas, the kidney hurting just seemed incidental.  Apparently it was the big problem, the rest were symptoms of it really struggling.

Then it was a night of X-rays, blood work, other samples, a CAT Scan, and  other tests.  Related to this, the Saskatchewan deficit will be higher than anticipated this year.  Someone spent a lot of money at the hospital today.

So this morning I got the bad news about my kidney as well as some new prescription medication that stresses out my pharmacist quite a bit.  The doctor also told me the scans both showed what looked like what happens when you pass a kidney stone.

Now I have never passed a kidney stone but I have been told and read about how awful they are.  I experienced nothing like that at all.  He gave another option of a severe infection but he was pretty sure I passed one as well.  I am pretty sure I had not which we both found kind of funny.  So either the other option is accurate or the rest of you are wimps.  I think probably the other option is what happened.

I feel like crap and this sounds like a repeat post but hopefully next week I feel better.  I slept for much of the day and have tomorrow off.  We will see how I feel Thursday.

Wendy took the boys out to Optimist Hill at Diefenbaker Park today to try out their snowboards.  Mark learned the hard way that a higher centre of gravity works against you on a snowboard while Oliver had far less of a problem.  The good news is that Mark’s face absorbed most of the impact.

Twas the night before Christmas

It’s late on Christmas Eve.  Wendy, Mark and I are just chilling out and having some night time tea.  Oliver has already gone to bed.  I doubt he is asleep but he is in bed.  I assume he is filing a formal protest as we speak.

It was a busy day today.  I had to go to work which wasn’t so bad and we closed up early.  It’s one of those things that you never think about but then Wendy shows up and the day is done early which is nice.  Lots of coffee made the day go by faster.

Wendy was off work today so she hung out with Mark and Oliver until Mark had to go to work.  Wendy and Oliver took Marley to the Pierre Radisson Dog Park a few times in an effort to tire her out.  After much running and playing, she still wanted to go back again as we all were ready to call it a night.  She is a dog with a strong internal clock. 

A can of Diet CokeSwan PizzaWhen it was time to leave work, Wendy picked me up and we had two pizzas from Swan Pizza ordered and set to arrive at 6:00 p.m.  While Mark and Oliver wanted to open presents right away, we ate first, poured some coffee and opened the gifts around 7:30 p.m. 

Once that was done, we opened out our Christmas stockings which had all of the usual fair of new socks, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste along with some candies and treats for everyone.

We exchanged gifts after that.

Mark

Wendy and I gave Mark a new Head snowboard and bindings.  That kind of blew him away but he was understandably thrilled and excited.

Head Snowboard

Oliver gave his brother some good snowboard boots so he is ready to hit the slopes.

Marley gave him some Ryder sunglasses and a thing to keep them on his face when he wipes out while snowboarding.  There were some good gloves in there as well.

Ryder Sunglasses

61fK-6 NL8L._SL1000_Hutch gave him a red GSI Outdoors Java commuter mug.  Making good coffee was a struggle last summer and with Wendy, Mark, and I all having one, this should make some adventures this summer start out much better.

Since Mark wants to do some adventure travel after he graduates high school, we gave him a copy of Alastair Humphreys book Grand Adventures.

Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys

To go along with the book, I got Mark a large duffle bag which is perfect for travel.


Oliver

Wendy and I have him a Acer Iconia 7 tablet.  He was pretty excited since all he wants to do is text Wendy, Mark and myself.  We set up Google Hangouts on our phones and he had a blast messaging us all night, even though we were in the same room.  Now that he has gone to bed, I am installing the apps that he will need and want.   We also got him a 16 gb MicroSD card for it.  To make it easier for him to annoy us, we gave him a Bluetooth speaker so he can rock out all night long.

Acer Iconia 7" Tablet

A friend of ours gave Oliver her old snowboard which meant that we just had to get him some boots.  A quick trip to Larry’s Skate Exchange and we found some great ones at a remarkably low price which were there under the tree.

Mark gave him a Huskies Athletics hoodie and a few games for his Nintendo 3DS.

Marley gave him a pair of snowboarding goggles and some warm gloves.

Wendy also gave him the new Jedi Academy book which I gave him his own website at olivercooper.org.  He’s happy to have a blog at last and I enjoy doing stuff like for him.  I am using Blogger to power it which means he can control it and post to it from both the web and the Blogger app.

Santa Claus brought him a Bluetooth speaker and some Wicked Raven headphones.  He can play Spotify loudly or quietly.  I hope he uses his headphones but I have my doubts.


Wendy

I gave Wendy a 10.1 inch RCA Android tablet with a keyboard.  She was looking for a netbook but in the end she felt a the Android tablet was a better option.  She had seen our friend Janice’s Microsoft Surface and loved the form factor.  After debating over her options, she decided that an  Android version is what she needed.

RCA Viking Pro Android Tablet

Mark was aware of what I was going to get her and get her a handcrafted leather case from India.

He also picked up some other things like a stainless steel Samsung USB drive, a micro SD card for extra storage, and Moleskine daytimer and a nice pen.

81lLpXNwiHL._SL1500_Oliver went in a different direction and got Wendy a new camping cookset.  Not only that be since he already got Wendy a GSI Outdoors Java Press for her birthday, she would need a nice tea kettle for camping, a new 2 litre pot, and a camping frying pan.


Me

Wendy bought me an Acer Iconia 7” Tablet as well.  I don’t use a tablet that much but I do use it for consuming information.  The size works for me and I think I’ll use it a fair amount.  Of course Oliver went nuts as it means that we have the same tablet as each other and Mark.  Oliver thought that was incredibly cool.

Mark got me some badass carbon fibre trekking poles.  He was with me when I saw them and he decided to pick them up for me.   He also gave me a Rode VideoMic Micro for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.

Oliver got me a new Swiss Gear backpack.  In it I found a pen, notebook, and a knife from Gerber.  I have written about our travel bags that are already backed and ready to go before, he just figured I needed an upgrade as my backpack was showing some age.

Santa Claus realized the household had transitioned from Apple OSX and iOS to Android/PC and so the old guy gave me a Google Chromecast to replace my Apple TV.

Marley gave me a Philips Multipurpose Grooming Kit.  Apparently it was a hint to keep the goatee a little tighter trimmed.  Fair enough.


After the gifts were open, Wendy served up Sex in a Pan for dessert.  The boys devoured all of that and now Oliver is off to bed and I am installing apps from the Google Play store for Oliver and Wendy.  I may need more  bandwidth.

Christmas Morning

Good morning.  It’s early on Christmas Day and the boys are still asleep around here.  I would have been sleeping but when Marley wakes up, she leaps between Wendy and I even if there is no space there and wakes us up, often by hitting us in the face with her paws and licking us.  There is nothing quite like being woken up in the morning than being licked on the face by your dog.

Mark and I will be taking Marley to the Pierre Radisson Dog Park as soon as the coffee is made.  The dog park near Mayfair Pool is closer but for whatever reason we prefer the park in Pierre Radisson.  Really the only thing that can go wrong at the dog park is if the other dogs don’t want to run around and act like idiots.  If the behave sensibly and just want to chill, Marley gets upset and sulks on her way home.

She also doesn’t understand that despite her internal clock going off early in the morning, the rest of the world (and their dogs) like to sleep in.  We may have to take her back down there after breakfast.

While we do that, Wendy is going to make breakfast.  It’s going to be scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and eggs benedict.  She does a wonderful job of these kinds of things.

After that is done, the plan is to head to Optimist Hill with two snowboards  and snowboarders in tow and let both Mark and Oliver hurt themselves while trying out their Christmas gifts that we gave them last night.  I expect at least one visit to Royal University Hospital this afternoon.  I wonder if I can book ahead.

Update:

The warnings I was given about the side affects from the medication kicked in this morning.  In killing the infection, the antibiotics killed much of the bacteria in my stomach needed to break down food which means my digestive track broke sometime after I posted this today.  Instead of a fun day of snowboarding, I laid in bed and contemplated going to the hospital.  I was in so much pain.

I wasn’t a horrible day.  Marley crawled up and cuddled with me.  I had some good talks with Oliver and Mark while getting some needed sleep.  We will take the kids to Optimist Hill tomorrow or Tuesday.

Some random Christmas Eve thoughts

Stockings hung with care on Christmas Eve

  • Yes I am at work.  So far this morning I managed to crash part of the work website (the blog) during a failed WordPress upgrade.  Apparently the upgrade to WordPress 4.7 isn’t an easy one and is crashing many servers.
  • Mark works until 6:00 p.m. tonight.  I never thought I would have to figure Mark’s work schedule into our Christmas plans but things change.
  • We are opening our Christmas presents tonight.  Growing up we used to wait until Christmas morning but while working at The Salvation Army, I used to either be working or head down to the shelter to give out gifts on Christmas morning to the guys who were there and to chat with staff.  We started opening up our gifts on Christmas Eve ever since.
  • Since Mark and Oliver are both reading this blog trying to figure out what they are getting (hint: a lump of coal), I won’t talk about our plans tomorrow.  I do however hope to find the time to grab a camera and take some shots of a very empty downtown Saskatoon.  I love the look of downtown cores on Christmas morning.  I think the total emptiness is quite cool. 
  • I bought a Sigma 19mm F2.8 DN | A  for my Olympus OM-D E-M5 II today.  It is primarily for video but it is a great lens for capturing the cityscape.  The plan is take it out with me tomorrow.
  • We will do a traditional Christmas dinner tomorrow but tonight we will order in from Swan Pizza before opening our presents.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a turkey dinner but over the years we have always been flexible enough that if it wasn’t possible, it wasn’t a big deal.  Last year we sacrificed tradition for going to Star Wars: A Force Awakens.  Instead we had a roast in a slow cooker and made French Dip Sandwiches from it.  My point here is that there are a bunch of great ways to celebrate Christmas.  I love tradition but I have heard people lose it if their favorite recipe isn’t made or their favorite movie isn’t on.  C’mon, just enjoy doing something fun with people you like.
  • Speaking of Swan Pizza, it has replaced Santa Lucia Pizza (which has replaced Family Pizza) as my favorite pizza joint in Saskatoon.
  • Everyone has been asking about my health.  Here is the deal.  The antibiotics stopped working, my system shut down, and the infection in my leg started to spread a few weeks ago.  They then upped the dosage of antibiotics which beat back the infection but left me really, really sick with some internal bleeding.  Apparently this was worth stopping the infection.  I am feeling better but still in a lot of pain and am sleeping horribly but it is getting better.  It is the third Christmas of being really sick and I am tired of it.  It isn’t all bad.  After almost two years of great pain existing in my shin because the infection was between my skin and the leg, that has gone.  I remember gusts of wind hurting my leg quite a bit.  It is nice to not have that to deal with.
  • Check out this series the best of Gothamist for 2016.  There is a lot of great local journalism here.   There is a business model for digital only, even if it only seems to work in large cities.

Christmas Dinner Recipe Guide

Wendy has been sharing and posting recipes for years, several of those have been holiday recipes.  For those of you looking for recipes, here are some of her recipes that may make planning for the day a lot easier. 

Appetizer Recipes

  • BLT Dip Recipe
  • Bruschetta Recipe
  • Baked Parmesan Dip Recipe
  • Sriracha Veggie-Cheese Balls and Sauce Recipe
  • Slow-Cooker Spicy Queso Dip Recipe
  • Bacon Ranch Layered Spread Recipe
  • Buffalo Chicken Cheese Dip Recipe
  • Norwegian Lefse Recipe
  • Main Dish Recipes

    • Here is how to carve a turkey

    Dessert Recipes

    Random Thursday Thoughts

    I have hated this time of year for the last two years.  This weekend I am going to write and file two columns for The StarPhoenix.  Not a big deal but it wraps up my 2016.  Since I know what I am writing for my first column for 2017, I’ll probably write that as well.   I just wrote on Saskatchewan drunk driving problem and I am probably going to shoot a video talking about some of the issues that didn’t make it into the paper.  I’ll post the video and column here on Monday.

    To go back two years ago, I told my editor that I would fire off some columns for him in the same way.  Then I got sick.  I didn’t know it at the time but it was the start of the infection in my leg spreading rapidly and my body was trying to fight it.  I was so sick that I couldn’t function at all or write the columns which was the first time it had ever happened.  I couldn’t get warm.  I’d be buried under ten blankets while wearing a toque and gloves to stop the pain in my hands.  I kept thinking I would go to bed and I would be fine but it never happened.  Finally on the 22nd, I went to the hospital and was loaded up with antibiotics.  As we know it didn’t work that well.  I was on all sorts of antibiotics.  I had picc lines going into my hands (You write a column for several weeks where every single key stroke in your left hand caused you to experience great pain).  I was injecting myself at the dinner table.  I was taking so many antibiotics at one point where the new pharmacist refused to fill the prescription.

    Last year after being on antibiotics for months, I was declared cured and good to go about this time in December.  Within 72 hours I was as sick as I was the first time.  I can’t remember why but in the middle of the night I got up to get something and I passed out at the top of the stairs.  I remember laying at the bottom of the stairs and thinking that I have broken something when Wendy gasped and said, “Look at your leg”.  It was bright red enough I could see it brightly without the lights on and it was giving off an incredible amount of heat.  The infection was bad and had spread.  The next morning I was back at RUH being pumped full of antibiotics.  I remember the doctor saying, “Another couple of days you may not have made it.”

    So again back to my column.  I had written my editor saying I wouldn’t file that week that I was too sick and needed some time off.  Anyways there was a miscommunication over whether it was that week or the next week and to make a long story short (I never did look back at my email but I assume the miscommunication was mine) I wrote my column in the bowels of RUH hooked up an IV drip in like 30 minutes.   I took some time off of work but came back just before Christmas but I was still wiped out from the infection and the treatment.  I slept through pizza on Christmas Eve and was too tired to hand out gifts that night so I had Mark do it.

    Luckily by Christmas morning I felt better, the antibiotics had started to beat back the infection and for that time, the worst was over.

    It is hard to believe that two years later the infection is still there.  It is shrinking though and seems to be getting better.  It’s been two years of antibiotics, side effects, IV’s, tests, and doctors appointments.  There has  been a lot of pain and more fevers than I care to think of.  I still am exhausted at the end of most days and the plan is for another year and a half of antibiotics but it is nothing like it was the last two Christmases.  That’s a good thing.

    So as weird as it is, when I sit down with a cup of coffee and write 1200 or so words over an hour or so, it will feel like a huge step forward.  None of you will enjoy reading those columns as much as I will have had writing them.

    Proudly Independent

    Over the last few years I haven’t paid as much attention to this site as I should have.  I have been busy doing other things and to be honest, being sick sucks.  I still go home too often and just fall asleep at the end of the day at work

    Yet for some reason, more and more of you every day stop by.  At time when blog traffic is in decline, traffic here has grown and I have no idea why.  What I am told is that it has more traffic many days that some media properties.  I find that both incredulous but also a reflection of how poorly run some of the news sites are in Saskatoon.

    I know blogs aren’t as cool as they used to be.  We have all moved on to other things like Twitter and Facebook.  Well you have moved on to Facebook, I still hate it and won’t acknowledge any messages sent to me on it.  No I won’t follow you either.

    Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine Yahoo selling off Tumblr. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.  Heck the same could even be said for The StarPhoenix and Postmedia.

    There are only four things in my life that have lasted longer than this blog.

    1. Breathing
    2. My brother Lee.
    3. Reading The StarPhoenix every day.
    4. My marriage to Wendy.

    This week I was offered a somewhat lucrative offer to sell advertising on it and I turned it down.  I just couldn’t imagine running ads here or endorsing things I don’t believe in. 

    Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to Verizon. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed.

    This space has given me exposure, a place to share my projects and ideas. It’s created new opportunities for me, directly or indirectly responsible for every major project I’ve gotten involved in. It’s a place to play and experiment with ideas, some of which led to big breakthroughs and passions. And it connected me to people who cared about the things I did, many of whom became lifelong friends.

    Not only are you awesome to me, you have made the web this awesome place for Mark and Oliver.  Instead of seeing the web as someplace scary, it is a place they can talk with cool adults.

    So I am putting a renewed emphasis on this place.  The first thing you will see in 2017 is a daily vlog.  I’ll be using YouTube to host it but they will be embedded here.  (I know that undermines my previous points about services going away).

    The boys are a huge fan of Casey Neistat and really want to do their own blog and somehow Wendy and I got sucked into it.

    So Bridge City has sucked majorly this year in part because I got sick (the infection destroying my leg is two years old this week) and I stopped taking photos which dried up some of the content.  The traffic on that isn’t bad so I will keep it going.  That being said, the site crashed in early October and I just realized it had last night.

    What you don’t see is that this blog is falling apart.  Bots are using up a tremendous amount of system resources and I am fighting them, my database wasn’t optimized, and I have an issue with chron jobs which sounds dirty but really isn’t.   I may or may not have to upgrade my hosting plan or leave Dreamhost over it.  It is just hard to find a host that can handle this much content for what I am paying Dreamhost for.

    Finally, we are recording the first episode of The Saskatonian this week.  It is kind of a reboot of OurYXE but this time it is going to be less formal, longer and recorded in a bar over nachos.  If I am motivated enough to remember the power cord, it may even become a video.