Category Archives: technology

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.

Huma Abedin off the campaign trail as pressure grows for Clinton to sack her top aide

From the National Post, err Telegraph

Huma Abedin

Huma Abedin, the trusted aide at the centre of the Hillary Clinton email storm, spent the weekend holed up at her New York apartment, far from her troubled boss.

Speculation mounted that Clinton would be forced to sack Abedin or at least distance herself from her long-standing confidante in order to quell the storm surrounding the latest episode of the email scandal.

While Clinton took to the stage in Florida, Abedin – usually never far from the Democratic nominee’s side – was photographed staring glumly out of her Manhattan window.

Abedin told friends she had no idea how her emails ended up on a computer she had shared with her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, the former congressman accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl. She said the computer was primarily used by Weiner.

First of all, there are only one way those emails end up on the computer.  The Clinton Email server a POP3 account and she had access to it.  A lot of people let their top aides have access to their email and it’s not unheard of.  Heck, when I write to a cabinet minister of a politician, I assume it is being read by their aide.   Email downloaded by Abedin on the laptop would stay on the laptop unlike a IMAP setup.

Secondly, I am not sure why Clinton sacrifices her top aide over this.  Weiner is an asshole and a sex addict.  Abedin married him, had a child with him, and stood by him more than anyone else would have.  Now he has crossed the line again and disgraced her again so she finally left him.  She wasn’t responsible for his actions.  She may be guilty of not knowing how email servers work but that seems to be a bigger issue in the Democratic Party than just her.

She’s a distraction now but she’s be a big player in the Clinton White House, as she should be.

Your private contact information is a political commodity

One thing I hope that Saskatoon City Council cracks down on is the sharing of our personal information with City Councillors for political reasons.

It’s a well known fact that your City Councillor has mailing lists for emails.  You email them and they take your personal email address and add it to their email database.

Well, that is against the Privacy Act which makes exceptions for political parties (gross) but local councillors are not political parties despite what their delusions of grandeur tell them.

Then what I have heard countless stories of in this campaign was the sharing of those lists in whole or in part with other candidates.  Maybe it is a neighborhood here and there that have changed wards in the new boundaries.  Sometimes it is from a previous campaign or an ally in the provincial government.  Either way is clear violation of the law and it is one that is just laughed at.

If a company did this, they would charged, convicted, and fined.  The fact that our own elected officials do this with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge for political purposes is bizarre at best.

Of course there is one exception to this and that is Charlie Clark who operated an opt in mailing list using his website and published a really good newsletter.  I hope he does the same as mayor.  My point is that if Clark can easily do this and follow the rules, so can the rest of Saskatoon City Council.

Switching to Canon (Kind of)

I’ve been a Pentax DSLR user for years and I love my Pentax K-3.  It’s a great camera.

Pentax K-3 DSLR camera with grip and 15mm f/4 lens

The problem is that I want to do more and more video shooting and I want to use a DSLR for the shallow depth of field that you can’t get with a camcorder.

Pentax autofocus for video is horrible and their lenses are really, really noisy.  It really isn’t an option.  Even if the Pentax K-3 Mark III is better (assuming that is what Pentax calls it) at video auto focusing, the lenses are still really loud.  Loud enough to ruin the video.

So my only option that is affordable is Canon.  I love Nikon cameras but they too suck at video.  Okay, let me rephrase that.  Preston Kanak can shoot great videos with a Nikon but no one else I know can do it.  Seriously.

So that means that I am thinking about either a cheap Canon EOS Rebel SL1 or a Canon EOS Rebel T5i (the video upgrade on the Canon EOS Rebel T6i/T6s isn’t enough for me to upgrade to and I am not going to shell out for a Canon EOS 70D) with the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 lens.  The video autofocusing is good (not as good as the Canon EOS 80D) but the camera is cheap but the lens is a STM lens and therefore is almost silent for video use.

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 with EF-S 24mm f/2.0 STM lens

Some of you have asked why don’t I switch for Olympus which Wendy uses but I’d have to get an Olympus OM-D EM-5 II to get a mic port.  Great camera, amazing lenses with the Micro 4/3 system but I don’t want to spend that kind of money unless I am making the switch totally to Olympus and I don’t think I am going to do that.

Why not?  Well I have a lot of lenses with Pentax including some classic lenses that would be extremely expensive to replace with any other system.  You date your camera, you marry your lenses. 

The bad part about two systems is going to be heading to Lake O’Hara next summer.  I am bringing my Pentax and probably three lenses along but for a camera, I may bring a Nikon Keymission 80 along to record the trip.  Lighter, tougher and weatherproof.  I think get a deal from Nikon on it from work.  Hopefully I can get one for review sometime as well.

Finally, a few have asked about my plan to shoot and post a movie a day in 2017.  No big plan, just a chance to do something fun with Mark and Oliver that they really enjoy while working on our story telling skills.  Hopefully it will be more fun than I think it will be.

The other reason is much darker.  Twice in the last year I was so sick, I heard I was going to die.  At the time I hit publish, I haven’t died yet but I want to document what will be a great year for the family after a long year of uncertainty and loss.  Let’s see what 2017 will be like.  Plus no elections.  That is worth celebrating isn’t it?

Christmas Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life | 2016 Edition

It’s Wendy.  I’m back to do my annual Christmas Gift Guide for the men in your life, whether that be your husband/boyfriend/father or even some grown children.

Keeping Track of Time

Let’s start with watches.  Nothing quite turns a boy into a man like a good watch.  Here are some great ideas any guys, whether that are always connected or love to get away from it all.

Pebble Smart Watch

Pebble Smart Watch

It does almost everything an Apple Watch does at a fraction of the cost.  It also works with Apple iOS and Android devices.

  • Notifications at a glance: calendar events, text and emails, incoming calls, and more.
  • Includes Pebble Health, a built-in activity and sleep tracker with daily reports and weekly insights.
  • Built-in microphone for voice notes and quick replies (sending voice replies works with AT&T iPhone accounts and most Android apps including SMS, Hangouts, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and hundreds more. iOS voice features for other carriers will be available in a future software update)
  • 9.5mm thin chassis with curved, ergonomic profile.
  • Marine Grade Stainless Steel bezel with PVD coating, matte and polished finishes.
  • Tough, 2.5D glass display
  • Tactile buttons for easy, eyes-free control.
  • Magnetic charging with cable that works in any USB port.
  • Vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms (wake yourself, not your loved ones).
  • Includes 22mm Silicone Strap and USB Charging Cable.
  • Battery life up to 7 days
  • Water resistant to 30 meters
  • Always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight

Another popular option is the Fitbit Blaze Smartwatch.

Invicta Men’s ‘Pro Diver’ Quartz Stainless Steel Casual Watch

Invicta Men's 'Pro Diver' Quartz Stainless Steel Casual WatchLuxury and quality don’t always have to cost a fortune. The Invicta Pro Diver men’s dive watch features a 43mm wide and 12mm thick solid stainless steel case with a unidirectional rotating blue accented silver tone bezel and textured screw down crown. Invicta is powered by Japanese TMI PC32A quartz movement. This stylish watch also features a sharp looking blue dial with white accents silver tone luminous hands and dot hour markers along with the date display function, scratch resistant flame fusion crystal and water resistant to 200 meters. The Invicta Pro-Diver watch comes in an original Invicta gift box and is backed by a 5 years limited warranty.

I bought one for Jordon for his 40th Birthday and it’s looks amazing and draws all sorts of attention whenever he goes out with it.

Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch

Timex Men's Atlantis 100 WatchDiscover the sleek, streamlined design of the Timex Men’s Atlantis 100 Watch. Features include a 100-hour chronograph with lap or split in large digits, an easy-to-use 100-hour countdown timer, a 99-lap counter, a daily alarm, day and month calendar, and a two time zone setting ideal for traveling. Thanks to the Indiglo night-light system, the digital face is easy to read, even in low-light situations. A strong black resin case and stationary black resin bezel hold a durable acrylic window to protect the dial, while a black resin strap with a buckle clasp make this watch ideal for exercising. This versatile timepiece uses precise quartz movement and is water-resistant up to 165 feet (50 meters).

Both Jordon and Mark have (different versions of this) watch and it is their everyday watch which is great for work, looks good if they are going out and tough enough when they are hiking the trail or we are camping.

For even less money, check out the attractive, tough and affordable Casio Illuminator watch.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Jordon has the 2016-2017 version and loves it.  What makes this dayplanner better than all of the other ones out there, it has your weekly calendar on one side of the page with a full page of notes on the other side.  It is a good enough planner to make Jordon give up Google Calendar and go back to pen and paper.

Mokeskine Weekly Planner

Parker Urban Rollerball Pen

Parker Urban IM Rollerball Pen

A great daytimer is nothing without a great pen.  This pen is nice and durable enough that he will always want it with him but affordable enough that he won’t be afraid to leave home with it.


Getting Personal

From there, let’s look at some personal gifts like an amazing shaving kit or as the British call them, a dopp kit.  You can spend a lot of money on a dopp kit of use an old pencil case.  Personally I find the Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit to be the perfect balance between the two and you get a bag he will use for the rest of his life while being a good value.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Shaving Kit

 Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle TechnologyDon’t just get him a Dopp Kitt, inside it place some essential shaving products that he will love.  The market leader is the Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor With Flexball Handle Technology.  It’s a razor any man would love and if he doesn’t have one, it’s a great upgrade.

Jordon has preferred the Schick Hydro 5 Power since it came out.  The blades are quite a bit less expensive then Gillette’s yet they last a long time and the shave is a great.  Schick Hydro 5 Power Razor for Men

If you are looking to save some money up front and down the road, I recommend the Magnum M5 razor.  We got one for Mark and he loves it.  5 blades, good shave and a package of blades lasts a long time.

Magnum M5 razor

 Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood: This will last for decades and he’ll think of you every time he uses it.

Kingsley Shave Soap Bowl with Lid Dark Wood

Henry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut OilHenry Cavendish Himalaya Shaving Soap with Shea Butter & Coconut Oil: He may not admit how good this feels on his skin but he will appreciate it.

Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush: The bristles on this brush are made from genuine pure badger hair, for a soft and luxurious feeling every time he shaves.

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Eau de Toilette Spray: For when he goes out and wants to smell nice but still let the world know he is still tough enough to conquer it.

Slim Leather Wallet with ID Window

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Jordon switched to one of these a few years ago and we later gave one to Mark for his birthday.  It easily holds a bank card, a couple of credit cards, drivers license, health card, and a few others without causing your pain if you sit on it or irritate you if it is in your front pocket.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Briefcase

A great looking and affordable high quality leather briefcase.  He will take it with him everywhere.


Out for an Adventure

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Jordon’s grandfather had a wooden pocket knife that he carried with him every day for his entire life.  This is the knife that your guy will carry will carry in his pocket each and every day of his life.

Victorinox Swiss Army EvoWood 14 Swiss Army Knife

Not only that but if the fate of the world does happen to depend on him, he will be prepared with the same knife that MacGuyver had with him.  If you are looking for a classic red Swiss Army Knife, check out this version.

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout Knife

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Scout KnifeJordon and Mark aren’t big fans of Bear Grylls (they one time watched him bite the head off a large frog for no real reason) but they love this knife.  It is small enough to carry in a pocket or toss in a bag that is ready and packed for adventure.  Jordon’s knife has  been used to make kindling for a fire, cutting some branches to cook with and is what he grabbed when we a wolf came into our campsite.   He also uses it for work and carries it pretty much everywhere.  If the guy you are shopping for takes pride in being self-reliant and the one that fix any problem, he needs a good knife.  It’s one of those gifts that not only will he appreciate but when he bails everyone out because he has it, you will too.

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Solo Stove & Pot Combo

Jordon has a Primus Classic Stove and Mark has a MSR Pocket Rocket stove but they fuel canisters.  This does not.  It burns twigs which are always around if you are camping and boils water in under 10 minutes..  It is a Gear of the Year winner from Backpacker Magazine and is ideal if the guy you are shopping for loves the outdoors.

Pentax UP 10×21 Binoculars

Pentax UP 10x21 Binoculars

Jordon gave me a pair of these for Mother’s Day and a pair for Mark for his birthday.  Jordon keeps a small pair of binoculars in this bag all of the time for when we are hiking and they are great for watching Mark’s football games at SMF Field.  The 10 times magnification is great for almost everything and they are good for almost any kind of daylight viewing.


Chilling out at Home

We live in a small house in Saskatoon.  We don’t have the room for a vast sound system or home theatre system.  So if we are entertaining at home, we want a great room filling audio system in a small package and good headphones when we want to escape into our work or a great playlist.

Let’s start with some headphones.

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose SoundTrue II Headphones

Bose Sound True around-ear headphones II were engineered with advanced Bose technologies. They feature exclusive TriPort technology so your music sounds deep, clear and full of life.  The headphones feature a softly padded headband that distributes weight evenly across your head, and memory foam creates a gentle cushion around your ears. So they stay light and comfortable whether or not you are working in a co-working space or just relaxing to a long playlist at home.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

If the cost of the Bose headphones are too much, check out a long lasting resident of these gift guides, the Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones are a great value.

Sennheiser HD202II Headphones

The HD 202 MK II closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones are the ideal partner for DJs and powerful modern music, providing great insulation against ambient noise and a vivid, crisp bass response. The rugged lightweight headphones have a secure fit and can be used for both mobile sources and home (mini) hi-fi systems. When out and about, a convenient cord take-up lets you adjust the headphone cable to the required length.

For when we want some room filling sound, we use our Bluetooth speakers.  It is discrete enough to never be noticed but has enough oomph to fill the room.

Bose Wave Music System IV

Bose Wave Music System IV

This is the sound system you have been looking for.  For almost all of us, the first time we ever heard one of these, we went, “Oh, that is what the big deal is about.”  The latest Bose Wave System IV works with your home Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth devices so you can play almost anything you can imagine. Use it to stream millions of songs from music services like Spotify and Pandora, thousands of Internet radio stations and your stored music library. There’s also a CD player and AM/FM radio tuner. So you can hear whatever you want with room-filling sound-all from an easy-to-use system that now comes in a new design.

It is the kind of gift that not only will he love but so will the entire household.

Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot

You really want an Amazon Echo

I don’t know how to best describe Amazon Echo other than comparing it to either the computer on Star Trek or Jarvis from Ironman.  It is like Siri for your home.

Setting up an Amazon Echo

It started out as a music player but it keeps getting smarter and smarter.  Check this page out for what it can do now (and it keeps getting smarter in the future).  Of course if you aren’t looking to play music, check out the Amazon Echo Dot.   At $50 you can have them all over your house.  If two of them hear you, the closest one answers.  It connects with everything to your phone to your furnace.  Again with it being cloud based, the upgrades happen online so you aren’t a slave to adding new hardware all of the time.

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker. The best deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts, and Internet radio. Portable Bluetooth speakers have a rechargeable battery that lets you easily take them all around the house or to the park or the beach. We’ve found they make hotel rooms feel more like home and long business trips much more bearable.

UE Roll 2

Here is what The Wirecutter has to say about the UE Roll 2

The original UE Roll was our unanimous pick for best portable speaker when we tested 30 new models last year, and we feel just as strongly about its replacement, the UE Roll 2. Like the original, the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes tUE Roll 2 Bluetooth Speakero cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a beach blanket with sound. It’s so watertight it will survive being dunked one meter underwater for 30 minutes. Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design. The only real downside is that it lacks a speakerphone function.

Bose SoundLink Mini II

Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth Speaker System

For those who want even better sound quality and louder volume and don’t need their portable Bluetooth speaker to be super-portable, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth the cost (roughly twice the price of the Roll 2). It’s shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II sounds than most of its competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you’d expect to hear from a decent small stereo system. It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party. At 1½ pounds the SoundLink Mini II is perfect for lugging along on family vacations or from room to room in the house but probably heavier than backpackers and business travelers will want to carry.

Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds Headphones with Mic/Controller

31KkJHBsooLThese are always dirt cheap and available everywhere so it’s easy to dismiss them as not that good but The Wirecutter’s blind hearing test of in ear headphones consistently rates these near the top of their rankings despite their low price.  So if you are on a budget but are looking for a great gift for a traveler, hiker, or someone who is always on the move, you can do a lot worse than a pair of these headphones.

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

Harman Kardon Soundsticks III 2.1 Channel Multimedia Speaker System with Subwoofer

A 6-inch, 20-watt downward-firing powered subwoofer. Eight 1-inch full-range transducers. Plug-and-play compatibility with virtually any multimedia device. And stunning industrial design that perfectly matches the clarity of the sound. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III desktop sound system brings a new level of excitement to music, games and movies with a minimum of wiring and looks spectacular doing it.


Something to Watch

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Looking for an affordable tablet?  The Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet is the one you are looking for.

Acer Iconia One 7” Tablet

Another slightly more expensive option is the Asus Zenpad 8” tablet.  Of course you will want a discrete case to carry it in.  I recommend this one that looks like a manila envelope.

Manila Envelope 7" Tablet Case by Boxwave

Jordon got one of these when he bought a Kindle a few years back.  They protect the tablet well and people smile whenever he pulls a tablet out of one.

Apple iPad Mini 4

If you want to go higher end, check out the Apple iPad Mini 4.

Apple iPad Mini 4

Capture the Action

Why does he wants a drone?  Why do you want a drone?  Check out this video of a New Zealand family vacation which I love.

How much fun would one of these be to document a family vacation or a long weekend away.  Our household is a big fan of Casey Neistat and his use of drones do such a great job of capturing his adventures and they are so easy to use.

DJI Mavic Pro

DJI Mavic Pro Drone

One of the best drones one the market as well as more affordable than other options on the market.  Since it folds up, it is small enough to fit in a shoulder bag and carry with you always.  A 27 minute battery life gives you the time to capture all of the footage you want.

Yuneec  Breeze Drone

Yuneec Breeze Drone

The Yuneec Breeze is another affordable drone that is designed for social media.  If the DJI Mavic is there to capture cities and adventures, the Yuneec Breeze exists to capture you.  It’s even easier to fly, works well inside and out, and has a 4k video camera to capture everything.

It doesn’t have the performance that the DJI Mavic does but it costs about half as much.

Around the House

Survival Seed Vault

So if you are convinced the world will end in 2017 or 2018, you probably already have this.  For the rest of us, this seed vault offers a wide variety of seeds to take you guys garden to the next level.

Survival Seed Vault

These 20 fruits and vegetables provide an excellent source of nutrients you need for a well-balanced diet. Each seed variety is individually sealed to remove air and moisture and will store for five years and even longer at temperatures below 75 F.

What’s Inside the Survival Seed Vault:

  • Blue Lake Bush Beans <150 seeds
  • California Wonder Bell Pepper < 70 seeds
  • Market more Cucumber < 150 seeds
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrot < 800 seeds
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce < 900 seeds
  • Golden Acre Cabbage < 530 seeds
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet < 260 seeds
  • Lincoln Sweet Pea < 100 seeds
  • Stowell’s Evergreen Sweet Corn < 260 seeds
  • Beefsteak Tomato < 180 seeds
  • Champion Radish < 320 seeds
  • Green Sprouting Broccoli < 500 seeds
  • Waltham Butternut Winter Squash < 100 seeds
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach < 260 seeds
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion < 145 seeds
  • Black Turtle Bean < 70 seeds
  • Hales Best Cantaloupe < 70 seeds
  • Snowball Cauliflower < 285 seeds
  • Black Beauty Zucchini < 50 seeds
  • Crimson Sweet Watermelon < 60 seeds

Manly Cookbooks

If you guy likes to cook, raise his game with one of these fun cookbooks this Christmas.  I picked a barbecue/entertaining focus because not only will this encourage him to help out around the house but he’ll have some friends over to eat all of the food he has proudly made.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Cooking with Beer CookbookGordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch: 25 Simple Menus to Pamper Family and Friends Essential Company's Coming Guys' CookbookEat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever NeedBig Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue JointPaul Kirk's Championship Barbecue: Barbecue Your Way to Greatness With 575 Lip-Smackin' Recipes from the Baron of BarbecueSouthern Living Ultimate Book of BBQ: The Complete Year-Round Guide to Grilling and SmokingThe Hell's Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes from the KitchenGordon Ramsay's Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous FoodGordon Ramsay's Fast Food: More Than 100 Delicious, Super-Fast, and Easy RecipesThe Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty

You might us well upgrade his cooking utensil game while you are it.

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife

 

A great all-round knife that at a great price. The Fibrox Pro 8″ Chef’s Knife is optimally weighted with high-quality, lightweight European steel that reduces hand and wrist fatigue, making it feel less like a knife and more like an extension of the hand. Perfectly suited for dicing onions, mincing shallots, chopping herbs, crushing garlic, slicing meats of all varieties, and shredding cabbage, its versatility will quickly make it his go-to knife.

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

Cuisinart Deluxe Stainless-Steel Grill Set

  • Grill set includes chef’s spatula, grill tongs, silicone basting brush, 4 pairs of corn holders, cleaning brush, and extra brush head
  • Also includes aluminum storage case–perfect for the on-the-go griller
  • Durable stainless-steel tool construction
  • Elongated handles; convenient handle rings for hanging
  • Spatula has built-in bottle opener

Time to Play

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

DMI Bristle Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

All work and no play makes for a dull guy.  How about spicing up their games room with a dartboard, darts, and oak cabinet.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

Christmas-Gift-Guide2-1[13]Christmas Gifts for the Men in Your Life | Women In Your Life | In-Laws| Teens | Elementary School Aged | Explorers and Adventurers | Cooks & Foodies

This is a cool idea

Mark’s photography teacher did something pretty cool.  She made her class design and publish personal websites for their photography.  Mark already has one that he uses for the class (which she seemed happy with) but she accomplished two cool things.  One she is getting her students to post to the open web which is public and often less horrible than Facebook is for kids.  Two she is creating an online presence that is thoughtful and attractive to future employers if the kids choose to keep them.

Mark told me that most of his friends used Wix which is cool. It is an all semester long project so the final mark is at the end of the year.  While Mark tends to his blog off and on, already the assignment has him posting more and more to it.  Hopefully his classmates are inspired to do the same thing.

Just a couple of things….

  1. We are heading north to Prince Albert National Park this weekend if it doesn’t get snow for Thanksgiving.  We will stay in the Narrows Campground and tent in two tents.  We upgraded our sleeping bags for this and will have lots of blankets.  Plus the dog gives off some heat.  The plan is to do some hiking, get some photos of some wildlife and hopefully get a shot of some otters.  Of course this all dependent on Mark not getting hurt playing football this Thursday night.
  2. It’s an insanely busy time for me at work as I am publishing three gift guides a week for the month of October.  So basically if you want to buy a camera or a lens this Christmas, I’ll have you covered.  At a couple thousand words a piece, it’s like writing 8 columns a week.  Oh yeah, I have some of those to write as well.
  3. The SaskatonianSince I have some extra time on my hands, I am launching a new project after the election.  It is called The Saskatonian.  It’s a longer podcast with video that will be with some public figures in Saskatoon.  Where the OurYXE podcast was policy and political, this will hopefully be more casual and have some culture, sports, and banter in it.  We won’t be shooting it in any particular place but it will be all over the place, often over a drink and a bite to eat.  The length is going to be longer but we will probably have multiple guests per episode.   The name came to me when Paul Wells called us Saskatoonians.  Umm, nope.  That’s not it.  It’s Saskatonian.    Expect to see some episodes being released after the election.
  4. I haven’t said a lot about the cuts to The Lighthouse but they make no sense from any kind of policy or even political perspective.  The intox beds are obviously double billed as the person who uses that bed is on social services and they are being paid to stay somewhere.  But when they show up there out of control or high, they often are turned away.  So at that point there are three choices.  Get arrested by the Saskatoon Police Service for public intoxication and go to police cells, go to Larson House (which is so full that it is the reason why the program was started at The Lighthouse in the first place) or be put out on the streets where people die yearly.  The idea that people are drinking and using drugs so they can somehow abuse the system is long held in governments who see themselves as the victim for any spending in their department but is ludicrous.  Addicts won’t go home if the funding is cut for the intox beds, they will end up in police cells or end up in Royal University Hospital emergency which are far more expensive or they will die on the streets.  It is why the program was set up but in the minds of social services, it isn’t their budget line so who cares?  Governments are asinine and this one is no different.
  5. I was asked this week if I give campaigns heads up on my columns.  The answer is no.  They can read them in Monday’s The StarPhoenix like the rest of the world.
  6. Rode VideoMic MeI plan to shoot and upload a video a day in 2018.  I don’t mind shooting video and have long enjoyed it.  I have edited quite a few over the years, including some that many of you have seen.  Doing it has never been that big of a deal for me, I just never have put in the work to make sure batteries are charged every day and the gear is good to go at all times.  Also I find it really hard to take photos of a weekend and capture it with video.  A friend of mine who is much better at this as I am basically told me the same thing that it is almost impossible to get great photos and great video at the same time of an event.  Once I got that figured out in my head on how to do, it made a lot more sense.   Everyone sees me with my Pentax K-3 and goes, “Why can’t you do what Casey Neistat does and do both?”  First of all, he doesn’t do both.  He shoots video with his Canon EOS 70D.  Also Canon is a much better video platform that my Pentax (and if I was being totally honest, is a much better photographic system as well but I’m not prepared to be that honest).  So yeah, I can plug in a video microphone into my Pentax but it doesn’t have the fast focusing that a Canon EOS 70D and a Canon EOS 80D does.  To be honest, even Nikon doesn’t have anything that compares video wise to that camera.  Also Canon has some video optimized lenses that are amazing that Pentax nor Nikon really has (why do I shoot a Pentax and not a Canon?  That is a long story).  So to do so, I am ordering a Rode VideoMic Me to go with my phone and then using some other gear like the Nikon Keymission 80 next summer and the DJI Mavic Pro drone.  So yeah, expect to see a lot of Wendy, Mark, Oliver, and Marley on here next year.
  7. So I did a Twitter poll about whether or not I should get a Bluetooth speaker for my shower and the response was overwhelmingly yes.  I now feel like I know more about your shower habits than I should.
  8. Finally there is a new guy in the neighborhood who walks all over the place, all times of the day and night and he is always loudly busting out these really bad rap lyrics about killing white people and taking back the land.  3:00 a.m.  Bad Rap.  10:00 a.m.  Bad Rap.  4:00 p.m. Bad Rap.  It’s like living just down the street from Drake.

Transport Canada’s Drone Regulations Make No Sense

Let me start this out that this isn’t a Saskatoon City Council issue nor is it a provincial issue.  My beef is with Transport Canada and their ham fisted rules around drones.

Okay, I am going to purchase a DJI Mavic Pro.  Here it is.

Yet the rules Transport Canada have in place are really, really vague but have these steep penalties.  Instead of rules, they have these weak guidelines.  Some seem more important than others.

  • Operate the aircraft safely.

That makes sense.

  • Always be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes. This means that you should not use an on-board camera, first person view device or other similar devices.

Okay, some people race their drones at low altitudes using VR gear.  Does that mean that it isn’t allowed?  Even at altitudes of under 25 feet?

  • Always give way to manned aircraft (e.g. hot air balloons, gliders, ultra-light aeroplanes including powered parachutes, aeroplanes and helicopters).  

Again, makes sense.

  • Fly only during daylight and in good weather (e.g. not in clouds or fog).

Okay with this rule.

  • Avoid restricted airspace (e.g. forest fire areas, prisons  or military airspace)

This also is common sense.  No one wants their DJI Phantom to be taken out by a surface to air missile. 

  • Remain at least 9 km (5 nautical miles) from any aerodromes and heliports.

This makes no sense to me.  First of all 9kms is almost all of Saskatoon including downtown where even if I am flying lower than the east riverbank, is it still disallowed?  It seems to be under these rules… these are basically banned anywhere on the westside of Saskatoon.

Now look at this.  You can do this over New York City which is in the middle of the U.S. Eastern Flight Corridor but I can’t do anything like this without permits from Transport Canada in Saskatoon.  It makes no sense.  Plus, the DJI drones have built in restrictions when you are close to an airport so you can’t fly more than a couple of feet high if you are too close.  Same with restricted airspace.

So this is safe to do in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco but not in Saskatoon.

  • Maintain below a safe altitude (300 feet (90 metres)) and a safe horizontal distance (minimum 100 feet (30 metres)) from people, structures or buildings.

I agree with this and I am suggesting it be allowed to do what some idiots do and take them up to 15,000 feet but up to 500 hundred feet is not a lot of altitude and in rural areas is safe.  As for the buildings, am I allowed to fly over top of them?

  • Do not fly in populated areas or overfly assemblies of people (e.g. sporting events, concerts, etc). 

What is a populated area?  Is that all of Saskatoon?  What about flying along the river valley?   What about SMF Field or Mosaic Stadium when empty?  Can I hover adjacent to the event?

  • Do not fly where or when you could interfere with any first responders (fire department, police, etc) as they conduct their duties.

Makes sense.  We saw the mess that idiots created with wildfires and drones.

  • Respect the privacy of others.

Again, what does that mean?  As a photographer, I am allowed to take a photo of anything I can as long as I am on public property.  I know this is more complicated because of the ability of a drone to look over a fence but where is the line drawn.  Personally I think Transport Canada should have said, you can’t take identifiable footage of people in private places but if they are in a public area as well, they are fair game as there is no expectation of privacy if you are walking in public.

  • Do not operate with any dangerous goods or lasers on the aircraft.

Really, having powerful lasers on board my drone is why I want a drone in the first place.

Seriously, Transport Canada’s rules are vague and confuse everyone.  I have talked to police, RCMP, and Parks Canada staff in the last couple of weeks and I get the same muddled answers of I am not sure and use “common sense”.  That makes sense unless you are talking about the kinds of fines that Transport Canada is talking about.  For that I want definitive answers.  So far no luck.

Escaping the City (with a 2016 Ford Escape)

Well this weekend was interesting.  Of course it started with Mark getting hurt at football on Friday night.  Hard blow to the lower back and really hurt his kidney.  Mark made a tackle and someone came in a fraction of a second late and hit him.  Weird thing with this is that it can way worse so the doctor gave us a list of what to watch out for.

So instead of getting up insanely early and heading north to Prince Albert National Park, we let him get more sleep while we loaded up the Focus.

Loading up the 2016 Ford Focus

He stumbled out of the house, into the Ford Escape, turned on the heat on the front seat, grabbed a blanket and went back to sleep.  He was in a lot of pain.  The good news is the heated seats made a lot of difference.

By the time we got up, the Park Cafe had a line of people outside the door.  After a quick vote, we went to Humpty’s and ordered some Splash Omelettes for Wendy, Mark and myself and a M&M pancake for Oliver.  They made the mistake of ordering pierogis as a side and regretted it, you always order the pan fries.  You know that means they all took some of my pan fries.

M&M pancake at Humpty's

The plan was to head up Highway 42 to Alveena and then cut across to the Battle of Fish Creek (and the cool looking Fish Creek Church) and then 28 kms up to Batoche.

Two days of constant rain had turned our roads to slop.  I decided to take the Fish Creek road and see what it was like.  I went a kilometer and even with the AWD of the Ford Escape, I turned back to the highway.  We went into Alveena and realized the same thing.  The top couple of inches of road was waterlogged and moving.  If I had to get through, I could have but it wasn’t worth risking it.

So we drove to the Watrous intersection backtracked and went to Batoche.  It was closed.  For fall, it closes on the weekends which makes no sense to me at all.  That would useful to have on the front of your website but it’s the Government of Canada, I should have known better.

So we crossed the river, headed north on Highway 11 and got into Prince Albert and then Waskesiu.

We had booked a lodge  at Waskesiu but then a week later they called back and said, “oh, we were overbooked”.  In other words they got a longer booking and we got bounced.  There is a big fun run up there this weekend and we quickly found out all of the other accommodations were booked.  We booked an oTENTik which kind of a hybrid tent and cabin.  At first the cost seemed way to high for what I was getting but when we got there, it was nicer than what we would have had at the hotel.

A muddy 2016 Ford Escape

Let’s chat about the oTENTiks for a second.

Mark and Oliver in front of a oTENTik at Prince Albert National ParkWendy, Mark and Oliver with an oTENTik at Prince Albert National ParkMark Cooper and an oTENTik at Prince Albert National Park

The first thing is that you need to stay in one.  They can sleep 6 really comfortably.  You bring your own sleeping bags and pillows and inside they had a platform with four single mattresses along the bottom and a double mattress up top.

There is a table with four chairs and a small bench to toss your bags.  Parks Canada also gives you a LED lantern for a light when you check in.  It looks cool but kicks out almost no light.  We had head lamps and are glad we had them.

The structure is half tent and half cabin.  The floor is raised, has laminate flooring, but the roof is a plastic canvas tarp.  You can also lock the door.  We didn’t need it but there was a propane heater.

There is also a metal bear cache out front for your food.  I’ll be honest, it was the only thing I didn’t like but maybe I am a little over sensitive after the wolf incident this summer.  I wish it and the barbecue was further way from the oTENTik.  It seemed to close but then again, I am probably over thinking this after what happened in Banff.

Finally there is a picnic table that is screened in alongside a fire pit.  It is a great setup and I’d rather stay in one of these then some of the cabin’s that are in Waskesiu.  It’s really nice.

I don’t know what it is like in the summer.  The widows open up but I am not sure how hot it would be but for the fall when crisp autumn weather is the norm, it is an amazing place to stay in and I would pick it over a cottage or lodge any night.

After unpacking, we drove from Beaver Glen campground to downtown Waskesiu.  On the way there, we saw a large herd of these guys just chilling out while the male acted aggressive (the rut has begun) and was walking around looking for a fight.

Elk patrolling the trailer campground at Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park

These were taken with Wendy’s Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and her 75-300mm lens (which is a equivalent of a 150-600mm lens).  We were a long ways away as I am not sure how Ford Escapes handle being rammed by giant elk.

Elk in Prince Albert National Park

For those of you who have never been around an elk or a moose in a rut, they are gathering up all of the females to breed with and are constantly on the look out for any other elk or people that could be a threat.  They are more or less insane and quite dangerous.  I wasn’t being flippant when I said they would ram the Escape because they would.

From there we did some shopping in downtown Waskesiu.  Oliver was choked the entire time.  He knew Mark was hurt so he was constantly challenging Mark to races which he was sure he could win.  While he was right, Mark was too hurt to even walk easily so there were no races.

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We did go into a high end boutique that was blowing everything out from 50-80% off and Mark did find an Oakley hat that he liked.  I found a great looking shirt that was still $200 on sale.  So I passed.

From there, we went to Pete’s Terrace and ordered the Volcano Pizza to share.  You can order it in terms of heat from 1-5.  We had a two which was hot enough.  They did bring us a side of #5 and my mouth still burns.  Actually it hit all of us except Oliver who just said, “I don’t do spicy”.  Wise kid.

Here is the thing about Pete’s Terrace.  The pizza is good and affordable which means in the summer, EVERYONE IN WASKESIU and NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN eats there which means long waits because the restaurant is packed, the deck is packed, the non-licensed sidewalk area is packed.  In the fall, it’s just kind of normally busy and the services is really fast.  So the summer of last night was great pizza, great service and I still shouldn’t have tried the #5 hot sauce.

Last night we took a slow drive just past dusk and when I say slow, I mean 30 kph slow.  Explaining to Ford why there is an elk lodged in the front seat is not a conversation that  I wanted to have (okay, it would an hilarious conversation to have but you know what I mean)

This is what we saw.  Elk sleeping on the shoulder and in the middle of the highway.  Right in the middle of the highway.   Is it because of the heat or because they are in rut (we never saw it but you could hear elk in rut challenging each other in the distance while out walking).  It was really weird to be driving (we were going about 30 kph) and seeing them and not moving.  Not that I would ever do this but from their non-reaction, it looked like you could have picked one up and brought it home as a (giant, destructive) pet.

I did discover something last night, the Escape’s headlights go from high beam to low beam automatically which is a feature I have waited for my entire life.  It really makes driving at night a lot more pleasant and safer.  We didn’t drive that long with them on but from what I can tell, they aren’t confused by yard lights in the distance which is also pretty interesting.  They only dim for car lights coming at you.  Great technology.

Late Saturday night Mark was even in worse shape.  We were going to go to Mud Creek Flat to see if we could find some black bears but that was cancelled, also the road still sucked.  We talked to locals about Highway #263 and they are about to impeach the Minister of Highways over how long it has been under construction.  Also they said, “don’t take it after this rain.”

We had planned to hike to LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam today but as well but looking at Mark, he needed to head home so we grabbed some food and got him back to Saskatoon.

In talking with Mark, the heated front seat of the Escape made the trip for him.  Yes he was on painkillers but he said he felt uncomfortable as soon as the heated seat turned off and felt better as soon as the seat kicked back in.  On the way up, you would see it turn off and then a moment later Mark would take up, hit the button and go back to sleep.

180 South Movie PosterIn the end, it wasn’t the trip I had planed (we are blaming Mark for that).  If you have ever seen the excellent documentary 180 South, there is a great line in it where the main character goes, “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.”  It was relaxing and it was nice to check out the Ford Escape on a trip like this.  It just didn’t go as planned. 

Here are some thoughts on driving the Ford Escape.

  • We took 4.5 three season sleeping backs, a medium sized cooler, three camera bags, three tripods, four pillows and some extra blankets.  There were also four backpacks in there and we had lots of room in the back.  The Escape holds a lot of stuff for weekend trips like this.
  • It’s powerful.  When I had to pass, the engine didn’t even work up a sweat.  It never kicked into a passing gear despite firing us forward.  It may be the form of a SUV but it’s soul is a sports car.   The EcoBoost engine is one part of the equation but so is the really smooth and always ready to go 6 speed transmission.
  • I like the addition spot for your phone/fob on the console.  I think it’s new for 2017 and it’s a nice touch.
  • For the first time ever, I actually plugged my iPod Nano into the sound system and played music rather than just ESPN Radio.  The sound system is amazing.  Rich highs and lows.  Ford did a great job with this.
  • Fuel efficiency was good.  On the trip it was 8.7 litres per 100 km.  The highways were quiet and not a lot of passing but still, it was good mileage.
  • This the first time I have never noticed this but the GPS was a couple hundred meters off from the map at times.  Not a big deal when driving through Duck Lake but for those that rely on it, it may be unnerving.  That being noted, my Bushnell and Wendy’s Magellen GPS both have done this while hiking so I assume it is a GPS satellite thing.  Also it could have happened before but I just noticed it a few times on this trip.  Also to be fair, there was a heavy cloud cover and the GPS could have had a hard time acquiring a good fix.
  • I’ll be honest.  I didn’t do a fair test on the Escape.  I only drove it in drive, not in sport mode and kept it to within safe speed limits.  Hey it’s how I drive (despite getting two tickets this summer). Even when you aren’t in sport mode, it feels like a sports car.
  • I don’t know how to compare it’s AWD capabilities.  I was only a km down the Fish Creek Road but the entire top of the road was moving which is more about the soft sand and gravel of that road than it is about the Ford.  I know it has traction control but this was a sloppy mess.  It didn’t feel horrible but it was such as short ride that it didn’t seem worthwhile.

I get grief every single time that I say that the Ford Escape is my favorite car out there.  We are a family of four.  We live for weekend trips like this or heading out to the mountains to hike in the summer.  We have a dog that is rowdy.  This vehicle works so well for us because when Mark was sick, it was big enough for Mark to ride up front and Wendy to be comfortable in the back.  It is big enough to hold our gear without thinking too much about it (although if I owned one, I would have a carrying rack up top for camping).  I could tow an ultra light tent trailer behind it.  Most of all, I really enjoy driving it.

I have been in love with the Ford Escape for years and in 2017 Ford made it better.

Oh yeah, Mark will be fine.  They did a CT Scan at Royal University Hospital and he lacerated a kidney.  We technically the kid that hit him lacerated his kidney.  He will miss practice this week and the game and start practicing next Monday.  He’s just sore right now and doesn’t want to aggravate the injury.   It’s football.  It could have been worse but he will be fine.

Some Thoughts on Camping Gear

Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire.  The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all.  So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags.  We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary.  When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry.  I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents.  While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart.  When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did.  So two thoughts from this:  Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy.  Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.

  • We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two.  It worked great.  We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water. 
  • If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon.  They are around $4.   We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
  • A Red Niteize LED lightI bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar.  She is a black dog and at night, is invisible.  She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her.  Other campers got a kick out of her as well.  We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks.  If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him.  Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
  • I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee.  Big mistake.  I might as well just chewed on grounds.  The end result was not a single coffee.  We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week.  Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee. GSI Outdoors Coffee Press
  • We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff.  It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze.  Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm.  After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze.  We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags.  I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can.  Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag.  Oliver already had one.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries.  Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five.  Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them.   Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
  • The hammocks were wonderful.  I am glad I bought them.  There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon.  The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up.  For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
  • I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear.  Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year.  They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
  • No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great.  They take up almost no room.  The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
  • Get yourself a great camp light.  Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas.  It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.

Ventura 300 Lumen Lantern

Verizon to purchase Yahoo!

Here are the details at the Globe and Mail.

As a Canadian, I don’t have any experience with Verizon but they have done a decent job in stabilizing Aol and hopefully the same thing will be done with Yahoo!  Maybe they can figure out what to do with their content properties like Yahoo! Sports.

I don’t understand Yahoo! Sports.  They have an amazing roster of writers like Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde, Adrian Wojnarowski as well as some of the best bloggers in the business.  I love their writing and coverage.  It rivals the best in the business but for whatever reason, Yahoo! hides in the middle of all of this other crap that bring in from content farms or even the Yahoo! Contributor Network (where anyone could write garbage and it would appear on the site).  That was the problem with the site, there was all of this garbage and you actually had to work to find the good stuff.

When the site was excellent, it was their contributors providing opinion, bloggers covering news, and the AP and wire services doing game summaries.  You could go and easily find the teams you wanted to read about and the writers you wanted to follow.   It was a combination that made them one of the best sites on the web.  Now go look at it.  All of it is sponsored or third party content disguised as click bait.

Hopefully Verizon will stop this and even it takes a short term loss, figure out how to make some of their signature sites great again.  Some of the properties have gone from the best of the web to the worst.  If Yahoo! ever becomes anything ever again, great and easy to find content will be a big part of it.

Review of the 2016 Ford Flex

Ford CanadaA couple of weeks ago, Ford Canada was cool enough to lend me a 2016 Ford Flex for a week to review it.   We drove it in the city, we took it on the highway, and we took it on a road that was under heavy construction and kind of scary.   Here is what I learned about the crossover.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

Mark and Oliver liked it.  Especially Oliver.  The third row of seats is amazing when you have children.  There is no fighting, no arguing, just peace and quiet.  When they are sitting beside each other, it is like an uneasy truce both sides are trying to break.  When they are separated, it is peaceful, calm, and relaxing.

The second row of seats is large enough for myself and I am 6’4.  The rear row was fine for Mark and was large enough for Oliver to think he had his own apartment back there.  It is a legit third row of seating.

The 2016 Ford Flex compliments of Ford Canada

I should say that the 2016 Ford Flex broke Mark’s heart.  I have been reviewing Ford automobiles for the last couple of years and each one of them, Mark has been too young to drive anything other than his mountain bike.  In his mind, when he turned 16, he was going to get behind the wheel and put it through his paces.   He just turned 16.   Then I told him he had to be 18.  He was crushed.  Devastated.  Forlorn.

So I asked him what he was going to do about it?  I suggested he tweet at Ferrari that he was kid in the middle of Saskatchewan and if they could lend him a vehicle for a week to review.  Mark was like, “Really?”  I then told him to compare his Twitter following to Kim Kardashian’s and evaluate his chances.  Yes, I troll my own kids from time to time.

Oh well, there is hope for him in 2018.

Driving Around Town

I took the Flex to work with me for the week and we pretty much parked the Chevy HHR.  It is pretty agile around town.  It has a tighter turning radius than you would expect and quite a bit tighter than my old Dodge Caravan which made it a nice commuter vehicle.  While I drove it pretty conservatively, I had to stomp on the gas once to avoid a careless driver and it unexpectedly tossed you back into your seat.  For a vehicle that long, you don’t expect it to handle and have the power of a sports car but does.

The kids liked it.  I had to drop Mark off at Bedford Road Collegiate for his school’s canoe trip.  The response was, “When did you get that SUV?” and “Is that a new Ford Flex?”  Not a huge sample size but it is approved by high school students who love to explore.

At least the 2016 Ford Flex looks stylish

If you want to take a moment to point out that Mark did up the hip straps on his backpack to load it into the car so I could drive him like three kilometers to his school, go ahead, I don’t know what he was thinking.  The Flex had a lot of room for his gear but could barely hold all of the geekness.   The design may be a bit polarizing but the shape means there is all sorts of storage.  if you get the optional luggage rails and then add a luggage rack or pod, you have a vehicle that begs itself to be taken for long road trips.

Driving on the Highway

We took the car to Prince Albert National Park where we intended to hike the trail along Kingsmere Lake to Grey Owl’s Cabin.

My sherpa, I mean my son loads the gear in the 2016 Ford Flex

There were four of us and the dog.  We had a cooler full of cold drinks when we were done and three and a three quarters expedition sized backpacks.  They all fit comfortable in the back even if the dog was confused why she wasn’t driving.   Check out Mark loading the gear in he back when were done.  There was lots of room.

Marley and her backpack

It was a quiet drive using the cruise control on the way up but it’s a great highway vehicle.  Lots of room, Sirius XM radio, nice sound speakers and heated and air conditioned chairs.  It was excellent.  A combination of a long wheelbase and Ford’s suspension made for a smooth and comfortable ride.

Years ago a friend of mine bought a Ford Grand Marquis when his father retired from work.  He picked his dad up, tossed him in and they drove the Trans Canada highway to the east coast, came back, went south and joined up with Route 66 and drove that from coast to coast before heading north to Highway 1 again and headed back to Saskatoon.  I always wanted to do that and have always thought of the Ford Grand Marquis as the perfect vehicle to do that with.  If I was going to do a trip like that, it would be the Ford Flex. 

I do have a funny story though about the Ford Flex.  As we were turning into Prince Albert National Park right at LT’s Food and Fuel, I heard a horrible sound from the Flex.

LT's Food and Fuel near Prince Albert Provincial Park

I immediately slowed down but the noise go louder, I pulled into the parking lot and was about to call Ford over the still going loud noise when I realized that it was a Diet Coke I was holding.  I hadn’t done the lid up tight and the road was rough which shook up the pop until air and fizz started to leak out making this noise that had us all convinced there was something wrong with the car.  For the rest of the weekend, every time something in the Flex would make a noise, Mark would go, “Dad, the Flex is breaking! Better stop.”  I deserved that mocking.

The Ford Flex was quiet on the highway and while I didn’t have a lot of traffic to contend with, when I had to pass, there was power to pass which is what is really important.

Leaving the Pavement Behind

The main reason we didn’t complete the trip was that Kingsmere Road was under heavy construction during the week and was closed.  In what we had hoped would be a three day hike instead turned into a two day one which was more than Oliver could handle.

The construction did allow me to see how the Flex handled off the pavement on some soft and sloppy roads.  Parks Canada warned us about the roads before hand.  She said that it was passable but unpleasant.  I took the warning seriously but despite the soft spots, the Flex handled it easily.  Even coming back from trailhead after a large storm the night before where the road was worse, I didn’t worry.  Well there was one part of the parking lot where there was a D6 Cat that looked stuck, I avoided that part of the road.

Final Thoughts

Over a week, I developed some strong opinions about the 2016 Ford Flex.  Let me share them here.

  • For a family like ours that loves to travel, the extra space was amazing.  Three rows of seats but the second one was large enough for the boys travel comfortably without them bugging each other.  It’s the vehicle you want when driving to Disneyland, the west coast or Waskesiu for the day.
  • ESPN Radio.  It may not be your favorite thing on a roadtrip but it is mine.  Sirius XM radio is worth the money and if the car you purchase has it built in and ready to go, you are one step ahead.
  • Heated seats / air conditioned seats.  When you just walk a bazillion miles in the Canadian Shield, things hurt.  Heated seats make that pain go away.  Air conditioned seats cool you down.  They are amazing.
  • Cup holders up front, in the back, on the sides…. Let’s see we had coffee cups, pop bottles, and water bottles all going on the way home.  There was room for all of them.
  • The front and rear sunroofs are a nice touch.  The rear one is split.  At one point Oliver had his one open and Mark had his one shut. 
  • Designed to seat seven adults, the Flex is equipped with large, plush, overstuffed front and second-row seats.
  • The third-row seat dumps into a well in the vehicle’s floor, similar to a minivan, and because the Flex has a nearly vertical rear window and a square roofline, it provides an impressive amount of cargo room even when traveling with a full house of passengers.
  • For the 2016 model year Ford gave us the company’s new Sync 3 infotainment system in the Flex. Sync 3 replaces the MyFord Touch infotainment system, and it represents a significant improvement.

    Highlights of the new system include:

    • Capacitive touch screen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability
    • Improved graphics, faster response to inputs
    • Upgraded voice recognition technology
    • Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
    • System updates available via Wi-Fi
  • Fuel mileage wasn’t bad.  You can check out Fuelly and see what other Ford Flex drivers are getting.  The average seems to be about 18 mpg.   I get around 25 mpg with my Chevy HHR but it is a much smaller and less powerful vehicle.

I am a fan of the Flex.  It’s styling isn’t for everyone but I have come to love it.  If you are a family who loves to travel or just wants a comfortable ride to the great outdoors, the Ford Flex is worth looking a closer look at, you will be impressed at what you see.

Promoting Local

The other day I walked into my favorite restaurant and was immediately swarmed by the owner, the cook, and the waiter who all thanked me for mentioning their restaurant in The StarPhoenix and in an media interview I did.  They mentioned how people have come by because of what I say on Twitter and my blog as well.  I thought the whole thing was kind of cool but as I said, “I’m not the one making the killer lunch specials.”

We all know that social media advertising works but one thing is that I have never understood about how politicians don’t use it more to promote their own ward businesses.  Economic development is an important part of any politicians local goals and I think they ignore the platform that being elected and their social media profiles give them to promote just that to promote business in their ward or constituency.

While I want my elected officials to look at the big picture, promoting the underdogs in the ward can be a good thing and as Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi has shown, it’s something that can be easily done in the evening during quieter hours.  Whether as a mayor or a councilor or MLA, what cooler project would it be to visit and promote your constituents businesses and organizations to a wider audience.  I’m talking Walmart’s but the family owned businesses that make up our smaller commercial districts.

Does it make a difference.  You should check out my email when either Wendy and I blog about a local business.  I write about it, you click on it, some of you stop by and buy from them and people are happy.  More politicians need to do this.  If it makes a difference for local businesses when I do it, imagine what can happen when they do it.

Can you do me a favor?

Follow Oliver Cooper on YouTube

Oliver turns 8 tomorrow and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to shoot a Casey Neistat type video about his day tomorrow.  That isn’t going to be that hard to create or edit and I thought I would just upload it to my channel.  Then Oliver realized that he doesn’t have a YouTube Channel of his own and was stressed.  Last night I built one for him and you can find it here.  He ruthlessly micromanaged me while I made the edits today.

So he was thrilled with it until tonight when he realized he has no subscribers and is worried his video will be a flop.  Can you do me a favor and subscribe to his channel tonight or tomorrow?  A couple dozen subscribers would make his day.  That way when I upload this video tomorrow night, he’ll have an audience.

Thanks!