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Cosmo

Cosmo at Galaxyland in West Edmonton Mall

It could be a hint about what next week’s column is going to be about.

Can’t life just suck sometimes?

I know this was a bad experience and Carnival Cruise Lines didn’t do themselves any favours with it but this lawsuit is crazy.

The Triumph left Galveston, Texas on Feb. 7, 2013, for a four-day cruise highlighted by a stop in Cozumel, Mexico. After departing Cozumel, a fire broke out at about 5 a.m. in the ship’s engine room Feb. 10. It left the ship without engine power and most of its electricity, forcing passengers to endure human waste running down hallways, limited water supplies, noxious odours and extreme heat.

After about five days in the Gulf of Mexico, the ship was finally towed to Mobile, Alabama., and the weary, bedraggled passengers disembarked Feb. 14.

Carnival sought to make amends by offering each passenger a $500 check, a voucher for a future cruise, refunds of most on-board expenses and reimbursement for transportation, parking and so forth.

For many of the passengers, those offers were an insult and multiple lawsuits were filed seeking millions of dollars in damages.

In the current trial, Judge Graham has ruled that passengers cannot collect punitive damages and may only get damages for past and future medical costs that are conclusively linked to what happened on the Triumph.

Many of the 33 passengers involved in the trial complain of lingering emotional issues such as PTSD, anxiety and depression; some have physical ailments they blame on squalid conditions, including leg pain, diarrhea, upper respiratory problems and even aggravated hemorrhoids.

Most of the passengers are seeking $5,000 in damages a year from Carnival for the rest of their lives, claiming they will need continuous medical monitoring because of what happened aboard ship. They want the money in lump sums based on government tables estimating their life expectancies.

Can’t you just have a really sucky experience anymore without getting lawyers involved or is this now mandatory if something bad happens. 

Tunnels of Moose Jaw

The Park Hotel in Moose Jaw

I woke up early for the gold medal hockey game.  I tried to wake up Wendy and then Mark but was essentially told to go away.

One the slugabed’s awoke, we decided to take a road trip.  I told them that we were going to Waskesiu and then took Highway 11 south towards Chamberlain and then Moose Jaw.

A washroom break was needed at Chamberlain where we stopped at Bennett’s Garage.  That didn’t go so well as the bathrooms weren’t clean and the Twizzlers were stale.  It stopped the complaining and we were off to Moose Jaw.

We got to Moose Jaw just in time for a Tunnels of Moose Jaw tour.  We took the Chicago Connections tour which had our group as bootleggers out to run Al Capone’s booze down to Chicago.  The first stop was above the Java Express Cafe where were taken into a private club with a table reserved for Al Capone.  As we were about to be bothered by the corrupt Chief of Police, we were taken into Al Capone’s office and then his bedroom.  Things were okay until there was an Al Capone sighting and then we were brought into the tunnels underneath Moose Jaw where we met, Gus, one of Capone’s henchmen.

He showed us his gun collection, told us stories of gangsters, Moose Jaw, and Capone, showed up the stills, and finally led us on an escape from the RCMP who had shown up at the club with warrants.  Along the way he harassed Mark, Wendy, and several other guests, while keeping the tour fun and moving along.

Mark loved the tour as he was identified as having potential within the Capone crime family.  Oliver was a little young and was scared during part of it but in the end enjoyed it as well.

It took about 40 minutes and was worth the $40 it cost us as a family to take it.

Moose Jaw has a lot happening for it tourism wide.  There is the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa, Casino Moose Jaw, the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, Crescent Park, and a popular Western Development Museum.  Not only that but Main Street in Moose Jaw has come alive with places like Brown’s Social House.  In addition to all of these things, it has some of Saskatchewan’s best architecture.

It’s worth a visit.

Russian Scorpion

Russian Scorpion Submarine

Wooden Truss Bridge

Wooden railway bridgeAs seen while driving through the interior of British Columbia back in 2004.

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

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

Sony RX-100 II

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

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

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

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

        GoPro Hero 3+

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

        Go Pro Hero 3+

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


        Fuji XF1

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

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

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


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


        Bose AE2 audio headphonesBose AE2

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


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

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


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

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


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

        Samsung 2.1 Channel 100-Watt Dual Audio Dock


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

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


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


        1296669-p-MULTIVIEWKenneth Cole Leather Messenger Bag

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

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


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

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

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


        Whiskey Stones

        Whiskey Sipping Stones

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


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

        AR Drone 2.0 quadcopter

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


        Netatmo Urban Weather Station

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

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

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

        Bushnell 10×42 Binoculars

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

        Purchase at Amazon.com | $69


        Tonx Coffee

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

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


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


        Art Prints

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


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

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

        A Terrifying Tour of the World’s Most Dangerous Road

        I guess this means that Saskatoon has the second worst roads in the world.

        Dealth Road in Bolivia

        To one side is solid rock. To the other, a 2,000-foot abyss. In between is a two-way, 12-foot-wide path known as “Death Road.”

        Regularly named as the world’s most dangerous route, North Yungas Road was cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain in the 1930s. Many sections are unpaved and lack guardrails. Warm and humid winds from the Amazon bring heavy rains and fog. There are numerous mudslides and tumbling rocks, and small waterfalls occasionally rain down the cliff sides. These conditions explain why an estimated 200 to 300 people are killed on the road every year.

        Special rules apply at North Yungas Road. While the rest of Bolivia drives on the right side, here vehicles drive on the left. A driver on the left has a better view of the edge of the road. Furthermore, descending vehicles never have the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. This forces fast vehicles to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely.

        Distracted Driving in Saskatchewan

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

        RCMP

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

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

        Ford's Distracted Driving event in Regina

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

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

        RCMP Tricycle

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

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

        La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

        On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert.  We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert.  Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.

        Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.

        Ford’s Power of Choice Event in Regina

        Ford

        Last Tuesday, Jeff, Mark, and myself were invited to Regina to take part in Ford Canada’s Power of Choice at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  I was at the Escape with Ford event last summer, a day that I have called the best day of my life despite the angry glares that I get from Wendy, Mark, and now Oliver but I stand by my statement.  Ford events are those things that you should always say yes to.  Of course a couple of days before I get the itinerary and it says that it starts at 10:00 a.m. which means that we need to leave Saskatoon at 7:00 a.m.  We could have left later but I was driving the 2013 Ford C Max Hybrid and you would feel like a jerk getting a ticket in one of those.

        The night before Mark was getting packed and his over the ear headphones were busted.  Mark takes good care of his stuff but the ear pad was off.  He never asks for stuff to be replaced but I went out and picked him up some new Sony headphones that XS Cargo had.  I left the box in the Ford C Max Hybrid and he was thrilled to find it in the morning. 

        So at 5:45 a.m. I heard Mark get up and take all of the hot water in the house.  The kid was excited to get going to his first Ford event, even if he hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to convince Ford to let him drive a car on the RCMP grounds.  He still had a couple of hours to work out the details.  We drove over to Jeff Jackson’s place.  We had been there once before and I was assuming Mark had paid closer attention to where he lived than I did but then I realized it was Oliver who was with me.  That didn’t help at all.

        Despite Jeff’s place being in the middle of Lakeridge, it doesn’t show up on Ford’s GPS.  I kept hoping I would get ‘Samantha’ (Ford Sync’s voice) to give me a warning about driving into unchartered territory but nothing.

        It’s a horrible drive between Saskatoon and Regina.  There is no scenery at all.  I am sorry Davidson but your large coffee pot does not classify as scenery.  If only a town would create the world’s biggest hoe along the way.

        I don’t know how much Mark enjoyed his new headphones on the way down as I think he was asleep by Dundurn and I didn’t hear from him until after we passed Lumsden.

        When we got to Regina and I had Jeff, the guy with Apple Maps navigating for me.  That worked out as well as Apple Maps got us lost, didn’t update in time to make the turns and was pretty much useless. We should have stuck with either the Google Maps or the Microsoft powered map in the Ford GPS.  It was a loss for Apple, a win for every other map software in the world, including paper maps.

        As we rolled into the RCMP Heritage Centre, Ford had a large tent set up and like the other Ford events that we have been at, there was food, information, and drinks everywhere.  Believe it or not, the photographer below was photographing the cars and not us.  I may be a big deal in Europe but not so much in Regina.

        IMGP8173

        As we were chatting, we noticed Greg Johnson, the Tornado Hunter roll up in his orange F-150.  It makes quite an entrance.  Of course Greg was only there for a short time as he had to go out and chase a tornado.

        IMGP8178

        To start of the morning we took part in a short presentation on the Ford electric vehicles and hybrids in a boardroom at the RCMP Heritage Centre.  Ford presentations are short, information packed and their specialists can answer your questions very well.  On this one we had a specialist joining up in from Dearborn, Michigan via Skype.

        IMGP8179

        IMGP8181

        IMGP8183

        “We pride ourselves on offering customers the Power of choice, including 15 vehicles with EcoBoost engines and five new electrified vehicles,” said Scott Kuzma, Ford of Canada’s assistant marketing manager, cars. “We are absolutely committed to top fuel economy with every new vehicle we introduce, and the Power of Choice Tour is helping people learn how they can achieve that in their own lives.”

        You can read more about the presentation by clicking on the PDF.  Of course not only are Ford vehicles more fuel efficient but Ford is trying to cut back on the amount of petroleum products it takes to make them (which can actually use up more hydro carbons than it will to drive them).  For anyone who has read Jeff Rubin‘s books or column in the Globe and Mail, you know what a big deal this is.

        Then it was outside to test drive the cars.  There was a 2013 Ford Escape, a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and a 2013 Ford C Max Energi.  Each test drive was done with a Ford Product Specialist who was there to answer any questions that myself (or Mark in the backseat) had.  While we were waiting to take some drives, there were other specialists to answer any questions.

        IMGP8184

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        I took the Ford C Max Energi and the Ford Fusion Hybrid for quick test drives.  Both are great cars.   The Ford C Max Energi is very similar to the C Max Hybrid I just had but like the (way more expensive) Chevy Volt, it runs first on battery and then uses gas.  The transition from electric to gas was seamless.  I had several questions about battery life as the last thing one wants to do is spend a lot of money on an electrified vehicle and then replace the battery pack.  The battery packs on those last from 15-20 years which I think is more than acceptable and actually is quite exceptional.

        IMGP8231

        The Ford Fusion Hybrid is also a great car to drive.  I never really thought of the Ford Fusion as a luxury car but it is fantastic as a mid-sized sedan.  For a lot of people running kids around town, it has the size to do it and the fuel efficiency to make the trips a lot less painful (which I was reminded when gas was $1.30 a litre on the way up and back.

        IMGP8229

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        IMGP8205

        They also had a 2013 Ford Escape but I have reviewed one previously and was going to drive another back to Saskatoon so I didn’t see the point in taking the SUV I love the most for another test drive.  

        At the Escape with Ford event from last year, they fed us about 8 times.  This year we didn’t have the amount of stops but the quality was excellent with sandwiches, drinks and treats everywhere for us to eat.  I found out an interesting thing about Mark in that he is unable to eat a chocolate cupcake without part of it going up his nose.  I blame his mom.

        9086758719 36c9e7f088 b

        9088979802 f01280ce06 b

        As we left Regina, we took the 2013 Ford Escape back to Saskatoon with us.  I stopped in Davidson to fill up the tank and while I was overtired, I made a horrible and inexcusable mistake.  I stopped at the roadside gas station.  Jeff and Mark went in to use the washroom and came out deeply scarred from the smell, sex toys being sold in the washroom and what Mark described as something oozing through the walls.  I think both of them now have PTSD.  That washroom alone is reason enough get a more energy efficient vehicle.  The less you have to stop at roadside washrooms, the higher of quality of life you will have.

        I took a bunch of photos which have been posted to Flickr.  Mark posted about the day here and also uploaded his photos to his Flickr account.

        The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

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

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

        NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

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

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

        Ozark Trail Tent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        You are the cure

        Great public awareness campaign and website from the Government of Alberta on the dangers of texting and driving.  I am amazed that despite the Saskatoon Police Service cracking down on it and the large fines that come along with it, many people I know text and use their phone while driving.  It’s not that hard to put your phone on vibrate, put it face down and ignore it when in the car.

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        Driving in Russia

        This is amazing. I can’t believe I watched all 13 minutes of it.

        It’s like driving with Wendy.

        Mission 26

        The Endeavour’s last mission.

        Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

        A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

        Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

        HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

        Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

        Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

        If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

        2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

        If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

        If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

        Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

        Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

        Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

        In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

        This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

        Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.