Flickr said this was my 50th most interesting photo of 2014. It is of Mark just after I gave him my old Pentax K-X camera for his 14th birthday. I’ll be counting down to my most interesting photo of 2014 every day from now until the end of the year.
Mark starts high school tomorrow. He will wander out of here around 8:30 a.m. and is headed towards Bedford Road Collegiate where he will spend the next three and a half years of his life. He is talking about joining the Royal Canadian Navy after that so he can see the world before deciding on a career. We will see if the RCN has any floating ships left before he decides on his next step.
It was a hard decision for him to go to Bedford Road. He had wanted to go to E.D. Feehan High School but the lack of a football team doomed that decision. The lack of many sports made it exciting for him to go. He looked at Mount Royal and Marion M. Graham Collegiate and Bishop James Mahoney as well but the time on the bus was going to be significant. No one wants that long of commute just to go to high school.
The response from teachers and educators over him going to Bedford Road was tepid at best and downright hostile and discouraging at worse. Neighbors and friends had reservations. A friend of the families kid was robbed and then hit hard with a chain. Another kid was robbed at knife point. Saskatoon Public School Board teachers called the kids “rough”, “unteachable”, and talked of physical intimidation in the classroom. Two teachers told me they would resign rather than be appointed to Bedford. I don’t know if that was just talk but there are some polarizing feelings about the school. Considering it wasn’t a decision I was fond of in the first place (bad things always happened to me when I was in Bedford Road when I was a student) we really spent some time looking at our options and deciding what was best for Mark.
In defence of Bedford I was told of crime and thugs everywhere in the city. That may be true but according to Saskatoon Police Service crime maps, there is a propensity of violent and serious property crime in 2014 (and continuing throughout the spring) in Caswell Hill (and Mayfair). Assaults, robberies, drug related offences. It is all there and in a higher concentration then in other surrounding neighbourhoods in the city. Crime happens in the neighbourhood and the neighbourhoods where it’s students come from.
At the end of the day, crime is bad in our neighbourhood which has not been fun for the boys (it was last summer they were accosted by a high prostitute at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday) and of course 2013 was the summer of gunshots and prostitutes working our street (which has stopped thankfully).
So yeah there is a basis for teachers to be concerned, I am not sure why all of the negativity that goes around Bedford (well I do actually, I have disliked the school since my friends stereo was stolen and then the guy tried to resell it back to us which there for a basketball game) and from westside teachers in general about being in inner city schools. I have heard the complaints about the lack of fundraising from parents (I was foolish enough to think that taxes paid for my kids education) to school fees not being paid on time (We know of one kid that was picking bottles to pay for his school fees this year), to a lack of school supplies. I am not sure it’s right to hate the kids for the environment that they come from.
I can’t speak to the physical intimidation part. I am 6’4. I am not physically intimidated by much anymore yet Wendy who is a foot shorter doesn’t feel a lot of fear in her workplace and it can and often is violent (shoplifters, drunks, drugs, mental health). Maybe there is a desensitization that happens that I am missing and that some don’t have. Maybe they shouldn’t be teaching on the westside and perhaps it is a flaw of the system that allows teachers to teach kids they don’t like or fear.
I also think the city does it weird with allowing Mark to go to any school he wants. It creates a system where his friends who want to ride the bus or have parents that wish to drive them daily, can go to any high school in the city and creates a weird feeling for those that “have” to go to their neighbourhood schools. In the case of E.D. Feehan, you have a school in a slow death spiral because why would you want to go to a school that has no amenities when you can go the new and cutting edge Bethlehem High School.
Finally, I think the school board has a morale problem when you have teachers speaking so poorly about Bedford Road and about the westside to parents and students. Those teachers are speaking about not just a school but their own colleagues and are prejudging students before the summer is over and the school year has begun.
Oddly enough the extremely poor teachers Mark has had previously makes it easier to disregard the advice about Bedford (he has had more good teachers than bad but he bad one was so bad I don’t think he would have survived a second year). Despite the degree, some people aren’t wired to teach some kids. Hopefully he finds teachers that are wired to teach, coach, and mentor and they out number the ones that don’t want to be there.
Mark will do fine but the process leading up tomorrow left me with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach.
While the rest of the world celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday this weekend, we are celebrating Mark turning 14 at the cabin.
He has been saving up for a DLSR camera for months. When I upgraded my Pentax K-x, he thought I traded it in for a new camera. Instead I took it upstairs and have been saving it to give him for his birthday.
After having the camera’s sensor cleaned, I bought him a new 16 GB memory card and cleaned all of the lens up perfectly (if you don’t have a Lens Pen, you are doing it all wrong).
Wendy and I had bought him a a new Roots sling camera bag and placed the camera in along with some of my older lenses. Along with the camera, I gave him this 18-55mm lens that came with the camera, a really sharp manual 50mm lens, a Pentax 100-300 lens, and a Takumar-F 28-80mm manual lens (that to be honest, really sucks) but it will give him a macro to play with. I have an older Sigma 70-210 lens that I may give him as well but I am awaiting a replacement for it. Until then he can borrow it.
To celebrate his birthday we are heading north from the cabin for a long nature walk along the shores of Last Mountain Lake where we will hopefully get some shots of some birds and someone can test out his new camera. I expect you will see some photos of the day as soon as we get back into the city.
Mark blogs about his birthday here.
Today mark’s my 40th trip around the sun without being tossed off. I guess it also means that I am middle aged. That being said, Time Magazine once said that 50 is the new 30 so I guess that makes me 25 or so. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
To celebrate my birthday, we have spent the last couple of days where it all began; in Edmonton. Yes I was born in Edmonton. I don’t like to talk about it because it wasn’t my choice and it is Edmonton after all.
We got up at Sunday at 5:00 a.m., left Saskatoon at 6:00 a.m., were in Lloydminister for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and in Elk Island National Park by 11 a.m. After talking some photos of some bison, it was off to Edmonton. Wendy used some Airmiles to book a decent hotel, the boys have spent the last couple of days enjoying West Edmonton Mall and I got out in the warmer weather and took some photos around the city. I’ll post them online when I get back to Saskatoon.
I don’t really think of Edmonton as home. I was born there and only lived there a year before moving to Rainbow Lake and then settling in Calgary for a decade. Growing up as a Calgary Flames hockey fan, I used to despise Edmonton in the same way someone from Springfield thinks of Shelbyville. Since things have changed (and both Calgary and Edmonton can’t play hockey),it is nice to be back, even if it does mean wandering up and down a mall.
For my birthday, the boys gave me a Pentax WG-10 rugged compact camera while Wendy gave me a GoPro 3+ Silver Edition and a really nice Invicta dive watch. Maggi gave me a Denver Broncos sign that I will hang at the cabin. Two of the four gifts say, “get outside more often” and after this winter, I can’t agree more.
The plan is to have dinner with the boys tonight at a local restaurant and then head down to Winston’s for a Diet Coke with some friends.
My brother gave me a DeWalt cordless drill and a bit set. We are planning to build the deck on the cabin this summer and he included his ideas as well. A 10×10 deck out back and a 8×8 deck in the front yard. We should have it built in a day.
Mark playing charades at the Reimers on Christmas Day (as I try out my new 50mm manual lens)
After a long day of work, we spent Christmas Eve at Lee and Brittany’s place in Warman. They had come by the house earlier and picked up the boys and the presents so all we had to do was go home and then drive out to their place. We had a nice non-traditional Christmas dinner (some of that tomorrow) and then opened up presents. The key to Christmas Eve is to eat quickly and no small talk (Lee famously said to Mark one year, “Less talking, more chewing”) so we can get to the presents quicker. The tradition of the last couple of years has been to even put off dessert post Christmas present opening.
- I gave Wendy a Fujifilm Finepix JX600 compact digital camera. She has been looking for a new once since her Fujifilm Finepix J10 camera needed a desperate upgrade. This one will let Wendy take better photos, HD video, and yet still be small enough to take with her wherever she goes. It also features 3D shooting options which means I will be asking to play with it. I also lucked out in that it has the same battery that I just got Wendy for her old camera for our anniversary. A nice bonus for her.
- Mark gave Wendy a ladies Timex Ironman Triathlon watch. Wendy rarely remembers to put a watch on and is always taking it off. The hope is that if we got her a watch she would love, she would actually wear it. So far so good but it is early yet.
- Oliver gave Wendy some earrings and a lightweight tripod so she can do some night photography. Personally I think he just wants to stay up later and is using the tripod as an excuse to hang out with mom. He also gave her a print of him and Mark out for a walk.
- Santa Claus surprised her with an Olympus PEN ELP-2 interchangeable lens camera. it was used but barely used. Wendy has been looking at a Nikon J1, some Sony NEX series cameras and a Fuji X series camera but apparently Santa found her one with a 14-42mm lens. I was a little nervous supporting a second lens family (yeah I know how funny that sounds) but there are some really affordable Micro Four Thirds lens that we can add that she will love.
- The dogs partnered up with Santa and got her a 16gb memory card, a Crumpler One Million Dollar House camera bag, and a 37mm lens filter. I think she liked the camera bag more than the cameras. Story of my life.
- I gave Mark a Vivitar Action Camera. He probably wanted a GoPro but I was on a budget and he is thrilled with it. It comes with a headband, helmet mount, and bike mount. Expect to see him doing things that will hurt himself soon on his YouTube account. That’s quality parenting right there folks.
- Santa Claus stopped by and gave him a Sony Xperia J cellphone. Mark has had two other smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy 550 and then last year we gave him a HTC Desire C and he has taken very good care of them. He loves the Desire C but it is seriously underpowered and really slow running Android and would not run some apps he really likes. The Xperia J should speed up his life a little bit.
- Wendy gave him some 100 watt 2.1 computer speakers while Oliver gave him some portable X-Mini speakers.
- The dogs gave him a pen and notebook set.
- Lee and Brittany gave him a set of Huskie Athletics sweats and hoodie. He’ll never take them off.
- Wendy and I gave him a Canon 28-135mm DSLR lens mug. It’s the closest thing he is coming to a DLSR camera this Christmas.
- Since he is doing some winter camping at school, we gave him a couple of pairs of wool socks. He is going to need them.
- I gave Oliver a set of walkie talkies and some 4×30 compact binoculars. He was thrilled because Mark has a pair of binoculars and I gave a pair to Lee as well. As for the walkie talkies, what kid doesn’t love walkie talkies. Oddly enough Wendy is thrilled with them because they do Morse code. I hear beeping in my future.
- Wendy gave Oliver, Little Big Planet 2 which has less puzzles to solve then the first one which means he won’t be bugging Mark about helping him solve them. Of course we also got a great family game as we got him Little Big Planet Karting. It should be fun.
- Mark gave him Lego Batman 2 for his Nintendo DS. Oliver loves Batman and insists that Mark is Robin. Mark isn’t so crazy about that. We also got Oliver a Batman bobble head. Something to inspire him with.
- Santa Claus dropped off a boom box for his room along with some CDs. Apparently Santa knows that Oliver loves chilling to music with Mark.
- Hutch got him an art set
- Maggi got him a compact camcorder. It’s only standard definition but if it was good enough to shoot Knight Rider in, it will be fine for Oliver. He loves to make adventure movies with Mark so I can’t wait to see what he shoots. The camcorder was being blown out at $10 and I tossed a 2 GB SD card in it. At only 640×480 resolution, he should be able to record himself doing a “slow punch to the face” for days. I guess I need to get him set up on YouTube (where he could be Mark’s second camera operator).
- I gave Lee a full sized set of binoculars that should last him for decades. Very similar to the ones that I have and similar to the ones my grandfather gave me. The only thing that makes me sad is that they don’t come with leather hard cases like they used to (long before I was born).
- The boys gave him a framed print of themselves being idiots while out on a walk. It seems to sum both of them up so well.
- We also got Lee, Bobby Orr’s autobiography.
- Wendy gave Brittany a small cast iron pan with ingredients to make up brownies
- Since Wendy loved the griddle I got her last year, she gave one to Brittany as well.
- Wendy gave me an Apple TV.
- Oliver gave me a rather sharp used F 1.7 50mm lens for my DSLR. He also gave me a LowePro lens case to keep it in.
- Mark got me The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells. (you can read a Toronto Star review here)
- Maggi collaborated with Oliver and gave me a Manfrotto compact tripod.
- Lee and Brittany gave me Battlefield 4. Now I have to go and fight the world myself.
- The dogs got me a lens! Err a coffee travel mug. Now I can pour myself a steaming cup of DSLR.
I also got a Lowepro Classified 160 AW camera bag
Well that’s enough from me tonight. We are sleeping in tomorrow (as if) and then heading over to our friend’s Jerry and Gloria Reimer where we are enjoying Christmas dinner. Then it is back to work on Boxing Day for Wendy and I.
I was given a 2013 Ford Focus ST to review. It’s basically a four door Ford Focus with horsepower and speed tucked into every conceivable corner of the vehicle. They found a lot of corners to add it as it has 252 horsepower in it and every single one of them is fun to drive.
The Focus ST is basically the Ford engineers wandering up to Volkswagen and throwing the gauntlet down at the Volkswagen GTI and then saying, “beat this!” and then watching the Volkswagen people slink away. It’s the new owner of the compact sedan performance crown.
The car was a lot of fun to drive. It was a six speed manual transmission that was easy to drive through the streets of Saskatoon on my morning commute. Unlike many of Ford’s other vehicles, it was nice to drive a car that was not equipped with collision detection, blind spot alerts, and rear view cameras. The car has one purpose and that is performance and it showed.
The handling was remarkabe as I zipped along through city traffic on my daily work commutes were the capable workings of the ST’s uniquely-tuned sport suspension which lowered its chassis by 10 mm, compared to the regular Focus. The ST’s stiffer suspension was combined with the Focus’ standard MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone system in the rear.
We took the car to our cabin for Thanksgiving. I had to work on Saturday and Mark had a football game so we left Sunday morning for the cabin. Since it was a demo car, we left the dogs behind which created some more space for us but we did manage to bring up three empty planters in the trunk as well as a lot of blankets that Wendy had washed at home. I was surprised at how much the trunk of the hatchback held.
The drive to Arlington took us along Highway 16 until the Watrous turnoff. A quiet Sunday and a lonely stretch of highway let me open the car up a bit and again I was surprised how quiet it was. Despite the increased speed, I was surprised how low I had ESPN Radio playing. There just wasn’t the need to compensate for highway noise. That being said, I don’t want to take anything away from the Sony 10 speaker stereo system. It was exceptional.
The one thing I didn’t like was on the 30 km stretch from the highway to the cabin is along a gravel road and I found the backend of the car was all over the place. While I normally drive 70-80 km/h down that road, even at 60 km/h, the Focus’ back end was moving more than Miley Cyrus’ and that isn’t good.
As you can see, it came with the basic Ford MyTouch, Ford Sync, and excellent Sony stereo system. The middle arm rest has USB ports to import music, upgrades, and power to charge your cell phone. We plugged in an iPod and were able to control it easily from the steering wheel. Apparently that worked too well as I drove Wendy and Mark crazy while flipping through a couple of playlists.
The car came with heated seats and as someone who had a sore back, you have no idea how nice that felt over a two hour drive. For those that see it as a frivolous winter feature, it seemed to be worth it this fall.
Size wise, it felt good. I am 6’4” and it had the leg and headroom that I need. The boys were comfortable in the backseat but adults would find it less comfortable; which is the same with any compact.
I loved the car. It was a joy to drive and fit our family well. If you are like me and approaching your midlife crisis point, it is a car well worth looking at.
- Model as Tested: 2013 Ford Focus ST 4dr Hatchback w/EcoBoost (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
- Vehicle Type: FWD 5-passenger 4dr Hatchback
- Estimated MSRP: Price: base, $29,999; as tested, $34,849 (includes $3,300 in options; $1,550 D&D charge; and a $100 Fed. excise tax; doesn’t include current dealer or manufacturer incentives)
- Engine type: Turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
- Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 247 @ 5,500
- Transmission type: Six-speed manual
- Track Test Results: 0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.) 6.5 (0-62 mph)
- Fuel Consumption: Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.) 14.5
- Seating capacity: 5
For more information, check out the Ford Canada website for the Focus ST or talk to your local Ford dealer.
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.
Apparently it’s name is Oliver.
Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get some work done when Oliver and Mark decided to go to A.H. Browne Park. As a change, I suggested that they walk to Ashworth Holmes Park and check out the paddling pool. They did and three hours later they came home with some video that Mark had shot on his camera. The next thing I knew he had his SD card out and was uploading it to my Mac rather than his PC.
So after dorking around for a bit, he found the movie trailer feature in iMovie and I know I wasn’t getting my Mac back anytime soon. After an hour of them arguing over which clips to use, Mark came up with this. Now I have to just sign him out of Twitter, Gmail, and figure out else he has done to my MacBook.