Tag Archives: Mark Cooper

Microsoft Lumia 650

Mark dropped his Moto G cellphone last winter and I bought him an Acer Liquid z220 as a replacement.  The phone was okay but the bad thing was that I could not find a case for it anywhere except for a universal case which he didn’t like.  So he dropped it last week and then ran into a wall yesterday morning with it in his shorts.  I saw him run into the way and I still don’t know how it happened.

Anyways, the phone screen was dead and the cost to repair it wasn’t worth it.

We went looking for some phones today and didn’t find anything worth getting excited for.  He is working so he wanted cheap since he is paying it back but I reminded him that if he gets a decent one, it will last longer.  We went looking for another Moto G when I was reminded of a Twitter conversation I had with noted Windows evangelist Darren Sproat.  Microsoft has the new Microsoft Lumia 650 on for really cheap right now, obviously as a loss leader to get people to try out Windows phone. 

Microsoft Lumia 650 phone

It was only $199.99 with free shipping which shocked me because that is the exact same amount of money they are selling it from the U.S. store which saves him about 20%.  The Moto G was going to be about $300 after taxes and fees so he is happy.  The phone in unlocked which means he can take it with him if he decides to move on from Virgin Mobility.

I know everyone goes on about apps but the phone:

  • Makes outgoing phone calls
  • Accepts incoming phone calls
  • Texts
  • Tweets
  • Surfs the net
  • Has a camera, takes photos and HD video.
  • Instagram
  • Plays YouTube videos

It will do what he needs it to do and will be here in a week.

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

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The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Mark turns 16 today

So Mark turned 16 today.  We got him up early, gave him his gifts, and then sent him off to school.  After I was done work, we took him out for a steak dinner at Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual.  Then it was off to find him his signature hat.  I am not sure I agreed with his choice but it was his.

Mark Cooper turning 16 years oldWendy and Mark Cooper

The other big news from the day is that Oliver is now an orange belt in Karate.  He passed his evaluation last week and got the big news today.  So we are proud of both the boys and had a nice night out.

Heading back to Ogema

By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

Take a hike

My leg has been messed up since November of 2014 and I have been told be stay off it.  I did my best and a couple of weeks ago it was healed up enough that I could start to walk on it.  Unfortunately I have been as active as a panda bear during the summer months (hilarious story about that, when the pandas were at the Calgary Zoo, we drove out as a family, stood in a long line, saw the panda just lay in a tree and do nothing.  It could have been a stuffed animal.)

So for all of the advantages of living in a neighborhood where you work is a great and all but my work place is 8 kilometers away from home.  So to make a long story short, Wendy has been driving me to work in the morning and I have been walking the 8 kilometers home.

So far it has been going well.  I got into a yelling match with a goose in Kinsmen Park but he was totally in the wrong.  Yesterday Wendy dropped Mark off at my work and then parked at 33rd Street bridge and then walked to Place Riel where we met up.  Oliver and Marley slowed the pace down considerably as we stopped at the ski jumps.

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

University of Saskatchewan Ski Jump

There is a beaver lodge at the bottom of the hill so Oliver, Mark, and Marley explored that while Wendy and I sauntered the other way.

On the way over, Marley encountered a train while crossing the CP Rail Bridge.  She was not happy about going across that again but she did and was okay.

So the good news is that it isn’t that bad of walk.  The bad news is that it is an incredibly boring walk, podcasts or not. 

(Ford) #ExploreSask

Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

2016 Ford Explorer

I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

  • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
  • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
  • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

New Windows 10 box

Mark wrote about this as well this weekend but I decided to upgrade his laptop this weekend.  His laptop runs Windows Vista and while it does a not bad job of it, it would need some more RAM to handle Windows 10.  I was pricing out the memory and the license for Windows 10 when I noticed that OTV had some Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop computers coming off lease that had way more power and were less than the Windows 10 license.  Not only that but they included a copy of the 64 bit version of Windows 7 (which of course upgrades to Windows 10).  The machine will handle a total of 16 gb of RAM so that was a plus as well.  I’ll add some more memory to this summer.

I picked that up with a $15 Logitech keyboard and mouse and took it home.  We had an extra monitor in the basement but as I go to grab it, Wendy and Mark tell me that  they threw it out in a cleaning purge.  Excellent.  So it was back to OTV where they had a 19.5 inch monitor on for $50.

Still it was cheaper than upgrading Windows and the RAM.

So we got it going, connected it to the interweb, and then used Ninite to download and install the freeware programs like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Chrome, Apple iTunes, Spotify and other programs.  The one thing I didn’t download is Libre or Open Office which I have come to believe are some of the most bloated pieces of software available.  Instead I was going to download AbiWord and have him use Google Sheets for a spreadsheet but I was in London Drugs where they had Corel WordPerfect Office Home and Student on for only $34.97.  It’s not Microsoft Office but it is a lot better than Libre Office in terms of speed and features.

This is off topic but I thought I would take a moment to mention how much I miss Lotus Smart Suite which included Lotus 1-2-3 but more importantly Lotus Ami Pro (later called Lotus Word Pro).  While I am it, I also miss Microsoft Works which I did an awful lot of writing on.  I really miss Works suites.  I wish someone would do one again.

The last bit of freeware software I put on his computer is Serif Publisher Starter Edition.  It is designed for beginners and gives him far more control than either WordPerfect or a word processor will give him.

I am kind of careful about fonts.  So many collections of freeware fonts have commercial fonts in them.  Years ago a graphic designer I know realized he had some illegal fonts in his collection and purged them and then put together some excellent freeware font CDs.  I installed them and then added some excellent commercial fonts that I have the license for.  He isn’t into page layout of print design but if he ever is, he will have a nice system for it.

I love my laptop and have no problems with it but the joy of a full sized keyboard and an almost 20 inch screen was pretty awesome as well.

The upgrade to Windows 10 took overnight to download but once that was done, it was good to go this morning.  Am always amazed at how powerful machine I was able to get him for so little money.  I grew up with DOS and then Windows.  After 4 years with a Mac and OSX, I like being back with Windows and the PC world again.

Turning 42

Stanley Thermos Travel MugIn about 60 minutes I turn 42.  I do however have to get to Saskatoon City Hospital so I can have a coban wrap put on my left leg so excuse me for posting this prematurely.

Rather than letting me sleep in during my old age, I was woken up early by Wendy, Mark, and Oliver.  Seems as if they didn’t get the company wide memo that I am old and need sleep.

They got the dog riled up (wasn’t she supposed to be walked?) and then gave me my gifts.

Oliver gave me a Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Air Mattress. which will be great for hiking this summer.

Mark gave me the same Stanley travel mug he has.  It will keep my coffee hot long after it has become stale and gross.  He also gave me some Nike running gloves which will great in the evenings or if it gets cool while hiking.

Wendy also gave me a Fitbit Charge HR.  I have used my Nike Fuelband for years but this takes up a notch.

They all gave me an 11×14 Itoya Art Profolio Advantage portfolio.  Now I have to print out some photos for it.

For dinner tonight, they are talking me to the Bon Temps Cafe where we will dine out on some Cajun food and then meet up with some friends later.

Cell Phone Down

Yesterday Wendy came to me all upset and said she had dropped both of our iPhones.  Mine was fine but her phone had a smashed screen.  I wasn’t that upset.  Those things happen although two in a month (ahem Mark) was kind of painful.  When Mark broke his screen, I went to Costco and bought him a Acer Liquid Z410 for $130.  I picked up a 16gb Micro SD card from Don’s Photo for $15 and he was set.  For being so cheap, I was really happy with his phone.  It also has DTS Sound in it so even without a Bluetooth speaker the sound is good.

Wendy felt horrible but I was secretly happy.  Our contracts come up this summer with Bell and I had no idea what phone to get.  I was tempted to get some unlocked phones from Costco and save the money on our monthly bill.  I’m happy with Bell (and Mark is with Virgin) but it’s nice to have options.  Now I only have to figure out what I am going to do.  I am personally thinking of a Windows phone but I am always tempted to go back to Blackberry or a Windows Phone.

Acer Jade Z

Instead of picking up the Acer Liquid Z410, I got her the larger Acer Liquid Jade Z.

Features:

  • Display: 5-in. IPS TFT LCD
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0 with EDR
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Operating system: Android™ 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Main camera: 13 MP AF with flash LED
  • Battery: Built-in 2,300 mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery with up to 7 hours of talk time
  • Wi-Fi
  • Capture 30 fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
  • 720p video recording
  • Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz, MT6732
  • Dual micro SIM
  • 16 GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • MicroSD™ memory card expansion slot (card not included)
  • In-cell type touch lens with direct bonding
  • Side keys: volume up/down
  • Power key on top of device
  • LED indicator lights for charging, missed call, new message, lower battery
  • Google virtual keyboard
  • GPS Satellite data updates

For $220, it was a steal (way cheaper in store than online). 

The only thing  I don’t like about it is that it was a pain to find a case for it.  I ordered one for Wendy’s and Mark’s from Amazon.ca.  The price is right but they won’t be here until the end of March because I assume they are shipping from Taiwan or China.

Contextless Thoughts

  1. We are 95% done Christmas.  The only big discussion that is tearing the family apart is which shaving system do Mark and I go to.  I am tried of paying big money for Schick Hydro 5 blades (which work great but are expensive) which Mark wants an upgrade from his Gillette Sensor 3 razor and blades.  I am not sure what I am going to do.  Some of you have expressed strong opinions against Henry’s razors but Mark is considering the M5 Magnum.  I may also consider the Costco alternative.  Of course we don’t talk about this in front of Wendy who erupts and brings up how much more money and how much lower quality women’s razors are.
  2. Some of you read my tweets about a City of Saskatoon contractor tossing a handful of grass seed down on some dirt a week ago and thought I was mad.  I am not.  By them cheaping out and not doing the job right, let’s me plant a premium blend of seed on the boulevard and then let is fill out the grass in other areas.  18 years ago when we moved in, we had a huge path that cut it’s way through one part of the side boulevard.  After a couple of years of planting and replanting, I found the right combination of grass seed and it took off through the entire boulevard.  Part of the plan of seeding in half of the driveway with the same kind of seed is to see it take off and grow back into the back section of the boulevard and take over the crappy grass there (it’s fine if it is raining but the combination of weird seed and no top soil means that it goes yellow if not seeing water almost all of the time, even after 20 years of mulch and fertilizer.
  3. Mark’s jaw is back to normal which means he can eat real food.
  4. Oliver is taking karate at Mayfair School three times a week.  After watching a Jackie Chan fight scene, he said, “I think I take that next year”.
  5. Wendy and Oliver took in the 2015 Santa Claus parade.  Wendy took photos and posted them on her website.
  6. Varsity Scripsit by Tandy for DOSFor the first time since the early 90s, I don’t have word processor on my computers.  I am now writing my columns on Google Docs and I have loved the transition.  Since no one has asked, here are the list of word processors I have loved.  GeoWorks Writer (DOS), Varsity Scripsit (DOS) by Tandy, Microsoft Word 5.5 (DOS), WordPerfect 5.1 (DOS),  Microsoft Word 2.0c (Windows), Microsoft Word 6, Microsoft Word 95, WordPerfect 7, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Word 97, Microsoft Word 2000, Open Office Writer, Libre Office Writer, Apple Pages and now Google Docs.  Of all of them, Varsity Scripsit, Microsoft Word 2.0c, and AbiWord (depending on the version) are my favorites.  Apple Pages and Open Office Writer were the worst.  I may purchase Corel Office for times I need more complicated page layout options.
  7. Part of still doesn’t believe Donald Trump is serious about running for President.  He isn’t spending any money on a field organization.  No advertising, no nothing.  I still wonder if it is a marketing stunt for his Trump Hotel that is opening in Washington this spring.

Mark

Since Mark was attacked on Wednesday, some of you have shared some incredible stories of your own.  I have read them all, shared many with Mark, and will reply to most of them next week.    I am stunned at the amount of violent attacks that people have suffered, most of them random over the years but as many of you have said, no one seemed to care unless you know someone.  A friend of mind reminded me of the murder of Scott Asher who I went to school with.  Another one reminded me of a friend who still suffers brain injuries.  Random attacks with lasting consequences.

This isn’t the first time something random happened to Mark.  He was sitting with some friends at A.H. Browne Park one early evening and a guy threw a container of urine at the group.  Another day just a block away, a prostitute who was working the street at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon attacked him and Ollie demanding money.  Luckily they were able to run away.  Life in Mayfair.

I have been asked how Mark is recovering.   His jaw still hurts but it is healing.  His headaches are gone and he seems to be responding better.  He will walk to and from school tomorrow.  As he said today, he has to do it sometime and it may as well be on Monday.  The worst thing happened today when a friend’s mother offered to bring him cookies to make him feel better.  He can’t chew them.  Rather than risk more injury, Oliver and the dog have offered to eat them.

He has been out of the house walking the dog.  Tonight was his first time being out at night since the attack.  When I asked him if there was any problems he said, “other than walking the dog, no.” 

Most of the emails and people stopping by have been really helpful and kind.  Some of them were really weird and some are just dangerous.

  • A few people emailed me and suggested that Mark must be involved in drugs or gangs.  It’s like random violence can’t ever happen.  I understand the fear and the need to rationalize it but the need to blame victims isn’t helpful.
  • Some wondered if race was a factor and that got dark quickly.
  • One teacher,  yes a teacher told me that she thinks the only way that teens will be safe from the police is if they join a gang.  I really don’t know what to do with that one.  It Donald Trump crazy on so many levels.  I think she read the joke that Mark said to Darren Hill in which he said, “I don’t blame police unless I find out it was them that hit me with the Emergency Response Vehicle”.  Of course he had just finished reading about the police that ran over the dog three times and claimed they thought it was a coyote.  Anyways, it was bizarre to think that a teacher in Saskatoon thinks that “gangs are the answer”.  I also think I have read comments on The StarPhoenix over the years by that teacher where he/she espouses the same thing.
  • More than one person has asked if I would consider letting Mark carry a knife for his own protection.  Again, that is getting crazy.  Mark has a knife and he carries it in a backpack on hikes.  That it is it.  As I have told him, the only time to use this is for making a fire and if a Grizzly Bear challenges you straight up to a knife fight.  I can’t envision a single instance where any kid pulling a knife in self defense ends well and a lot of cases where it ends tragically. 

So yeah, appreciated the supportive comments, thought I would share some of the weirder ones.  Mark got a kick out of the weird ones too.  He’s going to pass on it, unless he find a gang of knife wielding grizzly bears, then he is in.

I have some more serious thoughts on it in The StarPhoenix tomorrow.

18 years

I have been married for 18 years today to Wendy.   I was off all week from work so she was pretty much sick of me by the time today came around.

It was a long week.  We had a deal with Mark that he had to work hard in school and hand in all of his homework on time if he wanted to play football.  After backing down and giving him one more chance earlier in the year, he did it again and so I made the really hard choice to say, “no more football.”  He was mad, hurt, and frustrated but on Thursday we had a long talk about it and on Friday we went for breakfast and he understood that football was hurting him academically.

Of course the reason we went for breakfast on Friday was he was out of school because of parent teacher interviews.  His teachers love him, his marks are good but they would be amazing if he got his assignments done.  It was good for him to hear both those messages. 

Yesterday I was sick again.  The infectious disease specialist warned me that I could have flare ups of the infection and yesterday was horrible.  I had a fever, was in incredible pain, and even was struggling to breath.  I slept for a lot of the day and then Wendy and I went out to The Odd Couple restaurant and had a wonderful time.  We had plans to go out for a drink afterwards but I was exhausted so we cam home.

Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. LensI gave Wendy a new lens for our anniversary.  It’s a Panasonic LUMIX G 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH. Lens.  She has some good lenses but nothing this fast and so she is excited about it.  I had bought it a couple of months ago and she knew she was getting one.  I gave it to her early for Nuit Blanche.  She tested it out on this photo shoot with Marley.

I also got her a backpacking hammock.  Wendy works hard and doesn’t always take the time to relax.  My fear was with us in the mountains was that she was going to spend a lot of time making sure we were happy and not enough time chilling out.  This way I can force her (or guilt her) into taking some time and spending it on herself.  She liked it and I was happy with that.

She gave me a Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW camera bag.   I had been looking for a camera bag that can carry all of my stuff, plus some of the stuff I want to buy.  This bag basically is the bag to rule all of my bags.  That and Mark is thrilled because he can have my old bag.

So now I basically look like a balding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  If you hear reports of middle age and balding mutant ninja turtles turned vigilante in the sewers of Saskatoon, I have an alibi.

She also got me an Altec Lansing Soundblade which will sound great in the living room.

This is what Mark wants for Christmas

From the Verge

The dream car of your childhood can now be the dream car of your adulthood. A giant street-legal version of Little Tikes’ red and yellow car is currently for sale on eBay. It’s a one of a kind, and there are some real perks to it. There are huge windows (although there’s no glass), an engine so that you don’t have to walk it around, and it should be easy to spot in a parking lot.

The car was built in 2013 by the custom vehicle shop Attitude Autos. You may have heard about it back then: after being featured on the BBC, video of the car went viral online. Since then, it’s been popping up at charity events around the UK — the shop behind it seems to hope that whoever buys it next will put it to the same use. "We have managed to raise a substantial amount of money for children’s charities with the Crazy Coupe, so it’s potential in the right hands could be quite phenomenal," it writes.