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A bit of this and that

None of these really need a full blog post but for those that care and for those that don’t…

A New Project

I am starting a book that I hope to have done by the end of the year.  I have a full Moleskine of things that I have left out of my The StarPhoenix columns, thoughts that I haven’t shared on The Saskatoon Afternoon Show with David Kirton (or talked about after we got off the air), or are just ideas that I have been working on and haven’t done anything with.  Basically I am just trying to figure out Saskatoon and along with it, the ethos of Saskatchewan that makes us do things the way we do.

For many years Steven Johnson has been one of my favourite authors.  Instead of writing books about what he knows, he writes about what he does not understand and in the process of learning about a subject, he brings you along for the ride.  I hope to do the same thing.  Look for it 2015.

Sports and Politics

I read a great bio of Michael Grange who said he wanted to write about foreign affairs but he was offered a sports job.  I love writing about local and social issues but if Grantland calls, I am leaving it all behind (I’m kidding but the Grantland podcasts look like so much fun).  To pass the time between now and when Bill Simmons discovers me, I am now talking sports with David Kirton and Justin Blackwell on Wednesdays at 5:15 on the CKOM Saskatoon Afternoon roundtable.  David joked about it a few weeks ago that we should just talk sports and since then we have had quite a few roundtables with sports.  The response has been cool but I was at McNally Robinson the other day and a stranger comes up to me and says out of the blue, “You know, I really hate what Pete Carroll did at USC too.”  I looked at him and he said, “I attended Oregon” and shook my hand.  I can now check, “Call out Pete Carroll for cheating” off my bucket list.  

A Year in Saskatoon

I have been writing an OurYXE Neighbourhood Guide each week.  Every Wednesday and Sunday, I sit down and research what is good, bad, and interesting about a neighbourhood.  It’s been an incredible amount of fun exploring some of Saskatoon’s most loved (and unloved) neighbourhoods.  I have been discovering a lot of history and out of the way places to check out in each of them.  Part of the project is making sure we have some good photography for each neighbourhood which means I have been out a lot with a couple of cameras and my new 50mm f/1.8 lens.  While the cold hasn’t been a lot of fun to shoot photos in, seeing parts of Saskatoon again for the first time has been excellent.

Along with the photos, I have been shooting a lot of video.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but I had been thinking of a montage of a year in the life of Saskatoon.  Something that showed the bitter cold of winter and the incredible warmth of fun we have in the summer.  Saskatoon isn’t all good and it definitely isn’t all bad.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted it to look like.  Many of the videos I had seen had been time lapses and I have about 5000 time lapse photos taken, I was initially been thinking of doing something with time lapse. It’s fun and amazing but i miss the emotion of just video.

 If it is as half as interesting as this video by Andy Clancy, I’ll be very happy.

Saskatoon has some great places to film but I want more than that, I want to see if I can find the kind of street life and community vibrancy in Saskatoon.  If you have ideas for where me and my DSLR need to be, let me know.  As I chase some city scenes, hopefully I will find some stories for the book, Saskatoon Afternoon’s roundtable, and my columns.  Oh yeah, there will be some fun stuff for my blog as well.

Now if only it would warm up outside.

100 Ideas to Make Saskatoon a Better City

Lately I have been tossing around a bunch of ideas that would make Saskatoon a better city to invest, work, live, and play in.  I kept them in a Moleskine and was going to put together a website but after thinking about it, I am going to post them here starting tomorrow.  That will make them the longest series I have ever posted (or written). 

Normally I don’t really care that much about comments but if you have some, let me know as i’d love to hear your feedback on this series.

How to become a world class note taker

From the Atlantic  Be OCD and draw pictures

4. Be OCD About Your Notes
The more OCD you are about organizing your notes, the better. The Journal of Reading compared different note-taking methods and found that the most rigorously structured-those with hierarchal ordering and numbered subsections-were of the highest quality and accuracy. A two-column method came in a close second; these notes were arranged such that the left column contained the information from the given event (i.e. the meeting, lecture or talk) and the right column was used later to fill out follow-up points and highlight key themes. Although these notes were significantly more precise than freestyle note-taking, there was little difference in the ability of the note-taker to recall the material.

5. Draw Pictures!
The British Journal of Educational Technology found mind-mapping to be significantly more effective than just writing out notes. Mind-mapping brings visual structure to notes, usually involving writing one word in the center and drawing offshoots from it with related ideas and phrases. Researchers studying two groups of note-takers, those using the SmartWisdom method (a popular alternative mind-mapping system) and those writing traditional notes found that although there was no difference in the accuracy of the notes, the mind-mappers were able to present the information back with more clarity and coherence than their counterparts.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Wife / Mother / Girlfriend (all of the women in your life) | 2012 Edition

I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewellery to stuff for the kitchen.  Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well.  I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year.  It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.

Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments.  You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.

Electronics

According to Apple, the 7 inch tablet market is targeted towards female users.  I am not sure about that but Wendy does love her Kobo Vox (especially after it came with a firmware update that included Google Play) and so I thought I would start by highlighting some 7 inch tablets.

Kindle Fire HD at Amazon.comKindle Fire HD ($199) | It features:

  • 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle
  • Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound
  • World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for 40% faster downloads and streaming (compared to iPad 3)
  • High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance
  • Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email
  • Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps

All of that and $100 less than the iPad Mini.

Google Nexus 7 ($199) | Same kind of features as the Kindle Fire HD.  Of course with the Amazon Kindle app you can read your Kindle books on your Nexus 7.  Nexus 7 was designed with gaming in mind. With heart pounding quad-core performance, a vibrant 1280-by-800 high-resolution display, and sensors like a gyroscope and accelerometer – do a barrel roll then tilt, touch and tap your way to the top of the leaderboards while exploring over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play.  In other words it’s faster than the Kindle Fire

iPad MiniiPad Mini ($329) | At $129 more, you get two cameras, the fastest processor, and access to the amazing Apple app store.  The bad news is that it has the lowest resolution screen of all of them.  While the technical elite are complaining about the lower screen resolution and the tablet not shipping with a Retina Display, it won’t make that big of a difference on a 7 inch screen.  Again if you are moving from a Kindle, just download the Kindle app and you will have a seamless transition

If you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic Amazon Kindle ($69).  At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever.  It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading.  Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on a commute.  An even smaller option is the Kobo Mini ($99).  All I know is my friends love their Kindles.

The Washington Post puts all of the mini tablets through their paces here.  Read and pick the right one for you.

Kitchen

Griddle ($40) | Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know.  They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for.  Doh!

Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, & Ice Cream Maker ($75) | This fully automatic small appliance makes frozen yogurt, sorbet, and homemade ice cream in as little as 25 minutes. The frozen-dessert maker features a heavy-duty motor and a double-insulated freezer bowl that holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert at a time. Simply add ingredients, turn the machine on, and frozen drinks and desserts are ready in minutes. Its large ingredient spout allows for easily adding favourite mix-ins, and an instruction book and recipes come included.

Cuisinart Convection Toaster OvenCuisinart Convection Toaster Oven ($80) | If your loved one loves to cook and entertain, you would be surprised what a good convection toaster oven can do to make her life easier.  Cuisinart’s custom toaster oven broiler is large enough and smart enough to present a full range of menu options. Toast 4 bagel halves, bake an 11-inch pizza, or broil two big open-faced sandwiches. When the cooking is done, its easy clean with reflective non-stick coating on oven’s interior that wipes clean in seconds, which enhances heat efficiency and ensures even toasting.

 Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea MakerAdagio Teas Tea Maker ($88) If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker. This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.

Wolfgang Puck 6-Qt. Electric Gourmet Wok with Tempered Glass Lid and Steaming Tray ($90) | The unit’s curved cooking interior promotes proper stir-frying, while its wide top and narrow bottom allow for frying with less oil than with a straight-sided pan. Simply heat the oil; add any favourite combination of fresh vegetables, tofu, or meat; then keep things moving with a long-handled wooden spatula. The countertop appliance works well not only for stir-frying, but also for braising, sautéing, and more. Choose from a variety of temperature settings: sear, high, medium, keep warm, minimum, and everything in between. Other highlights include a generous 6-quart capacity with a 14-inch diameter and a 4-1/2-inch depth, a tempered-glass lid with a stay-cool knob, a steaming tray for seafood or veggies, a temperature probe with a quick-release lever, and heat-resistant side handles for safe, comfortable transport.

For more kitchen ideas, check out Wendy’s Christmas Gift Guide for the Cook at The Cooking Blog.

Music

iPod NanoiPod Nano ($149) | Apple has reinvented the iPod Nano, making it larger physically and expanding it’s capacity to 16 gb.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. Play your favourite songs, browse music by genre, or listen to Genius playlists and FM radio. Or watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, 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.

If you are looking for something more advanced, check out the new iPod Touch ($299) | iPod touch features a 6-mm ultrathin design and brilliant, 4-inch Retina display. The 5-megapixel iSight camera lets you take stunning photos, even in panorama, or record 1080p video. Discover music, movies, and more from the iTunes Store, or browse apps and games from the App Store. And with iOS 6—the world’s most advanced mobile operating system—you get Siri, iMessage, Facebook integration, FaceTime, Game Center, and more. Now that sounds fun.

Beats by Dre Tour headphonesBeats by Dre Tour in ear headphones ($149) | Made to stream the soundtrack of your life with perfect, clear sound. Tour headphones were made to stream your favourite music. Seven pairs of different-sized ear tips ensure snug fitting buds. Accurate speaker design plays music back loud and full of detail.  Now if you don’t want to pay $149 for a pair of premium headphones, check out JVC’s Xtreme Xplosive headphones ($16) which are getting excellent reviews on Amazon and across the web.

Bose Wave Music System $499 | The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system.  Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound.  If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.

Bose Wave Music System

Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf you want to go old school, make sure you check out this Sangean Tabletop Radio ($85) | 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.

Lifestyle

Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

Timex Women’s Ironman Watch ($37) | Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat (CR); a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).

Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera ($99) | The Canon PowerShot A2300 16MP Compact Digital Camera, is simple and stylish. This compact camera is packed with advancements that make it easy to get a great shot every time. Smart AUTO recognizes 32 predefined shooting situations then automatically picks the proper camera settings for you. Saving memories in breathtakingly realistic 720p HD is as easy as pressing the dedicated movie button. You will see extraordinary resolution and fast performance with the 16.0 Megapixel Image Sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor, and capture more dynamic, exciting images with the 5x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens. Digital IS greatly reduces blur by recognizing the main subject and applying the best camera shake correction.  

All of this really means that you will be able to take great photos when you want.  Sure she has a camera on her phone but do you want to trust your phone to take a great photo when conditions are less than ideal?  If you have moments that matter, you will want this camera.

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

If the women you are shopping for is a writer (or wants to be), how about a great looking fountain pen?  While you are at it, check out this suede journal ($29) from Indigo or this ruled Moleskine ($13)

Cabela's Multi-toolCabela’s Multi-tool ($13) | Despite it’s low price, Cabela’s has put together a great multi-tool.  Wendy has had one for a year and carries it everywhere.  A handy and affordable compact tool with devices you need for quick fixes and repairs. Stainless steel construction with an assortment of attached tools that includes flat-nose pliers, wire-stripper, knife, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, saw, bottle opener and scissors. Nylon sheath included

NewImage

I haven’t forgotten jewellery.  If you are looking for a nice necklace, check out this key to my heart diamond cut 14 karat gold pendent ($190) .

While you are at it, check out this sherpa blanket ($52).  I gave one to Wendy this fall and she loves it.  If you are lucky and well behaved, your loved one will even share it with you.  For a different look, check out this Hudson Bay Blanket fleece blanket ($35)  It has the look of the historic Hudson Bay blanket but without the itchy wool.

There is also this great aromatherapy gift set ($40) with this black oil warmer ($6).  A tealight gently warms your favorite scented oil for a delicately fragrant glow!

Christmas Gift Ideas and Guides at JordonCooper.comIf I missed anything or if my suggestion 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.

Resolutions

Wendy posted her New Year’s Resolutions so I thought I would post mine.

  1. Take the stairs to the top of The Lighthouse at least daily.  This seems like a really good idea now that building is only four stories but when the new tower is nine stories this summer, it could be a really bad idea.
  2. Carry less crap.  There are days when I go to work with my DSLR, a video camera, my notebook, a Moleskine, an iPod, and my cell phone.  Do I really need that much stuff?  Well considering that I have never used all of it in a single day, probably not.
  3. Ride my bike more.  Wendy has a Dave King inspired goal of riding 750 kms this year.  I think I will join her although none of those miles will be done at Ice Cycle which I still think is insane, no matter how many people enjoy cycling in –40 weather.
  4. books and more booksRead more books in 2012Darryl Dash has a post on how he wants his reading to more focused which I tend to go the other way.  I want to read and explore topics that I haven’t explored before, understand new things, and then figure out how they fit together later.  In the spirit of Thomas Homer-Dixon’s book The Ingenuity Gap, I want to be a deep generalist.  Part of it is the column I write but part of it is cultivating a spirit of curiosity.  It may be because I am at a point of life when I have a lot to learn and I don’t have the need to be a specialist.
  5. Contribute more to the matrix of agencies that I am a part of as a staff member at The Lighthouse.  Some of those actions are proprietary but I can’t handle agencies that don’t play that well with others.  It comes from an atmosphere of fear and competition that doesn’t need to exist.  Hopefully we can model a different way.
  6. Spend more money locallySaskatoon Farmer’s Market, Souleio, Broadway Roastery, The Two Twenty, Collective Coffee… you know businesses that are Saskatoon born and bred.  Less Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, and fast food joints.
  7. Attend more University of Saskatchewan Huskies and Saskatoon Hilltops games.  The Huskies may have the best game day experience of any football team in Canada and the Hilltops because of what they did for Mark’s understanding of football in 2011.  That and all they do is win national championships.
  8. Post more photos.  Despite having a decent camera phone camera, a DSLR, and a pretty good compact camera, I took far too photos in 2011.  That needs to change in 2012.
  9. Keep losing weight in 2012.  I lost 40 pounds since my heart event this summer and I want to lose another 120.  I should have it lost by next Christmas.
  10. Listen to more music.  I love music but I rarely take time to listen to it.  It’s always a background activity and never a foreground one.

Those are my resolutions.  Good luck with yours.

My Gadgets

I was called a bit of a hypocrite for my last post because of my own perceived technology usage.  I assume that some think I have a disposable collection of iPhones but in reality I am a bit of a luddite.  Here is my list.

  • Samsung flip phone| 3 years old and is a pay as you go phone from SaskTel.  You can call me on it but unless I am travelling or am call for something, I won’t answer.  It probably won’t even be on.
  • Moleskine| Darryl Dash got me to switch from my obsolete Sony Clie a couple of years ago.  I go through one every year or so.  I don’t know if you can call paper and a pen technology but I carry one with me lots.
  • I have use a larger hard cover book that my friend Darren Friesen talked me into using.  Instead of keeping files, I date pages, write notes, and make them into action items if needed later.  I file them and the moleskine as an archive of my thoughts when they are done.
  • Sony PSP| Lee game me one for Christmas.  I do have a half dozen games for it, the game I enjoy the most is baseball.  The main use for it is watching downloaded videos from YouTube and Google Video at the lake.  It’s also cool in that I bring it on the road and with Skype installed, it is a cheap way to call home.
  • iPod Nano(four gig) | This is my favorite possession and I use it quite a bit at work, home, and at the lake.  I have a couple of cheap speakers I plug it into at the office and hit shuffle.  For Father’s Day Wendy and Mark gave me some speakers that we use at the cabin in place of having a stereo there and moving CD’s back and forth.   I also use it to listen to a couple of podcasts a week (Nick and Josh, Meet the Press, CBC Sask and CBC Ideas).  It integrates in with last.fm and it allows you to see what I have been listening to on the sidebar.
  • I have an old Dell D600 notebook.  I got it cheap and it runs Windows XP pretty well.  Sub notebooks are still a vice of mine.  If I need a 19 inch screen, I’ll buy a desktop.

It is a pretty boring list and is a long way from where I used to be.  (Remember the Timex Ironman PDA?)   I am not sure what changed but the technolust that I used to have isn’t there anymore.  I am not saying that gadgets are bad but they don’t mean nearly as much to me as they used to.   Looking through the archives of this site are embarrassing for me.  The sad thing is that I used to think they were the key to the future of the church in North America (high end media system, 3D animations, webcasting, streaming interactive sermons…)  While I still use a lot of technology and I like to think I still understand technology, I am far more selective in what I am using.  Eugene Peterson reminded me in The Jesus Way that uncritical adoption of technology is not a good way to live life.  I think this can be demonstrated by almost every Blackberry user that I have ever seen or some of my friends on Facebook who are shocked that when they post photos of themselves at their friends stag cause people to gossip about them at work.  I don’t think I have it right by any means but the above list has been agonized over.  Even if it does mean I am a Luddite.