This just cracked my 50 most interesting photos of all time on Flickr. Oliver loved the Fringe but was overcome by a touch of the flu. He was so sick that he actually turned down ice cream (his loss, my gain). It was part of a larger group of photos I took at the 2014 Fringe Theatre Festival.
I managed to tear my left quadricep while hiking in Drumheller (more on that later) last weekend. It hurts worse than it sounds and I can barely walk. Steps are almost impossible and even a slight incline is horrible to navigate. I was walking downtown to my car and I was limping and wobbly when I was approached by two Saskatoon Police officers who thought I was intoxicated. As they approached, I knew they thought I was drunk and two thoughts came to my mind.
The first was the worst thing that will happen is they will make me take a breathalyzer. I don’t drink so that isn’t a problem. Then I realized the worst thing anyone could do would was to poke my leg but I wasn’t really at risk of that happening. Still my second thought was, “DON’T TOUCH MY LEG”.
The officers got close, realized that I wasn’t drunk and I explained that I had torn my quad which got an immediate response and discussion about that. Some jokes were made about the smell of A535 and then one asked how hard it was to walk. I mentioned that it really screws up your balance but I was fine. A final joke was made about being “wobbly is not a crime” and I hobbled to my car.
I kept thinking about that non-incident compared to the craziness going on in Ferguson. Even if the Saskatoon Police Officers were going to be jerks (and they weren’t) my biggest concern was a 2 minute delay. Instead it was almost a five minute chat about stupid injuries, Louis CK, and getting old. Wendy and I have been stopped by SPS offers while out taking some photographs. While people are being ordered and arrested for taking photos in Ferguson, the officers we dealt with had some camera questions and just made small talk about photography.
Not all Saskatoon Police officers have been like that (over the years) and I have talked to some friends who have never been on the wrong side of the law who are terrified of Saskatoon Police (I am not sure why) but when I am out and I see a beat cop approach, I have never been concerned to worried about anything. I am old enough to remember when you WANTED a cop to approach you because they used to be your sole source of Saskatoon Blades hockey cards (that was a great idea in the day)
Sadly there are places in the United States who have legitimate reason to worry even if they have never committed a crime and that is an incredibly depressing thing to think about.
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.
Wendy has had a blog for over a decade and has been trying to decide what to do with it. She also publishes The Cooking Blog. Since she doesn’t have the time or motivation to write for both of them and wanted to do something else with the site.
Several people have asked me what they should do with their domain name and I always tell them to check out Hemant Naidu’s website. I found it a while ago while searching for something local and found it. It’s hosted by Flavors.me. Depending on your options, it can be either free or $20 a year.
It’s a one page template and does everything that Wendy wants it to do. I set this up for her in 20 minutes. Most of that time was Wendy stressing out over the font and the photo.
About.me does something really similar but costs about twice as much. If you are looking at parking a domain name, it is the easiest way to do it.
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 forgot to post this but we had a great interview with the Leader of the Opposition Cam Broten the other night. The interview went well, the behind the scenes did not.
Last year I was at Cam’s house for a meeting (he is my MLA) and his wife Ruth made these cookies that everyone was raving about. The plate went around and ran out before it got to me (am pretty sure Frank Quesnell took two). I was sitting right beside Cam so I couldn’t really make a run at the cookies while he was talking. The cookies were so good that their goodness actually interrupted the meeting as people savoured the cookies.
Later Ruth came out with batch number two of the cookies but Cam declined then and because of sitting arrangements, the guy next to me got the cookies and the scene was reversed. Long story short, everyone went on and on about how awesome the cookies were. I went home and made a note of never sitting beside a politician if there are cookies being served.
Cam showed up for the podcast with a bribe, some fresh out of the oven cinnamon buns made by Ruth. I was momentarily excited and then I realized that I had a MacBook in front of me and computers but cinnamon buns do not mix. As soon as the podcast was done, Sean Shaw made a move for them but only took one of the two containers. I scared Hilary off when I pulled a cutting torch out of my bad and pretended to head towards her bike.
There I was, the last cinnamon bun. If I had worked fast, it could have been mind then but we were driving to the Rook and Raven in Shaw’s new Volkswagen and if I had gotten it sticky, he would have made me walk home.
After some beverages (Diet Coke), I make it home, open my bag and before I can pull out the cinnamon bun Wendy grabs it and eats it. Says it was the best cinnamon bun she ever had in her life. I have never been so betrayed.
I went to the fridge, gagged back a glass of V8 and went to bed.
You can listen to our podcast with Cam below. I’m off to find something to eat.
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.
Wendy doesn’t have a lot to do with her family but long after she was estranged from everyone else, her grandfather and her would continue to write letters to each other. His life started in Guyana in 1906, he was orphaned at a young age, lived in a penal colony as a child, explored the interior of Guyana as a diamond broker, fought a tiger, and then travelled the world on some adventure or another. When he retired he became a very talented tourist and wrote about that as well.
If he had been born later, he would have been a blogger but instead he did it old school and typed out his autobiography for his family to read.
Wendy wanted to make it more accessible for Mark and Oliver to read and so we formatted about 200 pages of stories, uploaded them to Blogger and started to research every single thing he wrote about while adding hundreds of links and photos to the story.. After going through it about 15 times, we found two factual errors. One could have been an OCR mistake and one he spelled out the name of something as he heard it is in English when it was actually a German term. Okay, that and I am still trying to figure out what a tiger was doing in South America (zoo escapee?)
Wendy isn’t done it yet but it is good enough to let the world know about it at alfredgilkes.blogspot.com where it is there for the world to read about.
Sadly I didn’t get one of these for Father’s Day. I never quite get what I want
Wendy and the boys did get some nice stuff and my awesome wife blogs about the day here. The day would have been perfect but the garbage hound I have for a dog got into a bag and spread it all over the house. I had no idea Maggi had been bred with a racoon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far. Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy. The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing. She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home. I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.
Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed. I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.
As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs. A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first. It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”. Sadly their child didn’t make it.
I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited. Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was. A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”. There wasn’t much for me to say. He asked what I did for a living and I told him. He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.” I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning. I’ll be fine”. At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.
The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.
We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand. Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher. Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.” I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us. Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.” As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible. She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee. I took her up on her offer.
Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room. A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.
The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs. The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People. There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby. As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure. As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA. If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.
Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out. I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on. Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.
As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket. I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.
I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU. Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee. Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly. A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.
Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008. Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.
Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi. Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature. We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick. It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.
So now he is five. Time flies when you repress some of those memories.
Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:
- Spiderman water bottle
- Kick scooter
- Green Army men
- An NFL football (from Mark of course)
- Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
- Some new shirts
- An Angry Bird hat
He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt. He is off to take over the world.