Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hiking in Banff 2018

If you read my blog about the new Calgary Central Library, you are already aware that Wendy and I went on a brief work/vacation trip. While in Banff, I was fortunate enough to have access to Dave as an avalanche avoidance mechanism and day-trip planner. This has a significant positive effect on standard wife-danger-o-meter sensors and I was set free in the Canadian Rockies, once again.

I only gave Dave a few days notice that I was coming into his stomping grounds. I knew quite a bit in advance of my trip, but after about 2 years being out of contact, I was uncertain whether I ought to insinuate myself into his mountain fortress of solitude. I needn’t have worried. He was only too pleased to hear from me, and after a lucky break and a bit of schedule wrangling, he was able to take a day away from Canmore.

We probably lucked out and had some of the best weather for hiking (or most other things for that matter) that they had seen for several weeks. It was gloriously sunny and the daytime high climbed a few degrees onto the plus side. That felt all the better for the weather in Saskatchewan being unseasonably cold with several places around the province breaking 50-75 year record lows.

Making for Aylmer Lookout

We had a fine start to the day, although Dave was concerned. His normal process is to get as far away from tourists as possible, and because of our short time-frame, we were going to be starting out from a very popular spot. He needn’t have been worried. In addition to the fine weather, we were also treated to a nearly deserted trail. We managed to hit a brief lull in the tourist season and some nearby ski hills had just opened drawing away that many more people. We perhaps saw 5 people all day.

It is hard to say what is the best thing about a day-long hike like this. The light dusting of snow which covered everything but didn’t obscure, or rather it added more beauty than it hid. Sometimes it wasn’t a dusting at all, but rather crystals grown in the mountain air amidst high humidity.

Perhaps it was the amazing low-angle light that happens throughout the winter.

Or it could be the fantastic 4 hour conversation about art, music, running, and getting older while still trying to stay open to newness. I feel like the conversation could have gone on indefinitely, if I hadn’t been experiencing a marked shortness of breath combined with a really sore ass.

At any rate, the views never disappoint.

A sight worth mentioning:

On the way back down, only a few hundred meters from the car, the sun was in the early phase of setting. Things were beginning to take on that rich orange cast. It always makes me feel warm and happy. I wanted to stop and explore some strange ice formations that we had noticed and been curious about earlier in the day. Getting down low (basically right into the lake) I thought the ice would make some nice foreground interest for a shot of Mount Girouard. 

Instead it turned out that the mountain was a nice piece of background interest for some spectacular natural ice sculptures. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the mountain scene reflected in the spherical bulges of the ice.

As fate would have it, Suzanne was in Banff on business that day, so we all met for a delicious vegetarian supper at Nourish Bistro followed by some of the best creme brûlée I’ve ever had at The Maple Leaf. Almost too many good things for one day to contain. But, not quite. I still had time to put in a blissful hour soaking in a relatively deserted Banff Upper Hot Springs.

To make up for all that indulgence, I took most of the next day off. Sore and with many pictures to review, I spent the day writing and editing photos.

Tunnel Mountain

On our last day in Banff, Wendy and I did a much shorter and tamer hike up Tunnel Mountain. Up and down was a couple of hours, but it still has some fabulous views... and also many more hikers to share the trail with.

...and it also had this twisted tree that Wendy noticed had the head of a deer hiding within. Enjoy!

Photos from my two hikes can be found here

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Calgary Central Library (Wendy’s Take)

As we explored Calgary’s newest library, the differences between Wendy and I made themselves as clear as ever. We decided to do “he said, she said” comparison posts. Following is the Wendy Brain: 

Library as art gallery

When Mike and I arrived at Calgary’s new central library, it felt like we were arriving at an art gallery. There was big sculpture shouting community out front, and the building’s architecture flowed. But when you get inside, the volunteers (yes, there are regular tours departing from the front doors) from tour groups to describe exactly how form and function are married in the building.  We’ll talk about that more as we go, but favorite elements. Mike loved the stairs and how they formed the heart of the building.  I thought the stairs, combined with open but demarcated spaces give you windows into all the special spaces. Finally, we both loves the geometric windows and lovely found spaces. You could spend days thinking about the use of light in the building. I know I have.



Here are my favorite things about the new Calgary central library (yes, I am so envious).

Library as community

I loved the nods to the diverse communities in the library.  Like the main library at the U of S, there are many glassed in spaces to rent.  Seating is very diverse and developed for a wide variety of spaces.  I loved the repeated nods to Treaty 7, the spaces for newcomers, and the furniture designed for people to interact, use technology, create, and sit quietly. 
The best nod to community is what you see right when you come in.  You can see all the places to write your favourite books, places to write what you love about libraries, and places to vote on how you use your branch libraries. There was a lot of consultation in the making of the library, but when you come in you realize it is still happening.

A library for children and teens

As you come around a corner in the children’s area, you see a series of levels, almost extended stairs that make a series of stations.  They are bracketed on the right by a ramp that serves a stroller parking and by spaces for child minding, story time, and a wonderful play space.  As you move through the levels, the space opens up into spaces of discovery and invention.  Mike had trouble moving on.
On the opposite side of the big oval, the teen area includes multiple gaming screens, board games, a stage, doodle art, tables and creative chairs – it is the kind of space I always wished I could teach in. 

Nod to the traditions of libraries

I love the move to libraries as busy hubs with coffee shops, dialogue and creativity, and digital literacy. But I am a big reader, and I am also nostalgic about the libraries of stories from my childhood.  I loved the card catalog art, displays of art and traditional literature, older technologies and local history.  I was loving up the local history books when I found a particularly funny set of shelves for people who live on the prairies.
It was so worth it to visit the library and see it as center of the community.  If you are a teacher-librarian and want to think about what libraries can be, or a SPL librarian or programmer thinking about what a library led by the community can be, it is worth the trip.  Like Saskatoon, Calgary needed a space for families, literacy, and culture, that celebrates our Indigenous roots and welcomes newcomers.  I know we don’t have the population base to build a library on that scale, but I sure hope we can build a library in the same vein.  

Calgary Public Library

Calgary’s new central branch has been open for a week. Since Wendy had a conference in Banff and I was keeping her company, we decided to stop in at the library on the way through. I have some thoughts. Some of them are library insider thoughts, but lots of them are just from the perspective of someone who loves art and learning and books and people.

This library was a modern wonder and is beautiful, both inside and out. My phone battery was in critical condition, but lucky for me I had the talented and generous photography skills of Dr. Wendy to fill the gap. 

If you have only seen one photo of this library, it is probably similar to the one below. This is the view from one floor above the front entrance.

The area to the left of the entrance is dominated by this mural—clearly inspired by the reconciliation movement.

The impression I got upon walking through the door was that I was entering into a beautiful art gallery. But not a gallery of precise, unchanging beauty. Instead, it was humming with the vibrant, living art of an entire society.

There were cards to leave comments, stations to vote on how you use different Calgary libraries, and pages to fill with thoughts from books that have shaped our lives in some way.

Also, if any managers or SPL board members read this, below is the coffee bar that I have been asking for over the last 10 years. Yes, I’m ahead of my time, but I won’t gloat. Let’s just agree to get this important work done ;)

The area dedicated to children was pretty fabulous, as well. 

Notice the ramp in the photo above? Sure it’s great for strollers, but accessibility is at the core of this building. For parents with strollers or individuals in wheel chairs. Elsewhere, hand-rails and stairs were equipped with signals for patrons who can benefit from non-visual cues about their environment.

The children’s area is full of portholes to peek in and climb through, and things to hang off or slide down.

So many great places to sit! This library wants you to be comfortable. There are nooks, pillows, tables, rooms, power ports (did I mention coffee?), all with the purpose of saying, “Stay for a while. Learning can be fun, easy and comfortable. Take your time.”

I was continually invited to think of books as an exploration. Of course, as you can see below, the explorations continue in more modern formats as well.

There are many areas that were packed with people, but also places to work that felt more calm and isolated.

One of the things that I found amazing is that despite the fact that the building at times felt overwhelmingly full of vibrant activity, there were also lots of places that I could find to be completely alone ...

... And, I didn’t need to be in some dark corner to find that solitude.

As someone who works in libraries, I really wish I had the time to try and talk someone into touring me through the non-public spaces. What I could see from an operational standpoint was also pretty awe inspiring. Below is one of the conveyor “belts” that carried books up, down, and throughout the building.

I inquired about the paging cart above. Machines sort and load these devices. They are stacked with books until the sensor towards the right hand side says the cart is full and then humans grasp the handles with their appendages to more precisely relocate them within designated zones within the building. I assume that to make this work, there must be cyborgs floating in a nutrient rich bath somewhere in a vault in the basement. I began a preliminary search, but was deterred by banks of security screens attached to the many cameras throughout the building. The previous sentence is true. The one preceding it is based on somewhat more speculative ruminations.

In case you were wondering, you should definitely go visit this building. Other than possibly having to park in downtown Calgary, it won’t cost you a cent. Perhaps you have thoughts of getting swept up in a hybrid of Minority Report meets The Name of the Rose, or maybe just to spend a few hours finding a new favourite book.

Wendy was fascinated and took many more photos. She has also written a post of her own thoughts on the library. For what it’s worth, all the photos from our visit are here.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Planet Stories

Watching a TED Talk from my RSS back catalogue (Yes, I still use RSS) and was inspired by this mission. The goal is to image the entire Earth every day and to make the information publicly useable and searchable. Other images you find online could be months or years old. There are many powerful applications of this information, but mostly I wanted to play with it. The images are quite variable in their quality, but their are many that are very good.

The website where this information is available is Planet Stories.

I made a little 6 frame time-lapse of Canmore, AB from this year. I enjoy the snow change on the mountains and you can even see the ice breaking up on Lac Des Arcs on the right hand side.