Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011


Our Modest Christmas Eve Snack

It has been an unusual holiday season for our family. We have just finished having Jodi and Brad stay with us for a few days, but beyond that we had no house guests over Christmas. Normally, we expect at least two weeks of company. When added to the mild weather and absence of snow, it almost doesn't feel like we had Christmas at all.

That said, I had a great holiday. I've been continuing to study flow (as discussed last post) and how it integrates with the Quest. As a result, I anticipate this being the most successful winter of my adult life. Whoa... talk about raising expectations. I know that February is coming, but I think (foolishly or not) that I will avoid my usual slump. Something feels different.

Tender, buttery Brioche
Anyhow, we had a terrific time planning out all of the goodies that we would bake this year. The girls have trouble keeping to just 5 kinds of cookies and I chafe at the thought of only making 4 types of fudge. We all enjoy it so much that time isn't the limiting factor, only our ability to give away enough that we won't be forced to eat it all ourselves. Leora decided not to make her very popular Orange-Anise buns this year. Instead she made a batch of mini brioche, much to the delight of all who ate it.

On Christmas day, I was so proud of Anwyn as she played her small, but melodious repertoire of music for those in attendance at James' house. For the record, it was the second year that they have hosted and the meal was fantastic. Well done!

Ad-hoc NERF shooting gallery
I always look forward to boxing day at my parents. The number of people who show up for leftover perogie and cabbage rolls is staggering. There is always a game of Canasta raging, nerf guns warring, and a dozen simultaneous conversations.

Possibly the most exciting thing that happen is that Wendy received an early Christmas present in the form of getting her braces off -- quite a bit sooner than expected. This marks the first and only good news we have ever gotten regarding her dental work :)

Teeth!!!
Traditions that were missed/skipped this year:
- house full of company
- tobogganing on Diefenbaker hill
- Christmas Eve at Liz's
- Overlong Christmas morning unwrapping frenzy
- New Years Eve with Brad and Jodi
Warrior Princess!

Traditions we upheld:
- Decorating our tree and singing carols
- Girls decorate at Jan's house
- Christmas-Eve lights tour
- Christmas at James and Jaime's (2nd year)
- Boxing Day with Gale, Bob and the Pollard clan (35 in attendance)

Here is the full Christmas set. Yes, it's a lot of close-ups. Brad Stover has promised to send me an older wide angle lens for my Pentax. Maybe that will tempt me away from using a 200mm indoors... maybe ;)



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Flow

Alert! Feelings laden paragraphs ahead. If you are hear to read about me being a mad scientist or climbing something, turn around and go back to the site with the fluffy kittens doing what fluffy kittens do.

I've been thinking about The Quest for a long time -- something like 21 years now. I've found that as time passes, it has become increasingly hard to hold to some of my own ideals. How do I continue to strive, to seek, to find year after year?

One thing that has really bothered me lately is that activities that I once enjoyed have stopped filling me up. I feel bored. I don't care. This doesn't matter. It started out being a seasonal depressive thing (which I do believe contributes to the severity), but this last year, there were elements that stayed with me all summer. I thought it was a failing in my person -- that somehow I had changed for the worse and couldn't make myself feel the way I felt when I was twenty. This kind of thinking has never seemed like a fair judgement of myself, is far from productive, and I have found recently that in fact it is quite the opposite. In many ways I am a victim of my own success.

I would like to say that "I have been thinking about my declining enjoyment of life over the last year and it has lead to an epiphany." It would feel satisfying to say that, but not true. I have struggled all year to figure this out and come up with nothing. I lacked a framework to clearly think about the problem and I spent hours spinning my intellectual wheels. Perhaps I should have taken some philosophy classes in university.

Fortunately, I have something better than university level training in logic. I have my own Vulcan advisor. Wendy had mentioned the psychological concept of Flow to me on several occasions. It is something that has come up in her work as a teacher and particularly since she has been at the school division office. It sounded interesting, but I didn't give it much thought.

Several weeks ago Wen and I were having a discussion. We have talked about divorce many, many times. It's one of those things that logical people do. Not in the sense that we have been close to divorce -- we simply talk about our marriage a lot and having ways to fix (or end) it is a natural outcome of those discussions. We both hold the ideal that the marriage should work well for both of us and if it ever ceases to, than we should be smart enough to end the marriage -- for the "good of the many," as it were ;) Anyway, this particular discussion wasn't going too well. 11 months previous, I had accepted the responsibility of getting my act together. By which I mean that we both knew things were going poorly for me, it was beginning to adversely affect the family, and I was going to figure out why, or at least manage to change it.

I can hear you already. Yes, my family is great. Yes, we have loving, respectful relationships. Yes, the girls are amazing. Wendy and I communicate effectively. I am well liked, talented and fun. So, what's the problem? It's relative. Wendy lovingly summed it up like this: "Things are going fine right now, but if you continue in the direction you are going, there will come a time when you are someone to which I don't want to be married." Ouch! So, not really at the disaster stage, but her super-long-term-planning-crazy-brain (as I like to call it) was able to stretch out 10 years into the future and see where I was headed. What's more, I knew she was right.

Help. My original deadline for action was one year. and I was at 11 months with no progress. I told Wendy that I would seek counselling starting in January if I didn't make serious headway by the end of December. I'm really not interested in that option.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in
an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus,
full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
So I forced myself to do... something. I had noticed a diagram up on Wendy's office wall a couple of weeks prior. It was very bright, simple and described the concept of flow. I asked her if she could bring home a copy and talk to me about it. We sat down with the chart and discussed definitions for the various categories and plotted many of the activities where I spend my time. I had to be careful to place things where they were currently -- not where they might have been historically. I didn't look at the headings of "challenge" or "skill" to determine the position of my activities, but rather how I felt when I was performing these activities. Was I bored, relaxed, anxious, in control, etc...


During this process a couple of things became immediately obvious. The first was that I was spending way too much time on the bottom and left-hand side of that chart. The second was that many of the activities that I placed in boredom or apathy were things that once would have been in relaxation, control, or even flow. The third thing was that I had drawn a little circular arrow on the left. It ran from apathy, past worry and up into anxiety before dropping back down. There were a number of things I did which I described as going through that cycle. This circular arrow was key and the first big burst of excitement I had in this process.


There are many challenges that I face willingly -- even eagerly. But, there are some that I am afraid of facing. It usually hinges on a perception of authority. I'm not quite sure of this yet. As I think about the issue, I begin to worry and may eventually begin to feel a sense of panic. Usually I will distract myself from the problem or tell myself that it is unimportant, at which point, I promptly forget all about it. I've known about this pattern of behaviour for years, but seeing it on this chart suddenly imparted a whole layer of understanding that had previous eluded me. I was artificially changing the challenge level and/or misperceiving my own skill


Over the next week I managed to simplify what I learned from the chart into a series of rules...
























What I am currently working on:
  1. Correctly assessing both the challenge of an activity and my own skill level.
  2. Adjusting my skill (though learning) or the challenge level (by modifying the task) to achieve positive outcomes on the chart.
  3. Being my own parent. I never discussed this, but it involves talking to myself as if I were dealing with one of my kids vs berating myself as insufficient.
So, what does this have to do with The Quest? Perhaps it's obvious by this point. Questing has always been about challenge, elegance, struggle, self improvement. I realize now that flow is what I have always sought in my questing. The perfect union of skill and challenge is my concept of Quest. 

I've spent my adult life gathering tools to help me meet challenges and overcome obstacles. I've just discovered I don't need to find tools -- I'm learning how to make my own.


Mike hangs up the phone, as he steps out of the phone booth, and puts on his sunglasses.
He looks around the street for a moment, and then flies off.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The author of the flow concept, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is a poor motivational speaker. He's a bit too rambly. But I feel I owe it to him to link to his TED talk anyway.



**beware the matrix code generator that I used above. I had to seriously prune the code that they wanted to put along with that image before I was comfortable using it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Never Let Me Down

I'm old enough to have started buying my music on Vinyl, though most of my collection was cassette. I only transitioned to CDs late in my university career. I kept a number of my records for 20 years after I no longer had a turntable. Eventually, they hit the dustbin along with nearly every cassette I ever bought.

Did I ever own those songs? They certainly own my dreams. I feel like the songs are part of me. It doesn't seem right that I have to pay to own part of me. Ah, the success of the RIAA.

Oh, yeah. This isn't a rant against the music corporations. This is a celebration of a few albums that I've rediscovered. I eventually became embarrassed with my possession of each of these. Now I've had to pay for them again. I look back and realize that I was lacking in self confidence. I found it hard to maintain or defend any opinion, not just those involving music.

Styx: Kilroy Was Here
My first album (1982). I was 10 years old. I know I just bought it for the cover art and because Mr. Roboto was played several times a night when I went out to the "Good Times Roller Rink". There is some serious 'cheese' on this album, but I love the story behind the rock-opera lyrics. I stared at the pictures on the fold out pages of this album cover and wished often that someone would really make the movie that was depicted in staged photos.
Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet
1987. I was 15. This was all about the girls. I had my own turntable in my room by this time and I must have really irritated my family with the constantly blaring music. Especially since I would just listen to one song 20 times over.
David Bowie: Never Let Me Down
I've just finished listening to glass spider. Shivers. I love it. In 1987 Bowie claimed that it was the favourite album that he had made in a long time. He later recanted and said it was trash that he had just phoned in. He may have been depressed in the 80s, but I'm really glad he was able to find the 'phone' for long enough to record these 11 tracks. Sadly track 10 too dizzy wasn't included on the iTunes release of the album. I may have to go searching for that one.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Drive-Through or Drive-Moo?


Drive-throughs are perennial whipping boys for my ire (along with escalators). Today I walked Leora to school and decided to stop at Tim Horton's for a coffee. Being "time delighted" (as opposed to time obsessed), I ran some tests. I Spotted 13 droids in total. 3 on till, 5 on coffee/sandwiches, 1 on tables/cleaning, 2 in kitchen, 1 passing out advertising for a new product, 1 manager. The manager told me that Friday and Saturday are busier and the staff may be as many as 15!

Time trials: indoor line-up vs drive-through with the time penalty for driving displayed at the right.

The most bearded James... Ever!*
3:30-6:04   -2:34
3:52-8:44   -4:52
0:50-6:32   -5:42
2:55-7:10   -4:15
4:55-8:31   -3:36
6:10-5:50* +0:20
7:12-6:51* +0:21
2:00-6:51   -4:51
1:30-6:15   -4:45
0:38-5:31   -4:53
1:01-7:44   -6:45

Notes:

Trials run 8:45-10am Wednesday, Nov. 2nd

Location: Cumberland and 8th. They have just widened the drive-through to 2 lanes (wish I had timed before and after the construction).

There were several 5 min. Stretches where you could walk in and get immediate service (between 9:30 and 10am).

There were never less than 8 cars in the drive-through.

In a bitter turn of events, my 2nd coffee was one of the 2 timed events in which a car beat a person :( My coffee droid apologized profusely for getting my order wrong and serving the people after me in line 1st! I told her she could pay me back by taking a deep breath and trying to relax. I've never seen anyone scramble so fast to get a new pot of coffee on. Well maybe a Quester on his 70th hour of a final exam study blitz :)

*For the record, James was not there. It's an old photo. I wanted to have some picture at Tim's and I neglected to take any this morning. Nor did I have that chocolate doughnut a mere 2 days after Halloween. What do you take me for?

Stories (Ghost and Otherwise)


A couple of days ago, Wendy bought me a replica of Bilbo's sword, Sting. Needless to say I was ecstatic. The Hobbit has been my favourite story for as long as I can remember.

From the time I was 10 years old, I pretty much assumed that one day a great big adventure would walk through my door and sweep me away. It was going to be a hard road and I would resist, but in the end I would wind up growing in ways I couldn't have imagined.

When I got married, I began to realize that adventures come in more shapes and sizes than I had at first thought and that opportunities to save the world as we know it were relatively rare (still don't know anyone who has done it).

So, we're on the subject of stories...

A few weeks ago, I was asked to tell a story in front of an adult audience. This was to be part of my job at the library and I was excited. I've been enjoying the illusion that I am being paid to become a master storyteller. The mundane details of my job are becoming easy enough that I have the time to spend on more artistic pursuits. But, I was having trouble finding a story to memorize. Lori (one of the longtime librarians) made the suggestion of a two paragraph piece that she found typed (by an actual typewriter!) in a binder on her desk. It was an old campfire chestnut called "The Thing at the Foot of the Bed."(5min. YouTube version) I said that I could memorize it in no time, but it didn't seem like much of a challenge.

This prompted a week long discussion between me and several of my co-workers on the nature of storytelling. I came to realize that I don't know how to tell stories particularly well. I've always been great at memorization and most of my acting experience has been around memorized scripts. I perform or recite very well, but without the memorization, I feel totally adrift. I blame my lack of focus. My mind drifts off topic easily. I memorize to compensate. Lori suggested I memorize the first line and the last line and then just try and fill in details in between. It scared the crap out of me, but that's what I tried.

Lori and Jim also offered the piece of advice that the story would be easier to relate and more interesting for my listeners if I told it from my own experience. I decided to set it in P.A. during my 1st summer home from university. I lived across the alley from Mrs. Lund (owner of Lund's Wildlife). Her yard was seriously spooky and featured a shed full of partially completed taxidermy projects and supplies.

When the time came to relate my story, I was more intimidated than I had been in a long time. The story had a definite shape, but no necessary order. I told it and all went well. Along the way I had a fabulous time remembering details from my childhood in P.A. I LOVE working at the library!

Gandalf said, "In fact, I shall go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, and very good for you. And profitable too, if you ever get over it."

And so it was...

Oh, and there was Halloween. It was fun, except for the part where I behaved like a jack-ass (and that wasn't even my costume)
Click for more Halloween pics



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revenge of Shape Lock

Click Pic for full album
Wendy tells me it has been a month since my last post. What can I say? I've been busy. I've been posting images online, but just mentioning them in Google+. I find it a much faster way to get things out than feel the pressure of creating a post about whatever it is. Okay, that's a bad excuse. I've been trying to do more writing lately... hmmm.

Since my trip to Canmore with Dave, I've been doing some work for Summer Players, helping to get their current show ready. It's called A Grand Night for Singing (and it finished in town, though you could catch it this weekend in Rosthern). It's fun and full of singing. 'Nuff said.

I also...

Dirty and Hazy
Shot pictures in the fog...
Shot some absolutely crazy pictures of wasps, spiders -- plus other odds and ends...
Mike-meta
The list goes on. The point being, I have not been idle. Were you concerned?

But today, I want to show you my latest creations. In addition to making some new locks for our cat door (you may remember shape lock?), I fixed my travel mug. I lost the handle on my mountain trip and the sharp metal prongs have been tormenting me since. No more. I crafted a new handle out of shape lock and it is a thing of beauty. I probably have to forgo the dishwasher from now on lest my new handle melt.

I needn't tell you that I love shape lock for my DIY pleasures, but I've come to hate the grey discolouration that happens with age. I tried paint and dye. Neither were satisfying as a long-term solution. 


This was awesome. I ground tumeric and paprika to a super fine powder and added it to my old phone belt clip which had become discoloured. I don't know how it will wear, but it looks fantastic right now.

That's right. I said OLD belt clip. One of the joints fatigued and I lost confidence in it's integrity. So I thought it was time for something new.
Here is the new clip. To get a perfect fit, I massaged the warm plastic until it was nearly the right thickness and then closed the clip onto it. It is flexible and very strong. History indicates that it will need replacing with time. When the time comes, I'll just heat it up and remake it (or try something completely new). 

The colour is from the orange powder I showed you above mixed with some of the waste toner from my colour laser printer. In my mind, at least, I think it looks like Jade :)
"Action" Shot
And here it is with just the plastic case and the strap lock mechanism ($2). I attached it with the super two-faced tape I like. It works brilliantly as a landscape phone stand (in both rotations).

A few more photos of this project can be found in this album

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mt. Muir

doesn't look like much from space.
By now, everyone I know is aware that I went to Canmore again this summer to see Dave. If you read his blog (which I highly recommend), you would already have all the details AND they would be presented in a woodsy, mountainish way that indicates a depth of knowledge in what he is talking about. As usual, I will not attempt to indicate that I possess any technical know-how with respect to the wilderness or mountains. The only thing apparent to me is that I know how to choose good friends and that I don't let a little discomfort get in the way of a good time.

In case you don't get over to his blog, I've stolen one of his nice maps to show you the route that we took during this multi-day trip.

The adventure started a little early this year. Heidi N. had been staying with us in Saskatoon while she visited with Teela. She has been doing this for many years now and it is a visit to which I look forward. Last year we drove home together after my mountain trip. This time we drove to Calgary together on my way to see Dave. About 3hrs into the drive I made a realization that I should probably check in.

Me: What would be the #1 piece of equipment to take on a mountain hike? 
Dave: Boots.
Me: That's what I thought, too.
Dave: ...
Me: Do you know a good shoe store?

It was a blow to discover that I had cleaned, repaired, polished to a gleem, and water-proofed my old army boots... only to leave them on the back deck. Fortunately we were meeting at MEC anyway. The mistake cost me $200 and a brutal reminder about the value of a pre-trip check list. We took a round-a-bout route out of Calgary thanks to omnipresent construction and made for the uplands.

This years offering started off with some mountain biking that locals would characterize as "a little warm up" for the climbing ahead. Dave has a book written by some cocky cyclists who (I hear tell) can stay in the saddle all but the last wee bit of K2. They all but neglect to mention parts of the trip that I thought presented some challenge while standing on my own two feet -- never mind trying to navigate them on a bicycle.

As you can see, the bike that Dave and Suzanne were kind enough to loan me lacked the jet pack attachment and I was forced to ford this (need I mention glacially cold?) river like any other mortal, save that I was wearing my awesome Vibram Five Fingers. These beloved shoes of mine have been showing signs of wear and although this will be their last trip, they acquitted themselves admirably.

The cycle was a bit of a grind, but the novelty of it made it worth the effort. Every so often, Dave would hop off his bike, unfurl his crisp topo map of the area and look from it to the trail and up to the mountain skyline that we were approaching. He loves route finding and nothing could please him more than being forced to make a decision about which way the correct path lies. He was kind enough on this early part of the journey to inquire which way I thought would be best. I did my best to look from the map to the path and then to the skyline and then indicated that I concurred with his choice.

We camped near the base of the head wall that we were to climb the next morning. We passed a pleasant evening betting on the exact moment the moon would rise (Dave won) and playing with extended shutter times on our cameras. Here is the moon with a 20 sec handheld exposure.

The morning was oatmeal followed by a hike up the head wall. What had looked nearly impossible from a couple km away was, in fact steady climbing, though not difficult. We soon made it to the "top" and cleverly pitched out tent well before noon. Dave says that mountain climbing is an exercise in getting to the top only to find that you're really at the bottom. It's true. You climb for hours and crest a ridge and discover that there is a ridge ahead in the distance. You just keep doing that until their are no more ridges. We figured that we would be tired at the end of the day and a camp in this pass would save us the trouble of setting it up in a state of exhaustion later in the evening.

Our spirits were lifted during this next stage. We were now able to leave the bulk of our packs behind and the going was a lot easier.

Horn Coral Fossil
Two things stand out about this climb. The first was that there were fantastic fossils everywhere. The only thing that kept me from stopping and photographing them obsessively was the second thing -- the really sharp rocks we were walking on. We had to wait for the luxury of a soft place or large boulder to sit down on. The up side of this rock was its melodious nature. It must have been almost glass. As we walked the tinkling and chiming sounds were a startling contrast to their uniform grey colour.

Coffee on the edge of oblivion
At the top, we made coffee and enjoyed the windy, but otherwise spectacular weather.

By the time we were headed down, we had long decided to forgo the second peak in the area. It looked to be a real slog of a climb and we figured we already had earned the view. That mean that the camp we made had be a waste of time. We struck the tent and began to head back down.

I'm not going to say that I got us lost, but I think I may have been in the vanguard of our duo when we went slightly off course. To Dave it was just another opportunity to assess the situation and make tough choices. It's always hard to decide to head backwards when you're tired. Every step you take back is just one more you have to take the other way when you do get back to the right trail. But, backwards we went. We only misstepped about a 1/2 hrs worth of travel, but the sun sets pretty early when there is a huge hunk of rock in the way and we wanted to make good time.

We found our bikes untouched where we left them. I thought you only got saddle sore from riding a horse, but I was wrong. My ass protested with sincerity as I climbed onto my seat. Fortunately, the ride down was easier than the up trip had been. Laughing like a maniac, tears streamed down my face, the wind ripped rivulets from the tips of my ear lobes as we careened down the rocky slopes. I scared myself and checked my breaks often. This leg of the journey was extremely satisfying and completely justified bringing the bikes in the first place. Later, Suzanne would listen politely as I explained how going down hill was way more fun than going up. In retrospect she, and every other biker in existence, may have already figured that out.

We pitched our tent right alongside the last river before our return to civilization. The proximity to people was confirmed when we saw five riders come out of the mountains and ford the stream followed shortly by three cyclists out for a day trip. I envied their expensive bikes and minuscule packs.
Day three looked a little grey as we got to the car early and drove off in search of something to challenge us. It didn't take long, but the weather didn't cooperate. It grew foggy and wet, the way became slippery and difficult and the view made me feel like I was looking for the pass of Cirith Ungol. Not a bad combination. The climb was rapidly leading into areas that were clearly prone to falling rocks. With no helmets and exhausted, we turned back -- defeated for now, by Mt. Elpoca.
While I definitely consider messing around up in the mountains to be paradise... right next to paradise would be a soak in the hot-springs followed by fantastic fire-roasted pizza with good friends. Top the evening off with a little Tranya(startrek.com) and a lesson in basic fire-arms construction(also startrek.com) and I felt like I might never go home. It was a great way to be welcomed back to the everyday world.
No Questers were injured in the making of this picture

My pictures are all here.
A selection of Dave's are here.

This marks the third time that I've made the trip to Canmore to have a little adventure. Once again it was well worth the effort. Previous mountain trips are here in 2009 and here in 2010.

Monday, August 01, 2011

On the Joys of Camping

obligatory site photo

We managed to sneak away to Waskesiu for a few days before our guests began arriving in earnest. We didn't really have enough time to go anywhere too remote, so we opted for the Narrows. It's a little busier than we'd like, but its the camp sites are pretty large and the people that camp there are relatively no nonsense. We didn't have to put up with anything more than a barking dog from our neighbours.

Leo and Anwyn are both getting to be good campers. They set up their own tent, build fires (I still chop the wood), and cook some of the meals. We (by which I mean Wendy) are working on canoeing skills with them, but they still have a ways to go in terms of endurance.
Moss Monster
Now, if you are looking for performance and melodrama, Leora and Anwyn have endurance to spare.
The weather on the first day was spectacular enough that I was able to forgive the ferocious mosquitoes that accompanied it.
Good thing we got some canoeing and beach time in, as things took a dramatic turn for the worse towards the close of day two. We enjoyed the steadily increasing rain for an hour or so, playing cards under our tarp, until the rain turned into golf-ball sized hail and crazy amounts of lightning. We retreated into the van during the worst of the hail -- just in case, but things didn't get quite out of hand. I was able to sufficiently bank the fire so that we still had nice coals as the storm became a light drizzle. We had hot chocolate before bed.

It was midnight when I woke, noticing that lightning was getting close again and suddenly a very strong wind came up and it began to rain again. The trees protected us from the brunt of the wind, but it was loud and a little intimidating. I figured we ought to bring the girls into our tent in case they got scared. A quick look at environment canada showed that they had issued a severe weather warning for our area. Thanks for the notice. Showers were what they had forecast before we left home. We decided to move the girls to our tent. I came back with the last load of our stuff.

Wendy: Where is Anwyn?
Mike: She came first, with her pillow.
Wendy: !!!
Mike: !!! I've got a flashlight... ANWYN!

Picture near panic setting in as rain falls and lightening strikes nearby. I run to the road and see a little flashlight winking in the distance. Anwyn is returning from her trip to the bathroom, half dressed and still clutching her pillow. She maintains that she told Leora before she left. I'll count myself lucky that that moment stands out as one of the most frightening of my parenting career. I'm sure it will be displaced when I meet the first teenage boyfriend!
Usually, I'm a sucker for punishment, but I wasn't really looking forward to another night of that (the forecast was for more of the same). We packed up in the morning, went for a last paddle and picked our way around all the trees fallen onto the road as we came home. Just a little more adventure and less sleep than I bargained for :)

All the pictures are here

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sword Play

Wendy's 20ish year old cousin, Douglas has been here for a couple of days visiting between other obligations. He is young and foolish enough to not just indulge, but actually encourage me in some of my crazier antics. The girls helped him warm up with a pool noodle war. Then he was ready to take on something a bit more substantial.

Don't know if I mentioned it before, but I picked these swords up last fall (I think) from The Cutting Edge, in Saskatoon. They have, perhaps, the worlds most pathetic website -- but it is a great store. They in turn purchased the swords from this company(coldsteel.com).
So, Douglas has a couple of inches reach over me and, though my age gave me some wily advantage, he is 15 years younger than me. It wasn't long into our combat session that I was thoroughly exhausted and he had to keep waiting for me to catch my breath. I'm still running 4-5 times a week (and just today did 12k and a 6k cycle) so that may give you an idea of how much effort this sword play took. We were pretty evenly matched accept for a couple of mighty blows that Douglas managed to score on.
Here, he caught me a good blow to the neck. I put my dramatic background to good use to let him know that he had definitely scored a point.

As you can see from the pictures, we are wearing gloves as our only protection. They are lined with lead bearings on the back of the hand and fingers. I picked up a couple of pair for $40/each, but I think I might try to make my own, if these ever wear out. With some care, they help make for a relatively safe way to bash at one another. We still have to pull our killing blows, but mostly you just have to be on your guard or you'll acquire some nasty cuts and bruises.

The rest of the pictures and some video of us with foamy swords that Douglas made are here

Sword Play

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Visitors

We recently hosted Tim, Sherry and their boys, Ben and Jonah, for a couple of hours. We just began to become good friends as they left town, but we were excited to hear that they plan to move back to Saskatoon after one more year in Regina. Our kids are close enough in age to enjoy playing together and in so many ways we are kindred spirits (sorry, we just watched Anne of Green Gables last night and it makes me a little more romantic than usual about such things).

Their visit was too short, as usual, but I consider it a good warm up for all the company that we have planned. There are a couple of pics of their sword wielding children here. Speaking of warm ups, Tim is one of the valued people in my life who is willing to pick up one of my dueling katana's and try to give me a whooping. I was positively out of breath from our brief, but aggressive, swashbuckling session.

My summer is looking to be pretty busy (I can sense your shock as you read this). Our visitor roster currently reads thusly:
  • Teela, Peff, Merlin and Viola -- some or all of them for a month-ish
  • Heidi Naimen -- probably a week overlapping with Teela
  • Lee -- Two weeks overlapping...
  • Greta, Max and possibly Gus -- overlapping...
  • Jodi and Brad -- currently big (hopeful) question marks...
Not all of these people will be staying with us and not the whole time, but I think you can see some trends here. There are a lot of people converging. It's going to be crowded and boisterous.

I have an invitation to go camping with Peff in Montana that I'm seriously considering and I plan on going on an adventure with Dave again this year. Oh, and I have a family of an age disposition that they want to be camping and canoeing as much as humanly possible. Overly ambitious? I think it will all work out fine.

This post has too much thinking and planning in it. I have to go and do something unstructured now...

Father's Day

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... There was Father's Day. Some time much, much later, I posted about it...

I did a crappy job of honouring my own father this year. I guess that's part of the reason I've been reticent to make this post. Every time I think of how great my kids were I just can't start to type. Oh, well. Keeping it in just doesn't work for me. Dad, I'm sorry I was a jerk this year. I hope, with our long history, you can give me a pass on this one.

Sour Cherry Crepe
Don't let the disclaimer above take away from my fatherly pride. Leora will be 13 soon and Anwyn is 11. They have some mad skills in the kitchen. They are both talented (I compare them to myself at 25), but on this occasion, Leora made the crepes and did composition (she certainly has Wen's eye for design). Anwyn created the filling and acted as the prep cook.

In the picture below, Leora shows her level of tolerance for my preoccupation with photography while Anwyn displays good manners ;)

Mortar & Pestle, honey, fine salts and cinnamon mocha soap
Although the food definitely stole the show, there were other rewards to be had. The mortar and pestle are the finest I have ever had. I've been longing for a nice big one like this since seeing Anna and Ian's a couple of years ago. My patience was finally rewarded and I returned the favour by making a few batches of really great pesto now that our basil is really producing.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wishful thinking

I found this super industrious guy wandering about recently. He hauled this caterpillar up and down blades of grass in my lawn for half the morning. I must find some way to encourage this behaviour. Could solve all my pest problems.