Friday, May 28, 2010

My Heart Breaks

Walking home on the sidewalk and hit from behind by an out of control car.  Emma's four-year-old son Nayan killed, six-year-old son Jacob hospitalized. The random tragedy that is any parents worst nightmare.  My heart goes out to Emma and her family.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Test of my crappy HTML skills

YORK RIVER NEAR BANCROFT (Primary water level)

YORK RIVER NEAR BANCROFT - Primary water level over the last 7 days


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Up the Creek with a Paddle

This channel turned out to be a dead end
I had intended to get out much earlier this year, while the water was still high.  I like exploring the small creeks that aren't as accessible with lower water.  High water never materialized this spring though.  Three steps was the highest, and it quickly dropped to one step (8 inches or so from deck).  So I naturally I procrastinated.

A nice day for a paddle, figured to explore up Faraday Creek as far as I could, then loop up around the oxbow lake and back down the York.  Where Faraday joins the York, it is a swampy maze of tiny channels, grass, and beaver dams.  Tough navigating from a kayak since the grass obstructs your view, but a canoe would be too big.  Even the kayak is a tight squeeze at times, often need to use the paddle like a skiff pole.  Other times you just lay the paddle fore and aft and grab a double handful of grass to drag yourself forward.  There are a number of ways through the maze, the goal is to get out of the kayak as few times as possible. 
A paddle-overable beaver dam

The trick is to find the smallest possible beaver dams.  They are usually found in the smallest possible channels, and it is possible to lean way back, paddle or pull the boat onto the dam as far as possible, then lean forward an shimmy a little to get over it.  The problem is that the smallest channels are often dead ends or blocked by trees or branches, and try turning or backing a 13' kayak in a 20" channel.

Once you get through the delta maze, there is the main channel of the creek for a while.  Fairly easy paddling.  Lots of red winged blackbirds.  The regular sized beaver dams need to be portaged, there are two or three (depending on state of repair after spring flooding and route).  I managed to get about 20 metres farther up creek than last year, but stopped by an 8" diameter tree downed across a shallow part of the creek.  The mosquitos had started to drive me buggy, so I left clearing it for another day.  I figure I was about 100m from the Heritage Trail, which was/is my goal. 

Beaver dam on Faraday Creek

Came back down the creek and headed for the oxbow lake.  Much of my Faraday Creek meandering last year was searching for the south entrance to this - I knew it was there from various maps, but had a hard time finding the way in. Managed to re-find the way no problem (passing the beaver lodge, which I hadn't found before), you do have to portage over a big logjam.  Hate to imagine the flooding that caused it, but I suspect it changed the course of the river and helped form the oxbox lake.

It had been a long afternoon so quickly across the little lake.  A new beaver dam at the north end, got a closeup look at a muskrat, then back into the York and home to catch the end of both the hockey game and my hopes of winning the school playoff pool.  Damn you Patrick Marleau!

The Kayaking loop

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Toothbrushes for the Apocalypse

We have them.  Oodles of them.  Leaf buys a bunch every time they go on sale.  Based on the recommended rate you change your toothbrush (every three months), we have years and years worth.  However, based on the rate they were changed by my mother when I was a kid they would last forever and be handed down to my great grand-kids.  Once my mum read or heard that you should disinfect your toothbrushes to prevent spread of cold/flu.  My toothbrush tasted (rather nastily) of bleach for years.

Toothbrushes are starting to get stupid expensive (hence stocking up on sale).  Do I really need an "ergonomic", "triple action",  "advanced bristle design" toothbrush to "gently hug my mouth" in "four exciting colours"?  I don't really want anyone or anything hugging my mouth.  Don't even get me started on battery powered ones (which don't work any better). Sure a regular toothbrush is more convenient and less messy than my finger or a damp cloth, but not worth 5 bucks a pop.  You know they are ridiculously overpriced when you start getting counterfeit toothbrushes.

"Counterfeit" consumer products always give me the giggles.  Generally, they are the exact same, produced at the exact same factory in China, but cost only a quarter of the "name brand" version.  Ridiculous profits or ridiculous advertising costs bump up the price, take your pick.  I love the variety of tactics used to try and convince people not to buy 'counterfeits'. 

From the real and actual counterfeit toothbrush advisory issued by Health Canada - "Health Canada has received one incident report of the bristles... ...becoming dislodged and caught in the user's throat. The individual did not require medical care."  Well thank Jebus that one person managed to clear that bristle without a trip to the emergency room.  Lucky two hacks spit it up... three would have meant a national inquest.  Seriously though, what kind of person calls the federal government because a toothbrush bristle falls off the toothbrush?

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Kayak!

Picked up a new kayak today, found on kijiji.  A Clearwater Design Nunavut tandem.  Tandems are pretty hard to find, so cost a little more than we really wanted to spend, but it is in great shape & hasn't seen much use.  Its big (16' - no paddling up the creek with this beastie) and stable.  Mars is getting too big to ride in the stern compartment of my Boreal Design Ookpik single!  I figure both boys could ride along with me when they get bigger.  Going to sell Leaf's boat, a Boreal Design Kasko.  First dibs actually goes to the guy I bought the Nunavut from - they want something smaller- but if anyone is interested...  We had only managed to get out together a few times because of the two toddler logistic issues.  Keeping the Ookpik for when I go out myself, the new tandem means Leaf and I can go out in the same boat or all four of us in two kayaks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Compostable Bag claim test

Leaf bought some sunchips as a treat.  A very noisy crinkly bag that says "You're holding the world's first 100% compostable chip bag of its kind." (A typical weaselly advertising claim - not actually the first compostable, not the first 100% compostable, not the first 100% compostable chip bag, but the first "of its kind"!)  It continues "It's made from more from more than 90% renewable, plant-based materials and it breaks down completely into compost in a hot, active compost pile."  After the Body Shop compostable bag fail, I figured I had to test it.  Put some compost in it, buried it in the middle of my compost pile.  Unlike the Body Shop bag, they didn't put a time frame on decomp, but I'll try and remember to check in the fall.

Books of May 2010

10 Books
3417 pages

The Pianist
Wladyslaw Szpilman
ISBN 0-312-31135-4
222 pages
May 29

Frightening how easily people turn into brutal animals.  How willing people are to collaborate with them to save themselves, yet how unwilling people can be to fight against tyranny.

Nineteen Minutes
Jodi Picoult
ISBN 0-7434-9673-6
455 pages
May 29

An interesting book about a school shooting.  I knew what the 'surprise' ending was going to be a few chapters in.  I'm surprised there aren't more school shootings.  I'm surprised how important it is to teens to be sheeple.

Tales From the Mos Eisley Cantina
Kevin J. Anderson, Editor
ISBN 0-553-56468-4
380 pages
May 24

Another that I bookmooched.  More enjoyable than the trilogy, fun backstories of Cantina characters. 

Jedi Search
Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-29798-8
354 pages
May 18

Dark Apprentice

Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-40809-7
354 pages
May 20
Champions of the Force
Kevin J. Anderson
ISBN 0-553-29802-X
322 pages
May 21

I understand now why I haven't read much of the Star Wars universe.  Luckily, the suckage of the latest three Star Wars films prepared me.  "The Jedi Academy Trilogy" is pretty weak.  One thing that particularly bugged me was the repetition of exposition.  All three books were published the same year, you'd think there is an expectation that they would be read soon enough after each other that you don't need to spend a big chunk of the second book rehashing the first and a big chunk of the third rehashing the first and second.  Weak and predictable characters and plot.

The Killer Angels
Michael Shaara
ISBN 0-345-34810-9
355 pages
May 16

I don't think I've read a lot of pulitzer prize-winning novels.  It was interesting.  Reminds me of my lack of historical knowledge.

All These Earths
F.M. Busby
ISBN 0-553-25413-8
215 pages
May 13

Ultimately disappointed in this one.  A very interesting premise, FTL travel causing slippage to duplicate (with minor differences) universes.  Read like a series of short stories rather than a novel.

The Hollow Man
Dan Simmons
ISBN 0-553-56350-5
341 pages
May 9

Story about a pair of mind readers.  I could believe the mind reading more than I believed the improbably adventures he gets into.  The most interesting thing in this book was the quote from Robert McNamara about there being three types of people.  People who talked mostly about things, people who talked mostly about people, and people who talked mostly about ideas.

Star Wars Allegiance
Timothy Zahn
ISBN 978-0-345-47739-2
419 pages
May 3rd

I don't think I've read any of the Star Wars universe books before.  Strange, since I'm a big Star Wars fan.  It was fun, I've sent off for some more from Bookmooch.

My (Agent) Orange Thumb

I like growing things.  Its not necessarily that I'm bad at it, though I do tend to be neglectful or forgetful.  There had been a good stretch of years with success with houseplants.  Not this winter though...  Our houseplant collection took a pretty serious beating.  The spider plant might recover... again... when we were given it a few years ago, it was set down in a snowbank while unloading kids and luggage from the minivan and forgotten outside overnight .  I'm most disappointed with the loss of the orange tree (top left).  I received three seedlings from a friend a number of years ago.  This one was a runt (its seedmates are over two feet tall now) after recovering from a few near death experiences in the past, but I'm afraid its a goner now.  I even managed to kill a jade plant.  Amazing, since they are pretty hard to kill on purpose.  A bunch of the remaining houseplants are looking a little rough, but have survived.  My beloved Mystery Citrus tree is doing well.  It is over five feet high now and didn't lose as many leaves as usual over the winter.  I think it enjoyed spending last summer outside in a plastic greenhouse.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Dad died

I'm with George Carlin, I've never been a big fan of death euphemisms.  As a fan of Monty Python's parrot sketch, I know just about all of them.  I would have said my dad is pining for the fjords, because it would elicit a giggle, but only from those in the know.

My dad has battled cancer for a long time.  Cancer runs in my family.  Fighting cancer off also runs in the family.  He was given a 10% chance of living two years after brain tumor round two.  Five years later, brain tumor round three, mini-strokes, heart attack, parkinsons, or a combination thereof was too much.

Long expected, but its still never truly expected.  He's been going downhill for a few years, getting to be particularly bad in the last few months.  Enough to convince my brother to fly out with his wife on easter weekend.  All three kids (and all three grandkids) were there to celebrate his 66th birthday with him and Mary.  I think its been almost 20 years since he'd been with all three kids at the same time.

Leaf and I had been together for years before she realized I had a dad. He was not a part of my life for longer than he was.  It would take pages of writing or years of therapy to even start explaining my fucked up formative years.  All the typical father-son type things I can think of from pre-teen onwards I did with someone else or were skipped altogether.  I think of him whenever I hear Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle".

As much as my mother used to nag "he's still your dad", I hadn't been particularly bothered to see him much  as an older teen and adult.  Prodding from Leaf, I'm sure prodding from Mary, his illness, and letting him spend time with grandkids meant I started to see him again in the last five years.   I'm glad that he got a chance to see and enjoy his grandkids.

Odin is too young to understand, but Mars was pretty confused and upset by my being upset.  Adding to his confusion was our lack of success in using different names (Grandpa and grandma, granddad and granny Mary, and nanny and gramps) for Mars' three sets of grandparents.  They are all grandma and grandpa to him.  At one point he thought my mum's husband was dead, then tried to convince Leaf's dad that he had died.  We broke out the photos, and now he very solemnly announces "that's my grandpa who died" when he sees a photo of my dad.

He left me some personal items in his will.  His favourite photo and his favourite movie (The Quiet Man) have the most meaning for me.  Movie is on cassette, so I acquired a digital copy to watch.  Photo is hanging in the front hall.  I remember taking it, its how I want to remember my dad.  The dad from my childhood, that happy age when dads can do no wrong.

 Patrick Nolan April 7th, 1944 - April 21, 2010