Category: Life

Cottage Life Day 7 – Big Adventure Day

Cottage Life Day 7 – Big Adventure Day

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Or, as I’m also referring to it as: “Trip to the Little Lake on Big Island in a Slightly Bigger Lake”. Another excerpt from last week’s vacation.

Said trip involved:

  1. 10-minute drive to the appropriate boat launch,
  2. 5-kilometre paddle by kayak to the place where I tied the boat,
  3. Safely extract myself from the kayak without drowning or breaking any bones and make sure it’s secured so I’m not stranded,
  4. 40-metre climb that also covered about 20 metres in vertical distance,
  5. 25 metres worth of horizontal-ish bushwhacking without the benefit of a trail or path.

Destination:

On a map (blue circle is the boat launch, red circle is where I stood at the tiny lake on Big Island:

Repeat in reverse to get back to the cottage.

Why, you ask?

To answer that, I’ll ask another question: have you ever wanted to stand somewhere no one has ever stood before?

This is a sparsely populated lake in a sparsely populated area. The island is up a branch of the lake that doesn’t seem to attract much fishing or boating traffic. It’s also completely undeveloped and I saw no evidence of human traffic at all while I was there. The only reason I knew the tiny lake was even there was because I was looking at the geocaching map before we left for our vacation, thinking about what caches we might like to get while we were in the area, and I happened to notice the isolated spot.

No, I’m not fooling myself into thinking that no one has ever been to that tiny lake before. This part of Ontario has been inhabited, if lightly, for thousands of years. The Madawaska River has had cottages on it for decades, and there were settlers in the area by 1800. There are people who live here year round and there are plenty of occasional/summer dwellers, too.

But it’s fairly well off the beaten track and I’d guess the number of people who have seen this spot is very small.

Yes, I left a cache there.

Maybe someone else will want to stand where few people ever have. If they’re a geocacher, they can sign the log book while they’re there. If not, it was a lot of work to get there and they can still enjoy the feeling of accomplishment to take in that quiet scene.

Be well, everyone.

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Cottage Life Day 5

Cottage Life Day 5

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An excerpt of last week’s life.

Order of Operations:

  1. Get up
  2. Walk the dog
  3. Breakfast
  4. Write
  5. 3 km Kayak exploratory journey
  6. Martial Arts work out
  7. Read
  8. Lunch
  9. Explore remains of 1800s log cabin farm buildings
  10. Geocaching
  11. Write
  12. Dinner
  13. Do something on the water (swim, kayak, sit on the dock)
  14. Watch the sunset
  15. Hot tub/Lounge on the deck (I’m likely the second one of these. Hot tubs are usually too hot for me.)
  16. Walk the dog
  17. Look at the stars
  18. Read
  19. Bed

Other days have similar agendas, sometimes with a bigger exploration (the Bonnechere Caves and Eagle’s Nest lookout, for example). This just happens to be the day I’m writing on. It also provides something not too far off my ideal existence, giving me a variety of activities I enjoy, things to do with my family, and plenty of time for rest. Alas, the real world must eventually intrude, but not today.

Be well, everyone.

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The Music of Our Youth

The Music of Our Youth

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Often, the music of our youth speaks to us. Sometimes it has specific messages, and sometimes it just reminds us of what it was like when we were young. Sometimes both.

I didn’t do a lot of concerts as a teenager, and I really haven’t done that many as an adult, either, but I enjoy music and I enjoy live music, so there’s really no easy explanation for that, other than possibly budgetary concerns at the times when I’ve felt the desire to go see a particular group or artist live.

But Peterborough does a series of outdoor concerts every year, free to attend, and works to get some significant names to come to them beyond the usual high end tribute bands and lower level professional groups. I only found out about this series of concerts this year, though apparently it’s been a fixture of the Peterborough music scene for several decades.

I found out this year when my wife saw a post for the series on Facebook and sent it to me. Skimming through the list of performers, I was surprised to see Howard Jones there.

Image courtesy of IMDB.

I mostly consider myself a Prog Rock kind of guy. Music is to be experienced rather than danced to. But I’m a child of the 80s and some Synth Pop speaks straight to my heart. There are still four of Mr. Jones’ songs in the rotation on my phone in the middle of 2018, and several more I can still sing along to if they come on the radio.

Part of that is probably that his music was often about something. It still is, really. Synth Pop is often very easy for people to dismiss, but Howard Jones shouldn’t be dismissed easily. There’s a lot of depth in his music.

The New Song is about seeing things from more than just your preconceived biases and actually using your mind to figure things out.

Everlasting Love is about looking beyond the surface to see the real person and make a genuine connection.

No One Is To Blame is about how sometimes there’s nothing you can do to make things work out. To paraphrase Captain Picard, sometimes you can do everything right and still lose. It’s not fair, but it’s very human.

Things Can Only Get Better is about keeping a positive attitude when life sucks, which can be a critical survival trait in the modern world.

Your mileage may vary on any of these interpretations, but listen to the lyrics while you’re bouncing along to the song.

So, Howard Jones is playing in Peterborough, for free, and I live an hour and forty minutes (or so) away. What to do?

Well, it seems obvious, but didn’t used to. Road trip. The kids I still have living at home are entirely old enough to take care of themselves for the afternoon and evening, so we did a few chores in the morning (yeah, adulting sucks sometimes) and set out on a leisurely drive to Peterborough.

Road Trip!

On the way, we found a couple of geocaches,

No really, it’s a snake.

Decided we didn’t have enough time to go through a reptile museum, but stopped for a couple of photos,

Big scary dinosaur!
Who’s really just a big suck.

Watched an engineering marvel lift a tour boat and thousands of litres of water dozens of metres into the air from a spooky tunnel,

Where no one can see you.

Ate delicious, but probably not as healthy as it should be at my age, food,

Mmmm… tzatziki.

And bought t-shirts,

Of course we got t-shirts.

Just before watching the concert itself.

And enjoyed the concert immensely.

Audience participation is a big thing for Mr. Jones, and it was a lot of fun. The man gives good concert, and I’m very glad we went.

Spur of the moment road trips need to work their way into my life a little more often.

Be well, everyone. And do something spontaneous.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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I don’t follow the calendar much for cultural reasons, at least not for cultural reasons tied to the culture I live in. I pay attention to important dates in my family’s lives, and a couple of key things that everyone celebrates, one of which is New Year’s.

Personally, I find the January 1st designation a little arbitrary. Well, the whole calendar is a little arbitrary, really, but it’s been far less than 300 years since the New Year was moved by British Parliament to January 1st from March 25th, which I will grant is rather longer than normal human lifespans, but January 1st as the start fresh date is relatively recent, and other calendars use different dates. Personally, I’ve always thought that the calendar should be a little more tied to the physical world. Make the equinoxes and solstices the anchor points and go from there, but I didn’t get a vote.

From a more personal perspective, I prefer to count years from my own birthday, my own specific orbital completions.

But I’m stuck with what we’ve got, I suppose, like everyone else, and it does give me markers for a one-year period that would be intelligible to anyone who picks up any of my logs or posts.

So, since New Year’s is a major event in our shared calendar, I hope everyone had a happy and safe one and that 2018 unfolds in the best way possible for everyone reading this.

If that isn’t clear enough, I’ll just say be well, everyone.

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Friday Poetry for 15 December 2017

Friday Poetry for 15 December 2017

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Another from the deep vault, the date on this silly piece, according to the original file, is 02 November 1999, and it concerns possibly the greatest food ever created, pizza. Once, years before this poem, while a university student, I ate pizza for twenty-three (that’s 23) consecutive meals. Oh, not all from the same pizzeria, and not all with the same toppings, and not all at the same temperature. It is, it is, a glorious thing to be the pizza king.

 

Ah, pizza

Food of the gods

But no other food

Puts more people at odds

Anchovies, sausages

Mushrooms and cheese

Onions, green peppers

Pineapple, chick peas

Toppings galore

A list without end

How to decide

Between you and a friend

Tomatoes and ham

Ground beef, pepperoni

Baked in an oven

On a platter that’s stony

Or perhaps in a pan

Or a hot barbecue

One thing about pizza

There’s no limit for you

To cook or to slice

In sauce or in spice

The food of the gods

Is never the same twice

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That’s My Secret, Cap

That’s My Secret, Cap

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Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a bad thing that I’m angry all the time. Oh, I’m not in a bad mood, and I’m not that stressed out. While certain decisions I’ve made in life have made things harder for me in the long run, I’ve mostly done okay. I have an incredible wife and three great children. We have sufficient income for food, shelter, and to make a serious dent in the overall cost of postsecondary education for kids. I have the leisure to do things I want to do, not just things I have to do. I am lucky enough to have been born into a wealthy country, and one that has yet to elect a Prime Minister comparable to the Orange Menace currently in power south of the border. Of course, we also have yet to elect our version of Obama.

So it’s a pretty sweet life, really. I have opportunities and rights and privileges and wealth that 80% of the world would kill for. Or at least be willing to lie, cheat, or steal for.

So, why so angry?

Because, large segments of the population in the country I live in, and other rich, Western democracies, are blindly stupid and willfully ignorant about really, really important things. And some of them hold extremely significant wealth and power, and some of those think that wealth and power entitles them to shove their beliefs and views down the throats of the rest of the population. Disregarding, for the moment, how some people in my society see the rest of the world.

Looked at globally, the social trend has almost always been upwards, and mostly has been throughout human history. Trend. That doesn’t mean any particular moment, but over time.

It matters who’s in power and what their view of the world is, but large portions of the population either follow along blindly, or don’t think there’s one bit of difference between one politician and the next, one crackpot and the next, one power-hungry narcissist and the next, one world view and the next when neither of them are their own.

So we have people who believe that vaccines cause autism, that the earth is flat, that chemtrails are a thing, that the universal cure for all cancers is being kept secret in the name of profit, that it really doesn’t matter who you elect to office because they’re just going to screw things up anyway, that religion is actually a force for good in the world.

We still have people who think they are better than other people because of their skin tone, gender, sexuality, ethnic background, religion, or shoe size.

The Internet lets those people be loud, lets them find other people who have the same idiotic viewpoints, lets them shout down anyone who disagrees with their uninformed opinions. And most of us don’t shout back, because we think it’s a waste of time, because we don’t want to offend anyone, because of we think we won’t make a difference.

Most days, I can find the time to be bothered, I don’t care if it offends someone, or upsets someone, and I can make a difference, if only to onlookers. Sometimes, silence is taken as assent. And just because a minority opinion is louder than everyone around them doesn’t mean that it’s a good opinion.

I’m not particularly interested in debate, but sometimes it appears be necessary. I don’t feel like I should have to explain things to people, because mostly, people are entirely capable of reasoning things out for themselves. Some just don’t so sometimes explanations and debates are necessary.

None of this should be my problem, should it? Actually, no. It should be my problem. I should be all of our problem. Because we have to live and grow and make life better for others and the world a better place. If we don’t, who will?

There’s an old saying when you want to ignore the crazy people: not my circus, not my monkeys. I’ve made the point recently in several venues that it is my circus, and they are my monkeys. The whole world, that’s my circus, and the whole of human civilization, those are my monkeys.

And they’re yours, too.

Stay angry, my friends. And be well, everyone.

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I Think I Hate Christmas

I Think I Hate Christmas

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Really. Christmas sucks in a lot of ways and I’m just about as sick of it as I can get. Writing that, I’m fairly convinced I’ll be even more sick of it next year.

Hear me out for a minute.

Major retail outlets start having a Christmas section sometime in August, more than four months before the actual holiday itself. I (like everyone else) am supposed to spend hundreds of dollars on decorations and thousands of dollars on gifts every year, plus whatever the annual holiday feast is supposed to cost. Spend, spend, spend.

To get me in the mood, those same retail outlets move to a Christmas music format the instant Halloween is over, in some cases before.

Don’t forget cards and wrapping paper. And gift tags; those are far more important than you know. All single-use stuff.

Open your wallet and spend.

Extra events, extra travel. Did you notice the price of gas go up?

Spend, spend, spend. Rack up a little more debt. Mortgage your future so you don’t look like a cheapskate this Christmas. You’ve got the rest of your life to pay it down.

The forced togetherness. I want to get together with my friends and family because we want to, not because society tells me that’s what we have to do. I actually like my family even, though she may be shocked to learn it, my sister, in spite of the fact that we have to be very careful about the subjects that come up in conversation or we wind up arguing.

The “War” on Christmas. Why does anyone think anyone else cares how they celebrate a holiday? I just need certain people to stop telling me how I need to celebrate it. While we’re on the subject, those same folks also need to stop whining about how no one can make them stop saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and force them to say ‘Happy Holidays’ instead. I hope you have a merry Christmas. I hope it’s everything you want it to be. But ‘Happy Holidays’ is more inclusive, takes in unknowns, and recognizes that there are huge numbers of people, even in the country I live in, who celebrate something other than Christmas. They deserve a little joy, too, don’t they?

And every year, the Salvation Army trying to pass itself off as a charity. The Salvation Army is a church, as noted in multiple places on their website. Their mission statement contains the phrase “exists to share the love of Jesus Christ”. Their core values are “Salvation, Holiness and Intimacy with God”. Church. Religion. They may do charitable works, though they’re not accountable to anyone for how or how much they happen to deliver.

All the money we spend could actually do something other than make the pile in our local landfill bigger. If you spend $1000 on Christmas crap (which is pretty light for a lot of families these days), how much good could you have done by getting it to an actual charity that does actual work to help actual people.

Stop telling me I have to be cheerful because it’s Christmas. I don’t. Not today, not tomorrow, and not because it’s Christmas. Maybe I’ve got mental health issues and I don’t need you making me feel guilty because I’m not cheerful. Maybe my life situation is hard at the moment. Maybe I’m just not a cheerful guy.

And no, by the way, I don’t want to go to your (or any) church or community centre for the special Christmas service/pageant/choir. I’m good, thanks.

Christmas just digs us in deeper, individually and collectively. As it’s currently celebrated in our culture, it’s a blight on the face of our personal finances, our economy, and our society.

So, yeah, I hate Christmas. More every year.

But I totally want you to have a merry one, or Channukah, or Yule, or Kwanza, or Festivus, or whatever you happen to celebrate. Enjoy the season. Enjoy your celebration. Enjoy the people you spend it with. But I want everyone to be happy and healthy all the time, not just at Christmas, and I want us all to look out for each other and to make the world a better place.

And that’s not always easy.

But it’s always worthwhile.

Be well, everyone.

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Miyazato-Sensei Was A Wise Man

Miyazato-Sensei Was A Wise Man

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I’ve been studying karate for closing in on nine years now, and I get a lot out of it, mentally, physically, psychologically, socially. It’s become an important part of my life and health, and I hope to continue that for the rest of my life.

My Sensei fairly often quotes Eiichi Miyazato-Sensei, the founder of the Jundokan (the Okinawan home of one of the two flavours of karate I practice), on a particular subject that doesn’t initially seem to promote karate, at least until you think about it a little. It probably sounds cooler in the original language, but still comes through fairly well in English:

“Family first, then work, then karate.”

Substitute your passion of choice for karate.

The point being that anything after your family’s wellbeing and the support of your family takes a distant third place.

It seems simple. Or it should.

So, for everything I do, there should be a series of three questions.

Does it help my family?

Does it help my career without harming my family?

Does it further a dream without harming my family or career?

If I can’t answer yes to at least one of these, there’s a fourth, obvious question: why the heck am I doing it?

Be well, everyone.

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Easing Back on Social Networking

Easing Back on Social Networking

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So I think I spend too much time on social networking.

And, let’s be honest, most of that is on Facebook lately. I still enjoy Twitter, but I treat that primarily as an information source. I lurk a lot because I find it too difficult to have a nuanced discussion or argument with somebody 140 280 characters at a time. Facebook allows me more than just a snarky comment.

I have an Instagram account, which gets a few photos here and there. Most of those are of my dog or my cats, sometimes of something I’ve seen outside somewhere. It’s not exciting, but it entertains me.

I have a LinkedIn account which I didn’t touch for about four years, but I’ve recently decided to start updating a little bit. I started a few weeks ago, making the decision to update my work history. I haven’t gotten much farther.

But Facebook, much as I enjoy it, is a time sink, and a lot of the time sunk into it really serves no purpose.

It’s a great point of social contact, the daily reminders of people’s birthdays are nice, and the system lets you keep in touch with people without all that pesky phone conversation or letter writing, and makes sure you can never completely lose touch with old friends, so long as they’re on Facebook, too.

But it’s very, very easy to get lost in the infinite scroll of cat photos and other memes, pseudo-articles and not-quite-advertising, pictures of places you’ll never go, and gross stupidity.

Let’s be honest, you don’t really care what I had for breakfast. (In case you do, it was toast. It’s always toast.) Probably, you don’t much care what I did last night unless it was particularly interesting. I’m not going to answer any of your game requests and I will not like and share, nor will I copy and paste, and I will absolutely, positively not type amen. I may laugh if you post something I find funny, cry if it’s something worthy of tears, and like some of the accomplishments you put in your highlight reel.

But there’s too much.

Apparently, I have something close to 400 friends on Facebook. I don’t feel like I ever see posts from some of them, and there are people I’m surprised when I do see something. And, yes, there are people who I’ve hidden because I can’t stand the stuff they do post and discussions are either fruitless or not worth my time in the first place. I’ve had some great discussions and arguments on Facebook. Occasionally, hearts and minds of change. That’s never the objective, but it’s cool when it happens on either side.

It’s still too much. It takes too much of my time.

Frankly, it’s interfering with my life goals. And I’ve got a lot of those. I have things I want to do, places I want to go, sights I want to see, a world to make a better place. A lot of what I do on social networking isn’t helping me work towards any one of those.

But that’s on me, not you. I’m the one using too much of my time scrolling.

There’s a meme about how someone can’t go to bed because someone is wrong on the internet.

Lovingly borrowed from XKCD.com

Surprise, someone is wrong on the internet. Someone is always wrong on the internet. But unless they’re endangering other people or deliberately lying to them, is it worth a response? Or is it better to leave people in their own echo chambers? I often consider that silence can be taken as implied assent or agreement, so I frequently respond with a quick google search or a link. Sometimes it’s even worthy of a discussion.

But I need to consider my own time, too, and whether the audience is even there to begin with. If no one is responding, is it worth the time and energy? Isn’t it better to leave the echo chamber as it is?

Right now, every article, every link, every post gets considered before I click on it, react to it, or comment. Will this improve my life or those around me? If I can’t come up with a compelling agreement, then maybe I should just move on, or stop scrolling altogether.

I enjoy seeing what you’re up to, what you’re doing with your kids, what you just accomplished, the cool place or thing you just saw. I want to talk about philosophy or politics or religion or major events to keep my brain working, and sometimes to keep my blood warm.

But it’s too much. It’s taking too much of my time.

I’m not going to finish my current writing project sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get farther than playing the C-Major scale on my saxophone sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to hike to the top about Mount Fuji sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to go back to school for the degree I actually want sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get back into the appropriate shape to run a marathon or complete a triathlon sitting in front of Facebook.

There’s an old cliché about how no one in their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work. The same can be said about social media.

I’m around, just a little less, and only on the things I think are truly important, or to remind people I remember they exist and appreciate that. And maybe to bring you a feel or two.

Things to do, places to go, people to see. I may even post about it. And I may react when you do. We have to live, to experience, to exist aside from just reacting.

Be well, everyone.

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Another Child Driving

Another Child Driving

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It seems like I enter a new era every few weeks lately.

Last month, my oldest daughter (who turned 16 in May) finally wrote and passed her exam to achieve a G1 license in Ontario. She’s held off for the timing to be convenient and she was mentally prepared rather than wanting to rush into the Drivetest Centre the moment she was legally able to. Sets her own pace for her own tasks, my child.

No, you should not be afraid. She’ll be a competent driver in short order and I have every expectation that she’ll actually be a good driver with a little practice.

The point is that my Little One is old enough to drive a car. I remember quite clearly holding her for the first time, bringing her home from the hospital, and so on. It’s hard for me to understand that sixteen years and more have passed since then. It shouldn’t be, since I’ve watched her grow from that infant into a wonderful young woman. But she’s still my Little One, so it is hard.

Be well, everyone.

{This is where I’d insert picture of my oldest daughter holding her license, but photographic imagery is currently forbidden.}

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