December 21 I don’t want to make a big deal about it quite yet because there is still a lot to do before the project can be considered finished, done, and final. But a milestone today: we have water. Heaps of work, a deconstruction, mending walls, replacing floors, and then watching the cabinets assemble into something that finally got topped with a beautiful slab of stone that is now my countertop. And then today, as if just to insist progress is being made, Leon’s friend the plumber patched in a new drain and water line, connecting the sink into a glorious circuit of aquatic wonder. You take these things for granted, and then one day you remove it and… well, it seems like a big step to be able to wash dishes in our kitchen once again. Still so much fiddly work: more cabinetry, a backsplash, and hundreds of five minute jobs to finalize and complete the work… but it’s getting there.
Look at me: I make a rule about using my phone, and then I immediately go an bend it.
I was walking past City Hall as few minutes ago on my lunch break and this is what I saw. The photo was taken with an iPhone 6 with a bit of zoom going on, so the clarity and fidelity of the photo suffers a bit. But I’m not planning on carting my SLR downtown on a workday anytime soon, so… phone it is.
I took about two dozen similar shots trying to align the corners as best I could to create a bit of symmetry amidst the chaos of the fountain spray. Obviously the phone handled the colour and the exposure, but on a bright sunny day that’s probably it’s wheelhouse.
After my not-quite-lost but alternate-route of yesterday run, I had the idea of some fresh trails — and sharing my little discovery — with the crew.
So I suggested we check that out.
I took about seven people (I can’t say for sure because there was a couple people who peeled off part way for their own distance goals, and Miss H joined us for a while but bailed early because she is apparently becoming a YouTube celebrity and has other priorities besides running!) on a modified reverse version of the mysterious trail under the bridge, and then up through some of the new gravel that has opened up this spring leading into the dog park.
It got warm, quick. By the time we had passed the fifteen klick mark we were cooking in the heat, and I (scorned & shamed for not bringing water, tsk tsk) was actually a bit thirsty.
Lots of hill. Lots of scenery. Lots of fun.
Photo: Jenn B.
As I rarely discard a book, it should thus come as no surprise that I have overflowing shelves of novels I’ve once read, enjoyed, savoured and then swore up-and-down-back-and-forth that I was going to re-read someday. Alas, it is someday. I’m spending whole of 2016 revisiting my book collection, digging back into books I read once, but that I haven’t read (or listened to) in at least four years. So, we’re about to find out what was worth reading… twice.
About a year ago we watched a documentary film on Netflix about a project to turn Dune into the most epic movie of all time; That documentary was called Jodorowsky’s Dune and told the story of cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s infamous attempt to film the unfilmable book:
Dune by Frank Herbert.
As I push through this thoroughly enjoyable novel, a novel filled with epic scale and galactic ideas, intrigue and culture, pain, poignancy and the ever-present dangers of a desert planet lacking moisture and populated by creatures indescribably huge (sandworms) and small (people) waiting at the fringes of the story to kill the protagonists, I’ve been thinking about this story as a movie. Jodorowsky’s effort blossomed into something that would have become a 14 hour long film (and you thought The Hobbit got bloated!) but eventually fell from his grasp and was filmed into something much more traditional (the film released back in 1984, which I put a hold on that at the library for when I soon finish the novel.) I’ve watched the trailer for that and … well.. it’s an 80s science fiction movie, so… expectations tempered, y’know.
I guess the point isn’t that it has already been filmed, but rather than the scope of it made it seem so impossible. The scope of the novel inspired someone to try and create something so massive, that same drive that makes filmmakers today create things like Game of Thrones into a five season mini-series, guys were trying to do that back in the 70s. They were unsuccessful, but they tried, and now we wonder why they failed because we read these epic stories and yearn to see them on the screen.
Dune got that ball rolling. And not only does that seem to make it more worthy of this reading, but it makes it seem a bit more important too.
In fixing the faucet a few months ago, I jammed the water shutoff valve stuck. Persistence, and an hour under the sink, and voila: back to status quo.
Or, five tasty things I drink to escape the cool, refreshing icy-death grip that soda has on my life.
I fight to drink enough water.
I have great intentions and I know the benefits, but as a guy who –up until about five years ago– got most of his fluids from sugary beverages, switching to simple water has been one of the most challenging aspects of this fitness journey. Soda, pop, cola, fountain drinks… whatever you call them, they may not be the general pariah that drugs or smoking or numerous other addictions have been so labelled. Yet prying them out of your diet fully, completely & forever seems –to me, at least– to be a daily and conscious effort.
Thus, I’ve been experimenting with finding a satisfying substitute for a cold glass of pop.
And that’s the key really: satisfying. Because while it may seem like a first-world problem and a trivial factor, there are folks like me who understand that while rationally accepting water as the ideal replacement for soda is fine, there are moments of weakness when rationality is toppled to the ground by the raw, insatiable need for something nostalgic and emotional. Sweetness triggers the emotional side of quenching thirst. It invigorates memories of youth and fun and innocence. Plus, pop is conveniently sold around every corner of my life, in the vending machine a few dozens steps from my desk, and every time I go to buy lunch someone asks if I’d like a can of something with that. I say no thanks, but drinking fewer calories suddenly, abruptly, painfully becomes a real effort. In other words, addiction is a helluva-thing.
And to top it off, water is swell, but it doesn’t have that emotional kick to replace the big soda-shaped hole in my life.
I’ve been working with a few options to keep myself hydrated despite my irrational snobbery of plain old H20…
Eating more fruits and veg may seem like a no-brainer, but when you work in an office building and the nearest grocery store is eight blocks away, fresh produce is either rare or something that is expensively purchased piece-by-piece from a convenience store.
a snack and some fluid wrapped into one
Actually, there is a little fresh lunch market that’s about a five minute walk from my desk, and occasionally I’ll wander over there and buy what should be called The Most Expensive Fruit Cup in the World® which ends up costing me about four dollars for a little plastic beaker of chopped fruit, which I squirrel back to my chair and munch on. It’s a snack and some subtle hydration wrapped into one.
I’ve heard mixed analysis of this: y’know, that anything with caffeine is a diuretic… that it makes you pee more and so negates the hydration effect of what you’re aiming for by drinking it in the first place. But then I’ve also read that you need to make that tea pretty strong to create a real reverse drag on your hydration with caffeine, so… shrug.
as weak as thirty-year old computer nerd
The thing is that I’m a morning coffee drinker, so once I get through my morning Joe, I’m much more apt to turn to tea to get me through the rest of the day. My wife is a tea drinker, and having spent almost two decades with her I’ve learned to drink tea in her style: as weak as thirty-year old computer nerd. Actually, it’s a bit stronger than I’m implying, but it’s hardly the stand-up strong of English-style tea. In effect, it’s hot flavoured water.
3. Diluted Sports Drinks
a lightly flavoured watery brew
We’ve all heard that sports drinks are pretty much salty, sweat-flavoured soda, so I will eagerly admit that drinking these is not an ideal replacement for water. However, as I’ve learned with much experimentation, there is a sweet-spot (so to speak) in the mix-your-own powdered variety. This is the point to where you can dilute it to about one-tenth to one-fifth the recommended concentration (I just eyeball it so I can’t provide a more accurate measure) and the result is a lightly flavoured watery brew that (for soda junkies like me) is more palatable that plain water but only has about 25-50 calories per litre.
Mathematically speaking, it’s cheaper and probably fewer calories than a convenience store banana, at least.
4. Electrolyte Tabs
I’ve recently discovered a new favourite product to assist with this effort (so you just know I’m waiting to find the website that tells me these things are evil somehow!) I’m not trying to endorse anything here, but I’ve been using NUUN tabs for a few months at the rate of about 5 per week. These are unsweetened, very low calorie electrolyte tablets that dissolve in plain water and –all other electrolyte-positive health claims aside– give the water a nice mild flavour that it’s sweet but which has been encouraging me to drink a lot more fluid.
they sell three flavours in the sports store in the mall
The problem with these is more to do with availability and price. They sell just three flavours in the sports store in the mall near my office, and I’m getting pretty bored of them. Plus, the price works out to about sixty cents per tab, which is not quite coffee-expensive, but it can still really start to add up.
5. Lots of Ice
If all else fails, I’ve found the thing that almost —almost— makes boring old water palatable for me: ice. Lots and lots and lots of ice. Really, almost more ice than water, and often with a few drops of lemon juice from one of those little plastic yellow lemon juice shooters.
almost more ice than water
Icy cold water has a distinctly refreshing feel that I will tolerate long enough to get through the better part of a big glass. Not cold. Icy, dripping condensation from the glass, freeze your tongue icy. The problem is more one of convenience then, really, because I don’t really have easy access to lots of ice at work — or when out and about — or when travelling — or when running… unless, of course, I stick my face in a snowbank.
The Emotional Side of Quenching
I get that after reading this many of you are shrugging it off and thinking “just drink water, man!”
But that’s the thing. There is an emotional component to many things: I don’t dislike water, I just have a mild addiction to flavoured drinks because they trigger a flush of good feelings in my brain. I know water is the preferable choice, and I also know I need to keep myself hydrated… but that soda jerk on my back doesn’t care.
Leaky bathroom faucet… with only a few speed-bumps along the way.
June continues! And onward we push through those thirty posts that I’ve been writing every year this month. For the fifth year in a row I’m back to a month of daily blogging: each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be about something that I am:
Working At… Nurturing Life
Before you get all teary-eyed at the title of this post, thinking I’m going to start writing on something deep and meaningful about something drizzled with emotional weight, keep in mind that (a) we’re in a bit of a drought around here and (b) I just want my damned carrots to grow.
I’ve been out in our yard with a garden hose nearly every evening for the last month spraying heaps of fresh, potable water onto the ground like some way-too-privileged middle classed wank who hasn’t figured out that he’s wasting one the the worlds most precious resources while trying to keep a dozen virtually worthless tomato plants alive.
Don’t think for a moment that the irony has not escaped me of this so-called sustainable backyard organic agriculture via vegetable gardening in the least efficient way possible as I throw fresh, treated drinking water onto the dirt. In the name of all that is indecent, I’m tempted to let it go for another few days to see if we get any rain before throwing in the towel and succeeding to mother nature and climate change. But stuck as I am in the logical fallacies wrapped up in sunk costs, I’m remiss to do so without at least writing a few blog posts on the topic.
So while I’m working at nurturing life in my pitiful backyard of 2015, I’m also working at coming to terms with living on a dust-bowl dirt farm for a couple years until the rains return. Or just buying some carrots at the grocery store.
I do think there is value in everyone and anyone setting specific life goals. And just like I think every adult should have a list of things to do before they die — a bucket list, some might call it — so too every child should have a parental-supported list of things to do before they leave the age of innocence and become a teenager. I decided to write that list down, and from my daughter’s fifth birthday until the day she turns thirteen we’re going to try and do them all.
45. At least three different oceans.
I’ve been collecting photos –only halfheartedly, admittedly– of my daughter at the water’s edge. Well, specifically, at the edge of (or at the very least in frame with) various oceans.This has been less tricky than it seems. Over the last five or so years, we seem to have visited quite a few (though sadly, I will admit, none actually bordering our own country.)
The North Pacific (from Hawaii, 2011)
A few years ago in 2011 we visited Hawaii, stopping in at Waikiki and Maui. Claire was still only three so free-play on the beach was still a little sketchy. But she had her toes in the water more than once while we were there. I snorkelled.
The Caribbean (while cruising, 2013)
In 2013 we cruised through some Caribbean islands, including St Thomas and St Martin, and at each port went on an excursion to find a sandy beach for some sun, sand and surf. Claire had her share of salt water on these outings and became a little more familiar with why you try to avoid drinking from the ocean.
North Atlantic (from the Dominican Republic, 2010)
We saw the south end of the North Atlantic on a holiday family vacation to the Dominican Republic in late 2010. Grandma and Grandpa were there to play with a just barely three-year old Claire in the choppy waters.
The Greenland Sea (from north coast of Iceland, 2014) and The North Atlantic (from south coast of Iceland, 2014)
Most recently, our trip to Iceland left us a little more beach-less than other ocean-side trips, the water being much to dangerous and cold to attempt anything resembling a swim, but doing a near-full loop of the tiny island nation took us in view of what was probably mostly to be considered the northern end of the North Atlantic, but what my novice cartography skills could fudgingly presume may be classified as the Greenland Sea while we drove along through the northern fjords.
Is there something to be learned from seeing oceans? Touching oceans? Experiencing something bigger, vaster, deeper and more epic than a little lake on the prairies?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Oceans make up more of the surface of our planet than land, and living in a land-locked province, over a thousand klicks from the nearest salt water makes me think it is worth a bit of extra effort to let Claire dip her toe in something bigger than one of our local lakes.
Claire went to the legislature grounds with her daycare today. She was very wet when I stopped by for a visit.
This is another instalment in my (sixth) Week of Lists: one fun and awesome list posted every day for seven days on a variety of topics.
I ran a bunch of ideas in front of Claire the other day, asking her what she thought about going to the park and doing ______________. Insert art project here. There are a few that stuck, ones that she kinda said: “hmmm… sure, that sounds like fun dad.”
So, I guess here are the things we’re going to be trying out at least once this spring and summer.
Five Art Adventures for Kids and their Dads
1 : Found Stamps
A few years ago there was this big trendy thing for the crafty ladies in my life: stamping. They would buy these little kits of coloured ink pads and fancy stamps and they’d make greeting cards by the bus-load. While I’m not so sure I’d be able to pilfer any of those colourful stamp pads, I think an art or craft store may have them for fairly cheap. And as for stamps? I’m sure if we wander more than a few feet into the woods of the nearby dog park, we’re bound to find some interesting bits with interesting textures.
some great texture art for a six year old
2 : Nature Rubbings
The opposite but similar thing to the stamps is the whole nature rubbings angle. Crayon over paper over something that makes a pretty design and all that. Before stamp pads were falling from the skies like rain, old fashioned folks (probably… I’m guessing here) had to resort to making rubbings of all those natural textures. I don’t know what kind of paper works best for this, but I’m assuming something on the thinner weight side. And all those funky textured bits, in particular the ones that are too big, too heavy, or too still-planted-in-the-ground to use for a stamp, would make some great texture art for a six year old.
3 : Pet Rocks
Rocks with eyes and funny hats. Need I write more? Kid gold.
4 : Mud Paintings
This is something I saw somewhere and can’t for the life of me remember where. It’s probably the most expensive and most elaborate and I’m not even sure how well it would work… but that usually translates into some crazy fun for a kid if done right. Go to the art store and buy one of those big mounted canvases. Not huge. But poster sized. And some throwaway paint brushes. Now, haul all of that down to the riverbank on a sunny day, lean the canvas against a big rock or tree, find some goopy mud from the river, and start painting…. mudding… whatever. You might want to just take a photo when you’re done. And I’ll bet you can just hose the whole thing down and try it again when it dries in a few days.
spring and summer wild flowers
5 : Pressed Flowers
For the long haul, and looking at a kind of wait-until-winter perspective (long term thinking isn’t always a bad thing, here either) is to start collecting spring and summer wild flowers and press them. (Remember, I’m trying to entertain a six year old girl, here!) A bit of wax paper, a stack of old University text books you never bothered to sell back to the used bookstore because somehow you thought you’d read them again, and a lot of patience: voila… pressed flowers. What you do with them is up to you.