Musings from a Saskatoon café… a photo essay/rant/monologue of random thoughts…

I took the bike out today. Its kind of shitty weather. It’s been raining in Saskatoon. Not raining men, not raining cats and dogs, just kind of patchy showers and grey skies. The breeze is cool and fresh. Fresh enough in fact to need a long sleeve hoodie and long pants. Thankfully there was a break in the showers long enough for me to get out with the bike and the camera and get some pictures on a nice ride.

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The tree lined avenues in this city are simply beautiful. Near the river, on the south side of the city the real estate is old, and pricey. Its in the area that I call the ‘golden triangle,’ which effectively takes in the Broadway entertainment district, the university campus and the city centre. I really would have liked to have bought a house in this area, but you need a really fat bank account to find yourself in this neighbourhood – unless you bought back in the early 2000’s or whatever. SAM_2774

It’s the kind of neighbourhood you might find yourself in if you are a lawyer, or a doctor, or a well heeled academic. You might stroll down to the local café on a Saturday morning. Everything is within strolling distance, naturally.

Kids ride bikes and young moms push prams on the sidewalk. Birds chirp in the leafy green trees, that are so well spaced that they intermingle branches above the road and provide that quintessential avenue experience.

I pulled up to the café. I locked my bike and took a couple  of pictures before moving inside. Normally, the outside of the café would be buzzing with activity with chairs and tables set out on the sidewalk. Today those chairs are bunched up. Inside there is an eclectic mix of university types, the obligatory dreadlock haired hippy types, young families, and a multitude of millennial hipster types. The young lady working at the counter makes coffees and re-stocks the in store made cookies and slices in the display window.

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While I sat at the café looking out the window I felt a sense of contentment. Any immediate worries that were on my mind melted away. I was free to enjoy the moment, for what it was. I nice bike ride and a sit in a café. I ordered a cappuccino. That’s what I normally get.

 

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Erm, I forgot that letter I was going to post… 

 

 

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A book exchange box on the street. A great idea. I have some books to exchange… 

 

People rode and walked by. A lady and her daughter entered the café and sat at the chairs nearby me and chatted over a slice of pie or whatever. A young family came in and ordered some drinks. The place was quite full.

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The fern symbol in your cappuccino. A mainstay of any trendy café establishment. 

 

 

 

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If you see this guy, watch out, he’s dodgy as fek. 

 

 

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The Broadway bridge. 

 

 

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The Delta Besborough hotel and city. She was moody today. Still pretty though. 

 

 

 

Book Review – Trespassing Across America by Ken Ilgunas

Hi Bloggers, if you’ve been following anything I’ve blogged about, you know I like to read books. I literally inhaled a couple over my long weekend. I read Trespassing Across America over a couple of days. It’s a great read.

First thing I’ll say about this is that the author is most definitely a poet. His words roll off the pages, like a grassy undulating field on the wide big sky prairie that he is trundling across. With aching hips, and blistered toes, every step is a challenge in this man’s quest for, I don’t know exactly what. There! Did you see how I did that – made the start of this paragraph poetic? That’s what this author does, but its just magic. I read a couple of paragraphs to a friend and it was sure appreciated.

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Anyway, the book is based on the author’s experience which starts in a dishwashing job in the middle of the north slope, Alaska, on an oil field camp. He describes it as shitty, because, well, it is. But that sets his mind in motion, and provides him with enough of a disdain for the oil industry that he’s ready to get out and make a kind of a statement-slash-personal journey of it.

What I like about the read is his endearing honesty. He’s no super hero, athlete, enviro-warrior or whatever, he’s just a regular guy with a half-baked idea, and is told by a lot of people how it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, and he gets off his arse, and gets it done. I think that’s awesome. Really. Along the way he meets a ton of people, gets interviewed by CBC, and a number of other media outlets, runs a blog from his I-pad, and gets a bunch of help along the way. He even ended up on one of those late night talk shows.

I really appreciate his writing style, and sense of humour, and really think that this is a great read. I don’t do stars, but if I did, this would get 4 and 1/2, no bullshit.

Enjoy this book if you can get your mitts on it!

 

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A Letter from America

Hi Bloggers.

So I’m committed to not getting into posts about religion or politics. It’s just not worth it with the vast array of viewpoints and opinions. As a disclaimer, I respect other’s opinions and right to express themselves in any way they want. I don’t have to agree with them and vice versa. Wonderful. Ok, so with that out the way, I want to write about America, and more importantly Americans.

I am Canadian. Born in a Australia, still Australian, but am now Canadian, and have a passport that says so. Canadians – generally polite, moderate, friendly, welcoming, and a bunch of other things that are normally considered good. Most people in the world would agree to that – unless you have some other bias regarding religion, freedom of belief and association or whatever. I will add that Canada is a very diverse community. Really, there are ALL types in our great country.

Americans, ok. I’m going to say it, put it out there… bear with me please. Unfortunately, our American friends are  subject to prejudice from others. I know this, because being a non-American, and having been in different parts of the world, Americans get a lot of shit.

SAM_1911I am even going to say, somewhat ashamed, that I may have even personally contributed to the whole American opinion thing in conversations in the past. Ok, before you smash your computer screen or unfollow me – let me finish my rant. Why would the other citizens of the world think and talk like this? Essentially, its ignorance and a lack of experience in, well, America and Americans.

Think about this for a minute – America is projected onto the world’s media supply – good and bad, in copious amounts. Music, movies, politics, religious zealots, financial markets, big business, and a LOT of other influences. So here in lies the problem. If that is what is being projected, what are the citizens of the world supposed to think?

Let me tell you, the impression is that America is full of red-neck, gun shooting, gang affiliated, political extremists, black lives matterists, cops who shoot people, white supremacists, bat shit crazy stuff and Hollywood stars that can’t stay married or top themselves. Ok, if you are American and swearing at your monitor screen, please stick with me I am not the enemy! 

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Ok, this is where it’s a little unfair. I want to set the record straight. I’ve been in America literally dozens of times. I’ve never been shot. Never been car jacked. Never been mugged. Never seen a radical (or even a republican) politician up close. Never been to a political rally. Never seen anyone do any crazy weird shit that ends up on some of the tv shows that promote this stuff.

What I have seen is a lot of beautiful countryside and landmarks. The people are generally exceedingly friendly and gracious and hospitable. I can say without reservation that Americans are some of the most warm hearted friendly people on earth. What I’m saying is I think this country suffers from an image problem.

It’s not to say that some of the reputation that this country has is unwarranted, no. The reality is that there are some messed up things about America. There is a lot of poverty. A lot of the cities are run down and crime is a serious factor. There are many places that I would choose not to go. There are places that I have felt unsafe due to the people on the street. Having said that, I can guarantee you there are a lot of places I would choose not to hang around in Canada and Australia too. In America, all those elements I mentioned above, they do exist. But that’s not the full picture.

When you are in America, you will appreciate why Americans seem to lack knowledge about the wider world. This is a general statement, so please don’t shoot me down. American media is all about America. Typical ‘world’ news in America is normally about stories where America is directly represented or a major subject of the story. World news elsewhere has nothing to do with America. So if all your media exposure and education growing up was about America, you can’t be expected to know a lot about the world at large.

However, there are exceptions. I have met a lot of Americans that have travelled the world. I have met Americans with left-wing liberal politics. Some who are gay, and some who hate their current administration. Then the other side of the equation is represented too. The right wing conservative set. Depending on where you are, these types are much more widely represented.

Let me finish this rant by saying this. There is no one singular America, or American. It’s a very large country with lots of diverse lifestyles and opinions. It’s a great place to visit and if you come here you will be made feel welcome providing you respect the law and other’s rights and opinions.

As Simon and Garfunkel sang… “I’ve come to look for America….” What a beautiful concept!

 

Postcard from Mt Isa, North West Queensland, Australia, 1992

Hi Bloggers.

I thought I might share something of my youth. I was a fresh faced not yet 17 year old when I packed a suitcase and boarded a plane for Mt Isa, North West Queensland. To be honest, I don’t really look back on these formative days with fondness. They were pivotal in my development as a young man, and I can’t say I have any regrets, but I have no desire to relive these days in any way.

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I had taken a job as an apprentice with Mt Isa Mines. The first day I arrived my cousin picked me up from the airport. Getting off the plane was  a shock enough, with a kind of deserty moonscape of dry hills, spinifex grass and a hot wind. Really hot. Dry, but hot, with a wind that felt like a hair dryer on hot and flat out. My cousin took me up to the look out that you can see in the picture above.
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So what can you say about Mt Isa? Its isolated, inland, 900 km from the coastal city of Townsville. The population is made up of working men, which vastly outnumber the women, although there are families there, and aboriginal people. Drinking was a very common pastime, and I regret to say that this correspondent binged on many an occasion. My drinking was generally constrained to the weekend, getting blotto and spending all my cash, only to wake up with a fucking massive hangover, swearing off drinking, and repeating the process next weekend. Uhhgggh.
Fighting was prevalent, and I had occasion to trade punches with other overly aggressive testosterone driven angry young men. Fun stuff. I used to go out to the bars, and typically, in an environment like that, when the grog stopped flowing and people milled about waiting for a taxi outside the Irish club, you can fucking bet there’s going to be fights, several of them.
Ok, quick recap, its hot as hell, very far removed from the civilised world, a lack of women to go around, and fights happen every time there are a group of people finish at the pub. Hmmm. Sounds like a shitty place for a young guy, right? What else, um, well some of the ‘homeless’ aboriginals that lived in the town would often be drunk, and often they would pass out on the pavement, so you had to step over them, or otherwise they would be yelling, fighting, puking or doing a range of other activities that you would really want to avoid. Disclaimer, I can imagine that people may feel these comments are racist. I am not racist, just describing the reality of that place at that time, no offence intended. White people were behaving badly too! 
Now if you were a young lady in town, well, you could be a total princess, with your options for suitors laid before you. Of course, this could drive some fairly bad behaviours from both guys and girls. One time I went out on a Wednesday night, and there was about 30 guys and literally 2 girls. With odds like that they could afford to act like princesses, or whatever they wanted I guess. If a girl was a ‘5’ on the coast, she’s an ‘8’ in the Isa. Most weekends were not quite as extreme as that, of course there were young ladies that lived in the town. I will add, that of course there are a lot of decent nice gals in the Isa, I’m describing one aspect here that goes with any overly male populated mining town.
What could make a place even more desirable? Oh, yeah, there was a copper smelter and a lead smelter that chugs a various mixture of lead fumes (that you cant really smell, the lead stack is higher than the copper smelter stack) and a copper smelter that chugs copious quantities of sulphur dioxide. You can see that noxious shit coming from the stack in the picture below. On a hot day, which was often, the stuff would actually settle on the ground, rather than go high in the air. Working underground or on the mine site, you would be exposed to this – it was drawn into the air vents for the fans and sometimes, there would be a fog of this shit in the underground workings.
Now if you haven’t had the pleasure of inhaling sulphur dioxide, it will make you wheeze. You can actually taste it on your tongue even before you can smell it or see it.
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So as a young man, I went underground to work shifts in the mine. It took me about two months before I could actually stop ‘thinking’ about working underground – getting over the general sense that you are way underground, under tons and tons of rock and earth. We would ride a ‘cage’ which was a big industrial elevator that could hold 92 men (yes it was crowded, claustrophobic, dark and it really flew up and down).
Working underground was an experience in itself. The biggest factor for me was how hot it was. I don’t really handle heat too well. Its a bit like if you stand in your garden shed on a really hot day in summer. Its that hot, and the air quality is shit, with diesel fumes, blasting fumes, and the sulphur dioxide all making for an aroma that was really not nice. The winter times (not that we had much of a winter) underground were not as hot, actually quite tolerable.
There was loose rocks, large equipment being operated in small spaces, remote control equipment being operated etc. Plenty of hazards. I was working on drilling equipment and mobile equipment like in the picture below. Every shift they would blast, and we would wait it out in the crib (lunch room) and hear the shots and feel the pressure wave. Underground was a scary exciting place. I got lost on more than one occasion. I was left behind by a co-worker to get tools etc, and imagine being 1500 metres underground alone, with a diaphragm pump psst-psst, psst-psst clearing a puddle of water, and just me and my cap lamp and a job to remove a hydraulic cylinder.
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Jumbo drill rig. My work uniform was just like what this guy has on.

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An Elphinstone front end loader. Used to work on these.
So in closing, I don’t want to leave you, reader with a bad taste in your mouth. I had many good times in ‘the Isa’. I met some wonderful friends. I met my wife when I was living there too. The people were fantastic. Really down to earth, decent working people. Again, I have no regrets, it was a challenging time that helped me grow up a lot. However, I have to agree with the t-shirt that was getting around at the time ‘happiness is Mt Isa in the rear view mirror’.

Healthy Relationships – I got a lesson from my kid’s school and wanted to share.

So it was parent teacher night, and the kids at school have made posters outside their classrooms about Healthy Relationships.

I had a read through and I think they are great. They are what we should all aspire to. They are also some of the areas we sometimes fall down in. I was so inspired, I thought I’d share. Hope you can appreciate these as much as I can.

Musings from a 22nd St Cafe

So today we stopped in at Starbucks, still glowing from the Citizenship ceremony we had just came from. I ordered a medium latte, and some kind of chocolate tart thing. More like a shortbread really. We sat in a long table section and there was this guy who was seated next to us with a kind of iced coffee type of drink.

I said hi and we got chatting. He said his name was Dason (not his real name, to protect his privacy, I changed one letter, if you can work it out you’re as clever as fk). We got chatting and he said he’s worked in Japan as an English teacher and he works with a refugee group locally which is kinda cool.

So I asked him if he likes music, and he says, oh yeah. He says he does a show on a local community radio station (CFCR). I mention that we are in a band and are making a record right now. Dason was really easy to talk to and we ended up exchanging email addresses etc. I’m going to send him one of our tracks just to see what happens. I even told him about this crazy blog I’m writing and I invited him to check it out.

I mentioned a couple of books that I am reading or have read (hint, I have a couple of book reviews in my blog that a are a bit different if you want to check it out 😉   ). He shared a couple of good titles that he was reading and referred us to a guy who plays guitar that hes right into so I will check that out too.

So life’s like that. Sometimes I don’t start conversations for fear of being brushed off or putting people out in some way and sometimes I do start conversations. What I have figured out is there’s a little gem in each one of these types of interactions so I encourage people to open up and reach out and see what happens.

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I AM Canadian

So today is a historic day for me and my family. After more than 8 years in Canada we are finally Canadian Citizens. It feels great! One of the things that I hold dear to me about being Canadian are the rights and freedoms that we are entitled to. In Canada, we are free to worship how we want, free to express thoughts and opinions, and free to associate with whomever we want. I appreciate this very much as not everyone in the world has this kind of freedom.

Thank you Canada, for taking us in and making this home for us.

One of the important aspects of the swearing in ceremony is that you must pledge an oath, of allegiance to the Queen, and to Canada and to respect the law of the land. They take this pretty seriously and they actually watch to make sure people are actually taking the oath. I think this is a good thing.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

 

 

Keeping a workout routine

Hi, if you are regularly into working out, or trying to find the motivation to work out regularly, there are no big tricks or secrets. It’s just get off your arse and start working out. So I read there are lots of opinions expressed about getting started in the gym, knowing what to do, feeling intimidated etc.

So I’ve been working out regularly for more than 8 years. Previous to that I worked out for at least a few years but I got away from the gym and had a bit of a break. The change for me was moving to Canada and having easy access to a community gym. Since then I’ve been working out regularly. By regularly I mean without big breaks, like lazy summers or whatever, just consistent gym workouts. When I go on business travel or even vacation I use that as an opportunity to check out new gyms to train in.

So if you are a bit intimidated, this is normal. I have found, the VAST majority of gyms (and I’ve been in lots and lots of them) are decent respectful places. I will add though, that I hate working out at 5 pm because the redneck truck driving 20 somethings tend to take over, often in groups of two or more. That’s ok, the gym is a place for everyone in my opinion, so I rather train in the mornings or later in the evening.

So what to do – I used to work out every day, same workout, and guess what, I made no gains. I didn’t even want to listen to the guys around me who knew more about it than I did. Then in about 2010 I decided to finally do my homework. I found Stronglifts 5 x 5 (its on the net) and this was the biggest shift in my thinking and actions that led to a very significant mass gain in about 6 months. I’ll save that story for later.

Ok, so anyone who reads my posts are probably going to work out that I’m comfortable in my skin, and a bit of an exhibitionist. I don’t mind showing off my assets earned from hard work in the gym. I pretty much wear short tights or long tights, and compression tanks or shirts. I figure I’m not going to have this beautiful frame forever so I’m making the most of it. If anyone is wondering, people tend to not worry too much about what I am wearing. I used to be kind of self conscious about it but I’ve worn the tight shorts for pretty much every workout in the past 10 years. I find it liberating and a bit of a middle finger to conventional attire. Sure people look, but at 205 lbs and covered in tattoos I have a confidence that allows me the ability to do what the fuck I want! Bicep flexer