2001-2010 Decade in Review

2001: Shave my head for the first time, work as a youth pastor at Red Willow Community Church in St Albert AB (Events: Just Shoot Me, Gerta's Eclipse, and fall retreat in Nordegg), canoe the Mackenzie River in NT, camp at Elk Island National Park, attend plays at the Citadel Theatre, travel to Halifax NS for Peter's wedding and Cormier Village NB after a 7 year absence, wake up to news of attack on twin towers on radio, spend Christmas in Smithers BC.

2002: Amber graduates from U of A, church trip to Guatemala and touring afterward, Pépère passes away, continue pastoring at Red Willow leading prayer meetings, leading worship with Kurt and getting kids to YC, substitute teach and then teach language arts and media part time for Edmonton Public Schools, camp at Elk Island, travel to Hope BC for Tey's wedding and Moscow ID for Bethany's wedding, Christmas in Lacombe AB.

2003: Finish my first year teaching at Winterburn School, Amber teaches for six months in Calgary, taken temporarily by Quixtar, cycle across Canada (5858 km) with 8 friends/family, move to Montreal QC and teach science and math at Greaves Adventist Academy, attend the Lord of the Rings trilogy screening at the Paramount Montreal, spend Christmas in NB.

2004: Travel to VT, CT, MA, and NY in the spring, sponsor school yearbook, begin Zaakistan blog, eat very well at various parties in Montreal, run through NDG, friend Stephanie passes away, teach summer session, buy first iPod, drive across North America with stops in NB, MI, WI, and SK, move to Spruce Grove AB to teach music, band and math at Living Waters Christian Academy, impregnate Amber, take Spanish classes, put on school Chrismas concert, host family Christmas.

2005: Put on school spring concert at LWCA, mail out support letters to work in Guatemala, Amber gets huge, enjoy 4 couples friends meals, begin playing Settlers of Catan, Blaise is born, pack up and move to Red Deer, travel with baby to Hazelton BC, Squamish BC, Moscow ID, Montreal QC, Cormier Village NB, move to Tactic Guatemala with Impact Ministries to manage the child sponsorship program, produce promotional material, and guide short term teams, deliver relief supplies to Lake Atitlan following landslide devastation, sell Ester Buck, buy Kia Rio, travel to Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Antigua, and Copán Honduras.

2006: New school opens in Chicoy, we are robbed while at church, move to house at KM 185, complete first film, turn 30 years of age, visited by Saison, Mom, Papa and Red Willow team, travel to El Salvador, Honduras, Lake Atitlan and Tikal, hike the falls at Chilascó and Pacaya volcano, produce promo video, database, website and slideshows for Impact Ministries, listen to Stanley Cup Edmonton Oiler playoff run online, Amber gets pregnant, screen Strength and Honour: Cycling Canada Coast to Coast at the Montreal International Film Festival, travel to Montreal QC, Cormier Village NB, then Christmas in AB and BC with family.

2007: Two new schools open in Purulhá and Mocohan, we achieve Guatemalan residency, deliver and install 90 ONIL stoves, endure 2 month cough, Acadia is born at home, visited by Will and LWCA team, hike up Purulhá mountain, continue to produce promo videos, guide teams and manage sponsorship program, buy and care for goats with René, join Facebook, Tactic is flooded, take course from Chalmers, deliver 640 pairs of shoes, April spends Christmas with us.

2008: Drive through Petén, Belize, and Quintana Roo to spend holiday with family in Playa del Carmen Mexico, visited by Salomé, Shane, Peter, Red Willow team, Alan and Justin, cycle to Salamá with Garth and Walter, travel to Rabinal, back country near Tactic and with group of friends to Rio Dulce, receive interviews with World Vision Mali and Bearspaw Christian School Calgary, move to AB, buy car and home, niece Abigail and nephew Kai are born, travel to Smithers and Hazelton BC for weddings, teach Bible, Spanish, PE and media at BCS, Amber's sisters live with us.

2009: Begin attending New Hope Church, continue teaching at BCS with math added to the subjects, drywall the basement, spend summer holidays in NB, NS, PEI, BC and AB, buy year passes to Calgary Zoo, attend Leonard Cohen and U2 concerts, start small group, Kylik, Alanna and Indigo winter with us, endure -58 C (with wind chill) in Edmonton, host big family Christmas.

2010: Join Whiskeyjack/Dragonfly Cohousing, begin playing Stone Age, attend Pastor John's book meetings, host Amber's family visit, watch the Vancouver Olympics, Camp with family in Rocky Mountain House, travel to Smithers BC, speak at Katepwa Baptist Camp in SK, celebrate 10 year wedding anniversary in Waterton Lakes National Park, attend several amazing concerts, start teaching Calculus and stop teaching Spanish, cycle to work, April visits from Syria, spend Christmas in Edmonton with my family.

I praise the faithful and ever present God for this blessed decade.


It's a Wonderful Life (Part II)

As I watched George Bailey dream and then watch his dreams slip away to responsibility over and over again, I was reminded of all the dreams that I have abandoned or watch fade.

I was going to be a classical guitarist and then become an orchestra conductor but my hands began to cramp up and my passion for it dissipated. I changed majors.

I was going to become a lawyer, but the challenge of more years in university following my B.A. made me shrink away.

I was going to make films, but the high costs, the easy access that the whole world has to making cheap films (difficult to have your films screened), the low funding (none), and the massive amounts of time involved and need for a collaborative team that are not readily available have dashed this dream.

I was going to work in development in nations suffering from any one of many results of the fall, but after 3 years in Guatemala and a deeper understanding of how transformational development works, I've learned that now is not the time for me to be working overseas.

I was going to travel the world over as a musician, as a tourist with a substantial income, as a film maker, as a development worker, but with a teacher's salary and a family to support, travel is a long way away.

Long hours could be spent dwelling on what I've lost. In fact I could spend my life regretting the demise of these dreams. Instead I have to recognize what I have gained, not lost. I have tremendous friends and family. I have a wide skill set in music, math, development, theology, and film making. I have had incredible opportunities to travel through Europe, the Pacific Islands, North and Central America. I enjoy a fun teaching job at a great school with terrific students. I am a part of a wonderful church. I get to watch great films and go to superb concerts in Calgary. I have a God who invites me to participate in the restoration of the world. And I don't have to go through life alone - I have a beautiful and devoted wife who I love to be my companion and the opportunity to nurture two amazing children.

I have a wonderful life!


Top Music Discoveries of 2010

I've listened to some great music this year. Much of it has come from artists with which I was previously acquainted (The Arcade Fire, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Switchfoot, etc.), but a lot of new (to me) musicians have come across my path, for which I am very grateful!

Mumford & Sons I wasn't a fan to start. I had to listen to these guys quite a bit before I really started to enjoy them. My pastor, by preaching a sermon on this British folk band, had me listening to them.

I'm Not There (Soundtrack) I've been a Bob Dylan fan since I was born, but the cover songs on this album are absolutely gorgeous - in particular Iron & Wine/Calexico's version of Dark Eyes and Mira Billotte's As I Went Out One Morning. Stunning!

Paper Tongues These guys opened for Switchfoot this spring. I picked up their EP and it got some heavy rotation in my car. It's not what I typically listen to, but the vocals are amazing and the band is really tight. Great dancing music.

Calexico This SW Roots/Rock band makes fusion sound good. I saw them open for Arcade Fire a couple months ago and we stood right in front of their brass section. Beautiful melodies and some groovy grooves.

Owen Pallett This Ontario violin virtuoso released an album under his own name this year after several under the name Final Fantasy. He's a strange bird and his music can be stranger, but he's incredibly gifted and the music buried itself deep into my brain. Stuart McLean put me onto him by featuring a song on the Vinyl Cafe.

The New Pornographers I'd heard of this power pop band before and the name kind of put me off so I never paid them much attention. My worship leader invited Amber and I to go see them at MacEwan Hall in the spring and so I listened to their latest album, then bought tickets. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen, and their Together album is definitely worth picking up if you haven't already.

The Mountain Goats This guy opened for The New Pornographers and it could easily have been the other way around. He had some pretty devoted fans. I found his latest album, The Life Of The World To Come is a lot about dying and grief and just plain beautiful. I walked out of the concert with one song of his in my head and it stayed there for months.

Bon Iver I heard a song of his on CBC called Flume and immediately picked up the album. Such soothing and heartfelt acoustic tones!

The National Chris introduced me to these last two bands. The National is all about anthems, dark sing along songs. Precious.

Hayden I listened to this Canadian folkie while I worked on my Escher puzzle last month and I've been addicted to the soothing tones ever since. Message from London is my favorite song at the moment.


It's a Wonderful Life (Part I)

10 days ago I attended Ignition Theatre's production of It's a Wonderful Life at The Matchbox in Red Deer. The story is presented as a radio drama so the set is sparse and many of the 16 actors, one of whom is my mother, play several characters. The acting is fantastic and special mention must go to Ryan Mattila who plays an extraordinary, earnest and discouraged George Bailey.

What struck me about the play the most was the overtly Christian message despite the fact that George Bailey is not a church-going man and the wonky expression of the government and behaviour of angels. A principal import is that of common grace - the idea that there is goodness in all of creation and God continues to work miracles, righteousness and grace through humanity, despite human depravity. But even more was communicated; one of Clarence the angel's lines is “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread about the Earth, but man doesn’t see it.” This infers God's direct intervention in the world through His people.

The play by nature is very melodramatic - during a bank run, George has to forego his honeymoon and use his savings to pacify the mob, George saves his brother from drowning, George save both the reputation of a pharmacist and the life of a client, George yields his college tuition money to his brother so he can keep the Building and Loan going, etc. But I think it lovingly communicates George's life as a sum of his sacrifices and good works just as each of our lives will be summed up as well.

Acadia's Favorites

Colour: Gold with green and purple sparkles
Dinosaur: Parasaurolophus
Food: Spaghetti
Show: Toopy and Binoo
Animal: Baby Turtle
Outdoor Activity: Playing Soccer with her Pink Soccer Ball
Indoor Activity: Playing with her Brother

The evening

I bought a couple sets of strings last week. I put a new set on my guitar on Thursday evening and as I tightened the G, it snapped. Dismayed, I cracked open the other set to pull out that G only to find seven strings. The extra was a G!

Earlier that afternoon I was given a gift card to SuperStore from the parents and students at my school. As I walked to my car after work, I saw that my front bumper was hanging dangerously low (I have no idea how it happened). As my mechanic is kitty corner from the music shop where I was going, I thought I'd stop in and see if I could get it in the following day. Instead, Ryan had the shop guys bring it in for a quick fix - which they did completely in about 25 minutes. I was charged for 0.3 hours. The total for the guitar strings and work on my car was the same as my gift card.

Just like Episode 22, Season 5 of Seinfeld.


Wikileaks - Crimes come into the Light

Yesterday morning, after hearing about Wikileaks in the news for the last few weeks, I thought I should check out the official site at wikileaks.org myself only to discover "Safari can’t find the server 'www.wikileaks.org'." Later, I heard on the news that "someone" is jamming the Wikileaks site. I had however found a mirror of the site and found a couple of the links that worked (and still work as of the writing of this blog): nyud.net and wikileaks.de for example.

As the site is under attack there are limitations, but you can download the Iraq War Logs (a 354 MB spreadsheet) torrent file and watch the leaked video Collateral Murder. The Iraq War Logs detail violent encounters of the US military during nearly the entire invasion and occupation.

The video (the short version is embedded below) was leaked after the US military kept it secret for over 3 years despite Reuters' request to have it released because two of their reporters had been gunned down in the unprovoked attack.

I won't describe what happens in the video. It is brutal. It is the sort of thing God sees daily, so I encourage you to watch and sense what He senses, except He made both the victims and the murderers.


Teaching Calculus

This year I picked up Math 31 in my teaching assignment. It is an introductory course to calculus that only students with
a: high post secondary ambitions
b: a love of math
c: lots of spare time
consider taking. All of my students fit into categories a and b.

I've loved the challenge and content of calculus since I took my intro class in grade 12 and I am enjoying revisiting these amazing concepts after a 12 year hiatus. The real joy is working with such dedicated students. The class average is an impressive 90%.

At the moment, my class is finishing their chapter 3 test on related rates - lots of furrowed brows, focused stares, sketching and calculator buttons being pushed. Such fun!!


Jigsaw Puzzles

My father bought me this M C Escher puzzle back in October. So, a couple weekends ago when Blaise said "let's do a puzzle!!!" I thought of this 1000 piece one in the basement that I was saving for Christmas holidays and brought it upstairs. That Friday night, Blaise helped me sort the edge pieces and even got a couple out in himself before getting bored out of his skull. I persisted late into the evening and then again the next day I worked on the monochrome problem for about 8 hours late into the following morning.

Seeing that I might never come out of this alive, Amber started to pitch in and Sunday night my mom who came for a visit added her two hands to the task. I finally finished the puzzle off on Tuesday night after what I figure to be close to 20 hours of work. I'm going to mount it and frame it.

Blaise got a puzzle at the Salvation Army Store in High River this past weekend. We assembled it together with Blaise doing most of it. He's studying geography this month, so it even tied into his formal learning.

I remember my Mémère (grandma) doing puzzles when I was young and I've always enjoyed working on them.

In French they are called casse-tête which means head-breaker. I like that.

Prostates of the World Unite!

In honour of Movember (Mo(ustache No)vember), I decided to shave my beard down to a stache for a couple days.

I guess the whole tradition started in Australia where people started fundraising for research prostate and testicular cancer by getting sponsors for their month long moustaches. In North America it became more of a beard growing thing (kind of like the play-off beard) in order to raise awareness.

Apparently, 1 in 6 men get prostate cancer. This is a "fact" from the internet, so don't quote me, but even if just half that many people get it, it makes for quite the issue to be aware of. I sure don't want it.

So, when you see my moustache, think "take care of your prostate" or "keep your testes healthy."


Embarrassing Purchases

OK, think of the two most embarrassing things to purchase.

I purchased both of them at the same time today! I'm a hero!


Used Luxury Vehicles

  • People who buy new luxury vehicles generally replace their vehicles within five years
  • Vehicles do not typically require any major repairs in their first five years.
  • People who can afford to buy new luxury vehicles, do not typically drive them into the ground as they can afford alternative transportation for long distance trips.
  • Five-year-old luxury vehicles cost about the same as new midrange vehicles, but they have all the perks of luxury vehicles and they probably will not have registered many kilometres so they will garner appeal.
  • The cost of repairing luxury vehicles is high - highly specialized parts and high dealership labour rates.
  • Do not under any circumstances buy used luxury vehicles.


Owen Pallett Live

A couple weeks ago I attended a rich musical event: Owen Pallett performing at Knox United Church.

I had heard from a friend that Mr. Pallett was kind of full of himself, a bit pouty, but a superb performer. All of this was true in my experience. He was very gracious towards the opening artist (Little Scream) who came on stage and then asked if anyone had a pick and he developed a great rapport with the audience. But his vibe was kind of that of a spoiled brat.

Musically, the guy is brilliant! Most of the music is produced through loops that he records with his violin and a little synthesizer. Another musician joined him for about half the songs playing drums, doing back up vocals or playing bass. The violin loops were most impressive as the heavy effects that could make a heavy bass or woodwind sound, let alone the multitude of energetic percussion loops.


Western Canada Character Education Conference 2010

I was privileged to attend a this conference a couple days ago with several of my coworkers. The conference's purpose is to equip educators to teach/instill character traits to/in their students.

The keynote speaker impressed me so much by doing one simple, though I'm sure it required hours of preparation. Michele Borba is an American scholar and speaker on the subject of raising and educating children. The fact that she is American makes what she did at the conference that much more impressive: she used Canadian statistics and examples to support and demonstrate every point she made. It showed she cared enough about the distinctiveness of our society to lift up the good parts and challenge the deficits.

Her thesis was not earth shattering, but the practical applications were extremely relevant.


New Cohousing Name

We have been involved with cohousing for about a year now and have since become associate members and then equity members. A couple weeks ago our group, Whiskeyjack Cohousing, merged with Silver Sky Cohousing to form a new group. At our meeting last Sunday, we chose a new name. Prior to the meeting, we were all invited to submit names for the group to choose from. These were my submissions:
Acorn Cohousing
Firefly Cohousing
Hummingbird Cohousing
Snapdragon Cohousing
Riverstone Cohousing
I thought it would be funny to submit these name possibilities too:
Dog Poop Cohousing
Platinum Ukulele Song of Harmony and Peace Cohousing
Run for the Hills Cohousing
It's Different from a Commune Cohousing
Bomb Shelter Cohousing
The name we ultimately chose was Dragonfly Cohousing.


Airport Geocaching

While waiting in Kelowna airport on a layover on my way to Calgary, my buddy Mike was waiting in Calgary airport on a layover. We connected over Facebook and started chatting. We discovered that I was going to arrive about 5 minutes after he left. I asked him if he was into hiding something in the airport for me to find when I arrived. He was in.

When I walked out of my gate, I followed his directions to a spot behind some pay phones at a particular gate and picked up a keychain he left for me.

It made me feel oddly connected to Mike over time, like in Back to the Future II when Joe Flaherty's mailman character walks up to Marty McFly in the rain with a letter written to him 70 years earlier.


How not to win over unlike-minded listeners...

At teacher's conference a couple days ago, Josh McDowell said
". . . I wish those emergent post-moderns would get that through their thick skulls."


Interview on CBC Radio 1

A couple days ago I was interviewed by Jim Brown on CBC Calgary Radio 1. The Calgary Eye Opener does local special interest pieces every day and one of their reporters, Meghan Grant, discovered our cohousing group on Kijiji and decided to investigate. In the end they interviewed me on Friday for an edited news story that ran every hour and then live on Monday morning by phone. You can listen to it here (look for the cohousing piece on Oct 18) for a limited time. I'll get an .mp3 to put on the Whiskeyjack Cohousing site.

I was quite nervous and I kept waking up in the night thinking "I have to mention aging in place" or "it's not about the money, it's about community!" or "I must remember to drink water and go to the bathroom before the interview" and on and on. I think I contradicted myself once, but otherwise I think I was pretty upbeat and clear.

I was at school for the phone interview, so I ducked into an office so it would be quiet. The residents of the office waited outside and listed to the interview on an iPhone. When I was done, I walked out and they were still listening so there was a good 1 minute delay - I thought there would be about 10 seconds, but a minute is serious business.

TDMCTC Study Guide

Earlier this year, before my pastor published his book The Day Metallica Came to Church, I was invited to read through the book with the pastor and a handful of other church members. When we finished the 3 months of discussions around the book, John (the pastor/author) asked me to compose thoughtful discussion questions for each chapter. We edited the questions and then John added some great spiritual exercises to try after reading the chapters and voilà! it's a Study Guide. The publisher (Faith Alive) has posted the Study Guide for free for readers of the book.


Air/Rail/Sea/Road in 90 minutes

8:15 PM: Descending into Vancouver on WestJet Flight 437
8:22 PM: Touching down at YVR
8:31 PM: Walking through the terminal to the SkyTrain.
8:46 PM: Boarding the Canada Line at YVR-Airport towards Waterfront.
9:11 PM: Exiting SkyTrain at Waterfront Station
9:16 PM: Departing Waterfront on the SeaBus
9:28 PM: Stepping off the SeaBus after crossing Vancouver Harbour
9:36 PM: Piling into my sister's car at Lonsdale Market in North Vancouver
9:45 PM: Driving on Hwy 99 towards Squamish


Mavis Staples Quote

Mavis Staples: "They said I was singing the Devil's music."
Stephen Colbert: "Were you singing the Devil's music?"
MS: "I'm positive, I was not singing the Devil's music."
SC: "Did you ever sing disco madame?"
MS: "The Devil ain't got no music!"


In Outer Space

Last year I took Blaise to a star gazing night at my school where my coworker and friend Jeff gets a bunch of folks from the local chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to bring their mondo telescopes to a field so his grade 8 science class can view the sky through their lenses.

This year Blaise studied astronomy as his first unit of kindergarten at home school which lasted the whole month of September. He learned about the planets and about orbits and stars and the moon. On September 30 we went with Jeff's class to inspect the heavenly bodies.

This time we saw Jupiter and its moons complete with the largest planet's brown stripes. We saw Comet Hartley 2. We saw galaxies Andromeda, M81 (Bode's) and M82 (Cigar) (the last two are 150,000 light years apart and yet both visible in the telescope). We saw Albireo (two stars that align so closely they look like one to the naked eye, but they are different colours). We saw the M13 star cluster.

Blaise's favorite planet is Jupiter so it was pretty special for him to see it so well in some world class telescopes.


Disposable Business Model

There are two things that I hate: Junk and Paying for Junk.

My Canon Pixma MP520 only prints when all the toner cartridges have ink in them - even when I just want to print in black. So, I had to go buy toner at $20 each because my colour ones were empty. As a result I had to throw out 3 perfectly good cartridges because they were empty rather than refilling them. Well, I could have refilled them, but I don't have the gadget to reset the computer chips. So, the cartridges were Junk. A waste!

While shaving is not my favorite activity, I do shave. Usually. And over time I've moved from the Gillette Sensor Excel to the Gillette Mach 3 to the Gillette 5-Blade Fusion and then back to the Mach 3 because it's cheaper. Four cartridges cost $15 or $3.75 each. They are a blend of plastic and a few thin metal blades that last about 6 shaves. So for me to shave costs a fortune and I'm tossing out items that are not renewable.

It's clear that the business plan of both Canon (and other printer manufacturers) and Gillette (who hold a near monopoly on the shaving world) have created a dependence on their products and are cashing in on the replaceable items.

This was not always the case. In the shaving world for instance, there was a multitude of razor blade producers and a host of razor makers. This kept competition up and prices low. Plus the bulk of the money made was not on the disposable blades (which were just the double use blades, no cartridge), but the razor which would last a lifetime. The only place where I can purchase an old-style razor is an online specialty store (Rasage Poulin) as no pharmacies carry them (thanks to Alan for putting me on to this). I will do this. I also picked up an old straight razor at the Red Deer Farmer's Market a couple weeks ago. I need to sharpen it, but it promises to be a treat to shave with.

My printer cost me $100 - to switch out all the cartridges it costs $80. When this toner dies out, I'm buying a laser printer, a Lexmark that takes back your toner cartridge and promises 21,000 printouts per $400 cartridge (though a friend of mine can get them at $80 from a distributor). No waste. No unnecessary costs.

In closing, I think human kind would do better to move towards a less disposable consumer model. Thinking of all the preventable landfill contents (and use of natural resources) of diapers, cartridges, shampoo bottles, etc. saddens me. It also saddens me that we have moved away from high quality products for the sake of saving a few bucks in the short term. Even cars are disposable these days.


The Arcade Fire - Sept 26

I've seen some good shows in my limited concert attending life. This one will stand forever as a great concert: The Arcade Fire at the Corral, Calgary, AB, September 26 with Calexico.

Amber and I scored tickets through my friend Gary at church. They were on the floor, so I pushed for us to line up a little early so we could get close to the stage. Close we did get - right at the gate, just a couple feet from the stage, just left of centre.

Calexico, a roots/rock/mariachi band from Phoenix, opened. We were right in front of the trumpets. They were a lot of fun, some great music.

Earlier that day at New Hope Church, our pastor John preached on the truths that God speaks through Arcade Fire. A couple dozen New Hopers were at the show that night. It was a great big church party!
“This concert experience was totally different because of what we did at church this morning,” said Kailey, a fellow New Hoper who sat (stood dancing) beside me at the Arcade Fire explosion last night. She’s right. It was… for me too. (from John's Blog)

The theatrics were awesome! Two of the musicians were especially furious in their playing: William Butler (keyboards, percussion, and shouting) and Richard Parry (everything). At one point William beats a drum, but actually beats it into a pulp during Power Out – a song about kids reclaiming life after humankind is found to be dead (empty hearts). There’s a physical response, not just words. Actions, not only faith. Régine Chassagne, the female lead singer and multi-instrumentalist does an amazing job flitting around the stage like a pixie or angel or oracle. Her songs are less angry, more desire – singing about Haiti or about how disappointing the suburban sprawl is. Her dancing evokes new life, rebirth, purity.

One of the big highlights for me: Rococo - a song about today’s kids being entranced by emptiness, lavish materialism, and their fake feral nature. (Rococo is an art era marked by meaningless swirls, gaudy decor and French despotic rule that is beheaded decades later for their disregard for real justice) The song on the album almost seems playful, peppy. Live, it is an ominous experience, an angry trudge. Win asks at one point, shouting “What is this horrible song they’re singing?” I had shivers. He’s singing about deception, lies, being duped and he’s genuinely reviled by it.

The string section in Rococo was arranged to sound like mosquitos biting colonial Frenchmen in Haiti.

Another highlight was catching a drumstick that flew out of William's hand as he pounded the tar out of a tom during Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out).

Tim, the main guitarist was in front of us most of the time at the far left. He is probably the least dynamic of the band, but he was rock solid on his instruments.

At one point Win's mic stand fell on the ground, so he got down and kept on singing into it. Gary snapped this great shot of him.

The set list was brilliant. Not one song was out of place.

The Spirit of God was definitely at the show, not only brought by those of us from New Hope Church, but by all of the desires for something more in all the fans. Brought by the thousands of fans who are drawn not by glamour and veneer, but by the gritty chafe against it. Brought by artists who have forged their talents into magnificence. Brought by a God who asks “What are my children doing, letting their hearts fill with nothing? What are my people doing making religion a mockery of justice?”

This is from their Madison Square Gardens show a couple months ago:

Photo Credits go to Gary who brought his camera to the show. Thanks Gary!

Fall Colours in Calgary

I was shocked at how much I missed the mighty and diverse deciduous trees of the east while visiting Tennessee after living four years in Alberta. I also remember the overwhelming power of the fall colours while driving through the Eastern Townships of Québec and the striking yellows of Montréal when we lived there seven years ago. And every autumn I spend in Alberta with its limited and diminutive trees I feel cheated - especially when autumn passes in a matter of hours:


This year we got a gorgeous week! Driving in from Red Deer two weeks ago we saw the grassland covered in burning oranges and reds. The lines of trees that separate farms were bright yellow and leafy green. It was glorious!

Then, behind our house, in the green space the city has reserved for kids to litter and build forts the greenery transformed and every blade of grass and each leaf began to die and chemical reactions brought colour and it remained for a week before a series of strong winds ushered in the purgatory that is October and November before the serious snow comes.

See the photos in larger sizes at ZAAKISTAN.COM.


I, Leper

Before summer break ended, I decided to spend some of my carefree time at my doctor's office to see if she could deal with some of my chronic conditions. I won't disclose everything here, but one of my ailments is a fungal thing under my toe nail. Another is the crud in my eye lashes. As I was finally picking up some prescriptions today, I reflected on all of my skin diseases - and I have had a lot of them, I guess I have weak skin:
Sarcoptic Mange
Athlete's Foot
Verruca Vulgaris
Verruca Plantaris
Aphthous Ulcer
Herpes Labialis
Pityriasis Simplex Capillitii
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae
Sun Burn
Coral Scrape Infection
Aren't those names awesome! Makes me want to name some rock bands (Zaak and the Furuncles or Eczema Verruca Salad which could be affectionately known by fans as EVS or The Sarcoptic Mange).

I'll spare you photos, but if you're interested Wikipedia has some great ones! Best viewed before mealtime.

Oh, and I don't want to make light of leprosy or minimize the suffering of actual lepers by comparing my relatively inconsequential afflictions to theirs - the title just seemed appropriate and compelling.


Addition February 2015:  I can add Cellulitis onto the list, which, if left unchecked, could have permanently done some damage (death or otherwise).

A Name by any other Font

I enjoy fonts. I'm not obsessed and I don't go hunting for new ones on the web, but I enjoy fonts. I hate to admit it, but my favorite font for the last 15 years has been the clean Helvetica Sans Serif (not available in blogger). I don't know why it gets bashed so much.

For our family names I decided to try them all out with all my default fonts to see what would make them look best. This is what I came up with:

ZAAK: Handwriting - Dakota
AMBER: Mona Lisa Solid ITC TT
BLAISE: Harrington



I was running late. The wind was strong. I had errands to run. I seriously considered calling Amber for a ride from school rather than biking home.

But I deliberately chose to ride rather than copping out when it is convenient. As I sweat up the second hill I was rewarded with 5 minutes of a hawk soaring above me to my left. He flew low enough for me to see him scanning left to right for field mice and such prey. Pretty cool.


I only hit girls. . .

. . .when they are texting and walking on the side of the road with the sun behind them and I'm riding the opposite direction on my bike.

Fortunately, I swerved in time, let out a nervous laugh.


Waterton Lakes Hikes

Amber and I spend a glorious couple days and two nights in Waterton Lakes National Park (or the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park) for the 10th anniversary of our marriage. Neither of us have ever visited the park, so we are eager to take in as much as possible. We also splurge for the occasion and spend a small fortune to spend our nights at the Waterton Lakes Resort.

Before checking into our hotel, we climb the Waterton standard hike - Bear's Hump (2.8 km), a rock that overlooks the town of Waterton and the Waterton Lakes. There is a colony of fat chipmunks at the summit and a breathtaking view!

The next morning, under a cloudy sky we hike up to Forum Lake (8 km) which heads west into British Columbia which means we cross the continental divide!! The wild flowers are stunning. It starts to rain lightly at the lake, so we quickly eat and hike back to the car.

After we have lunch and a rest, we drive as far down the road as they will let us (construction at the parking lot) and then trudge 2.2 km to the beginning of the hikes at Red Rocks Canyon (1.4 km) and Blakiston Falls (2 km).

We are drenched at Red Rocks canyon in a flash thunder storm. We take refuge under a bridge as hail pounds all around us.

We sup at the Bayshore Lakeside Chophouse and then have desert and coffee at the Prince of Wales Hotel up on the hill.

Lightning lights up the lakes as we leave for our hotel.

The next morning, we pack up and do a quick trail south from the town of Waterton to Bertha Falls (5.6 km). The falls are tremendous! I run into a former student teacher I had when I was in grade 4. We drive home to our children and their caregiver (thanks mom!).