Astrological Surprises

A little over a week ago at a cohousing general meeting, Amber led an activity just to break up the policy discussions. She began by dividing us up by our birthday months - Jan/Feb here, Mar/Apr there, etc... As I joined my March/April groupies, I was shocked at the exclamations of "Oh, are you a Taurus or an Aries?" and "I figured you were an Aries" and "Can you believe I married a Scorpio?" These are professionals all of which have had post-secondary education and yet here they were excitedly divulging their belief in the Zodiac.

By the way, I'm a Pisces. According to astrology.com, today:
 "You’re thinking quite a bit about your future and how things are going, so see if you can get yourself into a quiet corner where you can ponder what comes next. Things are looking up!"
but if I were a Sagittarius:
"Your mind is sharp today, and you should be able to figure out even the weirdest ideas today. Apply yourself to the hard stuff, as you never know when your mental energy is going to wane."
or if I were an Aries:
"You should find that people are easier to get along with today, thanks to some great energy that brings you closer together socially. It’s a good time to build bridges and to check in with distant allies."
None of these counsel morsels are uniquely helpful in anyway. When should I not be thinking about my future or not applying myself or building bridges? What's worse is that they are so self-focused, all about me succeeding and little regard for the other or growing through suffering. Success is defined by good days and bad days.


Seven Epic Journeys [I'd like to make]

Appalachian Trail, USA (on foot)
I've been planning to do this 6 month hike with my son as his rite of passage into manhood since before he was born. I will have to take a spring semester off in 2018, fly Blaise and myself out to Georgia and start walking north 3,507 km along the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains through 14 eastern states. It will certainly be epic.

St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey to La Rochelle, France (by train)
In this doubly-trans-European train journey, I would explore both the great capitals and some small villages of Eastern Europe. Then make my way from the Bosporus Strait to La Rochelle, France where Louis and Estienne Robichaux set out to settle in Acadia in the mid 17th century. The first leg of the trip would take me through Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and into Turkey. Setting out from Istanbul, I would wind WNW through Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, northern Italy, and along la côte d'azure, through Bordeaux and up to La Rochelle, France.

Western United States of America (by car)
This 10,000 km road trip would take our family through and 10 states and would probably take us 7 weeks to complete. Some highlights:
  • Montana: Glacier National Park, American Indian reservations and culture (Blackfoot, Flathead, Salish, Crow) 
  • Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park
  • Utah: Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City (Mormon Tabernacle, Olympic Centre)
  • Colorado: Dinosaur National Monument, Denver (and it's microbrew pubs)
  • New Mexico: Los Alamos (to visit the Manhattan project), Carlsbad Caverns, Artesia (to visit my relatives), Albuquerque (and it's tex-mex food)
  • Arizona: Grand Canyon
  • California: Joshua Tree National Park, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, San Francisco (see friends), Napa Valley (drink wine), 
  • Oregon: Forest districts, Portland (visit relatives)
  • Washington: Olympic National Park, Seattle, Walla Walla (visit friends)
  • Idaho: Moscow (visit friends)

Corners of India (by train)
#11 of my Life Goals is to Ride the Train around India. I would have to somehow define what around India would be, but I think hitting the North, East, South and Western corners of the country would suffice. I would be able to see Mumbai, New Delhi, the cutoff eastern provinces, and the southern tip. The entire trip would be between 10 and 12 thousand kms. I'm told I should ride in 1st class - we'll see what the pocket book says.

Niger River (by river boat)
Beginning at the source of the great Niger River in northwest Africa in Tembakounda, Guinea, I would float northeast into Mali travelling in the rich river basin through the capital city of Bamako and the legendary outpost of Timbuktu. After coming close to the Sahara Desert and maybe even taking a side trip to experience that a bit, I would continue the float south east through Niger (and it's capital Niamey), the board of Benin and into politically unstable Nigeria. The trip would finish in the Niger Delta.

England Coast to Coast (on foot)
A friend of mine, Jon Schmuland, did this 11-15 day hike last year and I followed his journal as he did it. It is surprisingly demanding on the body. The Coast to Coast journey goes through three major natural areas in England: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales, and the North York Moors. These areas are reminiscent of vet and author James Herriot and the stage for Wuthering Heights (one of my least favourite reads - maybe I'll see Heathcliff's ghost wandering in the moors...).

Circumference of Australia (on motorbike)
Almost 18,000 km on a motorbike. I'm not sure I want to do this, but I could knock two of my life goals off: #12 Motorbike around Australia and #13 Climb Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) (with permission of the aboriginal people of course). My biggest concern: water and fuel. I'd probably need to pull a little trailer with extra supplies which means I'll need a bigger bike which means I'll need to spend more money. I can picture myself cruising along the coast though - I'll have to grow out my hair for this one.


Blaise's First Sleep Over

As part of our motivating of getting our children to stay dry through the night, we told them that they couldn't go on sleep overs until they began staying dry through the night. Over the past month, both of our children have made remarkable progress (and so have Amber and I in our consistency of getting them up in the night to go pee pee) in staying dry (both day and night).

Blaise was quick to point out that now he is able to go on a sleep over. We asked his best buddy's parents if it was OK if Blaise spent the night there and it was cool, so on Saturday afternoon he went to Anton's house. We got him back all in one piece at midday Sunday. By all accounts, he was a good guest and he had fun too.

On the home front, Amber began pining in the early evening about how she missed Blaise. Acadia was put to bed, but was found sitting and crying on her bed an hour later. She missed Blaise.


Nerdvana 2012

Every year for the past six or seven years, my friend Jasen has organized a little board gaming retreat. We spent a couple nights in a hotel in Canmore surrounded by mountains only to sit facing the middle of a table playing board games for two and a half days. Well, I gazed at the mountains a fair bit actually. That and I ate very, very well.

I ended up playing 17 different games, 15 of which were new to me. The people participating were great sports and everyone was patient as they taught the rules to newcomers.

Kingdom Builder is very quick to learn, never the same set up, and can play 2-4 players. I played it 3 times and I could have played it more too. Another great thing is that it is a relatively short game (30 min).
Troyes is a more complex game with lots of variables. I definitely would like to play it again. Plus, I won my first time playing.
Biblios is a deck building game that ends in an auction. Pretty decent and quick game play. Easy to learn.
Takenoko is a quick, easy to learn game that kids can pick up quite quickly. The goal is to feed your panda by cultivating bamboo in different gardenscapes by ensuring they are irrigated and fertilized.
Hawaii is super fun and reminds me quite a bit of Stone Age
Dvonn is a game from the Gipf Project. You have to collect tiles by jumping over tile spaces and claiming your opponents tiles by stacking on top of them. Very neat strategy game and far more advanced than checkers.
Trajan is another multiple component, have to play 3 times to be able to develop a decent strategy board game. I'm sure it's good, but I don't know if I want to invest much time learning it (again).

Paris Connection is fantastic. It's a bit like Airlines Europe, but simpler, faster and with a twist. Each player gets to build their stock in different colours of trains while at the same time building the value of the train lines in France. Of course if a line gets too valuable, everyone wants the stock. I won at this a couple times.
Vanuatu is perhaps my favourite from the weekend because of the stress and competitive rounds. It didn't take too long to learn, but the challenges weren't anticipated making the game very exciting.
Strasbourg was probably my least favourite, but it's because I wasn't anticipating that the game was so short and rigid in the ways to achieve player goals.
Tichu is a great team card game similar to 200 or Rook. The trio I played with were very patient with me and I managed well enough to win and even call "tichu" on my own.
Bits is a tetris/dominoes kind of game where you get points for joining certain colours in certain patterns (the goals are different every time). Quite fun and I totally dominated!

23 is a new card game that is still only available in Europe (we had to look online for the rules since the game only included Germain rules). It's a terrific game of manipulation and gambling - I rocked this one too.
7 Wonders wasn't new to me but I still enjoyed playing with the heroes expansion. Games are short and vary everytime you play which keeps it fesh.
Octopus's Garden
Gipf is one of the Gipf Project games and I have to say that it is quite addictive and very challenging. It's a tile collecting game. I played it a couple times and since the rules are easily understood I was able to immediately engage some strategy and win. Twice.
Can't Stop is a gambling game where you try to make different combinations of numbers with 4 die. You van quit any time and sit with your scores or risk it all with further rolling. Makes for great excitement and also builds math skills. Blaise really enjoyed this one.

And did we eat! For starters, the hotel gave us a deal on the in house restaurant (Chez François) breakfasts which were both delicious and filling. The kids ate the continental breakfast before we sat down to a late breakfast, so they helped Amber with her plate of food.

Our first evening though, we visited Thai Pagoda which is owned and operated by a Belgian chap who loves beer. The beer menu is beautiful as a result. The service was a little slow, but the food was delicious. I was disappointed with the beer I ordered as I found it tasted a bit soapy. I didn't complain since everyone who tasted it said it tasted fine. Next time I'm not fooling around, I'm getting the Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

Saturday night we went to the Korean BBQ Restaurant and oh did we eat! I don't remember all the food we ate, but the hot pot was superb, especially with the added hot sauces and bean sprouts.

Before leaving Canmore on Sunday, we fattened up at La Belle Patate, the premiere poutine eatery west of Québec. Amber and I shared the large smoked meat poutine and didn't even finish it - so much food.

We look forward to Nerdvana 2013!

Mailbox Treat

I found this in my school mailbox. Someone evidently found this in the photocopier and thought the would return it to me.


Marathon Training: Day 27/118

I've run 105 kms now after almost 4 weeks (tomorrow is a scheduled rest day) and yesterday I ran 1/4 marathon and recovered just fine - no soreness at all.

Salomé has me training 6 days a week:
  • Mon - crosstraining with increasing time each week
  • Tues - increasingly long runs doing speed intervals or hill training
  • Wed - short run
  • Thurs - medium runs at a harder pace
  • Fri - longest run of the week
  • Sat - short run
My comfortable running speed is 10.6 km/hr which is a perfect pace for finishing the marathon in four hours. I've been doing all of my runs after school or during the last block if I have a prep. The gym is almost always empty except for a senior student trying to beef up so he can become a firefighter.

My routine is change, sip a bit of water, run my run on the treadmill while listening to The National's High Violet or Mumford and Son's Sigh No More. When I reach my distance, I hit cool down and get to a walk where I can drink water without spilling it all over myself. Then I add water to my energy drink (whey protein powder and a thawed cube of blended berries) and slurp it up while stretching my calves, quads, glutes, hams, adductors and abductors.

I ran outside today since I had no plans to go to the school and it was an atypical February afternoon: 13°C. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to keep a good pace without the treadmill so I timed my run and averaged under 6 min/km which is on track. I mapped my distance with Google Maps.

This last week was the first week running with actual running clothes. I picked up some Nike shorts and shirt - light weight, breathable, and they show off my hairy shoulders. My sweat pants and golfing shorts weren't cutting it before.

This is the dime-sized blister I popped a couple days ago, applied some Polysporine and a bandaid and it was as good as new. You can see the other blister-turned-callous above it too.

As far as pain, I haven't had much except for the first 3-4 minutes of running where I can really feel it in my shins.  I had a bit of numbness in my hands, but having spoken to my doctor friend who coaches at my school, he said it was nothing to worry about - blood simply goes where it's needed and my hand's don't really need it when I'm running. He also coached me to run without really swinging my arms since it uses energy unnecessarily - a tough habit to break, plus I look a little gimped. He's a kidney specialist so he urged me to look up an electrolyte recipe online to make my own sugar/salt drink to restore my body chemistry after long runs. I sweat like a dog.

Sleep is precious. I am recognizing that I need much more of it now that I am so much more physically active. And I'm so hungry all the time.