Sporting Life

I participated in the inaugural Ottawa Sporting Life 10K race over the weekend. It was a 10K circuit along the Canal (always a great running route), starting and ending by Landsdowne. It’s also been my first tour of the newly redeveloped space – it’s a beautiful and fascinating part of town that I rarely visit. Landsdowne / TD Place manages to feel both big and cozy at the same time.

My biggest fear about the race was not being able to run it because of my leg. In true House-ian fashion, I have been suffering from a leg pain since late February. Unlike the dear doctor, mine just came out of nowhere. Like the doctor, the early solution was to down meds (naproxen, not vicadin). After a month of that with the pain, duller but lingering, I decided that physio would be a better, longer term solution.

Thankfully, it has been an improvement. The pain has shifted and it easier to deal with, but still, up to this point, I haven’t had the ability to run more than about 4K. So, how was it adding on six more kilometres without any training, with the risk if dialing back my leg’s progress?

In the recovery area, sporting a new medal

It was a struggle. I walked a few times throughout the back half of the race. Fortunately, despite it all, my time was only about three minutes longer than my last 10K race time. The course along the Canal by TD Place and Landsdowne was beautiful this time of year, and not too hot, thanks to the rain that fell the night prior. The event itself was fairly small, too, which gave me lots of space to go at my pace.

Plus, the medals are pretty awesome!

Sporting Life MedalMy next race is Ottawa Race Weekend. I’m hoping that I’ll hit a faster time, but now it seems that I’m also contending with a pain in my left knee. If this how growing old starts, I’m already not a fan. Long life youth!

Charlie

Justification

It’s been nearly two and a half years since I’ve posted anything to a blog. That’s a long time, isn’t it? I got an email from my wonderful webspace company, reminding me that I will be billed in a few weeks if I’m planning to keep my webspace and url and all those fun digital products and services. It’s not a ton of money to keep a website, but it’s a lot of money if I’m just wasting it. I would rather have $5 in my pocket than throw $5 down a storm pipe.

Storm pipe? Is that a real thing?

What I love about websites is their permanence. Well, if I decline to pay the good OneAndOne folks, then my site will be, to say the least, un-permanent. But websites and blogs are like stone tablets compared to the disposable records we share through Snapchat and messaging platforms. Even Twitter and Facebook, you get instant shares, instant likes, but I couldn’t tell you what I tweeted a month ago. I could look it up to an extent, but there isn’t always that context, that base. Thoughts and messages aren’t really searchable these days. And there isn’t any real sense of progress. Am I a better Tweeter than I was two years ago? (I know I’m not, actually)

So, blog. If I come here and write and share, maybe I can justify that $6 a month this webspace costs me. Can I stand out from the noise and faux-news that is the baited “A senior citizen walks into a tattoo parlour and how she walks out will blow your mind”-esque articles? Do I even need to?

I think it will be worth it if I can find the time to come and create and share. People half my age probably might use Tumblr to share extended thoughts with people outside of Facebook – if people half my age are even on Facebook… I have a couple of those:

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/gamerwithouttime – A Tumblr dedicated to my not having time to play video games. More recently, my 3DS is broken, and I have played a few levels of Captain Toad. It’s good!

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/bengotfat – A Tumblr dedicated to my health and activity. It has no posts, and I’ve completely forgotten about it until now.

Part of what I love about blogging is sharing photos – usually photos that I’ve taken and posted to Flickr. There’s a service I’ve stopped paying for. But I should get to using again. So, as a hurrah for me having typed for half an hour, and for me remembering how to get into this website, here is a photo:

Took this pic out of the vault... off the ice... for everyone to see!

Where is this? Can you guess?

Here’s hoping for a few more!

I need to find $2000 on the street

I am the world’s worst blogger.

I see many great people who blog daily, weekly, biweekly, or whenever they feel like it. And usually, they feel like it every few days! I always feel like I will, yet somehow I just run out of time. Perhaps I should just be more disciplined and allot a block of time every few days. Work out a schedule. Put to use this iPad of mine, perhaps?

What I like to believe in my head is that it’s unproductivity as a result of poor tools. The Dell laptop I’ve had since 2008 is really on its last breaths (not even, since the fans don’t work properly. To use my laptop in this crazy hot summer, it has it’s own oscillating fan), and I’ve been postponing lots of projects until I get a new computer. Podcasting. Blogging. Video. Photo even.

At this point, I’m ready to embrace the full Apple ecosystem: iPhone, iPad, iMac. I’ve wanted an iMac ever since those futuristic, blue, all-in-one machines started popping up in my middle school. Thankfully, they’ve evolved quite a bit since those CRT days. I can’t help but go and play with them whenever I find myself in an Apple store or one of those blue and yellow monstrosities of an electronics store.

There’s just one small problem: I need a good 200 unmelted Bordens (we don’t use that in Canada, do we?) to get one. They start at just $1199, but add a few hundred for better performance, and may as well add a few hundred for extra inches (insert size joke here), and before you know it, you’re looking at the cost of a crazy awesome adventure – that sits on your desk.

Fall. 2012. So long as nobody announces thinner lighter iMac with Retina display (because I know it’s coming).

Photos

I went on a little adventure looking for an Ottawa installation called Balancing, only to discover it’s been gone since 2008. Oops. So I found a couple of new sculptures (and a couple of classics) to enjoy instead!

201207_18_01 - Tall Cello

201207_18_03 - Twist Up

201207_18_04 - Two of Three Watchmen

201207_18_05 - Under a Spider

115 – The New Canon

201103_14_03 - Canon Rebel T3i

201103_14_04 - mud

201103_14_17 - Sun and Needles

201103_14_25 - LOL Butts

201103_15_05 - Thai Pipe

201103_15_07 - Peep Hole

201103_16_03 - Flight

201103_16_13 - Helicopter in the Window

201103_16_16 - Chatr

201103_17_02 - Again in the Snow

201103_17_04 - Bus at an Intersection

I got a new camera! It’s amazing! All the pictures above were taken with it. Whenever I get a new camera (which has only happened three times, including this one), I suddenly see the world differently. Now, I see footprints in mud, and sneakers hanging from phone wires, and unusual pipes that don’t seem to be doing anything other than look important. One thing I miss with my previous camera is its zoom though. I’m going to need to go and get a lens soon. And those are pricey.

I just need time to go out and play with it. Mysteriously, I have a family of small mannequins that I really want to use for a set of photos… I can not wait! But they are heavy. If you want to help, let me know.

This Canon T3i (ESO 600D) purchase is just one (albeit the biggest) of many purchases that I think has made this March a crazy expensive month it seems. But, thanks to me doing my taxes very early, I can afford it for the moment! Of course, the next big thing, also coming this month: Nintendo 3DS. That one I can’t wait for! I’ll take a picture of it with my camera, then turn around and take a 3D pic with the DS. It’ll be epic. Or not.

And yes, those are shots of Toronto.

114 – Ninety-Five Percent

201102_14_02 - Almost Complete

201102_16_01 - Northern Telecom

201102_16_02 - Traffic

201102_18_01 - Alley

Three of these four pictures were taken waiting at bus stops. The last one was taken walking to a bus stop where I had to wait.

I’m not happy that my local bus is on the list being considered to be downgraded from a regular black route to a red peak period route, going from available morning to night everyday to rush hour-only route for school kids at 8 and 3.

The city has the idea that they can ave money by taking the 98.6% of Ottawa that live within 5 minutes of a bus stop and shrinking it to 95% within 5 minutes… some of the time [article]! It’s bad enough that I have to wait so long at night between connections, but at least there is a connection. It doesn’t make any sense to make it hard for people to get home, especially at night. Aren’t buses supposed to be an alternative to keep people from driving after drinking? How about the parents who can’t always pick up their kids after going out with friends? Or all the older people who need buses to kneel for them? Can they walk an easy 20 minutes (because they tend to be slower than an average walker) in the rain or snow or humidity?

You want to hit a high ridership percentage, then the system has to be usable. If you want to increase (or maintain) ridership, you need to keep local buses accessible.

The public transportation system and ridership are always stuck in this cyclical chicken-egg pattern. But in order to save costs, you cut service, which cuts ridership – which in turn means less revenue, leading to more cuts. And what gets cut? The least profitable routes, which coincidentally are the routes that help make those bigger more profitable rapid-transit routes the successes that they are.

You need to save money, start at the top. Curb the overspending there. I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about OC Transpo management for years, and clearly this scheduling system isn’t working the way it was meant to on paper. You want to reduce inefficiencies to save a few pennies, then redesign the whole system! Keep to running the local buses more frequently (drivers get paid the same, regardless of where they end up) into hubs where other buses will take us riders where we want to go, quickly. Merge local routes at night if you have to, but don’t kill them altogether. Will Samuel, a fellow Ottawan that I started following during the last municipal election, has a great read here.

Spend a couple hundred million and get us light rail that can hold way more riders to the city’s biggest destinations! Where’s the fast, reliable way to go from downtown to Scotiabank Place, and all the stops in between? Building a tunnel where we don’t really need one doesn’t help either.

I would gladly spend over $100 on a monthly pass (we’re almost there now anyway; Toronto riders spend less than $130/mo for a system that, in my experience, works very quickly, but that’s another story) that saves me 20 or 30 minutes a day. Rail could do that. Frequent local buses could do that. Making me walk more and wait more won’t.

You want to give OC Transpo a facelift? You don’t need crazy fancy rebranding – OC Transpo is probably one of the top 5 known local brands. Concentrate on making buses a social experience. When people think buses, they think of dirty transports that rarely come on time and are crammed with strangers. Really, it’s a great way to find time daily to be with friends and neighbours on the way to work or play. Make it easy for riders to bring friends and family with them!

OC Transpo needs to change at a fundamental level, and it’s going to cost money, whether that’s new buses (I’m looking at you, double decker), rail, more drivers, redesigning routes, and or a new paint job on the brand. Spend the time and energy and money now to take OC Transpo to the next level… or a new level. Focus on increasing revenue through more stronger ridership. In return, can we just have an accessible system that just works for us all?

113 – Winterlude

201102_13_05 - Ask Me About My Breakfast

201102_13_06 - Yin and Yang

201102_13_10 - CEPJB

201102_13_17 - At the End

201102_13_25 - Musical Geese

201102_13_28 - Bubble

201102_13_36 - Parliament in the Snow

201102_13_37 - Smile

For all the trouble that winter causes, it really does have it’s fun side. Skiing, skating, snowmen, snow forts, ice hotels, ice sculptures. Winterlude combines a few of these into a really fun festival just when people usually start tiring of the cold season. I love going down and seeing the exhibits and sculptures and people out enjoying themselves (and Beavertails)! Fortunately I managed to make my way downtown this year (it’s been three or four years since I last went – even longer since I made it to the Quebec side of the festivities).

There were some very nice sculptures this year. Perhaps my favourite was this interactive domino-like sculpture that had windows that were perfectly aligned. It gave you the tunneling effect of looking in a reflection of a reflection of a mirror, without seeing yourself. Very cool!

Perhaps it’s because I’m more aware of these kinds of things, but the event seems to get increasingly more branded by sponsors. Rogers and Samsung were on hand to provide heat, photo ops, and a peek at their gadgets and services. Everyone at the Rogers tent were having a good time, snapping pictures of their friends in a Galaxy Tab, tweeting a rogers hashtag to get it on the big screen, and trying to touch the ice-encased smartphones. It’s brilliant how they created a positive interactive experience that fits the theme of Winterlude.

Of course, the best part of Winterlude is the Beavertail! The lines at Confederation park were pretty long (though efficient I noticed), so we opted to head to the storefront in the market. I haven’t been in a while, and in that time, they’ve developed a number of new types! I tried the apple cinnamon, which was amazing.

I had a great time and I wish there were more winter festivals in the area, which would give people more reasons to get together and be outside in this beautiful season.

More Photos here.

112 – How Did Shopping Carts Get Up There?

201102_11_02 - Next Stop: Carleton

201102_11_03 - 501 Heron

201102_11_04b - Bronson / Airport PKWY Overpass

201102_12_01i - Shopping Atop a Mountain

There’s so much waiting done each and every day. It’s so easy to become annoyed and pace while waiting for the waiting to end. I do most of my waiting at bus stops (and increasingly, O-Train stops), and for a while, I took a fair number of pictures for those 5- or 12- or 30-minute waits. Then DS games, books, and eventually the iPhone got in the way, demanding my full attention not only at stops, but for the whole commute. Yet lately, a sudden reversal. Perhaps I should apologize now!

Speaking of iPhone, the Google Translate app is available, free, and pretty much the most amazing tool ever. Just speak into it, and it can speak your phrase back in another language! Hoshi Sato might even be impressed. I want to go to a non-English-speaking area and see if I can really get by using it to communicate. Would anyone like to take a trip to India, China, or Mexico? In fact, Google if you’re listening, I would blog and Youtube the whole experience!

Photos: I love the view of the O-Train heading North from Confederation Station. If I were more daring, I would jump down onto the track after it departs to get a better shot. There’s only a few seconds before the train is too far away!

Also, on my way home tonight, I noticed that, somehow, a couple of shopping carts have ended up atop a parking lot snow mountain. Alas, I didn’t have my camera, but the iPhone worked to prove the insanity of such a discovery. I hope Loblaws isn’t missing their carts…

111 – Mountains in the Parking Lot

201102_10_01i - Mountain

201102_10_02i - Beyond this Point

201102_10_03i - Bayview

Perhaps the best thing about Winter is snow. It’s amazing how it can completely change the look of the land- and cityscapes. Unfortunately, in order to be able to get anywhere, it needs to be put somewhere. Often, it’s in a corner of a parking lot, which creates a sizable mountain that, as a kid, I loved to climb. Because there were no nearby hills to slide down (that I knew about, but I have since discovered a few…) these mountains of unwanted snow were where I would toboggan and slide and dig out forts. They were canvases where a young Ben could let his imagination go.

I haven’t climbed any this year. Yet.

The flip side of winter is the cold. When you aren’t playing, when you have to go from point A to B (or when I’m commuting home, A to B to C to D), the cold is a nuisance. Salt stains everything an undesirable grey, and waiting 10 minutes feels like an hour. Seeing your bus pull away as you run to the platform is the most depressing sight, because it means waiting 10 minutes, or 30 minutes.

Lately, I’ve decided to walk home rather than wait for that bus that just doesn’t line up with the other ones. I get home at about the same time, but walking and moving around in the cold, I think, is more desirable than standing still… as long as it’s not a piercing cold blowing right at you!

110 – Calm After the Storm

201102_03_01i - Calm After the Storm

201102_09_01i - Snowfall

201102_09_02i - Branches

One of the small things in life that I truly enjoy is the calm after a storm. One moment, it’s thundering and lightning bolts touching down all around, and the next, the sky is clear and the sun is beaming, as if it’s happy to be back. Maybe it’s the quick reversal of weather that intensifies the beauty that’s all around that makes me not take it, at least for a short while, for granted.

Last week, I had a moment when I was waiting for a bus, after the big “snowmageddon” (and I use that term in quotes, because it wasn’t a bad storm at all, at least not by Ottawa’s standards) where, yes, it wasn’t the best weather to be commuting through, but the next morning had a certain crispness to it. It was calming, despite the traffic zooming by. It’s that feeling that, if it could be bottled, I could make a fortune. I took a picture instead.

And yesterday, it had started snowing in the afternoon. Seemingly out of nowhere, huge flakes began to fall slowly, as if each one was taking it’s time. The thickness of the snowfall muted everything, which also created a certain serenity. If every snowfall in winter was like that one, nobody would be as quick to have groundhogs see their shadows.

I want to get using this blog (again) the way I wanted to when I first created it. A blogging hero of mine, Joseph Mallozzi (http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/) says that a writer should write everyday. And in the three or four-plus years that he’s been blogging, he hasn’t missed a single day. Then again, he is a writer. And he eats a lot. I’m not committing to updating this that frequently, but I would like it to inspire me to take more photos so that I can share them here (and of course, on my flickr account, http://www.flickr.com/photos/myutopian).

Last year, despite going on two (2!) trips, I only took pictures on 77 days, which is the lowest it’s been since I got a digital camera! I would love to get back to 100+ calendar days this year, though probably not my peak year of 190 days back in good ol’ ’06. So, please enjoy and tell me to take more pictures!

109 – Vancouver

201011_10_02 - Somewhere Over Alberta

201011_10_07 - P A R K

201011_11_07 - Flag Bearer

201011_11_17 - 4OZ Beers

201011_11_23 - Olympic Cauldron

201011_12_02 - Pedestrian

201011_12_17 - Hike Self-Portrait

201011_12_27 - Outdoors

201011_12_33 - Ducks Relaxing

201011_12_44 - Reflection

201011_13_19 - German Friendship Globe

201011_14_05 - Wake

201011_15_22 - Haida

201011_15_24 - Bowen Queen

More pictures here: Flickr Vancouver Set

Ignore the fact for a moment that I went to Vancouver in November and it’s now the following February. Time passes quickly, and everything you want to do always seems to get bypassed for all the things you have to do. That makes making the time for the important things in life that much more of a priority. It’s for this reason that I’m finally sitting down to write about my trip.

It’s also for this reason that I was extremely excited that my friend Cat invited me all the way to the other end of the country for a week mostly to hang out and see and do a bunch of the things that I’ve only heard about. Granville Island, Stanley Park, Cypress Mountain, ferry, Mickey’s cache, Skytrain.

Before this trip, the farthest West I had travelled was a weekend camping trip to Banff, on a month-long french program in Saskatoon (interestingly, where I met Cat to begin with). Travelling to both Saskatoon and Banff was all done by bus. Slow, but an awesome way to see a large swath of the country. Flying over the Rocky Mountains was a spectacular sight. Many of the peaks had just got snow, which really reinforces that snow-capped mountain stereotype. I was amazed that nobody in the plane was taking in such beauty.

The “Skytrain” I took went mostly underground. And I relinquished my seat for a little boy and his mother – the boy kept asking his mom what my luggage was. The plane in was so early that it left me with a fair amount of time to kill before Cat’s class ended. Thankfully, I had my trusty iPhone that directed me all over downtown. I managed to find streets and shops and bathrooms and, eventually, Cat’s campus, luggage in tow. How did people live without Google Maps in their pockets?

I have to say that Vancouver is stunning. I was expecting it to be nice, but wasn’t expecting to be blown away every time there was a mountain in the distance. The view of the city from the house makes me want to live closer to downtown (and at a higher elevation that really doesn’t exist here). One day, we did a geocaching-inspired coastal tour, and despite the overcast weather, I could barely take it all in, there’s so much to see! I’ve always had a hard time grasping the idea that people can make homes out of trees, but that was made easier by the massiveness of some of the trees (and stumps) at Lynn Canyon, where yes, I did stand on a suspension bridge perilously high above rock and water. I was in a parade, saw an Olympic cauldron, celebrated a birthday, went to the original Old Spaghetti Factory (closest one is in Toronto, they have good lasagna), learned boardgames, and even made it to Victoria (the ferry at Swartz Bay is now officially the most West I’ve been).

Every time I’ve goon anywhere, I’ve been blessed with amazing hosts. Cat’s family and friends raised that bar. I ate incredibly well (had Yorkshire pudding for the first time. It was great, even the day after despite warnings from the locals), was taken care of being on the verge of being sick, and putting up with my tiredness that kicked in surprisingly early. And wine. And putting a whole wagon wheel in my mouth. And my kidnapping a blanket by mistake.

The six days blew by so incredibly fast – you think “six days? I can do everything!” It doesn’t work that way. I would have loved to find time to meet up with a couple of friends I made in high school that live out there, or sneak into Bridge Studios and steal a glimpse of a stargate (we did drive by though!), or run into 3 famous people, or see the former Olympic Village, or find whales… Six weeks might have made most of that possible. But for the six days that were, I had an incredible time and my senses were overwhelmed and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!