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.

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!

052 – Day Five, Six, Seven

200812_15_01 - The Blah Part of Winter
200812_15_02 - Driveway Cum Pond

200812_15_03 - Nanaimo & Okanagan

200812_15_04 - I'll Take My Chances

200812_15_05 - Bayshore Station

Day five was fun. I arrived at work an hour and a half early (when rides are offered, you don’t really want to push your luck). This allowed me the opportunity to sit down and have breakfast with a coworker. Subway breakfasts have become boring ever since they stopped actually preparing eggs and stopped carrying round 4″ buns; they’re microwave-ready egg patties leave me with an underwhelming ‘meh’. I learned that there was freezing rain going on, so thankfully another coworker offered me a ride home.

On Day Six of this wondrous OC Transpo bus strike, I did the inevitable: I walked to work. With a car, there are half a dozen different routes to take to get there, and two buses (that take the same basic route). That said, there’s no convenient way to actually walk there, not without having to overshoot and circle back, or walking from point A to point B to point C to the Destination. It’s all very awkward, and a lot of it has to do with how poorly planned out the mall and its immediate surroundings were. I opted to use a bunch of side streets that looked via Google Earth to be the best path to take. Had it not been winter, I’m sure there are other shortcuts that could have been explored, but snow limits one’s ability to explore. As does time, and the need to actually have energy to function for the following eight hours.

I also defiantly walked past a “do not walk here” sign on the transitway and walked straight through the station, in the middle of the road. It’s not like there are any buses around to be delayed or hit me, right?

What worked for me was that the temperature was not only above zero, but edging toward double digits. Winter boots kept my feet (mostly) dry as all that snow we’ve been up to started going the way snow does when its warm. Had it been colder, or windy, it might have been hell. Luckily, all I really had to deal with was the splashing caused by vehicles thanks to the watery state of the roads. One driveway I saw during my journey was less a driveway and more a pond.

You also notice in the winter that most of these side streets don’t actually have sidewalks.

Today, I went to pay for my winter semester. The credit card company is probably happy now that I owe them money. I feigned happiness to the woman at the Registrar’s office that I would be getting lots of reward points, kicking myself slightly for not going with the not-so-free credit card plan that rewards me more points for every dollar I spend.

My little cousin drove me, since she had an appointment at the school. It’s moments like that where you realise that the little girl you perceive is actually almost 18, is driving by herself, and is planning to move into a house with a bunch of friends. We talked about drinking and driving and drugs and boyfriends. Very surreal.

Her appointment turns out would last the whole evening, so I walked home rather than wait an hour for a friend to pick me up. I might have waited had I remembered that they day before, snow was melting left, right, and centre, while today it was comfortably below zero. The whole bike path was ice. Yay for winter boot traction!

One week later, I must admit that with a bit of luck and wonderful people patiently dealing with my frequent requests for rides, the bus strike hasn’t been too bad. Sure, I still have some Christmas shopping to do that I haven’t done, and I haven’t had the freedom to go and do things, but I’m still getting to school and work as needed. The two head cheeses behind this kerfuffle still aren’t bending to meet one another at some reasonable medium. Last I heard, there’s talk of possibly talking again “before Christmas”. Here’s to another week of getting around how I have been: one day at a time.

051 – Day 3, 4

I went to Cornwall (city south of Ottawa, on the Ontario-New York border) to make sure a window was installed at my friend’s house. Aside from a brief visit to Niagara falls in the early 90s, this is the closest I have ever been to the US. It took about an hour and a half to get there, and all I could think was “in an hour and a half, I could almost get from home to Carleton University, and back by bus and O-Train”. Or not, since it was the third day of the strike.

While there, my friend’s dad and I begun work on a project that we have. A while back, I may have hinted at something cool I was working on. My friend’s dad writes lots of articles about Nepal. What I had done for his birthday was edit and compile a number of them and make them into a book, using Blurb software. The end result was very good. We’ve decided to use it as a starting point to refine the book and make it sellable. We worked a bit on it, changing a few things here and there. We would have worked more, but the house was cold, so we headed back home. When we got back, I made arrangements to get to work the next day.

200811_19_04 - Insight into Nepal
The Book

Luckily Prashanta and Prabin agreed to take me to work, though we did arrive a little bit late. The one thing I love about going to work every day is that you get to see the changes that occur. Because I hadn’t been there in almost three days, there was a lot to take in: things get moved, things are gone, there are new things, someone changes his or her hair. I don’t know what it would be like to be gone for a week. Or more! Someday, I’ll have to take a trip somewhere and find out. I left work early just because there wasn’t a whole lot to do. It’s proving pretty rough being at retail in a prime holiday shopping season when inventory levels are low. It really becomes a box of chocolates when you throw in a transit strike and weather that can change on a dime.

Fortunately, Prashanta was able to pick me up when I was done. I’m kinda looking forward to the time when I actually walk from home to work, or vice versa. I just want to complain about having had to walk all that. Of course, I think I would want to wear a sandwich board telling those who pass me about my wonderful love for the City and the transit union. I also can’t wait for the Internet to evolve to the point where sarcasm is clearly shown as it is when spoken.

I did play a bit of Metroid Prime with a 12-year old. I absolutely love that game – up until the last region, Phazon Mines. Tallon, Magmoor, and Phendrana are all spectacular levels with so much to discover. I could play that first half of the game over and over and still enjoy the story, the art style, the enemies and bosses… it’s that last part of the game that ruined it for me. Replaying that 6-year old game (!!!!) really stirred my desire to continue playing Metroid Prime 3 for Wii. I’ll get to playing games when I have the time.

200812_13_01 - Windshield View

200812_13_02 - Driving

050 – Day Two

200812_11_03 - Snowshoes

200812_11_04 - Ploughed Bike Path

200812_11_07 - Winter Sun

200812_11_08 - Deserted

200812_11_10 - Undisturbed

200812_11_12 - Cattail

200812_11_15 - Trio

The benefit of not having buses is that I won’t hear the early morning bus go by if I’m up at 4AM and 5AM. I haven’t been up that late in a long time.

I had to go to school for a meeting, so I walked. I brought along my newly-acquired snowshoes so that I could take the bike path that cuts through the Centrepointe area. This path is faster than taking any major roads from my house. After the recent blizzard, I figured the path would be travelled, but difficult (hence the snowshoes), but to be surprise, it was completely ploughed! On my way home, I donned the snowshoes and walked around Centrepointe park – at least until the battery in my camera died.

Is walking a realistic alternative to public transit? It is in some cases. For instance, the walk to school was a pleasant one, given that the weather was nice. And to be honest, it isn’t something I’ve ever done. The only time I had not taken the bus to get to school was the one time I biked along that same path earlier this fall. The 40-50 minutes it takes might get old over time though, especially if it got really cold.

I do, however, really like the idea of showshoeing. I hated it back in elementary school when we would use the big, heavy wooden ones. Not too long ago, I got the idea that I would like to try it again, with a more modern, aluminum set. I figured since I love winter so much, I should go and do more outdoorsy activities, beyond skating on the canal (which I hate and only do once a year). Perhaps I’ll actually try snowboarding this year. It looks so easy in 1080 and SSX, after all!

Day two wasn’t much of an issue, even less so than yesterday was. As I ponder how I’ll get to and from work over the weekend, I’m hoping that the City and the transit union stop acting like fourth graders and start actually trying to resolve their issues. At least the union leader isn’t doing interviews anymore. A 10-year old could give better interviews – 10-year olds are in the 4th grade, after all.

Speaking of which, I did see Dan in Real Life last night. It was a surprisingly good movie, with actors in roles in which you don’t often seem them. It also makes me not want to wait to have children. That movie might have caused a strange dream in which I was introducing to my family two women (one slightly younger and one significantly older, though neither are people I actually know) who were pregnant by me. However, it was all elaborate, like a reality show, with all kinds ot twists and turns and “you’ll find out… when we come back!”-esque moments. I guess that would be the best way to go about such a situation.

025 – Home Stretch, Snow Fall

200711_01_01 - Building Christmas
Building Christmas

200711_17_01 - Shirley Temples
Shirley Temples

200711_17_04 - Fried Art
Fried Art

200711_18_03 - 1408
1408. Scary. OooOOoOO.

200711_22_01 - Long Line of Laptops
Long line of laptops.

200711_27_03 - Heart Art
Creative foot positioning

200711_28_01 - Rock On
Guitar Hero is a game for “everyone”… but song on their slowest setting sound terrible.

200711_29_02 - Snowfall
The snow is falling!

200711_29_04 - Mini Snowman
A made a snowman in 2 minutes at Cat’s suggestion.

200711_30_02 - Santa's Sleigh
The random snow-dirt on the bus reminds me of Santa’s sleigh.

200712_03_02 - Sidewalk?
That is a sidewalk.

200712_03_03 - Billy the Cowboy
William Shatner is everywhere…

200712_04_02 - Skull
Pirates lamp. Expensive. Not for me.

200712_04_03 - Type B Bulb
Naturally, light bulb is not included.

Winter seems to be here. I was sceptical after the first bit of snow that we got, but since then, we’ve received a fair amount. Probably the same amount that we had by February last year. Then again, last year was a bit lacking in the whole frozen precipitation department. I just want the snow to be sticky enough to start sculpting!

School-wise, I’m in the home stretch. By this time next week, this first term of the new program will be behind me. To prepare for exams, I’m not working from Saturday through Tuesday, but I’m picking up those lost hours throughout the rest of next week. Talk about busy! As friends slowly flock back from various areas, I hope to have some fun.

Until then, I have things to finish. Still. I just thought I would update with some pictures. I have no idea where I found time to upload the pictures. But hey, don’t complain!