Mad Men, the television show on AMC, has been one of my favourite TV shows the past ten years. Discovered through Netflix, I have devoured the every season since I first discovered it five years ago. The theme song is instantly recognizable, to lovers of the show and likely to non-viewers of the show.
The story behind its creation is not something I had looked up before. It was by chance after browsing through Spotify’s new albums when I came across the artist RJD2. One of his latest songs, Doin’ It Right, had a good vibe to it and I went to find a version of it on YouTube. When I searched for it, I came across RJD2 performing a song titled, “A Beautiful Mine,” which had the subtitle of being the theme from Mad Men.
But one fateful day, Weiner was driving listening to Marketplace on NPR when he heard an instrumental version of RJD2's song playing as a segue between two stories. He immediately called his assistant who helped him identify the song. “We listened to it, and it had everything to it: Big old movie quality to it, and updated beat to it, it had drama. I just loved it."
The original song is not an instrumental, but a rap song with the rapper Aceyalone rapping overtop of the noticeable beats. Interestingly enough, it is the story of a man.
Something outa nothing
Oh, what a far cry
More than a hard tribe
Pointed out the start guide
Made love, made hate
Nothing left the crate but fate
The series finale airs on Sunday, so it is fitting that I come across the story of that theme song at the very end of its lifespan.
Springtime is the best time to renew your energies. I was feeling on the verge of collapse mentally and physically with everything happening in my life when I came across a simple phrase:
The pause that refreshes
It comes from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. The short section talks about becoming more aware of how certain events can preoccupy your mind and letting go to be in the moment. The work/life balance is the main focus of it, which is difficult for me to relate to since I have no clear separation between the two (I work from home, not in an environment outside of the house.) Working on that separation between the negative events in one area not effecting the other area, made me realize that I needed something more. Not neccessarily a vacation, but some kind of break.
I thought about trying to find a place to escape through AirBnB. There were quite a variety of places to choose from that were secluded or in a town I had only driven through. Many of them were quite appealing, but time was a factor as well. Do I want to be sitting in a car for three or more hours to reach my destination? Instead, I turned my interest to a place more local, that I had been to before, and that just happened to send me an email announcing a great deal for locals.
Sparkling Hill Resort is a place that words have a hard time describing. Reading back through my first experience there over four years ago, Beautiful Sparkling Hill, I was as impressed now as I was then. I found myself looking forward to rediscovering the little gems hidden around the complex, as much as I was looking forward to relaxing in the saunas.
Located a short 30 minute drive from Kelowna, it’s a convenient getaway for locals. Its location high up in the hills overlooking the surround lakes make it the perfect retreat - away from the busy city centres, but close enough if you’re needing somewhere else to explore during the daytime.
After hustling through Friday afternoon traffic and checking in, I put on my running shoes to get geared up for a hike in the hills. A few kilometres through the woods, a relatively steep incline over granite rock faces, brings you to a gorgeous view of the Okanagan valley.
I was fortunate enough to time the hike so I reached the peak shortly before a storm started to blow through. The winds were howling when I was standing at the peak, dark clouds rolling in. I was thankful that the descent through the hills was covered by thick woods, followed by a quick walk back up to the sanctuary. An hour and a half in the hills was more than enough to get me ready to have a meal and retreat to the saunas to recover.
The saunas1 were more memorable to me this time. I remembered several of them from before, but I had forgotten or never had a chance to experience some of the other ones. There are seven saunas to enjoy, ranging from a high and dry heat (90C with 10% humidity) to extremely humid saunas that have you dripping in sweat after a few seconds. An hour of alternating between the saunas, the outdoor infinity pool, and the hot tub, had my body melting away. It was wonderful to sit in there and not think, about work or life.
The next morning was a continuation of Friday evening. Woke up with the sun shining through the window early in the morning. I generally sleep in on the weekends when I don’t have my daughter, but that day, I was up and downstairs for breakfast by 7:30 am feeling quite refreshed. A full breakfast buffet is included in the room rate and offers everyone what they need to start their day.
Afterwards, I retreated to the saunas once more. They were slightly busier than the night before as people tried to relax more before departing. I took a moment afterwards to lay down in the Tea Room, a relaxation room, enjoying the sun, the view and a cup of jasmine tea.
One night is more than enough time for me to recharge myself and be better prepared for the coming weeks/months. This will definitely not be the last time I take a break at Sparkling Hill, though I will make sure I go there a little more frequently than once every four years. My one night there was a reminder of how good it feels to take a break, not look at my phone or other device, and do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
How beautiful it is to do nothing and then rest afterwards
Images of the sauna and relaxation room are from their website. No cameras are allowed in the spa area, partly because of all the moisture in the air, but also because after 9pm is a European hour - clothing optional. ↩
In preparation for the coming summer season, I have been taking some time to explore the Okanagan more. Partially to satisfy my own natural curiousity about the historical background of the region, but also to provide ideas of things to do for the guests of the vacation rental. When I first arrived in the valley five years ago, I thought the history was to be fairly basic: the valley was discovered to be a perfect climate to grow apples, peaches, and other fruit, and then slowly grew up to be a bustling city based on tourism and the environment.
Nothing is ever quite that simple. Dispersed through the region you will hear stories of the characters that helped build the area from the ground up. On this particular day, I went to explore the waterfalls of Fintry.
Fintry is a small town located on the western shores of the Okanagan, between West Kelowna and Vernon, to the North. A windy road leads you to Fintry from either direction, full of mule deer and bighorn sheep. Another windy road leads down from the highway into the delta that the town of Fintry is built near. Fintry itself is almost exclusively a residential town. Across Shorts Creek is the Fintry Provincial Park, the real highlight of the area.
When I parked the car to hike up to the waterfall, I was greeted by a sight that I wasn’t prepared for. Wide open fields that were used for farming in the past, and several large farming buildings built in the 1910s. The Provincial Park is actually the original estate of Captain Thomas Shorts, who purchased the land in 1882. He operated a business of rowing cargo and people up and down the Okanagan Lake, 125 km in length. When paddle-wheelers started showing up on the lake, he was put out of business in 1893.
James Cameron Dun-Waters came onto the property in 1908 and started to transform the property from nothing into a bustling farm. His history is rather fascinating. A young man from Scotland, he inherited a sizeable inheritance when he was only 22. He spent his early years traveling the world hunting before he came across the Okanagan and fell in love.
The farm buildings are mainly untouched and slowly crumbling to the ground. It was a quiet day, so I was able to freely walk around to take some time to marvel at the old construction. I was really drawn to the lines of the buildings, the colours of the bricks stuck in the ground, and the rusted iron poking out. Something new to discover at each step.
Behind the farm yard, is the trail leading up to the waterfalls. Dun-Waters harnessed the power of the falls to power a small sawmill, have running water through his property, and even electricity to power a private phone system between the buildings. 400 steps lead up the waterfalls - the same creek cascading down three separate times, progressively more impressive as you climb up. To hear the rush of water falling down 200’ and then turning your head to catch the sun lighting up the blue waters of the Okanagan Lake is quite wonderful.
After descending the stairs, I began to explore the rest of the estate. The area is quite large and hosts a provincial campground now, with a boat launch and beach. On the rest of the estate, there is an old packing house on the shoreline, a lighthouse, and the Victorian manor house that Dun-Waters built for his wife (picture at the beginning). Granite was taken from the cliff walls behind the house, and all the antiques inside were transported by paddle-wheeler to his property. Tours are available for the house in the summertime.
The packing house is all shuttered, which is a shame, because the view looking out from it is incredible. Naturally, a large, empty space that is locked up has been broken into, creating a new layer on top of the old wood.
Fintry is a neat afternoon adventure to take. I look forward to returning there in the summertime to view the inside of the manor house and exploring the buildings a little more closely.
This poem is on sun dials around the world, but I couldn’t find anything about the original publishing source. The only George Allison I could find reference to was a journalist and football manager in London around the turn of the nineteenth century. ↩
Ever since purchasing my new iPhone, I’ve been discovering that playing games on the larger screen is a much better experience.
Alto’s Adventure came out this week for iPhone. It’s an endless snowboarding game1, meaning the level only finishes when you crash. The game play is incredibly simple: a tap is a jump, pressing down causes you to flip. That’s it.
What sells me on the game is how beautiful it is. During the game, the light changes from sunlight to sunset to moonlight, making it a little more difficult as it gets darker.
It is only $2.00 on the App Store, so check it out:
We don’t commit now. We don’t see the point. They’ve always said there are so many fish in the sea, but never before has that sea of fish been right at our fingertips on OkCupid, Tinder, Grindr, Dattch, take your pick. We can order up a human being in the same way we can order up pad thai on Seamless. We think intimacy lies in a perfectly-executed string of emoji. We think effort is a “good morning” text. We say romance is dead, because maybe it is, but maybe we just need to reinvent it. Maybe romance in our modern age is putting the phone down long enough to look in each other’s eyes at dinner. Maybe romance is deleting Tinder off your phone after an incredible first date with someone. Maybe romance is still there, we just don’t know what it looks like now.
My problems with dating have always been two-fold:
Impossible for me to stand out from the thousands of guys on the dating sites.
Extremely difficult for me to get that second date.
The first one is something I can never conquer myself, without investing some money to be highlighted on the various dating sites. That strategy seems like a complete waste of money, because the only thing that will stand out is, “This guy knows how to use a credit card.” Nothing about being highlighted signifies that the guy should be more appealing than any other guy on the site.
The second is rather puzzling for me. I meet the woman, things seem to be going really well, and they tell you they want to see me again. The next morning, I get the dreaded text message: “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m quite ready for a relationship right now.”
Part of me wants to believe those messages, that the person really isn’t ready. The doubt almost always sets in that I was misled after a while. Some women have let it slip in conversations with me that they were a serial dater, going out to meet with men mainly to take advantage of the free meal and drinks, hopeful they would actually connect with the person but thankful for the freebies.
The more it happens to me, the more cynical it makes me. After each failed date, I start to think that the majority of women on these dating sites are out to take advantage of guys like me.
I am sure there are a lot of decent women on these sites, and they do have honest intentions. Jamie is right, though, in how easy it is to find the next great date. There is no compromise in finding a partner these days and then trying to make things work. People go on these first dates with a mental checklist of what they would like. At the first sign of something that contradicts an item on that list, no matter how major or minor, the Eject button is mentally pressed and the end of the date is imminent.
Finding someone to go out with, being rejected or ejecting myself out of date, and then starting all over again is mentally exhausting. It is even worse when I am still battling some inner demons trying to recover from a previous relationship. I read those messages of rejection and wonder about what needs to change in order for me to find someone that I connect with. I can never ask that person why they weren’t completely sold on me, because there is likely nothing wrong with me at all.
I am always going to be myself.
That is a big problem. My words and actions that are purely genuine, coming from my heart, being shared with someone of interest, can easily be read as a prepared message that was copy-and-pasted and sent to multiple women in quick succession. Every urge I have to send a, “How are you?” message is balanced with a moment of hesitation, wondering, “How many other men have asked her that tonight?”
That hesitation leads to more missed connections. Every message not sent, words not spoken, is a chance lost to reach out and make an impression. Without taking those chances, I will never know whether something may happen or not.
Having patience and continuing to take those minor risks more are all I have to work with right now. Eventually, I will find that deep connection that I desire.
The fall brought me a sense of panic that could have easily escalated into larger problems if I wasn’t careful. My daughter’s mother was once again going to be working in northern Alberta, leaving me to care for our daughter most of the time. The last time this happened, I didn’t handle it very well. Gained weight, felt miserable, and was completely unmotivated to do much of anything until the summer sun started to show up.
This time around, I did not want that to happen again. My biggest challenge last time was finding time to do anything since my daughter was only in preschool at the time (three hours a day.) I knew with my daughter being in kindergarten (six hours a day), finding the time would be slightly easier. The motivation was still a problem.
I find being alone more difficult now than it was when I was a fatherless bachelor working a regular job. So much of my energy goes towards my daughter that when she is absent, I grow restless. I am too accustomed to finding activities to do to help her learn, grow, and, perhaps most importantly, stay busy, that when I am alone, I have no idea what to do with myself.
I found myself doing a lot of things that were not very important to me for the sake of keeping my mind busy. Reading sites to discover new stuff, following the news closely, talking to people that there was no hope of a friendship, let alone relationship developing. I was still, thankfully, pushing myself to workout regularly by lifting my kettle bells or get out for a walk when the weather was cooperating. That kept me more mentally sharp than I would have been otherwise.
Things started to turn around when I started the juicing. There were definite mental health benefits from doing it. I didn’t experience the major weight loss like in the documentary that inspired it, but I was also not juicing full-time. One juice a day was enough to awaken my mind and help me stay mentally sound.
The other important switch was with the protein I was using to supplement my workouts. Gone was the Muscle Pharm Combat Powder, and I said hello to Whey Gainer Punch - lactose and gluten free. It was much easier on my stomach and further encouraged me to be more active knowing the reward afterwards was not going to tax my body heavily.
I thought I was doing pretty well. I noticed a bit of weight loss, muscle gain, and was feeling sharp mentally. Christmas came and went.
I am 3/4 of the way through Essentialism now. I wanted to write about it after the first chapter, but thought better of it. Getting through the final section, I feel much better in declaring it one of my favourite books that I have read. Each chapter is like a punch to the stomach and opening my eyes to a lot of things that I failed to even think of that I was doing wrong. I could quote several parts of the book, but this last paragraph has stood out for me:
Nonessentialists say yes because of feelings of social awkwardness and pressure. They say yes automatically, without thinking, often in pursuit of the rush one gets from having pleased someone. But Essentialists know that after the rush comes the pang of regret. They know they will soon feel bullied and resentful- both at the other person and at themselves. Eventually they will wake up to the unpleasant reality that something more important must now be sacrificed to accommodate this new commitment. Of course, the point is not to say no to all requests. The point is to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter. It is to say no- frequently and gracefully- to everything but what is truly vital.
That paragraph is me in a nutshell: I live in a constant fear of letting people down when I say no to them, so I say yes. Often. The next chapter after that paragraph discusses allowing people to make their problems your problem to deal with. It traps you from making the right choices for yourself. Reading these chapters one after the other was pretty much a knockout punch for me.
Everything in the book is helping me eliminate a lot of the unnecessary and discover the necessary for my life, but that one paragraph has really resonated for me. My goal for this year is to say no more frequently, and not take on other people’s problems as much as I have in the past. I still want to help people, but I don't want to devote so much energy to people when I don't feel any better afterwards or there is no reciprocation involved.
It is not an easy thing to accomplish, but like weight loss, one step at a time. By the end of the year, I hope to feel more motivated about my own life and not so disappointed when I can’t help others.
After several years of watching people use large Android phones, Apple released their own larger phones this past October. Initially, I resisted diving in and buying one. I was rather content with the size and the camera of my two year-old iPhone 5, but then I started seeing the photographs of people using the newer phones and was greatly impressed.
Seeing all the gorgeous images on Instagram helped nudge me in the right direction. What finally encouraged me to get it was the year-end sale that Telus1 was having on their devices. Saving nearly $100 on the phone was all I needed to go out and purchase the iPhone 6 (64GB, Space Grey).
There are many reviews of the phone out there that will be much more exhaustive than I could ever get into, but in short:
the phone is beautiful out of the package and fits nicely in my hands
camera is incredible
battery life is as advertised, lasting for the better part of the day for me, whereas the iPhone 5 needed to be charged midday
screen is gorgeous to read on and makes for a better reading experience than the 4” phones (iPhone 5, 5C, 5S)
TouchID is a wonderful thing to have when using 1Password, especially.
All that being said, I did find the phone to be a bit slick. I decided to go out and purchase a case for it, the Spigen Tough Armor Case. It does add a bit of weight to the phone, making it roughly the same weight as the iPhone 5, which is fine with me. It definitely improves upon how slick the phone felt before though. No concerns about dropping it2 now unless I am trying to juggle it around with other items in my hand.
By far, the most impressive thing about the phone itself is the camera. I enjoyed using the iPhone 5 for pictures, but love taking photographs with the iPhone 6.
Stay tuned for more pictures, apps I am loving, and more.
If you are interested in switching to Telus, contact me and I can give you $25-50 off a new phone. ↩
Especially my five year-old daughter dropping it. ↩
December 31st, roughly 9:00 PM, 2009: a life was born, and my life changed forever.
The one story I have told to several people recently is about everything that happened after my daughter’s birth. I am sure it is one that a lot, if not all, fathers go through. There is the shared enjoyment of seeing your child for the first time, weighing it, trying to capture the moment with your camera and get some pictures of the doctor holding the baby with the mom. After the room has cleared out for the most part, there is that quiet moment with the mom.
A few words from the mom along the lines of, “I’m tired. I’m hungry. Get me something to eat while I rest.”
Of course she’s hungry.
Normally, this wouldn’t be quite as challenging to find something for her. If birth had been given earlier in the day, the cafeteria would have been open at the hospital, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and so on. But my daughter was born late at night, on the biggest party night of the year. Making it even more challenging was how cold it felt and the amounts of snow piled up on the roadway as the wind blew it around.
Walking through the hallways to get to my vehicle, my mind kept thinking about all the options of where I could get food at this hour for the mom. I was pretty lost as to where I should go because I had just moved to the city six weeks prior, and had hardly ventured into Kelowna from across the lake at this time. I knew how to get to the hospital and that was about it. I was thinking about this when I opened the door to my Jeep and hopped inside.
Then it hit me: I am a father.
Second thought: I need to call my parents.
So, there I sat, in the minus 10C weather, inside a cold Jeep, calling my parents who were congregating in Regina with my brother and sister. After 5-10 minutes of telling them the details about my daughter’s size, I had to pull myself together so I could drive around the city and not crash my vehicle.
I remember stopping at the Tim Horton’s quite a ways from the hospital after stopping at several other places in hopes of them being open. The trip to the Tim Horton’s and back was a bit of a blur. The only thing I remember is that there were half a dozen police cars parked out front when I pulled in.
When I returned to the hospital nearly an hour later after I had left the mother and daughter, it was pretty quiet. She was pretty wiped (partly due to the drugs still escaping her system), so we ate in silence. Wandered over to look at our daughter in the other room, looked at some of the other babies that were born earlier that day, and then she retired to her bedroom while I made the drive home.
Of course, since it was 2010, I had to make the obligatory Facebook status update:
Est-ce que je peux aller à la toilette?
Over this past year, my daughter has grown even more than she did the year prior. In September 2013, she started her Montessori preschool, and finished in June of 2014. By the end of June, she knew the continents, the planets, her alphabet and could count higher than I could imagine. In September 2014, she started Kindergarten - French Immersion.
French Immersion was a calculated risk. My daughter has incredible memory. When she was a toddler, I thought it had to do more with things that mattered to her, but after preschool, I realized her memory was useful for basically everything- routines at school, phrases, numbers, and so forth. I thought maybe French Immersion would be a good challenge for her since it would be a different environment for her and she would have to learn a lot of new things that she didn’t learn in Montessori.
It has gone much better than expected. Her vocabulary grows on a daily basis, and the common phrases roll right off her tongue. She did amazingly well at her Christmas concert singing a song in English and French. Couldn’t be more proud of her.
Apart from schooling, she had another adventurous year. A trip to Edmonton in August to visit friends and family with her mother. Her trip there in 2013 left quite an impression on her. She could easily tell me what happened and what she wanted to do again on this next trip. Her second plane trip in her short life nearly matches the number of flights I took in my first 18 years.
Another trip with her mom to Vancouver for a weekend was also a lot of fun for her. Another trip to the Aquarium, ride the SkyTrain, and to see the Christmas light display in Stanley Park had her talking quite a bit.
No trips outside of Kelowna with me for her, but she did go through two levels of swimming lessons over six weeks with me, several Kelowna Rockets games, trips to see the kokanee salmon run, and several mini-adventures downtown to explore. One of her favourite things to do has been getting hot chocolate with me, comparing the various flavours between coffee shops.
A hot chocolate connoisseur.
All in all, it has been a fun year for her. A year of growth in all areas of her life, especially her confidence level with talking with people. She will approach anyone if she feels it is safe to do so. The number of times she has walked up to a bench and struck up a conversation with someone has been staggering this year. I certainly love seeing the smiles the other people have when she starts talking to them.
She leaves a lasting impression on their lives in that short amount of time like she has done with me on a nearly daily basis the past five years. I could not be happier and prouder.
I recently saw a video on Beyond Nutrition’s Instagram account that made my eyes light up. It was of the ProMixx Vortex Mixer in action. Very quiet, a gentle swirl begins at the bottom and then spreads upwards creating a funnel to mix everything up inside. I decided I had to go get one.
It has turned into one of the best purchases of the year that I have made so far.
After my HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts using kettle bells, I need to replenish my body and I generally don’t have time to prepare an actual meal. Protein shakes are the quickest and easiest thing for me to do. The problem is they can be a bit messy since they never mix up evenly for me. I thought about a blender, but that seemed a little expensive for what I needed.
The ProMixx offers a few things that I could never get in a blender:
it’s reasonably priced at under $30.00
the blade at the bottom is small and easy to clean around
the mixer is extremely portable, being the size of a 600mL bottle
the motor takes two AAA batteries and is incredibly quiet, meaning I can mix up the protein shakes at night without waking up my daughter
It works very well for me, and has been very easy to clean up. I can easily fit my hand in to wipe around the bottle. Here is a video of it in action.
The protein powder going into it is Revolution Whey Gainer Punch. I have been using the usual vanilla or chocolate flavoured powders for years. My favourite (by far) has been MusclePharm Combat Powder - Cookies N Cream flavour. I switched to the punch partly for a change, partly for something lighter in taste that doesn’t taste horrible.
It gives me a lot more calories than other protein drinks, which I need since I tend to under eat when stressed. High protein, low sugar, and it tastes delicious. Definitely worth tracking down if you want to switch things up. The only downside is it is only available from independent supplement stores, so take a look at their site to find it.
The ProMixx is more widely available, including Amazon. A great, reasonably priced Christmas present for your fitness enthusiast.
Because of the complexity of coffee and because of the way it drives us and makes us feel, I think it occupies a special place in our culture. Because it's always been like that, over centuries. That sort of connectivity, that exchange, is consistent.
A Film About Coffee is a wonderful blend of stories from around the world sharing their experiences in what goes into a great cup of coffee. From the growers, to the people discovering the beans, to the roasters, and to the baristas, the film is a wealth of knowledge that will surely open a lot of people’s eyes. The world of coffee is a lot more complicated than I ever imagined.
I had a taste of the stories that would be shared through the little introduction cards I am receiving from Blue Bottle Coffee (and before them Tonx.) Their introduction cards or letters help explain the process of how they connected with the farmers and how they selected the beans to ultimately roast. That information was the tip of the iceberg, though.
This film really delves into the world of specialty coffee and connects you to the farmers in Rwanda and Honduras, showing you the process from planting, to picking, to washing and drying the beans. The work required to create a cup of coffee is astounding. One pound of coffee is produced from just one tree in a year, and all the beans are hand picked. After that, is a long process of washing the beans and drying them before preparing to send them to the roasters around the world.
The film then connects you with the people responsible for bringing these beans to us directly from the farmers themselves. People like Eileen Hassi Rinaldi (Ritual Coffee Roasters), Darrin Daniel (Stumptown Coffee), and James Freeman (Blue Bottle Coffee), to name a few of the people that talk in the film. Each of them bring different perspective to coffee which I find fascinating. So many ideas on what makes for a perfect cup of coffee and why people love it so much.
The one thing that links everyone in the film, apart from coffee, is their dedication to their craft. Everyone loves their job and loves learning more about coffee. This is very apparent when the film introduces us to two Japanese masters, Daibo and Katsuyuki Tanaka (known as Katsu, at Bear Pond Espresso). Both devote a great amount of energy in creating the perfect cup of coffee or espresso. Daibo is incredibly meticulous, down to choosing an individual cup for each person. Each cup poured by him is a work of theatre. Katsu pours himself 1/2 a pound of coffee each morning to test how his machines are functioning, and doesn’t open his store until he is satisfied with how they taste.
A Film About Coffee is a wonderful, short film full of people and stories that give you a better appreciation about where your coffee comes from. It is available for rent for under $5.00. I went ahead and purchased the film for under $12.00, using the promo code RITUAL, courtesy of Ritual Coffee Roasters.
Be sure to watch this little gem and support your independent coffee roasters that practice direct trade with coffee growers around the world.