Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Road Trip

We got out of town on Saturday, doing a little road trip through a few small towns in the South Okanagan. Our first destination was Keremeos, a somewhat dumpy little town that we seem to love despite its dumpiness. In summer it's basically a giant farmer's market with fruit and veggie stands lining the highway, but it goes into hibernation in winter. We stopped off at the west of town to explore along the Similkameen River beside their historic red bridge. I took a few photos down there: Ella and Tannis, then Ivy on the ice, exploring on the rocks and in silhouette.

If the batteries on the camera hadn't died after those four pictures, it would have been a more photographic day -- sunny and mellow and yielding little discoveries. The river valley south of Cawston on the way to Osoyoos is gorgeous, with stands of deciduous trees among the organic farms and vineyards. We did hit one winery, but kept moving when it turned out that they weren't doing tastings and didn't have any food available.

We've never had a great feeling about Osoyoos, so we kept going until we found Best of India in Oliver. Awesome authentic Indian food served by the family who own the restaurant and a bright, funky decor...we'll definitely be going back there. We wandered up the Oliver main street for a while too, exploring shops and picking up some cool stuff at the East Indian grocery.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Mountain Weather Change

While we were having breakfast with the Duecks at the Beanery this morning, going for an afternoon ride seemed like a fine idea -- it was mellow and fairly warm, with only a few shreds of snow at higher elevations. By the time Myron met me at the base of Rattlesnake Mountain later, it was snowing hard with an ugly wind, but we decided to forge ahead anyway. Ended up feeling like intrepid adventurers.

Celebrity Photo Match

There are so many interesting tools popping up on the web these days, and I'm fascinated by this face recognition site. You upload a photo and it matches the people in the picture to photos in their celebrity database. So much potential for good and evil with this stuff. Thanks to Arwen for the pointer to this glorious time-waster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Black Sabbath

My cousin Jason had the guts to post an old photo I found of him from 1988. This is classic stuff -- Black Sabbath shirt, blonde mullet, pink cotton pants -- this is a great gift to the blogosphere.

Update: He also posted a couple of old photos of him riding dirt bikes back in the same era -- bow down before the Silhouette of the Flying Mullet.


There's something about this old photo that encapsulates the idealized view I have of my childhood at times. It's a shot I took in 1988 (I think), showing Ryan launching out of the ditch near our house and throwing in some style for good measure -- it also captures a bit of his spirit, I think, and that big sky reminds me of the total freedom we had out there on the prairie.


I'm pretty fond of this photo of Ella, lounging in the girls' recently re-floored (de-floored?) room. While I was in Kelowna last week, Tannis ripped the gross old carpet and underlay, did a bit of sanding of the bare plywood underneath and gave it a simple coat of purple paint. Viola -- a new floor at minimal cost that doesn't collect allergy gunk. It looks great, especially now that we've been getting some sunlight streaming in...and the girls truly adore the ultimate girliness of it.

Update: I wasn't sure if this newer photo of Ella reading in the same spot warranted its own post, so I thought I'd stick it here.

Monday, January 23, 2006

ATM Omen

One poll in the lead-up to the election claimed that the Conservatives had made big gains with men over 50 making over $100,000 a year. Haven't rich old white guys always been hardcore conservatives anyway? With this in mind, I had an ominous experience immediately after lodging my (usual) futile protest vote that I took as an obvious omen about the election results. I was pedalling past the credit union and realized I had no cash, so I ran in to the ATM. While the machine was processing my meager request, I noticed a withdrawal slip someone had left behind. I looked a little closer, and saw that this someone had taken out $200, leaving them with a balance of $58,338.37 in their chequing account.

I pictured a Boss Hogg sort of character leaving the Summerland Youth Centre polling station an hour earlier, having just marked a proud X beside Stockwell Day's name on the ballot, getting into his $60,000 Chevy Suburban and feeling smug about lower taxes and no fear of environmental regulations for his oil-patch drilling company back home in Red Deer. While pondering the infinite justice of private (for-profit) health care, foreign policy in lockstep with the U.S., and a gutted Charter of Rights and Freedoms near Homeside Video, he remembered that he was down to $800 cash in his wallet and decided to top it up to the usual grand, just for comfort. And then just as he was walking away from the ATM, he glanced at his balance on the slip and thought with a chuckle, "I should really leave this here so some poor lefty sap can stumble across it and feel powerless today."

Sunday, January 22, 2006


On the way up to Myron and Tracey's for Hockey Night in Canada this weekend, we came around a corner on a dark country road going maybe 70 km/h. As the road straightened out and I started accelerating, I noticed the slightest gleam in a patch of black shadow ahead and instantly locked up all four tires on the old Mazda. In that one second, I thought there were two or three people standing in front of us all dressed in black, but in the next second as I swerved to avoid them, our headlights revealed an enormous black horse standing broadside in the middle of the road like the steed of a ringwraith blocking a hobbit's quest. It never moved.

I'd hate to think what kind of damage a horse would do to a small car and a family of four in a collision at speed. This was actually the second time I've nearly smacked what is almost certainly the same black horse -- its size alone marks it as unique, and it was in exactly the same spot both times. There's a large herd of mostly wild horses that live on First Nations land to the southwest of Summerland. I always enjoy coming across them out in the woods and wondering how many places in North America have wild horses wandering about...but it's not much fun to meet anything that big (and apparently stupid) on the road at night.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Chuck Norris Facts

They're silly, crude, devoted to a second-rate action hero from the '80s, too numerous to ever consume in their entirety, and had me laughing so hard that I felt like I had received a roundhouse kick in the stomach. A few of my favourite Chuck Norris Facts:
  • In a fight between Batman and Darth Vader, the winner would be Chuck Norris.
  • There is no chin behind Chuck Norris' beard. There is only another fist.
  • If you ask Chuck Norris what time it is, he always says, "Two seconds 'til." After you ask, "Two seconds 'til what?" he roundhouse kicks you in the face.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is based on a true story: Chuck Norris once swallowed a turtle whole, and when he crapped it out, the turtle was six feet tall and had learned karate.
Oh, and many more...although they're not for everyone. Language warning, cheesy-'80's-reference-warning, etc, etc...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tiny Beauty

I don't write enough about Ella these days. She has been blossoming these last few weeks, reeling off sentences and songs and laughing up a storm. I also think she's gorgeous, but then I suppose every dad thinks his daughter is -- I snapped this photo at lunch today to prove my point.

Winter-Spring-Winter (again)

Skaha Lake View
Yesterday we got a dump of snow, making it feel like actual winter again after weeks of weird spring. Tannis made a snowkid with the girls in the afternoon to embrace the season and I was very glad to not be driving in to the office we watched cars sliding through the stop sign at our corner.

Back on Saturday it was freakishly warm and sunny. I ended up being overdressed in my light fleece shirt on another ride up to Rebellion. I know I'm a broken record, but it is just such a sweet trail -- occasionally steep and a little nasty, but the trailbuilder managed to craft amazing flow into its switchbacks and sidecuts. I took some scenery shots on the way up -- the calm lake reflecting the Naramata bluffs, Trout Creek Point, and Skaha Lake on the other side of Penticton.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Brace for Pinkness

Ivy and I updated her site last night with her comments on recent photos (with me typing what she dictated) -- I think her portrait of me as a robot is beyond hilarious. She painstakingly typed the caption to the fancy photo of her and her buddy Mahaila. She also explains her gymnastics class with the help of a short video.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


I know I already linked to Greg and Sophie's blog when they started it late last year, but I've been so enjoying Liquid Landscape in the last while that I'm linking there again. The photos are great, the writing funny...seeing this stuff makes me wish (again) that all of my friends had blogs.

Another note on the the good-old-friends front -- this photo of Angelo and Esther with Hollywood veteran James Karen is truly great. Meanwhile, the Pletts are in Hawaii soaking up sunshine and gourmet calories and occasionally sharing their images of debauchery with the rest of us. Myron hasn't updated their blog in months, but since we get to hang out with them in real life, I shouldn't really complain.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Local Author

I snuck out for coffee with author and ecologist Don Gayton this morning. He had recently written an excellent letter to the local paper about agriculture and land use issues, so I e-mailed him to state my agreement and he invited me to the Beanery. I didn't really know what we'd talk about, but we had no trouble filling 45 minutes with conversation -- he's gracious and thoughtful. He and his wife are new to Summerland after spending 15 years in the Kootenays. We're both fans of Jane Jacobs and we thought we'd check out the Smart Growth workshops later in the month.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Tannis and Nada went cross-country skiing yesterday while my folks joined me and our girls for a walk at Sunoka and then lunch at Shaughnessy's. It's rare to get such a sunny day here in January. The rest of the weekend was pretty social too, with Lorne and Bill coming over Friday night and staying for late-night nachos and beer.

Myron and Tracey dropped Elijah off Saturday night so they could go to Kelowna for a date, and we took him out to Cozy Bay for supper. Later on Tannis was playing hockey, so I had a stint watching all three kids. After the first period of the Canucks game, I turned off the TV and herded the little ones upstairs for baths. A couple of minutes later, I opened the door to find a full case of cold beer in the hallway and I could hear the TV on again downstairs. Hmm...Tannis back from her game an hour early? Turned out MT decided to return early and watch the end of the Canucks game on with us instead of sitting through a Kelowna Rockets game at the arena. So I was relieved of my babysitting duties and got to hang with them the rest of the night.

A few random photos from the weekend:
  • Ivy painting this morning in the same spot as her sculpting the other day. Tannis got a great shot of the colourful drops on the table beside her water container.
  • I had my snowboard tuned up for the first time in years, then regretfully skipped the opening of the Powder Chair at Big White the day we left for Vancouver...then missed a huge powder day on my last day of vacation (just gapped out and found out too late). Now the weather's warmed up enough to ride and the snowboard is outside like a neglected pet while the Stinky basks in warmth.
  • Our camera is so messed up. It regularly does stuff like start up halfway, so the lens cover doesn't open up all the way.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

This Week's Soundtrack

Music that's been rocking my world over the Christmas break:

Wintersleep -- Jaws of Life
Takes me back to Pearl Jam's Ten era, but with a big, thick sound and great intensity. One of the few songs I've heard lately that made me want to buy the album to hear the rest of their songs immediately...I'm such an old rocker at heart.

Dean Gray - Whatsername
A great mashup that artfully blends one of my favourite songs on Green Day's latest album with perennial '80s pop favourite "Manic Monday". I still laugh out loud every time the distortion kicks in for eight beats at about 2:30 -- it must require amazing skill to stitch songs together like this.

Desaparecidos -- What's New For All
Very raw sound, recorded as if it was Weezer was ripping through a song off Pinkerton in front of a single mike and really given 'er. Surprisingly catchy, fun chorus with tons of energy.

Uncle John & Whitelock -- Baghdadi
I guess one of Dave's old bandmates is in this new band that's getting a fair bit of attention in the U.K. It's very rough around the edges, sounding like it might go off the rails at any point, but the chugging, growling verse just keeps me coming back for repeated listens. Don't expect to like this the first time.

Interpol -- Turn on the Bright Lights
When there was a lot of buzz about these guys last year, I thought they were awful. Since then, I've come across three amazing tunes of theirs, which makes me think I should give them another try. This one is mellow and reflective, like an indie-rock Coldplay.

The Futureheads -- Hounds of Love
I think the real reason I love this song is because it evokes the spirit of The Cars, which always transports me to the back shop of Valley Leisure circa 1983, where Ryan and I would pester Milt and Bruce as they fixed bikes and snowmobiles, usually with 92CITI FM playing out of scratchy speakers under the greasy workbench. Same with The Police, which is a band I still listen to regularly.

Jem -- They (streaming Windows Media video)
One of these things is not like the others...I couldn't find an mp3 to link to for this song, so you can watch the racey video if you've got the Windows Media Player. It's quirky diva pop, more like Dido than anything -- not my usual genre of choice -- but I challenge you to not love these sounds.

If you want to listen to all of these, they're mostly available in my Headspacej Webjay Mix -- just choose your player from the drop-down box and/or hit the big play button at the top of the page.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Concrete Wasteland

David Suzuki talks about the Okanagan in Life Stories:
"We have a seasonal ritual that our family celebrates. Every summer we go to the Okanagan Valley to pick ripe, luscious fruit off the trees. Visiting it annually, we have seen astounding changes over the years. A development binge has resulted in such rapid construction that the water supply is insufficient for the houses. Orchards have been buried under strip malls, destroying Canada's most fertile fruit-producing area. One of the country's loveliest and most productive places is now a concrete wasteland, just like everywhere else."
I drive through Westbank twice a week and through some sections of Kelowna's version of big-box retail and low-density residential sprawl, so I see evidence of the kernel of truth in this sentiment. There have been beautiful places up and down the valley sullied by stupid, greedy, unsustainable development. I've also always been a big fan of David Suzuki and respect the role he's developed as Canada's environmental conscience. As a cautionary tale or dystopian vision of the future, this kind of writing is valuable for waking us up to the consequences of our collective actions.

That said, there's still much beauty within the Westbank-Kelowna corridor, never mind the hundreds of square miles of relatively undeveloped land, farms and smaller communities in the region surrounding it. Concrete wasteland? I was thinking about his words yesterday when I was sitting beside my bike at the top of Giant's Head, looking down on a foggier, darker version of the photo I've included here (from July '04). It was dead calm, with the lake reflecting the sky and the mountains above Naramata in perfect detail. From that vantage point, you see nothing but small farms, orchards, vineyards and forests...and it's certainly worth protecting from the forces in Suzuki's apocalyptic vision.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


My folks graciously kept the kids last week so we could sneak away for a Vancouver getaway to see friends, which we haven't done since April (embarrassing).

When we arrived at Mark and Joel's on Thursday, they had wine pouring into huge glasses and a gourmet cheese tray waiting for us. Lots of laughs, and then a walk up Broadway for awesome Thai food later.

Yummy breakfast in the morning, and then we were off to UBC to meet Dave and Meri. We hung out at their place for a while, sharing some special Dirty Laundry Gewurtztraminer we had brought, and a nice Christmas ale, then walked over to the golf clubhouse for a great late lunch. Some good laughs and a nice mellow vibe.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Angelo and Esther's cool new place. They also greeted us with wine, hugs, and great conversation lounged out in the living room. When we got hungry, we wandered down to the funky Commercial Drive strip and hit a great place called Waazubee Cafe -- awesome food and local beer, fun decor and cool service. A wonderful experience. Afterwards we walked the strip a bit and encountered an urban skunk on the way back to their pad. First thing in the morning, we raced back to the Okanagan to pick up our little squirts, where Mom had soup bubbling on the stove for us...good livin' all around.

Winter Riding Season

The mountain biking season is off and on these days. After my epic Boxing Day exploration, I got in a couple more rides before the most recent snow. This photo is from Rattlesnake Mountain -- you can see the snowline across the lake and my lonely bike. I took a shaky little video of the panorama view up there. I never get sick of heading up there and soaking in the scene.

I also did an hour or so loop around Cartwright Mountain. There's a neat little lookout point you climb up to and suddenly the town and the lake come into view below -- this video showing it is even shakier than the other one, but I was riding with one hand up a trail...I also got a couple of black and white shots that show how the snow on the singletrack stands out in the long grasses: going up and going down.

Last night we got a big dump of snow again, so it might be a while before I'm back out there spinning pedals in my happy places.

Christmas Girls

Seeing how excited the kids get about Christmas helps me enjoy it more -- a few photos:

Monday, January 02, 2006

More Kids and Chaos

The energy these kids have is unreal. Three very short (although still painfully slow to download) videos that convey the chaos of our lives with these shnerps:Our holidays included a bunch of warm, happy get-togethers with friends; at Myron and Tracey's, a couple of times at Lorne and Nada's and at least once at our place. Of course I mostly took photos of the kids in all cases:

Art Break

Can't remember now how I stumbled across the site of artist Meghan Hildebrand, but I'm in love with her paintings. This is powerful stuff if you're in the right space for it, or merely beautiful if you're not looking for meaning.