Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wheels on the Bikes Go 'Round and 'Round

Thanks to my folks (yet again), Tannis and I got to go mountain biking together for a change. We used to be great riding buddies in olden times, but in recent years we've depended on the patented "hand-off maneuver" to ensure that one of us gets to go while the other watches the kids...hence, never riding together. But today the new bikes got suitably worked over, the weather was perfect, and we covered enough ground to be plenty tired by the end. Mucho fun.

Mom also brought us an excellent lunch, so we all enjoyed a picnic at the ornamental gardens. The girls explored and pondered, enjoying the blossoms and other signs of spring. Everyone got ice cream at Summerland Sweets later too.

Anyway, here's 30 seconds of Tannis ripping it up with that sweet baby blue Specialized:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interaction Designer

Remember how on Friends, it was a running joke that even Chandler's closest friends had no idea what he did at work? I often get asked what I do, and I get the sense that nobody really knows -- but that's about to change. Angelo provided the inspiration for this, aptly describing his day job.

The company I work for (and head office in LA) build web sites to help kids figure out what they want to do for careers, and how to plan their schooling (high school and college) to prepare themselves for "the real world". Organizations like schools, school districts, boards of education and big companies buy subscriptions to those sites so that students can use them to plan their futures, usually as part of a school program, often run by school guidance counsellors.

So we've got 100+ people making this happen -- sales, support, designers, developers, executives, analysts, writers -- and I'm an interaction designer in the group that designs and builds the sites. Basically I design the blueprints for the site, researching what we need to include, pulling together the content or data, doing rough page layouts and showing how people would interact with the site. It's creative work, and I work with talented graphic artists, business analysts, product managers and techies. They're the ones who actually build stuff based on my blueprints (officially called wireframes). You can check out Transitions in the public-access Rhode Island version if you're curious.

By this fall, I will have been with the company for nine years, which is an eternity in the dot-com realm. I work at home mostly, going into the office in Kelowna every week or two for meetings and lunches with work friends. The pay is decent but not spectacular. I sit at a desk with a laptop, and basically live online. Overall, the work has been interesting and the job has facilitated a great lifestyle for us during our transition to parenting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In With the New new bike. I love it. The old one found a good home this afternoon as Jason's birthday present (happy birthday!) from Karen, and he promptly took it on one of my favourite old trails, the Race Classic above Flamingo Flats in Crawford. Sounds like it will work well for him. But anyway, this new Kona rocks -- it's pretty much brand new and feels very comfortable. Need to get out and ride it right now, so no time to type.

Update: I got so stoked about this thing that I pretty much expected it to pedal itself up the mountain. It doesn't feel way lighter than the ol' Stinky, but it's stiffer and feels easier to whip around. The fork is tough and progressive -- plush on small bumps through the first inch of travel, but ramps up to super stiff for bigger hits. The rear shock is set up stiffer too, which is not as plush for mid-level bumps, but feels a lot more efficient when pedaling. The brakes are very good, maybe not quite as powerful as the 8-inch rotors I had before, and the drive-train worked flawlessly. All in all, very promising.

Not related, but as soon as I got back from the first ride, Myron and Tracey showed up with fish 'n chips for a mid-week Hump Day celebration. Great laughs and conversation, some nice beverages, and the kids mostly didn't tear each other apart. Felt like the perfect weekend get-together, which made this morning a bit harder to take.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Slocan Getaway

After hanging out Bill here early in the weekend (fun), and helping the Hildebrands move on Saturday (not so fun, but what do you expect from a move?), we busted out of the valley with the kids and hit Nakusp. I took a small set of photos (slideshow here) that don't really convey the vibe, but we had a great time:
  • Three kids in the backseat could be a really rough scene, but the girls were amazing. Ezra...not so much. He did sleep most of the way home, though. Nice mountainous sights along the way like the view from the ferry and waterfalls.
  • Explored the beach and rocks along their waterfront:
  • We stayed in the cutest A-frame cottage beside Nakusp Hot Springs. Ezra hadn't ever been in a pool, so he was thrilled with floating around in the warm water. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.
  • Nice breakfast in town, then we toodled over to Halcyon Hot Springs for a dip there -- very pleasant and fun.
  • Back to Nakusp for an outrageously good lunch at The Middle Earth Cafe, on a smart recommendation from our friend Barb. Even Ezra loved it.
  • Picked up Tannis's sweet new bike from the previous owner who met us in town to deliver it. I'll let her tell that story and share photos if she likes...
  • Bombed in on my folks on the way back, and Mom whipped up a feast for us. Wonderful, warm ending to a fantastic little getaway.

Monday, April 21, 2008


It's already moved down the page and out of the spotlight, but my recent post about personality types brought me much pleasure and insight. 27 friends who played along, 46 comments filled with wit and humility, and dozens of fascinating background conversations in person, through e-mail and IM...what a crazy-cool experience. As I'm sure you can tell, I totally dig this stuff, so thanks to all who participated.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Art Department

I've still been adding bits of our family-folk art to the appropriate flickr set as it emerges. I loved Ivy's "Will-o-the-Wisp" here, and Ella's drawing of our dining room with flowers. Actually Ella's portrait of a giant was even more awesome, complete with labeled body parts, and she busted out this triptych too. Ivy filled my home-office whiteboard with this very colourful meadowlark, and last week offered me some work advice.

Tannis has been on creative hiatus, and my participation has been limited to a lonely sketch and some recent artsy photos: inside ice, jellybeans, woodland stars, old and new, a cluster of shooting stars, and a neat bit of some very twisty singletrack.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


What could be better than the first real warm day of spring each year? Feeling thankful:
  • Mark's coming to visit
  • My folks are taking the girls out this afternoon
  • I bought a shiny new bike yesterday
  • Ezra's mood has improved immeasurably and his skin is way better again.
  • My part in the hell project I've been working on for 18 months finished yesterday.
  • Fish fry at the Hildebrands last night.
  • Old connections rediscovered on Facebook.
  • Riding Giant's Head in the sunshine with a great music mix.
  • Daffodils blooming, saskatoon leaves bursting.
  • Bonfire and camp irons at the Duecks last week.
  • Running into a mountain goat on Wildhorse Mountain

Update: I realize that blogging about the weather really lowers the bar for reader engagement, but I guess I can do what I want on my own blog. Anyway, a week after those balmy low-20s temps, the forecast looks gross for this weekend. It's literally been 9-10 degrees since early February, but we keep getting these freaky five-minute snowstorms out of the blue...and then the snow disappears immediately.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NHL Playoffs '08 -- Round 1

Posting playoff predictions is a fool's game**, I realize, but it was fun last year and cool that friends weighed in with their own predictions in the comments. Please do so again -- who do you think is surviving the first round this year?

Eastern Conference

1. vs 8.
I can only imagine the tension building in Nicole's family right now -- she's torn between her Bruins-adoring husband and her lifelong-Habs-fan father. Little Palmer has jerseys from both clubs, but can he really pick between them without shattering the family's stability? Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a post about family drama. I'm going Canadian here, not because of misguided patriotism, but because I like the Habs this year -- they've got some character, some good storylines, and they've been winning like mad. Montreal in 5.

2. vs 7.
Obviously Pittsburgh's hot right now, with piles of wins and buzz...and there is a lot to like about their team despite Ty Conklin's freaky streak. We got to witness Malkin ripping it up in the world juniors in Kelowna a few years back, and it's cool to see him dominate now. Also seems like most of the pundits are picking them to dump Ottawa, so the contrarian in me wants to disagree. I think the Senators are better than their recent record indicates, although maybe not without Fisher and Alfredsson. I've always really liked the team, so my heart says Ottawa, but I'm predicting Penguins in 6.

3. vs 6.
Washington seems to have Pittsburgh-level buzz, and Ovechkin's goal scoring is something to behold, but are they really good enough to go deep this year? I think not, even without knowing much about this year's version of the Flyers. Flyers in 6.

4. vs 5.
The Devils still strike me as supremely boring; an impossible team to cheer for. I'm no real Rangers fan either, but...forced to choose: Rangers in 7.

Western Conference

1. vs 8.
Nashville plays with a lot of heart, and I admire their pluck in getting into the playoffs again, but this is a brutal matchup. Detroit looks like a powerhouse again, and I'm not expecting even a whiff of an upset. Wings in 4.

2. vs 7.
My general hatred of the Flamers took a hit this last week, even as they pounded the Canucks 7-1 in the final game of the season. At the end of the game, pretty much the whole team came back onto the ice to shake hands with Trevor Linden, who will likely be retiring. Plus, I've never been able to muster any dislike for Iginla -- the guy is pretty much a hockey god. I like Regehr and Kiprusoff too, at least when they're not punishing the Canucks. So although I'll never actively cheer for any team containing Dion Phaneuf, Calgary is the underdog in this lopsided matchup and I wouldn't mind seeing them upset the big bad Sharks (actually I don't mind the Sharks either). Don't think it'll happen, though. Sharks in 6.

3. vs 6.
Two of the Canucks' northwest rivals squaring off, and I don't like either team. The presence of Ryan Smyth makes Colorado my sentimental pick, I suppose, and I've always liked Sakic and Foote too. Colorado in 7.

4. vs 5.
I liked Anaheim in their march to the cup last year, maybe mostly because of some of those old Winnipeg Jets connections. They were tough, fast and intense. Dallas was painfully boring to watch and I don't think they're that good. Anaheim in 5.

** Especially when I don't have cable and have watched very few of the games this year. I'm bummed that Edmonton and Vancouver didn't make it, so honestly it's been hard to care much this year. That said, the first round is always my favourite time of the hockey season and I'll try to catch some games.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Ez

For a long time, I've added photos of Ezra's sisters to their very own set in Flickr, but it wasn't really fair that he didn't have his own equivalent. Maybe not one of the world's most heinous wrongs, but nevertheless, this wrong has now been righted. Mostly for his grandmothers, of course.

They may also appreciate this little medley of video clips of The Ez, although these things really aren't for everyone. At the 20 second point, the video inexplicably goes into slow-mo, complete with Ella taking on a deep baritone as she says, "I....l o v e.....E z r a". It might seem creepy, but I think it's the best. No idea how the slick fade-in happened either.

Update: Reading this a couple of days later, I'm seeing that I've done our family's history a grave disservice by not noting how difficult these last few weeks with Ezra have been. We love the guy, of course, and I think we're doing a fine job with him overall...but this is not an enjoyable stage. He's managed to fill his waking hours (which greatly outnumber sleeping hours) mostly with screaming, crying, complaining and trying to maim himself. Refusing to eat, getting up way too early (and then wanting to nap at 7:30am), needing to be carried constantly, not doing anything independently (even though he can)...etc, etc. It just sucks. He's a baby, so of course none of it is his fault, and he obviously has some discomfort for whatever reason, but the whole package has us feeling seriously frayed.

He also crawled his first tentative steps today, but the joy of the milestone was somewhat lost in our fatigue and frustration. I just wanted to remember a bit of the other side, the part that doesn't show up in the gorgeous photos and cutesy videos. If we didn't know it would get easier and more fun, it would be fully depressing.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Okanagan Fest-of-Ale

Tannis and I hit the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale this afternoon. An odd date destination, perhaps, but we had a great time. I got to totally geek out on many of the incredible beers AND hang out with my best friend for a couple of hours sans kids (thanks Grandma Hiebert). We managed to score the last couple of available tickets (dearly bought, mind you) about 20 minutes after it opened, enjoyed the scene and went for a very nice lunch at Salty's later on.

Anyway, I thought I'd add a few notes on the standout beers. We already get enough of our local favourites, so these are skewed toward brews that are harder (or impossible) to get close to home:
  • I'm always keen to find Crannog Ales, especially their Backhand of God Stout, and it was great as usual. I love their philosophy, their brewing techniques and their vibe -- yes, I should have bought a shirt. The potato ale was surprisingly good, as well as an excellent Bogtrotter Brown Ale. Not sure if they had a bad batch or whatever, but the Beyond the Pale Ale was terrible -- odd, because I've enjoyed it in the past.
  • First Trax Brown Ale from Fernie Brewing, very smooth and tasty
  • Goat Wall Oat Stout from Winthrop Brewing just across the border in Washington (apparently an emerging mountain biking destination...hmmm...), very intense and delicious. This was probably my favourite beer at the fest-of-ale last year too.
  • Imperial Oatmeal Stout from another Washington brewery called Boundary Bay -- I didn't actually enjoy this one much, but it was a very gutsy beer, smoky and reminiscent of OKSprings Old English Porter with a nasty alcohol afterburn.
  • Sasquatch Stout from Old Yale Brewing in Chilliwack -- I really liked this one. Bold and black, with tons of flavour, but not overwhelming.
  • Mt. Begbie Brewing from Revelstoke had two strong offerings -- Attila the Honey and Tall Timber Ale, both excellent.

Filmy Update

Super Mom! I got another roll of film developed this weekend and added a few to my latest set. Aside from cursing London Drugs today (charged me more than they said for incredibly bad scanning from negatives), the film experiment has been so much fun. The counterintuitive downside is that it makes me want a kick-ass dSLR all the more. Why? Because I want the same quality without the hassle -- I'm remembering more about why I was frustrated with film years ago.

Anyway, this entire roll was basically pictures of the kids, with a few grown-ups included by accident. Usually I make some attempt to sprinkle in other subjects, but all pretenses were apparently dropped for this set. The highlights:
  • We took the girls down to Powell Beach twice in the past few weeks to ride their bikes down by the lake. The park is closed, so they can use the road or the paths, which is very handy and fun. At some point they dump the bikes to swing. I thought this shot of Ivy had a real vintage postcard feel to it.
  • Pappy's old (and amazing) Minolta fish-eye lens has been getting lots of use. I may be overdoing it already. It really skews facial features close up -- check out this hilarious one of Ella on the swings. It's better suited to capturing an entire scene in an enclosed space, like our excellent Easter Feaster with my folks this year.
  • Now, not to brag or anything (oh, who am I kidding), but our kids are wicked super cute, especially all smushed together into a blue-eyed mosaic of utter beauty.