Archive for July, 2008

Prepare to be really jealous if you like being outdoors and listening to awesome live music whilst you are in the aforementioned outdoors, because I’m about to hit you with the jealousy stick so hard it’s going to knock your socks off.  In commemoration of the August Civic Long Weekend, we’re heading out to Montreal and on Sunday, we’ll be heading to Jean Drapeau Park to enjoy the Osheaga Festival.

That means that we’ll be rocking out to The Killers AND Iggy Pop all in the same day, although I’m secretly hoping that Iggy leaves his shirt on for once.  I mean, he’s like 90 now, isn’t he?  Still, even for an old dude who has been ravaged by drug use, he can still bring the rock.  Cat Power and N.E.R.D. will likely also put on awesome shows, so it’s going to be an entire day’s worth of musical goodness.

The rules for the venue don’t seem too ridiculous either.  No cameras with removable lenses (pros with credentials only), no booze, one clear water bottle each (which you might be asked to empty at the gate, but there are water refill stations inside that appear to be free) and you can even bring a modestly sized lawnchair.  Oddly enough, disposable cameras are forbidden, but I can’t seem to reason why that would be the case.  Anyone?  A little help here?

We’re only attending the Sunday concerts, but Monday’s lineup looks pretty awesome too.  I hear there are still tickets available, so why not take the drive out to Montreal for the long weekend?  Aside from the gas costing you a few hundred dollars, it’s well worth it.  Even better, it’s not a long weekend in Quebec, so you won’t hit traffic coming home until Trenton, at which point you could crawl back to Toronto faster than you’ll make it by car.  Here’s hoping for a sketchy weather report that keeps people at home, but in the end is completely wrong.

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I’m sure we’re all well aware of the two favourite pastimes of the media/news community; making a bigger deal about something than it really is and coming up for fancy-pants names for those big deals they’ve just created. Well, when oil first started hitting record prices this spring and news reporters made it sound like entire provinces and states would shut down, I started hearing a word, and this word greatly upset me. Now that it’s summer, this word is EVERYWHERE and I’m seriously going to lose it. I’ve even started hearing it in casual conversation around the office.

I mean, what is a “stay-cation” anyways? How is it any different than what we used to call a “vacation”? The idea behind the word is that due to high transit costs, many people are choosing to stay at (or close to) home for their summer vacations, and if you’re doing so, you’re enjoying a stay-cation. What?

Merriam Webster defines a vacation as:

1: a respite or a time of respite from something : intermission
2 a
: a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended b: a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
4
: an act or an instance of vacating

Of those definitions, only one (3) has anything to do with going away, and even that is transitive (that is, it requires a clause to let someone know that the subject was actually away). If anything, we should have had the word “away-cation” all along so that people would know you packed up and went somewhere rather than staying home and resodding your lawn.

Seriously, who has a conversation like this with co-workers:

“I’m going on vacation next week”
“Oh yeah? Where are you going?”
“Get this… nowhere. I’m just going to stay home.”
“Then why did you say you were going on vacation? Why didn’t you just stay you were off work and staying at home. I hate you and I’m going to kill you with my bare hands.”
“You’re right. I totally deserve it. Here, I’ll just lie here. Make sure I suffer for this transgression.”

Thankfully, that conversation will never happen again now that we have a word for something that doesn’t even require its own word. Also thankfully, we can look forward to hearing this word on the news for the next 3 months or so and then for the rest of our lives. Thank you media.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off on staycation and I have to go update my staycaylog with all my staycactivities. Inventing words is fun… so much fun, it’s funventive!

PS: Sorry this rant is more sarcastic than usual. I resprained my bum ankle last night playing soccer and it’s put me in a bit of a ‘mood’. I’m sure I’ll be back to normal once the swelling goes down and the drugs kick in. We’ll just ride this storm out together.

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There are books that we all read in high school. They’re part of some canon of public school curriculum and their respective content, characters and themes are considered common knowledge to the point that their casual mention in pop culture gives them meaning.

We all read “The Stone Angel” by Margaret Laurence and felt what it was like to be old, we all read “Romeo and Juliet” and learned how dangerous young love can be. Many of us also read “Othello” or “The Taming of the Shrew” to round out a Shakespearean education, on top of “The Catcher in the Rye”, “The Great Gatsby” and/or “The Old Man and the Sea”.

As far as politically motivated modern literature, I read “1984” as part of a group project in high school about totalitarianism. I loved it. What a great book with such a powerful message about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of dire circumstances. I’ve even read it a few times since; once in university and once on a vacation after I started working.

So, how is it that I’ve come this far as an avid reader and a fan of George Orwell and I haven’t yet read “Animal Farm”? I haven’t even seen one of the many film versions. I just knew it was about a pig who takes over a farm. Well, before we saw “The Dark Knight” on Sunday, Danielle and I went to Chapters to kill some time and I saw the most badass book cover ever and decided that regardless of the book, I had to get it. It turns out it was “Animal Farm”.

Our Great Leader, Comrade Napoleon!

I’m now about halfway through the book and I love it. I’m going to be pretty sad when it ends, but I’m having trouble putting it down. Why, oh why didn’t I read it earlier!? The comparisons to Stalinst Russia are pretty blatant, but not ‘in your face’ blatant, and the story really drives home how the masses become victims of those in power quite easily, through intimidation and misinformation. It’s a remarkable read.

Another book I picked up is “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger. He also wrote “The Catcher in the Rye” which some of you may have less than fond memories of after enduring Holden Caulfield’s cursing rants about everything as he walked around New York City. This book is quite different, and comes highly recommended by more than a few good friends. Stay tuned for a review.

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Friday night, I scored awesome seats to the Blue Jays vs. Mariners game at the SkyDome, er Rogers Centre courtesy of my brother.  We were in the HSBC VIP section in the 200s just above home plate and in perfect alignment with the first base line.  For fans of baseball, you’ll probably recall that the Jays won the game in extra innings, so it was easily one of the best free baseball games I’ve ever seen from ridiculously comfortable seats that include seat service.

Saturday was ‘errand day’ at our house.  After sleeping in a bit, I picked up a new flush arm for our malfunctioning toilet and replaced it (marking my first real ‘plumbing job’, arguably the easiest one in a long list of plumbing jobs) to make our toilet fully functioning.  Then, the cleaning of the house began in earnest.  Most of our camping equipment was still out and about in various states of cleaning or airing, so everything was catalogued and put back in its proper place.

After humming and hawing about checking out Jazzfest, we opted instead to BBQ some tasty steaks and then take the streetcar out to Little Italy for ice cream.  Danielle has convinced me that my long and complicated relationship with ice cream needs to be documented in classic Dave Duncan form (sarcastically, that is) so I’ll probably write a short story about my love/hate relationship with the frozen treat (mostly ‘hate’) in the near future.

On Sunday, we headed to MEC after church to update our camping gear from ‘single Dave’ quality to ‘married couple’ quality.  That meant getting a second sleeping bag (the MEC Oasis, for warm and cool weather), a much larger tent than my ideal canoe tripping tent, the Tarn 2 (we got the spacious Wanderer 4 with the optional second vestibule) and various specialty camping gear cleaning products.  Danielle also picked herself up a new bookbag, marking her first MEC-branded purchase.  I’m slowly converting her to a lifetime of devoted MECism.

After a leisurely afternoon rollerblading in Ashbridge’s Bay, we headed downtown for an evening showing of The Dark Knight.  What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said?  Well, for one, I was disappointed not to hear one of my favourite Batman-related movie lines in this film; “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?  I ask that of all my prey.  I just like the way it sounds”.  Aside from missing that line, this movie had it all.  If you haven’t seen it yet, fork over your money and stand in line, you won’t regret it.

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Everywhere I go, it seems people are complaining about how wet and cool this summer has been and I’ve been working hard to keep my mouth shut because I’ve been enjoying this summer more than most.  As I’ve mentioned in here countless times, I shut down in heat and humidity so these cool nights and frequent rainstorms have made this summer very livable for me, but even I’m starting to feel the weight of so many grey days.

Right now, my big fear is that a cool wet summer will lead into a grey and damp fall, which is not something I like.  I enjoy crisp fall days with lots of sunshine in which going for long walks in forests is ideal so even I’m hoping for warmer and sunnier days in August and September.  Perhaps it’s time to start lobbying the federal government for better weather, or maybe praying harder.  I think the latter is more likely to get the result we’re all after here.

On that note, we’re looking at a rainy weekend here in Toronto, which doesn’t vibe well for our first weekend in the city in what feels like months.  We plan on taking it easy, taking in some events, cleaning our house (which BADLY needs it) and investing in a new tent, one that will hold both us and our gear comfortably which isn’t the case with my tiny canoe tripping tent.  Does anyone have any recommendations for stuff going on this weekend that we should check out?

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If you’ve known me for at least a few months, or have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably caught on that I’m a pretty big fan of my cottage.  I’ve always thought of it as a magical place, and that stems from a very early age.

When I was a wee lad growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, I firmly believed that God lived at my cottage and He came to the city when we were there visiting.  I mean, where else would God live?  After all, isn’t He a big fan of creation, and where else can you see creation in all its splendor than up there?

Click on photos to see larger versions in a new window 

Tin Roof in a Full Moon

Since I started taking photographs, the cottage has been one of my favourite subjects.  It’s just so different than the things I see everyday.  The old, worn wood of the house and shed, the weathered rock of the Canadian Shield that makes up our front ‘lawn’ and the trees and wildlife are completely foreign to my usual Toronto environment.

Full Moon through Maple and Pine trees

Not to mention the trees and the sky.  On a moonless night, you can see more stars than you could ever count, and when the moon is up and full, you can sit outside and read by the light it throws below.  The way the dusk sunlight dances through tree branches, the sound of the night breeze in the leaves and the hypnotizing way that poplar branches switch from light to dark in the wind as they flip their leaves top and bottom.

Aylmer Road and Hwy. 148 in Fog

It’s safe to say that my favourite time at the cottage is the night.  During the summer, chirping frogs lull you to sleep in between light rainstorms on the tin roof.  Deer and raccoons wander through the forest while bats fly noiselessly through the air over your head.  In the fall, you can see the sky for miles through the leafless trees and more animals are out and about in search of food.  During the winter, the night is absolutely noiseless save for the sound of snow crunching under its own weight.

Now that I’m confident the house won’t collapse, I can safely look forward to a long life enjoying those sights and sounds, sharing them with the people I care about, and trying to capture them as best I can on film.  I just hope God doesn’t mind me crashing at His house.

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On my way to soccer after work yesterday, I was held up by a traffic jam near my office.  There were cops blocking intersections all down Bay Street and it looked like they were preparing for a parade or something.  At first, I cursed my bad luck at timing my trip to the west end, and then I began to curse whoever had caused this terrible jam.  I began to wonder if it was a foreign dignitary who demanded a motorcade.

That’s when I saw the motorcycle cops come down Bay in tandem.  It WAS a motorcade!  Following them were a few cruisers and a fire truck, then a limo.  Behind the limo was a military vehicle and that’s when I started to piece together what was happening.  As the next vehicle approached, everyone on the street took off their hats and the cops directing traffic stood sharply at attention.  The vehicle was a hearse and it was carrying the body of the latest Canadian soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan to his autopsy downtown.

Yeah, so next time I’m inconvenienced by traffic, I’ll probably think twice before getting upset at what caused it.  It might be something a little (or lot) more important than my rec league soccer game.

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So, as promised, here are photos of all our hard work. They’re really low resolution to make loading them in your browser earlier, so you might not get the full effect, but the full size ones will be up on Facebook shortly, or you can invite yourself up to the cottage to see it in person.

Here’s what it looked like before:

So saggy...

Notice how much lower the floor is on the right side of the window than on the left. If there wasn’t newspaper stuffed under the wall trim, you’d see daylight streaming through a large gap. The floor has been slowly pulling away from the wall since about 1950, so this isn’t a new development, but it’s gotten much worse lately. In the foreground, there’s a square cut out of the floor. That’s from a previous attempt at shoring it up.

So we pulled up the floorboards and saved them (because they’re old and look awesome) and pulled up the subfloor (which was just some newspaper and tarpaper over old barnboards) and Ash jumped in to take a look at the rocky, muddy swamp that is the ‘basement’.

The man in the floor

The two support beams in the foreground were so rotten, we basically just pulled them apart with our hands. On the right, there was nothing holding them up or into the foundation (which has long since collapsed), so we realized we had our work cut out for us.

What lies beneath

Here’s a peek under the floor. After decades of shoring up the foundation, the house will finally get the TLC it needs! In the centre, you’ll notice the cinder blocks holding up the beam we cut out. You may have to squint to notice that those blocks are sitting on another set of blocks that are mostly submerged in some icky mire. The water under the house was musty and grimy, but on a hot day, that’s what keeps the ground floor so cool.

Windows help keep bugs out

With the foundation still holding up the house at two corners, the wall is must be pretty solid not have cracked in half like an egg with this much pulled away from it. This was just such a weird scene for me that I took a bunch of photos. It’s the outside on the inside!

We put a board under the outside wall and shored it up with three concrete posts (of sorts) and then tied this frame into the existing unrotted beams, but rather than following the natural slope of the house (which is WAY off), we levelled it out a bit.

A message to the future

We left some messages to future generations of my family, and this is one of them. I’m pretty sure that no one will see this for a loooooooooooong time.

subfloor

Once the frame was in, it was time for the subfloor. It may not look level but that’s because the far wall was painted with the trim on when the floor was already out of whack. If you eyeball the floor to the window, you’ll see that it’s pretty good.

The finished product

We hid most of the sketchy pieces of flooring under the stairs and matched the flooring as best we could. It’ll need some wood putty and a coat of paint, but it’s not going to fall down anytime soon. Note how the floor meets the trim under the window on the left and how it meets the base of the stairs under our feet. There’s no longer a trampoline at the bottom of the stairs (or on them) and everything is wicked solid. I really couldn’t be happier.

Thanks again to Rob (pictured left) and Ash (pictured top, giving the ‘thumbs up’) for working so hard for so little. You guys will always be welcome at the house, especially when it comes time to fix the foundation on the shed. To everyone else who conveniently had something on last weekend and couldn’t come help, I’m not bitter. You’re still welcome at the cottage… you just can’t walk on our fancy new floor.

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