Thursday, July 28, 2011

HNT - Memories Upon Which A Life Is Built

I'm a fan of social media and quite enjoy the fact that I'm able to connect with so many people as well as connect with friends who are geographically distant. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms have allowed me to be in contact with so many people, meet new people, and even stay in touch with people I haven't seen in person in years, sometimes even decades.

Of course, there's the flip side to consider as well.

Right now I'm reading a book by McMaster professor Nick Bontis called Information Bombardment: Rising Above the Digital Onslaught. The book is a great introduction to the wonders of this digitally connected world and Bontis takes the reader on a trip through the history that brought us here and speculation about how the world is going to look in just a few short years. But more than this, he offers the reader some useful tips and advice on how to work smarter and strategies on how to deal with the massive information that is flooding into our lives. He helps the reader not lose sight of the important things and to prioritize, taking full advantage of being digitally connected while not losing sight of the basic human needs that are important for balance.

"The more time each of us spends giving our attention to various outlets of information, the less attention we have for the important relationships in our lives. Often we negotiate tiny moments every day and every week so that we can check our e-mail one more time, download new software or watch the latest YouTube video clip. Every time this happens we choose to divert our attention from our spouses, families and friends." - Nick Bontis, INFORMATION BOMBARDMENT, Page 224

How true. Even writing this blog post, for example, is time I negotiated away from other important things. (For example, I was diverted from working on a book which has a deadline to be at the publisher in a few short weeks).

Bontis goes on to say that "you still can't hug your children from afar, and you still can't smell the fragrance of your spouse from a different city." I love the way that he uses the senses to illustrate the important and concrete things that aren't replaceable despite the great new technological advances that allow us to connect digitally.

"But no matter how effective these technological tools become, they do not replace direct, in-person time spent together . . . your spouse doesn't need just to get an e-mail update about your personal thoughts or to check in with you by phone to hear about the latest events in your day. Your partner needs to see, feel, smell and hear you in person. These social contacts reveal so much more than information. They provide personal memories upon which a life is built." - Nick Bontis, INFORMATION BOMBARDMENT, Page 225

Nick's book has been a useful reminder to me of the important things. Just the other night, after a long day of work, Francine and I sat on the back deck and just unwound, chatting about little things and sharing some moments from our day. The television, the computer, the iPhone I normally always have on me were all in other spaces and forgotten. It was enjoyable and special just to have that special moment together. I can never get enough of those moments.

I really like my social media connections and enjoy interacting with some many wonderful people in the digital realm - but those in-person, those special, precious and fun moments spent in person with family and friends, those are the truly wonderful moments that I cherish.

And so, this week's HNT post is going to look back at some of the fun special moments, some special summer memories. Interestingly, these are all photos posted to my Facebook profile - earlier this week I was organzing some of them into albums and reflecting on the fun moments and special memories of doing fun things with the two people who are most important to me.

Here's hoping YOUR summer is filled with special moments and new memories of those important family and friends in your life. Happy HNT.

Moose Winooski's - Summer 2010
Another fun day at the beach - Port Dover - Summer 2007
Me, Alexander & Francine - funhouse mirror on Clifton Hill - Niagara Falls, July 2007

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

With Great Influence Comes Great Responsibility

I haven't been blogging much lately because I'm been channelling much of my creative input full steam ahead into a book project (nearing the "finalize and sign the contract" time) which I'll likely announce relatively soon here on this blog.

But sometimes I come across a single line that makes me think and sends me back to bloggy land where I try to work out the thoughts that bounce around inside my head. (Seems I won't be able to get back to the project at hand until I spend a bit of time tossing and mixing the ideas formulating there)

In this morning's RSS stream, I was reading Chris Brogan's blog and had to chuckle at a line he wrote:

"Worrying about whether or not you’re an influencer by someone else’s measures is like having a toy steering wheel and thinking you’re driving the car." - Chris Brogan

Brogan, author of books such as Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust (co-written with Julien Smith) and Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online, has been an influence on the way that I think about and look at digital culture and social media for several years now -- particularly since I first heard him in discussion with a group of amazing techno culture nerds like Mitch Joel and Hugh McGuire on the Media Hacks podcast (which is built directly into Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation podcast feed)

I've had the pleasure of meeting both Mitch and Hugh (even the priviledge of getting to share the stage with Hugh at the 2010 BookNet Canada Tech Forum for a talk called Trailblazing: Leading the Way to a New Kind of Supply Chain), but I haven't yet met Chris. There's no doubt, though, that I pay attention to the many great insights and valuable bits of information that he regularly shares and puts out there for free.

One of the thing I like about Brogan's blog post, and which appears consistently in his messaging, is the importance of using whatever influence a person has for good. Brogan demonstrates that repeatedly through his own social media interactions, regularly pointing out and sharing things he believes will add value to those who follow him, rather than visciously "selling" something of his own.

To me, Brogan is like the Spider-Man of social media, who does his thing to make the social media world a better place while constantly reminding himself that with great influence comes great responsibility. (With apologies to Stan Lee for adapting Peter Parker's penultimate catch-phrase into this new format)

There, all that meandering babble just so I could work out the fact that I think Chris Brogan is an inspirational super-hero type figure and that Stan Lee has likely been a subtle yet significant influencer on me for most of my life.

Okay, I can get back to my book project now that I've got that out on the table.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

HNT - Mark Van Dyke

A couple of weeks ago when I was on vacation, I didn't shave for a few days. It happens sometimes when I'm on vacation. I decide to skip a day of shaving - the next thing I know, a few days have passed and the stubble starts to fill in.

By the end of the week, with the Warrior Dash coming, I thought it would be fun to shave the hair off my cheeks and leave a Van Dyke style beard. (Yes, not a goatee -- it's called a Van Dyke after a 17th Century Flemish painter known as Anthony Van Dyke - a van Dyke consists of any growth of both a moustache and a goatee with all the hair on the cheeks shaven)

In any case, I grew this beard for the 5K warrior race and decided to keep it for a couple of more weeks.

My beard has always had a red tint to it. This time, the grey on my chin is VERY pronounced. So much so that at times and in certain light, it can look like I just have a really, er "stylish" moustache that stretches down to either side of my chin.

A few folks have told me that it suits me. I think it helps make up nicely for the lack of hair on the top of my head, perhaps distracting the eye from the shiney reflection beaming off my extended forehead. In my lifetime, a beard of this style once would have allowed me to fit into the artsy or academic culture nicely - the style, though, has become way too popular and worn by so many men now that it doesn't represent anything other than standard fare.

It won't last. It never does. I had a beard for a year or more back in high school, and since then, I've grown a beard perhaps less than a dozen times, typically keeping it for no longer than a month at a time.

But this time the beard won't last long mostly because every couple of days my wife asks me when I'm going to get rid of the "dead raccoon" thing on my face.

Francine has a wonderful way of not mincing words. Gotta love that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Smudge of Eink

I have long been a fan of the artefact known as a book.

However, I've also been rather excited by advancing technologies that would allow me to, for example, carry hundreds, perhaps thousands of books with me relatively easily, so that when I travel I not only have a book to read, but I might also have a back-up book, or two, or three, or a hundred.

Right now, for example, I've got 5 books on "the go" - ie, books that I'm in the middle of reading. Two of them are physical books, two of them are digital books and one of them is an audio book. Two rooms of my house have physical books that await me. (The bedside table and the reading chair), I've got a book to listen to while commuting or going for a run, and a couple of others I can read in short snippets while on the go.

Life has been good for this life-long reading nerd.

Until a few days ago, that is.

Having been without a vehicle lately, I've been taking the bus in to work each morning. Using the HSR has been a pleasant experience. Walking to the bus-stop I've been able to listen to an audio book. But when I'm sitting on the bus, I enjoy the experience of reading. And since the physical books I'm reading right now are weildly thick books and more difficult to stuff into my laptop bag, I've been taking my Sony PRS-505 with me.

I've owned my Sony reader for a couple of years now - it's an earlier version of the reader, but the design of it is, in my opinion, better than the more recent models. (One of the things I like more about the 505 version is that the "page turn" option is duplicated, appearing on the right-hand side of the device as well as the bottom left -- it meant that, nomatter which hand I was holding the ereader with, I was able to easily turn the page relatively easily (ie, without having to use my other hand) - this was useful whether I was lying in bed with one arm behind my head or standing on a bus or train and holding on to something to keep from flying forward at sudden stops.

Life was good with my Sony ereader and it's e-ink screen. It was a nice, lightweight device, measuring roughly 5 X 7, or about the size of a mass market paperback, yet about a quarter of an inch thick, and perhaps a pound in weight.

The eink experience of reading is pleasant on the eyes. The joy of being able to carry more than one book on the device, listen to music from the device or even store pictures on it were neat novelties - I didn't often take advantage of most of those options, but they were nice to have, particularly when showing off the reader to others.

This version of the ereader didn't have WiFi. No, it wasn't as convenient as being able to download new reading material on the fly - to get new content onto it, I needed to hook it up with a USB to my computer and download or move content over to it. Not a big hassle, and having a handheld device that did NOT connect to the internet was a benefit, in my mind. Enough distractions abound without having to deal with my own temptation to be reading email or checking my RSS feed, or checking in on a social network.

As I said, life was good. I was taking my Sony ereader to work with me in my laptop bag, enjoying the commute and the extra reading time I was able to get in.

Until the other day when I pulled out my Sony reader to continue reading the book I'd been enjoying and noticed a small mark on the eink screen. I rubbed at it, but it didn't go away. It was an "eink smudge." That day's transit to and from work had had no particular issues. IE, I hadn't dropped my bag, hadn'y thrust anything into it in any sort of violet fashion. I'd merely carried it to and from work like I do thousands of times a year.

But there, a little more than half-way up the screen, was the tell-tale smudge of eink, suggesting to me some sort of damage had occured to the screen. It reminded me of a crack I remember getting on a laptop screen about ten years ago when I'd accidentally stepped on the closed laptop that some moron (me) had left on the floor.

My heart skipped a beat.

I turned the device on and waited the half second for the screen to come alive.

The top right quadrant of the eink screen was blocked/blurred. About 45% of the real estate of the screen was now "dead" - nothing showed on it.

I flipped pages. I turned it on and off. I went through the library, opening new material, different documents like images, etc. Nothing worked.

I went online to various forums, followed the steps to reset the entire device, even wiping out my memory and restoring to factory settings. None of that worked either.

So right now, I have a device that, originally, cost a few hundred dollars, can store books, music and photos but is virtually useless as anything other than an mp3 player. I have ebooks I have purchased through Sony which I can't read on my portable device any longer (yes, I can read them on my computer through an Adobe product - but I don't really read ebooks on my computer - that's so 1999)

I keep looking at that silly smudge of eink on the screen of my digital book reader.

Then I look over at the 8 sets of bookshelves in my home library.

And I think -- I could have easily transported any one of these books back and forth from work. None of them (not even the limited edition slipcase collector items I purchased new) cost nearly as much as the eink reader on its own. And none of them would have been rendered unreadable after a typical day of going to and from work.

And then I sigh and mutter something to the effect of: "Electronic devices come and go, but books abide."

No I haven't given up on digital books and e-ink devices.

But I have renewed some of my belief, some of my passion about the durability and longevity of that long-running artefact known as the printed book.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

HNT - Warrior Dash Barrie 2011 Postmortem

I completed my first Warrior Dash this past weekend with two of my buddies. It took place near Barrie at the Horseshoe Resort on July 9, 2011.

Chad, Pierre and I decided to make a weekend of the event, so we took our families up and stayed there Friday and Saturday night. That was a great decision because the kids and our wives had a great time and everybody wants to go back next year. We were able to get lots of fun family swim time in, some mini-put, as well as a BBQ, picnic lunch, pizza and plenty of time spent huddled around a cooler filled with beer.

The Warriors pre-race
Alexander hams it up with us for a pre-race picture

There was a heat every half hour from 8:00 AM until 6:30 PM, with more than 500 people in each heat. And though our race didn't start until 10:30 AM, and despite it being a late Friday night where we killed many beer (in true Warrior fashion), we were up early and wandering the grounds, enjoying the atmosphere, watching the first sets of runners come in, jumping over the flames then diving into the final mud pit and checking out things such as the axe throwing.

Careful with that axe, Eugene!

I thought Pierre had an axe to grind, not one to throw

Pierre and I had dressed in "Warrior" garb - me in my old Conan the Barbarian costume, he in a Spartan one. Chad sported a horned helmet (which he wore for most of the weekend).  Our costumes prompted a lot of people to want to get their picture with us.

The Warrior Dash is a 5K (3.23 mile) run, described as 3.24 hellish miles. It is filled with obstacles some of which might look like they're from an army training camp.  The particular obstacles for this race were called:  Arachnophobia, Blackout, Great Warrior Wall, Chaotic Crossover, Hay Fever, Road Rage, Cliffhanger, Petrifying Plunge, Cargo Climb, Warrior Roast and Muddy Mayhem.

The starting point for the race was a fun area, filled with much buzz and excitement. Francine and Alexander were there with us to cheer us on and take some pictures.

Pumped warriors waiting to start

But the narrow starting area filled to capacity rather quickly, so when we were set to start, all passing under an archway with flames shooting from the top, there were too many people in such a tight area to be able to run. So we did our best to try to walk quickly until the crowd started to thin out enough to actually begin a bit of a jog.

The race begins

Less than half a kilometer in, we encountered the first series of mud pits. The very first was small enough to leap over, but the next few you just had to step through, covering your entire foot with thick gloopy mud.

But the first real mud pit, one about twenty-five to thirty feet long (and one previous runners had warned us about), was deep, thick, and a bit of a "shoe trap" - a group of guys who'd come up from Ohio had warned us about it; one of their team had lost his left shoe there and ended up having to run the rest of the race (4.5 K) with one shoe.

This mud pit was more than knee deep and slowed everyone down significantly as they sloshed through, some people falling, others clinging to the people beside them. A female runner dressed as a "bar wench" ended up grabbing onto me to pull herself through part of the mud and I passed a guy who was struggling desperately to pull his shoe out of the thick muck. We gave a hearty warrior cheer as his shoe finally popped free.

It wasn’t long after that first big mud pit that the rolling hills began. We were running at the base of a ski-hill, and eventually heading to the top. I’ve gotten relatively decent at running, but hills are still my Achilles heel.
We ran up and down a series of hills (some of them so steep that there was no choice but to walk down or up them, grabbing onto trees to keep from pitching forward or to pull oneself up.

The first “man made” obstacle was Arachnophobia, a series of ropes tied, like a giant spider’s web, across the path. I had imagined it would be something we’d have to carefully navigate through, stepping through, ducking under, climbing over. However, to get past this one, all we needed to do was get on our hands and knees and crawl under it.  That wasn’t so bad.

More hills (need I describe the nasty upward progression?), again, some of which we had to walk, then we made it to Blackout – a long low black tarp “tent” stretched across the trail and running about 30 feet or so across. It was hot, warm, dark and dusty under that tent. Wooden boards running across meant you had to crawl low, and I was glad to get through it and out the other side.

We ran on. The hills got steeper, longer.

Then we made it to the climbing wall.  It was a wall perhaps twelve or fifteen feet high with ropes we had to pull ourselves over with. Two paramedics sat atop either side of this wall, cheering people on while preparing for the first potential injury of perhaps someone landing on the other side and twisting their ankle.

I made it over this one pretty quickly. There was a two-by-four about four and a half feet up, so it was a simple matter to pull up on the rope, place a foot on the 2X4 and then haul myself over and jump onto the other side.

At one point we ran past a sign that said 10K maximum speed. I joked to Pierre that we should slow down so we don’t get a ticket. (Because it was one of those long, windy hills, I think, at that point we were perhaps moving no faster than 3K)

The next obstacle (apart from the hills – have I mentioned them?) was a cargo net stretched across a large series of beams. It was about five feet off the ground, so you had to climb up, then go across the net, which sank slightly and rocked when you stood on it – so for the most part, you were on feet and hands to navigate across it – attempting to walk would have sent a person straight down through the holes in the net, or, worse, with one leg on either side of the rope.

Up another long and twisty path, we found ourselves to the half-way mark of the run (2.5 K) and a water station. After getting to the top it was nice to drink one of the cups and pour another one over our heads. At this point, we noticed the Zip-line from the top of the ski-hill, as well as a series of other tree-top adventure climbing activities and told ourselves we’d check it out if we survived this race.

At the top of this mountain, there wasn’t the same nice shady protection of the trees, and the sun beat down hard on us. We ran around a few paths and then down a very steep hill.  I couldn’t help but move down that one at double speed, basically continuing to thrust one foot after another in front of me to keep from tumbling down the hill ass over teakettle. At the bottom there were a couple of women in a golf cart. I called out asking them if I could borrow it and they laughed, saying I wasn’t going to like what was around the next corner.

It was another vertical climb – this one basically up a straight, steep, ski run. I think I perhaps ran the first 20 or 30 feet. Then it was a walk to the top.

Tricia, Jocelyn and the kids greet us at the top of that hill. It must have disappointing for them to see us struggling to keep stepping forward, but at that point, even if I had had the energy or strength, I'm not sure I could have run at all on the steep slope with packed down grass.

At the top was an ambulance with paramedics in it. Good place to be. I wondered how many people collapsed from exhaustion at that point.  Just past the top was Road Rage, a series of tires perhaps 50 feet on either side of a pile of wrecked cars. We had to get through the tires, climb over the cars and make our way through more tires.  

Yaaaay, a hill to go DOWN!
Perhaps a dozen yards beyond that was Hay Fever, a 20 foot high stack of hay bales. We climbed through that and practically fell down the other side which was already starting to crumble that early in the day.

Yaaaa, more downhill
Then it was around another corner and down another hill that looped down then back around to another nearby peak just above that nasty grassy ski slope we'd come up a few minutes earlier. The wives and the kids had moved over to greet us there as well. We ran down another hill past them, then up another small one, this one with boards and ropes to pull yourself up with (though it wasn't at all a steep hill)

One of the final hills (thank God it was a smaller one)
Shortly beyond that, we ran another couple of corners. I should have been delighted to learn that, since we were at the top of the mountain (with a gorgeous view of the valley, the Horseshoe Resort and finish line way down below), there were no more hills to run up. We were about 3/4 done the race at that point, and it was mostly downhill from there.

Hamming for the cameras at the top of the mountain

Pierre and I hammed for the cameras set up shortly after that. I thought it was cute to see two warriors dressed in nasty gear, pumped, sweaty and struggling at the top of the mountain while in the background of that picture there's a pair of seniors looking like they're out for a leisurely stroll.

The downhill challenge began shortly after that. When we went by the Petrifying Plunge we were routed to run around it. Near the base of that obstacle there was a guy laying on the ground in incredible pain with two paramedics working on him. He'd broken his ankle. Later that day, Pierre and I ran into a couple in the grocey store who'd raced in the 11 AM heat. She showed us the nasty scratches she'd received along her upper legs when she reached the end of the watery tarp and ended up skidding through gravel, rocks and dried grass. We were a bit relieved about skipping that particular obstacle after hearing that.

Running down the ski hill was another challenge - unless you walked carefully, picking your way down, you couldn't help but be propelled forward at break-neck speed, doing everything under your power to keep from landing on your face and tumbling down the hill like the proverbial Jack & Jill and breaking your crown.

The Cargo Climb greeted us near the bottom of that last hill. It was maybe 30 or 40 feet high and a fun challenge to climb. I paused at the very top, thrust my warrior arms in the air -- mostly so that Francine and Alexander, who were waiting near the finish line and would be looking for us, might see me.

Climbing down the other side, Chad, Pierre and I waited for each other before heading for the flames together.

Mark be nimble . . .

We then let out a warrior cry and ran toward the flames in our second final attack, leaping them as a team.

Then we hit the mud pit. Chad went ahead of me, doing a roll in the air to land on his back. I did a swan dive (at least in my mind - in reality I think it was more like a belly flop) into the mud and felt the mud splash over my face and head.

Then I proceeded to crawl under the barbed wire (which I was disturbed to see wasn't real barbed wire, but rather chain with decoration strung about a foot over the mud) and through the mud. My loin cloth and "hair" were getting really heavy under the mud as I slogged forward, and I remember wondering about what was at the bottom of this mud pit, because it felt like I was kneeling in glass shards.

Creature from the final mud pit

Then, finally, through the mud pit, I crawled out, feeling like (and very likely looking like) some creature from a 1950's horror film and sloshed my way to the finish line where someone thrust the "I Survived Warrior Dash" medal over my muddy neck. The mud-soaked clothes were sliding off of me and added perhaps 20 pounds. (Yeah, just what I needed after a 5K run - to carry around another 20 lbs)

Then we looked around for clean people to hug (for some strange reason, nobody took us up on the offer), found Francine and Alexander, posed for some pictures, then headed over to the "clean off" area where they doused us with fire hoses. Ice-cold water that I had to take a break from two times -- and the third time I went in it was completely in my underwear (loin cloth, head-dress and furs stripped off) - I mean, it's not like I wasn't already mostly naked anyway, and tons of other people were in their undies as well. (See, this post fits nicely into the Half-Nekkid Thursday spectrum)

Post-race muddy

Muddy Warrior Pose
It took perhaps two more really long showers to get all the mud out. My "run uniform" took many more front lawn soakings and sprayings and a good run through the washing machine. But I hope to wear it again next year if the Warrior Dash comes back to Ontario.

Because I didn't end up running the whole time I wasn' sore the next day. (Of course, I'm comparing it to the 10K Mud Runs I've done - while the hills aren't nearly as big, I run the whole thing and usually at the 8K point I tell myself I'll never do this again if only I could finish) My knees were in extreme pain, however, and I have really nasty cuts and scratches on both knees from the gravel at the bottom of the mud pit. (I still think that there was either crushed glass there or perhaps THAT's where they put the barbed wire) Aparently the scratched knees was a consistent ailment with all the warriors.

Overall, I came in 4713th place (out of 10,000 people, that's not bad) with a time of 45:44.15 (pretty close to what I was estimating it would take us. I normally run 5K in about 30 minutes - I figured the gigantic hills and obstacles would add fifteen minutes) In my age group (40 to 44), I came in 244th place. Again, not bad out of almost 500 people in that category)

In all, it was a grand time, a great family weekend and a fun challenge with a couple of my buddies.

Gotta love it! And can't wait to do this again!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Longer My Truck

I sold my Dad's truck the other day.

Funny, isn't it? I've owned the truck since 2003, yet I still think of it as Dad's Truck (and yes, in capital letters like that). My Dad owned it from 1997 until he died in 2003. I held onto it, yes, partly as a way of trying to hold on to my Dad.

But the control arm (steering mechanism) rotted out and I haven't been able to drive it for weeks. So I listed it, a dozen or so people asked about it, a few came to look at it, and the other night someone offered me pretty much what I was asking for it.

I sold it to a mechanically inclined man who is going to be buying it to try to either fix up for his son to use or else use the parts and sell others. While it's tough letting go of my Dad's truck (see, I still don't think of it as my truck), I would be delighted to learn he WAS able to fix it up and his son was able to use it. Perhaps that way, the truck could be part of a third father/son bonding experience.

I did ask if his son fished and told him if he did, this truck would be lucky for him because it came with my father's essence of fishing luck.

I took this picture of Alexander recently, sitting on the hood of the truck and looking off pensively. From his perspective, it's Dad's truck.  He was born in 2004, so he never knew my Dad, and never really knew it as Grandpa Gene's truck, even though I constantly refer to it that way. Alexander and I had some great times driving around together in that truck.

I found a picture of Dad and I that was taken in the early 90's - both of us looking off camera, pensively. It's one of those many moments we sat together in a pause between chatting, just enjoying being in one another's company.

I feel these shots are the best kind to go with this blog post as I sit and think back about My Dad's Truck and all the things it has meant to me as well as my relationships with my father and my son.

So it's no longer my truck, no longer even my Dad's truck - but it leaves me with a lot of great memories of the father/son bond which can occur over something as simple as a hunk of steel, glass, plastic and metal mounted on four tires.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Dashing Warrior

This weekend, a couple of buddies and I will be running in the Warrior Dash.

It's a 5K (3.24 mile) run with various obstacles (Arachnophobia, Blackout, Great Warrior Wall, Chaotic Crossover, Hay Fever, Road Rage, Cliffhanger, Petrifying Plunge, Cargo Climb, Warrior Roast and Muddy Mayhem - I won't describe what each is - they're best left to the imagination)

I was laughing at the waiver and release I needed to sign for this run, which includes the following:

  • I understand that entering Warrior Dash is a hazardous activity
  • I understand that Warrior Dash presents extreme obstacles including, but not limited to: fire, mud puts with barbed wire, cargo climbs, junk cars and steep hills
  • I consent to emergency medical care and transportation in order to obtain treatment in the event of injury to me as medical professionals may deem appropriate
  • I understand that the Warrior Dash course may contain wild animals, insects and plants
  • I agree not to dive into or enter the mud pit head first

I think it's going to be fun.

For a costume (because for a fun race like this, you need a fun costume), I'm ressurecting my old "Conan The Barbarian" costume. My aunt made it for me when I was about 14 years old. It doesn't quite fit the way it used to . . .

The Conan costume when it was it perfect "new" condition
. . . it doesn't even fit as well as it did when I was in university . . .

The Conan costume from a university Halloween party

. . . but that adds to the "charm" and "humour" of the costume - doesn't it . . . ?

The Conan costume on a middle-aged guy
I'm not sure when I was no longer able to wear the top the proper way, but I can't even get it done up when slipped on - it's supposed to zip up at the back. (Let's conveniently blame the growth of my shoulders and chest muscles, shall we?) In the picture above, I'm wearing the vest backwards. Perhaps that'll be better in terms of not getting too over-heated during the race.

Interesting to see, though, how I have evolved with this costume from a Dashing Warrior to a . . . Wasted Warrior and now to a Weather-worn Warrior.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

HNT - 7 Lucky Years

Today is my son Alexander's 7th birthday.

I am so proud of my wonderful little boy, so delighted with each and every moment I get to spend with him.

Alexander sitting on the hood of my truck (which used to be my father's truck)

I kind of suspected I would enjoy fatherhood, but there are a few things that caught me by surprise in the past 7 years. For example, I never knew that:

  • This baby that I held in my arms, this little boy whose hand I hold when he crosses the street, this child who I tuck in at night and tell bedtime stories to could continually teach ME so much
  • Despite how precious each age and each stage in his life has been, there is even MORE new joy to be reaped as I watch my son continue to grow
  • Just stepping into my son's bedroom and watching him sleep can make a frustrating and terrible day disappear in a flash
  • When my phone at work or my cell phone rings and there's a long pause when I answer (like one of those telemarketer calls), I'm continually delightedly surprised and excited when it's my son calling me just to say hi.
  • Simple things like a clumsy hug from this little person work better than any virtually any balm, any medicine I have ever taken
A fun afternoon of swimming during our July 2011 vacation
  • Doing chores around the house might take twice as long when Alexander helps me, but the pleasure derived from working alongside him is more than quadruple
  • Just sitting back and looking at my wife and my son interact, my two very best friends, brings an amazing sense of comfort, joy and peace to my heart
  • My son would be mad about things I loved when I was a child (and still love today) - things like Star Wars and LEGO (and how much cooler they both are when combined)
A special birthday trip to the LEGO store!
  • I would continually be in awe of this special little boy. Sure, I knew I would love him with all my heart, but never imagined how overwhelmingly in awe I would be of the things he does, the things he says

Each and every day with my son is a marvel. I'm on vacation this week - a few years ago, I started booking off his birthday and where possibly, the week of his birthday -- spending the week with Alexander just doing all the little daily things that a father and son can do together is one of the best ways I can imagine spending my vacation time.

Talk about an incredibly wise investment of my time. The benefits I have reaped are, of course, beyond price.

There, completely "naked" thoughts about fatherhood and my son. How's THAT for a Half-Nekkid Thursday post?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Creating His Own American Dream

I just read a cool blog post written by Kevin J. Anderson. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year at EerieCon in Niagara Falls, New York.

Kevin was the big name guest of honor with a countless number of bestsellers under his belt, yet he was humble, down to earth and approachable - he was friendly and courteous with everybody and treated other no-name author guests like myself with the utmost of professional courtesy and respect.

On top of that, he was fascinating to chat with and listen to on various panels - I had the pleasure of being on a couple of panels with him and fortunate to be moderator so I could ask questions to which I really wanted to know the answers.

So when I saw a post called Creating My Own American Dream on Kevin's blog the other day, talking about the steps he followed, from a very young age, to become a writer, it reminded me of the wealth of information he doled out that weekend last year.

I was particularly captured by the following sentiment...

By the time I was ten, I had saved up enough of my allowance to buy either my own bicycle or my own typewriter. Even though every other kid I knew had a bike, I decided on a Smith Corona Electric cartridge typewriter, which I used to rewrite that ever-growing novel, The Injection.

I did a similar thing that Kevin did. Where it was him, at eight, discovering his father's typewriter, for me it was my mother's old Underwood typewriter I discovered; and that one summer at the age of fourteen that I spent hunkered over the typewriter in the basement working on a fantasy novel while my friends went on bike rides, swam in the pool and played baseball.

The novel I wrote that summer, The Story of Aaron Boc, was terrible, but represents a big part of my journey from wanting to be a writer to becoming a writer. It was a "learning" novel - I had to learn about form and structure and plot arc and character development -- and just as importantly, I had to learn about discipline (ie, sitting at a typewriter while everybody else was outside playing) I also had to learn that to write one good thing you perhaps had to write a dozen other things, some of them practice, some of them garbage, some of them salvageable with yet another edit. I'd never consider pulling that summer's manuscript out of the drawer it sits in, because I know it sucks; but I'll always cherish the learning experience that working on it was.