Monday, 31 December 2012

Goals and Other Extraneous Thoughts for 2013

Wow!  I and we, all of us, this means you have survived the year that was 2012.  Looking back at the year that was I would have to say that I enjoyed some personal success.  Also, I got to enjoy being a part of a pretty good year for my family both immeadiate and extended. 

Highlights of the past year include our family trip to visit my sister and brother-in-law in Montreal.  This was great fun as we spent time with 2 great people, got to see the sights of Montreal and Jasmine and Asher got to experience their first plane trip, one that Jasmine particularly will remember forever.  Witnessing the culture and the variety of life that Montreal has to offer gave me significant food for thought and has altered the way I think about people and the way we interact.

Another highlight for me was seeing significant growth in my relationship with my mom as well as other members of my family.  My mom has been battling some health issues for a few years, and my complacency and lack of respect for our bond had led to us growing apat somewhat.  We would talk very infrequently on the phone, and despite there being only an hour or so between my family and hers we didn't see each other as often as we could or should.  Sheila and I made a point of letting mom know that we wanted her to get more involved, get to know Jasmine and Asher more and that she was welcome at our place anytime along with my dad and older sister as well.  While we started chatting more on the phone in the spring, and we saw them a few more times both here in Prince George and in Quesnel at their home, I believe my mom was still battling significant stress in regards to her health and the huge lift altering decision about retirement.  I'm not privy to the exact date or time that my mom made the decision to retire, but it seemed she became much more relaxed and easy going throughout the summer.  She and my dad went on an amazing vacation/cruise that took them to some cool places like Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland and upon their return my mom let us know that she was indeed going to retire.  My dad has been very supportive of this choice, and I myself thought it was the right decision.  Now, after seeing my mom through her first 4 months of retirement, I am more certain that she did indeed make a great decision.  My mom can be a quiet and reserved person, but she can also be very friendly and easy going.  She spends a lot of her time doing things for others with little fanfare.  I have actually lost count of how many visits we have had with her since September, but every time she comes we really enjoy it.  Her comfort level with Asher and Jasmine has grown leaps and bounds, and it is truly awesome to see.  She has come for overnight visits, weekend stays and in October she moved in for a week while I was away in Vancouver to pursue my poker dream.  If you had told me that scenario would happen even a few years ago, I could not have concieved it.  Sheila and mom my have built their relationship more in the past 6 months then they had in the previous 6 and a half years, swapping advice on kids, going for outings together and what not, it has been great to see.  Thanks mom, it really has been great to see you come out of your shell!

Before I get carried away with the year just passed, I would like to get to my "resolutions" for the coming year.  I prefer the term "goals" as many of the items I will include on this list are pretty open ended.  I want to encourage myself to strive for personal growth, and to push towards being a better person, better husband (oops, that's not technically correct), better dad, better son, better brother and so on.  If I work towards these goals, I believe 2013 could be a darn good year.  Shall we?

Okay, while considering this further I have decided to break these down into sections: family related goals, and personal goals.  To start, my goals that involve my family members.

While I considered how to phrase this goal I gave thought to just how lucky I am to be home with my nearly 2 year old son 3 days a week and how many dad's would kill for that situation.  Many dad's are away working for weeks at a time, so to have this opportunity is something I really need to take better advantage of.  Don't get me wrong, Asher loves his daddy, but I feel like I could be doing more.  Most days we drop Jasmine off at school and then retreat to the basement where I fart around on the computer and slowly workout while Asher plays around me, and of course with me.  He gets a real kick out of being dad's spotter, holding my feet down for me while I bench press.  Often he runs over to provide the help without being prompted.  Now, as a typical parent I think Asher is the coolest little man in the whole world.  He is as perfect as can be, but even perfect can be improved.  Due to lots of his time being spent with mom, dad and Jasmine as well as Grandma and Grandpa and his other family members, Asher has developed an unwillingness to share and play nicely with other children.  The key part of this goal is to start attending the Strong Start Program at Malaspina (Jasmine's school) at least once a week.  We went once before Christmas and Asher had a great time, with lots of things to play with that we don't have at home.  It's nice to interact with other parents when you are there too, and I have much to learn from others as well.  After a month or two if I am feeling ambitious I will look for other activities that Asher and I can do during the day when Jasmine is at school and Sheila is at work.

I realize that this goal is very open ended but it is something that I really want to work on.  Jasmine and I spend some time together, but I know she and I would both benefit from doing more things together both for fun and for fullfillment.  She and I are both involved in basketball once a week, and we still do our weekly swimming trips on Wednesday with Asher.  We probably saw 4 or 5 movies at the theatre together this year.  There was also soccer in the spring.  Here is me stating to the world that we need to spend more time doing things together.  My daughter is a very passionate person who's level of caring for others is quite awe inspiring.  We have talked for years about doing some volunteering together.  This would be great for us to bond while at the same time it would feel good to help others.  I want Jasmine to be exposed to those that are less fortunate as she has been developing a sense of entitlement and we did see a little lack of appreciation this Christmas.  The place I am most partial too is the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and perhaps our best bet would be to volunteer at their soup kitchen.  There may be age restrictions for volunteering, so Jasmine and I will have to do some research in the coming weeks.  Of course, we both like to have fun also so I am really going to work hard on getting her out of the house to enjoy the outdoors more often.  Skating outdoors at the oval or neighbourhood rinks, sledding at the nearby hill, bike riding in the summer, hiking in the woods are all things that Jasmine enjoys but rarely suggests doing.  Getting her away from the electronics more often is a very important goal for me this coming year.

After being together for more then 7 years, you would think that Sheila and I had the most perfect of relationships.  Of course, that's a bunch of malarkey and for the most part, it's the me part of the relationship that needs improvement.  We are both pretty busy people.  Sheila works full-time, me nearly full-time and we have the odd hobby that takes up additional time, oh and then there are the kids.  It is important that we take time together and work as a team to make our relationship run more smoothly.  I had a period of time in 2012 where I was full of energy and was making a concerted effort to help out more around the house.  We aren't talking about more then my share, but perhaps creeping my way closer to 50% of the housework and menial tasks that need doing when you have a house and kids.  I also found that when I was doing more, Sheila was happier, go figure.  Later in this post I will post goals in regards to my health that will hopefully lead to me regaining my previous energy levels, and combined with this goal that I know my dear lady will read, will lead to a fire being lit under my lethargic ass.  That is step one.  Another thing is that while we have the children and that makes it much harder to get out of the house and do things just the two of us, that doesn't stop us from spending time together at home in te evenings when the kids are in bed for the night.  Recently, we have gotten back to watching movies together which we both really enjoy.  Also, a couple of days ago we got to go out for a nice dinner and swimming date which was also lots of fun.  So there you have it, I have carelessly and wrecklessly promised to be a better partner in the coming year and this is all the proof you need Sheila.

For those that know me, you won't be shocked to see me state that I have a problem with relationships.  I can be very anti-social and it is something that I am not proud of.  I will often meet new people, enjoy their company, have an opportunity to hang out, get to know them better and I just let the time slip away.  I struggle with this.  I am very self-concious about what other people think of me.  I am always convincing myself that my company is not something that people want.  This makes me pretty inept when it comes to making new friends, and it also effects my ability to keep in contact with people that I have established relationships with.  I patted myself on the back earlier for the improved relationship I have with my mom, and I have also been in contact with my sister Erin more often this year then any year since we last lived together full time more then 10 years ago.  These successes are only a start.  I need to pick up the phone and make an effort.  I want to talk to friends more often, I want to spend time hanging out with people.  Friends with kids are even better, as shooting the breeze over coffee is easier of the kids are having fun at the same time.  I aim to work at getting over my anxiety issues and anti-social tendencies, and this goes hand in hand with feeling better about myself.


Now, we will move on to the personal goals section of this post, and perhaps to facilitate actually finishing this post, I will make each goal a little shorter in description.


Nothing too crazy, but I would like to continue to write/type content for this blog.  I completely fell off the rails the last half of the year, and while school work had something to do with it, I often found myself making a plethera of excuses.  My goal is to post on this page once a week on average and to mix in more opinionated material.  British Columbia is fast approaching an important provincial election so I should have plenty of material to work with.


I had some tremendous momentum going in the spring and summer months this year, and I can say definitively that by the end of August I was in the best shape of my life.  As a teen I was a bone rack with no fat in sight, but I also was void of muscle.  When the weather was nice, almost all of my recreational activities with and without the kids involved some kind of physical activity.  Bike riding, jogging, playing at the park, swimming, walks with Sheila, work outs at home, yard work, I looked at all these activities at serving multiple purposes.  I was also regularly taking a number of supplements that helped my general feeling of well.  I vividly remember one morning in the summer when I got up before Sheila left for work (this was my day off) and jogged 3 km in the crisp morning air.  I came home and while watching Asher got a weight session in.  By 930 am I felt like a million bucks.  Physical activity tends to boost my energy levels greatly, and I went on to have an extremely productive day.  While I have still been lifting weights fairly regularly, and I am a member of a rec hockey team this winter, my energy levels have dropped off drastically.   I have also gained a few pounds back, a painful reminder of just how easy it is to let it all go again.  I don't want that, not after all the work I put in.  

I plan to continue to lift weights 3-4 times per week.  I will make it hockey whenever I am available.  On top of that as outlined above, Jasmine and I are going to get out to the skating rink and the sled hill more regularly.  I am going to start drinking my protein and creatine shakes more often.  I will consume my multivitamins, fish oil caps, green tea pills and glucosamine on a daily basis.  I want to get this back on track.

I really am pretty blessed.  I make enough money at work and at poker to make ends meet, put a small amount aside for family vacations and contribute to an RESP for the children.  Between Sheila and I, we get it done.  At the same time, having the budget as tight as it is can be very stressful on both of us.  I would love to be able to blow money whenever I felt like it, but I also like having a roof over our heads.  At work, I have a job that while uneventful is not all that stressful or difficult.  My biggest complaint is that it is not challenging, and I have little right to complain about that.  All of that being said, I'm nearing my 30th birthday and I have not landing myself in a "career" situation.  I don't want to be counting every quarter until the day I retire.  My career ambitions are pretty cloudy at this point.  This goal is to motivate me towards improvement in some way.  I need to look at the options and viability associated with the management realm at my current job.  The program managers, which is the lowest tier in the management pyramid make about 30% more then I do, and they get the desirable Monday to Friday 9-5 schedule.  My other option is to look elsewhere for work, taking advantage of my employment experience and the degree that I hold.  I will take steps towards this in 2013.

This one truly is a softball.  If I put in the time, I will do this.  I am very confident in my abilities, and I have a 5 year track record proving that I win at the game.  Averaging less then 8 hours of play per week, I managed to earn nearly $12,000 in 2012 playing poker.  I also made an additional $800 or so playing on the computer casually.  Now, I am fully aware of the luck factor and variance involved in playing, hence the low target of $6,000 for the year 2013.  I was profitable every month this year, save for May when I lost 60 bucks, and December when I lost 150 or so while only playing 6 hours total.  After my poker trip to Vancouver I kind of lost my feel for the game and ended up making absolutely nothing over the last two months of the year.  I need to find that motivation again, which should be easy since Sheila, Jasmine and Asher are all counting on me.  Some profit is needed to pay the bills, but some is used for fun stuff too, which is just as important as the bills.  I plan to read from my extensive poker library and work on improving my game to make it more profitable.

I read 26 novels this year, ranging from the terrible "Alexandria of Africa" by Eric Walters to a few absolute classics.  Likely fodder for another post my favorites included: "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz, and "Last Words" by George Carlin.  My reading time dropped off drastically towards the end of the year, as mid year I was reading nearly a book a week.  Some like Ellison's book were big, his was 600 pages, but other books I just didn't get into.  I will read more this year, I enjoy it, it's relaxing and it provides great conversation fodder.

This one really bugs me.  As a home owner, I am beginning to realize just how often shit goes wrong with a house.  The project list keeps piling up, and sometimes financial reasons mean I have to put these things off.  Many times though, it's just me, my brain and my muscles that are required.  These tasks need to get done with more haste.  If something requires assistance, and it is in my budget, then I need to make the calls and arrangments to get it done.  Making a list is great, making work is better.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Busy life, good life.

As I reflect on the week that was, I realize that quite a few things occurred, fun, fullfilling or otherwise.  As usual, dad spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday recovering from the lack of sleep over the weekend. 

On Tuesday Sheila, Jasmine, Asher and I went to the theatre to see "Frankenweenie".  We thought we would try Asher at this because he has been watching some television lately, and often stays involved for reasonably long periods of time.  As it turns out, he isn't quite ready.  He sat down as we arrived just as the movie started.  He was on his booster seat with his tiny 3d glasses on and actually sat still for about 3 minutes.  Then as soon as dad thought about his sitting still, it ended.  A bag of popcorn to distract only worked for a while, and in the end mom and Asher had to leave with about 15 minutes left.  The movie was very well done by Mr. Tim Burton and Jasmine and I both left satisfied.

Wednesday, I took Asher and Jas to the pool after school, the Aquatic Centre had reopened after being closed a month for maintenance.  Asher was in all his glory, jumping and screaming with excitement most of the time we were there.  He did spoil Dad though allowing me a few trips to the hot tub where he sat nicely and gave me a chance to relax a bit.  Taking the little guy to the pool is a great workout, just trying to keep him safe is extremely intense and thankfully its only him I have to worry about.  Jasmine is very good in the water and she had met up with one of her best friends and was off doing his thing.  After swimming we drove up the Hart Highway to run an errand, and Jasmine stopped at her friend's house to say hi.

During the day on Thursday I read in the paper about the opening of a new park a Duchess Park and we decided to go and check it out.  Jasmine is very enthusiastic about all things park related, and she was screaming with excitement when I surprised her and drove up to the park.  I had her convinced we were just running a few errands, so the park was a happy shock.  The new playground was designed to be fully accessible for those children in wheelchairs, and by all observations there is little fault to be found in the set up.  Asher was having a blast as all of the ramps made for easy maneuvering and easy access to the kiddie slides.  He also had a lot of fun on the shifting pirate ship and the sit down merry go round that dad sat on with him.  Jasmine really had a good time too, as there was parts of the park that were designed for older kids, a 15 foot high slide, complete with vertical ladder to access it, a spinning wheel that you could hang from and rapidly send yourself into a dizzying whirlwind, as well as a climbing structure made of heavy rope that was shaped like the Eifel Tower.  (Jasmine actualy pointed this out, telling me the thing was "like Paris".  How she knew this, I don't know.)  After a quick trip to Parkwood Mall, we returned home to start dinner.

Friday brings the start of my work week, but it didn't stop me from getting out and having a good time.  We had a few tickets to the hockey game, so the guys, myself and a second staff member all went to the Spruce Kings game after dinner.  One of the guys comes to a number of games with me and quite enjoys it.  The second guy isn't as into sitting still and watching the game but he did very well on Friday.  We all enjoyed ourselves, and the game was well played as well.  Prince George won 2-1 in a good defensive battle with plenty of solid hits.  After seeing a number of good movies at work in recent weeks, I have really been enjoying our weekly Friday night outings.  It really helps me forget that I am weekend warrior who rarely gets a weekend to myself.

The hits kept coming as I got up Saturday to a nice egg scramble and bacon breakfast that Sheila had made.  I forced myself to get my workout in, and after mom and dad showered we all jumped in the car for a trip to the "Pumpkin Patch".  Not having been before, I had checked out the website to find out that for $5 each we could all hang out on the farm and the kids got a free pumpkin as well.  With that in mind we arrived to find it quite busy, around ~25 families were out and about.  I hadn't even realized that Blackspruce Farms also operates a petting zoo year round, and that was also included for the tiny 5 dollar fee.  Armed with a bucket of feed (also included) the kids had a blast visiting with goats, bighorn sheep, potbellied pigs, cows, ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens, bunnies and more.  Asher sat briefly and held the baby bunny, he is really curious these days so his attention span is short, but he loved how the bunny was sitting on him.  The kids spent some time playing on the playground they have before we went to pick our pumpkin.  Being that we live in the frozen north and spring and summer total about 4 months, we can't have a real pumkpin patch in Prince George.  Instead, in  one of the fields an area was roped off and store bought pumpkins had been spread all around.  This was awesome for toddlers as they didn't realize this wasn't a genuine pumkpin patch.  Asher was overwhelmed with the quantity of pumpkins in the field.  He had a blast bending over at nearly every one and attempting to pick them up.  He managed to get one in the air, laughed hysterically and dad had to help or he would have fallen over.  He almost lost his mind when he saw the green pumpkin, something was obviously different about it and he knew it.  Jasmine also enjoyed running around to find the perfect one for her, and is now attempting to get permission to carve it yesterday or today or tomorrow.  The poor girl loves Halloween despite a huge fear of rubber masks and scary decorations.  She had a few bad experiences that have left her emotional scarred.  It's too bad because she really is a tough cookie most of the time, and Halloween is the only thing I can think of that evokes these kind of emotions.  This is a girl who would spend a week at a time away from mom and dad at the age of 3 and not get home sick (she was with Papa and Aunties).  Jasmine was jumping off the 5 meter dive platform at age 6 (something I didn't do until age 25).  She has no qualms about trying new things that may prove difficult or challenging, so it hurts me to see her in such fear.  Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse from year to year but as Halloween is hardly important in the grand scheme of life we will deal with it.  It makes it easier that she still enjoys the rest of the holiday and will get a kick out of watching Asher this year, who seems more then aware that Halloween and fun go hand and hand.

We finished the week off by having my brother and his girlfriend over for dinner last night.  Sheila made a great dinner, ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and a nice mixed gree salad.  My brother and I had a few fierce battles on his xbox, I hadn't tried out his new NHL 13 game and while I lost all 3 games they were all close 2-0, 2-1 in a shootout and 2-1 in overtime.  The ladies (mostly Jasmine) spent time decorating cupcakes that Larissa had brought over and everyone enjoyed them.  Asher was hilarious, he kept walking up and down the stairs between the men playing video games and the ladies decorating cupcakes.  On his way back down he would vocalize loudly as he regularly does.  He thinks he is saying words at this point, and it is funny when he carries on for a long time as if we can understand.  Asher jumps off the bottom stair and runs over to his uncle and dad to share the candies that he had got from the ladies. 

I was also pretty successful in the getting things done department this week.  I completed 3 proper workouts, then had a couple other impromptu sessions as well.  I raked most of the yard, though I left the piles so Jasmine and I can have a fight or two out there.  I even did some cleaning tasks that I never tackle, while I am proud of myself, I was quickly reminded that these are just every day things that people have to do.  While I will likely have a lazy day today, I am looking forward to another busy week.  Swimming, park visiting, hockey for me on Thursday, a walk or two, and my workout sessions are all on the books.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A Light Poker Story

As has been established in previous entries in this blog, I play a lot of poker.  My poker play provides an additional income for my family as I only work 4 days a week at my "real job".  It also is fun for me otherwise I would struggle mightily to continue playing regularly, and a lack of enjoyment would likely effect my ability to make money at the task.  Juggling my real job, my family life, and my recently started hockey season means that my poker sessions are restricted to a couple times a week.  My opportunities to play come on the slower days of the week in terms of poker action, so I often find myself struggling to make the best of it.  This past Sunday afternoon I sat down at the table, the 1 table as Prince George struggles to support the one poker room that we have.  As I was filling the one open seat I had no choice but to sit to the right of the loosest guy on the table (okay, him and I were probably tied for 1st).  A quick glance around the table and I could see at least 4 guys who are beyond tight another 2 tight aggressive players and 2 unknowns.  I proceeded to win one pot early to bring my stack to $300ish then things went awry. 

I started playing too many pots, all of them against my loose friend on my left.  I was out of position repeatedly, and he kept using his place behind me to dominate.  I was down to $120 after one particularly bad play, and I was in a silent steam.  A seat opened soon, and though it was only 2 more to the right, it was better then where I was.  I moved, and slowly calmed down.  I lost a few more, but before long another seat was open, and I was now 4 seats to loose guy's left.  By now I had found that the only other loose player was beside the other guy on the left, so I was now in great position on both.  When I say the others were rocks, I am not exaggerating.  One player saw 1, yes 1 flop in the 5 hours I played.  He did not make a pre flop raise at all, and even folded his small blind for 1 dollar on about 7 occasions.  Another man did 3 crosswords while he played 4 hands in 4 hours.   So, I continued to raise and raise and raise.  I managed to trap the second loose guy a few times.  He limped everything if he didn't raise so I would toss in $15 and isolate him, or him and his neighbour.  Twice, with big aces I flopped an ace and checked.  Both times I got action later on when loose man made a hand.  I over bet the river in one pot after checking my ace twice, and got him to pay off with second pair.  I still hadn't beat my nemesis, but I was back to even at $325ish.  That's when I hit it big. 

My original loose friend (we are friends, he is a nice guy) and I had been teasing each other back and forth about playing every hand.  There is a running joke at the casino that I can't let a late position spot go without a raise.  In this pot my friend had straddled and I was on the button (a few players were away from the table).  I looked down at a 10 4 of hearts.  Going into acting mode, I took a deep breath picked up 4 reds ($20) then stopped.  This got a laugh from buddy, and I proceeded to call the $5 announcing that my hand really was awful and I had worked hard to stop myself.  No raise and we see the flop of Q74 2 spades.  My friend bets $15 into a $30 pot, folds from the rocks and I call on the button telling the table that my hand had "slightly improved, but that's the only hint I'm giving."  Of course this story is beyond obvious.  The glorious 4 comes on the turn.  I call $25.  Blank on the river and my friend check calls my $45 before seeing my trips.  It felt really good to finally catch a hand against him and even better to win some of the money due to table talk.  See, I do reasonably well at the 1/2 NL table but for the most part I rely on reads, instincts and play making.  If I am in a pot, especially if I have made a big bet, I go silent.  I stare straight down at the community cards, or a spot on the wall.  I do this whether I am bluffing, holding the nuts or otherwise.  I occasionally break this habit, but I try to be consistent.  I haven't master the art of table talk, and am jealous of guys who have the ability to manipulate players with their words.  Perhaps that will be my next endeavor in improvement.  Until then I can enjoy my little moment and the $200ish profit I squeezed out of the game on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.

Monday, 24 September 2012

I'm Busy?

Last night as Sheila and I lay down to sleep she bemoaned the fact that I have had nearly zero content on my blog recently.  Aside from a whiny post about missing out on the WSOP Circuit tournament, I haven't made a post since August.  After thinking about it, I began to realize why.  For the first time in a few years I am truly and completely busy.  Minding the kids and working usually keeps me from being bored, but it does seem that for the first time in my recent years I have a full plate on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, this means things such as blogging which can't be considered essential, find themselves on the cutting room floor.  Now, unlike my last post, this is not me complaining or whining.  I am actually quite proud that I managed to take on so many things, while remaining motivated about all of the things I need to do.  In response to Sheila asking about this space and it's lack of content, I promised to add it to this week's "shit to do" list.  I'd like to run down my busy, and fulfilling week that was to begin.

The third Sunday in September is one that holds significant importance in the Prosk family.  My dear pops deserves the credit, but this year's Terry Fox Run was likely the best one I have been a part of.  I was scheduled to work Sunday morning as I usually am, but this was not going to stop me from attending.  In fact, this allowed me to include my friends from work KK and GF.  We made our way downtown to walk, meeting up with Sheila, Jasmine, Asher and my dad and sister who had come up from Quesnel to join us.  As we started, I was already bursting with pride.  Jasmine is already very aware of how important Terry Fox is, and just how amazing his efforts were in increasing cancer awareness.  She and I had gone around our block the week before and she recieved a number of donations which she happily handed over to the organizers of the event before we got started.  Both of the men I support at work overcame considerable challenges and walked further then they are used to last Sunday morning.  My dad and Sheila both assisted us in achieving this, and I can't thank them enough for their help.  Both men made me so very proud, and later in the day and throughout this last week I have thought back to Sunday, on a few occasions getting quite emotional.  Sunday concluded with most of my family heading to my brother's girlfriend's grandparents house to celebrate my brother's 24th birthday.  It was an interesting gathering.  None of us had met Larissa's grandparents, but as it turns out the are extremely nice people and a good time was had by all.  We haven't had many chances to see Ian since he moved out, so it was nice to be able to celebrate his big day with him.  Larissa's sister has a little guy, so Asher and little Travis provided most of the entertainment as they goofed around to the delight of the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that were present. 

Monday night I coached Jasmine's soccer team in their second to last game of the season.  Up against the top team (they probably haven't lost a game), we were looking to avenge one of the only losses we have had this season.  We started with one of our strongest players taking her first ever turn in net.  She made numerous saves, and we scored on our only shot making it to halftime tied at 1.  At halftime we switched and put our best keepah in the net, the smallest girl on the team who has gained confidence throughout the season and become very dependable in the net.  Playing a very aggressive style she storms out at the opponents, using the entire goal box, not allowing the opponents to get close enough to shoot.  She often throws herself at the ball, and at this level this gets the opponents to either slow down or back off completely allowing her to take the ball and move it the other way.  On this night, her style wasn't working that well.  The other team was skilled in passing around her and often they found themselves alone with an open net.  Luckily one of the girls has a knack for playing defense.  She swept the ball off the line at least 5 or 6 times, from the sideline I was chalking up a goal for the team on many of these occasions.  Our team has relied on working together throughout the season, and we often had a different star in each game.  On Monday, our best player took it upon herself to create a few chances, as the other team was so good that we really couldn't create much.  As our "striker" she stormed up the field, past a couple of defenders with deft moves and as the goalie was charging, she flicked a shot up and over top from about 20 yards out.  It dipped in under the bar for the second goal and a 2-1 lead.  The game ended in a 3-3 tie after a few more very close calls.  I was very excited about the way the girls played, all 9 of them were breathing heavily, looking exhausted at game end.  I like to come out on the field and give every player a high 5 as the game ends, making sure they know I appreciate the effort.  Shake hands and I had to run off the field to drive to my hockey game that started in 45 minutes. 

After a relatively quiet Tuesday, Wednesday was also pretty quiet as Jasmine came home from school with s stomach ache.  It ended up being quite minor and she was fine by the evening.  Wednesday was poker night, and boy was it ever.  I played really well, hit cards when needed, and managed to get a very good player to inflate a few pots against me when I was holding the goods.  As he was speaking about his need to get me back, he raised in early position and it came to me on the button.  I look down at aces and one thing led to another, an ace on the flop helped me relax and soon enough the dealer was pushing a 700 dollar pot my way.  I left around 10 with a 775 dollar profit for the night. 

Thursday Asher and I picked up Jasmine from school and we went swimming as we usually do once a week.  Ran a few errands on the way home, and as the week wound down, there was indeed some time to breathe.  In between being busy with soccer wrapping up (we finished up Saturday morning) and my hockey starting I found time to complete my assignments for the college course I am taking.  I completed all 4 of my weight lifting sessions, and took Asher for a jog.  Saturday I did a quick bike ride to wrap up my workouts for the week.

As I look at the week ahead, I will once again be quite busy.  Jasmine's soccer is over, and her basketball's doesn't start until November so I will be on a break from coaching.  I have hockey twice this week, tonight and then again on Wednesday.  I plan to get my 4 weightlifting session in, and hopefuly a bike ride or two as the weather permits.  Wednesday afternoon the kids and I will go to the pool, and hopefully this is the week that Asher and I make it to powerplay Wednesday morning, essentially open gym time for toddlers.  I think he will love it, so we need to check it out.  Poker will likely only happen once this week, Thursday as every other day either Sheila or I or both of us will be busy.  While I am not busy getting my heartrate going I will need to complete this week's assignments for college.  I also have a few things to take care of around the house, little things I have been meaning to tackle for a while now.  After a great week at the poker table this week, it makes sense to spend a few bucks on home improvements. 

As this gets long winded I will sign off, I need to get started on all the things I want to tackle this week.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Life Gets In The Way

Well, for the last couple of weeks I have been struggling with my ability to make smart choices with my life.  While nothing is ever perfect, it does seem that the responsible option isn't always the most fun.  Recently registration opened up for the WSOP Circuit event in Vancouver.  Now, Vancouver has hosted tournaments in the past, but never before has the WSOP been involved and never before have the tournaments actually been affordable for me.  Obviously the term "affordable" is relative.  On October 27th they are having a NL holdem tourney with a $365 buy in, and on the 28th the buy in is $580.  To anyone who doesn't play cards they would likely never consider spending that kind of money of a game of fun and chance.  To those that do play, including myself, the buy in is the investment you have to make in order to have the chance at a big score.  First prize in either of these tournaments isn't going to be life changing, but ~$30,000 or maybe ~$50,000 for the bigger event would be awfully nice.  I have a really solid live cash game playing style, but my tournament game is largely untested in a live game setting.  The other thing telling me to go play is that I can ultimately finance the whole trip with earnings from previous poker games.  If I was still young, dumb, single and only responsible for myself I would be there no questions asked.  At the same time, I'm not sure that I would be in the place I am at now in terms of occupation and poker game if not for my family.  I think that the presence of my family around me has provided me with motivation to play my best poker game more often, and to stick with an occupation long enough to reap the rewards of paid vacation time.    Ultimately, my decision has come down to timing, and realizing that the 8 hour drive is not something I want to do twice, if there are only a couple of days of poker playing in between.  We could work it out so that I could go down from say Friday until Monday or maybe even Tuesday, but in the end I feel like it isn't really worth it.  Rushing down and rushing back are not exciting propositions in my book.  While somewhat disappointed, I have to make the adult decision to take a pass this time. 

Friday, 31 August 2012

Lover of Lists

As those close to me know, I have become obsessive about list making.  Originally, I thought that creating lists to remind me of chores, tasks and events that I needed to take care of in the coming week would be a good idea.  I use the current list as a bookmark in whatever book I am in the middle of, this way I rarely go a day without actually seeing the list.  Looking at the list provides me with a reminder that I am either: a) having a productive week, getting shit done, etc. or b) being lazy and unproductive and it is high time I get my butt in gear.  The lists have now evolved to include a number of different sections and are almost becoming an art form to themselves.  It's actually quite fun for me to think of all the things to put on the list, be it things that need doing urgently, tasks I have thought of occasionally but never got around to, or even fun things I want to do with the kids but might not think about again until the chance and time has passed me by.  If my list making has got me out on more bike rides with Jasmine, or resulted in extra trips to parks, the library or the pool, then I would have to consider the endeavour to be meaningful.  I know that I am a chronic procrastinator, so it feels good to see a list of tasks in black and white and be able to tick off a number of the items as completed come the end of the week.  I recommend this technique to all other procrastinators out there.  In honour of my admitting to said obsession I thought I would have some fun with lists.  At first I thought I would make top 10 lists, but I won't restrict myself in such a way.  Some lists with have more then 10, some will have less.  I will order them from best to worst at times, other times there will be no such ranking.  Enjoy.

Favourite Athletes (Current)

1. Taylor Hall
2. Andrew McCutchen
3. Jordan Eberle
4. Jose Bautista
5. Lionel Messi
6. Milos Raonic
7. Kevin Durant

Favourite Nutritional Products

1. BCAAs
2. Clif Bars
3. Whey Protein Powder
4. Green Tea Capsules
5. Glucosamine Sulfate

Favourite TV Shows

1. Louie
2. The Cleveland Show
3. Storage Wars
4. Modern Family
5. The Big Bang Theory
6. Mike and Molly
7. The Office
8. Parks and Recreation
9. Breaking Bad

Favourite Actors

1. Paul Giamatti
2. Christian Bale
3. Tom Hardy
4. Jesse Eisenberg
5. Philip Seymour Hoffman
6. Robert DeNiro
7. John Goodman
8. Anthony Anderson
9. Liam Neeson
10.  Jeremy Renner

Favourite Directors

1. The Coen Brothers
2. Ben Affleck
3. Judd Apatow
4. Clint Eastwood
5. Quentin Tarantino
6. Tim Burton
7. Spike Lee

Favourite Rappers That You Might Not Know

Asher Roth
Bun B
Chiddy Bang
Chris Webby
The Cool Kids
Dizzee Rascal
Glasses Malone
Hilltop Hoods
Lupe Fiasco
Machine Gun Kelly
Mac Miller
Mike Jones
Paul Wall
Rizzle Kicks
Slum Village
Gorilla Zoe
Gucci Mane
Talib Kweli
Tinchy Stryder
Tinie Tempah
Wiz Khalifia
Young Jeezy

Favourite Comedians

1. Gabriel Iglesias
2. Louis CK
3. Aziz Azari
4. W. Kamau Bell
5. Vidur Kapur
6. Donald Glover
7. Lavell Crawford
8. Dave Chapelle

Favourite Sports To Play

1. Hockey
2. Soccer
3. Basketball
4. Tennis
5. Golf

Favourite Sports To Watch

1. Soccer
2. Hockey
3. Baseball
4. Basketball
5. MMA
6. Football
7. Tennis
8. Golf

Favourite Authors

1. Truman Capote
2. Jon Krakauer
3. John Steinbeck
4. Ralph Ellison
5. Ursula Hegi

Favourite Poker Games

1. No Limit Hold em
2. 5 Card Draw
3. Badugi
4. Omaha 8 or Better
5. Stud Hi
6. Razz
7. 2-7 Triple Draw

Favourite Exercise Activities

1. Lifting Weights
2. Biking
3. Running
4. Swimming
5. Walking

Favourite Folk Singers

1. Tegan and Sara
2. Jeff Bridges
3. Tom Russell
4. Jack Johnson

For now, 'tis all.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Thoughts on Pot

Lately, I have taken to posting semi-regularly comments on my local newspaper's website  The paper itself is neither here nor there in terms of quality, but their website provides one of the only existing forums where one can express themselves in regards to local issues.  Often, the commenting area becomes a "left vs right" debate and I am not one to shy away from such a practice.  Earlier today, while reading commentary on an article titled "Grow-op leads to house arrest", I came across an anti-marijuana diatribe that was rife with inaccuracies and fear-mongering.  Feeling compelled to reply I composed a lengthy response that I would like to cross post here.  To be fair I will post the article link complete with the comments I responded to from user: "h0nneybadgr".

I appreciate the time and effort you put into your post, although it feels that you copy and pasted it's contents from an essay you wrote years ago.  You provided us with 9 paragraphs and 1 source from 2002, so I will take this as an opinion piece and as such will respond in kind. 

Your first paragraph belongs in a stand up comedy routine, not in a debate about marijuana legalization.  Illegal organizations make their money in illegal ways, hence the reason they are called "illegal".  The production of marijuana is a very profitable endeavour for these groups for a number of reasons.  The profit margins are artificially high due to the illegality of the product.  Of course, illegal means fear in some of the public, which makes the product more difficult to obtain.  At the same time, penalties when caught are still reasonably low, so the risk is not high when weighed against the profitability.  With the new laws the Conservatives have established, there is little difference in jail time between a high volume producer and a small time user of marijuana, so it makes sense for the criminal organizations to find a place at the top of the food chain so to speak.  If marijuana use and production was legal, these organizations either wouldn't bother being involved or would be just one of many groups growing to distribute.  When legalized, the price of a product comes down, this is basic economics.  Demand will not increase, as there are very few people who would like use marijuana but don't due to it's legal status.  It would be nice for all users if they had access to the product in a safe friendly environment where they didn't have to interact with criminal organizations.  Take out the illegal aspect, and the marijuana industry is just that, an industry, and a very large one at that bringing in $4 billion dollars in revenue annually.  The price would likely be reduced if legalized, but take a minute to imagine the tax revenue that would be created. (Source:

Next, you delve in to the classic idea that all drug users steal to get their next "fix".  Those that simply use marijuana and not anything harder will likely not need to steal for their habit as the cost is relatively low.  A heavy marijuana user may spend $400 a month, the approximate cost of 2 ounces in today's market.  Notice, that this cost is similar to the amount spent by a pack a day cigarette smoker.  Why are we not accusing cigarette smokers of stealing for their "fix"?  Drinking, even casually can easily cost someone $100 a weekend or $400 in a month.  Again, are we to assume that they are also stealing for their "fix"?  Those who are stealing for their "fix" are likely dealing with much bigger issues then marijuana use, and to argue that their problems were brought on by marijuana is laughable. 

You seem to fear an increase in people being "high on the job" if marijuana were indeed legalized.  Explain to me why this concern would be any different if the legal status of the substance changed.  Legalizing marijuana use would not impact the current laws in place in regards to "driving under the influence".  There are numerous people in professional situations who use marijuana, and many others who chose to abstain while working and partake only in their own private time.  To that end, there has been little, if any scientific proof that marijuana use makes one a dangerous driver. (Source:

This just keeps getting better.  You really go for the gold medal with your paragraph about "marijuana induced psychosis".  No sources or references in sight, one can only assume you pulled this one out of a Ronald Regan era fear mongering ad, or you just made it up off the top of your head.  This line has to be considered the true gem of your entire diatribe: "The cost of policing (not the drug but the behavioural impacts), the cost of care, the loss in productivity, and the socio-dynamic impact on people’s lives and the lives of their family is astronomical."  You are claiming a link between criminal activity and marijuana use.  Has their been instances where criminal acts occurred solely because the perpetrator was high on marijuana?  In a state of "marijuana induced psychosis" I suppose this is possible.  What to make of the studies that show marijuana having positive effects on brain function among schizophrenia?  One study even found that "Patients with a history of cannabis use were found to have superior neuropsychological functioning." (Source:
At this point I will rest my case.  I am not out to sway the opinion of people like yourself as I doubt I would have any success.  I find it insulting when numerous inaccuracies are put out in the public domain with so few sources to back them up.  Your opinion is just that, your opinion.  I appreciate that you were able to brace yourself for "hateful messages from those who either failed to read the whole thing, or are completely indoctrinated and unable to see both sides of the argument."  I hope I didn't come across as hateful as that was not my intention.  It was your piece and a few others that inspired me to respond.  The characterization of all marijuana users as lazy, uninspired, underemployed members of society left me annoyed and inspired to counter your arguments.  If you would like further assistance in getting over your stereotypical beliefs on marijuana users I can introduce you to numerous people who are at the same time professional, hard-working, well educated, friendly, and supportive of friends and family both financially and emotionally.  You may think you don't know anyone who fits the above description, but there are likely people in your life that are exactly that: functioning, contributing members of society who's life doesn't come to a grinding halt just because they use marijuana for one of many different reasons.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Christopher Nolan restores my faith.

As I have chronicled previously in the space, I have the opportunity to view a considerable number of movies.  At work, I attend at least a few showings each month at the local theatre, and at home Sheila and I often enjoy a good movie.  Lately, I have cut back somewhat on my movie intake.  At work, our choice of activities leans towards the outdoors as we are smack in the middle of Prince George's extremely short summer season.  At home, my media player device is acting up again so our use has been curbed considerably.  This is not to say I am not seeing any of the new releases, I just have been leaving the theatre on a number of occasions with a sour taste in my mouth.  While I claim that my movie viewing has been curtailed, it seems that a quick peek at the current top 50 box office earners for the past week shows that I have seen exactly 9 of the top 50.  Wow.  For someone who has been "cutting back", that is a little excessive.  8 of the 9 were working trips, and there has been a few trips where I was just simply not in the mood for a long sit in a stuffy theatre.  I know what you are thinking, if that is my idea of a work-related complaint, perhaps I best clam up now.  I was inspired to make this post after last night's trip to the theatre to watch "The Dark Knight Rises" which quickly found it's way to number 1 on my list of movies of 2012.  A quick ranking of the 9 movies I have seen that currently find themselves in the top 50.

9) The Watch - Comedy at it's worst.  Slap a few funny actors together, build expectations, then watch people laugh at the "jokes" because they have been convinced everything involved should be funny.  I described The Watch as "shitty toilet humour" and it is just that.  Tasteless jokes done poorly.  One more notch on Vince Vaughn's belt as he tumbles off the face of the comedic planet.

8) Dark Shadows - I generally like the Johnny Depp and Tim Burton combination.  I knew going in to see this one that it was going to be a bit different from their usual fare.  A soap opera style movie about vampires.  I had no knowledge of the tv series that this movie was based on so I came at it from a completely fresh point of view.  The movie had it's high points, but as I recall the last 20 minutes were a completely convuluted mess that was difficult to get emotionally invested in.  The odd joke sprinkled throughout most of the movie kept it light and kept me tied in.  Tim Burton decided to do away with the jokes at the end and managed to produce a mess that may just be his worst effort yet.

7) The Three Stooges - We went to this movie on a slow week.  We had seen a few of the other movies playing already and unfortunately we sat down to see this.  Numerous times during the movie I was asking myself  "What the hell am I doing here?"  The Farrelly brothers bit off a little more then they could chew with this one, I really can't see any conceivable way that this could have been funny.  Perhaps going ahead and making this a kids movie would have been better, but at the same time, how many kids would have interest?  Just bad, really, really, bad.

6) Marvel's The Avengers - Admittedly, when viewing this blockbuster I was quite distracted and entirely not in the mood to be sitting in the theatre.  Knowing I would be sitting through 2 and a half hours of movie made me even more surly.  As it turns out, I just didn't like this film.  I am not a huge fan of the super hero flicks, but I quite liked both "Iron Man" and "Thor".  As it turns out, this was just a longer, explosion filled action film with no proper resolution.  The movie was filled with endless noise.  Loud explosions, constant gunfire, "The Hulk" getting angry, it was just entirely too long.  I believe the point could have been made in a much shorter time frame.  Sorry to the 96% of breathing humans that liked the movie, I can't agree with you. (source: Rotten Tomatoes)

5) Snow White and the Huntsman - High point: Chris Hemsworth.  He is getting roles with his muscles and looks, but I'll be damned, the man can act; see: Thor and now this movie.  Low Point: Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.  Generally, I think Charlize Theron is a solid actress, but she really didn't fit this role as an "evil queen" and her acting was clunky and uninspired.  Kristen Stewart on the other hand, would struggle to act her way out of a paper bag.  I understand the idea of piggy-backing on her Twilight success, and hopefully for the film makers they added a few extra million to the box office numbers with her appearance.  She just added so little to a movie that had plenty of potential, most of which was left unfilled.

4) Ted - This was a solid, dependable comedy that had me laughing plenty of times.  Seth McFarlane stayed close to home with predictable humourous style, but who can blame him?  It works, and it works well.  The pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis was great, and while the "Ted" character did start to get tiresome towards the end, the small twists in the climatic ending were well done and exciting.  This is the type of movie you can enjoy a second time.

3) The Hunger Games - A blockbuster of a movie, it was difficult to comprehend the amount of hype that this movie generated.  While I didn't know a thing about the book series, it was funny to hear commentary from other people in regards to the flick.  In the end, it most definitely delivered.  Jennifer Lawrence was called "the most talented young actress in America" by Rolling Stone, and I would have to agree.  Her work in Winter's Bone was incredible, and while The Hunger Games is much more commercialized and overproduced, her talent still has plenty of room to shine.  With excellent supporting work provided by Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks, I went away more then pleased after watching The Hunger Games.

2) Madagascar 3 - Jasmine and I went to the theatre to enjoy this one, and enjoy it we did.  We were there with a friend of mine and his daughter, and it almost seemed the adults laughed harder throughout then the kids did.  I love going to this movies because I enjoy watching Jasmine have a good time, and I will be honest, some of my favorite comedic movies of the last couple of years have been cartoons. 

1) The Dark Knight Rises - This movie possesses the single most important quality I look for when watching a film; the ability to grab my attention completely and hold it throughout.  Clocking in at just under 3 hours running time, The Dark Knight Rises does not feel overly long and it really isn't.  Gripping action coupled with very good acting makes for a winning formula.  The explosions were well done, and not overkilled.  The intense scenes involving the Hell prison were awe-inspiring.  Bruce Wayne's eventual escape was one of my favourite scenes of the movie, as the movie took on a cliff-hanger feel.  The constant twists, most notably Miranda Tate's last minute turn had me surprised, and added a great dimension to the climax of the movie. 

Christian Bale is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors to watch.  He gives the impression that the role of Batman was made for him, a quality that is most important when attempting to enjoy a film.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a very intellegent actor who endeared himself to me with his role in 50/50 last year which I counted as one of my favorite films of the year.  While it most certainly is a no brainer to get involved in the Batman series, I credit Gordon-Levitt with being a excellent "role selector", someone who knows who he is as an actor and puts himself in position to succeed.  I liked the little tease at the end of the film that just may lead into yet another Batman movie, when it was revealed that his character's real first name is Robin.  Quite possibly the best performance turned in was that of Tom Hardy who played the sinister villain Bane.  While most North American movie goers would be unfamiliar with Hardy, I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform in "Bronson" a 2008 film about a serial killer of the same name.  Tom Hardy convincing plays a psychopathic man who is blood thirsty and ruthless, if the character Bane didn't do enough to convince you of Tom Hardy's immense talents, give "Bronson" a try. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Poker Problems

Ah, the curse of all poker players is the same, variance.  No matter how well you play, how well you prepare yourself, how well you focus on any given day, there simply are a number of things that are out of your control.  Maybe that opponent who almost always pays off the big bet makes his annual tough laydown against your flopped set.  Maybe your top hands keep coming when no one else has anything worth 2 cents.  Perhaps you aren't playing on the right nights, if you are playing against 9 nits who won't raise preflop with AK or pocket 9s, chances are your profits will be significantly reduced.

It just so happens that August once again has come around, and I am feeling a little pressure to earn some money.  Last summer Ian and I decided to jump back into playing organized hockey and we both had to tackle the expenses that went along with it.  The only way I can conveniently make additional income is at the poker table.  Despite the game at the local casino being very weak in the summer months, I was able to book a few solid wins and cover the cost of the registration fees and equipment I needed in order to play.  This August, I am again in need of some profits, as I am looking to play hockey once again.  I am also signed up to take a work-related course at the college, and I just signed Jasmine up for a series of horse riding lessons that have been long promised.  On top of my regular month to month expenses, these things are adding up. 

I am meticulous when it comes to budgeting, detailing all my income and expense items on a spreadsheet months in advance.  The problem with such careful planning is that poker as an income is nothing short of wildly unpredictable.  Occasionally, the budget can go from balanced to a significant deficit in just a few sessions.  My results this year have been solid, but it only takes one or two bad outings for my confidence to drop.  I am playing against many of the same opponents, but variance can really take it's toll.  I need to remind myself that I am in this for the long run, and not to put added pressure on winning right now, this moment.  Bad luck crops up whenever, there is absolutely nothing to be done.  I'm planning on stepping back from the game a bit, doing a bit of studying and relaxing instead of beating my head against the wall.  The game is simply not very good in the summer months when the opponents are generally all regulars, mostly tight with their money and luck is much more important then it usually is.  In the meantime, I'll focus on keeping myself and my family happy, and letting the expenses sort themselves out.  I win at poker, I don't doubt that, but in the heat of the moment I am full of second guessing.  A quick look back over my results spreadsheet should be all the reassuring I need to drop the doubt and refocus for the next session.  Work isn't always fun, but it sure is a lot easier when it is. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

This feeling I am feeling, is good.

With our family vacation now in the rear view, I felt it was time to get back at it.  Back to exercising that is.  Other then an excessive amount of walking, and the consumption of numerous healthy smoothies of my brother-in-law's creation, my health plan went right out the window in Montreal.  I thought a nice break would help me regain some motivation that can wane at times.  We touched back down in Prince George on Thursday evening and after taking the night to relax and recover with the family, I literally hit the ground running on Friday.  Friday before work a ran my usual 3 km circuit and that was enough for my first day back.  I made it my goal for the week to get all of my weight lifting in, 5 workouts in total.  I also was looking to get to abs a few times, and to fit in as much cardio as I could convince myself to do.  The first few days back went rather slowly, I lifted weights a few times and got some yardwork done while watching the kids.  I was content with the start.

On Wednesday I drove Jasmine, Asher and my neice Taylor down to Quesnel, dropping Taylor off at her dad's after a nice visit.  I had a nice visit with my parents, though we were preoccupied with a health concern my older sister is dealing with.  She had a seizure Wednesday morning while we were about to come down, and my mom had to escort her to the hospital.  By the time we arrived at their house, Paulette was on her way home.  She seemed alright, she was seemingly quite tired and had a sore back likely from the convulsing involved in the seizure she had.  Seizures are not something that Paulette normally has so we were all concerned and were attempting to decipher the reasons behind the event.  As Paulette was relaxing in bed an hour or so later she had another seizure and all the talk of the first seizure being an isolated event ceased.  Mom called the doctor, and he asked her to bring Paulette back for observation.  Paulette was very lethargic and non-responsive after her second seizure, and she needed significant assistance in walking to the car and getting in.  Mom and Paulette returned to the hospital, and I made my way back to Prince George at the same time.  While obviously concerned for my sister's health, I did not bring up the small elephant in the room.  Would my parents be okay with Asher and Jasmine staying for the planned visit despite their worries about Paulette?  Knowing how much Sheila was looking forward to the break I didn't want to be the one to bring it up.  It seemed at the time that Paulette's stay at the hospital would be for one night, then she would return home.  I told Mom as I left to call us if the kids proved to be "too much".  We knew that Jasmine would be very well behaved, but we weren't so sure about Asher.  He's active.

It's now Sunday.  I haven't seen Asher or Jasmine since Wednesday and from all reports everyone is doing fine.  Sheila left yesterday morning to go to her cousin's wedding, also in Quesnel.  She is recovering this morning from her fun, and visiting for the day.  The hope is that Paulette will be released from the hospital later today after responding well to the new medication she has been prescribed.  My mom has spent the majority of her time since Wednesday at the hospital with Paulette, and the kids have spent most of their visit with Grandpa, going for a few visits to see Auntie.  I am glad that my dad survived his time with his grandchildren, but I wish the circumstances were different.  Hopefully Paulette is released from the hospital today so that she can come up to Prince George with Sheila and the kids when they come back tomorrow.  Paulette is set to stay with us for 3 weeks while mom and dad are on holidays.  Of course all of these plans have been thrown up in the air by Paulette's health concerns, but with a little good fortune Paulette will be settling in to her room at our house on Monday and we will be seeing mom and dad off on their flight Tuesday morning. 

Now after reading the above you might be confused.  My title and opening paragraph allude to a great week that I had, but then I proceeded to delve into some bad news.  Now, I am very concerned for my sister.  Hopefully, we can provide her an opportunity to rest and relax at our house.  When she is feeling up to it, she will have some fun with Jasmine and Asher, as I don't plan on sitting around the house on my days off.  It's been a long time since we have had the chance to spend considerable time with Paulette, and I am excited about it.  The challenge of helping her out over her 3 week stay is not daunting, but thrilling.  I am hoping Paulette will enjoy her stay, and maybe we can make her visiting a regular thing.  The anticipation of her coming visit is part of why I am feeling so darn good.  The rest, well the rest is of my own doing.

While the kids were out of town Sheila and I had a little more time to ourselves then we normally do.  Sheila had been excitedly talking about a local production of "The Producers" for weeks, oddly enough considering neither of us had been to a play since we met 7 years ago.  Personally, I hadn't seen a play since the school mandated attendance of the annual high school musical every year at Correlieu.  Not only did I readily agree to going, I decided to contribute to the date night as well, by offering dinner before hand.  Since "Dana Mandi" opened 2 years ago we have had numerous discussions about trying it out.  We have had a small number of indian meals over the years and I love the cuisine.  Sheila is a little less excited about the food, but was happy to have me for a dinner and a play.  Dinner was great, chicken vindaloo, lamb curry and an eggplant dish with garlic naan bread.  We were both stuffed and I had two lunches to take home.  As it turned out, "The Producers" was great too.  I didn't know the story, and other then being told it was a comedy I had no information to go on whatsoever.  While it started to drag at the end of hour 3, the production was special when considering everyone involved was local talent.  I laughed a number of times, and was blown away at time by the acting and directing talent on display.  Gil Botelho played the lead role of "Max Bialystock" and as it turns out, he is a veteran of local plays.  His talents alone may have me back in a playhouse sooner then never.  I was very glad that Sheila and I had a nice night out while the kids were away. 

As I had set some lofty expectations for myself this week in terms of exercise, I knew it would take a considerable effort to reach my goals.  It feels really good to sit here and proudly type of my success.  In the first 9 days since returning from holiday I lifted weights 6 times, completing a total of 5 routines.  I did shoulder and bicep day, deadlift and hamstring day, chest and tricep day, back and trap day, finishing up yesterday morning with quad and calf day, while mixing in 3 ab workouts as well.  Right after my leg workout yesterday morning I proceeded to lace up my shoes, slap on my ipod and go out jogging.  My jogs all start the same, the first 700 meters or so I go in the same direction, then I have an intersection where I have to decide what kind of a jog it is going to be.  Do I go straight ahead, opting for the longer 5 km loop on relatively flat pavement?  Do I turn right, easing my way through the light 3 km jog?  Or do I turn left, heading straight up St. Lawrence, a considerable hill in both length and grade.  When I choose to jog the hill, I then have to rely on will-power to go as high up the hill as I can.  I have found that after a leg workout I actually have more energy for running.  My muscles are looser, I am less likely to get shin-splints, and I am more motivated to continue putting in work.  As I crested the very top of the hill, I congratulated myself in my head, knowing that my jog was a solid accomplishment.  Even those that are physically fit enough to tackle my running route would have to battle their own mind to get to the very top.  I could stop half way and still be content with myself, but that pinnacle is the goal and always should be.  I plan on being there more times throughout the rest of the summer.  The previous 8 days I managed to run the 3 km loop, the 5 km loop, bike the 3 km loop, and make one bike trip up most of the St. Lawrence hill.  It feels good to have accomplished so much this week, and my fitness level has never been better.  Getting fit and having fun, Hal Johnson and Jo-Anne McLeod would be proud.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Montreal Highlights: The First in a Series of Posts

Well, the first long flight and cross country holiday trip for the whole family is in the books.  All in all, a great success.  Sheila and I felt like we were melting in the humid air of Montreal the entire time we were there, and sleep was short as it always is with Asher, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There were many highlights to the trip, lots of fun was had.  I thought that instead of making convoluted mess of a post I would instead make a series of posts with highlights of our trip.  May I present the first on the series.

After having driven by Mont Royal a few times during our first few days in the city, I was already struck by the beauty of the large park area nestled right in the middle of a bustling metropolis city.  More a hill then a mountain, the park is of considerable size, covering both the area of the hill and a large parcel of land at the foot of the bump.  Home to a large array of recreation choices, there are soccer pitches, multiple playground areas, numerous picnic spots and plenty of green grass to hang out on.  Adam and Erin, my sister and brother-in-law, our gracious hosts proceeded to tell us about the weekly gathering that the Mont Royal Park hosted every Sunday in the park.  In a impromptu fashion a large number of people gather at the foot of the hill and bring along all sorts of different types of drums.  They proceed to jam together for hours while others sit out on blankets and lawnchairs to enjoy the music.  It sounded intriguing, and I was interested in checking it out, I also thought the kids might enjoy it.

Sunday came, and after we had tired ourselves out during the day, we decided to go and check out the park at about 5 o'clock Sunday.  We parked, walked a mile and as we approached the location of the drumming circle the sights and sounds began to wash over us.  Speaking for myself, it was all a little overwhelming. One of the most heartwarming things I noticed about Montrealers was the general zest for life that seemed to be on prominent display wherever we went.  The Sunday gathering of drummers at Mont Royal was a dramatic display of this generalization, and I think that was why it was so wonderfully appealing.  We set up our blanket in the nearest spot, then Erin, Adam and I went over to check out the music.  Sheila and the kids were exhausted from the long day and walk to get there, opting to sit and rest for a bit.  Adam and I enjoyed a smoke as the three of us let the whole scene wash over us.  The music itself was nothing spectacular, mostly bongo drums, with some creative percussion intruments added in.  It was more the visual scene that got to me.  The 75 or so drummers came from every walk of life.  There were a number of young guys involved, black, white and hispanic.  There was a handful of women drumming, though a majority of the women were dancing instead.  There were a few middle-aged white dudes who appeared to be having a blast escaping their day to day routines.  The rhythms seemed to increase in speed, as all the drummers appeared to get a kick out of forcing their fellow drummers to go faster and faster.  The dancers were run ragged as they attempted to keep up.  Eventually, as Erin had noted they would, the drums slowed and for a brief moment there was silence.  Everyone drumming got a sip of water, or took a minute to catch their breath.  Then it would be someone else's turn to start the next "song", and off they would go.

We returned to the blanket and I grabbed Asher to come back over with me.  Jasmine was tired and cranky, very focussed on getting an ice cream to cool down with.  Sheila wanted to continue relaxing so Erin and I went back to watching, with Asher along in my arms.  Now, I may or may not have discussed Asher's affection for music in this space previously, but it must not be understated.  His love is developed to the point where I can put on almost any kind of music be it rap, rock, metal, reggae, dance, electronica and it will send him into a frenzy of head nodding, spinning and foot stomping.  He has an interesting and dangerous style that elicits a smile from most that get to witness it.  So we get back to the drumming circle and Asher is already jamming, head bobbing rapidly, smile widening across his face.  We are standing above the circle, a brick wall where a number of the drummers are sitting is just in front of us.  After a few minutes we move closer, down a set of stairs, so that we are standing directly behind a row of drummers.  Asher can see all the people dancing, and he begins to squirm to get out of my arms.  A large part of me thought it would be awesome to see my little guy dancing away, and I knew that he would be a huge hit with those drumming and dancing.  Dad played it safe and found him a square of grass on the other side of the stairs, actually Asher spotted it, and trotted over to the grass.  He proceeded to break into his usual routine, spinning, head nodding, waving his arms and shouting.  He drew the attention of a few people who were watching the drummers, and as usually he soaked it right up.

The whole scene was awe-inspiring, and was my favourite thing we did while we were vacationing in Montreal.  Seeing so many different walks of life come together for such simple fun.  No admission fees, no exclusionary rules, and best of all no need for police enforcement.  Cheers to you, the drum loving people of Montreal!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Can I make you envy me?

As I told Sheila last night, I'm excited for our little getaway but not the the jump around and bounce up and down kind of way.  In some regards, it all just feels quite surreal that we are actually going.  I don't want to be a family that restricts their travels due to the children being difficult, so I am really hoping that all goes well in that regard.  I figure that if Asher is good on this cross country flight at 18 months old, then we will have faced one of the biggest tests and passed.  He is a good boy.  People keep telling us that, and we keep on believing it.  He is pretty happy go lucky, and we are planning on giving him no reason to get upset while we zoom across the country.  I've never been as far away from home as we will be in 36 hours.  Neither have Sheila, Jasmine and of course Asher.

 I came home last night after working both shifts, from 630 AM until 1030 PM to find the house looking cleaner then it EVER has.  Sheila keeps a clean house and I have increased my efforts in helping her lately, but yesterday she took it to the extreme.  "Oh, I did I big cleanup downstairs" she says, after I had already noticed the perfectly manicured lawn on my way in, and the spotless kitchen as I took my stuff from my pockets and dared to put them on the counter.  Sheila is excited, and this apparently gives her boundless energy.  While she cared for Asher, Jasmine, and Jasmine's friend yesterday she also found time to:

-mow the lawn both front and back.
-weed both the flower gardens in front and vegetable garden in back yard
-water the lawns and gardens both front and back
-clean, disinfect and organize the kitchen, not a single thing out of place
-tidied the living room
-organized our bedroom
-cleaned the upstairs bathroom (might have done basement one, I didn't see)
-organized the rec room complete with rearranging the furniture
-moved things into the spare room as part of this organizing
-vacuumed, dusted and polished everything in the rec room including my disasterous computer desk
-swept and mopped the laminate floor upstairs
-washed, dried and meticulously folded every piece of clothing in the house (She told me as I peeled off my undies that they were the only dirty piece of clothing in the house)
-readied the suitcases and packed up for her, Jasmine and Asher
-went to the store and bought an array of snacks and other things we want to bring with us
-baked her famous banana bread

Seriously, she did all of this in one day and did I mention that she was watching an 18 month old boy with plenty of energy the whole time?  This was her idea of getting ready to go, and I will say this: "Wow!"  Sheila deserves this holiday more then anyone I know, and I am glad that she is so excited.  It will be good to spend some really quality time with my sister and brother-in-law.  Maybe Sheila will get a chance or two to sleep in and really get "rested".  I think I can make that happen.  When I titled today's post I had our trip in mind, but I realize now that the above list is another reason people should envy me.  You see, I really dislike clutter.  I like to be able to take advantage of the space that we have, as I feel claustrophobic when my space is restricted.  But, I am not the most avid cleaner.  I do a fairly good job of keeping clutter to a minimum, and my increased energy from exercise has led me to be a better helper, but the above list is just ridiculous.  Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have a neat freak for a partner.  So envy me for that, but at the same time be very jealous of our jaunt to the old city of Montreal.  Activities that are tentatively planned:

-Montreal Impact game, complete with new stars Marco di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta
-Touring old Montreal, with visit to Schwartz's for their world famous smoked meat
-Visit to La Ronde, Montreal's Six Flags amusement park
-Visit to the Insectarium, home to hundreds of different species
-Adult night out for dinner and a Just For Laughs show
-Casino Montreal, the largest Casino in Canada, and one of the biggest in the World
-Mont Royal, Montreal's version of a mountain, and home to plenty of historical significance
-Shopping, most importantly used bookstores and vintage clothing stores
-Swimming, Jasmine is itching to visit an outdoor pool or two

I'm off to do more dreaming about Montreal!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

World Traveller

It's always funny how a break from routine can creep up on you.  For the last few weeks Jasmine has been off school and it has been really nice not having to rush and panic in the morning 4 days a week to get her off on time.  It's mostly on me the rushing and the hurrying as I am a terrible morning person, one who just can't seem to get moving until I have no choice but to be late.  This leads me to our family vacation that starts for real Tuesday at 445 pm est when we arrive in Montreal.  It's hard to believe it is finally happening.  My sister moved to Montreal for the first time in 2004 and since then a visit to see her and the beautiful city that she chose to live in has been on my mind.  When Sheila and I first got together money was really tight, but we have gotten our shit together, improved ourselves and are doing better financially.  We don't make amazing money, but we have been smart enough to put money aside in savings as much as we can.  We do the RRSP thing (Sheila through work, I am on the Municipal Pension Plan), we have RESPs set up for the kids and we have our TFSA that I started about 18 months ago.  The monthly contributions have fluctuated, but we have been able to build up a small nest egg in there.  We started talking about visiting Montreal with our funds around Christmas time when Erin and Adam came to visit us and the rest of the family in Prince George.  I have monitored the flight prices relentlessly, and come April I was beginning to feel that we wouldn't get to go, no sales to be found on the seats.  Eventually I found a small price drop and decided to go for it.  I was tired of thinking about it, wanting to go, but wanting to be financially responsible.  Once I finally sacked up and paid for the tickets, we could move on to thinking about the fun we will have!

Tuesday morning at 6 AM we board the small prop plane bound for Vancouver, and for Jasmine the flight itself should be a highlight of the trip.  She has never flown before and has been excitied about a plane trip of any kind for a few years.  The in-flight movies in the back of the seats seemed to overwhelm her when I described them, so she should be well amped up come Tuesday, despite the 330 AM wake up time.  We stop in Vancouver, then we have a 5+ hour flight to Montreal.  Our fingers are crossed that Asher will be well behaved, but who knows?  He is generally not a whiny toddler, and he really only cries to communicate, so we are hoping that keeping him placated with plenty of snacks and drinks will help.  If he gets locked in on the little tvs as well, I won't complain.  I mentioned to Sheila earlier in the week, our best chance at avoiding the hate of the other passengers is to have at least one more baby on the flight, then we won't be the only target for the anti-toddler crowd. 

The small concern over the flights is drastically overshadowed by the activities planned.  We are timing our visit well, as the Just For Laughs festival will be going on, and Sheila and I both love comedy.  There are plans for a dinner and a show date for the 4 adults, should be great whoever we see.  On Wednesday of the first week, I'm treating the ladies and my sports loving son to a Montreal Impact game, the first pro sports event for my family.  I have seen a number of soccer games live, but have yet to attend an MLS game, can't wait to check it out.  Erin has many other cool ideas for the kids to do, and I am looking forward to checking out one of the oldest cities in North America, and by far the most architecturally beautiful city I have ever visited. 

I am glad Sheila and I were able to make this trip happen.  Both of us have done very little travelling ourselves (Sheila's only flight was our trip to Vegas a few years ago), and it will be great to see Erin and Adam and the city they call home.  I am glad Jasmine is going to experience something like this, as it's important for kids to see the world outside of their little bubble.  She rattled off the places she has been the other day, and she was quite proud of herself.  When she realized how far away Montreal is compared to her other visits to place like Kamloops, Edmonton, Kitimat, Chetwynd, and the most exotic Vancouver, she got a little more excited if that is even possible.  I'll update my little space when we return, I need to return to my jumping up and down as I anticipate our little jaunt.  See you on the other side!

Monday, 2 July 2012

An Ambitious Reading Project

I am an avid reader.  There, I went ahead and said it.  As I have clearly defined my poker playing as a job in a previous post, it is fair to say that reading is my most time consuming hobby.  I read a lot at work in between chores, tasks and socializing with the guys.  I prefer reading to mindlessly watching television, unless the program is one of the dozens of sports that I closely follow.  I haven't always been an avid reader.  In fact, for a long period from about age 13 to age 26, I hardly ever picked up reading material unless I was visiting the porcelain throne, or scouring an advertisement, or required to read for a school assignment.  It was a classic case of not knowing what you were missing out on.  As a reader, quite frankly it feels good to be back.  I returned to the realm of nerdom back in 2010, haphazardly picking up books I found in thrift stores, the public library, and of course my dad's personal library.  He has too many books and mom is always looking to have him reduce his collection.  My dad has great taste, so many of his books appeal to me.  He reads mostly from the non-fiction genre, focussing on politics and sports.  When I first returned to reading, I was reading mostly non-fiction including narrative style sports books, political commentary books, and of course autobiographies.

Starting in 2011, I have kept a list of the books I completed.  As I scour the list, I see many books that I really liked, and others that have left me wanting.  Many of the books I read, I would heavily recommend to others.  I wrote a lengthy post about "Water For Elephants", complete with literary orgasm for a novel that is widely considered a "girly book".  My focus during the past 18 months of reading has been unfocussed.  I have read 50 books since January 1, 2011 and I am happy to report I enjoyed the majority of them.  I suffered through so poor books, partly due to my self torturous rule that I can no abandon a book once I have started it.  I feel like I must commit myself to a work completely, often books suffer in parts, but the sum of the parts end up being something much better.  Occasionally, I am very wrong and the whole book ends up being unappealing swill.  From what I have noticed, the books that fall in this category are often autobiographies about people who have no business writing an autobiography.  The well written autobiography needs a unique subject, someone who has lived a little, has had unusual things happen to them.  It has taken me a while to realize it, but with so many misses in the genre, I am likely to stay away from autobiographies in the future.  My time is better spent elsewhere.  Now, the whole point of this post was to outline a reading project that I have been contemplating for some time, but I think I will start with a short review of the books I have read over the past 18 months.  Perhaps I can provide some reading suggestions for others, and save you some valuable hours of your life on books you should avoid.  I will attempt to organize said books into loose categories as well.

Current Novels

The Sentimentalists - Johanna Skibsrud (9/10)
Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls (9.5/10) 
Zeitoun - Dave Eggers (9/10)
Snow - Orhan Pamuk (8/10)
Breath, Eyes, Memory - Edwidge Danticat (8.5/10)
Monkey Beach - Eden Robinson (9/10)
Giraffe - JM Ledgard (8/10)
Pound for Pound - F.X. Toole (7.5/10)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice - Laurie R. King (7/10)
Alexandria of Africa - Eric Walters (4/10)
Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen (10/10)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz (9.5/10)

Older Novels

Sawbones Memorial - Sinclair Ross {1974} (7/10)
Doctor Rat - William Kotzwinkle {1976} (6/10)
Papillon - Henri Charriere {1969} (9.5/10)
Into The Abyss - Jules Verne {1889} (7.5/10)
The Danube Pilot - Jules Verne {1908} (7.5/10)
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck {1937} (8.5/10)

Sports Biographies

Heart For The Fight - Brian Stann and John Bruning (7/10)
Open - Andre Agassi (8/10)
A Champions Mind - Pete Sampras and Peter Bodo (5/10)
Man In The Middle - John Amaechi (7/10)
The Devil and Bobby Hull - Gare Joyce (5/10)

Sports Non-Biographies

The World is a Ball - John Doyle (8/10)
Got Fight? - Forest Griffin (7/10)
Touching The Void - Joe Simpson (8/10)
The Way of Baseball - Shawn Green (7/10)
The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn - David Roberts (9/10)

Entertainment Biographies

Call Me Russel - Russel Peters (3/10)
They Call Me Baba Booey - Gary Dell'Abate (8.5/10)
Superdad - Christopher Shulgan (8/10)
Roseannarchy - Roseanne Barr (3/10)
Cheech and Chong: The Unauthorized Biography - Tommy Chong (7/10)
Nerd Do Well - Simon Pegg (8/10)
Bossypants - Tina Fey (9/10)
Last Words - Gearge Carlin (9/10)

Political Works

This Child Will Be Great - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (8.5/10)

Letters to My Torturer - Houshang Asadi (9/10)

Rebel Land: Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town - Christopher de Bellaigue (6.5/10)
Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary's Life - Joshua Rubenstein (8/10)

Crime Works

A New Kind of Monster - Tim Appleby (7/10)
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit - Mark Seal (9/10)

I hadn't planned on compiling that list but I enjoyed the chance to look back at what I have been reading.  Some of them made me shake my head (see: Roseanne and Russel Peters), but others I look back at fondly.  Recently my reading focus has moved towards the classics.  Now, classics don't have to by old per se, but they are novels that universally recieve positive reviews from those that read them.   I have developed an obsession with the modern library list of "100 Best Novels", that was compiled with input from a number of top scholarly types.  It appears to be one of the most universally accepted lists of this sort.  A few things to note.  As I did most of my reading in my youth, and my reading in the past 18 months has been without direction and all over the place, I had read exactly 1 of the 100 novels on the list prior to resuming my reading hobby.  That novel was "Lord of the Flies", a standard high school read that I took care of in grade 11 english. 

There are 100 novels on this list, hence the "100 Best Novels" moniker.  Many of them are extremely difficult reads, and often the novels are long.  It will take me a lot longer to read these selections then it did to plow through biographical garbage material.  I really like that these books generally hold some historical significance.  "Invisible Man" covered a period of black history that was extremely tumultuous, and provided considerable insight into New York City in the early 1900s that I was completely unaware of.  "The Sound and The Fury" by William Faulkner was the most challenging novel I have ever read, with a number of stylistic changes and jumps that were difficult to follow.  It took an extreme amount of patience to carry through with the reading, but the reward for completion was significant.  As we speak, I have completed 8 of the 100, and have enjoyed all of them.  I like that I can pick up any of the books on the list and enjoy the novel.  I am tired of suffering through bad writing.  Many of these novels are ones that I had heard of, and I had that feeling that I was missing out by not having read them.  All this rambling leads me to my goal, my piece de resistance if you will.  I plan, over the course of a few years, to read all 100 books on this list.  Every single one.  Why?  Because I love reading, I like that all of these novels are significant pieces of literary history.  I am almost 10% of the way to my goal already, and I don't regret reading any of the novels so far.  Now that I have finally spit it out, I best get back to reading.  I am going to have a busy 5 years or so, as no doubt a few other books will sneak their way into my reading que.  I leave you with a list of those I have read so far, and I will periodically add to this list as I finish novels.

The Modern Library Top 100 Novels

2) The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
5) Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (1932)
6) The Sound and The Fury - William Faulkner (1929)
10) The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (1939)
13) 1984 - George Orwell (1949)
18) Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
19) Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison (1952)
31) Animal Farm - George Orwell (1945)
35) As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner (1930)
64) The Catcher In The Rye - J.D. Salinger (1951)