If you follow hockey, you might have noticed an extra team in the league this year — the Las Vegas Golden Knights. This year’s expansion team is the first one since Jacob’s been watching, and I think partly because he can mix and match players to make his own team in NHL ’14, he understood the draft pretty well. Which in turn garnered a bit of excitement in him that I encouraged and nurtured, and voila! Jacob is a newly-minted Golden Knights fan!
When I combined that with my 50by50 efforts, I added a Senators game to my list of activities for the year and it made sense to make it the Golden Knights game (the only time they visit this year). It was just happenstance that it fell on a Saturday afternoon too, which made it easy to take Jacob. Which is odd wording, as it wasn’t like I would have been let out of the house without him.
Earlier, we had bought LVGK t-shirts, and Jacob has dubbed the two of us “Golden Friends”. I’ll take that nickname any day! 🙂
And since it is likely to be our only regular season NHL game this year — he preferred that to trying for tickets to the Winter Classic, even though the Canadiens are playing the Sens outside — I figured I might as well get us some decent seats. Golds, first level, about even with the face-off circles, eight or nine rows up. They were awesome seats!
But don’t just take my word for it, check out the pics below. We were even low enough that we were visible on TV (I viewed it later at home…the last four photos, I’ve added little red circles to show where we are in the pic).
Of the handful of games that Jacob has gone to, this was the one that he was most engaged with, partly because the seats were so good. I can’t afford to have those seats EVERY time, but it was good this time. And I got him a puck with the date and logos on it, so it was all good for him. Although I think he also enjoyed the extra room for our legs as he got to put his feet up on the railing in front of us for most of the game. He did NOT enjoy so much having the guy behind us accidentally spill a bit of beer on his head, but that was quickly forgotten.
And miracles of miracles, the LVGK won! Given their record, that wasn’t exactly a surprise, they’ve actually done really well this season. The problem is that they have gone through a TON of goalies. They traded Pickard to the Leafs as the season opened (Oct 6). Then Marc-Andre Fleury got hurt (Oct 13). Then their backup, Malcolm Subban went down (Oct 21). Which activated their third-stringer, Dansk, who did pretty good…for 9 days (out as of October 30). Moving on to their fourth goalie, and their second call up of year, it was Maxime Lagace. Who got his first-ever NHL start on October 30th, and lost his first two or three games. So by the time we saw him, he was on his third or fourth start and looking for his first win (it was also the LVGK first real road trip, and they weren’t doing as well as they had at home — keeping the games close, but no wins).
So we got to see Maxime Lagace get his first career win. And we didn’t get to see Ferguson play, their third call-up of the year, and the sixth goalie on the roster for the season. They had to get special permission from the League to draft him, activate him, and call him up. Fortunately, Maxime held on for the win.
Although, honestly, we don’t really care who wins, we just like watching a good game. 🙂 Mission accomplished.
I confess that I have a plan to build my own little game arcade with a Raspberry Pi, and eventually I’ll get there. In the meantime, I frequently check out articles such as Adam Dachis’ article on How to Turn Your Computer into a Retro Game Arcadeover on LifeHacker which often has alternative ways to do it, or links to good resources that I will need for the RaspPi3 project. The article dates back to 2011, but still has the main thrust:
While contemporary video games have come close to cinematic masterpieces, there’s often nothing better than the fun and simplicity of retro classics. If you’ve never jumped into the world of emulation, this guide will take you through the very simple basics and have you up and running right away. We’ll also take a quick look at ROM hacking so you can power up your emulation experience.
The approach generally is two-fold — get an emulator (something akin to a software version of the original hardware) and then get the games. The challenge in part is that there are LOTS of different types of emulators…some just for individual consoles/systems, others that mimic multiple consoles through plugins. At the time of writing, he had Nestopia for NES, SNES9X for SNES, Kega Fusion for Sega, and PCSX Reloaded or ePSXe for PS1. If you want more, he recommends checking out Zophar’s Domain.
For the actual games, the search is pretty quick even in Google — you search for ROMs (i.e. read only memory in computer parlance as the old consoles used cartridges that were on ROM storage) + the name of the game system you’re emulating. The popular sites mentioned include EmuParadise, CoolROM, UseNet or BitTorrent, etc.
While most of that is pretty straightforward, what I like most about the article is that it doesn’t stop there. It talks about configuring the keyboard, handling classic save points vs. digital “freeze” saves, options for controllers, and extensive links for Game Genie codes.
He also did an article for doing the same thing with Android or iPhone but the mobile market changes so rapidly for apps and operating systems, most of the advice is simply a retread of the PC one linked above and even has links for jailbreaking iPhones from the old days.
Despite the fact that I bought my telescope five years ago, I consider myself relatively new to astronomy. Mainly because of the myriad of alignment challenges that I’ve had over the last five years, I feel like I’m starting fresh, albeit with more knowledge than most enter the hobby. I’ve done some basic starhopping, attended numerous RASC meetings, gone to star parties, done some outreach. You know, got my feet wet.
As a RASC member, I also get the annual RASC Observers Handbook. Yet for the last five years, it’s been hit or miss with me whether it was useful. In 2015, I dove deep, and did a review (A newbie’s guide to the RASC Observer’s Handbook 2015) based on being a complete noob and how I found the contents. 2016 was okay, flipped through. In 2017, I didn’t even open the plastic wrap around it until a few weeks back when I got the alignment issues solved.
This year, I wanted to go hard core on the guide as part of my 50by50 challenge. The 2018 edition arrived two weeks ago, and my basic intent was to read it cover to cover. I know, I know, it’s part field guide, it’s not meant to be read cover to cover. Yet I wanted to know what was in it so that I could go back and dive into sections when I needed them. Here’s what I found…
One of the biggest and most obvious challenges for an Observer’s Guide of this range is trying to hit a target audience of RASC members that combines newbies, solid amateurs, semi-professional astronomers and photographers, and outright astro-physicists. That is a huge spectrum of potential users, and there is virtually no way to write a single text that will fit all four stops on the spectrum. Yet, for me, a newbie alumni potentially, I found some quirks that bothered me.
One thing that bothers me is a number of website errors in URLs. Don’t get me wrong, the web changes every day, and trying to keep up to date on a series of links is a no-win battle. That’s true of almost any publication that is linking to publicly available information. Sites change their structure, move some files, and voila, a dead link. And I have this site which deals with dead links all the time.
But that’s not this type of error. Most of the links haven’t changed, and they are already up to date on the RASC main site. Just somehow they got edited before they went to print, and they no longer work. On page 10, there are some recommended readings, atlases and software links, and there is a link to an article by Andrew Franknoi. Except the link takes you to a generic entry portal for the magazine that the article is in, and it was only by other google searching that I luckily chose the right issue. However, later I was on the RASC national site for the 2017 guide, and the link was there. So I clicked it again, and it worked, took me right to the article. So between last year and this year, someone edited the URL for no apparent benefit. In the same section, there is a reference to Sky Safari being available on the desktop which was news to me. So I surfed and couldn’t find it. Until I realized that yes it was available on desktop, but only Mac. Would have been good to know before wasting time looking for something that doesn’t exist. Later on page 15, there are a list of selected internet resources. Some good ones in there, a standard list that appears every year. Which URL is wrong? The one for the Observer’s Handbook. On the site, it is rasc.ca/handbook; on the list, they called it rasc.ca/observers-handbook. Which doesn’t take you to the handbook, it just throws an error. Really? They got their OWN url wrong?
Page 16 starts with an article about using the handbook for teaching purposes, and I really like the resources they have for the Night Sky (page 17) around constellations, when they’re visible, and even just a list of them.
Page 25 has “observable satellites of the planets” and I’m very excited by the list. I’m sure some variant was in previous handbooks, but I’m adding it to my observing target list for 2018. Equally, page 38 has information on observing artificial satellites too.
Optics and Observing
Pages 49-59 are all about magnification, telescope parameters, night myopia and exit pupils. I read the articles twice and I was more confused than when I started. At the end of page 53, there are some examples, and it probably should have aimed to get there a lot faster. Ideally, and I may be missing some huge variables, they would take some basic types of scopes and give ranges…like for the Schmidt-Cassegrains that range in aperture from 4″ to 8″, or maybe even 11″, they could use basic eye piece sizes (32mm, 25mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10mm, 8mm, 4mm), show the magnification that goes with that, and add the exit pupil. Then use shading in the table to show the different ranges that are good combos. Then do the same for refractors, reflectors, dobs, etc. Heck, if they want, they could add in seeing quality to eliminate most of the “high magnification” values that are more theoretical than practical, unless you have near-perfect skies. I’m going to look for better explanations online. It is clear they know their stuff, it just doesn’t come across as very user-friendly to understand.
After the challenge of the first ten pages of the section, I was excited to see the updated article on binoculars that is included in some form annually. And so it has the great info on page 60 about what you can see, i.e. without needing a telescope, you can see a lot. Unfortunately, when it comes to practical information, the only pair it recommends is the Canon 10x42L with image stabilization. Sure, I agree it is a superb instrument. And for the almost $1500 it costs, I would expect that. I’m not sure why that pair is relevant as the majority of people buying are people who didn’t have $1000 for a scope or even $700. The reason there’s a market way less than that is because that is what people can afford. Much more useful would be some indication of the entry-level astro models with 2-3 examples, and then maybe a small jump up before going all the way to the wallet breaker.
By contrast, no pun intended, the filters article on page 64 is awesome. Great combo of basic info about all the different types of filters. Having recently experienced for the first time the benefits of the Ultra Block and an Oxygen III in viewing the Veil and Orion Nebulae, I was inspired to branch out more with this article.
Skipping over a few articles of limited resonance for me, I came to the one on Weather Resources. I think this article has appeared before, but I was struck on page 76 that it is incredibly outdated. It talks about the effects of fires in B.C. in 2002 and 2003 having implications for viewing far away, but so did the ones in 2015 and again this year. This year could be forgiven for being excluded due to time constraints in publishing, but we have much more recent examples than 2002. But where I just about lost my sh** was on page 77 when I read:
The popular Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes do not come with cooling fans and they are known to suffer from internal turbulence, especially at large apertures. Only a few advanced amateur astronomers will have the courage to add fans to those telescopes. Any telescope, and particularly the Schmidt-Cassegrains type, should always be brought outside to cool it down at least two hours before the observing session. Better yet is to keep a telescope permanently outside in a backyard observatory.
The bold and italics are added by me. I don’t have a problem with the cooling info for SCTs. I do however have a huge problem with such a strong economic bias creeping into a field guide for observers. Just like with the previous article on binos, albeit written by a different author.
First of all, not everyone lives in a house to even have the chance to have a backyard. Lots of people live in apartments and condos. Second, separate from that, many wouldn’t have the money to build a whole separate observatory in their backyard or the space to do it, or even the lines of sight to make it useful, even if the skies were dark enough where they live. Third, this is in a paragraph about SCTs. Why are SCTs so popular? Because up to 8″, they’re highly portable. But sure, the best object is to go out and buy a house so you can have a backyard to put a SCT in your personal observatory. There’s a reason a lot of the people doing that are retired…they have retirement and savings, and have the time and resources to do that. Most Canadians don’t. I’m extremely fortunate to have a good job, and above average disposable income, and I don’t have the extra money to move to darker skies and build a personal observatory. I wouldn’t expect an article in a field guide to actually piss me off, but this one did.
Moving on, we come to light abatement, and there is a great chart on page 84 about star parks and dark sky preserves in Canada. Except for some reason, the chart is organized by reverse chronological order of when they were created — not by GPS coordinates, not by province, not by closest city, just by reverse chron. I suppose it shows history, but most people would want to know where they are in Canada…so why not put a map with a date next to it? I don’t get it.
I’m all the way to page 85 before I start hitting the mother lode. Alan Dyer’s deep-sky observing hints. Which starts with planning. Page 86 has Paul Markov on the observing logbook, and while I didn’t use the RASC default one (side note — the URL for this was wrong too, again one of RASC’s own links (!), although I did find it eventually on the national site), I found enough in the Markov article and elsewhere to design my own. I’m not quite finished with a couple last minute additions and tweaks, and adding a bunch of static info up front, but I’ll print and bind it in coil when I’m done so I’ll have a nice half-sheet size notebook.
Kathleen Houston has another inspiring article on sketching, and I confess I was a bit underwhelmed. Even though I have no ability whatsoever for drawing anything, I love the premise. Enough so that my logbook has a space for each observing to draw in, if I so choose. I figure if I put it in, I have the option; if I don’t, I’ll never do it. So it’s in for now. But I think what would make this article “sing” more is some actual practical examples. Like a few pictures with a corresponding simple sketch beside each one. To actually show people what we’re talking about, rather than pages of prose. After all, the whole point is that a picture/sketch is worth at least a couple hundred words, isn’t it?
I was a bit disappointed with the astrophotography primer, and maybe that isn’t fair to the author. It’s an almost impossible task to describe at any level of detail that will make the masses happy. But for me, the part that bothered me was around the afocal imaging and a rather basic / negative treatment of it. If anyone has doubts about the quality of imaging with a smartphone, check out Andrew Symes on Twitter. Based in Stittsville, he has some amazing planetary shots. All with his iPhone and Nexstar 8SE with Alt-Az mount. None of the equipment that people are supposed to use to do AP. And he’s getting amazing results.
The Sky Month by Month
Okay, I confess. My eyes glazed over reading this section, which admittedly is the meat of the book. Many people might buy it just for these chapters. A great overview of each month, all condensed down to 26 pages. Yet, I can’t help but feel there is something missing. Like Letterman doing a top 10 list for each month. Or maybe even just the top 3. Three things that are UNIQUE to that month. The best time all year to see Saturn. Or a fantastic view of some DSO that will be high in the sky with little distorting atmosphere between us and them. Or a meteor shower. January for example has 42 events listed for the month. Even if you go with the bold ones, there are 17. Sure, I can guess which ones are better. Hello, lunar eclipse! But it would be great for people to have almost a “basic” option, a “medium” option, and a “challenge” option for each month.
Page 122-146 has a lot of information, and while some of the lunar stuff is interesting, I confess I feel like the entire chapter is a year too late. I don’t remember if 2017 had such a chapter, as I said I just opened it(!), but there was a reason to have it this year. Without the solar eclipse in N.A. driving interest, I feel like the whole chapter is overkill. Even with a lunar one this year to aim for…
I love this section. Maybe in part because I want to do the Lunar certificate for RASC sometime, and I think the moon is undervalued as an accessible target for people.
For me, the entire handbook is “made” just having the info from Bruce McCurdy on lunar observing starting on page 158 as it is perfect for me. Relative shifts per day (p. 158), Canadian content (p.160), the Hadley Rille (p.161), and the lunar certificate (p. 161) are all great elements for the coming year.
Like the previous chapter, I am interested in this one as I have a solar filter. I don’t however have a solar scope. Which means what I can do is kind of basic. But it’s a start. And I can do it during the day. Kim Hay’s article on page 186 on solar observing is a bit more basic than I would like, would have been good to have a bit more detail like the moon article. Oddly enough, I found Roy Bishop’s article on Sky Brightness at midnight the most, ahem, illuminating. While fairly basic, I hadn’t thought of the night wind-down in terms of times and horizons, partly as I’m more constrained by sky glow of suburbs that don’t start to taper off until after 10:00 and often 11:00 or 12:00 anyway.
Planets and Satellites
Pages 211-240 cover the seven planets and is probably the most useful section in the short-term. Like the Month-by-Month section, I wish it was a bit clearer as to when the best viewing was, as some of the descriptions are kind of “on the one hand, this is good, but on the other, this is not so good”. Give me a date or a month, people! Break it down! I have what I *think* it means, but honestly, I have no guarantees I’m reading it right. But I took a LOT of notes in the margins.
Dwarf and Minor Planets // Meteors, Comets and Dust
I was going to skim read these two sections, I confess, as I’m usually in the city glow, not a dark sky, and I have an 8″ SCT. Which means my chances of picking these ones out are quite low in the beginning. Maybe later when I know what I’m doing, and I’m at a dark site, I might have a chance. But I’m willing to pick the best night of the year to try for it, and if I can time that for a dark sky viewing, I’ll go for it. I’m optimistic that some day I might get to it, but maybe not 2018.
The star section, pages 270-306, should be the simplest in my view, and yet I find the various lists confusing. First we have named stars, that seems simple enough, 85 stars whose names I have seen. Then there’s a list of the brightest stars. Equally simple, I thought. It even says there are 286 of them. Great. Except it organizes by the technical name, not the known name, so Mirach is Andromeda B. Umm, okay. Fine. I guess that makes sense. And then we have the 50 brightest stars by magnitude. WTF? Why wouldn’t you just combine this with the list of 286? Presumably they’re on the list. Couldn’t that REALLY detailed table have a column to identify it’s rank out of 286? Then there’s a list of nearby stars. Okay that makes sense too. Wait, a separate list of “easily observable” nearby stars. Okay, colour me confused. No wait, I haven’t got that far yet — I still have double stars, multiple stars, and carbon stars, before I get to coloured double stars. Not to mention variable stars and expired stars. I see lots of LONG lists, and not much of a guide to filtering them other than to do the 50 brightest or the easily observable nearby ones. It would be great if they were organized by season though. Not sure how I’m going to use much of the lists unless I can download the e-version.
The Deep Sky
Unlike the stars section, the deep sky section is just richness personified. I love all the lists and I want to do them all:
Deep Sky Selection – From Near to Far;
Messier – by season
Finest NGC Objects – by season
Deep Sky Challenge Objects
Deep Sky Gems – by season
Wide Field Wonders
40 Optically Brightest Shapley-Ames Galaxies
The Nearest Galaxies
Galaxies with Proper Names
The RASC Observers Handbook 2018 has a huge amount of material that is useful to multiple users across the spectrum. And for me personally, there are a lot of things that I will try and turn into useful target lists for various nights. But there are some editorial and tone issues in a few places that made it a less than positive initial engagement with the guide.
A couple of weekends ago, I did a star party in Carp on the Friday night and the seeing was pretty good. There was a second one on Saturday set for Luskville with the AstroPontiac initiative (I’m on the board), and since Jacob wanted to go, we decided to make it a small family outing. We headed out early, grabbed some subs and drinks, and got to the Luskville site around 5:30.
One of the nice parts about the Luskville site is that it is right next to the Luskville Falls hiking trail. We didn’t have the time or the light to do a full hike, but we wanted to go up the quarter kilometre or so to get to the actual falls. We had water, and hiking poles, just in case, but didn’t think we would need them. We ended up loaning them to Jacob though to try out and he made out pretty well. Some of the rocks on the first stretch are still pretty big for his little legs, so we found that for stability and movement, one pole + one parental arm was the best balance.
When you start the trail, you go down some big steps to get to the start of the trail, and I think Jacob liked those the best.
I had hoped for a bit more interesting light in the treetops, but it wasn’t cooperating.
We started up the rocks next to the little creek, and that’s when we ended up testing the one parental arm + one pole technique for Jacob, as one parental arm wasn’t enough.
I love the first glimpse of the falls as you go up, just peeking through the trees.
Fortunately, it hadn’t been too wet lately so the falls were relatively tame today.
As twilight was falling, we headed back, maybe 10 minutes to the parking lot. Short hike. Then we grabbed the subs, and set up on a picnic table. I don’t think I have ever had a late afternoon / early twilight picnic like that before, and it was incredible. It was deathly quiet, even though there were other people in the small park area. You could hear the sound of the falls a short distance away. And as we sat there, leaves were falling from the trees around us. One here, one there. Spiralling downward. It was awesome. Almost meditative in a way.
Which made up for the fact that the star party was a complete bust (Two star parties back to back). Clouds rolled in and never left. But well worth the trip, even for the basic part of the hike.
As I mentioned earlier, I like short hikes, a couple of kilometres, preferably in a loop and with a chance to see something along the way, a goal if you will. What I rarely like doing is taking a hike where I have no idea where the trail is going, how long it is, how difficult it is, or if there are natural turn-around points.
However, back at the start of October, we headed one Sunday morning up to the Gatineau Hills and ran into wacky rules almost immediately. As we got to the entrance, some woman was waving us through. No apparent reason for her to even be there, but she was. Okay, whatever. Onward. We passed the Pink Lake lookout, and the parking lot was closed. Yet the lot was empty. Weird, must be some sort of problem with the parking lot. Except there were two or three cars parked there?
On to our actual destination, the waterfall trail just below the estate. Again, the lot was closed. With obvious signs of empty spots. WTF? Okay, this was getting annoying. Continued on, headed towards Meech which we’ve never gone to before. Ended up over by the snow hills and found out that they had instituted a buses only policy for Sundays to manage the traffic. You have to park in designated exterior lots and then take buses through the park with on/off privileges. Yeah, cuz that’s going to be reliable. Pass.
We were able to park at a small lot on the way to Meech and hike down an almost non-existent trail to a lake. Nice views, but not much of a trail.
It was just a short interlude and then we got over to the Meech Lake parking lot. Two directions to choose — left towards the beach, which sounded good, or right up an actual trail where everyone else was going. I didn’t find the big map particularly helpful, and it is often one of my complaints with Gatineau Park that their maps are the “big” maps of the park but without sub-maps of just the spot you are to tell you how long a trail is, how hard etc. Heck, I didn’t even know we were on the Carbide Willson Ruins Trail. We just followed the crowd. Up and over hills. On AllTrails.com, they list it as a moderate hike with 226m of elevation change, 5K in total. If I had known it was 5K, I would have opted for the beach. 5K isn’t horrendous or anything, but we weren’t geared up for it with proper shoes, water bottles, layers, walking sticks/poles. And moderate wouldn’t have been my choice either considering we’ve only done one other minor hike this year.
The trail was wide and relatively smooth going, more like an access road or a walking path than a trail. But the hills were more than I would have liked. J was getting tired near the end, as was I. And overheated.
But it gets worse. I thought we were about three-quarters of the way to the Ruins (not that we knew, we really had no idea where we were or how far anything was), we reached the edge of Meech Lake and a bridge over where it flows out. Saw some canoeists heading back down the lake, and lots of people stopping to take photos.
Took a bunch of photos of the little creek bed but only a couple were truly interesting.
Here’s the worst part. Since we didn’t know how far we were, and I was overheated a bit already, we headed back to the car. Later, I checked the map quickly and it looked like we were 3/4 or more of the way there. I checked on the map today, and we were…wait for it…only 1 km from the parking lot, only 40% of the way there. That’s terrible on two fronts. First, we sucked. I already knew that, but that was a good indication of just how badly we sucked, with only 1km out and 1km back. The walk was fine, the hills killed me.
Secondly, though, this is exactly why I hate these kinds of hikes. Because when we were at the bridge, I briefly thought about continuing on. Hey, it can’t be much farther, right? Right? We even asked someone. It was actually something we were naively considering. It would have been unbelievably bad. I would have been dying at the end of it. But fortunately (?) I was already feeling the heat and lack of good hydration. We just hadn’t planned on doing that much of a hike or getting a small workout on the hills. I now have a goal to do that full trail, but hopefully with proper preparation.
Good trail, just harder than we were expecting when we set for a light stroll. Sigh.
Anyway, as an aside, we also drove all the way around Meech Lake to the end, just to check out the area. Quite an interesting area, although not anywhere we particularly felt the need to visit again anytime soon.
I like going on hikes, but I confess I’m in favour of easy hikes. I don’t want big long hikes that take four and five hours. However, I’m fine with a bunch of 30 minute ones that might take several hours. Mostly as I’ve experienced that “oops, this is way bigger than I wanted to do right now” situation, particularly when it starts as a stroll so I’m not properly equipped with a hat and water bottle, or even necessarily proper hiking shoes. I also like hikes with a bit of a “destination” or goal in them. Sheesh…picky, aren’t I?
One of my favorite hikes, although more of a walk, is the Bruce Pit. It’s not a long walk around, 1.74 km in distance basically. But for the first part of it, you have long views of the pond with a lot of ducks and geese on the surface. And you’re walking on part of the NCC bicycle path, with paved surface.
Then on to the actual dirt path for a straight stretch and some closer views of birds, and surrounding forest until you come to a bridge and can look down the path of a creek, often with some waterfowl hanging around.
Then you go buy bulrushes, and my favorite part of the city at the start of the year to see red-winged blackbirds. Then the final push up a little hill, walk past the edge of the nearby off-leash dog park (which also means no dog poop on the main trail), stop at a small lookout over the water, and then back to the beginning, near the top of a hill where we toboggan in the winter. Which also makes for a good spot for a picture with the pond in the background.
And we’re done. Nice, simple, good route for a quick afternoon outing, and five to ten minutes from our house, depending on traffic. There are a couple of other paths nearby, one behind the Bell Arena, one off of Hunt Club, but neither one “go” anywhere or have much to see. They’re okay strolling locations, but like I said, I like to see something.
In September, we went out on a Sunday afternoon, and while I am usually doing landscape or fauna shots while we’re walking, I decided to take some pics of some flora too. I didn’t get a lot of colour in the trees at that time, but I’m happy with the results overall for the smaller detail, often in macro mode.
I’m not sure I was an unbiased viewer of tonight’s live performance — Arsenic and Old Lace at the Ottawa Little Theatre.
Some of you may remember back in the day when my lovely bride and I were married at that theatre. We had been season’s tickets subscribers in the past, it was near our old neighbourhood, and we were looking for an off-beat venue. It was perfect for us. So we kind of have a special place in our heart for the old girl. And this year we are season’s ticket holders again. We missed the first play, but I really wanted to see this one. So much so that we changed the tickets to a more convenient night as next weekend is a bit busy.
Why was I excited? Because it’s Arsenic and Old Lace, duh.
I know, I know, you probably don’t even know AOL as anything other than an internet provider that old people used to use. Well, no, A&OL is Arsenic and Old Lace. Lots of older people would remember it as an old Cary Grant movie. If they were truly aware, they would know that it was based on a hugely successful Broadway play starring Boris Karloff, who is referenced repeatedly throughout the original play, movie and tonight’s version. But me? I first heard it as an old-time radio broadcast following an “intro” to radio dramas in Grade 9 Canadian History class.
The comedy tonight has three main levels of cast members…tier 3 involves some beat cops, a visitor, a director of a sanitarium. Tier 2 involves a bride-to-be, a plastic surgeon, and three nephews. And tier 1 includes two elderly aunts. As you find out within the first few minutes of the play, Aunt Martha and Aunt Abby have taken to performing acts of charity with lonely old men — they poison them and bury them in the basement.
Now, with the two aunts, the show lives or dies by their delivery. If they’re “on”, the play sings; if they’re not “on”, it suffers. Tonight? Janet Banigan as Aunt Martha and Sarah Hearn as Aunt Abby were downright awesome. They tripped over lines a couple of times, but not egregiously, and they do occupy almost 40% of the play. Entirely believable. Played by Jean Adair and Josephine Hull in both Broadway and film versions, the characters are delicious to watch. Innocently spooky almost. Just don’t drink their elderberry wine.
The three nephews — Mortimer, the normal one; Jonathan, the criminal; and Teddy, the one who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt — were played by Kurt Shantz, Paul Williamson, Dan Desmarais (the roles occupied by Cary Grant, Raymond Massey as clone of Boris Karloff, and John Alexander in film). Shantz and Williamson were pretty solid, although Shantz looked a bit too much like Dan Ackroyd in Trading Places at times when he was going for “smug”. Williamson was definitely thug-like for his role, a little bit nutty with a strong mean streak.
The Doctor was played by Claude Laroche, and I almost want to see the film version to see Peter Lorre in the role. Can’t even imagine him as Einstein. With Mary Whalen handling the part of Elaine, the girlfriend/bride-to-be (Priscilla Lane in the film in one of her last roles). I’ve seen Whalen before, and she’s hit and miss for some roles — tonight she did great. As did Laroche, in a role that is hard to balance between a little sleazy, a little weak, a little mousy, a little evil.
The rest of the cast is a bit of a wash both in terms of their performance as well as the roles themselves. In the radio drama, most of them don’t even show up — mostly it’s just the three nephews, two aunts, the doctor, and a beat cop. Seven cast members, not the 13 who were in tonight’s version.
I was nervous — I like the play so much and I just wanted them to nail it. Which they did.
One of the best performances Andrea and I have ever seen at the OLT. Great night…
I’ve been wanting to build something with Jacob as part of a concerted effort to “do” more things together as opposed to simply hang out together. I don’t mean we always have to be goal-oriented, but I want to put some thought and effort into some of our time together to do some things that go above and beyond the normal. I have plans through the winter to do some more crafts together, and a couple of other projects too, but Jacob got a gift from a friend’s mother — a “assemble-it-yourself” Rubik’s Cube.
She had looked at it and thought it was too finicky to put together and she wasn’t sure she had the patience for it. It looked okay to me, but she was right, it was a bit finicky. But Jacob wanted to do it “quick”. For school, over the last four weeks, he has been doing a more mature version, don’t you know, of show and tell. Each student had to do four presentations in October, one each week, where they brought something from home or some photos and introduced it to the kids. Think of it as Toastmasters Junior, in a way.
One week he took the Mexican flag, and talked about our trip last winter. Another he took a bunch of souvenir hockey pucks from our trips to various Sens events. For the third, he took two medals he got — one for being the camper of the week at a soccer camp, and one from the Ottawa Race Weekend for walking the 2K race. Other suggestions — his old AFOs, or the Three Investigators series that he plowed through — were met with derision by him. Nope, not happening.
This week he wanted to do the Rubik’s Cube and take that. Which meant we had to do it early enough that he could not only have it finished but also figure out five things to say about it. Assuming of course that it went together at all.
The assembly started off rough, mainly as we had misplaced the instruction booklet that had been separate from the box. But I knew there was another booklet, so we found it, and started it. Basically, it went together in three stages.
First was the ball and internal mechanisms. Jacob could do almost all of the internal stuff once we figured out how a couple of pieces went in, although I put in the one small piece just to make sure it aligned properly. There were little springs to go on small bolts and sleeves to go on the bolts before they went into small holes. Then the two halves of a ball would snap together to make a little death star. Then the rotating “sides” attach so that the eventual sides of the cube can turn in six different directions. This last stage was the only one Jacob really needed me to do for him as it involved a slot-headed screw driver and a small screw, finicky indeed.
The second stage was assembling the 54 black “cubes” that make up the sides (six sides, nine per side). You start with the bottom layer, with a corner, and then work around the bottom alternating corner pieces and sides. Jacob could do most of that himself, I just held it steady and occasionally added a bit of torque to the shape so he could fit the pieces into the small gaps a little more easily. All the way to the top, and then I attached the final “rotating” side).
The final stage was transforming a 54 square “empty shell” into a true Rubik’s cube. The centre pieces on each of the six sides had to snap into place, and whoever designed them was a sadist. I never did check the age on the size of the box, but it was pretty finicky. I ended up using the screwdriver to “push” the edges into place so they could snap in. After that, Jacob started working his away around the 48 “holes”, snapping tiles into place according to the official pattern of which colours were opposite others.
He was so excited when we finished to rush over and show it to Mom, I didn’t even get a picture of the finished product before we messed it up and twisted it around. It took us somewhere around 45 minutes or so, nothing too hard, but it was fun to do it together. I was feeling a little pressure to help him do it quicker as we needed it ready for the show and tell session, even though we were two days ahead. Mostly we just needed to know it was going to work and that he would have something to show, or he would need to find another topic/item to present.
I showed him the info on Rubik’s Cube on Wikipedia to help him come up with his five facts, and he chose them. Then we altered them slightly as he wanted to focus on the fact that we had assembled it from scratch, and I sent the 7 photos to the teacher as she offered to show any photos on her laptop during the presentation.
Then we added the photos to a simple word document to give him a little outline to speak from (it was better to have it memorized but he felt more confident having notes for this one). And he said it went well.
I’m hoping our next “build” project won’t be quite so rushed! But it was fun for me too…
I’ve been working on my HR Guide in varying forms for a long time. While I have wanted to share it as posts and eventually as a book, I haven’t made the time to finish it. There’s some simple and some complex reasons behind that, but regardless, I don’t have it in the full prose version that I want.
But last April, I was having a conversation with someone who basically said, “Oh, I don’t care if I get the prose yet, I’ll settle for the deck version you shared previously.”
Huh. I do HAVE a deck version, and it IS the basis for most of my prose. Just shorter. Way less complete. But done.
What if I shared that a bit more? So I did. And I went a step further. I uploaded it to my site, put it in a prominent place in the sidebar, and made it available to anyone who wanted to download it.
So how did that work out for me?
Well, just under 18 months later, I just surpassed 1000 downloads of it (1001 as of tonight).
I’m still working on the prose version, but I think 1000 downloads is worth including in my 50by50 achievements. Yay me!
Back when I got married some nine years ago, I organized my bachelor party to include a golfing outing. Other than playing occasionally with my father-in-law, it’s one of the few outings where I’ve actually gone golfing with someone else. And so when I was doing my 50by50 list, someone suggested I do my bachelor party arrangement again.
Which seemed like a great idea, except for the organizing part. Instead, I simply listed it on my goals list as “go golfing” and decided I would figure out the details later. A few weeks ago, I saw posters around my office for the annual branch golf tournament. I’ve gone the last three years, so going this year would seem almost like a no-brainer.
Except I’m not part of that branch anymore. I changed jobs back in July (50by50: Start a new job (#03)). So technically I’m not part of the “client base” for that event, although it’s not a rigid organizational process. Yet what I really wanted to do was go golfing with my old team, not just any old group. If there was space.
Of the foursome, two of us have been steady cohorts. Sean and I were on the team four years ago, even though he was in another division at the time and didn’t really know each other that well. Angela in my division went too, and it was an interesting course, but I think she found it a bit of a sh**-show as we are nowhere near her level. At least I’m not. So she bowed out. We took Roula from my team one year, and I bounced her all over the course while looking for where we were supposed to tee off. Ryan rode with Sean, and joined again the next year, with a fourth from our directorate joining us, Bruce.
This year, I checked with my team, and the new replacements weren’t all taking up the spots on our “foursome”, so Ryan, Sean and I could go (even though Ryan and I aren’t part of the “team” anymore), and the new member of the division last June, Luc, joined too.
Now the interesting part is that on paper, I shouldn’t enjoy the day. First, I’m not very good. I occasionally hit good shots, but I am far from consistent. Second, it’s a physical sport, never my forté, and linked to that, third, there’s some basic lack of gracefulness. Some times I swing, and I completely miss the ball. And fourth, I’m golfing with a bunch of guys I don’t know outside of the office, not really.
So why do I like it? Two reasons, and they are not the most obvious choices.
First, we’re playing best ball. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, it means all four of us hit the ball and whoever hits the ball the best (farthest or straightest, or both, or best lie), that’s the ball we all play from. So even if you have a rotten shot, chances are that someone in the group will hit a playable ball. It’s kind of like you have four tries to hit something decent or three free mulligans every swing.
Second, we aren’t that far apart in abilities. True, Sean is the best amongst us — most consistent, best form in his swing, etc. But that doesn’t mean that every shot we count is his. This year, all four of us counted tee shots, lay ups, chips and putts. Sean is the most consistent, and most of his shots are playable, but sometimes Ryan, Luc or I would hit something better. And then someone else will hit a nice combo and put us in good stead, while someone else finishes the hole with a good putt.
Other teams certainly had better scores than us, we ended up about 11 over for the day. Way better than any of us would do on our own, but separately, I think we would have less fun on the other teams where they have a couple of really good players who go out every week, simply because you’re unlikely to ever count one of your shots. In some tournaments, they’ll often add a rule that you have to count x number of tee shots from each team member, but the rules for our tournament are pretty light. The winners ended up 7 under for the day, which is great, but two of them play every week, and I think the other two play regularly too.
For Ryan, Sean and I? None of us have played since the last tournament. I have gone to the driving range a couple of times, but that’s it.
And each year that we’ve done it, I have REALLY enjoyed it. This year was no exception. A couple of holes were fun off the tee shot for a couple of us going third or fourth because someone else had hit a good playable shot, leaving us free to let it rip and just see what happens. I don’t usually use my three wood off the tee, I often settle for my 3-4 hybrid because I can control it better even if the distance isn’t as good. This time? I let a few blast that we ended up playing. Nothing exceptional, by probably anyone’s standards, but good for me and they worked. Other times, I lost balls in the woods! 🙂
The first few holes are pretty tame, nothing exceptional, and there are few water hazards anywhere. The seventh, eighth, and ninth holes are kind of fun — long and relatively straight, but the eighth has a small ravine across it, a dog leg over a creek, some trees. Last year, Ryan ended up in the creek — not just his ball, him personally! But we got through those ones with minimal damage. The back nine aren’t bad, although 15-18 are the most challenging. #15 starts off with a tee shot over a creek, past some bowrushes. It’s hard to avoid the creek, but we did. #16 is deceptively simple, yet it’s hard to hit straight on it for some reason. #17 has a tee shot on an angle over a creek, and we managed to lose a ball in the centre of the fairway. We have no idea where it went, it just wasn’t there when we caught up to it. Sure, it was on a hill, but two of us saw where it went, and then couldn’t find it. I blame the gopher from Caddyshack.
The #18 for me is the hardest hole, as you have a very long hit downhill to a creek. Then, over the creek, past a pond, and you can cheat by going left to a fairway, but then you’ll have a good long chip to the green. The really good players go for the fairway over the creek off the tee-shot. We have to play a lay up and then try and get over the creek and the pond. Which we managed to do. Not perfectly, but not like six over par either. Which I would be if I was playing every one of my shots. Every hole.
And while we play REALLY slow (one of the reasons Angela won’t play with us), it was just pure simple fun. We all contribute, we don’t care about the final score too much, there’s a bit of beer consumed in general, we laugh a lot.
For a guy who doesn’t like doing anything athletic in front of anyone, that’s a pretty big endorsement.
And while I always love the course for the view of the Gatineau Hills, it was also nice each year over the last four to not only get to know Sean and Ryan better, but each year to get to know Angela, Roula, Bruce and Luc too. Here’s hoping I can piggyback on the tournament next year too!
And this year, we got some photos as Luc had his phone with him.
Luc, Ryan, Me, and Sean, with the “mountain” in behind, somewhere around the 13th hole.
Sean showing off some decent form.
Sean and I in the golf cart – the only way to fly!