Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garage Sale!

Today we held a three generation, 4 couple garage sale at Michelle's parents house in Ferndale. Attendance was pretty good, we sold quite a bit of stuff, but there was definitely more than a car load left when we were done. So we decided to cart it all down to Ben's place in downtown Ferndale and do it all over again next Saturday. Michelle did a lot more work than me getting ready for today's sale, so she's not too excited about putting signs up or getting ads in the paper. I, on the other hand, didn't do any work and I got a little taste of how much fun hosting a garage sale can be. So I'm excited to make signs, promote the sale, and collect up things to sell. Everything must go by 1:00pm next Saturday! No reasonable offer refused!

We made a little over $60 today, and we cleaned out our house of stuff we don't use. I very much like both ends of garage sale-ing, and I hope it's a regular aspect of my life in the future.

I may post a few pictures if I get around to it...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Biking and Gardening

Recently I've been biking to work. I borrowed a vintage Fuji 18 speed from Michelle's Dad, and it's taken me a week or so to get used to the friction shifting, located on the frame. I took it in to Kulshan Cycle today after work because it's been slipping teeth, especially when I'm putting a lot of torque on the pedals. I thought it needed a new chain, but it turns out it just needed to be lubricated and worked in a bit. One of the bike mechanics loosened it up for me and put some penetrating oil on it. It was like night and day - now it's really smooth. I bike about 2.1 miles one way to work every day, and it's really a relaxing ride. Not much traffic, except for one intersection, and it's relatively flat. I'm getting exercise, saving money on gas, and not polluting. It's been really eye-opening actually. Biking to work is really convenient.

This spring Michelle and I planted a garden in one corner of our friend Bea's garden. Bea has chickens, a dog, and some cats, and she recently acquired some ducks. It's a blast to go over to her place. The chickens sometimes segregate themselves into a corner of the yard, and when you come in they all come marching out, like they're on patrol, to investigate the situation. We planted carrots, radish, bell peppers (which didn't come up), cucumbers, broccoli and some flowers. All from seed! I'm pretty impressed with the broccoli - it's big and we just harvested the first three heads. We've got all the radish we know what to do with. Let me know if you have any good recipes that feature radish, or if you want any fresh radish. I like gardening because it reconnects me to the basic functions of life. It's very real. I feel like a lot of peoples lives, mine included, are a little pie-in-the-sky. I counted the other day, and I think my real job, while very necessary, is about 4 degrees of separation from providing for people's basic needs.

Speaking of my real job, click here for a link to some work I did recently. Click on the "Salary Matrix" link. That's all me!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blogs of Note

So I've been planning on highlighting a couple blogs for the last week or so. I really need to start building "blogging time" into my daily routine.

Patrick and I meet for breakfast every Thursday. He spent 2 or 3 years living in Central Mexico after university, and he met his wife there. While he was there he collected 43 stories based on his experiences and I find them fascinating to read. He has cleaned up and posted 23 of them so far at They are worth checking out.

Eric and I met in Calgary when I was going to U of C. His blog is a collection of quotes and passages from books he's reading. I try to check in regularly, but he's a pretty prolific reader (and blogger). Recently I asked him how he reads so much, and if it ever feels like a chore to him (sometimes it does to me). He said:

First of all, I read a lot of fiction which I really enjoy and it doesn't seem like work to me. I try and balance that with some non-fiction that really interests me (usually history, politics and economics). I am about to read Common Wealth by Sachs (I'm pumped). Mostly I only make myself read something when I really want to read it. I leave books until I think, "I should read that, I bet its good". The Devils by Dostoevsky has been sitting on my shelf for 2 years. Reading should be fun, if it isn't right now, take a break. And don't worry about "I need to read everything" because you won't, and that is OK.

He's right - I won't read everything. And it is OK. I needed to hear that - reading is again a peaceful, fulfilling activity for me. Anyway, check out his blog at

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spirited Away

Spirited Away is an animated Japanese movie in the vein of Alice in Wonderland. I have to admit, it was a little wierd, but that was also part of the appeal. For example, Chihiro's parents weren't animated to fit the western stereotype of what animated Japanese people look like. They were animated the way Japanese people see themselves (the parents, and Chihiro, were very nationality neutral). At the same time, the characters exhibit unique and distinctly Japanese, or maybe Asian, mannerisms. It was cool to watch. It was also cool to look at. I don't know much about animation, but this movie used a different technique than I have seen before. The shots out the car window were particularly interesting.

In terms of the plot, it made just enough sense to keep me watching, which isn't saying a whole lot because I have a low tolerance for things not making sense. I was thinking about one scene again today and I realized that there was a subtle but powerful environmental message that I didn't pick up on until now. If you like foriegn films or the fantasy genre, this is one you should see. IMDB tells me it won the 2003 Oscar for Best Animated Picture.

In other news, I started biking to work this week. I borrowed a touring bike, complete with saddle bags for a change of clothes and shoes and what not. It hasn't rained on me yet, so I'm still liking it.

Countdown to Bowron Lakes trip: 26 days!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird a few days ago, and I really enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder if serious literature isn't wasted on High School students. No offense to High-Schoolers, but I certainly wasn't at a maturity level in High School to appreciate the themes that this book brings up. It makes me think that I should re-read The Outsiders and Fried Green Tomatoes, the two I remember reading in High School.

I have a lot of respect for the way writers like Harper Lee are able to create engaging, enjoyable stories and characters and at the same time address themes like racism, stereotyping, and cultural norms. Getting into the minds of Scout and Jem as they attempted to reconcile their natural and innocent understanding of fairness with the behaviors and attitudes of the community around them was fascinating. I wonder what assumptions I make on a day to day basis just because, subconsciously, I've agreed to it with everyone around me. I have a suspicion that the underlying principle persists, but I think in 50 years we'll look back and see the effect in totally different issues. Animal rights, maybe? Consumerism and "externalized costs" (see Probably not - probably something else I haven't been smart enough to question.

Atticus Finch will go down as one of my favorite literary characters. I'm going to try to remember to flip through this book again when I'm a father. I hope my kids and I have the same type of relationship he had with Scout and Jem. I also wonder if I'll ever face "that one thing" that I need to do. Hopefully I'll see it coming if I do.

Anyone have any recommendations for other classics I should put on my list? I'm trying to work up the courage to start Anna Karenina, but I'm afraid I don't have the attention span for it... Maybe I should stick with high school level classics, and then when I'm 50 I might be ready to take on Tolstoy.