2 weeks ago

1 note(s)

Well, Epictember has come and gone, and I have nothing to show for it except for a ton of overtime, some gnarly bags under my eyes and a bunch of missed opportunities. It’s time to clean up and get out (of the house, that is).

The good news? I could be a little premature in saying so, but I may have just cleared my biggest hurdle of 2014. I’m definitely not out of the woods yet, but what a huge fucking reliefThe things a brother has to do just to get paid…

Anyway, hopefully things settle down and I can get back to what’s important because this year is far from over. To say that I have to make up for lost time in October and November would be an understatement. Time to get shit done, son.

T G I F F (FINALLY)

2 weeks ago

Bachelor pad diaries #2: Living room proof of concept. Are you not entertained?

One of the things that I really want to have in my so called living room is a computer connected to the TV. Why? Because smart TV applications are wack, I don’t plan on getting cable and, mostly, just because I can.

The best part about having your own place is that you can customize it however you want - I chose all of my finishes and colors (I might regret that later), and I’m also going to choose all the furniture and do the “interior decorating”. Since none of my current furniture is coming with me and my university furniture has been long gifted, this is as clean of a slate as I can get.

I’m not going to lie: I have poor taste. While I do like good looking things (*wink*), if it ever came down to it, I’m a function over form kind of guy. Without any woman holding me back, I’m basically going to do whatever I want, so my guests should probably brace themselves for whatever it is that they might see upon entering my lair.

It’s become pretty clear that the area adjacent to to kitchen is where all the entertaining will be done, so I need to make it comfortable, functional and not look like shit. Aside from getting a king sized bed, this room is #1 on my must furnish immediately list.

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I have four main requirements for this area: a sectional couch for TV watching, a big screen TV hooked up to a computer, a smaller TV dedicated to console gaming and a computer workstation with multiple monitors.

The solution? Lots of wiring (I guess). Having obsessed over the floor plan then realizing the actual build was the mirror image of it had a good look at the area, I knew that this might be the case so I opted for smart wiring outlets EVERYWHERE. At this point, I’m still not too sure whether paying for that upgrade will be worth it…

Anyway, since my 27” iMac is going to be in the master bedroom, I bought a brand spanking new (and totally overpowered for it’s purpose) Dell XPS 8700 SE to power my entertainment hub and I have two TVs and two monitors to play around with. The “plan” is to be able to use the computer directly via one monitor and wired keyboard/mouse while sitting at a desk in the computer nook, but then that computer’s display would also be mirrored across the room on the main TV. Since the nook area is pretty big, there should also be enough space for me to setup my work laptop and have another monitor attached to that too.

Ambitious? I don’t know.

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The video card in this XPS tower can support up to 3 displays, but the question is what to do with them? It has one mini-HDMI and two DVI outputs, so I knew that the HDMI must to be used for the TV (because I didn’t want to run both an audio and video cable to it) and I’d probably only use one of the DVI outputs to mirror the TV on a monitor at that desk.

The challenge was that I wanted the actual computer to be sitting in the nook area, but the TV would be sitting against the wall adjacent to the washroom on the other side of the room. I took the measurements and it needed roughly 35 feet of cable to run along the wall, so I bought a 50 foot HDMI cable to have some extra play with on both ends - that’s a long ass cable.

The problem with such a long cable is that you could get some signal drop from one point to the other, which would result in a degraded audio/video…at least that’s what the internet tells me. On top of that, because the output on the video card is actually a mini-HDMI, I had to buy an adapter for it to accept a the normal sized HDMI cable, which would probably weaken the signal a little as well.

OK, time to test this thing out. I started off with a $2 3-foot HDMI cable that I bought off eBay and that worked, as expected. Then I moved onto the $15 50-foot cable that I bought off Amazon to see if there would be any apparent lag or signal loss. There wasn’t! To my undiscerning eyes, the picture looked the same and there was no apparent delay while typing and moving the mouse around.

SWEET. 

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Now to control this hot mess without having to sit at the actual desk, I ended up buying a $40 wireless keyboard/mouse combo off Amazon. I was initially looking at the TK820 (4 AA batteries/6 months) and the K830 (rechargeable battery/10 days), but it all came down to the fact that this keyboard will probably get tossed all over the place, so I didn’t want to get anything too expensive to replace.

Aside from being less than half the price, the K400 was also supposed to last about a year on just 2 AA batteries! In my experience with rechargeable computer accessories, I never you never remember to recharge them anyway…then they end up dying, and there you are looking like a fool trying to find a wired keyboard somewhere in your basement just so you can surf some porn to watch some YouTube. This is exactly the reason why I have a solar powered keyboard for my Mac…plus, I spilled iced tea all over the original one, which rendered the keys too delicious too sticky to use.

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Lucky for me, there wasn’t any that much lag with this wireless keyboard, but it does seem to freeze every now and again. I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t installed the Logitech drivers yet or because I have 3 other wireless devices hooked up to the box that might be interfering with the signal…or the thing is just shit. Other than the touchpad being a pain in my ass to use, this proof of concept was turning out to be fairly successful, so praise science that things are kind of going my way.

The next challenge would be hiding this ugly black wire which needed to run from one end of the room, around some corners, to the other. I looked into some cable management solutions, but they were downright ugly. While I do have smart wiring outlets everywhere, they don’t provide anything for HDMI, so I still have to figure out a plan of attack for that whole situation.

Well that’s the proposed plan but it could just end up being a bunch of random electronics scattered all over the floor…or on top of boxes…for several months…with a giant bean bag chair in the middle of the room… At least with this stuff in order, I know that once I get the internet up and running then I can at least pass the time somehow…

3 weeks ago

High Quality
…and the leftovers from the slow roasted pork tacos begat the scrambled egg breakfast tacos the next morning. 
I’ve been all aboard this taco train as of lately because taco bars are just plain fun! Chopping up tons of vegetables is kind of a tedious but having lots of taco/burrito related leftovers isn’t that bad either. You can throw just about anything on a tortilla shell, hit it with some fresh guacamole and it’ll taste awesome. True story.
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…and the leftovers from the slow roasted pork tacos begat the scrambled egg breakfast tacos the next morning. 

I’ve been all aboard this taco train as of lately because taco bars are just plain fun! Chopping up tons of vegetables is kind of a tedious but having lots of taco/burrito related leftovers isn’t that bad either. You can throw just about anything on a tortilla shell, hit it with some fresh guacamole and it’ll taste awesome. True story.

3 weeks ago

2 note(s)

No girlfriend? Fine. Brace yourself, gaming season is coming.

On pre-order: Forza Horizon 2, NBA 2K15, Battlefield: Hardline, COD: Advanced Warfare (Atlas Pro), Halo 5: Guardians

4 weeks ago

High Quality
Totally relevant right now. I can’t wait for this damn week month to be over.
Gunshow - On Fire
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Totally relevant right now. I can’t wait for this damn week month to be over.

Gunshow - On Fire

4 weeks ago

1 note(s)

Bachelor Pad Diaries #1: Welcome to Broke-ville.

They say that buying your first house is a pretty exciting time in your life…right. Replace the word ‘exciting’ with the word ‘stressful’ and then they would be a little more accurate. I’m about 2 months away from my closing and I’m shitting bricks right now.

These days houses are so expensive that buying one is usually something reserved for couples or growing families, but it’s the same old story on my end and I ain’t getting any younger. Truth be told, I’m only moving about 12 km away from where I am right now, but for me that’s a pretty big deal.

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I’ve only lived away from home on two occasions: that one month in Beijing that I spent in a student dorm, and those years during my illustrious university career. I can’t even consider those care free days to be even remotely close to “home owner like experiences”, so this is all terrifyingly new to me. In a few weeks I’ll be the man of my own house and with that comes a mortgage, bills to pay and a shit load of stuff that I know nothing about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting tons of support and advice from my family and friends, but the struggle is absolutely real.

First things first: it’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Half a mil for a townhouse? What. The. Fuck.

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Houses are expensive. Ridiculously expensive. It’s the most expensive thing that you’ll ever buy. Condo living just isn’t for me, and it wasn’t until I got into this whole house shopping market did I realize how staggering the prices for a tiny little starter home have become. I ain’t exactly balling out of control, but I ain’t doing too bad for myself either. Even still, going in alone is a tough pill too swallow but that’s just the reality of getting into this very grown-up game (and it sucks).

I’m no real estate mogul, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s not that much space left around the GTA and that’s where everyone wan’ts to live, including me. It’s not my style to contend with a 1hr+ drive to work and, even though I would probably never live downtown, I still want to be able to go downtown without it being a huge effort.

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With that being said, my down payment has been put aside and I’ve been getting in my last hurrahs - things are proceeding as scheduled so there’s no stopping the Doomsday Clock now. I know that once this mortgage hits, I’m going to be drinking tap water and playing video games in the dark while I try to transform this empty house into a home.

Will I be able to survive? Who knows, and that’s what’s so scary about it all. I can always move back home and rent the place out, but that would be a super depressing story to have to tell. In the meanwhile, I’ve been going a little overboard on just about everything these past two months because I can feel a big lifestyle change coming I can feel a cold, cold winter approaching. The fact of the matter is that you have to pay to play and nothing in life is free. Go figure.

Home ownership, here I come…reluctantly?

1 month ago

1 note(s)

A quote from Dave Matthews

"A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other…Maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever"

1 month ago

Another round of portaging #3: the early bird catches the worm & lessons learned.

On the morning of our third day we made the call to linger on our (very awesome) campsite before moseying over to Parkside Bay for the final night of our trip.

After a little bit of hammock time and a quick lunch, we folded up shack and paddled out. It was about 1 pm and by that time we had already seen a bunch of canoes paddle by, our neighbors were long gone and a new group of campers had already setup on their site - these were not very reassuring signs.

Since it was a long weekend, we knew that it would be busy and our pick of sites at Parkside Bay would be pretty slim, but slim turned out to be an understatement.

Although we only had one portage to contend with on that penultimate leg of our journey, the paddle from Big Porcupine to Parkside Bay was much further than I expected…well, it felt much further than I expected. Luckily, the water was pretty flat that day and, by my broad estimation, we covered about 12km of surprisingly stunning scenery without any sort of struggle (that might have actually been the longest leg of our trip too (I should probably keep better track of these things)).

The weather was just perfect and the views on some of the connecting waterways were worthy of a Facebook cover photo update were worthy of a magazine cover. Scenery like that is one of the reasons why I actually enjoy canoeing more than dragonboating (but don’t tell my coach that).

It took us about 4 hours to get to Parkside Bay and, by that hour, the place was visibly packed as you could even see kids splashing around and screaming.

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As we were getting onto Parkside Bay we actually saw our neighbors from the previous lake, and they managed to get a campsite with a nice rock beach right at the mouth of the bay. They were just cold chillin’, drinking red wine and waving as we passed by - a typical portaging hello, but in the back of my mind it felt more like a good luck, you suckers kind of greeting. The early bird really does get the worm…or at least a bigger selection of potential campsites.

There were actually some pretty nice sand beaches on that bay - none of which we had even the slightest chance of getting, of course - so half of our fleet circled the lake to see what was available and the other half chilled out. It took us about an hour to discover that there was only one site on the bay left and the whole situation was getting pretty discouraging.

By that point I was complaining like a rocking chair we decided to take a little break on one of the islands when suddenly we saw a family paddling away from a site off in the distance. A couple of our boats booted over to ask about whether or not they were leaving, to which they replied, “Yep, it’s a small site…" as they paddled off to who knows where at that hour without any further explanation…

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Hopes were pretty high until we actually laid eyes on the thing because it turned out to be shit. As previously described, a campsite can really make or break your trip and that was definitely one of those you’re going to have a bad time campsites. Between our only two choices, this was not the one to pick…AT ALL. I wish that I had taken some pictures just to show people how crappy it was, but I was probably so depressed at the time that it didn’t even cross my mind.

Below is that first site that we were reluctant to take but ended up on. It was getting close to sunset and we had no choice but to setup camp..or die. Relatively speaking, this campsite was a Hilton hotel compared to our only other option on that lake, but it was a Super 7 motel compared to our previous site. Oh well.

Aside from that it being kind of small, firewood was pretty scarce, it was fully shaded and there wasn’t much of a view to speak of. All except one of us didn’t bother going for a swim because there were so many fallen trees on our piece of shore that you would risk getting your legs and feet cut up by just entering the water.

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One other thing to mention is that the water in this lake was kind of brown. While the water on Big Porcupine was crystal clear, this one had a brownish tinge that we just couldn’t shake. Even after scooping it up from the center of the lake and running it through a filter, that only made the water just slightly less brown. It wasn’t that big of an deal since we were either going to boil the hell out of it or dump a bunch of chemicals into it, but there’s just something about drinking any liquid with a color similar to that of diarrhea that’s a little unnerving.

Anyway, we squeezed in and setup camp for the night. Since we spent so much of that day on that other site and paddling on the water, we were just there to make camp and hole up for the night - no big or exciting plans to speak of.

One nice moment that came out of the whole ordeal was that I took this shot at the edge of our campsite, just after the sun went below the treeline that evening. I ain’t gonna lie, it’s my favorite picture of the summer and I actually framed it in 16 x 20. 

That was a very Canadian moment.

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The next morning we quickly packed up and headed home, so not much to report there except for a quick stop at Kawartha Dairy (for some victory ice cream) and some cottage country traffic. All in all it was another great canoe trip and everyone made it out alive.

So what would I do differently the next time around? Honestly, not that much! The fact that rain was in the forecast probably made us a little more prepared than we needed to be, but that’s always a good thing.

I’ve amassed so much gear over the years that I didn’t really need to pickup anything for this trip, and I even had a bunch to lend out. Between the 8 of us there was no shortage of equipment, but the only thing that I’m 100% certain that I’ll buy next season is a lightweight backpacking chair. Although each site has some fallen logs or some benches, I really craved just being able to sit back, relax and look out on the lake. Especially when your back is all jacked up from paddling for 5 straight hours, it’s nice to be able to sit upright and not use any muscles to do so, heh. Sure, I do have the hammocks or I could lie down on the ground but it’s just not the same. That’s 2 pounds that I’m totally willing to carry in my pack.

Other than that I could have just done MREs or meals along the lines of just add/boil in water for the entire trip. I’m pretty impartial to the whole fresh food and cooking situation, but those MREs really did taste good! Actually, the breakfast ones are pretty gross - I tried three different brands with reconstituted eggs and they were all like eating wet sponges - so I would just avoid them all together (and bring instant oatmeal or something instead). Being out there and all things considered, the lunch/dinner ones like beef strognaoff or sweet & sour pork or lasagna were downright delicious. My favorite was probably the Backpacker’s Pantry chicken vindaloo because as soon as I put that in my mouth my taste buds were like, “HELL YEAH, CURRY!” …and that Backpacker’s Pantry creme brulee…damn, son.

Yes, MREs are a bit pricey, but in terms of convenience, weight and ease of preparation, they’re hard to beat. Most of the MREs that I’ve come across are meant to serve two but, for a hungry guy like myself, let’s just say that it’s kind of like how a box of Kraft dinner is actually supposed to serve 4 people…if you know what I mean. The girls had no problems with splitting a meal though.

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With regards to the whole staying on one site vs traveling to other sites, I really don’t know. I could have easily just stayed on that first site for the entire trip but that’s mostly because it was a very nice site. On the other hand, it’s also nice to have something to do or a goal to work towards because I could see people getting antsy just staying in one spot the whole time. Some people go out there to explore while others go out there to relax, so it depends on who you go with. If we did plan on moving around the next time I would definitely want to get a much early jump on that day to increase the odds of getting a better site…or maybe just not go on a long weekend.

Anyway, that’s a wrap and I’m chalking it up in the success column. I had fun trip and I think that everyone else had fun trip too, so I’m probably not the only one looking forward to next season and some new adventures. For a lot of these camping trips the company that you keep can really make all the difference in the world, so I’m pretty lucky to have done it with this crew. Like I’ve said before, when you surround yourself with good people things usually find a way of working themselves out in the end. Good friends + good intentions = good times.

1 month ago

Without a doubt, these past few months have turned into one of the craziest and most intense times of my life. With all the plot twists, forks in the road and battles that I’ve had to fight, I’m going to have some very interesting stories to force my kids to listen to to tell my kids about when the time for that finally comes.

Under normal circumstances I would have a pretty good idea about whether or not I’m killing it, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had to deal with so much “grown up stuff” all at once, and that’s been making it hard to keep track of the score. It’s sad, but this year I don’t even have time for Epictember!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still finding time to have (a little) fun and I am winning some of the fights, but, of course, work is at the forefront and it’s totally messing up my plans. The bottom line is that everyone needs to make a living somehow and as much as I’d like to be a professional [insert anything awesome here], I’m not that brave and I like having nice things. To make matters even worse, my promotion recently got announced in front of my entire department, and it feels like I have a target painted on my back because I’m also the youngest person in my entire department. Haters gonna hate but, damn, that’s just unnecessary roughness.

This multi-year multi-million dollar project that I’ve been working on is approaching the final boss fight and the pressure is really on. It’s been eating up a considerable amount of my life lately - even when I’m off work the amount of time that I find myself thinking about work or worrying about getting called by work even surprises me (is that normal?) - so I can’t wait for the denouement of this horror story to arrive. It’s like every time that I want to do something non-work related something else in my personal life has to be sacrificed - that sucks.

As much as I hate to admit it, time really does fly by and I somehow missed the memo about crossing the threshold into adulthood. That’s life I guess - a lot of first times, a lot of unknowns and a lot more of those to come - but the good news is that it ain’t all bad. In fact, a lot of it it is good, really really good, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Anyway, I don’t know if it’s possible for me to pull my try hard pants up any further, but I’m just going to have to in order to make it out of this month alive. The finish line is in sight and I’m on my way. Let’s go!

1 month ago

1 note(s)

Well, that’s the end of that. My 2014 dragon boat season has officially come to an end, but what an end it was.

Even though paddling from March to September is nothing new for me, with all the first world problems that I’ve had to deal with/still dealing with, this season has felt exceptionally long…like excruciatingly long. I missed a bunch of practices, I missed a bunch of races, I only made one video (which wasn’t even that good) and all the pictures that I took suck. What can I say? I’ve been on the grind and the struggle was/is real.

Anyway, when I rolled up to our camp on Saturday morning (late, of course), I kind of felt like the prodigal son returning to his family because even I knew that I missed a lot of practices at that point. I kind of expected it, but I got sat out for a couple of races (the price that I had to pay for my recent delinquency, I guess), but after getting ragged on all day about it but then I was actually lucky enough to make it into the lineup for the finals - I was pumped but the pressure was most definitely on.

I’ll tell you one thing though, after we crossed that finish line and found out that we won, the elation that came over me was just bananas (har har). Not sure if it was the guilt or just not wanting to let anyone down, but I can honestly say that I have not gone that H.A.M. at anything all damn year. Even my body was telling me that it was a heroic effort because, after crossing that finish line I gasping for air, I almost puked, my leg muscles started to spasm, and my arms and shoulders were straight swoll. I did my best and if that’s not wanting it, then I don’t know what is.

There are very few things more satisfying than knowing that you gave something 100% and then getting the result that you wanted - it felt like victory.

After that things just seemed to fall into place and it resulted in a downright delightful afternoon. We got our pictures taken up on stage, did the usual Facebook spamming, had some special guest appearances and the high fives were flying everywhere; the weather was beautiful, the band started to play and our BBQs were cooking up tons of delicious food. Days like that are just swell and it was a really nice way to end another season.

That’s a wrap on PA and Banana Boat for 2014! Good times, but on to the next one…

1 month ago

High Quality
So I just finished reading my first book on this thing and I’m actually pretty impressed. Aside from the amazing battery life, this eBook reader is proving to be easy to use and even easier to read, day or night. What can I say, E-Ink looks good!
To load books you can use the included software to buy them from the Kobo store or, if you happen to have some laying around, just transfer them over. All you have to do is connect it to your computer and it will pop up as a USB drive (well on a Mac anyway), then drag your epubs on there and you’re good to go. Unlike the Kindle there’s no proprietary book format so epubs work just fine.
One thing I highly recommend is getting an automatic sleep case for it. You can pick up the official Kobo Sleepcover for $50 or you can cheap out like I did and grab a $10 magnetic auto sleep leather case from eBay. The quality is acceptable and I’m pretty sure that they work exactly the same way.
Rather than having to flick this little red spring loaded tab at the top of the device (which I actually found to be quite annoying), you can just open or close the case and the magnet will automatically sleep or wake the screen accordingly. Just trust me on this one, it’s convenient.
Another thing to mention is that there are actually a few games on it: sudoku, chess, a find as many words as you can game and a move the blocks to escape type game and a sketchpad. There’s also a web browser too, but I’ve found it to be pretty useless.
Anyway, I was pretty skeptical at first but this thing is turning out to be pretty slick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely no replacement for a tablet or cell phone but if you’re looking to read books, then this is probably the way to go. I haven’t really tried out graphic novels or PDFs yet, so we’ll see about those, but in the meanwhile I got nothing but praise for this thing. Go E-Ink!
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So I just finished reading my first book on this thing and I’m actually pretty impressed. Aside from the amazing battery life, this eBook reader is proving to be easy to use and even easier to read, day or night. What can I say, E-Ink looks good!

To load books you can use the included software to buy them from the Kobo store or, if you happen to have some laying around, just transfer them over. All you have to do is connect it to your computer and it will pop up as a USB drive (well on a Mac anyway), then drag your epubs on there and you’re good to go. Unlike the Kindle there’s no proprietary book format so epubs work just fine.

One thing I highly recommend is getting an automatic sleep case for it. You can pick up the official Kobo Sleepcover for $50 or you can cheap out like I did and grab a $10 magnetic auto sleep leather case from eBay. The quality is acceptable and I’m pretty sure that they work exactly the same way.

Rather than having to flick this little red spring loaded tab at the top of the device (which I actually found to be quite annoying), you can just open or close the case and the magnet will automatically sleep or wake the screen accordingly. Just trust me on this one, it’s convenient.

Another thing to mention is that there are actually a few games on it: sudoku, chess, a find as many words as you can game and a move the blocks to escape type game and a sketchpad. There’s also a web browser too, but I’ve found it to be pretty useless.

Anyway, I was pretty skeptical at first but this thing is turning out to be pretty slick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely no replacement for a tablet or cell phone but if you’re looking to read books, then this is probably the way to go. I haven’t really tried out graphic novels or PDFs yet, so we’ll see about those, but in the meanwhile I got nothing but praise for this thing. Go E-Ink!

1 month ago

So we made it out of (what I have affectionately nicknamed) The Campocalypse alive.

I had honestly thought that with 23 campers/4 camp sites things would be going wrong left, right and center but it actually didn’t. Aside from some way more intense campfire gossip than I had ever imagined We did have a couple of setbacks but they were nothing that a few drinks couldn’t solve, so I’m pretty sure that everyone had fun. Especially with rain in the forecast and a few first time campers out there, I would hate for someone to never want to camp again just because of this trip.

On our first day, in true Life of Justin fashion, Mother Nature decided to rain on us the second that we decided to start unpacking and setting up the tents. We managed to power through that situation without getting too wet and our campsite ended up being a real head turner afterwards (thank goodness that I brought every single piece of rope that I own). And, of course, the rain stopped as soon as we tied off that last rope - go figure. That was fine because it really wasn’t coming down that hard anyway and we knew that more intense weather was on it’s way.

On the second day, when everyone else arrived, that’s when the heaven’s really opened up - I actually busted out my yellow rain coat and put on my rubber boots. In a situation like that there’s really nothing that you can do except for batten down the hatches and enjoy the show. Just sit back, play a board game, share some stories and make sure that your campsite is holding together, water isn’t pooling on/pulling down your tarps and the tents aren’t being swept away in some newly formed river.

On the third day, our plan was to head over to Cyprus Lake/The Bruce Peninsula to get our hike on, but the park was actually so full that we didn’t get in (we got there around 10:30 and went back 2 times, only to get rejected again). We didn’t get as early a start as we would have liked but, with that many people in the mix, it was inevitable that we would run a little behind schedule anyway. Instead, we ended up checking out Tobermory and eating fish and chips at some random food truck somewhere along the way before heading back to camp.

Mix in some hammock time, games, canoeing and whole lot of do whatever the hell you feel like, and that more or less sums up the trip.

Good times.

1 month ago

High Quality
Papa’s got a brand new bag.
Not that I read a lot, but I cannot even begin to tell you how much more convenient this is than Moon+ Reader on my cell phone or tablet. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of a mobile device when that device is perpetually connected to a wall.
So why did I jump onto this esoteric bandwagon? Surprisingly, 4 of my portaging comrades actually brought their readers along with them into Algonquin. In a situation where space and weight kind of matters, of all the items that you could possibly bring along, an ebook reader was somehow a common choice - talk about piquing my interest!
Anyway, I can at least tell you this right of the bat: eink battery life is insane. Kobo says that the average battery life on the Aura HD is about 2 months based on 30 minutes of reading per day, and it doesn’t even matter whether you have the frontlight on or off. If my (not so good) math is correct, that’s about 30 hours of reading time on a single charge. In comparison, I can probably get around 5 to 6 hours on my Galaxy S5…if I’m not watching porn doing other things on phone that day. 
After an initial full charge out of the box, I’m at roughly 16 hours of use with 65% battery left. Not bad right? I’m pretty sure that this was a good move…
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Papa’s got a brand new bag.

Not that I read a lot, but I cannot even begin to tell you how much more convenient this is than Moon+ Reader on my cell phone or tablet. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of a mobile device when that device is perpetually connected to a wall.

So why did I jump onto this esoteric bandwagon? Surprisingly, 4 of my portaging comrades actually brought their readers along with them into Algonquin. In a situation where space and weight kind of matters, of all the items that you could possibly bring along, an ebook reader was somehow a common choice - talk about piquing my interest!

Anyway, I can at least tell you this right of the bat: eink battery life is insane. Kobo says that the average battery life on the Aura HD is about 2 months based on 30 minutes of reading per day, and it doesn’t even matter whether you have the frontlight on or off. If my (not so good) math is correct, that’s about 30 hours of reading time on a single charge. In comparison, I can probably get around 5 to 6 hours on my Galaxy S5…if I’m not watching porn doing other things on phone that day. 

After an initial full charge out of the box, I’m at roughly 16 hours of use with 65% battery left. Not bad right? I’m pretty sure that this was a good move…

2 months ago

Another round of portaging #2: what makes a good campsite?

So day one was coming to a close and we were in pretty good shape. Our bellies were full of grub and our camp was looking pimp tight.

The hard work was done and there was nothing left to do but sit awkwardly upright on those uncomfortable log benches that weren’t actually that stable…and relax.

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I must admit that we really lucked out with our first campsite and, as I mentioned before, a campsite can really make or break your trip. Our plan was to spend two nights on Big Porcupine Lake and then make our way over to Parkside Bay for our last night.

According to the apathetic teenagers in the park office park check-in folks, all of the campsites on both of the lakes that we planned to be on were completely booked. Knowing that most people would spend the entire long weekend parked at one site (rather than portage like chumps us), we made the decision to linger on our third day before finally making our way over to the (presumably) full Parkside Bay.

I’m still not too sure whether that was the right move but that’s another story.

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So what makes for a good campsite anyway?

With regards to super subjective subjects, this is definitely one of them. In my (not so humble) opinion, it’s a combination of things…

The first is simple: easy access to the water, which usually translates into a nice view. What’s the point of having these beautiful/pristine lakes all around you if you can’t even enjoy them?

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It’s pretty rare that you would see a campsite with some sort of actual sand beach in Algonquin (although I have seen a few), but there are some with pretty decent “rock beaches” that are pretty nice. That’s more or less what we’re always after, since the sand beach sites seem like they’re always the first to go (we’re ambitious but not that ambitious).

To have an area along the shore that makes getting in/out of the water easy (and by easy I mean not having to claw your way out of the water and scrape up your arms and knees on the jagged rocks…or slip on some ridiculous algae then fall on your ass like I did last year) is a huge plus.

On some sites people have to tie their canoes to a tree because there was no place to store them on shore. On other sites you had to climb up a cliff just go get to the actual campsite area. Convenience is king out there.

Here was where we stored our boats and, at that very spot, I actually tipped my canoe and fell into the water on two separate occasions (because I’m smooth like that).

My team was on the ball because, after hearing my girlish screams, they came over to laugh at my non-threatening situation.

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Another important thing to consider is having enough space to be be to do “stuff”. I should have taken pictures, but one of the sites that we scoped out/rejected consisted of nowhere to put your boats, a tiny little overrun path which split into two smaller paths leading to sketchy 6x6 clearings in some questionable (poison?) ivy patches. Then connecting those two “tent sports” was another tiny overrun path with a “fire pit” in the middle of it that only two or three people could sit next to. I don’t even think there were any log benches either! That campsite was BS and shouldn’t have even been on the map.

Anyway, we had room to spare on this first site. As you can see from the pictures in this post, with all that space nobody got in anyone’s face and my snoring was off in the distance rather than right next to you.

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You might not know this but I love me my ropes. I have a whole bag full of them for my hammocks, tarps, to use as clothes lines, tie food barrels up in trees, and whatever. You can never have enough rope, but it’s totally dead weight if there’s nowhere to tie them to.

Not only does having some good spacing between trees give you many opportunities for hammocks, but it also lets the breeze though, which really helps with the mosquito situation. You can enjoy the sunlight, enjoy the view and if it rains then there’s a bunch of spots to tie up some tarps.

You don’t want a large group of people to be cooped up in one tiny area for a couple of days…drama would surely ensue.

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If this were about car camping my list would stop here, but since it’s about portaging one thing to mention is the whole firewood situation.

It takes a lot of time and energy to process a bunch of wood into usable pieces. If you’re lucky, then you’ll get a site with lots of fallen trees/dry wood laying around. If you’re not, then you’re gonna have one hell of a time sustaining even the tiniest of fires.

On our first site there was wood everywhere - it looked like a camp ranger had recently come through with a chainsaw and just laid waste to that portion of the forest. On our second site it was a completely different story. Even though we were in a much thicker forest, there were no fallen trees to be found and we were basically keeping our tiny ass modest fire going with twigs. If you don’t know, fresh wood does not easily burn. The struggle was real.

A decent fire can make a big difference for morale, especially if you’re relying on it to cook food. Also, there’s nothing more comforting than a fire at night time when you’re out there in the darkness. It really lifts the spirits and huddling around a void to shoot the breeze is just not the same.

Now here is a picture of the infamous thunder box. We were doubly lucky that this one was (probably) brand new for this season.

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Speaking of thunder boxes, our second site’s toilet was pretty sketchy. Not only did you have to walk up an overrun path to get there, but it was also covered in moss, half rotting and tilted backwards. I even found a snake under the lid during a trip to it. Not cool.

Anyway, there wasn’t too much to report on our second day since we were straight cold chillin’. We basically had all day to play around, log some hammock time, swim and we even practiced flipping canoes and rescuing each other.

First of all, it’s super easy to flip a canoe (like ridiculously easy) and the last thing you want to do is flip a canoe full of gear. When we started the exercise my cousin was like, how do we flip it? All I did was lean a little too far one direction and we were both instantly in the lake, anime styles.

Secondly, if you’re out there all alone in one boat, then it’s (probably) impossible to flip it back over without flooding it again. I’m pretty sure you just have to swim that whole mess back to shore and deal with it there…or, if you can get back in, just paddle to shore with a canoe half full of water…if it doesn’t sink.

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We actually tried (with two strong swimmers) to flip the boat back over/empty it, but it’s so damn hard - it just re-filled with water every time. Maybe some more amazing swimmers could do it, but unless you can tread water without your arms and get well above the surface to hoist the thing straight up into the air and then throw it back upright without scooping any water up, it’s just gonna flood again.

With two canoes it wasn’t so bad. The basic technique is this:

1) Slide the upside down canoe onto the middle of the second canoe, thus getting it out of the water and draining it.

2) Flip the canoe upright and slide it back into the water.

3) Now here’s the tricky part. The two people gotta go on opposite sides of the canoe and try to balance each other out as they climb in. I’m pretty sure everyone got bruises from this step. Everyone.

We all tried it and we all managed to pass the test. How would we do if the canoes were actually full of gear? I have no idea. It would probaby just be a catastrophe.

And finally, I’m happy that the perpetual photographer somehow manged to get a picture of himself carrying a canoe on his shoulders aka portaging like a boss. I’m totally going to frame this one.

Next up, the move…

2 months ago

After drooling over this place for the longest time, I can finally brag say that I’ve eaten at Joe Beef, and that the foie gras double down totally lived up to it’s name.

Along with a couple of bottles of their house beer, we shared 4 appetizers, 3 mains and 1 dessert - they were all delicious. Trust me.

Descriptions in the captions.