Tuesday, October 25, 2016


An overused acronym, I know, but when it fits, it fits.

Greatest guitar solo of all time.
I want to create paintings that make a viewer feel the way I do when I get to the end of this song.
It's killing my ears, though.
The wonder of it all starts at 3:30, but if you can manage it, listen to the whole thing and read the lyrics.
Progandhi for Emperor.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Tool for Artists Everywhere

Ticketmaster is angry that bots and brokers are getting a cut of ticket sales. Ticketmaster wants their monopoly on gouging every band at every venue kept intact.
"The odds are absolutely stacked against the fan," said Joe Berchtold, chief operating officer of Live Nation, the world's largest tour promoter and owner of Ticketmaster, which sold tickets for the Hip's final tour.
Here's a bit of a rebuttal to Ticketmaster's business model, and although it is six years old, I think it still applies.
But to me it just seemed like a bunch of guys (and somehow I suspect they were all guys) got together one day and said, "Lots of people go to concerts. How can we get a piece of that?" and then found a way to attach themselves to the ticket buying process. They did it so well, that now they are completely embedded into the process, they are simply a living part of it. But just because you're really good at gouging people, does that mean you should be rewarded?
For instance, say I was a good friend of Joe Berchtold, and I told him that I was a pretty good drawer, and showed him some of my work, and then said, "Hey Joe, what if we include with every ticket a print of a drawing of the performer? We could charge $12 for the mandatory print fee; $5 for the rights to use the image fee; $1 for the sore fingers fee (you don't think artists have it tough?); $2.50 resale fee (in case some chump who actually went to a show and got a print decided he'd try to make some money and resell his print); $20 facility fee (my gold drawing table is NOT going to pay for itself); $5 process-at-home option fee, in case the customer would like to print the print on their home printer; $10 Bad Printer Fee, just in case a customer decides they want to use their very bad printer to print the print at home, in which case my reputation would be tarnished when people see the bad print; $25 delivery fee (we only use high-quality shipping tubes); $6 handling fee (how do you think the prints get into the tubes and down to the post office, you idiot?); 5% GST; 8% PST (I don't care where you live, that's what we pay in Manitoba so suck it!); and finally, 13% HST just for the hell of it.
I'm thinking this is a good idea. I suppose we could revisit the fee structure at a later date, but for the time being, who wouldn't want an awesome drawing of Nikki Sixx (and if I can find it, you will see it here later) on their walls?
So, the next time the Rolling Stones wheel their way into town, you can bet that Joe and I will skim a cool $3,520,000 off the top of all ticket sales (assuming 40,000 tickets sold - shoot, forgot to add the Investor's Group facility fee (the other facility fee was to pay for MY facility, remember - oh well, I'll eat that one).
Now of course, that is a bit over the top. But think of this. Ticketmaster does this for just about every show that happens at every large-ish venue (outside of house concerts and private clubs) in North America, and probably loads of other countries too. I don't think it's too big of a stretch to say that Ticketmaster is making billions of dollars a year.
To skim.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Woodworking and Politics

Pretty much every day I think of something like what you will read below, and pretty much every day I file those thoughts into the "Forever to be Forgotten Folder." Today is somehow different.
One of the irritating things about travel, especially to places that see a lot of tourists, is the number of scams set up to try and set you free from your money in less than legitimate ways. There was the "oops I dropped my shoe shine brush" in Istanbul, the "let me take you to my shop" in Syria, well, all over the Middle East…and India as well, actually. And in Egypt, our favourite was this.
Walking to the Egyptian Museum, you know, the big one with all of Egypt's past (well, most of Egypt's past, that hadn't been looted by other museums around the world) locked inside. The museum that was open every day of the week, and for many hours at a time. A museum that could be open 24 hours a day, and still have hundreds of people inside at all times. As we approached along the other side of busy Meret Basha, a little north of Tahrir Square, a man rushed past us. Then he turned, looked concerned, and ran back. "Are you going to the museum?" Yes we are. "Oh, please be very careful crossing the street." And off he goes. Then stops, then turns back to us. "I forget, the museum is closed to tourists today, until 1:00. But if you like, I can take you to a government shop." Idiot me started to follow him (apprehensively, I might add), but Jonas and Laura started laughing out loud. They showed me the guide book section on Cairo scams, and it was as though this guy was using this section as his teaching tool. Word for word. He was not impressed with our level of preparedness (well, Laura and Jonas's, at any rate), so he walked off in a huff.
We chatted a bit about the nerve of some people as we carried on, looking for a safe place to cross the street, when another fellow sidled up and said, "Not all Egyptians are trying to cheat tourists, you know." Of course not, we said. He was well dressed and well fed, with a comfortable paunch that settled in assuredly under (and a little bit over) the strength of his thick belt, his unbuttoned blazer completing his air of casual authority. He proceeded to chat us up about a couple things before asking us where we were going. "Oh, but the museum is closed for siesta right now. If you like, I can take you to a government bazaar with fixed prices."
I wasn't sure if I should admire his tenacity, or punch him in the nose. We stood there, the four of us, with our mouths wide open for a good two seconds, then we all broke down laughing. Blazer man was not impressed, so he too walked off in a bit of a huff.
Today I am reminded of this story after seeing a web ad on a site I visit regularly. The ad was for shed plans, and since I would like to build a shed but I'm not sure exactly what I want to do, I thought this might be interesting. I click, and am taken to a site advertising Ryan's Shed Plans, 14,000 shed plans for one low price. Now, no one in their right mind needs 14,000 shed plans, especially if they actually want to build a shed. Who has time to look at even 1000 different plans?
Since the site had a certain infomercial flair to it, I thought it best to do what I often do now, check to see reviews or scam alerts. And sure enough, there are many for Ryan's Shed Plans, not least of which says, "Who on earth needs 14,000 shed plans?" After reading google's synopsis of several review sites, I click on one, that seems to do a fairly lengthy take down of Mr. Ryan Shed. They give the product a "very low rating," but offer a link to buy if you're still interested.
What caught my attention though, was the next line: "Instead, I recommend you buy Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can click], which includes some decent shed plans (plus much more)."
They show some lovely photos, and then follow them up with this:
"I'll skip to the chase. Ryan's shed plans isn't a very good product. It's not totally useless, because there are some decent plans, but overall it's not great.
In fact, you're MUCH better off buying Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can again click] which includes a good number of decent plans."
And guess how many plans you get with Ted?
This is beautiful, I thought to myself. It's like the internet's version of the Egyptian museum scam played out right on my computer screen.
After five more minutes of investigation, I found all kinds of youtube videos from all kinds of different people claiming that Ted's Woodworking Plans was a great deal for them, and they all liked it very much. And everyone's video was different in that they all looked and sounded different. Some were kind of polished, looking a bit like a poor man's Bob Vila, while others looked and sounded like nervous telemarketers trying to scam their very first victim, with their instructor (probably Ted himself) looking on. But most remarkable is that everyone's video is also very much alike. A guy sitting at his computer telling you how good something is without actually saying anything at all, like he was reading from a Kazakhstani phrasebook, and hoping he'd be understood, because he really doesn't have any idea what he's saying himself.
Now I'm thinking, this is amazing. It's as if there is this whole industry out there based on the selling of thousands and thousands of shed plans. What's fascinating (to me, at least) in amongst all this other weirdness and trickery, is that what appears to be a real review (woodgears.ca/ted) shows Ted to be full of shit. Most plans are just ripped off from the internet, freely available elsewhere. Apparently, in their package, they also offer "150 premium woodworking videos" that are links to videos on youtube and vimeo, all publicly available, and some of the links are broken.
This all makes me think that there is some kind of seminar people go to, to learn how you can make $10,000 a day from the comfort of your own home. They fork over money to the seminar people, find out they just got shafted, then go out and try and shaft anybody else so that they can make their money back. This is exactly what these videos look like.
And finally it hits me. Donald Trump is Ted. Every part of Trump oozes this kind of nonsense. There is a phoniness to everything he says, even when he is talking about something that people are interested in. Of course I want to be safe. Absolutely I'd like politicians to tell the truth for a change. And sure, if I were completely heartless, I'd love to capitalize on people's needs and make money selling worthless degrees from a phoney university.
And that's what is going on here. Even in the remotest of remote chances that Donald Trump isn't Ted, he is still Ted. He's a guy selling someone else's ideas as his own, but doesn't even bother to check and see if they are actually good ideas. And like any group of 16,000 anything, there is bound to be one or two good whatevers in there. So people who are desperate cling to the two in 16000, and ignore the rest. They ignore the racism, the hatred, the ignorance, the stupidity, and cling to the one thing. "I want to feel safe." Yes, the thing that some people cling to is absurd, as most thinking people know, like, "We will build a wall and keep them out," or, "We won't let anyone from Religion X into our country."
But it doesn't matter. For millions of people, one in 16,000 is good enough. As long as he's on "my team." And if you follow sports at all, we've sort of been conditioned to think this way. Every team has a guy that you hate. Until he gets traded to your team. Then you tolerate his back-stabbing, his cheap shots, his mealy-mouthed excuses, his biting of opponents, his racial taunts, the showboating, the domestic violence, the assault charges, the endless DUIs. It's all part of the society that has been growing up around us. Growing up with us.
It's our team, or their team, and you are either with us or against us. Polarity ensues.
And if that's the way they want it, that's what they will get.
So my fellow living organisms, the choice is clear. Do you want to develop distinctly anterior traits, or distinctly posterior traits? Do we want to look forward, or do we wish to look backward to the glory days of Robber Barons and slavery? Do we want to be inclusive, and share the world and all of our great ideas with everyone, or do we want water wars and chaos, border conflicts and corporate profiteering at the expense of everyone's health? Do we want our lives to be based on love, honesty, and truth (including those pesky facts), or do we want to be ruled by someone else's ideology that commands hatred, fabrication, and rage? An ideology that considers a search for truth to be a liability?
There's a great Cherokee legend that goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Simply put, you cannot fight the posterior with more posterior.That is what is going on today. It's been going on for years, and will continue for many years to come. But we can start to change all that with love, honesty, truth, and reason. And every time we choose those things, we make a change right now. Be the change you want to see in the world, as they say.
The fight between good and evil begins within, not without.
So tell Ted you don't want his plans, no matter how many he has up his sleeve.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Breathless at Termessos, Turkey

Has anything ever left you breathless?
Well…the only problem with Twitter chats is that they are chats on Twitter, and extended chatter requires multiple tweets. Reliving this moment that left me breathless could not be completely covered on Twitter alone (nor could Q1 or Q2, but never mind), so bear with me.

Termessos lies about 35 kilometres north of Antalya, so getting there required that we rent a car from our pansiyon

in Antalya and make it a day trip, combining it with the Karian Cave and Chimaera. Once we got into the hills, things started to get interesting (I mean, we were in Turkey, so it was already interesting, but now we were stepping it up a bit). Here's how I wrote about it.

The drive north of Antalya is simple and beautiful. We’re driving in Turkey. And I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve yet another sky that is so blue it seems to sparkle. Not far out of town, we begin to make the upward climb into those remarkable hills, where the drive becomes very dramatic, and not just because the road crumbles away from the edge and spills down the hillside. Not the ground beside the road, but the concrete that was once a part of the road. A never-ending stream of mostly-intact hairpin turns takes us in a continuously vertical direction, into Gulluk Dagi National Park, and past the set of outer walls belonging to the ancient city of Termessos.
This is the reason we have come to Antalya. When researching Turkey, I happened upon a photo of the Termessos theatre, and I told Max, We have got to go here. “That is quite a bit off your path,” he said. Then we will need to make changes to the path, I replied. We are not missing this.
I’ve spent more than a few nights lying awake in bed, imagining the four of us exploring this place, and I am thrilled to pull into the parking lot (you do not need to remind me that it is actually Laura that is doing the driving; I’m well aware of that by now) and find that ours is the only car here.
There is not very much information available about Termessos, either online or in the guide books, but what I do know is that this magnificent city existed around the time of Alexander, in the 300’s BC. There is some uncertainty as to whether or not Alexander tried to take control of the city, having recognized its extraordinary defensive power and position. Maybe he received some kind of concessions from those within, or perhaps, as has been told, the Pisidian people living here were so fiercely independent that they repelled any and all attempts to be ruled by an outsider. After a visit to this place, the latter does not seem unlikely.

The air is fresh and clear, and the trees have begun to cloak themselves in their autumn attire. We walk for a good twenty minutes, more or less straight uphill past yet another set of defensive walls, with still another visible further up the hill. This place is Large. Capital L Large.

We come across the remains of an impressive gymnasium along the main street. The boys climb over stones the size of cars, and through doorways made for giants. As I take this all in, I have a tangible feeling of time, centuries of time, walking with us through these ruins, and I swear I can hear the sounds of battle, and a city breathing. Like a cool, icy wind on a warm sunny day. I get goose bumps, my skin a little electric, and when I try to explain the sensation to Jonas, he looks at me like I’ve just bumped my head very hard.

We climb higher still, sarcophogi literally littering the hillside, as we search for the elusive theatre. 

We climb over a wall, through a short tunnel, over a pile of enormous blocks,  and into a clearing - the theatre stage. We walk up the steps into the seating, and turn around.
It takes my breath away.

We have lunch sitting in the seats, and then watch the boys climb the blocks and steps over and over again. There are no chains or ropes, and since we’re 3500 feet up, we remind them regularly to be aware of their surroundings. 

We explore the remains of temples and homes, cisterns, streets, arches, doorways, walls, and gates. 
Termessos disappeared from history after an earthquake, its walls abandoned by the people in search of something better. I can imagine the sense of despair that would make rebuilding a several hundred-year-old city after a such a devastating event an impossibility. We see only a handful of people while we are here, and after almost four hours, we disappear from Termessos as well. 

How does something like this ever get left behind, forgotten but for a few passages here and there in the history books? What will remain of me after I am gone, of the home I have built, the life I have lived? We are all just sentences in books, I suppose, eventually. If that.
After spending some time in the very damp Karain Cave and its less damp museum at the bottom of the hill, we drive along the shores south of Antalya, in and around and through these glorious hills on our way to Chimaera. At the entrance, the gruff gentleman takes our ten lira fee, then points directly at the moon. “Eight hundred metres,” he says. “You have flashlight?” Yes. “Good.” He then goes right back to ignoring his surroundings.

In Greek mythology, a Chimaera is a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. This is what awaits us at the end of our moon expedition. We take a snack break at the four hundred metre mark, then at the top celebrate our victory. And while there isn’t an actual Chimaera here, there is something equally fascinating. Fire that comes out of the ground from about twenty-five or thirty small holes. A strange gas that somehow escapes from the bowels of the Earth and combusts when it comes into contact with the air. You read that right. Fire comes out of the ground.

Anyway, I carry on a little bit more about the rest of our day, but those were my exact words on the blog that night. "It takes my breath away."

Stepping Out, and Into Rome

Rome was the starting point of our family's travels, and as such, it holds a special place in my heart.
Following an overnight flight to Gatwick, we flew to Rome, and took the train from the airport to the main station downtown.
As we stepped out onto the street, the sky was a magnificent and deep shade of blue. As the warmth enveloped our bodies, the whole of what we were about to do settled upon me. Nine months of travel with our ten- and twelve-year-old boys. We paused just outside the doors of the station, and I thought to myself, "We are doing this." The wonder of the world was opening up to us, and the thrill of that sensation left us in awe. What an opportunity. What a time.

The Wonder of India

There really is something about India that gets inside you. It may take a while, as it did for me, but there will be this allure, this pull, that keeps you thinking, keeps you wanting more.
I had to leave India before that feeling took hold. By the end of our three months travelling all over, from Alleppey in the south, Jaisalmer in the west, to Kolkata in the east, I was done. I needed out.
When we descended into Bangkok, I couldn't believe how shiny the airport seemed from the sky. The airport was clean inside and out, the money we got out of the ATM felt like it was right off the press, super crisp and still a bit warm. Our taxi was clean, the roads were clean, and the taxi drivers somehow managed to stay in the proper lane, on their allotted side of the road. No meandering, no drifting.
But after a few days, I began to look back a bit, and think quite fondly of our time in India. The touts and annoying shopkeepers were settling to the back of my mind, and the friendliness of the vast majority of people who wanted nothing more than a photo with us, and a bit of conversation, that is what began to rise to the surface. Two months later, at the end of our trip, both my wife and I thought that if we were to return to any of the eleven countries we visited on our nine-month trip, India would top the list.
The travel posters all say, "Incredible India." The posters speak the truth.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And how about Florence? It is beautiful, the skies are blue, and the town accommodating. They also have lots of cool door knockers.

The Other Pages

The other pages are all on Twitter, so if you feel the need to catch up, just search #TodayIAteCowStomach.
Lots of good stuff, from Rome to Sacrofano and Tuscany, we now find ourselves in Florence.
Have a look.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Forgot Rome

I didn't actually forget Rome, but I did forget to post the next pages of Rome on this blog.
For those of you just tuning in, I'm posting the pages of my first book, Today I Ate Cow Stomach, which is all about our travels through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
Here you go, pages 4 and 5.
Tune in later today and you'll also get 6 and 7.

If I don't forget.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Can It Be True?

Yes it can. Rome is here, and Rome is now. Get all your Rome travel needs from one book, and one book only: Today I Ate Cow Stomach.
Find the full-size version here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Finally, Rome...

I'm sure one of these days I'll have something more important to say, other than, "Free book!" But for now? Rome is free on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog.
After a short disclaimer, and a quick stay in Gatwick, I give you Rome.
Okay, so it's a pretty short mention, but I promise, we will actually be in Rome tomorrow!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The End of the Preface

This is it, oh worthy ready, you're patience has paid off, and tomorrow we fly to Rome. Click here to read the end of the preface of Today I Ate Cow Stomach.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

More Free Book! More Free Book!

Continuing with the free book theme, here's pages viii and ix of Today I Ate Cow Stomach. I might have more to say about this, but it's past my bedtime and I'm dangerously close to not publishing this on the proper day.

Still not into the actual travel portion of the story, but we're getting there. Also, there is one very awesome pencil drawing here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Next Pages

So here we go, pages vi and vii, with a little visual and the first page of the preface.
The story begins.

If you've just happened upon this blog, I've recently started posting pages from my first book, Today I Ate Cow Stomach, a book of travel stories from Europe and the Middle East. You can zip back a bit to see the first few pages, but the story is just getting going here.
If you want to travel with your children, this is a book for you, covering the highs and lows of long term family travel. One hundred and thirty-eight days through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
Book II covers our three months in India, and Book III our sixty days in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. All of the above with ten and twelve-year-old boys. No kidding.

Van Halen

A revised post written on the island of Chios, Greece, reflecting on the previous few weeks, with particular emphasis on the idea of driving in Greece.

Random Thoughts
One night in Athens, on the way to a sweets shop just down our street, an orthodox priest dressed entirely in black was hollering in our direction. I had no idea who he was talking to, but as he kept his eye on me, it was clear by his tone and his hand gestures he was not impressed by my shorts. Given what other people were wearing (or perhaps showing might be the better word) on the street that night, I couldn’t figure out his problem. I’ve lost probably fifteen pounds so far, so most of the time my shorts are hanging below my kneecaps. Laura was thinking that maybe because of my long hair and beard, he figured I was a little more Orthodox myself, and he’d just caught me on a night out.
     I wonder what he would have said had he seen us racing around the Peloponnese with the windows down, listening to Van Halen. Which brings me to my next point. There’s something invigorating about driving around the Greek countryside while listening to fun music. When we arrived in Astros, I made a couple of CDs because I knew we’d be doing a fair bit of driving over the next two weeks. Well, it was a blast, cruising down the highway with Van Halen cranked. I’m not a huge Van Halen fan, but the beginning of Unchained, coupled with the clean air, blue skies, and endless hills, brought the moment home for me in a way that Gordon Lightfoot could not. Judging by the percussion sounds coming from the back seat, I’d say Matthew enjoyed it as well.
     In Italy, we found ourselves at a loss to describe the feeling of actually being there. Then to be driving the highways, through the little towns, around, over, and through the mountains, eventually we would just look at each other, and smile and giggle. We’re driving in Italy!
     Ferry to Greece, get in a car and go, and the feeling remained. Add some Van Halen to the mix, and look out. Anyway, my point is, it’s just plain fun. 
     ‘We’re driving in Greece’ was code for, ‘Whoo-hoo!!’


The Local Bus

This is a post written after a day at Fatehpur Sikri in India, just outside of Agra. This was one of many bus trips around India, a road trip made all the more wonderful due to its newness, the location, and the fact that I was doing this with my family. Was it exciting? Well, it certainly had its moments.

The Local Bus

The rickshaw driver who takes us to the bus station cannot understand why we’d take a bus to Fatehpur Sikri when he could take us there and back for only seven hundred rupees. Well, for one thing, the bus there and back will be two hundred rupees. We’re getting the sense that there is an impression that money is no object for Westerners. There are times when a private vehicle is warranted, welcome or maybe even necessary. But the local bus provides an experience that is somehow more real, more right, and more informative. The bus ride is a bumpy, dusty affair, the bus itself scarred on the outside (and in some places on the inside) by the unwashed remains of previous passengers’ colourfully recorded memories of this trip. Less than half way there, the woman in front of Laura and Matthew appears to be looking at the somewhat mangled bare foot of the young man a few rows ahead. After a few lurches, she asks her neighbour for the window seat. She rolls down the window and hangs her head out. I give Laura the back pack in case she needs to deflect anything.
We manage to arrive incident-free, and right off the bus are asked by a few people if we would like a guide, very cheap price. No thanks. “But how can you see the beauty of this place without a guide?” This is the third time that line has been used on us in the last twenty-four hours. Not to take anything away from what a guide can offer, we’ve found that it’s often more fun to let the kids spend time in some of the out of the way spaces, and allow them to experience things at their own pace, not feeling like we’re on the guide’s schedule. Some of the guides that we have overheard didn’t have much useful information. “Lookit the statues here. The carving is very intricate. It is an elephant. Now lookit here...” dragging their clients from one point of interest to another. From what I’ve seen, I’m half-convinced that some guides are making up their commentary on the spot. 
A hopeful restaurant owner points out a shortcut to the main gate, which involves a short climb up a garbage-covered hill, complete with, much to Jonas and Matthew’s delight, a warthog rooting around in the garbage. At the top of the hill we are greeted by a naked boy and his only slightly more clothed older brother. 

Front entrance, Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is a city that was built by the Mughal emperor Akbar several hundred years ago, but was abandoned not long after. As such, it is in immaculate condition. Immediately inside the massive, one hundred and sixty-five foot high front gate, a young man presents himself and tries to begin our tour, like he works there. “A student,” he says.  We say we’re not interested in a guide. “No guide, I just tell you and show you, come over here.” Look, not interested. He keeps on and on and on, following us for several minutes, until I finally just turn and move into his space for a change. Listen, we are not interested in you following us around. You’re pissing me off. Go away. “Okay, but promise you won’t let any other student guide you around?” Get lost, I say, leaning in a little closer, cage door opening wider. [This was a consistent refrain for our time in India - someone attaching themselves to us and refusing to leave after being asked several times. It got on my nerves, and it wasn't until after we left India that I realized that while that type of person was being unreasonable, I wasn't doing anyone any favours by letting my emotions get the better of me.]
Akbar originally called his walled city Fatehpur, or Town of Victory, after yes of course, a particular military victory of which he was quite proud. Fatehpur Sikri today is a wondrous place (even without the guide), an architectural inspiration, well maintained, with lots of green space. It’s a fascinating place for all of us to wander around, with all kinds of delicate, lacy, carved stone screens in marble and sandstone. There are a number Indian tourists visiting today and many say hello and introduce themselves, get their photo taken with us, and smile broadly. Despite the jokers, India continues to impress us.
The helpful restauranteur is happy to see us, and he takes us up the gritty staircase to the rooftop dining area where we enjoy a relaxing meal, our cheeks brushed by a gentle and sunny dust-kissed breeze. With the bus stand right below us, we can spot our bus and head down in time to get a ticket and get on board. 
If you visit Agra, Fatehpur Sikri cannot be missed. And I highly recommend the local bus.

One of many stone screens at Fatehpur


Monday, June 20, 2016

Table of Contents!

Carrying on with the posting of my first book, Today I Ate Cow Stomach, here is the table of contents spread, pages iv and v. Click here to see the full size version.

Hand-painted, with a little layering.
Tomorrow we'll get started with the preface.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Next Pages, Please!

The next two pages of my book, pages ii and iii, are here. Click the link to find them. And while you're there, like my facebook page. Everyone is doing it, as you can see, and it's gonna be huge. In fact, before you know it, it'll be the hugest facebook page that ever was. You know why? Because it the book was written here. Not out of the country, no. I told my publisher, that if this book was gonna happen, it was gonna get made here.
What's that? Well, yes, technically it is about our time in other countries, but all the thought that went into it was home grown. 
Yes, yes, I know a lot of it was actually written in other countries, if you're trying to smear my good reputation, sure, you could tell people that some of this book was written in Turkey. But it's the editing, now that's the hard work, and all that was done right here in good ol' Winnipeg. Don't pretend that doesn't mean something to you, because I know it does. Don't believe me? Look in the mirror, my friend, and tell me what you see. Am I right? Am I? You bet I am, and Hilary has no business telling you otherwise, because if she does, you know what that would make her? A politician, and you all know what we think of politicians. 

Yes, this is only a small picture, so if you want to see the HUGE one, go to my facebook page, click the link above, and you will see how books can be truly great again. 

Out of Necessity

Maybe not necessity, but just trying to avoid spending a lot of money, if possible.

I was in need of a weight rack for dumbbells, as the one I had, from Canadian Tire, was way too small.
After looking at all the really nice ones at fitness shops for $300 all the way up to $1000 and more, I tried to figure out a way to make one on my own.

I went to the Home Depot near me, and walked around looking for suitable materials. When I came across the steel studs, I was on the way.

After rummaging through my garage, I found the remaining materials that I would need, and came up with this.

It's a simple design, but is more than strong enough (for now, anyway) to accommodate what I have. 

So what do you need for this? Two steel studs, a 2 by 6, a 2 by 4 (both about eight feet long), maybe four feet of 2 by 2, four feet of 2 by 3, eight feet of 1 by 1, and a bunch of wood screws. I've also added a few strips of pipe insulation to protect my fingers. More on that in a moment.

The length I made it was determined by the space I had available, in this case, a little alcove around 48" wide. I could have made it shorter, but anything smaller would have resulted in some dead space, and with this I have room to add more dumbbells later.

I used the 2 by 6 for the sides, cut to about 36 inches in height, then cut notches in the side to insert and attach the steel stud. I didn't end up using the lower notch, as the lower rack was made a little differently.

I cut the notch so that the remaining width would be good for holding the dumbbell. I cut the studs to length, then bent one side of the stud over and flattened it out across the full length. This gives the stud significant strength to hold weight. I originally just had the steel stud, but added the 1 by 1 underneath on both the front and the back. I don't know if it makes much difference.

The upper rack is pretty much the perfect width for the dumbbells.

For the lower rack, I decided to make something a bit different because I didn't think the upper rack design would be strong enough to hold bigger dumbbells. It was a good decision, but I made one mistake, which I will get to in a minute.
You can see the notch I'd already cut earlier, but didn't end up using it with the new design.
I cut the 2 by 4 to the proper length, along with two sections of steel stud, again bending one edge over to provide some extra strength (in my mind, anyway), then screwed the stud to the short face of the 2 by 4.
If I were to do it again, I'd use a 2 by 6 instead of a 2 by 4, then rip maybe an inch off the 2 by 6. In its current form, this rack is about 3/4" two skinny to accommodate my hands as I place the dumbbell back on the rack. As a not-very-effective remedy to this, I added some pipe insulation along the length of the stud.
The racks are angled slightly towards the front to make it easier to pull the weight off the rack.

For the base, I cut the 2 by 3 to length, and screwed it to the front faces of both 2 by 6's for some added stability. Then cut the 2 by 2 to about 24" lengths, and screwed them to the insides of the 2 by 6's, at the very bottom. 

After all that, I'm left with a pretty nice weight rack that currently holds 230 pounds of weight. I could probably add two 50 lb dumbbells, maybe 60's as well, but I don't think I will ever need the 60s. There's also plenty of room on the top for 5's and 25's.
I was planning on painting it black, but I was so pleased with the results, I didn't get around to it. I will probably do that at some point.

The rack is very stable, seems to handle the current weight with ease. Sitting where it is, I don't have to worry about anyone bumping into it, so that helps.

As mentioned above, if I were to do anything differently, I'd rip a 2 by 6 down an inch, and attach the steel studs to that, and do that for both the upper and lower rack.

To build this, I used a chop saw, jig saw (to cut the notches, which you wouldn't need if you ripped the 2 by 6 and attached it as I did with the bottom rack, but if you have a chop saw, you likely have a jig saw, so never mind), tin snips to cut the studs, and a drill to fasten all screws.
There aren't a whole lot of cuts, so you could probably do them with a hand saw. I wouldn't want to do that many screws without a power drill, but maybe if I were younger I wouldn't mind.
It probably took me a good two or three hours to build, and cost me two steel studs, the rest I had already. 
Two steel studs, $9.
2 by 6, $4
2 by 4, $3
Screws, a few bucks.
So for around twenty bucks, I built a $300 rack.

I think that's about it. Now all the dumbbells sit out of the way when not in use, are easily accessible, and only occasionally crush one of my fingers when I'm returning a 40 pounder to the rack (not true, haven't done that yet, but I am careful).
If you have any questions, ask away. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Next Page

The next page of my first book is now live on Twitter! Run, don't walk on over to see a beautiful picture from a little alley in Assisi. We're still a few days away from actual story, but soon, I promise.
See it at on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/275days/status/743606785081147394.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Want to Read a Book?

How about a beautiful book?
Over the course of the next few months, I'm going to post every page of my first book, Today I Ate Cow Stomach. You will need to be patient, because it's going to take over a hundred days. I'm going to post them on Twitter, on Facebook, and here, but not to every one of them every day, so you may have to hunt a little bit if you want to read them all.
Of course, you could just do the easy thing and read the ones that show up wherever you're most comfortable, that's fine. There will be lots of nice pictures to look at that won't require a consistent through-line to make sense.
You will need to bear with me for the first few days (after the first day) because there are a few pages of set-up that don't have many travel photos. My apologies. But if you can hang on until the action gets going, I promise that there will be many pictures to delight the armchair traveller, and maybe even a few stories to delight even the most discerning bookworm.
In this book's preface, I write about how we got to a place (well, that's probably more about how I got to that place; my wife was there for some time already) where we thought travelling for almost a year with our kids was a good idea, then move on to two hundred and fifteen pages of photos and stories from our time in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

If you can't stand the suspense, are too impatient, want to buy the book, or get to the end of this one and want to see what happens later, you can go here to buy Books I through III (there is also a print-only edition that includes all three books with just a few black and white images), unless you are in or around Winnipeg, than you should order them directly from me. Send me an email or leave a comment below, and I will set you up with some excellent night-time reading.

With every read, I manage to find a typo or two, so if you happen to see one, feel free to point it (or them) out.

So with that, I leave you with the front and back cover.
Make your window as large as you can, and click on the image to see it larger.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Winnipeg's Exchange District

What's been happening in the Exchange District lately? Here's a rundown of some recent favourite photos from a couple weeks ago. Remember? When it was warm and sunny?
I remember.

There are so many wonderful buildings downtown, and it just takes a lot of time to appreciate all the little details that used to go into creating them.

And then there's all the little details that sit somewhere amongst all the details.

And then there's more details.

I love how this person is ready for anything. They've got the air conditioner, they've got a fan, and they've got the running shoe.

My favourite alley in the city continues to evolve.

And here's a couple of shots of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I find it interesting how it's size becomes more apparent the further you are away from it. The first photo is from maybe half-way across the walking bridge, and the second is from a half block down Provencher Boulevard.

We live in a wonderful city, Winnipeg.