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 Twitter

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.