Archive | September, 2012

Big Think

29 Sep

I have an addiction to documentaries. A serious addiction. It all started in University. I would watch at least one a day. Most days it was two or three…maybe even five if I was feeling super ambitious. Don’t get me wrong, I did have a life. During university I worked part time at a ‘hip’ cafe in Uptown Waterloo as well as spending two hours daily in the gym (fitness freak!) plus being VP of the Dragon Boat Club and riding my horse regularly. Even with all that ‘life stuff’, somehow I would find myself staying up until 3:00 in the morning watching documentaries; fascinated by the complexity of subjects I hadn’t even considered existed!  During class time, I would sit in the lecture hall with my earbuds in, watching a documentary on quantum physics while my prof droned on about sociology theories and criminal deviance. I secretly wanted to be an astronaut landing on Mars or a palaeontologist digging up dinosaur bones in Alberta or maybe an astrologist studying galaxies far far away…

My favourite source for documentaries is: www.topdocumentaryfilms.com. I have seen most of the docs hosted on the site. There are over 2000!

My favourite documentary topics are (in order of preference):

1. Palaeontology: Oh how I wish I was a palaeontologist! I am fascinated by prehistoric life.

2. Space/The Universe/Quantum Physics: The Final Frontier! (I’m also a HUGE Star Trek: TNG fan).

3. Sociology: Yes, I studied Soc in school but I still can’t get enough. Why do people do what they do? Why do people not do what they don’t do?

4. Nature/Animals: Heck Yeah, I’ll watch a 3 hour documentary on earth worms!…why not?

5. Crime: Deviance interests me. I’m extremely interested in the connection between deviance and psychology. Consider a sadist serial killer- Are his actions innate to his being? Or are they a product of his experiences and environment? Does he understand what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? Perhaps his views differ than mine. Perhaps he justifies his actions soundly. Why does society deem killing another person as wrong and deviant? People have been killing people forever. And besides, we call soldiers ‘heros’ if they annihilate our enemies. Do rules change depending on targets? I find the sociological questions that deviance imposes intriguing. (Please don’t misinterpret my pondering… murder is obviously wrong. I am simply fascinated by the construction of society and the external/internal social restraints that guide our behaviour, beliefs and desires. Do we want what we want because we want it? Or because societal values have embedded themselves inside of us during our early socialization to instill wants and needs that coincide with societal objuectives and harmony? )

Documentaries are an interesting way to learn other perspectives and to view images you would most likely not otherwise be exposed to. I think it is important to view the world from other perspectives. Travel helps us do this.

Recently, I’ve found http://www.youtube.com/bigthink. Big Think is a knowledge forum featuring the ideas, lessons, stories and advice of leading experts from around the world. I’m a huge fan of Michio Kaku (who isn’t?!), Penn Jillette (BIG fan), Margaret Cho (hilarious!), Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye (…did you say Bill Nye!!?) and found this awesome collection of interviews with these big thinkers all in one place! OMG new obsession!

Originally I found this site through the News. ‘Bill Nye condemns Religion as Inappropriate for Children’. As both an atheist and huge Bill Nye fan I had to check it out. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU .

Let me know what YOU think. I’m always interested in what others have to say.

 

Cheers,

Jess

Dry Ice in Suburbia

26 Sep

Yesterday we had a bit of fun with some dry ice in the driveway… our neighbors think we’re weird.

The Beauty of Pollination – Video

24 Sep

Check out this awesome short video! Enjoy.

The beauty of pollination – YouTube.

Pony Express

23 Sep

Ever since I can remember I’ve been asking for a pony for Christmas. I know this sounds hokey, but my very first word was actually ‘pony’ (much to the disappointment of my parents). I was the kid running around with a stick in between my legs yelling ‘Giddy Up!’, the kid who obsessively collected anything resembling a horse… stickers, posters, books, shirts, I even kept a cereal box that had a horse on it for a year until my dad made me throw it out. My favourite stuffed animal was ‘Leah’, the horse. I still have her in all her raged glory (I must have cut her forelock and mane off at one point).  I also rememeber crying at the ‘Medieval Times’ school field trip thinking that the jousting was real and was terrified for the horses. I remember being made fun of constantly for being a ‘horse freak’ (come on horse girls, you know what I’m talking about). But, I didn’t care. I was obsessed. I was drawn to them. The riding books I flipped through in Chapters made my stomach ache- I seriously needed to be with horses.

I begged my Dad for lessons. Begged. He finally put me in a horse camp when I was 12. I was SO excited.  I remember making one of those paper link strands in preparation of the count down. Each link I ripped was one day closer to the horses! Bah!

Needless to say I had a blast at camp, and started riding lessons shortly after. I took the bus to the barn everyday after school to help with chores. The barn I worked at had over 40 horses. It would take me an hour to bring everyone in after school was over. But it was so awesome. I distinctly remember being so grateful to have the opportunity to muck stalls. Ha!  6,938 stalls later, times have changed.

Eventually, all my work paid off. I was able to part-board a horse in exchange for work at the barn. I rode every chance I could get.  If my coach said no stirrups, I would practice no stirrups for a month by myself. I wanted to be the best I could be. Soon I started competing at local shows, fairs and other small events. I remember winning my first ribbon (it was an 8th if I remember correctly) at the Ancaster Fair with an old horse named Topper. It was like I had won gold at the Olympics. What a fabulous feeling.

As I became a more serious rider, I realized that I would need more money if I wanted to be able to show at a high level. As soon as I was 14 I got a job at Tim Hortons (like every young Canadian does!) which helped me pay for competitions but seriously cut into my time in the saddle. Eventually my determination paid off (much to the surprise of my parents who thought I was absolutely nuts and too ‘obsessed’ with the whole horse thing. I wasn’t obsessed, I was determined!  Parents: Support your children. Help them reach their dreams, even if they’re beyond your wildest!). I reached the highest division in my circuit the 3’6 Hunters.  I was 16 and competing against professionals who owned their own barns and coached kids just like me.

Around this time I was introduced to foxhunting. I was immediately hooked. Galloping across open fields, jumping ditches, coops and rivers?! This was much different from the up-tight sand rings I was used to! I became so involved with fox hunting that I eventually became staff and began a long relationship with the Huntsman… but that’s another story. I ended up moving to Illinois to the Cornwall/Fox River Valley Foxhounds and began training hunters and managing hunt horses. (Oh the places you’ll go!) After a couple years, I got tired of riding for a living. Everyone always says ‘Don’t turn your hobby into your job or you’ll start to hate it’ …they’re right!

Anyways, after a year or so off, I’m back. Easing back slowly. A year without horses was refreshing. I’m ready now to start again. Nothing too fancy. I just want to enjoy my horse. The horse world can be all consuming. If you’re not in it, it’s hard to understand. There is something very special about a horse. My favourite poem, written by Ronald Duncan in 1954 describes the indescribable perfectly:

The Horse

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity?
Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.

He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent;
there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

England’s past has been borne on his back.
All our history is in his industry.
We are his heirs;
He is our inheritance.

-Ronald Duncan

Anyways, I don’t really like talking about horses. This will probably be one of the few posts where I talk about my past riding. I abhor the idea of becoming ‘consumed’ again by the sport. I’ve made huge sacrifices along the way, distanced myself from many experiences and people I should have encountered or took time for. I have a ‘real life’ now and my horse Tyler is all I need from now on. Him and I have travelled thousands of miles together. We are quite happy to have the highlight of our summers now being bareback swims in the creek. Before I sign off, I thought I would share a few pictures of some horses who have had a profound impact on my life. I attribute much of who I am to some of them having spent so much of my time, energy, money, my everything on and with them:

1. Lantro – This was my first serious ‘show horse’. This is a picture of us at the 2006 Trillium Championships. Lantro taught me to work hard and to never give up. No pain, no gain. No guts, no glory.

2. Cowboy– this was a horse I trained while in Illinois. When I started with him, his owner was not fond of riding him because he had a tendency to bolt, buck and toss his rider. He turned out to be a seriously nice horse. One of the last days I was in Illinois, his owner put his daughter on him and they enjoyed a lovely hack throughout their estate. Cowboy taught me to believe in myself, not just horses.

3. Tyler– Last but definitely not least. Tyler is my ‘once in a lifetime horse’. Every rider has that special horse. He is mine. I will never have another him. He gets me and understands me. I don’t just mean while  I’m riding, but also on the ground. He’s helped me through many tough times in my life. We’ve had many ‘silent’ conversations in fields. He is my ultimate mentor and friend. Patient, kind, forgiving and much wiser than I am, Tyler has taught me raw honesty, how to be a good friend, when to draw the line, when to kick and scream, how to be silly in a serious world, when to lose graciously and when to be a king. Working as much as I do, I may not have much time to hang out with him as I used to, but when I walk in the barn and he knickers at me I realize how very lucky I am to have such a true friend.

 

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment, share your horsie memories with me :)

xo Jess

CYA Certified

23 Sep

Well the results are in!

Today was my written and practical sailing exam. I passed! Thank goodness. This past week I’ve crammed in over 38 hours on-water training on top of my normal 40+ hour work week! I’m seriously lacking sleep! Luckily, I have tomorrow off. Katie dog and I will be sitting on the couch tonight, listening to Norah Jones and relaxing.

Here’s a picture of me on the Hunter 36. We sailed from Bronte Outer Harbour (Oakville) to Stoney Creek and back.

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Guns, Guns, Guns, How Amusing!

23 Sep

Hi Folks,

I love guns !! Here are some of my favorites, I have been lucky enough to play with some really cool stuff !

 Top Five:

#5 German MG42:

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This machinegun was named the “buzzsaw” by the Allied forces due to its extremely high rate of fire. I had the chance to get some trigger time on one during the shooting of “D-Day to Victory”. The machine work and feel of the actual firearm is topnotch. The funny thing about guns is with proper care they last almost indefinitely. The MG48 I shot was produced in the mid 40’s and was over 70 years old and still ran like a top. We had the odd jam but most was related to ammunition.

#4  FN MAG 58

Another Machinegun, my boss Max refers to as “The Cadillac” of small arms. The MAG58 is used by many forces around the world, including Canada as a squad support weapon. I had the pleasure to shoot one of these bad boys with live ammo again on “D-Day to Victory”. Shooting the MAG at night with a 200 round belt of 7.62×51 trace was about at cool as it gets.

#3 PPSH

Here is another cool one, the ThRussian PPSH submachinegun. The PPSH is your typical Russian hardware, slightly on the crude side, tough as nails and effective as all hell. As a submachinegun the PPSH shoots a 7.62×25 pistol round, not a rifle round. I think the coolest thing about this gun is the drum mag and the insane compensator, which spits huge tongues flame vertically and to the sides. The rate of fire is pretty silly too.  Here is short shot of Jeremy Benning, the Director of Photography, ripping on the PPSH.

#2 Styer HS50

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This gun is a hell of alot of fun. Its fun to look at, its fun to shoot and its probably one of the most imposing rifles around. Im not sure exactly how much the HS50 weighs, but damn its heavy, as in , almost impossible to raise if you are going to shoot from the shoulder. Not that it was ever intended to be shot off hand. The HS50 was intended as a light weight civilian single shot .50cal (half inch wide bullets folks) rifle for long range target shooting.

#1 Remington 870

My favorite gun so far is also the first gun I have ever owned. Its a Remington 870, black on black chambered for 2-3/4 and 3 inch 12gauge shells. My 870 has given me hours of entertainment, be it shooting clays with Jess or wasting pumpkins at our range in November. my 870 has never failed to go bang when I pull the trigger and eats everything I put through it. From slugs, to birdshot, to flares or chemical tracers, she eats it all! I mean who doesn’t find it amusing to shoot flares ? Am I right or am I right?

Learning to Sail

22 Sep

Ahoy!  It’s me, Jess. This past week I’ve been taking a Sailing Training Course…

“Oh isn’t sailing romantic?!” My Instructor sighs as we bob through the Lake Ontario waves. He and my two fellow students are absolutely enchanted. I smile through pursed lips as he looks my way. ‘Dude, its freezing, windy AND raining. Not to mention we are going a whole four knots. Are we even moving?! I could SWIM faster than this. And that’s not saying a lot- I can hardly doggie paddle in a swimming pool without inadvertently panicking and gulping water…’  I can’t complain. I told my boss that if I was to be any use to the company, surely I would need to know how to sail. He agreed to pay for my course if I sold other training registrations to fill up the class. Done.

I showed up for the first evening class pretty confident I’d be making an appearance at the next Pan-American Games sailboat race. I had all my super high-tech gear I borrowed from the office, I had a pretty good understanding of boats, their parts, sails and had been on this particular boat numerous times. I even have a key for the damn thing on my car key chain. Anyways, we all meet below deck and sit around the table in the galley (That’s the boat word for ‘kitchen’) and we started into the course material.

1. Parts of Boat (Oh, I totally got this)

2. Gear and Equipment (Pshh easy)

3. Safety (Where’s the test? Just let me write this thing now, save me some time.)

4. Weather (Nothing I can’t catch up on with a couple documentaries…right?)

5. Rules of the Road/ Right of way (Wait, What road?)

6 Seamanship/Sail Reductions (I can figure that out I’m sure…)

7. Navigation (Hmm…I got lost on my way to the marina)

8. Tide Tables/Current Tables (Current!? Can’t we just turn on the engine?! Are there tides in a Lake?)

9. Handling Under Sail (Who’s ‘Gybe Ho’? and ‘Helms Alee’? Why are we yelling at them!?)

… that was my first indication that the Pan Am’s were a bit out of my reach…

The course material was pretty challenging. Every angle of the sail, every wind direction, every movement has a command and a name and a meaning. What added insult to injury was that during this whole ordeal I was aware that not only was I there to learn, I was also there to try and sell a boat to my fellow students. I had to act like I was having the time of my life. Bah. They were all doing well and answering questions and studying like good little students while I secretly rolled my eyes and continuously put on more layers of clothing.

After answering 5 textbook questions wrong in a row, I decided I didn’t like sailing. Or boats. Despite the resolution NOT to become a sailor, it turns out that I’m actually quite good at the helm. And… after a while I started having fun on the water. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all…

Tomorrow is my big test. If I pass I get a sticker! In the mean time I’ll practise yelling “Heading up! Harden the Sheets!” and working on my Round Turn and Two Half Hitches Knot.

In Search of Buried Treasure…

8 Sep

Jess and Chris here,

We just recently bought a metal detector! It’s a Fisher F2. We use it on the farm, in public parks and at the beach. So far we have a gigantic pickle jar full of ‘treasure’! You know, nails and pop tabs, horse shoes and the like. The coolest thing we’ve found so far is a costume ring. We found it in the park last weekend.

Most of our finds are about 5 inches below the surface. It’s kinda cool to dig up an old penny, rip the roots off that have grown around it and wonder how the heck someone lost a penny in the middle of a corn field!

Here’s our collection so far! In a pickle jar! Highlights include: a RING (a cheap bubble gum machine one), an old pair of surgical scissors (coooool) and a Royal Canadian Air Force Pin!

Bye for now! Never stop exploring!

Hi, I’m Chris!

7 Sep

Hi Im Chris,

I love adventure, risk and generally living life .  Im 26 and have tried my hand at many different adventures and lines of work. People have said as advice, “don’t let your passion become your work” which has some truth, but hey work is supposed to be fun too right ? My carrier highlights so far are  writing and test driving for a car magazine, working underwater as a commercial diver and presently working as a special fx technician.

After University I worked in the editorial department of Performance Auto and Sound in Toronto,  the work in the office was boring but the cars were worth it. I was able to get my hands on some very fun rides and even did a few laps at the Goodyear Test track in Ohio. Oh and I got to touch the Goodyear Blimp too ! After learning how much I hate sitting in a cubicle I took a course to become a commercial diver, which is much different than scuba diving. Commercial divers are the men and women who go into some of the dirtiest, coldest and nastiest waters and liquids, building, repairing and inspecting. Often I would be diving for up to 7 hours at a time, crawling up pipes, in ditches, shipyards and inside factories. It doesn’t get much lonelier than crawling up a pipe in the dark, shivering, knowing you have a couple hours to go in your dive and then your helmet starts leaking in water.

I did get to wear a kickass diving suit  and see some interesting things, though at the end of the day the risk and discomfort wasn’t worth the pay. But hey theres something to say about a man in a suit right ?

My current job is as a special effects technician, my day job is every boys best dream. I get to play with fire, guns, cars, big machines and build experiments. Oh and I get paid for it! Currently my highlight has been firing over 10,000 live rounds and blowing off about 1000 lbs or so of high explosives last summer on a History Channel show called D-Day to Victory. Check it out here: http://www.ddaytovictory.ca/

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My life is a dog and pony show. (Part 2:Dog)

7 Sep

My dog Katie is the coolest dog there ever was. Katie is a Lurcher. She’s 6 now and has accompanied me on many great adventures- from hunting wild boar in Georgia, to nervous-peeing in PetsMart. She’s loyal as the day is long and always up for a gallop through the woods. I love her very much!

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