Proportional Representation and Hemp Beer

Rob & JulietteLast night Rob and I went for dinner at a friends house and then onto a “gig” (is that an outdated word, now like saying “cat” when you mean “dude”?), at a bar in Hamilton to raise awareness for the referendum happening in Canada in October on proportional representation. One of our friends, Phil, was playing, along with a couple of other guitar playing/singer types. Phil’s acoustic rendition of Radiohead’s High and Dry was amazing. Sadly I didn’t recognize any of the other music he played, I think I am becoming an old fogey.

This morning, despite making a serious dent in the bar’s supply of “Buzz” beer (it has hemp in it apparently, but it didn’t make me anymore paranoid than usual, or anymore hungry) we
got up bright and early and went all the way to Dunnville to practice canoing on the Grand River with Kevin and Tim, the other two members of our Adventure Racing team, Team Wunderlust.

After a substantial paddle we dropped in to see Kevin’s parents and their magnificent house. Aside from the incredible rustic beauty of their lakeside home (they have an enormous bay window that stretches the full width of the house at the back that looks directly out onto Lake Erie), they have the best taste in art and decor I have ever seen in my life. Kevin’s father collects paintings. They have an original Picasso in their bathroom…..their lounge wall is absolutely covered in Group of Seven originals, and their landing has an Escher next to the window. We are talking SERIOUS art. Tastefully and appropriately displayed and a real pleasure to just be around. Oh, and by the way, did I mention they are great hosts too? Welcoming, friendly, hospitable and interested. We had an awesome afternoon.

Summer Days

bike-tour.JPGMy blog posts are getting less and less frequent at the moment. It’s because I have too much to write about and I get daunted and don’t know where to start!

We’ve been sort of training for our 24 hour adventure race which is fast approaching, and doing a lot of biking. We’ve also been buying a lot of bike related stuff…..my beautiful Santa Cruz mountain bike met a little accident two weeks ago when it got backed into a tree and was bent beyond repair. I was inconsolable for a couple of days until Rob found me a new frame in the model up from my Super Light (I know have the Blur), and swapped all my gear across to it. It is a sweet bike and I love it already.

Then we bought two touring bikes and took them off on their maiden voyage last weekend, which was the first long weekend of the summer here in Canada. We drove to Geneva in New York State and cycled 300km over the next 3 days around the beautiful Finger Lakes. I think Rob is writing a report with a map and wot not for anyone who is interested. The pictures are in our on-line gallery here. We stopped on our first night in Ithaca, a funky college town, where Cornell University is located, but more importantly the original Moosewood Restaurant is there. I was able to fulfill a long held ambition of eating a real Moosewood-prepared vegetarian meal.

We also visited Ithaca Falls on our way out of town. It’s a fabulous place.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve got the bike touring bug and are planning maybe to do a longer trip somewhere more exotic in February next year.

Easier said than done..

This afternoon my car broke down…twice. I had only yesterday been singing the praises of my little ’97 Civic. How reliable and trouble free it had been. Why would I want to buy a new car???

This afternoon in 32 degree temperatures I came out of a meeting in Brampton at rush hour to find that it simply wouldn’t start. So I called th CAA, who came out and immediately decided that the battery was dead because I left my lights on (even though I was almost certain that I didn’t). So they jump started it, and off I went.

The second time it stopped was 45 minutes later, doing 120km per hour on the 403 (major motor way between Burlington and Hamilton), in rush hour traffic in the fast line. Oh Poo.

Within minutes an enormous tow-truck with an enormous driver (think Jabba the Hutt meets ZZ Top) had pulled up and offered me a tow. Just at that moment I was on the phone to the CAA (for the second time in two hours) who politely informed me that said gentleman was something called a “chaser” and that I should tell him to go away because he was just after my money – then continued to take my details. Easy for them to say on the other end of the telephone – they weren’t standing next to the guy.

So to add to the general confusion whilst I was still on the telephone repeating everything I had told the CAA people not 120 minutes before, the police turned up and told me that I couldn’t stay there and wait for the CAA because I was blocking the road, and that I should go with the big tow truck guy. “Yikes” I thought, “you mean with HIM??” They assured me that he had been in the business for 18 years and they knew him very well.

During these conversations people were driving past and beeping at me….WHY? Do they think that I had pulled over on a whim? Because I had a hang nail and I need to find a nail file?? What did they think I was doing there?

Anyway, I decided to cut my losses and go with the big tow truck guy. Once he had efficiently loaded my car on to the back of his truck, he opened the door to the front cabin for me to get in and muttered something about how he was sorry about the mess but his Dad had just died. Callous as it sounds, all I could think was “He’s not in here is he?”.

Anyway, Robert, the tow truck driver, turned out to be an absolute sweetheart. We had a good chat on the way to the mechanics shop in Burlington and he was an absolute gentleman. He informed me, that, although he does weigh 300lbs, he doesn’t drink alcohol, coffee, or smoke, has three kids, a house with a pool in Port Dover and had been in the towing business for 18 years. He showed me where he kept his wedding ring whilst he was working, so I didn’t think he was a slime ball, and told me all about how he travels round the country and helps out with the stunt cars in the movies they film in Ontario. A diamond in the rough.

We negotiated with the local mechanic to fix my car and, $800 later, it’s all sorted out. Something to do with an alternator and the battery. I could do without the $800 invoice, but, like Rob says, it’s cheaper than a new car. One more strike though and the Civic is history…..

On Group Think

Rob and I just got back from a very hot, long, ride on our road bikes. We did 130km today. We were supposed to be riding with a big group and doing something called The Halton Hilly 100. Which is an annual 100km ride open to anyone who is a member of an Ontario cycling club. However, although we did get up on time and we were raring to go at 7.45 this morning, we both convinced ourselves that the starting point was in one spot, when, you guessed it, it was somewhere else entirely.

At about 9am we figured we had got something wrong and decided to do the ride anyway by ourselves. It was a beautiful day and we got to complete the ride “Prouse Style”, in other words, with stops included for gourmet sandwiches at lunch time and a beer on a patio at the 100km mark.

There were so many motor bike groups out today. I figure that we saw “The Buddhas on Bikes” (VERY fat men with no tops on), “The Mostly Red Bikes Group” (ten red bikes and a blue one) and the good, old-fashioned, “Bad Ass Bikers” (green mohawks attached to their helmets and multiple piercings). It all adds to the local colour and keeps you from dwelling for too long on the growing pain in your butt..

It’s P to A time again!!

Yes, there is a frisson of excitement in the Prouse household this week (or at least I’d like to think so) as the annual Paris to Ancaster bike race approaches. It is this Sunday and, as usual, will see over 2000 riders toil across rail trail and farmers fields, hauling their seized up bikes down the aptly named ‘mud chute’ and then up the final killer hill to complete the 60km course. The weather looks to be unseasonably fine, with sun and 17 degrees forecast (usually it is sub zero and snowing), although the forecasters haven’t got it right once this year so far, so I am not going to look for my shorts just yet.

Rob, having vowed never to do it again (after vomiting on the shoes of the people waiting at the finish line last year), has signed up so that he can spend the next 12 months moaning about how much he hates it and how he is never doing it again. For my part, I just hope that I don’t brake my bike again, and therefore at least stand some chance of finishing within 4 hours.

In any case, we are giving ourselves a bit of a carrot at the end of it in the form of a BBQ at our house for the people we know who are racing that day. Veggie-burgers and beer are the only way to recover from such an utterly silly race.

What is Facebook for?

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Face Book that told me one of my friends had added me to her Facebook network. So I went to the website and added my information to Facebook so that I could become part of her network. Then, all of a sudden, all these other people I knew started getting in touch, via Facebook.

For a little while there, it made me feel quite popular (an unusual feeling for me), but then once the initial excitement of looking at the list of people to whose networks I belonged, subsided, I thought, “well, now what?”.

I mean, really, I am asking, honestly…WHAT IS IT FOR??? All the people who I am networked with on Facebook, I know already. I have their e-mail addresses, their telephone numbers, and, if I don’t I know someone who has. Therefore I know how to get in touch with them if I need, or want, to. Why would I log into a website so I could send an e-mail to someone who I already have the contact information for?

Anyone else who I don’t know who asks to add me to their network, being honest, I will automatically assume that they are up to no good (“want to be my friend?”, yeah, right, like I want another whole in my head..).

Facebook began as a social networking site for college students. Named after the paper ‘face books’ that used to be given to incoming students, faculty and staff at colleges and preparatory schools to allow them to become familiar with their new community. I can see why it has become a huge hit in that market, but for adults who have left school and who typically network in much more well defined groups (i.e. business, volunteer, sport or family networks) I don’t get it. Yet I know I am one of the few, since, apparently, it has more members than Flickr and is one of the top ten most visited websites in the US.

Can anyone shed any light. Confused of Burlington.

Some Really Sad News

Although I know tragedy happens all over the world every second of every day, when it strikes close to home it is always more compelling. This morning we got some news that just left us shaking our heads in disbelief. We heard today that the young, beautiful, bright and delightful daughter of one of our friends from Collingwood took her own life on Friday, just nineteen days before her 20th birthday.

Even though she is not someone I knew well, I have seen her grow up over the six years I have been in Canada and often thought, given her personality, charm and looks, that she would be someone to watch. Our hearts go out to the family she has left behind. It is hard to make sense of something so sad and so unexpected.

Looking for a job?

We are just back from a weekend away with our friends Steve and Silvia at their chalet in Bluemountain. Rob went up early to ski and then I met him there yesterday afternoon. I am going to put some pictures of the weekend up here at some point, but I wanted to include this advert in a blog post before I forgot about it. Anyone interested?

New Job

Think about dying

This is an excerpt from a speech Steve Jobs (founder and CEO of Apple Computers) made to the Stanford University class of 2005. I found it another blog I occasionally read called Marc and Angel.

It’s very reminiscent of the teachings that Buddhists receive on dealing with issues surrounding restlessness and regret in their lives and it really is very compelling. The full speech can be found here. It is well worth reading.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Progression not Perfection

Yesterday I was coming home from swimming at my local pool when I saw a sign outside of a youth centre in our neigbourhood that said ‘Progression not Perfection’.

It struck me, at the time, as highly appropriate. I have been swimming regularly now for five years, having decided, not long after I turned 30, to learn to swim ‘properly’ (i.e. how to swim ‘freestyle’, or ‘front crawl’, as we used to call it, and not some made up version of breaststroke where my head stays out of the water and I just swirl my arms around my body until I move forward).

I joined a masters swimming group for a year and can honestly say that it was one of the most humbling and frustrating experiences of my life. I didn’t like the coach (sacrcastic t**t who treated everyone like a 5 year old), I freaked out about having to have my head under water, I hated swimming with other people, especially those that where a lot better than me (as about 99.99% of them were), and, just to add a really interesting psychological twist, my husbands ex-girlfriend, an ace swimmer, and all round kick-ass athlete, trained with the same group and had done for years, so she knew everyone (a fact I did not know until I was fully paid up and had been going there for a few weeks).

I learned how to swim, but could do no more than about 20 lengths of freestyle before I was red in the face and gasping for air. I had to force myself to practice the stroke, it felt so uncomfortable, and I would get so mad at myself for not being better.

Once I left the masters group and the regular coaching, I continued to swim twice a week when I could. I have just started swimming again after a couple of months break and realized this week that, somewhere along the line, I got better. I don’t know when it happened, and I haven’t really noticed the progression, I just go each week and swim as much as I can of freestyle before resorting to some other stroke or using a kickboard. But now I can swim over 2km straight doing freestyle and with absolutely no breathing issues. I even prefer to swim freestyle. Just sort of doggedly sticking at it, week in and week out, has paid off.

I can’t say that this would work in every situation, but it seems I am hearing more and more, that it is sometimes the only thing that matters in life, is just staying with something. And if Burlington Youth Centres think it’s true, who am I to argue?