Preparing the House for Sale

Perhaps the biggest drag to getting into Dragonfly Cohousing is the sequence of housing that precedes living in the project. When construction is completed - sometime next year - everyone involved needs to purchase their unit within a week of the finish. We won't know that date exactly until perhaps a couple days prior. So, we have to sell our current homes well in advance to this.

Three families in our cohousing community have already sold their homes. Ours is for sale now and once it sells, we will move into a rental home with some friends. Yes, we will share a 5-bedroom home with another family of four. This way we can give notice to our landlord a month in advance to the completion of our cohousing project and close on our new property when it is required.

But in order to sell our current home, some minor renos had to happen. I had to remove my DVD shelves (which held 800 DVDs on display in our livingroom) and all the pictures on the wall. I then went around and puttied all the holes in the house and painted.

Then I replaced our carpet with laminate flooring. This proved to be a large job and it was only possible with the help of my good friend Tamer. He lent me all of his tools including laminate installation specific tools, a skill saw and a miter saw.

Tamer also gave me hand tearing out the carpet and giving me very helpful tips on putting the laminate in. The actual laminate was free as our friends (the ones who we will move in with) had their basement laminate replaced because it was slightly damaged in one area (insurance had the whole floor replaced because that type of laminate isn't available anymore). So I picked up 700 sq ft of perfectly laminate flooring. I even sold the last 92 sq ft on kijiji!

Now the house is ready to go. We are selling with Comfree.com - which stands for commission free, so we will only pay the buyer realtor a flat fee that we agree upon, saving us up to $10,000. It only cost us $300 to have our house listed on the comfree website, have photos taken, 4 signs, a discount on a lawyer, have the selling process explained and have our home listed on realtor.ca (MLS). Pretty sweet deal!


Zaakistan Radio Programming (Episode 001 - Childhood Songs)

[if I were to have my own, self-produced radio show... ]

Good afternoon, this is Radio Zaakistan. I'm your host, Zaak Robichaud. To open this series I'm going to steer you through my early childhood in music and if you listen long enough you'll hear how Joni Mitchell got me bit by a guard dog and why I decided to play the French Horn. As the father of two young children, I marvel at their fascination with music and in particular I wonder what songs they will associate with their childhood when they are adults. As babies, they each had their own goodnight song, but they have all but outgrown those. My son identifies my favourite bands, Arcade Fire and U2, as his favourite bands too. And then he tells us he likes electronic dance music like Katy Perry or LMFAO when it comes on the radio. I'm a little alarmed.

Not unlike my children, I first heard the music my parents listened to. There are two songs that I associate with my earliest preschool years deep in the woods of New Brunswick. From Seals and Crofts in 1975, this is 
Wayland the Rabbit
I had to phone my mother to get that title as it wasn't as clear in my mind as the next song I'm going to play for you. Loggins and Messina's song about Winnie the Pooh and his friends got heavy cassette play in our log house. From the 1972 album "Sittin' In," this is 
House at Pooh Corner
When I hear "... back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh," I'm transported back to the pines around my house, back to being a carefree 5-year-old.

Like a lot of people in the 1970s, my parents were hippies. There was a lot of leftist politics, drugs, talk about spirituality and religion and it carried over into popular music. One of the musicians that got a lot of play as my parents newly explored Christianity was Canadian legend Bruce Cockburn. I remember asking my father what a star field was after hearing this song and listening to his explanation. This is 
Lord of the Starfields
When my father picked up his guitar, or any guitar really, the first thing he would play was a Neil Young bass riff. He would gaze intently at the listener, expecting them to enter the groove. That groove was 
Hey hey, My my (Into the Black)
It's funny what you remember. I think he still plays that riff when he picks up a guitar.

Being rather isolated, not just in the woods, but in our faith, our location in the province, in our political views, I was often shocked that we had anything in common with the outside world. As a six-year-old, I went on an errand with my father one late afternoon to Richibucto to look for a used car part at Vautour's Auto Used Parts. My father asked me if I wanted to come in, I declined in favour of listening to the radio. After 15 minutes a song came on that I recognized. Amazed, I wanted to tell papa that a song we knew was on the radio so I left the car and tried to enter the business the way my father had. It was locked. I decided to walk around the building as I knew that all the car carcasses were back there. As I approached the rear of the building I saw two men look up as they released a german shepherd guard dog on a line. The german shepherd saw me too and immediately ran towards me. Unknowingly, as I ran away, I was following the line the dog was tied to and so I was an easy target. He nipped my but and mangled my elbow pretty decently by the time the mechanics got to me to pull the dog off of me. It could have been a lot worse and I still think of it every time I hear Joni Mitchell sing
Big Yellow Taxi
One of the biggest changes in my childhood was the move from New Brunswick to Alberta when I was nine years old. We played this Gordon Lightfoot song in our used station wagon in Northern Ontario as we journeyed west. This is 
Alberta Bound
Much of the music in our family's collection was on dubbed cassettes that were copied from our friends' collections. This meant that as a tape was put into the player I often didn't know who the band was or what the name of the song was, let along have access to the lyrics. I did know that I loved this one instrumental from French traditional band Malicorne. The use of medieval instruments had me intrigued as to how it could be played by me and my elementary friends. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to play the different parts and I even shared it with my grade 5 social studies class at some point thinking it was traditional French Canadian music (it isn't).
Branle de la haie
I spent grades 4-6 on a small Christian college campus as my father studied to become a pastor. My family usually didn't miss the monthly musical guests at the Sunday at Seven and Date at Eight series each year. The musical guests were often small chamber groups or classical or folk soloists. It was unique formative part of my life as I learned to appreciate music outside of my parents preferred genres. One of the bands that had a particularly profound effect on me was Danny Greenspoon's band The Romaniac Brothers. They delivered a comedic performance as the four musicians took on fictional characters which were Romanian brothers separated at birth. They all had exotic names (Zoltan Flamingo Romaniac for instance). Some of their songs were original (ie. Let's all go to Moose Jaw), but most were adaptations to classics like the film theme from Amarcord or The Rolling Stones' Paint it Black. I was so entertained that I was moved to spend my paper route earnings on their cassette album Ethno-fusion. I recently checked in with Danny Greenspoon and learned that the album is no longer available since the original tracks are lost and it was never digitized. So, from my cassette player, this is 
The Ecstasy of the Martyr
I regularly visited the Lacombe Public Library with my family. The image of the stacks of vinyl records remains with me today and I remember browsing through them and taking so many of them home. Keeping with family tradition, I would dub many of them onto cassette using our Emerson record and cassette player. One album got heavy play in my bedroom. It was Brass in Berlin with the Canadian Brass playing baroque classics with a brass quintet from Berlin. I was learning to play the french horn in grade 6 hearing some of these songs for the first time brought tears to my eyes. Half of the album comes from J.S. Bach and I was in love. I ultimately bought the album on CD once it was released when I was in high school. The opening track on the album with soaring horns is
Pachelbel's Canon in D
With money in my pocket as a 12-year old, I was now ready to start buying my own music. I found my first tape at a Kresge's in Red Deer, Alberta. I must have paid close to $12 for The Beatles 20 Greatest Hits back in 1988. Side B was far more interesting to me with tracks like Come Together, Hello Goodbye, and Penny Lane, but my favourite track was this stand alone single. I had entered the world of Rock 'n Roll, a few decades late, but I had arrived and I wasn't going to leave. 
Paperback Writer
That concludes today's program. Thank you for listening to what I was listening to from 1978-1988 and what formed my earliest musical tastes. I'll be back again with other playlists.

Constituency Meeting with Member of Parliament Diane Ablonczy

On February 22 I attended my Member of Parliament's constituency meeting. My MP is Diane Ablonczy. She also serves in the Prime Minister's cabinet as the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas & Consular Affairs). The meeting took place in a small community centre on a Wednesday evening. Even though I had 4 other evening events that week, I thought it my civic duty to attend as likely one of few non-Conservatives in the Calgary-Nosehill riding.

I collected papers on the proposed changes to CPP and other upcoming legislation which was going to be passed without much opposition since the Conservatives now have their majority, then I sat in the middle of the 5th row next to an elderly couple. The demographics of the meeting were fascinating to me: old white people and younger non-white immigrants (and me). Ms Ablonczy arrived a little late, but after a lengthy introduction and a collective singing of O Canada, she immediately began to address the crowd of between 80-150 people.

Her somewhat informal 30 minute talk was guided by a powerpoint with piles of information. She talked about the trips she made over the past year as Minister of State and about how blessed we are as Canadians. She talked about Canadian business interests in the Americas and how she works to ensure their stability. We heard about the changes to the CPP, long gun registry, and environment.

We were then instructed to write any questions we had onto pieces of paper during a break with Tim Horton's donuts and coffee. The questions were then pre-read and placed in a box and then drawn randomly by one of Ms Ablonczy's assistants and read (rather awkwardly I found). My favourite question was one relating to the changes to the Canadian Pension Plan. The question was clear and direct: "What will the age of retirement be once the new plan is implemented?" The answer was incredibly vague as she spoke of the origins of the CPP back in the 1950s when life expectancy was a lot lower and how things need to change. She did not answer the question at all, neither did she state why she would not or could not answer it.

My question was more open-ended, but I got an even worse answer. My question was on policy:
What is the government currently doing to ensure economic stability so that it does not adversely affect the most vulnerable sectors of society (the poor, the elderly, the environment, small businesses, etc.)?
The answer I got was this:
What I love about our country is that we can all have different views.
She said this and so decided to avoid actual engagement with the question. She decided against expressing the Conservative platform of free-market capitalism and unregulated economic growth.

I was rather disappointed with her response, so a few weeks ago I sent MP Ablonczy an email with the same question. This is the response I got from her assistant a week later:
Dear Mr. Robichaud, 
Thank you for your recent e-mail to the Hon. Diane Ablonczy, regarding your feedback on her February 2012 public meeting. Please be assured that I will bring your message to the attention of Ms. Ablonczy for her information. Ms. Ablonczy does appreciate hearing the concerns and opinions that are important to you. Ms. Ablonczy welcomes feedback from her constituents on how to better serve the public. Your opinions are always taken into account when making decisions on legislation and policy. 
Again, thank you for taking the time to write and express your thoughts and concerns with this situation.
So this leaves me with one of the following conclusions:

  1. She doesn't know what the government's policies are nor the consequences of these policies.
  2. She doesn't care to engage her constituents because she is not concerned with re-election (she's a Conservative MP in Alberta...)


Red-winged Blackbird

I spent some time with some red-winged blackbirds this morning at Bower Ponds in Red Deer. Their song was as lovely as their plumage.


My First Marathon

I am invited to run the marathon by my sisters who run the half-marathon. I fly into Vancouver on May 4th and pick up our racing packages at the convention centre and then spend a couple days in Squamish with both my sisters and their lovely families.

Even though I take a couple melatonin tablets the night before, I awake at 2:30 am and can not get to sleep again. Salomé and I get up at 4:30 to cook a pile of oats and get our gear together. We are joined by Salomé's neighbour, Pauline, at 5 and drive to collect Saison. We head to Vancouver. We park downtown just 2 blocks from the finish line and take a crowded skytrain to King Edward and walk en masse to Queen Elizabeth Park. The three half-marathon runners start their race a little after 7 am and leave me waiting for another hour as marathoners began to arrive on site.

In the hours previous, I knock back an Advil, chasing it with 3 bananas, a granola bar and a big bowl of oats (that I couldn't finish). A little ibuprofen helps the joints keep from inflaming. I apply some lip balm. Attach my bib #3427 (I know right? 23 x 149). Bundle up my sweater and pants and check them for pick up at the end of the race. Tie and retie my runners. Attach band-aids to my nipples. Put my handkerchief and headband on my head. Go to the toilet again. Put my belt of drinks and energy gels on and put the two gummy fruit packets into my pockets. Wander the crowds hoping to glimpse some old college mates that I know have arrived to race. I never see them. Get into my group.

My corral is the 4:00-4:15 time and though I know that I have miscalculated my time, I decide to leave with them. The day, weeks really, before the race, I am filled with dread: I know I am going to suffer, the possibility of not completing the race or possibly injuring myself is real. The electric mood in the crowd of runners is infectious though and I think to myself, "if they aren't spooked, why should I be?"

I am impressed at how quickly the group thins as we take off. People are out cheering in the first couple kilometres - mostly family members. A wife and a couple kids hold a sign saying "Go Daddy" and parents raise a sign "Go kick some asphalt sweetie!" The first mile burns by and I cruise by the kind volunteers at that first table as they hold out dixie cups of water.

The air is cool during the first 90 minutes. The sky remains clear, but we run in the shade and it really doesn't heat up until the very end, and even then it isn't painfully hot.

The course leads us through residential streets to what is a side road beside a conservation area. It's a steady uphill climb. We get to run down the hill near the university and then run around the UBC campus to the beaches. Leaving the university at around km 15 I notice sharp pains in my left ankle. I had brief feelings like that during training, but never anything lasting, so I attempt to shake it out as I ran, rocking my foot front and back and consciously keeping my foot straight. It helps, but the pain returns a couple times each kilometre. As my mind drifts, my foot turns in to remind me. So I repeat my ritual through to the end of the run.

I come along side a man at km 17. Ron starts talking to me, saying we are running the same pace the last few kilometres - I am more recognizable than he is (the red bandana), so I take his word for it. Ron has run a couple marathons, but has only trained 4 weeks for this one. He is huffing and puffing and I am not. I chalk it up to the altitude training in Calgary. I leave him behind at km 21.

I sip my electrolyte mix dutifully and decide to risk some Gatorade after 10 kms. I never drink a whole cup, just tiny sips. I take water on occasion, two at some tables just to pour one on my head. I rely mostly on my own concoction.

As we run along the beaches toward the Burrard St. Bridge (km 29 I think), I begin to really enjoy the run. The sight of the ocean and the people out enjoying the day makes me realize how awesome it is to be there that very moment. Spectators start calling my name and telling me how great my pace is, how awesome I am doing and they are right. They are speaking the truth and I am able to hear it. Up ahead, a young boy, about Blaise's age, is holding out his hand trying to high five runners. He is on the left side of the track and I am on the right, so I veer over to where he is and give him a solid one and say "thanks dude." It is one of best high fives I've ever gotten. The run isn't a run anymore, it's a ride.

I slurp my first energy gel, a pinapple tangerine GU, at km 22. I take my second as I approach km 29 only to see that they are passing GUs out there. I take two and ingest them in the 30s. My stomach isn't affected negatively at all by any of the Gatorade or GUs for which I am very thankful. I don't feel weak or zoned out at any point during the run. Instead I rock to the music blasting from the half dozen bands along the course and I deeply breath the moist air.

Crossing the bridge brings us the closest to vehicles. Buses and trucks pass going the opposite direction just inches from my right elbow. It brings home how different I am as a runner among the millions of people in Vancouver that day. There is a thin counter-stream that I am caught up in and it feels enormously special.

We hang a left after the bridge and make our way along the sea wall around famous Stanley Park. It is at this point that I begin to see the fallen. Runners sit on benches, push against posts to stretch their calves, limp. It is sobering to realize that I have caught up to these people without injury (save my persistent ankle pain). Their faces speak pure disappointment.

A percussion group that includes steel drums hammer out a rhythm that drives me to sprint for a minute. I remember my ankle and slow to a jog.

At km 32, the 4:15 pace bunny passes me and I exclaimed "4:15 pace bunny! that's awesome!" He's an awkwardly tall runner and he sort of skips ahead of his pack. This group has set out 5 minutes after me, so if I stay with them I will finish at about 4:20 which is within range of my goal of under four and a half hours. I am delirious with anticipation.

I maintain my steady run and stay with the run 10 min walk 1min pace group for about 15 minutes, but their pace is not mine and they get ahead of me. I kept my pace knowing I won't finish more than 10 minutes behind them.

The km 38 sign appears much sooner than I anticipate. Burrard Inlet is on my left and the rock faces to my left periodically spout water which runs across my path. Four kilometres remain and I am no where near exhaustion and I haven't hit the inevitable "wall." My heart flutters.

The sky scrapers appear around a bend. The final 20 minutes lie ahead and I simply want to drink them in. They pass by too quickly. Everyone I pass knows that this is it and they cheer. I cheer back. As I am greeted by the massive steel structures, I note that I have the entire street to myself. Spectators are held back on the sidewalk with barriers and I am alone running in the city. My sisters are screaming my name. I see a banner and my name comes over the speaker. Medics keep eye contact with me. A silver and red medallion is strung around my neck. I am home.



Maurice Sendak (1928-2012)

Touching tweets on the loss of Maurice Sendak a couple days ago:
"We'll be roaring our terrible roars today."
-Timothy McSweeney

"'Please don't go.... We love you so.' RIP Maurice Sendak"
-St. Martin's Press 
"Maurice Sendak.. Your mom has dinner waiting .. RIP."
Also got this great quote from the Wild Thing himself  in my perusing of articles on the late author. From a Newsweek Article (Oct 2009):
What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?
Maurice Sendak (author): I would tell them to go to hell. That's a question I will not tolerate. 
Because kids can handle it?
Maurice Sendak:
If they can't handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it's not a question that can be answered. 
Spike Jonze (director): Dave, you want to field that one? 
Dave Eggers (producer): The part about kids wetting their pants? Should kids wear diapers when they go to the movies? I think adults should wear diapers going to it, too. I think everyone should be prepared for any eventuality. 
Maurice Sendak: I think you're right. This concentration on kids being scared, as though we as adults can't be scared. Of course we're scared. I'm scared of watching a TV show about vampires. I can't fall asleep. It never stops. We're grown-ups; we know better, but we're afraid. 
Why is that important in art? 
Maurice Sendak: Because it's truth. You don't want to do something that's all terrifying. I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child's eyes. So what? I managed to survive.


Marathon Training: Day 115/118

Three days before the big day.

I've been holding out posting this lovely photo. Nipple chafe is not fun, so I cut band-aids so they don't have to get stuck to a pile of chest hairs.

My biggest run came almost 2 weeks ago. I covered 32 km in about 3.5 hours. I only realized afterward how slow I was going and getting a little lost in some valley trails made it sort of a frustrating run. It was certainly a beneficial run in that I completed it unhindered, without stopping, and with energy left over (I think). I ate some Sharkies Gummies and a GU along with my homemade electrolyte drink and I think it made a big difference. Last weekend I ran 20 km as tapering down the runs before the marathon helps preserve energy and muscle mass, I have watched both dwindle over the past months. I've lost 15 lbs.

This week I ran two short runs, 6 km and 5 km this week just to keep my body active. I've been neglecting my cross-training and weight training and I hope I don't pay too dearly for that.

I'm looking forward to my little solo trip to Vancouver, though I'll miss my family. I'll spend the weekend with both my sisters and their families and I'll get a chance to visit my two Australian cousins too.

I think it's normal to be filled with anticipation and dread as I think of the 42 kms that await me. I'm confident that I will complete it, but I'm certain also that I will suffer in those final minutes.

Now I have to pack and read through all the updates sent to me by the BMO Vancouver Marathon.