Zaakistan 2013

Sick Day. Snow Day. Gaming weekend in Canmore. Concerts: Living with Lions, Whitehorse. Semester 1 ends: Math 10C, Math 20-2, Multi-Media
Dragonfly Cohousing Social Media Blitz. Man Scouts Beer Tasting. Demitor Visit in Edmonton. Peter turned 80 in High River. Semester 2 begins: Calculus, Math 30-2, Multi-Media. 
Mother-in-law visit. Turned 37. Fundraising Beer Tasting. Visit to South Africa: Waldrons, Seed of Hope, Game Reserve.
Visit to Malawi: World Renew, Kamanzi, Lake Malawi, Participatory Rural Apraisal. Morning stroll in Amsterdam. Daughter turned 6. Sister-in-law visit. Weekend in Radium with friends. Budget cuts at work.
Son learns to ride a bicycle. Dragonfly Cohousing Groundbreaking. Minhas Brewery Tour. Book Sale. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Mumford and Sons. Graduation. 
Calgary is flooded/Exams cancelled. Dragonfly Cohousing grinds to a halt due to construction bids coming in way over budget. Ultimate Frisbee (go Vicious Circles). Allan Family Reunion in Canmore. Bladder Infection.
Despicable Me 2 with kids. Son turns 8. Camping and hiking in Banff with friends (sickness). Anniversary Ride to Rocky Mtn House with sister. Montreal: Sister/Brother-in-law, Shakespeare in the Park, Biodôme/Botanical Gardens/Insectarium/Planetarium, Microbrew visits, Alouettes, BBQ.
VIA Rail NB: Papa/Step-Mother, Memere, Fern/Gail, Beach, Pugwash Campmeeting, Canoeing, 13th Anniversary, Dieppe Kite Festival, Plovers, Building a Geodesic Dome, Visit to Sackville, Mémere turns 87. Camping at Little Bow with Friends. Visit to Vulcan. Meadery tour.
Semester 1 begins: Math 10C, Math 30-1, Math 30-2. Camping in Rocky Mtn House with family and friends. Tennis with friends. Dragonfly Cohousing hires a new project manager. FallCon 26. Peter's Memorial Service. Kids begin homeschool. Beer Tasting.
Corn Maze with Dragonfly. Re-Design Workshops. Mom's Birthday. Reflektor is Released. Family Visit to Red Deer. Beer Tasting. Cystoscopy. Nenshi Re-Elected. Teachers Conference.
Glenbow Museum. Sleeping Beauty Ballet. Banff Mtn Film Fest. Wife turns 35. First Batch of Beer. K-12 Unsolved Conference in Banff. Visit Demitors in Westlock. Old Fashioned Family Portrait. Grey Cup Party.
Son gets his Yellow Belt in karate. Re-Design Workshop. Hobbit 2 Premiere showing. Snow Day and a half. Power Out Day. Beer Tasting. Second Batch of Beer. Friend goes missing in Belize. Christmas in Calgary. Nutcracker. New Years Eve Fondue with Family in Red Deer.


10th Anniversary Ride

In July, my sister Saison and I celebrated the 10th anniversary of our cycling trip from coast to coast across Canada with a two day, 170 km trip on Highway 22 (the Cowboy Trail) from Cochrane to Rocky Mountain House, AB. While both of us have continued to cycle recreationally since our epic trip, neither had done over night trips in the last 10 years. Our families joined us and we camped half way in Sundre.

Our first day, we got dropped off in Cochrane, just west of Calgary by around 10 am. We cycled to Cremona where we lunched on the benches outside the Rotary Club. We also took a coffee break (and a bathroom break) at the little chinese restaurant there. I think every little Alberta town has a chinese restaurant. This day was cut 10 km short by some sudden and heavy (and very cold) rain which we rode 7 km through. We pulled into a gas station and called my brother-in-law to ask for a pick-up.

The second day was lovely and we covered more than 100 km and rejoined our kids and spouses at the Wilderness Village RV Park. Amber and I attempted to camp at the provincial campground, but the first night was awful (filthy site, noisy grounds) so we joined Dean and Saison at their site.

It was great to ride again and feel the wind, sun, rain, and leg burn.


I, Brewer.

I'm on the eve of creating my third and fourth batches of beer after successfully brewing batches one and two in November and December. I have a few buddies who brew beer and until I had access to a couple of carboys, I've been reluctant to move forward in brewing my own.

In November, Dwayne from Yellowknife visited and he's been making beer for years so I asked him if he would guide me through my first batches. He happily agreed. I picked up a little bit of equipment from Wine Kitz, just down the road from me, and 2 beer kits: Brew House India Pale Ale and Brew House Stout.

We cleaned the equipment by sterilizing in boiling water, mixed the malty water with more water for a total of 19 L (supposed to be 23, but we wanted to make stronger beer) and then yeast. Easy!

To make the beer a little more personal, I added a bit of ingredients. The IPA was already hopped, but I boiled a 1/2 oz of cascade hops and added the water to the beer. I also added the peels of one small orange thinking it wouldn't make much of an impact, but maybe a little complex note. A week later I added a little mesh bag of another 1/2 oz of hops to add aroma (this is called dry hopping).

To the stout I added a bunch of spice: 1/8 cup of allspice, 1/8 cup of cardamom, 1/16 coup of cloves.

We set up the airlock by running the tubes from the stoppers into a bucket 1/4 full of water. For the next week a steady stream of bubbles and foam poured through the tubes - what a racket and mess. Fortunately, it wasn't too loud and no one complained about it being in our crowded little kitchen, though Lukas dropped a stuffed animal in the soup and Amber dropped toast into it. The mess was contained too.

When the main fermentation was done - about a week - I moved the 2 carboys into our cooler storage area and put little airlocks into the stoppers and cleaned out the stinky bucket. 2 more weeks of slow secondary fermentation and the beer was ready to bottle.

Though we collected bottles for 2 months, we still didn't have enough, so I had to spring for a dozen self corking bottles to make sure we had enough. Wine Kitz even lent me their bench capper for the night. I spent the evening putting 35 litres of beer into bottles and spent the next 5 days cleaning up as much as I could after work.

My assessment? Well, I'm certainly just starting, so I never expected to make an award winning brew.

The stout is too spicy, but I am enjoying it. I find it is mellowing out day by day, so in a couple weeks it will probably be as mellow as it's going to get. Great dark colour though.

I really like the IPA. It could be hoppier, but the orange peel adds another kind of bitterness which I like too. I have plenty to last me a long while. The best part is the pride I can take in producing it myself.

"Zaakistan Peel IPA"

"Riches Spiced Stout"

K-12 Unsolved Math Conference

In November, I attended a math conference with another 24 people at the Banff International Research Station for a weekend. The conference was organized by my friend Dr. Gordon Hamilton of MathPickle.com fame (visit his site for more info on the conference). It was meant to discuss and identify 13 unsolvable math problems that could be introduced at each grade level from kindergarten to grade 12 as puzzles or games that have curricular connections. Among the attendees were math educators, education consultants, puzzle pros, and mathematicians, each bringing expertise to the table.

First of all, I was blown away by the Banff Centre where BIRS is just one of the many buildings used to promote scientific research, artistic residencies, and host internationally acclaimed cultural events. The facilities are state of the art and staff are wonderful (I took the Greyhound to and from Banff for the event. When I was checking out, the door man asked where I had parked my car and when he discovered I was walking to the bus station (2 km away), he locked up the storage room and shuttled me to the station, insisting this was necessary and that me walking there would be absolutely tragic.). The food is also stellar and I must thank my school for covering the food costs.

The weekend was full and we spent a lot of time debating the merits of various problems, how they should be presented, their relevance, and especially how we could go about promoting the concept of teachers using unsolved problems in their classrooms (no easy task in this age). One of the ideas we tossed around for a long time was the offering of a $1 Million award for anyone who solved one of the problems. The trick here isn't so much the money, which insurance could cover, but the vetting of the solutions - who would do it?

In the evenings we played games and talked math. One of the lead guys attending was James Tanton, currently the visiting scholar of the Mathematical Association of America. He had some really innovative ideas that I can't pretend to explain here. Check out his website for some mini courses - especially the one on disappearing dots.

My hunch though is that Gord did all of this so that we could find a way to introduce every living student to Pick's Theorem - which I have to say, is pretty cool, and fun to play with.


Noteworthy Apps

Since having my life greatly altered with an iPhone 18 months ago, I have come to appreciate the impact certain apps have had in my daily life. A few noteworthy ones:

DAY ONE: This is a journaling app that allows you to make entries that get backed up to DropBox, include photos, automatically notes the weather, location, etc. As one of my life goals is to keep a daily journal for 5 years, this one has proved invaluable because it is so fun to use and review with photos. I make a point of taking a unique photo each day to keep it fresh and so far I have journaled for 161 straight days. I love that I can publish the entire thing as a PDF in the end too. It's existence is also the main reason I have neglected my blog the last 6 months.

FOG OF WORLD: This is madness for a map fan like me. I love turning on the app when I travel new places to clear the fog from the map.

THIS AMERICAN LIFE: I got hooked on this NPR program this past spring and so the app has been a mainstay on morning and afternoon commutes (and long distance drives with the family). Since the only way to listen to archives is online through a flash based program, I had to buy the $2 app and it's worth it being able to access the 500 episodes. I'm working my way back, so I'm on episode 438 (2011).

GUITUNE: $1. Cheapest and most convenient guitar tuner I have ever bought.

BEER BUDDY: A perfect way to track the brews you've tasted. It can scan beer barcodes, access the ratebeer.com database for ratings and reviews, allows you to add your own ratings, etc.