Toronto Island

Ever since I moved to Toronto in last August and found out about the Toronto Island, I had wanted to find my way over there and take some nice sunset shots with the city silhouette as well as a really nice night shot with all the lights of downtown. Some of my favorite type of photography is landscape and night shooting so back on October 14, 2009 I hauled my camera gear and tripod to work with me with the plan to head downtown after work and head over to the island.

I had checked the time the sun was going to set and managed to get the last ferry across before missing the sunset window. The ferries are on a seasonal schedule but typically in the summer they will make a round-trip in 30 minutes which includes disembarking, boarding, trip across the water, disembarking, boarding, and trip back across to the starting point.

As I got off the ferry I got my bearings and started a brisk walk to find the spot where I wanted to set up my tripod and start taking some photos. I walked over a bridge and made my way down a path to the lake shore where I found a bench and a nice open area to set up my tripod. There were some ducks swimming nearby so I took a few handheld shots of them with the sunset before putting the camera on the tripod and taking my city-scape shots. Anybody who has ever taken sunset or night shots knows that once you’re set up and have taken a few practice shots, it’s a waiting game to get the light that you want and get those shots. I’m very proud of the shots I got that night and hope everyone reading this blog likes them as well.

TorontoIsland_01_2009-10-14

Canon EOS 40D w/ Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS lens, f/7.1, 10 second exp, ISO200

Rick Mercer dot com

I don’t think any of my non-Canadian readers know about Rick Mercer and there may be a few of you Canadian readers who live in a box and haven’t heard of him either. Wikipedia describes him as “a Canadian comedian, television personality, political satirist, and a blogger.” He is by far one of the funniest political satirists that I have had the pleasure of watching on national TV. He’s very witty and will try pretty much anything. I caught a repeat of one of his pre-Christmas 2009 shows on TV tonight and wanted to share what is likely one my favorites rants of his. To read more about him, please visit his site.

Just because you are on an escalator, that does not mean you have to stop walking. Up or down, it is an escalator; it is not a ride at Canada’s Wonderland. It was designed to keep people moving faster. Which is why it’s called an escalator not a slowthingsdown-alator. And if you must stop on an escalator because you’ve got bad knees or you’re just a much calmer person then me, you have to stay to the right. The left lane is a passing lane. That means you can not put your shopping bag there. That also means your best friend can not park there and talk to you about why you really should have bought that blouse at value village. And you wanna know why? Because when you do that, everyone behind you wants to kill you.

And I only bring this up because I am a calm and rational person, but I swear to god if I ever end up in prison it will be because of something that happened on an escalator. Either that or near the front doors of a shopping mall or an airport. Okay we all know that sometimes big buildings are overwhelming. That does not mean that you get to walk through the front door and just stop and look around for 3 minutes. If you need to get your bearings, the rules of the road apply here. You must pull over. Find a wall, you can spend all the time you want over there.

And while we’re on the subject, if you get in an elevator before letting people off an elevator, that should be a criminal offense. With mandatory sentencing. Honestly I don’t know why they don’t teach this stuff in schools.

Referenced from http://www.rickmercer.com/blog/index.cfm/2009/12/1/An-Escalating-Issue

And just in case you want to laugh your ass off a bit more, check out the actual YouTube video below to see the rant in full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZsXBo1L9Bk

7 Year Itch? Totally!!

PHOTOS PENDING, CHECK BACK!!

Seven years ago today I went out on my first date with this girl named Jacqueline (Jackie for short). I vividly remember her picking me up from my apartment on 12th Ave in Vancouver and going down to Tinsletown to watch a movie. She was worried that the movie would go on for too long and that I would be late for work. At the time I was a part-time bouncer at the Blarney Stone in downtown Vancouver while I was finishing up my engineering degree. I told her not to worry about it and to enjoy the show so we did. She dropped me off at work after the show and of course I got in a bit of trouble, but nothing too serious. We saw each other another 10 times in the next 14 days bringing the total to 11 with the first date. That is quite a bit and we both felt the chemistry between us and were obviously enjoying each other’s company.

The 3rd day we were dating was a Sunday and she had a soccer game early in the morning. I was at my bouncer job the Saturday night and she had come by with a couple of her friends to have dinner before my shift started. She knew that I wouldn’t be done until 2am and then going out for drinks with the other boys until 4am. She bet me lunch the next day that I wouldn’t be able to make it to her game the following morning. Well of course Dennis, who was one half of the duo that introduced Jackie and I (he’s married to her cousin and went to school with me), decided that it was his solemn duty to make sure I was at that game. He shows up at the crack of dawn and gives me a ride all the way out to Coquitlam to make sure we make the game. Conveniently, his wife, Lan, was also playing on the team so that was all good. He was even thoughtful enough to bring some comfy lawn chairs for us to sit in.

Long story short we went out for lunch after the game; Lan & Dennis were supposed to join us but they made an excuse and made themselves scarce… how convenient!! After lunch I suggested we go for a walk in Stanley Park and so we did. It was pretty cute because she wanted to ask me out as her date for a wedding coming up but she was too nervous that I would think we hadn’t been dating long enough for that kind of a date… of course I told her I would honour her with my presence and would be her date. So after the day we had just had, she thought it would be a good idea to invite me over to her parents’ place for dinner. She warned me that her 3 brothers would be there with their wives/girlfriend as well as 2 dogs. I shrugged it all off and figured I would just be myself and let everything go from there. Turns out her brothers and I hit it off pretty quick and were trading jokes & mockery back and forth within 20 minutes. All-in-all it was a great day, but keep in mind only 3 dates in!!

Fast-forward a few years of being a couple, I left Vancouver after I graduated to move to Kapuskasing, ON. Jackie was still working on her nursing degree so we had to do long-distance for the 2 years that I was in Kap. We did have opportunities to see each other quite a bit more than you would expect but it was still very hard to do the long-distance thing. Zeus is definitely worth mentioning here as he was my first pet and also likely one of the reasons I did not get depressed while living in such a small town away from her. But, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder so on March 15, 2006 I proposed to her when she was visiting over her March break. She said yes (duh! whaddaya think I’m writing this for??) and the next 15 months were a whirl of wedding preparations, stressed phone calls, and all that good stuff. Let me give you, the reader, a bit of advice: If you’re going to get married, please save yourself the trouble and at least be living in the same city as your bride-to-be!!! Finally, on July 20, 2007, it all came together and we tied the knot.

Just before the wedding I had been transferred to our company’s location just outside Saskatoon, SK, so post-wedding we made the move out there with Jackie’s stuff. We had a moving company move 5 palettes of her stuff, loaded ourselves and Zeus into her Toyota Corolla, and started the 1700km drive to our first home in Saskatoon. Fast-forward another couple years and we sold our townhouse and were living in a lovely heritage house built in 1914 when I got a job offer with an engineering consulting company. After much thinking, crunching numbers, and discussion amongst ourselves, we decided it would be a good idea for our future goals to make the move.

Here we are now a year later, in Toronto, ON, living in our apartment adjacent to High Park. I can’t believe that 7 years have gone by since I first met this lovely person. I find myself fortunate to know her, to be a part of her life, and to watch her grow both in wisdom and confidence. Just like every relationship there have been ups and downs but I feel that as long as we communicate well, the bad times will always pass. In our time together we have gone on many trips and seen some amazing things. We have laughed together, cried together, held each other for warmth in -40degC weather, and splashed around at the beach in the summer sun.

So for those out there who are talking about the 7 year itch, I say YES! There is totally an itch that needs scratching and that’s the itch to look forward, live my life well, and to make sure that each and every day I appreciate my soulmate, my lover, my best friend. I can’t wait to see what the next 7 years are going to bring!

Ankle Cleared!

This past Tuesday I went to my 7th physiotherapy session and as always it went very well. Emilie, my physiotherapist, put me through some walks/runs after I reported that I’d pushed myself at my last session of bootcamp as well the couple workouts I’ve done on my own. My ankle has been feeling really really good lately and I told her so. There has been a bit of discomfort when I first start a workout from the brace the doctor asked me to wear but as I go through the workout, it just fades into the background and the adrenaline & endorphines kick in instead.

She took me through a whole bunch of exercises today, the most she’s ever made me do. I was doing the football ladder, running back & forth between cones, some box jumps, and a bunch of others. At the end of the session she told me that I went through the exercises with no issues and that if my ankle had still been bugging you, I wouldn’t have been able to get through them all. Sooo, basically she told me she didn’t want to see me again unless I re-injure it or it starts bugging me again to the point of constant pain.

I guess it’s official now, I’m cleared to start easing back into my squash and possibly some soccer. Yay!!

Ankle, oh ankle…

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a post and there’s a good reason for it. I have been suffering from an ankle injury since about December of 2008. The injury occurred when I was playing co-ed indoor soccer with my wife and some good friends and I was running to get off the course for a sub. I somehow took a misstep on perfectly flat indoor turf and managed to roll my ankle. I’d rolled my ankle previously but this one hurt a lot more than it had in the past.

Being the stubborn man that I am, I decided to keep playing on the injury. In my competitive team, I had a buddy tape the ankle when I played and then when off the field I would use an ankle brace. I decided to stay off the ankle after the soccer season was over that year and just let it heal. Of course I didn’t go to a doctor because I thought it was just a bad sprain and that I just needed to give it some rest to heal.

In August of 2009, after my move to Toronto, I started training for the Try-a-Tri (triathlon) that was to happen in mid-summer 2010. Having never been a runner, I started with the running. I bought some proper shoes and started training on the treadmill at the gym. Throughout this time my ankle was feeling good on most days and slightly sore on other but nothing like when it was first injured. Throughout the rest of the 2009 and early 2010 I played squash, continued with my running training, and started doing some P90X training in the gym. The ankle was holding up fairly well but I think I had just learnt how to ignore most of the pain and compensate for it with my other leg.

As the Try-a-Tri date was getting closer and the weather turned to spring, I decided that it was time to start running outside which, as most people who run know, is very different than running on a treadmill in the gym. For some reason at the point my ankle really started hurting and the pain became more pronounced and seemed to be there more often. Since the pain had resurfaced more regularly, I decided that I would take it easy yet again and stopped running. I thought that if I could at least let it heal for the next month of so, I would be able to push myself through to the triathlon. In the meantime a buddy from work to whom I had been talking about my ankle, suggested a sports medicine specialist for me to go see. I booked my appointment for July 1st and went to see the doc. He did a thorough examination of the ankle and sent me for X-rays and an ultrasound. Not really seeing anything immediately from the tests, he set me up for a bone density scan. Once again there was nothing that really showed up in the scan but he decided to prescribe me physiotherapy and also said he’d book me in for an MRI.

On July 10, 2010 I played a beach volleyball tournament with people from work. I had committed to being a part of the team a few months prior and since it was for the Sick Kids charity, I didn’t want to back out. The result from the tournament was an extreme amount of pain on the inside of my ankle. Until this point the injury had been affecting the outside of my ankle and so I was really scared I had done some serious damage. The pain was so intense that I was limping very heavily and every step I took my ankle would make a clicking noise. Easy to say, I was very worried at this point and called the doctor’s office to bump forward my first physiotherapy session.

My physiotherapist, Emilie, impressed me from the start. The first thing she did was go through how I had injured my ankle and what the doc had done and told me up to this point. She performed a full examination of my ankle and compared it with the right one which was functioning just fine. After making me go through a series of range of motion exercises, she told me that she had most likely figured out what the problem was. She gave me a few exercises to do at home to strengthen the ankle and told me that I had to stay away from the impact sports until she could get it back to normal. The good news is that she doesn’t seem to think it’s anything serious that can’t be fixed with a bit of work so that really put me at ease and got me concentrating on the exercises and healing.

I’ve had 3 physio sessions so far and my ankle feels significantly better. I feel like I have around 75% of my range of motion back which is awesome! Sometimes it feels so good that I feel like I can start running again but I kick aside those thoughts and tell myself that I can get back to all that in due time when I’m fully healed. I’d rather suck it up now and delay the running training than have to deal with a busted ankle for the rest of my life.

So that’s the story with the ankle. I had to cancel my participation in the Try-a-Tri I was training for but went out there to support my wonderful wife, 2 brothers-in-law, and my father-in-law and you can read about it in the blog post here if you so desire. Even though I can’t run right now, I am getting back into my swimming and am aiming to be at the pool at least 3 days a week to get my cardio fix. I’ll be continuing with one more boot camp session in August; the instructor, Sarah, is well aware of the injury and just gives me modified, non-impact versions of the exercises so that I can still benefit from the sessions.

That’s it, long post I know, but thanks for reading if you stuck through the whole bit!

Triathlon in BC

On Sunday, July 25, 2010 a group of us went up to Harrison Mills, BC, for the triathlon event put on by Triathlons.net. The group of us that went up there were myself, my wife Jackie, my father-in-law Norm, brothers-in-law Vince & Paul, and Paul’s girlfriend Ashley. All of us except Ashley were supposed to have been competing but due to my ankle injury and rehabilitation, I decided to bow out of this year’s competition and joined Ashley as a spectator and helper.

Vince, Paul, and Norm had done the “My First Triathlon” even last year so they were competing in the “My Next Triathlon” whereas Jackie was doing her “My First Triathlon” event. The events were the same distance which started off with a 400m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run. Everybody starts at the same time, men and women all together, and whoever crosses the finish line first, wins. The event is held every weekend during the summer so the person winning on any given day may not be the overall winner.

We get there an hour and half early and proceed to set up for the race. Each person goes through their own routine to prep and then finally we’re ready to go. The timekeeper gives the go-ahead and everybody plunges into the lake to start the swim. From the previous year’s results, we know that on average it takes around 12-15 minutes for people to finish the swim. Ashley and I are ready with towels and the various competitors’ clothes to help out when we can. Note that we are only helping the 4 other people we came with, not all the people competing.

From our group, Vince is the first out of the water, followed by Jackie, Paul, and finally, Norm. I have to say it was quite entertaining to watch all these people coming out of the water because on their faces you can tell they’re so intent on running up to the bikes out of the water but having swam for the last 15 minutes their balance is off and they’re stumbling around like drunk people!

When everybody was on their way with the bikes, Ashley and I packed up into the respective SUVs and headed over to the next transition point. The bikers would bike past this point, do a loop and then end back at this point. Then they would drop off their bikes and go for the run which was another loop back to the same point. Vince was 3rd overall out of the water and I guess he blasted through the biking because he was 1st overall, and ahead by about 1.5 minutes, when he dropped off his bike and went on his run. Next from our group was Paul, then Jackie, and finally Norm, who had made up a couple places last place.

The day was a scorcher and everybody was in severe sweat mode so I’m sure the run was the toughest portion of the triathlon. But, everybody soldiered on. Vince ended up coming 1st overall for the day with Paul coming in after him in 3rd, Jackie was the 2nd woman to finish, and Norm made it through his walk/run without coming in dead last overall.

After we got everything packed up and ready to go, we headed out to a well-deserved lunch along with some alcohol. Needless to say on the drive back to the house, I was at the wheel with Norm & Jackie passed out in their seats. I’m very proud of every one of them and the only downside of the day for me was that I couldn’t compete with them. There is always next year though 🙂

Triathlon_01_2010-07-25

Ah, the iPad!!

This past Friday, May 28th, 2010 the iPad was finally launched in Canada. After the initial launch in the US several weeks ago (or is it months now?) there have obviously been a lot of blog posts, tear-downs, and reviews all over the interweb (yes I said interweb). Even though I had been toting the iPad as an “iPod Touch on steroids” I was still pretty excited to get a hands-on look at this piece of technology.

I had booked my car in at Best Buy to get a USB power cable installed for my GPS so I didn’t have to keep using the cable, stringing it across my steering wheel, and plugging it into the cigarette ligher jack. Of course being the geek that I am, I took the opportunity to look around the store a bit and came across the Apple area. Well lo and behold there were some iPads sitting there and I promptly picked one up and started doing my thing.

The first thing I noticed was how smooth the interface was. I own an iPhone 3G and my biggest complaint about it is the processor speed and how slow it is at times. Not so with the iPad. It literally responded to my every movement with pretty much no lag and opened up the apps that were installed seamlessly. It switched between landscape and portrait view with no more effort than just rotating the unit and it had quite the wow-factor on me. I did notice that it was a bit heavy at 1.5lbs but for prolonged use, you would always be able to put it on a table or a lap.

Overall I think I’ll definitely wait to see what they’ll do in the next generation or two. One big thing that is lacking for me, and I have seen comments about in the webosphere, is the lack of a camera. I think a rear-facing one would be pretty useless but that’s just my opinion. For me it would have to have a front-facing one to be able to use with applications such as iChat and Skype to name a few.

I’m still quite excited on what the future holds and can’t wait to see with what Steve Jobs comes up with next!

Running Towards Speed & Agility

I totally impressed myself today at our weekly squash league which I talked about in a previous post. I was playing #2 out of 5 which meant that I played their 2nd best guy. This week, the “they” mentioned were the engineers from Golder Associates and they were a good challenge. The guy I was playing showed up a little later at which point our team had played 3 games, winning 2 of them and the 4th game was well underway but not looking good. So it came down to my game to allow us to win the day 3 matches to 2. The guy I played (I can’t remember his name, I’m so bad with names!!) was quite talented and was making some great shots. What impressed me about myself is the speed with which I was running around this court and actually getting all these tough shots he was making and in doing so, setting myself up for the win.

The biggest change I have made in the last 3 months or so has been my running. I have been training hard to bring up my endurance and start working on running longer distances every time I run. I’ve got the Nike iPod tracker that does the magic stuff for me and automatically updates my data when I sync it. Thanks to it I can track my progress and work to push myself harder, faster, and further and in doing so, I definitely believe it is the major cause for my increase in speed and agility on the squash court.

This week brought me that much closer to one of my long-term goals of running for 30 minutes non-stop; I made it to the 28 minute mark. All this thanks to a running program that I’ve been following and would love to share with whoever bothers to read this blog.

  1. Week 1, Runs 1-3: run 1 min, walk 1.5 mins – repeat 8x
  2. Week 2, Runs 1-3: run 1.5 mins, walk 2 mins – repeat 6x
  3. Week 3, Runs 1-3: run 1.5 mins, walk 1.5 mins, run 3 mins, walk 3 mins – repeat 2x
  4. Week 4, Runs 1-3: run 3 mins, walk 1.5 mins, run 5 mins, walk 2.5 mins – repeat 2x
  5. Week 5, Run 1: run 5 mins, walk 3 mins, repeat 3x
  6. Week 5, Run 2: run 8 mins, walk 5 mins, run 8 mins
  7. Week 5, Run 3: run 20 mins, no walking
  8. Week 6, Run 1: run 5 mins, walk 3 mins, run 8 mins, walk 3 mins, run 5 mins
  9. Week 6, Run 2: run 10 mins, walk 3 mins, run 10 mins
  10. Week 6, Run 3: run 25 mins, no walking
  11. Week 7, Runs 1-3: run 25 mins, no walking
  12. Week 8, Runs 1-3: run 28 mins, no walking
  13. Week 9, Runs 1-3: run 30 mins, no walking

Remembrance Day 2009

The day of the year is upon us again for remembering those people who have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. In Canada it’s called Remembrance Day, in the United States it’s called Memorial Day, but they each have the same underlying message. Today we should take a few minutes out of our ever-busier lives to reflect on the sacrifices those who fought in the wars of past and present and thank their spirits, strength, and courage in doing so.

Arshavir Simonian

My paternal grandfather, Arshavir Simonian, was a career military man who fought in World War I. Although I never got a chance to meet him I see his strength, courage, loyalty, and sense of honour in my father, uncle, cousins, brother, and myself. His sacrifice, and those of all the soldiers who fought and are still fighting in the ridiculous number of wars plaguing our planet, should not be forgotten.

The Backstory

I’m one of those guys who’s carrying around about 60 extra pounds and have been trying, on and off, to shed some of the weight over the last few years. The bulk of the 60lbs that I’m trying to get rid of was due to my first 2 years of university.

When I moved to Vancouver, BC on August 19, 2000, I started my university life living in a 9ft by 12ft dorm room in the Place Vanier residence of the University of British Columbia (UBC). We had a cafeteria that had a selection of healthier foods but having grown up with my mother always feeding us healthy foods (which is a good thing by the way), I probably decided that I was free now to make my own choices and proceeded to eat things such as chicken strips & fries on a regular basis. Overeating was also and issue with food and that coupled with the not-too-good-for-you foods helped start the increased waistline. Of course nothing would be complete in the 1st year of university without the massive consumption of alcohol. This was even more prevalent in the dorms where we would go through case after case of Canadian branded beer and Fireball whiskey.

Over the next few years the drinking cut down dramatically primarily due to the need to concentrate on studies more but also due to health reasons. I had really high triglycerides in my body and if I didn’t change something I would be looking at adult-onset diabetes among other things. So the alcohol was cut down significantly and I started making changes to my diet such as eating more whole-grain foods and trying to cut down on sweets which was really tough. With much encouragement from my then girlfriend and now wife, Jacqueline, I continued a lifestyle change in regards to food.

Of course, as a lot of you probably understand, when the body is deprived of something that it has had regularly for so long, it craves it and I caved to these cravings in the form of sweets. That is probably the main reason why I have not lost a significant amount of weight due to the lifestyle change. I also exercise, not as regularly as I’d like or is suggested.

So here I am, sitting around the 285lb mark, with a body that has quite a bit of muscle under the fat, but still quite overweight to the point of obesity.