A new Spring

There was a time in my life, when there seemed to be no limits, no limits to the places to go, the things to learn, the friends to make, the frontier. When you get a little older, we start to bump up against the edges of the frontier, then there is frontier no more, we are the United States of America, the Garden of Eden California awaits us, becomes an American state, become populous, then too populous, we are a tree whose roots run at last into impermeable clay deep below the surface, and our branches act out this underground play in the sky, stunted and twisting.

We trade the thrill of the limitless for the pressure of the limit, this makes us what we are, the path of weakness leaves us brittle and half-shapened, too much strain cracks us, grinds us to dust. You start to understand, perhaps you never will go to Tahiti, like you dreamed watching Lonely Planet as a 16 year old. You have to make money to travel, that takes time and effort, you have say two weeks a year and, how many years? 30 more where you can do a trip like that? If you are lucky, 30 trips? Not the life of a Lonely Planet guide, every day a new destination, a new beach, new friendly locals, dreamy soundtrack, perfectly edited.

Your Tahiti is an office. Your crucible is making the most of the gnarling of your branches, the same office every day, less friends than when you were a university student, years go by and you watch skyscrapers, buildings built around you, casting shadows where there were none before, the City of your birth doubles in size, your home soil, paved over, little old lady from the farm in Saskatchewan, lives in a bungalow with a big garden, they’re all gone now, the little old ladies who volunteer and remember the Depression and have perfect handwriting are in the ground, their bungalows are torn down daily and replaced by eight-plexes where people don’t know their neighbour and watch netflix instead going about their Netflix lives on the ground floor, uber eats for dinner, no room for trees in this new city (despite official City policy) no room for a garden or birds.

‘Housing diversity policies encourage the creation of a wide range of housing types, tenures and densities that help meet affordability, accessibility,…’ developers and City planners sing the same tune, one makes money and says goodbye, the other plays their own game of having the correct current year beliefs in a state of high refinement, and even making it happen in some sense. But there is only one direction for our lives, for trees, for cities and nations.

You only have so many springs left. Every summer only has so many weekends.

If it takes a year to learn a language how many languages can you fit in? What about a martial art? How many martial arts? A black belt? What about Church? What about fishing? Hunting in the fall? Time with your parents? Or your nephews? You see the beauty of the choice, the sweet mortal tragedy of closing a door on another possible you, it sharpens your energy, and you watch hockey after work, the Oilers are oddly compelling this year, you even listen to their playoff games on the radio in the bath, an Edmonton station, you’ve never done that before, yet it seems to fit somehow, it seems like the perfect wavelength to relax after the lawyering and the running and the emptying of the dishwasher.

The realization in itself is a new Spring. The faint, distant, scent of mortality in the air, the stiff white nosehair. Can we betray ourself just a little less this year? Can we love fully, can we outgrow our familiar fears? Or are they a part of us.

Fury vs Usyk

It’s been almost twenty years since boxing has had an undisputed heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis being the last man to make it to those lofty heights. This spring, boxing fans worldwide are salivating at the possibility of having an undisputed heavyweight champion once again, as Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury are in advanced talks for a fight that could unify once again.

At this point, it seems the fight has been made, but it’s unclear exactly whether anything has been signed, or what the details are. I’m not going to weigh in on the war of words between the fighters, their camps, and every pundit out there, but I’m assuming the fight will happen in late spring or some time in the summer at the last. That might be optimistic but the fight needs to happen. Nobody wants to see these two fight second tier fighters – true fans want to see the best against the best. True fans want to see undisputed, lineal champions, fights with drama, tension and excitement.

That’s one thing that the UFC, with a monopoly on the highest tier of mixed martial arts, excels at. They make the fights people want to see. They put the best against the best, almost every weekend. Boxing has a tragedy of the anticommons situation, where everybody fights for their little chunk of turf, fighters suffer, fans suffer, the sport suffers. But here is a once in 20 years chance for the sport to redeem itself!

I’m a big fan of both Fury and Usyk. They both have a share of the heavyweight championship belts, with Fury holding the lineal championship. Usyk was an incredibly cruiserweight, and after cleaning out the division took the leap to heavyweight, a leap few have made with as much gusto. He was challenged and won a decision against Dereck Chisora, then won the belts from Anthony Joshua, against whom he also defended them. Fury has been a heavyweight probably since about the age of 10 ;). He ascended to the highest heights and lowest of lows, and lived to tell the tale. When he rounded back into form again, you saw a rare heavyweight with the ability to get up from literally being knocked out, beat the count and go on the attack, with knockout power and unheard of speed and footwork for a man who is 6’9″ and 270-280 pounds. He can play it both ways, stay out of trouble using his reach and elusiveness or be the big bully, brawling and mauling, just ask Deontay Wilder.

To me, the only ‘comparable’ they have in common is Dereck Chisora. Fury demolished Chisora the last time they fought. Yes they fought before, but this is a closer fight to Fury’s current form, so makes the best comparison. Chisora had Usyk hurt, and was not in danger from Usyk. We can play the ‘well he beat Joshua who beat Chisora’, or ‘he had trouble with Cunningham, a smaller faster boxer’ all day either way, but the way I see it is, there’s no better litmus test. By that measure Fury wins handily.

To me, Fury is too big, too strong, and too tough for Usyk. How does Usyk hurt Fury? How does he even touch him? Well, he hurt Joshua, but he’s not as big, or as tough, or as hard to hit as Fury, as shown by his recent losses in particular when he got knocked out by Andy Ruiz. Fury absorbed the biggest hits in the divsion from Wilder, what is Usyk going to throw at him? Is he going to be able to win rounds against a slippery boxer who is that much taller? I don’t think so. How does Fury hurt Usyk? Simple. He comes at him, hits him, grabs him and mauls him. Leans on him, grinds him down, with heavy punches.

My prediction is that Fury knocks Usyk out in round 6.

Hold me to it. With any luck we will know this summer and a new undisputed champ can set to work establishing their place among the all time greats.

Workout Routine 2023

In fall of 2022 my wife and I got gym memberships at Lindsay Park (yes we will call it that forever, regardless of its current name). After almost three years of gyms being closed or restricted, it has been a good change to get out of the basement gym. I’m a long term believer that you can do a great workout in a prison cell, for instance with squats, pushups, running, and while that’s true, it’s also refreshing to get out to an excellent facility and spread your wings.

The approach I take is to start by taking advantage of the toys that they have which I do not. This goes from big machines like stairmasters, rowing machine or assault bike, to the plethora of balancing tools, 100 lb kettlebells, hex bar, cable machines, the variation is mind bending. And we even swam a couple of times!

When we started going, I wanted to get my lift pb’s back up. In the basement gym I didn’t have much in the way of weight. So I started building up my squat and deadlift again, for the fun of lifting heavy and also to build up baseline strength for a return to running (always in the back of my head!). You forget how fun having actual weight on the bar is when you haven’t done it in a few years. However, in January my Wife and I decided to run a road race, so I have switched focus towards cardio and running from lifting heavy.

In view of this goal, I have been gradually running more, and faster. I am trying to add volume gradually, as when I started again in the middle of January I hadn’t run for two months and was a little rusty. And I was really slow. Right now I am slightly less slow 😉 My Wife is absolutely blazing and putting up good mileage numbers. Running is just the best workout. It get my diesel engine purring like no other and also is so enjoyable. I am doing supplementary exercises to strength and add mobility to my hips and feet, which are weak areas for me at the moment. Yes I am the guy doing clamshells on the mats now! My favourite activity in this regard is balancing and squats on a balancing board. They have boards that you balance on with a roller in the center, for a dynamic similar to surfing. These are what I use, doing deep squats and really feeling the stabilizers fire, you can just feel the hips/ankles opening up, its dynamic mobility work and also really fun!

To keep building aerobic strength I am spending time on the stairmaster, stationary bike (warmup/cooldown usually) and assault bike. I’m trying to do some lifting and frankly enjoy using machines like pec fly. This is after decades of a free weight, body weight type mentality that frowned upon machines. Who cares. The machines can be fun, just have fun, there’s lots of other free weight type stuff in the week anyways. I got into a bit of a maintenance mentality through COVID, plus having a tough year physically last year (car crash, covid, etc). So now I am actually building again and putting on fitness, which is awesome.

We also have been using the steam room and occasionally the cold plunge, I’m not sure how much that helps with recovery but in any event it’s enjoyable.

I prefer to run outside from home and still do workouts in the basement particularly when short on time. A few times I have almost bailed on getting a workout in, but when it takes mere minutes to get changed and get going, those sessions, which even if short are better than a zero, are getting done. I’ve been managing to get in some good streaks, last week I worked out nine days in a row, before it felt like I needed a rest day. I haven’t been scheduling rest days, just taking them when my body tells me its time.

I’ve been skating regularly, but a little less as going to the gym instead. Everything is tradeoffs. Where my wife and I would often skate on a weekday evening, we are now referring to the gym as our living room.

One other thing is that so far this year I have eaten lunch outside and followed with at least a 20 minutes walk almost every day, even days in the minus 20s. The extra walks have to be helpful and the concept of embracing winter by sitting outside in the cold has been an interesting journey. It turns out, if you don’t think its too cold, it’s not.

Of particular importance starting a week ago is that we have cut down on sweets for lent. This means no soda (ok I’m having the occasional ginger ale) but no chocolate, candy, coca cola. For me this has always been a weak spot. It’s the sort of thing that for me requires a discipline that I was never able to apply for any length of time. In that way I feel that though it is a sacrifice for Lent and I am dealing with cravings, the non-spiritual reward is one that it is time for.

Thanks for reading!


A Wild Faith

This morning I woke up about 5am. Couldn’t get back to sleep. Tried to sleep in to an hour fitting for a Saturday but nothing for it.Instead about 6:15 I hit the road.I’d packed the night before. Four part fly rod, a little box of flies, reel, a few leaders.On top of the usual: backup layer for cold, windbreaker, extra socks, gloves, a knife, compass, a few other survival items, granola bars, water, bear spray, sketchbook and pencil, throwing knives.I didn’t use the pencil or the throwing knives but the extra weight builds character.I gassed up the jeep and coffeed up me and hit the road in the dark. No traffic. I wound my way up the Forestry Trunk Road and turned up Waiporous Creek. I don’t head North all that often which is part of why I’m going this way today. My go to getaway has been the Millarville side of K Country of late. Time to shake it up.Last time I went down this road I had my lovely wife with me. We hiked up to the fire lookout, found fossilized conifer needles, and swam in the creek. I already missed her on the drive, the music we play, holding hands on the road, our secret jokes.But sometimes you have to go out on your own.Sometimes you hear the Call of the Wild and that’s a different day outdoors than a day with a wife, a friend, a group of friends. And I’d been hearing the Call a while now.I parked when I was equal parts raring to hike and sick of getting bounced around on the road. Doublecheck to make sure no lights on. Go time. Heading West up the braided channel of the Creek. There is a layer of frost and I put on another layer.I’m not familiar with this creek at all and the water doesn’t look too friendly to fish. I cross the Creek and up into the woods. There is no plan now. Just sheer exploring. I don’t know what ahead or where I will go. The peaks of the Rockies are roughly to the West, the Creek cuts a straight line to my North, and I can see the fire lookout shiny on top of a hill. The sun rises over the hill behind me.I follow game trails, some thinning into nothingness, then scanning over to find the next trail, bushwhacking over deadfall. The forest is evenly made and not too thick, my guess is a fire 40 years or so ago, the soil relatively thin this close to the creek. The forest opens up into a meadow to the South. I follow an old quad track for a ways. With any luck I may find a nice shed in the meadow.I hear it before I see it. A creek. I get closer. A creek twists and turns through the meadow. It has a nice level of clear water, pools. I’m amazed there is a creek this close to Waiporous Creek running almost parallel. I put the rod together and rig up. I stalk up to promising looking water. I drop my fly in, let it drift with the current, pick it up, try again. I can’t see any fish visually. Move up the creek to the next seam. Nothing. I snag a fly on an underwater branch, lose it, tie on another. Onward.I am feeling a little disspirited that despite the promising water and the most scenic stream you ever laid your eyes on I am not getting any action, or even seeing anything. I walk a ways up and try again. Such a nice pool below a little logjam. Nothing. I pack up the rod. I slosh across the creek and aim for the hills to the South. Perhaps I can cross over into the next drainage.I climb up an old cutline. Near the top of the hill the trail deviates around where the cutline is blocked by deadfalls and overgrown. The forest here is ancient, it has not been logged, it has not been burnt in a long time, the cool, wet, north facing hilltop. It is a forest of wisdom, tangled with massive fallen trunks and undergrowth, the fresh forest below naive and uncluttered.On a ridge I hit another cutline. The way further South seems like a tough slog. I turn west along the cutline, uphill. Then downhill. Across another boggy meadow. Along a stream too small for fish. One last little meadow.The last time I was anywhere near here, was with two friends in early February 2007, the day before I flew to Rome. We were young and fit. We ran up the Creek and across not this exact meadow but one like it, one last meadow before the mountains. We ran up an old trail, slogging, the snow up past our knees. We turned around. On the way in we ran into some goofy snowmobilers from New Brunswick They were cooking up some deer meat, and offered us some. So we stood around the fire and ate with these friendly folk. Somewhere there’s a picture. Then we ran on.I’ve turned back. Instead of following my exact path I try to take the path East. I go up and down and up and down two big hills. I don’t see anything promising heading back north, and the woods look thick. I double back towards the way I came in.I hate doubling back. I am thinking about work. I am out of the ecstasy of pure exploration. My feet are a little sore. I haven’t been hiking enough. I’m hungry. Was this hill this big on the way down.Sometimes this year I just wished I could get out of this year, like it was somehow cursed and in some way connected to the calendar. Just like now, should have just gone the straight way back. But there were also such incredible blessings. A car accident, covid, a family health emergency. A wonderful new niece sent by heaven, Baptism, my Wife on the other. I thought of a friend who passed last week, it felt like a light went out, and yet that light will never go out will it, it’s still here in us isn’t it? It’s not this year, that’s just life, everywhere always the same though we try and figure it out with the limited tools we have, imagine saddling this complexity with ‘what a year!’, NO.Ultimately it’s a matter of vision, of faith. The one creek is empty, but there is another. It looks good but it too is empty. You get snagged. You move on. The leap of faith is not so much knowing that there is another good creek beyond the horizon but that it doesn’t matter if there is or isn’t, and that either way it’s a perfect day.I am back on the right track. Back through the ancient forest and down. I cross the creek, sit for a moment, drink some water, eat a granola bar. I watch the water, the grass on the bank in the wind. I walk along a quad path and pick up the stream well below where I tried it before. I rig up the rod and try again.

Pickleball, my pet peeve

You may have noticed the growing popularity of pickleball in recent years. Now tennis courts are mobbed with people playing pickleball, where a few years ago, tennis was the only sport played on tennis courts, which is what they were designed for as their name would indicate.

It’s a form of tennis that has had as much athleticism stripped from it as possible, no running, no range of motion, no hard serves, and don’t worry about sweating, you won’t. You barely have to move. You might lunge a bit, but your feet are pretty much planted in a tiny court. You literally move more playing ping pong in your basement, or harnessed to vr goggles, than doubles pickleball. If you’re young, and don’t have serious injuries, you have no excuse for playing pickleball.

I don’t have anything against pickleball per se. Particularly for people with limited mobility, (it seems particularly popular among the recently retired, knee brace set). People are outdoors having fun and getting exercise, all good things.

But to me pickleball is symptomatic of a general trend. Another example is e-bikes. A few years ago, you didn’t see any. Now everybody is buzzing around on these, and don’t worry if you prefer to not do any work and move around on a scooter, there’s electric scooters, electric skateboards, electric everything. Or camping. According to MEC, less and less people are going backcountry camping, and more are choosing car camping. People have stripped the sweat out of things that were meant to be sweaty fun and left only the fun. But is that really fun?

And what’s wrong with sweat? With mechanization, as a culture we mostly cut the sweat out of our working lives. Needing to sweat to stay healthy and sane, we started sports and gyms. And now we’ve cut the sweat out of our sports and gyms. ‘I’m going for a workout on my pedal assist electric bike. Then some pickleball to cool down. Then I’ll take an e-scooter home while I talk loudly on the phone and push my belly out in front of me.’ It’s pathetic.

And then we wonder aloud about high rates of childhood obesity, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the like. We’ve stripped the sweat from sport and the nutrition from food. We’ve pickleballed our entire lives.

Think about this: if youi’re playing pickleball now, in the flower of your youth, what will you do when your joints are worn out? Water pickleball? Where do you go when you start with the softest sport and need to go softer. It’s a question people will need to play out soon.

Look at our economy. Our governments borrow hundreds of billions every year, with no plan to pay it back. We’ve stripped the sweat from the economy and kept the fun. I wonder if there will be any consequences? The societal equivalent of type 2 diabetes is already rampant in the Western world and it’s getting worse every day.

For me, I will not play pickleball. Not until I’m arthritic or surgerized from enjoying my youth running hard, and playing real sports. I will not get an e-bike or ride one of those soft scooters. Yes you can say I’m one of those ‘back in my day’ men. Because I am, and I’m too old to change.


My old boss always used to bring us obituaries of people he knew, especially hard working lawyers that died young. I didn’t fully understand why at the time and probably still don’t. There was an element of ‘life is short’, he also used to turn it into a joke about how hard we, his apprentices, were working him, and also that there’s more to life than the office. But we all used to work six days a week elbow to elbow too.

In any event reviewing obituaries has become a habit. At first glance it appears morbid, but as much as you could be dwelling on death really you see life, the lives of all sorts of people you’ve never met and some you have, and the love that their families have for them. It’s very humbling and touching. When you read enough of them, you understand how precious life is. Sometimes it is taken away from mere infants, inexplicably, sometimes from young parents, from the very old, doctors, teachers, carpenters, devoutly religious, people with substance abuse issues, people with and without families, there are statistics that can describe this but the tapestry that emerges is textured and touching.

The past several years have changed the way I think about a lot of things. I became a regular churchgoer, and will be baptized next month. I fell in love with and married the most incredible woman, who has brightened my life and made me feel that anything is possible. This was at the same time as covid19, where our social lives and much of the economy were stamped out, for reasons that were understandable at the time, but are currently arbitrary and punitive government action. It shows that even a benign western democracy will trample you without a thought, perhaps more subtly than once was done, but they will take your job, make it practically impossible for you to travel, and the like.

In March my wife and I were in a car crash on the highway. Everybody walked away from the accident with what could be best described as whiplash injuries, which was itself a blessing. When the accident first happened, the cab of our car was full of smoke from the airbags. I tried to move the car forward but it wouldn’t turn on much less move. My Wife couldn’t open her door. I was about to step out of my door when a huge semi blew past at breakneck speed. What he was doing I have no idea. But if I had set foot out of the car I surely would have been killed in an instant. I got out when it was safe and cranked open my wife’s door. You can’t imagine how good it felt to know that she was ok, certainly shook up but nothing obviously critical.

In July there was a serious medical emergency in our family, out of the blue and seemingly without root cause. As I round the corner on 40, it brings the point home, you can’t take anything for granted. But we always always do. I’ve asked the question here before, where are we going? Where are we rushing off to? Stuck in a traffic jam, overheating. A bad car crash and a family emergency… what should I be taking from this? Still, just plunge back into work.

I can’t help but feel that these events were signs, warnings. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do different. I have changed but nothing I do has changed. I haven’t taken the time, or don’t have the wisdom or the courage to drill into it. And maybe there is no meaning. Maybe this is just statistics, dice rolling. I don’t know.

Ruling engines and lapping the ultimate screw

The story of the ruling engine is one of those bizarro incredibly important things that has slipped into obscurity, only really known by people still directly involved in this sort of thing. I was briefly involved in this area working at LBNL’s Advanced Light Source, measuring diffraction gratings, their efficiencies, and attempting to estimate how […]

Ruling engines and lapping the ultimate screw

Cypress Hills Trip

One of the all time great trips Dad and I did was early May, probably 2006, to the Cypress Hills and Southeast Alberta. We left in the afternoon, it felt like the world was truly alive, not just green and growing as in May, but farmers seeding, rigs drilling, irrigation pipe being trenched and laid, busy busy beehive world. We had a bite in Medicine Hat, stayed overnight in Shaunavon, drove South, checked out pretty little Eastend tucked in a coulee, where Wallace Stegner lived a while as a boy. At the time Dad and I had both read ‘Wolf Willow, where Stegner talks about his childhood and the historical context of the area and the West as a whole so we were excited to see what we’d been so absorbed in with our own eyes.

We went to Fort Walsh, the first NWMP post in the area, on the edge of the hills. It felt like a long ways from anywhere, and would have been that much more remote in the days before rail, road, flight. We drove into the Cypress Hills proper, and across the Gap, we were worried about getting stuck in the bottom, as the road was wet and mucky with spring moisture, and there were only wary antelope for miles around on the wide open fenceless steppe.

The next day we went through, Manyberries, I loved that lots of people there had old painted up pumpjacks as lawn ornaments there. Prior to our trip, Dad had spotted a road that cut down to the Milk River, and made a map to it. He was always interested in the idea of having land where you could put your back up something like a big river or a grazing reserve, and have no visitors, real quiet like. We made our way to the road across real wide open short grass prairie, not a fence for miles, just cowboys riding with their cows.

At the bottom of the road was a beautiful little ranch and a well site. The type of ranch dreams are made of. In the road cut we spotted a shell bed and got some neat fossils when we stopped on the way back up. There was a big dinosaur leg bone too, we noticed it had been flagged for recovery,, almost thought it was petrified wood, but no that was a big ol leg that would make a cows leg look like a chickens by comparison.

Then we went back up and across the bottom of Pakowki Lake which was totally dry alkali at that time., across and down to Writing on Stone Writing On Stone. Writing on Stone in May is one of God’s true gems. Swallows flitting about above the river, everything leafing out green and fresh. The petroglyphs are absorbing and make you think deep thoughts about the primal power of the earth and the people that, although they hunted with stone arrowheads, felt the same things we feel in spring, and perhaps wrote about it, on stone.

We talked about all the things fathers and sons talk about. That and the roads Opa built down there in the 40s and some wells dad drilled, success and failure, the natives and Stegner and early settlers. Looking back it almost seems odd, we didn’t take any pictures, and what’s more didn’t feel the impulse to,. This was before cell phones had good cameras and it was expected that people document everything for social media. In some ways I wish I had some to help me remember, in others, I’m happy that we were just on a road trip, father and son. It’s been said before but is worth drilling home – savour those times with your family.