Sunday, November 2, 2014

95 Tory

If I have been preoccupied this year, and at this point in my life there is a lot to keep me occupied, the Toronto municipal election was the most emotionally stressful. It's probably the closest I have come to being a sports fan; obsessed with watching, but not actually particpating. Due to current life priorities, I don't have the time to volunteer like I did in 2003 (or 2006) , and I'm not a believer in social media campaigning. This leaves me a passive observer reading the paper/Internet and worrying.

I am not a Ford supporter. It's partially because of his politics, as I am more skeptical of the private sector then he is, but mainly because of the man himself. I often said that I disagree with Harper but I believe that he is a thoughtful man; he has a mind bent to task of running the government and truly is serving Canada first. I do not believe that is the case with Ford. Manners matter, and there is something to be said for kindness, principle and understanding the need for compromise. Ford is a reckless bully, ill suited to government where power is shared (versus the private sector where boss rule is supreme) and he didn't really understand all the neighbourhoods he was mayor for.

And so I have watched the year long campaign with the main hope that Ford would lose. Unlike most people I was happy with either Chow or Tory and believe our city would both be well by both. I leaned to Tory more for political than policy reasons. One, he is new to council, and gives the councillors a chance to show how they can cooperate and give a sense that Ford was the problem. I feel Chow would have difficulty making the council "turn the page". Two, I feel he is in a better position to neogitate with the city union and service providers, I fear Chow would have the similary problems that Miller had in 2009. These reasons are mostly rationalizing, the main reason I preferred Tory is that he is a compromise candidate. Also, he is not Ford.

I found the campaign interesting, except that the Fords kind of poisoned the debate. The election was about getting rid of Rob Ford. I feel that Chow ( whose platform I liked for the most part) did herself in. She was the aggressive anti-Ford, attacking Ford while letting Tory be the sunny "we just need to work together" candidate. I think she got tangled up in the "circus" and citizens were looking for a break. I remember reading that her campaign team actively worked on other potential progressive candidates to keep them out of the race. I wonder now if that was a mistake. The campaign was 1 Progressive and a bunch of Conservatives of different temperant. If there had been more progressive voices, there would have been more debate on issues of the left, moving beyond transit, development, and fiscal management (they are important but they are one part of the city's life). There is a sense a lot was missed in this campaign.

The final nail in the coffin was Doug Ford coming in the last month, able to spend all his campaign finances in one month whereas everyone else had been spending it over the course of a year. Doug also brought in a relentess attack on Tory. The last month of a campaign is always the worse as the desparate runners go negative hard and fast to try and create doubt about the frontrunner. It is just awful to watch.

Still, at the end of the day we have a candidate who knows the city, has been active in it most of his life, really wants council to work and get things done. It is like the first term of Mel Lastman, before the nonsense begins. I guess in a democracy that is all you can hope for.

At the end of the day, Ford is not Mayor. He is still on council, but I feel his short era is over. The populism that he used to get to power (which he wasted) will likely be taken up by a more able "Every man" rich man in 2018. But for now, we can focus on issues. The city's arguments will not be about morals and bullying but instead about highways, subways, jobs, parks, budgets, and details.

If there is one wish I have after this frustrating four years, is that people take Bill Davis' words of wisdom to heart; "Bland works". We can disagree on what should be done, but we should all agree that details matter. Knowing stuff, be it fiscal math or door to door understanding of the city, is a key strength in our city doing the right thing and moving forward. Let the Scandal and Intrigue be left to the arts, in our novels and movies. Let our government be beautifully dull. Let Policy win the day.

On a personal note, the election has inspired me to get involved, somehow, in making this city better. Now, I just need to figure out how and when. It will be more challenging than yelling at the newpaper or television on how the world is wrong, but I believe it will be more fulfilling in the end. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

95 horrible weather

I am not sure if it is the fact I am getting older, spending more time outside because I have little kids, or am now paying attention, but there seems to be a lot of horrible weather lately.
The ice storm this past winter and the cold cold snap that caused it has really made me weary of bad weather (still not into using the term polar vortex. At least not until I understand the science behind it). Having a house doesn't help matters as I now seem closer to the world than I did living in a condo tower. Now extended rainfalls are concerning as I listen for my sump pump.
Apparently we are getting three days of rain which is going to be a challenge with child #2 if we can't have walks outside.
Fun times. At least it is not snowing...yet.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

96 Quick game update

Visiting family this weekend in Owen Sound and actually got to play some card games(!) instead of the usual sitting in front of the couch watching one person play a video game. I should say that I am not against video games, as I am currently working through the latest Tomb Raider on the PS3 (which I highly recommend, similar in gameplay to Batman:Arkam asylum, but more interesting characters, story, and atomsphere), I just really enjoy playing board games when with a group of people.

The first game of the night was San Juan. My brother really likes this game, partly due to the fact that he is undefeated in it. This was the first exposure to the game for my brother-in-law and he quite enjoyed it as well. Both menitioned that they liked how quickly the game rules can be picked up and that you spend most of your time playing the game. My brother took first, my brother-in-law took second. I made a gamble on the chapel early game, but it slowed my card drawing and slowing my development of a card drawing engine. The game's pace was good and didn't drag. A good solid game.

After that we brought out Mundus Novus, a game of spice trading. It is a card game of trading to get sets or sequences to acquire doubloons or special cards to make it easier to get sets or sequences. I always like this game, but it is hard to teach. Unlike San Juan, it tries to be universal with the use of symbols rather than words. This move has made the game less intuitive. Still, it is a clever game with interesting decisions and interactions between players.

Finally, we wrapped up with a game of Love letter. I have spoken of it before and I don't really want to repeat myself, but this is a good game. This is a treasure, a game that you can play with anyone. It is fun and fast with a little bit of card counting to imply strategy.

It was a fun night. Board games and friends. Good times!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shedding (entry 97)

I must confess that I had forgotten how sleepy, perhaps lethargic is a better word, paternal leave can be. The days do tend to blend together and one's passions and ambitions are forgotten in the volume of time that paternal leave accords. It might be more the fact that children are beings of now, particularly when they are under a year old, and despite one's best efforts you find yourself shrinking your horizon to a couple hours, a day, maybe two, as find yourself more in their world then your own.

Despite these feelings of being too passive (as I often feel when I come to this blog) I have been active to an evolutionary way, allowing small things to accumulate. The value of these changes are a matter of debate, but I will start with the easy one. I have lost weight through a combination of mostly eating at home and the long morning walks I take my son on for his nap. I didn't realize it was happening until my jeans stopped fitting. I have decided to add some upper strength (push up and chin ups) and some yogas to my week to see if I can improve further. This extra energy has been consumed by my children, but there is something satisfying to being able to carry both of them up the stairs without being winded.

I still seem to be obsessed with the Internet, particularly You Tube. A mix of board and video game reviews and playthroughs, courses on history, biology, news and event analysis, long interviews-- these fill the background of my days. I notice that I struggle with silence now, uncomfortable with being alone with my mind. I think I have eluded to the loneliness of paternal leave for men (I am not sure if it is unique to me, but I have read several newspapers essays that share my experience) and this mental tic is likely a cause of it. I believe warmer weather will help with this (if only to make the weather nicer to walk in).

I have started reading again, mostly web articles, which is an effort to rebuild my concentration, which my Internet obsession and various other activities has so greatly destroyed. I have been researching some interesting developments in improving your memory through flash cards, updated into digital forms. They appear to be thoroughly tested methods, so I am giving them a try, once I decided on what I want to memorize...French maybe?

My weekends seem very full, with most of my relaxing happening in the few hours between the kid's bedtime and mine during the week. Doing a little bit of things that will hopefully develop into something.

I think I will leave it there, my rambling shedding of winter blah, ending only with the happy thought that out my sunroom's window new shoots of grass are popping out. Spring is here with all its sunny promises.



Monday, March 10, 2014

The Long Reboot

As is our habit, my wife and I endeavored to watch all the nominees for best picture. This year was a bit of a challenge due to us having a six month old and the recent trend of Oscar nominated films not being on DVD or digital rental until after the Oscars air. Still we were able to see five of them.
The whole process made me think about reboots. The Oscars did not all impress me, but they did seem to avoid formula. They were a contrast to the superhero/sci fi movies that seemed to work within a box of convention that rarely surprise me now.
I say this with a degree of sadness. Sci fi use to ask all the question, challenge me as a reader. Now they ask the same old questions and have been stripped of their harsher political edges. The mental equivalent of comfort food.
I guess I am getting older and the superhero movies are not growing up with me. I am not sure if this is a bad thing or not.

Now just have to figure out when I can see twelve years a slave.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Settlers of Catan (entry 98)

Last weekend, we were visiting friends and I had the opportunity to play two full games of Settlers of Catan (with the Knights of Catan expansion). I have menitioned my love of board games before on the blog, but I had not really had a chance to dig into a eurogame (more mathy than "American" style games). It was nice to play a thinking game; it reminded me why I love them. The strategy, the mental work of figuring out the math, making plans, revising plans. I tend to prefer the European games as they tend to use luck as a disrupting element rather than a main component of the game, so you don't feel that you are working a slot machine but an actual game. They also have many roads to victory allowing for everyone to still be "in the running" through the entire of the game. I really recommend trying these sort of games, as they show a different way of thinking about the world; a contrast to the constant use of sports metaphors when thinking how things are. I can be convinced that life is a like a semi-cooperative game over it being an American football game.

Back to Settlers, it was an interesting experience to play one of the building blocks of Eurogames. It is probably the best known euro-style designer board game. I would argue it is similar to Monopoly in that a lot of people have copied or have worked to build a better version of the game. As a person who plays a lot of games, I have played these "Children of Catan" and I can honestly say they have improved on the original design so it is weird to plan an earlier model so to speak. It threw me off my game. I came in second both times, but the first game I stalled at 9 points (you need13 to win) because my strategy was not taking into account the expansion. The second game was better with two players having 12 points when the winner reached 13. The couple we were playing with plays it all the time which is always a challenge, but there is a lot of luck in the game as well. The winner knew the game and rolled well. I was proud of my performance in the second game as it showed improvement.

(as a complete side bar, the biggest design challenge for these sort of games is removing "dead time" where you are waiting for your turn to happen. The main problem is that you acquire/lose resources at the start of your turn which makes it hard to plan until the start of your turn, with all the other players watching you)

To dove tail this experience, we had a first game night of the year (at the new house). It was a small affair but a number of games were played. Augustus which is essentially Roman Bingo, Tsuro a tile laying game, and Village (another euro game). These are all newer games and have learned lessons from Catan. That said, they are more "light" games (Village to a lesser extent) and so the mental bar was a little lower. But as a wise game reviewer once said, "the important question you need to ask is 'Is Everyone having fun?'" In answer to that question I would say yes.

Now I just need to convince six people to play Twilight Imperium. :)


Friday, February 21, 2014

Losing track of the days (entry 99)

I have started my parterity leave. Six months with the kid. It is early days but the experience is already different in that my second child seems a little more laid back. I don't know if it's my son or the fact this is my second time around, but it doesn't seem as stressful. I would like to say that it's the extra years of fatherhood, but it might be more the fact that my son is a happy buddha, crying only for a specific problem.

I don't want to mislead you, I am weary. A newborn is taxing in their need for large amounts of attention and the physical demands of lugging a heavy baby around (looking forward to the crawling/walking phase) . Actually giving it a bit of thought. My exhaustion might be more from the fact I have to get up every morning to drive my first child to school (I hate driving in this Toronto) and picking her up. When we only had one, I was able to sleep in. Now there are no more days of staying in. This might not be such a bad thing when the weather is better.

Circling back, it hasn't been too bad, despite the disruption. Trying to get myself into a schedule which makes us both happy. I have been walking more (discovering the new neighbourhood), trying to get back into cooking and reading. Still, it is fun work.

Not much more news, watched three of the Oscar movies so far (Gravity, Captain Philips, Philomena). My favorite so far is Philomena. It really surprised me, cutting the fiction close to reality. I also have a soft spot of journalist movies. I am also a Coogan fan and Judi Dench was amazing.

Well, caught up. We try to make blog entries part of my schedule. Till next time.


Monday, February 3, 2014

The start of things (entry 100)

I am sitting in my new house. It still seems surreal to type it. After such a long journey, which was a bit of a emotional roller coaster (to say the least), it's hard to believe that the next chapter of our lives is underway. S and I have been joking with each other that the day the condo sold was our New Year's for 2014. The calendar didn't line up with the major change in our life and the celebration of the New Year seemed a little odd as we were still in the condo and didn't own the house yet. The stasis didn't end until we had the keys and we're starting our move.

So, the meditation I tend to do on New Year's Day was a bit muted. Although I still managed to make a challenging list of tasks to get all twisted about when they are not struck out. There are some things one can't help but do.

Paternal leave is quickly approaching as well, a reminder that another "beginning" is happening. My son turns six months old this week. The turning point where he starts to develop a personality (or rather a more noticeable one) and starts doing the big firsts–crawl, words, walks, rolls overs and all that–which S refers to as "the better six months of parental leave" which I can't argue with. He's more of a person now.

In short 2014 feels like a year of action (reaction?) rather than waiting. I look forward to it.