I’m not a book reviewer

So I just finished reading a book “Davy The Punk”, and I quite enjoyed it. It was an interesting look at the parts of “Toronto The Good” of the early to mid 20th century that you don’t hear much about. And because I’ve liked the author, Bob Bossin, as a folk musician and storyteller for many years, I thought I should write something about how much I enjoyed it.

But as I was thinking about it, I couldn’t separate out in my mind whether I liked the book because I liked Bob Bossin, or whether I liked the book on its own. And really, that seems like an important distinction if I were going to recommend this book to people who didn’t grow up hearing Stringband or seeing Bob Bossin at folk festivals. And I guess that’s the part of literary reviewing or literary criticism that’s harder than it looks.

So what it comes down to is what I can tell you about this book: it was written by Bob Bossin, mostly about his father Davy, who was a pivotal figure in the hidden (and not so hidden) gambling “underworld” of Toronto, with diversions into its connection to gambling and crime figures of New York and Chicago, as well as anecdotes about famous and infamous figures you’ve probably heard of and some you’ve never heard of. There’s some things a Trudeau Liberal such as myself finds hard to reconcile with my own worldview and belief in what Canada is and stands for, like the blatant anti-semitism of Canadian culture and government back then.

And all I can really advise you is, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “If you like this sort of thing, this is just the sort of thing you’d like”.

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Spoke too soon.

Update on this post about my Garmin Forerunner:

I just tried it again, and the god damned thing did the same things as before – it took almost exactly 5 minutes into a workout to start showing my heart rate. After the workout, I waited until I had recovered and turned off the GPS and turned it back on, and again, it says “HR Monitor Detected” but no heart rate showing even after twenty minutes. I tried changing the battery in the heart rate monitor strap, no change. Dammit. Time to try some electrolyte gel, I guess.

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I’m much happier with Garmin now

So the other day I wrote a blog post about how annoyed I was with Garmin – my brand new Garmin Forerunner 310XT had been acting badly right out of the box, and when Garmin tech support seemed to be ignoring everything I told them and doing the typical “scan the ticket for keywords, send a canned response that doesn’t solve the problem and they would have known it didn’t solve the problem if they’d actually read the ticket” I blew my top and wrote a scathing blog post.

Well, somebody at Garmin noticed my blog post, went back over the interactions I’d had with their tech support and decided that yes, I was being ignored and they needed to make it right. So he sent me a UPS label to ship back my Forerunner, and he replaced my Forerunner 310XT with a Forerunner 910XT. As far as I can tell, a 910XT is basically a 310XT with some extra features to appeal to cyclists and swimmers, which probably won’t help me much. But hey, an upgrade is an upgrade, right?

So I turned it on, configured it to listen to my heart rate monitor, power cycled it again, and it picked up the heart rate monitor in a few seconds! I paired it with Garmin Express, and it worked – Garmin Express is no longer telling me that there is some problem connecting with Garmin’s servers (which makes me think the message was bogus – bad programming there guys). And I went for a bike ride, and as soon as I got home I dropped the Forerunner on the desk beside my computer and before I could sit down it had already sent the data to Garmin Connect. No fiddling around having to change the setting back to enable pairing and pairing and all that manual stuff I had to do with the old one!

So much nicer when things work the way they’re supposed to.

Ok, I’m happier. I’m not ecstatic, but I’m happier. If they’d want to make me ecstatic, they could have done things slightly different:

  • They could have done what the hard drive manufacturers called “advanced shipment” where they take your credit card info, ship you the replacement, and only charge you if you don’t return the broken one. Heck, even Seagate does that and by every other criteria (including the quality of their drives) they suck! As it was, I didn’t have a functioning GPS for the first two paddles of the season – I could have put up with the problems with the 310XT for an extra week if it meant I could have held onto it until the replacement arrived.
  • Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but I always feel a little bit ripped off when I get a new device and it’s DOA, and the replacement they send you is a refurb. I feel like I should get new for new. I can understand why Seagate doesn’t do that for 10 month old drives (I mean, besides the fact that they suck), but the 310XT was only a few months old and it had been broken in this manner since day 1. But I also kind of understand why they don’t.

Bottom line – I’ve bought a Garmin GPSMAP-195 and GPSMAP-296 for flying (biggest mistake in my life was replacing the 296 with an EKMAP-IV when it got stolen instead of a 496), a nuvi 205w for driving, the StreetPilot app for my iPhone, two Forerunner 301s, and a Forerunner 310XT that got upgraded, and right now I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t buy another Garmin in the future.

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Second paddle of the season

It was forecast to be 46°F, so a group of us agreed to meet up at BayCreek today at 5pm. On the drive over, my car thermometer was saying it was actually 53°F! Not bad after the harsh cold we’ve had this winter. Present when I arrived were Paul D in his West Side Boat Shop (WSBS) EFT, Doug in his WSBS Marauder, and both Furtoss brothers in their Epic 18xs.

The water was quite a bit lower, and quite a bit slower, than it had been on Saturday. It was still challenging in places, and there were a few places where one or more of us was carried across the stream into somebody else’s boat. But really, it was all about enjoying the evening and the company of our fellow paddlers. We didn’t see any mink this time, but did see some mergansers and mallards. We also saw several people out walking their dogs, which might be one reason we didn’t see any mink.
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We went up 3.5 miles. Once again I still don’t have a GPS, so I don’t know how long it took. With the lesser current than Saturday, the pace was probably a bit better this time. On the way back down, a couple of the guys seemed to want to talk rather than paddle, so I forged on ahead, but I soon found myself surrounded by them again. Not sure if I was slowing down or they were speeding up. Probably both.

The way downstream was more fun with navigating tricky currents and eddies, although not as tricky as they’d been on Saturday. I love the feeling of speed when you’ve got the current pushing you along, but somebody remarked that you don’t see as much along the bank when it’s whipping by at 7 mph.

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The piece de resistance came right near the end, with less than a kilometer to go. A huge bald eagle was standing on the bank. One of the Furtoss brothers got to about a boat length from it when it took off. But it perched in a tree that was over the creek where we were heading. We all drifted to it trying not to startle it. We were all wishing we had a camera, when I realized I had my phone in my pfd pocket. I pulled it out, and couldn’t see a damn thing in the screen. At the time I thought it was just glare, but afterwards when it was too late I realized I had polarized glasses on and could probably have seen better if I’d taken them off. But as it was, I shot about 10 pictures blind, and one or two of them were ok.

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First paddle of the season

Thunderbolt in snow
Yesterday Doug and I met at Baycreek for my first paddle of the season. Compared to previous years before my surgeries, this is relatively late for the first paddle, but it’s been a pretty harsh winter. The creek was open and running very strong, and it was 46°F, so it was a perfect first paddle.

Doug and I were both in our West Side Boat Shop boats, him in a Marauder and I in my Thunderbolt, and we still had our race numbers from the Long Lake race last year, which by coincidence were consecutive. Our boats looked like they belonged together. I was dressed in my farmer john wetsuit with long johns underneath, and a NRS Hydroskin light neoprene shirt, OR wind shell, and PFD up top, paddling gloves, and wool cap – all of that worked just fine. Unfortunately on my feet all I had were regular socks under neoprene socks, and that was *not* fine. My feet were cold before I even got in the boat, and when I got out afterwards they were numb and very painful as they thawed out. I’ve got to figure out something better. Somebody suggested plastic bags under the socks, maybe I’ll try that next time.

The strong current on the creek provided some challenge to my boat handling skills. Lots of swirling eddy currents, especially around corners – at one point the current caught my bow and whipped me across the creek right into Doug, which could have been bad for both of us. After that I was careful to go through the big corners single file, and start sweeping on the outside before the current caught me instead of after.

Later that day, I heard Doug telling somebody that I had tired him out and several times he saw me stop paddling to wait for him. In fact, what had happened was I’d powered ahead through a corner or other tricky bit to go through in single file, and I needed that recovery.

It was a pretty good day for spotting wildlife. At one point a mink was running along the bank going the same direction as us. It went into a pile of something and I thought he’d gone to ground, but Doug said “I can see him looking out at us”, and sure enough a few seconds later he pops out again and runs some more along side us, before finding another pile of stuff to hide in. Later on, we saw a diving duck that had a lot of white on the body and a roundish white cheek patch. I originally thought it was a Bufflehead, but I think it was probably a Common Goldeneye. We also saw several Common Mergansers. The Canada Geese were out starting to stake out nest areas.

I didn’t have my GPS, but Doug said we did 2.5 miles up in 45 minutes, and then returned the same 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. My shoulder started twinging a little bit with about a mile to go, so I guess we turned back at about the right time. But I did some stretches afterwards and the pain went down to background levels, so that’s comforting.

Later that evening, we were discussing plans for the season. It looks like Round the Mountain on May 17th is a definite, as is the Long Lake race in September at the end of the season. I doubt I’ll bother with Armond Basset, it’s always a drag. Blackburn is a stretch goal – it’s longer than any race I’ve done, and it’s on the ocean. I’ve also got the “TC Surfski Immersion Weekend” on June 5th-8th, and Oscar Chalupsky is giving a clinic here in town on July 13th. Mostly I think I’d like to spend more time out in the wave on the lake rather than pounding out miles on the canal like I did last year.

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