/*from pinterest*/
O Christmas Tree!

O Christmas Tree!

Last Saturday, after a pizza lunch, we decorated the big spruce tree in front of the house. We bought 800 lights at Costco, and then our son Ryan brought over his crane.

Zoom Boom

Our other son Kyle went up in the basket along with one of their friends. Way up.

way up!

Ryan positioned the basket . . .


. . . and Makita supervised on the ground.


Liz helped with untangling the lights and attaching the next strands.

up in the basket

We had sunny weather for this, with the temperature hovering between 5 and 0 Celsius. A good thing, since the operation took several hours.

in the basket

And finally, we ended up with this:

O Christmas Tree!

When we finished, we celebrated by going out for Chinese Smorgasbord. Snow is predicted for tomorrow. I think our tree will look pretty.

The Equator and Fakery

The Equator and Fakery

This next Ecuador installment is about our January 2007 visit to la Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world, the Equator. 

We stood on the equator on Sunday, both of them.
The bus ride from Gringolandia takes about 90 minutes and we only had to transfer once. On the second bus, Rolf gave up his seat to a young father holding a baby. Then Rolf moved to this wide bench near the front of the bus, and as he was approaching, the ticket-taker dusted it off for him. I’m not sure, but I think the ticket-taker appreciated Rolf giving up his seat. A bit later, Rolf asked the driver what CD was playing. (Rolf’s Spanish is muy useful.) The driver took the CD case, pulled out the insert and gave it to him. On the way home, Rolf found the CD for $1.50, the usual bootlegged price.

Now we are at the Equator. They have built a big monument with N-S-E-W markers. The monument contains an interesting museum about the many indigenous tribes in the country. It seems each river valley has its own unique tribe with its own unique language. Since there was no communication between the tribes, it’s easy to see how the Spaniards conquered them 500 years ago. Today, many of these tribes speak Quechua as well as their own language and many of the men speak Spanish for commerce. Some of the less civilized, very remote tribes only have their own language.
In the museum, we learn that in 1736, a bunch of French scientists figured out where the equator was and somewhere along the line the Ecuadorian government built this monument for tourism. Lots of little restaurants and souvenir shops grew around the monument, and now each Sunday, locals and tourists from all over the world visit the place to see the indigenous dancers and hear the bands. It’s an ongoing fiesta.


Now here’s the part about the fakery. Before our visit, one of the teachers at the school told us that the monument is built on a fake equator line. Apparently, a private person figured out that his house was on the “real” equator—as calculated using GPS. And now this place, called Inti-ñan — Camino del Sol, is running competition with the traditional place. We found it down a dirt path a short distance from the French calculation. At Inti-ñan, they claim that the French scientists got it wrong in 1736.

And they did get it wrong, but given their instruments, they were close. The monument is built 240 metres south of the true equator.


However, Inti-ñan is not on the true equator either, although the guides are happy to tell you otherwise! This place is still 130 metres south of the true equator but whoever is running Inti-ñan does a great job, even though this “real” equator stuff is a hoax.

fake equator
At any rate, on the day of our visit we bought into the hoax and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This miniature museum has its own collection of artifacts and the guides are excellent. Our guide was born in New Jersey and moved here with her parents when she was nine. She has a slight Spanish accent.
Her job is to show us all these “experiments”. That should have been my first clue. We are either on the equator or we are not and there is no need to “prove” it. And especially no need to prove it several times.
First, our guide tells us about the centrifugal force of the earth turning. She says that if you are right on the equator, the north and south forces cancel each other out. To demonstrate this, she takes a movable sink, puts it on the equator, fills it with water, puts the bucket under it, and pulls the plug. The water goes straight down. No swirling. Then she moves the sink six feet north, fills the sink again, and this time, it swirls counter-clockwise. (Much as a hurricane spins counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.) Move the sink to the south—only six feet away from the equator, and the water swirls clockwise.

The second experiment involves an egg. Our guide tells us that you can balance an egg (raw) on the head of a nail on the equator because the centrifugal forces are pulling equally on it. She does the balancing. It’s difficult, you need to be patient, and if you can do it, you get a certificate. Rolf does it, and he gets the certificate.
I don’t understand the third experiment. It’s called the resistance test. If you hold your hands locked over your head, and she tries to pull them down, she can’t. But when you stand on the equator, she can. Of course, she may be trying harder for the equator example.

We are also told that we weigh one kilo less at the equator because the earth bulges at its centre and so you are further from the gravitational force. However, like many weight loss programs, the effect is transitory.

The last thing she shows us is not an experiment, but an experience. You know how you can walk heel to toe with your arms out, and it’s, like, no big deal? Apparently, on the equator, a lot of people can’t. Because they sense (your inner ear senses) the centrifugal forces pulling. The more likely reason for this is the power of suggestion.

But I believed all this, and I wrote my son Kyle an email about it.

The next day Kyle wrote back:

In the latest email, you both told me about the swirling water on opposite sides of the equator. The theory behind that is called the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect works on the fact that because you’re further out from the centre of the earth on the equator you move faster than someone north or south of you because they are moving around a smaller radius.

Therefore if you were to throw an object straight north or south it would appear to curve in relation to the ground, but not enough that you could detect it.

The effect is very small and the swirling water effect is a trick.

If the water in the sink is spinning in one direction initially as it drains, the effect is amplified and you will see the water begin to spin in that direction. I read on a website about how they do that trick they showed you on the equator.

When they move the sink to the other side of the line (that could be anywhere, this trick even works in Canada) they rotate the sink in one direction or another. If the sink is not perfectly round, as they turn the sink, the water gets a little push in the direction they want it to spin. So if you were facing with your back to the line, then turned with the sink to your left in order to take it to the other side of the line, then the water would spin counter-clockwise when you took the plug out.

This is the site that explained it to me if you’re still confused.

As I read this website, I discovered I was not the only one being misled. It turns out there are lots of tourist traps around the world, that are near the equator, that claim to be the “real” equator. For example, Nanyuki, Kenya.

And so it looks like we got snookered but it is Such a good show, and I’m sure it provides some good business for the locals.

If you would like to see a picture of where the true equator is, this traveller has one of Latitude 0.00000


Have you ever stood somewhere on the equator? Have you ever stood between two states or two provinces? Have you ever been taken in by the swirling waters?
(For the terminally curious, you can read all of my Ecuador stories by clicking on “Ecuador” in the TAGS.)

Subaru Ironman Canada

Subaru Ironman Canada

Last Sunday, August 26, my son Kyle participated in the Subaru Ironman Canada held in Penticton, British Columbia. He was one of more than 2,800 athletes competing. They came from all the Canadian provinces, 44 of the US states and more than 25 countries.
An Ironman must swim 2.4 miles (3.8 K), then bike 112 miles (180 K) and then run a marathon – 26.2 miles (42 K). The event starts at 7 AM and ends at midnight. It doesn’t seem humanly possible, does it?
The swimming has to be completed in 2 hours and 20 minutes. If you are still in the water by 9:20 AM you are not allowed to continue the race. The biking component must be completed by 5:30 PM. The running must be completed by midnight. That is, running, or walking, or crawling.
My husband and I were on the road while this was happening so we stopped at McDonald’s to use the free Wi-Fi and get updates. Each athlete carries a chip. When they cross certain points, the chip sends information to the race officials who post it to the internet. It was so exciting to see that Kyle had completed the swimming and the biking and was halfway through the marathon at 6:30 PM.
Still, we didn’t know if he would make it. Well, my husband didn’t know. He was worried. But I knew Kyle would do it. Later Sunday night, I found an Ethernet cable to plug into and learned that he’d finished.
  • He did the swim in 1 hour 14 minutes and 33 seconds.
  • He did the biking in 5 hours 54 minutes and 20 seconds.
  • And he did the run in 6 hours 41 minutes and 59 seconds.
 Transition times added another 10 to 11 minutes for a total time of 14 hours 1 minute and 41 seconds.

Monday morning’s text message from Kyle said this:

Awesome swim! Awesome ride! But knees were done at 120 km.
Actually ran well the first 10 km. Less well the next 10. Walked the next 5 and hobbled the last 15! Felt good hydration wise but I think I started going into shock the last 10 K from the ridiculous knee pain.

Just what every mother wants to hear . . .

But he finished. In pain, but he finished. I am so proud of this kid!

This is only Kyle’s second race. His first race was a half Ironman last year which you can read about here. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

What about you? Given yourself any ridiculous challenges lately? It doesn’t have to be a triathlon to count!




I buy chocolate bars for Halloween, a big box from Costco. I anticipate lots of trick or treaters, but the neighbourhood is growing up, so there are fewer trick and treaters every year. Which means there are lots of leftover chocolate bars.

I put them in the cold storage cupboard downstairs.

Rolf likes to eat them, but just a little bit at a time. His chocolate bar sits on the kitchen counter, and it can last for 4 or 5 days. But, he notices, his chocolate bar is disappearing faster than it should be.

It’s not me eating his chocolate bar. I’m fine with ignoring it. So that leaves Kyle.

Rolf takes a stick-it note and puts it on his chocolate bar wrapper. The stick-it note says: Kyle – with a diagonal through it and a circle around it . . . like those No Smoking signs.

When Kyle sees this, he is not bothered. He goes downstairs and gets another chocolate bar and puts it on the kitchen counter. He also puts a stick-it note on his chocolate bar wrapper.

His note says: Everyone Welcome.

photo from photos.com #106403887



Last Sunday, July 31/11, my son Kyle competed in his first Triathlon.  Actually, it was his first race – never mind triathlon. The Viterra Ironman 70.3 Calgary Triathlon.

It’s called 70.3 because it involves 70.3 miles.  Athletes swim 1.9 km (1.2 miles), then bike 90 km (56 miles) and then finish off by running 21.1 km (13.1 miles).  This is technically a “half Ironman” – a true Ironman doubles the distances.

The race begins at Ghost Lake, 45 km west of Calgary.  Athletes are transported from various locations in Calgary by cheesewagon.  (those yellow school buses)

The water in Ghost Lake is 18 degrees Celsius.  Air temperature is only 15  but it’s a bright sunny day.  Of course, participants are wearing wet suits.

The Pro “wave” of athletes go first, entering the icy water at 6:10 a.m. as the sun is coming up over the lake.  They are followed at 6:20 by the first wave of males, then at 6:30 by the second wave of males, then at 6:45 by all the females.  The last wave is called the Newbies.  This is Kyle’s category and they start at 7 a.m.

Kyle finishes the swim in 43 minutes and he’s pleased with his time.  As he exits the water, he’s unzipping his wet suit and a volunteer helps him to yank off the rest of it.  He’s wearing his triathlon suit underneath.  All he needs to do is put on his biking shoes, his helmet and his race number.  This period of changing out of wet suit and donning bike helmet is called Transition 1.

The biking portion of the race travels north from Ghost Lake, south from Cochrane and then west to North Glenmore Park in southwest Calgary.  Kyle is still full of energy and he’s averaging about 30 km/hr.

By the time he reaches Glenmore Park, spectators are lining the route up to the park and cheering for everybody.  Kyle completes the bike portion in just under 3 hours and he’s satisfied with his biking time.

Now the cyclists must dismount and bring their bikes to the Transition 2 area where once again volunteers help them to find their parking place and the bag that holds their running shoes.  Kyle has another good “transition time” and then he begins to run.  At this point, the effort of the swimming and biking is catching up with him.

The run is out and back through the Weaselhead and around Glenmore Reservoir.

The first 3 km are exhausting.  After that it gets worse.  Kyle runs, jogs and walks and makes it to the first “Aid Station”.  Never having done a triathlon before, he’s pleased about having Aid Stations.  The volunteers hand out Power Aid and water.  As the run progresses, the Aid Stations get more exciting.  The next one has buckets of ice.  He sucks on ice and throws some in his shirt.  By now the lovely bright sunny day is hot and getting hotter.

Later on, Aid Stations have sponges so he can drench water over his clothing.  When he reaches the sign that says only 10 K left, he’s encouraged.

Along the way, many of the participants alternate walking and running and trudging on.  And they wish each other well.

At about 700 metres to go, Kyle takes one last walking break so he can jog into the Finish Line.  And then the Finish Line is in sight – and some guy comes alongside him and challenges him to a sprint.  They are head to head at the end and I think the other guy beat him by about an inch.  Kyle says it was tough on both of them and probably added a good day to their recovery time.  But it was fun!

It’s 27 degrees and his time is 6 hours and 11 minutes.  Respectable for a first effort.   He’s happy with his swim and bike times.  The run will be his biggest improvement next year.

Most importantly, he’s done it.  He’s a triathlete.

So, what do you do for exercise?