Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reunion Day 1 - Calgary Tower

Here's the first post about our family reunion, held July 18-21 in Calgary:
On Day 1 of our family reunion, we decided to go downtown. Unfortunately, dark rain clouds were swooping in pretty quickly, so we aborted our plan to go to Peter's Drive-In and Prince's Island Park. Instead, we went to Eau Claire Market and ate lunch in the food court while the kids all played on the indoor playground. There was a cloudburst only a few minutes before we decided to leave, so we got a little bit wet running to the cars.

From there, we decided to go to the Calgary Tower, since it's an indoor activity. It turned out to be a huge hit -- especially the glass floor of the observation deck. I guess that sort of thing makes some people really nervous. I think it's funny to hop up and down on the glass to make those people even more nervous.

I set Scotty down on the glass, expecting that he would not recognize the great distance below his feet. On the contrary, he darted off that glass quite quickly, almost jumping to the edge in an effort to avoid any unnecessary steps across the glass.

Although he was scared to step on the glass floor, he was very interested in peeking down over the edge. He would always stop just short of the edge.

And, of course, he felt the need to point out the danger to his cousin, explaining everything in hoots and other Scotty-specific jabber.

My brother managed to capture some of Scott's reaction to the glass floor, which I've stitched together into this video:

(I noticed that the video can be kind of blurry. You can watch it with higher resolution is you click on the YouTube icon on the bottom right of the screen or click here and then click "view in high quality" just below the video.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CFA Level One

I didn't want to make much fuss about this until the results came in, just in case I didn't pass. The results were published this morning for the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exams, Level One of which I wrote at the beginning of June. This is a professional designation that I am pursuing to complement my MBA degree. I studied nearly every day for weeks leading up to June, and then took the last week ebfore the exam off of work to study.

There are three levels in the CFA examination process before you can become a charterholder. The exams are held in June each year (plus an extra date for Level One in December), so if you fail a level, it means it will probably be another year until you can retake the exam. The historical pass rates for the exams are about 50%, and very few people manage to pass each exam on their first try, so it often takes more than 3 years to complete the process.

Usually, you aim to get higher than 70% on the exam to ensure a pass. My practice exams hovered just above that 70% mark, with a lot of improvement coming along in that last week.

The exam is written in two 3-hour sections, one in the morning and one in the afternoon -- 120 questions in each section. I was in a gymnasium with 750 other people (writing all the levels together) and I did really well in the morning. In fact, I finished the exam 29 minutes early in both sections. Unfortunately, they don't let you leave the room once there are 30 minutes left (to preserve quiet), so I had to sit there and count volleyballs stuck in the rafters until it was over and they'd collected and counted all the exams. Painful.

But it all paid off, because I passed!

I'm absolutely ecstatic, but R is almost happier than me, because this means she won't be missing one husband in the months leading up to the December exam date, when you can rewrite Level One.

Next stop, Level Two in June 2009!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Prairie Winds Park (Calgary) - Photos

Did you know…?
The City of Calgary Parks provide 47 reservable picnic site areas, 3211 picnic tables, 416 BBQ sites and 138 fire pits.

A week ago, my parents held a family reunion in Calgary, attended by nearly all of their children and gradndchildren -- 21 people in total. Although I grew up in Calgary, I'm the only member of my family still living there, and since our house is smallish, everyone stayed in a hotel in the NE part of town for four days. One of those days, we went to the Prairie Winds Park, which was built a few blocks away from the house we once owned in the community of Castleridge.

We wanted to book the only picnic shelter at Prairie Winds(photo) at a cost of $50.10 (rental rates, picnic guide), but it was already taken. The online info indicated that there were plenty more picnic tables, but none of them were marked on the downloadable map.

I decided to go scout it out and take some pictures, to see what would be available for our group if we just showed up on a Saturday morning. Leaving R to sleep in a little bit, I drove out to the Park with Scotty. We brought along the wagon that I bought online the week before (one of many outside toys I bought recently) and we made a quick tour.

We arrived at the park at 9:00am and there was only one other car in the parking lot (we parked in the small lot on South end of the park). Making a counter-clockwise loop through the park, this is what we saw:

Right next to the south parking lot is one playground
(the other one is on the north side of the pool)

There are two wading pools: the Splash Pool (foreground) and the much larger Wading Pool (background). The Splash Pool used to have water cannons that you could shoot at each other, but those don't seem to be there any more.

There are quite a few picnic tables surrounding the pool, probably 12 in total.

There is a building beside the pool with change rooms and a concession stand

Here is the price list for the concession stand

The pool is surrounded by a chain link fence. Just outside the fence on the north side is a play ground and about 5 picnic tables, right at the base of the toboggan hill.

From the top of the hill, you have a great view of incoming planes touching down on the landing strip. They fly over every few minutes and Scott loved to point at them.

There are 3 or 4 tennis courts next to the main parking lot.

Nestled between the pool area and the toboggan hill is the picnic area that you can rent. For $50.10 per 6 hour block, you get the two tables outside the shelter plus...

...the three tables inside the shelter.
It was our opinion that the shelter is not a very convenient place to work from if your kids want to swim or play on the playground, because it's tucked a little too far away and out of sight.

There is a baseball diamond and a soccer / football field -- with a mosque nearby.

After our tour, Scott wanted to get out of the wagon and stretch his legs for a minute. He can't talk yet, but I deduced this fact from the way he took off as soon as I let his feet touch the ground.

I pretty much had to chase after him. The boy is getting pretty quick.

I'd also like to point out the cute hat that he's wearing. Our friends let him wear it when we visited their house and they thought he looked cute enough in it, they let him keep it. Originally, it was purchased for a guy who is taller than me, but we like the oversize fit on Scotty's little head.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eating Rocks and Drinking Shakes

We had a friend from Ottawa visit us last week. She is working in northern Alberta for the summer on an oil sands facility, but she came to see us during her time off. We decided to take her for the quintessential Calgary experience -- Peter's Drive-in. From there, we drove out to Crescent Road to enjoy our custom-flavoured shakes on a bench overlooking downtown and the Bow River.

Scotty didn't get a shake, so he decided to eat as many rocks as he could get his hands on. I spent most of the time chasing him around and pulling pebbles away from him, or sticking my finger in his mouth to pull out any misguided stones.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Caped Crusader / Julius Caesar

Scott has a little green blanket that he loves, made out of soft fleece. He often likes to rub it on his face when he's sleepy, and it is always in the crib when he sleeps. In the last month or two, he has occasionally pulled the blanket out of his crib and carried it with him as he walks around the house. With his little arms, it's often hard to keep the blanket high enough to keep away from his feet. He's a little steadier now, but when he was first walking, stepping on the blanket was enough to wipe him out.

So I came up with a solution.

I wrapped it around his shoulders like a cape and tied up the ends. It doesn't appear so from the pictures, but he actually loves it. Every time we put his cape on him, he walks over to the full-length mirror by the front door and checks out his outfit. Then he marches around with his hands free to deliver shoes to any part of the house he wishes to conquer. I like to twist the cape over one shoulder to free up his right hand a little more. I think it makes him look like Julius Caesar -- the green fleecy version of Caesar.

Scott's blue blanket with the hooded corner is another classic cape. In honour of this week's release of the new Batman movie, here's a shot of him as the Caped Crusader.

He just oozes victory and justice in these outfits, does he not?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Greats

Scott's great grandparents (R's mom's parents) were in Calgary recently for a visit, because Scott's new baby cousin L was having her first blessing in church. Being the shutterbug that I am, I snapped a few pictures:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Baby Bunny

Our neighbourhood is home to several rabbits -- at least 3, by my reckoning. We see them frequently when we take Scotty out for walks, and often we can even spot them from our front window. Scott loves his perch by the window where he directs traffic with a pointed finger and his trademark hooting. For him, it's the next best thing to actually going outside.

I don't know how our little boy is going to survive the winter, when he can't spend all of his waking hours out with his rock friends, who will be hidden beneath a layer of snow. On Sunday, we were driving home and we saw a flurry of animal activity out the window -- a swooping crow dancing with two rabbits. When we looked closer, we could see that the crow was after a baby bunny in the grass, and the two adult rabbits were chasing the bird away. It was quite the scene.

After a moment, the bunny ran away from its spot in the grass and came right at us, passing a few feet in front of us before settling on our driveway. The crow landed on a nearby lightpost and the adult rabbits watched warily from a distance.

That baby bunny was nearly invisible on the asphalt of our driveway, but he found a more comfortable spot in our grass, where he stayed for the next several hours.

Sitting still in the grass, his camouflage was so effective, we couldn't get Scott to see him -- let alone point or hoot. Instead, Scott found a splendid round rock and carried it around the yard, happy as a clam.

Just before midnight, we heard a terrible crack of thunder and then the sweeping roar of a hailstorm. The hailstones were between the size of a pea and a marble, so I worried about the baby bunny in the yard. The porchlight was enough to see that he was still in his spot, so I rushed outside to help him out. By the time I got there, he had made his way to the neighbour's car, and was sitting near enough to get some shelter. With my shoe I nudged him further underneath and then came inside soaking wet.

The next morning, the baby bunny was gone. We hope he's okay.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Fun at the Stampede

Last Wednesday was Kids Day at the Calgary Stampede, and all kids and accompanying adults could get in for free before 9am. There was also a free pancake breakfast. We jumped on the opportunity to get free food AND entertainment. We met up with Scott's cousins A and H and made a day of it. Acutally, they all made a day of it -- I just ate the breakfast and then went on to work.

Before leaving, I made sure to see the breakdancers and the mini chuckwagon races at the grandstand. Pretty sweet stuff. I was a little disappointed that they only gave me one pancake (instead of the traditional two), but I got to eat some of Scott's in the end, so everything was okay.

The group spent the day taking in a number of free shows, including Superdogs, Hip Hop Harry and the BMX jumpers. Here's Scott and his aunt J in the tent during the BMX show.

I guess the kids liked the dogs (Scott did plenty of pointing and hooting), but the interest flagged after a while and Scott was pretty freaked out when the audience was supposed to whistle and cheer to get one of the dogs to jump.

He'll get a lot more out of the shows next year when he's a little older, so that will be good. But he probably won't want to share his pancake with me, so that won't be as good.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stampede Time

So, it's Stampede time here in Calgary. It's the one week when everyone in the city can wear obnoxiously large belt buckles, cowboy boots and cowboy hats. It's a great time to be working downtown because you are swamped with pancakes and parades.

From my office window I could see the parade travelling down 8th Avenue to the Stampede grounds. My camera phone doesn't do very well from that distance, but I snapped a shot of a marching band that looks very similar to the one my sister was in when we were kids. She played the flute in the Round-up Band and we were all very proud. My little brother once borrowed her band jacket and wore it to elementary school without permission. I think everyone thought it was too funny to really get mad at him. Imagine a little boy with an oversized blue jacket that said "Flute" on one sleeve and a girl's name on the other.

A few days later, I met a friend for a pancake breakfast right outside our building and we were surprised by the sudden appearance of a parade of Native Canadians. They came out of nowhere on horses and in two military jeeps, their police escort picking a path through the pancake lovers. This is the view of the scene from my office a little while later, when the parade came back the other direction. You can see a number of fire trucks that were there for the breakfast, because it was a fundraiser for burn victims.

They were letting kids go up in the bucket truck with little red fire hats on. The bucket could reach up 3 or 4 stories, which was pretty impressive.

I also ended up with tickets to see the rodeo, because somebody in the office couldn't make it. I didn't have a good cowboy hat to keep the sun off, but it was fun all the same.

When we came out of the rodeo, we saw this group of guys wearing minmal clothing and drinking maximum booze. They were pretty lively, so I thought I'd snap a picture for the blog.

They were very excited to pose for the photo and show off their legs. After I took my photo, several tourists jumped in to take pictures with the group. I think one lady got more attention than she bargained for.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Canada Day at Fort Calgary

After 5 years of living in Ottawa and taking part in the Canada Day festivities that swallow up the capital, we were interested to see how our hometown of Calgary would celebrate July 1st. We decided to try out the free-admission family event at Fort Calgary. There were tons of games for the kids, as well as a petting zoo. Needless to say, Scott's favourite part was pointing and hooting at the animals.

He got close enough that his pointing turned into poking. Even though he loves to see them, he usually backs away when dogs get too close, so we were surprised that he was so comfortable with the sheep, goats and pigs.

He still didn't like it much when a goat would stray into his personal space. He backed off quickly with a concerned look on his face.

Here he is with his cousin H, enjoying every bit of their Canada Day in Calgary.