Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Words by others...

"Exploration is the physical expression of the Intellectual Passion."

“And I tell you, if you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing: if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, “What is the use?” for we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at research which does not promise him a financial return within a year. And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: that is worth a good deal. If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin’s egg.” – Apsley Cherry Garrard

The above quotes are from "The Worst Journey in the World", a book that National Geographic Adventure magazine rated as the best adventure book ever written.

While I'm not one for rating books, other than the general categories of dislike, like, really like and will re-read, I do find rating lists by others useful to help point me in the direction of what to read and the National Geographic list has introduced me to some entertaining books and many an escapist daydream.

With summer fast approaching, add a few of these books to your reading list. They can and likely will inspire you to travel far, or take up a micro-adventure, exploring your own backyard.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A slice of life in Nigeria

epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Law Enforcement FAIL

This news clipping reminds me of my childhood in Nigeria. Life in Africa's most populous country was loosely similar to an average Western life, people drive cars, drink Coke, watch TV, love sports etc... but it was also one or two degrees removed, better described as an imperfect, slightly edgy copy; with Western ideals imposed on a world not quite ready, or willing to accept a facsimile.
One area of life that exemplifies this slightly altered reality was the news. Although Nigeria went through a series of military dictatorships and coup d'états during my time there, where media was censored to various degrees, it still had a number of daily newspapers. Many were wards of the regime, but there could be some dissension, which would criticize some aspect of corruption and the paper would subsequently be raided, the journalist and editor jailed and the paper put on hold, or shut-down on a sham claim of tax evasion, or a similarly trumped up charge.
Funnily, I remember the unique smell of the papers quite distinctly. It was a chemical mix of cheap paper, runny ink and tropical street life. Not necessarily a bad smell, just a strong one. What really made the papers stand out though, were the stories. Apart from frequent terrible spelling, very flowery and eloquent English, with grand words often misused and strange sentence structure, articles like the one above were all too common.
Stories that would mix animistic and sometimes paranoid beliefs, with incredible police corruption, poor education and sensationalist journalism, could lead to some outlandish tales. I remember once reading a headline that read-"Man's body found decapitated and hacked to pieces with a machete tied in a bag. Police suspect suicide", or the black magic informed hysteria that accompanied stories of people claiming to lose their genitals after shaking hands with someone. This lead to many public beatings as people could accuse enemies, scorned lovers, creditors, debtors...of this "JuJu" in public and a mob would subsequently form and take out street justice on the "victim".
These articles were so memorable and uniquely West African, that mom would cut them out and mail them back to family in Canada, showing them a sliver of what life was like. Although read out of context, without being surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the country, the stories come across as comical relief rather than informing daily life the way they do for millions.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I finished law school yesterday, and instantly felt tired, relieved, excited and proud in that order. Although I (usually) enjoyed the course load and the material, I definitely will not miss exam period, which I have been enduring for the past 2-3 weeks. The mental fatigue, sleep deprivation, simmering stress and lack of physical activity, surviving on caffeine and a steady stream of snacks, is draining and will likely take me a week or so to really unwind from.

Regardless, after a nice dinner with Lauren and mom last night at Rebar , a Victoria dinning institution, I set my alarm early and decided to head up island to race the Fletcher's Challenge 11km Trail Race and help out with some promo for the Salomon Crossmax Door 2 Trail Tour.

It's a great low key, local event on trails that I had never run on. The terrain was typical West Coast running, with flowing, root strewn, rocky, windy, rolling, technical single-track, nice vistas, stream crossings and fantastic organization. The potential for some long hilly runs seems limitless back there.

The race can be summed by the starting orders which were "hmmmm....start over behind that tree" and the finish line, which was catered by a cookie potluck provided by the racers. As always, thanks to all the volunteers and the Frontrunners crew for hosting the day, much appreciated. It was a great way to celebrate finishing (too) many years of school; good Friday indeed!

I was lucky enough to win the race and hang out at beautiful Westwood lake on the warmest, sunniest spring day that we have had yet this year. I also got to help with the kids Easter egg hunt and hand out some awards.

The best part of it all, is that I now have over a month of vacation and hanging out/training with Lauren, until round-two of the legal process begins. I'll be heading to Vancouver at the end of May for a ten-week, multiple exam bar course. I'll be toeing the line at various races throughout that period and then it's back to Europe and the Swiss mountain town of Davos.

The serious stuff about to start--count down to the egg hunt

The spread at the cookie potluck

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Great Farmer’s Running Race

A run through the fells-great commercial:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Learning on the run

I rarely listen to music when I run and I am even less likely to when I'm on trails. I'd rather just get lost in my thoughts, whether it's thinking about my effort, processing something on my mind, or nothing at all, just enjoying the sounds around me.
I am much more inclined to have an ipod on when I run in town, trying to drown out the ambient noise of the city. However,rather than music, I prefer to listen to the grab bag of shows on CBC radio (Friends of Canadian Broadcasting), or a podcast, in the vain attempt at convincing myself that I am learning while running. My favourite podcasts are: Slate Gabfest; Age of Persuasion, This American Life, Freakonomics and Q with Jian Gomeshi. (Please let me know if you have any recommendations for other ones that I should listen to).

Last night, while listening to Slate and running past Victoria's inner harbour, one of the hosts read a: "Letter From a Former En-Slaved African to his Former Master", which is a passage in the book Should America Pay: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations, edited by Raymon Winbush, pp. 101–102.
Anyway, I thought it was one of the best response "screw you" letters that I have heard. I have no idea if it is real or not, but it made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it (I found the excerpt here):

(The following letter was published in The Freedmen's Book, a collection of African American writings compiled by the abolitionist Lydia Maria Child in 1865. This letter is a response to a slave owner who has written his former slave at the end of the Civil War, asking him to return to work in Tennessee.)

To my old master,
Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee.


I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that yor wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than any body else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in a better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particulary what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy. The folks here call her Mrs. Anderson, and the children Milly, Jane, and Grundy go to school and are learning well. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves down in Tennesssee." The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshall-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for 32 years, and Mandy 20 years. At 25 dollars a month for me, and 2 dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,608. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Please send the money by Adam's Express, in care of V. Winters Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the Good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Surely, there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die, if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when your were shooting at me.

From you old servant,

Jourdan Anderson

Since I started this post by talking about music and since awesome runs on a spectrum, here is a music video that falls on the opposite end of the awesome spectrum. The letter above (if real) is incredible for its honesty and exposing of an all too terrible reality, while this video is fantastic for its strangeness and surrealism (don't watch if you are prudish):

EL GUINCHO | Bombay from MGdM | Marc Gómez del Moral on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Study break

I needed to clear my mind from a rather challenging paper that I am currently immersed in, so I headed out to Goldstream Park, hoping the trail would rejuvenate my stale thoughts. I didn't run fast, but that wasn't the purpose of my outing. I will reserve my writing for the paper, but here are some pics that I snapped along the way: