Blogiversary

It looks like I have had a website since August 13, 1996. 19 years. It can get drunk.

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2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. A blog that has been neglected and left mostly dormant, I might add.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 550 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Big Day Downtown (Part 5)

FEATURE IMAGE: Christopher Hemsworth, Halifax SUP Background Art

The Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) has a mandate to improve conditions, advocate business and consumer needs, and keep the core of Halifax on the map. I recently moved to Dartmouth, but still do the majority of my work and occasional play here. Gosh, you should see the view!

DHBC’s Big Day Downtown is an ongoing series of programs and contests and my favourite part is when they invest in writers to spend money downtown and share their experiences. There is always a catch, and these year it focused on crowdsourcing ways to spend the money. I may not have asked outright, but I do that on a regular basis. So much so, I can’t recall the last time I have actually had an original thought online. I’m reading about and noting new businesses in Halifax from tidbits of evidence I find in the Herald, All Nova Scotia, CBC, Metro, and The Coast. I look around and notice new closed and open signs in windows. I listen to what people say about their experiences and always like to hear a good tip. Like, “Oh wow, the guy that owns the bar and does the booking says it will be great!” or “Hey, a jerk is complaining about getting bad service from a place that opened too soon.” I also (mostly just) retweet as The Dingler, so I enjoy thinking about the Haligonian relevance of things online without all my non-local personal interests mucking up the stream.

When I think of “People’s Choice”, I have mixed feelings and then focus in on my own taste, experience, and how it may mesh with my community. I immediately recalled what the best selling grocery non-perishable by units or the best selling grocery non-perishable by total sales dollars in Nova Scotia were (questions and answers courtesy of Halifax Retales). I come in and out of phase with fools but my opinion on the popularity or rarity of something rarely makes me feel like a genius. Keeping things subjective while trying to support a good effort by others, a sensible budget, and my own personal integrity is an ongoing battle.

I glanced at The Coast Reader’s Best of Halifax, but still had no inspiration. I thought about spending the money meeting with various people over a bunch of coffee breaks to make the plan, but wasn’t sure if needed any more democratic process in my life. Anyone can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. A step closer is the illusion of reciprocity I get from my Facebook friends and LinkedIn colleagues. Pinterest still skew towards cut-and-paste magazine imagery. I feel too old on Tumblr. Swarm/Foursquare tracks my whereabouts. Google+? Ha ha ha. Don’t even get me started. Old fashioned Blogging? Well, here we are.

Since squeaky wheels get the grease, I spoke with my daughter Rowan, one of the squeakiest wheels I know. We decided to take the day between summer camp and grade three starting to hit the streets. Armed with a vague sense of self-gratification, time (and $150) to burn, plus our appetite for slightly new experiences and old comforts gave us our story.

Starting with parking, which is never really as much of an issue when you realize you have to pay and walk. Metered versus garage? Street versus indoor? Uphill versus downhill? Whatever your criteria, there is a spot for you. Choice: Provincial Law Courts.

TOXIC BLOSSOM

This small shop in the Historic Properties stands out (especially to my daughters), amongst the shiny and wooden items of its neighbours. It’s filled with locally made and imported items but the influence is heavily Japanese, fantastical, cute, and pastel colours. We ended up with a couple blue and pink hand fans, but there are lots of options for gifts, stationary, and other gateway tchotchkes into another dimension.

TWO IF BY SEA

Oatmeal Raisin cookie #bigdaydowntown

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A massive oatmeal raisin cookie, a large chocolate mocha, and a bag of freshly roasted, whole Anchored coffee beans. This was definitely the “comfort” section of our day. File TIBS under great coffee and baked goods. It made the rest of day possible.

SUZIE’s SHORTBREADS

No Baked Potato #bigdaydowntown

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I was curious to try the baked potatoes from this newly relocated cupcake store, but no luck. Onward and upward! Let me know if you get a chance!

KO-DORAKU

Ko-Doraku Sushi Special #bigdaydowntown

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Rowan wasn’t hungry at this point and I had missed lunch, so I went with the sushi combo. This location is in Purdy’s Landing and offers reasonably priced, fast, and quality sushi lunches. And stamps for frequent shoppers. This is the kind of fast food that doesn’t punish you afterward.

Staring Contest

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FREAK LUNCHBOX

Nun & Communion #bigdaydowntown

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How could we not go here, right? This is Halifax’s premier candy store (now, a chain that reaches out into Calgary, Montreal, Saint John and St. John’s). We were tempted by the massive gummy bear and gummy worm, but stuck with a folded pagoda food pail filled with Rowan’s favourite treats. I found something with dark chocolate and coconut. Oh, and two Pez dispensers. C3P0 for Rowan and one of the member’s of the Hello Kitty extended family for her sister Kenna.

INKWELL BOUTIQUE

Limited Edition Emma Fitzgerald tote (free with purchase at @inkwellboutique) #bigdaydowntown

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Suffering from recent bad news of a sudden street closure, my sympathies (and a chunk of change) went out to the Inkwell Boutique. They were having a free-with-purchase Emma Fitzgerald bag promo and I filled it with some paper dolls by Briana Corr Scott (a selkie and a fairy) and a salt cod print from Lunenburg’s Kat Frick Miller.

Boring is Best

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DESERRES

Art! DeSerres has a lot of options and tools and toys. For the budding artist to the professional. It is a fun place to browse, but an even better place to stock up. And sometimes there are sales. Check out these Faber Castell Watercolour pencils, for instance. Rowan has lots of ideas on how to spend the money, but we stuck with those and some watercolour paper.

THE DISCOVERY CENTRE

Contortion

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We had some time to kill, and the Discovery Centre is a regular stop if you have kids (especially when it rains).

Digestion #hyperlapse

Thanks again to the DHBC for making this happen and caring so much about our city and the people that live and work within it. It takes a village to build this city on rock and roll.

My previous Big Days Downtown:

Miss (or missed?) Mister Show

Do you know about Mr. Show with Bob and David? I was lucky enough to catch it before it was cancelled from HBO, I waited patiently for the DVD sets to be released, and then followed along as David Cross and Bob Odenkirk made names for themselves as Tobias Fünke (Arrested Development) and Saul Goodman (Breaking Bad). Here they are appearing on The Daily Show on September 11, 2013:

The full episode is available on Comedy Network.

Some times you come across a show that is ahead of it’s time. That is true of Mr. Show (“At Least A Dozen Mr. Show Skits That Became Reality”) but it also comes from a rich history of top-notch sketch comedy, from Monty Python to the Kids in the Hall. You may recognize some of the cast and guests like Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, Jack Black, Tom Kenny, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brian Posehn, Jerry Minor, Scott Aukerman, and Dino Stamatopoulos.

You can pretty much skip Run Ronnie Run. It is a rare case where the outtakes are far superior to the actual finished movie. If you are new to all of this, here are three amazing sketches that might spark your own interest:

The Audition

Young People & Companions

Pre-taped Call in Show

Note: These three skits in particular are from the mind of Dino Stamatopoulos, comedy writer, creator of Morel Orel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole, and Starburns (Community).

Also, Bob and David are plugging a new book:

Louis CK Twitter Q&A

I put this together a couple of months ago to get a feel for Storify. It is a great way to tie some random things together, but organizing a spontaneous Q&A like this on Twitter together into a stream is a real pain in the ass:

View the story “Impromptu Louis CK (@louisck) Q&A” on Storify

Since I did this, Storify integration was announced for Tweetbot, and I was quickly able to toss this one together on my phone:

View the story “Conversation with @HalifaxMagazine” on Storify

Also of note, the javascript-based embed code doesn’t appear to work on my WordPress install (even with the official Storify plugin install), so I went with regular links.

#bigdaydowntown

Our family regularly travels back and forth from the Isleville region to downtown Halifax. All you need is a booklet of bus tickets, a handy transfer and access to Google maps to make the journey as smooth as possible.

1801 Hollis

When I was offered the opportunity to take part in Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Big Day Downtown initiative, I immediately enlisted the help of my daughter. We thought of many places we could shop1 but decided to focus on the emotional, experiential side of town. The guidelines were simple; we had to spend $100 downtown and, according to the RBC Royal Bank Prepaid Card Agreement, “not use your Card or your Card number for any illegal, improper or unlawful purpose.” Fair enough. I wouldn’t even know which criminal element, outside of banks and illegal card swipers, accepted major credit cards.

Harbour Hopper

The Harbour Hopper ($25.99 adult + $8.99 child = $34.98 + tax = $40.232) was filled to capacity and we ended up sitting next to a couple from Montreal. We were on the back bench that gives you a high, unobstructed view (probably less so if the roof was up) and bonus bouncy-ness. The entire tour takes about an hour and is filled with various Haligonian factoids and product placements for restaurants and bars. The vehicle, a decommissioned and refitted Lark V from the Vietnam War, starts off on land and travels up over Citadel Hill and down Spring Garden Road, finishing it’s last leg as it dips into the harbour near the casino for a short cruise. This was a natural first choice for Rowan, who screeches with excitement whenever the Harbour Hopper drives by. She was a little fidgity by the end but was thrilled to be on board as it drove into the harbour.

Buzz

The Discovery Centre ($8.50 adult + $6.00 child = $14.50 + tax = $16.68) was next. Our previous visit was cut short when Rowan stepped directly into a vat of soapy bubbles and we were without spare shoes. There is also a fund-raising “wishing well” that Rowan really loves. The first she saw it I handed her some change and she walked up to it and tossed it directly into the middle of the drain, without even having a spin.

Even More Mirrors

The main floor features a gift shop filled with interesting education toys, puzzles and gadgets while the main exhibit is a seasonal look at a theme or topic. This time, it was diamonds and, personally, was a bit of a snooze fest unless this sounds interesting to you:

“This dazzling exhibit is suitable for all ages. Dig into how a diamond is cut, why Canadian diamonds are among the most valued in the world and how diamonds are formed and mined out of the ground. Visitors can size diamonds, evaluate colour and determine cut while marvelling at replicas of some of the world’s most famous diamonds.”

LOOK INTO THE EYE

There are many different exhibits spread out over the two floors, dealing with the human body, parabolic reflectors, bikes that power radios and fans, building blocks and suspension bridges and much more. Rowan was immediately drawn into the various mirrors (the fun-house style ones are near registration) and spent quite some time practicing Bernoulli’s principle with some ping pong balls.

We ended up catching a live science demo in the theatre and I even learned that balloon animals can be squished into a small jar of liquid nitrogen and then retrieved unharmed and fully inflated. Overall, the Discovery centre continues to appear a bit dated in an age of touch screens and 3D-everything. I’m not saying they are promoting a flat earth but I was expecting Julius Sumner Miller to step out from behind a blackboard covered in dust. I want a place like this to whisk us away by the great possibilities of science and give us a rough glimpse into our future.

Theodore II

We headed back to waterfront to take a spin on Theodore Tugboat ($19.99 adult + 8.99 child = 28.98 + tax = $33.33). This was a lot more child-friendly, compared to the Harbour Hopper. There is room to move around the tug boat itself and the children are given a clipboard to colour along with.

Cap'n

The tour was geared towards the pre-school and early elementary school set and there was ample amounts of goofiness and interactivity. Probably not the best place to be if you are tripping or bothered by anthropomorphism (Benjamin Bridge, Northumberland the sub, Philip and Filmore the ferry boats, etc.).

Certificate

One nit-picky thing that did stand out was when were told that George’s Island was not inhabited by people but had the most “snakes per capita”. Division by zero FAIL.

Visitor Information

We still had some time (and money) left, so we decided to go to The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic ($8.75 adult + free for children = totally free if the front desk decides to cash out early). We had been to a pirate party there before but never fully explored the museum. We also spent time at the “boat” playground, the wave and had a tour of the nearby CSS Acadia. There is a live parrot, paintings, various sized boats (both actual and models) and lots of rope3.

Grave Details

There is also a Titanic exhibit and Rowan insisted on watching some of the slow-paced documentary playing inside a small room. The moral of this museum, according to Rowan, was that “people dying in the water is a bad thing.”

Freak Lunchbox

With a little bit of money left, the only sensible conclusion was to visit Freak Lunchbox (like several other bloggers and kids at heart). I rarely get out of the store without dropping at least $20 and, sure enough, I had to toss in some extra money to cover Rowan’s Candy Buttons, Sweethearts, SweetTarts, Pixi Stix and (American) Smarties habit.

Lunch

In the end, there were some freebies4 (a slice of Dr. Oetker pizza) and out-of-pocket expenses that could not have been processed by Visa: A $6 pulled pork sandwich from the mobile Boneheads BBQ unit, a $5 ice cap from a mini barn, a $1.25 strawberry gourmet sucker, a $3 bottled water and two visits to Glow Parties’ bouncy castles ($5).

Disney Bouncy Castle

The castles were part of the Busker’s Festival and one had a Disney theme while the other was some sort of a Coliseum battle dome. She wanted to spend time at both and we were able to squeeze in visits between the boat rides.

Old Fashioned Candy Buttons

If you were to ask Rowan now what her favourite part of this big day was, she would undoubtedly tell you all about the bouncy castles5.

Operation #bigdaydowntown a success. Full report to follow.

For more photos, check out my entire photo album on Facebook or a few selections from Flickr.


  1. I could have easily turned this into a shopping spree involving any of these fine retail stores (examples of previous purchases in brackets): Attica Kids (apron), Biscuit General Store (necklace), Black Market (rainbow windsock), Carbonstok, DeSerres Art Store (canvas), Historic Properties, The Jade W, Mountain Equipment Coop (backpack), Maps & More, Maritime Hobbies and Crafts, Random Play (The Incredibles DVD), Rock Candy Boutique (Tigger patch), Strange Adventures Comic Bookshop, Taz Records and Urban Cottage Antiques (ballerina Barbie).
  2. Note: You can save a couple bucks if you have an Atlantic Baby & Child Family Card
  3. What Halifax really needs is an honest-to-goodness aquarium. I want to learn about cod fish outside of their newspaper habitat.
  4. Other free/cheap ideas when you are downtown are a ferry ride to Dartmouth, Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, scavenger hunt on Citadel Hill, Murphy’s touch tank, the Bishop’s landing water fountain and just checking out the boats.
  5. One of our regular activities, that we weren’t able to squeeze in, is a trip to The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia ($12.00 adult + free = $12.00 or look into their family memberships). It is worth checking out the gallery during one of their Sunday family days because they establish a theme related to a current exhibition and have a workshop area filled all sorts of art supplies and great instructors to help the children make their own art pieces.