I have a confession to make and it’s something I’ve been trying to suppress in myself for a while. I am obsessed with backpacks. That’s right, backpacks.
I have my eye on a particular one and haven’t been able to stop debating the pros and cons in my head for a few months now. It does back and forth. Back support, storage space, compartments, style, bad.
Last time I told myself this was not going to happen. I spent two months researching backpacks, different brands and the ideal volume. I said this one is it. I will keep it for a good while. I won’t move on to a new shiny thing, but here I am. Breaking the deal I made with myself, going on Youtube watching videos discussing the features of different models—and yes these are a thing.
It’s been like this since I was a kid. Every year I wanted a new backpack even if I already had a perfectly good one. I thought I would grow out of it.
I had one backpack I really loved. Northface. Pretty colours. Good storage. It was taken from me when a 1L bottle of bicycle chain lube spilled on it. That stuff does not come out.
Then I moved on to my present one. It’s a Camelbak. Not so stylish but man is it comfortable and enough straps to carry everything I will ever need all at once. But one of them fell off recently and there’s a new backpack that’s caught my eye. It’s not so new and shiny anymore.
I love the new vintage style canvas backpacks. They look great but I work about back support. It gets me thinking I should be happy with what I have. Or at least that’s what I keep trying to tell myself.
The Berlin transit system can be a bit of an adventure to say the least. It is a classic example of a transit system that makes sense to insiders, but it clear as mud to outsiders.
The map is enormous. It is excellent that the system is so superb and serves so many parts of the city but it is hard to figure out where to begin. The station you are looking for is a needle in the haystack. Something as simple as figuring out the terminus of a train can be confusing.
To make matters worse S-bahn and U-bahn are on the map in the same colour and weight. Why would they do this? Shouldn’t it be clear which is which?
Buying tickets is also an adventure. Through advice from a tour guide we learned to buy group passes. There is no way we would’ve figured that out ourselves.
Then there are the stations themselves. Getting from one platform to another and transferring lines is very much based on insider knowledge as opposed to effective signage.
After first getting to Berlin we took a route that required us to transfer at Friedericstabe. Easy right? Not so fast. This involved figuring out how to go between platforms. We spent 20 minutes trying to find a sign then we found an information center. They told us to go to platform five—because obviously you catch that S-bahn on platform five. Now one last question, where is platform five? More wandered ensued, but at least this time we had a destination. Eventually we did find it.
Eight hours in Oslo doesn’t feel like enough but you take what you can get.
We arrived by ferry/overnight booze cruise. The approach was beautiful. The city looks a lot like Vancouver does when you take the ferry from Victoria. We glide past seaside towns built into the hills as we brave the cold morning air. It is cold. We go out on deck and the wind hits us. We experience our first real snow of the year.
At first the city seems small. You can only see a bit from the harbour. We drop by the opera house and wander the stairs. I wonder why North American cities don’t have grand opera houses like this one. The city is Scandinavian but has a different feel than Copenhagen.
First we go to the Monolith. We get there by a surprisingly efficient tram after eating $6 7/11 pizza. The park is beautiful and the minimum requirement for inappropriate jokes is meet. We have a fantastic view of the city.
The farther out we go the bigger the city seems. The density is higher than in Copenhagen and it is hilly. I know I could never make it up these on my bike. It reminds me of San Francisco.
I also love the trams. They feel so wonderfully European.
Next we go to the Munch museum. I know him as an artist who was miserable most of the time. He had issues with mortality and women. The exhibit is about his use of photography and video. Oh and of course there are several Screams. We walk past reels of old film he shot. In the café I have the most expensive coffee of my life.
Afterwards we’ve seen the two big things in town so we head back towards the center of town. We discover a Christmas market. There are Norweigan sweaters and Christmas decorations everywhere. We stop to get elk burgers. They are delicious mostly because of the caramelized onions and mushrooms on top. We get free glog. It is delicious.
We go to the royal palace and find another beautiful view of the city—the upside of a city filled with hills. It feels like a proper royal palace, unlike Amalienborg.
We walk back down the main street past a bunch of shops to the harbour. We leave the way we came. Going past the hills, seeing just the tip of Oslo as the last of the sunlight fades.
I’ve always found writing resumes and cover letters awkward. I hate the process and the feeling. They are meant to be boastful and concise, but not too boastful and concise.
The tone is strange. I don’t actually sound like that in real life: point form, active verbs. It is not me, and is barely a valid representation of me.
For my student newspaper the job description seems to fall short of what I actually learned there: all the triumphs, failures, lessons and shenanigans. Student clubs were a place to hang out, a microwave to heat up your lunch and a place to truly enjoy being a student while doing nothing remotely studious. Where does pop can jenga and our beer cap collection fall in relevant work experience?
Then there are those skills that no employer would care to know you have. Like a thorough knowledge of what makes for a good eggs benedict, the ability to make obscure Gilmore Girls references or aggressive spot getting at coffee shops. Or my stash of pirate jokes. These things will never get me a job.
It is hard to place yourself in that box employers expect—and that becomes meaningless the day you get hired. I don’t know how helpful it is for either of us.
In Blink Malcolm Gladwell suggests that you can get to know someone just as well by looking at their room as by speaking in person. Mine would probably tell you that I am crafty, organized (kind of) and like to read. All of my books are alphabetized but my closet is mostly unsorted. I was once told that I have the room of an English major. I take that as a compliment. Maybe your room just says things about you that you can’t put on a piece of paper.
At the end of the day it’s as hard to judge somebody based on a cover letter as it is to write one.
I grew up in awe of John Steinbeck and Will Eisner. Their writing was beautiful and was at its best when it was inspired by a particular place. Eisner wrote about the tenements in New York City. He captured their spirit and told their stories. Steinbeck was in love with the Salinas valley. He was at his best when he was talking about the places he loved and the people who inhabited them.
When I came to D.C. I expected it to be a drab capital. I had no idea it was going to be so vibrant and alive. Maybe I just got lucky after I got unlucky. When I first searched for housing I had no idea what I was doing and thought that it didn’t make a difference where I lived. I could not have been more wrong. My move to Columbia Heights/Petworth was one of the best choices I ever made. It seems that after all where you live is a huge part of how you live and could not be more important. These places shape us and change us. They become a part of our identity and
I have truly fallen for this place. I love walking the streets. I love saying hi to my neighbours. I love living somewhere that is so alive. I love that all of the licence plates say taxation without representation and all the streets are named after other places. I love the corner stores with faded signs, and mismatched patio furniture on balconies.
Across the street from my house there is a window that says “Goodnight sweet Georgia Brown” in big blocky letters hand drawn on construction paper. I play this in my head as I drive to the airport.
The environmental debate these days can be a frustrating thing. I for the most part side with environmentalists, and think that the perfect city is one in which you can walk or bike anywhere worth going and shop at the farmers market. I was in D.C. during the rally against Keystone but just couldn’t motivate myself to go. Not because I think Keystone is a good idea, but because I hate the way a lot of talk about Keystone and the oil sands.
Today I stumbled upon a quote about minister of natural resource Joe Oliver that I think makes a very good point:
Oliver countered that when a source of energy represents 1/1000th of global emissions, “to say it’s the end of the planet if that’s developed is nonsense.”
He added that “crying wolf all the time” does not advance the serious debate.
This is not to say that the oil sands are fantastic just that it is a little ridiculous when people are incredulous about the oil sands but not coal powered plants or any of the things that contribute to the other 999/1000 of emissions. Call it what it is and then maybe you can have a real conversation. Besides that is only if you develop the entire oil sands, which to everyone’s surprise have been in production since the ’70s.
Or as Kelly McParland put it after the Arkansas spill:
Keystone XL fans, it was nice while it lasted. Making fun of the C-list celebrities who chained themselves to the White House gates; chortling at the inflated numbers claimed by anti-oilsands protest organizers (“The entire population of United States — except a few from Texas — marched on Washington Saturday in a united protest against Canada’s stinkin’ pipeline,” claimed 350.org founder Bill McKibben Thursday); marvelling at the number of pejoratives “activists” could cram into a single reference to Alberta (“We don’t need Alberta’s dirty foreigner tarsands fish-killing high-pollution oil!”).
There has got to be a better way to talk about these issues. We should be realistic, and honest. We should avoid calling other do-do heads. Then maybe we will be able to start having a hard look at our society, the energy we rely on and what changes need to be made.
Over the last month I’ve gotten to know that area that I live in though wanders, jogs, and walking to and from work. One of the things that impresses me about it is the vast number of athletic facilities there are. There are at least four high quality soccer pitches within walking distance of my house, and they are almost always being used. (I think there is some kind of relationship between the high number of quality athletic facilities and the extremely high level of community.)
There is one particular field that has caught my eye. It is built into the hill and is right next to a public school. It is weird to me that a public school would have vast bleachers and astroturf. It’s not just a thing in American movies. It is generally locked but not today. I saw the gates open and decided to wander in and hope no one noticed me. I was in luck. A game of ultimate frisbee was going on and people were jogging around the edge. Score. People sat in the stands in clumps supporting friends.
Others were walking up the stairs I had just climbed in gym shorts and t-shirts. They instantly made me want to through on my runners and join them. I could gladly be one of them.
Lacking the appropriate attire and footwear I wandered over to the edges. I could see the back of a scoreboard, with weeds beneath my feet. In the opposite direction there was an old brick building, an eatery and some row houses.
Doesn’t that just make you want to go for a run.
I am really going to miss this place.