Tag Archives: Lego

Waterparks, Ikea and the Battle of Yavin

So I’m sitting here in the parking lot at the Albertville Outlets, typing away while my wife shops. It’s a bit too wet outside for the boys to play on the equipment, so they’re watching a movie on their DVD’s. It is Monday, so it’s blog day, so I thought I’d get a head start on this week’s post. Unfortunately I just lost part of because it wouldn’t save, so I’m now resuming this post at 7:00 CST.

Lego Store, Mall of America

Now for the title; what else would you expect from me? We’re obviously on vacation, but it is somewhat abbreviated, since we head back home tomorrow…no Duluth on this trip 😦 Besides the usual spat of shopping, we did make time for a visit to the Waterpark of America which the boys loved as usual (Dad’s legs certainly didn’t love the trips up and down the stairs to the water slides). There was also some time spent at Nickelodeon Universe…the Splat-o-Sphere was particularly wonderful. Ethan kept saying to me, “isn’t this awesome!” as I struggled to keep my lunch down. We also squished Ikea into the agenda, as we were looking for some office furniture for the newly floored basement. We also made Mom happy by eating at her favourite, the Cheesecake Factory, but we had to roll ourselves out after dinner!

Well, that leaves the Battle of Yavin right? I mentioned in my last post that Ethan and Noah were excited to visit the Lego store (Dad always is too) and they were hoping to get some of the newly released Lego sets. Their wish came true, and the boys spent Saturday night assembling the X-Wing and Y-Wing while Mommy went to Kohl’s. Since then, the Battle of Yavin (the end scene from Episode IV: A New Hope, where Luke blows up the Death Star for all you non-Star Wars people) has been raging unabated. Today we celebrated Ethan’s 7th birthday with a traditional trip to the Rainforest Café and they’ve been at it since we got back. I’m sure Luke-Red Five and Dutch Vander-Gold Leader (and poor Jek Porkins-Red Six) will relish tomorrow’s travel day and a break from the war against the Galactic Empire!

In other news, the countdown is still on to Europe. Three weeks tomorrow I will be on a plane to Paris! Ironically, this is my first trip overseas since I went on my own EF Tour to Greece and Rome back in 1992…the 20 year anniversary trip! Last week I was sent all the flight and hotel information so it’s that much closer to reality. Last week I also taught my two Grade 10 classes about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, so I promised them pictures direct from the battlefield. When I return, we will be starting WWII so it will perfect timing to show them pictures of Dieppe and Juno Beach in Normandy. Talk about living what you teach!

As for railway related matters, last week was a fairly productive week. I managed to get another chunk of writing done on the article, bringing my word count to almost 2300. I will definitely have to do some cutting, but maybe by re-jigging the incomplete first part of my section I can minimize what is removed. I’m hoping to finish in the next week or two, for sure before I leave on the trip. I’ll need to get Lee’s input on what he thinks, as there will certainly be some tweaking that will be necessary. A summer or fall publication date? Let’s hope!

I did get a bit of research squeezed in last week too; I need to remember to download a few things that I bookmarked while surfing over lunch at work. With a bunch of new material to print out, I guess I’ll be doing some filing over the last few days of the break. I’ve probably killed more than a few trees in the past 18 years of research. One could argue that in this electronic age I could somehow keep everything on some sort of digital file, but I would have no idea how to organize that in a way that I could keep adding material. Anyone know?

Last week I also made a little foray into the realm of Wikis, for the first time creating a new page on Wikipedia. I have edited pages in the past, but this was the first time that I made something from scratch. It was completely off the cuff too; I just thought about it while my kids were writing a test on Friday and began plucking away on it over lunch. It is by no means complete, but I hoping to finish it off at some point during the break. The topic was on the ghost town of Leeblain in case you’re wondering, one of my favourite places. I always wondered what it might look like today had it worked out. Hmmmm…

Anyway, gotta go; long day tomorrow. Until next week…

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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March break already?

Wow, we’re a week away from the break and it feels like the semester just started. The last four weeks have flown by! I guess like the saying says “time flies when you’re having fun.” I wouldn’t say that it has been all fun, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the last month. My classes are settling in and hopefully this one absence per week craziness will abate.

I’m certainly looking forward to the break and I know my boys are very excited. Our usual March break routine involves a trip to the States, with stops in Minneapolis and Duluth. Last year we tried driving through to Minnie from home on Friday after work, which is a tiring 6 hour slog. However the trade-off is well worth it, leaving us more time in Minneapolis to shop and have fun. I know the boys are pumped to visit the Lego store in the Mall of America, since there are new sets to be had. I must admit that Dad is excited to check-out the new X-Wing and Y-Wing too! We have to throw in some stops for mom at the Albertville Outlet and every Kohl`s we can find, as well as celebrating Ethan`s 7th birthday at the Rainforest Café. Then it`s off to Duluth for a few days before heading home.

Now speaking of travel, the calendar tells me that we leave for Europe and Vimy Ridge in 29 days! It`s hard to believe that it`s coming up so fast…kinda makes me a bit nervous. I think that I`m taking care of things as they come up, but there`s always that bit of the fear of the unknown. Things will be fine, but I want to make sure it`s all done right.

I know that I`m very pumped to go and I`m sure the kids are equally excited. Our slick jackets arrived on Friday, black for me and red for the kids; I think that we will certainly look good if anything else. I`ve definitely made up my mind to take the Playbook with me to blog, which I will hopefully do on a daily basis. Camera, video camera, Blackberry, tablet…I`ll having everything covered in detail for sure!

Last week I did spend quite a bit of time working on the article. I’m now up to 1800 words, which is just short of the limit for my portion. I think that I’m going to have to do a bit of trimming when all is said and done to stay below 2500 words. I actually pretty excited up for this article since it will be my first published work and it will allow me to say that I’m a “historian.” The most important part however, is the valuable experience it will provide me with in the area of historical writing.

It’s also great that I’m re-visiting some of the research that I did many years ago. There is so much information associated with this project there are many things that I had forgotten; it almost like I am relearning the material all over again. It is certainly helping me understand the history of the railway in a completely new perspective. Maybe historical research, like life, is about maturity. The older and more experienced you get, the more things make sense. In a few years I’ll really be smart!

Obviously the writing left little time for research, and I doubt I’ll get much done this week. A break is good too, time to recharge and refocus. Makes me think of how many hats one has to wear when doing investigation of this nature. I really want to get to that High Court of Justice file at the Archives of Ontario because it contains a plethora of information. However I feel as if I need a lawyer to help me interpret some of the material! I guess you can’t be an expert at everything, but one can try. I’m not a civil engineer, nor have I ever built a railway, but comprehending the intricacies of it is critical. Therefore my current bedtime reading is a book on how to construct a railway…its scandalous!

Anyway, time to go. Next week’s blog will be on location in Minneapolis.

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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Hockey, Legos, Railways and Ghost Towns

Happy New Year! My New Years was low-key, as it has been for the last number of years; tough to do much with a 6 year old and a 4 year old at home. For the best anyway…hangovers suck!

So we’re a few days into the new year, and here I am in a hotel in Duluth, typing away on a little keyboard while my boys sleep. I guess at this point you have two questions: 1. why are you in Duluth and 2. what’s with the little keyboard? We’ll I’ll tell ya. I’m in Duluth for a few reasons, mostly because this year the Christmas break left us a whole week after New Years off and it was a good excuse for a little holiday and shopping. Ya, you’re probably thinking “those teachers have it so rough” (my wife and I are both teachers). Hey, that’s the way it goes I guess. The price for the hotel was good, so why not (my wife doesn’t need a lot of arm twisting if a trip to Kohl’s is involved). I also figured that while I’m there I could meet up with Lee to discuss the article we’re working on.

So that brings me to the second question about the small keyboard (which is a bit tricky to get use to, especially since I’m not a super-proficient typer). In my previous post I mentioned that I had bought something on the Christmas Eve pre-Boxing Day sale. Well, it’s here…sort of. I bought a Blackberry Playbook from Futureshop as a present for my wife and the boys (she claims that I’ll be the one using it the most, which is probably true). The sort of part is that I got it in a roundabout way. I was ticked off that it didn’t ship until the evening of the 28th, and then it didn’t show up on the 30th as Canadapost claimed it would. We went into the Futureshop on the 31st and after finding out I could return the web order in store, I bought one right there. I even upgraded to the 32gb version. This way I could bring it with me instead of the laptop.

Now, I’ve probably raised yet another question; why a Playbook? Aren’t all the cool kids using iPads (my wife asked the same thing)? Well, it was a combination of things, but mostly the price. This wasn’t a must have purchase, so shelling out $600+ for an iPad did not appeal to me. The $350 discount on the Playbook did. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is awesome, especially the apps, but I had heard some good things about the Playbook so I decided to try it out. My brother has an iPad and he really likes it, but the lack of Flash is annoying. The Playbook links to my BB Torch and the OS update coming out soon will allow the downloading of Android apps, so I think it will be okay.

Now as for the railway, I haven’t done much work since before Christmas, mainly because of the craziness of the season. I spent a lot of time putting together Lego sets after Santa’s visit, and I’ve also tried to take in some of the World Junior Hockey Championship, which is one of the few hockey things I make a point of watching (yes, seems weird for a Canadian-I’m more of a football guy). I did however have a chance to catch up with Lee tonight, so I think the article is back on track. I’m planning on getting to the library on Thursday, so that should constitute my research quota for the week.

While I’m on the topic of the railway, tomorrow marks an important date in the history of the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western. January 4, 1893 was when the railway was completed, sort of. Well, I should clarify; there is no definitive date for its completion, but on January 4th there was a tour given to investors and dignitaries. They rode the line to North Lake, Gunflint Lake and crossed the border to the Paulson Mine. John Paulson himself led a tour of the mine site and the work being done. While they were there, the dignitaries christened the city of Leeblain on Gunflint Lake. Leeblain was intended to be the railway’s major terminal point outside of Port Arthur. It was named after two important Toronto investors, Arthur B. Lee and Hugh Blain. So a big day to say the least.

Anyway, enough for this week and this little keyboard. I’ll have more to say next time.

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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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What exactly is Boxing Day?

I’ve always wondered what Boxing Day was; I had to turn to our friends at Google for the answer. I guess the traditional meaning has long since gone as I certainly don’t have any servants! For those of you not in Canada and unfamiliar with the holiday, Boxing Day is our version of Black Friday. People get up at ridiculous hours to stand in line (apparently the line at Futureshop was 1000+) and try to get some good deals. I hate crowds, especially for shopping, so I never partake in the event. Besides, I’m on vacation and as much of a morning person I am, getting up at some obscene hour to go shopping is not in my plans. However, I may have picked something up during the Christmas Eve online sale, but I won’t spill the beans until it gets here!

I certainly had a good Christmas, though it seems that the day goes by ever more quickly the older I get. Thankfully I did not emerge as bloated and stuffed this year as I normally do, which is perfect for my future diet 🙂 As a parent though, I think that Christmas is more about my kids’ enjoyment. My boys certainly had a great day as Santa brought the Lego they were looking for; the Millennium Falcon for Ethan and Plo Koon’s Starfighter for Noah. There were lots of other presents as well, so they (and dad) have been kept busy playing and building Lego sets. You don’t realize how long it takes it assemble a 1200 piece Coreillan freighter!

Since Christmas has now passed, and today is drawing to a close, it makes me reflect a bit on the next event. Tomorrow is my birthday; it’s funny how when I was younger I was so anxious for the day to arrive and now it’s become such an anti-climactic thing. I suppose that in my less follicly challenged days it was about catching up to my friends, but now it just reminds me that I’m drawing another year closer to 40. However, I must say that I don’t dwell on this or feel old. As my wife’s “boyfriend” Jon Bon would say, I’m “not old, just older!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been taking a bit of a break from railway related matters. Last week I did finish reading the Ole Paulson book, which turned up some really good information. There was also some interesting material on Ole’s emigration from Norway and his experiences in Minnesota. Anyway, although it would not hold up in court, I think I’ve been able to fill in all the pieces of John Paulson’s life. I’ll get back into some research in a few days once things settle down. Next week I’m hoping to get together with Lee in Duluth and then I will be able to resume working on the article.

Until next time.


Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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