“Iceberg, Right Ahead!”

This morning Melissa and I ventured downtown Kitchener to take in the Titanic exhibit at The Museum. Sherry had seen the permanent exhibit in Halifax, so it would have been hard to impress her. 🙂

I was told this local exhibit is a bit more extensive than the standard travelling version, but not as big as the permanent one (unsurprisingly). I’d heard good things from those who’ve been to see it already. Admission for us non-member adult types was $20.

Upon entering we received a “boarding pass”, with information about a particular passenger — name, class, travelling companions, reason for travelling, etc. Its main use wouldn’t become apparent until the end of the jaunt through the exhibit.

They did a good job of placing the Titanic within its time and culture, in terms of the technology, what was going on in the world, and even the social class stratifications it illustrated. There was a good mix of personal item artifacts and ship artifacts, though I admit those placed without context weren’t all that compelling. After all, it is the stories that draw us in. There’s even an iceberg, which was a big tactile hit with the kids present.

(Note: The display cases are outfitted with alarms, and any time they’re brushed or bumped the alarms buzz for about 20 seconds. This is not uncommon, but is somewhat annoying.)

In the earlier parts of the exhibit there were plaques about various passengers and families — who they were, what they did, where they were from and going to, what class they were in, etc. They would pop up here and there in the exhibit, giving a bit of a narrative as to the ship’s “population”, and it worked well at the end when you were informed of their fate. (Spoiler: almost none of them made it.)

Interestingly as well, many of the people noted weren’t supposed to be on the Titanic at all. They’d had passage booked on other ships, but were transferred or had to re-book due to a coal strike. And of course there were any number of people who were supposed to be on the ship but weren’t due to this or that circumstance — illness, change of plans, etc.

The most compelling artifacts were those either placed in a facsimile display of how they were found, or displayed simply, next to a large scale photo of them in situ at the wreck site. The wrought iron end piece of a bench, a stack of gratin dishes perfectly arranged in rows, a chandelier from the first class men’s smoking lounge… You could marvel over the fine condition of the piece, or the destruction caused by the wreck and decades underwater. I was somewhat amazed at the good condition of many paper items. But then, there’s not much light or oxygen 12,500 feet beneath the waves.

There have been a great many items recovered, apparently, from one gent (Henry or Howard something…?) They found his trunk full of belongings — only thing was, he wasn’t on the ship. He and a friend were supposed to sail, and his things were taken aboard, but he was apparently “shanghai’d” the previous night and taken aboard a ship headed for Asia as part of a press gang. He escaped in Egypt and eventually made it back to the US. Presumably he never got his things back. His travelling companion died.

There were also re-creations of a first class and third class cabin. Certainly there was a great difference between the two, though the third class bunks looked quite comfortable and surprisingly spacious. The beds were mahogany, and unlike most steerage of the day, had real mattresses. Third class only had two bathtubs for 710 passengers, however, as the exhibit noted, back then most folks bathed at most once a week, so it wasn’t quite the hygiene horror we’d consider it today.

At the end of the exhibit, there were four boards showing first, second and third class passengers, as well as crew. Also displayed were the numbers of people saved and lost in each group. Unsurprisingly, the percentages of survivors were far lower in third class (24.5%) and among the crew (23.8%) than among first class passengers (60.5%). My boarding pass passenger, Mrs. Baxter, survived, as did her daughter and son’s secret mistress. Her son, Quigg, did not.

Did you know that, of the infamous band that kept playing lively tunes to keep passengers calm, as contractors, none of them was required to remain on the ship and they could have attempted to escape in the lifeboats? Every one of them went down with the ship.

Total number of survivors: 706. Total number perished: 1517. As the North Atlantic water was below freezing that night (salt water freezes below the freezing point of fresh water), most people died of hypothermia, not drowning.

All in all, a fine way for a history buff to spend an hour or so. And even if you’re well familiar with the ship, the movie, the documentaries, and everything else, there’s always interesting things to learn, particularly the stories of the people. For more interesting tales and stats, of course, there’s always Wikipedia.


This is a picture I did not take of two tiny, stuffed-cheeked red squirrels, at separate places on the trail, chasing and giving holy hell to black squirrels three times their size.

Guess the little guys haven’t heard they can’t compete environmentally with greys and blacks and are chittering toward extinction. 🙂

My first race

This year I’ve been doing pretty well at trying new things, and have even checked off a few “life list” items. This morning I completed another one.

When or why I got it into my head that I wanted to run a 5K I have no idea. I’ve never been a runner, and goodness knows in the past when I’ve tried running at the gym I got bored to tears very quickly. As I’ve told a few people, too, me running is a lot like bumblebees flying: highly improbable. And yet…

But with the advent of my thyroid medication giving me something resembling a metabolism and some energy, and my gall bladder surgery further improving things by vastly improving my digestive process (including how much I actually feel like I need to eat, and what I crave), I felt like it was time.

I forget from whom I originally heard about this program, but it seemed like something I could do. And it had a really good iPhone app, which helped. (I do loves me some concrete timing, instructions, and milestones.) The general idea is that by the time you’ve completed the 9 weeks of training, you’re able to run for 30 straight minutes, which should be about 5km. Not exactly, at my speed, but we won’t focus on that…

Of course, I should have known things wouldn’t go quite so smoothly. I actually started C25K back in January, at the gym… and then got derailed. Repeatedly. I got sick (twice, I think), I moved, I went away on vacation… By June I was at square one. Again. However, I also had two awesome things going for me: a) I didn’t have to run at the gym because it was summer, and b) I lived next to Waterloo Park, which is a great place to run (smooth trails and good people-watching). Even given the heat we frequently had this summer, I took advantage of the fact that sunset came after 9pm and ran in the evenings when it usually wasn’t too bad.

And when I passed week 3 (as far as I’d ever gotten), I was pretty jazzed. When I got to week 5 and realized I actually could run for eight minutes at a time, I was totally on board. I had to check myself from time to time — I have a tendency to run far faster than my body can maintain — but by the time I finished the program I was good at managing that, too. I’d also long since graduated to new scenery and regularly ran the Iron Horse Trail (from my place to Victoria street down Caroline and the Iron Horse is 6.6km).

I was mid-way through the C25K training when I finally put my money where my mouth was and signed up for a race: the Annual Oktoberfest 5K. I am not a competitive person, and I’m bad at setting goals and achieving them (yeah, typical curse of gifted children…), and even just completing the registration freaked me out a little bit. (Good.) But I also made sure to tell people I’d signed up. It’s a good way to keep you from chickening out of stuff. And it gave me a date on the calendar to work toward.

So yeah, I had absolutely no excuses not to do it.

What made it better is that my friend Colin was signed up to run the 10K. (His first, though he has 5Ks under his belt already.) My friend Cari was going to run that race, too, but ended up being in the Dominican for a wedding (tough life…) My other brother Jamie wanted to run with me, but I think had to work. (But hey, he cheered via Facebook, and he was saving lives, so it’s a good enough excuse…)

I finished the C25K program a week or so ago, but honestly by the end of it wasn’t paying that much attention. I knew where my warm-up walk would take me to, and from there it was just about running to Victoria St. and back with as few breaks as possible.

I was a tad concerned late this past week, as my last couple runs had been harder (just from pushing myself), and my calves tended to get a bit sore. They were hurting on my final pre-race run on Friday evening, so I cut it short and walked home. Unfortunately, the running was the only thing keeping me comfortable, and I damned near froze.

Got to the Rec Centre this morning just after 8am (conveniently I just had to traverse the boardwalk in the park and I was pretty much there), and headed up to the mall. Got my bib, shirt, chip, etc. and got properly outfitted. Eventually ran into Colin, as well as my ex-housemate, Peggy, from many moons ago. She was there running with her husband and two sons. Apparently her husband and younger son are avid runners. She goes for support, and apparently the elder son just wanted to get it over with and get to the eating of hot dogs. 🙂

Headed outside to hand over my bag to the folks who were taking stuff back to the Rec Centre, then went to find a patch of sunlight to stand in, since it was still chilly in the shade. Enjoyed the people-watching immensely. Though I gotta say, just because you’re ridiculously fit does not mean you’re going to be flattered by spandex… And good Lord are runners obsessive people. There was nowhere to hide from conversations about… running.

It was really cool seeing the fast folks out front heading onto King Street before I even got to the starting line. Basically, they would have been done by the time I finished my first kilometre (though I imagine most of them ran the 10K). Etiquette dictates slower runners stay near the back, and I was happy to do so. Plus it was fun having half of King St. to run on!

First kilometre was ridiculously fun. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, the mood was jovial, and I felt really good. And, hell, we were heading gently downhill! After that it got a bit harder, including a couple uphill areas — you never realize there’s any uphill between the mall and Bridgeport unless, as Andrew noted, you’re on foot or on a bike.

My time after the first mile was around 13 minutes (they called out times at one mile, for some reason, and had sign markers for each kilometre). I am no Roger Bannister. 🙂

I initially didn’t understand why the cups at the water station were barely half full… until I tried drinking while moving. I was even nice and tossed my first one in the garbage can, though I was past there after drinking the second, so threw it to the side of the road like everyone else.

I passed Colin some time between the 2nd and 3rd kilometre, I think. It would have been nice if I hadn’t had to walk at all, but I need a handful of short breaks. Something to improve on. From time to time I would go a bit faster just for a change of scenery. I don’t tend to like people around me while I exercise in general, and I got tired of seeing the same backs of heads or listening to the same breathing patterns.

It was impressive to see some of the folks running the 10K turning from Albert onto Bridgeport and joining the shared end part of the course. I saw two guys who were from Laurier’s cross country team, I think. They were machines. They were running faster at kilometre 9 than I did at any point in my race. Good on ’em.

And then there was my nemesis… An older gent, power-walker type, who kept ending up near me through much of the race. I got fed up in the home stretch and started sprinting. I was tired of his wiggly ass, and no way was he finishing before me. Plus, running fast felt good.

I felt great at the end of the race, though my legs will definitely need a day or two to recover. It was cool having Andrew and Melissa there, too. I think they were more proud of me than I was of myself. 🙂 (Sherry is, sadly, away on business.)

As I crossed the finish line, last time I saw on the clock was 38:59. I kinda hoped I’d made it in under 39 minutes. I went into the Rec Centre and got a drink and a bite to eat, then checked the results. Triumph! My actual time (from the timing chip) was 37:31. My gun time (from the start of the race til I crossed the finish line) was 39:01. I admit, had that second time been the “official” one, I’d have been a tad disappointed. As it was, I was totally jazzed at my results.

Will I do it again? Totally. The only way to go is up, right? That said, I think I will pass on the November and February races… We’ll see what’s what in the spring.

the finish line!

iPhone action shot courtesy of Andrew, and in front of me you can see my nemesis just before I passed him.

Breakfast in (North) America

My parents were down last evening for a family birthday party, and so stayed over at my place instead of a late drive home. As usual when they stay over, we went to the local Cora’s for breakfast (Mom really likes it).

Just before we left my apartment, I mentioned to Mom that it was my cousin’s husband’s 50th birthday today, and mused about whether The Significance Of The Date had faded somewhat in the last nine years. Then we got into a peripheral discussion, as we often do, of whose birthdays the the family fall when, and was Grandpa’s September 5th or 6th…?

As we were walking into the restaurant, a family of Middle Eastern extraction, and Muslim — father, mother, baby — were arriving just in front of us. The woman was wearing both a hijab and niqab.

While I’ve seen plenty of Muslim students around town over the years wearing the hijab, the number of women I’ve seen in town wearing more formal dress has certainly increased in the last couple of years. Not really surprising; we have a fair number of immigrants here.

I notice the attire, certainly, but I am also aware of the religious and cultural intent of it, and am probably more comfortable with the choice to cover up extensively than the choice to expose acres of flesh and/or extreme body modifications. My parents, on the other hand, have long lived in a rural area where multiculturalism is, to put it mildly, not pervasive. (They wouldn’t have dealt well with exposed flesh and body mods, either, for the record…)

My parents didn’t get it, and couldn’t understand why she was covered up like that, with only her eyes showing. How would she eat or drink? Did she take it off during breakfast? I said I was sure she was used to managing just fine, and no, she would not take the niqab off in public.

To be sure, my parents didn’t approve, though their reaction was at least quiet, and was less direct than Dad’s comments (blessedly sotto voce) last time we went for breakfast, when we saw two women pushing strollers, both swathed head to toe in black — jilbab, hijab, and niqab, again — only their eyes and hands visible.

While I was wondering how hot you’d get (it was a very bright summer day), Dad implied something along the lines of how wouldn’t you be scared of people like that. Can’t even see who’s under there. Really? Two young women pushing babies in strollers? I didn’t bother pointing out how they were out in public unaccompanied.

This morning over my coffee, I thought about our own family, and the many members of which who grow beards or wear head coverings and plain, full-length clothes (homemade!) Who have “unusual” culture, religion, and traditions and special government status due to their beliefs. Who eschew electric lighting and automobiles, speak a different language, manage their own finances and insurance, pay for medical treatment, and otherwise keep themselves separate from much of The World. Does it get noted if they buy large lots of fertilizer for their farms?

What are they thinking? How would you not be scared of people like that?


This is a picture I did not take of a local bridal shop holding a tent sale while undergoing renovations, with pristine, diaphanous, sparkling gowns hanging on portable racks, and a woman checking the fit of the sequinned bodice of a dress she’d tried on, all within a few feet of a busy, multi-lane street and construction.


This is a picture I did not take of an elderly woman on an electric scooter, weaving down the sidewalk and nearly crashing into a light pole and a plate glass window, while talking on a sparkly red cell phone, and staring out across the street.

Sunday afternoon

I know when the rain starts falling
Muddled light
On the breeze
minerals, asphalt, ozone
wafting the curtains
The patter on the leaves begins
But first
in the park
silence noticed
Shrieks and laughter
bundled into minivans
Home for dinner.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Waterloo

I’ve lived within a short distance of Mt. Hope Cemetery for pretty much a decade, but had never actually been there, despite finding cemeteries really interesting. (None of my family are buried there, but rather at various Mennonite cemeteries around the area.)

Last Saturday I took myself for a bit of a walkabout and went exploring. It’s a nice size to wander semi-aimlessly. The sunshine, breeze, and shady trees were lovely, and the light was great for taking pictures.

As always with cemeteries, there was no end of history, stories, and curiosities. And plenty of German surnames, many immediately recognizable to anyone who lives around here. 🙂 (Interesting grave finding function and some historical stuffs.)

Apparently it was set up between 1865-1867 on eight acres — seven main acres and one for a potter’s field (not sure which part that was).

Slideshow of Mt. Hope Cemetery Photos

Burrito Boyz

I had heard about the fabtastic Burrito Boyz in Toronto for years (warning: website is a Flash horror). So when Sean, our co-op at work, mentioned one had opened in Waterloo, I was intrigued. (And we got burritos for team lunch last week.)

I’ve since been there twice, and may have a problem. Shrimp burrito: You Complete Me. (The chicken is good, too, and I’ve been told good things about the steak, haddock, and halibut as well.) Get the small unless you are eat-the-asshole-out-of-a-dead-bear hungry. You have been warned. 🙂

It’s located on King St. N. in Waterloo, just north of the intersection with University Ave. E., in the plaza that also contains Bhima’s, King Tin, and the Fire It Up head shop. (In the street view picture below, Burrito Boyz is now located where the pharmacy used to be.)

They accept cash or credit cards only (don’t know if they plan to accept debit later on or not), though there is a cash machine on-site. For seating, there are a couple of bar style tables and a bar along the front wall, but mostly it’s takeout. Parking is a pain in the ass, but do-able.

View Larger Map


This is a picture I did not take of a young couple standing in the pharmacy line at Shoppers, beside each other but not touching, bodies tense enough to shatter, the guy with a Plan B box clutched so tightly in his left hand you’d think it would explode if he dropped it.

This is also a picture I did not take of the same couple, five minutes later, walking down the sidewalk, hand in hand, leaning ever so slightly into each other, casually discussing why chocolate milk is more expensive at convenience stores, the drug store bag swinging casually from the guy’s right hand as if he hadn’t a care in the world.