Travelling the World with One Lens

Outdoor Photographer has a neat article on a professional photographer travelling the world with just a Canon 40D and a Tamron 18-270mm camera.


I brought a Canon EOS 40D and the longest, most versatile lens then available for that camera, a Tamron 18-270mm ƒ/3.5-6.3. This outfit gave me the 35mm equivalent of 29-432mm with a stabilized (Tamron calls it Vibration Compensation, or VC), reasonably fast, autofocus lens. Sure, sometimes I wished for more wide-angle when under an architectural masterpiece, and sometimes I wished for more telephoto reach when we saw elusive wildlife, but 99% of the time, that 29-432mm was all I needed. My only accessory was a polarizer for my lens. I also had two extra batteries and a good-sized JOBY GorillaPod tripod. We photographed every day, almost all day, especially when we got to a new place and didn’t need to “move on” till we decided it was time. My equipment held up fine for the entire 21 months. 

Of course if it was me, it would be an Olympus PEN EPL-7 and an Olympus 14-150mm lens but you get the idea. 

This is how broke Guyana is

To even provide basic needs, it needs foreign aid from other countries.

Guyana’s president says India has pledged USD 60 million to help the South American country buy a large ferry and build a four-lane highway.

President Donald Ramotar says the highway is to connect Guyana’s main international airport to a large highway near the capital of Georgetown that runs to the coast.

He said late Thursday that USD 10 million of the amount pledged will be used to buy a passenger and cargo ferry that would operate between Port Georgetown and remote jungle communities near the border with Venezuela.

India and Guyana have collaborated on other projects in recent years, including a cricket stadium and a hospital.

About 44 per cent of the 736,000 people who live in Guyana are descendants of people from India who came as indentured workers.

About that hospital.  It isn’t going well.

Another controversy has erupted in relation to the design and construction of the Specialty Hospital at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara. This time, the government announced its intention to terminate the contract with Surendra Engineering Corporation Ltd on the grounds that the contractor had submitted a fraudulent document purported to emanate from the Central Bank of Trinidad. The government has also asked the police to investigate the matter and is pursuing legal action to recover some US$4.3 million it paid to the contractor.

Surendra Engineering has, however, rejected the allegations and accused the government of seeking to back out of its commitments and of being responsible for the stoppage of work. The contractor also stated that it was entitled to recover from the government amounts expended on the project that it was committed to see through to completion.

Now it is getting worse.

The Indian contractor which was sacked by Government in early September over the US$18M Specialty Hospital is in liquidation.

This latest development would bring uncertainty into legal proceedings filed by the Government of Guyana to recover over US$4M.

According to information seen by Kaieteur News, the company which was incorporated on September 8, 2008, is an unlisted public company which has its registered office at Mumbai, Maharashtra. Its last reported annual general meeting, according to records, was held on September 28, 2012. The company has eight directors.

According to Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, the Surendra contracts in Guyana have continued to raise shocking questions over the manner in which Government goes about its businesses. SECL was awarded the contract to build the US$12.5M sugar packaging plant at Enmore.

Government then, in 2011, turned around and awarded another contract to the company to supply 14 fixed and mobile drainage pump, for US$4M. That contract was under fire as SECL had no immediate history of dealing with pumps.

Under questionable circumstances again, Government awarded SECL the contract for the Indian-funded Specialty Hospital that is being built at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara.

There were objections by another Indian firm over the award of the contract, with a complaint later filed with Indian parliamentarians.

“I want to go this far and say that the Bank in India is responsible in not screening the participants accessing its funding;  or doing at minimum a due diligence or minimum scrutiny of the awardee as recommended by these ‘Chatrees’ in Guyana.

“Even a fourth grader could find out the company’s activities from their web site.  It is so appalling to see monies getting misappropriated and images of the people and of the country, Guyana, getting tarnished.” The Parliamentarian made it clear that it will be nigh impossible for Guyana to recoup the monies it paid to SECL for the Specialty Hospital.

“Is it coincidence that the Surendra is in liquidation now? I am not sure what chance, if any, will this corrupt PPP Government or any future Government will have to recover the sum of US$4.5M that Surendra was paid upfront.”

I am not sure what to think.  Obviously Guyana has almost no engineering capacity in the country and that is exploited by either corrupt or incompetent companies overseas.   Of course spending some of that money to get a highly qualified engineer to help with these kinds of projects like cities all across the world do, might stop them from being exploited.  I hate to blame the victim but Guyana seems to be taken advantage of a lot.

You’ve been diagnosed with depression. Now What?

From the New York Times

Clouds of Depression

You’re feeling down, and your doctor or therapist has confirmed it: You have depression. Now what?

Until recently, many experts thought that your clinician could literally pick any antidepressant or type of psychotherapy at random because, with a few clinical exceptions, there was little evidence to favor one treatment over another for a given patient.

In fact, I used to delight in tormenting the drug company representatives when they asked me how I picked an antidepressant. I would take a quarter out of my pocket, flip the coin and say I’d let chance decide because their drug was no better or worse than their competitors’.

Although the holy grail of personalized therapy — be it with psychotropic drugs or psychotherapy — has proved elusive, we’ve learned a lot recently about individual factors that might predict a better response to one type of treatment over another.

Dr. Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, recently published a study in JAMA Psychiatry that identified a potential biomarker in the brain that could predict whether a depressed patient would respond better to psychotherapy or antidepressant medication.

Using PET scans, she randomized a group of depressed patients to either 12 weeks of treatment with the S.S.R.I. antidepressant Lexapro or to cognitive behavior therapy, which teaches patients to correct their negative and distorted thinking.

Over all, about 40 percent of the depressed subjects responded to either treatment. But Dr. Mayberg found striking brain differences between patients who did well with Lexapro compared with cognitive behavior therapy, and vice versa. Patients who had low activity in a brain region called the anterior insula measured before treatment responded quite well to C.B.T. but poorly to Lexapro; conversely, those with high activity in this region had an excellent response to Lexapro, but did poorly with C.B.T.

What might explain these different responses?

We know that the insula is centrally involved in the capacity for emotional self-awareness, cognitive control and decision making, all of which are impaired by depression. Perhaps cognitive behavior therapy has a more powerful effect than an antidepressant in patients with an underactive insula because it teaches patients to control their emotionally disturbing thoughts in a way that an antidepressant cannot.

This finding fits with what we’ve learned from previous brain imaging studies, which show that antidepressants and psychotherapy share some common effects, but also have different effects in distinct brain regions.

These neurobiological differences may also have important implications for treatment, because for most forms of depression, there is little evidence to support one form of treatment over another. (The exceptions are psychotic depression, a severe form marked by delusions in addition to depressive symptoms, which is best treated with either a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, or electroconvulsive therapy; and atypical depression, characterized by hypersomnia, increased appetite and highly reactive mood, which may respond best to an older class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors.)

Currently, doctors typically prescribe antidepressants on a trial-and-error basis, selecting or adding one antidepressant after another when a patient fails to respond to the first treatment. Rarely does a clinician switch to an empirically proven psychotherapy like cognitive behavior therapy after a patient fails to respond to medication, although these data suggest this might be just the right strategy. One day soon, we may be able to quickly scan a patient with an M.R.I. or PET, check the brain activity “fingerprint” and select an antidepressant or psychotherapy accordingly.

It turns out that other clinical factors may also help patients get the best treatment. For example, there is intriguing evidence that depressed patients who have a history of childhood trauma, such as the early loss of a parent or sexual or physical abuse, do not respond as well to an antidepressant as they do to psychotherapy.

Restaurant Review: Bottega Trattoria

I joined Jordon and a small group of people at Bottega Trattoria last night for dinner and a party.  It was my first time in the restaurant and we were seated in the lounge which features a fantastic garage door to let in the sights, sounds, and ambience of 2nd Avenue.  Sadly for all of Saskatoon, it was -30 last night and that door was securely closed.

Service was great.  Our server was busy (it was a Friday night) but she took care of our group well and was extremely pleasant, even as the night wore on.  She brought us out their amazing fresh bread and garlic butter, got our drinks and was around when we needed her but not so much where it was weird.  I liked her.

After having some of the bread, they brought out our appetizers where two wrongs made a right.  Jordon and I declined to order an appetizer and regretted it when they came out.  Luckily there was an ordering mistake and they had an extra order of deep fried mozzarella risotto balls so we split it.  It was great.

I ordered their lobster ravioli and had no regrets.  The portion size was good and it was extremely tasty.  Jordon had a 12 tenderloin steak cooked medium rare.  Another member of his party had the same steak cooked medium rare and it was cooked far better than Jordon’s which was over cooked.  Same steak.  Ordered at the same time.  One was overcooked.  Not sure how that happens.  Jordon ate it and as he said, “it was a good steak cooked medium”.  The steak was served on a cutting board (I love that idea) and had a healthy side of assorted vegetables.

I liked the restaurant and our dinner.  Jordon and I will return but I really wanted to like it more which seems to be a common sentiment of UrbanSpoon reviewers and friends who have gone there.  It seems so close to being amazing…

Bottega Trattoria
120 2 Ave N
Saskatoon, SK S7K2B2

Bottega Trattoria on Urbanspoon

It’s freezing out, time to escape

With it being so cold this January, we couldn’t help but plan out a summer getaway.

We have two trips planned for this summer.  One is our long delayed micro adventure to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We are doing that in June just after Mark’s 15th birthday (Jordon has the gear guide for the hike here)

The second is a summer vacation to Calgary at the end of July.  Jordon was born in Edmonton but still considers Calgary his hometown despite only living there for less than a decade as a kid.  I think it is a combination of childhood experiences and memories combined with his one way bromance with Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  Oh yeah, the Rocky Mountains.

When we started to think about a trip this summer, I realized that we have a lot of AirMiles accumulated.  AirMiles are the only reason why we continue to be treated poorly by the Bank of Montreal (which took a year to fix Jordon’s debit card so it would not randomly lock him out of his account).  We are using the AirMiles to pay for our hotel which makes for a really cheap trip.  

I just booked our hotel rooms at the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn on Macleod Trail.  We have stayed there before and liked it.  It’s not the Delta Bessborough or anything but it’s new, clean and is in easy walking distance of a C-Train station, is just down from Chinook Centre and has a pool, hot tub, and pool for small children.  It also has an early morning breakfast buffet that the kids like.  It is the definition of a family hotel which is great for us as we are a family.

The plan is to take off in the early morning of a Friday and let the kids sleep in the back of the car.  We will take the leisurely drive to Drumheller and take some photographs of their rather scenic downtown and give the kids some time to stretch their legs.   Hopefully be in Calgary by early afternoon and book into our hotel.  As soon as we get settled in, we will grab our cameras and head downtown on the LRT and explore downtown Calgary, find the Peace Bridge, check out The Bow, and wander around downtown Calgary.  If I know us, we will be right back down there to do some night photography.

The Peace Bridge in Calgary an HDR photo

Mark Cooper in downtown Calgary

The next morning the plan is to get up early and take the scenic route to Banff and then head straight to Johnston’s Canyon Trail and walk the trail along the seven waterfalls.  Knowing us, we will have cameras in tow and I am really looking forward to doing this again and with the boys.  It’s about a two hour hike which will leave us lots of time to explore Banff later on in the day.

Lower fall johnston Canyon

After the hike, the plan is to continue up the Bow Valley Parkway to the Chateau Lake Louise where we will grab lunch and head back to Banff.  Hopefully we will see some wildlife along this section of the park.

 On the way back to Banff, we will grab lunch at a wonderful picnic spot at the start of the Sawback Trail.  It has some quiet picnic tables, a babbling brook, and amazing scenery.  The first time Jordon took me there, a large herd of elk surrounded our car and licked all of the salt off it.  It was covered in Elk saliva, even under the door handles.  Gross.  I hope that doesn’t happen again.  If it does, I’ll get the boys to open my door.

The brook in Sawback and water running off the canyon walls of Johnston’s Canyon have a rich history with Jordon.  He has drank both of them and gotten really sick from Giardia as a kid.  Hopefully he has learned something since then but it’s Jordon so expect him to be hospitalized in Calgary.

After Johnston’s Canyon, we are off to Cave and Basin National Historical Site which in all of my trips to Banff, I have never been to.  The last time we were in Banff it was being renovated and updated.  It’s now open, improved, and dirt cheap to explore.  Jordon loves it and can’t wait to take the boys and myself into the cave and see the glowing water.  It should be amazing.  Since we are there on a Saturday, we may stay late and return there for a lantern tour of the caves.

If we have time, it will be up the Banff Gondola again.  I have been up a few times in winter but never in the summer.  It will be a long day but there is always time for the Bow Falls in Banff.  July weather will mean a little more green than in this photo Jordon took in 2010.

Bow Falls in Banff

To end the day, Mark suggested we will head to the Upper Banff Hot Springs for a hot soak in the pool before heading back to Calgary.

After soaking in the hot tub that night, the next morning should find us at Heritage Park.  I have never been but it looks amazing and a lot of fun.  Jordon won’t tell me why but he says to bring some extra small change along when we go.

Finally on our last day there we will take in the Calgary Zoo.  I’m not worried about Jordon in Banff, downtown Calgary, or even in Drumheller but he has this fear of birds.  Calgary Zoo has a bird house.  Jordon kind of freaked out the last time he was there.  We’ll have our cameras out this time.

As always we will connect with some friends, family, and MEC and since it is right next door, The Camera Store.

I can’t wait.

What to do with Jonestown

Guyana ponders what to do with the site.

The patch of rainforest in remote northern Guyana where Jim Jones moved his People’s Temple in the 1970s has been almost entirely reclaimed by the jungle.

Locals say if you search long enough, you can still find remnants of a tractor used for transport and agriculture and a filing cabinet that would have kept documents about the community.

The metal drums in which Jones mixed cyanide and fruit punch in preparation for the mass murder-suicide which took place at the site 33 years ago are also still in place.

“We should make sure it’s not forgotten by the young people. They should know what can happen,” says 80-year-old Wilfred Jupiter, a labourer who helped clear the land and build Jonestown in the 1970s.

Guyana is still the undeveloped backwater that first attracted the self-appointed Reverend Jim Jones. A former British colonial outpost in South America, its tropical location has done little for its tourist industry. It lacks the turquoise waters and white sandy beaches of nearby Caribbean islands.

But some Guyanese would like to see the notoriety it gained through its connection with Jones converted into tourist dollars.

Carlton Daniels is the former postmaster in Port Kaituma, a scrappy mining town close to the old Jonestown compound. He’s one of the few residents who remembers what happened there.

“Bringing in some tourist dollars could be good for development. There’s a lot of gold mining right now, but minerals don’t last for ever,” he says.

Not trying to be pessimistic but linking Guyana to Jonestown is not a good tourism idea.

Restaurant Review: The Rook & Raven


The Rook & Raven

One of my favourite pubs in Saskatoon has been The Rook & Raven.  It offers excellent pub fare at a decent price with a great atmosphere.  It was one of the best places to go in Saskatoon.

Over the years a couple of great meals have stood out.  One is their legendary Mac & Cheese which has drawn me back for years.  The other is their excellent appetizers which include great wings and cauliflower fritters.

The lunch menu also includes their famous pizza lunch special, an excellent grilled cheese sandwich and decent burger.  The food and atmosphere was so good that we had anniversary dinners there, celebrated birthdays and special events, and was a great place to get together with friends.

The one thing that has changed over the years has been what once was great service has become really inconsistent.  We were recently there with friends and the wings were undercooked to the point of being unsafe. The waitress took them away, never replaced them and we were still charged.  Another time Jordon planned on leaving a cash tip but was rudely called out by the waitress for not tipping her with the debit machine.

One other thing that has changed is that while it is a pub where people go to talk, later at night the music starts to get really loud which kind of defeats the purpose of going to a pub.

The other big thing that changed with the Rook was the opening of The Congress Beer House across the street.  Not only is the food better at The Congress but the service is noticeably better.

The Rook & Raven used to be amazing.  It’s still good but no longer the best pub to go for a drink downtown.  It’s too bad as it used to be my favourite spot in Saskatoon.

The Rook and Raven on Urbanspoon

The Rook and Raven
(306) 665-2220
154 2nd Ave South