Month: November 2015 Page 1 of 2

What’s Safe?

With the United States declaring a Worldwide Travel Alert, the question of safety for our family has come up a few times.   Of course, a lot will change in 5 years, so nobody can be sure what we’ll be faced with when the time comes for our travel.  But what can we do now to make sure we’re being as careful as possible?  One thing is to keep track of worldwide events like terrorism — but not necessarily where terror events occur, but where they originated from and who supported them.  This can help identify areas of the world that 14 and 9 year olds probably shouldn’t be travelling to.  The world is a big place, so skipping a few countries shouldn’t be a problem…

So what can you do to research such a complex topic?  One thing would be to read the Global Terrorism Index put out by the Institute for Economics and Peace.  Their 2015 index just came out and you can see the PDF here.  The PDF is 111 pages, so not exactly fun bed time reading.  But, just looking at the rankings can give you a sense of which sections of the world you might want to avoid.  Unfortunately, there’s a few countries we’d like to visit that are pretty high on the Impact list at the moment (for example, Thailand is #10, Egypt is #13, Kenya is #18).

Looking at things from the other end, we have the Institute for Economics and Peace’s 2015 Global Peace Index (PDF).  Again, 127 pages, so a good long read – but at least not as depressing.  This index can help understand a country’s level of safety and security, degrees of militarization and more.  Thankfully, most of the countries we’re interested in visiting are fairly peaceful, though a few are red (Russia, for example, though it IS a massive geographical area that’s being lumped together).

Of course, the odds of being killed or hurt by a terrorist attack is much smaller than being hit by lightning, but the fact that poverty, class inequality, government corruption, civil unrest and other social ills are directly connected to terrorism can’t be ignored.  The world’s a big place, and we understand that, in 5 years, there just might be a few beautiful places that we’ll just have to skip during our trip.


2015 Global Peace Index

The Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

— Carl Sagan

Traveller’s Tales

I came across this travel series on Reddit yesterday (got as far as when he stores the diamond under his skin – *cringe*) and was reminded of some of the other travel series that I have seen.

I am a big fan of the Long Way Round series by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, as well as their second one when they go the Long Way Down instead. If you don’t know, this is a TV series made with a bit of McGregor’s Star Wars money in which he and his mate travel the world by motorcycle. Very cool stuff. I learned about Russia’s Road of Bones through these shows and also came to really appreciate the diversity and beauty of Africa.

I’ve also seen a few episodes of Michael Palin’s travel shows on PBS (of which there are many). I remember really enjoying the one where he travels in Russia (or Turkey maybe?) and visits a barber. They light his ear hair on fire! On purpose! Oh my goodness.  I also like the romantic one where he crosses the channel on a fancy steamer and mails back his tux when they land. Won’t be needing to dress for dinner anymore!

Searching for those episodes, I came across this lovely little clip by Palin on the Independent where he gives some solid travel advice.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the book Eighty Days about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world. This was purely a stunt to sell newspapers, both women racing to beat the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

For our family, the idea of taking THE TRIP is really just a response to having the opportunity to complete a perfect Venn Diagram. JBot really enjoyed talking a year off from work when TRex was born; we really enjoying spending time together as a family; and we really enjoy travelling together. For us it isn’t about capital A adventure, instigating the need to stash diamonds under our skin in case we get into danger, but rather a sort of more mellow, enjoyable experience.

I do rather like Nellie Bly’s advice on packing though (via brain pickings).

Breathe in…. Breathe Out

A NASA animation of the yearly cycle of the biosphere. Look at all that algae! Look at all that desert in Australia!

Cool Places to Stay: La Montaña Mágica Lodge, Chile


I don’t know if we will travel here but I am excited that I know where this is now! I saw a picture of this magical looking place years ago and I now I know that it is one of several lodges run by Huilo-Huilo in the Patagonia region of Chile. So cool!

The Strong: the National Museum of Play

We had a fantastic time at the National Museum of Play! We took advantage of a Canadian school holiday to cross the border and travel to Rochester, New York.

This is a fantastic place for families with lots of wonderful places for playing all day. When we visited, there was a special exhibit on the history of Nintendo!  There are lots of arcade, pinball, and other retro video games as part of the main collection as well. Over the weekend there was a Star Wars theme! There were many different themed sections that happily occupied our young and older children. The effort made to address themes and controversies (violence, gender) got a kudos from JBot and myself. Seeing some of our favourite toys from when we were kids (Jem!!!) in the collection was pretty amazing.



The Loxelys and the War of 1812

I found the graphic novel The Loxelys and the War of 1812 by chance on one of my first trips to the public library. We have recently moved to the Niagara region and I have to admit that my memory of the War of 1812 and its impact on this region is pretty foggy.

This graphic novel is appropriate for children who can deal with issues related to war. It is a great resource for learning about the impact of the war on more than just soldiers. For example, the narrative follows the experience of women and native peoples as well.

You can see an animation of the novel here and a trailer for the book below:

Kids These Days…

It’s amazing how often we hear sayings like, “Kids these days…” or “When I was young…”.   I can hardly go a few days without someone from my generation or later bemoaning our kids’ generation, calling them lazy for not doing all of their chores with a smile, whining that they aren’t as smart as them since they need calculators, and so forth.  But is that true?  Is every new generation getting progressively worse?

No, absolutely not.  The below comic from XKCD shows how, for two hundred years, we’ve been complaining that some new technology or invention is destroying our ability to interact with others.

Travel Ideas: Bookstores

Books Rare

Came across this on Mental Floss today.. I like the idea of researching cool book stores to visit when we are travelling. I say this as a person who had to visit City Lights while in San Francisco and Shakespeare & Co while in Paris.

Ah, that lovely bookstore smell. And when it has that hushed feel, like church.

I like how Raina Telgemeier recommends the Kidsbooks in Vancouver. It sounds a lot like the fantastic Mabel’s Fables in Toronto.

I also like it when the booksellers hug your book choice and squeal with excitement and then chat with you pleasantly in an unhurried way for ages. Looking at you, Books & Co in Prince Edward County!

(photo of Bookman’s Corner, Chicago via metabrilliant)

Dealing with the Fallout

It would come as no surprise that a nerdy kid from the 80s would be interested in video games, and that his own son would most likely get into video games by extension.  Some of my favourite games were either based on religious themes (again, no surprise for anybody that knows me) or post-apocalyptic story lines.  Post-nuclear holocaust games like Metro 2033 (2010), based on Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky’s novel of the same name, is an excellent example of a beautiful dark story that delves into moral and ethical quandaries.  Similarly, Valve’s Half-Life 2 (2004) shows a dystopian Earth in which the interdimensional Combine have harvested nearly all of the planets resources.  The worlds in these games are dark and bleak, giving an oppressive feeling to the player (and thus, adding to the tension).

Metro 2033

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