Hacking Fitness

My cousin Paul died last Friday . He died after a long battle with cancer, a battle he fought in the same way that I remember him living his life, with a positive outlook and a stubborn determination to overcome. He was the closest in age to me of all my cousins, only two months younger.

We had not been very close these last many years. Recently we really only saw each other at weddings and funerals but it always felt like my aunts kept the family communication flowing, emails, letters, Christmas cards. He grew up in another city, not across the country but far enough that I only saw him in the summer and on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving. As we grew older we visited each other, alone and then with girl friends and wives but as our own families grew the occasion to visit grew fewer and father apart.

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The thing is no matter where you are your family is still your family, blood is blood. He, like all my cousins, was always held close to my heart.

He was many things to many people, a husband, a father, an uncle, a brilliant carpenter, but in my still vivid childhood memories he was always fishing. It was the thing we shared each time we were together. The last time I spent any serious amount of time with him was after a wedding when he invited me to “the lake” to go fishing. Instead of two kids jumping in the boat it was two 40 year olds, laughing and joking, like no time had passed, just as we had always done.

It is those summers at my grandparents cottage, at “the lake”, I will always remember when I think of him. I used to spent all my weekends at the cottage yet the week or two that he would visit, initially with his older brothers and, as we grew older, by himself, always filled me with exhilaration, exhilaration tinged with terror. Paul was the outgoing fearless compliment to my shy cautious personality.

In my mind he had no boundaries, no limits, there was nothing he was afraid to do or try. I always knew that the week or two I spent with him would cause me to push my own physical and emotional boundaries, to explore parts of the lake I had never seen, to go farther in the boat or through the forest than I thought we were allowed. Paul always assured me that everything would be fine, and it always was.

Our adventures always had something to do with fishing. Preparing to fish, trying to figure out where to fish, catching bait for the fish, or arguing about what bait would work to attract the fish today. I haven’t fished much since but every time I pick up a rod or thread a worm onto a hook brings back memories of those summers on the lake.

We spent hours catching frogs because the biggest fish liked frogs. We boated out to islands we knew were covered with frogs. We paddled the canoe deep into the deerfly infested but frog filled swamp. We dragged the canoe across cat tails, filling it with one small frog after another. The fishing inevitably becoming secondary to the adventure that resulted during the preparation.

On one trip we caught two massive bull frogs, laughing, convincing ourselves that we would use them to catch the mother of all fish, wondering how hard it would be to cast them out into the water. As we paddled back, plotting our evening expedition, we noticed one of the bull frogs sitting quite contently in the bottom of the boat with two small legs protruding from its mouth. Paul was horrified and spent 5 minutes freeing the smaller frog. A frog he would subsequently put on a hook and feed to a fish. His explanation was that you never knew if we would need that last frog to catch that last big fish.

We went on long walks through the forest behind the cottage, looking to find the deepest part of the frog swamp. A part of the swamp we could never reach in the canoe but were convinced held the mother lode of frogs and would keep us fishing for days. Fearlessly leading me over fences that defined the limit of my cautious explored, getting lost but obviously finding our way back, never actually finding the swamp but spending the day running and climbing and laughing.

We tried on several occasions to discover our own great fishing spot so we could be remembered in the lore of the lake, taking grandpa’s small outboard to parts of the lake I had never seen and was sure grandpa didn’t want us visiting. I would remind Paul of this occasionally, only to be met with a wide eye grin and polite dismissal. I look back and I am glad he never gave into my caution, I have many more tales to tell to my kids as a result.

At one spot on the lake where we were sure no one else had ever fished we hooked a massive Northern Pike. Yelling and screaming at each other, in sheer joy and more than a little panic we slowly reeled it in. As it got closer to the boat we began to realize how big it was. To our young eyes it was the biggest fish ever caught on the lake, we would be famous. As the beast approached the boat Paul reached out with the net to attempt to land it. With one shake of it’s massive head, and I am positive a smirking glare from the eye closest to the boat, the line snapped and the fish slowly swam back into the depths. I was convinced Paul was going to jump in after it as he reached desperately with the net. We fished in that same spot until after dark, and then the next two days, determined to catch the monster, but it never returned.

My grandparents anchored our adventures, feeding us, when we happened to be near the cottage, cautioning us about boat safety, watching over us as we wiled away the hours between each fishing adventure swimming, playing cards or simply sitting in the sun and talking, but it was always the fishing that connected us.

Paul was fearless and in a lot of ways taught me to be fearless as well, or at least less cautious and for that I am eternally grateful.

Goodbye Paul, when I see you again we will go fishing.


I stumbled across this amazing version of Stairway to Heaven on Youtube last night and had to listen to it, just as I listen to any version of the song, anytime, anywhere. I would guess that anyone that went to high school in the 70’s (and early 80’s) would feel the same.

It is amazing how a few notes on a guitar can instantly throw you kicking and screaming back to a specific time in your life.

As soon as the guitar solo starts at the 3:45 mark of the song I was, once again, that shy 15 year old, reliving that awkward moment during the slow dance, that you had just spent the entire night trying to orchestrate, when the song kicks it up to a faster pace.

Do you cling to your dance partner and desperately hope they let the slow dance last longer or do you start dancing fast?

I had chills during the entire song and was standing at the end, BBQ lighter held over my head, screaming for an encore.


This is the second of a 2 part interview on Untether.tv with Stephen Davis, CTO of Skyreader Media by Rob Woodbridge

What does it mean to build a book for tablets and mobile devices? Seems like a simple question with a simple answer but it really isn’t. We aren’t talking about a traditional book – those exist but they aren’t the REAL future of digital books, they are a legacy product that will bridge the paper and digital worlds – for now. I’m talking about the new new book, the books that are built specifically for the powerful devices we carry around.

Traditional books, the ones on your bookshelf today, haven’t changed much since the printing press was invented but they, just like so many industries, are being disrupted by the tablets and mobile devices we all carry. Books are being re-imagined in ways that make sense, in ways that take full advantage of the capabilities of the devices – which is far greater than the paper they are currently being printed on.

Paper is paper. You can choose the thickness, the shade of white and the font. You can design a cover, throw in some art and a table of contents but paper is still paper. Paper books don’t need to be ported to multiple papers, they don’t need to be tested in multiple screen sizes and they don’t need to be built specifically for small bite-sized engagements.

This is the first of 2 parts of an interview on Untether.tv with Stephen Davis, CTO of Skyreader Media (by Rob Woodbridge)

The e-book world has emerged as a viable alternative to its print cousin. It has moved ahead in distribution numbers and is well on its way to democratizing the development and delivery of books. If you are an optimist like me, you look at the contribution that mobile has made to this as significant as the invention of the printing press. The change in ease with which you can publish a book independently is starting to turn the artists – writers, illustrators, musicians, etc – into entrepreneurs, the same way that mobile turned software developers into app makers and business people.

Does this shift in publishing prove the “appification” of the publishing industry or is this just another form of enhanced multi-media experience? Some say this is the way books were meant to be consumed, others look at the zombie-like effect these glowing screens have on the user and wonder if the very nature of the “book” is under assault. Whatever your view, consumers have spoken and adopted this new format of book distribution and consumption faster than any other to date.

So what does it take to build a business in this new book publishing world?

…full interview here

Interviewed for Skyreader Media Inc about our new app Draw Along Pip.

Today I have FIVE codes for a ridiculously cute app. Draw Along Pip features one of my favourite animals, a penguin, who is very busy cleaning the house. A penguin with a feather duster…just perfect.

What makes this app even more fun is the interactive feature that allows your child to complete each page by drawing Pip and his friends. They can even draw little Pip’s slippers. The music, the colours and the narration in this app are all quirky and bright and infectious. Tot has given this the prestigious ‘awesome’ accolade.

If you’d like to win a copy, just tell me what your favourite animal is in the comments below and winners will be chosen in 24hrs, 4pm EST U.S.

Or if you can’t wait, you can get the app right now by clicking here!



Published at Mogul Baby,  MAY 20, 2012

I’ve never heard of the Pip the Penguin books until I downloaded the app Draw Along Pip to the iPad recently. Pip the Penguin has so far sold 600,000 copies in hard cover worldwide, and has been translated into Japanese, Swedish and French. Now it’s an eBook thanks to the development team at Ottawa-based Skyreader.

Skyreader had made Pip interactive by adding a draw-along feature. Reading through the story – a child can just “rub” inside the dotted lines and the drawings will appear. Follow along and have Pip discover what friendly animals are hiding in his house. Great entertainment for a child under five.

Author Leslie McGuirk says, “It is vital for an artist and writer to be inspired, and I love how Skyreader Media has turned a linear book into an immersive exploration for young readers. The new draw-along technology that allows a child to use the iPad’s touch screen to draw characters and objects that pop to life with sound and movement transforms Pip the Penguin into a multimedia experience I couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago.”

Skyreader’s eBook version of Pip the Penguin is available now from Apple’s App Store

Anyone can access several videos about Skyreader and the new app at http://www.youtube.com/user/SkyreaderMedia

Overall: A+ for fun, interactivity and cuteness

…complete article here

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