Walking in Support of Huntington’s Disease Research and Awareness – May 4

Today was another training day for me.  I didn’t get as many Ks in as would have liked, but still had a decent hike; 8.8 kilometers for the backpack hike and 12.85 kilometers total for the day.

As per my format, I will try and update some information about Huntington’s disease in order to build awareness as well as journal my activity in preparation for my walk across Saskatchewan this summer.

What is Huntington’s Disease (2)?

Previously, I posted that Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited brain disorder. The problem is in a little DNA segment known as CAG trinucleotide repeat. Here, the building blocks cytosine, adenine, and guanine (CAG) repeat 10-35 times in the normal HTT gene. In a person with Huntington’s disease, the CAG repeat in this gene is greater than 36.  If the repeat is from 36-39 a person may not develop symptoms of the disease but can still pass it on to the next generation (whose CAG repeat is likely higher). If a person inherits this gene and the repeat is over 40, it will almost always lurk around until a person is 30-50 years old and then systematically destroy the frontal lobe of the brain over the next  10 to 20 years. Early symptoms will vary depending on what part of the brain is affected and when, but the disease will always result in uncontrollable, jerky movements, total impairment, and death (prognosis is this 10-20 years after becoming symptomatic) in its advanced stages. Some people will show symptoms earlier than 30 and likewise develop symptoms after 50, but the vast majority of people with this abnormal HTT (ie. Huntington) gene will become symptomatic between ages 30 and 50. Unfortunately, the faulty gene is dominant, meaning if you inherit it, you get Huntington’s disease; there’s simply no way around it.

Very nasty stuff and it is all because of a tiny hiccup on one gene.

This video explains in more medical terminology what goes on with the Huntington gene and its effect on the brain:

Did You Know?

Huntington’s disease is named after Dr. George Huntington who published a paper on his studies of the disease in 1872. Huntington came from a family of doctors who lived in East Hampton, New York and who over generations had observed several residents of East Hampton suffering from a condition known then as “St. Vitus’s Dance.” This included Phebe Hedges who also suffered from St. Vitus’s Dance and who famously committed suicide by walking into the sea in 1806.  Huntington made the connection that this condition was passed on through generations and thereafter, the disease bore his name rather than the previous incorrect label (which actually refers to a childhood disease that produces similar bodily movements but goes away after a few months).

This Day in Training:

Distance:  8.8 kilometers walked

Backpack: 20 lbs

Temperature:  21 degrees

Conditions:  No wind but bugs were out for the first time.  I hope the mosquitoes are not like they were last summer where they basically took over the yard in mid-June.

Most listened to song on my playlist: I basically listened to two songs over and over today.

Here Without You – 3 Doors Down –  Just a beautiful classic song from 2003. Also, it is a great road song.

Tell Me Ma – Rankin Family –  This song really works when you need to pick up the pace!

Please visit my fundraising page at the Huntington Society of Canada

Walking in Support of Huntington’s Disease Research and Awareness

Starting on July 10, 2017,  I am going to walk across the province of Saskatchewan in order to raise funds and awareness for the Huntington Society of Canada.  My walk should take about three weeks and will cover about 700 kilometers. I plan on walking about 50 kilometers per day.

May is Huntington Disease Awareness month and also a time for me to step up my training.  I started in April with about 150 kilometers of walking and I want to double that in May. I also want to inform people about Huntington’s Disease

What is Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited brain disorder. HD causes cells in parts of the brain to die: specifically the caudate, the putamen and, as the disease progresses, the cerebral cortex. As the brain cells die, a person with Huntington’s becomes less able to control movements, recall events, make decisions and control emotions. The disease leads to incapacitation and, eventually, death. There is no cure.

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder. The HD gene is dominant, which means that each child of a parent with HD has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease and is said to be “at-risk”. Males and females have the same risk of inheriting the disease. Huntington’s occurs in all races. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 30 and 50, but the disease can appear in children or seniors.

Did You Know?

Famous American folk singer Woody Guthrie died of complications arising from Huntington’s Disease in 1967; the same year as Canada’s centennial.  You can read about his struggle with the disease here.

This Land is Your Land

This Day in Training:

Distance: 11 kilometers walked

Backpack: 20 lbs

Temperature: 18 degrees

Conditions:  No wind (finally!)

Most listened to song on my playlist: Today by the Smashing Pumpkins – Interesting story: I never really got the name of this band, until I lived in Cochrane, Alberta. I awoke on November 1, 1997, to find that all of the Jack-o-Lanterns on our street had been stolen and smashed on the street. Later in 2006, when teaching in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, I told this story to my Grade 12 English class on Halloween. The next morning the streets of Vanguard were littered with smashed pumpkins. Several townspeople blamed me for the incident.

I actually like this acoustic version of the song:

Please visit my fundraising page at the Huntington Society of Canada


Canada Comes Alive!

On July 1, 2017, Canada will celebrate its 150th year of existence! This is quite an accomplishment considering our odd, accidental, unwelcome, rejected, unwanted, unconventional birth.

Remember the American Revolution and the 13 Colonies kicking the shackles of tyranny to curb and emerging as the United States of America? That didn’t happen with us.  Great Britain couldn’t afford and didn’t want us anymore, so basically on July 1, 1867, they had a vote in London and told us we were on our own.  “Nice knowing you.”  “See you later.” “Call us once in a while!”

Now obviously, there is more to this story and it’s not like we wanted to stay anyway, so how did all of those leftover British Colonies manage to grow up and become independent?

Basically, it all started with the American Civil War. By 1861, our neighbours to the South hated each other.  The states in the South wanted to leave and form their own country so they could continue to use slavery as a means of keeping their large cotton and tobacco plantations profitable. The North didn’t want the South to leave and didn’t want or need slavery with its more industrial economy. In the end (1865), the North won and the United States remained the United States.  Great Britain however (unlike the French in the American Revolution) had bet on the wrong horse and supported the South during the Civil War. They had even built a Confederate warship, the Alabama, in England.  When the North finally won in 1865, the United States was justifiably angry with Great Britain.  But why sail across the Atlantic to punish Great Britain?  Why not take some revenge on those British Colonies to the North?

The United States did this by ending reciprocity agreements with the British Colonies.  This meant no more free trade.  Canada and the Maritime colonies had gotten used to freely selling lumber, fish and agricultural products to the large  US market. With this free ride over, the British colonies had to look to each other as trading partners.

Railways also played a key role here.  Railways in the 1800s were like the cell phones of today.  They were they KEY communication device that everyone wanted in on.  The problem for the British colonies was that railways were expensive to build. Getting together would help solve the cost issue and once built the railways would obviously accelerate trade and the spreading of new ideas.

The colony of Canada also had a huge problem at this time.  The Act of Union in 1841 was so successful in creating equality between Canada East and Canada West that the colony had reached a total political stalemate.  They couldn’t decide on anything and couldn’t move forward as a result. Canada had to look to get bigger in order to find alliances and get moving again. Canada had a breakthrough of sorts with what was referred to as the Great Coalition in 1864.  George Brown and the Reformers actually joined with John A. Macdonald and the Conservatives.  The modern day equivalent would be Justin Trudeau joining forces with whoever will lead the Conservative Party of Canada. The catch here was that this coalition’s purpose was to work towards a larger union of British North American colonies.

The coalition found their opportunity in September 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference.  The Maritime colonies had gathered to discuss their own union; nothing to do with Canada at this point.  The Canadian boys found out about the Conference,  crashed the party and turned the Charlottetown Conference’s agenda into one that discussed a merger of all British Colonies in North America.  They were persuasive.  A month later the group met again in Quebec and hammered out the framework for the BNA Union.  Among other items, they wanted the new country to be a federal system with two levels of government; a provincial government to administer things such as education and health and a federal government to handle such items as defence and currency.  Any residual powers (anything they couldn’t think of at the time) would belong to the Federal government.

Proud of their accomplishment, the would be Fathers of Confederation took their idea of a unified Canada back to the colonies hoping for a stamp of approval.  Instead, they were soundly rejected.  Canada voted yes, but the French in Canada East were split.  Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island said “no thanks” outright.  New Brunswick was split and Nova Scotia said “no” but their premier, Charles Tupper, rammed it through anyway. Canada was on hold, destined to expire in 1864.

Then along came the Fenians in 1866.  The Fenians were Irish Americans in the Northern United States that out of nowhere started to raid British North American border towns. The reason:  They wanted Great Britain out of Ireland.  Their campaign had nothing to do with Canada or the United States but it couldn’t have happened at a better time for confederation. Supporters of a larger Canadian union basically said: “See the Americans are attacking us like we said they would.”  The British Colonies basically replied: “You’re right, we’ll join together even though we don’t want to.”

That (the Fenian raids) was the catalyst that brought Canada together. The Confederation boys got together in London and dusted off their notes from the Quebec Conference. On March 29, 1867, by an Act of British Parliament, the Dominion of Canada was created.  Great Britain essentially told us: “Okay get out of here, and have all your stuff out by July 1.” So on July 1, 1867, the British North America Act came into effect and Canada became a country with four provinces: Ontario (Canada West), Quebec (Canada East), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Here is a summary:

British Columbia: Just a Little Different

I lived in British Columbia for six years.  The province is flat out awesome!  It is, however, a little different than the rest of Canada.  Growing up in Saskatchewan, we used to have one or maybe two television channels on a good day.  Everything seemed to happen outside of Saskatchewan in places like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.   Furthermore, our roads and railways always seemed to me to be taking everything outside of Saskatchewan to far off destinations. As a result, I, like many other residents of Saskatchewan, saw myself as Canadian first, and a Saskatchewanian second. I learned very quickly that this was not the case in British Columbia.  People from British Columbia are British Columbian first.

Even just a quick glance at the province shows that British Columbia is a bit different than its provincial brothers to the east. For one, it is separated from the rest of Canada by the mountains. It has more geographic features and climate variation than perhaps the rest of Canada combined.  Its economy and trade patterns are different.  British Columbia also has differences when it comes to history.

First Nations people inhabited British Columbia first.  That is no different. There is, however, this Spanish element to British Columbia that the rest of Canada does not have. Spanish explorers explored the coast of British Columbia well before Alexander Mackenzie got scared off by the Heiltsuk Nation and painted his name on a rock in 1793.  Even the fur trade was based on sea otter pelts and not beaver like the rest of Canada.

British Columbia is very much like the rest of Canada, in that it came from what was left over from the United States.  At first part of British North America left after the American Revolution, British Columbia and the rest of the great North-West became of interest to American president James Polk in 1844.  Basically, the United States became really good at expanding.  The 1800s was a great time to be an American and there was this view that it was just simply a natural progression that all of North America would eventually be the United States. This was known as Manifest Destiny and it is an idea that a few historians and economists would suggest has never really died.  In 1844, however, it wasn’t just an idea, it was a belief that many Americans, including Polk, felt should be acted upon. He was even willing to go to war over it.  His battle cry was “54’40 or fight”.  This meant that James Polk wanted the United States to extend to the 54th parallel, not the present day 49th parallel. If this were to happen in present day Canada, the border would be north of places like Edmonton, Prince George and Saskatoon and about where Smithers, Slave Lake and La Ronge are located.  Essentially 98% of Canada’s population would be American.

Needless to say, this never happened.  Great Britain worked out a deal with the United States that established the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and Canada.  A few years later in 1858, a gold rush in the Fraser Valley brought many people to British Columbia (it wasn’t known as British Columbia yet)  and it would later join Canada as a full province in 1871.

Here is a brief video summary:

Building a Mobile Reading Shack

Implementing the Saskatchewan Reads program in a school or classroom often starts with establishing a physical reading space. This reading space is usually a comfortable and safe place within the classroom or school where students can just kick back and enjoy a good book.

At Vanguard Community School we wanted to add to the interior reading spaces by giving our elementary students somewhere outside where kids could comfortably read away from the elements.   With visions of the bookmobile from my youth in mind, my PAA (Practical and Applied Arts) 10 class set out to convert an old tent trailer into a mobile reading room.

We started out by stripping the old trailer down to the frame.  Next, we used our newly acquired welding skills to add reinforcements to the floor. Basic framing followed as we built a stick frame building and mounted it to the steel frame.  To keep our weight down, we framed our building using 2 x 3 studs on two-foot centres.  Also, in order to keep a low profile, we constructed a flat roof. We doubled up on finishing and structural integrity by using 1 x 4 tongue and groove spruce on the interior. Laminate flooring completed the interior.  We then wired our shack so that we could run one L.E.D. light on a switch and an electrical outlet. For our power source, we simply wired in a heavy-duty extension cord so that we could plug our trailer into an external outlet. R-12 insulation was added to the walls and ceiling.  The roof was completed with pre-cut corrugated steel.  Vinyl siding finished the exterior.

At this point, all we needed was to add a bookshelf and some books and our mobile reading room was complete.  The wheel wells served as built-in benches.  Most people who see it think it would make a great ice-fishing shack.  You can decide:

The Pemmican War of 1811-1816

We have seen that while the eastern part of North America was involved in wars and rebellions from a period of 1756 to 1837 (Seven Years War, American Revolution, War of 1812, 1837 Rebellions), the northwestern part of North America was still very much in the thick of the fur trade.

Two fur trading companies, the Hudson`s Bay Company and the North-West Company were battling it out to see who could make the most money buying and selling furs in North America. It wasn`t much of a battle.  The Hudson`s Bay Company had a massive geographical advantage in that it could take ocean-going ships half-way across the continent, whereas the North-West Company had to rely on an elaborate system of lakes and rivers that old French fur traders had established during the days of New France. The North-West company remained competitive as long there was new territory to find and exploit.  This ended in July of 1793 when Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean by land. This meant that there was simply no more fur trading areas to reach.  The Hudson`s Bay Company`s competitive advantage eventually started to wear on its failing competitor.

To further pressure the North-West Company, the HBC began opening up areas for agricultural settlement.  Agriculture and settlement meant the end of the fur trade and when the HBC started the Selkirk settlement in southern Manitoba, the demise of the fur trade soon followed.

The problem with the Selkirk settlement was that is was strategically located where the Metis had set up shop trading and supplying Pemmican to the North-West company voyageurs.  The Metis owed their livelihood (not to mention their origin)to the fur trade.  The Selkirk settlement was a clear and direct threat to their way of life. When the Metis mentioned to the HBC that they maybe could have moved their settlement somewhere that wouldn`t bring about the ruin of the Metis way of life, arguments started.  These arguments led to armed battles, which for a five-year period between 1811 and 1816 became known as the Pemmican War.  The last and most violent of these battles was at Seven Oaks in 1816.  Here is a summary:

By the way, pemmican seems like really cool stuff.It is a mixture of powdered dried meat, berries, and sugar or honey.  Apparently,  it can last for years and is highly nutritious and calorie dense.  It could sustain voyageurs for months at a time. Here is a recipe that I found and that we will try in class.


Recipe # 1


  • 4 cups lean meat (deer, beef, caribou or moose)
  • 3 cups dried fruit
  • 2 cups rendered fat
  • Unsalted nuts and about 1 shot of honey


Meat should be as lean as possible and double ground from your butcher if you do not have you own meat grinder. Spread it out very thin on a cookie sheet and dry at 180 degrees F for at least 8 hours or until sinewy and crispy. Pound the meat into nearly a powder consistency using a blender or other tool. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture. Heat rendered fat on the stove at medium until liquid. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey. Mix everything by hand. Let cool and store. Can keep and be consumed for several years.

The Durham Report and Responsible Government in Canada.

So we know that Great Britain messed up.  They taxed the United States into rebellion in 1776 and blamed it on too much freedom. Determined not to mess up again, Great Britain forced an oligarchy on what remained of its British North American colonies (Canada).  To no one’s surprise, this led yet again to rebellion in 1837 in Upper and Lower Canada.  Still unsure of why their colonies had this nasty habit of rebelling, Great Britain appointed Lord  “Radical Jack” Durham to both govern its North American colonies and also find out the causes of the rebellions.

Durham told of his findings in the now famous (guess what?) Durham Report.  Basically, he reported what the United States knew decades earlier: People generally like a say in how they are governed (i.e. responsible government).  The thing is, Great Britain rejected the Durham report! Instead, they opted for a kind of hybrid between Durham’s recommendations and what they had already established for government in the colonies. This led to among other things, the Act of Union in 1841, separation of English and French speaking Canadians, separate schools and overall a unique (or weird) political system that would be a forerunner of Canadian Politics.  Here is how it went down:

Drafting 1.2 – Sketchup Basics

Drafting 1.2

Big Idea:  Orbit, Pan, Zoom, Axes, Copy and Paste (Curriculum Objectives 1.2-1.5)



  1. Open up the Sketchup file used previously in 1.1b.
  2. Use the orbit tool to orbit around every dimension of your object.
  3. Use the pan tool to reposition your object.
  4. Use the zoom tool to look inside your object.
  5. Draw an object inside of your object.  See if you can zoom out and see it from outside the building.
  6. Use the copy and paste functions to see if you can copy faces and build an exact replica of the object built in 1.1b.

Correct Your Work

Watch this video to correct your work and see if you are on the right track.

Additional Video (1.2 Axes)

Drafting 1.1 b Sketchup Basics

Drafting 1.1b

Big Idea: Creating a Sketchup file and drawing basic elements ( lines, circles, arcs, and polygons) (Curriculum Objectives 1.1-1.4)

Video tutorial –  Getting Started with Google Sketchup



  1. Locate Google Sketchup on your computer (Start- All Programs- Sketchup 8).   You might want to drag this to your desktop at this point so that locate the program easily.
  2. Open Google Sketchup.
  3. We are going to construct a box that is 8 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet high.
  4. Change your dimensions by selecting Window – Model info – Units – Decimal – Feet.  This will allow you to build your box with feet as the unit of measurement rather than metres.  You can switch back and forth as you wish
  5. Locate your rectangle tool.  All of the tools are located along the top of the page.  Draw a rectangle.  Notice that Sketchup automatically tells you the dimensions.  Draw your rectangle until it is 8 feet by 8 feet
  6. Locate your push pull tool.  Click on your rectangle and drag it up to 8 feet using the push/pull tool.  Notice you now have a box that is 8 ft x 8 ft x 8ft.
  7. Other tools:  Select the following tools and complete the following tasks:
  8. Draw a circle on one face of your cube.  Make the diameter 2 ft.  Do this in the same way that you made your rectangle, but use the circle tool instead. Use the orbit tool in order to find the face on which you want to work.
  9. Use the select tool to select the circle you just made.  Hit the delete key to make a circular window.
  10. Use the rectangle to make a door on another face of your cube. Make the door 6 feet 8 inches tall and 36 inches wide. Select the door and hit the delete key to create your doorway.
  11. Select the Arc tool to make an arc on top of your doorway.
  12. Extend your building to a total of 11 ft high by using the push and pull tool.
  13. Use the line tool to make a roof line at the 8 ft marker of the building.
  14. Use the push/pull tool to create your roof.
  15. Your finished product should be a building that is 8 ft x 8 ft x 11 ft that has a circular window and a door.


Correct Your Work –  Correct Your Work Using this Link

Drafting 1.1 Sketchup Basics

Drafting 1.1

Time Required – 2-3 hours

Big Idea: Creating a Sketchup file and drawing basic elements ( lines, circles, arcs and polygons) (Curriculum Objectives 1.1-1.4)

Introduction:  This activity asks you to produce a simple Sketchup Up file and create and manipulate basic elements such as lines, circles, arcs, curves and polygons.


Drafting 1.1 – Video Tutorial Demo


  1. Find the Sketchup icon on your computer and double-click to start.  It should be located at Start – All Programs –  Sketchup 8 – Sketchup (the Sketchup icon looks like a red and white cube with a corner missing).
  2. We want to start from a simple template.  Sketchup may launch the “Welcome to Sketchup” from which you can choose – Choose Template – Simple Template Feet and Inches – Start Using Sketchup.  If it doesn’t launch with this screen, simply click Help – Welcome to Sketchup – Choose Template – Simple Template Feet and Inches.  You can click the little box in the bottom left that will launch this screen on every startup.
  3. You now have Sketchup running.  You should see a person standing in a green background beside some intersecting lines.
  4. Tools –  Please familiarize yourself with the following tools:


Line –  This tool is represented by the pencil in the top left.  Draw a line by clicking where you want to start the line, moving your mouse and then clicking where you want the line to end.

Circle –  This tool is represented by the circle in the top left.  Draw a circle by clicking and dragging until you have the circle of the desired radius that you want.

Arc –  This is located next to the circle.  Draw your arc by clicking the start and end points of your arc and then pulling the centre of the arc to the desired bulge radius.

Polygons (Square and Rectangle) –  This is located next to the circle tool.  Squares and rectangles are created by selecting this tool and dragging to the desired size.

Practice Activity

  1. Create a Sketchup Document that contains:


Three lines measuring 3ft,6ft and 9ft.

Three circles with a radius of 1ft, 3ft, and 6 ft.

Three arcs with a 3ft,6ft, and 9ft bulge

Three squares of various dimensions.


  1.  Save your Sketchup assignment by clicking – save as and giving it the title Drafting 1.1 your name.


  1.  Remember where you saved your activity.


Correct Your WorkCorrect your own work by watching this video.