Friday, December 31, 2010

Last bike ride for the year

Man, was it cold out this morning. Still is, actually, but was especially so at about 6:30 am when I set out for my morning ride. I was wearing quite a bit too - cycling shorts with knee warmers under a thin pair of sweat pants - and all that under my wet weather biking pants. Thick socks in regular sneakers. Two pair of gloves, because just the one pair wasn't cutting it yesterday. A t-shirt under a sweater, a thin hoodie and an insulated coat over that - today was not the day for my rain shell, it was too cold for that the other day. Under my helmet was a toque and a scarf wrapped high around the back of my neck.

I still wasn't warm. I really needed some sort of a wind breaker, like what I get with the rain shell. On today's ride the wind was extending through the layers I had on my arms and torso, leeching what little heat I had from me. At least the double pair of gloves worked better than just the single. To compensate, I chose to ride at a slower speed, but on hills so I could be working hard enough to stay warm without the wind chill. I didn't bother with listening to my podcasts on this ride because I didn't want to have to stop and take off a glove to change tracks, etc. At least I remembered to change the batteries in my lights though, so I was extra visible.

Overall, the ride wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't horrible either. It was dry and I noted that the ground now has frost in it, something that wasn't there just last week. And as for cold, well it was at minus 6 degrees Celsius. That's cold on a bike, but I have been in worse and fared better. It's just becoming a little clearer to me what sorts of things I am going to need to keep riding in this weather. Like perhaps an insulated biking jacket for starters.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Running on little sleep

Last night, Holly asked if I wanted to join her in doing something 'crazy'. That something, as it turns out, was a late night grocery run. There were several factors that led us to this expedition: the car coop doesn't charge the hourly fee after 11:00 pm, we needed groceries for our open house party this weekend and most compelling of all, we hoped that we would avoid the mad rush of holiday shoppers by being out at such a late hour.

Overall, it worked. What we did not count on was the aggressive restocking that goes on at that time though. While there were very few actual shoppers, there were at least as many warehousemen busy unloading pallets of stock. We had to negotiate our shopping cart around their pallet jacks on several occasions. Still, the staff were friendly and helpful with finding items we couldn't so overall I think it was a good plan.

By the time we got home, the pair of us were completely exhausted. I remember looking at the clock shortly before dozing off and it was almost 3:00 am, meaning that I would get roughly half the amount of sleep I normally run on.

Getting out of bed this morning was difficult. It was so very comfortable and warm. Maybe a nap this afternoon will help.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Different Strokes

We have been visiting the family on Holly's side over the past week, which involved a lot of driving and eating of sweet potato pie. It was a very good visit with family. Near the end of our stay however, we got news that my mother had suffered a stroke. This came out of the blue for me, although in hindsight I should have been able to see the signs. I started calling other family members straightaway to do what I could to take some of the load off of Dad. Being on vacation in the US meant I really could do little else, and I needed to do something.

The kicker came when I got in contact with my cousin in Hamilton, or rather, when his wife called me back. She informed me that my uncle (mom's older brother) had also had a stroke just days before and was also in the hospital. I began to wonder if my mother's clan had expiry dates.

In both cases, they had bad strokes. When I say 'bad' I mean ones that dealt significant damage. This isn't the first stroke that my uncle Don has had - he's had significant strokes before as he has the misfortune to inherit very bad circulation from my grandfather. This was Mom's first stroke though (at least a diagnosed one), so when she posted a comment on my brother's facebook page that read
Was in the hosp for the day today. Symptons, frothing at the mouth, delerious, diagonozes. take an aspirin a day, come back for more blood tests. ha ha Did have a c.t. scan, blood work and ekg. Was back by 3:30, not bad
both Shawn and I figured that Mom was joking around. Neither of us understood what she was saying at the time, even though in hindsight all of it is pretty clear except for why the doctor let her out of the hospital after reporting symptoms like that. Of course, Mom wasn't able to get out so easily on her second visit.

At this point, both Mom and uncle Don are conscious and in the hospital (in different cities.) Both are recovering at whatever pace they are able to and for the rest of us it is still pretty much day by day. More later as this develops.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mid-Movember update

Well this is it, my moustache after a fortnight. Unlike a goatee it isn't as itchy although the hair is still just as bristly. It is not soft at all. Now that it has some length, I find that I need more self discipline to stop smoothing it.

This is only after two weeks.

Just to remind everyone, I'm growing this facial hair for charity, not just for kicks. Please check out the fantastic logo to the right - the one called 'Bigote Bros.' It will take you to the Movember website, where any donations you make will go toward helping to find cures for prostate cancer and other men's health issues. There is a lot more information on that website so I encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Movember and Remembrance

I tweeted my thanks to a prior generation for their sacrifice this morning, despite the fact that it is all but guaranteed to not reach the target audience. Let's face it, twitter is a technology for this generation. No matter, I put it out there anyway.

If you look on the right of my blog you will see a fantastic logo for the Bigote Bros. Bigote is Spanish for 'moustache' and a few of us at work have banded together to participate in this year's Movember event, where we grow moustaches in an effort to raise money for prostate cancer and men's health issues in general.

I must say, it's a lot easier than biking to Seattle.

If you feel like making a donation to this worthy cause, just click the logo and it will take you to my official page, where you can make an online donation using their secure webform. If I get a donation, I'll post a picture of my current moustache - oh, and anything over $10 will get you a tax receipt as well. I'll be honest - this is not my preferred look.

Finally, the picture is one I took of Robson street about a week ago in the morning as I was heading into the office. I like how the lights reflect off the wet pavement.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Return of the mouse (for now)

Our mouse is back. He hasn't dared to come inside this time, but it did inspire me to tear down the patio so I could clean in behind the benches. Telltale signs of the mouse were there although I didn't see the rodent while I was cleaning it up. It was an all-day job but that was ok, it needed to be done. I figured I had solved my mouse problem until later that night when the mouse returned to inspect my work. He knocked over a can set out to be recycled and I caught him in the beam of my flashlight. I knew I had more work to do.

The next day I made a trip to the store and got some traps. They are installed and I'm ready for the inevitable. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but when I was picking them up at the store the lady was very experienced and knowledgeable, so I got a very informative lecture on the pros and cons of each type of trap. Until I've caught the mouse though, I have to put up with our cats wanting to go outside to the balcony area with a look of excitement in their eyes. Of course, all they seem to do is stare at the mouse - they haven't actually managed to catch one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One of the best dishes in Vancouver for less than $10

Last night, Holly and I ate dinner at a little Japanese restaurant in town called Aki. This is a place that serves wonderful food, but whenever we go, unless we have been going often, I usually get my favorite dish. It's what I would consider one of the top dishes to eat in Vancouver for less than $10. That's a pretty tall order in my opinion, but the beef curry at Aki lives up to it, in my mind.

It's a little strange ordering beef in gravy on rice at a place known for good sushi. It also takes a while for them to prepare, but it is oh so worth the wait. Meanwhile, Holly ordered a rice bowl that was covered in various sushi that she seemed to also enjoy, although since it was assorted sushi, there were one or two pieces that she offered to me instead. While she is not a fan of octopus, I can attest that it too was delicious, assuming you like that sort of thing.

While I really like the beef curry, I also know it's not the kind of dish my dad would ever try. It has the word 'curry' in it, and that puts him off, even though it's nothing at all like Indian curry, which is what he is thinking of. Having said that, it does have a bit of spice to it, but not in a burning hot kind of way - more like 'a lot of different and subtle flavours exploding in my mouth with each bite' kind of way. Oh well, his loss, my gain. Even though I'm not hungry right now, I'm salivating just at the thought of this delicious dish.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A nice Wedding and some Cross Border Shopping

So Chris and Amy got married. We were in attendance and had a great time. Amy's dress was beautiful (as was she) Chris and the boys were looking sharp and everything fell into place for a great time. It was a long day but there is no way we would have missed it.

Anyhow, congratulations you two, and thanks again for including us.

Both Holly and I had to behave ourselves at the reception because we had rented a car for the weekend and planned to use it for some cross border shopping the next day. On our way into Washington we noted that even the Nexus lane was pretty busy and that they did something unusual this time: they allowed TWO lanes for the Nexus cars and shunted all the other regular traffic through ONE lane, where they queued up cars to have the dog run by and sniff. It made for a long wait to get into the US on this rainy Sunday afternoon.

We made it through though, and managed to get our snacks at Taco Bell, among other places. There were some deals to take advantage of but really this was a small trip with very little coming back. But it was a nice drive in the rain.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Red Robin wins on service

For my birthday supper we planned to dine at Red Robin out in Langly, with our friends Bill and Colleen (and baby.) As usual when it came time to order our drinks, I happily ordered a Guinness. Our server came back shortly to inform me that they didn't have any, so I was to choose a different beer for the night.

Soon after taking delivery of a Rickard's Red beer, we had a change in servers. Our new guy, Ryan, quickly took our food orders and basically did his job.

Part way through our meal Ryan came back, asking if we wanted another drink. I had declined, as I wasn't drinking the beer I had in mind, and that it was okay. Ryan then asked me if he could find a Guinness, would I want it, to which I let him know that I would, but that others had searched before him and they didn't have any in stock. He left and I thought nothing more of it.

Ryan eventually returned, with a freshly poured Guinness in hand and the rest of the server crew in tow, to sing me a happy birthday song. It turns out that he left the restaurant to go get some Guinness just to be able to serve me the beer of my choice on my birthday. This then became the most appreciated Guinness I have ever had.

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic birthday with an unexpected touch of kindness from a complete stranger. Yes, he was only doing his job, but he did it far better than most. When I look back on yesterday I won't really remember that Red Robin was out of Guinness on my birthday so much as I will recall Ryan stepping out to fill my drink order.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a customer satisfaction survey to fill out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I am the new 40

Lordy Lordy, look who's... yes well it isn't a surprise. I look the part, feel the part and my wife hopes that one day soon I'll even start acting the part. While some might not consider me to be old (your numbers are dwindling daily, I might add) I also can no longer be considered to be young.

I'm in the purgatory of age brackets.

Oh and apparently I'm now old enough to be called a 'mamil' which oddly, I'm okay with. Speaking of biking, I was up this morning for a leisurely ride around Stanley Park this morning and I have to say it was fantastic. There was another truck coming through the infamous intersection I had my accident at today, but I was already braking properly and there was no drama involved. I even wore my favorite cycling jersey, a green and black one from a shop I used to frequent when I lived in Aldergrove. The shop is long gone but the jersey still fits (barely).

My old bike is still holding up, mostly thanks to the work I had done on it two years ago in preparation for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. It is developing some new mystery creaks and the shifting is getting sloppy but somehow it continues to carry me over each hill, or at least down to the pizza shop and back on those evenings when ordering a pizza is just easier. I continue to lust after new rides but after a solid year I haven't managed to do much about that. They say we procrastinate against not only the things we don't want to do but also against the things we really want to do too. I'm a classic example of that I guess.

One of the things I hoped to do last year was to learn how to ride a fixed gear bike. The closest I came to that was to sit on one once at a bike store, so that goal will have to roll over into this year instead. Part of the problem is that I don't have a bike that is easily converted to ride fixed gear. The other part of the problem is that I don't want two bikes, so whatever I end up with should be convertable. I don't care if it is because it is a road frame that has horizontal dropouts or a track frame with cable stops for internally geared hubs. Boy, am I ever getting off track with this post.

For years I have asked Holly for a leather jacket, be it for my birthday, or other gift giving holiday. The problem has always been in finding something that actually looks good on me. Two days before my birthday Holly and I are out shopping and while I'm waiting in line to pay for some things she stumbles across something she thought might work. It turns out the one she picked was too tight for me (see the link above) but we were able to find a size larger that fit me correctly.

Today is only partly done, but already it has been better than good. Just about everyone at work has wished me well and I've heard from lots of friends and family. That's pretty much what it is all about, right?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ad-supported dreaming

So last night I had a weird dream. I was in some futuristic setting and was using one of those fancy new computer interfaces like what made the film Minority Report so famous when all of a sudden it happened: my user experience was interrupted with a commercial. I don't recall the commercial being brand-specific in my dream, it was more just the notion that it's increasingly more of a norm for us to be interrupted by advertising. At least, that is how I interpreted the dream that I had.

But it's interesting too - aside from a few movies like Robocop, not too many future depictions include the adverse side effects of all this marketing and advertising. I mean, how many 'free' services do we currently have that are ad-supported? This is a fact of life for the modern computer user and I don't see it going away anytime soon, except maybe for those willing to pay for the privilege.

Anyway, it was a weird dream that I hope doesn't repeat itself. For my sleep at least, I'd like it not to be ad-supported.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

BBQ Salmon

The other day we decided to cook up a nice salmon fillet on the BBQ. It wasn't going to be for dinner that night, but it was already thawed out so it needed to be cooked up. I fired up the grill and Holly wrapped it in foil, along with whatever other cooking magic she normally does. We put it on the grill and promptly forgot about it.

I went out for a quick errand and when I got back I asked Holly about the salmon. Her face went from surprise to resignation pretty quickly as she responded "Well it's gotta be pretty burnt by now! Let's go check it." She was surprised that she hadn't been smelling burnt salmon though.

Once out on the patio it became clear: luck was on our side that day because the grill ran out of propane shortly after cooking the fish to perfection. Sure it was cold by now, but it was going in the refrigerator anyhow. To make matters even better, Holly confirmed that it was actually slightly under cooked, which meant that it would be just right when she heated it up later.

Of course, filing this blog post serves to remind me: I need to refill the propane tank for the BBQ now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bird Crap

As I was walking home last night a seagull was kind enough to crap on me. I felt the droppings hit the back of my head but the 'bulk' of his load landed on my thigh. While it was pretty gross, there really wasn't much I could do until I got home.

So naturally, I made sure to purchase a lottery ticket on the way home.

Yeah, it's a little superstition but it did make my evening a lot more enjoyable. Instead of fuming about being shat on I was feeling 'lucky.' Having said that, the shower I took when I got home felt pretty good. I was happy to be cleaned up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekend explorations along Robson Street

Ah, the weekend. This was a slow one for us, which was quite nice to be honest about it. We stuck close to home but did manage to get out to a couple places. One of those places is a little coffee and desert bar called Chicco. We discovered it in the KLIP coupon book that Holly picked up on our most recent stop in to Konbiniya.

Okay, let me explain all that a bit. My wife has been learning to speak Japanese, so naturally we will sometimes stop into Konbiniya as it is basically a Japan-styled convenience store. For all I know, that might explain the name but really I have no clue since I'm not the one learning the language. But they do make tasty dessert crepes on-site there, so I say the store is good. One of the things that can be found in the store is the KLIP coupon booklet. It's like a free, very thin magazine. They have both English and Japanese versions and we discovered a while ago that there is usually a 2 for 1 coupon for Waves coffee. I'm somewhat surprised that the staff at Waves don't know us on a first name basis yet. (Interesting note: I wrongly guessed at the url for waves and entered, which led me to a website for a religious group in Vancouver, BC. No word yet on how good their coffee is.)

So this weekend, my wife suggested we try a couple of the spots that were advertised in KLIP, which we did. Chicco cafe was the first, where I had a Red Beans and Soy with coffee drink and Holly had a Red Beans and Soy with Green Tea. These were some mighty fine drinks. They were kind of like a bubble tea, and the red bean added sweetness to the drink. Since I normally prefer my coffee unsweetened, it was a nice mix as the bean never got too sweet. We will most likely be back to try more of their menu.

I can't even tell you the name of the other place we tried last night. It used to be called Blueberry World, right next to the McDonald's on the corner of Robson and Bidwell streets. I think it's called something like Fresh now. They sell frozen yogurt but unlike most other places, it tastes like they actually use yogurt. It was very refreshing and I preferred it over the 'no difference from regular ice cream' variety of frozen yogurt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unplanned Early Start

I woke up at 5:00 am this morning and despite my best efforts, I couldn't get back to sleep. Since that was not going to happen, I reached over and grabbed my ipod to check twitter - more out of idle curiosity than anything else. While it was no surprise to see Bill and a few friends in Europe actively tweeting, what surprised me was how many Vancouverites were already active - including some who are notorious for craving their morning sleep. I'm talking about you, gwilli - what the heck were you doing tweeting at 5:30 am this morning?

Anyhow, since I wasn't going to be sleeping I figured I might as well get up and go for a bike ride. I'm so glad that I did because I didn't realize quite how much I was missing it. The temperatures had not yet warmed up so I made sure to put on a long sleeved shirt under my cycling jersey but I took a chance on not wearing more than shorts. It was chilly at first, but I soon warmed up.

Since I had a little extra time on my hands, I figured I could complete one task that has been left open since my trip to New Brunswick to visit my brother. During that visit we had gone to see the Hopewell Rocks and my brother took a little time to discover a geocache while we were there. This was all new to me and he had to explain what a geocache is, and what it's about. Here comes my shortened, bastardized version of that explanation: people hide crap in the woods and expect other people to come find it. Most use expensive satellite receptors in order to find this stuff. Some even think it's fun. They even have their own lingo, which somehow makes it worse although I'm not yet sure why that is.

The net result of all this was that Shawn discovered a 'travel bug' in said geocache and figured it might be fun if he gave it to me so I could place it in a different cache, located back here in Vancouver. A travel-bug is basically a token that you are invited to steal so that you can hide it somewhere else. It usually has a serial number on it, so that you can record where you hid it on the geocaching website. Some, like this one, are quite nice and not crap at all. However let's be honest - most of the stuff you will find in these random tupperware containers is going to be crap.

So I've been carrying this travel bug as a guest in my wallet ever since that day trip in New Brunswick. It came with me to Las Vegas - at one point we thought about stashing it somewhere along the strip in Sin City, but well, that didn't happen. It seems that while things that happen in Vegas stay in Vegas, things brought into Vegas tend to leave shortly thereafter despite all best efforts to the contrary. So while this travel bug spent some time at the slot machines, it was but a brief stop before ending up (for now) at Stanley Park.

I haven't linked directly to the geocache in question mostly because it is supposed to be a bit of a treasure hunt and I didn't want to make it too easy to find. There are enough clues here though that for those who are into this sort of thing, they could find this travel bug easily enough. Of course, once my brother updates the website, the official geocachers will have all the info they need. (that should happen later today, btw.)

Near the end of my morning ride I happened to notice the new location for this year's Celebration of Light barge. It's a little further out this year which means the best locations will be different again.

Oh yeah. here's a fun fact: on Friday (tomorrow) it will be 40 days until my 40th birthday. I've been thinking about this a little bit lately and am still not sure what I would like to do to mark the occasion. Maybe that's why I couldn't sleep.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Rodent Intruder

I didn't expect to be blogging again quite this soon.

Last night, at around 4:00 am we woke up to the sounds of our cats crashing about in the living room. This was more than the usual late night friskiness, so I got up to check out the situation. As I enter the living room I notice that Sophie has a mouse (or baby rat, I have no idea) trapped in a corner. Sassy isn't far behind her. At first they weren't sure if they were in trouble or not. Obviously, I wasn't going to be sleeping until this situation was resolved. Once they saw that I was going to be joining them in this hunt, the two cats immediately fell in line and we set about chasing out the rodent.

At first I thought it was going to be easy - I startled it and the mouse ran toward the patio door, which was open. This was my fault, we don't normally leave the door open all night and presumably this is how the mouse came inside. My luck ran out fast though, about as fast as the mouse as he ran past the door and behind the desk. I hopped up on the sofa so I could lift the drapes to the window - I didn't want to lose track of the little beastie. In the process, I kicked over a glass on the coffee table. Of course, it broke.

By now Holly wants to know what is going on and if I am okay. I let her know we have a mouse and continue with the hunt. The cats managed to keep it contained to the desk area while I picked up the worst of the glass and got socks and shoes on my feet. Then it was my job to try forcing the mouse to retreat back out the patio door. But the cats didn't get that memo. They had blood on their lips and were liking the taste. Instead of letting the mouse go from the desk to the door, they were waiting at the edge of the desk for the first chance to strike.

This sent the mouse back at me, jumping. At this time I'd like to point out that when a human attempts to catch a mouse, it's a lot like a game of hot potato. You don't really want to be touching it. Cats on the other hand, well to them it's more like tackle football, but with a tasty, moving piece of steak. The steak mouse took a leap into the middle of the room and made a run for it, with the two cats in hot pursuit.

We were very VERY lucky that night. We were all very lucky that the mouse headed toward the main entrance of the condo and NOT into the bedroom, where Holly was in bed, listening to the commotion. Still, once I saw they had the mouse cornered by the door I knew I had an opportunity. I opened the door and chased the mouse out of the condo. Finally I could close the patio door and put my pants on.

I quickly dressed, grabbed the broom and headed out in the hall after the mouse. I couldn't just leave it there to be discovered by someone else, or even worse for it to enter another condo. I propped open the main door with some papers that had been delivered and started my search. I found the mouse hiding over by the mail boxes and started my chase again.

By now I was getting the hang of things and with the broom to extend my reach I was able to coax the mouse over to the right corner so that he could find the door. Once he was outside he disappeared into the darkness faster than I could have kept track. I closed the door, returned to the condo and praised the cats after updating Holly on the status of the mouse. It was about that time when Louise woke up, wondering what was going on.

While I was able to go back to bed and fall back asleep quickly, the cats were way too hyped up to think about sleeping. I'm pretty sure they stayed on patrol for the rest of the night - just in case.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Married for Ten Years

As of today, Holly and I have been married for ten years. To mark the occasion we Holly booked a trip to Las Vegas. Neither of us are gamblers but both of us were craving that dry desert heat. I mean, let's face it: Vancouver has been cool and damp this spring and things have yet to warm up much as summer rolled in. I should warn you now that this won't be a short blog post.

The trip started with a VERY early morning to catch our flight out of Vancouver. Holly had booked us in online the night before so we were able to bypass the first checkin and proceed directly to airport security. This was in part because we were flying on Delta Air and they charged extra for any checked in bags, despite the fact that we were flying international. We have had our gripes about West Jet and Air Canada in the past, but at least they have always allowed us to check in luggage without charging extra for it. Anyway, we had adjusted our things and planned it out so that we would carry on all our stuff. When we arrived at the security checkpoint Holly was flagged for the 100% check. It took a LOT longer for her and they even made her take off her flip flops. In contrast, I was through security in mere minutes and was waiting on the other side for her. Why they decided to split us up I have no idea.

Once through that the rest of our flights were pretty smooth. We had a layover in Salt Lake City and even there we noticed how much warmer it was. For some reason the airline stewardess on the first leg of our trip did not like Holly. She would look at her sideways and was somehow bothered by her mere presence. It was a strange experience since Holly hadn't said or done anything to provoke her. It was a strange encounter and we laughed it off afterward.

We landed in Vegas and took the shuttle to the car rental area. It's in a separate building from the airport and the whole system runs pretty smooth. Originally we planned on renting a car with Dollar, but while arranging to pick it up, and going through the extra fees, hidden insurance costs, etc. we asked if there was a penalty if we canceled. We were informed there was none, so we decided to walk away and just explore Vegas on foot instead. Our agent was completely fine with that and even offered to give us a free shuttle ride to our hotel, even though we were not going to be renting a car with him. I'll be clear: the fees and extra insurance costs are not unique to Dollar, but are part of Nevada's state law. This means all the car rental spots there operate the same. In my mind we got great service from Dollar and we took them up on their offer to shuttle us to the airport.

Our shuttle driver was a helpful and friendly guy who was originally from Chicago. He told us stories about Las Vegas and gave us advice on where to buy cheap bottled water on the strip. We made sure to tip him well because he made this short part of our trip that much more enjoyable.

Finally we were at the Venetian Hotel, our destination. Actually we were staying in the Venezia, which is part of the same complex. This hotel is decorated in a classic Italian theme with painted murals on the ceilings and lots of extra crown moulding. The suite we were staying in was very large and well appointed. It took not one, but two elevator rides to get from the front desk to our room.

This became a theme in most of the large casinos on the strip. They are built in a way to make it difficult to escape. Even after leaving the hotel, if you wanted to go south, you had to first head north until you got to the strip. I am not really complaining about this, it's just something we noted while we were out and about. Holly really enjoyed the heat outside so a few extra minutes in the sun was no bother for her.

On the strip there was a LOT to see and do. We made no attempt at trying to do everything - it would be pointless to try in the time we would be there. But we did get to see a lot. We walked to most places and discovered a few gems to eat at, like Canters in Treasure Island and Chipotle, an organic mexican food restaurant located right on the strip.

On the third day we got a 24 hour bus pass each so that we could go shopping at the Premium Outlet mall. There were several options to choose from but only one actually went far enough to get to the mall, and none of the options were all that fast. Still, the bus was air conditioned and took us past many of the sights one would hope to see on the strip. And it sure beat walking. At the outlet malls, and also at various places on the strip were these mist sprayers designed to return some of the humidity back to the air. They didn't actually cool you down at all but they did help to keep the air breathable.

Now for the geek tip for Las Vegas. If you happen to buy a ticket for the Ace Gold line bus like we did, it can take you to the only Frys store in Nevada. Just go south, and get out at the Town Square stop, near the southern outlet mall. It's a three minute walk south from there. I picked up a bluetooth mouse for my macbook pro, and was using it on the flight home. I stopped there though. I could probably have spent an hour or so going through the various deals they had, but really, the mouse was what I was hoping to get this trip.

Another stop we made was to the Rainforest Cafe. We went to the Rainforest Cafe when it was in Burnaby on one of our first dates, so it held some sentimental value for us. The Burnaby store is no longer in business and I wasn't expecting to see one in Vegas, so it was a pleasant surprise, and we both enjoyed our meals. A lot. It was located inside the MGM Grand hotel and casino, a place we had to visit again the next day to see the lions on display. None of my photos of the sleeping lions turned out that well, but it was fun to be able to walk down a glass hallway and see them sleeping on Plexiglas above you. Apparently they sleep quite a lot.

There was so much more that we did and saw while there, it was a fantastic way to ring in ten years of marriage. There were high points and low ones, but overall it was memorable, happy and most importantly, blazingly hot.

I love you Holly. Thanks for putting all of this together because really, none of it would have happened without you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A falling out with Enterprise Car Rental

My wife and I wanted to book a car for an upcoming trip. In the past I have been a fairly loyal customer for Enterprise Car Rental. There was a stretch when I was renting cars from them just about every other weekend - we were on a first name basis. They liked my repeat business, I liked the personal service and the price breaks they gave me. I was a preferred customer in the truest sense of the word.

Times are different now. I no longer require a rental car every weekend. The Enterprise location I used to rent from (one block away from the office) was recently bulldozed down to make room for some new development next to the Olympic Village. My personal connections were relocated to alternate offices.

So as I mentioned earlier, we needed to rent another car. Naturally, we started by checking rates at Enterprise. This go around, they weren't already the best price in town, and we happened to notice an oddity: if we varied the dates even a little, the rates dropped by about a third. I figured that since the website wasn't making sense, perhaps I could get the better rate by phoning the company.

I ended up calling them twice, but both times I got the same pat answer: 'our rates vary by date, time and availability.' Both times the service rep quoted me that line. Neither one was able to explain it better than that. The best attempt I heard was that one tried to say it was just like the airlines. Unable to get the rate I was prepared to pay (and generally what their competitors were offering) I thanked the reps for their time without booking.

Now as it happened, on my second call I was randomly selected to partake in a call survey (if I liked) on my customer experience for the call. Of course I agreed. When prompted, I rated my experience as a 1, which meant completely dissatisfied. Predictably, this triggered an opportunity to speak with a supervisor (finally!) or I could just leave a message. I opted to talk to the supervisor and eagerly awaited an answer.... which never came. Apparently the supervisor wasn't taking calls today and instead I found myself back in the automated routine. It all happened so fast I am not sure if the person just put the phone on 'make busy' or if the whole process of shunting my call was automated. Either way the net result was the same. I eventually left my message (not pleased, going with competitor) and concluded my business with Enterprise.

Dollar Rent a Car, you get my business this trip. I don't normally rent with you and you certainly will be on a trial basis. Let's hope your cars and service can meet my expectations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Family visit - the Maritimes in the Summer

We are back from another visit with the family on the east coast and I am feeling refreshed. My brother took us out to see Hopewell Cape as it was close by his place and we got a lot of pictures there. It was fun scrambling along the muddy beach - we ensured that we would arrive at low tide for that reason.

From there we stopped to visit at my sister's, as well as at my parent's place. While we weren't able to see everyone, we did manage to visit with a lot of family. There were many hours spent driving as well, so Holly and I had plenty of 'downtime' between visits.

Perhaps on the next trip we might try to take in a few more sights as well. Prince Edward's Island is one place we considered on this trip, but really didn't have enough time to fit it in. I think this was also Holly's first time to visit the Maritimes in the summer. Our normal routine has been to plan a trip around the year end holidays. It had been quite a while since I had been back in warmer months so I also appreciated the sunshine - something we haven't been getting much of here in Vancouver.

This last photo is of me and my paternal grandfather. Can you see any resemblance?

Oh yeah - Holly had the great idea of setting up my family on Skype so that we can video chat with them. I'm amazed that we were able to get everyone going so easily - even Mom took to it once she saw her grandchildren on the computer screen. Maybe now we can show her Louise in real time.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Finches have been denied thier cartoon roles

I had good intentions of blogging tonight. But Holly discovered GI Joe cartoon reruns on TV and well, the overacting is distracting to say the least. It's very likely that I won't be able to string together two thoughts in this post.

So in other words, a pretty normal post.

We were out giving Louise a walk when we noticed a pair of finches who were perched on a bush next to the sea wall. I was surprised at how close we were able to get without them flying away.

I wanted to talk about the proposed changes to copyright in Canada, but I don't yet know enough about the new bill to say anything informed. I've started to follow Tony Clement and James Moore on twitter - they are the two members of Parliament who put forward the new bill. Maybe that will offer enough of a counterpoint to the various websites that are raising objections to this bill.

Oh no, Cobra escaped! Okay I gotta go now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Changing a few things

As you must know by now, I'm a fan of the local graffiti artists. They tend to spray intelligent messages that comment on society, as witnessed with all the interesting Olympic themed renditions. I saw today's photo opportunity and laughed out loud at the perfect juxtaposition.

I really should photograph more of them though, as they never seem to last all that long. Anyway, this is my way of showing props, even though the chances of the persons responsible for this art seeing this blog is very remote. (Okay, a virtual impossibility - happy now?)

Anyway, I've decided to make another 'subtle' change to the old blog format. The template I use is old and brittle so it often requires careful massaging of raw HTML in order to get things looking the way I hoped. Today's edit involved widening the text area so that when I link youtube videos I can use a 640x480 resolution instead of having to scale it down to something so small as to be unusable. Anyhow, this involved quite a bit of restructuring, including new banner photos, as the entire blog had to widen by about 100 pixels.

That's right, I run a fixed width show here.

Anyhow, the thing I am noticing now is that when I compose a blog post, my edit window no longer lines up with what the finished product looks like. This is only an issue when dealing with multiple photos, as they don't easily line up anymore. This might not be that big a deal though, as the preview function seems to account for the width, meaning I can arrange the photos as I need to.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Some people head off to an 'ivory tower' for learning. In my case, it was more of a glassy affair, with a silver look to it. I spent a couple days getting certified as a Scrum Master, which for those not in the industry, is a fancy way of saying I learned another way to do the same job. Hopefully a faster, less risky way, but still nothing more than that.

Now that I've downplayed it, I will also say that I was really excited to take this course and felt I got quite a bit out of it. Of course I will still have to follow it up with further reading but it's interesting to now see the why behind how certain things we do at work actually achieve their purpose. Most of the time. I suppose if everything was working fantastic there would have been no need for me to go for further study.

I also learned last night that my sister in law broke her arm and elbow in a rather nasty fall from a ladder. Darlene, I really hope your recovery goes well - I broke my elbow last year while training for my ride to conquer cancer and remember how long it took to regain full mobility.

In happier news, I heard from Dallas: he has met his fund raising goals for his ride! Now he can focus on the physical training. Since my back injury I haven't been out riding with him (not from a lack of his trying to get me out on the road) and I do hope I can get out there at least a few times before his ride. My physio appointment yesterday was interesting - they used some machine to stimulate the muscles in my back. It felt great at the time, but wow, is my back sore today! At least it's Friday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Always A Day Behind

I'm really liking the experience of getting my news via podcast these days. About the only drawback I have with it is that due to the delayed nature of a podcast, I'm getting my timely news in a later-than-timely fashion. Still, this is acceptable for me because I'm usually able to keep caught up with the podcasts I listen to during my commute to and from the office. If it's been a busy day then I can finish listening to the extra podcasts while walking the dog.

So for the most part, it works well for me. About the only time it catches up with me is when I say to my wife 'so hey, did you hear about...' and her response is usually along the lines of 'um, yeah - I saw that yesterday when it was on the news.'

So the net result is that I tend to be a day late in breaking news unless I go look it up in a browser. But I guess that's ok because my daily walks are a lot more entertaining this way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Coast Guard Rescue

It was such a nice day outside that Holly and I decided to take Louise down to the beach yesterday. It's always fun to let her run into the water and well, the place was pretty crowded. Seems like just about everybody had a similar idea. At least, the going to the beach part, if not the 'bring your dog' part. Anyway, we had just arrived at the section for dogs when this massive Coast Guard hovercraft comes racing into False Creek. It was quite an impressive site but the odd thing is that our first guess wasn't that it was actually responding to some emergency call, but that it must have been doing sea trials or something.

The next time this happens, I'm going to assume the Coast Guard is doing it's job. This morning I did a quick google search and came up with this piece of tragic news. The hovercraft was responding to a call after all and it looks like the young man drowned before they could get to him.

Still, this hovercraft is pretty serious business. The thing is huge. I also took a quick video clip of it racing by and you can see how it dwarfs most of the other boats in the creek. Take a look for yourselves:

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Back on my feet

Earlier this week I returned to the office. I quickly took this photo on my way in that morning - seeing a police car (there were several, complete with police tape surrounding the building) is a little unusual in this part of the neighborhood and I didn't really hang around to find out the details. Really I was just hoping that the bright lights would transfer nicely into the photograph.

It is good to be moving around again but I find that Holly has to caution me again and again about overdoing it. She's right of course - and she has threatened to come to my physio appointment next week to ensure the doctor doesn't get the 'nice' version of my story but the full extent of what I have and haven't done for my back lately. I guess it's ok since no matter what I really need to take preventative steps going forward.

PS - a big thank you to all those mac users who have been super helpful over the past few weeks. I have pestered quite a few of you on how to do this or that and have picked up quite a bit - overall I am really liking this platform!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I missed the sun. I was able to get outside this evening briefly to walk the dog, but it was during the first period of the hockey game so it had to be brief. Still, I caught some of the last of the afternoon rays before it was too late and it felt good.

The hockey game is about half over now and honestly, I'm losing interest. The Canucks aren't playing well, doing their same old skate around. I'm still hopeful but at times it's too painful to watch this slow spiral toward as the clock runs out. Maybe someone will wake up in the third period.

It's hard to believe that I have been indoors since Thursday afternoon. It's even harder for me to accept that my back has been too sore to move comfortably for this long. I definitely have cabin fever and well, Holly is probably eager for me to get back to work as well. She's been very patient with my extended home stay and helped to keep me off my feet instead of letting me get up too soon. Thanks hon.

By the way, I hurt my back again by putting the pictured flowers on the patio table. This was a couple days ago, when I was trying to move around too soon, re-injuring myself.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I've been off work the past day and a bit and if things continue like they have this weekend, I'll be off a while longer yet. Even with medication to help cope with the pain, I am not very good at taking it easy.

It's not all bad though. With Holly's help I was escorted from the bed to the sofa so that I could watch the hockey game. Everything was going well until I sneezed and really wrenched things badly. It took a little while to calm down from that one and it was a good thing I was already on the sofa so I didn't have to move.

Somehow it seemed worth the effort though, as the Canucks pulled off a strong win for the series opener against Chicago. By the time I was feeling better we were already ahead by a couple goals. It seemed that as the game went on I was feeling better and the Canucks were playing stronger. For my part, the truth of the matter was that my pain medication was starting to kick in.

So the first photo in today's post was taken on my way to the doctor as I was leaving the office. This is one of the really good things we have left as a legacy from the Olympics. Of course, I'm talking about the digital display that informs riders when the next bus will arrive. We have it on the new Skytrain line too and it's very helpful.

Following that are a few photos taken at English bay a couple days ago, when I really should have been taking it easier instead of thinking I was still okay to walk the dog. Anyhow, the last one is of one of my favorite condos in Vancouver. Great view and great gardening sense. I almost don't want to see what it looks like inside for fear of it not living up to my romanticized view of the exterior.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Settling in without Settling

Wow. I'm liking laptops these days. Sure there are the usual tradeoffs between portability and capability but just being free of the desk is a breath of fresh air. I say this even though I really liked my old computer. (It seems weird to call it that, since it never really was that 'old'.) But to be able to sit on the sofa instead of a plastic chair, or have the computer in bed if my back is sore, well these are things I am appreciative of.

I figure I have about half of the things I need on it so far. Windows is in, but MS Office is not (I need that for work sometimes). I made a note to install Charles, a testing utility again for work and completely forgot to install a decent bit torrent client. So things are coming together, some things faster than others.

Last week my umbrella was stolen from outside my apartment door. I guess I can no longer leave it in the hall to dry off which is too bad as I had been doing that for at least three years without incident. Speaking of all wet, I see that my brother is finally among the plugged in and will hopefully be updating his blog more regularly. It's linked on the side there, just look for River Dog. You can be the judge of how much we are alike these days.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

iTripped 3.0

As it turns out, my previous computer lasted almost three years - at least if I look back I see that my previous upgrade post was made that far back. It was a good computer and I had lots of fun playing games on it. Despite running Windows Vista I never had a virus problem with it. However, one day last week it just stopped working. I suspect a failed motherboard but really, I'm so far removed from actual computer maintenance these days that I shouldn't be faking like I know what is wrong with it - other than it doesn't work.

Of course, this all happened right when we finally had decided to purchase a new refrigerator - a much needed upgrade to our kitchen. In some ways that was a good thing as it meant I was plenty busy on delivery day - even though I still managed to procrastinate until then on all of the installation jobs required. As I type this now I can say that all I have left to do is finish putting food items back in the cabinet.

But this isn't supposed to be a refrigerator post. I ended up getting an Apple laptop for my next computer and so far I have managed to turn it on, install Firefox and download some photos from my camera. This is my first blog post with it and I couldn't be happier with the keyboard as I type this. There are too many features to list on this machine and plenty of information online about it so I'll just say that this is my first laptop - Holly has had a couple now and has always appreciated the more convenient form factor.

So why get a laptop for the computer game player in the family? Well for one, computers are pretty fast these days - I'm hoping I can still play most, if not all, of the games I already have. Of course that will mean installing Windows on this machine but I'm happy to do that anyhow because it will make it more useful for me to do work. A few co-workers have earlier models of this computer and they have been able to play a wide selection of games, so I am confident that I will be able to as well.

There is a lot to learn here though. I haven't quite figured out how to upload my photos onto my blogpost yet! iPhoto seems to have hidden all the actual files for me (how helpful). I'm sure it can be done, but well, I have some learning to do I guess. I should go do that before posting to Wheezie's blog - her fans might be less tolerant of no photos.

UPDATE: As you can see, I got at least one image added, but wow, this will take some adjusting to. I'm sure there is a better way.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Okay, it's now Sunday. The wind we had was back on last Friday. Apparently it got worse again after our ride in the rain, as evidenced by this tree along the path we were on. City works must be really busy to not have this cleared off yet.

Of course I know this is true as I was out for a ride again this morning and Stanley Park is littered with debris piles from hasty removal of branches. Roads dedicated for cars still get priority I guess. Not that I am arguing with that - as a cyclist I have a choice of roads to take, be it bike paths or actual roads. Despite what some will try to tell me, I'm legally entitled to be there. Not quite the same for cars on bike paths and for good reason.

Once again I find myself trying to blog with the Chrome browser. Once again I realize why I keep going back to Firefox. In this case I do note that things have improved in Chrome, but I still can't drag and drop uploaded photos like I can in Firefox. It does make getting the layout correct a lot easier.

So hey, note the reclaimed wood in this red building? It is the Vancouver Salt Co. building, part of the Olympic Village, freshly restored for apparently nobody to appreciate, as evidenced by the fences still segregating the village from the rest of humanity. Apparently the construction workers renovating the last touches are still scared of a terror attack, I dunno. There was a security guard in a car nearby and he informed me that the area would be fenced off for 'many months yet'.