Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Facebook. It's Handy.

There are many things that I really enjoy about Facebook. For one, it's a real time saver; no need to spend countless hours actually socializing with friends, when I can effortlessly catch up on their latest adventures online. It's also a real money saver; I can save money on entertainment, meals and fancy clothing by indulging in my virtual social life in the comfort of my jammies. But, I think that my favorite thing about Facebook is being able to see a side of someone that just may not come out in the course of my 'normal' interaction with them. Sometimes this is bad, like when I get a bunch of Elven Blood invitations (wtf is that anyway?). Or when I get a constant news feed about how bored my 'insanely busy' coworkers are. But, mostly it's really quite good. Like when I get to watch my friends get married, have kids, complete an ironman, get featured in an art show, and travel the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's Wrong With this Picture?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Out of Class in Boston

I was in Boston last week for a professional development course. There were 75 students in my class, representing 23 different countries. My first impression was that I didn't have much in common with my classmates. But, beer has a way of coaxing out similarities. I bonded most quickly with my commonwealth brethren. Two Aussies and a Brit. We went to the Barking Crab for dinner one night, in search of a unique Boston experience. Unique is definitely what we got.

Situated on the south bank of the Charles River, the infamous crab shack starkly contrasts the refined downtown Boston buildings that stand just across the river. The patch-worked plywood that comprises the restaurant's interior walls is nicely complemented by a casually hung black tarp, which serves as the ceiling. The ambient music, an whimsical mix of mid-90s rap and soft-rock, is the finishing touch on this masterpiece.

A few of us were quick to choose the locally procured Jonah crab. The waitress advised us that they were out of our first choice, but that they had plenty of lwab-stah left. We fell for it. Only a few minutes later a man from the kitchen burst into the room showing off a live Jonah crab to the table beside us. What's up with that?
If I ever had any illusions about lobster being a classy dish, they were shattered by this meal. It wasn't because my dinner was served to me in a bucket. Nor was it because I had to wear a disposable plastic bib to protect me from my dinner. It was the act of ripping open the limbs and torso of a dead animal with my bare hands that struck me as particularly unclassy. This wasn't helped by the lobster juice that would squirt in my face upon cracking a particularly tenacious limb.

It was a full physical effort to unleash the meat. No delicate task. The Brit in our group managed to spill lobster juice all over his pants in a particularly vigorous effort. I can only imagine that he felt a bit like the woman in this picture when he went to bed that night.
The lobster was tasty, but I think I'll try the crab cakes next time. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's a Bad(lands) Situation

It's almost 3 o'clock and we've just blown $100 on a convenience store binge. Chocolate milk. Chocolate bars. Microwave burritos. Gatorade. Creamed corn. We got the works, and I'm going to feel this tomorrow.

This was not the plan. The plan was to go out just for a little while (isn't that always how it starts ?). We've been out for four hours already, and it's clear that we'll be out for a few more before this party is over.

It's been fun, but I think I'd be better off going home right now. That's not going to be easy. I'm a long way from home and I'm with a bunch of guys that have a reputation for this sort of trouble. My cell phone doesn't work and cabs aren't really an option from here. I know that if I want to get home in one piece, I'm going to have to stick with this motley crew.


It started with an email from Keith on Thursday. I was merely a spectator, watching with amusement as another sinister plot developed. This time, an epic 180km gravel bike ride through Alberta's Badlands. Most of the route was entirely unknown to the group, but that didn't stop Erik, Craig or Gary from reporting for duty.

I had no illusions of participating in this unholy mission, but I was intrigued by the prospect of a change of scenery and by the opportunity to ride with these gravel legends - even if only for a few kilometres. I'm still finding my way out of hibernation, while these guys have some 5,000km of winter riding under their belts. I'm not just in a different league than these guys, I'm practically in a different sport.

My goal was to hang on for 40km, if I could. Then, I would go my own way. To my delight (and bewilderment), I was still in the draft when we reached the 40km pit stop. Just as I begun liberating the remnants of my clif bar from my teeth, I found myself furiously chasing the pack, which was now moving again.

Pedaling fast enough to stay with the group took such focus that I didn't pause to consider the logic of my decision. I was holding nothing back. Saving nothing for the ride home. And, with each passing minute, I was getting farther from home.


Now, after 107km, we're in Rosebud and responsible for an off-season boom in the local convenience store sector. Erik has negotiated with the owner of the local Inn that we can go there next for some 'whole pies'. I can think of no better finale to our caloric conquest.

We review our map for a possible 'short cut' home. Keith's map spans two pages (that's how much area we have covered). Our starting place, near Morrin, is too far north to show up on the first map. Rosebud, where we are now feasting on pie, is at the bottom edge of the second map. Gary remarks 'Even if I were a bird, I'd be a long way from home'.

At this point there is officially no bail out option for me. The 'easy way home' is to hang on to these guys for dear life, which is what I do for the next three hours. And, when my best isn't enough, they take turns pushing me up hills and along the flats toward home. There was a lot of pushing going on.

At the end of the day, I might feel like a puddle of jello, but I'm a happy pile of jello. Once my blood sugar level returns to normal, I'm able to reflect on what a beautiful day it was, what spectacular scenery I saw and what wonderful friends I have.

Erik, Craig, Keith and Gary. Thank you for an incredible ride.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coping with the Recession: Part 2

From time to time, you may find that your house demands your attention. Your immediate attention. Typically, that means your money too. Unless, that is, you are willing to try your hand at fixing it yourself.

I think it was last spring that our roof began to leak. It was slow and infrequent drip back then. We came up with a simple, cost-effective do-it-yourself solution to address the problem, then carried on with our lives.

With the heavy precipitation this past winter, that drip became constant and spread to multiple locations. We were forced to come up with a better solution. This time, it required a ladder, physical labour and some skill development.
Upon summiting the house, I discovered a lake had formed in the middle of the glacier that covered the majority of our roof. Between me and you, I am not a DIY expert; however, I knew I could solve part of the problem with a shovel. To solve the rest, I had to use a life line (Erik!).

Erik's email instructions on how to make a siphon were excellent; unfortunately, my execution was not. But, after a few mouthfuls of roof-slurpee and a several hours to drain, that lake vanished. Problem solved (for now). And, it didn't cost us a dime!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Johnston Canyon

I went for my first hike with my parents a few months ago when we were in Hawaii. Although the scenery and terrain were spectacular (world class, in fact), the decision to embark on a three-hour-hike just two hours before sunset was a bit of a gamble. The resulting rush across a vast, rocky, volcanic crater in order to stretch out those last moments of daylight was in sharp contrast to the relaxing nature vibe that we had set out to experience. So, when I invited my mom for a hike this week, I was delighted that she agreed to come. This time, the destination was Johnston Canyon, in Banff National Park. The trail is still icey, but that was half the fun. We threw on some cleats and marched up the canyon. It's a fun way to spend time with mom. I hope that I can convince her to go again.