Friday, April 30, 2010

Orange-ya Glad for Queen's Day?

August 29 marked the end of the semester and, coincidentally the day before Queen's Day.  So, about 60 of us headed up to Amsterdam to celebrate. 

Queen's Day is the Dutch equivalent of the fourth of July. Just replace red and blue with orange, and hot dogs with beer.

A 'quick' five hour drive had us in Amsterdam by 10pm, just in time to enjoy some Queen's Night celebration. 

On Queen's day, the canals fill up early with boats of orange-clad hooligans (myself included this time) to celebrate the orangest day of the year. 

I took off a bit early to catch my flight to India - but, by the looks of it, things were really just getting started. Gotta love Amsterdam.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Few Bad Apples?

For several years now, I have been running a PC as well as a Mac; being unable to part with the capabilities of each system, I've hauled each laptop around the world in order to enjoy the benefits of both. Finally, I decided that it was time to consolidate. Erik has had a MacBook Air for a while now and loves it, and I knew that I could run MacOS as well as windows on it. So, way back in March, I purchased a MacBook Air. Less than 10 days after my purchase, the computer wouldn't turn on. So, I drove up to the Apple store in Paris to have it repaired. Logic board failure. 10 days later it was ready, so I drove up to Paris again to pick it up. Once I got home, I discovered that I could not install any programs on it, so, I drove back to Paris to rectify the situation. 

Logic board again? They offered to 'repair' it again, but I requested a replacement. Unfortunately, replacement would require me surrendering my computer, having it shipped somewhere and then having a new one shipped to me. The process would take a couple of weeks. Except that someone forgot to actually order it…which wasn't discovered until two weeks later. I'll skip along here a bit because the memories of this process are so frustrating. 

Finally, almost two months after purchasing my MacBook Air, I finally have one that works. I have spent more than $400 on phone calls (long distance, roaming, extra air time), easily 30+ hours trouble shooting and on hold, plus another 12 hours in transit to and from the Apple Store, plus a tank and a half of fuel to make that happen. 

Getting my new Mac didn't exactly make my life easier, as I had hoped. But it is a beautiful machine. Perhaps Apple has been a victim of its own success - not able to maintain quality standards and not yet ready to provide the customer service needed to deal with the consequences of that.  

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Just two days after returning from Barcelona, I'm back in Spain. This time for some cycling and catching up with good friends. Oh, how fantastic it is to be back on a bicycle! And with deadgoats!

I'm not going to lie to you, I've lost a LOT of fitness after a year of very sporadic cycling. Erik was good to get me out in Cambodia, Sydney and New York and I think that is what is keeping me rolling right  now. But Girona is offering me some serious humble pie, combined with a scoop of inspiration. Some of the finest cycling terrain I have ever had the pleasure to experience (twice, now!).

Nothing like a good sugar binge after a long climb. How is it that experienced cyclists repeatedly find themselves an hour overdue for a snack and then feasting on coca cola, chips and icecream? Oh wait, that's why I ride. 

After a good ride, there is a lot of nice euro stuff to check out around Girona.
This kind of stuff makes me homesick to be in Calgary with the cycling community again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gangster's Paradise

when we arrived back at the flat, we began our marathon phone journey with the airline company. of course, everyone else in europe was doing the same. we could tell that this was unusual for the airline company on account of the fact that they had only one song on hold, which played on repeat. 

an unexpected choice...gangsters paradise!

after several hours of trying, we gave up and decided to book new tickets online and...miraculously, our transaction was processed. after all that we have been through this morning, i am a little concerned that this worked. seems too good to be true. perhaps someone in nigeria is doing a little dance right now. 

i don't know whether we will make it back, but it feels a bit better now to have a plan. one way or another, we will make it out of this gangsters paradise. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

F*&K the volcano

We enjoyed our 'last night' in Barcelona with a flamenco dancing performance by the famous Joaquin Cortes. To finish the evening perfectly, we searched for a spanish tapas bar with some live spanish music. After two hours, we gave up and settled for nachos at an Irish pub with karaoke. Not quite the same, but memorable nonetheless. In my head today, I can still hear the 'eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh' of a butchered version of Lady Gaga's Telephone. 

When we arrived home, we learned that the airports in France were still closed, so we would not be making our Monday journey home. We considered our options, weighed them against our varying levels of urgency to return to Fontainebleau, and came up with the following ranking i) a one way car rental, ii) a train, iii) a series of buses, iv) stay in barcelona indefinitely. 

We looked in to renting a car and finally found a place that would consider a one way rental, only to decide that we were not going to pay the $2,500 that they demanded for it. So, we looked at the train alternative and found that it was not possible to book tickets on line - we would have to go to the train station in person the next morning. And we did. 

We arrived at the train station at 8am this morning to discover this:.

so much for getting back to paris by train.

So we went to the bus station and found that a civil war had broken out. Not a battle we were prepared to enter.

next available bus? thursday.

and now we have come back to our flat to wait it out until the airports open again. another few days in barcelona wont be too bad. For us, this is more or less a humorous roadblock. But I can imagine that there are people in europe who actually have important reasons to be different places. To think that travel in western europe has been brought to a halt as a consequence of something as seemingly innocuous as a cloud is astounding. Don't fuck with Iceland!

Friday, April 16, 2010


It's been blissful being out of the news stream for the last 8 months. Sometimes I feel that I don't miss much. But, then sometimes I do. 
There were supposed to be 300. Only 30 of us made it (and just by the hair of our chiny-chin-chins). We were on the last flights from Paris to Barcelona; coming for the MBA Games hosted by IESE. The preparation and planning was intense.   
I knew nothing of the news until I landed and the taxi driver expressed surprise that I had come from Paris. Airport closures across Europe? But, for what? More terror?
No. Eyjafjallajokull.
Well, there may not be many of us, but we are trying to make the most of it. 
Not sure when we will get back. At least my classes next week are with a professor who commutes in from Lisbon. If I can't make it back, I have a feeling that he wont be able to either!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Paris Marathon 2010

40,000 runners. A beautiful city. A beautiful day.

Our 8:30am start was a lot more civilized than the 5:30am start that we suffered in Singapore. Slightly less civilized was the decision by the race organizers to order one port-a-potty per 10,000 racers. Half an hour after the official start of the race, I was finally on my way.

At that point, the start shoot was a war zone. To manage the long wait in the cold before the start, the race organizers had issued each runner a plastic bag to act as a windbreaker. At the sound of the gun, the racers peeled these off and tossed them to the ground, covering the ground with plastic booby traps. I saw no less than three people trip on these bags as they ran for the start line. Rough way to begin a 42km stroll.

The bonus challenges continued through the race, with banana stations strategically placed on patches of cobblestone (danger!). Nevertheless, historic landmarks were everywhere along the course, ensuring there was always something spectacularly beautiful to see. It really is a lovely course.

In the end, Claire crushed the course, rocking a 4:05:25 time. I painfully hammered out a 4:34:38; faster than Edinburgh (barely), but slower than Singapore, and a long way off of my goal. Not a single blister and no chaffing, just fatigue on the day. I will probably do another marathon at some point in time, but I will wait a bit longer for my body to recover and time it for when I am willing to commit to a proper training regime.

Meantime, I'm quite proud to be the only one in my class that did both the Singapore and Paris marathons during the program. It was nice to have something to keep me active during a time when there are things pulling me in so many directions away from an active lifestyle.

Friday, April 9, 2010

l'importance du mot juste

j'etais recemment a Paris pour visiter quelques sites touristiques. j'ai ete envahi par des crampes d'estomac...le type que seules les femmes peuvent avoir. au lieu de rentre a la maison, je suis alle dans une pharamcie, en esperant que je pourrais acheter quelque chose pour me faire sentir mieux. bien que je n'avais pas les mots pour identifier le probleme, j'ai essaye d'expliquer avec mes mains et mon vocabulaire simple. le pharmacien m'a donne des comprimes.

j'en ai pris une et attendu. rien. j'ai pris une autre et attendu. rien. j'ai pris une autre et attendu. toujours rien! finalment, apres quelques heures, le malaise calmee.

maintenant, quelques jours avant le marathon de paris, j'ai une crampe musculaire. je pensais que peut-etre que je pourrais utiliser le meme medicament (peut-etre ca n'a pas fonctionne pour mon estomac, mais il peut fonctionne pour mon muscle de la jambe?). pour etre sur, j'ai decide de regarde la medecine sur internet. j'ai appris que c'etati la medicine anti-diarrhee. zut! je suppose que j'ai de la chance que ce n'etait pas le contraire!

maintenant, je sais pourquoi cela n'a pas fonctionne la premiere fois!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ronde de Von Vlaandren

It's April, and that means the start of the Spring Classics! Claire and Shawn came in from Canada this weekend, so we drove up to Brugges, Belgium to catch the wet, cobbly mayhem of Tour of Flanders. The evening before the race we were even able to meet up with a local from Brugge whom Erik had met at a race in Portugal!

We could walk to the start of the race from our hotel. The stars were all out (Boonen, Armstrong, Hincapie, Cancellara, Macewan, Flecha, Hushovd, Gilbert), as was what seemed like the entire population of Belgium. Fantastic!Even the children were out. I liked this little invention. Low cost and kept this girl amused for a long time!

The local favorite to win was Boonen. Seemed to be very popular with the ladies, too. It's hard to see quite clearly but, in the smaller picture here, this lady has actually pasted his head onto a dog that she is petting. Not creepy at all. By the time we were going back to our car and had learned that Cancellara had won, passed this again and the smaller picture was gone. Oh how fickle fans can be.

Hanging around good friends from home was a lot of fun. I miss Canadian humour and the cycling scene.