Tuesday, December 05, 2006

area codes

Isn't it funny that I used to live in area code 415 and now I live in area code 514. Makes you think, doesn't it??

Saturday, November 25, 2006

à Montréal, encore!

Bonjour toute le monde!!

Okay, I admit it, I sometimes use an online french translator. You know, they're pretty damn good. Otherwise I likely would have said "Bonjour toutes la monde!" I digress...

I'm in Montreal right now. More or less living here with Mel. I'm stopping short from saying living here... let's call it an extended stay? We're a bit like an old retired couple - Mel's not working and only goes to school occasionally and I'm only working a bit. So we work on the apartment, make big batches of chicken soup, hang Christmas lights, play scrabble and contemplate the meaning of life. Actually, she's at school today, so I get to play on my own. And...

I should be working, but instead I've been shopping and bought new lights for the kitchen, a new headlight for my car, memory for Mel's laptop, and very nearly a surround sound system. Yes, I've turned into a consumer. Which is why I should be working. I divide the total cost of my purchases by my hourly rate and figure out how many hours I must work to pay off my indulgences. And then I work, but not one more hour than necessary!! Unfortunately, they gave me the wrong memory for the computer, I'm not so sure about the kitchen lights, my burnt out headlight started working when I giggled it (damn Canadian tire screwed it up when they installed my daytime running lights), and I'm even more confused about the surround sound stuff.

As for travels, they're at an end for the moment. After Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving that is) in Winnipeg and 2 weeks of fieldwork in Edmonton, I flew back to SF to find my car (it was being lovingly-used and cared for by friends in SF). Then Mel flew to SF for a handful of days of sightseeing (some of which on her own while I worked) and then over a period of about 3 weeks Mel and I drove to Seattle, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal with many places in between (okay, I did most of the driving). Highlights of the trip were San Fran of course (still feels like home for me, and it was Mel first time in SF), a couple days at a hotsprings (hippie resort shall we call it?) with meals prepared by a chef (not one of the cheaper nights), a hike up a volcano, a beautiful drive (and stays) up the CA & OR coast with redwoods and sand dunes, a great visit with Justin & Erin in Seattle (where I'd never been), great visit with friends & family in Calgary and Winnipeg as always (sorry, too much space on blog already spent discussing Calgary/Winnipeg family/friends), 3 days and 2 incredibly relaxing nights at the cabin with wood stove going 24 hours per day to keep us warm, lots of trees with no gas stations & freezing rain across northern Ontario, and arriving in Montreal 3,931 miles later without a single negative incident (distance provided by MapQuest, though my rough calcs show we drove more like 5,000 miles [8,050 km], probably due to all the sidetracking, etc. - and the car odometer flipped past 150,000 miles somewhere in the NE US and still hasn't broken down, knock-knock).

Here's a quick overview, not showing all the stops, but close enough:

How I Got to Where I Am At Now

You know the question that grates me? No? Well let me tell you...

"I thought you were going to London, Thailand or Africa or something"

Well, no, plans changed and I haven't made it off of the continent (well, except for SE Asia, but that was back in March). So then I feel inadequate because I haven't done anything as exotic as I had planned when departing SF. Yet, I feel like I've done a lot. So anyway, since I was playing with MapQuest (which has this new route planner feature) I started reflecting upon the places I'd been this year. But MapQuest only let's you put in 10 places, so I started with the drive south from Winnipeg in mid July, which had no exact destination in mind, and this is what I got:

Where I Thought I Was Going in Mid-July

Then I got some fieldwork in Connecticut (i.e., near Montreal) and left my car in SF. But the company provided a rental car in CT leading to more fun. So next is a map of my Connecticut roadtripping (actually occurred as several trips over a month, but let's not worry about the details):

Travels in New England in Rental Car

And then I thought to myself, this is supposed to be a travel blog and there is just no flow between all of these maps and they're all out of order!! And I also did the SE Asia trip in March, a trip with my sister and her kids to Tahoe in April, and a train trip out east in June and... it's just so damn incomplete!! But alas, not to worry, just a week ago (at the cottage in Ontario actually) I installed Corel onto my new laptop (aka the boat anchor that resembles a mid-size desktop, but who's complaining?). So being a geek and a perfectionist (some say I am, some say I'm not, but each year during my work performance evaluation they say [I paraphrase] "I should stay focussed on the end product, budget and schedule rather than getting every single detail perfect" - but clearly they don't understand the intricateness of my work), this is what I came up with:

2006 Travels In Summary

Anyone notice that Thailand looks like Florida? I haven't been to Florida in many years, but from what I recall, the food is a lot different than Thailand and the people much taller, thus debunking my theory that Florida and Thailand are one in the same. Perhaps I shall return to Florida in February to see a Nascar race (foreshadowing?). But Vietnam and the Baja Peninsula look very similar and I've never been to either, so I am therefore convinced that they are really the same place and that it's just a government conspiracy telling us that they are really two different places.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Back in Alberta?

Things changed suddenly, again. I was supposed to be in Connecticut for two more weeks, but as I had said, the project was chaos and they didn't get the permits for the next phase of work. So I got a phone call in my hotel room on a Thursday morning telling me the work was done. I can't say I was disappointed. Good money, but less than enjoyable people and almost a hostile environment associated with the closing of a very unionized plant.

On the good side, I told the PM that I had already made plans to spend the weekend in New York on the client's tab. Since I had the expectation of having to be onsite the following Monday, I argued that I will fly out on Monday and continue with the New York plans. And he agreed. Sweet! So Mel drove down from Montreal and we drove to New York. Well, actually, on Friday night we drove to Danbury, Connecticut and caught up with Zach, an old friend from SF (and CH2M). Then Saturday morning we hit the Big Apple. Mel hadn't been, and I've been a few times, so I got to play tour guide all weekend. But it's such a big city, you could probably go 100 times and still see 1% of the things to see.

What we did catch included Hairspray (a musical based in Baltimore in the 60/70s during race tensions and cheesy dance tv), the WTC site, fireworks on the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Empire State Bldg (late at night as it was closing), loads and loads of walking. We stayed till noon on Monday and then drove back to Hartford, dropped off my rental, picked up Mel's car and headed to Montreal.

The two weeks since then have been great and nuts. After 2 days in Montreal, I flew to Winnipeg for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Some great family time (read multiple free meals) and I also got to spend my birthday at home for the first time in at least 6, if not 10, years. I got a sweet GPS unit, if you're curious. Then on the Monday morning I flew to Calgary. I managed to get lunch at Paul & Sue's and dinner at Pat & Stef's (sans Pat). So you can see, I got fed very well over the long weekend.

Monday night I drove to Edmonton to do 2 weeks of field work. Actually, the work is in Fort Saskatchewan, but we stay in Edmonton. The work is with great people, but it's dirty work. It would have been a better week had a caeser salad at Boston Pizza on Tuesday night not killed me... nearly literally? Okay, I exaggerate, but sure felt like it! How many times can a person dry heave? All night long? Yup! My stomach, back and shoulder muscles are still all aching from this endeavour. I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

After this work I'm heading to SF on the ~22nd. Mel shows up in SF on the 24th and were going to do a road trip up the coast to Seatle (Justin & Erin, did I tell you I'm coming?), then to Calgary, then to Winnipeg, then to Montreal? Okay, the first part for sure, and the way things change, who knows. Anyway, hope to catch up with many of you along the way (depending on how many people read my blog, that could mean may of you, or just my mom).

And here's a few photos of the Edmonton work... kind of funny. They thought a 40,000 gallon tank was an 80,000 gallon tank and tried filling it up with dichloroethane, a very nasty compound with even nastier vapours (you can see the tank and overflow pipe on the boat photo). It's a DNAPL (dense non-aqueous phase liquid) - think oil, but it sinks, yet vapours come off it similar to gasoline. So this pond that we are surveying and sediment sampling has this nasty product along the bottom as a seperate phase and when you stir it up it gets quite toxic and hazardous to one‘s health). Hence the Level C (air purifying respirators) and Level B (supplied air respirators), moon suits and full decon procedures. Anyways, that's your Hazmat lesson for the day. Note that I've never done any of this before either (I usually do more clean water, numerical modelling, pumping wells type stuff). And did I mention I had to shave, as in fully, in order to wear the respirators :( Anyway...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

time moves slowly

Still in Connecticut, still working at a snails pace. Or more appropriately, a unionized pace. Here for at least another 2 weeks. No work today, though I'm onsite. Some high rad water needs to be pumped out of a nearby excavation and we're on hold since 7AM waiting for unionized laborers to do the work. 2:15PM and here we sit. Our test is a minimum 3 hour test, and we can't work past 4:30PM, never mind the mid-afternoon break, so no chance of even starting work now. Sweet!

The photo is from a couple weeks ago. They've been using an engineered (well-graded) fill onsite that has a high clay content. Unfortunately, it doesn't drain very well and our drill site was the low spot onsite. The day we were to get the drill rig onsite, a 4WD fork lift on steroids got stuck right next to our proposed drill site (note that the fork lift is carrying nearly a semi-trailer sized cargo box that probably weighs 80,000lbs). And they were wanting us to drive the drill rig through that pond!! There hasn't been too much rain lately, but over the past few days we've pumped many many thousands of gallons as part of the testing were doing, so the puddle/lake is staying about the same. The neat thing about this site is the size of everything. The rebar in the foreground is 2" diameter (compared to 0.5" rebar you see on all other constuctions sites). This rebar is from the reactor dome that was demolished a handful of months back.

This past weekend Mel & I did a road trip to the New Hampshire / Massachusetts coast (Salisbury and Hampton) and then spent Sunday afternoon in Boston. Though drizzly all weeked, was still very nice. The way it's looking now, I'll have Friday off and Mel & I (and maybe a few of her friends) are going to New York to catch a Broadway show - any suggestions?

I've been getting the trickle of emails from Burning Man folk. Makes me sad that I didn't go, but so is life. And I've been getting good money here and having great weekends, so no complaints. Toni & Ari (to whom I gave the Chariot) sent me a picture of my... ummm... their Chariot. They said they had a great time and loved the chariot, so this is very good. They put up some nice curtains and hung Thai lamps on the LEDs, and it all looks quite good. I barely got the thing built last year and decorations were at a minimum. I was really looking forward to doing the decorations and not focussing on the basics this year, but it's also really neat to see what other people's ideas/implementations were.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New England

I've never really been to New England before. I drove through once on the way from Montreal to New York (I think I was 19), but this is the first time I've spent time here. I've been working just south of Hartford, Connecticut at a nuclear power facility (the facility is nearly completely decomissioned). Working 12 hour days, but hardly working. The project is a bit of a cluster fuck, the site is heavily unionized (read: breaks & lunches are religiously observed), the drillers have the worst attitude I've ever dealt with, the other people I work with have negative attitudes, and we've been shut down for multiple days for such things as a site-wide celebration attended by biggies such as the Senator & Governor, a power outage, and general lack of planning. Though work has been long and frustrating, there is one very positive note... I've been working (and getting paid) for long hours (I bill regardless of whether we do work or not) and, even better, I've had 3 or 4 day long weekends in Montreal for the the past 2 weekends (this coming weekend will be no exception). Did I mention I bill my travel time to and from Montreal... life could be worse.

So speaking of the weekends... so far all have been spent with Mel in Montreal. My brother Jeff was also in Montreal last weekend and we caught up which was great (seems Jeff & I only meet in other cities now a days). We all got to eat, drink, walk about, saw the World Press Photo exhibit, and had a merry old time. The previous weeked Mel & I went up to her parents country cabin and I got to brutalize the french language. Though it is improving a bit, I need more practice (I bought some CDs, but after waking up at 5ish each morning, my evenings in the hotel are slow times where learning a language seems impossible). Mel's parents thought I was nice, quiet & shy (i.e., unexciting). Well, it's tough to have a personality when you can't speak worth crap, you don't understand what they're saying, and you're on a 5AM - 9PM schedule. Even worse when you hear your name in the first part of the sentence and then strap-on dildo in the latter part of the sentence. Ummm... pardon moi?

Here I sit onsite. Currently 10:50 AM and I've been here since just after 6. So far have checked and wrote emails many times, organized my expenses, read the newspaper, and ummm... yup, that's it. Another busy day at the site. Did I mention how much of a cluster fuck this project is?

But I've talked and exchanged a few emails with someone from the Waterloo office who is running a project in Quebec City and things are looking promising for some work there. And I sent him an email this morning detailing my upcoming schedule (and the slow pace) and just got an email in return asking how soon I can leave. My answer to this was... say 5 minutes? Seriously, there are two of us (two geologists) supervising one drill rig that works occasionally. I'm getting paid for 8 hours and then time and a half for anything over, so I sit or watch happily for 12 hours each day, but I'm also miserable all at the same time. Does that make sense? So much so that I'm wanting to and have jumped at some other work. The guy I'm working with can easily handle the work for the next week (there hasn't been enough work for two people yet), but at the same time, he wants me to stay just in case? All very confusing. Well, we'll have to wait and see how this all unfolds. So I may keep sitting here, maybe we'll do some work this afternoon, or maybe I'll be driving to Quebec City this afternoon. Sorry, I'm sure this is all very boring, but I needed to vent.

Plans for this weekend may be A. meeting Mel in the Adirondaks for a weekend of camping or bed & breakfasts since work will be paying (this is the most likely) B. going to Montreal, or C. (this is a new one) meeting Mel in Quebec City. Or maybe a D. that I don't know of yet? One just never knows.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

small details from bed on Sunday morning

I've made an attempt to update my blog. I've been lazy when it comes to photos, but photos are worth a thousand words? Or maybe even more of my babbles? So let me know what you think.

I've also been playing with the blog template. I can't figure out why so many of the templates are narrow (there are predefined templates for blogs... check out some of my friend's blogs if you don't follow... but you can also get into the coding and make as many changes as you'd like). Largely because of the photos and how the text wraps around them, I've screwed around with the coding of several templates and made them wider, but several have images that don't stretch (or at least I haven't figured out how to stretch them) and then I thought "maybe the page won't fit onto somebody's 800x600 screen?" Now part of me thinks who cares because absolutely no one in this world still uses this resolution, but the sad reality is, my parents are going blind or something and I know they do! The older generation... So, if I do make some of these changes and make the blog wider, let me know if it causes a problem (probably easier just to buy them a bigger monitor).

I haven't packed a thing for the trip to Connecticut and I have to go buy another duffle bag (despite having 4 in Calgary/Winnipeg) since I wasn't planning on bringing mass amounts of gear on a plane (currently the backseat and trunk are functioning as duffle bags). So a trip down Mission St. is required. I've also got to figure out what to do with my car for the next month or so. Been waffling about leaving it with friends in Oakland who don't have street cleaning, but I'd like it to be there with wheels when I get back... I think I'll just expense the $175/month parking at a far airport lot (normally I'd do this without thinking, but it's a new project for me and...) and then if I stick around any longer, say in Montreal, then I'll have to pay the ongoing parking myself. Oh well.

Okay, I have no idea why I'm stressing aobut these little things since I do field work all the time (6 weeks is a bit longer than usual, but still). I think it might be the added stress of not being settled and the planning being all thrown off. But a big thanks to Gabe (and his absentee roommate) for letting me crash at his place all week long and setting up the wireless, which has made this week very nice! And even better, Gabe moved to Duncan St only a couple blocks from my old place, so it's almost like being home!

Speaking of friends, I've added links to several friend's blogs and some websites I often visit (to the right of the blog). (I "deleted" all my Favourites & Bookmarks from my web browsers a couple months ago (along with much of my hard drive), so send me your blog links again if I'm missing them!) I'm listening to streaming music off of CBC Radio 3 right now, which also happens to be my favourite podcast site too. I just realized, as I sit here blogging about my efforts in html coding and favourite podcast sites, I'm a geek!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

how plans change...

I seem to be getting a lot of abuse lately because I haven't blogged lately and I haven't stuck to my plans... sheesh people! Don't you know that A. plans are made to be changed and B. patience is a virtue?!?! :)

I'm in SF at the moment. Since the last post, which I guess I was in Winnipeg, I HAVE followed through with SEVERAL plans including the cottage weekend, a great week-long sailing trip with my Dad up into the northern part of Lake Winnipeg (really more the middle, but it's all relative), and then the Calgary agenda. But I've posted enough on Winnipeg, so I'll just say it was a few more good weeks and give a few details on the stuff since (I actually have a sailing blog, but it'll take a bit of work to get it finished with embedded photos, but I'm working on it.)

The Calgary visit was really good with some work, some time hanging with friends (as always), a wedding, a visit by Mel and a weekend babysitting. Maybe the highlight was Mel coming out for 5 days and us going to one of my childhood bestfriend's wedding in Kananaskis. Was a perfect visit with a small road trip, a couple hikes in the mountains, an overdose of friends (whom Mel doesn't seem to hold against me), a nice night in Kananakis Lodge, etc. etc. This photo is from hiking the day after the wedding (around Lower Kananaskis Lake I think).

I'll try not to bore you all with wedding photos, which isn't too hard since I didn't take too many, but how often do I get dressed up in a suit? Actually, it was a new suit hand - me - down from my brother - in - law who claimed "it didn't have enough ball room". Ummm... yeah, what ever...

The babysitting was also good fun. Paul helped me moved down to SF in a U-Haul and then helped me move back. He moved, unpacked and then packed and moved enough boxes to win some sort of award, but instead I looked after his 4 year old son Brannan for a Saturday & Sunday to give him and Sue a weekend away. Though looking after Brannan (who has quite a bit of energy) is definitely a chore, I definitely still got the easy end of the deal. Actually, I exaggerate... it was quite easy. We spent a fair bit of time hanging out with Pat, Stef & Chloe (their 1 year old daughter), "doing" playgrounds, Afrikaday at Prince's Island Park and a walk at the Inglewood bird conservatory, etc. Oh, and then there was the school bus on Sunday morning! Brannan is going to be taking the school bus this coming year and the )Sunday morning was schoolbus training. Brannan and I and about 500 other parents and kids all watching movies and meeting bus drivers and then going for a ride on the school bus... whooaaa, hold me back!! And I got interviewed on two news channels too!! Come to think about it, the only rough part of the weekend was that somebody pooped their pants (hint: it wasn't me) and expected me to wipe their bum... ummm... do I have to? ummm...yeah? ummm... yeah, okay, I guess so :) (P.S. the photo is a year or two old, but I thought a good one of Paul & Brannan

On the Tuesday morning after babysitting, after finally getting Carole's condo cleaned and organized to my satisfaction (took many more hours than I expected suggesting that A. my standards are too high, B. my cleaning skills aren't very good, C. I'm a slow worker, D. the place was a mess, or E. all of the above) I jumped in my car and headed to SF. Somehow around the time I was packing I made the decision not to go to Burning Man. It would have required packing a lot more stuff and I guess I decided not to pack it. Some decisions get made by making very small decisions. My desire to go waned for a variety of reasons... I think I just needed a year off. Anyway, I also made the big decision not to take the interstate and instead headed through Glacier/Waterton National Park (beautiful!) and took highway 93 through Montana/Idaho/Nevada. This is, as the crow flies, a more direct route, but given the traffic, small towns, construction (I hate being stopped at one-way gravel drive through the ditch detours), etc., it ended up taking a couple extra hours when all was said and done. But I must say, the Honda v-tech with an 8100 RPM readline and a strong desire to rev is a fun engine to work with a 5-speed on two-lane highways with slow moving traffic. Much of the road in the north is hilly to mountainous and there were lots of fire trucks and such. I left one town and immediately hit five large trucks and a couple vehicles in a hilly section with 35 mph curves yet a 65 mph speed limit. I managed to pass them in two goes with one pass topping out at 95 mph as I shifted into 4th and the other pass at about 105 mph - could of gone faster, but I had already passed the 5th vehicle and there was just no need! :) Despite the speed, both passes were actually quite safe, though I'm sure a few people would disagree. Definitely safer than driving the I-5 to LA and having people doing 100 mph passes on the inside right up to slow moving traffice and then forcefully squeezing there way into traffice lined up on the left with literally inches between bumpers... crazy!! Unfortuantely, Darwin-award winners like this tend to take out a swath of cars with them when things go wrong.

The drive didn't take me straight to SF, but first stopped in Tahoe for a couple nights to meet up with Justin and do some catching up and then some climbing at Donner Summit. Though the catching up (i.e., hangover) kind of interfered with the climbing, but what can you do? Then I hit SF for one night and then headed to LA to catch up with Lisette & Jackie and helped a bit with the burning man camp I had been considering campimg with (my lack of indecision on all things burning man this year, including whether to go or not, was quite amazing). And now I've been back in SF for a week (worked all 5 days this week in the office if you can believe that!!). On Monday (today is Saturday) I'm heading off for 6 weeks of work at a decomissioned nuclear power plant in Connecticut - hopefully I won't be glowing the next time you see me! Was a very spontaneous decision to do this work - I checked my email in a Montana hotel during my drive from Calgary to SF, saw this request for staff, and I comitted to the job the following morning. It will be 12 hour days, weekends off, every expense imaginable paid for, and a 5 hour drive to Montreal (i.e., next weekend is the long weekend and Mel and I have already made plans). So though not planned, sometimes things just happen and you have to run with them! And funny how the decision to camp vs. stay in a hotel was such a small decision, but I wouldn't have found out about this work if I hadn't chosen a hotel and who knows what the long-term "consequences" of this decision will be? Anyone follow me here? Branches of the tree type decision making where take one small turn and end up following a very different branch?

On a sad note, I gave away my art car (love seat chariot) this week :( I gave it away since I couldn't bring myself to ask for money for something that was built for an event rebelling against corporate america and sticking it to (and burning) the man. I also gave away a bike, a bunch of clothes including my pink mini-skirt and purple scarf (is this yours Lisette?) in which I looked so sexy (see photo), and all other stuff that remained in my old garage. But on the corporate side, I did sell my two BM tickets, a Southwest Rewards ticket, my wetsuit and got the money from my warddrobe. So I'm up nearly a $1000 cash this week!! Not bad... you should all try liquidating your life more often! Now what to do with the stack of 20s and 100s?? Please, no one mug me!! And believe it or not, there is virtually nothing material that I want right now... what's happening to me? And even if there was something, being a person with no fixed address and living out of my car, I'd have no where to put it!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

bouncing between cities

The eastern portion of my travels are over for now, though a return out east, to say Montreal, is quite likely. Last time I posted my sister was about to show up. All happened as planned and they showed up during the finals of the World Cup. Timing could you been better, but what can you do?

My sister, nephew and niece (from now on referred to as "family") showed up from the airport (short a bag Jack left on the shuttle containing his Gameboy and Ipod charger) at the Fairmont Montreal (I wasn't paying for hotels obviously, and actually we were getting friends & family rates at all the Fairmonts, hence the nice hotels). That night we went out to the old port area, found some quick food (kids were ready to pass out) and did a horse carriage ride around the old town. Mel caught up with us and we cruised the streets for a bit before the family wanted to go to bed... so Mel and I went one way (to the Jazz Festival - final night) and the family went to bed. Actually we only watched a bit of music before going for a wander along St. Catherines, admiring all the strip clubs, to a bar for a couple drinks.

Next day (I remember this being a Monday) in Montreal the family went to La Ronde - a Six Flags park with a dozen roller coasters. Uncle David did pretty well on the coasters, though the Sponge Bob 3-D ride did me in (I've got one kind of bum eye which I don't use all that much and apparently forcing my brain to use it causes worse effects than roller coasters). Anyway, it was a very fun day at the park.

Okay, I'll provide some shorter details for the rest of the post...

The 3rd day in Montreal Emma and I took off to the Biodome in the morning (a large indoor aquarium, zoo, etc. etc.). We took the Metro both ways and only spoke french for much of the way. It was a quick early morning visit, but a great time. We were back at the hotel (which was attached to the train station) by noon and jumped on a train to Quebec City.

Besides me, none of the family had been on trains. Crazy! We had a fun train ride to QC with food provided by me (bread, hummus, 2 types of cheeses, some puddings, salami... a very normal Paris lunch that the family enjoyed). QC was quite the change... small, quiet and quaint compared to Montreal. And we settled into the Chateau Frontenac which is litterally the castle on the hill surrounded by everything. Highlights in QC were:

- several nice meals in terraces (patios) with seafood and wine
- several good historical tours / shows / walks detailing the Plains of Abraham, Wolfe-Montcalm, the failed attack of the Americans, etc. etc.
- just the quaint and relaxing feel of the city
- good swimming and hot tub at the hotel (always important)

After 3 nights and 4 days in QC, we again jumped on a train to Ottawa. Ottawa was definitely a slower pace in terms of less tourists. Granted we were staying in a more business oriented area during the weekend, so that was part of the impression. We did several fun things:

- light and sound show at the Parliment Buildings
- amphibus tour of Ottawa (bus goes into the river and motors around for 20 minutes)
- Museum of Civilization and the new War Museum
- IMAX show (Kilamandjaro)
- a day of white water rafting on the Ottawa River about an hour north of town
- a really really good sushi dinner that is worth mentioning

Okay, that's enough boring trip details (I'm in Winnipeg again now), but I thought I'd give the nitty gritties for those wanting to know what we did on the trip.

I'm heading off to the cabin this weekend and then on Monday going sailing with my Dad for 5 days up to the northern part of Lake Winnipeg. I'll be back in Winnipeg for a few days after that and then heading to Calgary for Aug 4. I think plans are finalized now and Mel is flying from Montreal to Calgary for that first weekend... should be fun with a wedding in Kananaskis and then rafting down the Bow on Sunday tentatively planned.

Another recent thought... chariot for Burning Man is seeming like too much effort. Thinking of scrapping it...

Friday, July 07, 2006


Hello from Montreal! Doing the same as usual it seems... sitting in a cafe on a laptop. Actually, I haven`t brought my laptop or cell phone on this trip, but am borrowing a friends. Anyway, here`s a quick update (sorry the ` s are french accent graves or something...).

The time in Winnipeg has been great with not much besides family, family and some more family affairs. Attending roller hockey games, ringette games, making lunches for my sister`s kids (house sat with them for a couple days too), sailing with my Dad, painting the cabin with my brother-in-law, ummm.... lot`s of good quality family stuff, which was priority No.1 this summer! Will be back in Winnipeg for another couple weeks after the current trip to do a cottage weekend with the whole family (parents, brother, sister, and all the associated kidlettes) and a 5-day or so sailing trip up to the north part of Lake Winnipeg with my Dad. But that`s the future...

Spent the July long weekend in Toronto hanging with John & Jocelyn (John`s a friend from SF who moved back home to Toronto, well, actually Etobikoe or something like that for those who differentiate the suburbs from the city... I personally just refer to it all as southern Ontario). We went for a sail on Lake Ontario Friday afternoon and got to see the waterfront from the water side. Then went `out on the town` and saw some live music and closed the place down. I remember once again why switching to gin & tonics half way into the night is not a good idea (or at least I remembered the next morning as John woke us up at 7 AM to go to the cabin). We spent the long weekend at John`s family`s cabin on Georgian Bay. A very nice weekend of sailing, canoeing, boating, and reading (emphasis on reading for me - I can be quite boring when I choose to be). One of the near by islands had some cheesy fireworks, so we even celebrated Canada Day. Actually, we made it back into the city and down to the waterfront for Monday night and saw the official TO fireworks too.

I spent Tuesday at a relaxed pace making it to the train station around noon, then put my bag in storage and wandered around downtown till my 3PM train to Montreal. Was very nice weather except for a crazy heavy thundershower that forced me into the CBC building. This was actually nice since if forced me into the CBC museum which has histories and sets for the Friendly Giant, Mr. Dressup, etc. etc. Trains are so nice, but I can`t understand why:

A. there aren`t more of them (you`d think there would be a train leaving every 15 minutes)
B. they aren`t cheaper (TO to MNTRL was $92... how much does an airplane cost)
C. why did my sister make me pay for this... note she`s paid for the other legs of the train trip :)

It had been a while since I`ve been on a train and it was quite nice (i.e., I found a great used book store on Queen St. in TO and bought two books and the train gave me a good 4.5 hour start on the first book - Postcards - which I just finished yesterday by the way).

Been in Montreal for a couple days now. Melanie, one of my `students` in Pinawa many years ago picked me up at the Metro stop and has set me up at her new apartment. I`ve been there for 2 nights (or is it 3 nights, I seriously can`t remember, okay, must be 3) and she`s moving in today (I could be helping, but instead I`m hiding out in a coffee shop... something to do with 2 exboyfriends helping so I`m just making myself scarce. Her and I have caught a couple nights of the Jazz Festival. First night, the night I got here, we caught a tribute to Paul Simon with performers such as Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Holly Cole, Daniel Lanois (a Quebec artist who I saw in SF last year), and several others. Last night was a more small venues including a stop at a salsa place where Mel made me Salsa and ChaChaCha (it was brutal despite having lived in the mexican area in SF for several years... Mel made me be the women and she led).

Other highlights in Montreal so far... a 13 hour walking tour that started way up north (relatively speaking... Jarry for those that know Montreal) on St Laurent, proceeded downtown, saw the Portugal-France game (city went nuts when France won), checked out a hostel (decided I like my current digs), then to the old Ville & Port, then walked back home along St. Denis. Definitely got my exercise that day. The next day I took it easy and went to the Musee de Beaux Artes (Fine Art Museum). Both these days were very much like a typical European vacation day for me. I can tell I`m on holiday because I can just randomly chat with people. Of course it usually seems to be cute women that I chat to, but what can I say, I have good tastes!

Robyn ( my sister) and Jack & Emma arrive on Sunday. Sunday is going to be a crazy day. First, it`s the final of the world cup. Regardless of the outcome, this city is going to be nuts. There are nearly as many flags hanging out windows and people driving 60 mph up and down streets as there was in Calgary or Edmonton during their hockey attempts. It`s also the last day of the Jazz Fesitval and that`s bound to be a blast. So the new arrivals should be up for a fun day!

Also still planning to be in Calgary for Aug 5-15 and then to Seattle for some climbing & hanging with Erin & Justin say Aug 16-20 and then continue the road trip to SF (arriving by say Aug 25) in prep for Burning Man on Aug 28 (just keeping you alls updated with the schedule hoping that our paths will cross).

A la prochaine!! (please no correcting my french! .... I need to practice bad!)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

as the summer evolves...

I'm finally in Winnipeg. Was painful getting out of Calgary (i.e., packing and cleaning up Carole's apartment in case she returns before I do (unlikely, but...) - it took about 3 hours to pack my car. I'm quite disappointed in my friend Paul, who usually helps me pack up!! So I made it out of Calgary just before noon on Monday, meaning it was a long day of driving and didn't get into Winnipeg until after midnight.

One comment about the drive... Saskatchewan is now entirely 4 lane and 110 km/hr (almost, last 20 km under construction)! This makes the trip so much faster! Although I left my roof racks on and with a full load I got the worst fuel economy of my life... I was right up there with an SUV barely getting 30 mpg (Imperial gallons that is, or ~25 US mpg). Anyway...

You'd think my life would be slow and relaxing, but there are so many things to do! (truth and sarcasm, all at the same time!) Day 1 in Winnipeg I sleep in a bit, then get up and just hang with my Dad for about an hour or two (get breakfast and coffee made, you know...), then it's over to my sister's, pick my nephew up at school, lunch with the kids, then off to my grandmother's with my Dad, then back to my parents for dinner, then off to my nephew's inline hockey game, then home to bed. This is a vacation?

Day 2 was less busy, but still involved too much effort. Watching the hockey game with my nephew (Edmonton scored in overtime to stay alive... series is now 3-2 in favor of Carolina, best of 7, and now heading back to Edmonton), playing basketball during the intermissions, and beating him up regularly. Now I'm on Day 3 and I stayed at my sisters because I new it would be calmer (kids are at school and didn't come home for lunch today) and I need to get a report done for tomorrow, which I haven't started because I haven't done any work this week. However, my sister and I got talking this morning next thing I know I'm travelling around Quebec / Ontario with my sister and her kids in a few weeks. I can't complain, because I just got a return ticket bought for me (on airmiles). So, the newest plans are...

I'm flying to Toronto on June 30, spending the long weekend in John either at his cabin or sailing (yet to be decided). Then the following week (week of July 3rd) I'll travel to Montreal, meet up with a couple friends and catch a few days of the Jazz Festival (which runs till July 9th). And on July 9th, my sister (Robyn) and her 2 kids (Jack & Emma) are flying in to Montreal. We'll spend just 1 day in Montreal and then head to Quebec City. The plan is to mak this a bit of a touristy and informative trip for the kids, which isn't hard to do in Quebec City (e.g., Plains of Abraham, fort this and fort that, etc.). After a few days in Quebec City we'll jump a train to Ottawa, where none of us have ever been. Note that I'll be the pretend father throughout all this! The end of the trip will all 4 of us flying back to Winnipeg on July 17th. And all this flying on airmiles (or Aeroplan to be precise) on the exact days we wanted and on short notice... pretty sweet!

Okay, more later, must do some work and make enough money to buy beer.

P.S. I'm looking for places to stay in Montreal!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Life in Cowtown

Did we all catch the hockey game last night? How depressing!! Up 3 goals in the third and they still lost! And did their goalie in too! Life is unbearable!! Okay, I actually only slightly care, but why let reality get in the way of a good story?

Life is good, with only a few exceptions. Maybe I should start off with the bad things? Well, first of all, my car is a bit of a pain in the butt. I have to get a federal inspection done since I'm importing it into Canada. I already paid ~$350 for the inspection at the border, but there are still additional things. First there are daytime running lights ($176), child seat mounting kit (~$??), french stickers for the doors, airbags, seatbelts (~$???), and some other things I probably don't know about yet... they say stuff like your bumpers may need modifying, but it's an Acura, so it should meet Canadian standards (otherwise I should just ask what their name is so I can name my first child). And the is just for the federal inspection. The provincial inspection is next and this is where I'll get dinged for having too thin of brake pads or who knows. And on top of all this, my clutch is gone. Yes, it's been going for years, but it seems to have waited until my income is at it's lowest in years to finally start requesting action. I'm still in denial and remembering how I used to drive my MGB - double clutch and heel & toe...

Okay, only two more things to bitch about...

Sunday morning I continued the process of backing up my laptop and synchronizing files with my home desktop computer. I had already synched my music, much of my personal stuff and was working on photos. I then noticed I had a couple user profiles that weren't mine on the laptop (from when other people at work had logged onto my laptop). I've always periodically deleted these profiles and did so again. Unfortunately, after doing so, I noticed I had a large amount of free space on my laptop and no icons left on my desktop. Seems Windows also deleted my profile and all files within My Documents - essentially every file on the computer excluding programs including my Outlook PSTs, my photos, and some other miscellaneous stuff that weren't necessarily backed up. Sweet!! I spent Monday with hard disk recovery software fixing my computer. It seems the some files that had been used most recent didn't get recovered including some of the PSTs which were rather important. Oh well.

Last thing to bitch aobut... when is someone going to clean up Carole's condo and put away my stuff? I find I still have a lot of stuff, be it clothes, climbing gear, shoes, junk, computer stuff, etc. etc., yet I don't really have anywhere to put it. I need to get my clothes widdled down to just a couple suitcases instead of 3 duffle bags and 2 suitcases. Unfortunately the CD rack fell over onto and into my clothes bags about 4 days ago (one of the tall towers that I set up when I got here) and I've yet to muster the energy to clean up the mess.

So in the big picture now, not really that much to complain about. I've been doing a bit of work, but not much as the work hasn't been really coming in until yesterday and I haven't been searching it out. The computer thing came at a bad time because there is work now so tomorrow I will have to be productive for a change. I had I think my biggest paycheck ever nearly 2 weeks ago... the reward for doing 12 days straight (12 hour + days) of fieldwork netted me nearly a months pay... SWEET! That will cover my clutch, all my car problems, and still leave me enough money to live on for the next month so I can't complain too much.

Life in Calgary is good too. I've mostly been hanging with friends and just catching up. There have been more BBQs and dinners at friends houses than I can count. I went over to Stef's tonight and had dinner with her and her sister tonight (and Chloe too, she's 11 months). Her hubby Pat is out of town, so we just sat around after dinner for several hours and chatted. This is a pretty typical night. There have definitely been a few nights of partying, but for the most part just hanging with friends. I also caught up with Ted last weekend who is a bestfriend from literally from preschool who is now living in Calgary (I'll be back in Calgary in early August for his wedding).

I wish there was more deep and meaningful stuff to say right now, but the past couple weeks have been purely unwind moments with general hanging out and accentuated by a few moments of excitement. I've been climbing at the gym a couple times, played squash once (again tomorrow), walked a bunch, and sat on many a patio. Well, I must say something else besides bitching and boring details... ah yes... I've wondered about lots of stuff (yes, I have way too much time on my hands). Here are some random thoughts...

- Calgary is now the largest city in Canada that allows smoking in bars. What's up with that? What makes it even stranger is that you can't smoke on patios, but you can smoke in the bar. Ummm, excuse me, I want to have a cigarette so I'm going to go inside. The people who made up this law must have been smoking more than a cigarette!

- Calgary is booming right now in terms of money. But people here also seem infatuated with money. House prices went up 40% last year alone (which helps me feel better about paying my $1600 house tax bill this month) and show no signs of slowing down. I can't remember any time in San Fran when we went out and discussed stock options, mergers, etc. Yet it's the #1 talk here. Maybe if I had 35,000 stock options and my company was about to be bought out at $45/share I might be more apt to talk about stocks :) But to me, people in San Fran seemed pretty well grounded and happy without being as concerned about money. Granted, no one could afford a house but....

- Good friends are worth a lot. I've been lucky enough to make some really good friends in all the places I've lived. I'm more the person that makes a small handful of great loyal, long-term friends than the type of person who makes lots of acquaintances. San Fran was funny this past year in that a group of friends that hung out together for the past couple years was dissolving... Justin & Erin moving to Washington, Sam moving Colorado (?). Usually a friend comes and goes, but this kind of seemed like the entire group dissipated. Well, there are others in "the group" and I don't want to be exclusionary, but you know what I mean. Actually, San Fran is very transient and I therefore made many good friends that moved on... just the nature of the city. It's nice to come back to Calgary and find that many of my good friends from years ago are still here! But even this is not going to last. Looks like, for example, the Aussie is going to Thailand, Welshman is going to Holland, and the Frenchwoman is just never here (but I'll visit her elsewhere!). Anyway, good friends will always catch up sometime, somewhere.

Lastly, I guess I'll give a quick update on the plans for those who A. Care B. Are planning on meeting up with me somewhere or C. Want to know when and where to avoid me. My latest intent is to go to Winnipeg this weekend, be there for nearly 2 months, but fly to Montreal / Toronto for 2 weeks sometime in those 2 months. I have to be back in Calgary for an August 5 wedding (someone else's) and I'm going to babysit Branan (Paul & Sue's son) the weekend of Aug 12 in appreciation for Paul helping me move back up to Calgary. Then ~Aug 15 I'm on a roadtrip down to San Fran (maybe through Washington to catch up with Erin & Justin?) needing to be at Burning Man late August or early September? I could look at a calendar, but... After that there are several friends I'd like to catch up with in San Fran and the surrounding regions if they'll have me on their couches. Then after that I'm thinking much more seriously about Africa now. Time to strike one of the last continents off the list? Okay, I've only been to Costa Rica, so that probably doen't count as South America, or does it? Central America isn't a continent, is it? So if it isn't, where does that put Costa Rica? If CR is in SA, then Africa is my last continent (I'm just accepting the lack of desire and resources as eliminating Antarctica from the realm of likelihood). There's some possible work opportunities that have popped there head up recently for work in Ethiopia, but even mentioning this is way ahead of schedule.

Okay, essay over. Off to bed (or maybe I'll stay up for the Daily Show... which I get even without cable... sweet!!).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the Great White North....

Hello from the Great White North!! I've been up in Calgary for a couple weeks now, but somehow blogging seems like so much effort. Yes, I think the pace of my life right now can best be described as lazy? lacsidaisical? restful? Okay, let me take a step back.

Paul and I made it out of town on Sunday night (April 30). We only made it a bit past Sacramento, but it was a mental success getting out of town on the weekend and also meant no Bay Area traffice to deal with Monday morning. UHaul screwed up and it worked to my advantage. We ended up getting a truck with a trailer for the car. This meant there wasn't quite the same pressure to get rid of everything as there was lots of room in the truck. Though it was the plan to get rid of a lot of stuff because of my desire to simiply my life (i.e., make myself more mobile). Anyway, Paul and I made steady progress (well, if you call 35 mph up hills "progress") and arrived in Calgary on Tuesday night. It was all quite easy and uneventfull including quite a simple border crossing (luckily they didn't search the truck and find my 40 some bottles of California wine stashed in the UHaul - oops, did I just confess to a crime online? oh well, come arrest me!!).

I was back in Calgary for about 4 days before I picked up and went back to the US for a couple weeks of field work (a couple hours south of Vegas). Was pretty crazy with 110 degree heat, 12 days straight, and 12 to 16 hour days. It was good work with the USGS out on site and some fun times with friends in Lake Havasu and then a fun evening in Vegas for the last night (I would tell you about Vegas, but happens in Vegas....). The other good thing about this work is that I just got my pay check today and it is just shy of being twice my usual paycheque!! This is good as my clutch is on its very very very last legs :(

So, now I'm back in Calgary and homeless. Well, sort of. I'm living at Carole's condo in Calgary (she's off in Algeria working for the next month or two or three?) and what I didn't sell of my possessions at the garage sale are in her basement. Pretty sweet to just be hanging out here - being in Calgary is kind of like a vacation, kind of like couch surfing, kind of like being back home (I did live here for 6 years). The condo is sweet (you're great Carole!! though do you think you could get cable? just kidding!!!). I've got hi-speed wireless at the condo so I can continue to work, although I've only billed 2 hours this week. I guess that's where I started this blog off... life is lazy. I did some of my taxes today, wrote a couple emails, watched the first period of the Edmonton-Anaheim game (Game 4 with Edmonton losing today, but still up 3-1) and then went climbing for the first time in Calgary. Wow, one rough day!!

For the next part of the summer (which could be tomorrow? next week? or next month?) I'll be heading to Winnipeg to spend time with the family. All this while I'm still working a bit for the San Fran company - have laptop, will travel. They're happy keeping me and giving me hours where ever I am which is really sweet. If I keep working as hard as I have this week I'm either going to go broke or start dipping into the savings I'm trying to keep tucked away for overeas travelling - so I'm going to have to work on the self motivation skills!! Winnipeg is going to be all about family - spending time with the folks including some sailing with my Dad, playing computer with my Mum, and spending time at the cottage with all my nieces and nephews. Apparently I'm booked to build a tree house with Jack? And maybe some building a bathroom on the old A-frame cabin.

I'd also really like to do a road or train trip out east either this summer or this fall. I've got a few friends in Toronto & Montreal I'd live to visit and I'd like to check Montreal out a bit more (foreshadowing later years of my life maybe?). VIA Rail has a 30 day pass and I'm thinking of taking 30 days to make it to Halifax, then spend a week there (and maybe PEI?) and then fly back. Just thinking out loud here. I have to be back in Calgary for the August long weekend (for a wedding) and back in San Francisco for Labour Day (for Burning Man), so not sure when it will fit in. Also Carole and I were talking about maybe me coming to Africa (she even suggested she has the air miles to get me there - did I mention she's a damn good friend? I think we'd all agree). This is very tempting...

With this all said, where I'll be at the end of the summer/fall is an unknown. Only a few months ago I was predicting London, but then I spent some time travelling in SE Asia and now I'm hesitant on London (not saying not, but contemplative). A few other overseas jobs are also popping there heads up. My company just had a big win in Italy and there's some 3rd world stuff (groundwdater stuff, that's what I do) that might be very tempting (there's lots of work, but much of it doesn't pay - seems lots of people around the world want drinking water, but many don't want to pay $150/hr for a consultant to come find it for them... go figure). And if Ben, one of my best friends from Calgary, carries through on his move to Thailand, it might be tough for me not to join him. Or maybe I should... like I said, I have no idea. I'm open to suggestions!! And also very open to being spontaneous....

Thursday, May 04, 2006

the final weeks in SF

The final weeks in SF involved too much work, too much play, and not enough sleep. It's tough trying to say goodbye to everyone, wrap things up at work and plan for the move all at the same time. Needless to say this wore me down and a 3 week long cold still persists.

The 2nd to last weekend was a house party which was quite good. Paul flew down from Calgary and arrived an hour before the party so that was great (he then stuck around for the week and helped me pack and move making him either a great friend or a sucker!!!). I guess we shouldn't tell the landlord that the apartment can fit close to 100 people (including the band). Did some good damage on the bar and the remenants of the alcohol were sold for $45 during the garage sale (Paul thought no one was cheap enough to buy open booze - was he wrong or what!!). The night following the party Lisette was in town for a show at the DNA Lounge. Because I got so much sleep the previous night, I thought why not work the merchandise booth for the show (Sunday night) and stay up late again! Let's just say Monday morning wasn't exactly an early one. And surprisingly, the cold still persists. Go figure...

The last week in town was hanging out with Paul, various friends, a fun messy night at El Rio on Friday, and then packing, packing, and more packing. UHaul screwed up and never got the trailer hitch for my car. But they gave me a good deal on a truck and tow dolly for my car, so all worked out okay. But I'll save details of the move for a soon-to-be-blog.

visitors from up north

There were only a few days of work after I got back from Thailand before my sister (Robyn), niece (Emma) and nephew (Jack) arrived for a week in San Fran. We were only in the city for an evening before heading up to Tahoe the next day. We were lucky and got very nice weather for the drive up and didn't have to put chains on (okay, technically the sign said we should, but unless there's someone there telling you I interpret it as a consideration only). We checked in at a lodge in Kirkwood across the street from the lifts. This is definitely the way to go - espectially with kids. Putting on your boots and walking across the road to the lifts is sweet! We did a couple days of skiing, loads of scrabble, several hot tubs and in general, a very good time.

The condo was also very nice with a fireplace and a entertainment unit with a good selection of movies. Unfortunately the movies were all R rated so the kids are now talking with foul mouths and know all about prositutes, drugs, etc. etc. What can you do? The kids also took to Scrabble playing probably a dozen games (sshhh, don't tell them it's educational!!). We had a boys versus the girls game and the boys lost by a few points because we couldn't get rid of a tile and probably becuase the girls cheated too!

On the 2nd skiing day, Robyn read in the morning while I took the kids skiing. This of course was my opportunity to take the kids to the top of the mountain and do some black diamond runs (what the mother does not know can't hurt anyone, right?). The kids did very well and we all made it up and down the black diamonds several times with no problems. Robyn joined us in the afternoon and that's when the snow started coming down. It was whiteout conditions at the top and raining at the bottom by 3 and and we called it quits (the hot tub was calling). And given that they were prediction a lot of snow, we returned the rental gear (no need to deal with white conditions in the morning). However, this was a mistake because the next morning was one of those perfect powder days with blue skies and warm temps. Oh well. As it turns out, we had another perfect drive out of the mountains with no chains (always makes me happy when I don't have to leave my seat).

On the way home we stopped off at a abandoned gold mine near Jackson and did a tour for a few hours (educational and entertainment all in one!). Also had another Mexican dinner (Robyn is an addict). And Emma got her guacamole she'd been craving. Of course not as good as CanCun on Mission St., but sometimes you have to take what you can get!!

The downside to the visit was that their flight arrived during my hockey playoff game (we lost without me) and their flight home was early early which they had to be at the airport by some ridiculous time (I forget what time as my brain does not function that early in the morning).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Photos are up!!!

Thailand photos are up. For some reason they are posted in reverse order and I haven't yet figured out how to fix it. It sorts properly when you view the set or when you view the slide show... who knows...


IMG_2536 Originally uploaded by archean1.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Chariot Pushing

Originally uploaded by archean1.

Okay, not actually a blog entry here. Just me trying to figure out how to post photos. Haven't quite got my Thailand photos yet, so I'll give it a shot with a Burning Man photo. Erin is steering, Sam and I pushing (both also Thailand travel compatriots). I think Erin should of had both hands on the steering wheel!!

Also, clicking on the photo should take you to my photo website, where I think I'm going to put my Thailand photos. This could change though...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

home alive

I'm home alive and well. The tv's in the back of economy were broken so I had to read, sleep or watch the TV 200 feet up the aisle for the 9 hour flight from Tokyo to SF. But that's pretty well the biggest highlight of the trip home. I got in at 8 this morning (Weds, Mar 22). I left Bangkok at 6 this morning (Weds Mar 22). Go figure! I thought about going to work, but have decided other things are more important. Namely that I only had 42 pages left in my 679 page book, so I finished that up and just in case anybody wants to know, the judge was corrupt but his son burns the disk at the end and the butler was innocent.

I wanted to list a few things that I've appreciated or chuckled at this morning:

1. After a month in places such as Cambodia and Laos, known for civil unrest, mass killings, significant restrictions on personal freedoms, and police corruption, to name a few, the first time I have even heard of any sort of police action is at the San Francisco airport BART station: "All trains will be delayed 15 minutes due to a police action at the West Oakland BART station". Nice to be home.

2. I walked home from the 24th St. BART station with my rolling backpack and another bag strapped on top. I crossed all intersections at intersections with lights. All streets were paved. There were no open sewers large enough to swallow you whole. No scooters or tuk-tuks tried to run me over. I didn't hear a single horn. And every intersection had handicap ramps so my bags never had to be picked up. It was all really quite boring.

3. I very much enjoyed going home and having a glass of water from the tap without worrying about whether the result will be a forced close proximity to the toilet for the next couple days.

4. I went to the bath room and didn't have to bring my own toilet paper and wonder whether there would be a hole in the ground or an actual toilet seat. (note that I also used an excessive amount of toilet paper and disposed of it in the toilet!!)

5. It took me about 45 minutes at home before I made a break for a mid-morning veggie burrito at Cancun on 28th St. The similarities and differences between the Mexican (e.g., salsas) and Thai spices (e.g., curries) are quite interesting. I think both are great, but damn that was a good burrito!! To keep costs under control, I had a glass of water (from a pitcher on the counter with ice, again not worrying about the toilet issue), yet the meal still cost me well over my Thai daily spending allowance for food.

6. Page 3 of the SF Chronicle has a big article about the protests over the Thai Prime Minister and the upcoming elections - I wasn't sure if it was getting any coverage here. Will be interesting to see where this goes...

7. I had a Cafe Au Lait earlier and, now, having changed coffee shops for variety in life, I am having a Chai Latte. These two drinks together cost the same as any of the below:

- an hour long Thai massage
- a typical lunch and dinner in Thailand, breakfast too if alcohol is not ordered
with the meals (breakfast usually has non-alcoholic shakes)
- a good day's wage in Thailand
- a good week's wage in Cambodia
- the cost of my half hour taxi ride to the Bangkok airport yesterday morning
(which was actually this morning in a literal sense)

8. The thought of work tomorrow is quite depressing...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

about to leave :(

Laos was great!! I switched my flight so I could stay a day longer in Luang Prabang and less time in Bangkok. Vietiane was nice (I think my last post covered that? I guess I could have checked...) but Luang Prabang was way nice, like totally dude. It was much quieter than many other places with everything 100 percent shut down by 11:30 PM. It also had the feel of a small French town with loads of little shops and bakeries and cafes lining the streets. There are a lot of French here as it was a former French colony and they still use it as a hangout. I spent 4 nights / 5 days and had a great and relaxing time. Met a Canadian (Kelly) my first night and we hung out for the entire time (we both left the same morning, but in different directions). The 2nd day we did a day boat trip to some caves with buddhas and such in them. Also stopped off at some little villages on the river. The next day we did a day trip to some waterfalls that you can hike and swim through - there's a bunch of different levels each with pools, and rope swings and was incredibly relaxing. The next day we were tempted to do a biking and kayaking day tour, but decided to just walk and explore and take it easy. Not very ambitious but a nice way to spend my last full day in Luang Prabang...

Just got back into Bangkok last night and am flying out tonight in about 10 hours, well, actually, that's 6AM tomorrow, which means I'll just stay up late and go to the airport at 3AM... a good enough reason to party late!! After getting into Bangkok last night I went to the Shanti Lodge (a guesthouse that Justin was fond of but kind of out of it) around 7 to pick up an abandoned piece of luggage. I've been travelling with only my day pack and a shoulder bag for the past three weeks. Needless to say I haven't had an extravagant wardrobe, but it sure has made travelling easier. But after all the purchases in Laos - a quilt with matching pillows (will need filling, ummm, Mum?), several stitched silk tapestry type things, some little purse type things for, say, certain nieces, shirts, etc. etc. So the load has definitely increased. And while at the Shanti Lodge I met a Swiss girl who was meeting up with a friend-from-home's Thai friend (a blind friend date?) who ended up being two cute girls. They took us out to some live music and dance clubs, but I was worn out and went home early - what a horrible night to be tired and a lame ass!!! And tonight I'm hanging out with an Australian - it's ridiculously easy to meet people because so many people use Bangkok as a launching pad for other places in Asia that there are lots of solo travellers, such as myself at the moment.

I'm back at the same guesthouse I stayed at with Sam for simplicity and since it seemed very safe and I now have a bunch of stuff. I've yet to be robbed or molested though a couple really young (and poor looking) kids in Siem Reap gave it a go (pick pocket that is). Usually it's quite the opposite with people leaving cell phones, bags and such lying around and nobody even seems to think of taking stuff. A certain Mr. Smith (aka Justin) even left his bag containing most of his essential possesions (i.e., passport, money, camera, etc.) in a tuk-tuk at the airport and managed to get everything back an hour later - that's somewhere between amazing, lucky, and a medical miracle (the miracle being how horseshoes were surgically implanted up his butt). And I haven't had any bouts with the toilet either, so all has gone quite well. I'll just keep knocking on wood.

I'll be back in SF in two days. Then off skiing with my sister and the rotten Jack & Emma in a week, and then back in Canada a day or two after May 1 I'm a guessing. Of course, I prefer to have ideas rather than plans.... Hope to catch up with you all soon!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

in Paris??

Okay, I feel like I'm in Paris at the moment, but more about that in a bit...

I'm on my own now and things are still going very well. The morning after the last post we took an early morning shuttle to the border (felt like we were being smuggled as it was almost literally the back of a pickup truck an hour before sunrise) and then a boat into Cambodia to a small town on the coast called Sihoukville. No doubt it will be an up and coming resort town, but for now it's still a town in the making. We got a nice place with a wicked wide and winding teak staircase up to the second floor and a tuk-tuk (half cab, half scooter, half ATV - ooops, that doesn't add up, does it?) driver that hung out with us for much of our stay (he no doubt gets big comissions when he brings us to restaurants, etc.). We hung out on the beaches, ate good food, rented scooters and caused troubles. Mr. McGeehan and I shared a scooter and he nearly killed me taking a high speed turn onto a gravel road (didn't know it was gravel until well into the turn) and wisely decided he was going to fast for the turn and went into a lockup and skidded to the edge of the road. He drove slower after that... Other highligts were meeting 3 Canadian girls and going out to a dance club where we were the only farangs (foreigners). The local girls would come over and dance with the girls and the local boys would come over and dance with Sam and I... very strange!! All in all, quite a poor town, though some folks from the club left in a decked out Hummer - probably 10,000 times the average annual income.

Next to Phnom Penh (via the bus) for a few days and nights... PP is the capital of Cambodia, but nothing like the neighbouring Thailand... more a slower, less affluent capital. There were some fun bars and had a good time, but only spent 2 days here as we had high expectations for the next destination.

Next and final destination in Cambodia was Siem Reap / Angkor Wat. SR is the city and Angkor Wat are a bunch of old Wats (aka temples). Each one is incredible and there are literally dozens scattered around over many kilometers of roads and trails. We rented 2 tuk-tuks for the first day and they drive you around to ruins and wait for you while you go wander through the ruins, climb the Wats, etc. The 2nd day we did similar but we rented electric bikes and toured about on our own. Siem Reap is also quite nice with a miniature Ko San Road (bar/restaraunt strip in Bangkok). We had some really good food here and were big spenders and split a bottle of wine. This was also my last night with the gang as the next day everyone left early in the AM to catch the sunrise and Angkor Wat while I jumped on a plane to Vietiane in Laos.

So now we get to the Paris thing... Vietiane is the capital of the former French colony and as such, has an Arc de Triumphe, a Chanse D'Elysee, and more bakeries selling pastries than I've seen in the past year. There are also loads of Wats and walks along the Mekong and I think I walked 20 km during the heat of the day (yes, I didn't really know where I was for much of the walk, but I also didn't try to figure it out that much). I met a Quebecois guy during the day and then an American girl from Sacramento in the evening and we went out and partied it up. Alas, I was only in Vietiane for 1 afternoon, 1 night and 1 morning as this was technically a stop-over on the flight to Luang Praubang.

So I'm just finishing up my 2nd day in LP and having a great time. Met another Canadian last night and we hung out and then did a slow boat trip today to some caves and a couple towns up the Mekong River. A nice relaxing day. I'll give more details on LP in a couple days, but right now I've exceeded my writing time, a Beerlaos is calling my name, and I must make it to the bookstore to exchange the 3 books I have read since I have no more :(

Hope all is well back home. I seem to get very few emails so either people:

A. are not reading my blog

B. find my blog completely impersonal and aren't enthused to reply or email in response

C. have forgotten about me after only 3 weeks

D. all of the above


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

sitting in a hammock

Hello from Trat! It's been a rough many days of sitting on a beach (Lonely Beach, to be specific, in Kho Chang, aka Ko Chang, aka Koh Chang). Koh Chang is an island in the southeast of Thailand (near Cambodia). Very nice!! Has touristy sections on the island and our beach was a quiter area with no real resorty type things in the immediate vicinity. Mostly young backpacker (and rich children types) spending ~$5 a night for a private hut on the beach. Loads of diving, palm trees, sand, hot weather... you get the idea.

We just took the ferry back to the mainland (to Trat) this afternoon after 4 days and 3 nights living in the bamboo huts on the beach, swinging in hamocks, and not much else. The first two days I literally did nothing but eat, drink, swing in hammock and read. Turns into a bit of a party at night and hammocks are put away :( Two books down in two days. The third day a British girl did drag me out for a walk on the beach and then swimming (this seemed like an incredible amount of energy expenditure at the time). She had also just taken a Thai massage course and needed people to practice on. Me being such a considerate person, I made myself available. I know, I know, I should receive some humanitarian award. And then the fourth day a Sweedish girl had rented a scooter and we went to the port in Bang Bo for an afternoon. Had an incredible Indian curry prawn dish. mmmm....

But the hammock really was my home. In fact, I had two choices: my hut had a front porch with my own hammock and then there were a handful of hammocks in the big central hut where food, drink, etc. was served. Anyway, we weren't going to stay for that long, but it was a tough place to leave. Did I mention the bbq each night with various fishies and incredible thai food. My favourite was the red snapper. mmmm.....

Hmmm... seeing that I've spent so much time in a hammock lately, I'm not sure what else there is to say. As I mentioned, I could have gone scuba diving or snorkling for a very very reasonable amount of money... now that would have been fun! There were elephant rides... pretty good!! But did I mention the hammock? And fruity drinks? And really good food brought... yup, brought right to the hammock! So, I decided this was the lazy part of my trip and did as little as possible. And when I did go out, I just ran the scooter off the road. Okay, I was good and safe when driving fast up and down the crazy hilly roads with center lines meaning little, but when trying to turn around with 2 people (and the other person moving to the side) and hitting the gas at an inappropriate time, it seems the scooter will navigate off the road. All this happened at 1.8 mph (~2.5 kph) and into a puddle, but worth a good laugh (and unfortunately there were many people around to see). So the moral of this story... hammocks are safer than scooters!!

Tomorrow morning (like 6AM type morning), we're taking a van to the Cambodia border crossing where hopefully we'll all be admitted (yes, I've been cleared of all my outstanding charges, I think). Then a 4 hour boat ride to Sianhouk Ville (I really spelled that one badly, but am too lazy to go back to google it). S Ville is supposedly an up and coming beach area, but very much undeveloped relative to Thai beaches. Not sure how long we're staying there... I guess it all depends on whether we like it. Travelling with Sam, Justin, Erin and Nate right now. From there to Phenom Phen (the capital). Trat tonight is a nice town, but nothing too special.

So I did go to google to find some photos or stuff. Here's a few random links:

Some Koh Chang photos:

where we did stay (the Tree House) and what my website and photos would look like if I ever created a website for photos (note: I have no idea whose web page this is, but google is wonderful):

Can't remember, but I put the link here:

where I didn't stay on Koh Chang (but still on Lonely Beach):

Thursday, March 02, 2006

and back in Bangkok...

Seems Bangkok was too much fun, so after a couple day stint up north in Ayuthaya (just a couple hours north by train), I'm back in Bangkok. Sam and I had some troubles getting out of here in the first place because he had to get a visa for Bangladesh and it's easier said than done (delayed departure by a couple days, but it is "almost" taken care of now). We had a good time in Ayuthaya visiting loads of temple / wat ruins, listening to a cheesy but reasonably good Thai band doing Clapton and Hendrix songs, finishing my first book (The Moscow Affair or something like that by Robert Ludlom?) and renting & cruising the town on scooters (mine only did 95 km/h, Sam's with an extra 25cc did more like 110 km/h, but his speedometer didn't work so I'm only guessing based on the blur as he flew by). Temps are still quite warm though tolerable - have been cheap lately opting for $8/night room ($4/person) without air conditioning but with good fans. The sun is hot and I contine to be a night owl whenever possible (sleep has actually been entirely avoided twice including last night, which yes, for the record, does make me more irretable).

Justin and Erin arrived in Bangkok last night from Ton Sai (the area I was going to climb at). They're both doing great and having a great time. And since I hadn't seen them since they got engaged, there was an obvious need for celebration. Today, needless to say, we all had a rather easy day with only a trip to Chinatown via the river ferry, some good Indian food in Indiatown (?) and some shopping (bought a purse, ummm... bag and new sunglasses, not because I lost the old ones but because I'm trying to support the Thai economy and as a capatilist I must lead by example. Two other friends are supposed to show up this eve (maybe they already have?) and there will obviously be need for more celebration (seems every night has a reason for celebration, hmmm...).

The plan for tomorrow is to head off to Kao Chang (an island of the southern coast) on the way to Cambodia. Sam & Erin are off trying to figure the details of this as I type. I've had a great time in Bangkok, but also time to move on. I should get a chance to spend some time here before the flight out if I so desire. Thailand is very easy to travel in and feels extremely safe - much better than Oakland! Cambodia isn't nearly as tourist friendly and probably won't be as relaxed, though bound to be rewarding in other ways.

That's about it to report right now as Sam and Erin are back (they just brought me a beer to the keyboard - what great people). Hope all is well back east, or is it west, or is it both? Wow, something to contemplate.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bangkok fun...

Hey folks! I'm in Bangkok in 30°C + weather hanging and doing nothing that requires nothing involving my brain. Flight was good, airline food as always a pleasure. Arrived at about 2AM and Sammy was waiting at the airport (since 11PM, obviously deserving of a beer and great appreciation). We cabbed it to the guest house (aka Thailand speak for hostel - where we have a private room with air conditioning and a bath room - no hot water, but actually a perfect temperature out of the cold tap) and then straight out for "a" beer. Several hours and many beers later we decided we should go to bed (the other option being to not). The last few days have been similar alternating between midnight and I think it was about 8AM last night. With the hot temperatures during the day, it makes it easy to party during the night and sleep during the day. Sam thinks we're going to bed early tonight, but he thought that last night too...

Yesterday (during the day) was a nice day walking around visting the Grand Palace (the big royal compound - I kepth thinking Kind and I?), a Wat (read temple with biggest gold Buda in Thailand that's a couple hundred feet long), and an hour long Thai massage for a $7 or so. Ah, life is rough. I guess I should talk about the food to since it is somewhere between incredible and amazing. I was obviously expecting good food, but I wasn't expecting such good food lining the streets in carts, holes in the wall, dive bars and restaurants. And typically for between 20 and 100 bat per meal (40 baut to the dollar, so $0.5 to $2.50 per meal). The alcohol is clearly proving to be the biggest expense (a big beer is ~60 bat and, after one or two or more, is always more than the meal!)

Tomorrow (Monday) I'm going to try and get cash (the Wells Fargo debit system / computer is somehow screwed up as Sam and I have both found out, though Wells Fargo denies it), Sammy has to get a visa for Bangladesh, and then we're heading out of town a few hours north for a few days. On Wednesday, we're heading back to Bangkok to meet up with Erin and Justin (and their two friends from Washington, Nate and Krystal) who have been down south (where I was supposed to be climbing, but turns out hanging in Bangkok has been the choice). We shall then cause a day or two of trouble again in Bangkok and then the 4 of us (N & K going home I believe) begin the slow voyage to Cambodia. We're going to take the slow road / bus / train / boat route (pronounced roawte and not root, for you Americans) to the south and take a week to get there. In Cambodia, the plan is Angkor Wat (biggest temple in them here woods) and Phenom Pen (the capital). If all continues to plan, I'll have a few days to a week back in Thailand before heading home. As I never did make it back down south to go climbing, I'm hoping Jovie (hint hint) will want to climb somewhere between say March 15-22. (P.S. my cell phone is working, but I wouldn't count on it as I'll be in different places soon)

The only disappointing thing on the trip so far was being in a restaurant/bar last night and having some really drunk Americans in the table next to us being typically abnoxious. At some point I picked up they were arguing politics. Then I realized they were arguing about transfer payments to the provinces and how Alberta pays to much. I had to apologize to Sam for my bad abnoxious American comments :( But Albertans are practically part of the US anyway, or at least part of Jesusland (we've all seen the Canadian version of the map?)

Okay, must go partake in... ummm... well, it's a bit after 11 PM, so let's be honest, it's time to go to go... hmmm, my family is reading this, so let's say it's time to go play pool. Found a great one (pool table that is) last night with 2 pool tables and fun games. I cleared the table one game and beat a really good player and got a round of applause from the bar and Sammy ran the table for 5 games. So clearly we're professionals. Professionals in search of a profession...

Monday, February 20, 2006

how to stay in touch....

It's T minus 2 days till Thailand and I figured I'd get my butt in gear and get a blog going. So for family and friends, I'll try to post now and again and upload a few photos.

The plan is to head to Thailand on Wednesday (Feb 22), meet up with Sam in Bangkok (who just reported today that his bank has frozen his credit and bank cards), then head down to the south of Thailand meeting up with Justin and Erin for a few days of climbing, then off to Cambodia. With that said, plans are made to be changed, so who knows...

I'll be back home on March 22 (a month to the day). I guess I'll have to work for a few days, then my sister and her kids (Emma and Jack) are here for a week to go skiing. Then work for a month and May 1 switch to part-time status, move out of the apartment and start travelling. Mostly in Canada for the summer I think, and then London in the fall. Again, plans are made to be changed, but may as well start with a plan.

Okay, that sums it up in 3 paragraphs. More to come when I'm not frantically trying to finish up work before leaving for vacation! Next report from... Bangkok? Phuket? Ton Sai? Phnom Penh?