Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Sunday, 31 August 2008
then wondered if US Airways and Carnival Cruise Lines were partnered. If not, they should be. This flying trailer park is the perfect vehicle to transfer those Whiskey Tango cruisers from whatever fucking hole they crawled out of to get to their floating trailer parks to spread their drive-fast-turn-left "culture" throughout the Caribbean, six islands at a time, for seven days.
Sunday, 31 August 2008 09:20:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Travel#
Thursday, 28 August 2008

So this is it.

I'm booked on one of the "extra sections" that Cayman Airways is flying to Miami tonight at 7:40pm. I'll get to Miami close to 10:00 and then tomorrow morning I can start looking for a way to get to Vancouver that won't cost me an arm,leg, my xbox and my firstborn male child.

Worst case I park my luggage in the storage area and go sack out in a pew in the chapel up on the 4th floor by the post office. It's always dark, quiet and air conditioned in there.

 

It isn't exactly how I pictured leaving Cayman, especially after 10 years, but I really have no good reason to stick around. If I did, I'd have to sit here in the dark, sweating my sac off with no air conditioning and maybe even no water, if the power and water are off. It's also costing me more to do all this last-minute stuff, but whatever... better than sweating it.

Unless I feel the need to post from the departure lounge at the airport, this will be my last post from Grand Cayman as a resident and local living urban legend. :)

Thursday, 28 August 2008 11:18:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Cayman | Hurricane | Travel#
Thursday, 21 August 2008

This was the title of a post I saw on gadling.com about a week ago or so. They have a series of articles called Galley Gossip, written by a flight attendant and this was what her post was called when it came through my RSS reader. When I went to gadling this afternoon to copy the URL to use here, I saw it's name had been changed to "There's more to Miami than La Carreta" so I guess someone took offense to the title of the original post.

The theme of the post is that for her, going to Miami means getting off the plane, going through immigration and customs (if it's an int'l light) and then going to La Caretta and getting back on a plane and going somewhere else. It really struck a chord with me because my take on Miami is similar: airport, cargo, airport commercial park, a few of the hotels in the vicinity of the airport and the Circuit City on Galloway. My Miami is not South Beach, Key Biscayne, or anywhere sunny, bikini-clad and prone to be featured as a backdrop on Burn Notice.

I thought about this for the last year, once I could see the light at the end of my work-permit tunnel in Cayman. It isn't like Seattle, where I could drive down for the day from Vancouver should I choose. Miami is pretty much the farthest you can get in the continental United States from Seattle. I made a point of scheduling extra time when I was in town in order to explore a little more. I started driving south rather than north and seeing what was around in Kendall and downtown and South Beach. In September when I was up for a whole week, I arranged to drive down to Key West for the weekend on Friday afternoon once I was finished work. I flew up and drove across to Naples for the weekend back in April when my parents were down there with friends having a mini-vacation.

IMG_0338 Yesterday, when I went up to meet my cousin Raffaella and her friends who were in Miami on vacation from Italy, I saw more of Miami in one day than I had in the last four years. They had already walked around Collins and Ocean avenues and seen what they wanted to of South Beach the day and evening before, so we piled into the car and took off for Little Havana. Their Lonely Planet guide to Miami and the Keys said that Calle Ocho was the place to be on the last friday of the month when all the shops stayed open until midnight and I think the street was closed to traffic with people just hanging around partying into the night. Unfortunately it was a Wednesday afternoon at 12:30 so it was just another latin-flavored neighbourhood with fancy wrought-iron bars on the windows.

We decided to stop for lunch at Cafe Versailles. I had heard the name before, but thought it was just a coffee shop in the Miami airport near concourse F. Boy was I ever wrong. It was listed in their guidebook so we took that at face value and punched it's address into the GPS SatNav. When we arrived I was shocked to see that Cafe Versailles and it's counterpart Versailles Bakery took up almost the whole block of 35th SW and Calle Ocho. There were multiple (small parking lots) and a lot of people going in, coming out and hanging around the walk-up coffee & lunch counter that faced Calle Ocho. We found parking around the back and then went in. Is this the front door? No. Is THIS the front door? No. I guess over the last 37 years they've expanded into their neighbours space a few times. We finally found the front door and went inside. A maitre' d escorted us through the labyrinth of dining rooms to a table set for six. He asked me (in Spanish) if we wanted menus in Spanish or English. When I said "Sorry, I didn't catch that? slower please?" he said "Ah. English" and changed our menus.

IMG_0341 It's hard to describe the dining room we were in. Mirrors everywhere, gilt fixtures, chandeliers and funky segmented ceilings were just the beginning. The mirrored walls were etched and had fluorescent tube lighting behind them so the etched parts shone through white surrounded by mirror. It was really bizarre. It reminded me of somewhere "fancy" my grandparents would have taken me when I was a kid in 1978, 1978... except it was 2008. They had a veritable army of runners, bussers, waiters and waitresses, bartenders and I can only assume the second division in the kitchen. I'd really like to know just how big their kitchen really is.

Then there was the menu: huge. Four pages huge. The first page was cold appetizers, soups, salads and a kids menu. The second page was chicken dishes. The third page was pork dishes and a few beef dishes. The fourth page was seafood with the back inside cover dedicated to sandwiches (Cuban, natch but also some very American things like a club sandwich or cheeseburger with fries. Then on the back outside cover was side dishes and beverages. Homemade sangria, beers, wines, and of course, the mojito. I had the Cuban Sandwich, and the girls ordered a variation on chicken & rice. After lunch we ordered two Tres Leches cakes for everyone to try and Cuban coffee. For six of us, with tip it only came out to $75 which is pretty darn cheap. It would have been as expensive had we gone to Chili's or some other lame-ass chain restaurant (Hey Farva, what's the name of that place you like to go with the shit all over the walls?) and not nearly as unique or interesting.

A rain band, or a squall came through just as we were finishing lunch, so I ran out to the car and brought it around so they didn't have to run through the rain. We were trying to figure out where to go next, what with the weather and all. Key West was out of the question, it's a nearly four hour drive each way. I suggested we could either go to Key Largo, or we could go to Ft Lauderdale. I looked at the sky and it was dark and ominous to the south, and relatively bright to the north, so we opted for Fort Lauderdale. We caught up with the rain that passed us by at lunch on the way up, but when we hit Las Olas it cleared up and was even sunny out when we got to the beach.

IMG_0344 The girls were really impressed with the beach at Fort Lauderdale. I think it was more of what they were expecting Miami Beach to be like. A wide sidewalk & seawall and then sand stretching down to the waterline. All the hotels, restaurants, condos and bars were on the other side of the street, giving an unobstructed view of the beach and the ocean. We wandered south along the beach for a half hour or so, taking pictures until we all got hot and thirsty. We crossed the street and went upstairs to Lulu's Bait Shop that was overlooking the beach. I think it was the first time any of them had been in a dive bar and weren't quite sure what to make of it. We wrapped up and got back to the car by about 4:30 when our meter (which had 90 mins on it when we pulled in! score!) ran out.

IMG_0346IMG_0347 As we were walking back to the car, one of my co-workers Jean called me. She was heading south from Boca Raton to get on the same flight as me, so she pulled off and met us at Carlos and Pepe's for a margarita and the best damn house-made salsa and chips. My friend Shannon met up with us too, since I'm leaving next week I won't be calling her randomly when I'm in town saying "wanna have lunch at Carlos & Pepe's?" anymore :)

IMG_0353 We got back on the highway at about 6:45, yikes. The flight was at 8:55, cut-off time to check in is 7:55 and I had to drive from Fort Lauderdale to South Beach, and then from South Beach to the car rental return, and then catch the shuttle bus back to the airport! Yikes! We made good time on I95 south at that time of night and then got into a bit of traffic in South Beach which raised my heart rate a little but in the end, I dropped the girls off with plenty of time for them to clean up and make their 9:30 dinner reservation at the Blue Door and I got back to the airport and checked in with literally minutes to spare!

I went through security and by the time I got to the gate, they were boarding. I was the SECOND last person to get on the plane (cough-Jean!) and was asleep in my seat before the plane took off. I woke up in the air, saw that the seatbelt sign was off, grabbed my headphones, unstrapped my seatbelt and lay down across all three seats and was out like a light until the flight attendant came and gently shook me awake to put my seatbelt and take off my headphones for landing. I sent the girls a text message to let them know I made it to the plane and was back home in Cayman before getting home and crashing HARD until my alarm went off this morning at 7:30 to start my second-to-last day of work.

Thursday, 21 August 2008 14:08:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Pictures | Travel#
This is my last week of work (un-officially) before my permit and right to live in the Cayman Islands expires next Wednesday and I head north to Canada to start the next chapter. I had a few days-in-lieu left over that would either get paid out or used up so I decided to burn one up (along with one of my 'free' employee tickets that will expire next week too) and go up to Miami to meet up with my 2nd cousin and her friends who were on vacation from Italy.
I got up at 5am Wednesday morning, after being up til 2am the night before unable to sleep with my brain going 100mph with all the plans and preparations and pondering the future. I got to the airport at 5:45 am for a 7:05 am flight. I already knew the flight was close to full, so I couldn't take advantage of "early check-in" the night before and go straight to the security checkpoint and take my chances at the check-in line. There's a flight that goes to Jamaica at 6:55, right before the flight to Miami at 7:05 so at 6:15 there were still people showing up and queuing to check-in for the Jamaica flight. I was still in line at 6:55am when they announced the final boarding for my flight. I got checked-in to standby and then they closed the flight and started calling people's names according to their priority. The good part about high turnover of staff is that my seniority is middle-high now, so I was called first and got a boarding pass... and then had to go wait in line at the security checkpoint. I got through there and then the Immigration exit checkpoint, walked across the departure lounge to the doors and outside... and was stopped for secondary screening. The security agent went through my bag to the smallest detail and then wanded me and had me take my shoes off again and checked them out before passing me through to the plane. I sat down in my seat, put on my seatbelt and fell back asleep.
I awoke just over an hour later when the flight attendant woke me up and said we were in Miami: I was the last one on the plane :) I cleared immigration and customs, picked up my rental car paperwork and then stopped by Starbucks on my way to the baggage office to take a look at one of the computers there as a favor even though I was technically on a vacation day. A quick stop at the bank and then I was off to South Beach to meet up with the girls.

Thursday, 21 August 2008 07:41:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Thursday, 07 August 2008

No, not a soccer tournament.

According to my countdown timer on my Facebook profile I've crossed the 20 day threshold and there are 19 days, 1 hour, 1 minute and a few seconds until 12 midnight on August 27th, 2008 when my seventh and final work permit expires.

Tonight I tried to un-mount (dismount?) two paintings that I picked up in Cuba a few years ago that HazMat Jenny had framed for my birthday back then so I could roll em up, put em in a tube and pack them for safe travel home. Those things are in there but good! I don't think Thomas Crowne could get them out without damaging them!

There was brown paper on the back, affixed with glue or thin double-sided tape. That covered up the little spikey things that held a piece of cardboard in place that made the back flush. 24 little spikey things to be exact which are flush/countersunk into the cardboard which made grabbing them with pliers a bit difficult. Once I got them out and removed the cardboard... there as another set of spikey things holding the backboard in place! I also saw at this point that the canvas had been glued to the board where it was wrapped around AND TRIMMED. So if I managed to get all those spikey things out, then I'd have to get the canvas off the backboard, get all the glue off it and then when I get them re-framed, it would be more difficult as there wasn't a lot of canvas to remount it with. What ever happened to staples??? Fortunately my yoga mat is exactly twice as long as the picture frame, so I put it between the two frames and I'll wrap em up in bubble wrap as-is and FedEx them home like that.

Speaking of FedEx, holy Christmas is that ever expensive! I took a box down there last week that had DVDs, Xbox360 and Wii games in it. 22lbs. FedEx only has one service out of the Cayman Islands: International Priority Air. The service that costs $34 to send one of those FedEx Envelopes. Gulp. She weighed it out and gave me the bad news: $228 CI Dollars! I guess that's cheaper than buying the games again when I get home, provided I could sell them down here for $20 each or something, but still, wow.

Pressing my luck, I asked for a couple of the FedEx flat-rate boxes and took those home with me. Checking the FedEx website for rates, I found that the 25kg box had a flat rate of $293CI dollars for up to 55lbs and then another $6 or so per pound if you go over that. Into that box went the few books (heavy) that I decided weren't replaceable very easily. Log books and some CDs went in as well and then because there was space, I put my Oregon Scientific weather station in there and then weighed the box. 58 lbs. I thought for a few minutes what I could take out of there that was 3 lbs, but in the end, scrapped the idea and just sent it at 58lbs and paid the extra per-pound charge.

Right now you're thinking "IS HE OUT OF HIS FUCKING MIND? It's only $100 to check an extra bag on most airlines!" and my answer would be yes, but not without conditions.

I've never mentioned this here on the blog, because you never know who's going to read it. Any time I've ever talked or posted about work, I've always referred to it as "at work" and never used any names, first, last or otherwise that may have led to an identification of where I work or whom I was talking about (or down about). For the last four years, I've worked at Cayman Airways. Sure the six people who read my blog (thanks Mom, Jen, Marion, Jason, Beth and Bobby!) already know where I work, and anyone who's got me added on Facebook can see it, but I've never posted anything "officially" on these intarwebs that are spidered and indexed by search engines on a daily basis for posterity (whether I like it or not!)

So if you're not one of those six people, and you read this once in awhile, suddenly all the travel-related stories and gadgets make sense! Along with cheap flights (on standby, which are sometimes more hassle than they're worth) there are certain other perks that I'm privileged to have honored. The most useful to me lately has been a substantial (and I mean HUGE) discount at FedEx. :)

Thursday, 07 August 2008 20:21:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Cayman | Travel#
Friday, 27 June 2008
Moving? Sucks. Air Travel? Really sucks. Moving via air travel? Totally sucks.
Friday, 27 June 2008 07:55:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Cayman | Travel#
Monday, 24 September 2007

And by that I also mean Canada, parts of Mexico, certain parts of the Caribbean(cough) and Western Europe, just so you don't think I'm picking on the US.

I'm in Miami this week, I arrived yesterday afternoon and wandered around the Dolphin Mall outlet stores for a bit and then Macy's at the International Mall as they were open until 8 and everyone else was closed. After leaving, and on my way back to my hotel (Summerfield Suites by Hyatt, by the way... 37" LG LCD TV, in-room high speed internet, full kitchen, bedroom & bathroom separate from living area, and if you're a Cayman resident, you can get the $99 special Cayman rate) I indulged in a little dinner that I can't get in Cayman: McDonalds.

Usually when I get to Miami I have a Big Mac combo, but last night, just to shake things up a little, I had the Big n Tasty. Combo. And McNuggets. And a chipotle bbq snack wrap. And a coke.

I now have no need to go back to McD's for another year. Ugh. The snack wrap wasn't bad... it was one chicken strip in a tortilla with some bbq goo and cheese. I ate about 1/3 of it then opened it up and pulled the chicken out. Surprising no one but myself, when I added the snack wrap to my plate on DailyPlate.com, that little bastard was 320 calories! The Chicken McNuggets were probably the best tasting out of all of it, with the "hot mustard" sauce. Needless to say, I was a few hundred calories over the recommended limit for the day.

This morning I skipped the free hot breakfast at the hotel and opted for the portion-controlled "cup" of Raisin Bran w/ 2% milk and a 4oz cup of yogurt. Maybe one of these other days I'll try their sausage and eggs. Anyway, on to lunch, which is where this post came together in my head:

I was driving around the Doral area, just west of the Miami Airport and saw all the usual suspects: McD's, Wendy's BK, Subway... I always steer clear of BK, Wendy's and Subway, and even Quizno's now because they have those in Cayman and if I want any of those. Next to a BK was a Boston Market... I think I've been there once before, and in my head it was a bit like Chicken! Chicken! in Cayman: still fast food, but not quite as bad. I ended up having the 5oz Roasted Turkey meal with green beans and the mac & cheese. Sure the mac & cheese was probably as bad or worse than a large fries, but I offset it with the green beans and the lean turkey! Right??

What surprised me though were the other people there... most of them had purchased bottled water rather than a fountain soft drink, and aside from a few bad apples, most people were picking the healthier choices: veggies, veggies and more veggies. The girl ahead of me ordered veggies and green beans,with no starch at all, and a bottle of water. My heart began to lift and I thought there may be hope for the obesity epidemic (of which I'm part, obviously) until I saw the line at the BK drive through next door :)

Monday, 24 September 2007 10:47:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Food | Travel#
Wednesday, 04 July 2007
As we lingered over espresso we realized that we were going to miss our train to Venice, so we decided to order some profiteroles and a slice of fresh fruit tart and catch the next train. As good as the chocolate profiteroles were, we both agreed that the fruit tart, with the light custard and fresh strawberries, kiwi fruit, grapes and plums with a glaze over it was the better of the two.
Wednesday, 04 July 2007 18:23:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Pictures | Travel#
Sunday, 03 June 2007
We started the day with a plan: take the subway to the Vatican, mosey around there, see what struck our fancy, then make our way southeast through Campo Dei Fiori to the ancient city, pass through the Coliseum, check out the Circus Maximus and then catch the subway back to Roma Termini and catch the train back to Florence in time for (a late for me, early for Florentines) dinner.
Sunday, 03 June 2007 21:53:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Pictures | Travel#
It was about a 2.5 hour train ride, but it went pretty quick. Watching the countryside roll by out the window you could tell as soon as you left Tuscany as the hills gave way to flat plains. We rolled in to Rome around 3:00 in the afternoon and went first to our hotel to check in.
Sunday, 03 June 2007 16:36:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Pictures | Travel#
Sunday, 27 May 2007
Earlier this month, I took a spur-of-the-moment trip across the pond to Italy to visit a friend who just moved there and had a long weekend to explore Northern Italy. It started off with an email:
Sunday, 27 May 2007 16:10:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Sunday, 13 May 2007

I'm not sure what prompted it... maybe it was Freddie Mercury's birthday, or the anniversary of his death, I'm not sure. Everywhere I turned, the whole time I was in Italy there were references to Queen everywhere.

We first noticed it when we were in Rome. I heard Radio Ga-Ga coming out of a storefront and I mentioned to Tina that it was a good song, but there was this "band" called the Kleptones who did a Queen/Beastie Boys mashup that was one of my favorite songs at the moment.

A couple days later we were in Venice and walked past a little glass shop and the proprietor was sitting at his laptop and he had a Queen song blasting out the little speakers. I pointed it out, but Tina at this point didn't remember hearing it in Rome. Five minutes later ANOTHER shop had Radio Ga-Ga playing loud enough to hear in the street. I laughed and said that was the third time we'd heard Queen and the second time we heard Radio Ga-Ga.

As we were walking back to the bus station in Venice, we came across a poster that had Freddie Mercury's face on it! I don't know if it was a cover/tribute band or what. I should have taken a picture of it. We moved along and shared a little giggle about it.

  The next day we were sitting in a piazza cafe in Verona with my cousin Rafaella when all of a sudden... this guy walks by with a Queen t-shirt on! Tina pointed it out and I was quick enough to get a photo of it. Raffaella looked at me like I was crazy, until we explained what was going on what with all the Queen references, she laughed and said "well I dunno about Queen, they're kind of old aren't they?" We finished lunch and were walking around Verona looking at the sites and a Queen song came on the radio and we all laughed.

A few days later, when I was back in Florence I decided against the line to climb to the lantern of the duomo and instead went for the belltower. Just as high, less crowded and actually gives you a view of the dome itself rather than being on top of it. As I was climbing the stairs (and that really kicked my ass, it was a tougher climb that the cupola of St Peters in Rome) I came across this scene and had to snap a picture of it.   What are the chances??? We heard Queen once more before I left Frankfurt, but by then it was giggle and move on and I can't remember if it was Radio Ga-Ga or what.

Update!: I nearly forgot the icing on this particular cake! The night before I flew back to Miami, I was staying in a hotel just outside of Frankfurt and had a terrible headache so I stayed in rather than see any of Frankfurt. I was flipping channels on the tv in the hotel room and it was the FINAL of the German version of Pop/American/Canadian/Whatever Idol, I think it was Deutschland Superstar or something. It was down to the LAST TWO contestants and they were really giving it their all fr the crowd and for the judges. The first guy comes out and... belts out "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by none other than-- QUEEN. I had a hysterical fit of laughter all by myself and then wrote in my moleskine to remember it when I made this post. Of course then I forgot until just now. :)

Sunday, 13 May 2007 14:08:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Pictures | Travel#
Thursday, 03 May 2007
Yeah, well that's more of a sight gag... try to imagine me making swimming motions with my arms. Anyway. Im back in Florence this afternoon after spending two days in Venice, a day in Verona and then heading up to Valdagno to spend a day and a half with my family. I'm in the process of downloading the pics from my memory card and posting them (I threw them up on Flickr as part of the Italy Trip set, but they arent really tagged or described yet) before doing a walking recon of Florence before I hit it tomorrow with the camera.

I was worried that I wasn't going to get any lunch today as the train was delayed and I didn't arrive til 1500, when everything shuts down for a few hours. Fortunately the butcher and bakery around the corner were still open so I picked up some Proscuitto di Parma and some Friulano Salami and a hunk of bread (it's like focaccia, but it's made without any salt so it has another name that I can't remember). Now that that's in me, Im ready to hit the road running.

Last night we all got together for a "family dinner"... reservations for 30, please! Lots of pictures there, too but I haven't posted them yet.

Two more days in Florence, then Pisa on the way to Frankfurt and then Sunday morning back on a plane for 9 hours to Miami and then Cayman just in time to unpack, have a shower and try to grab a few hours sleep before work Monday morning!

I promised to post something in Italian, but I'll leave that for next week when I'm home and have collected my thoughts (and looked up the words I don't know) :)

Thursday, 03 May 2007 07:05:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Pictures | Travel#
Sunday, 29 April 2007
OK, so I was expecting a LOT of scooters, but good lord!

Quick note here to point out the pictures from Rome I posted on Flickr. I only picked and posted about 20 or so of the 250 (love digital, eh?) so I'll post more and put in descriptions later. For now, it's off to the train station to head to Venice.

Sunday, 29 April 2007 02:48:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Pictures | Travel#
Monday, 23 April 2007

When I was younger, one my favorite expressions was "Go Big or Go Home". One day I found myself in Whistler for the weekend with one girlfriend or another and I saw a shirt in one of the shops there that had GO BIG OR GO HOME in huge red letters on it and part of a wheel of a mountain bike. I think I still have it somewhere. I had to have it.

Since then, I haven't said it as much, but I've certainly tried to live up to it as best as I can. Last week I got an email from a friend of mine who just moved to Italy a few months ago. There's some long weekend happening this week, so she said "Why don't you come over and we'll roam around Veneto for a week?" What a damned good idea! I checked out the usual suspects and found fares in the 1200-1300US range. Pretty steep. I was about to give up on it when on a whim I checked out Lufthansa's website. They have a link called "Top Offers" and I put in Miami as my departure point. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see a web-only special for round-trip from Miami to Frankfurt for $375USD. With taxes it was nearly $600, but that was still half the price I saw advertised elsewhere. I booked it almost immediately.

As I was looking around for a way to get down to Italy from Frankfurt, I remembered Ryan Air, the Wal-Mart of airlines. I don't particularly care how opulent or no-frills the flight is because it's such a short flight, and I've flown on some pretty scary planes when Cubana used to fly into Cayman a bunch of years ago. I found a southbound flight into Rome for about 20 euros, and the return leg from Pisa to Frnakfurt was just a penny! Sure it was about 25 euros after taxes and whatnot, but still, a penny!

We're going to meet up in Rome, spend a day there, then go back to Florence and drop off my suitcase and go light and hit the train. Tentatively we're going to scoot across to Venice for a day, then ride the train back to Padova for a day, and then head to Verona for a day. After that, I'm going to head north and visit my relatives I haven't seen for TWENTY YEARS and she's going to head back to Florence because she has to work on Wednesday. Wednesday I'm going to amble my way back to Florence by way of Vicenza and Ferarra and meet up with her for dinner followed by Siena on Thursday. Friday is open, but I think Im going to spend thursday night and friday in Florence before heading to Pisa (with a stop at the Vespa musem in Pontedera on the way) to catch my flight back to Frankfurt. Finally we'll catch a train into Frankfurt and stay there that night and then I get up early Sunday to catch a flight back to Miami and then on to Cayman Sunday night.

I dunno how well that schedule is going to hold up, that's a pretty whirlwind tour. I'll probably need a vacation to catch my breath once I get back but we only go around this crazy merry-go-round once so I might as well make the most of it.

It goes without saying that I'm going to be taking copious amounts of pictures... almost as much as I'm going to eat and drink. Perhaps I should follow Google Maps' directions and SWIM back to Miami and work off some of that excess caloric intake :)

Monday, 23 April 2007 15:16:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Monday, 19 February 2007
I was in Florida again this weekend. Miami Int'l Boat Show AND Daytona 500 in S Florida jacking up hotel rates artificially again. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate yield management software? Sure it's great if you're the money-grubbing cocksmoker on the other side of it, but as a consumer, it sucks the bag.

I had the wrong time in my head for my flight back to Cayman from Fort Lauderdale. Fortunately it was later than I thought, not earlier than I thought! I decided since I was in FLL to go to Varsity Cycle, the Vespa dealer up there and poke around and see what kind of cool stuff they had. I couldn't remember where they were, and rather than drive up and down US1 for a couple hours I thought I would look it up.

The only problem was my Cingular SIM card for Miami doesn't have a data plan, and I didn't know what the connection settings were for my phone anyway. Then from some deep, dark recess in my mind I remembered that Google had an SMS service. I sat in the car after running into bed Bath & Beyond to pick up a baby frypan for Kendi and txt'd 'Vespa ft lauderdale' to 466453 (GOOGL3)

Within a minute I got two SMS messages back from Google with the name, address, phone number, etc for the two vespa dealers in Ft Lauderdale area: Varsity on US1 (the one I was thinking of) and Riva Cycle on Davie blvd just south of FLL int'l. How cool is that??


Monday, 19 February 2007 08:22:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | WWW | Travel#
Tuesday, 23 January 2007

What a week. I spent a lot of time this week traveling for work. I flew up to Miami last Wednesday and drove to Ft Lauderdale. On the way I popped into McDonalds for my almost-annual pilgrimage to the House of Mac. Once I was done in Ft Lauderdale, I hopped a flight on Continental to Houston and got the crappiest seat in the house: a middle seat in the last row, right by the bathrooms. Bleah.

I was looking for some Texas Barbecue for dinner, but Mother Nature had other plans. I was waiting on a friend to drive up from Austin, and it took her over four hours to make it up because of the tail end of the ice storm. Poor thing should have just turned around when she saw a car go off a bridge and go end-over-end into the middle of a field.

I asked at the front desk if there was a good barbecue pit around the hotel (Holiday Inn on JFK Blvd. Harsh old-school hotel. And I mean that. Old.) and the girl at the front desk said she wasn't from around Houston, and pointed me to the Saltgrass Steakhouse. A chain restaurant. While I was waiting, I checked them out online and seemed to be sort of what I was looking for. Then I waited. And waited some more. When I was done that, I waited a bit longer. I was sure she drove off the road somewhere and was sitting in a ditch, but she made it through at about 10:00. I wasn't sure if the place was still open, so instead we had dinner at a place called "Good Eats" that was attached to the hotel. Talk about your false advertising. Since they didn't have barbecue on the menu, I went with the next best regional dish they did have: Chicken Fried Steak aka heart attack on a plate. A cube steak, breaded and fried and then smothered in cream gravy. It was massive. I cut it about in half and aimed for finishing just that much. I did, but I paid dearly for it later on that night. If nothing else, it's cured my craving for a chicken fried steak for a few more years.

On Friday morning I ran into Zac (almost, not literally) on his bike in morning traffic. He said that he and Steph were going to Bed (which has just recently re-opened) for dinner and why didn't I come along? Sure thing, I've been meaning to try it out since they re-opened. We met up at 6:30 and ordered some appies and a bottle of wine. I got the roasted caprese salad, Steph got the goat's cheese crostini and Zac had their brie wheel. Yummo.

For dinner, I ordered the pork tenderloin roulade, as did Zac. It came with some veggies and mushroom risotto. Steph had the stuffed chicken breast, which looked pretty good. Everything was really good, except the risotto which was "just" good :)

Finally for dessert we had a menage a trois... Got your attention, didn't I? Like the stuffed chicken breast who's filling changes day-to-day, the menage a trois is a three-layered dessert that changes fairly frequently, too. Friday night was a macadamia nut brownie base, with a peanut butter cream middle layer, and none of us could remember what the third layer was when it was described to us because we were already "you had me at peanut butter cream!" I think it was some sort of creme fraiche or cheesecake, as it had that little tang to it. We contemplated ordering something else to share as well, but Zac said he was only going to have a taste. Once it showed up he changed his mind and we devoured it like a pack of jackals! It was soooooo good!

I asked Steph how she knew about the dessert before we even sat down, and it turns out that their roommate Vanessa is the chef at Bed now. How cool is that? I guess she was a responsible chef and did lots of tasting while she was making it and tipped Steph off that it was ZOMGAWESOME. She was right. I was wondering who was going to be running the kitchen there, as the chef who was there before Hurricane Ivan was Sheila of Pulled Pork fame and she's gone back to Vancouver to open a restaurant in White Rock with Batty.

Just to completely mess with my stomach and my palate, I'm back in Houston again today and once I was done the work I came here to do I headed off to get some lunch: Whataburger. Whataburger is a Texas thing. They may have some other locations, but I've only ever seen them in Texas. I ordered a bacon & cheese Whataburger "all the way". Only in Texas do they have diet Dr Pepper on tap, along with a jug of sweet tea and a jig of unsweetened tea. Mmmmmmm gutbomb!

I had dinner at the hotel restaurant tonight and it was better than the last hotel restaurant I ate at, but we'll see how the night goes. I went for the barbecue baby back ribs and they were actually pretty good. I prepared a zantac and glass of water for later though, just in case. The room & bed in this hotel are miles above the last one, but the wired Ethernet in the room is $9.95 a day. Lame. When I stayed in Houston at the end of December on my way back from Vancouver, I stayed at a Marriott Courtyard, and they had free wi-fi throughout the hotel. How much of a nerd does it make me that I actually go out of my way to stay in hotels that has free Internet access over other amenities? :)

Tuesday, 23 January 2007 15:57:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Food | Travel#
Friday, 29 December 2006
It's already gone, but today around lunchtime, there was white stuff falling from the skies. Down low by the water it was really cold rain, around my parents house it was wet snow and up higher you could see the mountains were getting a good dumping.

Me? I zipped up my parka, flipped the attached mitten-parts of my convertible fingerless gloves, and unclipped the fur ear flaps from my hat and smiled through the cold.

Just as an aside, the cold water that comes out of the tap at my parents house is SO COLD, that it hurts my teeth when Im rinsing after brushing! I end up turning on a little hot water to make the cold water not so cold. Back home the "cold" tap is rather tepid. I think I'll bust out the instant-read thermometer when I get back to Cayman and see how warm the cold water is :)

Friday, 29 December 2006 19:18:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Sunday, 24 December 2006

I woke up this morning early (well it was early here, my body thought it was nearly 11:00 and what the heck was I still doing in bed?) and had nothing. No tea bags, no phone minutes, nothin. I bundled up (parka, scarf, mittens and fur hat) and went up to the strip mall up the street. I popped into Rogers Video to get a mobile top-up, then I popped into Safeway to get some tea (Red Rose, because you can only get it in Canada... pity...) and then went into Starbucks to get a peppermint mocha (it IS that time of year).

I'm standing in line and notice this blonde girl standing two people in front of me in line. She looks familiar... but.. no... it can't be... It was. It was Sirekka (I'me sure I just butchered her name) from Hammerhead's. She quit there awhile back and left Cayman to move back to Vancouver and it turns out she's working at the Mountain Shadow Pub, just down the road from my parents' place. It would have been awesome to say out loud in the middle of a busy Starbucks on Christmas Eve "I thought it was you, but I didn't recognize you with so many clothes on!" (considering that whenever I saw her in Cayman she had on shorts, flip flops and a tank top, and now we were both all bundled up for winter in Vancouver) She said "OMG! I thought that was you, I was just thinking to myself "That's Claire's brother.... no it CAN'T be, he's in Cayman..."

I don't actually have a sister named Claire. Claire and I were very close for a lot of years, and we never ever hooked up, so the only logical relationship we could have had was brother and sister. When we used to go out to the bars together, we'd keep our eyes open for targets for the other, and be each other's wingman. If there was a scenario that either of us needed to get out of, we played the boyfriend or girlfriend role and if there was the opposite scenario, it would be "oh, him? nooo he's my brother!" or "Nono, we're not together, she's my sister..." It got kind of involved, to the point that people who only knew one of us actually thought we were related.. just like Sirekka. Claire has actually moved back to Vancouver now too with Wammer and their little girl, Tai.

I actually knew that Sirekka was working at the Mountain Shadow already. When I was home in September for Ork's wedding, I met Brandi at Sammy J Peppers, and she was friends with Shandi (that sounds like a headline act on Duo Night at the NBI, doesn't it?) who used to work at Legendz. She also knew Sirekka, and told me that she was at the Mountain Shadow. Brandi ended up blowing me off, but whatever, who's loss was it, really? :)

Sunday, 24 December 2006 17:21:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Travel#
"We had a bit of a bumpy ride up here and we ran into a little problem that required us to communicate with the ground for awhile. We managed to isolate the problem and prevent it from becoming a serious issue. At this point, there's no reason for us to expect anything other than a normal landing. However just to be on the safe side, there are emegerncy vehicles waiting for us on the ground. As we land the plane, you may see the flashing lights and emergency vehicles lining the runway, but that's just a precaution."

Uhhh, what?? We were delayed for an hour before we left, and I guess we know why now! The girl sitting across the aisle from me turned white as a sheet, and there was a lot of nervous murmuring and I bet there was a quick burst of activity on God's radar as there were a lot of people with their eyes closed and their heads bowed on that plane. The cabin crew came through making sure that no one was in a position that would hinder their exit, you know, if needed. The girl who went pale had a blanket on her legs and the flight attendant asked her to take the blanket off, so it would not entangle her legs in case she had to move quickly. As for me, I just started laughing. Someone asked rather brusquely what was so funny. I was laughing because what the hell else am I going to do? I tightened my seatbelt and that was about it.

The people who fly the planes have so much training and so much experience, and contingency training, and the inflight crew goes through months of training in just about every contingency you can imagine there's really nothing else TO do. A couple years ago a pilot landed a JetBlue plane with the front landing gear twisted 90 degrees and I remember another incident about a year ago where something equally serious happened and the pilot landed it like there was no problem at all.

So we approached the runway, maybe landed a little faster than normal, but it was fine! I've had worse landings before when there were no problems at all. The Captain of the plane had some SERIOUS skills and had he not made the announcement, then no one would have known that there was any problem at all, it was that smooth!

Sunday, 24 December 2006 08:41:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Saturday, 23 December 2006
I'm at the airport this morning, trying to get home for a few days over Christmas. It's been a huge ordeal just to get to this point where I'm actually leaving, but following my unofficial policy of not really mentioning work except in abstract terms, I'm leaving it all out and starting from here instead.

I'm flying from Grand Cayman to Houston this morning, and then connecting on United to Denver and then through to Vancouver. Yes, that's right, I'm heading for Denver. Which has been closed for 48 hours due to a winter storm. 4700 people (wasn't that a TV show about aliens? and given the whole background of the DIA conspiracy theorists it's actually kind of ironic) camped out in the terminal on Wednesday night and they did not open a single runway til Friday noonish. That was ONE runway, and they were going to continue working to clear the rest of the runways, the de-icing areas, the gate areas and whatnot after that) The other night after reading the travel advisory on United.com I googled DIA to find the airport's "official" site to read what they had to say about the closure/backlog and near the top of the list was some links to the DIA conspiracy sites. There's some seriously whacked people out there. It has JUST enough plausibility to make for good reading (kind of like the da Vinci code, but not as good writing).

I'm hoping that they've managed to clear a lot of the backlog of people waiting to get "anywhere" that I'm not too delayed when I go through there. The other funny bit is that even though Im going Cayman>Houston>Denver>Vancouver AND stopping in Houston for a few hours to take care of some business, I arrive in Vancouver at 7:30pm. That's earlier than when I've flown direct from Miami through Toronto, Minneapolis or Chicago. How does that work? I'll update later if there's anything interesting to talk about. :)


Update 1: It's 8:33am and my first flight was supposed to have left at 8:15. They just made an announcement that it will be delayed by an hour and 15 minutes, or 9:30. Fortunately I know the password to the wireless access point in the departure lounge. :)

Update 2: it's 2:43am eastern/cayman time and I'm just crawling into bed at my parent's house. What an ordeal, but hey any landing you can walk away from is a success, right? more details tomorrow sometime.



PS it's friggin cold out here, Mr Bigglesworth!

Saturday, 23 December 2006 04:44:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Travel#
Saturday, 30 September 2006

or rather, in the sky again. I didn't stay out too late last night, I got home around 11:30 from dinner/drinks and finished packing. By that time, it was nearly 12:30 and I dropped off to sleep soon after that.

Canada's TSA equivalent (can't remember their acronym, CSTSA or something) did some right things and some wrong things. The line through security doubled back a few times, but it moved pretty smoothly, until I got there. No it wasn't me holding things up. :)

As I approached security, I took out my little mesh bag and put my watch, sunglasses, wallet, change, keys and belt in it and clipped it to my carry-on. As I got closer I untied my shoes and took my laptop out of it's case. I've done this before, and I always hate it when everybody else waits until they get right up to the security checkpoint and THEN starts going through their pockets and ridding themselves of the shit THEY KNEW THEY HAD ON THEM and KNEW THAT THEY'D HAVE TO STRIP IT OFF.

There was a family of three people ahead of me, a man and his elderly parents. English was not their first language (maybe the son's) and they were still stripping off bits and pieces as they approached the metal detector. I overheard the security jackasses telling people "it's ok, don't take your watch off" and "Your belt is ok". Then they go through the metal detector, it goes off and they have to get wand-searched and patted down. The mother went through first, and the girl waved her through to pick up her stuff. The mother didn't understand, so after waving her a second time, she held her arms out to be wanded so the security jackass wanded her... and found all kinds of things.. a belt, a coin in her pocket, a watch, glasses... each time she beeped, she had to stop, remove that piece and get wanded again. FINALLY she got through, and then it was the dad's turn. SAME DAMN THING. Wallet, watch, testicles & spectacles all had to get wanded. Plus he had a ciggy lighter in his pocket and when they took it away he got all agitated about it. I felt like throwing a loonie at him and saying GO BUY ANOTHER ONE WHEN YOU GET TO HOUSTON, YOU JACKASS. But it wouldn't have done any good, he wouldn't have understood me anyway.

As I boarded the aircraft, I saw that most of the first-class seats were empty. Goodie, I thought. Empty seats up front equal upgrades! w00t! Unfortunately, that wasn't the case on this leg. The upside is that I had an aisle seat and the flight wasn't full, so the seat in the middle of the row was empty. I ended up sitting next to a cute girl who worked on cruise ships, and there were six people who were headed to Miami to get on a cruise ship, so we all had stuff to talk about. I thought I heard them say they were going on a Royal Caribbean cruise, rather than a Carnival cruise and said "oh that's good. Those Carnival ships are floating trailer parks. They might as well paint the NASCAR logo on the smokestacks" and the girl (who worked on Holland America's boats) eyes got wide and gave me "the secret shut up signal". Oops.

Apparently she was a little nervous about turbulence. Flying was no problem, but turbulence made her a little nervous. I wish I had known that about six minutes earlier when, during the little safety dance video they showed, I made a comment about the lifejackets under the seats and said "Lifejackets? from Vancouver to Houston? If we go down, we're going down in the mountains!" D' oh!

So just to make matters worse (or funnier, if you're a sick bastard like me) the in-flight movie was $imdb(POSEIDON). The disaster flick about a cruise ship that gets rolled over by a huge rogue wave. I thought that was one of the funniest things I'd seen all week!

Saturday, 30 September 2006 19:44:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Travel#
Monday, 18 September 2006
...gets posted online and at flickr. :)
Monday, 18 September 2006 08:45:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Pictures | Travel#
Sunday, 17 September 2006

I've made it halfway there with no serious snags yet. Unless you consider a seven hour layover in a boring airport a snag. This is the first time I've set foot in Texas since my exit from indentured servitude five years ago. So far I've wandered around the airport (pretty boring, even for an airport) I had some BBQ at one of the places in the food court, I'm upstairs at the Fox Sports Skybox having a cold Shiner Bock and watching about 32 screens of various Fox Sports channels (but not Fox Soccer Channel) and curiously, CNN rather than Fox News but it'll be a cold day in Cayman when I complain about that. :)

 

I've been here since 1:45 and it's3:45 right now. Two down, five to go. It's odd, I'm counting down the minutes of the layover... only to get on a plane and be trapped in a smaller place for another four hours. How does that make any sense??

Eventually it got dark out, I got hungry, and I wandered back to the Fox Sports Bar and had a bite to eat and then moseyed down to my gate around 7:30 or so. At 8:15 they announced that they wanted to double-check everyone's boarding pass, which didn't bode well. I got up there and they gave me a boarding pass, (I was on standby for this flight) so I called my brother in Vancouver and told him that I had a seat and would be on the flight so I would see him in about four and a half hours.

I boarded the airplane and found my seat: 6B. A middle seat. Awful. The plane looked pretty full, too. I sat down between two guys, one of whom had gas and the other just smelled of fish stew/soup or something and was just about resigned to the fact that it was going to be a crappy four hours when I heard my name being called on the plane's intercom and would I identify myself to the cabin crew. Great. I'm going to get bumped after all this and spent the night in Houston. Exactly NOT what I wanted to do. I identified myself and she asked me to collect my things and come with her. Not good. We got up to the galley at the front of the plane and she told me I had been upgraded to first class. WOOHOO!!

I stowed my gear, took a seat, had a glass of wine and settled in for four and a half hours of comfort. I actually slept for a couple hours, and woke up just in time for some fresh squeezed OJ and a landing in Vancouver at 12:15am. I collected my bags, met my brother and headed to my parents house... where they told me that they were still painting the bedroom I was supposed to be sleeping in but hey, the couch is really comfortable! I fell asleep pretty quick and slept through til morning... the morning of the stag party.

Sunday, 17 September 2006 08:29:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Travel#
Thursday, 14 September 2006

In about 12 hours from now I'll be climbing to a cruising altitude of about 34,000 feet on my way to Miami. After cooling my jets (literally) in Miami for about six hours, I'll be heading west for Houston and then ultimately Vancouver, BC. I leave here at o'dark hundred on Cayman Airways flight 102 and I don't arrive in Vancouver until 11:46pm local time, or 1:46am body time. In other words, I'm going to be completely bagged.

After a quick stop at White Spot, if they're still open, it's straight home and straight to bed, because Saturday is going to be a long day.

Orkley's getting married, so this Saturday we're having his bachelor party. No drugs, no hookers and no dead mules are allowed. Vegas was ruled out by his fiancee early on. When I said "OK, fine" she said "that was too easy... what were you really thinking of?" and I replied "Well, no one said no to Cuba..." and her eyes popped out of her head. Aside from the fact that it would be a huge burden for everyone except me to get to Cuba we decided to do something local instead.

Gentlemen, start your engines! Saturday afternoon we're going kart racing at the Richmond Go Kart Track! woohoo! If anything, I may have a slight advantage as I'm already used to driving on the left, so we'll see how that goes :)

Once we've had our fill of that, we're all heading to Sammy J Peppers in Coquitlam to refuel our tanks and have a few choice frosty beverages. Yes, THAT Sammy J Peppers, home of the skankiest-dressed waitresses in the 'burbs! woohoo! I promised Ork that I would get my revenge on him one day for the flaming lamborghini that put me over the edge into alcohol poisoning, but it wouldn't be this weekend. He seemed a bit concerned about that, but not as concerned as Michelle is about my speech... heh heh.

To cap off the evening, we're all going to carpool over to the casino on United Blvd. I don't even know what it's called, but it's a real-live casino and we'll finish off the night there.

According to the "Rules of Manhood" email that's been going around, it's a legal defense to kill anyone who brings a camera along on a bachelor party, but I'm going to take that chance. Besides, I have another website that's password-protected to post the photos in :)

Sunday will be  day of recovery, but not so much so that I couldn't drag myself to De Dutch Pannekoek Haus for breakfast. Their slogan is "The most beautiful breakfasts in the world" and it's not far off. Even better than looking at them is eating them.

By Monday I should be into the West Coast time zone and ready to go, and I may end up meeting up with some friends from here in Cayman who happen to be in Vancouver at the same time as me for some funk night or something at Bar None in Yaletown.

I'll post more as the week goes on, and especially if there are any shenanigans that need to be called out on the trip home. (I'm looking directly at you, TSA, when I say this)

Thursday, 14 September 2006 16:32:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Wednesday, 16 August 2006
hms: Then 5 days ago.... (relax im fine) [Spidey Sense is REALY tingling now...] hms: I get shot twice! [OH is THAT ALL?]
Wednesday, 16 August 2006 19:50:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Misc | Travel#
Wednesday, 12 July 2006

I just flew in from Miami... and boy are my arms tired!

But seriously. When I'm in Miami and get stuck with the "economy car" (ie no upgrades that include Sirius or XM) I tune in to Y100.7. They used to have a morning show duo named "Kenny and Footy" or something like that who were pretty funny. Other than that, they play the top ten or so of the top 40 over and over and over and over and over again.

Today's surprise (other than hearing Shakira's latest song twice in the span of three hours) was their latest contest: It's called Made. As in "I want to be made". The winner of the contest wins free plastic surgery! Along with the promo that I heard eight or nine times, were the commercials for the "company" providing the service for the winners. They have this girl who sounds about 16 saying things like "I hate my boobs, I want to start with them..."

Coincidentally, I downloaded the first four episodes of Season 1 of Nip/Tuck to my PSP to watch on the plane today... How fitting.

And since we're on the topic of signs of the apocalypse, Cayman experienced another earthquake yesterday. I was going to post it last night but I was just too dog-darned tired. Today I forgot about it, but aside from a few hundred referral links from some jackass online poker site were a bunch of search engine results for Cayman earthquake (From the last one in December 2004). Seeing as how this post was already entitled "The Most Recent Sign of the Apocalypse" I figured it was a good segue.

This one was only 4.5 on the Richter Scale and it happened at 8:26 in the morning, so I was out on the road on my Vespa scooter and don't recall feeling any shaking. I wonder what caused this one this time? Zac was here as far as I know... :)

Wednesday, 12 July 2006 17:17:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Rants | Travel#
Friday, 30 June 2006
I've been carrying around a USB flash drive for a couple years now, and I've gone through three of them. I bought a 1gb USB2.0 flash drive two years ago at Kirk Office Equipment and it set me back $260CI. That's close to $350US. It lasted about a year or so, and then I forgot it was in my pocket and put it through the washer and dryer. Miraculously, it still worked... sort of. It was definately on it's way out though and sometimes took three or four insertions before it would show up and read all the data. It was time to replace it.
Friday, 30 June 2006 07:51:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Gadgets | Travel#
Saturday, 25 February 2006
Notes on installing the Slingbox Media Player
Saturday, 25 February 2006 10:30:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW | Travel#
Sunday, 16 October 2005

What a weekend. I got to the Vancouver airport just after 7:00am saturday morning, hoping to get on the 8:20 flight to Toronto. Full. 9:00. Full 10:00. Full and longer standby list. 11:00.. full. Noon? Full. 12:30? 2 spaces. I finally got to Toronto at 8:30, and Tina wasn't expecting me til 11ish. That was a bit of a a communications breakdown on my part, I said “see you in 8 hours” but really it was only 6 hours, plus the flight east is shorter. She also took the 8 hours from her time, 3:00 when I meant 8 hours Pacific time, or 8:00ish.

It was her birthday so I took her out for dinner (and also as a thank you for driving my ass around Toronto) and we went to Ruth's Chris Steak House. Wow. Holy wow. Quite expensive, but OMG was it ever good. From the BBQ Shrimp appy to the NY Strip (I forgot to ask how big it was but it was at least 14oz, if not more) with garlic smashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms. Food coma quickly set in (and the bottle of wine helped with that) and before I knew it, it was 8am and I had to hurry-up and get to the airport for my Toronto-Cayman flight. Mercifully there were 22 seats available and only 6 on the standby list, so I got on. Otherwise I would have been Hosed with a capital H.

I get through, Jeep was a little rough starting up and one tire with a slow leak was a bit flat so I stopped and pumped it up, and made my way home. I pull into the parking lot and notice that our steps are blue.. it looked like kids had colored it with blue chalk and then the rain semi-washed it away. I also noticed a hot water tank sitting out front. Odd. Then I noticed the piece of cloth that I cover up Tweeter's cage with is sitting on it, so it's ours. Never mind unload the jeep, what the hell happened? I open the door and the first thing I notice is that all our grout is blue, too. Then I see the blue rug in the lounge isnt quite so blue anymore. Then I see my Xbox sitting on the coffee table, the surround speakers unlugged and on the stairs, and pretty much the whole apartment in shambles. I also noticed just then that there's a blue line all the way around the apartment. A high water mark of dyed water. The kitchen looked like a tornado went through it as well, but that was to be expected. I don't know if anything got ruined yet, I don't know if the landlords know about it yet, but what I do know is that there's a big empty space in the closet where the hot water tank is supposed to be so that means no hot water to do any laundry or washing up or showering.

Oh yeah, the other thing that made me realize I shouldn't have gotten on a plane this morning: “Welcome aboard flight 972 service from Toronto to Grand Cayman, Our flying time today will be about 3hrs 40mins at al altitude of 33,000 feet. Weather in Cayman is cloudy and 30c with the winds out of the south at 15knots” (Uhh, what? winds out of the south?) “There's a tropical depression about 200 miles southeast of Grand Cayman, but that shouldn't affect our flight today...” sure as Christ made little apples, I walk out of the airport and they've got Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch flags posted. I get home and pull up the National Hurricane Center website and check the graphics for Tropical Depression TWENTY-FOUR.

Not a happy camper.

Sunday, 16 October 2005 11:20:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Hurricane | Travel#
Friday, 14 October 2005

It's not really the last day of fall, but it is for me. The clouds lifted a bit yesterday and there were a few “sunny breaks” in which to look at and enjoy the fall colors. Reds, yellows, browns & evergreens everywhere. I haven't taken many pictures out here, but I'll go through the ones I did take (maybe on the plane) and post up a couple when I get home.

I thought I would go easy on myself and take the 9:00am flight to Toronto on Saturday, so I wouldn't have to get up so early, but then I smacked my head and realized that I would be trying to get to the airport during morning rush hour. Hopefully it won't be too bad, as it's a Saturday.

I'm all packed up now, just waiting on my brothers, we're gonna go out for lunch this afternoon and then Mom's cooking dinner tonight and some of the fam is coming over to say goodbye, after that I'll probably head out for a bit to say hi & bye to some friends and then that's it for this year.

Im hoping nothing happens to the Sunday flight from Toronto to Cayman. I can't see if being overbooked at this time of year, but I hope it doesn't get cancelled, either. That would totally screw me, as I *HAVE* to be back at work Monday morning, my boss has already emailed me to remind of that since I'll be the only one in our dept in on Monday.

I've already had to book off the time (mentally) for next year's vacation, my bestest buddy asked me on the first night I was here if I could be back next September for his wedding. I said “Congrats, you finally proposed to her?” and he said “No, not yet, but she's already booked the hall.” HAHAHAHA Man I thought that was the funniest thing I've heard since... since... well since a while anyway!

Hasta luego from Vancouver, next time I check in I'll be back to shorts & t-shirts and my longs and warms will be in the closet.

Friday, 14 October 2005 12:52:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Travel#
Friday, 07 October 2005

I had dinner at home with the parental units last night, Mom picked up some steaks at Clancy's (ohhh sooo good) and had some Chilliwack sweet corn (I don't think it was Peaches & Cream strain, but it was still gooooood). After that Ork came and picked me up and took me to a poker game. What I didn't see at the time was that she also stopped by the Valley Bakery and picked up some jelly donuts! Valley Bakery jelly donuts are the hands-down best donuts in the world. Better than Tim Horton's, better than Krispy Kreme, better than Dunkin Donuts. If you're ever in Burnaby (one of the 'burbs of Vancouver) it's on East Hastings St near Gilmore.

A few years ago when I came home for my 30th birthday, I met a bunch of guys that Ork hangs out with, and we had a bbq out in Coquitlam (steaks from Clancy's again... a trend?) turned out that one of them I went to high school with. We sat around that night and played 4-player HALO on a huge tv screen and had such a blast that I went out the next day and bought an Xbox and took it back to Cayman with me. That group of guys never took a shine to HALO2, so we never got a chance to all play online together, me from Cayman, them from Vancouver. The new hotness is poker now, someone bought a set of chips and they all get together once a week or so and play a few hands, just for chump change.

I haven't played poker with real people for years, so it was fun and it lent an air of The Sopranos to the proceedings, as we were playing in the backroom of a shop in the industrial district of Port Coquitlam. First game we just had a $5 buy-in and the second one around when a few more people showed up we played one for $10.

I hadn't really seen these guys for a couple years, aside from running into Nick and Chris at a Starbucks when I was here last christmas, so they had no idea about any of the crap we went through  with the hurricane last year. When I said that we were patrolling the house with machetes, or describing having to crap in a plastic-bag-lined bucket, they were kinda shocked. Everyone knows what New Orleans was like after Katrina, but no one knew that, aside from the floodwaters staying around afterwards, it was just as bad last year in Cayman.

As usual, the talk degenerated as the night wore on and more Molson Canadian was cracked open, and at one point, near when we left, I was laughing so hard my face hurt and I had tears running down my cheeks. I think it had something to do with an open-face roast beef sandwich, or a badly-packed kebab.

Friday, 07 October 2005 09:35:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Food | Travel#
Thursday, 06 October 2005

Last night was the season opener of the NHL and all 30 teams were playing, SOMEWHERE. Fortunately for me, The Canucks were playing here in town against the Phoenix Coyotes. It was also Wayne Gretzky's first regular season game as a coach. I figured he would win, because just about every record he broke, every milestone he achieved was against the Canucks. Thankfully I was wrong.

We had seats up in the nosebleeds, Section 326, row 15. Row 16 would have been outside the arena: we had the last row of seats in the whole building. Still, the view was pretty good from up there, unlike back in the Pacific Coliseum where you needed binoculars to see the rink. Add to that that we had a row of semi-drunk cougars sitting in front of us and we definately had the biggest party of any section in the whole arena.

Naslund got two goals, and both of them were highlight-reel quality, along with a great chance in the first period that CuJo managed to make the save on. The game was fast, lots of back-and-forth, crisp passing, tic-tac-toes and some rough hockey playing, but no fights broke out or anything. As Don Cherry would put it, “Good old-fashioned Canadian hockey!”

We got these 2003-2004 Canucks penants on the way in to commemorate them being the Northwest Division Champs last season, and they handed out little replica Stanley Cups on the way out. We nearly had a t-shirt from the Boston Bazooka, The mascot, Fin, (A big Killer Whale in a Canucks jersey) had some sort of backplate on holding a scuba tank on his back and had this... thing... that used compressed air to launch t-shirts around the arena. I bet you could get knocked-the-fuck-out if you got hit in the head at close range with a t-shirt. Anyway, he launched one up by us, it bounced off my finger, off my brother's head, the wall and then the guy sitting next to me ended up with it. MBNA Canada was giving out free t-shirts if you signed up for a Canucks MasterCard, so I put down the name “Steve Podborski” and a bunch of real-but-fake information and got a free t-shirt. I get enough junk mail as it is. :)

Thursday, 06 October 2005 18:06:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [4] | Hockey | Travel#
Tuesday, 04 October 2005
The weekend in Toronto was awesome, and it's 28c there unusually, but back here in Vancouver, it's definately October.
Tuesday, 04 October 2005 08:48:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Food | Travel#
Thursday, 29 September 2005

MAN, today was the LONGEST DAY EVAR at work! Between checking event logs and modifying backup jobs and some forensic investigating of IE history files (major boring shiat) the clock just dragged it's way to 5:00.

But 5:00 has come and gone, and Im just finishing packing my bags. I'm off to Toronto for the weekend, and then home to Vancouver on Monday for a couple weeks, Canadian thanksgiving (I guess they don't really call it Canadian Thanksgiving in Canada, it's just thanksgiving.. they don't have to differentiate it at all like we do down here), my aunt's birthday and the opening of the NHL season. I'm trying to find some tickets to next Wednesday's game against Phoenix, but it looks like it's sold out already. I wonder if there are still scalpers hangin around outside yellin TICKETS HERE like the used to outside the old Pacific Coliseum back in the day.

Seb gets in tonight, I'm heading to the airport shortly to pick him up, stop by McCoy's for a beverage or two, give him a briefing on what's goin on as far as people getting kicked out, leases no getting renewed, rents getting jacked up, give him MY rent money before I go, and givin him tweeter feeder instructions and then it's off to bed. Separately. Just in case you were wondering. :p   Then it's up damn early to catch Cayman Airways flight to Miami at o'dark hundred, pick up a couple bottles of rum at duty free and then tell everyone to catch my vapors as I be up, and gone!

Thursday, 29 September 2005 16:41:14 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Saturday, 17 September 2005
My rooommate Seb is in England at the moment. We were gonna go together, as I'd never been there before, but I got talked out of it. He went anyway and here's his first dispatch. (annotated, of course) :)
Saturday, 17 September 2005 08:01:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Pictures | Travel#
Saturday, 27 August 2005
Video clip of a failed convoy ambush
Saturday, 27 August 2005 09:04:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Misc | Travel#
Tuesday, 09 August 2005
What the HELL does that mean???
Tuesday, 09 August 2005 08:23:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Links | Movies | Tech | Travel#
Saturday, 02 July 2005
Arse! James checks in after a long break slogging a film crew through the mountains of northern Iraq. (with pics)
Saturday, 02 July 2005 16:23:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Saturday, 25 June 2005

VancouverInternationalSalsaCongress.com
Steve-o has been working on a new website. It has the hideously long name of www.vancouverinternationalsalsacongress.com but luckily for you, you can just click it here instead of having to type it out. I don't know if it's “open to the public” yet but I guess he'll get a lot of free beta testing if it's not :D

Steve's been involved in organizing Salsa & latin dance parties for a few years now. He's the big pussycat at the front door collecting money and looking menacing in case anyone thinks they're gonna stir up some shit. I went to one of the parties nearly two years ago when I was back in Vancouver for a visit and it was pretty cool. They had the free lessons part of it early at 8:00 and 9:00 and then the lights went down and the music came up at 10:00 and there was dancing til 2am or something.

This looks to be a major step up in size and complexity from the regular dances and parties they organize. Steve does the web design for it and gets help from Jenn with the graphics side of it. This looks like it could be construed a real job, but who am I to talk? I jumped on a plane and headed for the Cayman Islands seven years ago (almost to the day, it was June 30th, 1998) to live on the beach and be a dive instructor by day and practicing to be an alcoholic at night. “It's only for a year” I told myself (and my parents) but after six years, I slid out of the water and into business clothes and took a job as a Network Administrator for one of the bigger companies down here.

If you're going to be in Vancouver in October (or you live there) click over and check out the schedule for the Salsa Congress and go get your groove on!

Saturday, 25 June 2005 17:06:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Travel#
Saturday, 18 June 2005
I made it back from Kingston, Jamaica alive, in one piece and with no bullet holes.
Saturday, 18 June 2005 11:36:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Travel#
Wednesday, 15 June 2005
...You might end up administratively locking yourself out of Windows
Wednesday, 15 June 2005 19:00:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Linux | Microsoft | Travel#
Monday, 23 May 2005
The continuing stoooooooooory of a quack, who's gone to the dogs...
Monday, 23 May 2005 19:50:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Gadgets | Travel#
Monday, 21 February 2005
Consider yourself warned, this article is long, and Im going to try very hard not to swear.
Monday, 21 February 2005 08:13:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Gadgets | Travel#
Wednesday, 19 January 2005

I was all set this morning to tear into a rant on traffic... AGAIN.... after spending 45 minutes going about eight miles and the lack of foresight by building on both sides of the one road with one lane each way. I filled up my fuel tank yesterday again, after only 211 miles. That's a 90 mile-per-tank DROP since I replaced the fuel & air filters, spark plugs, spark plug wires and oil lube & filter job I did the other weekend. Maybe this weekend I'll replace the distributor cap & rotor and check for any engine diagnostic codes, see if I can figure out what's what.

I get into work and check my email, with the thoughts of a traffic rant post in my head, and I see I had an email from my friend James who's over in Baghdad at the moment. The good news is that since he's sent out an email, he's still alive. I can't think of a more dangerous job to take than a Close Personal Guard or whatever it's called that he's doing. The pay is good, but you can't spend it if you're dead, y'know?

The first paragraph has this lovely tidbit of information:

The ' Bomb Average ' is now up to (according to CNN...) 4 to 7 bombs / week!!!!!! 2 days back I had a close one. You see untill recently normally ' a close one ' meant it detonates within 200 - 400 metres away from you: This one went off 200 ft away from me!!! Apparantly some guy pulled his car into the outer perimeter of the Green zone and wasnt being let through by the security forces. So, as you do, he got back in and blew the car up...

Of course, you get back in the car and blow it up. as you do... Gotta love the British Humor.

At night here its seriously quiet. Everyone behaves. No bombs, riots, gunshots, assassinations, its all good! Come day light - AND ITS ON!!! So, we were doing the same thing basically - The Rounds - checking up here and there. When suddenly We see a couple of flashes about 120ft away and then hear a sound that we havnt heard before... A weird metalic " thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk " on the exterior of the vehicle.

Thankfully they're in an armored vehicle, but still... Here in Cayman this weekend is a long weekend, as the third Monday in January is National Heroes Day. Something to look forward to. James on the other, has this to look forward to...

Got the Gen. Elections at the end of next week. Im generally a fairly positive and optimistic individual, with a hopeful out look on life......BUT ITS GONNA BE A FULL ON BLOOD BATH! Im talking ' Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino & Mel Gibson ' Blood bath!!!!!! Really, I hope Im wrong. I hope the elections come and go with minimal eyebrow raising....But will it???... God knows what the insurgents are planning - what they have already planned - and what they are waiting to carry out! Like I said....Never a dull moment.

He also mentioned a dream he had where he was out in the desert on Patrol, a flat, featureless snooker table as far as the eye can see, and then... he's on West Bay Road and turning into Lone Star for a beer. I guess you dream about the things you just can't have over there... Speaking of things you can't get over there...

Talk about a lack of things.... There are no Women over here.... Well, there are, but they all dress like ninjas! Dosnt do shit for me! I couple of my mates have accused me of being caught eyeing up the occassional camel!!! - It hasnt gotten that bad...yet...

Insert your own "What are you doing? usually we just RIDE THE CAMEL INTO TOWN" punchline here :)

Any way lads and ladesses, Im off because Im doing Grave yard shift in approx 45 mins and it takes me ages to just get ' dressed ' for it! So, I hope you are all well and stay that way.

So keep ya selves nice! Manly hugs and arse pinching aplenty.

95f during the day, -5f at night, body armor, comms, gps, weapons and ammo, yeah I can see how it takes as long for them to get dressed and ready for work as my old girlfriend did. As far as the hugs and arse-pinching goes, this is coming from the guy who wrote "CONGRATS STEPHANIE" on my ass in super felt-tip pen before my underwater strip show for that stagette/hen party I did a few years ago. :)

Wednesday, 19 January 2005 06:25:02 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Travel#
Wednesday, 29 December 2004

Call it a whirwind tour if you like, but eight days is a pretty short time to go from Cayman to Vancouver. It takes a day (and an overnight usually) each way to get there, there's three hours difference, and you have to go through customs and immigration twice.

That said, I had an absolutely fab week. Sunday the 19th I left and had dinner with Shannon (but no Bella this time) in South Beach and the freakin Gipsy Kings were playing at the lounge/bar/restaurant where we were eating. Way cool!

Monday I flew into Vancouver, Ork picked me up, missed a connection with Fedde, headed to my parents place and crashed.

Tuesday I drove out to The 'Wack to see Scott and pick up the bag he carried back for me a month ago or so and then had dinner at Montana's Cookhouse in Coquitlam Center. Pretty good bbq chicken & ribs.. best I've had outside of Texas, anyway. My Dad didn't like his burger, he thought it was too dry, but that's what you get for ordering a burger at a bbq joint. It's almost as bad as ordering a steak in IHOP and not having a good experience. :)

Wednesday Rich and I had lunch at Burger Heaven, in what seems to be turning into a tradition and then I had probably one of the best steak dinners I've ever had at Gotham Steakhouse. The whole evening was great: the company, the cocktails, the wine, the oysters and of course, the steaks.

Thursday night Rich & Stacy had me over for dinner and a little geekfest afterwards. w00t!

Friday was Christmas Eve, so I went out to the mall and finished my shopping. Not really, I already had everything, but I wanted to witness the capitalistic commercial orgy for my own eyes. It's kind of like watching Jerry Springer or a train wreck, you know you shouldn't look, but you just can't help it. I met up with Bob and my cousin for lunch and hockey talk (Just call, we'll talk hockey with Paul Baldwin) at the Red Onion in Kerrisdale. I don't know if it's on any Vancouver City Guides or anything, but it should be. Burgers and Dogs, done to perfection, and their dill-based dipping sauce for chips is goooood too.

Dinner with the fam at White Spot in what's another sorta newish tradition, and then it was off to the 8-Ball cafe for Kelly's birthday. Saw the old gang together again for the first time, then came home and was in bed by 1:00 so Santa could come.

The rest of the weekend was a big blur of family, eating, running around and not having time to see everyone or do everything. I think I'll try and get home in July or August for a longer trip, like two weeks or something to try and fit everything in.

Wednesday, 29 December 2004 11:05:25 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Travel#
Wednesday, 22 December 2004
Between flying 3000 miles, seeing The Gipsy Kings, vowing to strangle the person in front of me with his inflight headphones, -20c terminal transfers and having to wear four layers of clothes, it's been a busy week.
Wednesday, 22 December 2004 10:07:39 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Travel#
Saturday, 18 December 2004

OK, so I'm packed and ready to go, aside from the stuff that I'll need in the morning (bathroom stuff, this laptop, etc) Im packing light. I have a 24” pullman that has my carry-on pullman inside it. I have 5 t-shirts, 5 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of undies, one pair of PJs, a pair of jeans, one sweatshirt, a pair of shorts (to go to the gym in) and a pair of sneakers. Aside from what I'm wearing on the plane, that's all I'll need.

The morning flight tomorrow is full, and there's three people on the standby list ahead of me. The afternoon flight has space available on it and the evening flight has about 20-odd seats on it as well. I'm going to try for the afternoon flight, and if I can't get on, then I'm going to catch the evening flight. So long as I get to Miami tomorrow night, it's all good.

In all the times I've ever been to Miami, I've never actually gone down to the beach. My friend Shannon is driving down from Ft Lauderdale tomorrow night to meet up with me and we're going to head down to South Beach and get some dinner and do some people watching. Of course, the one time I have a plan to go to the beach in Miami, there's a cold front coming through. Temps are supposed to drop into the 40s in Miami Sunday. Wonderful. At least it will give me a 12 hour acclimatization before I fly north to Canada.

I don't really have any plans for the week, other than xmas day with the family. I'm going to play it all by ear, especially since I really only have a week. A few times when I've gone home, I've ended up parceling out my time in “appointments” to make sure that I saw everyone and did everything on everyone else's list. Didn't make for a very relaxing holiday. I get in Monday night, Im gonna pop down to the Irish Heather on the way to my parent's house and raise a glass with Fedde, and at some point during the week I'm making a road trip out to The 'Wack to pick up a bag at Scott's that he brought home for me last month.

Unless something... NOTABLE happens between now and then, I probably wont be posting anything, so consider yourself wished a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or a freak-nasty Kwanzaa!

Saturday, 18 December 2004 18:56:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Travel#
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