Monday, June 26, 2006

World Cup Update:


The Azzurri have done it again, defeating the Australians on a penalty kick seconds from the end of the match. A very exciting conclusion indeed. Next, Italy plays Ukraine on Friday morning, and as luck would have it I will be in Vancouver to watch the game with Joan!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I woke up a little on the late side today, likely because I had no plans. I always find it hard to get out of bed when I don’t know what I’ll be doing. As I have said before, sometimes even a good breakfast plan is enough to get me going, but today I had nothing.

Well after breakfast and an hour or so of internet browsing, I finally decided I could not spend another Saturday sitting around inside my apartment. Nor could I drag myself to the office on such a beautiful day. It seemed my only option was to flee the city and go for my first hike of the season.

I secured some provisions at the convenience store next door and was on the road somewhere around quarter to two. I arrived at the Little Elbow campground at 3 PM and set out on my hike.

I had chosen the Nihahi Ridge trail. I had been on the Nihahi Creek trail a few years ago, but had never walked the ridge. I am so glad I chose to do this today. The weather was perfect, and the trail was not too busy. I made my way to the top of the ridge, shooting a whole roll of film along the way. (OK, I confess, I made my way ALMOST to the top, the internet said the scramble to the top was for experienced scramblers only, since I have never scrambled and was on my own, I decided it was not worth risking my life.) About halfway up I turned around and there was a breathtaking view of the Elbow Valley below. I made a mental note to stop and take a picture on the way back down. Little did I know that from that point on at nearly every turn in the trail, and even more breathtaking view was waiting. Maybe that is why I was so out of breath by the time I made it to the top.

I stopped for a little break at the top and then turned to make my way back down. I stopped and chatted briefly with a few fellow hikers on the way down, encouraging them to get up as high as they could so they could be treated to the same views as me. I hope they all took my advice.

I made it back to the trailhead parking lot about 3 hours after I had embarked on my hike. It felt so good to have an afternoon of fresh air and sunshine. We here in Calgary are blessed to have such beautiful parks so close by. It is nice to know that no matter when you wake up in the morning, you can always escape the city for a nice day of hiking.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup Update:


Some other teams made it into the group of 16 as well, but who really cares?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The girl next door, who I have written about before, seems to have let her boyfriend move in with her. How there is room for two people in her place is their problem I guess, but their living arrangement is becoming my problem as he seems to have a penchant for heavy metal music.

Last Thursday evening, as I was lying in bed falling asleep after my nightly bedtime call with Joan, he started playing some crazy shoot ‘em up style video game. The bass was pounding with each gunshot and explosion. He must really have enjoyed the game, because he played until after 1:30 in the morning, and needless to say, I did not get a wink of sleep until then either.

Fine, I think, a one-off. It happens.

Friday night rolls around and this time the music is blasting. I was talking to Joan until sometime after 11, and she could hear the music as if she were in the room with me. I resolved to call it in as soon as we were off the phone. Once we finished talking, I went to look up the number, and within a few minutes the “neighbors” had decided to make their way to the bar and the music stopped. I went to bed, happy for the quiet surroundings. Round about 1:30 they must have had enough of the bar because they arrived back home and seemed not too sure on their feet. Again the music played, and it played loud. This time I did not waste any time calling the by-law folk here in the city. They advised me they could send someone to investigate within two weeks. I thought about it and determined that if I had to listen to this for two weeks, I would probably go insane, so I gave them a polite, “thanks but no thanks.” They advised me that if I needed someone to come out right away, I could call the police non-emergency line. I did just that, but it seems that the police non-emergency line is approximately as responsive as the city by-law enforcement officer. Eventually the music was shut off and I called the police back and told them not to bother. Around 3:30, I got to sleep again.

Saturday I woke up bright and early at 11:30 in the morning and went about my day half dead after two nights of minimal sleep. I called my landlord, and he assured me that he would deal with the situation. He must have because Saturday night was blissfully quiet in my building. I slept well, and woke up Sunday feeling better than I had in days.

Now if you are still reading this, you are either very bored, or you figure this is all going somewhere. In either case, you are in for a treat. Sunday night I am on the phone with Joan, and it is quite late. Across the hall “guitar man” lets out a little yell. A few minutes later, there is another yell.

All of a sudden, the girl next door springs into action. She flies out of her apartment, runs across the hall and starts pounding on “guitar man’s” door. She then yells at the top her lungs “Shut the (ahem) up! It’s 12:30 at night, and some people have to work in the morning you know!”

I hope that someone let the census people know that hypocrisy lives here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup Update:

Joan has convinced me of the merits of cheering for Italia, and for the first time ever I am "into" the World Cup. It has a way of creeping in on my life, I constantly check the website at work and all that.

Today was a sad day for Italy, as they only managed a tie verus the steroid-assisted USA. They are still leading their group though, and only need to beat the Czech Republic to finish on top, and if the USA loses to or ties Ghana, they only need to tie the Czech Republic to win their group. We will have to wait until Thursday to find out all about that though.

In the meantime, I will be sporting a new shirt...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I had the most excellent dinner this evening. In my freezer I have been saving a 2-parts homemade pasta sauce to 1-part Catelli meat sauce from a can mixture, waiting for the perfect night. Tonight, I thawed it all out and made myself the best lasagna I have made in a long time. I added a little more cheese than normal for good measure, and it was worth it. It all came together in a wonderful flavor sensation. While it was baking (The drawback to no-boil noodles is the 50 minute baking time!!!!), I gave my little apartment a much-overdue cleanup.

While enjoying my home baked dinner, I visited the CBC News website to check out the results of the provincial election back home in Nova Scotia. I was most distressed, though not surprised, to see that there will be yet another minority government in the province. Though minority governments have their advocates, I personally feel that in the long run (and I think this is three in a row in NS), minority governments end up being highly ineffective as policies and programs get watered down in order to appeal to whomever holds the balance of power.

In Canada we can see this happening on the national level as well. It seems like it has been forever since anything meaningful happened in Ottawa. Why is it that we, the electorate, cannot give a single party a majority to run the country as it is meant to be run? I think the current problem is lack of credible leadership.

When I think back to the last federal election, my most prominent memory from the campaign was the televised leadership debate. The leaders of our four major parties seemed more like a bunch of school children arguing on the playground. None of them struck me as capable of leading a nation as prominent as Canada, or a nation of any sort for that matter. I think my disillusionment was shared by many of my fellow Canadians, and the results were what we saw on election day, another useless minority government. My disillusionment was so great I didn’t cast my vote for any of the four buffoons.

This leads me to my next worry. Here in Alberta, Ralph Klein will be stepping down as Premier and leader of the PC party in the fall. Despite his lack of tact, personal problems, redneck agenda, and arrogance, it cannot be disputed that he has lead the province excellently for the past decade and a bit. Now, as he steps down, there really is no leader in the running for his post. Though I don’t think the PC Party in Alberta needs to worry too much about not forming a majority in the next provincial election, poor leadership could land us in the same spot as Nova Scotia and Canada if they are not careful.

All of this makes me wonder what has happened to the flamboyant and charismatic leaders of the past? Why are we experiencing such poor leadership at all levels of government in this country? Where is the next Trudeau? Where is the next Lastman? Agree or disagree with what they did, they were true leaders.

I am concerned that maybe the true leaders have now decided to focus their talents on the more lucrative private sector. CEO salaries have skyrocketed over the past decade, and perhaps the allure of money is distracting leaders from getting involved in politics. It is also possible that with the current state of world affairs, people are shying away from public office for fear of having to deal with the very real threat of a national crisis.

Whatever the reason, someone will soon need to step up and get things moving forward at all levels in this country if we hope to make any progress. Don’t make me do it myself.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I think that today, June 12, 2006, is the 18th anniversary of the day I broke my hand in a skateboarding accident. I got the skateboard for my 12th birthday. In the four days between the festive unwrapping and the critical fall, I managed a number of less serious wipe-outs which left scars on several parts of my body. The fall that would end them all happened at my friend Dave’s house while attempting relatively simple tricks in his driveway. I will never forget the nurse who was admitting me to outpatients for x-rays cynically asking if I had gotten the skateboard for my birthday.

Later that summer my family set off on our cross-Canada journey. The cast came off here in Calgary where we were attending the meetings of the Canadian Baptist Federation. That trip would also take us on to Vancouver and all the way to the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island.

This past weekend I was back in Vancouver, this time to celebrate my 30th birthday with Joan. We dined in style at Aqua Riva (don’t ask if everything went off without a hitch), and after that, Joan had devised a clever series of clues that eventually lead me to some new shirts and nice leather jacket, all of Italian origin. Truth be told, she had hoped I would work my way through the clues before dinner, but being rattled from nearly missing my flight, I was in no shape for mind games…. or something like that. We capped the evening off with some exquisite chocolate cupcakes. Joan topped each one with edible flowers, which coincidently, I first experienced alongside some quite unappealing lox back on the same 1988 trip west. This time they made excellent cupcakes that much better, and there was no disappointment.

Joan always makes my trips to Vancouver special. This weekend was no exception, and every time I put on my new leather jacket I will remember the wonderful weekend I had turning 30.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Today is my 30th birthday, I don't have anything profound to say about it, but I have it on good authority that 30 is where life REALLY begins. I hope that proves correct!

To celebrate my birthday, I am heading on over to Vancouver for a few days. Joan and I have an exciting weekend planned, and I only know about half of it for now :)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed word games and puzzles. I started young doing word searches from the newspaper and then in time moved on to playing Keyword and Scrabble with my family. I had a brief phase where I was absolutely obsessed with crossword puzzles, and I am occasionally still found working away at one in moments of boredom.

It’s hard to say what brought on what, but I also enjoy words in general. A quick browse of my website will reveal links to both and, sites I visit often if I need a fix. I can thank my grades 10 and 11 English teacher, Mr. Fetty, for increasing my vocabulary with his oft maligned “vocab” program. Each day we would take down one or two words to learn and our progress was measured with frequent brutal testing. By the end of the year, those who took the program seriously knew some 200 words that we may have never stumbled across anywhere else in our lives.

For awhile Joan joined me in my love of words by cooperating in a “word of the day” game where we would alternate picking new and interesting words to learn each day. Time and circumstances eventually shut this game down, but we still indulge ourselves with the odd game of Boggle. We bought a keychain sized version at Barnes and Noble in Bellingham Washington on one of my visits there.

On another recent trip, I got to dust off my skills at Balderdash. Our friends Nina and Jason had a small group over for games night, and Balderdash was on the menu. I don’t get to play much, but I seem to have some innate talent when it comes to making up bogus definitions for obscure words. I forget who won in the end, I only remember us all having a good time.

These days there is a new kid on the block, threatening to depose a life-long love of words. This past Christmas, my mother put a thin little paperback under the tree for me. I had heard of this title before, and in fact had even seen its contents occupying the pages of better newspapers and in-flight magazines over the past few years. I read up on it a little, and discovered that it could be as addictive as crack cocaine yet as pleasurable as a walk in the countryside. Its name is Sudoku, and it is taking everything in my power to finish this paragraph before picking it up and…

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Guest Blog Entry by Joan:

With the onset of the 2006 FIFA World Cup now just a few days away, I find my mind wandering to World Cups of the past. I don’t remember scores, but I remember every team who has ever beaten my beloved Italia, especially those who stole our glory in the final stages of the tournaments. But my memories extend well beyond the game itself – to good friends and good times, all in the name of soccer.

I can easily and clearly remember how my love for soccer began. It was 1990, and I was heading to Italy with my family for a trip to the motherland, completely unaware that Italy was the host for the World Cup that summer. I recall the check-in agent at the airport counter excitedly asking us if we were heading to Italy to watch soccer. I found it a rather unusual question, but didn’t give it a second thought. Being 14 at the time, soccer was not the first thing on my teenage mind.

I can still vividly recall the antics that awaited us upon our arrival. Driving with my relatives from the Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport, a lunatic in a red, white, and green wig nearly jumped out of his car to scream hysterically about victory and Italia. I remember being scared, while my Italian relatives laughed.

Later that first night in Italy, we went for wood-burning oven pizza, now a traditional event for my first night in Italy. It was hard to get a seat, and even harder to get service, let alone the delicious pizza Italy is famous for. Ours arrived cold and bland, as everyone in the restaurant, including the chef, was too busy intensely watching the Italy versus Uruguay game to bother with their jobs. My mother, completely disinterested in soccer, was thoroughly disgusted. By the end of that first night, I had ascertained that this trip was going to be a very memorable one. Even to this day, the memories of that trip easily flood my mind.

Thus began my interest in soccer, and my love of the Italian Azzurri, particularly the amazing Paolo Maldini. This year will be the first World Cup without Maldini, who has now retired from the national team, but who continues to play for AC Milan. I am trying to come to terms with it.

Subsequent World Cups, while not quite as memorable as Italia ’90, carry plenty of memories of their own. Italian flags hanging from UBC dorm rooms; my dad painting the house during a match but running inside for the score every time he heard me yell; my friend Nancy imitating a World Cup commercial saying “Italia, Viva Italia” and her father who cheered for Nigeria even when they were playing against Italy; celebrating with fellow Italia fans spilling out from Café Roma onto Commercial Drive in Vancouver; Nina smugly rubbing in Italy’s 2002 defeat to Korea; and not speaking with my friend Mario (an avid Portugal & Brazil fan) for the entire month of the 2002 World Cup. I look forward to adding new World Cup memories to the list this year, and to sharing the game I love with the man I love…but only if Andrew will cheer for Italy.