Thursday, August 24, 2006

After a long and arduous journey, I arrived in Vancouver late Saturday night. I was quite road weary, but very glad to finally be at my destination to start working on this new chapter in my life.

On Friday, the people from the office held a little send-off party for me which was very nice. Nearly half the office showed up! A big thanks to Janice for being the hostess.

Friday night I barely slept, worrying about whether or not everything would fit in my car. I dragged myself out of bed at 6 AM to start the process, and quickly realized that the Hyundai Elantra was not exactly built for moving an apartment full of belongings. I got “the big stuff” in, and then started cleaning up my apartment.

My landlord came by and did his inspection around 10:00. I made sure to point out the oven. I passed with flying colors, which considering the state of the building and the caliber of individuals living there, was not too difficult.

Once he left it was time to squeeze “the small stuff” into the nooks and crannies left in the Elantra. After much pushing and squeezing and re-arranging, I got everything in. The car was loaded down Beverly Hillbilly style. I did have to part ways with a few non-essentials, but I got all the important stuff in. Airbags would not be necessary on this journey. I was packed in so tight I figure I could have hit a tractor trailer and stayed exactly in the same spot. I decided not to test this theory out though.

Around 1PM I got my car pointed west and headed for the coast. I bid farewell to Calgary, seeing the view from Sarcee trail as I approached the highway. Once on the highway I did not look back. My first stop was in Golden BC, about 2 1/2 hours into my drive. In my haste and craziness I had neglected breakfast (and lunch for that matter) so food was in order. After some Tim Horton’s and some DQ and some more Tim Horton’s, and a quick call to Joan to give her a status update, I was back on the road again.

I am getting quite familiar with the Roger’s Pass now, having driven through there three times in the past year. This time through, I would go straight at Sicimous instead of my normal left to head for the Okanagan. My second stop was at Salmon Arm for gas and a little more coffee, fuel for the car and fuel for the body. Another call to Joan and I was back on the road.

After Salmon Arm one arrives in Kamloops, I drove right through and then got onto the Coquihalla Highway. As roads go, this one is definitely among the best, three lanes of smooth asphalt winding its way from Kamloops to the Fraser Valley. My car was magically transformed into a Formula 1 racer as the 110 speed limit was decidedly ignored. After all, I had to make up the time I lost when stuck behind RVs and the overly cautious in the mountains.

I reached Abbotsford and was on the home stretch when suddenly traffic came to a standstill. After what seemed like an eternity of stop-and-start I passed the scene of an accident which had apparently blocked both lanes for some time. After this interruption, it was clear sailing all the way into the city of Vancouver, my final destination. I arrived at 11PM local time, 11 hours after I had left Calgary.

Joan was waiting to officially welcome me to my new home city, and she did it in loving style as usual. I was relieved that my journey was over, and I was happy to be in Joan’s arms again. I am glad that we are now in the same city, and don’t have to rely on the phone and the airlines to keep in touch. This truly will be an exciting new chapter in my life, and I am looking forward to it with a smile on my face and sparkle in my eye.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Guest blog entry by Joan:

A little over a year ago now, I bought myself a copy of the entire television series of Beverly Hills, 90210 off of Ebay. Watching it the second time around has been just as entertaining as the first, and I eagerly turn to my dvd player whenever I have some spare time. Having said that, my obsession with 90210 is not something that everyone understands, and as a result, I have had to yield multiple questions and endure endless teasing on my “hobby”. These questions and comments have made me ponder on why I find this show so appealing. Yes, the characters are fun, the plotlines addictive, and the fashion appealing. But there is more to it than that. I have come up with the top three reasons why I love 90210. Here they are!

Reason Number 3: Instant Camaraderie

Happily, I am not alone in my obsession with this show. Having run for an entire decade, 90210 developed a huge following of devoted fans, worldwide. Ask any twenty/thirty-something if they watched the show (note: the key word here is “watched, not liked”) and you will undoubtedly learn that they did. It bonded Michelle and me in an instant - check out the great 90210 link off her website! On a side note, Andrew is an incredible exception to this rule, having never watched an episode prior to meeting me. I quickly fixed that! More on this later…

Reason Number 2: The Constant Factor

I was about 14 years old and in high school in Port Alberni when I first started watching 90210, and was 24 and just starting to work at CMHC in Vancouver when the show ended. A whole lot happened and changed in between, but no matter where I was or what I was doing, 90210 and the gang were there. Watching 90210 helped me adapt to leaving home for the first time to attend university at UBC, and it later comforted me when I left Canada to do international development work in Washington, DC. It was also comforting to watch the characters go through many of the same stages in life, at roughly the same time. You’ve heard of comfort food, well this was comfort television to me.

Reason Number 1: The Memories

The top reason why I still love 90210 is that it helps me relive the memories that developed alongside my devoted following of the show. I remember running home after shifts at McDonalds so that I could watch 90210 with my mom. In his heyday, Luke Perry, aka Dylan McKay, stared in the film “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. My friend Sonia and I must have created a chant with our constant repetition of the movie’s trailer tagline: “This summer, we’re going to walk under the moonlight, dance under the stars…” We went to this movie the first day it opened in Port. The fact that we were disappointed with it is irrelevant. The memory is, as Mastercard would say, priceless.

These are my reasons for loving 90210. So I happily indulge and allow myself to become enthralled in the show once again, and I encourage Andrew and friends to watch with me as many episodes as they can bear. And I smile because I know that by doing so, in ten years time, reliving these simple, cherished, moments will be as easy as pressing power on the dvd player.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I think I have figured it all out. I think I know who is behind al Qaeda and likely all other terrorist organizations. I will lay it all out for you below, but first I must rant a little about the new security precautions being taken at airports throughout North America and around the world.

By now, we all know about the alleged terrorist plot that was uncovered this week in the UK and Pakistan. The alleged terrorists were planning to smuggle liquids in common beverage containers onto a plane and mix them up mid flight to make a bomb. The media has assured us this could be done, and in some cases gone into great details explaining just what would be required. (Note to junior high schools: keep a closer watch on the boy’s room this fall.)

The USTSA, CATSA, and other organizations around the world have reacted swiftly and banned all liquids and gels from carry on baggage. I read of one woman who had to throw away $50 - $60 worth of cosmetics. I have seen pictures of garbage bins at security overflowing with toothpaste, shaving cream, juice bottles and a plethora of other now-banned substances. Let’s assume that each tube or container cost the person attempting to carry it on about $1, and let’s estimate that each garbage bin holds about 500 discarded items. Using simple arithmetic we can conservatively estimate that each full bin represents $500 in wasted money for air travelers. For all this waste, is air travel safer today than it was last Saturday? Not likely.

I am pretty sure that if terrorists concocted this plot that they probably have a few others up their sleeves which do not involve liquids and gels. For example, I have discovered that you can make a pretty nasty improvised weapon from a shredded soda can. I can get a soda can from just about any flight attendant on any flight in the world. They have not been banned despite their obvious threat. If I can come up with something so easily without a mind bent on destruction, imagine what an international organization devoted to terror could come up with?

Banning liquids and gels from carry-on baggage is likely going to do nothing to reduce the risk of terrorism on planes. Instead it will increase the inconvenience to the 99.9999999% or air travelers who are not terrorists.

When I travel for 4 days or less, I always carry on everything I will need, including toothpaste and shampoo. I do this for a few reasons: first of all because I have been inconvenienced more than once by airlines losing my luggage, and second because it saves time at both ends of the flight. I suspect that many people who fly short-haul for business or pleasure will now seriously re-evaluate whether it is even worth it.

What the screeners need to focus on is identifying liquids and other objects that could be used for nefarious purposes and throw those out instead. A blanket ban on liquids and gels is ridiculous. It is like when they started banning nail clippers. It is a rule that simply doesn’t make sense and only serves to punish good honest people.

For those who think that the agencies involved are justified in banning these substances, it should be noted that this plot had been tried and foiled before. Over 10 years ago terrorists had planned and even somewhat successfully tested a plot involving liquid explosives fabricated in-flight. Despite this, we have still been able to bring juice and toothpaste onto planes

To me this just proves that the terrorists are winning. We are not defiantly standing up to them, we are cowering in fear. Is this not exactly what they want? Is that not why they are called terrorists? Each time we allow our freedom to be chipped away the terrorists are winning another small victory. We should be more afraid of the freedom we are losing than the miniscule risk that the plane we are boarding is going to be the target of terrorists.

I do not think that I will feel any safer flying now than I ever have.

Now that I have that off my chest, we will switch the focus to the real reason you have read the entire preceding rant. I have considered all the evidence and I have a theory about who is behind the global terrorist activity. I think this will be very shocking to people, but also very logical.

Consider the items that have been banned from carry on baggage in the past 5 years:

Nail clippers

Finger nail files





Shaving cream


Now, think carefully about who stands to benefit most from travelers having to discard these items and re-buy them when they reach their destination? If you are thinking the pharmacies of the world, you and I are on the same page. I have a hunch that the next major terrorist plot uncovered will have found a way to improvise a weapon from latex and Q-Tips.

Somebody else phone the CIA, they are no longer accepting my calls.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

There are two kinds of men in this world: those who have someone to clean the oven for them, and those who do not. It is for the latter that I write this blog entry, tentatively titled “The Bachelors Guide to Oven Cleaning.”

First, a little history… Man learned to cook over fire tens of thousands of years ago. This was a really good arrangement because the fire was in an open area so any smoke or grease or debris would simply float off into the air or be incinerated by the flames. The only clean up involved would have been perhaps burying the ashes before an attractive cave woman came for dinner.

Somewhere along the line we lost our way and decided it made more sense to cook indoors with electricity. While this does have some benefits on cold and rainy days, it also comes at a price. All that grease and smoke and debris now go nowhere. They stick to the inside of your oven, seemingly never to be removed. In fact, I have it on good authority that NASA is developing a technique to bake chicken grease onto the outside of the space shuttle to protect it when it re-enters the earth's atmosphere.

Now, before you go and do something rash, take a step back and think to yourself, “Do I need to clean my oven?” (I know I didn’t have to tell you that.) In order to assist with this pondering, I have come up with a series of questions to help you make up your mind.

Question 1:

Is my landlord coming in the near future to do a move-out inspection?

OK, if you answered yes to any of these questions, you should strongly consider cleaning your oven. (If you have just recently moved into a place, you may want to consider not using your oven at all.) If you answered no, or you are unsure, DO NOT clean your oven at this time. Stop reading this guide. Go get your golf clubs, and play a round of golf, or head down to the pub for a pint, or do anything else you enjoy.

If you answered yes, I know the pain you are facing and I am here to help.

The first thing you need to do is block off a few hours of time. Make sure that this is not the weekend for the Masters, or the Indy 500, you will never get this project done otherwise.

You may think that cleaning the oven is like washing your car or doing the dishes. A little soap and water and a quick rinse and you’re done. If you think this, you are wrong. I tried this method and it didn’t work. I did not try a belt sander, but I am pretty sure it wouldn’t work either. For this project you need something extreme.

In this day and age, many of us are sensitive to the needs of Mother Nature. I hope that you all recycle, take shorter showers, don’t leave lights on when you aren’t using them, and generally do your part to help the environment. It helps to think about all these good things you have done when you walk down the cleaning products aisle to pick up a can of Easy Off. When you use this product, you are taking a huge withdrawal from the green bank, but I can tell you, nothing else works. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the Easy Off people who were behind the move from cooking over a fire to cooking in an oven. I will do some more research and write about my findings later.

Once you are home, I suggest you locate a gas mask and one of those fans the fire department uses to blow smoke out of buildings. Next, shake the can like you have never shaken it before, and then unload it on the mess in your oven. Make sure the insides are completely covered. The oven should look approximately like your freezer, which I know you haven’t defrosted since the day you moved in… but that is a problem for another day.

Now for the easy part: The foam takes at least 2 hours to work, so if you were not fortunate enough to be able to take your golf clubs and run or go for a pint at Step 1, you should go ahead and do that now. No need for you to completely suffer while the lucky guy who doesn’t need to clean his oven goes out and has the time of his life.

This next bit is very important. While you are out, you might get hungry. DO NOT buy rising crust pizza! This is definitely a KD day, or Campbell’s Chunky if you are particularly hungry. If you forget and buy the Delissio, it will not be OK to throw it in anyway. Call Pizza Hut and get some delivery.

Now the fun begins. You will need a bucket of water, a rag or two, a scrubby thing, and rubber gloves. The next part is truly a miracle, and nearly brought tears to my eyes. (Now that I think about it, it may have been the fumes from the Easy Off.) When you start to wipe away the white goo (which has likely become brown goo), the dirt and grease literally wipe right off. You will need the scrubby for a few tough spots, but for the most part it now takes no more effort than doing the dishes or washing the car.

I recommend starting with the oven door. It is easy to reach and gives you an idea of what’s involved on the inside. When you are finished with the door, you can start contorting yourself to clean the inside as I did. Within minutes your back will be screaming and you will be wondering if you shouldn’t have just bought a new stove. To make it easier on yourself, REMOVE THE OVEN DOOR! Before you run for the electric drill or the hammer, you should know this: apparently the Easy Off people, when inventing the oven, did think of one thing to make the whole process easier. The door just slides right out! It was a little disappointing that no tools were required, but I soon forgot all about that when I was able to reach the back of the oven without reviewing the Contortion Homepage.

Once you have cleaned up all the goo and rinsed the whole oven repeatedly as per the package instructions (in hindsight, a garden hose might have come in handy), it’s probably a good idea not to crack open the Delissio right away. Instead, keep the gas mask on and the fan blowing and turn on the oven. This instruction is not on the can. In fact, this may be the only place on earth where this technique is documented (and there may be a reason for that, but whatever). Let the oven get up to temp. Women reading this will be wondering what temp. I am sure I am not alone in wondering why ovens have a dial. They should just have an on off switch. Guys, you know what temp. If it seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to heat up, look at the floor and make sure that you remembered to put the oven door back on (again, sadly no power tools required). Once it gets up to temp, turn the oven off and let it cool. There will be patches of white powder inside your oven. These areas indicate a failure of the product to rinse off properly. Get angry at Easy Off, not at yourself, and proceed to re-rinse. If you are paranoid about eating corrosive chemicals, repeat the process a few times. Otherwise, throw in that Delissio and start getting your oven dirty again.

For those of your fortunate enough to have someone to clean your oven for you, I hope after reading this guide that you will appreciate the effort they put into the job. Once you get back from the bar or the golf course, take them out for a nice dinner or buy them some flowers. If you are a guy that used this guide to help clean your oven, I know your pain and I hope that, like me, you will be moving into a much nicer place very soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I am trying to sneakily figure out who is reading this since nobody leaves comments, but how about if you just leave comments instead? If you need a reason, then how about this... tell me if you think this URL is too complicated? I am worried that the world thinks all web sites start with WWW, so people might overlook my non-standard address. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I was in the Okanagan with Joan this past weekend. I drove through the Rogers Pass to get there, which I am sure has some of the most beautiful scenery along the entire Trans-Canada Highway. (Of course, nothing compared to the beautiful scenery that was awaiting me in Kelowna.) It takes about 6 ½ hours to drive it, but fortunately I had burned enough MP3s to a CD that I made it nearly the whole way without a repeat.

What else would a young couple in love do in the Okanagan aside from visiting a number of the beautiful estate wineries in the area? We saw at least a half dozen, and tried many fine wines at each. It was a wonderful way to spend our getaway weekend.

There is one thing that I find quite disturbing these days when I go to visit wineries. This is especially highlighted during the summer when there are tourists aplenty. It seems that these days every person and their dog consider themselves to be sommeliers, and many employees at the wineries talk to you as if you should be. I hadn’t been to many wineries prior to the release of the movie “Sideways,” but I have a feeling that movie’s popularity had something to do with this trend. All of a sudden everybody is talking about tannin structure and desperately trying to figure out if that is rose hip or strawberry they getting off the wine. Even when the person pouring tells me what flavors I should taste, I often still cannot discern them. Does this make me a lesser person? I don’t think so.

When I am tasting wine, I only care about one thing: do I love it? If I do, then I will buy a bottle and enjoy more of it later. If I don’t, I thank the folk at the winery and go on my merry way. I don’t need the stress of trying to determine if the wine was aged in American or French oak, I just want to enjoy the wine I love.

One other disturbing side effect of this wine tasting fad is that it turns what should be a peaceful and dignified experience into a gong show. We were at a few popular wineries where people were crowded at the tasting table like pigs at a trough. At least it wasn’t as bad as a tasting event we went to in Calgary were people were literally pushing others out of the way to get to the tables.

I cannot wait until the “Sideways” phenomenon is over and you can go back to tasting wine in peace and quiet. I suggest that Hollywood come out with a new movie on the appreciation of cigars or the love of NASCAR in order to distract all those people who get caught up in Hollywood-inspired fads. That should get them out of the wineries and safely away from me in their humidors or RVs on the infield.

If you are looking for me, I will still be back enjoying the wine that I love. Don’t ask me about the bouquet though, to me that is just a bunch of flowers.