Friday, June 25, 2010

The End of An Era

After much reflection, I have decided to close down this blog. I still want to write, but I want to focus my efforts on writing humorous travel articles. I just don't have enough writing in me to keep up two blogs.*

Hence, I have created the travel blog Here There Be Dragons.

It would make me very happy if you would read the articles there and tell all of your friends about it. I promise that I will be funny, or you can throw things at me.

Seriously, though - any and all feedback would be much appreciated.

Thanks, and hope to see you there!

*Some of you would accurately argue that I didn't have enough writing to keep up this blog. Let's try to do something about that, shall we?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Them: "So, the order confirmation will be sent to you via e-mail. What's your e-mail address?"

Me: "Such and such at hotmail dot com."

Them: "Oh, do you have another account? Many of our clients who use hotmail find that our e-mails go to their junk folder."

Me: "Don't worry about me. I always check my junk."

Them: "..."

Me: "Wait, that came out wrong..."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Birthweek!

Dad: "Happy Birthday!"

Me: "Um... actually, that's tomorrow."

Dad: "Oh... well, better a day sooner than a day later."

Me: "That's true."

We discuss Christmas for a bit.

Dad: "Well, have a great day. This is your birthday call!"

Me: "Thanks!"

I'm not sure which is more amusing - that my father felt the need to spell out that this was my birthday call (and not to expect one tomorrow) or that I'd gone into his Blackberry years ago to correct my birth date, previously a day late, thereby making myself indirectly responsible for this phone call.

To conclude: If I ever forget your birthday, I blame genetics.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's 33 C, and it feels like 36 C...

The only cure for this is a pint of Erdinger.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

High School Reunion: Update

General observations about the night:

- It seems like almost everyone in Calgary is working in the oil and gas sector. Which isn't really that surprising.

- Only a small number of people had gotten fat. Most of them seemed to be looking after themselves.

- At least five people told me that I'd lost weight since high school. Really? Since high school?

- I went up to talk to someone I thought I recognized, and then realized (two days later) that she was not, in fact, the person I thought she was. This would explain why that conversation was so awkward.

- There are still people who go to the bar with the sole intention of getting right liquored up.

- A significant amount of my time was spent looking at people and thinking, "You look vaguely familiar, but I have no idea what your name is." But, then again, that's how I spend most of my life.

- Many of the people who I'd liked to have seen weren't there....

- ...but, I was glad to catch up with some of the people who were there that I hadn't expected to see.

In closing, it's probably best that no one tried to hug me - otherwise, I would have been tempted to pinch my friend Robyn and push her into the girl's bathroom, just to complete the row.

Friday, June 05, 2009

High School Reunion

By sheer chance, I ended up being back in Calgary the same week as my high school reunion. In anticipation, I made this:

Monday, April 20, 2009


My, my - how quickly a year goes by.

The three of you who still read this blog may recall that it was about a year ago that I decided to take a year-long leave of absence from my job to pursue a charitable side-project on a full time basis. And now, that year is up.

I'd had a number of grandiose ideas when I took this year off. I would establish a new charity, improve my work-life balance, become a published author, turn the charitable project into a paying job, and finally beat Fantasy General. Well, I'm proud to say that I've completed 3 of the 5 goals I set out for myself - though, unfortunately, none of the 3 will help me buy groceries. And then my year was up. So, I quit my job.

And now, those other two goals (either would be fine - I'm not particularly picky) are much higher up on the priority list. I actually do feel like I'm very close to turning this into a paying gig, but a year's a year, and that's all you get. And, sometimes, the gods demand a sacrifice...

If nothing else, I've had a lot of time to reflect over the past year. Though I may have to put paycheque before passion at some point in the future, that day is not today. I love what I'm doing, and am very grateful for the opportunity to be able to spend my daylight hours the way that I do - hanging out in my condo, helping to run a women's school in a warzone.

You know, when I'm not reading Terry Pratchett or playing Mario Kart. Which is what I'm going to do right now.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's the little things in life...

This makes me very happy.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I did my Battle Fitness Test last weekend, which consisted of a 13 km rucksack march and a 100 m fireman's carry. I had intended to have gone for a few more practice runs prior to getting out there and actually doing it, but could never seem to find the time. Besides, I'm in the best shape of my life these days! Surely I'll be able to do one quick little march!

And I did. It was a little over 2 hours of marching around in a circle with 55 lbs (including helmet, rifle, tac vest and small pack), but my body was able to handle the demands of the march with relative easy.

My feet, on the other hand... well, let's just say that I'll take a bit more time to toughen my feet next time. And I'll wear proper socks. And use the summer boots, instead of the wet weather boots. And, in general, be less of a dumbass. If there's one thing that helps a lesson stick, it's a healthy dose of pain.

This means that I'm more or less tethered to my condo for the next day or so, which gives me sufficient time to write an update. Here's what I've been up to over the past month or so:

Off to the Cottage for a few days: February isn't the best time to be out the cottage, but it's as good a time as any to drink beer, play Call of Duty, smoke cigars, eat three pounds of red meat, and polish it all off with a midnight showing of Dog Soldiers.

Science Fair!: I was thrilled to hear that Golden Words has brought Science Fair back, and it proved an excellent rallying point for the Haz-Beenz of yesteryear. I thoroughly enjoyed being a judge, and have placed my flame-adorned lab coat in the closet should need arise. Although I recognize that things change over the years (despite the many, many times I started a sentence with, "Back in my day..."), the one tradition that I will dearly miss is that of the drink tickets. How do you have a Science Fair without drink tickets? But I digress...

Went to New York for a weekend: I stayed with a friend for a weekend and got to see what it's like to live like a New Yorker for a few days. If you ever get the chance to stay with a friend who lives in New York, do it. I learned the following: bars in New York do not close at a set time, so you can very easily end up staying out until 5 am; New Yorkers do not cook and if you offer to make them a home cooked meal, they will look at you as though you just offered to make them a suit of armour; it can cost upwards of US$6 for a tall boy can in a foam sleeve; and there is an Australian meat pie shop near the East Village that sells the world's best post-drinking food.

Renovate Closets: We decided that we no longer wanted to have all of our stuff in huge piles on the bottom of the closet floor, and so we spent this St. Patrick's Day (top o' the practical storage solutions t' ye!) having our closets redone. I don't know if anyone who reads this (if anyone still reads this) has a condo, but I'll say that custom closets are a great investment for anyone looking for more storage space. Unfortunately, my suggestion to turn the den closet into a walk-in humidor was politely declined.

Watched lots of Top Gear: For those of you who haven't heard of this "motoring" show, it's excellent. Go watch it. It's not in any particular order, so you can start with a recent season and work your way back. Season 12 was perhaps the best I've seen yet, but season 11 definitely had its merits. Curious? You can check it out here.

Yup, that's been about it... that and work, of course. (It's going well, BTW.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Penny Pinching

On first impression, I might not strike you as someone you'd call "frugal" - I have a fondness for scotch and cigars, drive a luxury car, enjoy travelling, etc. - but I'm something of a penny-pincher in other areas of my life, which helps to cover the defray the costs of Cuban robustos and single malt.

I'm always on the look-out for new ways to save money without making sacrifices. So, I'd like to share some of my cost-cutting strategies and would invite you to post yours, as well.

1.) Skype: Although I've only started using Skype recently, I'm absolutely hooked. The best feature by far is the $3/month dial-out service, which covers unlimited calls to anywhere in North America. Based on this, I've been able to trim back my Rogers cell phone plan by another $17, plus tax.

Savings: $15 per month x 12 months = $180, or the cost of a very fine dinner for two at AquaTerra.

2.) Insurance: When it comes to car insurance, I like my coverage low and my deductible high. Having a $2,000 deductible vice a $500 deductible saves between $200 and $500 per year - though I am careful to ensure that I do have liability coverage of at last $1M, which actually isn't that expensive.

I'm also careful to read through the cardholder agreement for credit cards, so I know whether they cover additional warranties, car rental insurance, travel insurance, and so on. I've saved at least $700 in hotel and restaurant costs as the result of travel insurance, alone.

Savings: $1,200 per year, or a week-long trip to Costa Rica during the low season.

3.) Rewards Points: I'm careful to compare the different Visa cards and the rewards they offer. When I switched to a RBC Avion card from the CIBC Aerogold*, they waived the annual fee and gave me 15,000 travel miles, or a free $350 plane ticket (tax incl). If I put on another $15,000 on my card over the year, that's $700 in free travel.

Savings: $700, or three boxes of Cuaba Exclusivos and a bottle of 16 y/o Lagavulin.

4.) Low-Cost Banking: All of my banking is either done at PC Financial (which has no fees) or with institutions where I have the minimum balance to avoid monthly fees. StatsCan says that the average Canadian spends $15 per month on bank fees, or $180 per year.

I also don't allow my credit cards to carry a balance. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - credit card debt is the financial equivalent of a sucking chest wound. It's nature's way of telling you to slow down. I don't even want to think about what average credit card debt is, but I've seen estimates of around $2200 per person, which sounds about right to me. That's around $400 per year, just in interest.

Savings: $580, or enough to purchase sufficient premium gasoline for 5,400 km in an SUV.

5.) Brown-bag Lunch: Before I worked from home, I was one of the few people in my office to bring a lunch with me. Even those who did bring a lunch usually brought some sort of frozen dinner. I'd estimate that the price difference between a cafeteria and a brown-bag lunch is around $6 per meal. It doesn't take long before that starts to ad up in a big way.

Savings: For an employee who eats at the cafeteria every day for 49 weeks a year, you're looking at an annual cost of $1470, or 80 pounds of gourmet, fair trade, shade-grown coffee.

Okay, your turn...

*For a while, I quite liked CIBC Aerogold - then Aeroplan waited four months to inform me that my reward flight had been cancelled, thereby causing me to lose my hotel deposit. When I confronted them about this, they told me to pound salt. When I explained my situation to RBC, they very kindly offered to waive my first annual fee and give me the points for joining.

My favorite part was when I cancelled the CIBC card and they - quite naturally - asked why. At the end of my tirade, all they could say was, "Oh, I see."

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Back in the Blogosphere

It's been a long time since I last wrote anything here. In fact, I probably wouldn't be writing anything right now had I not partaken in a comical ice-induced wipeout while leaving an elk farm, thereby negating my ability to exercise this afternoon. So, I'm going to blog instead.

This has been going around, so I figured it would be a good way to get back into the game...

Do you like blue cheese? Yes. I like it best crumbled atop a nice hunk of filet mignon, preferably with some particularly strong red wine.

Have you ever smoked? I have two humidors full of cigars, but I rarely smoke them any more. I do still enjoy a pipe on occasion. As for cigarettes - and I'm not proud to admit this - I have occasionally pretended to smoke them to facilitate hitting on smokers of the lady persuasion at bars. But I never inhaled.

Do you own a gun? If you mean, do I have a firearm that I have purchased for personal use? Then no. If you mean, is there an assault rifle under lock and key that has been assigned for my professional use, should the national security of Canada require it? Then yes.

What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite? Kool Aid is perhaps one of the last things I would every drink, somewhere between Clamato and a rain puddle with a fine layer of gasoline on top.

Do you get nervous before dentist appointments? Nope.

What do you think of hot dogs? Tasty, but it's hard to think of something worse that you could ingest into your body. The one exception would be the Buddha Dog in Picton, which does a mean gourmet hot dog (with a wide range of cheeses and sauces to choose from).

Favorite Christmas movie? Elf.

Favorite thing to drink in the morning? Francesco's Coffee, Guatemala French Roast, with proceeds going to my charity.

Can you do push ups? I don't think they let you become a Sergeant in the Forces without doing your share of push ups.

What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My grandfather's watch - though I don't know if you could call it "jewelry".

Favorite hobby? Travelling. I like planning the trip, exploring the country, taking photos, writing about it... all of that.

Do you have ADD? I usually have pretty good focus. Not all the time, but usually. When I am distracted, it's because of my tendency to procrastinate, rather than ADD.

What's one trait you hate about yourself? My tendency to procrastinate.

Middle name? John.

Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
1. Why did I slip on that ice? The guy even warned me on my way out the door. I'm going to have a wicked bruise.
I'm hungry. I should go have some pita and hummus.
3. The damned cats better stay away from the flowers.

Name 3 drinks you regularly drink. Coffee, Water, Wine.

Current worry? The usual - that some lunatic will attempt to take out the school, our Director, our students, or some combination thereof.

Current hate right now? Said lunatics. Though, to be honest, it's more of a pity than a hate.

Favorite place to be? Floating in an innertube at the lake, beer in one hand and cigar in the other.

How did you bring in the new year? At the condo, celebrating with a few good friends.

Where would you like to go? Andrea and I are putting together an around-the-world trip for next year.

Name three people who will complete this. No idea.

Do you own slippers? Not really necessary.

What shirt are you wearing? My favourite golf shirt - the blue one I picked up at Barba Roja in Costa Rica. It has a picture of a Jolly Roger with a red beard and a pipe.

Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? I wouldn't mind it, but I prefer cotton.

Can you whistle? Kind of.

Favorite color? Dark green.

Would you be a pirate? Not so much a pirate, more of a privateer sailing under a letter of marque. It has all the romance of being a pirate, but I'd still have the sense of serving some sort of grander purpose. (Clearly, I haven't given this any thought at all...)

What songs do you sing in the shower? You know... a little Ludacris, every now and then.

Favorite girl's name: I really haven't given this any thought.

Favorite boy's name: Same. But I would like to see my Grandfather's name (Kenneth) continue on.

What's in your pocket right now? Nothing.

Last thing that made you laugh? This is actually a little embarassing -

What vehicle do you drive? A 1999 Mercedes-Benz ML430 SUV. It's about as politically correct as punching an orphan in the kidneys.

Worst injury you've ever had? 3rd degree ankle sprain I suffered during basic. It was pretty nasty.

Do you love where you live? I love our condo, but I wish Ottawa was a bit more lively.

How many TVs do you have in your house? One. That's enough.

Who is your loudest friend? I think I have to give this to a collective - my immediate family. Whenever we get together, we always try and talk over one another, gradually increasing the volume as we go.

Do you have any pets? Two cats - Whiskey and Socrates (a.k.a. Socks)

Does someone have a crush on you? No idea.

Your favourite book? Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein.

Do you collect anything? I like picking up entertaining golf shirts when I travel.

Favorite Sports Team? The Team Canada Hockey Team. Otherwise, the Calgary Flames - but I'm not a huge sports guy.

What song do you want played at your funeral? Troublemaker by Weezer.

Friday, December 05, 2008

No Words Required


Monday, November 24, 2008

What's your sign?

This was in the horoscopes for today (emphasis mine):

"The starry vault is delivering an encouraging message. The power of Uranus is reaching a crescendo. It suggests the chance to wipe the slate clean and start again in an area of life where lately things have become both too complicated and stale."


Sigh. I'm about 6 years old.


Thursday, November 06, 2008


I'm looking to expand my musical horizons. I consider many of the regular readers of this blog to have excellent taste in music, so I'd like to ask for suggestions. What new (or old) albums should I pick up?

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