Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Online Hot Chocolate Tutorial

Tonight I was stuck in the office until late working on a project, so we had our evening video chat from my desk. Since everyone had cleared out of the office by then, I had the run of the place and I showed the kids how the automatic coffee machine can make a cup of hot chocolate. I also showed them what my desk looks like and the view of the CN tower out the window. Scott says "ooh" quite a bit when I show them stuff. Katie doesn't say much. She either hangs out in the background or she hold up a stuffie to block most of the view.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Here is the string of text messages between R and me this afternoon:

R: About to go into the autobody shop. You didn't mention anything about our spare tire cover to these guys, did you? (I punched a hole in the spare tire cover 2 summers ago when the boat trailer jumped off the hitch while I was driving.)

D: No.

R: Ok.
Finished. They will be in touch. I just asked out of curiousity how much the tire cover would cost. The guys said about $900 for a new one. Scott is home at the moment. We think he ate too much pizza and crazy bread last night. Felt sick right after and tummy still bothers him. Hope that's all it is.

D: Every day something unexpected.

R: Yup. Katie woke up at 4am having a nightmare. I guess she fell off a cliff in her dreams. Feeling a bit tired. Could be worse though.

D: I had a dream that investment bankers had kidnapped Katie.

R: Whoa. Not like you to have bad dreams. That would be so sad. So investment bankers are bad guys in your mind?

D: I saved her in the end.

R: Of course you did. Scott wants to know how.

D: The bankers were a mix between the guys I know in Calgary and my old roommates. Kind of like a cruel prank more than anything. But I don't remember exactly how.

R: Let's all hope for better dreams tonight.

D: Mine was a few days ago. During the fire alarm. All good since then.

R: That makes more sense. Hey have you contacted Travis yet? Don't want you to miss him.

D: Just did now. Thanks.

R: Nice. Cross one more thing off. It's soooooo cold here. I think we finally get some relief tomorrow.

D: Pirates of Penzance just finished playing here and I missed it!

R: So sad. That would be a good one. Is your Raptors game tonight? Will you be busy at bedtime: I guess I should stop bugging you and let you work.

D: Ball is tonight. Should be home on time. Travis is coming next week.

R: Nice.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Running Across an Abandoned Railway High Bridge in the Dark

I was standing in the jammed boardroom with 80+ coworkers for the weekly Monday morning conference call and I had to choose between 1) making an awkward mid-meeting departure through the crowd; or 2) possible fainting or throwing up from overheating.

As per usual, I slept in later than I should have so I made up for it by jogging the 3 blocks to work in my suit and tie. I made it just as people were gathering for the first morning meeting of the new year, and I moved through the throng at the doorway to find a spot in one of the corners. As the meeting went on, I found that I was unable to cool down from the jog. I unbuttoned the cuffs of my shirt. I shifted positions, but I was starting to lose it. Finally, I had to pull the chute. This was my first time attending this meeting and bouncing my face off the corner of the table in a faint was not the first impression I wanted to make.

Once out the door I immediately shucked my suit jacket and grabbed a cold can of ginger ale from the pop machine, holding it against my face to try to cool down. Before long I was feeling much better. When the rest of the team came in from the meeting they were buzzing about the young female Associate who had fainted in the meeting. Apparently, everyone was feeling the heat in there. Poor girl. I am sure that is not the reputation that she wants to have.

Finally everyone is back from vacation today, so some of the pressure is off for us. That's good because I have some more insurance arrangements to take care of today, plus a few phone calls with the moving company that is coming today to pick up my truck to ship it to Toronto by rail. It's been a bit of a concern because it has been really cold outside and we've had to leave the truck outside because the boat is now parked on our driveway, because a neighbour near Ross' new house didn't like it on Ross' driveway and complained to the city. R had to figure out how to get the truck out of the garage, and then she had to have Ross help her jump start it in the middle of the bitter cold. The hassle pays off and the truck is finally on its way. The moving company sends a guy out later in the afternoon to do an estimate on the moving cost. Poor R is also trying to paint the master bedroom and organize Katie's birthday party in the midst of all this. And she has to take the car to the autobody shop tomorrow for a quote.

It's a busy day but I am able to get back in time to meet Gareth J for a run. This time, the plan is to run 7.5 km up to Greektown to meet the Scarborough missionaries for dinner. One of them is Dalton M who was in our 17th ward young men's program where I was the YM President and Gareth was the Scout Leader. Elder M is serving in Toronto while he waits for his US visa to go to the Denver South mission. Turns out his companion is from just outside of Calgary too, so that's fun. This Greek place (Messina) means business. They bring out massive portions and everyone is stuffed, especially Elder M who orders the crazy meat platter that I tried when Gareth and I came here a few weeks ago. It's cool to see him now. When he was young he wouldn't say a word to anyone. Now he has figured out how to handle himself and is doing really well as a missionary.

We part ways and Gareth and I run off into the night. Rather than return back the way we came, along the Don River Pathway, we mix it up a bit. This takes us, well, essentially everywhere. We go across a huge bridge, then we drop down some sketchy wood stairs to the river, past what looks like a squatter's camp. We only stay down there for a bit before charging up a really icy path back to the top of the ridge. Up there we find a necropolis, a petting zoo, and a police cruiser. After a bit along we the ridge we end up back down at the river, exploring a path that had been blocked off when we came though earlier on the way to dinner. We end up following an unused rail line, which has weeds and bushes starting to grow across it. The tracks hug the side of the river valley and gradually work their way up the slope. On the map we see that we are supposed to intersect with a road, which we plan to follow back across the river, but when we get there, we find that we are way up above it, and these tracks turn into a train bridge high above the Don Valley Parkway. Always the instigator, I say we should run across it. It's a bit freaky, running down the middle of the tracks, looking down at 3-4 inch gaps between the ties beneath our feet. Gareth takes it pretty easy. I take a lot of pictures.

On the other side the tracks continue off through the woods but we still want to get down to the river. We head down the steep slop below the bridge, past yet another squatter's camp, down to the old brickworks, which is apparently now a trendy outdoor market or something. There's nobody there on a January evening, but there's hardly anyone in any of the places we go. We head off down the iciest pathway yet, finally finding our way onto a dry pathway that takes us back towards downtown. Gareth says that he is done running and doesn't want any more detours, as the heavy Greek meal was giving him a bad cramp. When we finally get back, we have logged 21 km for the evening. It is possible that we have burned off all the calories, but that is only because we didn't get the meat platter.

When I talk to the family they say that they are doing their best to come up with meals that they can make without using the oven, as it is on the fritz yet again. When it rains, it pours.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Good Old Riverside Ward

I set the alarm to wake up at 8am to have lots of time to get to 9:30am church. I got up only long enough to set it for 15 minutes later. Then when it went off again I ignored it, because I knew that it would turn itself off after 1 minute. Then I slept much later than I should have.

When I finally got up at 9:00 it was going to be essentially impossible to make it on time, given the nearly 15-minute drive ahead of me, but I ended up only 10 minutes late. I was sad that I hadn't shown up early enough to chat with people before the meeting, but it worked out that I could chat in the hall with Shona, Dan and little Aggiepants while we waited for the sacrament to conclude, and then I got to sit with them for the meeting. Shona was very helpful in reminding me of people's names, as my memory was only slowly bringing the names back to my recollection. It has now been several hours but I finally just remembered Randy's last name while I have been sitting here typing.

Afterwards I got a selfie with Shona and Harrison that made me very happy (although maybe R would be sad not to be in it), and I got to chat with so many great people that meant so much to us while we lived there. Sadly, the ward has been split since we lived there and not everyone still goes to that ward. I told everyone that we are coming back again with the rest of the family soon.

Lunch with Darren's fam and then back to the train for the return trip. This place meant so much to me. I am so glad that I got to come back here. Moving to Toronto is going to be tough on us, but being within striking distance of Ottawa is one of the fringe benefits that is going to be amazing.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Back in O-Town For Risk Showdown

I needed to be at the train station by 6:40am. I woke up at 4:30am to the sound of the fire alarm. Fantastic.

Just yesterday I had been talking to some guys at work about the fire trucks that had been at my building a few nights ago. One guy who lives nearby said that he once saw the mezzanine level of this building on fire. Huge flames coming out the windows. That means that they aren't all false alarms. I stayed in bed all the same.

I figured that I shouldn't leave unless I took all my stuff with me, otherwise, I might not be able to get back inside in time to get my stuff for the train, and then that would be a huge mess. But I didn't feel like getting up, because I didn't want to kill time for 2 hours either. I just pulled my covers over my head and tried to sleep throught the racket.

A disembodied voice told me that the alarm was on the 6th floor and that the fire department was on the scene. Both of those things sounded good to me. I would stay on the 25th floor for now.

The alarm finally turned off by about 5:00am, but I couldn't go back to sleep. I kept thinking of things that I needed to do when I got up. Plus I worried that maybe I would sleep to long and miss my train, even though I had set 5 alarms on my phone. Eventually I gave up and got ready. I suppose it was a good thing, because I was able to have a good breakfast and take out the garbage and take care of a few other things.

I made it to the train well in advance and boarded without any trouble or fuss. I had the window seat, which was nice, although I was on the side facing north, so I didn't get all the great views of the lake and the St. Lawrence River. Instead, I saw the backside of buildings in the more unfavourable parts of several eastern Ontario towns.

The seats on the train have much more leg room that an airplane, which was much appreciated. Pretty much everything about the train was preferable to an airplane. You don't have to shut off your phone, or put away your tray table, or raise your seat to the upright position. The windows are huge, there's plenty of space in the overhead bin, and you can show up 10 minutes before your departure time because you don't have the hassle of check-in, security, baggage handling, or any of that. And then once you get on the train it cruises at 160 km/h (100 mph), which eats up the distance very quickly (I have a speedometer app on my phone which comes in very handy).

If you ride all the way to the main Via Rail station in Ottawa then the trip from Toronto is about 4hrs 40 min. It could be faster if you didn't have to stop and decouple the cars at Brockville so the rest of the train could head off toward Montreal. I got off the train one stop early at the Fallowfield Station SW of the city, so it was 20 minutes faster.

My friend Les W picked me up at the station and we got 2 huge shawarma platters on the way to Darren's place, where the troops were gathering for an epic game of Risk 2210. When we first moved to Ottawa we had a lot more spare time and I was able to play board games frequently with work friends when R was teaching in the evening. We loved playing Risk 2210, which was a variant of the traditional Risk board game. I haven't played it for years, but it worked out that Les had just taken a different job and was going to move away and I had just moved back out East so we could get together for a grand event.

Although more than 9 years had passed since I had last been in Ottawa, it felt so great to step back in time with old friends. The battle raged on for at least 4 hours, and in the end I came 4th out of 5, but it was still a great way to spend the day. Darren was able to dig the game out of his storage room and found it with all sorts of hilarious paraphenalia from those days, including 2 copies of a corporate poster that I had designed using a Risk 2210 theme, which ended up being selected and displayed around the building.

The hits continued after the game when another great friend / former-coworker showed up with his wife and daughter for dinner. He and I immediately devolved back to the inane antics and inside jokes of our years working together in the cubicles of room C521. He now works in the Privy Council Office, and it is really neat to see how each person's career has taken a different direction that seems to really suit them. Their daughter played with Darren's son, and they are all about the same age as Scott. Can't wait until we can all get together again when I can bring the whole fam.

I even went to bed at a reasonable hour, which was very welcome, given the unfortunate circumstances of my morning alarm.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Eating From a Bowl

Today was a decent day, even though I never actually got the chance to go downstairs and get lunch. Fortunately, I had another bag of vegetables to snack on and there were some cookies available. Hopefully, the two ends of the spectrum combine to create a healthy balance.

Spent a lot of time on the phone. There was a long client call (which wiped out lunch) and then I was on the phone with the insurance for quite a while about the car. It sounds like there will be a bit of inconvenience taking the car in to get it fixed, but it will all work out.

Cheese tortellini and smoothie again for dinner. This time I threw in some pre-cooked pieces of chicken. And I ate it out of a bowl. No Raptors game tonight. They play Saturday. I worked on getting my stuff ready for Saturday morning, planning to get to bed earlier. I got a new phone today, so that took up a fair chunk of time getting everything transferred. It will be nice to finally have reception at the office. My previous phone worked fine in Calgary but the network in Toronto can't handle the density of users in the core, so it basically conks out from 9-5 every day. It works if I go underground into the PATH concourse level, where there are different antennas and fewer people. The new phone should solve that problem.

R and the kids were at R's parents' place for dinner, which was nice for them. My first phone call was a test call to them. It works! Got off to bed by 11pm, which is a record for me this week.