Sunday, March 29, 2009

Starbucks: One of Everything Please

This is what it looks like if you ask for "one of everything" from the pastry case at Starbucks, cut it into quarters, and distribute those quarters evenly among four plates:

Last year I worked for a bank downtown on a summer internship. My coworkers took a morning coffee break at Starbucks almost like clockwork, and I usually went along, buying something from the pastry case instead of a beverage. Each day I ordered something different, slowly making my way through the entire product offering. As part of my dedicated research, I noticed that the cinnamon rolls are subject to variable pricing -- rising or falling within a band of about 60 cents based on some unknown economic variable. I also decided that the rice crispy square is the best value for money and the pumpkin scone is dry, dry, dry.

Somewhere along the way, coworker TK and I suggested that it would be funny to ask for one of everything. We decided to carry out this little plan on my last day on the job. With an extension of my work term from August to December, that final day took place on 17 December.

Just as expected, the staff were completely unprepared for such a request, and they spent considerable time packing each pastry into a little bag and then putting those little bags into several larger bags. It is worthy of note that the purchase was exempt from the 5% Goods & Services Tax (GST) because it numbered more than 6 items and counted as a food staple rather than a snack.

We divided our spoils equally among the four participants, with the challenge to be the first one to finish a plate. Two who were less committed to pastry-eating dropped out almost immediately, sharing their plates with the rest of the office, while TK and I stuck it out to the bittersweet end.

My hat goes off to TK, who finished his off in short order. I credit his marathon training schedule and high metabolic rates. My downfall was the mistake of eating the more attractive morsels first, leaving the heavy granola and bran until the end when I was losing steam.

Note: I have lost 10 pounds since the end of December.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Winner From the Cell Phone Archives

I spotted this sweet ride up for sale on the road near our house. Based on the design, I have identified it as a 1980-81 Lincoln Continental. I originally snapped the picture to send to a friend of mine, whose Queen-Maryesque white Cadillac was written off after getting scraped up in an accident. His old Caddy could seat 18 scouts with room for gear when camping, and could cross the Atlantic in 7 days with a crew of 9 plus 10 guests.

I was half tempted to inquire about the price, but I'm pretty sure you require your own gasoline franchise to keep it in service, and I could hardly afford the extra mooring fees right now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mall Racer

Some more photos from the mobile phone -- this time from September 2008:

When Scotty was just learning to walk he loved, loved, loved to push things around. Things like strollers, wagons, shopping carts -- everything. We thought this classic popper toy was the perfect fit for him and his obsession. This product has been selling for nearly 50 years, virtually unchanged in its design.

We found it in Zellers for $17. They don't even bother with packaging (just a price sticker), so we turned it over to the man as soon as we left Zellers and started walking back through the mall. It was clear that most people thought it was cute to see this giddy popper-pushing imp coming past them. Some people were probably concerned for their safety, given his erratic driving.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Heart (Free) Excel Stuff

Does you heart quicken at the mention of spreadsheets? Do you have a t-shirt that says "I Heart Excel"? Well, I'm guilty on both counts, so I was ecstatic to hear from a guy at school about this webpage:

Free Excel Spreadsheets


(The guys in the picture my MBA class. We had these shirts made up to wear to the final exam for our "Decisision Modeling" course last year.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Snowmen & Stickies Here in Calgary

Just as snow accumulates on a rooftop or a patio table, the passing of the winter months leaves a stack of unpublished photos on my mobile phone. Some of these pictures are too good to leave untouched, so here they are. Despite the bitter cold, Scotty always desperately wanted to go play outside. These are a few of his adventures on the days when the wind chill was bearable.

This is Scotty's first snowman, which he made with his mom in the backyard in January. He has always enjoyed doing the actions to the snowman song, so he was quite excited to see a real snowman in action.

Actually, his actions to the snowman song were limited to the "small, small, small" part. He would start out kneeling in a little ball on the floor and never stand up for the "tall, tall, tall" part.

Scotty loves eating "Stickies" (marshmallows) with his "Baba" (Grandpa). He could probably eat a whole bag if he was left to his own devices.

Even in the winter time there were days warm enough to go outside, jump on the trampoline and roast marshmallows. Usually, as soon as we arrive at R's parents' place, he makes a bee-line for patio doors, calling out for Grandpa to come "jump".

About a week ago we went out for a walk together from Crescent Heights down across the Center Street Bridge. Scott loves any chance to stroll and feel independent. He was quite enthralled with the lions that stand guard over the bridge.

A good shot of the iconic Calgary Tower framed in the archway:

This particular trip was capped off by a visit to Peter's Drive-in for burgers, shakes and fries. Currently, I prefer a strawberry-oreo combination, but in the past my favourite was chocolate-butterscotch-marshmallow. I think Scott would approve of any beverage that had a "sticky" in it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trains and Trucks a la Toque

I found these February photos on one of the scout cameras and thought they deserved to posted. I think I came back from a scout winter camp and Scott was enthralled with all the gear I dumped in the living room -- including a camping plate and a big black toque.
Trains or trucks, anyone?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Do Rental Car Tire Swaps Ever Happen?

Here's question that I've been wondering about lately. It's kind of an odd idea, but I'm chock-full of odd ideas (but most are not so diabolical).

Suppose Hank owned a Pontiac G6 sedan, but he did a lot of driving and he had worn out the tires. Suppose that Hank decided that rather than buying new replacement tires for his Pontiac G6, he would rent a similar Pontiac G6 for $24.99 / day at the the Airport Budget Car Rental, and then swap the tires from the rental car onto his own car. Buying a new set of tires can easily cost $500 or more, so Hank would benefit at the expense of the rental agency, which may or may not be very vigilant about examining the tire wear upon return of the vehicle.

I'm not proposing that anyone go out and commit this crime. Rather, I wonder if there is anyone out there who has worked in the industry (ie: BigJonnyG) who could tell me whether this type of thing is very prevalent. If I came up with it, someone else must have tried it before. So, how about it? Anybody know? I did a quick internet search on the subject and only came up with information about wheels stolen outright, but not swapped.


Eric said...
Maybe you could start a "tire business" where you replace people's tires for half price! You'd make a fortune, but would have to convince them to leave their car for the day... or at least several hours if you really get the system down. :)

Allyson said...
What a criminal mind you could have!

Tara said...
That's a pretty clever idea. I hope we get some answers. I'm very curious now.

Grandma Walters said...
Derek, why don't you cuddle up with that cute son of your and go to sleep instead of dreaming up such wild ideas (not to say CRIMINAL) ones!

margo said...
D I wonder about you sometimes....but is IS an interesting question.

BigJonnyG said...
Ah yes.. the good old questions that bring up the long since forgotten memories of the past... How I wish I knew the answer to such a question.
Oh wait I do.
In my vast years of experience working for a particular rental agency whose name for their protection I will keep anonymous. If memory serves me correct which it does, they never ever checked tires. The typical length that a vehicle stays with a rental agency was typically 30,000km, once that number was reached the vehciles then proceed to an auction where they are auctioned off.
Now the question remains, can a vehicle with under 30,000 km really ever need new tires....?
And would the rental agency be savvy enough to catch such a ploy... well my guess would be no. But I would suggest you seek out legal council before moving ahead with your villainous thought. Which I do feel is a pretty good one.
While you're at it, if you happen to see a Ford Festiva for rent anywhere let me know, maybe I could rent one, and get the speedometer cable my old car is needing :)
I hope this helps you in your quest to cute back on your expenses during these tough economic times

BigJonnyG said...
Just as a side note, I do remember working for a car dealership, where we often found honda civics jacked up on cement blocks with there tires and rims stolen, perhaps another even cheaper avenue for your would be to simply test drive the vehicle which tires match your own, and then simply do a little swap a roo at perhaps a car wash location, where your wife could be waiting with your current car jacked up and ready to go.
Just a thought, but it would save you from actually having to pay a rental company, when really you could get the tires and rims for free....
Because really a car sales man typically never goes on the test drive, and they certainly dont ever check the tires when they come back.
And the paper trail to find you would be much harder for them to follow as they dont track who is driving what cars...
Well Good luck!

D said...
I just want to clarify something:
This is not an avenue that I am considering. My mind simply wandered one time and the concept occured to me. Less sophisticated ploys have formed the basis for police dramas that show on network TV, and the screenwriters for those shows are hardly criminals. Perhaps I will write my own cop drama around this concept.
Consider this part of a literary exercise, rather than criminal scheming.

D said...
Oh, and i don't drive a Pontiac G6 either. This is all purely hypothetical. My name isn't even Hank.

BigJonnyG said...
Dont worry, i know your name isnt hank, and I do recal seeing you driving a Jeep Liberty at our last encounter at the airport a few weeks ago. So I can personally attest to the fact that you do not posses a G6.
My thoughts on a TV drama, it would work but there would have to be a dead body in the trunk or something.. otherwise the only stations that would pick it up would be canadian :)

David and Cheryl said...
Wow D, this is really turning into quite a discussion. It seems that if you need "something" taken care of this Blog would be the place to come.
So you solved the tire dilemna, now what about a pesky do you take care of that? I think it becomes a bit trickier trying to swap a neighbor with out anyone knowing, and for that matter what do you swap or replace the neighbor with?

BigJonnyG said...
That reminds me dont you have a older brother... well call him BigHank that owns a tire store in the US.... would this older brother BigHank perhaps own a G6...? Just wondering :P

D said...
Yeah, BigHank has been my source for inexpensive replacement tires, so I haven't needed "alternate" strategies.
Given his experience in the Marines, I think I could recommend BigHank to solve the pesky neighbour problems. He already has experience dealing with pesky rabbit problems at my cousin's place. Neighbours can't be much different.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Air Traffic Observers

Sometimes you just have to get out of the house.

I mean, sometimes you have to get out of the house because it's either that or hide in the bedroom for several hours, trying to keep a toddler quiet.

That's the way it is after class once a week when R teaches singing lessons at our house. We've moved the piano into Scott's room now, but it used to be in the living room, so Scott and I used to have to hide in one of the bedrooms until the lessons were over. After a few afternoons of that I decided we needed to get out and do something instead of playing with the speed chain for the ceiling fan.

Sometimes we go to Chapters to play with the trains in the toy section. Sometimes we ride an actual train (like yesterday), and sometimes we read library books about trains (also yesterday). And sometimes we don't do anything with trains.

We look at planes instead.

Well, planes and helicopters.

There's a really good spot next the Calgary Airport where you can stop in the parking lot of FedEx or DHL or some courier like that and watch the planes take off and land fairly close up.

Being in the courier parking lot gives you the added entertainment of watching the Purolator trucks going in and out while you are waiting for the planes.

Scott loves a good truck about as much as anything, so he was fairly enthralled at the surroundings.

It's too bad it was kind of cold day, so we couldn't stay terribly long. I think we'll need to back again sometime when it's warmer.

I surprised to find that we weren't the only ones that day. Friend and fellow blogger BigJohnnyG was there with his daughter. I promised to give him a mention here.

Trains: Riding and Reading

Riding Calgary's C-Train from Dalhousie Station to the Louise Riley Library at North Hill Mall (video version at the end of the post):

"Look Dad! There's a train down there!"

"Hey, let's get on the train!"

"Whoa! This is crazy! I'm on a train! I really dig trains."

"This is a really good book about trains.
...and this stool is pretty sweet too."

Here's the video version:


Allyson said...
So cute! He really takes his train riding seriously -- I loved the furrowed brow.

Kage said...
I didn't know they had books in Canada.

Kage said...
just kidding.
way cute are a good Dad for taking Scott to see what is obviously one of his favorite things...

El Dubya said...
Scott's giant now! He looks like he's commuting to work.

Marc said...
I am always amazed at both your creativity with Scotty and getting the ideas done with pics and videos. What a great record for your family. I hope you are getting a copy of all of this in your own recoverable media.
-Senior Patriarch Citizen mw

Tara said...
Oh my he is huge! He looks like a real person now, and such a cross between you and R. Find of freaks me out.

Grandma Walters said...
Talk about wide-eyed-wonder at new experiences!!!