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.

Thursday, January 05, 2017


I can't seem to put myself to sleep at night, so I sleep in a bit later than I would normally would at home. However, it doesn't really matter, because I can get to work in less than 10 minutes, and a good portion of that is riding the elevators on each end.

My breakfast is an English muffin with cream cheese and some orange juice that I drink from the jug because I couldn't be bothered to wash a glass afterwards. It's just me in this place, after all. I also chop up some veggies to take to work for a snack.

The work day is another busy one. This time I go home for a dinner break. I make pesto cheese tortellini and a kale smoothie. I eat the tortellini out of the pot but this seems a bit ridiculous so I decide I will use a bowl next time. The Raptors game is on TV. It is a home game so that means they are playing just 1 block away to the east. They are playing against Utah and they are trailing at halftime when I finish eating. While they break for half, I pull the tights on and I run a 4.5 km loop to the office to finish off a few more things. It is cold and windy tonight so I have my face covered like a ninja with a neck tube. It is camoflage. Maybe that is why a guy calls out to me "That's a great pace there, soldier!". I say thanks.

I pick up the 4th quarter of the game while I work in the office. Utah has held a lead on the Raptors the whole game, but somehow the Raptors pull ahead with a few minutes left and hang on for the win. Great finish.

When I hear from the family the news isn't quite as good. R had been over to pick up the kids from some friends and when she backed out of the driveway there, she backed into a car that had just pulled out of another driveway 2 houses down. She was just sick about it, especially since she was worried about getting back to the house by 7pm to have some people come and look at the house to possibly rent it. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and the damage will all be covered by insurance. Still, I am sure R could have done without the heartache. I looked up the process to report it to the police and told her what she would need to do. I would take care of the insurance part for her.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Big Ships Need Tugboats

Wednesday, Jan 4, 2016
When I wake up I can see the lake, but it is a bit cloudy and there isn't much of a sunrise. The bedroom window faces south and I am on the 25th floor, and I have partial views of the lake between buildings. There is one new building going up 2 blocks to the south, otherwise I would have a great view of things.

You have to decide what balance you want between privacy and a view of the outside world. Off to the south there aren't many residential buildings, so it feels fairly private with the blinds pulled back. The exterior wall is curved, so the other bedroom faces more to the east, and there is another condo quite close. I see people in those other units doing things, but whatever they are doing isn't so interesting that I feel like watching. Back in Calgary we keep our blinds open in the kitchen most of the time, but the neighbours across the pathway behind us mostly keep their blinds closed, so it is a pretty good arrangement for us.

It is a busy day in the office because we are short-staffed, and by the late afternoon I am ready for it to be done. Back before Christmas I had been filling in on one project and I made a mistake that now required some fixing. Plus there are 2 more projects that are coming down the pipe and we are busy with those. Gareth wants to go bike riding at 6:30pm but I am on a client conference call until 7pm, so that doesn't work out. It wasn't raining this time. It will probably be raining the next time I go. It has rained on me almost every time I have been out riding here.

I finally do break away and I arrange with Gareth to hit Ali Baba's for shawarmas. It is 2.2 km away so I pull on my running stuff and jog over there. The shawarmas are good and cheap. It's only $6.50 and it comes with a free drink. Afterwards, he hops back on his bike and I run a different way home, making a 5km loop, ending up at the grocery store across the street. I will finally have food in the apartment, but I won't need to cook tonight. I mostly get healthy stuff for simple meals, plus I snap up some chocolate-covered pretzels rolled in candy cane crumbs -- they were on clearance in the Christmas section.

I have 5 bags of groceries but it is a short trip across the street to the apartment. However, there are 3 fire engines outside the building, and it there is a wait to get on the elevator to go upstairs. That is a bad thing. I suppose it is a good thing that my place isn't actually on fire though. While waiting for the elevator a lady tells me that she is an owner in this building (which is a little more than a year old) and she can't wait to move out to another place down the street because this place keeps having issues with the fire alarms. I don't know what to say, but it reminds me of a time in Ottawa when R and I had to stand outside in the cold in the middle of the night because of a fire alarm in our apartment building. I don't want to have to do that very often.

I get upstairs and get a call from the family while I am putting the food away. R reads the scriptures and I say the prayer. Afterwards, I read books with Katie. We have matching copies of "The Little House on the Prairie" that we usually read together, but she needs to read something for school, so she reads to me. I learn that big ships need tugboats. Katie does really well reading, but occasionally he has to spell the words out for me to help her. I notice the ones she needs help with are usually things with multiple vowels put together to make a different sound. She needed help with "boat", "tugboat" and "out" maybe a few others. She did great though. My little tugboat.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


Tuesday, Jan 3, 2016
The kids are back to school today and I am working from home so I can see them off. First, help Scott get ready and watch with him for his car pool to come pick him up. He has his blue and orange toque on and the blue winter jacket that we bought him from MEC. He has red and white Nikes that look bit like the original Jordans that he never unties, so he has to spend a minute or two each time, working his feet into them. I ask him if he should be wearing his boots to school, since it is -20C and there is snow on the ground. He says no, since it is going to be a "blue day" at school (they will stay inside during the breaks). I get down on my knees for a long good-bye hug. He is my good buddy and I am going to miss him. And then his car pool pulls up and he says goodbye. There is a hint of sadness in it, but he still gives me a big smile.

A little while later I take Katie to her bus stop. There is only one other kid that catches the bus at her stop, but they usually drive right to the school on blue days so it just Katie and I at the stop this morning. We park the car around the corner and then we wait in the bus shelter. She has her snowpants on and her puffy purple coat under her overloaded backpack, so she looks twice as wide but just as short. It's very cute. When I see the bus a long ways off I crouch down to get a good hug from her. I feel fortunate that I got to take her to the bus stop today. It seems like a good way to say goodbye.

I still had some packing to do that I put off in favour of movies and swimming, but then work got in the way again. We have bbeen working through the holidays on a big transaction and pretty much everybody on the team is on vacation so nobody can quite get away from work. Finally it is getting close to panic for me, but I get the final bits of work handed off and I finish off packing with a bit of time to spare. I am able to take 5 extra minutes and put all the camping stuff away. I had been looking for a pocketknife on Sunday so that we could use a corkscrew just for fun (leftover from NYE), and had ended up pulling out essentially every bit of camping gear in the search.

R takes me to the airport and now it is our turn to say goodbye. Everyone feels the stress of the changes we are going through, but R takes the brunt of it. She is wonderful. I ask her if I should stop crushing her beautiful curls with my hugs, since she just finished doing her hair. She laughs. She always laughs. So great.

The flight is uneventful. I have 3 duffle bags that bring as checked baggage, plus 2 carry-ons. This is what it is like when you move by airplane, I suppose. At the Toronto baggage claim a boy about Scott's age stares while I pull a folding luggage dolly out of one of the duffles and then stack them all on the dolly and wheel it away.

"What do you think?" I say to him. "Do you think it will work?" He exclaims, "That's cool!" I wheel the whole caravan off to the train and soon I am at my new apartment, a block away from the train station in downtown Toronto. It turns out that I got a free upgrade to a 2-bedroom place because the other one I was supposed to be in wasn't available. Shortly after I get the tour, my cycling buddy Gareth J shows up at the building with yet another piece of luggage. He brought a suitcase full of dress shirts and pants for me. It is a good thing that there is an extra bedroom because one small closet wasn't really going to be enough for all this stuff.

Gareth and I get subs together because it's nearly 10pm and hardly anything is open. He had been out cycling all evening (weather was 4C and raining) so he is also famished. While we eat we watch the Raptors get smoked by Memphis on TV at the apartment because Quiznos was closing.

He heads back to his hotel to call his family and I connect with the family back home to give them a video tour of the apartment. The kids are quite impressed with the cabinet-style fridge, freezer and dishwasher that hide away behind wood panels. They laugh at how small the oven is, since it looks to be the same size as the microwave.

I feel hungry for maybe one more snack, but there is no food in the place yet except for an extra orange juice I bought from Quiznos. I drink some of that and I am ready for bed.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Public Swim Without the Public

Since New Year's Day was a Sunday, Monday is a day off (at least it is in principle). For the kids it is the last day of vacation before school starts up again and my last full day in town before I head off to Toronto. The to-do list is long, but I feel a strong need to spend time with the family before time runs out.

I had planned to spend much of the morning packing, but instead I get pulled into doing some work for the office. I can tell Katie is getting a bit sick of me sitting at the kitchen table staring at a computer, but she is excited when we come up with a plan for the day. This afternoon she can have a play-date at Evie's house while the rest of us go see the new Star Wars: Rogue One movie, and then I will take the kids swimming after dinner. Katie says that she would like to see the movie when it comes out on video and she can watch it at home.

We order reserved seats for the 3:30pm show, and we think about calling some family to see if anyone wants to come, but it's pretty last minute so we just go ahead. The show turns out to be really great, and when the lights come up we find out we were only 2 seats away from R's sister and our niece and nephew. What are the chances? Scott is a bit jealous that they got pop and he didn't.

Time is a bit tight to get off to public swimming at 6:45pm, so we grab Wendy's on our way to pick up Katie. The kids much prefer the toys from McDonald's happy meals, but R much prefers the gluten-free selections available at Wendy's. As it turns out, Katie gets a duplicate toy to the one she got last week when we did our road trip to Idaho. She is a bit sad about that, but she bounces back pretty fast, especially since we are in a hurry to go swimming, which was her idea.

As we sit at the table I get a little choked up inside, since I will be missing these family meals for the next few months. Even though we are scarfing burgers out of paper bags, I savour the moment. I am going to miss this.

Katie had said to me the previous day that she wanted me to take her swimming before I left. Honestly, if that is the only thing she wants, why shouldn't we do it? We had considered going to the pool in Cochrane, but Scott recently went ot Shouldice Pool for a cub scout activity and really wanted to do the diving boards again. Sounds like a great idea, plus I still have some pre-paid credits for that pool from when I was triathlon training a few years ago.

We show up at the pool and I worry that it might be closed, since there are 3 cars in the lot and I can see through the window that the pool water hasn't got a ripple in it. But I had looked up the hours online and it specifically said that there would be public swimming tonight.

As it turns out, the pool is open, but there are only 3 guys hanging out on the side of the dive tank, plus 2 lifeguards running the place. Maybe there is one more person in the steam room, but that's it. We have the main pool all to ourselves for swinging on ropes, playing on a floating hippo mat and a green duckie mat. We have all 6 diving rings. The kids show me how they can swim the length of the 25m pool. They do great. Katie is absolutely adorable. She can swim the whole way if she stays on her back. She alternates between an expression of concentration and a smile of delight. Scott moves everywhere wtih comfortable confidence. I climb up on the hippo mat and Katie pulls me around the deep end.

Eventually we take our turn in the dive tank while the other guys go play with a ball in the main pool. Scott shows Katie how to bounce off the diving board and she gives it a try. The diving board doesn't move when she leaps off of it but she gets great distance out of her jump and she immediately scrambles out to do it again. After a few rounds on the little board Scott jumps off the high board. Katie doesn't hesitate to follow, and it seems Scott and I are more concerned about her than she is. She does fine, but she prefers the little board. I think she got a lot of water up her nose on the high board.

Finally, we hit the steam room. The kids have never been in one. I love introducing them to things. It is so fun. We hit the button to turn on the steam cycle and the kids seem like they can't handle it trying to breathe in there. But just when I think they've had enough and we start to leave they tell me that they want to hit the steam room one more time. Apparently they love it. We are running a bit late getting out of the pool when Scott suggests we get donuts. I say, "Donuts? Where are we supposed to get donuts?" He says "Safeway" and I realize that there actually is a Safeway just down the street, and donuts are 50% there after 7pm. That sounds like a great plan for last night with Dad. We get the donuts and we are on our way home to find that Mom has shovelled the driveway while we have been gone. Poor lady. She didn't want to get cold in the pool, so she went outside in the snow instead.

All in all, a great last day at home with the family.