Friday, December 31, 2010

Flying the friendly skies

Here we go again; this time sitting at the gate in the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport and wondering if New Year will be celebrated, as planned, in Halifax or if we'll ring in 2011 in a departures lounge somewhere on the east coast. Looking out of the window, the first thing that strikes you is the question "Who designed the Southwestern paint-job?". Red, purple *and*orange? Neither two of these colours go together, mcuh less all three. Yikes! It must have been the same people who did the Kona Jake The Snake paintjobs a few years back.

As a last guilty pleasure of the vacation, I just indulged at Dunkin' Donuts. I swear this is the first time I've Dunkin'd since post-docing for Steve Kaattari over a decade ago. Steve would always bring a box or two of Dunkin Donuts to lab meetings. Then again, lab meetings would start at 07:00 so as not to interfere with lab work so donuts were the least he could offer. In his defense, I understand Steve has calmed down *a lot* since those days.

Speaking of guilty pleasures, the cabs down here all have roof-mounted adverts that seem to sell, solely, strip-clubs or lawyers (imagine that in Halifax!). "Always cheap, always tacky" (or something similar) I read on one sign, but I forget if it was for a strip-club or a lawyer.

Now the donut is gone, I suppose the vacation is finished. Back to the quotidien grind of daily life. That I can deal with. However, I think the <30 degree (Celcius) temperature change between here and there might be harder to cope with! I hope I don't crack when I get off the plane.

See you at a run in Halifax this weekend; I'll be the one bundled up like Shackleton in the Antarctic for a mere 0C with flurries.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Woof woof, bacon, maple syrup and manatees

Well, I have never spent a Christmas quite like this one. Am currently down in Fort Lauderdale, FLA with la belle et ses parents. So that's a fully fracophone Christmas. This has had the effect (an advantage to some I'm sure) of shutting me up almost completely; my French isn't good enough yet to think and speak on my feet! I can keep up with simple conversations but by the time I've translated a sentence, come up with a suitable reply and translated that, the conversation is somewhere else completely. So my verbal contributions are effectively limited to "Oui", "Non", "Pamplemousse", "Toaster", "c'était écoeurant" (probably misspelled but my accent is atrocious anyway) and the ever popular "Oui, je vais prend une autre bière". After a couple of bières it gets better, especially if the Canadiens are playing. You'd be surprised how far you can get with "Carey Price, eh?"

This morning, Boxing Day, we were up at 5. Yup, five, 5, cinq. WTF? La Belle had entered us all in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Road Runners Resolution Run, an essentially pan-flat 5K in a State Park somewhere near the ocean. So, that was up as early as I do for the Bridgetown LC, in the car for 6 and registering for the race at 05:40. Except they got my registration wrong and couldn't find my dossard because they'd written my name as "Nacanay". That was a new one for me.

You know this guy? I don't.

La belle had been cautioning me all week that it was an untimed fun-run and "don't do a Matt Callaghan" viz; bomb around a Running Room 5K Santa Run, winning the thing by five minutes, for naught, and getting injured in the process. As you know, running any race intentionally slow is an anathama; why give me a bib-number if you don't expect me to use it, but I resolved myself to run at a reasonable pace, with the leaders if possible, and not to do a Rami, go cracking off the front and pissing off everyone else who's just out for a good time.

View from the start. There was a signing asking boaters to reduce their speed and watch for manatees; no wonder I felt at ease, being in the presence of other fat marine mammals.

This lasted until the start. A group of four, including a handy-looking Junior, slid off the front in the first few hundred metres and were tantalisingly within sight, only a few strides. So instead of talking it easy and falling back into the laughing group, I closed the gap. There's something of the dog-mentality in me, and many of us I suspect, in that we carry a compulsion to chase down runners (and cyclists and even swimmers). Woof woof!

A car-ornament spotted in the race car-park. Neat.

The guys in the front group were savvy to the idea of "work" and we started taking turns;, going to the front to keep the pace high, but not to intentionally drop people. Yet. It was unasked but expected. Soon, people were sliding of the back and by half-way it was down to myself and one other guy, an ex-pat Jamican called Courtney. We did for the age-groupers by one mile and the Junior a little after. Courtney said the Junior kid been good when he was 14, but had recently discovered girls and his form had subsequently suffered. Good for us.

So, sorry La Belle, I was off the front doing 3:30s (kms), or a 5:30 mile for the first one, but I was doing it in company and to be honest he started it.

I had a crack at the win with what I thought was 200m to go, but what I thought was the 3 mile clock was actually the 1 mile clock (the race was 1 and a half loops) and even though I dropped Courtney I'd gone too early and he was coming back. I let him come back thinking I might, might mind you, recover enough to be able to cover his kick but who am I kidding? I'm a slightly overweight age-grouper on the wrong side of 40 and when Courtney went, all I could do was wave goodbye, bonne chance et bon voyage. I still got second, 17:30 something and it might have been a tad over 5K too.

My warm-down was longer than the race!

There were no prizes, but the GFLRRR set up a table with all the unclaimed prizes from their races, first come first served. I have to say, they have way cool prizes. I was there pretty early and secured 3rd Senior Masters Lady from the 2009 Spookactular 5K. Score!

After that we debouched to brunch. On first sight, the Club Tropical seems pretty run down, kinda closed off and possibly a mafia front (I've read Donnie Brasco). But all the cars outside had "Je me souviens" on the license plates; it's run by expat Quebecois and on Sunday they offer a Canadian brunch, which is essentially plus du bacon avec sirop d'érable et cretons. Done. I'm sold. So two plates full of cured pork-products and home-fries later (there was fruit, but why? There was bacon!), I'd recovered from a ca. 600 calorie run with a 1000 calorie breakfast. Double-score!

As well as offering two chronic diseases in one (atherosclerosis and diabetes) they also have shows with Quebec artists who are playing the snowbird circuit. I wonder if it's the unofficial social centre of the francophone community in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area?

Seeing as we'd dispensed with a race, a run and a slap-up breakfast by noon, we killed time in the afternoon by going for a walk on Hollywood Beach. It was cold by Florida standards, 15C, and people were, I kid you not, wearing coats, tuques and scarves. At the race I saw one guy in tights, long-sleeved technical mid-layer and gloves! It was 18C! Anyway, seeing as it was "freezing" the beach was deserted, and it had a bit of a tropical island feel; white sand, blue, blue ocean and palm trees


I have to say, Christmas decorations look a bit silly in such an environment!

Oh well, compared to what's meterologically on offer in Nova Scotia or the UK, it's a breeze. I feel kinda guilty I'm not sharing in the collective misery, but I'm sure Mother Nature will have saved some for me when I get back!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Signing off

Here we go, sitting in the departures lounge at YHZ. So far, so good; everything seems on-time, reducing the probability of spending Christmas in a terminal lounge, but there are many miles to go yet.

Heading off into, among other things, a bit of a communications blackspot. Probably a good thing, to go off-line a little. I mean, how important can those Nigerian 404 emails really be? They can wait until I get back. Looks like I'll get a chance to read words printed on real paper, and maybe catch up with my podcasts. Should that sound Luddite-ish, just remember, constant information bombardment isn't communication. Less quantity, more quality.

See you in the new year


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The law of unintended consequences

Double capp from Java Blend on North. The barrista apologised for her latte art but I told her not to worry as a) who amongst us could do better (Zane, you're forbidden from answering that one) b) it still looked cute, like a little Christmas tree escaping from a coffee-cup (or maybe a pac-man)! c) the coffee was warm and d) I was cold. You see, I headed out for a short ride in the rain and whilst my kit held up well, by the end there was that feeling of the cold dampness starting to finally soak it's way through all the seams. However, I do find that riding the rain is really quite nice, if you've got the kit for it; it's the cycling equivalent of lying in bed and listening to the rain against the windows.

I took the time to squeeze in the ride knowing it would be likely the last peace and quiet I would have on my terms for the next week or so. Beyond having to give it to the man viz a viz the NS Traffic Act, for an all too short time I didn't have to do as I was told (or tell people to do what they're told), I wasn't beholden to anyone, I could be lost in my thoughts.

My thoughts were contemplative. Partly it's the time of year for it, especially if you're not an extroverted, optimistic, social butterfly. Partly it's riding in the rain. Partly, it was the law of unintended consequences.

We are all familiar with this one. For example, in my sporting life, I have been called upon recently to uphold the new ban on compression socks and arm-warmers in triathlon. As a fashion maven I'm all for this, even if I've sinned with respect to the latter prohibition

In my defense it was a running singlet not a form-fitting triathlon crop-top, it was for racing only (I don't train like this; if it's cold enough for singlet and arm-warmers, it cold enough for a long-sleeved t-shirt) and being in Boston I thought I was far enough away from anyone I knew.

Clearly not.

Being hoist by one's own petard aside, simply saying "because I don't think it looks nice" is not a reasonable answer to an elite athlete when you strip them of their arm-warmers in the start-corral. The actual reason is the recent rule that bans clothing below the elbows and the knees. Meant (I believe) to ensure speedsuits are now illegal (along with "in a wet-suit illegal swim you should finish the run in what you swam in") it has had the unintended effect of banning these other two items. My question is, if compression socks are banned, how about ankle-high socks? They still are clearly located sous-genou.

Today the law of unintended consequences was in full effect; an unintended consequence of learning French is that the first verse of Ne me quitte pas by Jacques Brel became understandable. It sounds like a sad song, so to actually listen to it and find out he's trying to find out how to forget, well that's standard jilted-lover fare. A lifetime of The Smiths, Morrissey, The The and assorted other depressing indy British bands has inured me to such lyrics. So far so good, an intended consequence, surely.

What it hadn't prepared me for was the rest of the song. It ran away from me so I looked up the lyrics and was exposed to the full melancholic desolation of the piece as it descended through despondency, suffering and desperation to abject suffering. You know that bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy when Arthur is hooked up to "imagery intensifiers, rhythmic modulators, alliterative residulators and similie dumpers all designed to heighten the experience of the poem and make sure not a single nuance ... was lost"? It was like that, but minus the Vogons. By the time it got to "I will not leave, I will not cry, I will not speak, I will just hide here and watch you dance and smile, and listen to you sing and laugh" I was eyeing the cutlery draw for the easy way out. The English versions just don't do it justice. And this is a good thing.

I felt as though the emotional centre in me had been severly bludgeoned with a heavy, blunt object and was left reeling and concussed.

Talk about unintended!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Dan's Story

Big props to Daniel. who had his entry in CBC Mainstreet's "Young Canada Writes" contest read out on the radio last week. Each week, the writers (all U15) are given a list of words to use in an original composition of 250 words or less. Last week they were; anticipation, earmuffs, lurching, slivery and jiggled. He got 'em all in! Here is his entry in full;

It was the post-apocalyptic scenario all people fear: giant alien earmuffs with prehensile tongues! That is not all. They have domesticated krakens and used their awesome strength to destroy all prosperous societies they find. They were completely jiggling with anticipation when they found earth. It was perfect - what with there being only one sentient species. Better yet, having technology that was crude and senseless compared to theirs. They came to earth subtly but then exactly after 79 hours they attacked.

Humans, once thinking they were all powerful against all possible waves of deaths and eradication, were now being overthrown by the lurching mass of cyborg krakens. Their tentacles showing no mercy to the humans. Suddenly ninjas rained from the sky exploding upon impact with the ground. Then, from the ground silvery armoured knights jumped into the air, only to sprout wings and turn into flaming beasts of depression and sorrow. Just when the humans best efforts were fading away, an asphalt parking lot exploded and a green scaley beast with firey breath and laser vision came from the rubble. Its laser eyes burned through the human's strongholds. The sky turned red and giant lava geysers burst from the ground. The killer earmuffs were now more engaged in a great brawl between the monsters they created. Then, giant explosions of blue flames erupted everywhere. AAARRRGGGHHH!Run for your life Jimmy!!! JIMMY! JIMMMMYYYY!!!!!"

Huh?! What?! " I muttered. Oh - yes - it was just a dream. And now it is time to get ready for school.

Daniel Dacanay 10years old
Grade 5 (Ms Ryan) Southdale North Woodside Elementary

Kudos Dan.

Psychiatric assessments may be posted below or emailed to the usual address!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow and candles

Not a birthday 'spro, but a birthday capp. All the better to keep the cold at bay.

You see, after confidently telling a colleague in BC yesterday that "no, we have no snow, nor does there seem to any sign of same", it snowed. I had my mind set on a little ride, and I wasn't going to let 5 cm of snow get in the way, but neither did I have any wish to accidentally slide under a bus on fixed. Plan B it was; I chucked Old Bess on the back of Smarty and headed out to Shubie instead.

Ever noticed how your mountain-bike shoes leave monstrous tracks in the snow, and by monstrous I mean "like a large, clawed, hungry and undoubtedly carnivorous monster" monstrous. Talk about cryptozoology! Speaking of cryptozoology, I watched the beginning of a creation-science (now there's an oxymoron if there ever was one) video on Youtube recently about the co-existance of dinosaurs and humans. Crikey. Anyway, enough said about that the better.

So, ignoring the evidence before my eyes that I was being closely stalked by a bipedal, clawed creature, I set off into the woods down the Lake Charles trail.

I felt a bit unsteady for the first five or ten minutes because that tabernack of a front brake still isn't working quite right, but what the hell, brakes only slow you down anyway. The trail isn't technical anyway, so no dramas, I just sat back enjoyed the peace and quiet and the crunch of the tyres in the snow. Very Zen, very relaxing. Apart from nearly T-boning a dog that is!

As usual, Old Bess held up her end of the bargain and seemed pretty bombproof, front brake notwithstanding, after I settled down.

I noticed how the snow packed onto the rear wheel, giving my venerable MA2 a bit of a Deep-V vibe....

....and when the brakes on the car were applied, it had a bit of a pink Deep-V vibe to it!

Check out the snow-marks left by the helmet! Makes a change from getting tiger-stripe tan-lines across the top of my head!

After I finished I headed off the TIBS for the aforementioned capp and a bagel (the ride wasn't hard enough to justify a croissant)

However, I got one anyway, courtesy of Zane, complete with a candle

Thanks man, made my day


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bicycles, trainers, beans-on-toast, earworms and Scarlett Johanssen

If it gets any worse than this, then I'll have to get the trainer out early. Given that bike-riding is a pleasure and not a chore - something only to be endured between T1 and T2, I generally eschew the trainer for as long as possible. Nothing about it can possibly be any fun. I will admit that there's always a masochistic pleasure to be found in intervals, but a ride on the trainer lasting hours? Sure, you can sling on a DVD, several in fact, perhaps work through the season on Lost you missed this summer as you were always out training, but it can't, won't, recapture the sheer joy that is getting out on the roads.

Spotted in Cyclesmith last year; an over-the-handlebar remote control holder. Actually, I wonder if it's supposed to be a modern take on the handlebar mounted bottle-holder of yore?

Anyway, it works for remotes. This is when you know you've gone too far! But surely makes a handy seasonal gift for that special someone who spends all Saturday afternoon pedalling to nowhere like a demented hamster.

Music sometimes does the job better than film, so, what songs go through your head when you're slaving over a hot fly-wheel? Training rides are often referred to as chain gangs, so it has to be Back On the Chain Gang of course!

I guess the London skyline looks pretty much the same today. Nothing's missing as such; the Gherkin has been added, but really it's the South Bank that's undergone the Renaissance. Speaking of London, and the Pretenders, there are a whole bunch of Pretenders songs I associate with my short time riding with the Crest CC. I don't know why, but Don't Get Me Wrong gives me a memory flash of the Log Cabin cafe in Abridge where the Crest used to start some of their Sunday club runs; the others used to start at the Hobbs Cross Farm, but the Log Cabin had better beans-on-toast (and was fractionally closer to home!).

Speaking of beans-on-toast, cafes, milky tea and the Pretenders there is, of course, Brass In Pocket

Which was covered by Scarlett Johanssen in the Karaoke scene in Lost In Translation....

There is a catchy little number in Lost In Translation from Phoenix. I've been exposed to beaucoup de musique francais recently, but not Phoenix, who even though are French sing (thank goodness) in English. Anyway, Too Young is the Phoenix number in the background of Lost..... The video, inexplicably, takes place in a fish-packing plant! today's mental jukebox finishes off with Phoenix's Lisztomania cut to a montage of John Hughes films



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon

I wonder if John Lennon is my generation's JFK. Too young or too non-existant to remember where we were when the President was shot, perhaps we all remember where we were when John Lennon was.

I was at home, in Ilford. What I do remember is that we were doing the Christmas play the following evening at school and I would miss the BBC screening a Beatles' film in memorium. I forget which one, not Yellow Submarine (which I never really liked, even being a cartoon), so I'm thinking Hard Days Night or Help. Funny. Hey, I was only ten. It's only with time that I realised that what had been lost was more than an opportunity to see a movie on TV!

It probably affected my Dad more. Growing up our music was the Beatles, Elvis (I remember his death too), Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in their solo incarnations, and The Association. I'm going to guess he was more a Lennon fan than a McCartney fan; he would always say he was "born in 1941, the year after John Lennon" and tellingly not "the year before Paul McCartney".

Later, when I "inherited" my father's record collection (he's still with us) I found copies from all of these artists, including some old mono albums made of thick, thick, vinyl, from Elvis and the Beach Boys. It pains me I have lost track of those during the intervening years. One of the albums I found was 1975's Shaved Fish, a compilation of Lennon's solo work. I listened to this a lot as a teenager. I preferred Side#2, Imagine, Mind Games, Whatever Gets Your Through The Night, #9 Dream to Side#1; Give Peace A Chance, Cold Turkey, Instant Karma. What does that say about me? Or my dad? Or both of us?

I remember driving somewhere with my Dad when I was an undergrad; four-hours on the road, and listening to Abbey Road on 8-track! Yeah, he still had one in his car in 1990! The cassettes were Beatles, Association and the like! Man, what a trip!

As we have grown older, it is my brother who has had generated his own Beatles stories, contributing directly to the Beatles story as a graphic designer on the aughties re-releases'. Which is pretty damn cool.

Actually, I've been watching Across The Universe recently too, a musical set to Beatles songs. I know it sounds corny, but maybe listening to the Beatles on-and-0ff for my whole life makes it somewhat less so.

Gotta go now, need to get down to some serious listening...


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Simons, snow and running...

Life was back with a vengeance today. I hit the Sunday morning run at HRC for the first time in several months. It's always this way; run with the club on Sundays from December to May and then spend nearly every Sunday between May and December at the races. Not necessarily doing the races, it could be hanging out in a fluorescent vest but there none-the-less. I might get a couple of Sunday runs with the club in during the summer, but these are more likely to be races themselves.

Sundays are a different kettle of fish to the weekday evening runs I've been making fairly regularly. In the winter everyone, bar none, turns up as there is nowhere else to be. This morning was no exception.

There may have been upwards to 50 people down today, but I ended up in a fairly rarified group; Rami Bardessy, Greg Wiercorzek, Shawn Deleu, Shawn Beaton and Nick McBride. Not everyone was a marathoner however; the latter two race over shorter distances, albeit shorter distances quickly. Nevertheless, I was comfortably the slowest guy there (pick your distance). Oh well, what you going to do? It's only training with faster people that gets you faster.

The first 7kms were around Point Pleasant Park as Nick took us on a magical mystery tour of all the tracks and trails in the park he knew from cross-country. It was entertaining and even fun, but it seemed wicked fast. We left the park and did another 30 minutes through the south end and down to the Rotary. It seemed pedestrian, but after playing with Nick on his turf we were now playing with Rami and Greg on theirs. The pace was around 4 minute/k. No wonder it was so quiet. Nick peeled off just before the Rotary, Rami and Greg climbed St Margarets Bay Road, because the run hadn't been hard enough to that point, whilst the Shawns and myself nursed our way home feeling collectively sorry for ourselves.

At least it was warm. Seven degrees centigrade and sun in December; I'll take that. I was warmed than it was in Quebec City, and way less snow (as in we don't have any yet). The damage was a shade over 21 kms in 1:30. Not a bad morning's work. My longest run since MDI, and one of the fastest too.

Seeing as I'm pretty much wiped this afternoon, I might as well upload some of those pictures from QC....

Smarty at the Petrocan in Riviere du Loup. There's something about Riviere du Loup; something is always falling from the sky when I drive through there!
The 20 just after the PetroCan, heading south. It was way snowier than this between Edmunston and Riviere du Loup, the proverbial white-knuckle ride.

"Go to Simons" is always a good piece of advice when going to Quebec City or Montreal. Perhaps the road was trying to tell us something. However, I'm not sure a double semi-trailer with Simons on the side in metre-high letters qualifies as subliminal advertising!

And where was the first place we went in Quebec City? Technically it was the Chateau Frontenac where we checked in, but we left pretty quickly. I thought we were going fo a coffee to keep me fortified during the PGB meeting before the opening reception, but no. We went to Simons.

There is a big Simons on the way into QC in Ste Foy, it's the size of a small city block (I swear) but this store is the mother-ship. No trip to QC is complete without worshiping at the holy-of-holies, the original Simons in Vieux Quebec.

As you can see, the city was very snowy, lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. Despite being there on TriCan's dime, it did feel like we were able to get a little mini-City break

Here's a funny story from the meetings themselves. Well, apart from TriCan Prez Stephen Holmes organismal/orgasmic slip-of-the-tongue that is. I was meeting most people for the first time, both my provincial counterparts and the TriCan top-brass. Naturally, my policy in the national meetings was one of head down, eyes open, mouth shut, but I was able to express myself more eloquently in the provincial meetings. Without even knowing too much about me, TriNB's John Russell and Scott MacKenzie immediately pegged me as a cyclist. How? Only cyclists wear cycling socks as "dress" socks.

It's true, I do. It's my way of subtly expressing who I am. It's better to dress within societal norms, but you do tend to feel like a shop-window mannequin; there are only so many ways to wear black or (God help you) grey, and very few ways with panache or elan. Loud ties are passe, as are cartoon socks, but if I can squeeze a pair of non-loud cycling socks in under my suit (or whatever) then I feel my individuality has been preserved, even within the small-c conservative confines of the business or business casual fashion paradigm.

My offering for the TriCan meeting? A pair of provincially-appropriate La Cordee branded black DeFeets