Thursday, June 23, 2011

Signs of summer

For some, signs of summer may be the swallows returning, the solstice,modern-day druids performing made-up rites on said solstice, or perhaps having to mow the lawn.

For me, it's Irving gas-station coffee.

Whether perking up at the mid-point of a ride or perking me up at regular intervals on the highway, this is a beverage that never passes my lips in the off-season. As belated as summer has been coming to Nova Scotia, I've drunk a boat-load of Irving coffee in the last few weeks and, therefore, it is undubitably summer.

The latest batches of Irving's witches brew have been downed keeping me awake on the 1400km drive to the south shore of Montreal, Salaberry-Valleyfield to be precise, for the Soulanges Continental Cup triathlon. No, I'm not racing, I'm one of the officials. I've only been in town long enough to find the hotel and find the nearest St Hubert BBQ chicken resto; triathlon work starts tomorrow.

The drive was uneventful; as much as I usually don't like driving, it was nice to have the better part of 14 hrs to myself. I filled the first two-thirds of the trip with the CBC or a couple of audio-books, but then defaulted to louder and louder music as Montreal got closer and closer. Traffic was pretty bad around Montreal, and it took me over two hours to do the final 90k s from the junction of the 20 and 30 to the hotel. This was ignoring the advice of a suicidal GPS who wanted me to drive onto, and off, the island instead. Sure, it would have been a bit shorter, but with the current state of Montreal's bridges, I'd probably be out there.

There was no compelling reason to do so, but I did use a Garmin Nuvi on the drive, even though I knew exactly where I was going. Was this so I had accurate kilometres so I could submit my travel-expenses to TriCan? This is what I'm telling myself, but we all know the real reason; if it isn't on your Garmin, you never did it. Oh, how it creeps. Firstly, it was bike-rides that never happened, then rubs, but now long road-trips? If you remember doing it but you can't download it (or have a downloaded record of it) does that mean the workout still happened? When my computer crashed and I lost three years of saved Garmin tracks on Training Centre, did that mean I hadn't run all those miles? Which is more reliable; the BAA website shows I ran Boston twice, but I can only show you one downloaded track to "prove" it, and I was never actually "at" MDI! I think I need to get a life. Or a least one whose' worth cannot be so qualitatively determined, and if necessary, dismissed!

The Ninja was very good on the highway, I seem to be getting ca 500 kms out of a tank or ca. 6.6 L/100 kms, which were the figures the Smart was sold to me in the first place. La belle was very skeptical and didn't think I'd see those numbers, based on her experience with the diesel, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see the Ninja doing exactly what it said on the tin. As it uses Supreme, not regular, it costs about $40 to fill 'er up and so I go for about the same distance for the same money as the Deer Killer, but I am using less fuel, hence reducing my overall footprint.

And yes, I am aware of the irony of using the phrase "reduce one's footprint" whilst discussing a drive to Montreal. It's like discussing the ethics of food-production methods whilst eating a foie gras-stuffed veal sandwich (possibly the worlds most indefensible meal).

Well, bed-time for me; early start tomorrow. Should be an interesting linguistic weekend; most of the officials are Francophone, I'm a Brit and the TD is a Newfie! We'll have the arse out of 'er in no-time!

Breaker breaker


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bikes and free coffee

Part Deux in the bringing you up to date on life and me up-to-date on the blog. Perhaps after I write this, the blog can get back to some semblance of contemporaneity and, who knows, socks.

Mad Science, "blowing shit up for Grade 2", was, and is, great fun. Being there for the lightbulb moment in some child's life was, and remains to be, an honour and there is possibly no greater thrill than doing an experiment, no matter how small, and hearing twenty kids go "woooooowwwwwwwwwwww, that's so cool" in unison.

Unfortunately, "ohs", "wows" and "thats-so-cools" don't pay the bills and whilst there was a possibility of parleying Mad Science into something closer to full-time, it seemed a little too sketchy. I don't mean the work or the people are sketchy, they are actually great people and a great program, but probability of a pay-cheque, and the amount of that cheque, was a little too probabilistic too me.

There was nothing in this town in my chosen field (fish + immunology; can you get any more esoteric?), leaving town was not an option and EI only lasts for 40 weeks. Time for Plan B: rethink one's career trajectory.

Fortunately, I had already thought out an alternative career trajectory. You know how some people say they'd like to retire early and open a B&B or become a painter or (in Alexandra Morton's case, become a "biologist")? I'd always said that if science didn't pan out, well I'd love to work with bicycles and in triathlon. Was there any way of making this pan out?

I'd been applying to sport-related management positions, but my CV just didn't want to stick with anyone. I think it was the PhD that did it. I was just overqualified. I remember getting CVs from post-docs wanting technicians' positions and I suspect my CV was ringing the same kind of bells with the people on whoms desks it was landing. Then just as HRDC was thinking "Dacanay, Andrew, we've been supporting you for a year, time for you to get off your arse", some opening on the sales-floor at Cyclesmith appeared. Within the space of two days, I applied, was interviewed and was offered a position. Within five days, I was on the sales floor in a staff t-shirt getting to grips with Career 2.0.

So, three months in, how goes it? I'm not so naive to think everything will be sunny and smelling of roses. I used to set my own schedule and agenda, I was the boss. Now my agenda and schedule are set by others, and I am most decidedly not the boss. Occasionally someone more senior will ask me what am I doing, if it appears I am standing around, customer-less and temporarily underemployed. Coming from a background where I was the one asking the questions, not answering to them, it feels weird.

However, I'm not making mistakes any more, at least I haven't had a mechanic come up to me with a work-order recently and say "did you book this in?". I'm getting a better handle on our inventory, but given the shop is 25 years old and has vintage esoterica on dusty top-shelves all over the basement, I don't think anyone really knows what we really have, and I'm getting to grips with the rhythm on the shop and shop-life.

But bikes! Do you have any idea of the amount of sweet, carbon-y, Ultegra/Rival/Dura-Ace/Forced-up goodness that pass under my hands on a regular day? So how bad can that be? I get paid to deal with these things! I mean, really, a job where I can fondle the Trek Speed Concept 9.5 on the floor without people saying "sir, please step away from the bicycle".

I already knew many Cyclesmith staff, after all, I've been a customer there for 11 years, so there was no awkward getting-to-know-you phase. This did mean my training wasn't quite as thorough as it could have been as I think was regarded as one of the family (almost)! There is a sense of community and team-work, more than the NSAC ever did (Houssain Farid, are you listening?), which makes it a great place to work.

The hybrid and moutain-bike learning curves were particularly steep for me. However, if you're enthusiastic about bikes, as I am, then it makes it easier to engage people regardless of your product knowledge; availability, affability and ability is the sales-floor triad (I believe). There is a great cross-range of people at C'smith and if I don't know the intricacies of a dual suspension MTB, I can always call on a colleague who does. And already I feel that I am called on to help out with with customers who's needs others feel I can better serve than they. Sometimes when your self-worth is feeling a little low, someone asking you to help a customer chose tri-bars is all the validation your life needs.

For those of you who know me, you know that coffee is kinda a big deal. I once worked out that I spent ca. $8500 at the Tim Hortons in the Life Science Building opposite the NRC in the 8 years I was there. With a Timmies on the same block as C'smith, was it possible this could happen again; coffee, bagels and breakfast sandwiches? No; there's always a pot of coffee on downstairs; it's provided by management and comes from Java Blend on North. Once a week a particularly sweet-smelling box is delivered containing a week's worth of coffee-grounds.

So, in the final analysis, I get to drink free coffee and talk bikes and triathlon all day. I mean, where's the problem? I'm supposedly an intelligent individual, I should have thought about this earlier.