Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Maritime Quiz

Yo, Maritimers!

As I may have reported, a dear friend of mine at work has a daughter who is getting married on PEI (!!) in September.

My friend wants to see the Maritimes. She will have a car and be there for a week. The wedding is near St Peters at the ritzy (from what I gather) Inn at Fortune Bay.

She is asking me what she should see... I have some ideas but I want your ideas. She definitely wants to go off Island but I don't want her to spend too much time driving. E.g. the ferry to Newfoundland is pretty crazy.

I might put a poll over on the margin later on..... for now, send me email, eh?


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Those Three Little Words

I've told this story but have wanted to write it down. It is one of the reasons why I started this blog, and now is the time to write it.

I have a favourite moment that I often recall when I need to summon strength or find motivation. Often, it is pivotal in helping me alter my attitude from being on the defensive, and living with fear, versus being on the offensive, and living with hope.


In the summer of 1991, I was planning to leave The Island to go to grad school. I had chosen the University of Waterloo; a school with a rather stout program. UW has a faculty of mathematics (versus a department). Its top math students routinely finish up there with MIT, Caltech, etc, in math competitions.

Though I put on a brave face, I wasn't looking forward to the adventure. I was scared. I didn't know if I could maintain a scholarship "in the big leagues", and neither my family nor I could afford this school otherwise. I had never lived off The Island and barely outside of my parents' house. In some ways, I had never failed; in other ways, I had lived a sheltered, easy life and had never been tested. I had no idea even how to prepare for this, emotionally, academically, grammatically.

To help mitigate the big change, I decided that I would move to Waterloo, Ontario (2 hours from Toronto) in July, well before the school year began. (Ed's note: no one knew that I would not return for 17 years and counting.)

The Barbeque

My dad's side of the family often gets together for a "barbeque" (cook-out, as they say down here) in the summer. My folks decided to have one in the final weeks before the Big Move, as a send off of sorts.

Generally speaking, this group is literate, cheerful, and devout. Not much smokin', drinkin', or swearin' with this group. A clever pun in Scrabble game constitutes mayhem. (And actually is mayhem -- it's fun!) With respect to faith, people varied but at the high-end of the theological spectrum is my Aunt Judy (and her husband). They can quote chapter-and-verse with the best of them. Their house, a modest place with spartan furnishing, is filled with Biblical literature and deep books on spirituality.

My Aunt Judy literally has worn her hair in a bun forever. Like the rest, she is always cheerful, sunny, and is fantastically clever. The speed of my wit is little league by comparison.

Three Little Words

At the end of a long, fun afternoon, people began to leave. For many, this would be the last chance to see me before I left to "be away" -- anywhere off Island. I remember the dread of saying goodbye, knowing that I was one step closer to my own departure, my own new beginning. To be honest, I was terrified. I was exactly in that place that I would find myself so many times in life: on the defensive. A hostage, of sorts.

Thankfully, it was this day that I received the best advice I have ever known.

As she went to leave, my Aunt Judy approached me. With a beaming smile, she said, "well..." and her voice trailed off. She gave me a giant bear hug, and leaning in close, whispered in my ear:

Give 'em hell.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy 45th Anniversary !

My parents' anniversary is Saturday....

45 years!

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Home Pagers

There are a select few, among the masses of the CC Nation, who use this page as their home-page (seriously).

These devotees want their CC updates ASAP: every opportunity to open a browser is an implicit check on the goings-on about local events, world affairs, and, yes, me.

After all, the 'Internets' are just one click away: most browsers support Google and Wikipedia searching in a little toolbar.

However, The Home Pagers receive a special treat, as a thank you for their dedication: some handy links off on the right margin. The Web just became a little closer; this page, a little warmer.

And for the rest of you ingrates, a bonus as well: CC dot com continues to put the thrill back in blog, by adding some Random Sites over on the margin. This is no mere blogroll: these sites represent some neat-o sites that you may enjoy. They will change on occasion, making each visit a potential new gift from me to you.

All this, for free (at least for now -- we are still working on a subscription model, but don't let that scare you). Merci!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Streak Ends at 15

My consecutive streak at the gym is over: 15 days straight.

The streak served its purpose: giving me a shot in the arm toward regaining fitness. It was starting to take on a life of its own, though. That's ok but the workouts were becoming shorter and shorter as the grueling marathon wore on.

The stats for the streak:

Run: 20 miles
Bike: 38 miles
Swim: 4250 meters

Friday, January 18, 2008

Celebrating 18

I have a math degree. The first two years involved a lot of number crunching (the latter two years involved highly abstract proofs).

I have spent hours pouring over numbers. Integers. Rationals. Irrationals. Complex. Transcendentals. You name it.

A favourite number is 18. Mostly because I was born on the 18th. My Dad was too, as were some close friends, including Jess: Happy Birthday!

Factoid: the word "life" in Hebrew is made of two letters, whose numeric sum total to 18.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Random Facts from Home

Here's some truly random factoids from my trip home at Christmas
  • In 2007, my sister read approximately 275 books. My Dad biked approximately 2000 miles. It's kind of an extreme family that tracks numbers.
  • A local tattoo place has a radio ad: very "local" in the sense that the ad is low budget and has some good ol' Maritime accents. The ad touts artistry, safety, and cleanliness. Then at the end, the tag line is We're Gonna Hurt Ya.... And You're Gonna Love It.
  • My Dad had a big 10-gallon cowboy hat and cheerily offered to me as a "prop" for some bar stunts. His use of my term was a hoot.
  • My bro-in-law and I watched an episode of South Park about the game Guitar Hero. We cracked up: it is absolutely hilarious and more evidence that Fred is always right about entertainment choices (he recommended the episode).
  • My cousin, Supergirl, age 4, happily proclaimed that "Mike was born in Canada and grew up in the United States". A single tear fell from my cheek (not really but sorta).
  • Air Canada, je me souviens. Fureur pour vous (et moi).
  • My wildman cousin, Jeff, is a father figure for 2 young lads. He offered this advice to them regarding hockey and general playground demeanor: when you are mid-sized, your responsibility is to protect the weak, not to prey on them. That's sublime.
  • Most importantly, my friends Vic and Colleen had a Good Year, to say the least. Finally: justice for Jewel. See the video. (Why hadn't I seen this before! Or did I, and I'm just going crazy?)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Micro Testimonials

Last year, our team at CC dot com invigorated the world with the notion of micro-posts. Those little blurbs at the top of the page. They ranged from birthday greetings to daily status reports to various and sundry tag lines.

However, especially with a new look for 2008, both fans and critics alike have been writing to our HQ, asking for new invention. New ideas. A sense of direction in an uncertain world.

Step 1: Micro Testimonials. This sub-genre of micro-post will endorse products that I enjoy. At CC dot com, we don't have time for full reviews, plus they are superfluous: if we say something is good, it is good. Just go buy it. Today's micro-testimonial is for Columbia winter apparel. I have a ski-jacket (with removable liner and a zillion pockets) by Columbia. I've had it for years and it is possibly the best jacket I have ever owned.

CC fans are keen, and we can already hear a chorus of "what if we miss a micro-testimonial? They change so quickly".

The Chosen Few know the answer: make CC your homepage! No need to "check in" on a semi-regular basis: just bring up a browser, and bingo, there you go. All the CC news you need to move on with your day. And now: a hand micro-testimonial serving as your own "Consumer Reports Concierge".

Live. Laugh. Buy. With help from CC dot com.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

100-Mile Diet

Paraphrased from The 100-Mile Diet:

I phoned Rich Pirog, the researcher responsible for the "food-miles" statistic (i.e. our food averages 1500 miles in transit). The explanation for long-distance eating? Cheap oil. Transportation costs are a fraction of the retail price. According to a 2001 study, shipping food nationally uses 17 times more fuel than a regional food system.

More and more, North American consumers eat produce from distant places they will never visit, though they might have easily grown the vegetables in their own backyards. E.g. Imports of strawberries to California peak during that state's strawberry season.
I received a neat book from my sister and bro-in-law: The 100-Mile Diet. A couple in Vancouver chronicle their one year experiment: eat only food from a 100-mile radius. It has helped spawn a new awareness of "food-miles" and the effect on our economy, our health, and our agriculture. It's quite an eye-opener....

Check out a related website here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Streaking through Boot Camp

There are no plateaus at CC dot com. Every vector of life is simultaneously on the sharp ascent or descent.

Mercifully, the fitness gradient is on the increase.

I have modest streak going: 4 consecutive days at the gym (alternately running and swimming). This is not impressive, but it is a motivator (the streak). And that is terrific. Just what the doctor ordered.

I'll be back in black in no time.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Just the Stats

Here's a breakdown of 2006 vs 2007. I was off to a great start in 2007 but 2006 was a very solid, complete year. And to think I was dating someone in 2006 and had a very busy social life. I think 2006 may have been one of the Great Years. It's stunning to me now. The numbers don't lie, eh?

Ye Olde Units (2006 vs 2007)

Run: 332 mi vs 298 mi
Bike: 520 mi vs 500 mi
Swim: 46 mi vs 21 mi

Metric (2006 vs 2007)

Run: 535 km vs 480 km
Bike: 837 km vs 804 km
Swim: 75 km vs 34 km

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Suffering at the James

One knows that one hasn't exercised lately when one is so estranged from a former friend, Gym, that now one uses the more formal James (or Gyames).

Our hero stands in line to enter the James. It seems familiar yet foreign. The high walls and open spaces are reminiscent of a cathedral. He vaguely remembers repenting here, months ago.

He has returned, virtually indistinguishable from the other visitors. Many of them are the New Years Newbies. Both CC and the Newbies are welcomed by the staff. There is no sign of recognition in their eyes. After all both CC and the Newbies have not been here in a long time; both have been on a recent diet of personal destruction; both have "let themselves go" for their own individual reasons of erroneous priorities.

It is time to repent. Time to suffer. Our hero respects the Newbies, but he is not one of them. He decides to stand out from the crowd.

Mile 2

At mile 2 on the Tread, he is sweating profusely. 4 months ago, at this pace, it would take 5 miles to hit this level of exertion. Good news: many of the Newbies have already retired. Bad news: his knees start to twinge with pain.

Mile 4

The exertion is much more serious now. The knees ache. Most of the Newbies are gone; a fresh crop have arrived. Our hero digs down deep for further motivation: he analyzes the last 3 months for wanton acts of selfishness, stupidity, and sloth. Payback's a bitch and it starts now. Gritting his teeth, his legs burn.

Mile 6

Though heartened at outlasting all of the Newbies, our hero is chained in his own prison. The cardio system seems to remember the Great Days of 07 (pre-August) but his legs and knees cannot bear the burden. His form is creaky; his face contorted with suffering. Children cling to their mothers at the sight. A fallen hero punishing himself through impotent rage.

Mile 6.5

Zounds! The software of his brain is overridden by a hardware interruption: the right knee fires a sharp shot of pain across the bow of his consciousness. We need to stop now. Our hero slows to a walk.....

Later he hobbles through the parking lot. It is 72 F and sunny. As he collapses into the driver's seat of his car, he exhales heavily.

2008 is looking better already.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Four Straight, Baby!


The Canadian Junior hockey team won its 4th consecutive championship at the World Juniors!

They won the final game against the Swedes (who snapped our 20 game win streak earlier in the tourney). They took us to OT in the final. It must have been a nail-biter.

I didn't see any of the game: my only suspense was a slow load of the page from TSN (the Canadian ESPN). I yelled out loud at the news.

In the US, baseball is claimed as the national pastime but I think it is actually football in terms of community involvement: Friday night is high-school, Saturday is college, and Sunday is the NFL.

In Canada, hockey is still #1. The World Juniors feature the elite players aged 16-19 (roughly). In that age group, there is nothing even close: it is their Stanley Cup crossed with the Olympics.


ps. I know some peeps back home who have the Canada Juniors team logo (see pic) as a tattoo.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Year of the Near Misses: 2007

Keen readers may remember the Resolutions of Jan 07. I really upped the stakes back then: travel to Europe, complete 1/2 Ironman, and run a marathon.

I accomplished none of these. The headline is: one yard short. But didn't John Stuart Mill write that a person's reach should exceed their grasp? That true growth, the joie du vivre, comes from our attempts?

Whatever. Mill was a loser and his quotes are utilitarian at best (ha ha).

Now, I aspire to George Dubya's "soft bigotry of low expectations".

Well, no one needs to read a grocery list of disappointments. Let's accentuate the positive, as they say:
  • Surely, there were good times: killer trips to Memphis, Phoenix, Vegas, and home. Celebrations of weddings, birthdays, Thanksgivings, and lives well-lived with my people in StL and PEI. In public, much laughter.
  • Some successes through work, and some stunning wins on the tech blog. Two words: James Gosling. My my.
  • I ran a mile in 6 minutes! Possibly the purest accomplishment of the year.
  • Though the heat stroke at the 1/3 Ironman began a downward spiral for the year, I did finish the damn thing.
  • On piano, I practiced every day until an eerie, inexplicable cessation in March -- oh wait, that's a negative :-}
Anyway, see ya 2007. Come on in '08, and sit yourself down.

Resolutions to come.... I don't take them super-seriously, but I do like thinking about them. No vague goals (e.g. "exercise more") for me....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Lang Syne (The Nuptials)

I wrote out a moderately long post about the NYE Nuptials but it feels weird to summarize such a big event (and someone else's event). I can't post it. Maybe later in anecdotes or something.

You had to be there. It was profound and joyous! Cheryl and Bryan looked radiant. If you know them, the wedding was filled with people from their lives (fam & friends). Truly powerful.

The combo of the wedding and New Year's was just as they had hoped: a sincere, heartfelt service, followed by a huge party. Fun....

Congrats, C & B ! Enjoy Buenos Aires!


ps. The cupcakes were a smash hit. As you know, this was the big night for the Cupcake Project. They looked great on a multi-tier platform, designed like a wedding cake.

pps. Some of you may know I have a keen interest in people's choice for the wedding song. BryGuy and Mrs C picked What a Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong). Delightful.

ppps. I really enjoyed catching up with out-of-towners and locals alike... The guest list was like a "Legion of Hall of Famers" from C & B's life.

pppps. Happy New Year's to everybody! Here's looking to a great '08 ! Stay tuned for a year in review and resolutions.