Sunday, 29 November 2009

Craig, Keith, and "a little singletrack"

The first Canadian soil group ride I've done in a long long time was with Keith and Craig today, ahh, good times. Craig dropped by at about 10am, and I kid you not, I was thinking as I pulled my bike out of the garage that it was foolish to go out without lights... but deep inside I thought I'd fatigue early enough to come home before sunset. You'd think I'd have learned by now.

We fuelled up with coffee at Cadence, then started southward though a web of single track only these kind of groups can weave together after years of having scouted every bit of single track they can get their skinny 'cross tires on. Things were going well, bike felt solid and I wasn't tiring out as quick as I thought I might.

Fish Creek park took a couple hours of our time, with power climb after power climb through the twisty trails. I made mental note that if we every do a "bike guys" ski day, there will be no easy runs in celebration of what Craig and Keith are drawn to on 'cross bikes. I struggled a bit as time wore on, surprisingly though mostly from the rest of my body being an out of shape sack of jello than my legs and lungs. My hands got sore and tired, as did my core from all the body english (and that one hole in the middle of the "trail" that ate my front wheel and sent me to the dry grass with the intensity of a car crash... as Pat would say, I "scorpioned"). I quote "trail" as we did a fair bit of overland bushwhacking today.

When we finally gained a vantage point to look north, downtown Calgary was a mere spec on the horizon. No problem... especially since I live 12k on the other side of that at Calgary's higher ground.

Slinking off the back, I just enjoyed the temps, the smoother paths when we were on them, and the joy of pedalling around. We stopped at the Hose 'n Hound in Inglewood for dinner, I didn't look past the baked enchilada on the menu. Good times. Even got my intermittent update on blackberry from Travel-addicted-Tori who's currently indulging in Saigon. I bet she didn't have on as many breathable microfibres as us...

I've been stretching for a few hours, over the last few months my lower back has just become one chunk in stasis without mobility, I'm guessing a derivative of some muscle tightening issues I was having mid summer, followed by a regime of endurance desk sitting, switching to inactivity and commuting by vehicle, and a highly increased frequency of sleeping in a poorly postured position on airplanes. Great regimen. Gotta work that in the right direction for a while before I become too decrepit.

But back and hands aside, I have to admit I didn't spontaneously combust at the one hour mark. I'm not sure what, other than pure excitement, fuelled me in half respectable fashion for 5 hours considering that's more than the sum total of exercise I've done in the last couple of months combined. I bet I'll be sore for three days. Apparently severe taper by inactivity and hyper-caloric business dinners with Colombian poured "mostly gin and a little tonic's" somehow haven't killed me yet, but I won't count on that forever. And if that ugly regime hasn't done it, getting home after dark with no lights on my bike sure will. We stuck to the sidewalks, but I need to get lights on a few of my machines when I can fit in some garage time.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

For the Love of Colombia

I love Colombia. I seriously can't get over how much enjoyment Colombia fills me with.

I love Colombian people. Colombians generally speak clear Spanish and fairly slowly. Everyone we interacted with was just generally busy loving life. We didn't come across anyone cross threaded with the world or having a bad day, maybe those people just go out in the jungle to be guerillas. Dogs like Bogota:

The comments I can make on work stuff have to be obtuse and thin here, but the group we were working with was pure quality. Here's a street juggler that was going out during red lights for a few hours, we ate at Restuarante Armadillo right near here:

No observation of Colombian people is complete with out addressing their national pride - the female half of the population. Good god, I had sort of forgot since last time down here. The other guys (and girls too actually) who were here first time were totally slack jawed. They must all be Shakira's cousins, and they walk around knowing it. You don't throw on sweat pants to run to 7-11 here; before walking out the door, you double check your "A Game" make sure your outfit won't let the country down. I'm sure Tori would totally dig the clothes shopping streets, and I'd actually think it'd be fun to tag along for some clothes shopping too, so much wacky different stuff.

I love the food. Frutas are copious in quantity and variety that puts winter edition California strawberries in Calgary to shame, beef is tender and delicious (Matrix like quote...). Our dinners were mind boggling in both quality and cost (or lack thereof). Ceviches of all description stood out. Empanada snacks containing 90% delicious and 10% spicy/tangy made my mid day snacks. Low processed ingredient counts combined with skill and passion produce seriously good meals. The availability of Argentine Malbec "at cost" or something close to it in my estimation... not to mention the don't appear to know what a 1oz shot glass's role is in cocktail preparation. The proximity to Peru and pisco was a bit of a problem though. There's a lot of people out for a good time on Friday/Saturday nights. Punchy beat dance remixes of every catchy tune of the last 30 years seem to be the Bogota preference, fun stuff! Weird dinner spot. 5 story building gutted out, decorated with nothing that matches, and it's kind of like a cross between a meal and Cirque du Soliel.

Colombian coffee... thank you Juan Valdez... need I even say more? Sure we're here looking for black gold... but with the office servers dropping by every hour to offer cafe or jugo refills, it dawned on me that the real black gold was in my cup, not kilometers below the surface of the middle Magdalena valley... (Side bar: if that oil play works, I should put Magdalena in as my vote for my first daughter's name) but good god is the coffee ever good. Jet black rocket fuel. This is one of the reasons Colombia and I need to spend a lot of time getting to know each other by bike.

The natural beauty of the geography makes me crave more exploration. The president of the company we're working with has an condo in a building at the edge of the city, with a view overlooking probably half the 8m people of Bogota - just a normal sized place in a 35 year old building. Nice view:

Edge of the city is the key - mountain forest is a stone's throw away. Or more like "less than half the distance that his 11 year old daughter can throw a stone". We hiked and got some geology lessons. For me to type out my understanding of the significance of this photo would take a while, but essentially it's evidence the rocks are upside down after folding.

It's like overlooking Manhattan but having Lake Louise off your back deck. There's one small catch - he carries a .38 caliber snub nosed revolver as there's a few random dog packs patrolling the hills, and yes it was handled but not discharged this trip as some dogs watched along the trail for a while. The 11 year old daughter wasn't super keen on that concept, but acknowledged the facts of the situation, and remembered last time dad came home after getting bit. Dad was drafted to the Colombian military and did years of target practice, but this little thing is his only firearm here, the sporting arms are in Houston.

Back to exploration, I also need a while down here with a mountain bike so I can head for the hills. Colombia has no shortage of La Ruta-esque steep jungle covered mountains and mountain roads with massive vertical. This is a bike mecca - Bogota shuts down major roads on Sundays so people can bike. Again - a city of 8mm people shuts down major arteries in favour of cycling! Picture that in the hierarchy of priorities, wow. This is Carrera 7 which goes much the length of Bogota and is one of the ones shut down.

We did a couple hours of hiking right at the edge of town where the elevation's effect on my breathing was notable. I'm told, and believe, that there's plenty of country roads around small towns in the mountains that aren't the areas of strife - I'm missing out on a gold mine of riding.

Talking to an 11 year old girl with a totally different view on planet earth was cool. One grandma and grandpa are in Spain, she likes Madrid but Majorca is boring. Other set is half in Omaha and half in Bogota, but just likes seeing them in Bogota. Uncle in Boston is fun, but Boston is cold, but not as cold as Canada. She likes skiing, but hasn't skied in Canada yet. She likes playing with her friends in Houston when she goes back with dad since they've now moved back to Colombia. School, home, and both mom and dad's offices are all within walking distance of each other. School, offices, home and recreation club all close but not all pictured.

She likes math and animals and wants to study animals when she grows up. She has a sloth that lives in Cartagena, a dog in Bogota, as well as a gerbil and a bird. She likes to try to get close enough to pet giant anteaters when you find them when you're hiking. Caymans are safe to swim with she tells me (they only like eating fish) and anacondas are hard to see and aren't really dangerous, they go into the jungle when they feel you walk nearby. Dad nodded in agreement on these observations, but I'll still let her go first on the different encounters... Her and dad are going on vacation when she's on her next school break, she picked the theme and the place - a week camping in the desert outside a small 500 person town in Utah and the theme of the week is to discuss in ongoing fashion "the universe". I'm impressed, before she told me what she picked that wouldn't have been my guess. I asked dad later and he confirmed that was all her pick, and he's happy as a geologist too to be able to hike around neat rocks (let alone have a daughter with those kind of vacation/life ideas). Family hike combined with geology trivia and good times:

Random bits of Bogotawesomeness we took in were the Fernando Botero museum (the guy that paints everyone "fat"), as in Hombre, Mujer y Nino below... although I can't remember exactly. Might be Padre, Madre y Nino too.

spent some time in the La Candelaria area which is the 400 year old part from colonization by the Spanish, toured around the town square where all the government functions are, took the tram up to the Monseratte mountain/church overlooking the city - very cool. Tram:

Church at top:

Small version of photo from top - note both these photos still miss probably a third of the city further to the north:

Big panorama I copied from somewhere else from the top after finding out mine didn't work:

The main square and government buildings:

No more breakfasts from this window for a while:

And primarily for this trip, I love the risk adjusted return potential...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

CFA Studying by one of the guys at work

This is the best CFA studying excerpt I've heard in a long time, man I love the basic tenants of labour economics. This is investment banking in a nutshell:

"Each individual decides whether, and how much, to work. Typically, labour has disutility; people generally prefer less work (and more leisure). Employers must offer a wage rate high enough that workers give up leisure time in favour of employment. Wages, then, are the opportunity cost of leisure. The higher the wage rate, the more hours of leisure a worker will forego and the more hours of labour he will supply. This is the substitution effect in labour supply: workers substitute labour for leisure to the extent the wage rate is high enough to give them an incentive to do so. At some point, however, an individual reaches a maximum amount of labour that he is willing to offer for any wage."


Monday, 16 November 2009

Ride of the year!

Dallas and Craig are:

a) unbelievable
b) nuts
c) both

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Japanese Car

Seriously, who wouldn't want a supercar fast 8 wheeled japanese car that sort of looks like a hearse? That's the coolest future car for commuting to bike races I've seen in a long time! And of course the test course isn't outlined by boring orange pylons when something cool like flourescent green cartoon character looking frog things could be used instead.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Luck on my side

Things seem to be going my way lately. Our whirlwind tour was productive - both on the yes and no side of business, we've made progress on a few fronts. The weather in Toronto was great, I wish I could stay this weekend and ride bikes.

Seeing McKee and Allas for beers/breakfast was fun on both counts. McKee is full throttle still, I expect nothing less out of that guy. I guess full throttle is what we have most in common, whether it be bikes or work. Allas is full throttle on PE and M&A, good to hear. That's 50/50 on my last minute "you available by any chance to grab a bite and chat" tries, so I'll have to try again on the other two next time.

Le Germain is a beautiful hotel. I should try to stay in those more often, it's just relaxing to be surrounded by something other than the cookie cutter mass market hotel cubicles.

Allas and I had breakfast up by his place in Yorkville, which led me to inadvertently miss my flight home. I didn't even think about it until the self check in machine didn't want to help me and said go talk to a person. In the spirit of things going my way, the lady at the check in counter didn't even miss a beat.

"Sir, your flight has left."

"Ooops. Guess its plan b."

"Next flight is in 2 hours, how does that sound for plan b?"

"Pretty good. Is that still to Calgary or is luck going my way and that's a first class to Buenos Aires?"

"It's to Calgary, but we can do a first class seat."

"Thanks, that's terrific."

Now I'm sitting in one of the nicest Maple Leaf lounges I've come across, this whole trip Air Canada has actually been really great for my last minute check ins and such. I think both Tori and my assistant would prefer I improve my timeliness, but for now I'm surviving. Tori is in charge of Christmas planning this year anyway so I don't have to sweat it.

My new ipod camera has such good quality video for it's size, I'm impressed. Good for my diligence tour of a facility. I can't even picture what travel was like before modern electronics and communication.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bumper sticker of the day

I'm mystified as to what this tells me about the person wielding this sticker:

"I was into Wang Chung when they were called Huang Chung"

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

American Glory

I've found myself south of the 49th parallel for a brief period on business, looking at a startup who's planning to utilize a relatively new technology.  But that's tomorrow...

After the typical reminder that taxi drivers world 'round have much in common, I entered the lobby of a decent business class hotel which worked to calm me via mood lighting, aromatherapy, and natural sounds.

The check in attendant gave me the lowdown on restaurants nearby after I explain I'm tired and just need a half decent and quick meal - mexican and steakhouse sounded plausible.  As I walked down the sidewalk towards the mexican restaurant, I passed the steakhouse, which was represented as "unbelievable, if you're not price sensitive".  My colleague comes in later so there's no debate needed.

Heck, I'm in Chicago, land of the chop house, in the nation of excess (despite temporary?? economic curtailment), in the President's town too.  American steak house it is!

The place is packed, no sign of economic depravity here.  Professional waiters, mustache and white coat laden are full speed all over the place.  I settle in with a glass of wine and wait to be shown the selections.

The meat tray Antonio brings by must be 20lbs.  He starts by highlighting the "Chicago" cut, which is the size of a loaf of bread, if only half as tall.  I'm totally dumbfounded. 

"Antonio, William Perry couldn't even finish that, and I'm certainly not in the NFL" I stammer.

Without missing a beat "Sir, you must be from out of town."

"Indeed I am."

With a broadening smile "I knew, and I'll forgive you only once.  The Fridge can finish any steak The Fridge wants to finish, and we know that here in Chicago.  You must be careful what you say."

Ok, so this guy is good, pro waiter and funny.  Before he get's to the "American Glory" special, which would feed a family for a week, I ask for the smallest recommendation, and settle on a 10oz filet mignon, plus half order of mixed veggies.  I half regret skipping the Glory, but know I'd be in over my head.  The 50 year old couple next to me is still laughing about the Fridge.

The half order of mixed veggies is a cornucopia fit for a family.  The filet is the best piece of meat I've had in years.  All I can think of is The Matrix and how it's "juicy, and delicious".  I'm surrounded by business meetings, family dinners and dates.  They're all going home with an extra percent of bodyfat, and I can't spot a crisp jaw line anywhere.  Desserts coming out are pieces of cake probably 8" tall.  They should have defibrilators at every table.  It's pure entertainment to just take in the spectacle.

Chicago.  Steak house.  American Glory.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

House Renovation 8 - various

I drop by weekly or so to take a few photos - this morning being no different. Part of the way through my browse of the house a fellow came around the corner of the yard and was surprised to see me standing there - "what the f... are you doing here" was his first offer of interaction on this nice post Halloween morning. "Well, actually this is my house so I come by all the time, that's what I'm doing here."

"Why would you buy a sh.. heap house like this?" Clearly this was going well - I'm actually on my way to the office and non-confrontational by nature, so I didn't really want to draw this out. He was "just looking for the c-train" and "can go wherever he wants because the white f...ers like me took all his land" (I thought at first he may be Philipino, as he looked really similar to a friend of mine from work , but as I'm at times a quick study, this got me thinking he was a native indian... as did the wafts of last nights alcohol ingestion too unfortunately), so I just showed him how to get around front and didn't engage in any debate, as the likelyhood of solving hundreds of years of cultural interaction issues in this setting over the next 5 minutes seemed slim. He was making like he wanted to climb through the hedge, and I'd prefer less broken foliage when 15 steps more would be fine to make it to the driveway. I did ask if he could "look for other routes than personal property to walk through next time he was in the neighbourhood" which led to "I'm going to come back and break all your windows". I did have a couple photos of him since I had camera in hand, anyway, we'll see if those are useful to the five-o any time in the future.

With the million dollar house going in behind me, and the fences both of us will end up putting up, I think the temptation to shortcut through will fix itself next year, although for now I do see the allure.

Back to pictures... probably more garage pictures than warranted, but it's the most visible of the changes going on. It's hard to get too into plumbing being removed - after all, a picture of plumbing being removed is a picture of nothing technically, plus I keep dropping by when the interior light isn't good (no electricity in house, windows boarded up, and I keep forgetting to bring a light) We'll get to the juicy interior bits over the next month or so, but it should all turn out quite nice.

Machine backed into wall so it needed to be fixed.

Fixing the busted wall.

Foundation ready for packing.

Foundation packing.

Rebar laid for the garage floor.

Garage stairs and layout starting to make more sense visually.

Driveway now poured.

Prep for foundation insulation.

Garage framing.

More garage framing.

Backyard with garage view (that's a window seen not a door) and note the foundation of the house has been excavated and insulated.

Inside garage.

Garage view from alley. It's like a giant lunchbox.

Downstairs room has concrete removed to do pluming, and all furnace ducts are now removed.

My little furnace will move to make room for a door and a sink.

This is where the plumbing will go from the garage bathroom to the basement.

Garage plumbing area.

Neighbours house starts soon too. Triple garage whopper of a house on a big lot as I understand it. I welcome more of that in the neighbourhood any day.