Tuesday, 30 March 2010

One piece of the puzzle

A new ticker symbol trading on the TSX today, "SES" for Secure Energy Services. Great to see the company make progress, we've been working with them for years, but with the crunch point from my desk being IPO preparation for the last several months. But even starting to clear that deal file from my desk doesn't make too much room, plenty of other things will fill the void!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Bicycle Pirate, etc.

First, it's a warm weekend here in Calgary, and despite juggling work both days I did get out for some earlier morning pedal turning both days. Talk about fun, Bain and Craig are the hill masters, met some new riders, and I just love being out there with everyone. I feel decent overall for my current riding program. Jon, Bain, Shawn, Claire and I had fun on Saturday at 1410 again wishing the "Bunnin's" well on their sendoff this week to see Tori, run the Paris marathon, and take in some spring classics. A Belgian specialty bier haus seemed just right.

Now secondly, here's something funny. Don't ask why I was looking for bicycle pirates, it won't really make sense and isn't even that interesting (to add legitimacy to this, I'll just say I had read some article about a few trucks of carbon bikes and associated goodies go missing between Asia and west coast US ports... I'm sure that actually isn't all that rare).

What is interesting however is this Bicycle Pirate (explanation), or here for a general set of imagery. Although I didn't find what I was looking for about the real bicycle pirates, but this certainly didn't leave me disappointed either. The internet is less complete without women who never outgrew playing dress up, but then at some age it's supposed to be called fashion, and never outgrew bikes, realizing now it's the environmentally conscious and hip way of getting them around. This girl should move to Copenhagen and do a few guest appearances on Copenhagen Cycling Chic. I think I condone this type of activity.

I know a certain bicycle bee who likes to dress up in mexican wrestling masks and bee costumes and other stuff and ride bikes, which I'm reminded of by this. I don't know if that's closer to piracy or fashionista. Maybe a pirate outfit is next for some races?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Tasmanian Surprise

I've been having a blast lately, work is a full throttle pace these days, but in a really good full throttle pace sense. Then out of the blue, a reminder from the outside world arrives, or should I say the Wildside world. It seems like forever ago, even though it was two months ago... my picture CD from Tasmania arrived. I love mud. I love biking. I love Tasmania.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ibis Tranny

I now own a beautiful Ibis Tranny nude carbon frame, size large. It's 3.3lbs of travel packable ultra rigid carbon goodness.

I temporarily purchased it for research purposes to see if it would fit into an S&S coupler bike box from a local shop, and even though I've researched ways of bringing it up less expesively from the US, the fact of the matter is when I'm working until midnight, plus have morning meetings galore (seriously, who has a 6am, 7am and 8am meeting in a single day? how is that normal?) the convenience of "doing nothing" and keeping the frame at home won out vs. returning it and importing another.

I'm not sure when I'll build this, but the goal is to have a sub 20lb, yet repectably robust hard tail racing bike created. The frame feels ultra rigid from a little test ride. I think I'll weight weenie it for fun, plus the S&S coupler boxes are available 2lbs lighter these days too. Building bikes is fun, although not quite as fun as riding them. I don't have a feeling it'll be done very soon, as I also need to do important things like ensuring I have a house to live in reasonably soon.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Weekend without pause

Considering a workweek stops around 5pm on Friday, in theory, I haven't left much of that time unutilized this weekend. Went for dinner and a Flames game Friday night, glad they held onto their lead at the end of the 3rd period to send the Sharks packing.

Saturday and Sunday have been a mix of cycling and good old investment banking, primarily involving thinking beyond Canada's borders. It's fun actually on both counts. Plus the weather is nice, and I got out for a group ride Sunday... which I could have even been more groupy in if I could have gotten over my edge of the road preference... let's just say headwinds and suffering from inefficient/no drafting worry me less than wider echelons and the whole road and cars thing. Oh well.

As a side token of joy in the spring sunshine, on the way to work, I faced only one stop light - at the bottom of Sarcee before turning onto the turnpike for Crowchild. Usually I just listen to the hum of the M Coupe's engine, but at the light I flicked on the radio. Here's what greeted me:

Needless to say, that turnpike felt good. It's like that feature on cars where the radio turns up when you're going faster, so you can still hear stuff. My car has the inverse feature where Kickstart My Heart appropriately adjusts the throttle.

I was going to test the sizing of an Ibis Tranny frame I have at home to see if it would easily fit into an S&S coupler box, but considering it's 8:45, I'm eating sushi dinner at work, and have a few minutes of waiting for something to proof read, I'm not sure it's in the cards for tonight still.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Banff Private Equity

Lest I actually slow down for a minute, after buzzing around work this morning, I made it out to Banff for an afternoon of private equity sponsored company presentations at the KERN annual general meeting. It's a tangled web this life - we work for KERN and their portfolio companies regularly as part of our FirstEnergy business, they're a good client and we work hard to earn their business. We help their companies raise money from time to time, or pursue liquidity or other transformational events. On other companies of mutual interest we compete vigorously, or simply have differing views or disagreements. KERN also in return manage the third largest chunk of my portfolio, so material to me... but I'm a drop in their bucket. I ride bikes with at least a few of them, but know the whole team in varying degrees of socially, professionally and personally. I sit next to one of their founding partners at work every day, and we employ the other founding partner's daughter in our research group. Aside from all this there's that chick I like named Tori that's in the middle too...

One of their investee companies (and by such logic, one that I'm invested in), who was also at FirstEnergy's New York conference last week, couldn't make it today, so I have his room at the Banff Springs. I would have booked my own, but I didn't know how things would work out on the whole "last minute" routine and even if I'd make it. Of course it makes perfect sense that the room coincidence happened, because he's also a FirstEnergy client, and last fall we helped structure a deal between KERN and this individual's company, and further, Tori and I were having a cocktail with him at our conference exactly 7 days ago in a trendy Manhattan spot. Funny how that all goes around... and that's before I even mention that I'll invest in the company that's the restarting team from the company who merged into this company last fall, subscription agreement in next week. Clear as mud, right?

It all actually makes perfect sense and fits together just fine. I just hope it doesn't snow too much, as I drove the M Coupe... which is sinful on the highway - the speeds it can go are sinful, or the speed limit is sinfully underutilizing its capability.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Billy Talent

Loud, brash, fun.  Kind of angst ridden, but it didn't sound like the angst was driven by pitch books or excel models.  Many more obliviously youthful souls in audience than I. 

In other news, when buying concession snacks (prime healthy ones of course), some fat younger 20 something kid at the cashier next to me just starts unloading on the lady working the till - probably a 40- 45y/o Chinese lady.  Not sure why, ostensibly about one less beer or not the right change.  He's going apeshit being a total racist asshole with what he's spewing.  The girl working on my order stops and stares all slackjawed too, so I tell the girl to get those security guys attention 10 feet away, then ask him to, uhh, "be quiet now please" or something along those lines anyway.  He's a bit stunned by interference as drunks only really have the attention of one thing at a time (I've hadn't even finished my first beer at this point before snack break), and by the time he figures out he's mad at me for saying anything, 3 Saddle Dome security guys grab him. Back to the box and focus on fun after, he got shown the door, world doesn't need those kinds of attitudes.

Fun night, fun concert, good group to go with, good music, good crowd.

Monday, 15 March 2010

First Commute of 2010

This is a bit un-BikingBakke like, but today was my first commute to work of the year. The new car, the further distance from work (no so much the distance, but the arrival/departure times plus the new ride time length), and the to work starting with 3km of downhill with little ability to work hard to stay warm are the real, albeit weak, reasons.

This morning was +5 and a great day to start. I'll try to ride on average 2-3 days a week, which is about the same ride time as a 5 day/week prior routine, but likely better quality. Talk about an enjoyable ride, it's unseasonably warm in Calgary right now, but still not many people on the paths (at my arrival/departure time anyway).

On the equipment side, I reaffirm my love my commuter bike. Moots makes a real comooter, but that isn't quite my deal. Nice bike though (understatment - the manufacture of all Moots is unbelievably top notch). The version of a Canadian year 'round commuter I work with is a Moots Mooto-X YBB 29er with a Rohloff hub, S&S couplers, and a Schmidt SON generator hub (pictured here before the SON hub with the awesome LED Supernova E3 headlight and taillight - awesome products as well).

This week's theme is bike efficiency - from road mountain biking in New York, to riding my Cervelo R3 yesterday, to this beast today, it's such a massive contrast it's hard to believe. This thing is not an "efficient" commuter. Its over 30lbs with that setup, and the mechanical drag of the SON hub, Rohloff hub, and weight of the big 29ers make for a lot of effort. But it does make commuting into efficient training time, as I figure I'm working much harder at any given speed than most of the other bikes I could ride daily. Further, it needs mechanical attention at completely irregular service intervals. I change the hub oil yearly, and when I do that usually adjust the slider to tension up the chain again, and I wash it too sometimes. Awesome!

I happened upon the Moots site just to check what's new these days. If anyone's looking for an enduro racing bike, at least give the new anniversary edition Mooto-X 29er a look. They can be built up super light these days, maybe even try asking the Moots guys if they'll do a big Cannondale head tube - actual forked forks seem like mush to me in the longer format for big wheels, Lefty's are an awesome add and cancel out some pretty decent weight. There's something to be said for a frame that you could stage race on for a lifetime and just replace parts endlessly... something so Mootsygood it makes me want one for every day of the week... if I didn't already have one for every day of the week.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

First road ride of the year

I got home yesterday, and was in sleep deprived, weird airplane feeling for most of the afternoon. Did a little video chatting with Tori who's flights were all messed up due to that east coast rain, then Shawn called and asked if I'd meet them downtown for a bit. Good call, fun night. I'm going to have to drop by 1410 a few times this summer, or whenever I need a flashback to Euro cycling trips.

With daylight savings today, it felt like we got started fairly late, but at least it let the air temperatures rise before we departed. Shawn and I met at Cadence, then went up the hill to try to find the guys who were riding from top of Edworthy. Didn't find that group per se, but we did find Jon Wood scoping for other riders, so the three of us made a group and headed out. At the Lower Springbank/22 intersection we bumped into Craig, which was another awesome bit of luck. The group we had thought we might find caught us as we neared Bragg, so it was right up to a big group of riders. We decided to not make a full stop and just rode out Highway 66. Craig had 'cross bike setup and was riding further, so eventually he did his own pace, while I tried to my best to "ride the Shawn train". I'm gonna do that a lot this year, and say it a lot, to see what kind of response I get. Beautiful day for riding out in K country to say the least, and the coast back to Bragg was fast being mostly downhill and with a tail wind, not to mention the magic of this skinny tired road bike wonder machine (the pure efficiency of a road bike is an absolute marvel) I was riding relative to the mountain bike in NY or the 'cross bike on snow most of the year thus far.

Jon had ridden out a ways after coffee to meet us, he was keeping it under control today after the hammer ride the guys had yesterday and his incident descending the COP switchbacks - had a wrist that wasn't too fond of crossing all the cattle guards and rumble strips.

We stopped into Cinnamon Spoon on the way back, I guess I'm a bit of a bike nerd when rolling into the parking lot from 20 feet away I could already tell that Pat, Gerry and Steve were inside drinking coffee.

After a little refuel, we held a good pace home. The mild decline from Bragg, plus having Shawn and Jon as group partners was awesome, that's a pretty good duo for powering out the flats at high speed. There were a few groups ahead of us for bait, so I just tried to hang on, and managed to do so until the incline on 22 north of the traffic circle. Jon flatted on Lower Springbank, so all the little groups passed us again as we fixed the tire... leading to the "necessity" to re-pass them all. Shawn pulled a "failed Toyota gas pedal" manoeuvre an left it pinned for most of the way back. We split up, Jon and I riding over to the TransCanada to shortcut in, where the mix of conversation and the few last hills had him reaching for some emergency stash powerbars to make it home. I felt ok just spent.

Other than the inevitable spring foot of snow that randomly dumps, it's feeling more and more like this winter is history!

Not too many more months and it'll look more like this.

And I thought I'd put this up just for fun. I have no idea who they are, but when I typed "highway 66 bragg creek" into google images, this is the first hit. Go figure. Maybe that'd be a good post ride leg stretch. Bragg Creek is enjoyable to more than just emaciated and over caffeinated cyclists.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

New York taxi scams

Save for a couple of short trips, every taxi I took in New York was trying to lessen the blow of the economic downturn with various forms of funny business. I wish things were such that you could get in and just have a normal ride, but with their seeming intent to screw anyone who opens the door, I cut them less and less slack every time as I don't enjoy that and don't think that everyone should have to be on the defensive simply by taking the most common form of transport in Manhattan. Most of these are applicable to other cities too, and I just feel like writing so here we go. Maybe they'll save you a few bucks one day. Calgary isn't nearly as bad!

1. Offering non-metered "flat rates" to airport, or other notable destination, or "I'm off duty and won't turn on the meter". Sorry, you will turn on the meter, partly because I'm not in the mood for your games, and partly because it says right here on the back of your seat that it's the law, end stop. I've not yet had to pay more with it on, which is basic proof that you're flat rate "deal" is a) trying to rip your customer off for $5 or $10 more, and b) likely your employer too by not reporting the revenue. Best case scenario - pay at least a legitimate measured amount.

2. Pulling over to let you out "here, at your destination". But sir, this isn't my destination. "Oh, I thought that's what you said, we'll have to circle back." Yes, we certainly will, because that's where I need to go. Secondly, you acknowledged and repeated back to me the destination when we got in (make them repeat it). If it's an error of location, remind them that also can't exist, as they all have GPS sitting on the dash - if they don't know a location, and elect not to use GPS, that sure isn't your fault. I'll pay the price to here, or mentally adjust it to the proper location. I have no moral issue shoving the amount I feel is correct through the window and departing, let them whine. Presuming it's within a dollar or two, it's not like they're going to chase you back to Canada. Best case scenario - pay the "right" amount vs an inflated amount.

3. Short changing - this was one of the more sinister ones I saw, as it needed more preparation, and therefore wasn't just a spontaneous thing. I don't like the idea that there's that much plotting against the customer in advance. Cab ride from A to B costs $11. Hand over a $20 through the window. Recieve $4 back as I'm starting to shuffle towards the curb side door. Look at money and sorta figure it out with my mathematical genius that I'm $5 short, before any judgement on tip. "oh, you must have dropped it sir" as he turns around in his seat and pulls a $5 up from the driver side little junk ledge by his seat near the hole in the window that separates the driver from the passengers. Now think about this for a second: I'm a sober guy in a suit coming back from a meeting, handed four $1 bills in a fairly neat stack... that's not something where one of the bills falls from your hand... we're not talking Canadian Loonies here. He's purposely trying to short change, with a pre-meditated excuse of "having dropped one" and has that little ledge planted with a $5 to back up his story. Best case scenario - leave with all your change.

4. From airport taxi stands - they often tell you what the rate to downtown will be from official taxi stands, like "$67 downtown, all in" meaning that's all you pay, tolls and such included. Either ask twice so you're abundantly clear, or ask for the little chit they can hand out right there in the case where it's advance quoted... cause chances are, buddy driving you says it's X plus tolls, not X including tolls.

5. "Sedan" or "Black car" service. Skip it. Just as functional as getting you around, just as scammy as the rest of them, but not traceable by ID number by the customer and under no transportation authority to keep them in line. Leave those for people who a) live in the city and know rates for various distances, b) those who "know a guy" they always call, or c) when you're straight up stuck and need to get out of the rain and it just becomes worth it. Easy "diffusive" excuse for the guy touting you "can you provide official receipts? ok, I can't go then. My work only reimburses me for official receipts."

6. I can't make change for that stack of $20's (or alternately, gives you some short and says the change "includes a tip"). First, I decide the tip rate, not you - that's totally fair game to state point blank. Second, if you're on that can't make change front, we've got two options. I'll pay by credit card on that slick little chip swipe system mounted back here, or I'll under pay you or give zero tip. There's nothing saying that inability to change is in the drivers favour. Secondly, there isn't a cabbie in the world who can't change a $20, that's basically their job in a nutshell other than honking horns and running yellow lights. Show the money you will pay with before handing it over so its in your hands while they make change, and if this issue arises, simply call BS and offer to underpay while moving toward the door (ie. $40 for a $50 ride) - change is usually made very fast. If there's dawdling, refer to writing down the number of the taxi. If none of those work, switch to Visa. If the "card system is down" (ie. NY technically counts the system not working as a car not working and won't let it on the road if known, so its not likely true), throw your underpayment over and let them pout.

There are more, but those were the typical ones this week. NY doesn't exactly have the "tout system" problem where you say you want to go to place A, but they try to push you to place B (dinners, hotels) as they know everyone makes reservations.

Practically speaking, how do you cope?
1. When you get in, type their ID card number into your blackberry. This doesn't do much, as the only things that matter are destination and price. Having said that, if they know you have it (ie. when you first get in and they ask something, just say "hold on one second, just gotta finish writing down the taxi ID and driver ID numbers"), helps level the playing field. Recourse I bet is basically zilch though in reality.
2. Have plenty of change for "those who can't make change".
3. They assume everyone is a non-confrontational pushover. Yeah, it may be a pain. But don't forget, you have rights and shouldn't be trampled. Keeping the whole system more honest, and preventing them with thinking everyone is a target help the cause. Just state what outcome needs to happen instead of crying ripoff in accusatory way (you need to give me $5 more change back, you need to make change, you need to drop me off here, etc.) and don't take other answers. They won't force their cheating logic on you if you point it out, they'll brush it off as a mistake - usually they try once and back off if they notice you aren't sheepish.
4. Get all your change or have it settled before you get out of the car!

Finally, I realize taxi driving is an entry level job and a foundation for many entering the country. The ones that zip you straight from A to B, asks two good questions along the way or provides you some trivia, punch the meter and say thanks... hand them a few bucks extra. Just seems like those aren't the majority of the population of drivers as of late.

NY wrap up

A lot of things fit into this trip, which made it a great time. Somewhere between 300 and 350k of riding my mountain bike (on pavement mostly, sounds shorter end, but that's three 5 hour days on average), plenty of client entertainment, plus taking in investor presentations from the best public energy companies in Canada, which gave me some good portfolio tweaking thoughts. Managed to get out for a dinner with cousin Carol and husband Harvey, which was great - both the food and the catching up. Next time is most likely either New York again or Paris this summer, hope we can make either happen.

And last but not least, all of this was with my new french girlfriend, Tori. Biking, conference and entertainment, there's only small bits of it we didn't do together - May or June in France is probably next.

I really enjoy New York. From business to entertainment to dining and even outdoors activity there's always something going on. There was something about sipping an "1860 Manhattan" in the Waldorf lobby bar under 30' ornate ceilings with live piano music background that just summed it up right - the place does a pretty good job of being all things to all people.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Rock of Ages

I'm sure there's more serious theatre we could have attended, but a few days into this full throttle, low sleep event needed a simple recipe - and Rock of Ages was the call.  Who can't tap their feet to an 80's music musical?  It's always fun to see live talent, and talent is plentiful here.  Yes, I have no problems admitting I like musicals, if they're that fun.  The (scant) costuming was, uhhh, a nice touch too.  They gave out little LED light fake lighters to help the concert effect.  Plus reading the playbill is like nothing else... who but a broadway musical actor can put "have seen Bon Jovi 9x, Twisted Sister 3x, Night Ranger 2x, Quiet Riot 2x and Poison 3x" or "... would like to thank those three stoners in high school who threw his Trapper Keeper in the urinal for introducing him to Guns N' Roses."

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Sake-tini

Today was the full New York thing - suits, presentations, deals, coffees, fine dining, and night clubbing.  It was interspersed with the usual taxi attempted rip offs, walking a few blocks on a beautiful afternoon, and an afternoon nap.

Dinner in the meat packing district (cool) was at Spice Market (cool and tasty), left everyone feeling cool and well taste-bud-tastified.

We spent a bunch of the evening at Tao, which featured high priced diva drinks that combine old classics in ways trendy enough to require that more than a $20 bill is needed.  Herein was my lesson of the day: Don't pay cash for sex and the city priced sake-tini's when there's a tab going under someone else's name!
At the very least, this helps cover the overhead of the decor (pretty nice) although the urinal being a glass wall with a motion sensor activated rain that falls on it was almost overkill; but to really complete the overkill it was also backlit on the same motion sensor.  So basically to take a leak, there's a glowing luminesence on your crotch, but you need to stand back to not get rained on.  Seriously.

Alice in Chains

We flipped from cycling to entertainment on Tuesday afternoon, getting back to our room then cleaned up for dinner in record turnaround time.

Met with an assortment of clients, spouses and FirstEnergy people at Taboon, Moroccan type restaurant as far as I could tell. Grade A food. Two guys got in late from their flight and do Subway instead. Logistics dictate this is the logical choice, however the FirstEnergy guy's reputation for frugality makes the humor of this notable - taking a CEO client to Subway will further build the legend of his "under control expense reports". Someone earlier had the foresight to realize Alice in Chains was playing the night before our conference, plus the foresight to realize enough guys in the oilpatch would find this a good way to spend the evening.

We walk over to Hanger 5, a three story warehouse building and get in the short entry line. They ID everyone, even the 50+ oil execs, which is kind of pointless, but funny. A few of the guys actually had meetings that day, and the concert was definitely short a few Canali sport coats and Cole Hahn "Nike air" loafers prior to our arrival - it was more of a tank top and tattoo event. Once we're in, one of the poster boys of conservative CEO's, pushes toward the front.

Rest of us walk back into the three story warehouse. A fight breaks out with a bunch of huge dudes, leaving us to hope the clientele made it past that section already; some dude's head met a steel I-beam "vigorously". Turns out they did make it past without incident, leaving a colleague and I to part to let a train of massive goons pass. Wise from a desk jockey perspective.

We find our way to floor 2 which is slightly less sweaty and more open. Women with tattoos and mowhawks serve us cheap beer.

Awesome concert overall, fun and loud. Great people watching. After we do a pub sort of near Times Square and the W bar behind our hotel. It's a warm evening and great for walking. I pull the plug at 1:45 with 4 diehards still going, well representing the 50+ group still.

NY riding further north

Tori and I decided to make it further north with our smarts rather than just a longer day. We're a couple blocks north of Grand Central Station, so out the back of our hotel then into the station was easy as pie. Information gave us mostly the info we needed, so we bought tickets on the Hudson line north (offpeak, $8.25 each) plus bike passes ($5 each) and went to the platform 18 as information mentioned. Apparently that wasn't right and we should have checked updated screens, but regardless we got on the next one 40 minutes later. We rode to Tarrytown, which is foretold as very cute by my cousin, and is opposite side of the river from Piermont where we coffee'd yesterday. One way should save us 50k, we'll see if we ride back or train back - need to train back with bike during off peak, and since we missed that first one, are working with a little less time. Since we're going opposite of the worker bee flow, not sure the off peak matters as much, but I don't need to debate that with the ticket counter.

As it turns out, the bridge from Tarrytown to Nyack doesn't allow bikes to cross. We rode near the bridge, noticed this, then saw the sherrif station right adjacent. I went inside and asked for advice. Bear Mountain bridge is north, but he said roads were busy on this side. Getting back on the train to ride further north would work, but was a 40 minute wait most likely. The trooper then said he'd call the bridge maintenance guy who was his friend and see if he'd give us a ride across in a truck. Sweet!

We got GMC chauffeured across, then rode on 9W past Nyack up towards bear mountain. Stopped for lunch at Titanic Sandwiches (which were surprisingly large) whilst overhearing a few gents discuss the most recent "network marketing" pyramid scheme they were working on, some herbal diet scheme.

The ride back was beauty, we cruised in steady but not blazing to nurse my IT band and Tori's cold.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Riding as a Pair

(from base of GW bridge with Manhattan a few miles in the background, I think GW is about 180th street and we're staying on 50th street)

Tori and I rode to Piermont today, which is picturesque. The air was a beautiful temperature, plenty of cyclists out for a Monday, and the coffee shop we stopped at had a photo of Lance Armstrong and Bart Knaggs in the window from when they found themselves in New York and needing a ride. He commented that the roads were beautiful, the coffee was strong, and the cinnamon scones were unparalleled. I guess we were onto something if the experts agreed. I'll skip the little bit about my IT band being a little perturbed and instead highlight the couple on a WWII motorbike, kitted up with leather helmet replicas and goggles, complete with a big brown chocolate lab with like goggles cruising along in the sidecar. Life is meant to be fun, right?

Alice in Wonderland

Tori and I saw Alice in Wonderland at Union Square last night. After buying tickets online, we waited in line to pick them up, but as we neared the front of the line, a girl next to us said we could use the machines to print them. Tori ran to do that, and I ended up being front in line so I thought I'd at least try asking too, just in case, so we didn't loose our spot if we needed it.

"Hi, can I get the tickets we bought online here?"

"Yeah. Card please."

"Uhh, my girlfriend went to some machines with the card to try to work that."

"You mean that white girl over there?"

I turned around and saw Tori gleefully running back with tickets. The ticket counter girl's accent was what made the line, and yes, being a "white girl" was a useful descriptive to single her out in the crowd at this particular theatre. The accent reminded me of one of the best scenes from one of the best movies of all time, dripping with layers of timeless talent (sorry, two parts have survived on youtube, and total side note, my story about literally running into Dan Akroyd in our office the day I was learning to ride a unicycle is humor highlight of my existence):

But this is all really about Alice
in Wonderland. The ever increasing ability of Hollywood to make things not real appear as real worlds impresses me. This 3D stuff just might revive theaters till it can be replicated at home, it's awesome. I'm particularly fond of the Cheshire cat, but wonderland as a whole was incredible. For those who get bogged down by such things, this wasn't a word for word repeat of the book, it was an adaptation to convey to the masses "think outside the box and chart your own course". As much as Alice in Wonderland it could be called Tori on Planet Earth (especially if you hear what she observes during a bike ride together) Good stuff, check it.

3D movie equipped New York tourists.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

10 word wiki

If you haven't seen this yet, give it a whirl. Here's a few taste testers:

New York inspires trying a Top 10 list

New York is awesome for biking, which may not be apparent since a massive city usually pictured as jammed full of yellow taxi's and skyscrapers. I'm no Letterman, but here's a try at my top 10 list format for today:

10. Tori will ride with me tomorrow, so I knew I had to scout some good stuff - having a mission makes it fun (she's waging war on the cold today, plus shopping).
9. Since last time I was here, the already good bike path and road laneway system has been markedly improved.
8. The bike paths have signs "respect others" and in a few congested spots, simply "slow". Common sense. None of this path Nazi Calgary "let's over enforce this".
7. Sightseeing: a million pocket dogs in little sweaters, miles of beautiful old houses that are "This Old House" episode material, and yes, hedge fund/banker land. I'm not a super real estate gawker, but when the real estate agent sign in the front drive is Sotheby's, they're usually pretty impressive. I just wouldn't want to shovel the driveway on this one, I think it had 3 switchbacks.

6. Basketball under the bridge, better basketball than I've really seen elsewhere. Baseball in the park. Footballs being tossed. Tennis being played. Inline skating. Rollerskating with style. Runners everywhere, fast ones too. Kite flyers. Dog walkers. Photographers. Skateboarders. Tia chi by the river. The "convention" of people who had massively pimped out Smart cars all huddled together. Soccer players. Hackey sackers. The 5 piece jazz band at a bike path corner in the sun groovin' away. The guy selling bike jerseys on the bridge offramp, just cause. Guys beatboxing at another corner. A guy rapping while sitting on a bench, wearing an oversized olive drab utility looking coat while petting a puppy that was in his chest pocket. BMX flatlanders near the raquetballers on an outdoors court complex. People drinking coffee while sitting on park benches and discussing the world on levels that sounded fairly in depth for what you can grasp riding by on a bike, New Yorkers seem to think beyond the bounds of the city a lot (I'll admit that many of this description seemed to be women with fashionable glasses, coats, tight jeans and knee high boots, not that I have an eye for that kind of thing...). The summary of this is that I think I saw every color of person imaginable outside doing so many random activities, much of it in English but also in more languages that I can identify, on a sunny afternoon without bother.

5. Bike style - anything goes, everyone rides bikes. Not just racers in lycra, but fixie riding hipster girls on fixies near the Fashion Institute of Technology to dudes in sneakers, track suits and aviator glasses just cruisin', people in jeans and toe clip bikes given'er, kids, etc. People ride bikes here, not just enthusiasts.
4. Rockefeller center, Times square, Avenue of the Americas, and so much more... awesome. No traffic issues at all, and for the city crossing I did, it flowed well (see below).
3. Thousands of other cyclists. I can count groups of 5's and 15's. I can count many many groups like that, which gets you to the hundreds. When it's 5 hours straight, it adds up.
2. Pulling into the hotel, and the bellman in the black coat that just blew his whistle and aggressively hailed a taxi (aggressive to my perception, probably normal here) looks at me, smiles, and says "man I bet it was just a beautiful day for a bike ride out there" in some sort of deep smiley accent I can only speculate as "Africa somewhere" instead of winding up to say something about not bringing my bike in.
1. 5 hour ride: 8 stoplights. Only one in Jersey, 7 in Manhattan. Kid you not. No rest stops, just uninterrupted pedaling the whole time in the sun. Perfect!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

New York, I love you

Ahhh, New York.  After landing in Jersey, waiting forever and a day for luggage to unload, taking an $80 cab ride to the Waldorf reminded me that this megalopolis is purely amazing.  The activity level everywhere seems high, and people in Manhattan look great for the most part.  Glammed up and doing... something, even if they're doing nothing.  Bright lights, big city, here I come.  I'll wear myself down with a few days riding then it's client entertainment and conference to the max.

Of course in this pinnacle of capitalism, a cabbie only takes greenbacks, not Visa.  So I've gotta run into the hotel and load up my pocket.

Up to the room to find Tori snoozing away her cold as best she can.  Since apparently the minibar has been discontinued, ruining my plans of an dinner consisting of $12 of mixed nuts, an $8 beer and a powerbar.  How do you discontinue a concept like minibars?  People are going to be throwing TV's from the 23rd floor at 3am when they can't self serve another Red Bull or Jack 'n Coke.  Seriously, this is a Hilton hotel, Paris would flip out (side note: my assistant said she didn't think I had enough Hilton Honours points win a free visit from Paris yet).

Anyway, I figure it's best to order room service so I can put my bike together ASAP.  To the Waldorf's credit, this is the best $30 cobb salad I've ever had.  Add a side of steamed spinach and a lemonade, plus some room charge, taxes, Visa exchange rate and whatever else, and this isn't the cheapest bike build I've ever done by far.  Somebody's gotta keep funding Paris' spending habits I guess.  Maybe I should have just bought a new bike instead?!  Especially since it seems my promotion since last visit here got the girls who book our stuff to put me in a next-up-the-ladder room.  The upside is there's a little hallway and two walk in closets (there's one more to the left of the one pictured, this is the one with the two closets and a pass through door to the neighbour) perfect for bike building (not that the hotel had that in mind).  Drawback is from now till the conference it's out of my budget, ouch!

My mountain bike hasn't even been unpacked from Sydney, where I polished it clean before leaving, looks beauty.  Man is an S&S coupled bike ever a great tool for my existence.  Love it!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Jimi Hendrix

you know, I really didn't think I'd hit two music posts in a short period, but it just seems to fit... like remember when you were right on the doors of turning 27, on the way to Toronto for a business conference and went a couple days early since the only time you could cram for the PDO exam (partner, director, officer) likely was a couple days in a hotel room when you could escape by distance the intensity of ibanking, but in the airport you felt you needed a tuneout, and bought and read a biography of Jimi Hendrix, and realized that there really wasn't a single way your first (and his only) 27 years could possibly have been more different? It's rare to see man and machine meld so seamlessly, regardless of what the machine is. I feel natural on a bike, but I can "play" a bike about a tenth as naturally as Jimi plays a guitar (and a crowd).

and then 5 years later, you don't feel or behave much different, but you've been bombarded lately with engagment announcements, wedding invites, pregnancy announcements, and all your friends houses seem to be full of babies and all that grown up stuff, when either philisophically, or lacking maturity, or just by way of looking for continued outlet, you're not in sync with all that? is there value in being in sync?

crank this shit up, and maybe all your babies will be born naked too.

Bonus here... remember when creative talent was unleashed into an era, pushing that era further, in a place that didn't think it had many bounds on creative talent (and a place that creative talent forever had a relationship with), from where there was before no such thing but a silent stringed chunk of hardware, a set of sounds emerged that divided those who saw what it meant, elevated the nation's understanding of creativity and saw it was just as worthy version of patriotism, and the other portion of the division didn't see it, thinking it was perhaps abuse of patriotism, when in fact it could be the most American version of the star spangled banner of all time, or at least no less american than any other version of it? it's hard to imagine punctuating an era, sheerly from your fingertips, especially when you had to leave your nation and come back later, proven, different, and he did this all in really only 3 years that the world knew him, but he skipped growing up in favour of just pressing those three years into the annals of "forever" by departing prematurely.

and in that three years you can make, take, borrow, remake, interpret, or just play the music of your mind and of your contemporaries, and there's not a hint of ripoff or one upmanship or anything, it's just different through your fingers filtering it, and no matter how much you try, like forever, you'll never be able to "get down to business" even close, even if supposedly that's your (business - my??) calling? (also Sgt. Peppers only a couple days after the Beatles released it, just for sport)

and whilst interpreting that which came before you, it becomes showered in unmatchable talent like playing it upside down, backwards, with your teeth... yeah I can't claim any real talent in life.

and then that's it. your bright light is over, but legends live on. but your era died, and it died when you died, not the other way around, so you took the harder way of "never growing up".

Kim Carnes

Ever get one of those TransPortugal race update emails, and besides just all the memories flooding in of pedaling across that beautiful country, you remember that time driving through southern Portugal on a beautiful sunny afternoon in a fast little Peugeot on some twisty roads by quaint little lakes while listening to Portuguese radio when all of a sudden an 80's english classic comes on, and the catchy tune makes you and Tori just feel like everything is so fun about life (and maybe subliminally you've liked that song your whole life because as a tiny kid driving to Thunder Bay, Ontario from Madison with mom in a Chevy van to go see dad at work coaching the Canadian ski jumping team you'd sing along to it together to pass time while watching the northern lights on the cold night drive to Canada)? Maybe not, cause I think I was the only other one there, but that's ok.

The important part is I'll remember all forever, or at least till my memory just stops remembering stuff.

(clicky here)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

GHG Emissions

I'm not really polarazied on this whole GHG emissions debate, or at least I try not to be. I help finance oil exploration and development of hydrocarbons, and use combustion for transportation and heat, as well as electrons running along wires in my house (pro-forma the house of course when it's built) for modern necessities and luxuries. Having said that, I observe there's been, and continues to be a lot of fervor. Here's an interesting slide that provides some size-context of how the oil sands fit in on a North American scale.