Rumblings, Ruminations, and Retrospectives

Musings from the mind of the Beast.

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Sitting Around The Campfire, Telling Ghost Stories…

… as requested by a Twitter follower.

I used to work for the local phone company. Except, like most providers these days, they’re so much more than a “phone” company – also providing cable TV and internet services.

I worked in an arm of the company focused on I.T. and providing web hosting, email, and server hosting to end clients. We worked downtown, in an older part of the city called The Exchange District. The area is full of old buildings and some pretty nice architecture.

My job regularly required us to work a lot of overtime, as business couldn’t afford to take outages during the day. We instituted an overnight shift and that required us to be on-site, downtown, and after hours.

One of my co-workers was on the night shift, and when we came in for the day shift, he was kind of odd. He’s a hell of a nice guy, but I’ve never seen him so happy to see humans before in my life. He was sitting in his cubicle, a cricket bat (brought in as a decoration by another co-worker) at the ready.

“Cheesie (our nickname for him), what’s with the cricket bat?”

And so he told us the story.

As he was working over night, sitting in his cubicle, he wasn’t sure what was going on but as he sat there, he said he had a moment where he heard the ringing, jingling sound of metal banging together, like keys being shuffled. Except that it wasn’t like someone shaking a key chain, it was rythmic, like someone was walking with keys attached to their belt and the ring of keys was bouncing off their hip as they walked.

Ka-chink. Ka-chink. Ka-chink. Ka-chink. Ka-chink.

The sound was close at first, but then it slowly got quiter, as if the person was walking away. Only thing is, it was 2:30 in the morning and no one else was in the office.

Cheesie grabbed the cricket bat, and started walking around the office, checking to see if anyone was there, or if someone was playing tricks on him. As he was walking around, he heard the main door open and shut, and then the sound of the keys was gone. Cheesie completed his circuit of the office, but he couldn’t find anyone. Nothing was disturbed. He got to the door and checked the lobby, but no one was there. He pushed the elevator button, but it was still on our floor.

There was nobody there.

As he’s telling this story, some of us are givig him the gears, not believing him. Some of us were freaking out, and others were leaning in closer to hear more. The only possible explanation – as much as we did or didn’t want to hear it – was a ghost. Nothing else could add up. There’s no way it could have been a person playing tricks – the office is big enough that if someone was just walking around jingling keys, they would have been spotted in an instant.

But how was it possible?

Our team began a “man hunt”, looking for any way this could be explained. We started looking up local legends, as Winnipeg apparently has a history of ghosts and such.

As it turns out, there is a local legend that states the building we worked in – dating back to the late 1800’s – was a former warehouse. We knew this to be true, we saw the building as it was being renovated in prep for our group moving into the building. The upper floors were the warehouse and storage areas, while the first two floors were the retail and office areas. The legend has it that one of the employees – a man that did a lot woodworking and assembly – had died in an accident with some machinery, and that his ghost continues to walk through the building.

So then it became my turn to work the night shift. The shifts were a week long at a time. I was freaked out. I didn’t want to have a run in with a ghost. I was literally scared the entire time I was there. I had the cricket bat at my desk just in case.

Monday night, everything went well, no ghosts. Tuesday was the same. Wednesday night there was no action, but by this time, I’m super stressed, I’m not getting anything done. Not a fun time.

Thursday night comes along, and things are going well a few hours into the shift. But I’m on high alert, and at 2:00 AM I thought I heard some noises. Banging, like someone had dropped something heavy. I quickly grab the cricket bat and look aroud, but there’s nothing to see. I couldn’t find anything.

I go back to work, and a half hour later at 2:30 AM, there it is.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

I grab the cricket bat and whirl around. No one is there.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

I get up and start walking around the office, but I don’t see a thing. No one is there.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

I follow the sound to the far end of the office, but just before I get there…

THUNK.

The outside door to the lobby closes.

BUT I NEVER HEARD IT OPEN.

More banging.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

Banging.

Ka-chink.

Ka-chink.

THERE IS NO ONE THERE.

I blow through the door and check the stairwell. Nothing. Check the elevator. It’s still on my floor, so no one has used it to go back downstairs.

THEN…

I hear what sounds like two women GIGGLING coming from the vents above me. From the VENTS. Thing is, the floor above us is not occupied. No one is there. There’s ghosts fucking playing with me!

Then, it all goes quiet. Not a peep. no banging, no keys, no doors, no giggling. Nothing.

So now I have to go back to my desk and sit there for another five and a half hours, trying not to shit myself.

I think I’ve just started believing in ghosts!

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Well, this is interesting…

… I’m sitting at home tonight, and my good buddy (you might want to read his blog) texts me and tells me that my blog (yes, the one you’re reading right now) is broken.

Ludicrous, I say to myself. Impossible.

So, I come to the site, and lo and behold, I get a “page not found” error. This is bullshit, I think. I haven’t touched it in weeks (something I’m hoping to correct with more postings) so how is it broken?

I get looking around. The site actually loads – I can see the title in my browser, but before any content is displayed, I’m redirected off to what can only be a malicious site. I reload and stop the browser from loading before it redirects – and I find somehow there’s a new post that’s been added, but it’s hidden. It also contains a malicious script that does the redirect to the new site.

So I get hunting. Hmm… I can’t see the post in the admin panel. Of course, it’s hidden. No worries, I have automatic back ups of the blog done, so I’ll restore from one right before the post was made. Well, they stopped working too. So I think… if the post is hidden, will WordPress even see it? It can’t from the Admin panel, so let me export all the posts.

Sure enough, the malicious post is nowhere to be found in the export. I go into the database manager, empty out the post table, and the site now works. It’s empty, but at least the theme comes up. Then I re-import the posts, and we’re golden!

It makes me ask though… there’s obviously an export done. There’s nothing of mine that was compromised. My username/password is ok – there’s nothing in the logs to show it’s been used. So how did they do a database injection without it? I have no idea. Someone out there is good. Very good.

But if they’re so smart, why are they trying to hack a blog that hasn’t been updated in a few months, and the amount of traffic they’d get redirected to their site is minimal? Not so brilliant – not that they’re going to gain anything out of it. All that effort for nothing.

Well, I guess they got me to waste an hour and a half on it. At least I have a TV in here now and there’s a decent movie on. ;)

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Zombie Apocalypse Update

Well, this is odd.

A while back, I wrote about how Zombies were invading my dreams and turning my treasured sleepy time into a twisted version of The Walking Dead. I was having a recurring – yet serial and ongoing, like a TV drama – dream about being chased by zombies.

I never did figure out why I started having them or why they were recurring. I didn’t think I was particularly scared of zombies. I had no other reason to dream about them. Maybe it was some other problem manifesting itself in that fashion.

Well, whatever it was, since I wrote that last blog post the dreams have stopped. I actually have gone to sleep at night hoping they come back so I can figure it all out – or at least just see what the hell happens next, but they’ve just plain stopped. No rhyme or reason, they’re just gone.

I wonder if you’re all as disappointed as I am.

Anyway, just thought I’d update you as a few of you have been asking. Maybe once The Walking Dead comes back on TV it’ll pick up again. ;)

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Setting and Hitting Goals: Thinking “Micro”

I’ll preface this by coming clean: I am (obviously :p) not a fitness expert. I’ve battled the ups and downs of trying to get into better shape and I continue to do so. I write this not from an expert point of view, but this is something learned through experience.

But whether you’re an expert or not, one thing that is driven home by any kind of coach, instructor, or trainer is to set goals. This is very important; we all need something to strive towards, to help us see results, and to motivate us to keep it up.

Another thing that is stressed is that while we need to not only set goals, we need to set honest, achievable goals. We can’t reach too high too soon – that is an easy recipe for disaster. At the start we’re motivated, but if we don’t see immediate results it’s far too easy to lose that motivation. If your goal is to lose 40 pounds, that’s great. That can be your end goal, sure, but we need to set smaller goals on the road to the bigger goal and hit THOSE goals.

All too often, people on their first day show up at the gym or their first class and they’re pumped. “I’M GONNA LOSE 40 POUNDS!” And after the first week, they’ve lost two pounds and rather than celebrate the small goal and strive to do better, the result is “I did all that work and I only lost two pounds?” The motivation goes away and they fall right back off the rails.

So, here’s the point of this post. We get it: we need to set small goals. Instead of shooting for one large goal of losing 40 pounds, we start setting smaller, more achievable goals of 2-3 pounds per week. When you hit them, they provide a great sense of satisfaction and the motivation stays up to continue on. You’ll eventually get to 40 for sure!

That’s fine, but what if we take that way further?

A switch went off for me last week as far as pushing myself to ensure I give it my all in a workout. There are small goals, but there are also *micro* goals.

Over the last year and a half I’ve been pretty hampered by a nasty back injury. There are days where it’s hard to even stand for 10 minutes, let alone get through a punishing hour-long Muay Thai class, so since January of this year I’ve been using the rowing machine as a low-impact way to get a workout in, and then practice some combinations and techniques on the heavy bag when I get a chance.

I do a 6-10 minute warm up, depending on how I’m feeling that day and how much I need to loosen up, but my main workout is 20 minutes of really hard rowing. In that 20 minutes, I track how many metres I can go. When I started, I was hitting 3200-3300 metres, and I’ve been slowly ramping up. Now, my goal is to hit 4000 metres in 20 minutes.

I have to be honest, some days, it’s really hard to get through, just as it is in a kickboxing workout. Some days I don’t think I can do it, but then that switch went off. Instead of saying “I have to row 4000 metres!!”, I started setting “micro” goals. One thing I focus on is I don’t watch the clock. I’m never going “Oh man I have 4 more minutes to go! Crap!” I’m locked onto the metre counter. This way, I’m not focused on watching the clock, but instead I’m watching the counter rise – with every pull I’m going farther and this in itself is motivating. I do use the clock, but I use it in my micro-goals as below.

  • In 5 minutes, I need to go 1000 metres
  • In 1 minute, I need to go 200 metres
  • In 30 seconds, I need to go 100 metres

So, I lock onto the metre counter and start rowing. When 100 metres approaches, I glance at the clock to ensure I’m at 30 seconds or less. At 200 metres, I look up to ensure I’m at 1 minute or less. Every 100 metres I’m checking to make sure I’m on my time target. If I’m not there I’m pushing myself to go even harder the next 30 seconds and keep it up.

I’m making 10 checks in that 5 minutes, and you’d be surprised how fast it goes when it’s done that way. As 1000 metres approaches, I again look at the time. I’d better be at the 5 minute mark or better, and if I’m under (lately I’m hitting it around the 4:50 – 4:54 mark) then I’m *instantly* screaming at myself in my mind to push real hard and see how far over the 1000 mark I can go in that last 10 seconds or less. After 5 minutes, I take a quick breather and water break, document how far I went, and then do that all over again 3 more times.

Since I started setting these micro goals at the start of May, my distance traveled has gone up from 3800 – 3900 metres to over 4100 metres (I hit 4140 today). I noticed that at the start I was hitting the 200 metre mark at 1:03 or 1:04 instead of 1:00. But I kept improving. Now I can hit it around 0:56. I figure if I can keep this up all week, then my target will go up to 4200 or 4300 metres, I’ll recalculate and reset my targets for next week and push to get there.

So how does this translate to an actual kickboxing class?

  • When you’re at the end of a round of combinations and the instructor calls to punch out for the last 10 seconds, count your punches. If you can do 40 punches in that 10 seconds, then push for a few more the next time. When you hit 45, push for 50. Keep going!
  • While doing 10’s for 3 minutes and you find you can get up to level 6, don’t make level 10 your immediate goal. Instead, push to add a few more kicks every time. Then you might get to level 6 and then 3 more kicks. Push then to get to level 7 next time. Then level 7 and a few more kicks. Then level 8. Eventually you WILL make it! It will just happen!
  • You’re called to do 100 round kicks and you get 5 minutes. To make the goal you need to throw 20 kicks per minute. 10 kicks per 30 seconds. Do the exercise and work with your partner to count your kicks. Let’s say you make 50 of the 100 kicks – you’re doing 5 kicks per 30 seconds. Next time you do the exercise, throw 5 kicks and glance at the clock to see if you’ve made that 30 second target. Did you? Excellent – now push for 6! Once you start throwing 6 kicks every 30 seconds, push for 7 – you will eventually get there!

There’s many applications for this in a kickboxing class, or any sustained activity. The point is to establish a pace. Measure what you can do in that pace, and then push to improve that pace. Pretty soon that 4000 metres becomes 4300 and those 50 kicks becomes 65.

You will hit those small goals and incrementally work your way up to the next small goal. And the next one. You’ll hit that one and move even higher. Continually improve!

This method may not work for everyone but it seems to be for me. Hopefully it might help someone else out there!

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Walking A Mile…

First of all, apologies for not blogging so much lately. There’s been a ton of stuff going on, both personally and professionally, and I’ve found myself busy/exhausted/stressed/not caring/excited and running the gamut of emotions that goes along with all of that.

But, I think we’re back on solid ground here so I’m going to attempt to get this thing back on track. I suppose I’m well overdue with this particular entry.

On January 16th a good friend and co-worker, Ron Peterson, tragically passed away after suffering a brain anuerysm while exercising. At the time, I was on the Web team where I’d been for nearly 7 years. Ron was Team Lead of the Intel team, but prior to that he was actually my leader as he used to lead the Web team as well.

He and I got along really well; we both thought the same way about the workings of things, had a lot of the same ideas, we vented to each other, and Ron was a very big supporter of mine with management. He was always pulling me aside and asking/giving advice, talking about future plans, and ensuring I was doing what I needed to be doing to be in the good books with management and in line for promotions, etc. He was like my big brother around the office, always looking out for me.

Ron made me the Technical Lead for the Web team. That meant I got to do a lot more work for no more pay, but it introduced me to leadership where he taught me everything I know now about being a leader. He gave me the freedom to get things done on that team as I saw fit. Ron gave me the confidence to become a leader, backed me up when I was right and corrected me when I was wrong – yet supported me at the same time.

Ron’s passing left a huge hole on the Intel team without his leadership – shoes that no one could ever expect to fill, because Ron was, well… Ron. You can’t replace him. Ever. Besides his leadership and technical knowledge, Ron was a funny guy, fiercely loyal, and ever-omnipresent. Even though he sat almost all the way across the room, he’d call you on the phone and you could hear him both through the headset and in real-time over the air – Ron was always in stereo. He loved hanging out with his team, telling stories, and having a good time – even though he was a leader, he never felt above anyone else. He was a great family man and worked tirelessly for charitable organzizations.

I could go on and on about him, but suffice to say Ron was an excellent leader and an amazing human being. We all miss him very much.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be selected as Ron’s successor (again, never a replacement) to lead the Intel team. I write this blog post because I find it to be an incredible and amazing circle of fate that after all Ron did for me, I now sit at his desk, in his role, doing his work, and leading his team. It’s exactly what he would have wanted.

I just wish he was here to see it.

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It’s The Zombie Apocalypse!

aka: ZOMBIES~! aka: I need to see a therapist.

Over the past six to eight months, I’ve been having a series of dreams. No, I don’t mean recurring dreams, I mean a series. It’s like an entire DVD set of a television show is being played out in my mind as I sleep. It’s a damned serial!

After discussing these events with my co-workers, they’ve convinced me to blog about it to not only have a record of it so I can keep track, but apparently it’s entertaining enough that they want to keep up on it as well. So, here we go.

I’ll start with a six or seven month summary, all of which was fairly bland and boring and repetitive.

For the first large portion of this on-going serial drama playing out in the deepest, darkest recesses of the bizarre universe know as my brain, the dreams actually did have a recurring theme, but yet it was serialized. I know. Strange.

The dreams are in a summer setting, in a barren future version of Winnipeg, and began with me walking down an empty street, minding my own business. Suddenly, a veritable legion of ZOMBIES comes pouring out from the buildings on the sides of the street, falling in to one gigantic pack, limping, lumbering, dragging legs and swinging arms as only the best of zombies can with their heads lopped to one side. They have begun their sole quest, their quest for brains.

MY BRAINS.

So I do what any normal, unarmed, scared shitless, non-undead human would do. I RUN FOR IT.

But here’s the kicker and the serial part of my dreams – no matter how far I run, no matter how fast I go, no matter where I hide… they always find me. This continues on for nights on end. The zombies chase me. I run away. They continue to chase me. I outrun them – which is a massive miracle in itself cause I’m a pretty big guy and the only running I normally do is to get to the door before the pizza guy leaves. But it’s an unending chain of events – they chase me, I run, run and hide, and run some more, and no matter what I do or how far I run, moments after I stop to rest the zombies are there to try and take my brains. I take off again, and invariably that’s where I would wake up.

This would go on and on for six or seven months. It’s unreal. And every night, it’s a different street, a different house, a different business or office building.

But here’s the twist. Over the last few weeks, the dreams have started evolving.

On one night, I ran into an abandoned house in search of refuge, and there it was; my first semblance of assistance throughout this whole ordeal. Leaning up against a wall, its blade gleaming, its hilt immaculately designed – a razor sharp katana sword. All the better to separate zombie heads from bodies with!

So, I proceed back out into the street, armed with my katana blade and a new found confidence, I’m prepared to fight these bastards. If I can’t outrun them, I’m going to fight them. I continue my walk through the street, blade at the ready, prepared for a zombie onslaught. Minutes, hours go by before I run into any of them, but suddenly, there it is. A lone zombie clumsily climbs through a broken window and comes lumbering towards me across the street. I arm myself with my blade, and as the zombie approaches I perform my best Sho Kosugi impersonation (look him up, folks) and liberate the zombie’s head from his shoulders.

But does the Zombie drop dead? No! He SHRUGS like it was no big deal, reaches down and picks up his head, and REATTACHES it to his neck! The chase begins anew, and once again I take off, and at this point I wake up.

What the…?

At this point, I’m sharing these stories with my co-workers. Where we work, we use an AWFUL piece of software for our trouble ticketing system called Remedy. It’s usless, it crashes, it’s slow, it fails randomly, and everyone in the office absolutely hates it. So one of my co-workers christens my sword the Blade of Futility and compares it to using this software – it just doesn’t work!

The next recollection I have is running away from the aforementioned reattached-head zombie and running into another building, where I’m summarily surrounded by the undead beasts. I start hacking and slashing and fighting away with the Blade of Futility, and this time I’m actually DROPPING zombies where they stand, but the numbers are too great. The Blade of Futility is knocked from my hands, so I start punching, kicking, using every Muay Thai combo I’ve ever been shown, even ripping heads from bodies with my bare hands to fight my way through the horde and escape, thankfully with my brains intact – and I wake up.

In our next episode, I somehow reclaim the Blade of Futility on my travels, and once again face a horde of zombies – albeit a much smaller horde – and this time I manage to chop them up and lay them all to waste. SUCCESS! Or is it?

As I stand looking over the slain zombies to ensure none of them will get up and plunge a straw into my cranium and start feasting on my brains, the ground starts to quake, the concrete begins to crack, the buildings rumble and start to break apart and the very ground in front of me opens up… and this MASSIVE 20-foot tall zombie with a physique that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger on steroids look like PeeWee Herman rises up out of the rubble and stares at me like I’m going to become his next meal. Not just my brains – ALL of me.

So of course I wake up.

Are you entertained yet?

I honestly have no idea where this comes from. I really don’t have any kind of a fear of zombies. I watched Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as a young kid and loved it. I have no idea where it’s going next. But now that we’re all up to speed and this is semi-documented for posterity, I’ll keep y’all updated as new developments happen.

Maybe I should make a movie out of this.

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2012 C4Con

This past weekend I made it to the Central Canada Comic Con (C4Con). Good times, good times. I did a full review over at A1-Wrestling.com. Go here to read!

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What Happens In Vegas…

… gets plastered all over the internet for everyone to see.

Rather than spend hours writing a ginormous blog post about our Vegas trip, we thought we’d show you instead. We spent days wandering up and down the Strip, checking out the various hotels and casinos, catching shows, hitting up Fremont street, and of course, taking hundreds of photos.

So, grab a beverage or two, sit back, and (hopefully) enjoy the videos!

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Finding A Forever Home

If any of you know Stephanie and I, you know that we’re big softies for four legged creatures. We currently have two dogs and three cats of our own, and all of them have been rescues. We’ve also had another dog and three other cats that have spent their lives with us, and they too have been rescues.

There’s something about cute little fuzzy friends that are just too much to resist. We’d talked in the past about fostering other dogs on a temporary basis until they could find their forever homes and a great family to call their own, but we’d always been hesitant because one of our own dogs is a little fear-aggressive around other dogs (but she’s getting so much better recently), and didn’t want to deal with all the issues that integrating two animals like this brings.

We wanted to be able to provide the foster dog with all the training and help possible to get adopted as soon as possible, but at the same time, respect our existing relationships with our current dogs. We just didn’t think we could handle it all.

Well, that was until we saw an email with a desperate plea to help save six dogs in Selkirk that were about to be put down because the local facility just couldn’t keep them any longer. We decided that saving a dog’s life was a little more important than a little convenience on our part.

The pictures aren’t outstanding, but we’d like you to meet Dash.


 

 

 

 

 

We’ll post more pictures of him as we get better ones.

Dash is a male Border Collie cross (we’re not sure what he’s crossed with though). We’ve only had Dash for three days as of this writing. He came to us with no name, and no real history as to what was going on with him.

We were told he’s about a year old, but we figure he’s closer to 8-10 months, as he’s tall, but he hasn’t filled out a lot yet. Dash is incredibly friendly and sweet, and he gets along equally well with dogs as well as cats, and people of all ages. Because he’s still in puppy stage, he plays pretty hard with other animals, but that will come out of him in time.

Now that we’re getting a chance to work with him after the whole hoopla of bringing him home and introducing him to the other dogs and a brand new environment, we can tell that Dash is an extremely intelligent dog. He has learned the “sit” command in just a minute or two of work, and he listens when you speak to him.

He’s energetic and loves to play and keep busy, so he would be an excellent fit for a person or family that can keep him active and engaged. He really enjoys long walks in the dog park, and with his speed and athleticism, he would be an awesome candidate for dog sports like Agility or Fly-ball.

When he’s at rest, Dash loves being petted and loves to cuddle. He’s a real sweetheart, and would make an excellent companion.

We’re extremely happy that we were able to spare Dash’s life and save him from being destroyed as he’s such a good dog, but we really need to find Dash his forever home. If you’re interested in adopting a dog, please consider coming to meet him. If you know someone who’s interested in a dog, please let them know about Dash. He’d make an excellent addition to any home.

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Life In The Center of The Universe

Or, “Our Quick Excursion to Toronto”.

I used the phrase “Center of the Universe” to describe Toronto because that’s the way most of us in the West of this great country feel about Toronto; they get everything, the government caters to them, we’ve been assaulted with FAR too many Maple Leaf games on CBC… everything in this country seems to revolve around Toronto, or at least, that’s the way it feels sometimes.

Didn’t feel like that when we traveled there, though.

Stephanie and I went to Toronto for what turned out to be three really fun-filled days from the 15th to the 17th of July. Just a quick break, a reason to get out and do something.

Who am I kidding? We went because I’m a giant geek and I wanted to go to TransformersCon. We just added a couple extra days and did stuff that didn’t center around what *I* wanted to do. :)

We left super early on Thursday morning (the 15th); our plane took off at 5:45 AM, so that brought about the now-ingrained custom, well, now, tradition, of Stephanie and I rushing to do everything at the VERY last moment the night before we left, getting two hours of sleep, and then stumbling to the airport.

Thankfully, some brilliant human invented web check-in, so we checked in a day ahead of time, and showed up at the airport with boarding passes already in hand. All we had to do was check our bags and get abused by airport security before getting on the plane.

The flight was great – it’s awesome now that we’ve lost all this weight (crossed the 80 pound mark today!) and airplane seats are SO much more comfortable! After landing in Toronto around 8:45 AM, we headed over to pick up our rental car.

I’m wondering at this point if these guys ever get anything right.

We get to the rental desk inside the airport, and the guy can’t find our reservation (we booked through Air Miles). Finally, he finds it after a few minutes, and says our car is waiting. We take our papers over to the parkade where the cars are, and the car we were assigned was already given to someone else.

So now, while I’m waiting for another car, I have to endure an East Indian gentlemen (who I’m sure is otherwise a very nice man) screaming at the desk clerk because he was apparently given the wrong price, yet he was given all the paperwork and just didn’t understand. I think the guy wanted a SUV, and ended up leaving with his family in a Dodge Charger because of the mix up.

And did I mention the young woman, with her husband and baby, desperately trying to pick up their reservation, but didn’t have her drivers’ license with her? No ID, no rent-y, sister.

So, we were supposed to get the Charger, but the lovely East Indian man drove off with it.

Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound quite right.

I don’t mean anything by it, really.

So now I’m waiting for another car. We end up with a Ford Fusion.

I’m deathly allergic to Ford.

Something about them breaking down and leaving me stranded. We load our suitcases up into the trunk (which was quite spacious, I might add. You could store several bodies in there comfortably. Something to keep in mind next time work pisses me off) and get into the car, which was actually quite nice. None of my allergies were kicking in.

Where to? Let’s go to the hotel and check in.

So, off we go. We’re confident. Stephanie has a map and is doing a fantastic job at navigating. She’s bound and determined we’re not going to get lost. (Unlike last time I drove in Toronto, where I somehow ended up on the QEW and in Mississauga.) Stephanie plots a course and lays it in, and I take the helm and we’re off. Everything checks out. We pass all the correct streets. I don’t turn off onto any major freeways.

A few minutes later, something’s not right.

“We’re on the 401,” I say.

“How the hell did that happen?” asks Stephanie.

A giant feeling of deja vu kicks in, and 15 minutes later, we’re nowhere NEAR where we should be.

Our hotel was back beside the airport.

I get us turned around after being stuck in traffic for almost an hour (damned closed roads!), and find a familiar street. Stephanie plots us back to the hotel, and we get there around 11 AM.

Check-in is at 3 PM.

Dammit.

So, let’s go downtown and meet our co-workers for lunch. We hop back in the car, and Stephanie plots another course. We’re perfect this time, and make it downtown smoothly. But on the way and navigating we’re all “that street looks familiar” and “so does this one”.

Turns out that when we got “lost” (and I use quotes cause we weren’t really lost, we just took the scenic route), we were about two minutes from where we’re going now. We just drove in one gigantic circle.

Figures.

We finally get downtown and park at a subway station, and take the subway deep into downtown. My first ever subway ride. We meet Adeel and Steve from our Toronto office (Adeel used to work with me here in Winnipeg) and Steve takes us to the Friar and Firkin, an English pub. The food was tremendous (even though it was just pub fare), and talking with Adeel and Steve was a fun time. On the way back to the Toronto office to meet everyone, I got a great picture (forthcoming) of the CTV building with a truck sticking out the side of it a couple floors up.

Back to the office to some other co-workers, and then it was off to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’d finally get to go here and spend more than 45 minutes there. On the way there, we got a free ice-cream sandwich from in front of Union Station.  We went through the whole building in a few hours, and saw everything from the net filled with 802 pucks (Gretzky’s goal record), to the double-sized Gretzky exhibit, to a ton of Red Wings stuff both new and old, international hockey exhibits, to a live game where I played goal and had virtual Messier and Gretzky shooting at me.

Stopped all five shots, by the way.

Then we went over and walked through the Montreal Canadiens dressing room, and checked out the stalls of all the greats like Lafleur, Roy, Geoffrion, Richard, and the like. I even sat down at Roy’s stall and put on his goalie pads. That was pretty cool.

And no HHOF trip would be complete without a trip upstairs to see the Stanley Cup. We’ve seen it before, but ya just gotta do it, you know? I took extreme close up pics of all the Edmonton Oilers’ engravings. Neat-o. Heck, even Steph liked it.

From there, it was off again on foot (in 32 degrees C) to the CN Tower. What else can you say about it? It’s tall. Really tall. We got the full pass, and went to the Look Out, the Glass Floor, and the Sky Pod. You can get all the heights from the web site, but I think the observation deck is like 1,100 ft up. What a view of the city. Amazing. One level down is the glass floor, which – you guessed it – is a glass floor. You can stand on it (or lay on it, or jump up and down on it) and see right to the ground. Now THAT’S a view you’re not going to forget. It’s a little intimidating to begin with, but you soon get used to it, and it offers quite the perspective. Then it was up another 300+ feet to the Sky Pod, and the view just gets better. I remember looking down next door into the SkyDome (or Rogers Center, currently) and seeing the crew prepping the building for the upcoming soccer exhibition, and the vehicles in there looked like ants. Tiny ants.

After checking out the CN Tower store, we decided just to walk around downtown. Picked up another ice cream sandwich (free, of course), and ended up at East Side Mario’s, one of Stephanie’s all-time favorite restaurants. The food was good, but the server was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so that took away from the experience a little bit, but it was still enjoyable. A little more walking around and then back to the hotel and lovely air conditioning with a chance to rest our feet, and sleep.

On the way into the hotel, I dropped my suitcase, and I jammed the pull-out handle you use when you’re rolling the thing around. This presents a problem for the flight home.

Friday brought about a slightly-later-start-than-we-wanted, but at least we got up in time for the free continental breakfast! Then it was off to Toronto Zoo. Stephanie had been there before, but I was going for the first time. Now, we’re getting used to the place and driving there was much easier.

We get to the Zoo around noon, and get to exploring. We jump on the ZooMobile, a giant multi-seat and multi-section golf cart, complete with tour guide that drives you around on a tour of the zoo. The zoo is broken up into pods, and each pod deals with animals from a different geographical region of the world. You can either stay on the ZooMobile for the entire tour, or you can get off at a particular pod, walk around that area, and then come back and catch a different ZooMobile that will take you to the next pod. Explore that pod, and then jump back on to head to the next one. It’s very efficient and allows you to see a lot of the zoo in a short amount of time.

The enclosures/exhibits are so much bigger than what we have here in Winnipeg. It’s like our zoo is a Lego model and theirs is the real deal. It’s incredible how big this place is. And they’ve got everything, from cats to sea creatures to insects to jungle animals.

Lions and tigers and bears! OH MY!

I’ve seen a lot of these animals at the Winnipeg Zoo as well as the Minneapolis Zoo, so I’ll touch on the highlights, but the first thing we saw was a giraffe. A GIRAFFE! What a way to start the day off!

I’ve seen giraffes on TV and in documentaries, of course, but it’s NOTHING like seeing one from less than 50 feet away. These things are MASSIVE! Gorgeous, gorgeous creatures. We saw rhinos, red pandas, macaques, cheetahs, Komodo dragons, I mean, sheesh, it’s a zoo, but there’s some cool stuff here. The gorillas were awesome.

We’ve seen the gorillas before, actually. We used to watch a show called Zoo Diaries on Animal Planet, and it featured animals from the Toronto and San Diego zoos, so we saw a bunch of these animals live that we originally saw on TV, and the gorillas were a mainstay of the TV program, so to see them up close and personal was very cool.

We toured the zoo for about 4 and a half hours before hitting up the gift shop and heading out.

Stephanie again does a great job at plotting a course to our next destination, a subway station near downtown where we’re going to meet up with Rebecca and Mark. Rebecca is an old friend of Stephanie’s, and we decide to take a walk through the Greek area and find a restaurant to eat at. The two are very fun to talk to and hang out with, and after a great dinner, we walk up and down the streets just exploring. We stop at a book store where we find Rebecca’s recent work published in a few magazines (she’s a writer – check out her site here). Rebecca is extremely talented and I enjoy her work.

Following dinner and walking, we hit up the Stone Cold Creamery for some FANTASTIC ice cream. Sorry Jason, I know it’s not on the approved list, but hell, I’m on vacation! All said, it was a very fun day, some time spent with good folks, and some good food.

We drive back to the hotel, but we kind of stay off the main drags; except for Bloor, the “fashion” area. Only on this street, can you find Winners across the street from Prada.

Tremendous.

We drive through an area dedicated to what seems like auto repair. There’s lots of small “areas” like this (well, not auto repair, but small sections devoted to a particular segment of society) on the way back to the hotel. It’s great to see that all these small businesses are open at midnight on a Friday night – the bay door to one garage was open, and we saw a team of guys underneath a car trying to get it fixed – when businesses here close at dinner time, unless they’re a restaurant/fast food/pizza place, bar, gas station, Walmart, or Shopper’s.

Saturday brings the aforementioned TFCon, and if this place isn’t the last great bastion of geekery on this planet, I don’t know what is. We went to check out the dealer floor, with me looking to score some rare Transformer that’s been the object of my geeky desire since childhood. This dealer floor was HUGE, and it was crowded. We’ve been to ComicCons and stuff before, but at those the floor is divided up with geekery from all fandoms spread around; sports, comics, toys, movies, the works.

This place was ALL Transformers.

I think my brain exploded at least 7 and a half times.

After working the room and seeing what was out there, I picked up an original Predaking which is like #2 on my Holy Grail of Transfomers list, so I was a happy camper. I also got a print from Lil Formers artist Matt Moylan.  Stephanie picked up an awesome Superman t-shirt (the vendor sold shirts for EVERYTHING), and a tiny Optimus Prime pin, so it was win-win all around.

From there, it was off to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM),but not before we stopped to shop at My Pet Boutique to pick up some treats for the fuzzies, and then we stopped for some photo ops and street hot dog (which was fantastic!).

The ROM is cool. Enough said. There’s a really great exhibition on China’s Terracotta Warriors that will have you looking at them all day if you’ll let them. There’s all kinds of artifacts from 2,200 years ago, and the Warriors themselves are amazing. If you’re going to go, spend the extra $7 to see it. It’s awesome.

From there, we went to check out the DINOSAURS!! HOLY SHIT! These things are huge, amazing, awesome, huge, and crazy all rolled into one. Did mention they’re HUGE? Some of them are partial recreations, but there’s a lot of REAL dinosaur stuff from millions of years ago right here in North America. VERY cool, and an awesome exhibit.

We also checked out the bat cave, bird area, Saumrai exhibit, the Greek exhibit, and some other stuff, before we met up with Rebecca again, and this time it was off to Chinatown for food and exploring.

Chinatown is this: lots of Chinese signs, markets, import business, and restaurants. It’s actually much more, but it’s a LOT of these things. And it’s awesome. Only in Chinatown can you walk down the sidewalk and find a cooked goose with his head still attached looking down at you OUTSIDE.

We passed a place selling suitcases on the way to the restaurant. Note to self: check this out on the way back.

We go and eat at one of Rebecca and Mark’s favorite places, and the food – even though I stuck to chicken balls and fried rice – was excellent. A lot more fun conversations were had, and then we picked up and walked around a bit before I bought an orange and black suitcase for $25. Problem solved!

We jumped on a streetcar (also my first time!), which, unfortunately, Rebecca is deathly allergic to like me with Fords. But, she toughed it out like  a Champ, and we went back to the subway station to get back to our car to get back to the airport.

We JUST made it to the airport in time after returning our Fusion (which I now would probably buy if it were just a LITTLE bigger), only to find out our plane has been delayed for an hour and a half due to lightning storms in Montreal. While we’re waiting for the plane, a couple of teenage girls were entertaining us by running, skipping, jumping, and whatever else the wrong way down the moving walkway. Good times.

Thanks to the delay, we got back home around 1 AM-ish. It was another good flight home, although there was a little turbulence because of all the storms.

After about 20 hours of walking around various parts of Toronto and a real late flight, we slept in on Sunday. :)

As usual, I’ll get pics up when I can. I know you’re all still waiting for pics from Vegas, but I’m almost there. Just getting everything organized/cropped/presentable, and then I’ll post everything.