Friday, 30 December 2005

Easing Back In

28 December - Awful wakeup today - after a few days of sleeping in to 9 and 11 it was a bit of a grind to hear the alarm at 6 and the three snoozes to six thirty were particularly harrowing. It was dark and cold and wet outside and I was stumbling around like a fool while I got myself together before venturing out to downtown. From the beginning it was very quiet day but it was wet all morning and even though it didn't bother me as much as it can when I was buzzed at 12 by the dispatcher asking me if I wanted to go home early I agreed readily. Pity that as soon as I got home the sun came out. Not wanting to waste a good day I got rid of my wet stuff and headed back out ... to downtown, no less. Met with Dimitri for a few wee drams at the Brickyard followed by a little toke and got hijacked by Helen, a very talkative and emotional courier from Sakatchawan (i know I didn't spell that right) who waxed elusively about the wonders of Montreal and got distracted and started telling me of the wonders of Paris instead. After this headed for a very quick one at the Cambie, one of the other courier hangouts, before heading home (and into my room for most of the night to avoid the hockey - Jason is back from his christmas trip and is commandeering the TV on Canuck nights). Also had a very pleasant distraction with an international phone call from my obviously fertile friend, adrian, who is due to become a father sometime early in the new year - children certaily seem to becoming quite the fashion item these days, good thing i'm usually behind the times.

Thursday, 29 December 2005

Holidays Are Always Too Short

27 December - I can't really complain because i'm really on a permanent holiday while I'm over here but the four days off I've had has gone by far too quickly. Was woken up by a call from Dimitri at 9am - god, these Vancouverites like to do things early, asking me if I wanted to meet for breakfast. I did! Had some very healthy tasting and reasonably delicious buckwheat pancakes and he had some tofu and dill concoction which may have been nice if you were a vegan but didn’t really appeal to me. The cursed bike - I'm still mulling over what I should call him, he is in bad need of a name - has a slow leak in each tyre. Not bad enough to warrant changing (if the hole is too small it's impossible to find) but needs pumping up each day - tres annoyment. Returned some library books and biked down to Granville Island to see what all the fuss was about. I've been down there a couple of times for work but it's always get in there and hustle out because a bike courier's work is never done. Kind of disapointing - overpriced food markets and overpriced hand made craft shops - it's not as if i've not seen a lot of markets and craft shops in my travels where much better bargains can be found. Still, it's something to cross off my list and I may well head down there at night some time in the future - as it's reputed to have something of a nightlife, but we will see. Rene came home in the afternoon, raving about his weekend away and full of stories about his rich friends (one of them gave his parents to brand new mercedes and bought himself a corvette racing car) and very keen to continue his Christmas cheer with the inhalation of THC. Also met our cleaner who came in for her fortnightly visit. I tell you, the cleaning ladies sure are beautiful in this country. She's a Creed native american and her cleaning gig is just there to substitute her work as an artist (she's just been commissioned by the canadian government to do paintings) and she is an extremely TALKATIVE lady and a very meticulous cleaner to boot. She used to live in Dee why and its always nice to commisserate about the heat over there and the cold over here (that's the one thing the canadians (outside of native BCers) who've visited oz always bring up. Went to the only local place that serves Guiness (but is in most other respects a grimy sports bar) for a few drinks with Devene to commisserate the end of the four day weekend - headed home early and tried to force myself to stay away from the ridiculously awful cable TV in order to get an early night. Last few nights have been very lat tto what i've been conditioningmyself to and i'm back at six o'clock alarm tomorrow, nnot looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Day Of Rest

26 September - Considered braving the sales in downtown but decided against it because I know what they're like in Sydney and suspected that they'd be just as bad over here. Made myself a gigantic post Christmas omelet before headinhg out to the drive for an overpriced and over steamed café latte and a bit of negotiation with the rain. One of the housematts returned today but left to do some housesitting in North Van so I've still got the place to myself. Headed out to Tinseltown (mall in Chinatown) to see 'Brokeback Mountain' with a friend. It was an absolutely superb movie ... I know that I have a tendency to rave about films I like just after I see them, before the excitement wears off and I get a more realistic opinion of it. However, it was definitely the best gay love story i've seen committed to film (which is not hard because gay cinema tends to be either crap or too comedic to be emotionally moving) - performances were all fantastic (heath ledger almost redeemed himself from first knight and jake gylenhaal was suitably tragic) and cinematography was of the typical opulence that one has come to expect from Ang Lee. Afterwards headed down for a few drinks in downtown, time got away from me, and I had to take the f**king night bus home along with the other dregs of society ... Next time i'll wear a watch.

Monday, 26 December 2005

White Christmas, My Arse!

25 September - They sure do love their Christmas TV in this country ... 24 hours straight of 'A Christmas Story' - the one about the kid who wants a BB gun but is told 'You'll shoot your eye out, kid!' (i probably watched the whole movie but in chunks spread out over the 24 hours) - it's pretty hot today, about 13 degrees (i've started to reevaluate what I consider to be warm and cool these days) and when I looked out the window for the first time, bleary eyed and lead headed from yesterday's festivities the sun reflecting off the concrete footpath looked so white that I though it had snowed during the night but this is Vancouver, it RAINS ... Made myself a Christmas breakfast and zonked around for most of the afternoon, enjoying the solitude of an empty house. Yesterday i'd setten myself up in preparation for the day by organising Haagen Daaz fraises glaces, Tullamore Dew, Tim Tams, a small but adequate stash of marijuana, Cobs bread, mushrooms and a stack of other things to ease the transition through the long day but it was ruined by an early wakeup call and invitation to a Christmas dinner with a friend, Brenda, and her family and some others. Totally spoiled my plans of getting completed wasted and chilling throughout the day. Some people are just so inconsiderate. Did rent a video, 'The Island' to ease me through the afternoon which was awful on so many levels from the complete implausibility of the plot and even the sheer impossibility of the economics of the ridiculous venture of creating clones for body parts and the enormous expense of creating an artificial world to entertain them while they were awaiting harvest. I was particularly unimpressed with the Ewan McGregor real person versus clone scenes (I'm Tom Lincoln! No, I am!) wih the only way of telling who was who was by the real one's Scottish accent (sounding very fake) and the clone's American (which was surprisingly believable), a far cry from Jet Li's 'The One' where they were distinguishable by a radical bleach haircut or distinctive fighting styles. I can just imagine jean claude van damme, undisputed champion of the one man playing twin genre, sitting in the theatre with a snobbish air, dismissing the Ewan McGregor's lacklustre attempts to emulate hs scintillating explorations of the shock that one would feel upon meeting his clone, his twin or himself from another time, for the very first time. Do not see this movie.
Did have another fantastic turkey dinner tonight though (two days in a row) and a very enjoyable night - slmost worth the trouble of keeping myself from being a wastrel throughout the day. One of the guests had brought home made Baileys which was delicious with coffee and I was laden down with leftover deserts to take home - I was also visited by three ghosts (four if you include an ex co-worker who warned me about the ones to come) who taught me the true meaning of Christmas ... Unfortunattely this occurred after I returned home from the dinner when I DID get wasted so I can't remember what that meaning is so you'll have to find out for yourselves. God bless us everyone.

Twas The Night Before Christmas

24 September - Unless there is some freak act of god cataclysmic weather changing event it's very unlikely that we'll be having a white christmas this year. It's a good thing I don't pine for Ye Olde Traditional Victorian Christmas's - in fact, it's probably a good thing I don't pine for Christmas at all. Very disappointed that my Saturday morning breakfast haunt was closed for the holidays and I had to make do with Bons, which isn't bad by any means but I had a hankering of blueberry pancakes and was even consideringtrying the blackberry pancakes (oh, i'm such a daring one) but there was nothing to be done.
Went into downtown to get my bike serviced by the always lovely fellows at Simon's Bike Shop (pity that sarcasm never really translates to email) and I met up with Dimitri for some blockbuster movie action at the Paramount. King Kong kicks ass, well, it was not the best movie i've ever seen by any means but absolutely incredible action scenes (although the rest of the film does seem like it's there solely to justify the OTT action) and lots of little injokes (i don'T think i've seen a film so loaded up with sly references and fodder for movie geeks) - and at three hours long we certainly got our 10.95's worth. But, three hours is pushing anyone's bladder and it really was stretched out a bit too much. But, worth seeing nonetheless (in terms of modern monster movies I think Tremors (which I watched the next day - although it was shamefully and criminally censored of the bad language) has the edge on it though).
Upon my return home I got a phone call from the family in Sydney, all of them gathering for their yearly Christmas get together - everyone wanted to speak to me, which was great, but nobody wanted to speak to me for very long, which was strange - i'd start to have a chat with someone and before I knew it they'd passed the phone on to the next person, bit confusing trying to keep track of the narrative but the conversations were not exactly scintillating, hi, merry christmas, miss you, love you ... Blah blah blah, bah humbug. Great to hear everyone's voices for a bit though, they were probably just hungry ... as was I, because shortly after that I headed back to downtown for dinner at some friends' place, Abby and Loreya (very nice lesbian couple I met a few months back), Abby's two sons Jordi and Johan, Brad, a nicish but drunken drug dealer who seemed very enamoured with me and a whole host of others who were orphaned on Christmas eve night. Most of the guests were vegetarians which meant that there wasn't too much competition for the vast quantities of flesh that were actually available. Had a great night and got home rather late but the joy of the night was marred by the fact that my collar bumped by eye knocking out my right contact lens into the rainy sidewalk and it just disappeard, presumably to elope with the other one that disappeard about a month ago. Very pissed off about it but I did have a spare at home which lessened the inconvenience (Christmas Eve is probably the worst time of the year to lose a contact lens because everythingshuts down over the holiday period ... Quite bizarre, last time l lost the contact lens it was on a friday morning, aother very inconvenient time ... Someone or something is out to get me, I think). In any event, great night ...

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Your Right To Be An Idiot

Stolen from somewhere ...
By Tony Long
Dec. 22, 2005
Let's get something straight from theget-go. The First Amendment issacrosanct. Freedom of speech,freedom of the press, freedom ofthought, the whole ball of wax -- it'sthe DNA of the United States, thestuff America is made of. You don'tmess with it, ever. Without it, we'reNorth Korea with a few shoppingmalls.No lying, fear-mongeringadministration, no sanctimoniousred-state senator, no judge with anax to grind has the right to screwaround with it. Even those of you farto the right of sanity must see thewisdom in that. Remember thoseguys with the powdered wigs and thetight breeches and the bad teeth?Jefferson and Hamilton and thatmob? Those were your guys, once.For the sake of what follows, let'spretend the First Amendment stillmatters, even to you.So, what to do with Wikipedia? And,in a broader sense, what to do withthe free flow of information on theinternet?In a word, nothing.Having access to the internet is alittle like handing a kid a loaded gun.In the wrong hands it can beintellectually lethal. In terms of beinga reliable source, the web is aminefield to be navigated verycarefully. There is plenty of usefulinformation to be had, but the placeis a nest of vipers, too.Wait a minute, sez you. Don't blamethe internet. What about books?Books can be full of lies, too. Theysure can. Lying has been aroundsince man first 1.) evolved the abilityto speak or 2.) got his sorry asstossed out of the Garden of Eden. Butthe internet, with its instant access tovast amounts of information from anendless number of sources, is verydifferent from anything that hascome before.Still, do you regulate the internet to"protect" us from ingestinginformation that is wrong,deliberately misleading, whacked out,even harmful? Uh-uh. That's yourown responsibility, as an educatedparticipant in a free society. (The"educated" part is a bit tricky thesedays, I'll grant you, but that's fodderfor another column.)There's an old expression in thenewspaper business: "If your mothersays she loves you, check it out." Inother words, make sure your bullshitdetector is always on. Be skeptical ofwhat you're told, of what you read.Cross-check your facts with othersources. What applies in thenewsroom applies tenfold on theinternet, where anybody is free topost any damned thing they want to.Which brings us to Wikipedia, theso-called citizens' encyclopedia.Yeah, so some cretin thought he wasbeing cute by posting a falsebiography of John Siegenthaler Sr., adistinguished journalist who onceserved as an administrative assistantto Robert Kennedy, linking him to theassassinations of both Kennedybrothers. In copping to the deed, theguy said he didn't realize Wikipedia isconsidered, in the online world atleast, to be a legitimate informationresource. It was a joke, he said.Siegenthaler, not surprisingly, hit theroof. (Especially since the bogus biolanguished on the site for fourmonths, despite his efforts to get itremoved.) He lambasted Wikipedia'scredibility in an op-ed piece but, tohis credit, never suggested thatslapping tighter controls on theinternet is the answer to this kind ofidiocy.He didn't even indulge in the greatAmerican pastime, filing suit. Insteadhe chose to accept the guy's apology.But Siegenthaler, the formerpublisher of The Tennessean whofounded The Freedom Forum FirstAmendment Center at VanderbiltUniversity, understands theabsolutely critical need to protect theright of free speech, especially in thecurrent frenzied political climate.While the founders couldn't haveanticipated the internet, theirimperative still stands. Freedom ofspeech trumps everything in a freesociety. (As long as nobody getskilled, which is why you can't yell"Fire!" in a crowded theater.) It hasto. Without it, a society is no longerfree. That's why the Nazis get tomarch through Skokie, Illinois, andwhy Rush Limbaugh gets to have aradio show. It's revolting sometimes,but to deny a single individual theright to free expression is to beginsliding down that slippery slopetoward authoritarianism. The dulcetdrone of Limbaugh's boorishness isthe price you pay to breathe free.The problem with a site likeWikipedia, of course, is that there isno responsible vetting process, noprofessional editors or fact-checkerson staff to verify accuracy. Wikipediarelies on you, the general public (orWikipedians, in their argot), to fulfillthat role and -- generally speakingand meaning no disrespect -- you'renot qualified to do it. But you come atthe right price (free), which keepscosts down. And Wikipedia argues,with some justification, that a factualerror can be caught and fixed just aseasily by an interested professor or aknowledgeable amateur as it can byan editor.The trap is that nothing is vetted beforehand. Mistakes, deliberate ornot, can only be caught after posting.Wikipedia presumes a kind ofcommunal sense of responsibility, abelief that, given the opportunity,most people will be honest. AsHemingway once wrote in anothercontext, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"The reality is that blind trust issomething of a gamble. But in thewide-open world bequeathed to usby the internet, and in a free societygenerally, it's a gamble we have tobe willing to take.The alternative is too depressing tocontemplate.-

Maybe not such a great Omen after all ...

22 December - Wet again this morning but it did ease of significantly later in the day. There was even sunshine in the afternoon and it felt pretty hot. Had to carry some ridiculous packages in the day (an envelope supposedly weighing two pounds was actually two rolls of paper weighing about 10 kilos) but it wasn't too busy and had a bit of downtime throughout the day. Mary Jane from KPMG gave me my photocopies of the radio programming instructions and all the team was very impressed with my efforts - being able to talk to each other throughout the day should help somewhat in future. Bike got a bit screwy and noisy near the end of the day and brakes needed adjusting at one point (dispatcher asked me, 'What do you need a back brake for? I thought all you Australians were crazy?'), need to get a service on the weekend I think. One of the bikers bought a box of Tim Bits (doughnut holes from Tim Hortons) for the team which were fantastic for the first few but really weigh on the stomach after a dozen or so. It also seems as if the white cat didn’t do its job because when I went to check to see whether my Kris Kringle lottery tickets would make me a millionaire twenty times over, bafflingly, it turns out that I didn’t win anything. What ar the odds of that?
Had a good night as well, went over to a friends house for white wine and crackers and discussions about Gwen Stefani's pregnancy (fascinatingstuff). Also, there was an announcement that Brian and Paul (a very nice couple who I met a while back who've moved close to Commerical Drive near me) have got engaged. I'm still not sure what the legal arrangement is over here for gay marriage but I think it is quite similar to the civil partnerships which have just made their mark in England. I don't know many gay couples who are married but despite the best efforts of the right wing family values proponents who don't want gay marriage forced upon them (just because gay marriage is legal doesn't mean you HAVE to marry someone of your own gender, as far as I know the gay rights proponents aren't trying to ban straight marriage) I think there are going to be a lot more countires legalising it in the future. Why should straight couples be the only ones who get to deal with the problems of a messy divorce? It's just not fair that straight people should be the only ones who have to put up with that stuff. I remember seeing a documentary on the progress of gay rights in Australia where David Marr acknowledged that it has come so far that there were just petty differences that really did not matter to the lives of the average member of the gay population (ie couples rights but not right to get married, superannuation rights for partners, etc) but, if they are so petty, why the problem in removing those differences?

Almost year end ...

23 December - Despite having to shake off a slight hangover from last night's white wine I was in a tremendously good mood in the morning. Perhaps it had to do with the warm (well, warm for a Canadian winter) weather and lack of rain, maybe it was because I knew I was only going to have a half day today or maybe it was because I didn't have to listen to Jason's tinny clock radio blaring out CBC Radio while I was trying to enjoy my breakfast - in any event, I felt that things were going good. I even broke out into the few verses that I could remember of 'oh, what a beautiful morning' on my pre-dawn commute into town. Once I got into town it kept on getting better. I met up with Dimitr and we had a coffee and a chat before I headed off for a few SHTs to start the day. I had a very pleasant ride over to the side (not overtly profitable but physicallynot exhausting) before I headed back into town where I managed to score a Renaissance cookie at the seaplane port. It had been cool and cloudy, perfect weather for riding and as we came to oneish and it really slackened off I thought it would be a good time to call it a day. Nay, I could call it a perfect day. A few of the other bikers were let off early due to the lack of work but I was kept on. This was fine, at first. It did put a bit of a dent in our plans to have a nice work lunch together. I know we work on commission but I would have been very happy to leave any time after noon - this feelingwas incresed noticably when the heavens finally broke open - it wasn't a heavy rain but enough to annoy. I'd been in such a good mood for the whole of the day that I tried to force myself to stay that way despite circumstances dragging me into a black pit of despair. I had a rictus Joker grin plastered on my faced but the wet reallystarted to annoy me - however, it wasn't too long before it was all over. and it was quiet enough for us to really not stress about the work at all. There was a contiually changing cluster of couriers sitting around the hangout at 885 cheerfuly bitching about the lack of work and not very subtly passing around joints and alcoholic drinks (it turns out that a lot of them had been drinking and getting high all day, you could really see it it in their wild eyes and jittery dispositions). The few of us who were still working until the end all went out for a very average hamburger and a few beers at the Lions pub near the waterfront and we also inadverently came upon a fiendishly clever scam for getting free food at restaurants. Dimiri ordered the chili and upon being presented with it realised that t had the flesh of our mamallian brethren contained within it. We explained to our server our issue and she was very understanding, offering to replace it at no charge. As she went to remove the offending meal from our table Dimitri stopped her, saying, 'Are you just going to throw it out then?' - Yes, 'Well, why don't we keep it, then?' - he was so nonchalant about the whole thing that the server just let us keep it - so, a free meal for the entire table. Now, we have to work out how we can use this knowledge to help us with world domination ....

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Race Riots In Australia

Stolen from The Onion:
This week saw race riots raging around Sydney, Australia, after white supremacists stormed the beaches and beat suspected Arabs. What do you think?

Edie Shaw, Messenger:
"Even more shocking is that, in Australia, the whirlwind of racially charged violence spins the opposite direction."

Gary Burger, Farmer:
"I can see why white Australians are so angry at the immigrants. Look what happened to the Aborigines when the first wave of immigrants came to the island."

David Day, Systems Analyst:
"Riot? Let's not be overdramatic. They were white kids. It's called a demonstration."

A Good Omen

21 December - Woke up to the rain again this morning which is never very nice but one thing the rainclouds do seem to do is insulate. It was about ten degrees when I first went outside and by the time I got to town it was around twelve. In fact, it was so warm that I had to take off my tights before I even started working (overstuffing my bag before I even started but the fact was that it was not uncomfortably cold at all. This unexpectedly pleasant climate (it was still raining admittedly, and pretty hard at times) may have been indicated by the white cat that ran across my way when I was riding in to work. I'm not a suspicious man, I don't believe in evil omens but I do like to indulge in good ones (maybe that’s why i'm such an upbeat guy) - if it's bad luck for a black cat to cross your path then it must be good luck for a white one to. Very busy and weighed down a few times during the day. According to the dispatcher the worst thing the company ever did was let customers place their own orders over the internet, rather than via a caller - customers, through laziness or malice, are always put things down as weighing a pound no matter whether it is an envelope, a horse-sized gift basket or a bag of cement (which one of our guys actually had to move today). Quite a few times when I turned up to a pickup I would have to decline it because it was too big or I’d have to get very creative in getting it on the bike with me (i've tied bags to my bag, balanced boxes on the handlebars, thrown out excess packaging and today I got a woman to quite deftly shave two inches off the height of a box and then remake it while I waited - still too big in the end though). I wrote up a little tutorial on programming the radios to give to the other bikers. THe radios we have only have the dispatch number set up by default and all communication between the bikers has to go through the dispatch. It's not often that we do need to speak to each other but sometimes we do (for rendesvous, queries about sites etc) and we can't. Not wanting to write the thing up eight times I thought, in the spirit of the season, i'd abuse one of the photocopiers of a regular client - it's hardly a huge ask, and I asd very nicely. I went to one that I go to regularly, thinking I could leave it with them and i'd get it back later in the day because I knew i'd be back at that site within the hour. The receiptionst seemed a bit perplexed by my request but said it would be no problem. I came back half an hour later to drop something - not done; I came back two hours later to pick something up - still not done. Two hours after that - oh, I have to give it to someone from the printing department in order to get it photocopied. Well, if it was going to be any trouble you could have just told me at the beginning, couldn't you??? There's no shortage of buxome receptionists in this town who'd be happy to do it on the spot or angrily tell me where to go I could find one who could do it on the spot. Anyway, hopinh to be able to pick it up tomorrow for distribution to my colleagues. Poured down later in the afternoon, my feet were n pools of water in my shoes. Still, pretty good day regardless - the white cat never fails.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

I used to ride in the rain ... now I'm just getting wet

20 December - Well, it appears that the rain is here to stay - I was soaked by the time I got into town and despite a brief period of dryness in the afternoon it went on all day (and looking outside at 10pm it's still going). According to the little man in the PDA it's going to raining all week as well. Riding in the rain really isn't that bad, I used to love it when I was in Sydney, getting drenched while I was crossing over the bridge was very invigorating but as soon as I got to work or home i'd have a hot shower and I would get in dry clothes - over here I get wet and then stay wet all day. If it stops raining I just steam (and if I stop for a while it starts to really chill). The water gets into everything - all over my paperwork, wrecking my pens, my letters disintegrate and my Blackberry and radio get fried (they usually start to work again when it drys off ... usually). Did a lot of riding again over the side, the advantage is that there's less trips which means i'm opening up my bag all the time (every time it opens water gets in) - very exhausting but that's what I got the job for. Also, rear brakes went today, not the best thing to happen when you're a bike courier - some of the fixed speed couriers go by the adage that brakes just slow you down and they add more weight but I'm of the opinion that they're rather useful, especially in the wet. Got it fixed up, also did a good turn for one of the other couriers by fixing his brakes (felt very knowledgeable to actually know how to do it). Probably more of the same tomorrow, yay.
By the way, The 40 Year Old Virgin is a really good moofie ... The video game playing scene was very accurate AND very amusing.

Santa's Little Helpers

19 December - Last night's yuletide spectacular resulted in a bit of a headache this morning and the return of Vancouver's ubiquitous rain didn't help my morning mood. However, when it's raining it's not so cold so that made the journey into town slightly more pleasant. Was sent over to the south side at the beginning of the day laden down with presents for all the good little corporations who've been good this year - i'd think they'd be nicer if they just sent a card but what are you going to do? it stopped raining after a while but it was still misty and I was damp all over and with all the riding the sweat just seeped out of me - every time I stopped my glasses would fog up and every time I went into a building I see the steam coming up. Also headed out far east to the industrial wasteland of Port Vancouver, got completely lost a couple of times, and got yelled at by the guard because I didn't sign in with him as I went in (or out) but it's unlikely that i'll see him again so i'm not too worried. The curse of the rear tyre returned today - I was coming back from the stadium and it just popped - I still hadn't fixed my spares from the last time and had to haul the bike about a ten blocks to my favourite bike shop to get a replacement. I think I need to stop going back to the bike mechanic and take the bike to a priest.

Courier Yuletide Spectacular

18 December - Freezing day, the roads were very icy and had a few moments where I almost lost control despite beingvery careful. Today I went to visit my work colleague, Dimitri (i'm not a fast paced guy), for some lessons on Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance. He used to work in a shop and was very knowledgeable about all things bicycle. We cleaned the bike, degreased the cogs and chains, reoiled it, trued the wheels and adjusted the derailleurs. Learned a lot from him, wouldn't be happy doing everything we did by myself just yet (don't have a lot of the equipment anyway) but certainly learned enough to be able to do a bit more basic stuff on my own so I don't have to rely on the arseholes at Simon's so much. Very generous guy Dimitri to share his afternoon and his knowledge like that - but I bought him a coffee and some grape bread so I think we're even.
Afterwards headed down to the Brickyard for the annual Courier Yuletide Spectacular. A lot of the city's couriers were there, not all by any means, and quite a few who I hadn't met before - most of them friendly but, of course, not all. There were reg droppers (just do the regular trips), ghost riders (never know where they are), core rats (stuck in the core), slackers (obvious), side bikers (like me!), juicers (couriers who pretend to have dropped off trips so they get given more), trip scoopers (steal other people's jobs), rim riders (not sure what they do), pre-bookers (another mystery), dopers and copers ...
It was pot luck catering with the food varying from a box of chocolates or a packet of chips to some pretty exotic curries and italian dishes - my contribution was Cheesymite teatimes that I commisioned the local Cobs to make for me (well, it's Australian). Also had a Secret Santa gift exchange (i got lottery tickets, great ...) and there were courier themed games (a very obscure jeopardy competition - I was very happy with getting about a quarter of the questions ... How the hell am I supposed to know what the highest street number is in downtown, where I would deliver a nosntop to Nanaimo or where the Australian consulate is (888 dunsmuir apparently)???) and a track stand competition (easily won by the fixed gear racers). There was also an enormous amount of marijuana to be had - at one point there was a circle of eight of us outside (in the freezing seedy alleyway) and there were no fewer than five spliffs rotating around, toked away for a little while but shortly gave up and started just passing them on as soon as they was handed to me. Wobbled home at around 11 o'clock, definitely not looking forward to the next morning.

Monday, 19 December 2005

The reason I beame a tree surgeon is because I like to KILL TREES!!!

17 December - WOke up early this morning despite my previous day's exhaustion to accompany housemate Rene on a field trip out to UBC for a demo on tree surgery. Very cold when we left the house but a rorsberry muffin and an overpriced café late warmed me up somewhat. We met up with his partner Scotty (interesting man who always wears pink sunglasses no matter what time of the day and has a hobby of acquiring and listening to every live Pearl Jam concert ever recorded). Once we got the truck warmed up (and ourselves slightly buzzing with a far too early in the morning bifter) we headed out to Queensland Avenue at UBC (this area has streets named after Australian states and cities - there was also Tasmania St, Victoria St and Adelaide St) and after a brief meetingwith the owner of the house (very interesting to see Rene so professionally courteous, Yes sir, No problem sir, of course sir!) they got to work. It would have to be one of the most interesting days i've had since my arrival - Rene has bored me to tear with extensive descriptions of his work but to watch him and Scotty in action was a different story. They were so methodical and so technically proficient in what they were doing that it was a joy to watch. Their were four trees and a stump that had to come down and Rene hooked on his tree spikes and scrambled up a tree like a monkey and started to tie off limbs with a variety of different knots and cut them so they had a controlled fall where they were quickly dispatched by Scott to the (extremely loud) chipper. It was strange to see them disappear from the top down, the highest limbs (the trees were cypresses with long, straight stems sprouting off the main trunk) collapsing through the body of the tree like a skyscraper collapsing in on itself. iMy contribution was holding ropes, heaving the cut wood and sweeping up and it was far preferable to help out than just stand there because even though it was a mighty fine day the freezing ground just sucked the heat out of my feet and moving was an absolute necessity to stay warm. There was so much specialised equipment and techniques that they used to get the trees cut down quicklyand safely - from cutting little foot grips into the tree so he could run up very quickly to the variety of specialised cutting techniques for different types of limbs and trunks (snap cuts, wedge cuts etc) - it really is so much more than just chopping a tree down, iit's surgery of a kind. On site behaviour was very interesting - always completely polite and professional to the client's face then bitching her out behind her back because she didnt move her car before we arrived (Goddamnit, she knew we were going to put the truck here, how stupid can you be???). Finished off the day by heading out to Metrotown to a rather awful chain sports bar called 'Red Robin' where we had a few beers and a Dr Pepper (beer with a shot of Ameretto and a dash of cola that has to be drunk in one gulp ... Not my favourite thing to do) before i headed home via the shops and did my laundry, washed my hair and shaved for the first time in a week.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

One Less Housemate

16 December - Last night was home alone for the most part - Chad has run away east for the holidays (which means I have the upstairs bathroom to myself for the next two weeks,hurrah!!!), Aaron was working, not sure about Rene or Mark and Jason had stepped out to an Vancouver environmental planning meeting (???) - upon his return we had a bit of a chat and he revealed to me that he's moving out at the end of the year. Can't say i'm too upset to see him go, he's a niceish guy but a bit of a control freak and rather selfish to boot. Not my favourite housemate by any means (it also appears that the general reaction from the rest of the household has been rather favourable to his decision). However, have no idea who's going to be his eventual replacement so won't be lighting fireworks just yet. Have laid my claim on his kitchen cupboard though, my one is rather titchy and is at the ground level and someone of my stature needs to have something at eye level so I got in quick.
Work today was absolutely hectic. I headed in early this morning - still pretty dark and all the streets and cars were filmed with white frost - i'd pretty mch just left the house when my radio bleeped and the dispatcher told me to take a diversion out to pick up a job and it barely stopped from there. I didn't even have time to get a coffee until an hour in and it wasn't long before I was heading out to the side laden down with corporate Christmas gifts and architectural plans. At one point in the day the dispatch network went down and we had to do everything by radio, which our organisation is not really made for and it caused the dispatcher to have a bit of a meltdown. It was so busy that the sooner than I got back to downtown when I was told to hand off everything to one of the bikers and head straight back to the side - I must have ridden around 80 or so k's throughout the day and my back and feet were killing me by the end. Fun didn’t end there as the driver who usually meets us after we finish to take all of the undelivered and overnight packages back to the depot didn’t turn up and while we were waitingfor him in the loading dock of 1090 Georgia (our usual evening meeting point) they shut the buildingdown and we were locked in until someone with a pass came along to rescue us. Me and Stu headed down to the Brickyard (courier watering hole) in the hope of seeng our dispatcher who mentioned that he might be goingthere so we could offload all our stuff onto him. Our usual guy never turned up but eventuallygot through to the night dispatch who sent one of the drivers down to get everything. Finish time of half seven, making it a 12 hour day, and I was so exhausted that when I got home I just ordered Japanese food and zoned out in front of the teev - exciting life i'm living in canada.

Friday, 16 December 2005

Worn out

15 December - Had an extremely exhausting day at work. From eight o'clock to half five it was non stop - I went over to the side twice and for a lot of it I was completely overloaded. Around 11 I got a bit stressed because one of jobs was a bit late, then another job was a bit late and then I stopped caring because I realised that they were ALL going to be late. One good thing about it being Christmas time is that there are lots of sweet carbohydrate offerings from the various receptionists. The bad thing about it being Christmas is that there are a lot of bottls of wine, boxed presents and other heavy items being shifted all over town and far too many of them are being called in as envelopes so a lot of things get left behind when we turn up and find that they can't be moved on a bike. By the end of the day I was completely exhausted and my feet and left shoulder were absolutely killing me. Hoping i'll recover by tomorrow but it's almost the end of the week so I should get a bit of a chance to recover. It also turned out that the herbal pita bread experiment was a failure - it did not survive the day in my bag and was a mess by the time I went to eat it - very disappointing but i'm sticking by my theory that the pita bread is the ideal courier breadstuff. One of my co-workers was trying to teach me how to bunny hop after work - he's a skateboarder and BMXer in the off-season and was demonstrating on his road bike; 'I can bounce like this ... And like this .. And I can even do 90 degrees! And ... Oops, I seem to have broken my wheel ...' I hope he comes in tomorrow.

Bad Knees And A Beer Gut

14 December - Freezing morning today but still the rains are staying away so i'm staying pretty happy. Woke up early in order to meet one of my co-workers for a coffee and was just about to leave the house when I realised that the curse has moved from my rear tyre to the front one. It turned out that it wasn't punctured, just flat, so I just pumped it up and headed in but was a bit late anyway. A few muckups from the client's side made the early morning a bit frusrating (one place I ent to for a return - ie, drop something off, get it processed and then take it back to the original place was for the Canadian Revenue Agency, first I had to take a ticket and then wait for my number to get called then when I gave the guy the package to process he said he wasn't allowed to open it, well, neither was I, it could have been a stalemate .but because I live my life on the edge I took the awesome responsibility - maybe he thought the accountant who sent it had laced the envelope with anthrax or something) it wasn't long before I headed over to the side - really exhausting day on the other side, pretty brutal hills and some very heavy packages but it's a lot more relaxing on the other side, much less traffic and more riding. Had a bit of a chat with Che, one of the side bikers from another company who agreed that it's much better gettingaway from downtown, once you got used to the distances. When I told him that I enjoyed gettingthe exercise from the job and that that was part of the reason I wanted to be a courier he was incredulous. 'In two years man all you've have is bad knees and a beer gut'. I guess you can get bitter after a while in this job.
After I got back from the side Chris, the dispatcher, left to go to the dentist and we were left with BJ, our manager, doingthe dispatching. It's very interesting havinga different dispatcher - BJ is so ... Nice. He's not constantly bitching and complaining like Chris always does and it was quite a novelty to have someone so agreeable on the other end. But, I have to say, that I think I prefer Chris - whilst he may be a bit hot headed he certainly kept things moving much faster and whilst BJ certainly knows how to dispatch, I think that my usual guy is a much better guy for bikers. I ended up loading up with overnight jobs around 3 o'clock, which meant I had to haul them around for almost two hours which was very uncmfortable. Near the end of the day I was sent to take off a "letter" from a driver and head out east to drop it off. The letter turned out to be a box which I had to balance on the handlebars for about a k. When I got to the other end Kim O'Leary (or Leary Ol Kim which might be a more appropriate name) signed for it - he told me that he would probably be using Novex more often now because of a friend's recommendation and he asked if I would be the one who would be the regular delivery guy. I told him no, I normallywork the side, and he seemed very disapponted. He then asked if it would normally be a biker and I told him that he was a bit far from the core so it would probaly be a car. This disappointed him even more. Complete fruit, nice enough, but i'm not sure I want to be heading out there again anytime soon.
Had some bad luck with bread and bread related products today as well. Went to the local Cobs Bakery (Bakers Delight brand over here) as I've done just about every second day for the past six weeks and asked for a Country Grain Flour Loaf (my constant order). The guy asked me if I wanted it sliced thick or thin and I responded, as I do every time, thick. He nodded and then sliced it and handed it over. When I got home I found out that it had been sliced thin!!! Totally inappropriate for toast. When it's sliced thin it gets too dried out, it needs to be thick so that the inners remain soft and fluffy while the outer is crispy unt light brown. When it's thick the toast can retain the heat for long enough for the butter to melt - if it's thin, you always get solid lumps of butter that don't get adequately absorbed into the bread to soften it before a thin and even application of jam (rorsbry or strawsbry, it doesn't matter). So, I was very upset about that. Partly because my bread intake over the next two days will not be as satisfying as t usually is but also because I just can't comprehend why the guy could get it wrong. I've ordered the same thing from the same guy about 25 times and he just doesn’t seem to car enough to commit to memory what I always ask for. It's one thing to ensure that he doesn't second guess me but if i'd all of a sudden changed my mind about how I like my bread sliced you'd think he would have commented, 'Oh, you're having it sliced THIN today? That's different' and I would have repplied, 'No, I want it sliced THICK you nincompoop, like I have it every f**kin' day!'. I'm going to make a complaint next time i'm down there. My other bread relattd incident was when I bought some pitas for my luncheon - I got herb flavoured ones from the local SuperValue and when I went to prepar them tonight they just crumbled into pieces. If a pita bread cannot handle the strain of the preperation proces then there's no way that it's going to survive the rigours of being in a courier bag for four fours. I have a feeling that tomorr'ws lunch is going to be an interesting experience.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

The Thin Blue Line

13 December - A few firsts today - took my first cash job, when I went to pick up a trip at one place the guy handed me five bucks as well, not really an issue, didn't have any change for him or any receipts but he didn't seem to mind, I think the cash just gets deducted from my cheque at the end of the month. The other first was not so pleasant however, I was in a bit of a hurry and I raced two lights, just at the beginning of the red (i thought I only ran one red light) and there was no question of it being safe (from my point of view anyway) but next thing I knew I heard a digital blurp and a whoo and I turned around to see the flashing red and blue in an unmarked police car. I swore to myself silently and waited for the inevitable. The policeman was on his own and asked me if I knew what I did, I said, 'Yes, mate, and i've got no excuses for it'. 'You ran two red lights right in front of me so I had to pull you over.' Well, I thought it was only one light but I wasn't going to start arguing with him then. 'Yep, i'm sorry, I know it was wrong and I know there's no valid excuse.' He explained that he knew it was a business and that we had to rush but we also had to obey the la, it can be dangerous for the other traffic, pedestrians, me etc ... I agreed completely and told him so. He then asked me how many tickets i've had so far, I told him none (i didn't make any claims that i'd never run a red before) and maybe it was my honesty or maybe it was my charming Australian accent but he told me he'd let me off with a lecture but to be careful. A minute later I radioed my dispatcher and he immediately said, 'What'd you get pulled over for?' He has eyes EVEYWHERE!!! I told him and he asked me how many tickets I got, when I told him none, he couldn't believe it, 'WHAT??? No tickets???' A very good thing too because a ticket for running a red can be more than a day's pay - I was a bit paranoid for the rest of the day and was a bit more law abiding than usual (i'm always pretty safe but you just have to do a bit of footpath riding, light racing and wrong way down a one way streeting to get the job done) but i'm certainlygoing to be more aware of my surrounds after today. Had a bit of a chat with one of the lifers afterwards and he gave me some tips for beating the system if you do get a ticket but he agreed that honesty and admitting your wrong is always the best strategy for dealing with cops if you get caught out. Other than that, a pretty good day, very busy, went over to the south side twice so I did a lot of riding, can really see that my legs have swelled a bit in the past few months. My apprentices all seem to be doing pretty well and me and Nova Scotia Stu were given some sandwiches and juices from some very generous office catering people that passed us while we were sitting outside a building. Watched Cinderalla Man tonight as well, kind of enjoyble, I know its a true story but it felt like I was watching a 1930s version of Rocky that had worse training montages and a slightly more sepia brown colour scheme ... Don't recommend it.

FW: Eight Is Enough

12 December - Back to work after the weekend - pretty cold again today but dry so something to be thankful about. Not hugely busy during the day bui enough to keep me occupied. Also trained the latest recruit, Thomas, a nice young kid from Halifax who thought he'd try his hand at this noble profession. Also, Crystal, the girl I trained a few weeks ago returned to work today making a total contigent of eight bikers (five who have been moulded by my expert tutelage). I think eight is probably too many people on the bikes but i'm not sure if everyone will be sticking around and if i'm being getting fed the HOTs and SHTs and also doing the south side it shouldn't affect me too much (did have a few days last week where I was sitting around not doing nuttin' - I need to start carrying around a slim tome to better myself during the down time). Found what may have been one of Chad's experiments for his doctarate PhD but was probably some kind of foodstuff that belonged to one of the previous flatmates. It was a glass that was full of something that was red and once liquid but now was solid and had a primitive civilisation growing on the top of it - I was going to throw the entire thing out, but hey, we're short on glasses ...
Also saw a very brief report on the Cronulla riots on Canadian TV - have been reading about it on the SMH on the PDA but had not seen any pictures or video yet. It was quite strange seeing such a bland, factual report of it on the TV compared to the heavy opinion pieces in the paper. It's a shame that the only time Australia rates a mention over here is when it's about something despicable.

FW: Fets v Bons

10 December - That time of year again when i've got to remember two birthdays - lost all of my contacts from yesterday's very annoying PDA melt down but managed to pass on messages to respective peoples, hope they get them before end of the day over there. I can always use the excuse that's the time difference caused the delay if it doesn't happen properly. Found a new breakfast place at Jason's suggestion, 'Bons Off Broadway', very popular place, and very cheap, but it's not good value unless it's good. It reminds me of the diner that the Resevoir Dogs were in at the beginning of the movie, constantly getting my coffee cup warmed up (when I order coffee I want it refilled six times, she onlyfilled me up twice!!!) and i'm supposing there were also a lot of criminals overexamining crappy 80s pop songs and getting ready to kick off a heist. Actually, the food was very good, but I think I still prefer Fets, a couple of extra dollars for pancakes with blueberries in them that ar on a different echelon of quality makes for a far more enjoyable breakfast experience.
At one point in the afternoon there was a knock on the door and upon opening it I was confronted with Libby Davis, the local federal MP for the NDP (left wing opposition party), out doing her campaigning for the upcoming election. I explained that I was inelegible to vote which she wasn't concerned about, she wanted to know if we would put up a sign on the front lawn for her. I explained that there were eight people in the house, two of them not even Canadian, and I was pretty unsure if there'd be a consensus supporting the NDP and i'd have to regretfully decline. She left me her card to give her a call if the rest of the housemates were agreeable. It turned out that Jason would have been very willing to have it up but after asking Rene, the response was 'F**k no!!! Not unless she wants to have a burning sign on the front lawn!' - I guess he's not a supporter ...
Later on I went to see 'Syriana', which was an excellent way to escape the cold - very good example of a taut, political thriller. Almost too complicated to follow but pretty intense stuff and something i'd recommend.
As it was a Saturday I forced myself to get out of the house, so I headed downtown to the Dufferin on Seymour, a rather grungy drag bar, that was full of some of the most completely drunkenly incoherent people i've met since I arrived in the city. Met a couple of nice people as well as a few creepy ones, including a drag queen from Sydney (not in costume) named Aroma Therapy (can't remember his real name) who was very disappointed in my ability to recall the current list of performers on Oxford Street. Being a lightweight, I didn't last much past one and got home on the last Skytrain, but glad I got out of the house anyway.

Nar-nar-nar-narnia ... Hey ... Aslan???

11 November - Worst subject line ever!
Last night's festivities resulted in waking up with a bit of a hangover today but nothing too intense. Made some pancakes, watched the end of AKira Kurosawa's 'Ran' (excellent movie that's been on my list for far too long), washed my bike and changed the inner tube ... Again!!!! I'd taken it in to be tuned up on Friday and already I had to fix the tyre again, which I was very annoyed about. A flat can be caused by anything but the number of things that i've had to change the rear tyre on this bike about 10 times now and it's getting ridiculous. Did notice that there was a bif of a tear in the wall of the actual tyre this time and thinking it might need to be replaced I headed into downtown only to find out that they hadn't tuned the bike on Friday, they'd just replaced the brake pads. The surly mechnic explained that they only fix what they're asked to fix. I explained that i'd asked for a tuneup and when I picked it up i'd been told it had been given a tuneup but I wasn't going to argue with them so I left it there whilst I went off to eat some very bad food court Chinese and to see the latest fantasy blockbuster to hit the cinemas. Ihave to say that I absolutely love the Chronicles of Narnia, I read it when I was a wee boy and in anticipation of the upcoming movie I refreshed myself by going throug the series whilst I was Vietnam (at one point when I was afflicted with the traveller's disease I found myself in super humid Hoi An guesthouse hallucinating about Aslan). There were lots of great moments in the film, including the obligatory troops shouting out a warcry before charging (no overlong inspiring speeches luckily) and the CGI realisations of the fantastic beasts were all pretty good but all in all a little bit disappointing to me. I couldn't really put my finger on what I didn't like about it - maybe it was a bit rushed at points, maybe i'm just over seeing massive battle scenes (although having the normal beasts participating was very entertaining, especially when the cheetahs put on their speed to tear ahead of the charging phalanx). Personally, when it comes to the fantasy classics, I think that the books of Narnia have the edge over Lord of the rings, but despite the great source material you can certainly see the difference having a great director like Peter Jackson on board makes when it comes to putting it on the big screen. It was certainly entertaining nonetheless, and i'm sure it'll make a lot of money which will mean that there'll be more of the series to come and maybe the future ones will be more suited to my particular palate. And then, we'll see if the fanboys will manage to lobby Hollywood into binging the Dragonlance saga to life as well. God help us.

5 December

Speak of the devil ...
It was on this day in the year 2001 that Dean Kamen let everybody down when he revealed the TRUTH about his latest invention, which had been hyped for months as a revolutionary technological innovation that would irreversibly change the course of human history. It's a wonder people didn't riot in the streets when it was revealed that "Ginger" -- or "It" as an overly-dramatic press corps had taken to calling it -- was nothing but a bulky scooter capable of traveling an underwhelming 12 miles per hour. As Kamen demonstrated his $3000 toy for the first time on Good Morning America, he dutifully preached the benefits: "It's like a pair of magic sneakers!" he said, his voice edging dangerously close to desperation. "This is the world's first self-balancing human transporter! It does what a human does -- it has gyros and sensors that act like your inner ear; it has a computer that does what your brain does for you. It's got motors that do what your musclesdo for you. It's got those tires that do what your feet do for you!" Maybe one day, "genius" inventor Kamen will create something that's useful to those of us whose inner ears, brains, muscles and feet are all in good working order.*

F**king Technology

9 December - Two down at work today so the rest of us were very busy all day, I worked the south side again and was thoroughly exhausted at several points during the day. My brakes have been wearing thing a bit over the past week and i'd planned on taking it in for a tuneup on Saturday but after I did the southside and we'd just had a super rush the front one went completely (it later turned out that the pads were worn out) and it was making a funny sound (they're disc brakes, which I don't really know how to adjust them properly) - luckily, I'd just picked up a trip that was dropping off right next door to Simon's Bike Shop and I managed to run it in there, grab a rental bike (for free, because i'd bought my bike from him) and carry on, only losing a couple of minutes in the process. The rental bike does the job but it's really strange, it has raised handlebars and small wheels and you are completely upright when riding, it feels like i'm driving a truck, but, all sorted out and I got my bike back at the end of the night. Very good decision to buy the bicycle from Simon's, he's a complete wanker as is his crew of mechanics, but free services and a free rental whenever I need it and h's smack bang in the middle of the downtown core so always accessible. Had a bit of a chance with Dimitri after work and he expressed his feelings that he may not be cut out for it - he likes the exercise but he doesn't really enjoy the stress (after all, he's a laid back kind of guy) and also expressed his doubts about how much he feels he is contributing to makingthe world a better place whilst doing the job. Something i've considered as well, it's just a 'job' that is a small cog in the wheel of the "machine" and it's not really doing bettering the world in any way. But, it's also fun and relaxing (in a sense) and it's not something I plan on doing forever so i 'm not going to fret about that aspect of the job at this time.
After coming home I went to do my usual re-syncing of my PDA to get the latest news from home and abroad and it somehow took it upon itself to do a hard reset, completely wiping everything off it. Haven't done a backup for ages because it's been, for the most part, a standalone device. Nearly all of my files were on the storage card and all my emails are being stored on gmail but all the settings and applications i've set were wiped and had to be reinstalled and all of my calendar items and over two year's worth of task history and all of my contacts (email addresses can probably be recovered from past emails but all phone numbers and real addresses are gone which is very annoying). Also, the one active file which I had stored on the PDA's memory, which is now gone forever, was my budget spreadsheet. Not going to go into detail over it but it's loss has disrupted one of neurotic habits and compromised the results a very long term social experiment but it's gone and there's no use crying over something that can't be changed.

Saturday, 10 December 2005

The Side Biker

8 December - Today was an interesting day - no more trainees and I had to hustle almost as soon as I started. Normally, we get given a bag of stuff that was picked from the previous night, because we're only dropping off and they're overnight jobs they don't pay very well but they keep us busy during the quiet periods but if you haven't got rid of them all before 12 due to other 'real' jobs then you have to hustle to deliver. Today, I wasn't given a bag because I was going to be 'fed' all of the hots (have to be delivered in an hour or 40m, i can't remember which) and supers (have to be done in 20m), it's definitely a good thing - I had to rush around a bit but they're better paid and it's a bit more fun when you have such tight deadlines. However, this was only for the beginning of the day, before long I was loaded up with jobs for the southside. I was going to be 'the side biker'. Mostly envelopes but a couple of bulky packages including some really heavy architectural plans. The distances were pretty significant and I didn't do as many jobs but these ones pay a lot more (they're normally only done by cars). It was absolutely exhausting at times, the hills are a lot steeper when you get over the bridge and because I didn't know the streets on the other side (i'd lent my map to one of the trainees a few weeks ago) I found myself lost a few times and despite the rambled directions coming through the radio it was very frustrating. When I finally came back over the other side it was straight back into urgent jobs but at least they didn't weigh very much. Got an invite to the courier yuletide bash at the end of the month - one of the other bikers rode past me, cigarette in mouth, and yelled at me, 'heysaxdon'tknowifyougotoneofthese, hopetoseeyouthere' and pulled out an invitation from his pocket and stuffed it in my hand. He didn't even stop pedalling (and he had no brakes on his bike so he wasn't going slowly). Bizarre. All of the buildings ar gettingvery much into the season at the moment, Christmas trees in office, carol singing in the foyers, candy canes on the desks (and in my pocket) - a bit annoying at times and I don't want to sound like a Scrooge but you might feel the same if you had 'Jingle Bell Rock' in your head for half the day.
No hockey game tonight so I took advantage of having the TV to myself and rented out the original 'King Kong', in anticipation of next week's remake premiere - I tell you what, this is a film that does not need to be remade. Story was a bit tacky and the plot races along without bothering with such necessities as plausibility or decent dialogue but the action is intense, and despite looking very dated, it was still more effective than a lot of the more recent studio efforts. I'm sure Peter Jackson's effort will be worth seeing next week and it will probably be bigger and better than this, but I was totally impressed with the original and after many years of trying to track it down I can finally cross it off my list.

Friday, 9 December 2005

A Put Up And A Put Down

7 December - No new trainees today which I welcome somewhat, however, not overly busy either. Now we've got six of us in downtown and there's someone else starting this week and Crystal, who hasn't been here for a while, is coming back next week. I'm starting to think that the story of her losing her job because of her injury was more due to the imagination of some of my co-workers rather than having any real basis in fact, but i'll probably find out next week anyway. I don't really know much about the logistics of this business beyond doing the stuff on the street but it appear to me that they've certainly overhired. We really don't have the work to justify so many people in downtown, Granted, it was ridiculous to have just two bikers downtown but eight (or even six) is excessive. I found myself sittingaround waiting quite a few times during the day and because i've not had these dead zones before i've not catered for them by bringing a book or anythingto better myself while i've got the free time. The only thingavailable to read are crappy free local newspapers. However, thedispatcher has told me that their plan is to have most of the bikers servicing downtown and one of us beingthe 'side biker', which means riding on the southside of the bridge. The distances are much longer and therefore it's physically harder and you do less jobs but they pay considerably more. And, according to what I was told today, it looks like i'm going to be the side biker initially. So, in a manner of speaking I may have had a bit of a promotion. Had a bit of a run in with some of the old bitter couriers in the past few days as well - yesterday, one of the old bastards lectured me about where I was locking my bike, you should never do it on the bike rack because you'll get boxed in and you'll wreck your cables and I could break your lock in two minutes (after examing it and finding that it was the same brand as his he admited that it was the right kind of lock) and other rants that I smiled and nodden at. Today, I had a lecture about riding on the sidewalk by one of the long timers ... I'd almost bumped into him at snail speed and later in the day he lectured me about the ills of it, saying i'd did it too much and the reason we now have to have licenses is because a girl (who they all knew from a mailroom no less) was hit and killed by a courier and it's not fair on pedestrians. I agree that it's not the right thingto do and I onlydo it when absolutely necessary and then I go super slowly, usuallyjust rolling or even half walking it at times, but, the reason we almost bumped into each other was because he was on the sidewalk too!!! A few hectic periods did keep the day reasonably interesting, the awful movie 'Stealth' that we watched after I returned home made the night reasonably dull.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

Most Ridiculous Thing I Have Ever Seen

Finally saw one in real life. Some idjit was riding a Segway throught downtown Vancouver. How anyone thought that this kind of thing could catch on as a form of personal transport I don't know. It's completely restrictive, even in a wheelchair friendly city like Vancouver, it's incredibly inconvenient for other pedestrians (i think worse than bicycles on the footpath) and it's slow at a good speed. To all of the (hopefully few) people who've actually bought one of these things, get a bike you lazy f**kers (or a unicycle if you're desperate to be upright)!!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Joke du Jour

Every night, Frank would go down to the liquor store, get a six pack, bring it home, and drink it while he watched TV. One night, as he finished his last beer, the doorbell rang.He stumbled to the door and found a six-foot cockroach standing there. The bug grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room, then left.The next night, after he finished his fourth beer, the doorbell rang. He walked slowly to the door and found the same six-foot cockroach standing there. The big bug punched him in the stomach, then left.The next night, after he finished his first beer, the doorbell rang again. The same six-foot cockroach was standing there. This time he was kneed in the groin and hit behind the ear as he doubled over in pain. Then the big bug left.The fourth night Frank didn't drink at all. The doorbell rang. The cockroach was standing there. The bug beat the snot out of Frank and left him in a heap on the living room floor.The following day, Frank went to see his doctor. He explained the events of the preceding four nights."What can I do?" he pleaded."Not much," the doctor replied. "There's just a nasty bug going around."

Empire Building

6 December - Did a bit of Skyping last night wit home, reminded me of what i've left behind. Felt a bit of melancholy which didnt last very long. Very quiet day at work again today - caught up with Dimitri in the morning who seemed ready to go out on his own. Had a few jobs around town before i was dispatched back into the core for a new trainee! The new guy, Flowers, was pretty young but very eager and despite the fact that we weren't busy he seemed to be pretty fast and didn't have any trouble picking up the use of the tools. It certainly seems like Novex is building up the biker team and i seem to have trained most of them. I hope i'm leaving the right impression - i'm a bit crap with the paperwork (very bad at collecting the proper signatures but i don't think theyre very necessary) and i'm always adding the proviso when teaching my apprentices, 'Do as i say, not as i do'. Flowers, like all of the people that i've trained, is a really sound person although he did seem to ask rather personal questions, some inocuous (Who's your favourite band? Who's your favourite author?), some a bit confronting (Do you have any real ambitions? Have you ever been in love???). It also seems that i'll be training somebody again tomorrow - upon hearing this news i was a bit miffed. It's fun doing it but it does slow me down a bit, which cuts into the amount of money i make, however, i was informed today that i'll be getting reimbursed for the sharing of my immense knowledge of the industry (not a huge amount of cash, but signficant enough to ensure i'm not resentful towards my charges). Also, whilst leaving one of the buildings today, i heard a familiar accent coming from another courier, i trned to him and said, 'You must be the other Australian!', he looked at me and said, 'Yeah, i've heard of you too!!!' - very nice guy from Canberra-Perth-Sydney (all over then) who's been working here for about four months. Already forgotten his name but have seen him around and will surely see him again. Ate some wendys after work, which didn't really agree with me, the two doughnuts I met after that really didn't agree with me either so I 'ET EM!!!

I'm not a fast paced person ...

5 December - ... So why would you want to be a bicycle courier??? Pretty chilly this morning but my tights kept the worst of the cold at bay. Arrived at 885 Georgia to find another fellow wearing a Novex jacket and soon realised that he was to be my new apprentice. Very nice guy named Dimitri, Greek background and grew up in Canada but was actually born in Paddington, Sydney. Unfortunately he was not terribly good at keeping the pace and because he was trailing me for most of the day (i got him to do most of the paperwork and the Blackberry stuff) he did make it difficult to keep up with the jobs and for the first half I missed most of my deadlines which was a little frustrating but it was no matter. Eventually I decided he was ready to spread his wings and I let him fly away, which was quite good because it got a little bit busier after that. I also caught up with him later in the day and he seemed to be doing okay. He did admit to me that he wasn't a fast pace person, which I had already realised, but it did make me question why he would want to be a bike courier??? But who am I to judge on these things.

Monday, 5 December 2005

Tighted Up

3 December - Thank god for weekends. Great weather all day, which was not amazing considering I was under the weather when I woke up. Headed out to Fets for breakfast (far too large serving of eggs, toast and pancakes), then Santa barbera for groceries and later on I got myself some much needed cycling tights. They're not completely waterproof but they're water resistant and they're warm, which is the most important thing. And because they're one piece i'm hoping they're going to stay up unlike my fashionable (???) but impractical seperates from Slovakia. Apparently there was a bit of drama in the house this morning when the new housemate came home a little worse for wear after a night of drinking in Gastown, closely followed by an irate taxi driver who almost knocked the front door down demanding his fare. Most of us slept through it but Mark, being near the front door, was woken. Later on it turned out that Aaron had lost his wallet and his phone on his impromptu sojourn into town, not the best thing to happen in a foreign country. I had a few hours when I thought the same had happened to me, so I could sympathise a bit. Of course, most of us have lost wallets and phones in the past and it's never a pleasant expernce but in a foreign country it's worse by several factors, especially when it happens on a Friday.

And ... Cultured Up

4 December - Last night had the Novex CHristmas party, out in the middle of nowhere (at least it seemed that way to me) - kind of fun. None of the other bikers were there for various reasons and the only people I knew were Chris, the dispatcher, and BJ, the driver manager. One of the other dispatchers knew me by my voice (apparently she thought it was exotic ... I think she needs to see more of the world). It was at a restaurant and there wasn't a huge amount of mingling, as everyone was seattd. I joined one table with a few employees and their guests, none of whom i'd ever met before, but they were all very nice. I seemed to be the centre of attention for a little while as it appeared that none of them had ever met an Australian before - they asked about spiders, kangaroos, snakes and Vegemite (one of them had tried it but admitted to preferring Marmite, eaghhh ....) - ate a bit too much and drank a little too much as well. Noone was heading out afterwards and it ended reasonably early - most of the guys lived out in Richmond and had drive but it was still a fun night nonetheless. Saying goodbye to everyone was strange - I couldn't really say 'See you soon' because I never see any of them and it's quite unlikely that i'll ever see any of thm ever again, but it was still nice to meet them.
Woke up with a bit of a hangover this morning, not as bad as some of the others in the household who had also had Christmas parties on the same night (December 3 seems to be the day to do it in this city) but not strong enough to keep me away from my mission of making it down to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. My hangover may not have stopped me but the weather should have - it was snowing really heavily and the roads were really slushy, the main ones were okay because there was a lot of traffic to clear them but some of the quieter streets were soaking. I'd geard up with the tights, waterproof booties, a decent jacket and my toque but the gloves failed me. The water completely penetrattd them and the wind made them completely numb. By the time I eventuallymade it to the MOA I could hardly feel my fingers at all. Had a bit of trouble finding a place to leave my booties and jacket whilst I went in - the staff weren't terribly helpful but it was all sorted out in the end. Interesting thing about the museum is that they have a rule not allowing backpacks. I could carry it in my hand but not on my back. Carol Major, our favourite Canadian writing teacher one told me that Canadians generally have pretty liberal laws but they ALWAYS obey the laws they have, even the sillyones. I've had a few run-ins with silly rules and bylaws since arriving in this city and I have to say that I would tend to agree with her. Every country has silly laws but over here they ENFORCE them. MOA was a bit disappointing after the efforts its taken to get here. Lots of totem poles (a few old but most quite recent) and weavings and an extraordinarily abridged explanation of the history of the natives both pre and post Europeans. Not hugely interesting I have to say and I probably wouldn't recommend it. I've seen a lot of museums and galleries this year, none for quite a while admittedly, but this one was not a highlight. Getting back home was a bit of a trek, hands froze so much that I had to stop for a coffee to warm my hands. I as very specific to ask for it in a paper cup but they gave me a ceramic one. They transferred it at my request to a paper one but then they gave me a double cup (so wasteful over here - ddouble cupping and double bagging everything). I handed the extra back and finally got what I reallywanted, just somethng to warm my hands.
Eventually got home and then went for a (very long and slushy) walk out to the Canadian Superstore, a soulless behemoth of a place that had a good special on yoga balls and didn’t seem so far when I looked it up on Google Maps. I hope I'm never tempted to head back out there - miserable walk to get there and miserable place to be, but, I got my super cheap yoga ball so it wasn't a complete waste. Also debating about buying a Craigslist advertised snowboard and associattd kit, would like to try doing it first but am not sure how often i'll be getting up to the slopes. It's a very expensive pastime, even over here, and i'm not exactly breaking records with my earnings so I think I may wait.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

No Pedallers Allowed

2 December - Bitterly cold today, possibly the worst yet. At least it was mostly dry - just lots of flurries. up until today I had no idea what a flurry was, I thought it was something you could get from mcdonalds - it turns out that it is not as bad as that but still really light snow constantly blowing into your face isn't the most comfortable thing in the world. Also, because it was quite slow I found myself waiting around just getting cold a couple of times during the day. Whenever there was a job, even if it wasn't urgent i'd ride as hard as I could to get my blood flowing - you have to balance the exertion to warm yourself up with the windchill that you get when you're going really fast - it's like walking a tightrope. HOwever, despite them not staying up for more than ten minutes at a time I managed to keep my leggings on all day today. I was constantly hiking them up all day but they did help. This weekend i'm definitely getting a pair of proper tights - it just has to be done!
After work finished me and Stu went to Nagez, the Ukrainian home cooking restaurant where I supped like a king and then headed down to the Brickyard for some cheap beer. Rick, one of the other couriers from Novex was there - and when he gets drunk he gets very strange, constantly rambling stories about the history of Novex and adventures that he had in his longand varied career. The stories didn't seem to go anywhere though or even be adventures - they were just tales of him runningfrom place to place and being really busy. I'm hopinh my adventures stay about as exciting as that - because the only excitement I can imagine in this job can only result in injury. Sideshow Bob was also there, he'd worked with us for two and a half days before quitting and now he's working for the competition. Completely bizarre individual - used to courier for 17 years before quitting (to do what, I do not know) and has recently returned after a substantial break - I think he does work with street kids and is a bit of social organiser amongst this small subculture. He looks kind of like Sideshow Bob, at least with the hair, and what goes through his mind I could not tell you. He gave me a stern lecture about how a ballpoint pen can be the most effective weapon in dealing with an irate driver and then tried to play hackey sack whilst sitting down before doing an impression of a fire engine (for about ten minutes). Was a little bit drunk by the time I got home and fell asleep whilst watching the March of the penguins - hopefully will be able to give it another shot on Saturday.
Bitterly cold todaym worst yet
Flurries all day, didn't know what one was, thougtt it was from mcdonalds'
went to nagaz
Keptg kleggings on all day today
Rick, really weird when drunk
Bob really weird whn drunk or sober
B thought he was Loaded up with super hots
got very drunk after work
Hd to keep moving during day to get warm, even whern it was quiet would still ride as hard as possible

Friday, 2 December 2005

The Tide Has Turned

1 December - Super cold but dry today - really busy throughout the entire day but I did loads of tags and I think I probably earned a bit (for someone in this industry working for this company in this position anyway); tights still won't stay up either. It warmed up duringthe day but in the afternoon when the sun goes down it bites.
There is a new person in the house as of today (you can only legally start a rental agreement on the first of the month over here, it's in the BYLAW!!!), Aaron (or perhaps Aron, like Elvis Presley's middle name dead twin but not on that Elvis's tombstone which must mean that he's alive, he's alive! HE'S ALIVE!!!) from Perth. He was a bit monosyllabic when we first met but had a bit of a chat with him later on and he seems very sound. He's been travelling for four years around Europe and is doing the year in Canada, like me. He seems like a keen snowboarder and he mentioned heading up to one of the local mountains for the day pretty soon (he also has a car, which can't hurt). He doesn't seem too knowledgeable about hockey, which is good. But he seems to be into his sports, which is not good or bad but could well mean that he gets afflicted with the disease that ignites this house whenever the Canucks or on TV (Jason and Chad) or the Leafs (Rene and Mark). Although the presence of an another Australian in the house can only be a good thing now there's someone who might actually WANT to steal my vegemite and tim tams. Living with others, there's alsways the risk of theft of foodstuffs, you can never guarantee that what you buy and put away will be there when you want it. Whether it's sugar, biscuits, bananas, Coke or even ice cream (the nerve!!!), housemates will take them. Usuallywith the thought of replacing it but never in time for that moment when it's the only thing that's going to make your tummy happen. At least I've always known that my vegemite has been safe. Until now.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

And Then There Were Four Again

30 November - No snow or rain today which was very good, it was extremely cold which wasn't very comfortable at first but it warmed up slightly and I was moving around pretty consistently so I felt okay. Wore the leggings again today and tried every possible variation to keep them up - hiking them up as far they could go and sliding the knicks over them smoothly, having the tights over the knicks, bunching them around each other, keeping the knicks out of contact with them, tucking my overshorts into them ... Every time they come on down again. Eventually it warmed up enough and I just took them off altogether. Not terribly busy although it did kick off at the exact moment when I had a flat tyre - got t fixed at the bike shop and finally got a front fender so I won't end each day with my face spattered in mud. The same tyre went not three hours later at the very end of my shift. An annoyance rather than a hindrance but that rear wheel seems to be cursed - about the sixth tyre i've gone through in six weeks (i've got three punctured ones in my room that I have to get around to fixing one of these days). The mechanics at the bike shop ar pretty miserable fellows - while I was getting the tyre and fender they also fixed a problem i've been having with the higher gears. The same issue seems to happen pretty regularly and I asked if he could tell me what i t was so I could fix it myself. Is it hard to fix? I don't know. What do you mean? I don't know how mechanically minded you are. Well, not really but what was the problem? Well, it could be the derailier, it could be the wires, it could be the gears. Yeeesssss ... But what was it? Never found out how to fix it if it comes up again anyway. It seems that Crystal, the girl who started with us last week has already left us. Apparently she hurt her knee whilst riding into work from richmond (pretty far out) and the company wasn’t prepared to keep the job for her - mayhap Novex has a nasty side, I hope that's not the case but this industry seems to be have a pretty brutal reputation, at least amongst the couriers anyway. Got home and watched a video and avoided most of two hockey games before crashing out. Ho hum, diddly dum.

Brrr ...

29 November - Today's weather report. It's going to be cold. It's going to be wet. And it's going to last the rest of your life.
Woke up this morning and looked out the window to see the whole street covered in white and what was worse was that it was getting whiter. My first Canadian snow since arrival ... The thrill of seeing it was slightly overwhelmed by the knowledge that I was going to be riding through it an hour later. Got as rugged up as possible, brought out the leggings and the nylon booties, put on my full fingered gloves and sported my toque (its just a hat) instead of my usual bandanna (underneath the helmet of course) and then tentatively headed out. I rode very slowly into town, partly to reduce the windchill which was considerable but also because I was a bit uncertain about the slickness of the roads. It eased off for a little while but shortly after i'd started work it started coming down in drifts, interspersed with the usual rain of course. I have to say that my head doesn't work so well in the rain - it's so distracting dealing with water getting into everything, not helped by the fact that the f**king leggings just wouldn't stay up - every time I was in a lift alone i'd be hiking them up underneath my knicks and I could constantly feel them slipping, when they did, i'd also feel the chill of exposed leg and there was the frustration of not being able to do anythingabout it until I got off my bike. Generally, they stayed on while I was riding but because I was constantly getting on and off, walking into buildings and pedalling, they just wouldn't stay up. Eventually I decided to brave the cold and just got rid of them. To do this meant removing my shoes and hence the booties and they take so long to put on properly that I didn't bother replacing them so by the end of the day my feet were soaked again. Still, a pretty busy day without too many mishaps. The streets were pretty slippery but nothing worse than a normal rainy day. One of the other couriers asked me if I was missingAustralia today. Of course I was. So am I, man, and i've never even been there!!!! That was one of the nice couriers - some of them ar the most miserable f**kers imaginable, but they're in the minority. To top it off my blackberry screen blanked out around quarter past four but it was pretty dead by that stage so it wasn't a disaster. Hopefully my replacement won't take too long to arrive tomorrow. Very happy to finish off today and get inside away from the snow - wwhich is still piled up all around the house (it doesn't last long in the city) and will probably be even thicker tomorrow because it's supposed to be snowing again tomorrow. Well, at least i'll be able to make a snowman.


To paraphrase Jerky:
If by any chance I get wiped out whilst doing this job I hope nobody at the funeral says, "Well, he died doing what he loved."
What they should say is "Well, he died failing miserably at doing something he loved."
-- Note to anyone reading this, I'm very carful and it's not THAT dangerous --