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December 2008
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January 2009

The Tracks of My...

Greetings from Toronto

Notes from another trip to Toronto...

OK, I've been here three days and I don't feel inspired to write anything witty about the weather.  Here's the summary:
  • Monday: High of -8'C, low of -20'C.  It's cold enough that if you spill your coffee you can scrape it up into a cup a few days from now.
  • Tuesday: High of maybe 0'C, low of maybe -4'C.  It's amazing how warm you think it is when it warms up a bit... and I know it's warmer because some of the ice is actually melting. 
  • Today:  not sure of the temperature, but it's now warm enough (I know, an odd concept for Californians) to snow.  It's been snowing steadily since early this morning, and the 3-8 cm of snow they forecast has been upped to 12-20 cm.
Since I walked from my hotel to the office, I had to roll/drag my travel bag through the snow.  Nice to know I could provide plowing service for some of the merchants and banks along the route!


Yes, those are my wheel tracks! 

Some other items of note this trip:

  • I had to declare whether I was carrying (among other things) a surfboard, or "hunter's bounty" (horns, antlers) in my luggage.  Wow, tough to fit that bag into the overhead storage! 
  • I was able to watch a movie from the pre-talkies era, that featured dialogue in German with French subtitles.  On average, it seems you can say the same thing in French with about 30% fewer words. 
  • Since hockey was still on holiday after the NHL All-Star game, I tuned into a curling match.  You know, the sport that looks like they're throwing granite teapots down the ice, with people madly sweeping the ice in front.  I can't say I know what was happening, except that they do a better job sweeping than I ever did. 
  I'm on a direct flight back to California, which is good since they just cancelled the flight into Chicago.  Hopefully the snowplows can keep the runways clear and I won't be posting from Pearson International Airport again for a while!

A New Day for America

OK, so I work in this kind of odd building.  It was originally designed to house fashion businesses, so it has a stage in the atrium which now features a couple of TV's.  Usually there's CNN on one, and ESPN on the other.  And there are never more than a few people in front of them, except maybe at lunch time.

So here was the scene this morning, as I arrived at the tail end of Barack Obama's inauguration address.


Unalloyed euphoria? The start of something new, different, better? We'll soon see.  There's certainly excitement in the air... and a sense that it's time to buckle down and address the challenges we face.  In a way, it's like the aftermath of 9/11, without the shock.  There was a determination in people's faces to meet the challenge, as there is now.

One other indication of the significance of this day:  every newspaper rack that I passed on my way from the train station to work was empty...

Interesting times!

You Are Here--Another Road Trip

Sunday, 14 December 2008

On my way to Toronto for meeting with my Product Managers.  I now own Product and Project Management, and most of the staff is in Toronto.  So I expect I'll be making this trip on a regular basis.

Once again, I've outsmarted myself.  I've booked the United flight from SFO to YYZ, but through Air Canada because it's cheaper.  So it's an Air Canada flight, being operated by United.  As I did last time, I check in at Terminal 3 (aka United-Domestic) and begin looking for Gate 96, which (as it turns out) is really Gate 92.

Gate 92? Oh, that's in the International Terminal.  Which means I have to exit security, walk over to the International Terminal, and go through security--again.  Of course, I'm not worried, because I've also just learned that the flight is delayed by about an hour.  Yes, I could have signed up for text alerts or something like that, but never got around to it.

The Bad News:  having gone through security, all the best restaurants are now beyond my reach, as they're outside the security area.

The Good News:  I stop in at Andale!, a reasonably good Mexican restaurant (one of two decent choices) for a bowl of tortilla soup while I watch the 49ers play Miami.

The Bad News:  after stopping Miami's drive and driving down the field with no timeouts remaining, Shawn Hill is sacked on the Niners' 4th-and-10 play.  Baby steps!  Besides, it could be worse:  I used to follow the Detroit Lions.

The Good News:  despite word that the 777 was sold out, I'm sitting in an aisle seat, with three empty middle seats next to me!

The Bad News:  42 seconds after we push off from the gate, as the flight attendants are showing how to put on the life vest and blow into the ridiculously short tubes to inflate the vest, the babies who were strapped into their seats are now all crying, in a crescendo that even howling dogs would admire.

The Good News:  the captain comes on to say we're going to make up some of the time on our way to Chicago.  Maybe I'll make my connection to Toronto after all!

The Bad News:  that bottle of white wine now costs six bucks!  I can just imagine the bullet point on McKinsey's "route to profitability" presentation to United's CEO...

The Good News:  my gate for the Toronto flight is close by my landing gate in Chicago.  I even have time to get a hot dog (don't you dare use ketchup in a Chicagoan's presence!) before I get on the flight!

The Bad News:  there a couple of divas on the plane who are upset because they're going to have to put their carry-on luggage (which is all of their luggage) in a space behind their seats (a frequent flyer no-no).  I can't be separated from my L-V!

The Good News:  I get through customs and immigration in record time.  The body armor on the customs agent is a little unsettling.  And my Toronto airport shuttle drop-off is across the street from my hotel... woo hoo!

The Bad News:  the hotel has given me a room that smells like onions... and the bed isn't made... and--oh!--that's because there's someone sleeping in the bed!  Back to the lobby...

The Good News:  I get a room that doesn't already have an occupant.

The Bad News:  I'm not sure this bed came with a blanket.  And the bed's a few inches too short.  And the cold is coming right through the brick walls.  Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite!  Wait, that was the other hotel...

Monday, 15 December

The Good News:  I figured out how to turn on the heater... 

The Bad News:  ...this morning, after I spent the night sleeping under my winter coat.

The Good News:  it's warmer here in Toronto than when I left Gilroy yesterday... a little wet, but probably in the low 40's.

The Bad News:  when I leave our Toronto office Monday evening, the temperature has dropped to about 28˚F (-2˚ C for my metric friends), and that's before the wind started blowing.

The Good News:  found a way to sleep with my feet on (vs. hanging off of) the mattress.

The Bad News:  it's even colder today, -3˚ C.

Tuesday, 16 December

The Bad News:  even though the hotel serves "Wolfgang Puck" coffee, it still sucks.

The Good News:  I figure out that it's a short walk (maybe five or six blocks) from our office to my hotel.  I have a couple of restaurant ideas in mind, but definitely don't want to wander around in this weather!

The Bad News:  the temperature has dropped further, and my ears feel like they're going to snap off in the cold.

The Good News:  Bardi's, the steakhouse next door to the hotel, is pretty reasonable for a steak dinner.

The Bad News:  I get the waiter who was the understudy for Lurch in The Addams Family.

The Good News:  The Fairmont Royal York is across the street, so I can go there for a decent glass of wine.

The Bad News:  $14!

Wednesday, 17 DecemberIMG_0045

The Good News:  it snowed while I was sleeping, about 10cm (or maybe 2.5 inches).  I got into the hotel before it started coming down!

The Bad News:  The street cleaners are just getting out, so every corner is a slush long-jump event.  See if you can clear the slush! Try not to land in the water! Leap for the snow! Hope there's no ice underneath!

The Good News:  I read about a great wine/tapas bar, Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar.  They pair small plates of food with great wines, I can't wait!

The Bad News:  I thought it was at 6 Church Street... apparently not.

The Good News:  9 Church Street--we're in!

The Bad News:  I have to sit at the bar, the place is packed!

The Good News:  the bar server can see I appreciate good wine.  Pretty soon he starts bringing the extra goodies over.

The Bad News:  OK, there really isn't any!

Thursday, 18 December

Last day of my trip (as planned, anyway).

The Good News:  weather is clear (and cold), no more slush ponds to jump over at every corner.

The Bad News:  time to drag my suitcase to the office.  Nothing says "tourist" like a guy dragging his roll-along suitcase through the financial district.

The Good News:  looks like I'll make it to the airport before the weather turns nasty.  Air Canada sent an email out saying I could change to an earlier flight for free, if I wanted to get out before a storm rolls into Toronto.  Translation:  we warned you, don't blame us if you get stuck at the airport!  I'm leaving Toronto mid-day so I should be alright.

The Bad News:  everyone else had the same idea.  And I'm headed to Chicago, where the forecast is for two inches of ice.  And the weather has basically made today the start of the Christmas travel season.

The Good News: made it out of Toronto on time, now in Chicago.

The Bad News:  I feel like I'm in the middle of filming Home Alone.  I expect to hear "Kevin!" at any moment.

The Good News:  We're due to leave Chicago before the ice storm arrives.

The Bad News:  The storm has already stranded aircraft in normally warm-weather locales like Las Vegas.  No aircraft means no flights, which means some of my fellow travelers on their way to winter vacations in Hawaii, Australia, etc. are scrambling to find a flight out of town.  I have time to make an earlier flight to SFO, but don't bother as I'd have to wait for my bag to arrive anyway (the one downside of checking your luggage).  

More Bad News:  My flight is delayed, about an hour.  We're all watching the weather, trying to see if we'll be leaving before that wall of blackness descends on us.  I head to the only  bar on this concourse, and everyone is in it.

But Some Good News: We finally board and make it out of Chicago!  Ride's a bit bumpy, but we make it to SFO OK.

Some Final Bad News:  my bag doesn't roll off the baggage carousel.

Some Ironic Good News:  Turns out my bag was placed on that earlier flight to SFO; it's been waiting for me all along!

The Best News:  home safe and sound, and not flying anywhere for the holidays!