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Archive for December, 2008

Pop quiz

Here’s a pop quiz for all my readers (all three of you): what’s worse than Winnipeg drivers in the winter?

Answer: Seattle drivers in the winter.

Here in Redmond/Seattle, we had a big snowstorm this week.  All of the streets are covered in snow.  Now, being from Winnipeg where our streets have snow on them for 11 months of the year, I’m quite used to it.  I don’t like driving in snow but I know how to do it.  You basically slow down, take side roads if the highways are icy (exposed roads suffer from blowing snow which can lead to ice sometimes), and give yourself time to stop.  Seattle drivers don’t know all of these little things.

Let me give you an example.  When driving in snow, you slow down.  You don’t slow down such that you are driving 5 miles an hour.  You definitely don’t drive 5 miles an hour up an incline that is covered in snow.  One such person did that today.  I was turning to go back to my place after coming home from the store.  The street that leads to my place is about 200 feet up a moderate incline.  It’s not the Arlington bridge or anything, but it’s still a good size incline.

A person was in front of me waiting to turn and then when traffic cleared we both turned, me behind him.  That’s when this person did something foolish.  He got to the street/hill and decided that he was going to drive slowly uphill.  Seriously.  That’s what he did.  He got there and then started slowing down.

"You dumbass!" I shouted involuntarily.  I never shout involuntarily at other drivers but I did this time.  For you see, I could easily predict that if he continued to drive slowly up that hill, he would never make it.  And he didn’t.  His wheels started to spin and he was not moving anywhere.  And of course, I could have been stuck behind him going no where in my Corolla which has crappy traction in the tires.  Luckily, having Jedi-like decision making processes in my head, I turned off to the left.  The parkway of my apartment complex loops around.  I took the first loop so all I had to do was drive around while Baron von Spins-a-lot was stuck in place, going no where.

I got home and parked my car and walked up the stairs to my place.  A good two minutes had elapsed at my place.  Just as I was entering my front door, I turned to my left.  I then saw the driver finally drive up the street, this time going a lot faster than he thought he was initially going to do.  Maybe next time he’ll figure out that if you drive on a snowy road uphill, you need forward momentum.  Going slow won’t cut it.

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Stranded in Montreal

This morning, I departed Belfast, Northern Ireland, to head to Winnipeg.  My flight path was Belfast -> Newark (NJ) -> Montreal -> Winnipeg.  My flight left Belfast at 11 am local time and I was due to arrive in the Peg at 11 pm local time.  All in all it was shaping up to be an 18 hour day.

The day started off fine.  I got to Belfast International Airport and I immediately wondered if I was in the right place.  The airport was really small.  I’ve traveled to a lot of international airports around the world and this one was the smallest.  Even the one in Nadi, Fiji, was bigger, and Nadi has a population less than 100,000.  Belfast is 4x that.  However, Continental Airlines flies out of there, so indeed it was the right place.

I got to Newark okay and had a major layover, about 4 hours.  Then, things started to go downhill.  First, the flight to Montreal was moved from 5:50 pm to 6:30 pm.  Oh, not good.  Then, when we finally boarded, we didn’t get off the ground until 7:00 pm.  I was supposed to catch the connecting flight to Winnipeg at 8:35 pm.  Not a whole lot of room for error.

I was uneasy about how long it would take to get Montreal and if I’d even catch the flight to Winnipeg.  It turns out that the flight to Canada wasn’t very long, only an hour.  We landed and I glanced at my watch.  I could be off the plane by 8:05.  Tight, but possible to make it.

However, when I got off the plane I walked to Customs and saw a huge line.  "Oh, crap," I said.  It would take an hour to get through.  However, luckily, there was another route for connecting flights.  I took it and it turns out it was an Express Lane.  It took 5 minutes to get through because few people were connecting.

Next up was Baggage Claim.  I’d have to reclaim my baggage and re-check it.  "Oh, crap," I said again.  Claiming baggage sometimes goes quickly, but often takes a very long time.  This could cause me to miss my flight.  I looked around and saw the rack where my luggage was supposed to be.  Success!  I saw my bag!  I went and grabbed it and moved to head out the door.  The time was 8:20, again still tight but possible to make it.

But as I got to the final exit, the Customs agent stopped me and asked for my landing card.  I gave it to him and he said "This way, please."  Evidently I had to do another inspection.  I walked around the corner and saw a long line of people.  And two customs agents doing manual inspections.  "Oh, crap," I said for a third time.  "I’m screwed."

I waited in line forever and when I was finally done, it was 8:50.  My flight was gone.  I went to the ticket agent and they announced that if a flight is canceled or you miss it due to mechanical problems, they’ll pay for your hotel.  If the flight is delayed because of weather and you miss your connecting flight, you’re SOL.  They told me my flight was delayed because of weather (whatever).

So, I’m now stranded overnight in Montreal.  Maybe it’s for the best because I hear it’s -108 degrees in Winnipeg right now.  I can’t deal with that kind of cold weather anymore.

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So true

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This past Friday, at the place I normally go dancing, was a special event.  You see, it is the first Friday of the month.  On the first Friday of each month, they have a special celebration.  They call out all of the people that were born in that month to the center of the dance floor.  They pick a style of dance (Swing, Salsa, Waltz, etc) and then other members of the audience come up and dance with the birthday people.  Each person dances with the audience members for about 30 seconds and then they switch off to the next person.

This month was my month.  I first remember seeing them do it in January of this year and thinking to myself "Man, if they ever call me up there’s no way I would do that!"  At that time I really didn’t know many dances, and I was not any good at either of them.  Fast forward 12 months and I was very much looking forward to my birthday dance.  There’s just something about being able to rotate in many different partners and pull of the moves.

I knew this had been coming up and I thought to myself "Self, if they ask, what dance should I do?  Samba?  Salsa?  West Coast Swing?  No, none of those because the latter two are always picked.  How about East Coast Swing?  Yes, that’s the one!"  My hip still hurts but East Coast is one of the dances where there is almost no pain except in one move that I know.  As long as I don’t do it, I’m okay.

They called us up to the front and I was a bit late getting there and they asked what dance we wanted to do.  One of the other girls (there were three of us, two girls and myself) said "Either waltz or rumba."

I replied "No rumba" because Rumba is my worst one.  It causes a lot of pain in my hip due to the side to side action.  The owner then said "How about East Coast Swing?"

"Yes!" I shouted silently.  "Yes," I said verbally in a calm, cool and collected voice.  They started to play the music and the follows all started to rotate in with me.  I felt pretty good about it; since I was the only lead I got to dance East Coast Swing with all of the follows and didn’t have to worry about splitting time with any of the other leads.  Altogether I think I danced with 7 or 8 follows in one song.

That was certainly my highlight of the evening.

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Something weird

So this past weekend, I packed up my bags and I headed over to Ireland.  I’m here for a week on business, and after this I go to Belfast, Northern Ireland for a day, and then back to Winnipeg for a few days.

One of the drawbacks of traveling is jetlag.  I always find it worse going from west to east than east to west.  Case in point, when I returned back to Seattle from China, I went to work the next day and didn’t feel any ill effects.  But when I went to China, my sleeping schedule was much more irregular.  I had hoped that coming here wouldn’t be that different, but I’m finding that jetlag is still very much a factor.  It’s currently 5:40 am and I feel wide awake.

I got to my hotel at 8 am in the morning, having caught the 7:10 pm red-eye out of Newark.  I decided that I needed a nap.  Traveling on planes wears me out, no matter how many times I have done it.  I had a 3 hour nap, took a shower and then went and took a bus tour of Dublin.  Man, let me tell you, after a while I got cold out on the streets of Dublin.  It’s definitely colder here than in Seattle.

Now here’s the weird part: I got back to my hotel and decided that I needed another nap.  I was still tired from the flight and didn’t sleep well on the plane (I never do).  So, that’s what I did.  Before I did, I debated whether or not I would get something to eat, or go explore a bit more of the town, or just have a rest.  I opted for the rest.  When I awoke, it was close to 8 pm.  I thought back to my earlier debate about whether or not I should go explore the town.

I then had "a conversation" with an invisible person.  "Someone" said to me "Rather than go explore Dublin a bit more, first let’s go get something to eat."  "Okay," I answered (audibly?).  I looked at my watch and then "said" "Let’s go down to the hotel restaurant and get something from there."

"All right," came the reply.  "Don’t wait for me, I’ll catch up."

About 5 minutes later I was sitting in the restaurant and I thought to myself, "Wait a second… who exactly was I supposed to wait for?  And who was I having a conversation with?  I’m traveling alone."  The entire incident was very vivid; but in fact I was having a conversation with myself and I only imagined it to be occurring between two people.  My brain was playing tricks on me.

Weird.  Reminds me of the movie Fight Club.

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Today I turned 30 years old.  That’s a big milestone, though I like to think of it as three decades of greatness.  I sometimes refer to myself as Terry Zink the Great.  That’s in order to distinguish myself from Terry Zink the Lesser.

People sometimes ask me how it feels to be 30.  Well, it doesn’t feel much different than it did yesterday when I was 29.  However, there are some definite changes compared to some years ago.

My hips feel much worse than they did when I was in my early 20’s.  I have significant rotational discomfort in both of my hips and I find that very frustrating.  I think it is a genetic disposition coupled with a result of my fall back in Fiji two years ago.  So on that front, I am feeling my "age".  However, on the other hand, in my mid-20’s when I was 26 and 27, I had some pain in my lower back.  One time after a sponge hockey game in January 2005, I suffered some debilitating pain in my left lower back.  It was so bad I could barely walk and considered not going into work.  I recovered but the point was made – my back hurt.  I suffered from some back pain off and on for the next couple of years.

However, fast forward to today when I am a couple of years older and I don’t suffer from any back pain.  In that regards, I have improved.  The pain earlier mostly came from doing lots of bending work, mostly from shoveling snow in winter.  I would do it fast, and wrong, and I would end up feeling it later on in the week.  So today, I live on the west coast where we don’t have snow so I don’t have to shovel it.  I also don’t do any activities that can hurt my back, so with regards to that I have improved.

Other than that, my joints feel fine.  I wrists, elbows, knees and ankles all feel fine.  There is no pain at all.  My right shoulder is good, just my left shoulder needs a massage because I have poor posture.  But I had that even in my earlier 20’s.  So how does it feel to be 30?  Some parts are better, some are worse.  But overall I feel good.

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