Eating my way through Europe: Calgary Layover

I’m heading to a week long meeting in Zurich, and it’s totally for work!! Really!

But with all of the work comes a bit of free time, and with that free time I will be eating my way through the best the Netherlands and Switzerland have to offer. What better way to see a city than with my stomach? 😉

My first stop wasn’t in Europe though. I have a short layover in Calgary where I’m enjoying exotic Canadian food.


That’s right. A teen burger, poutine and A&W Root Beer with sugar. None of which is available south of the border.

So good! But also, two days worth of calories in under ten minutes. Let the food coma commence in 3…2…zzzz….

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Making fun of Canadians

This happened pretty close to Canada Day; I thought it might be more appropriate to hold onto it a bit longer though.

Me: A Canadian guy I know was complaining that americans were making fun of him.
Guy: How do you make fun of a Canadian?
Me: You know, the accent, size of country, etc. The same way Aussies make fun of Kiwis, or the English make fun of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish.
Guy: Wait, so do you have sex with sheep too?
Other guy: They use a moose.

Related – here are a few Cartoons about making fun of Canadians.

Back from Adventure

I think when one starts creating Venn diagrams to describe life’s problems, they may have crossed some kind of mental breaking point. In any case, I’m back. Both physically (from an exploratory journey to NA) and mentally (from a brain imploding what-am-I-doing-with-my-life adventure).

The trip was really great. Not only did I get to spend the better part of a day with a couple of friends – mostly eating and playing with rubber balls – but I talked with 9 different people about possible job opportunities within my current company. I also got a few insightful opinions about opportunities in general.

Last year, after having been here about 8-10 months, I’d asked a few folks about opportunities within the company in other areas. They were super standoffish to the point of being rude. I guess there’s some unwritten rule about ‘thou shalt not so much as talk about changing jobs within thine first 12 months.’ Now that the barrier has been breached, the tone of conversation couldn’t be more different. Each of the people i talked with were super open to change, and were all really keen to talk about best fit from a team perspective.

It’s going to take me some time to sort out what makes the most sense for me – I think I need to carefully balance a few different factors: is the change a good career move? is taking an easy path a cop-out that I’ll later regret? Should I work on a project I don’t like because it has high exposure, or work on something I’m good at that will probably flop, or work on something that’s boring but looks good on a resume, or work with people who are super interesting. Blah. I think I feel another Venn diagram coming on. One thing that we did determine is that one of our geographical options – Seattle – is probably off the list.

Anyhow, does this mean that I’m moving to NA?

Well, not just yet. There are some opportunities here as well that I want to explore. Plus, we just signed a 6 month extension to our lease.

On thing that has been kind of surreal about the whole experience was the timing of the trip in relation to what our plans were last year. Originally I had asked for a sabbatical from my prior employer. They turned me down. Had they agreed, then I would have been taking the same flights through Vancouver, but without the return trip.

Off to San Fran

Its a long trip from Sydney to San Francisco – nearly 18 hours – fortunately we took a short coffee break on the way.

I’m in NA for about eight days for a conference. Which really feels too long. It’s harder to get excited about these business trips when you like where you were much more than where you are going.

Xavier (which my iPad corrects to Clavier) turned one yesterday and we had a pretty awesome time of things at the zoo. On the flight out, there were three other kids all about Xavier’s age. They cried, of course, but having lived with a baby for a year now I wasn’t so much cursing their cries as I was missing my kid. MY kid wouldn’t cry, I thought. Which I eventually conceded as untrue. But, if he did, then he would get over it quickly by playing a game of steal-daddy’s-glasses, or drop-soother.

So, I made faces at other people’s kids instead.

I remember helping out a “spirited” lady in Victoria who warned me that as you age, you start to lose your mind. A sure sign of which was when you started thinking that small dogs and babies were adorable, instead of kickable. I guess I’m old. That at least explains the hairline.

Updates from Sunny Sydney

It’s been two months since I last wrote anything – and it seems that so much has happened in that time. I may try to capture a few of the events in more detail, but to start, here’s a very light roundup of what’s been going on, and some quick updates from down under.

First was leaving France. It was a whirlwind for both of us. There was a lot to do, and then a baby on top of that. Overall, the move was swift and relatively well executed (not that we had much to do with that). Over the span of three days we managed to go from having an apartment, to being totally packed and living in a B&B, to travelling 25 hours by plane with 8 suitcases, a baby and a cat, to landing in Nevada. 

We had a very nice Christmas break with our Family. Winter in Reno is interesting. It’s a desert that’s high in the mountains. So, it’s very dry (no snow), but still very cold. It can change in temperature by about 20 degrees between midnight and lunch time.
The view from my inlaw’s backyard
We spent a lot of the holidays eating, and drinking, and shopping. Overall, very therapeutic.

We also managed to fit in a short trip to Vancouver where we got to catch up with some friends, and a lot of family. I even got to say good bye to a few colleagues in person when we were near the old Vancouver office for a drink.

Being able to spend Baby’s First Christmas with family was amazing. I’m so glad we got as much time as we did between jobs (three weeks total) to chill with friends and family before travelling out this way. France felt far away; Australia is much further.
This was a lucky shot – most of the time he was chewing on the boxes

As for Sydney – so far, things are going pretty well. The weather down here is lovely – high 20s and sunny most days. Much of the city is a little on the urban ugly side, but the downtown core, the parks, and the waterfront are all great.  I haven’t learned to surf yet, but it’s still on the agenda. At the moment, we are staying in the center of the city, which looks a lot different than Paris. 

We have a nice view of Darling Harbour from our hotel window
Oddly enough, I’ve been hearing a lot of French when I’m walking around the city. It’s nice to hear it. I realized in the first week we were away that I’d actually forgotten a lot of English. The first time we went into a Starbucks in Reno I ordered “Un Cafe de la semaine s’il vous plait.” The lady just looked at me for a while, until I realized what I’d done. So I instead said “Oh, sorry, I’ll have a cafe de la semaine, please.” It took me another week before I was ordering just ‘coffee’ again.

One downside though is that the cost of living is fairly high. To go out is comparable in cost (maybe a little less when you factor wage into the picture). But things at home are higher priced. Beer, for example, is about 7 or 8 dollars in most bars (which is fine), and 3.50 a bottle in the grocery store (about 3x more than I’m used to). Most things are running about a 20% markup, but some items like liquor, makeup or imported large objects (cars, furniture, etc) may be up to 150% more expensive. That said, there are way more options for things than in France, or even Canada. It’s definitely more free market than any other place I’ve been, including the US.

So, there’s the roundup. X isn’t leaving a lot of time for updates at this point, but I’m going to try to schedule a little bit of time on the weekend for a quick update while he naps. 

Canada Votes!

So, on Friday the government fell. This means we are up for an off-season election.

This means that in the next 18 months I’ll get to watch three pertinent federal elections: Canada, US, and France. I’m stoked! Politics are my reality TV.

Anyhow, one of the really interesting things that’s come out of the election so far is the Vote Compass. It’s an awesome tool from the CBC and some researchers over at UofT that helps give you an idea of the political party that is most aligned with your personal feelings on a fairly wide spectrum of topics. It covers everything from military budgets, to social programs, to the economy or the legalities of Marijuana.

If you’re an eligible voter, give it a shot and see if it lines up with your default choice.

If you’re not Canadian, it’s still worth trying out just to learn a little more about the Canadian political system, and how it fits into your world view.

Steven Harper can play the piano

I was browsing the ‘Top News Stories of 2009’ on the CBC, and found a picture of Harper in front of a Piano. How did I miss this news story?

OK, so it’s definitely a publicity stunt (“Look, I can play piano! How can I hate the arts if I can play piano?”), but it’s a good one. I hate to admit it but I like the guy a little more after watching this.

(There’s a worse version sans advertising over here.)