Photo of the Month 2017

As we ring in the new year time for my annual photo a month post!

January: My first trip out of the hospital.

February: View from hospital during a snow storm.

March: Out of hospital gone to see a Hockey game at Harbour Station.

April: Dinner at Rocky’s

May: WordCamp Halifax

June: Waffle Sticks in Custard

July: Surgery

August: When Lobsters Attack!

September: Fundy National Park

October: Troll for Halloween

November: Empty Stocking Fund

December: Cruise to Costa Maya (Country 32 – México)

Starting the Getaway

The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. I woke up at 7 and went down stairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. I returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.

I had booked the early embarking at 10AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.

Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully then San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.

I waked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4 minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)

Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.

As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre, since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.

After the safety drill I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9pm.

After the dinner I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.

After the show I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.

A Return To My Happy Place

For those of you that love my travel stories this is the beginning of a new series of them.

Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria was the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.

Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.

On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had ment to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.

I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.

Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.

The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.

Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about and hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.

I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an anonymement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.

The were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist traveling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA my bag arrived with me. I was trilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.

Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go buy and then you flag down your hotels vehicle. After and hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.

When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.

I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.

“Full Out” Review

To say that I would never watch a gymnastics movie, while that. Is simply not true. I loved the movie “Stick It” and must have seen that movie dozens of times. The movie I just seen was “Full Out”. This is based off the true story of Ariana Berlin. Early on in the movie she gets into a car accident with her mother. After a period in a coma and sever injuries she is faced with not initially walking and is in the hospital dealing with physiotherapy.

Having her whole dreams taken away and her meaning in life. She initially struggles to find meaning is life and where her new life will take her. This road leads to hip-hop dancing and eventually back to gymnastics with a warm and fuzzy ending.

Given what I have been through I can really relate to her struggles. Even before this I never really had big goals, and was waiting for inspiration. Now I feel like I need to do something and want to find that something but many possibilities a beyond large rolling Austrian Alps, but a big rocky Swiss Alps now.

This movie is available on Netflix and worth a watch.

Mobile Ordering

Today I visited the local coffee shop in the mall. The line was very long and the people started to appear frustrated or tired, but there was the pot of gold at the end of the line to make it all worthwhile. Correction, it was coffee, not gold but in the eyes of the patrons waiting it was more valuable than gold.

Meanwhile, I enter and walk past the line and pick up my coffee there waiting for me and leave to sit in the mall and watch the people and write this. The people watching began before I could even leave the restaurant. The scowl of disgust on their faces as I did not lime them join in the ancient, or present-day British, the tradition of fair queuing.

I participated in the modern “there’s an app for that” method of placing my order using my phone and picking it up. Although I used an app this is nothing really new. For all my life you could call up and arrange for pick-up of take-out restaurants.

Today’s purchase was at Tim Horton’s using their app. When it comes to ordering their app is pretty good. It is very straightforward and adding modifications is simple. The payment process and choosing a restaurant is also very intuitive. The downside of the app is that the speciality muffins are not in the app and some instructions like double toasting bagels are not there.

However, they are making lots of improvements and when I first used the app you could not have 1/2 sugar. There is a promotion now where you can get a free coffee (Regular, Dark, or Decaf) after 3 orders by the end of the year.

Another app I use regularly is the Cineplex app. This app is good for purchasing tickets, but the amount of options to buy a ticket can be daunting. The perk, however, is not waiting in line for the kiosks and 50 bonus Scene points (1/20th of a movie).

The McDonald’s Canada app is of similar quality to Tim’s and is really straightforward to make a complex or simple order.

The final shopping app review has to be the Esso Speedpass+ app. This is really convenient as you do not have to stand outside and swipe your fuel savings card, then your points card, then choose a car wash option, then the on-screen payment. It is simply done on the app with very little effort.

Urban Renewal Saint John Update

I have received several posts on the book, and I don’t know how anyone can still get a copy, but for historical purposes, and that fact that my other post is one of the most popular sites here is some of the content from the former website for the book that is no longer on-line.

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StartUp Weekend Saint John

As most of you know I have volunteered at ROGERS tv for going on 19 years. Bi-weekly there is a talk show that I work on called What Matters most. A few weeks ago the had someone on as a guest from the Momentum Group to talk about a then-upcoming event for a Startup Weekend. Long story short that episode didn’t make it to air and was instead put on YouTube. Therefore you can watch the following 13-minute interview to get the idea what it is about.

Or not… I guess I can tell you what it is about.

The premise is that you pay money for a ticket and choose if you are a Developer (can code), Designer (can design stuff), or Other (smart person, marketing person, money person, et cetera). Then on Friday you show up raid the buffet spread, socialize, network, and assess the competition.

Then you get to listen to speeches, “The is is how the weekend is going to go down”, “we love business”, “entrepreneurs are awesome”, “there are so many services you have never probably heard of that you are going to get a taste of”, “your community needs you”, and lastly “who has an idea!”.

This is the first taste of the opportunity where you get to line up and present and possible idea, everyone claps for you presenting your idea, then you walk off to write your idea down on a big piece of paper and stick it on the wall. After all the ideas are presented comes the fun. Everyone in the room goes an puts a post-it note on the idea they like. Then the top several ideas get selected and then they get moved around the room that the idea person stood beside their idea and if you liked their idea you could join their idea team. If an idea had at least 3 people it was then a team.

We then spent a few hours planning out the idea. Then we went to socialize at a special after-hours gathering at the new Saint John Yuck Yuck’s Comedy Club.

The next morning we arrived to have a light breakfast. Then go off to work. It was this portion of the day where we got to choose the local business people and entrepreneurs we would talk to in a type of speed-dating to understand our idea and it’s potential best future best. Of course, we then had an amazing lunch. Then back to work on the afternoon working on the business plan, the supporting market research, prototypes of ideas, and to build a blow-away presentation for the next day. Then a large supper arrived and it was back to work into the night.

The next morning involves a lot of fine-tuning the presentation, and practice of the presentation. Our group used Prezi for the presentation and there were a few points where we had to add a few seconds of fill to transition the topics for the visual animations that done well, nails the presentation and, not appearing to be filler.

Then we got to do a test presentation and got some great feedback from the event organizers. Using the feedback it just made the presentation stronger. Then lunch arrived I think this one was from Toro Tacos and it was a rice bowl that was incredible.

Then it was presentation time. This was the first time I ever used a presenter button (or TV term GPI) it is so much better than hitting the arrow keys on a laptop and makes it easier to present. After the presentation, I was relieved that that was it. Now to listen to the other presentations. There were nine teams in total with prizes for the first, second and third place teams.

When the third place team was announced, I was a little surprised. The criteria I thought of that would make a great idea was not what the judges looked for. There was great but impractical ideas in the pack, some that when it went from the idea Friday night took a turn for the worst. Then there was some that got a whole thot better after research. The thirds place idea was one of those and in reflection well deserved and was championed by someone truly invested in the limitless potential of their idea.

My team won second place and again I was in shock not because I didn’t believe our idea but because I had spent the last hour being won over by some of the other ideas.

Then when the first place was announced it was definitely the one I expected. I’ll link to a CBC interview on the winning idea.

After the awards it was a bit more, socializing, networking, and business talk on where the ideas can go from there.

There is going to be another one in Saint John hopefully in the Spring, and there is going to be one the first weekend of November in Fredericton.

Fundy Fringe Festival #5

This summer I volunteered with the Fundy Fringe Festival again. Giving my physical limitations I was really worried if I could actually do it. It has been the highlight of my summers for the past several years and I really didn’t want to miss out.

This story begins with the gathering on May 20th. At this point, I had just started to go back to work and was trying to get my life back to normal. I really wanted to go to this event as a way to get out and try to be a bit social. It was a great night and I had so much fun even if it was a struggle to get there.

I then filled out the volunteer application and was a bit unsure what I would be able to do so I applied for Captain again, and venue tech, and bartender, and I think HUB volunteer. I then didn’t hear much of anything until shortly before the festival, on NB Day. I was on a road-trip of the province and while as I was waiting in the line for the Magnetic Hill attraction, I had seen the post that the first orientation was at 7 pm that night.

I did the Magnetic Hill drive backwards in neutral thing. Which for $6 is the biggest waste of time and money ever! Then I went to Shediac to get a pic with the giant lobster. Following that, I was headed to Boisetown to get to the centre of NB monument but ran out of time as I really wanted to get to the orientation night.

It was a good-sized crowd and more exciting of a presentation from earlier years that had gotten monotonous from reading the handbook that hasn’t changed over the years. I found out that I was selected to venue captain (again… or “Once a Captain Always a Captain!) It was also here I learned that there was going to be recorded introductions of the sponsorship and the “buy a button” speech. My heart sank a bit as that was one of my favourite parts of Venue Captaining.

After the meeting and email went out that there were still a few shifts open, I took it as an invitation to try something else than captaining so I offered to tend bar for the Big Tease night after the volunteer BBQ. As the night of the big tease came, I was still unsure with my feet always uncomfortable with long-standing periods due to the numb feeling if standing for a long time was even possible. I went to Giant Tiger and bought myself a folding bar stool and brought it with me and that worked very well. I had so much fun that night, and my beer knowledge came in very handy.

The next night was my first Captain shift at the year’s newest venue, the balcony lobby of the Imperial Theatre. When I arrived, I sorted everything out and found out there wasn’t the prerecorded opening on site that night. I was so glad that it gave me the extra motivation to blow the socks off the moderate-sized crowd there that night. I had nailed it and got a great reaction from the crowd. The show was “Denial Is a Wonderful thing”, I spent most of this show dealing with a situation so I didn’t get to hear much of the show. What I did hear was pretty good.

The second show that night had a pretty good size crowd, MIDDLEhood. After this show started, I had overextended myself a bit and needed to get off my feet. I spend most of the show in the stairwell laying on the upper landing listening to the show, while Snapchat and instagram posting selfies. Occasionally, paying closer attention to the show like the description of a period.

The next day, I was at the BMO theatre for Crippled and Two Minds Into One. Since I had the option, I insisted on doing the pre-show announcement for these shows and again, I got the reaction I was looking for and was so worth it. After the shows, it was the Not-So-Family game night. This was a great night, I started with playing some Hungry Hippos but that got old fast and a game of Cards Against Humanity began and that was beyond fun, as more people joined in it just got better.

Thursday was my shortest day and I only had Crippled to captain. After that, I went to see some shows. The first show was I Want to Come Home. This show was beyond impressive. It was a mix of storytelling type, performance, and crowd interaction. I loved how the projector became a character in the play. After that, I stayed to see Illustrated Lady which was an ingenious version of storytelling and demonstrating how tattooing works.

On Friday, I had my last shift back at the Imperial Theatre for Escape the Ordinary and SMASHES. Both were really good. Bernard started out with a math demonstration that I was following along with seeing how this was too predictable to control the outcome, but then took it to simply, WOW!

On Saturday, I didn’t have any shifts but still had 3 passes to see shows so that is what I did. I didn’t have a lot of time to fit them in so there were so many I wanted to see but couldn’t. I saw A Century of Belly Dance and was really impressed, I didn’t go into it thinking it would be something for me but it was informative and entertaining at the same time. I then saw Two Minds Into One, like most people I love a good magic show. I can usually tell how something’s work but with the big finale I was beyond amazed. The last show I went to see because so many others people said it was a must-see for theatre fans.

I have to agree, it was great watching him show how theatre works in a one-man format, except the tech and an off-stage assistant become part of the storytelling as well, as a point that actors have to rely on the “non-talent” to make them “talent”. After this, I ran to the Imperial to see a non-Fringe show Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. This show was funny and entertaining and lasted about two hours.

After this, I went back to the BMO for the Fringe dance party. This was so much fun, a lot of the performers and Volunteers were all there. I also danced as much as I could but that wasn’t as much as I wished I could.

All in this experience was still fun, emotionally challenging, and really highlighted my limitations.