Monday, December 19, 2005

Ambitious as I was when I set out to complete the list of things to do before leaving Vancouver, I did have the expectation I would achieve more than the few items I actually completed. Things I thought were important became trivial when examined. What really mattered was saying goodbye to people, especially my family.

Vancouver was never meant to be a permanent stop for me, just like Whistler and Victoria, places I languished because I could never make a decsision to leave. I came here to be with a woman that I eventually married, so you could say the time was well spent. I worked for an incredible company that grew from $180 million to $1 billion in annual revenue.

I also started this blog, after being inspired by sylloge in the summer of 2001. Schoolboy77 was just a way for me to express my smartass opinion not be held accountable to it. For the few people that actually read it, I hope it has been worth the effort.

On this coming Friday, I will get into a taxi at noon, which will take me to Vancouver Airport. I will board a plane bound for Montreal, to spend Christmas with my family. From Montreal, I will leave for Dublin, Ireland. I do not know when I will return.

This reminds me of something I have always wanted to post, so I am going to say it here. On my wedding day, as guests were arriving in the minutes before the ceremony was to begin, I first met Peggy and Gary McShane, who were friends of Anya's mother.

Before I could introduce myself to Gary, he said to me:

You're about to make a huge mistake. I can drive you to the airport instead.
There is a 630 flight bound for Paris. From Paris, you can take a train to
Marseilles tomorrow morning. From Marseilles you can take a bus to
Aubagne. Get off in the city square, walk left past the church, turn right
and walk up the hill, where you will find the headquarters for the French
Foreign Legion. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

No 18 Completed

Carhop Combo
Originally uploaded by andrew s.
Despite my recent need to exercise (brought on by the perceived sudden increase in the tightness of my pants) I ventured up to the White Spot in the pouring rain for a Triple O. This frees me from ever having to eat one of these before I leave.

Also accomplished on my list:

No 5: Canucks vs Columbus Blue Jackets, Nov 4th. Boring game, no fights, great seats.

No 18: Stay at the Wall Centre with Anya.
We had two dates in one night, watched movies and enjoyed each other without the distraction of the Little Perm.

No 33: Eat at Simply Thai
The drearier the day, the more I crave Simply Thai. The waitress brought Sukhi and I a candle for our table, as one of our co-workers told her it was our "anniversary". I overheard her say, "the Indian doesn't look gay, but the other one could be." I'll take it as a compliment.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

43 Things to Do Before Leaving Vancouver

Yes, it is true. In January, Anya and I will be moving to Ireland. As my days here are now numbered, I am feeling the pressure to do all of the things that I wanted to do but never did. Why rush if I have my whole life?

Well now I have only until January 6th, and I'll be away for at least 2 weeks during this countdown. This has led me to write my list of things to do, so I can actually get them done.

In no particular order, here are my last wishes:

  1. Eat at Bishop's
  2. Run along the seawall
  3. Eat a slice of Nat's chorizo & mushroom pizza
  4. Eat gelato from Mondo Gelato immediately following pizza
  5. Stay at the Wall Centre Hotel with Anya
  6. Run up the Grouse Grind for the first time
  7. Eat brunch at Bacchus
  8. Run through Pacific Spirit Park
  9. Walk along Spanish Banks at Sunset
  10. Walk along English Bay at Sunset
  11. Watch the Christmas boats float by
  12. Take the water taxi from Yaletown to Granville Island
  13. Kayak in Indian Arm
  14. See a Canucks game
  15. Go to a sports bar and cheer for the Canadiens
  16. Have a drink at the Cambie
  17. Eat at Subeez and have them get my order right, bring my food at the same time as my companions and do it under 1 hour
  18. Eat a Triple-O Carhop Classic
  19. Drive through Whalley
  20. Walk along the beach in White Rock
  21. Sit in Duthie's Books and read for 2 hours
  22. Have a 3 hour lunch and never come back to the office
  23. Visit Westwood Plateau to see how they live
  24. Visit Maple Ridge
  25. Say goodbye in person to all the people who became my friends here
  26. Relive my Friday after-work ritual under the Cambie St bridge
  27. Drop by and say Hi at Maximizer
  28. Sit at my old desk at 840 Cambie and watch the hairdressers across the alley
  29. Eat a roast beef and stilton sandwich at Moonpennies
  30. Lounge on the furniture at Inform
  31. Stay up all night and walk home in the rain
  32. Have lunch special and Vitamin Os at the Trap and Gill
  33. Eat at Simply Thai
  34. Run at Burnaby Lake
  35. Host my own farewell party
  36. Wear my Grateful Dead shirt out of the house
  37. Rent a karaoke booth with my sales team
  38. Eat a Yaletown roll at Honjin
  39. Sit in the garden at Queen Elizabeth Park
  40. Spend hours walking around downtown with nothing but caffeine and euros, knowing that I might only be back for vacations
  41. Walk across the Lion's Gate Bridge
  42. Rent a cruiser bike and cycle along the seawall
  43. Cruise Robson St on a Saturday night playing Rush at top volume

Monday, October 10, 2005

The great thing about taking a vacation to do nothing is that you get to do nothing. Last week I was in the mood to do absolutely that: sweet fuck all. Waking meant that caffeine would soon be injected into my system, followed a few hours later by a nap. If I felt up to it, I visited a winery or went on a short hike. If not, I stayed in and watched Dave Chappelle and Ali I was so relaxed by the end of our 6 days in Naramata, that I was actually too relaxed to go to work on Friday.

This is a departure from the action-packed vacations I am used to; itineraries filled with activities every day from morning until night. I think I am by nature a slow traveller. Along with the slow food movement, there is now a slow travel movement.

Now the batteries are recharged and I am ready to get down to business for the next 3 months. It’s going to be busy, it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be blogged.

After a relaxing Friday at work, the Whale beat the Inferno 5-1. I went home after the game and found that Anya had arranged for her mom to babysit while we walked up the street to the PNE forum to see if we could get tickets to Arcade Fire.

The show had sold out almost immediately, and there were no scalpers to be seen. I was ready to give up and go home, but Anya had that determined look that meant she wasn’t going without turning over every rock. Out of nowhere appeared a man with a beer gut, track pants and high top running shoes and a fanny pack, the scalper uniform.

Anya negotiated him down to just 125% of the face value. The show was fantastic, and vaulted instantly to my top 5 shows of all time.

There are some photos of the show here.

After playing two encores, the band snaked through the crowd carrying various percussion instruments (Regine had her accordion) and played Kiss Off, by Violent Femmes. Then they non-chalantly ran the gauntlet of applause back the stage and were off.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

After an usually anti-climactic quarter end, Anya and I escaped Vancouver for Naramata, where we have settled for the week at Elephant Island Winery.

Our plan is to do nothing.

The morning after arriving we discovered we had a strong wireless connection, which gives us something to do in lieu of watching Dave Chappelle episodes.

Chris and Lu were up here too, staying at their friends Heidi and Michael's agriturismo ranch, just a short walk through the orchard from our own lodging. Anya and Lu had been planning a dinner for weeks, and Heidi and Michael were happy to have them take over the kitchen, as long as it meant not having to cook for anyone else.

Anya brought two wines we picked up in France in 2001. Sadly, the burgundy confirmed our suspicions at the time that we were in a tourist trap. The Bordeaux, which we picked blindly in some wine shop in Paris, compensated for the incredibly thin and pricey Burgundy.

Our appetizer was a goat cheese and red pepper strudel, followed by a roasted eggplant and tomato ratatouille-like thing. The main course was lamb chops, followed by blueberry pie and my own Euro dessert, for the perfect ending.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


See, this Lebowski, he called himself "The Dude". Now, "Dude" - there's a name no man would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

While kayaking through Desolation Sound years ago, Chris kept telling me to stop saying the word “dude”. “You’re never going to get a job as a manager if you keep saying dude all the time.”

He was right that I was overusing the term. In my defence, I used it mostly for punctuation or as a salutation. I would begin I sentence with it, for example, “Dude, you have to paddle harder”. I have never used it as like a surfer describing the morning’s swells; “duuuuuuude it was gnarly out there.” No elongated pronunciation for me. Just a quick monosyllabic interjection, nothing more.

I also use the term “dude” to describe the character of another man. If someone asks me about the nature of another man, I may describe them as a “dude”, meaning they have integrity and are a stand up guy. At work, a dude means someone who can get it done, but is still an authentic and original person. One cannot be obsequious and be a dude, just as a dude cannot be weak or foolish. A dude makes it happen, a dude gets it done, but they do it without selling out.

Ray Nagin is a dude.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Perfect Binding

A Perfect Binding
Originally uploaded by andrew s.
Last Friday night, Anya and I attended Scott and Leilah’s wedding. On a beautiful Vancouver summer evening, in a setting that evoked the binding of two cultures, Middle Eastern and middle-class Canadian, I was profoundly moved by the expression of love from both the guests and the newlyweds.

In the afterglow of the event, Anya and I were relating to each other about how it was one of the best weddings we had ever attended. This started me thinking about what makes a wedding great. What makes the difference between a wedding you never want to end and one where you want to jump for the door at the first excuse? What is that we seek at weddings, if in fact we are there for reasons other than guilt or the fact that we are related to one of the people being married?

The first factor in greatness, I think, is your relation to the couple, and how positive you feel they are the perfect match for each other. The type and number of guests is also a critical factor. It has to be the right mix of young and old, relatives and friends. You need to have older relatives that keep partying late into the evening. Scott and Leilah have lived and worked in different parts of the world, and picked up friends from many different countries, and so the guests were a cosmopolitan mix. There were guests from Australia, Wales, England, all over the US, Japan, Belgium and France. Throughout the different nooks and spaces of Cecil Green you could hear bouquets of conversation floating through the hot night air.

You could feel the love and happiness everyone felt for the couple, which contributed to what I consider the most important factor of a great wedding: the event must be a celebration of love and life. To witness the outpouring of love and sincere happiness for two people is so rare, that we are compelled to make such an event a celebration.

Think about what a miracle it is for all the actions and consequences to occur and result in attending such a joyous event. Just what are the chances of two people finding each other in this world? How many events occurred and how many decisions were made that led to us being here? Leilah’s father is from Baghdad; Scott’s father emigrated from Scotland. Since both of them have traveled all over the world it is quite possible they could have met someone else.

The rarity of makes you appreciate it when it happens, and so we must celebrate it. It is seldom that you feel good about yourself just to have been connected to these people, knowing that in some small way you may have contributed, unknowingly, and many years ago, to the genesis of this event. It made me feel that I must have done something right to be sitting here feeling the love all around us.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Genius of Scott McIntyre and the Neo-Con Agenda of George Lucas

Scott proves once again that his Masters in War Studies has not been wasted, in this searing indictment of George Lucas' ignorance of military strategy and his secret neo-con agenda.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

One more post for the month of May, which, IMHO, is the best time of the year. The days are along and still getting longer, my birthday is on the 26th of the month, and there is a notable absence of anniversaries of disasters or unhappy events.

I have been busy reading The Power of Full Engagement, which is probably the best book I have ever read on personal performance or development. That is quite a statement for me, someone who has been described as "addicted to self-help books". The main theme of the book is that managing energy, not time, is the key to performance.

When reading over many of my old posts, I noticed an appalling number of grammatical and spelling errors. I had written much lucid and sparkling prose, but it was pock-marked with errors.

I had written almost all of the posts late at night, right before I went to bed. Energy was at the lowest point during the day, yet there I was trying to write my blog and notice the mistakes.

In Full Engagement, I learned that almost all of the industrial accidents of the twentieth century, (Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez) occurred on the night shift and were a direct result of workers on the night shift being over tired. I was too tired to blog, yet didn't know it, and was steering my blog into a reef.

Who know who could have read it and dismissed me as a ponce for all my spelling mistakes?

Friday, April 22, 2005

For the past few days I have been in our quarterly sales meetings downtown, after having been confined to Yaletown for months. This gave me the chance to go to Caffe Artigiano on my way to the conference from the bus stop. Their coffee is better than any caffe brew I have tasted. And when I forgot my sunglasses there after having a coffee this afternnon, they actually had them set aside and were waiting for me to call when I didl.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The death of Pope John Paul II caused millions of Catholics (and some non-Catholics) to examine the role of faith in their lives. Of these millions, many are like myself, those who describe themselves as "raised Catholic", who are now pondering the effects of years of Catholic school and weekly indoctrination to the faith.

While in high school, I was exposed to massive amounts of propaganda concerning euthanasia, contraception and abortion. Most of this came in grade 10 at the hands of a man named Father Brennan.

Father Rob, as he liked to be called, took itupon himself to show our class a video-taped abortion procedure, and graphic photos of fetus-filled garbage cans. The video was below B-movie horror quality and the photos were laughably phony. As if hospitals have garbage cans filled with fetuses that look just like babies.

We called him 1-800-Brennan, because every week he had some story about a girl who was killed in a motorcycle wreck, or some abused girl who slashed her wrists; whatever the situation, Father Rob was always the first call the grief-stricken parents made, sometimes even before calling for the ambulance.

His best story ever was about his time in the Philippines. He was living in some tiny village, and his church was in another village about 15 minutes away by foot. One morning, Brennan found that the usual route between the two villages had been overrun with poison-spitting frogs, forcing 1-800-Brennan to take a lengthy detour and causing him to be late for saying Mass. Good thing too, because when he got to the church, he had just missed Marcos' death squads, which had slaughtered his parishioners.

Telling us this story was his way of saying don't fuck with me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lately I have been thinking about how email can be a drag on productivity, rather than a boost. As one of our management coaches said, some people make a career out of simply responding to emails. It would certainly occupy your whole day.

Whenever I send a meeting request to my sales team, I monitor the response rate. The same 3 or 4 people respond almost immediately every time. The same 2 people usually ignore me, and the other 4 trickle in over the course of a few hours.

The quick response rate I attribute to Attention Deficit Trait, a new syndrome diagnosed by Dr. Edward Hallowell. At any one time, most of my team will be speaking on the phone, typing an email, surfing the web and carrying on at least one instant messenger conversation, so my email requests never come at a time when they are completely idle.

I agree with Hallowell's reasons about its ineffectiveness and why people find it addictive:

No one really multitasks. You just spend less time on any one thing. When it looks like you're multitasking--you're looking at one TV screen and another TV screen and you're talking on the telephone--your attention has to shift from one to the other. You're brain literally can't multitask. You can't pay attention to two things simultaneously. You're switching back and forth between the two. So you're paying less concerted attention to either one.

I think in general, why some people can do well at what they call multitasking is because the effort to do it is so stimulating. You get adrenaline pumping that helps focus your mind. What you're really doing is focusing better at brief spurts on each stimulus. So you don't get bored with either one.

Full interview is here.

After having slagged my team on this issue, I must come clean as being the worst starter of tasks that never get completed.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Little Dog Barks Loudest in the Presence of its Master

It is typical for IT people to want to impress their superiors. Everybody wants to impress the boss. What bothers me, though, is when we're all in agreement about what is going to happen, and then the IT jerkoffs get all uppity when we have a conference call with the CFO on it, just so they can look like they are saving the company money.

Another example of short term thinking; they are beating us up over $15,000, when being reasonable would save you $100,000 in the long term.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I am glad I am not you

Finally, a bit of fun
Originally uploaded by Lemon Pie.
What seemed so lucid and true just a few hours ago has now faded into the jumbled chaos of misfiring syanpses.

I empathize with the people in this photo. The comedown comes slowly, and then all of a sudden; 2 hours ago you shared water with everyone, now you care only about your own immediate needs. You were going to conquer the world with love, but now you have to face your job in less than 24 hours, and a whole world of people who have no clue about your weekend enlightenment, and no care to learn about it.

Been there many times, and looking at these people I am reminded of why I retired.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005

The Good Doctor died yesterday of a self-inlficted gunshout wound. My initial reaction was dibelief that he would go out like that. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that he might have discovered he was ill or that his memory was failing him. He's not the type to kick it in some old folks home, hooked up to a life support system. No, he goes down with guns blazing, even if they are turned on himself.

His impact on me was huge. The little I have written in my life has been influenced heavily by his ability to describe the depravity of life so poignantly.

In 1998, I had just left Whistler and my life as a ski bum, and was struggling to make ends meet in Victoria BC, of all places. Reading The Proud Highway helped me through that period of extreme poverty, self-doubt and self-loathing due to the miserable jobs I was doing. He revelled in his struggle as a writer, and this changed my outlook on my situation. If I could learn to find the humour in having to wake up early and return the empty beer bottles before my roomates, just so i could afford to buy a newspaper, then I would make it through this period. His duress was much worse than mine, given that he had a child at the time and that life as a writer is a perilous living at best.

But what I admired most about him is that he really lived. He didn't hold back anything, he just let fly with whatever he had at the time. Sadly, I regret the times I held back more than the times I let it go without thinking.

I only hope he comes back to haunt us some day.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It feels like I have been treading water at work the last few weeks. The beginning of the sales year is always hectic; dealing with account turnover, rolling out compensation plans, and implementing new methodologies. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)

Except for one small period in December just before Max was born, the last 12 months have reminded me of trying to swim past the incoming waves to get past the breaks. Every time I get through one wave, I see another one rising up in front of me.

Metaphor for life I suppose. However, this medium is not intended as a repository for my complaints.

This would be funny if it were not so disturbing.

North Korea announced today that it "may" have nuclear weapons, a near certain guarantee the US will decide to invade another country. Totalitarian regimes, however, do produce such humorous propaganda.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

For a few years in the 90s, I was an anglophile. Perhaps it was the overdose of Irvine Welsh, Nick Hornby and Withnail & I, but for some strange reason I had the mad desire to move to London. Because I could not afford to move there, I substituted with contemporay UK fiction, The Face magazine and Blur.

The image I had was sheer fantasy, far from the reality I discovered upon my visits. I imagined stylishly dressed gangsters swaggering about terraced streets smoking Silk Cut cigarettes. What I found on my trips there was thick smoke, bad food, and good friends. Every time I visited, I managed to get sick.

On my last trip, Nic lent me The English, by Jeremy Paxman, eager to dissolve my idealistic vision of England. He had bookmarked a chapter for me, called Meet the Wife.

It is not often you meet someone who has had a bottom transplant. The man in question, jowly, 50ish, balding, in a pinstripe suit and well made shoes, looks the picture of British probity.You know he prides himself that his word is his bond. By day he runs a merchant bank. At night, he likes to be spanked until the blood runs. His obsession has become known as the vice anglais.

This reminded me of one of my favorite passages in one of my favorite books.

You simply can't trust the British. With Americans (or Canadians, for that matter) what you see is what you get. But settle into your seat on a 749 flying out of Heathrow next to an ostensibly boring old Englishman with wobbly chins, the acquired stammer, obviously something in the City, intent on his Times crossword puzzle, and don't you dare patronize him. Mr. Milquetoast, actually a judo black belt, was probably parachuted into the Dordogne in 1943, blew up a train or two, and survived the Gestapo cells by concentrating on what would become the definitive translation of Gilgamesh from the Sin-Leqi-Inninni; and now--his garment bag stuffed with his wife's most alluring cocktail dresses and lingerie--he is no doubt bound for the annual convention of cross-dressers in Saskatoon.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cleanse Delayed, but Finally Started

After months of procrastination, I have finally started my master cleanse. The need for this came out of my weeks of handling and inhaling insulation. The need was exacerbated by a Christmas diet of rum, scotch, chocolate and shortbread, combined with zero exercise.

This segued into a four-day sales training course at the Hotel Vancouver, where they served ice cream and candy bars every day for snacks. Dinner was pizza or hamburgers.

Follow this up with a trip to Las Vegas for the annual worldwide sales kickoff, featuring more buffet food, trips to Fat Burger, and all the beer you can drink just about every night for 3 nights.

I sat down on the couch with my maple-lemon-cayenne drink and started to watch the Super Bowl. Just then, Anya sat next to me with chips, salsa, and a beer. "Do you want to order a pizza?" she asked.

So I started the cleanse today. I am unsure how long I will last. I may cut out on the third day to eat fruits and vegetables because I have to play hockey on the weekend.

Hockey first, health later.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Being a sales manager, you get to hear every excuse that could possibly exist. However, the best excuse I have ever heard about anything, was from my brother on why he had not cleaned up the mess he made upon returning from treeplanting with all his gear.

It went something like this: "John, you have to understand that you're dealing with someone who has been on acid for three days."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Via Scott, (it's almost always via Scott), an announcement regarding the death of hipsters. Rest assured that hipsterism will live a long and fruitful life in Vancouver, where trucker hats are still in.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


After having spent the last two weeks sitting at home taking care of the new one or sitting in a conference room being fed cinnamon buns 4 times daily, it was little surprise that my performance on the ice last Friday night was confused and desperate. My chaotic attempts at hockey were, however, easily hidden by the laziness and general lethargy of the rest of my teammates, who had also subsisted over the last 2 weeks on chocolate, shortbread and alcohol.

Somehow I was credited with an assist, although I am sure I had little to do with anything good my team accomplished. Four weeks off from hockey is just too long a break for this novice.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


This weekend we spent many hours poring over 2004 lists; top movies, top books, worst fashion trends; it seemed almost every publication had some list from which to distill the essence of 2004.

The last year was probably the most tumultuous since I became “gainfully employed” in 1998.

I had 3 managers and 16 different sales reps reporting to me. I was transferred from one region to another. I was mistaken many times for Andrew Webb, Andrew Brown, Andrew Lee, and Andrew DiManno, and thus forced to change my email alias. I survived a technology company merger.I had 3 different addresses. I spent a fortune on renovating a house in East Vancouver. I became a father.

My resolutions for this year:

  1. Watch less TV (watch no reality TV)
  2. Drink more wine
  3. Worry less
  4. Laugh more
  5. Take time each day to be grateful for what I have
  6. Write in this blog 3 times a week
  7. Say hello to strangers
  8. Refrain from criticizing people
  9. Laugh at myself