Birthday Present!

Sly bought me a Secret Labs Titan chair for my birthday and I’m quite happy with it so far. Very comfortable, it was easy to put together and it will recline back to almost vertical if I really wanted to. Also comes with a cool pillow that will allow me to lay my head back instead of it rolling forward giving me whiplash and shocking me awake.

The chair comes with a three year warranty which the company will extend by two years if you’re willing to do a little ‘advertising’ for them through social media. See below:

CSS formatting sucks so if you want to read my message, you’ll need to highlight it with your mouse.

I don’t feel too badly about stumping for Secretlabs; seems like a good trade off for a few extra years of warranty. If the chair makes it to the 5 year mark (and it should based on the construction I witnessed as I put it together) I would probably consider purchasing a brand new one.

My previous chair was a Leap version 2 I purchased from a guy that did office renos. I’m pretty sure he resold the old chairs he scavenged to make some money on the side, not that I’m complaining. I had that chair for over 10 years and it served me well. This new chair is already making my spine do things it hasn’t done in a while and I’m quite happy with the new-found levels of support.

I would definitely suggest anyone that spends a significant amount of time in front of a computer to get something similar. You have to spend a good chunk of change on a good chair that will support your body while you destroy it from inactivity.

Summer Vacation 2020?

Sly and I went to Canmore for a couple of days for a quick break out of the city. We had a pretty good time with a couple of stand out moments. I like bulleted lists; I’m going to use one now.

  • Our hotel for the couple of days we were there was the Stoneridge Resort by Clique. Good enough for our needs but more on that later
  • Hiked up to Grassi Lakes like all good Albertans taking a day trip to Canmore are want to do
  • Birthday dinner at Tapas with one of my best mates, Mark. Great meal, great conversation, excellent Old Fashioned.
  • Then a couple of really lazy days

It truly was a great couple of days. Sly decorated the room for my birthday and I’m reminded of how much she makes me feel loved. That’s a good thing, right?

We’ve been together for 20 years in November and we know each other pretty well. Probably better than I’d prefer to admit though, so don’t tell her that if you see her. These sorts of occasions are over-rated, in my not so humble opinion. I’m forty-seven now. You think I’d start enjoying these things and forget about the past. Easy to say, hard to do.

Our hike was amazing and I’m reminded of how badly I’ve let myself go over the past ten years since I graduated from SAIT. Not to say I was some fine specimen of athleticism but that hike was tough. I spent most of the walk out of breath and moving slower than I’d like to admit. I did it but, much like my basic training and how badly out of shape I was when I went in, this was a mind over matter exercise. Also, not to self: if you stretch before you exert yourself, you might not be so sore the next day.

The hotel was OK. When we figured a getaway was in order, I checked a few different locations in Canmore and found this one to be having a deal for three nights for the price of two. Considering the place is around $300/night, I thought that was a steal. All in all it was OK and we’re actually considering visiting here again in December when it comes time for the Zaal Family Xmas getaway. Pretty sure we won’t be going to Vegas this year, which sucks more than I can adequately express. Anyway…

Something to remember about the Banff area is that they have two seasons: high and ski. Summer they get all manner of tourists with more money than cents (I’m so clever) who book up these hotels for the family in the range of $300 – $600 a night depending on the amenities and during the ski season the prices drop by two thirds.

Ours was their basic room with a king bedroom, fireplace and full kitchen. Nicely appointed, clean. Like I said, “OK”. Due to the C-19, rooms weren’t being serviced which wasn’t a terrible thing. Pool and deck area were being limited in capacity but it didn’t bother us. We’d much rather be out in the wild or sitting in front of our screens.

Growing up, my sister and I would spend summers with our Father, usually up in Edmonton or Jasper. As we grew older, we would work with our Father at whatever Greek owned restaurant he was employed at. We’d make some spending money and get some valuable service industry experience that would come into play, at least for me, later in my life.

This aside is simply because spending a few days in Canmore, the same ‘type’ of tourist town I spent my summers in, gave me the same ‘feeling’ I’d experienced when I was younger. Beautiful place to visit but holy shit, the visitors and the way they behave in that town was fucking ridiculous. And don’t even get me started on the prices for simple things like a soft drink. In short, I really miss spending time in the mountains AWAY from people. I’m going to make a point of trying to get out there more often, probably closer to the shoulder season when people are back home.

All in all, summer vacation 2020 was not what we wanted but we were together and I think that’s really all that matters.

Such a Sad Day

Yes, I know this is pathetic, but I do want to commemorate this date. Sly and I were supposed to be flying out to Florida today to spend three weeks visiting the Mouse. With this C-19 floating around, the border technically closed for pleasure travel, and the restrictions set in place for visitors of Disney World there was no way we would have a good time.

How can you social distance for something like this?

So we cancelled. Everything. The beach days and hotel at Melbourne Beach. The Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy. The two weeks at Pop Century Resort and the 4 parks. Not to mention the flights from home to Orlando with an airline I’ve not used often for pleasure travel, United Airlines.

I figured that last one was going to be a real problem. I had a trip planned for April to Vegas and had to cancel that as well but that was with Delta. We’ve had good experience with them so far and they treated me well enough as the trip was right at the beginning of the North American outbreak and closure of.. well, everything. I actually had to go to Twitter to get some Delta attention to my plight and they eventually settled up with a e-voucher who’s value was the complete cost of the ticket so at least I’m not out any money. I wasn’t sure if the same sort of treatment was going to be applied from UA. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about it. More on that later.

In all, we were looking at a significant amount of money that was seemingly ‘rescheduled’. The Disney tickets were a bit of a stickler as we’d purchased them using a ‘Canadian Residents only’ deal that they always have in January. Save some money, lock yourself into using the tickets in the same calendar year and you’re golden. We didn’t really lose any money but now we are going to miss out on something that has become an annual pilgrimage for fun and relaxation.

I know it might seem petty but we’re devastated and don’t know how we’re going to manage our motivation levels for the next twelve months. Sly has been especially hard hit by this as she looks forward to it each year. On top of that, she was actually speaking about doing something else next year, different than Disney anyways. Now with all this value being pushed to next year, I don’t see us being able to make a change.

Now the reason I wasn’t terribly upset with what might happen with the airline tickets is I bought them through the American Express Travel site. I consumed some of my Membership Reward points (40k) for a ticket to Orlando and paid cash for the other one. Needless to say, when we started considering how we’d deal with the airline (some of them have been right bastards) it was looking pretty grim. Then AMEX stepped in.

They sent us an email with notification that they needed to talk to us due to our flights being cancelled. I called them the same day I got the email. I’m very happy to report that I didn’t have to do anything except confirm my wishes for the tickets as they were going to refund them directly to my Amex Card. No sweat off my brow, as they say.

I’ve been very happy with the Amex for the past two years we’ve been members. I get a lot of value out of the perks for travel we receive plus the points program seems made for us as we put ALL our purchases on the card as often as we can. There is a steep annual fee but nothing that isn’t reduced simply by having the card active.

So here we sit, on the day we were supposed to be leaving, in a pitiful heap wondering what to do. Sly is on vacation for the next month and I’m off work next week for three. We’re going to Canmore for my birthday.

I know I shouldn’t be bitter about it but when I think that I was supposed to be sitting on a ship, enjoying a nice dinner and an overpriced bourbon, I’m pretty broken up about it.

But we’ll get over it. Just a matter of time, right? Time heals all wounds?

I’ve not touched the elephant in the room, specifically, for a reason. Yes, I know that the C-19 is bad and that it’s contagious and that by cancelling our plans we could very well have saved our lives or the lives of people we might have passed it on to, unknowingly. Still doesn’t take the sting out of the whole thing. So we’re going to stay in Canada, maybe take a couple of safe day trips that will get us out of the city and try to enjoy ourselves while thinking of all the money we’re saving with our limited daily expenses.

Still disappointing.

First Morning

I love waking up in Vegas… there’s an palpable excitment in the air. But it’s restrained. Like a coiled viper waiting to strike. People are wandering around looking for their next fix. For me and Sly? We’re hunting coffee!

Right across the street from us is the Park MGM with it’s upscale food court, Eataly. We decided to seek caffeine there and weren’t disappointed. Though costly ($5.40 USD for a medium Americano) the quality is amazing!

Sly loves her cofffee!

We’re headed to the M Resort for seafood buffet around lunch. I’m so happy to be here with Sly. I’ve been here three times solo since our last trip here. I’ll break her of her planning bug if it kills me!

Off to Do Some Vegas

I’m in the air at the moment, enjoying an upgraded Aeroplan reward flight in what’s called Rouge Premium. It’s business class on a no frills airline. That last sentence is almost unintelligible.

Didn’t actually finish this post. I was interrupted by the air host (?) offering me a lunch tray, which was unexpected. The meal was outstanding for airplane food. I was quite happy with it

I landed in LAS and grabbed my bags, rushed up to the transit stop only to find that there was a line of people waiting for the bus, which is strange. this is the first time in 4 or 5 solo trips that there’s been more than myself interested in taking the bus. Hellua way to get around, if you can figure it out.

Made my way to the Hertz to pickup my car, a nice, new Impala. As I was making my way to the suncoast, I remembered I wanted to visit the stratosphere (or the Strat as they are trying to rebrand) to visit The Hat Shop. Made my way over there and bought a new hat! I’ll be sure to do a write up soon.

The drive out to the west side of the city was laborious. Lots of traffic and much distance to cover. Arrived in one piece, checked in and was greeted with this view.

Low floor but I’m not bothered as it’s not costing me a thing.

I’m always amazed with the beauty of this valley. The mountains and the color pallette are striking and not to be ignored.

After a bit of recovery time I went down to secure some dinner. It took the form of a pan roast, as mentioned in this space two weeks ago.

It was amazing and it’s taking all my willpower not to have it for dinner tonight. More on that later.

After dinner I realized how tired I was, returned to the room and passed out until 0300 but that’s another story.

Las Vegas: Oyster Bar Pan Roasts

Enjoying time in Vegas must always include culinary experiences. Usually it’s to try something that you’ve never had before but many times it’s all about going back somewhere that fed you something outstanding or where you had a truly enjoyable experience.

An article in the LA Times talks about one of the little known culinary attractions that continues to bring people to the oyster bars all over Vegas. Though I didn’t know how widespread ‘Pan Roasts’ are, I do also have a favourite haunt to visit that gives me access to something similar. And even in some of the other resorts I don’t regularly visit (the Palace Station mentioned below, for example) they have a pan roast available that draws the folks in.

“People stand in line 24 hours a day for the pan roasts. They outsell everything else on the menu three-to-one.”

Steve Ely, Palace Station’s Assistant Food and Beverage Director

I usually make a point of visiting The Orleans, just west of my usual strip hotel, The Excalibur, on each trip that I make. Within it’s gloriously overdone Mardi Gras theming, you’ll find Big Al’s Oyster Bar, home to my favorite dish there, the Crab and Shrimp Boil.

This is a great meal to enjoy while you visit the resort. I’m usually in between playing blackjack and heading to the theatre for a movie or the bowling alley to knock down a few pins when I decide to make a stop. Bowl of beautiful broth filled to the brim with shrimp and crab, corn and potatoes, it’s truly a thing to behold. It comes to you so hot that you’ll need to give it a few minutes before you dig in or risk a scalded mouth. What I didn’t actually know before reading the article is what a pan roast is and why I need to try one. There’s one listed on the menu at Big Al’s but I’ve just never gotten past the crab and shrimp boil to see it.

I’ve got a whole ridiculous list of things that keeps me coming back to Vegas, both solo and with the dear wife, but one thing that never gets removed is trying the awesome food and beverage that’s available a reasonable prices as soon as you get off the strip. The same is available on the strip but at a much different price and experience.

The next time I stop by, which will be in October on my next trip to Vegas, I’m definitely going to be trying one of these and I’ll report back. I think this next trip might be my chance to document more of what I love from that city, while it’s happening! We’ll see if I can remember to document during the trip. 😀

Source: LA Times online, URL: https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2019-09-10/pan-roasts-not-oysters-big-draw-vegas

My Lime Addiction

No, not the fruit, the scooter company. If you’re in a larger American city (LA, Austin, Dallas, etc) you’ve already seen the bright green electric scooters littering your walkways. Here’s a quick video used as a tutorial to teach new users how to properly park your scooter at the end of a ride.

Hey, can I park it here? No? What about here? Yeah!

Lime started a pilot program in Calgary on the second week of July. The city gave them the latitude to have these devices out on the streets for people to use and to charge same people 30 cents a minute for the opportunity.

So these scooters have pretty good batteries and will last almost a full day but they eventually require recharging. Enter the Juicers!

I’ve signed up as a ‘Juicer’, a contracted employee of Lime that is tasked with gathering, charging and ‘serving’ a number of Lime scooters each day. I was provided with a couple of chargers to use in my activities and will charge an empty scooter to full in about six hours. Then I find a location out on the street to serve, or drop off, the scooter. For that sequence of activities (harvest, charge, serve) i receive a payment of $5.25 CDN for each scooter charged.

Why? Why am I doing this? What is the possible reasoning behind someone who is doing fine financially wanting to run around being a ‘Juicer’? In the rain, tonight, I asked myself that question a couple of times.

It’s tough to explain but people who actually know me will probably understand: it’s about the quest rewards! I’ve always been a big fan of Role Playing Games (RPGs) going all the way back to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Sitting around a table, rolling dice that are desperately trying to kill me and killing the (dragon, kobold colony, Orc infestation) before receiving a reward for all my hard work. +5 Vorpal Sword!

I like the small work/small reward of the ‘Gig’ economy. I like that I can make an extra $10.50 per night doing about 30 minutes (max!) combined of work. Pays for my morning coffee addiction!

The other question I get asked all the time is how much electricity am I paying for to charge these scooters? I asked one of the electronic engineers in my lab for a suggestion as to how much electricity is consumed and his suggestion was about 8 cents per scooter per night. I haven’t gotten my first full electricity bill to confirm this yet but I don’t have any reason to think it’s much more than that.

I’m going to continue doing this until they take the scooters off the road in November. I might still be interested in continuing in the spring but who knows? As long as I continue to get that mini-rush of quest complete, I’ll probably continue the activity indefinitely. I’ll update if that changes.