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.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To the most beautiful IKEA furniture assembler I know, Sylvia Zaal.

This year will be our 14th year as a married couple and you never cease to amaze me. I wish I was a better man so you would have a better life.

Love you immensely!

X

Happy New Year!

Another year comes to a close with me on the computer and my wife sleeping soundly on the couch. I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.

I have plenty of things to be thankful for even though I have a lot of shit going on that just generally sucks. My wife continues being the best thing that ever happened to me, I get a chance to travel ( though not as much as I would like ), I work with people who I enjoy going out with and consuming soju (SSome in Calgary is great) and I don’t particularly mind going into work everyday.

These are all things that I know I should be grateful for; and I am.  But like many other people I know, more would be better. More time off, more salary, more enjoyable work projects.

New Years’ Resolutions rub me the wrong way; I don’t like them. Too often people say what they’d like to change without ever actually putting a plan together for how they are going to make those changes in their life. I was one of those people for many years.  Then I just stopped making them. Completely.

That won’t change this year either. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve done so far and make slight course corrections as necessary to continue pushing myself in the same direction I have since the Winter of 2008: to give my wife a life that both of us can enjoy to it’s fullest. If I can keep my wife happy, my life will follow.

I wish whoever took the time to read this the very best of 2016 and hope that you get exactly what you work for or exactly what you have coming to you.

Slainte!

BlackJack: Or How I’m Proving I’m Not My Father

Sly and I have made an annual trip to Vegas during the Xmas break. It’s turned into a bit of a tradition and I’ll tell you why (in no particular order):

  • Inexpensive
  • Endless entertainment options
  • World Class dining establishments
  • No snow
  • No (family) drama

After our first trip we really understood how Vegas could answer the holiday blues for us. When it came time to decide our vacation the next Xmas break, it was a very easy decision to make. So we went again. And it was glorious.

We ate at Burgr, had a champagne brunch (bring on the pitcher of mimosa!!!) , and saw Zarkana, another of the incomparable Cirque de Soleil shows. We visited the Mob Museum, wandered around Fremont Street and did some shopping at the North and South Premium Outlets! Our hotel last year was the MGM Grand and our room was so fantastic, we’ll be using them for our hotel again due to the amenities and the proximity to the theatre we attend to see a movie or two. (Last year we managed to get into a preview of Into the Woods! So cool!). See the gallery below for some pictures.

You’ll notice something from the list of activities above: no gambling in a city where gambling is one of the main draws. Not to say we didn’t gamble! Sly and I spent a bit of time at a Walking Dead slot machine and had a great time. We even ended up coming out significantly ahead due to a lucky spin. But that was it, nothing else. No poker, no blackjack, no roulette.

As you may or may not know, my Father was a gambler. Even worse, he was a gambler that didn’t know when to quit and, I realize now, didn’t understand that gambling to excess is like anything else: damaging to yourself and those around you. Eventually he lost something of value beyond a few restaurants and money: he lost his family.

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“Fortune and Glory, kid; Fortune and Glory”

Found out over the weekend that Disney plans on opening an Indiana Jones themed restaurant and bar in Downtown Disney. OMG!

Indiana Jones is probably one of my favorite franchises and the thought of being able to have a meal and a drink in this type of themed facility excites me to no end. I’m hoping for a level of authenticity without so much… ‘polish’.

Disney has several areas that could be considered ‘authentic’. The first that comes to mind is the area of the Animal Kingdom that they call Africa. There’s a little village in there with some neat shops, a bar and a restaurant that simply makes me feel like I’m sitting in a bar, having an African beer in the middle of the Congo.  That’s the sort of thing I’m hoping for.

When Sly and I started vacationing at Disney, it was almost exclusively for her. Then slowly but surely there were more and more things that I am in and wanted to see.  Star Wars was huge. When Disney bought the Marvel Studios means that there will be something occurring in that vein in the future. And now this.

I can only hope they do it right. I have confidence in the Imagineers and their love of the material. And I can hardly wait till I get a chance to tip my Poet’s Hat back on my head and enjoy a shot of whiskey.  🙂

One Month Anniversary

I’ve worked at SAIT as a full employee (not contract wages) for the past month. In that time I’ve had opportunity to have one day in Edmonton, expenses and salary paid, for the ASTEK awards (second place 🙁 ), one flex day (which is a day off with pay) and one sick day, also paid.

Is this what the real world is like?  Full of perks and benefits that a lot of people don’t get to take advantage of?  I could probably get used to this.

Also, after going over the annual bank statements, it also appears that one of the more challenging times during the year was two weeks after the Xmas break where the income was almost non-existent due to the two-week hold back on reporting wages and actually getting paid for them.   Not working for almost two weeks will do that to a person. 😉

I don’t think I’ve ever had a job that paid me for time off nor have I ever been in a place where I wasn’t actually having to wait for pay for the work I’ve done.  At least two weeks, anyways.

It feels good and I really appreciate being able to experience this with Sly and take that “next adult step”.  I know it probably sounds odd but this isn’t something I ever really considered as important and,  until I’ve given it more thought,  it may turn out that it isn’t .  But I know that with Xmas holidays this year,  there will be no break in my pay;  I’ll still get the same amount, every two weeks as expected without pause.  So, in effect, I’m being paid while in Las Vegas.  I guess that means blowing a couple of bills in the slots or at the tables won’t make me feel as guilty.

Oh Happy Day! 🙂

Kudos to Sly

Only a few people in my immediate circle know this but I think it’s about time it got some attention: Sly has lost almost 44 pounds over the past few months simply by changing a few behaviors and spending time working out.

That’s it.

No amazing diet, no need to purchase meals from some “club”.  Just honest to goodness willpower and a consistency in decision making.

Probably more important, she’s been so quiet about it.  It’s not something that she has been advertising and she might be a little bit mad at me for posting this here.

I probably don’t do enough to recognize the amazing lady my wife has become.  Hopefully she’ll get a chance to read this and understand that she’s been able to illustrate a real strength and she should be proud, as I am, that she’s done this.  A real strength that, if I attempted similar activities, might not be nearly as resilient.

Congrats, babe.  You really have earned it.

PROMOTED!!!

Ok, so if you’re not into Battlefield 3 or 4 then the title of this post is probably nonsense.  I’m embedding the video below for some context.

Funny.

I’ve worked at SAIT for several years now.  After graduation, I was lucky enough to get in with the Commercial Services department which allowed me to gain even more experience with the internal workings of an educational institution as well as spend time working on some of my less ‘programmy’ skills. This included acting as a contracted manager for a medium-sized project creating the groundwork for an internally branded and operated RFID based commerce card.

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