Potential Energy

The sun rises through the trees in my front yard (aka parking lot)
I love mornings like this!
Tonight I’m hoping to go up to St. Petersburg again! That is, if I can get everyone organized.
What does your day hold in store?

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St. Petersburg and Back

Well wow. What a week.
As I mentioned, work was pretty aggravating. I’m less angry about it now, though the situation really isn’t any better. I think I’ve been busy enough with non-work stuff to keep my mind off it. If you want to know more, scroll down and read the comments for the “Rectal Inversion” post.
Last Sunday at the New College pickup game, Eric J and Sonia mentioned that they’d like to head up to St. Pete for Ultimate at Coquina Key. I’ve been meaning to check it out for the past 5 months, but I’ve never actually made the 42-mile trip, especially since it starts at 7:45pm on Wednesday nights.
Wednesday morning rolled around, and I decided to send Eric J an email to see if he was still into it. He was, and so was Eric G, so at 6pm, Sonia, Eric G and I piled into Eric J’s Pathfinder and bombed up the 275*.
We arrived 45 minutes later to a field split in two. On one side were players for the casual game. On the other, the Tampa Bay Ultimate team — “Bulge” — was going through a hardcore warmup routine. Sounds like discipline to me!

That’s Bulge doing jumping jacks in the background and Becky in the foreground. Becky, and six or seven other talented highschoolers made up part of the 22 folks playing in the casual game. Since there are only 14 on the field at any given point in time, we had plenty of subs!

That’s a blurred Eric J on the left, and Eric G sitting on the chair.

Eric J watches as Sonia shows what she thinks of you.

(Notice the apology was *after* the catch was missed, haha…).
Eric and Sonia have the most well-behaved dog ever. Melvin rode in the back of the Pathfinder with Eric G and I on the way up to St. Pete, and he didn’t even bark once! Here he is, in black:

Teams in ultimate are generally denoted by shirt colour (white and dark). Here, the team on offense (dark) has set up a 45-degree angle stack.

See the player who just threw the disc? She’s got a player from white on her right. See how the other white players are on the left of the dark players? This is called forcing. The idea works like this: if the defensive player ensures the offensive player (“thrower”) can only throw to side “a” so that side “b” is inaccessible, the other defensive players don’t need to worry about checking their offensive player on side “b”.
Forcing can be an extremely powerful defensive technique. Done right, it can reduce the playing area available to the offensive team in half. Done wrong — e.g., say the defensive players are all standing on the same side of their check — and scoring becomes easier than if the defensive team had not tried to apply a force at all. Okay, enough theory. Did that make any sense to the non-ultimate players out there?
We played for three hours, and I think we started an “official” game (you know, one where you keep track of the score) somewhere in there. Maybe. All I know is I had a lot of fun. Afterwards we headed over to a tiny little pub on the USF campus — The Tavern. After running around for three hours I *really* really wanted a beer and some fries. But the Tavern didn’t sell fries! Whose bright idea was it to come here? Their menu listed nachos, but they had run out of those too. Suppose maybe it had something to do with being 10:45pm on a weeknight? I compromised by having a Guinness.

Two-and-a-half liquid meals and a Shakespeare (like a club sandwich) later and I was ready to call it a night. Eric G owes me $10 from that night. Don’t let me forget.

In Eric J’s jeep, heading south on the 275 from St. Pete.

No, we didn’t go to a rave afterwards. 😀 This shot is from the drive back home, as we went over the breathtaking Sunshine Skyway bridge [more pictures, history]. I swear it’s the highest point within a 40 mile radius. The yellow blur is light reflecting off the support cables.
Got home — totally exhausted — at 1:15. Man. My futon never felt so nice.
*Verbiage courtesy girlrepair.
mp3 [8:03, 128kbps, 7.4 mb]

Excuse me!

Yesterday turned into an unexpected adventure!
I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 9:30am on a Saturday — I had an appointment to the see the tax guy at 11am. About that tax stuff: looks like I’ll be getting a big refund! More than two week’s pay! Which is good and bad, because, as I said before, under the Canada-US tax treaty, the less tax I pay in the US, the more I pay in Canada.
Anyway, as I pulled out of the tax office parking lot, I looked about a block down Main Street and it was all sectioned off. Not one to miss a spectacle, after spending 15-20 minutes trying to find a parking spot, I just decided to park really far away and walk it back. It was plain gorgeous out yesterday, so I didn’t mind.

Rescue Rangers! These were on the sidewalk not too far from where I parked. Can you see the seashells?

Just a few feet after the acorns. A risky shot, to be certain.
Although the majority of the art being shown off took the mundane form of paintings, there were some incredible wind-activated pieces of art — outdoor mobiles, if you will.
Shortly after taking a closeup of one of these wind-mobile things, I participated in a rather round-about conversation with a stranger:
Someone: “Excuse me! Excuse me!”
Me: [trying to locate source of voice]
Somone: “Don’t you think you should ask the artist before taking a picture?”
Me: “Uh, er!” I turned to see a lady an a flower dress looking at me.
Lady: “I’m the artist.”
Me: “Uh! Oh!”
Lady: “Can you delete them?”
You know that tone-of-voice people use when questions aren’t really questions? I deleted. Guess she was concerned about people not paying to enjoy her artwork (I checked, it was waaay out of my price range), or worse yet, people copying her. Walking down the lane revealed several other exhibitors with similar art. I hadn’t even thought about it!

Must have been over 200 booths! I know there’s some sort of farmer’s market down this way Saturdays, but I don’t think this was a weekly affair — there were exhibitors from Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even Arizona!
Ran into my manager while I was there! His wife and two children were with him. This was the first time I got to meet them! His kids are so cute! Both boys, one three, and the other just celebrated his first birthday. My manager made a point of making me show his wife my camera. She has the Powershot G2, you see, and my boss likes having all the latest gizmos.. 🙂
We parted, and I got some money out of the bank to get some fud.

There were helpful signs everywhere!
Since I wanted to get home in short order, instead of b**r, I opted for a big slice of pizza and a lemonade (freshly squeezed by cute girls while you wait!) 😉 Mmmm, it was so good, the perfect thing to beat the heat.
Got home, relaxed, made a stirfry for dinnah and then watched Ali G Indahouse. Too funny! Definitely see this one if you get the chance, you’ll laugh yer ass off.
“Westside is da best!”

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Fun^3, kayaking and CAM!!!

I drive into the sunset every night!
Hey folks. Sorry my entries have been a bit sparse as of late. Work picked up in a serious way this week. I’ve been diverted so many times I don’t know which is up anymore. Thank god it’s the weekend. Time to recupe.
My apologies for keeping everyone in suspense like that overnight. Suspense is good for you!! hahah…. Thursdays nights I play ultimate under the lights at Bee Ridge Park. Last night was a ton of fun, as usual — 22 people showed up — but the night wasn’t over after finishing our third hour. A bunch of us went to The Speakeasy, a local drinkery with a live guitar/bass/drummer band. You’ve never seen such big appetites! It was probably about 10:30pm, and all nine of us ordered full-on meals: grouper sandwiches and fries and beer and things that would generally be pretty unhealthy to eat given any other circumstance. But we had all just finished running for three hours, so that made us pretty much impervious to the ill-effects of free radicals. Or we worked up an appetite. You choose.

The window in my office. Comes standard with every desk. haha… no. Actually, you have to look through this before exiting the rear building door. Why? To avoid clobbering people entering their passcodes.
Spoke to Eric (not that Eric, though he was at the pub too) — and I might go “whitewater” kayaking soon! Pretty cool huh? When he told me he went last weekend, my first question was of course, “where on earth do you find whitewater in florida?”. To which his answer was no, you really can’t — but what you can do is brave the waves instead! The water’s warm enough that you can bail without fear. No ph34r! Anyone ever gone kayaking?
And in other news — it’s official folks! Cam got the the job! Cam is will be assisting us in the software department. I can’t wait! 😀 He starts at the beginning of March, two weeks before Simon leaves us for Winnipeg. Perfect timing. 🙂

Cam: Doing his best to look sober

Water Tower of Terror, Couchland, “The Recruit”, and Ultimate

Okay, trivia question time! Anyone know what movie the quote in the title of the last entry came from?
I’ve got a couple of stories for you today. The first one takes place yesterday, shortly after I shot the “Prepare…” billboard. The second one took place this morning, at my place. Settle in with a nice cool glass of water or something.
So, it was about 4:30 yesterday, and the sun was getting ready to set. I was driving along, NeoFunkcian’s new mix CD blasting in the stereo.
Somehow I managed to end up in a left turn-only lane. Home was straight.
But, instead of making the left and then turning around, I decided it would be fun to do a little exploratory driving. Moments after I made the left turn, I told exploratory driving to go screw itself. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. The water tower.
Now, the water tower is this thing from outer space that was somehow dropped in the middle of urban Sarasota. I’d passed it many times in my car, but I’d never had my camera with me till now. It’s much higher than its surroundings; it’s visible from a few miles away.
So I find the closest side street to the tower, and pull in. There’s a parking lot there — think I was on the loading-zone side of a Burdines. Found a spot and pulled in. There were few kids making noise in their Pontiac Firebird right where I wanted to take my shot, so I decided to hang out my car for a bit. Took a couple shots from my car, but I wasn’t satisfied with them. After a minute Firebird and kru took off with a screech of rubber in an otherwise quiet parking lot. Got out of my car and took a few more shots.
As I was walked back to my car, I notice a guy staring at me. He was by his car, parked opposite from me. To check if was really looking at me, and not just something behind me, I stared back. His eyes followed me as I moved toward my car. When I was just about to my car, he spoke.
Him: Where you from?
Me: <pause> Up near Seattle, actually.
Him: What were you doing over there?
Me: Just taking a picture of the tower.
Him: <funny look>
Him: Have I seen you sometime before? In a different parking lot downtown?
Me: No, I don’t think so.
And with that, I got in my car and drove off. I really hope that guy wasn’t thinking what I think he was thinking.

On Friday Simon asked if I would like the other half of his couch. He already gave me part of it a couple of months ago, so of course I wanted the other half. The couch, a huge purple monster with a hideaway bed, has been around the block a few times. I’ll be its third owner. Only one person has ever paid for it, and it’s not Simon or me. Simon got it from a coworker who bought a new livingroom set.
We chose this morning to bring it from his place to mine. Problem is, even though we’re neighbours and share a wall, there’s still about 200 feet and two flights of stairs between us.
But we’re manly men, and I’ve never backed down from a challenge before, so we decided to have at it. Us vs. the Couch. Battle Royale.

We got it out of Simon’s stairwell easily enough. Getting it up mine was more difficult:

Moving couches is hard work, especially lifting couches up awkward stairwells. Being the creative guy I am, I figured out a way to save all this effort. Get Simon to bring it up himself!

He wasn’t too impressed with my work-reduction strategy. Seemed fine to me!
Anyhow we got it into my apartment. It’s awesome. My entire livingroom is now one big couch!

After we moved the couch, Simon and I went to see the thriller The Recruit, starring Al Pacino. A three word synopsis of the film? Don’t trust anyone. Bottom line? It’s a renter. The movie starts off well; we follow the protagonist into “The Farm”, the top secret CIA training facility, and get to see and experience all sorts of interesting tactics used to determine new recruit competency. But about halfway through, it turns into one clich&#233d action sequence after another. Subway gun fights. Car chases. Nothing wrong with this stuff on its own, but the movie could have been a lot better. And when they spoke technical jargon in this flim, it was utter crap. Ah well.
After the movie we were going to go to a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, but it was closed, so we ended up going to Two Senoritas instead. Excellent food, glad we went.
After the restaurant, it was time for Ultimate! I got there a bit late — things normally get started at 4:30; I got there at 5:15. Got to play for 45 minutes before we started running out of light and people started getting hungry. Lots of fun nonetheless! I’m so glad a found a good group to play with.
Now if only I didn’t have to rave in my car.
mp3 [9:40, 192kbps, 13.3 mb]

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Fcuky Ducks & Burns Court

Today… well, er, uh, yesterday — Saturday! was good!
Started by me grabbing my Ant book and hoping to get some reading done downtown somewhere, maybe try and find out what was playing at Burns Court Cinema (an independent movie house, sort of like The Roxy). Got sidetracked before I reached the parking lot. The mutant ducks were out in full force!

Well, okay, I don’t know that they’re mutants. But they’re sure not mallards.


This guy is swimming across the lake in the middle of the townhouse complex. You can see some of the apartments in the water.
So I jumped in the car, threw in the second half of the Sasha-Digweed Delta Heavy Essential Mix (04-06-2002) in the CD player, and made the 15 minute trip downtown. Car was a little weak in first gear as I was leaving the apartment complex, hopefully that’s only because it’s cold out and it hadn’t been running all day.
Got downtown, parked close to where I thought I remembered Simon parking when we watched Bowling for Columbine. Didn’t see Burns Court Cinema anywhere! Found The Weekly Planet (think Monday magazine). Checked the listings. Burns Court Cinema is located on, good heavens, Burns Court. I keep a map book in the car for just these sorts of occasions. Walked back to the car. Turned out I was all of a two minute walk away from the theatre.
As I was walking toward the theatre and waiting for a light to change, I glanced over at a car to my left. I thought I might have been impeding its right turn, standing too close to the sidewalk — you know, that kind of thing. I smiled at the car, took a step back, and looked at the traffic signal, which was still on don’t walk.
“Excuse me?!”, said a female voice. “Can you tell me where Burns Court Cinema is?”
Me, a little flustered: “Uh, ha! I’m looking for it too. There’s a bunch of people over that way, that’s where I’m going.” The light changed and the car disappeared in the direction I had pointed.
Walked 50 feet more and found Burns Court, another 100 feet and I was at the Cinema. Said Simon of this area: “Rich hippies live here!” It’s a nice little closed-off C-shaped road, lined with odd looking single-story dwellings and a few very expensive-looking-yet-very-low-profile cafes and ristorantes. Also a few places selling kitchen art.
I read the films names from the posters on the side of the big pink Burns Court Cinema building. Didn’t reconize anything. The lady who had asked me where Burns Court Cinema finally rolled in with her man-friend. Lady jumped out of the car while mister found a spot to park. She rushed to the box office to discover The Pianist was sold out. Next showing was at 8:10pm, more than 3 hours from then. I had just come to find out what was playing, not to actually see a show. Ladyperson hummed and hawed, and decided to see Nicholas Nickleby, which was playing in 20 minutes. “They’re both nominated.” I walk over and look at the poster, see nothing about nominations for anything, and walk back to the lady. “Nominated for what?” “Golden Globes”. Me: “Oh!”.
And right there, on the spot, I decided to see Nicholas Nickleby.

How often do you see reels just lying around? These were for The Man From Elysian Fields.
Got some popcorn, of course. Paying for overpriced movie-popcorn is something of a tradition for me.

This stuff is extra special; it’s got popcorn salt on it. “What’s the difference?”, I asked the girl at the counter. “Well, it’s finer-grained, so it pours a little more smoothly, and it’s a little bit stronger. And oh yeah, it’s orange.” Orange?!
I was a bit late walking in. Took my seat up at the front. The room couldn’t have held more than 60 people.

I call this shot “remember to put away the woofers!” Taken using a 2 second exposure.
Nicholas Nickelby was fantastic, by the way. See it if you have the chance. Didn’t know a thing about it before I went in. I love surprises like that.

Outside, after it was all over. The third poster from the right is the one for Nicholas.
A totally enjoyable day!

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Places I’ve been

Chrissie just started an interesting post over on her blog about places she’s been.
Here’s my list:

  • Toronto, lived there 4 months
  • Ottawa, lived there 4 months
  • San Francisco, holidayed 1 week
  • San Jose, conferenced 6 days
  • Cupertino, trespassed for 2 hours
  • Southampton, England, girlfriended 1 week
  • Greenwich, brothered 4 days
  • Trinidad, visited grandparents 5 months
  • Seattle, lived there 4 months
  • Montreal, 1 week
  • Vancouver, lived there 4 months too.

And now I’m in Sarasota, Florida. Travelling is fun. I’d really like to visit Thailand; I’ve got a few friends who have been and everything they’ve told me about it is pretty neat. Spain, Sweden, Italy and Greece are also up there. Germany too. I’d really like to go to Berlin at some point.

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Vacation: Flight booked!

I’m not really a gambling kinda guy, but I found out a few things today that helped turn me into one:

  • The refundable-type airline tickets cost more than twice as much as the non-refundable ones
  • Cancelling/changing dates on a non-refundable ticket costs US$100. You’ll get credit later with the respective carriers (though I’m not sure what happens when you cancel a flight involving multiple carriers. Multiple credits?)

I checked Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com for a return flight prices on a ticket from Tampa to Vancouver from Dec 20th to Jan 3rd. Travelocity said nothing was available during those dates. Expedia found tickets; the cheapest was $806. Orbitz’s was $560 (!).
I decided to book the ticket through Orbitz, even though I’d never used their services before. “Error 101. Selected flight not available. Please select another from the list.” And so I clicked the next one down, a $605 flight. “Error 101. Selected flight not available. Please select another from the list”. So I chose the next one down, for $630. Same thing. Hmmm. The next 10 flights down all gave me the same error. I ended up finding one that was available at the $790 mark, but the return portion of the trip was leaving Vancouver at 9:30am. That would be an awfully tight connection if I was taking the ferry over.
So, still on Orbitz.com, I decided to change my destination from Vancouver to Victoria to avoid the ferry hassle. In the result list lay a ticket for $832. “I’ll take it!”. I didn’t bother checking Expedia, and with Travelocity, if they had nothing from Tampa to Vancouver, I can’t see how they’d have anything for this flight. I went to purchase the ticket and BAM! “We need to charge you another $20 for FedEx to courier your ticket to you, this is a paper-only ticket”. Oh man, come on guys, get with the 80’s! Electronic tickets are where it’s at!
Grand total after everything was said and done? $857.37. Oops, not quite everything; I’ve got to factor in $84 for long term parking at the Tampa airport (it’s still cheaper than flying directly out of Sarasota). That’s $941 something. Plus airport improvement fees of $5 each way, I think.
So now I’ve got a ticket. Too bad I still don’t know if the company is going to be closed between Christmas and New Years. It’s a $100 gamble, yeah, but a gamble I think’s gonna pay off.

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Let your fingers do the walking

Have you ever impulse shopped?
With plenty of time to think during the weekly Engineering Review Board (ERB) meeting, I got this feeling. I don’t really want to buy a digital camera just right yet. My 35mm, C$260 Minolta has treated me really well so far and is, by all accounts, rugged. It’s been through a lot of abuse.
With a digicam, not only am I not assured of a rugged camera, but I’ll also necessarily be more gentle with it because of its higher cost. And because of its cost, I’ll probably also want to incur the expense of getting a case for it (which aren’t cheap, either).
Add to this the fact that the current crop of digital cameras I’m looking at (3-4 megapixels, retail around US$500) still can’t take pictures instantly, resulting in blurred or late shots. A tip for anyone considering a digicam purchase: there’s a direct relationship between camera grip size and your ability to hold it still. So bigger is better. My Minolta, on the other hand, takes clear pictures all the time, and fits in my pocket.
No, no digital camera for me right now. I want a scanner.
Which one? Well, the Epson Perfection 1660 PHOTO of course. The 1660 is an update to the 1650 [epinions.com], and came out about two months ago.

Friday at lunch, I called up Apple Store International Plaza. They have lots of them in!
Saturday rolls around, and (fellow METI software engineer) Jeff took my car and drove up to Tampa.
We get to the Apple store, and guess what? They didn’t have any 1660s in stock. I should have had the woman I spoke to on the phone to set one aside for me. I briefly considered the cheap, ultra thin and cool looking Canon LiDE 30, but I’m glad I didn’t go with it after reading the reviews:

The Apple Store is going to call me when they get more 1660’s in, probably sometime next week.
The trip wasn’t a complete loss. I got a grande Tazo chai from Starbucks (mmmMmm), and Jeff plunked down $399 on a 10GB iPod for Windows.
We also toured around the mall a bit and took a look at some high-cost-but-not-necessarily-high-end audio equipment, too. Some neat stuff in Bang & Olufsen. Prices start at only $1000.
Picked up Paul van Dyk’s “columbia ep” — mostly for Vega, which I can’t seem to hear enough of. There’s a Starecase remix of Vega on the CD too, no less. Good good. Prog-Trance-House saves the weekend!