Final day of work for the year and it's deader than dead, so I figured I'd post my last update for 2017...
Chris and I spent Christmas with my Mom in Niagara Falls. I had never been there before so I was looking forward to not only getting away, but to also spending some quality family time in a new destination. I quickly learned that the Falls is very condensed and super expensive. I would say probably the most expensive place I've been outside of jolly 'ol London. My guess is that because it's such a tourist destination for the States they simply jack the prices up and the Americans with the lopsided exchange rate still think they're getting a deal. Or maybe they're simply wrapped up in the beauty of the place and simply don't care.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites and overall it was a really nice hotel with arguably the best location and view. Our room had a large window which overlooked the Canadian side and it was soothing hearing the constant rumble in the background. We also had Christmas dinner at the Keg, and while they've been somewhat of a hit or miss for me over the years, this time we all agreed the food was super yummy. Of course I had lobster which is my go to dish. And besides, nothing says Christmas like lobster! About the only thing that bugged me about the hotel was...um, how to say this without sounding like an elitist prick? I felt like a minority there. Not just in colour, but also in language. And the place was overrun with children. Again, I'm not sure why. It could be that Embassy Suites are known for their free drinks and snacks that they have every day around 4pm. We went to the 9th floor where the lounge that served everything was and it was an absolute gong show. You could hardly breathe there was so many people crammed in there. Chris said she saw one woman fill an entire bowl full of dip and wondered how anyone would need that much dip - and I replied it was the 'because it's free' mindset. Needless to say we avoided the place after that. But the staff at the hotel were all really nice and seemed genuinely happy to be there and the place was clean and well maintained.
Of course we went down to the falls and stood staring into the abyss. Being there at winter added to the beauty of the place with snow covered trees and frost everywhere. The constant mist being kicked up would descend like an icy rain and everything near the water’s edge was coated in ice. I guess what sticks out in my mind the most about this natural wonder is how much water is going over every second of every minute of every day, day after day, year after year. Sadly I didn't see anyone going over in a barrel.
Niagara Falls In Winter
We also went up the tower there which is like the Calgary tower except a bit taller. Unfortunately the revolving restaurant was closed so we didn't get to do that, but I'm happy that my Mom hadn't been there before and we got to experience it with her for the first time. As Fallsview Casino was walking distance from the hotel we also spent several hours every day in there. The place was good to Chris and I as we ended up walking away having made a few hundred dollars on the slot machines - which is always nice.
It was a fun little trip and a pleasant break from the norm.
As I reflect back on 2017 I'd have to say overall it was a pretty good year. We went on some cool trips, having gone to Europe and getting remarried in Vegas. And our backyard finally got done (mostly). Health wise things didn't start out great, but I think I'm on a good medication plan now and am feeling pretty good now. As my MapMyWalk app recently reminded me I also did more walking than ever before and I can't wait to continue that next year.
For New Year’s we're keeping it pretty casual and going over to Chuck & Tracy's for a bit and then ending the night over at the neighbours.
Here's wishing everyone a safe and happy New Years and looking forward to a terrific 2018!
Just got back from a walk. It wasn't too bad out, the sun nicely balanced the coolness of the breeze.
Obviously with the colder weather I end up on the elliptical more than I go outside - which sucks as when I'm walking I find my mind wanders and I think about various things and that process is relaxing. For some reason that doesn't occur when I'm exercising inside. But today's musings got me thinking that I should update the News, so here I am.
Not much is really new though. It is the end of November and I'm amazed that I haven't felt like slitting my wrists yet. I'm sure I bring this up every time, but I hate this time of year. Between the lack of sun, the crappy weather, everyone being sick, the anniversary of my Dad's death etc. it's a struggle to get through the day. That said, so far I've been feeling fairly good. I use one of those sun lights at work in the morning which helps, but I've also been taking Vitamin D which is what your body produces when exposed to the sun. It could also be that as I'm getting older I'm able to deal with it better. Likely it also helps that I go to bed so early now (9ish). There's still a few weeks to go before the days start getting longer but so far I'm coping just fine.
A few weeks ago I was back in Fort McMurray for work again. Our office there was moving from one floor in the building to another and I had to move all the network and computer equipment. Unlike last time I had a colleague helping me which was nice. However all my exertions and running up and down the stairs over and over again while lugging heavy equipment - combined with one of those times when I just wasn't doing well - did a number on me. I really wasn't feeling well the one day. My heart was racing and I almost passed out a couple of times. I felt bad for the guy who was with me as I was sweating like a absolute pig at even the slightest task and had to sit down several times throughout the day. I can only imagine what he was thinking. It probably took me over a week to recover. Oh well, that which does not kill you makes you stronger right? Right?!?!?
On my doctor's advice I recently upped the dosage on my one set of pills and I find that I feel much better with the higher dosage. That said, I take them in the morning and in the evening I take my other set of pills. I'm not liking them as much as they make me really tired and dizzy. So I need to follow up and see if I can reduce their dosage. But overall I'm doing ok.
We're really looking forward to our next cruise early next year. Everything is finalized and all our excursions booked. I'll be making our final payment next week and much to our delight the amount we owe has continued to drop as the cruise isn't yet sold out. In the end we'll be paying $4000 less! I'm guessing it's due to all the hurricane issues recently, but either way we're quite pleased.
Bring on the squishy drinks!
Another year, another Halloween.
Originally we were supposed to be in New York City for Halloween, and obviously with the latest terrorist attack we're thankful that didn't happen. Instead we held our annual party extravaganza.
The turnout was great and there were some really cool costumes. As usual everyone voted, and I was saddened and hugely surprised I didn't win best costume. I wore a monk costume with a box of Raisin Bran on my back and went as Hodor from Game of Thrones. I thought it was hilarious. Chris re-used one of her costumes and had her face nicely tattooed up. Our one set of neighbors Jody & Lynette came as John Travolta and Uma Thurman's characters from Pulp Fiction - they ended up winning the Best Couple trophy. Jamie came as Mr. Clean and won the Best Overall trophy and Kim came as Mrs. Roper from Three's Company and she won the Funniest trophy. Our other set of neighbors Jack, Colleen & Cam came as Kiss. Dori & Mathew came as painter Bob Ross and canvas which was awesome. Chris's workout friends came in cool costumes, Alpha & Nancy did as well, the Blanices, Michael & Jaclyn, Roger and everyone else. Overall it was a great year for costumes!
Dianne and family gave Chris a 'Best Spooktacular' award and we both got a kick out of that. We always put a lot of time and effort into our Halloween parties and it's nice when people recognize that. I had the day before off so unlike past years there wasn't the mad rush up until the last minute to get all the decorating done. Almost a week later we just finished getting everything put away. That said, Chris & I talked and maybe next year we do something else. Just to change things up. We'll see. Regardless, a huge thanks to everyone who came out!
Best Spooktacular Ever!
As for Halloween itself, we hung out in the garage and had a few decorations put up, including our evil clown which always freaks the kids out. We shut things down around 8pm when we ran out of treats to give - in the end we had just over 100 kids, which considering the rainy weather was unexpected. And right on cue, with October over with it's now winter. Sigh.
Earlier last month I had to run up to Fort McMurray for work - and I'll most likely end up going there again in a few weeks. I was curious to look around and see the damage from the big fire. I drove up to the neighborhood where I had bought my first house oh so long ago when I lived there. I knew it likely was gone as I had heard the neighborhood was badly damaged, but I was stunned to see the neighborhood was basically wiped out. It was pretty upsetting - knowing so many lives turned upside down. The Mac is even worse than I remember from last time. Before you had to book a hotel room weeks in advance to even hope of getting a room, now I felt like I was the only one staying at the hotel I was in. Roads are horrible, so many places closed and shutdown etc. I always get melancholy when I go up there - it was the best of times, the worst of times - but before there was always at least a buzz and sense of opportunity. I don't get that feeling there anymore.
Anyways, stay warm everyone!
So we're back from Vegas.
Ten years ago Chris & I were married and way back then she said that on our tenth anniversary that she wanted to go to Vegas and renew our vows in one of the iconic wedding chapels in front of Elvis. So that's what we did in front of friends and family. Unlike last time I was much more relaxed this time although I did get a bit emotional when we actually said our vows - but hey, I'm an emotional guy. I can't believe how fast time has flown by. It seems like only yesterday we got hitched. As I said in front of Elvis I'm the luckiest guy on the planet to have found Chris. I can't wait to see what the next ten years bring!
I was also able to finally meet my cousin Elma and her husband Wally who live in Vegas (how cool is that). I know my Mom has wanted me to meet them for awhile now. We enjoyed spending time with them. A big thanks to everyone who was able to celebrate our special day, we both really appreciated it.
Beyond that event Vegas was good. The only thing that kinda sucked is we headed to Freemont the first night (as we always do) and bee lined it to La Bayou to get our customary yard size drink only to find it (and the sleazy strip club across from it) were gone! How dare they change things while I'm away! We did manage to get our drink at one of the outdoor places with the hot babes dancing on the bar, but it just wasn't the same. We did our usual gambling and I think this time actually might have come out ahead. My biggest win was $360 on a Tetris themed slot machine.
Besides the usual boozing and gambling we also went and saw the Neon Graveyard which is something we wanted to see for awhile and also went up the Eiffel Tower at Paris. As it was nighttime we had a great view of the strip and the fountains at the Bellagio. It doesn't seem very tall from the ground, but once you're up there you have a different appreciation for it. Of course it doesn't compare to the real deal being approximately half it's size, but we can now say we've been to the one in Vegas, Paris, and Tokyo...
Thank ya, thank ya very much!
Health wise I went for another checkup with my heart specialist and got the results from my latest echocardiogram. The good news is my heart is working a bit better and my heart has shrunk a bit from before. He added another medication to my prescriptions and so far I seem to be tolerating it ok. I'll continue on this course for a few months before going for another checkup and in the interim he's going to send me for a MRI as well. The bad news...well there is no bad news for once. So yay me!
After almost dying last time trying to walk 20km I'm proud to say I finally did it. Of course Chris was pissed off at me for doing so as she was worried I'd have a repeat of last time, but it was something I needed to do for myself. There were after affects and I was hurting for the rest of the day, but I managed ok. Next up 30km right? Um, no. I hit 20 and I think I'll be content with that. Plus I'm pretty sure Chris would kill me.
That's about it. Looking forward to the last blast of summer before the weather turns crappy - but hey, then we'll have Halloween to look forward to!
It's been a good news, bad news, in-between news kinda time since my last update.
The good news is our back yard is finally done! Well at least phase one anyway. The company we used is called Landform and they came in and spent roughly two weeks using a crew of 4 to 5 people working from 8am to usually around 5pm to get everything finished. At this point I can't even remember how we ended up finding and choosing them to do the work. It's been a couple years from our initial meeting until now. In our previous meetings we explained our vision and gave sketches of what we wanted and sent pictures and so on. There was a bunch of back and forth as to the plants we wanted, what the process was, talking about permits and timelines, and going through various revisions of drawings.
As mentioned previously we're going to wait until hopefully next year to get the deck and pergola built as we didn't want to go into debt to get all of this done. Next year our mortgage is up for renewal and part of me wants to hold off another year to pay down the mortgage. But after finally having a finished yard we also have the bug in us to just get everything done and relax and enjoy it next summer. We'll see what happens and whether the heart or the mind wins out.
No Longer An Embarrassment
On to the bad news...we had to take our cat JC to the vet several times and to an emergency animal hospital as she hasn't been doing good. She started peeing outside the litter box and right in front of Chris several times. Obviously she was trying to tell us there was a problem. She's also almost 18 years old, so although we didn't focus on it, the thought of wondering if this was 'it' for her was ever present. I was getting frustrated because after spending almost $2000 on her it felt like they didn't know what the problem was or how to make her better. But finally one of her tests revealed that she had E.Coli which in turn had led to her having an UTI infection. So she's now on antibiotics and seems to be doing better. In the end not bad news after all but it was a very stressful few days for both Chris & I.
Finally, the in-between news. As anyone on Facebook knows I've been using the Map My Walk app on my phone to track when I go for walks. It plots out your route and shows how many calories you've burned, your pace, steps taken etc. As I've been feeling better the past couple months I've been increasing the lengths of these walks. A few weeks ago I went 10km and was rather pleased with myself. Then a few days later my favourite niece Hailey sent me a screenshot of the 17km that she had walked. While extremely happy for her, it also fired up the competitive side of me and I was determined to go even farther.
So yesterday I headed out, not really intending on doing so at first, but after awhile the thought popped in my head that I was going to hit 20km. And once I get a thought in my head I'm determined to follow through - despite the fact I was starting much later in the day than normal on one of the hottest days of the year. With all my issues naturally Chris was concerned and would text me every so often to check on me and I was sending her pictures occasionally to show her how far away I was. At one point I ran out of water and she drove out and resupplied me. I was doing pretty good for most of it, but by the time I made it back into our neck of the woods I was starting to really feel it and had slowed down quite a bit. When I got near the house I was more shambling than walking. I looked at my app and was dismayed I was still 2km short of my goal. But I was done. I knew I wasn't going to make it so I ended my epic journey and came home. I was pretty upset after going through all that, 3.5hrs of walking and getting a bad sunburn on the back of my neck in the process - that I was a mere 1.5km's short of my goal.
After showering we got in the car to go meet Kim & Hailey for lunch and on the way I suddenly got extremely weak and dizzy and disoriented. I knew I was severely dehydrated and asked Chris to take me to the nearest clinic. The doctor there looked at me and said my heart rate was dangerously low and wanted to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital. That was the last place I wanted to go and I refused. So he had Kim run to the nearby store and get me some Gatorade to get some electrolytes in me as he kept monitoring me. Eventually I told him I was feeling better (somewhat of a lie) and insisted we still go for lunch at the restaurant next door. I downed the Gatorade and after probably 30 minutes or so started to truly feel better. So that was pretty scary and in hindsight stupid of me. I still want to eventually hit that 20km mark, but I'll work my way up to it and be better prepared next time.
All in all it's been an interesting past few weeks.
What a difference a month makes...
I went and saw my cardiologist for a checkup and he said the pills were working - my average heart rate was in the 80's from my last Holter monitor test and the EKG they took that day showed it being in the 70's. He also agreed that I didn't need to take the 2nd set of pills, instead upping the dosage slightly of the ones I was already on. I go back to him in just under a month for another set of tests and we'll see where things are then.
I've also been losing weight which is nice. So far I've dropped 30 pounds from when we got back from our vacation. In my head I've set a goal of a further 20 which would put me at 250. Other than a few years back when I hit that because of my thyroid being screwed up I can't remember the last time I weighed under that. Chris thinks it's because we're eating better and exercising more, but I don't think that accounts for all of it. It's not like we were eating horribly before and I've always been good about exercising. Personally, I think it's because now that my heart rate is better I'm finally for the first time in years getting a decent sleep at night. It's well known that a proper sleep aids in weight loss.
I've also cut way back on the booze. In fact I went over a month without a drop. Obviously that played a huge part in losing the weight as well. The doctor said a couple drinks is ok, but obviously more than that is counter productive as alcohol increases your heart rate and I know from experience that after a night of partying my heart would be pounding out of my chest. Recently I've allowed myself one night a week to indulge. But I might cut that out as well. I find it hard to stop at just one or two beers - especially when it's the middle of summer, stinkin hot out, just relaxing, watching the football game etc. Before you know it you're passed out downstairs at 2am in nothing but your underwear with Punjabi videos on Netflix playing in the background (true story).
On the house front I had a bit of a blow up with our builder and the Alberta Home Warranty program. As we don't have the back yard done I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been back there. I never paid much attention to the deck columns. But one day we were visiting with the neighbors and they were like 'geez, your columns are really crooked'. I took a look and they were both leaning significantly to the one side. So I contacted the builder and they came out and took some pictures and confirmed there was a problem but said that it fell under the Home Warranty as a structural defect and I had to file a claim with them. Fair enough. So after spending $100 (non-refundable) and sending them more pictures they got back to me and told me tough luck as decks aren't covered. So at this point I lost it and sent them a bitchy email back to them, the builder, and anyone else who would listen. I was worried the problem would continue to get worse until it eventually collapsed and was determined to kick up a fuss.
Long story short, Calbridge is going to fix it and I even got a phone call from the VP empathizing with us and apologizing for the problems we've had over the years. To their credit they've always made it right and are continuing to do so in this case. They should start the repairs next week. In the midst of all that going on, the company we hired to do the back yard should also be starting any day now.
So things are looking up.
While we were on our trip, one day I suddenly was short of breath, felt like crap, was getting shooting pains in my side and so on. Eventually I felt better and didn't think much of it. Then on our last day in London I felt like I was getting a cold. As the day progressed I felt horrible, was sweating profusely, short of breath and just out of it.
After we were home things kept getting worse and the symptoms I was having were similar to earlier in the year to when I had pneumonia. So I went to my doctor and she sent me to get a chest X-ray. After I did the X-ray and was on my way out of the diagnostic clinic one of the technicians came running after me and was like 'you need to go see your Doctor now.' Er, ok, this can't be good I thought. Turns out I was having what's known as a Pulmonary Edema, my heart wasn't working properly and my lungs were filling up with blood. But of course my doctor couldn't do anything for me except to try and get me in to see a cardiologist. In the meantime she advised me to go to the hospital if my breathing worsened.
Thankfully it didn't especially as it took well over a week to finally get to see a specialist. They had me do a battery of tests, another chest X-ray, Echocardiogram, Holter monitor, and blood work. While I was having the echo done I was feeling especially shitty and the tech asks me 'have you had a heat attack before'? So of course now I'm really freaking out. I wasn't supposed to see the specialist again for several weeks, but only two days later they called and said they wanted me to come in to discuss my test results. Again, not a good sign.
So in the end I was diagnosed as suffering from the early stages of heart failure. I was having the symptoms back during our trip and caught an infection from being around all the smoke in the ship casino - which normally wouldn't be a big deal. But because my heart was compromised it couldn't deal with it which is why my lungs were filling up with blood. Ok, so the good news was I hadn't had a heart attack. Bad news was I'd have to be on medication the rest of my life to stop things from getting worse. My heart was functioning at 50% of what a normal person's should be functioning at.
The reason I got to this stage was from being in Atrial Fibrillation for so long. My heart was basically worn out from beating so fast for so long. I remembered that way back when all this started they had put me on drugs to slow my rate down but it made me feel like a zombie and I couldn't deal with being on it. So eight? years later I've come full circle. They have me once again on two different sets of drugs to slow my heart rate down. They said there's a chance that over time things will improve back to normal. I'd still be in Afib, but functioning at 100% again.
I've been taking the one set of pills for a few weeks now and so far I haven't had any issues. But I started the second set this past weekend and within a few days I got sick again with some sort of chest infection. Then I read the side effects and one of them was the lowering of your immune system. Just great. So I stopped them and have been suffering through this latest illness for the past week. I go back to see my specialist at the beginning of July and hopefully the latest batch of tests will show an improvement.
I'm pissed off at my doctors for being morons and I'm pissed off at myself for not being more of an advocate for my own health. They were so focused on me taking Amiodarone for so long to fix my Afib that they completely ignored everything else and now I'm paying the price for it. And I stupidly just went along with their recommendations and action plan.
Oh well, I'm not dead yet. We'll see what the future holds for me. But I was in a pretty dark place for awhile.
On the non-life threatening front, we finally are getting the back yard done. We signed all the paperwork a few days ago and they should be starting work in a couple weeks. Unfortunately we had to split the project over two years due to the cost. So the deck and pergola won't be finished until next year. But at least we'll no longer be an embarrassment to the neighborhood with the jungle of weeds and grass that is currently there. And really, isn't that what life's all about?
Currently dealing with some health issues...
But I thought I'd update the site with details and pictures of our epic Transatlantic trip in the meantime. As usually happens while on these cruises I tend to journal every day or so and just jot down my thoughts of the vacation. As such there's not much editing done, things can sometimes be out of order, and are essentially just raw notes. Here then are the chronicles of our adventures:
Today we were supposed to go ashore and go on a 'Taste of Miami' tour where they take you around to various restaurants to sample dishes that are iconic to the city and culture. That didn't happen. Being that yesterday was my birthday we were busy toasting my aging existence. Blaine and Janice decorated our room while we were out which was a pleasant surprise. Normally I'd be the one getting silly and regretting all the libations consumed, but I was good for once. Blaine on the other hand was ready to party hard so we stayed up until early in the morning trying our best to accommodate him. Needless to say we didn't feel like only getting a few hours sleep so we cancelled the tour. I'm currently relaxing topside in a nicely shaded cabana and Chris is napping.
Yesterday was Key West and it was a lot of fun. Kept saying it'd make an awesome overnight spot, but figured the cruise lines probably would end up losing a big chunk of their passengers who weren't able to stagger back in time. We rented a six person electric cart to get around, but really everything around Duvall street - the main drag - is close enough that you could just walk everywhere.
I got my picture taken at the Southern-most point in the Continental US marker, so I was happy. I had read that the lineups were really long, but it wasn't too bad. The worst was sweating up a storm while waiting. We hit a bunch of bars for some bevies and I was delighted that so many of my favourites - Sr. Frogs, Fat Tuesday, Hard Rock - were all within a few blocks from each other. It was a fun stop and great party place.
For dinner last night we went to the Brazilian place where they keep bringing you skewer after skewer of meat until you tell them to stop. My favourite was the lamb chops. So good. We went to the dinning room on our first night and both Chris and I thought it sucked, but Blaine and Janice liked their meals. We'll give it another go, but we might be eating at the specialty restaurants quite a bit.
The ship is good, this being our third time on this class, and we got a suite in the Haven which is its own little world tucked away on the ship where Haven guests have their own pool, Jacuzzi, solarium, sun deck, drinks, snacks etc. We always get a little snobbish thrill when we get into the elevator and swipe our card to go to the 14th deck and other people in the elevator are like 'why can't we go there'? They also refurbished the ship a couple weeks ago so everything is new and shiny.
Getting to the ship was a bit of a shit show as I got into a spat with the Customs Agent. As always happens, my 'ticket' got a big X stamped on it by the kiosk machine. So when we got to the agent Chris simply asked why to which he curtly replied that it was 'not her concern'. Then he asked me to put my hands on the scanner to take fingerprints at which point I stated that I thought Canadian citizens were exempt from having to do so. Of course then I was questioning his authority and he had to remind me that I was a low life nobody with zero legal rights and marched us to the secondary screening room. So I'm thinking we're probably going to miss our flight as they're going to be dicks and make us wait there a long time. There was a lady next to us sobbing because her flight was leaving in 10 minutes and they simply didn't give a shit.
After 15 or 20 mins they called us up, asked if Chris was married to me, asked us if we were going on a cruise and stamped our papers and let us go. What in the hell was the point? Every time we travel to the US it's so stressful for me that we're gonna miss a connecting flight or I'm gonna be denied entry and we're going to be out 15 or 20 grand for a vacation I can't get to. This over and above the security farce you're forced to go through at the airport. Remember boys and girls, it's not sexual assault if your friendly TSA agent is going to town rubbing your genitals...
Day 2? at sea...I think? Kinda lost track of time at this point. I know we have several more days of nothing but open sea before our next stop. We just finished checking our bill which normally we don't do until the end of the trip....let's just say the Casino has been a cruel hearted mistress. Maybe we'll win back what we lost right? Right?!?!
Like with our Transpacific cruise the frequent time changes are making it interesting. Almost every night we're having to move the clocks forward. Soon I'll be watching the hockey playoffs at 4am. I'm feeling somewhat guilty as on most cruises I usually get up pretty early and will walk a few kilometers around the jogging track. But so far this trip I've been lazy and have been sleeping in. It occurred to me that due to the demographics on the ship that the fitness centre is probably empty - I should take advantage of that. Apparently the average age onboard is 65, but it seems higher. We always joke that 'maybe we're the hotties'...this time it's a fact.
Still at sea for two more days before we get off in the Azores. Last night was pretty rough with 22' waves and gale force winds. A younger guy next to me in the Casino bathroom puking all over the place. Outside decks closed. Stuff in the cabins sliding back and forth and falling to the floor etc. It is what it is. With all the rocking back and forth though all you want to do is sleep. Our sea day routines have pretty much been established - get up late, eat, nap time, wander the ship, Casino, lunch, maybe another nap, dinner, Theatre show, Casino, drink, drink, drink, bedtime. We did manage to hit the spa yesterday and I was in relaxation heaven after getting a head, arms, feet massage.
We planned on having a little party in The Haven courtyard today, but with the crappy conditions I'm not sure how much enthusiasm remains. The downside of postponing it is with each passing day the average temperature has been dropping. From the high 30's in Florida to 16 degrees currently.
Let's see, where are we? Yesterday we stopped in the Azores and it was our first time there. Much like Madeira, the main island is made from volcanic rock and as such is beautifully lush and green. I don't think I've ever seen so much green and such a vibrant green in my life. Instead of doing the boat tour gong show we simply rented a couple vehicles and set out on our own. The island isn't overly large and you could probably go all around it in just a few hours. Our first stop was to Lago Fugo? Which is a volcanic crater lake high up in the hills. Again, just gorgeous scenery. From there we went to another crater lake on the other side of the island and then stopped for a nice lunch. We then decided to split up and head back to the ship. That's when the fun started...Even though we had a GPS it was next to useless in the main town. Being that you're in Europe you can't see the street names until you pass them. Pressing 'Home' as the destination took us to a different car rental office. Trying to find a gas station would take us to non-existent stations etc. etc. Couple that with driving on tiny narrow streets with people darting in and out of traffic, unsure of the traffic signage - you'd be facing a green light and a stop sign at the same intersection - and it led me to have a major meltdown. It was like when you watch the Amazing Race and one couple just loses it. Thankfully Chris was able to calm me down and we finally got back to the right rental place. Not wanting to end the stop on a sour note we popped in to a local restaurant for a couple beers before getting back on the ship.
It was a beautiful place and I wish we had more time to spend there. You'd think after six straight days at sea they would have over-nighted there.
Afterwards we had our butler bring us up some champagne to enjoy as we pulled out of port. We've really enjoyed travelling with Blaine, Janice, her Dad George, and their daughter Maya whose 3? She is adorable once she warms up to you but she's also a whirlwind of energy. While enjoying sail away she was climbing up the slats on one of the Cabanas. I warned her that wasn't probably a good idea and they told her to get down, which she did. But only a few minutes later she was back up there again and predictably she fell. She was crying and screaming and it took us awhile to determine if she was really hurt or not. Then I looked at her leg and could tell something wasn't right. So they took her to the medical centre. Later they called and Blaine said she had broke her leg. I thought he was joking. He wasn't. She broke her leg in two places. Obviously it sucks and we feel bad for all of them. But shit happens. From what they told us the medical centre has been terrific throughout her ordeal and hopefully once home she'll be back to her usual self in a couple months.
On a happier note Chris and I did extremely well at the Casino. It seemed like we just could not lose and kept winning at every slot machine we played. I ended up increasing what I started with by a factor of eight. But last night was also a very late night and we're both feeling a little slow today.
On the plane home, currently somewhere over Newfoundland. We got the new 'improved' pods this time. They're ok. But I prefer the old ones as I found them comfier. The larger screen is an nice HD upgrade however. Also currently wiping snot from my nose as I caught a cold on our last day in London. But hey, it just wouldn't be a vacation for me without getting sick - Every. Single. Time.
My fourth visit to London was good even if it was only for a few days. We finally went and saw the Tower of London which is something I wanted to do last time, but it just didn't happen. Chris & I waited for the free tour by one of the Beefeaters and it was interesting finding out all the things that went on there over the centuries. The previous day we had gotten off the ship after parting ways with the Blanice's and caught a bus tour which took us to Stonehenge and Windsor Castle before dropping us off at our London hotel. Stonehenge was pretty cool - again, something I've wanted to see for awhile. The main thing that struck me however was that it was smaller than I expected as it's apparently lost a number of the original stones over the years. We didn't go into Windsor Castle instead opting to just relax at a local pub.
Our first stop after the Azores was in Cork, Ireland and we spent the day with Janice's Dad on a private tour. Janice and Blaine couldn't cone as they had taken Maya to the hospital to get her leg checked. We went to Blarney Castle with its beautiful surrounding areas. We didn't go up it and kiss the stone as there was already a big lineup even though it was early in the morning. But I was happy just toodling around taking a bunch of pictures of the gorgeous scenery - think Butchart Gardens with a Castle in the middle of it all. We also stopped at the quaint town of ?? Where despite its small size was the source of a pivotal battle determine the fate of Ireland back in the day. We had lunch at a local pub and I got to ogle the pretty waitresses and listen to their adorable accents.
We stopped the next day in Falmouth which is also a smaller port town. Our entire group spent the day wandering around and we also popped into the maritime museum which was surprisingly enjoyable. True to form we ended up in a pub and shared a few pints with one of the locals who regaled us with his thoughts on everything from hippies to Germans. This stop was the only port of the trip where we had to tender to get back to the ship and it was a memorable experience. The winds had suddenly picked up and it was an extremely bumpy ride back with the front of the tender boat under water most of the time and everyone at the front getting soaked from all the water coming in through the windows. At one point I honestly was worried we might capsize. Later that night we found out that two of the tender boats had crashed into each other and a number of people were injured.
As for the ship itself we had no huge complaints although it was our second time on the Jade and our third time on that class of ship. Our biggest disappointment was the food. We quickly tired of the buffet and the dining room wasn't that great. Thankfully the specialty restaurants were all excellent. The biggest plus was that we were in The Haven which is their little private slice of paradise sealed off from the rest of the ship. We had our own solarium, pool, hot tub, deck with gazebos, breakfast restaurant, and dedicated wait staff to bring us drinks and snacks. This time we made the most of it and some of my fondest memories were just hanging out in there with everyone. The ship had also just been refurbished a couple weeks before so all the decor, chairs, bedding etc. were all new.
Just landing in Toronto now where we have a connecting flight and then we'll finally be home. It's been a great vacation. Usually at some point during one of our long get aways I'll get to a point where I'm done with it and just want to go home. But that didn't happen this time. I could have stayed in Europe forever and I did not want to leave. I was hoping this trip would have done me good. I thought two weeks away from work and breathing in the sea air would have been therapeutic. Sadly that was not the case. Looks like there's some health issues I finally need to deal with...anyways, here's some pictures of our adventures:
Currently enjoying an extra long Easter weekend. In addition to having Good Friday off I also took off the Monday. I've been feeling 'off' the past few weeks so I'm going to take advantage of the break and just relax and putter around the house and take it easy.
Kim & Hailey came over for dinner Friday night. Chris had slaved away all day making a yummy Ham and scalloped potatoes. To finish it off we had a tasty upside down pineapple cake. Afterwards we hung out in the garage and played some Mario Kart (I kicked butt). Sadly the rest of the family was scattered to the winds and couldn't come but it was still an enjoyable evening.
Previous to that Chris & I and some friends went to Telus Spark for their adults only night which is held every 2nd Thursday of the month. Telus Spark is the new science center that was built a few years ago. I'd been to the old one when I used to live downtown so long ago and quite enjoyed it. Everyday I'd drive by the new one on my way to work and kept telling myself that I should check it out. Bored and wanting to do something different I finally got around to arranging it. The reason for it being adults only that night was because they served booze in the concourse. Booze and science - the perfect match!
In addition to just wandering around and checking out the various exhibits and displays they also had a planetarium which was pretty cool. It was kind of like an Imax screen that was curved all around you. The show we watched was just ok, but I could see it being pretty amazing with the right one. There's also a large area for special features which I gather they change every so often. Currently it's devoted to all things Star Trek so we checked it out as well. It was ok. There were lots of people with big grins on their faces walking around so they obviously loved it. In addition to various props and displays from the shows and movies they had various interactive kiosks. The idea being you'd try all of them and at the end you'd get a summary of what role in Star Fleet you'd best be suited for. Maybe I'm not a big enough geek to have gotten the most out of it? I was also feeling crappy that night so that probably didn't help.
But overall I'm glad we went and a big thank you to Jamie, Kim, Dori and Matthew who came out!
Making Music With Light
The weekend before that Chris & I did a quick trip up to Edmonton to see my Mom before we head out on our vacation. Unfortunately we only got to spend one day with her as we had to stick around on the Friday to receive one of our pieces of art we bought when we were in Seattle. But it was a good visit and we'll have to head up again when we get back from our trip.
As for our cruise, it'll be here before we know it. All our excursions are now finally planned out and the various transports, guides, tickets etc. all bought and booked. I just looked at our world map and realized I'll get to put an extra five pins in it. I can't wait. Bring on the squishy drinks!
A couple weeks ago we were in Seattle.
Because of all the artwork we've bought in the past while on our cruises we got comped by the auction house a stay at a nice hotel with free meals and drinks. Of course they also held several art auctions, but unlike on the ships, you also got to meet the artists, interact with them, and hear their stories. We've had similar offers from them before, but this time we decided to go. In the basement we had a wall niche built to display something fancy and we've looked for awhile now for a piece that would fit - but neither of us has found anything that we both liked. So we were hoping we'd find something at this event to fill that space. I've also never been to Seattle so we thought it'd be a nice get away and as everything was paid for it'd also be relatively cheap...
At least that's what we thought.
Well of course while there you're feeling pretty important, downing the free booze, and they're making the artists out to be the greatest thing since Van Gogh. So naturally we got caught up in it all and during the first auction ended up buying a nice painting from this quirky little Frenchman named Duaiv. When they unveiled his work I scanned the room (which was extremely large, holding roughly 300 guests) and there was only one that I liked which was a gigantic abstract which naturally was also the most expensive. But then a smaller one caught my eye and Chris liked it as it reminded us of Europe so we tagged it and when it came up for auction we held up our bid card and won it.
The big difference between this event and ship auctions is that on the ship people are usually just there for the free champagne and to kill time before they have to go to Bingo. In fact, even though it's their bread and butter, the host made several cracks about the cruise ships which were pretty funny. Some bidding does happen but it's usually pretty low amounts and people do pre-bids - where once the piece you tagged is presented they tend to bang out the gavel as soon as your bid card goes up so you're almost guaranteed to get it with no other competing bids. But during this event it was just like in the movies where you had back and forth bids of increasing amounts. It was pretty exciting to watch.
Our hotel room was really nice as was the hotel itself - The Four Seasons - which was right downtown on the waterfront. We did manage to do some wandering around outside but only within a several block radius. We went to Pike Place Market which was pretty neat. The amount of seafood everywhere was crazy. We also got to see the very first Starbucks (ooh, aaah) which was nearby. And last but not least we stopped at the gum wall which was both amusing and gross and we made our contribution. But then it was back to the bidding...
The second auction was all about this artist named Godard whose work I've seen before. He's a pop culture artist, and has been compared to a modern day Warhol. He came out during dinner the night before and told his story which was pretty interesting. He's the typical rags to riches story and now hangs out with Hollywood celebrities and rock stars. But the cool thing is he donates a chunk of his sales to various charities, specifically ones related to cancer research as he lost his own daughter to cancer. I'll admit he had me choked up listening to him tell the crowd about her struggle and according to Chris I wasn't the only one in the audience shedding a few tears. All that said, I had no intention of buying any of his work because we were done buying paintings.
Posing With Michael Godard and Our Newest Piece
But again, once the booze starts flowing, you're feeling pretty self important, you scan the room and see that one piece that calls to out to you...'buy me!'. What else are you supposed to do? You have to buy it right? So once again, we put up the bid card and became the proud owners of yet more art. To be fair, we justified it as the purchase price would put us over the limit whereby we'd be qualified to go on a free cruise. In our wine soaked state it made total sense. Hell, we were being thrifty! Except we didn't do the math properly and were short of the limit amount by about $400. Not only that, but when we got the Visa bill I almost crapped myself because I sorta forgot about the 'tax me another 30% just because I'm Canadian' tax.
We contacted them after we got home and whined about being short and reminded them how much we've bought from them in the past and so on and they said there was a 'very good chance' we'd be offered a cruise. So we'll see what happens.
All I know is once I get the thing up on the wall I'm going to stop and admire the shit out of it each and every single day and let it be a valuable life lesson in self restraint - or the lack thereof.
This is painful...
Currently on hold for the past 30 minutes with the company that hosts this website. I'm trying to renew my domain name but for whatever reason the online form is messed up and it won't let me do it. So now I'm enjoying the elevator music emanating from my phone. Isn't technology great?
All those years ago I built this site from scratch using the now ancient Frontpage editor. I figured it's probably time to upgrade to something newer. Of course Wordpress is the current darling of bloggers everywhere, but I'm still going to kick it somewhat old school and use MS Expressions instead. Yes, it's no longer supported, but it's still substantially newer than Frontpage. I also decided to update my ancient copy of Photoshop Elements and bought a newer version off eBay. Again, it's not the latest, but it's still five generations ahead of what I currently have. As such I've been spending my spare time tinkering with creating a new website which I plan on unveiling on the 15th anniversary next year.
This is the time of year where we make our vacation plans, figure out our money situation, taxes, RRSPs and so on. So we've been busy planning our next trip which is a Transatlantic cruise, now only a few months away. We're going with some friends of ours and this will be our first time travelling with them. Hopefully we're still friends afterwards as we'll be stuck together for six straight days at sea. I'm kidding - they're a lot of fun as are we so I know it'll be a great time. As we didn't go on any cruises last year it'll be a welcome return to the ocean waves.
I've now been on hold for an hour...
That vacation can't come soon enough!
Not the best start to the year. The 2nd day into our Vegas trip I started to not feel well. I'd get short of breath, felt like someone was sitting on my chest, break out in sweats etc. Part of me thought it was from all the bloody smoke in the Casino which we had been spending probably the most time in of any of our Vegas trips. So I figured it was just allergies and soldiered on.
Around dinner time on New Years Eve I started to feel a bit better and was able to enjoy the festivities, but by the time I got home I felt like death. It was bad enough that I agreed to go to the doctor - of course this was on the holiday Monday so it took half a day after calling Healthlink for them to get me a location to go to. Once there they were useless but agreed with me that I should get a chest X-ray. Of course, that had to wait until the next day because all the diagnostic clinics were closed. What was going on was that whenever I would lie down I would find it hard to breath, to the point where I had to focus on my breathing to get enough air in and out. And all I could hear was my lungs gurgling every time I exhaled. Needless to say that prevented me from sleeping. So over the course of three days I got maybe six hours sleep total.
Eventually I got the call back from the doctor after they reviewed my X-rays and was told I had pneumonia. Great. So I went in and they wrote me a prescription for some antibiotics (Levofloxacin) which I grabbed from the pharmacy. Once home I popped a pill and figured I was on my way to recovery. A couple hours later I got this wave of numbness and tingling that shot from my fingers all the way up my arms and into my neck. My arms felt weak as hell and I could barely lift them. But it was late at night and I went to bed to try and sleep. The next morning I was still messed up so I looked at the literature that came with the prescription.
Quinolone antibiotics (including levoflacin) may cause serious and possibly permanent tendon damage, nerve problems in the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), and nervous system problems.
I then went online and found horror story after horror story, class action lawsuits etc. etc. of people whose lives have been ruined by this class of drug even after a couple doses. So now I'm freaking out and called the doctor back, went back (now my 4th trip to the doctor), and actually had to argue with her that a bad reaction to the drug had occurred. Her response was to flat out deny it but she humored me by writing a prescription for a regular antibiotic (Teva-Clarithromycin). Two days after that my arm (thankfully just the one at this point) was still weak and numb. I simply cannot believe a doctor would prescribe this drug when safer alternatives exist. This class of drugs should only be used when someone is in hospital and their lives in jeopardy. Giving it to me was the equivalent of hammering a nail with a nuke.
Please, please, please - if you are ever prescribed antibiotics in the future, make sure you find out what they are prescribing and why.
Anyway, as I type this everything seems to have gone back to normal, I'm now getting adequate sleep, and feeling not to bad. Although I still tire out pretty quick. Of course as I'm getting better Chris is getting sicker. She started getting 'something' a few days ago and it's gotten progressively worse. She's at the doctors right now and just informed me that she has Bronchitis.
Again, great frickin start to the year.
But on to other things...despite everything we still had a great time in Vegas. It was our first time staying at Aria and we really liked it. The location was great with access to the tram which would take you between Monte Carlo and the Bellagio and it was directly connected to The Cosmopolitan and not far from New York, New York. As mentioned earlier we spent alot of time playing the slots. I was looking forward to playing the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory game I loved so much the last time we were there but it was gone. They had three other variants of it, but they weren't the same. I did however finally find it next door at the Cosmo. In the end I would guess we maybe broke even? It was hard to tell as it was all a blur. Some times we'd win four or five hundred bucks on a game. Other times we'd blow through a hundred in under a minute.
We had New Years Eve dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Aria and it was really yummy. We both had this fancy ass mushroom soup with real truffles and it was heavenly. After that we went outside to party on the strip. We had heard that they shut down the strip to traffic, so we knew what to expect. But it was surreal to actually experience it. There was a place across the street where the music was pumping so we wandered over there. Essentially it was the opposite strip equivalent to Carnival Court where we've had so much fun in the past. So we grabbed a table, loaded up on squishy drinks, and hung out listening to the music and waiting for midnight.
The table next to us was well on their way when we arrived. I noticed that in addition to the squishy drinks they also had a 26'er of booze that they were downing. Buddy would leave the table every few minutes and stagger past us bumping into us almost each time. I thought to myself 'this isn't going to end well'. Sure enough not long before midnight we look over and chicky is puking her guts out. Gross, but whatever, moving on right? Nope. Because at that point she went unconscious and collapsed on the ground. Her underage lover and her girlfriend were trying to hold her up, but she was, let's say, rather a large woman and they didn't have the strength to do so. As they were trying her dress was up around her head, and her fat was spilling out (luckily she was wearing underwear). At this point it was a big enough of a commotion that security had come over (obviously security was super tight all along the strip) and they were trying to get her up. But then buddy had come back and was freaking out and got violent. At this point more guards came in and pushed our table out of the way to subdue him (Chris and I were just drinking our drinks and casually watching the whole shit show unfold). But buddy was amped and four guards were trying to control him - and then he went to reach for something and the entire place went apeshit with them slamming him to the ground and yelling for more help - at which point I was like, um, we should get out of here. We wandered out onto the strip as we didn't want to ring in the new year in the midst of all that drama.
The countdown clock started on all the hotel billboards and the entire crowd did the countdown and at midnight fireworks were going off from various hotels. It was pretty cool. I'd say outside of being in Times Square that was the next best place to be in all of North America.
Here's some pix of our Vegas shenanigans:
Hopefully we'll both be healthy soon and can move on with what will hopefully be a great year.