Honeymoon Cruise: Final Day

– note: this post was written while aboard the cruise ship on the 17th of July and posted on the 19th of July after arriving back – Well, Diane and I are now waiting for debarkation from the ship. It's awfully early -- 7:30 in the morning, and we've been up since 6 so that we could have breakfast. I don't have much else to do, so I figured I'd get caught up with the blog posting.

I left off before the second musical show called "Spin". This time around, the show was themed around a wheel with different destinations on it. After each song, they spun the wheel to get a new destination and they'd do a song around that theme. There was quite a few places they did, most of which were in the United States. We arrived a bit late, but caught songs themed around Texas, New York, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and a few others that I can't remember. It was pretty fun actually.

After the show, we headed off to dinner. By this point we'd started to get to know our dinner partners John and Dawnyelle. Our dinner conversation was pretty fun, and we had a pretty good time. There was escargo on the menu, which is something I've never tried. John mentioned that they were there, and then it became something we had to try. So the four of us split an order of escargo. It was sure buttery and garlicy ... and you really couldn't taste what the snail tasted like. It kind of had a texture similar to calimari, which I suppose makes sense. So, one thing off the list of things to try! For a main course, both Diane and I had some battered fish and shrimp. It was fairly tasty, although some of our other dinners were better.

After dinner, rather than going to see the "R-rated" hypnosis show, we decided to just head to bed. The next day would be our Ensenada excursion, so we didn't want to stay up too late for a show that maybe wasn't that exciting. I imagine if he standup guy was back, we might've stayed up for him.

We slept in a little more than we had when we hit Cabo, but that's partly because our excursion didn't leave until 10:45. This time, we went to have breakfast at Tiffany's (that's what the buffet restaurant is called) and then got off the ship well in advance of our tour. It was a nice day though, so we wandered around the little market, and sat in the shade for a little while before heading off on our tour.

The tour we had signed up for was a kayaking trip -- the first leg of which was a one hour bus ride to the site. The main tourist attraction in Ensenada is a natural blowhole called El Bufadora. This formation is a place where air pressure builds up in a natural pocket and every few seconds the blowhole sprays water up high into the air. Our kayaking would bring us within a few metres away fromwhere the water exits.

The bus ride was fairly nice. Our tour guide was very excited and talked almost all the way there. She told us about the city of Ensenada, about the state we were in, and about Mexico. She gave us shopping and bargaining advice. She did a pretty good job, and her English was really quite good so it was pretty informative.

After getting off the bus, we got a quick lesson in kayaking from a friendly guy named Carlos. From there, we walked a little ways down to the beach where a bunch of two-man kayaks were sitting. One by one, the kayak tour guides pushed each boat into the water where we paddled out a little ways. The water was beautifully clear, so we could see quite a ways down. The biggest feature in the water was by far the large kelp forests -- our kayaking took us through several patches of the stuff. It's pretty crazy how large these plants must be. We couldn't see the bottom of the ocean anywhere, but the kelp grows on the bottom and extends their branches to the top of the water and they extend across the water for quite a ways. A pretty incredible sight.

On the way out to the blowhole we spotted several dolphins. It's pretty cool to see them swimming along not really all that far away. The trip to the blowhole was pretty short, but we sat in the water for awhile to watch it. I risked bringing my little camera along so I took it out and took several photos and videos of the blowhole in action. It was pretty neat to see it from our vantage point, and I'm pretty sure that's the best way to see it. The vantage point from land really wasn't nearly as good since you don't get to see the bottom of the spray.

After the tour guides took anyone who wanted to closer to the blowhole, we started paddling back to the beach. On the way back, Diane and I spotted a seal! It was awfully cute. On our way back, we'd see it several times coming up for air, but we never managed to get a photo of it. We got surprisingly close to it, actually -- and every time he came up we paddled a little closer. I wonder if it thought we were stalking it.

The tour guides helped us get up on the beach from our kayaks and we walked back to the bus to wash off the sand and dry off a bit. The bus tour guide was very excited to take us to the market leading towards the blowhole -- so even though it wasn't officially part of our tour, we got an extra hour to wander through the market. It was quite interesting ... the people there were quite eager to sell us stuff. At times they were quite pushy. In preparation for our kayaking, Diane and I forgot to pack some money with us, so we actually couldn't buy anything. It was kind of amusing being hassled into someone's store to look at their stained glass, but not having money to purchase anything. Of course, the guy there didn't know that ... but we did. Some of the stuff on sale was pretty odd. There were several drug stores down the stretch selling all kinds of spam-subject drugs like viagra and cialis. One guy went so far as to touch my arm and say something along the lines of "you could go all-night baby". I was a little creeped out to say the least. Makes a good story though.

We wandered through the market for a little ways, taking some free samples of churros, and homemade bread. It helped us last until we got back to the ship. We got back to the bus well before our 3:00 meetup time, and waited around for the rest of our tour people to come back from the market. There was a group of four that were late, and we came very close to leaving them behind but thankfully they got back just in time. The bus ride back was kind of relaxing and I had a very quick nap.

Arriving back at the ship, we cleaned up and then wandered around the ship for a bit. There was supposed to be ball room dance music playing in one of the lounges, but when we showed up there was nobody there. I guess nobody showed up, so they stopped (or never started?). So we hung around for a little bit. Diane had a nap, before we went off to dinner. Our last dinner with John and Dawnyelle was fun. We exchanged pictures and email addresses. Maybe they'll come visit us in Ireland some day. I had veal parmigiani for dinner, and Diane had the salmon. Both were pretty tasty. We chatted for awhile after dinner and then wandered back to our room where we stayed for a little while before the 10:30 show that evening. The neat thing about the last show was they had been doing auditions at karaoke for some well known artists like Garth Brooks, Brittany Spears, Madonna, Elton John, Elvis, Ricky Martin, etc. The best ones were picked and they put on a show where these people got to get up on stage dressed up like the artists they were impersonating. It was actually pretty fun. The guy who did Garth Brooks sounded almost exactly like him which was pretty awesome. The rest of them ranged in quality a bit, and some definately looked a bit nervous which is totally understandable. It was a neat idea that worked pretty well I think.

After the show was over, Diane and I went off to collapse. In order to get up in time for breakfast, we had to get up pretty early so we set an early wakeup call at 6am. It came too fast, but both of us woke up pretty quickly. We showered, packed ourselves up, and moved out of our room in pretty short order and made it to breakfast a little before 7:00. Breakfast was rather nice -- we went for the dining room where we got full service. It didn't take too long for us to get our croissants, eggs benedict, fruit juice, and coffee. It was pretty tasty, but by the time we were finished and sat around for a bit, it was only 7:45.

So now we're sitting in one of the lounges waiting for our debarkation number to be called. They've gone through numbers 1-9 so far, and we're number 16. Once we get called we can head off the ship and head to the airport where we'll wait until 3:20 to leave San Diego. It's gonna be a bit of a long day methinks. Still, it's a bit hard to believe our honeymoon is almost over. In some ways it'd be nice to stick around a bit longer, but it'll be nice to be back home too.


Honeymoon Cruise: Days 3-4

-- note: this post was written while aboard the cruise ship on the 15th of July and posted on the 19th of July after arriving back -- To continue where I left off, Diane and I headed off to the captain's reception to go enjoy some pre-dinner cocktails and appetizers. They introduced the senior officers to us, and we got to hear more about what was coming up in the next day or two. Shortly after the reception, we wandered over to the dining hall to have our "Cruise Elegant" dinner. We had lobster and shrimp, which was quite tasty ... both Diane and I particularly enjoyed the shrimp -- they were quite large and juicy! For dessert, I had a chocolate melting cake which was wonderfully chocolatey. The loud woman was there again, but she wasn't as bad as she had been the night before at dinner which was a welcome relief.

After Dinner there was a show in the main show room called Rythm, so we wandered over that way and found ourselves a seat to watch the musical. It was okay, but I was a little weirded out by some of the costumes the dancers were wearing. There was some questionable choices I believe ... some of them were just very strange!

Anyways, after that, there was a midnight "R-rated" standup comedy show by the same guy who did the standup show in the welcome show on the first night. It was quite a good show actually. He did a pretty decent job, and we laughed at a fair number of his jokes. He did get a heckler though from the audience which was rather interesting. The heckler really didn't have much content, but she certainly had a lot to say. The guy handled her about as well as you might expect, and eventually she shut up. The last joke of the night was pretty funny again, so he once again did a good job of ending his show on a high note.

We headed off to bed right away after the show since we had to get up early the next morning to get off the ship in Cabo San Lucas. Before going to bed though, we filled out the continental breakfast room service form so that we could get something to eat before heading off the ship. The room service on the ship is complimentary, which is pretty sweet. So we figured this would give us a backup plan just in case we slept in.

The next morning we got our wakeup call and stumbled out of bed and had breakfast. Bagels and creamcheese, some fruit, coffee, and some smoked salmon. A nice filling breakfast before our busy day in Cabo San Lucas. We finished off breakfast and went down to get off the ship. There is no concrete dock in Cabo, so we anchored in the bay and were brought to shore by tender boats. The first thing we had to find was somebody under the "Canyon Canopy" sign for our excursion.

Our excursion was a canyon zip-line, rock climbing and rappelling trip. The first stage of which was to get in a van and drive for about an hour out to the site. Our driver, Alex, was a bit of a wild driver. He sped down the highway a bit faster than I would've liked and tail gated a lot more than I would've liked, but we made it there safely in the hot desert.

After a quick safety and introductory session, we started the trek. It was quite a lot of fun! There were several rope ziplines, a rock climbing wall, a "commando bridge" which turned out to be a rope across a canyon that you had to walk on holding onto a second rope, and a rappel. It was a lot of fun, and pretty wild.

It took probably 2 and half hours or so to go through the canyon, and we were pretty tired after the whole thing. They fed us PB&J sanwhiches, fresh fruit, and chips and salsa -- and most importantly ice cold water. The only bad thing about the trip was they wouldn't let me take my camera on it. They claimed safety concerns, which were probably fair to some extent, but I would've loved to have it with me. As a "replacement", one of the people with them brought his camera along and took pictures of people as they navigated the course. The problem was, he wasn't very good at getting good photos, and didn't take any photos of the scenery (which was really what I was interested in). Plus, to makes matter worse, they charged $12 a photo, or $79 for a CD full of ... 8 photos. Sound ridiculous to you? Yeah, to me too. I'm convinced that if the photographer took more pictures of the surrounding area, and sold a CD full of all the photos you liked for $30, just about everyone would buy one. I would, and I'm a cheap Canadian.

But that's my rant. We were driven back to Cabo San Lucas where we went straight to the ship via a tender. After cleaning up, and taking a quick nap, we went off to see the hypnosis show. Diane and I arrived a bit late, so we found a seat a little on the side, but we caught most of the show. It was mildly amusing, but I guess hypnotism doesn't appeal to me quite as much as it does to some.

Afterwards it was dinner time so we went and enjoyed quite a few helpings of appetizers before the main course. Only one of the other couples at our table showed up. I figure the other ones got a little hammered in Cabo :).

Rather than attempt to attend any other shows that night after dinner, Diane and I retired to bed much earlier and went to bed early after our big excursion. We slept right in to ten and from then relaxed for a little while longer before going up for another sit down lunch in the dining room. There wasn't a lot on the schedule today that we felt we wanted to do, so after waffling a bit, we went up to the deck to read and relax in the sun. After a couple hours, I had got a bit pink from the sun, and decided to come in for a bit. I hit up the pokerpro automated poker table for a little while. I didn't make out very well, but I got a chance to give it a try anyways, so that was cool. I went back to join Diane and we wandered up for the end of high tea.

Again, today's schedule hasn't really appealed to us that much so we just kind of hung out for a bit and eventually ended up back at our cabin, so that's where we are right now. There's another musical show at 7:00 before dinner so we'll probably do that. At the moment we're watching finding forrester on the cabin television. I love that movie.


Day 1 in Vegas

I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to get something put up here about our first day here. Yesterday was a hectic day, which surprised me a litte. I kind of expected it to be a bit more relaxed. After I left that last arrival post, we headed out to get some food at a pretty late hour. We only found one restaurant tha was open called Sau Paulo, and since we were tired and hungry we decided to stop looking for any other options. The food was not too bad, but not incredible. It was cheap though. After dinner we retired to our respective rooms to collapse around 2:00am.

The next morning we got up around 8:00 to have some breakfast at the same restaurant as the previous night. We had walked by the buffet, but ruled that it was too expensive for just breakfast. Funnily enough, several of the people ordered orange juice when they were prompted by the waitress, only to later find out that the orange juice was a hefty $5 a glass!

After breakfast we returned to our rooms to setup a full test of all the software and pieces we needed to run the man-machine match. This was our big testing day, so we needed to make sure everything worked as expected. The testing took us all day. It took way longer than it maybe should've to set up the two sides of the duplicate match. We then had Duane and I play through a duplicate match and we got slaughtered by our own bot. Hmm.

After the test was over we went through a list of all the things that needed doing. The list was long, but we're lucky in that we have a lot of people to assign tasks too. We could never do all the things we're trying to do last year when we had 5 less people. During the test match, Mike B had spent some time setting up the stoxpoker booth and testing our client with the TVs to make sure that it displayed properly. The team then moved down to the expo floor to run a quick 30-hand test match on the expo floor. It seemed to work okay, although that too took longer than I thought it might.

After finally getting everything wrapped up, we went to dinner at Rub BBQ which was a pretty awesome place to eat. There was a great deal of food. I probably shouldn't have eaten quite as much as I did, but it was incredibly tasty. Mmm, pulled pork and beef brisket.

Dinner took a little while, but after we were done we returned to our rooms to work out some of the last remaining details we needed to for the next day. Our room was up until around 2:00am and I think the other room had a similar sleep schedule.

So we're up fairly early this morning to tidy our room a bit since our room will be the site of the hotel room side of the duplicate match. Then we go down to setup the hardware for the match so we can be ready to go at 11:00 am when the expo opens!

Wish us luck! Match 1 of 4 live matches begins today! Polaris is already tied 1-1 with humans so far.


Dublin Interview


Diane and I left Edmonton Tuesday night for a quick trip to Dublin, Ireland where I visited Pocket Kings for an interview. If successful, we'll most likely move over there later in the year. Here's how the trip went. Our flight left Edmonton at 7:45 on Tuesday night. Our friend JR was kind enough to take us to the airport, so we arrived with more than the pre-requisite two hours to get through airport security. Having not eaten anything yet, we sat down at the Montana's in the waiting area and had a lazy dinner while keeping an eye on the hockey playoffs. It took almost an hour for the food to be cooked, I'm not too sure why they were so behind, but we had two hours to kill before hopping on the plane, so we didn't mind.

The schedule involved a roughly 8-hour flight to Heathrow airport in London, followed by a 2-hour layover there and a 1-hour flight to Dublin, Ireland. Surprisingly, the flight over wasn't too bad. Diane and I got the middle three seats of the Boeing 767-300. So we raised the armrests and had a chance to have each of us sprawled across two seats to sleep for a little while. I think I got about two hours of sleep on the flight, which wasn't too bad considering I don't tend to sleep well on planes. Diane did a little better than I did I think. As part of the entertainment, we saw the movie Enchanted which was kinda fun. It's not a terribly indepth movie or anything (being Disney), but it was cute.


We landed in Heathrow in around 1:30pm local time, and followed the appropriate paths out to terminal one where we had to catch our next flight. Heathrow differs from other airports I've been at in that they don't announce what gate you will be leaving at until a certain set period of time before your flight departs. So you wait in the large common waiting area for the magic board of numbers to show you what gate you go to, and then you run off to that gate because your flight is probably boarding already.

The flight from London to Dublin was pretty boring. In fact, it was the hardest part of the trip out there for me. We were trying to stay awake so that we could hit the time change running, and that proved awfully difficult on the less than one-hour flight over. But we arrived safe and sound in Dublin, a little dazed from the long travel, but not in too bad shape. We got into the hotel and made a couple phone calls to Darse and Mike who we planned to meet up with to see a little of Dublin and stay awake long enough to make sure we were going to bed at night.


So about an hour after settling into our hotel, Darse and Alexandra arrived at the hotel to show us around the hotel vicinity a bit and then we hopped aboard the Luas green light rail train headed to downtown to meet up with Mike. We took it all the way to the end of the line to St Stephen's Green station which lets you out next to St Stephen's Green (a relatively large public park with well-maintained flower beds and grass), and Grafton Street (a busy all-pedestrian shopping and pub area in central Dublin). Darse took us to a place he and Xan really like called Bewley's. They were heartily recommending the salads there so I ordered a goat cheese spinach salad that was very tasty and very filling. It had large bacon bits on it (bacon in dublin is a bit meatier and less fatty than north american bacon. It resembles back-bacon a lot more). In fact everyone at the table had a salad and they seemed to be enjoyed by all. I also got the opportunity to try out a Guinness competitor called Murphy's. I rather enjoyed.


By the time dinner was over, it was getting late since we sat and chatted for quite awhile. Before heading back to the hotel though, we tried to pull out some euros from a bank machine. Unfortunately, both Diane and I had trouble pulling money out - Diane even made the machine go out of service! Oops.

So failing that we hopped back on the green Luas and headed back to the hotel more than ready for bed. I tried to get a good night's sleep, but probably didn't get any more than 5-6 hours. I was to have a big day the next day, after all and I just couldn't get my mind settled down enough to sleep. Even after I got to sleep I still woke up at something like 3 in the morning - probably due to the jet lag as well as my nervous excitement about the interviewing the next day. Diane fared a lot better than I did and managed to sleep most of the night.


The next morning we ventured down to the hotel lobby to feast on the included continental breakfast. It was a decent spread, although it wouldn't change at all while we were there. There was some very tasty croissants, a decent selection of breads to toast, a large fruit tray, a cheese platter, some cold cut selections, as well as cereal, yoghurt, juice and even some fruit smoothies.

After relaxing a bit at breakfast, we ventured from the hotel to the pocketkings office. Diane was meeting Xan there to spend some time exploring Dublin while I got grilled and roasted in interviews all day. I'll let Diane tell you about her time exploring.


Okay, so it wasn't really a grilling session. Actually it was quite pleasant. Darse gave me a fast paced tour of the office -- which is spread over two floors in a building the Cherrywood science and technology park. The building is actually right across the street from Dell's Dublin office.

After getting a quick tour and a guest pass to give me access to the many, many security doors scattered throughout the office, I was sat down in a room to meet up with members of various teams within the company. The first person I met with was Aaron Davidson -- a former member of the UofA CPRG (although we never worked on the project at the same time). Aaron gave me a pretty good overview of what the structure of the company was. For those interested, there is a *lot* of breadth across the computer field at the company. Everything from low-level server programming, to hardware, to QA, to internal tool building, to website design maintenance and content, to ... well there's a lot there.

After Aaron, I met with a guy named Diarmuid who is one of the server guys. He drew me a very nice diagram of how the server powering full tilt actually works. It was a little overwhelming, but it was also pretty neat. It's a big event-driven architecture which impressively handles over 10,000 simultaneous users. It's pretty neat, but it also sounds like it'll have some pretty intense growing pains over the next few years. Working there seems like quite a challenge!


I had very short meeting with another member of the server team named Deoni (no idea how to spell that, so I apologize to him). The reason wasn't anything to do with us, but rather that it was lunch time. So we went up to the kitchen where pocketkings has a set of full gourmet chefs cooking up a storm for lunches. Through some sort of legal loophole they charge 0.10 euros for each lunch (just to avoid counting the meals as benefits). The lunch consists of your choice of any or all of 3 main courses, a choice of salads and sides and dessert. And it changes every day. Sounds like if I end up there I'm gonna have to watch how much I eat!

After lunch I spent some time with Darse chatting about bot detection techniques, and then I had meetings with Chuck and Brendan who are both leaders of various teams. The meeting with Chuck felt a lot more like an interview since he was asking me some of the typical interview questions. He was quick to explain what he was trying to do though -- he was trying to figure out how I would fit into the company, along with several other things like whether hiring me would be a good investment for the company since each employee requires a fair amount of training. I'm not too sure how well that conversation went, but it ended abruptly since I had to go talk to Brendan. That was a nice conversation -- we talked about several things including what direction the company is going and what challenges they are going to face over the next little while.


I was a bit overwhelmed at this point having met so many people and having had some fairly intense discussions, but Darse had two more people for me to meet: Henry and Shawm who are members of the Biz-Int (business intellgence) team. This team is the one that makes decisions about what games to run, what the policy of the site should be, the marketing, game fairness, and all that sort of thing. So that conversation was pretty interesting since both Henry and Shawm play poker and we got a chance to talk about things like the man-machine poker match and stuff that is near and dear to my heart lately.

After that meeting, I relaxed for a bit before we headed out to dinner with several of the Biz-Int team to a high-falutin (yup, I used your term, Darse) restaurant called Divas. I felt a bit underdressed since I hadn't dressed up for the interviews (if I had it would've been a bad move since the company isn't like that). The staff at the restaurant asked to take our coats when we entered, the food was fancy, expensive and small-portioned, and they didn't even serve beer! Still, it was a pleasant evening with lots of wine and we had more than enough food which admittedly was pretty tasty.


After dinner a bunch of us went down the block to an Irish pub to meet up with some of the server guys who were out having dinner to say goodbye to one of their members. So we sat down and I enjoyed my first pint of real Irish Guinness. It was pretty tasty, although to be honest I didn't really know how to tell the difference from home. I guess I hadn't had enough guinness in Edmonton to compare to it.

After dinner Diane and I caught a cab back to the hotel and fell into bed. It had been long day for both of us, although Diane got considerably more exercise than I did sitting around the office. I did decently for sleep that night although I was up and awake around 7am still wired and excited about the next day. I was considerably calmer than the previous night though since the first day of meetings went so well.

So we got up and grabbed our continental breakfast again and then I cabbed it into the office by myself this time. Diane had plans to meet up with Xan again to explore more of Dublin (I'm so glad that Xan did this for Diane so she didn't have to be all lonely for two of the three full days there!).

The second day at the office was much less demanding than the first one. It seemed that most of the meetings with new people were over, so I sat down with Darse for a good chunk of the morning talking about bot-detection. I think I've even contributed something to his efforts ... but we'll see how that goes.

Before lunch I met up with another member of the team who I can't remember the name of (sorry!). I enjoyed our conversation immensely, but I think part of the reason was just that I wasn't repeatedly exposed to his name ... and people who know me know how bad I am at absorbing names. In fact, I'm quite happy with how I managed with names while I was there! Anyways, we talked a bit about some of the not-directly-server-related topics that he was working on. He's building tools that can abstract important subsets of the gigantic event stream coming in into various views on those events that can be used to do useful things. Stuff like viewing "hands" is difficult on the event stream without a tool to help you do that.


We had another tasty lunch, and then I sat down with Aaron for a little while to take a look at some of the actual code in the server. It's a pretty intimidating system -- but it's nice that it actually has a fairly intuitive underlying design. It's just that the implementation definitely has it's quirks that make it a bit of a headache to deal with. So was pretty cool.

After that I kind of just sat around for the rest of the afternoon catching up a bit on some reading and hanging out around the server guys who were all working. We had dinner out planned with the server team, so I had to wait until after 6 before we left for dinner. It felt a bit weird not having people to meet then, but no one else had scheduled meetings with me and I didn't really know what else to do.

So after waiting for awhile we left for dinner. After the goodbye evening the night before though, only 4 of us ended up at the restaurant. Still, it was a good time with the conversation touching all kinds of different topics from poker to various work things to holidays and even some office gossip!

Dinner went fairly late, but Diarmuid was kind enough to give me a lift back to the hotel where I met back up with Diane and heard about her day. And then we got some sleep so we could enjoy our explore Dublin day!

After sleeping in a decent amount (and missing the continental breakfast), we got in touch with Darse who was kind enough to organize the other people we knew and we left to meet up at St Stephen's Green and wander around Dublin for awhile. After having a quick brunch (at 2:00pm) at the Croissenterie, and finally solving the bank machine giving us euros problem, we walked by several touristy things: Trinity College, Christ Church, Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, and another garden that I can't remember the name of that had a statue of Oscar Wilde. We also stopped in at a cafe in Mark's and Spencer (a department store), a couple of pubs (the Bull and Castle, and the Porterhouse), and eventually ended up going to dinner at Fives. (Lots of food and drink, if you hadn't noticed!).


Aaron wanted to go play some poker that night and I was curious to check out a european card room so Diane kindly let me go play for awhile. She hung out with Xan, and Aaron's wife Christine at Cafe En Seine, which is a nightclub close by the casino. Meanwhile Darse, Aaron and I bought casino memberships and headed inside to play some 1/2 pot limit hold'em. We played for a couple of hours, and both Aaron and I had really good sessions. Aaron made over 200 euro and I made over 240 euro! More details from that session on my own blog.

The ladies came and grabbed us and we shared a cab back to the hotel, saying goodbye to Darse, Xan, Aaron and Christine since our flight left the next day. It was a fun day of exploring, eating, drinking, and gambling! So thanks to all of them for making that possible.


The trip home was an ordeal, but not due to anything more than boredom on the flight home. You know it's a long flight when you watch the first movie, have dinner, and try and sleep for awhile ... wake up after what seemed like several hours only to find that there's still four and a half hours left to go! But we made it back to snowy Edmonton in alright shape. JR and Shelly were kind enough to pick us up at the airport and drive us back into town despite some terrible driving conditions. We counted TWELVE cars in the ditch on the way back in ... and there were still idiots speeding by despite the terrible road conditions.

So that was our trip. I think it went really well, but we'll have to see what happens here. It sounds to me like if an offer is coming, it'll be here within the next week. Wish me luck!



Diane in Vancouver Feb 8-12 2008

I had a chance to go out to Vancouver to visit my sister a few weeks ago. We rode around the city on the bus and took in the sights… and food that Van had to offer. The weather was fine, with not too many rainy periods and even a few hours of blue sky! Carrie has gotten lucky with a really nice little townhouse with good landlords and roommates who call her to find out where she is if she isn’t home on time, which is really nice of them. I also got to meet Trio, who is a very pretty grey striped cat. We spent the mornings sleeping or reading and making porridge for breakfast – I discovered that the girls have quite a large collection of books that appeal to me between them, which they very kindly shared.

We did the most important things first – a walk on the beach and a trip to the cupcake store downtown by the harbour where they have the international fireworks competitions. Those little cupcakes are expensive, but very fun with all the different flavours they have. Carrie was also adamant that she wanted to take me to try some fancy hot chocolate at a place which is conveniently located right beside the cupcake shop. Care had some creamy milk chocolate, and I had dark “mexican” hot chocolate with some spicy cayenne or other pepper in it – very tasty!

Carrie took me to the site where she was a movie extra for a few days - she was ten feet from Keanu Reeves and some other girl. It was a pretty non-descript lot - I wonder how it was chosen.

On Friday night we all went down to Granville Island to watch some Theatresports. The improv was some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The actors were experienced and totally on fire, and we all appreciated a chance to laugh. My favorite skit was built around a squeaky spot that one of the actors had found in the floor of the stage. It reminded me how much fun I have at improv nights – I’ll have to try and make it out again soon! Afterward, we went to a tapas place by the entrance to Granville Island called The Cat’s Meow for their sweet potato fries. I had some crab cakes that were really good too.

The next day Care and I went back again for the market. I really love it there, even though it’s crowded beyond my liking. I like to see vendors selling directly to their customers, and there are so many fresh and exciting products to be had. Carrie and I munched on some turkey sausage and rosemary bread with herbed butter and strolled from shop to shop. We visited a dive shop, a stationary store, a store that sold natural dyeing supplies…

I felt I had to show Carrie a restaurant that Morgan and I had found in the summer called Memphis Blues. There’s a couple of them in Vancouver, but the only one I’ve been to is on East Broadway. The “Memphis Feast” only comes to about $30 or $35 and you get a year’s supply of meat with bbq sauce and cornbread. Morgan’s skillet cornbread is much better, I think, but I love the pulled pork. Two times I’ve been, and two times I’ve left with a considerably large doggie bag. Ah, meat.

Carrie’s roomy lent us her car, a cute little Honda called “Josh”, to do a grocery shop on Sunday morning, and I got some split green peas and sausage so we could boil up a mess o’ comfort food. You could stand a spoon up in it – a real big spoon!

Well, there was even more to do – we tried on potential bridesmaids’ dresses and found a style Carrie liked and played with hairstyles for me. It’s been a while since I had my hair in curlers. We made some tasty cookies and Care opened birthday presents from home. Carrie’s roommate drove us out to Deep Cove and we walked around on the dock and ate some sushi in a warm little place nearby. Mmm, west coast sushi!

Eventually, it was time for Carrie to get to rehearsal and me to head back to the airport. Unfortunately, I never made it to a runthrough of Wedding of the Year, but I did have plenty of time to admire the artwork displayed in the Van International. The stone carving is lovely, and the whalebone work is actually pretty imaginative. I couldn’t do it, that’s for sure.

Anyway, it’s business as usual for me again, but I have enjoyed my excursions to the coast the last little while. That makes 3 Vancouver trips for me in the last 12 months.