Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to live forever.
At least that’s what I believed at age 12.
To me he was a superhero with larger-than-life friends. There was nothing that he could not do if he put his mind to it. He lived as if life were his personal plaything to do with as he pleased. He often treated life casually and often ignored signs of danger. I know…I argued with him often enough about the dangers of crispy pork rind well after he had been diagnosed with diabetes and was on home dialysis treatment. He did not give in then either. Dismissed my concerns with a wave of his hand, then changed the subject.
He had a sense of humour. Well, actually, he loved telling stories. He loved to laugh but he loved an audience even more. His grand kids will attest to that! At every gathering as far back as I can remember, he and his cronies held court around the bar telling new stories of conquest and re-telling the old ones that somehow never seemed to grow stale with the endless retelling. The group around them grew and changed over the years, but the basic format remained.
He was an optimist. Correct that: he was naïve and unrealistic. He did not believe that he couldn’t get what he wanted. Every time. In fact, when I look back he did get everything he ever wanted: kids, friends, grandkids…good times. And the timeless ability to pass on his wisdom in the stories. You just had to listen carefully.
He was tough and ornery. If you crossed him, he ‘wrote you off”. Never spoke to you again…gone from his consciousness. Usually lasted about a week. Month tops. Another party or get together and all was forgiven. He did not have many enemies.
He yelled at me and pushed me constantly. At 12 this sucked. Kept it bottled up for years. Only after having kids of my own did I come to terms with his behaviour: he was imperfect! Duh!
He was not perfect. Far from it. He often talked about ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ when it came to things that he could have accomplished in his life. “Hmmm…wonder where I get it from”? Over the years I have learned to overcome ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’. Thanks Dad.
He was supposed to live forever.
On September 23, 2008 forever arrived.
I was there until the end. He went peacefully and with what I swear was a smile on his face. Seemed to be saying to us even then, “I had a ton of fun…sorry it had to end so soon…keep the party going for me”
Monday, December 22, 2008
And with thanks to the original author, they are shared with you this week.
There are only eleven times in history where “@#$%” has been considered acceptable for use. They are as follows:
- "What the @#$% do you mean we are sinking?" -- Capt. E.J. Smith of RMS Titanic, 1912
- "What the @#$% was that?" -- Mayor Of Hiroshima, 1945
- "Where did all those @#$%ing Indians come from?" -- Custer, 1877
- "Any @#$%ing idiot could understand that." -- Einstein, 1938
- "It does so @#$%ing look like her!" -- Picasso, 1926
- "How the @#$% did you work that out?" -- Pythagoras, 126 BC
- "You want WHAT on the @#$%ing ceiling?" -- Michelangelo, 156
- "Where the @#$% are we?" -- Amelia Earhart, 1937
- "Scattered @#$%ing showers, my ass!" -- Noah, 4314 BC
- "Aw c'mon. Who the @#$% is going to find out?" -- Bill Clinton, 1998
and a drum roll please............!
11. "Geez, I didn't think they'd get this @%#*^ing mad." -- Stephen Harper, December 2008
Getting there was definitely more than half the fun.
We departed Toronto squeezed into economy seats aboard a 747 for the first 10-hour leg to Honolulu. We arrived around 10 pm and found ourselves ‘trapped’ in the in transit lounge for the 3-hour stop over before boarding our flight to Sydney. Challenging to say the least to keep 3 kids (14, 14, 10) amused for 3 hours late at night, jetlagged after one 10-hour flight about to board a second one.
The longest 10 hours of my life.
Back of the bus experience for the flight to Sydney. Seriously…we were 10 rows from the back of the plane, squeezed four-abreast in the center section. Was going to be a long night. Tetris saved the day…night.
We arrived in Sydney to a glorious summer morning. Even though we were traveling in late December, and we had left behind winter in Toronto, they were entering their ‘hot’ season. Glorious!
We made it through morning rush hour traffic jet lagged and all. Our destination: the Holiday Inn, Coogie Beach.
1 kilometre of powdery, white sand hugging a crescent-shaped shoreline. Bluffs at both ends guarding entry. Big whitecap waves crashing ashore. This was going to be excellent.
The running route I found was heaven itself. Two different routes along the shoreline. My favourite was found heading south.
Ran along the boardwalk past the seawater pool up the head of the southern bluff. Then down the dirt trail sharply. Ocean to the left, craggy rocks to the right. Trail meandered along and around wonderful rock outcroppings that revealed new vistas of the ocean around every turn. Up and down constantly. Squeezing past other runners out for their morning run.
Lots of other runners.
“I could live here”
My route took me about 3 kilometres out to a tiny sand beach where I turned around for the trek back to Coogie. Ocean on the right, rocks on the left. Scenery same but different.
Fantastic finish back on the flats of Coogie Beach.
After a shower and change of clothes, breakfast on the outdoor patio of a café on the beach.
Summer in Lotus Land.
Had planned on renting a Ferrari 308 for the day but an unfortunate incident the day before we were due to pick it up put it out of service. Still wanted an exotic drive up to Whistler however and were forced to choose between a convertible Porsche 911 or a Corvette.
Fortunately we chose the Corvette.
Did not however start well.
After removing the ‘easily removable’ glass roof panel (took some effort from two of us) and stowing in the area behind the seat, we realized there was very limited room for our luggage. Oh well, just going up for the day anyway.
Got in. Or make that crawled down into the extremely tight form-fitting seats. Huge drive tunnel and tight foot well dominated the interior. High cowl limited forward visibility.
Once settled in, engaged the clutch and twisted the key. Big V8 thundered to life and settled into a throaty idle. Slipped the lever of the 4-speed manual transmission into first, eased off the clutch and gingerly depressed the accelerator…and promptly stalled it.
Never impressive to stall the car in front of the wife and the rental car rep.
Got ‘er going on the second try however. Gave it gas…left a small patch of rubber.
Driving through downtown Vancouver in traffic on our way through Stanley Park to the highway up to Whistler was not my shining moment behind the wheel of this unruly beast. Uncomfortable with the heavy clutch. Clunky shifts did not help. Heavy steering. “Did this thing really have power steering?”
Lurched from traffic light to traffic light cursing the decision to rent this beast.
All was redeemed however once we escaped city traffic and found the open road from Horseshoe Bay up to Squamish. Once up to highway speed, steering lightened. Found out the true meaning of torque…left it in 4th most times and simply pressed the accelerator.
Along one long uphill stretch we found ourselves behind a couple of slower moving cars. There was a break between them and three more vehicles. Planned to pass the first two and tuck in behind the three before the road curved to the right.
Dropped down to 3rd. Squeezed gas pedal and pulled out.
“Where did those two cars go”?
Shifted into 4th still on the gas.
Past the second group of three.
Oops…corner coming up fast now.
Pulled back in touched the brakes to set up for the corner, back on the gas to blast around it.
Only took seconds.
Sunny day…ocean on the left…mountains on the right. Perfect!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Started with me getting on the wrong train at Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris for the hour or so trip to Tours. I checked and double checked the schedules and still got on the wrong train! I had a pre-paid ticket from Paris to Tours but got on the train that was non-stop to Bordeaux bypassing Tours entirely…
Of course I did not find that out until after we had left Paris. The conductor who checked my ticket was not amused.
Turned out to be a good guy though. And although he spoke little English and I spoke no French, we devised a plan to get me off the train.
In the town of Poitiers, about an hour south of Tours, I understood from him that the train would slow to a crawl to make it through the station. I had one chance to ‘disembark’: jump!
Don’t try this. But if you do, plan to land running!
My one piece of luggage and I managed to do this without incident and managed to purchase a ticket back to Tours.
Finally made it. 4 hours late. Great friend that he was, Tim met me at the station. The only way to thank him seemed obvious: go out drinking. But not until after he had whipped up a platter of his famous ‘Stove Top Nachos’. Didn’t want to drink on an empty stomach.
Hit three different establishments that night. From a seriously dark ‘club’ playing loud, angry punk to a dance club heavy on disco.
Stumbled back to his funky apartment in the center of the old section of Tours. Decided before we fell asleep to go for a run later that morning to ‘run it off’.
Alcohol clouds judgment.
Got up around 9 am. This was not going to be fun.
We pulled on our running gear. No talking. Head pounding. Legs: never felt them.
We plodded out through the narrow, cobblestone streets and headed toward the Loire River and the trail that led into the country.
The half hour out was hell. Once into the countryside, we found ourselves on a dusty, quintessentially French country road. They do not tie up their dogs…amazing how fast you can run with a hangover.
The return leg back actually was quite pleasant. By then of course we had exorcised the demon alcohol (a couple of quick stops in the bushes). We ran smoothly along the river, actually started to converse. Finally started to enjoy the scenery: the light really is softer in France.
And of course, had to sprint to the finish.
Observations: Never jump off a moving train, never run after a night of drinking. If you do both, don’t think.
Six of us started out with the short-hop flight from Toronto to Windsor. Less hassle than flying into Detroit’s Metro Airport. Picked up suitable vehicle transportation: a Pearl white Cadillac Sedan De Ville secure in the knowledge we were flying the flag of support. Didn’t realize though that Cadillac’s were reserved for only certain staff levels…made quite the impression at the gate to the compound! Security clearance was surprisingly easy…our chariot must have impressed the guards: they immediately directed us to the test track that was to be our home for the day.
Lost of cars on hand in the paddock of the test track. Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile. Ford and Chrysler. Toyota, Nissan and Honda. BMW and other select European manufacturers. Four hours to drive as many of them as we could over a special road course.
Heaven for a car guy. We were all car guys that day.
First the inevitable briefing in the marquee tent. Rules explained: Keep the cars on the paved surface at all times. One lap each time. Strict 50 mile per hour speed limit. Enforced by GM Police with radar half way along the course. Zero tolerance…one infraction and you parked it for the day. Seemed like a buzz kill at the briefing. Changed our opinion once behind the wheel of our first ride: no one had mentioned acceleration…torque from big engines is a wonderful thing! And as the day wore on we realized that the Radar cop was only interested in maintaining the 50 MPH limit at the halfway point of the track…we learned the brake and acceleration points before and after his zone.
Overall impressions: loved the BMW 5 series on hand for the day. Best balanced of all the 40+ cars assembled. Pontiac Grand Prix an excellent second choice and for the difference in $’s, the clear winner. Honda’s and Toyotas drove well but lacked the special ‘something’ to get the heart racing. We had the Corvette for that.
Rear tires were worn to slicks by the end of the day.
The Corvette. L package. Stick shift. Heavy clutch. Limited forward visibility…forget about the rear. Serious cowl shake upon start up. And with the drive shaft running inches from your right side, you could feel this monster itching to be let out to play. Tons of low-rev torque.
Eased it out of the paddock area to the start of the circuit.
Engaged 1st gear and rolled gently onto the gas. Floored it around 20 MPH and held on…“Whoa…this thing is fast”.
Shifted into 2nd at around 3,500 revs and hit 75 MPH. Lifted and braked hard before the speed trap…engine compression and brakes down to 50 MPH. Pushed forward into the seatbelt harness.
Once safely past, sunk the right foot to the floor and shifted into 3rd. Quick glance to check speed: over 90 MPH!
Did not make it to 4th.
Very hard braking and downshift to 2nd to scrub speed before the entrance to the paddock.
To end a near perfect day, we chose a restaurant in a not-so-good part of downtown Detroit to debrief over steaks, scotch and cigars. Long dinner.
We slept the sleep of the contented on the plane back to Toronto.
With thanks to friends at a large advertising agency in Toronto, the following buzzwords were gathered mostly from their large automotive client who used them liberally. Always get a chuckle when I think of the context in which these would have been uttered. If you've heard any new buzzwords, please leave your comments for all to share.
- Between the goal posts
- Bubbling up
- One could say
- This is two-pronged approach
- Rules of engagement
- Under the radar
- 40,000 foot view
- Bringing ideas forward
- At the end of the day
- Diagonal slice
- If you will
- Cross functional
- Bundle up
- Integrated cross functional
- Thin edge of the wedge
- Deep dive
- Right out of the chute
Thursday, December 11, 2008
2005 was a very good year. Lots of angst in the boardrooms and meeting rooms about growing sales and market share. Didn’t seem that the good times would never end. And they didn’t…not in 2005. Picked up a great deal of mangled sayings that year. Here are the first of them:
- Gut check / Gut instinct
- You are peeing on me and telling me its raining…nice try!
- Flushed out
- Sell them like popcorn
- The secret is in the pudding
- As soon as its announced that the new blonde is coming to school, the old blonde is dead
- We are in the soup and don’t know what’s coming down next
- Don’t know when we are going to be hit with the turnip
- Go back and stroke it
- One foot on the casket
- Curiosity teaser
- Picking the fly S out of the pepper
- I don’t want to mow your lawn
- Prime the pump
- Common sense ain’t that common
- It is but it isn’t
- The proof is in the numbers
- Don’t equip it, strip it
- Exactly right
- Way, way, way
- Too much vanilla ice cream makes you sick
- Let’s be seagulls
- Put it on the hood
- Scooped out of the chute
- Trying to chase too many rabbits and not catching any
- Let’s not let a few details ruin a good story
- The pig in the snake
- Jump through a brick wall
- Cheeks in the seats
- The challenge is to decide what the challenge is
- The objective is the goal
- We have to find a way to achieve the objective
- If you go and ask and the answer is no, then you have to make a decision
- Coming down the pipe
Our long-in-the tooth Nissan X Trail is still in the family continuing to provide extremely solid and reliable duty. It shares the garage with a Saab 9-5. I swear the X Trail goes to sleep each night with a smug grin on its face.
Simply put, the X Trail just goes about its business without complaint. It drives very smoothly (for a non-car). Has decent acceleration for a 4 banger. And actually handles the twisties fairly well. Black with tan interior. Going on 115,000 kilometres.
It sits up high with a good view down the road. Has great all-round visibility. Above average fuel economy.
Versatility not an issue. The rectangular shape combined with flat fold-down rear seats produces very usable interior volume. It comes in handy for transporting materials from Home Depot (too many occasions to remember), furniture from Ikea (we have more Pax units than student housing), plants and gardening supplies. We have moved houses and apartments. We have set up booths at trade fares. We have even moved into and out of a retail store.
And we have not necessarily been kind to it. We remember to change the oil every 6 months or so. We finally replaced the cracked windshield after a year. We wash it every so often. Clean the carpets…actually we have never done that. But we do shake out the rubber floor mats every so often.
It does eat rear brakes though. We found Sheridan, a fantastic repair shop in Oakville that does great service at reasonable prices. Basically, it drives well, handles everything thrown at it and doesn’t complain with the minimal servicing.
With the addition of winter tires, we have plowed through three winters north of Toronto, where it snows every day from December to April. Changeover cost $60 and completed in 45 minutes.
A tad more high-strung unfortunately. Gun Metal gray with gray leather interior. Now slightly over 85,000 kilometres.
2.3 LitreTurbo engine goes like a bat out of hell. Especially in ‘sport’ mode. Fold down rear seats that lie flat allow versatility not expected in a premium sport sedan. Lovely heated leather seats take the pain out of the cold winter mornings.
Needs TLC on the servicing however. Even though the service intervals are around 24k.
Kept clean to within an inch of its life. Sally, my wife openly laughs at that. Dash painfully clean; carpets spotless; seats ‘fed’ each month to keep supple.
Moved houses and kids apartments a couple of times. Handles skiis and snowboards easily.
Long highway drives to Ottawa and Montreal a real pleasure. The 9-5 gobbles up the highway with ease while drinking Sunoco Premiun at a relatively thrifty rate. Unless in ‘Sport’ mode.
To sum it up: needs lots of love, complains a bit, takes a while to warm up. But rewards with a great driving experience.
And the winner is…X Trail!
Actually the Saab was ahead down the stretch. Winter tire changeover did it in: $180, 2 1/2 hours.
X trail grin keeps getting wider.
I entered my first marathon after experiencing a few years of success running in numerous 10k’s and half marathons. By then I had become a serious runner and had achieved my personal best in a 10 k. Was in great shape.
Did not show enough respect for the distance however.
Toronto Marathon. October. I had been training hard. Long runs to build up endurance combined with speed work on the local high school. Unfortunately I never actually ran the full distance during training. Felt confident that I could do it during the race. This would come back to haunt.
Began well enough. Right pace. Breathing well. Comfortable.
Light rain began shortly after the start as we headed east from Nathan Phillips Square. It stayed until near the end and kept the temperature cool.
Kept up the pace after the slight downhill to Lakeshore where we headed west toward Parkside Drive. In a great pack of runners all chatting and moving well. Wet but not cold.
North on Parkside for the climb to St. Clair. Uphill all the way combined with short, intense inclines. Slowed a bit, but still at a comfortable pace. Attacked on the inclines to keep motivated. Speed work came in handy.
At the right onto St. Clair, facing the long, straight route into East York, realized a couple of things: first, ‘this was a dam long race!’; second, ‘what was that pain in my left knee?’. The folly of never having completed the full race distance in training reared its head.
Increasing pain in the knee as we crossed Yonge Street. Still confident though when I realized that I had hit the halfway point in under 2 hours. Ahead of schedule even with the slowing pace. Finishing in less than 4 hours still seemed possible. Foolish thought.
The transition from confidence to despair happened quickly.
Through leafy Leaside still heading east and closing in on the 30 km mark, the rain combined with the cool temperatures and the increasing pain in left knee to knock me out of the race.
Pace slowed to a walk. Eventually stopped to try and ‘stretch it out’. Didn’t help.
Runners and even walkers passing constantly.
Finally made it to a medical tent. Shivering cold. Wet. In pain. Mentally devastated. In inconsolable despair. Defeated. 13 km from the end of the run.
Waited along with the other unfortunates for the ‘clean up’ bus. The vehicle following the last runners picking up those not able to finish.
Took over an hour and a half to make it back to the finish line. Longest 90-minute ride of my life.
The bus dropped us off about 50 yards from the finish line. Time clock still counting. Well past 5 hours. Not many people around. Found my bag, changed quickly and went home.
Didn’t talk about it for quite some time. Loosing to myself not something I wanted to share.
Stop running competitively for quite some time after that.
Friday, December 5, 2008
My mistake was that I was actually going to do this in a competition with my client.
He was a serious runner. In top, ‘ripped’ shape. He worked out with weights! He had his Walkman (this was of course well before Ipods).
I assembled for the anticipated start alongside him at the 4 minute / kilometer marker. Seriously naïve optimist. And to make matters worse, I had set my Timex watch to beep at 4-minute intervals. I was sure that after 10 beeps I would be crossing the finish line.
Horn sounded. We were off.
Good pace for the first 3 kilometers. Adrenalin. Lots of people around. Lots of early race excitement. Beeps every 4 minutes more or less coinciding with the kilometer markings.
This was going to be easy. Why hadn’t I done this before?
Looking back, it was easy to see where the plan started to go awry. At the time I was clueless.
Around the first water station, I slowed to grab a cup. Gulped it down and tried to get back up to pace. Breathing a little ragged for a hundred metres or so. Noticed a few runners passing me. Strange.
The next 4 minute signal went off. Hmmm…where’s the kilometer marker? Nowhere in sight. Better pick up the pace. Oops.…legs not responding.
Sweating now. Breathing more shallow and ragged. Slowing down…running in slow motion as more and more runners began to pass me.
5 km mark. Dam. I was never going to finish this stupid race!
Don’t remember kilometer 6 to 8. Do remember the infernal beep from the Timex. Had no idea where I was and at what pace I was running. Knew that my original target time had gone out the window. Prayed that I wouldn’t cross the finish line last. Desperate to do it now in under an hour. (Yes, even in that distressed state, my mind could still do the math).
At 9 kilometres showing 54 minutes on my wrist, I realized I had a chance.
Learned there and then that the mind is the most powerful thing.
Picked up the pace. Ignored the pain in my legs and my chest. Pushed. Made it with 30 seconds to spare.
Never went looking for my client.
This is about the 3-door sports coupe with the badge of honour: “Handling by Lotus”. Yes, somehow, Isuzu’s management had convinced Lotus to massage the suspension and other handling bits to produce a well-balanced pocket rocket. Best kept secret in the industry.
The experience that still brings back goose bumps occurred at the long gone racetrack east of Vancouver. The client-sponsored exclusive event for the new Dealer network was set up to showcase the performance of the vehicles. Classroom sessions combined with track time.
The highlight of this particular event involved being driven around the track by real racing drivers. They took us out individually and demonstrated the full performance envelope of each vehicle. The pinnacle point of the day was the ride at near race speeds in the Lotus-massaged Isuzu Imark.
Three laps. Warm up, hot lap and cool down. Not sure if that was for the passenger or the car.
My turn. Race helmet on. 3-point seatbelt tightly cinched. Really tight. Final instructions: brace feet firmly in foot well; hold on. Only took until the first corner of the warm up lap for those instructions to kick in.
Out of the pit lane, accelerating up to the first corner and sharply across the apex down the hill and we were off.
The warm up lap went quickly. Too quickly. The driver handled the car at 12 –10ths of my ability. And this was the warm-up lap!
Remember coming back up the pit straight past the start/finish line and my driver mentioning casually that we were now going to accelerate up to speed. First corner coming up quickly now. Gentle falling away right-hander. Brake. Brake! BRAKE!! Car tossed sharply across the apex, right wheels riding the curb. Don’t remember if he touched the brakes.
Accelerating hard again down hill toward corner two. Sharp right-hander. Driver side wheels now riding the curb setting up for the corner. Still accelerating. Driver actually talking calmly explaining what he was doing. Don’t remember what he said. Screaming in my mind for him to use the brakes. Instead, shifted down through two gears. With a quick stab at the brakes in between. To ‘neutralize’ the balance he said. To get my heart racing I wanted to yell back!
Quick right turn of the steering wheel and we were drifting sideways. Right wheels aggressively over the curbs now. Me holding on with both hands. Both feet braced. Bum off the seat. Screaming for delight in my head.
Don’t remember much after that. Learned that you can sweat sitting still.
Cooldown lap a serious anti-climax.
What a rush!
- I can see your point, but I still think you’re full of S.
- I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
- How about never? Is never good for you?
- I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public
- I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
- I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter
- I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.
- I don’t work here. I’m a consultant
- It sounds like English, but I can’t understand a damn word you’re saying.
- Ahhh…I see the screw-up fairy has visited you again.
- I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
- You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
- I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a damn.
- I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
- I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
- Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
- The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.
- Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
- What am I? Flypaper for freaks?
- I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.
- It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
- Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
- And your crybaby whiny-assed opinion would be?
- Do I look like a people person?
- This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting
- I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left.
- Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
- If I throw a stick, will you leave?
- Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
- Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
- I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.
- A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
- Can I trade this job for what’s behind door #1?
- Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
- Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
- Chaos, panic, and disorder – my work here is done.
- How do I set a laser printer to stun?
- I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted a salary.
- Oh I get it…like humour…but different.
Monday, December 1, 2008
· Circle back
· the ‘Hope and Pray’ Strategy
· Sit Anal (Situation Analysis)
· Presentation without demonstration is just conversation
· Food for thought
· Partner with the Partners
· When the puppy drops
· Take the haircut
· Brie and Chablis
· I am going to take your idea and put it in my parking lot
· Guessing intuitively
· Lets do some numbers
· Let’s capture that