Friday, February 29, 2008

Baden Cerveja Gourmet

On the plane the other day I saw a movie (4 actually) in which one (then two, then three) of the characters accidentally ingested powerful illegal drugs. I'm beginning to suspect that Baden Cerveja Gourmet (Baden's Gourmet Beer) may contain a mild hallucinogenic very similar to what the characters in the movie experienced.

The secret? It's a combination of factors, but the primary contributors are (1) a very large bottle, (2) a taste like liquid candy, and (4), uhm (3) a 9.2% specific gravity. From what I gather of the Portuguese on the bottle's label, this beer is brewed with only the basic ingredients (water, barley, hops) but I'm convinced there's something more. Way more!

I drink beer from Belgium regularly. I know how to pace myself when it's a "really strong" beer. But this stuff is ... well it's got to be illegal in most jurisdictions. If not it should be.

South America is a home of recreational chemical experiences. I never suspected it extended to their beer!

Case in point... I came back from an amazing dinner experience with two of my cow-orkers. On my way back to the room, I ordered two 'small' bottles of Baden Red Ale. One bottle was fully open, the other had the cap on the neck, loosely ajar. I drank from one bottle, and again, and again. I dropped a bottle cap from my hand. I bent down, picked up the loose cap and placed it into the waste bin. I drank again. I looked at the bottle I had been chugging from from and it was FULL. I was so impressed! How big are these bottles??? Then I looked at the bottle in my other hand and noticed it was half empty. How the hell did the brewery half fill a bottle? And why is the bottle I'm drinking from seemingly infinite? I don't know!

How do these coincidences happen? Really, how? I don't understand. But I think the 9.2 value mentioned earlier may have a bit to do with it.

This stuff is a hard drug. If it isn't illegal it should be! I'm a professional two-fisted beer drinker; Canadian born and raised. If I can't handle this, I'm sorry to report, that you absolutely can NOT either!

Welcome to South America! The beers are bigger, the women's butts are smaller, and none of that explains the way I feel right now. Am I having too much fun, or is there something 'funny' in this beer?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How far is far?

What's far? I remember Grover from Sesame Street showing the difference between "near" and "far". There was a lot of running and panting involved, and it really seemed he was going very far to explain the difference. But truly, I've now travelled much farther. And yet I still feel "here".

There's an old saying to the effect," No matter how far you go, there you are." I know what that means so well it's depressing.

If I walk 6 miles, that's far. If I bike 80 miles, that's far. If I step aboard a plane and fly 4000 miles, that's far. And yet however far "far" is, I'm still right there. I continue to exist in a type of contiguous line through time, and while distance is interesting, it's rarely (ever) important to the journey.

Any time that I've grown from an experience, it was an inner, personal experience. I could have been crushed by my ex-wife as easily in Moscow as happened in Toronto. I could have found myself broke and homeless in San Francisco or Vancouver as readily as happened in Reykjavik. I could have discovered my love of our underwater planet in Thailand or the Caribbean instead of Malta.

So where ever you are, just be. Just enjoy and experience. There is no magic over the horizon. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. Need proof? Well no matter how far you go, Blogger can still eat your posts. And no matter how close you are, there's nothing you can do about it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just Twelve Hours

Who knew? Just 12 hours away from Amsterdam is Sao Paulo Brazil. Twelve hours locked into an aluminium tube, hurttling through inner-space, tens of thousands of feet above the ground. But hey, it works!

I haven't had time for anything so far. I landed in sunlight but it was dark by the time I got to the hotel. Dinner and sleep were all that was on the schedule.

Today will be a busy one. And so I'm off to get ready for that so I have lots of time to do the lots of work. Later this week I hope to post stories and pictures, now that I've got the hotel Internet service fixed.

Monday, February 25, 2008


When life gets out of alignment sometimes the little details fall aside. And so in turn, a simple little thing, like polishing your shoes before the big meeting, can be therapy.

Blogging about it is just weird though.

Not slowly, but smoothly?

When it just won't stop racing forward, the least you can hope for is that it goes smoothly. And plans for Brazil are indeed going smoothly. I parked my butt in the waiting room for the Brazilian Consulate this morning, as soon as they opened. One hour later, my Visa was ready!

I'm home now, and I'm finding packing very smooth given that I didn't really unpack. And this time my most cherished scuba gear is going with me as I'll have three days in country to plan some sort of weekend excursion.

This smoothness has been stolen from elsewhere. I finally got out with friends this weekend, but it felt rushed. My "love life" is in chaos. A plate spinning atop a stick. Certain to eventually go somewhere and uncertain to avoid the floor.

And speaking of plates and floors, I have a lack of plates and need to clean the floor before my house warming party. After weeks of postponing, trying to get my home just right (but not actually being home) I've simply decided to pick a date. So friends, you're welcome to drop by for a wine or beer on Saturday April 12th. (I originally posted the wrong date, but it's Twelve.) Now come the tasks of notifying everyone and finishing my home preparations. I want the dining room table to be covered in food and drinks; not a testament to my personal disorganization.

Okay, so it's not all smooth. And nothing is moving slowly. But it is all still moving! Not optional really. But good enough for now.

Check back soon for pics of my first trip south of the equator.

Friday, February 22, 2008

This Isn't Brazil!

As I travelled to the airport this morning I thought," Each journey of a thousand miles begins...

...with a train ride." Little did I know it would be more than one. Instead of being on the plane I'm on a train to Rotterdam, to get a visa to enter Brazil. Who knew?!? Apparently this trip will require ~8 train rides before the plane.

Visa by Monday. *fingers crossed* Flying Tuesday. *probably* I get to spend a weekend at home (first in a while) and I still get my full week trip to Sao Paulo. :-)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Here We Go Again!

Life has felt like a crazy roller coaster lately. And many things coincided to make yesterday that wild part of the ride right when you're spinning upside down through some kind of corkscrew, travelling a hundred and ten, and screaming with pure joy and enthusiasm. Ah life. And ah roller coasters.

Work has been non-stop pressure lately, with training and travel thrown in just to make it all difficult. But the training made getting the work done possible, and the travel made the training possible. So it is what it is. But yesterday I finally reached a culmination and the work was presented... to about a half dozen of my "bosses". It was a high pressure moment that I got through nicely and that was a great feeling!

After a nasty welcome home (sneezes and floods) my home has forgiven me. It's treating me very well. The plants also seem happy I'm back. But do they know I'm leaving again? That by this time tomorrow I'll be on a twelve-hour flight? Hopefully that won't be like the part of the roller coaster where you plummet steeply, picking up speed and hurtling towards a rapidly approaching ground. More like those parts of the ride where you get into the car and buckle in, and then step out of the train and walk away. Hmm, yes.

Thankfully I've had a few moments to steal away from evenings of work and spend with my friend(s). It's been great. Like that part of the ride where you just keep going up and up and up and you wonder if you perhaps couldn't keep climbing forever.

So life's a roller coaster. Mine is kind of a Sandusky Ohio coaster... one of those that tries to out-coaster all the others and usually comes with a name like "The Mind Cruncher". Something that implies your brains will be scrambled by the sheer power of the ride. Okay fine.

Right now feels like that moment at the end... the the ride jerks to a halt, and the only thing going through your brain is," Wow!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Home Bloody Home

A change! This was the first time in a long while I got home and wasn't excited by that. And it was also one of the first business trips I truly enjoyed in a long long while. But its all much more complicated than that.

Firstly, the trip. The training course was invaluable! After a year of fighting with software I didn't understand, and working with a computer that wasn't working properly, my course has solved both problems. (Hopefully!) In addition, I worked all week with some great people. Some I knew and had met, others I have emailed and phoned but not met in person. And still others whom I have never known are now coworkers I will see often and look forward to working with again.

Add in my friends the van Bekkums and it was a great week! Hiking, dinners, great friends and nice times. Super! The van Bekkums moved from Holland to Atlanta just before I moved to Holland from Canada. I met them in Atlanta nearly two years ago when I started diving with their local shop (Adventures in Diving, Duluth GA).

Even the flight was enjoyable. We arrived late, but my "elite" airline membership allowed my (non-member) coworker and I to walk right past the impossibly long line and up to the ticket counter. For the first time ever, I managed to get through a metal detector in the U.S. without setting it off. In no time flat we were early at the gate, and then I once again walked through the line and boarded with priority. I love my KLM Skyteam membership!!!

And on the plane I met a guy with a brand new problem. He couldn't stand window seats. Not the lack of space, but the window itself. As soon as we took off he moved to an empty middle seat in the centre row of the plane. So I had two seats (window and aisle) to myself. A little extra space makes a huge difference in how comfortable a flight is!

And I tried a new nicotine replacement. A lozenge, it kept me nearly free of cravings, and even slightly sedated but without other side effects. (Patches have made my heart race and gum can give me a headache.)

Alas, while an entirely successful business trip, coming home was less than perfect. The "acceptable" mess I left had grown in my absence. I've heard many people complain and attribute dirty local air, but it is amazing how much dust can settle over a week in an empty apartment.

But I would have been happy if the dust on the floor had simply stayed there. Instead, I added water and made mud.

Well, I didn't add the water. And it wasn't really mud. But an overflowing washing machine filled the hallway with water. Very very not good for a hardwood floor!

While in Atlanta, I had mentioned that I wasn't afraid of flooding since I live 15 metres high in an area "only" 3 meters below sea level. The washing machine wanted to show me otherwise. Thankfully the landlord isn't worried.

And very ironically I also explained to people that using the glass return bins was illegal on Sunday due to strict noise restrictions on that day. So the neighbour who decided to spend one hour with a hammer drill into a wall above (or below?) my bedroom was a complete $(@$ing @$$#()%#.

Having been up all night in the airplane, I planned a few hours for sleep. It didn't happen. And each time I tried to isolate the location responsible for the noise, it stopped, for prolonged periods. I was ready to call the police! Although I recognize that would have been over reacting, I really wanted to sleep.

So "come home, sleep, and rest" became "come home, get angry, absorb flood, and clean until passing out from exhaustion."

Today? I think I would like a little bit of balance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm Not Here Right Now

I've had a truly interesting mix of high and low technology lately. I'm attending a training course in Atlanta, Georgia at the moment. So my days have been spent infront of a computer learning the deep and scarey workings of really complicated software. But due to a forgotten laptop power supply, my evenings have been computer free.

Not exactly the same as being "unplugged". But pretty darn close.

Just incase the juxtiposition between my days and evenings doesn't sound like much, I even threw in a day of hiking! I went to Stone Mountain, just outside of Decatur, GA.
I can't recall the last time I walked through a forest; before Sunday. It was soul building. Good friends, beautiful weather, climbing large rocks and hiking along narrow forest paths. Geveldig!
Alas, last night I found a new power supply at Office Max. So tonight I'm working. (Well, at the moment I'm procrastinating.) I have a lot to prepare for my next big work project. Thankfully I've got two positives pushing me along. Firstly, this training course has made the software, which it is my job to help sell, much simpler to use and understand. The second motivating factor is that in a week from Friday I'll be getting on a plane to pressent this work... in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Yes, I think I travel too much. And yes I'm tired of the software. And yes I hate jetlag and twelve hour flights. But... Brazil! I just cannot complain about that!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hard Drive Heaven

I don't think I've ever had a computer problem take this long for me to fix before, but I'm excited to say there's a new HDD in my media PC. I'm also really ashamed to admit I bought the disk on Sunday, and have ruined every night this week trying to get it to work. Ultimately I've discovered that my motherboard just wasn't compatible.

The computer is still in little bits all over the floor. Running, but still shamefully showing it's wires with bits and bytes dangling out. It had a memory upgrade, new hard drive, and on the way soon into a case near me is a replacement DVD burner also. Oh, and a new case. It's shaped to look just like a stereo receiver. It will sit just under the stereo receiver. And I'll smile from ear to ear when people ask where the computer is.

Five days to install a drive. Embarrassing. But it's formatting, all 700 beautiful gigabytes of it and that's good enough for now.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lonely Planet February

I helped a friend go book shopping the other day. It was for a travel guide for Poland. Specifically a Lonely Planet travel guide, as these are known as the most complete and accurate for most destinations. Lonely Planet takes the unfamiliar traveller and shows them an area in a way they can enjoy and join in with. Making them, ironically, non-lonely travellers.

Maybe it's because I didn't buy a book. But this particular traveller is having a lonely February. You see, my friend's travel guide for Poland is with her in Poland right now. And before she heads back I'm leaving for Atlanta. I get back from Atlanta and head back out to Brazil, during which time my friend will be using her San Francisco travel guide. It'll be March before two of the planet's lonely travellers get to share much more time.

Thankfully February is also too full be be truly lonely. Two trips, North and South American for 8 days each. Tons of work, including receiving training, customer visits, software demonstrations and delivering training. And friends! In Atlanta I hope to see friends I haven't visited with in a year.

And perhaps best of all, for keeping my spirits up and stress down, I'm back into my exercise regime. Now that the bedroom has been moved, the old small bedroom has been converted to a fitness room. I have room to use the weights and equipment. And even my bicycle (my precious) is able to live upstairs with me, rather than in the cold basement storage. Each night in Atlanta I expect to be swimming laps in the hotel's indoor pool or sweating on the cardio equipment. And I won't be at all surprised if I loose another pound by the time I'm back.

So I can't really complain. It's all pretty good. But if I had to make a list of all the things on this lonely planet that I would most like to fill my time with... well, the number one spot would refer to a friend in Poland. The only thing I can do about that is wait. And maybe play with the weights.