Monday, February 28, 2005

from the "closing time" dept.

Monday was another day of film, with a smattering of work.

This morning Brent and I went to see two Nicaraguan films... both were low-budget docs. The first was pretty good and focused on the problems of young mothers in the country. Pretty scarey reality and attitudes... 14-year-olds being "ready" to have a child. Or the excuse that a potion made them pregnant, not a man.

The second film dealt with prostitution. It was pretty gritty, and at times funny. But then it got lost with a bunch of stuff about AIDS.

The rest of the day was spent on work, and getting ready for the gala Film Fest closing in about an hour. Then there is a Mexican film and a Cuban film on the agenda.

Tomorrow I head to Caye Cauker.

More late tonight or tomorrow morning.


Sunday, February 27, 2005


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Brent and Roh in the Bliss, at the screening of Brent's film "The Hammock".


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The Bliss Centre. This is where the Belize International Film Festival is taking place. Tres nice.


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Eye spy...


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Mouth of Haulover Creek, looking west to the Carribean Sea.


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Al Coen has a boat? In Belize? Who knew! I hope that means a discount.


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So, was the meat smiling before it was packaged... or after?


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Belize City is one wired place.

from the "who has a rooster in the city?!" dept.

First, the films.

The Montserrat film on the Volcano that I went to see Saturday morning SUCKED. It wasn’t really a documentary at all; it was a boring scientific treatment of the event and the science of volcanology. Hosted by a boring professor, it went on and on… and was obviously aimed at students in Uni.

Brent was in a seminar about getting funding from a Central America film agency… so after about an hour of painful viewing, I bolted and headed to the seminar.

Katia & Ivan, cool folks I’ve met in my previous visits were there too. After the seminar, a bunch of us went for food and watermelon juice.

Then it was back to the Film Fest for a Palestinian film called The Olive Harvest. So far, the best of the bunch. It was a love triangle set in the occupied territories. A dandy! Nothing like a bride running through a muddy field of olive trees…

Katia & Ivan had driven in from Cayo, so we had to go find them a room. Most of the hotels were full, but we finally found a room. And then hung by the pool enjoying 2 for 1 beer.

In the evening we ran into the Grandmaster and went to see a film from Argentina called Out of Season. TERRIBLE. Looked great, but there was no plot. The tiny audience slowly shrank. Katia and Ivan bolted. Then Grandmaster. Brent and I held on to the end, but it wasn’t worth it.

We stopped in for some Chinese food on the way home… then called it an early night.

I was awoken early buy f***ing rooster. And bear in mind that we’re in the middle of the city!

It started before the sun came up and continued until long after daybreak. Brent tells me that Belize roosters don’t really have a good handle on when morning starts.

Today it’s back to the film festival… a slate of Belizean films… then a BBQ this afternoon… then perhaps another film tonight.

Today I will pack the camera, so you can actually see what Grandmaster, Ivan, Katia, etc look like.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

from the "Saturday morning in the City without Pity" dept.

So far, the Belize experience has been relaxing and film filled.

Friday night, Brent, Roh and I went to see an American/Dominican film called Pasaporte Rojo (Red Passport). It was the tale of an ex-con who wanted to settle some scores and debts from a counterfeiting job that had gone bad. I didn't like it much. I found the editing poor and the story wrapped up far too neatly at the end (maybe that was the American part).

We didn't get to King of Bollywood, as it was a long film and we were hungry. Instead we went to a Karoke bar called Putt Putt. Before it was a Karoke joint, it had been a minature golf course. The name stuck.

We were treated to much bad singing. Until one woman got up and belted it out. That motivated Roh, who got up and blew everyone away. She's a pro singer, however -- and declined to be part of the competition. There was a $50 prize for the best singer.

We came back to the house and crashed.

Saturday morning (now) started with breakfast including fresh bananas, oranges, and pineapples. Plus some amazing sweet bread.

And now its time to run off to the film festival. I'm going to a film about the volcano in Monseratt (sp). Brent is going to a seminar.

More to come...


Striking differences

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The difference between "rich" and "poor" in Belize can often be seen... just like that!


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Hanging on the balcony.

Brent comes home...

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Brent returns home to discover someone drank all the rum.

Friday, February 25, 2005

No arbutus trees here!

No arbutus trees here!
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Looking down Barrack Road, Belize City

All the ingredients!

All the ingredients!
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The first full day here, and it's all about doing little.

Brent and I got the wireless network going, so now I can get email anytime without interruption. This wasn't a priority, but seemed to be something to do. And it works, although Belize Telephone's ADSL isn't the speediest connection.

We strolled down to the store and met up with Grandmaster. Suppose I should have taken a snap.

The cold/allergy thing continues to hang on. Nothing terrible, just a running nose that never stops.

Upstairs at Brent and Roh's building, there is much construction going on. Which means little peace.

Brent calls it the "noisiest little city in the world". I agree.

Last night we checked out the Belize Film Fest. Caught a damn fine movie from Peru. It was called Con Job and was all about people scamming other people. It was a indictment of the Fujimori legacy of graft and corruption. But it was quite funny.

Tonight we are off to the festival again -- this time to see King of Bollywood.

The theatre is nice -- built by the Mexican gov't. Which gives you an idea of how poor Belize is when Mexico is giving you handouts.

It's sunny and hot, which is just fine. And certainly not as bad as Guatemala was 2 years ago.

Ah, the tropics!


from the "it's warm and loud" department

Point form as I am in a rush:

- Arrived about an hour late from Houston. Flight was fine.
- Zipped through BZ customs, with no curious stares.
- Took a cab to Channel 5 -- and then Steven the station driver gave me a life to Brent and Roh's swingin' new pad.
- Went to a cool Peruvian film at the BZ Film Fest last night
- Drank several rum and mangos on the balcony with Brent
- Slept hard

Today has been a slow one so far... but there are a few things on the agenda: more films. Bollywood, this time!

Weather is warm and humid, skies clear. Lots of construction noise. Nothing major.

XM radio picks up one of 2 satellites -- which bodes well for Caye Caulker.

And there you have it!


Thursday, February 24, 2005


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The Times, USA Today and now WIRED are covering the boom of podcasting... Yikes!

Driving to SeaTac

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Bottleworks, Seattle

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Mmmm. Beer!

El Charro

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Charro's eatery. No Charro. :(

Seattle Peerers

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You never know who is looking over your shoulder.

The Tourist Photo

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A little ray of sunshine, amongst the rays of sunshine.

Seattle, Wednesday

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The front page of the Times tells the story. Warm, warm, warm!

From the “cut and paste” dept.

The last 24-hours have been interesting.

It all began with working as the CTV health producer until about 6pm on Tuesday. The day went well, and I spent most of it writing. No surprise there. My co-workers seemed more excited than I about the trip. Feel like I am getting a cold, realize that it is the beginning of the spring allergy season. Good time to be leaving!

6:00pm – Zipped home, grabbed bags, met up with Randy, headed to Seattle.

7:00 – US Customs: No problems.

10:30 – Arrive and get settled at a low-cost (Travelodge) hotel near the Seattle airport.

10:35 – Run to local grocery store and pick up some local brews. Also food.

Wednesday Morning:

9:00am – Aaaah! A decent sleep in.

10:00 – Hello Seattle! We spend the day running around to places like REI, the Apple Store, Best Buy, etc. I was able to leave my luggage at the hotel. A good thing, as our car is a tiny Toyota Echo – and there is no trunk. Spend time playing with D70 cameras and the 10.5mm and 400mm lenses.

Noon – Aaaah, again! Pike Place Market! This is such a fun place to poke around… lots of fresh foods, fish, and neat little stores. The Left Wing book store a particular favourite.

2pm – Kell’s Irish Restaurant & Bar – it is really warm (20?) and the sun is beating down. Randy and I grab a table outside, order a couple of pints of Guinness, and relax in the sun. Nothing on the agenda, so it’s easy to take things slow. My flight out isn’t until midnight. Notice many large bottoms. Some Texans arrive and start smoking cigars. Smell great – ask if they are Cuban. Texans ask if I am with Homeland Security. Laugh. They are Cubans, the Texans has brought them back from Whistler – where they said the conditions sucked because of rain and warm weather.

6pm – Head to SeaTac Airport area for dinner. Find a great Mexican place for a NAFTA meal (Canadians eating Mexican in America). Realize how great America is when you strip away the politics. In fact, not one person we met was even remotely annoying. And, America does something way better than Canada does: customer service. Always helpful & pleasant.

8pm – Change into more southern clothing – ie. Ditch the fleece vest.

9pm – SeaTac. Randy drops me off. We promise to get out ANJ podcast up and running this week.

9:05pm – Check in electronically and easily.

10pm – Easy pass through security.

10:01pm – Waiting. Discover wireless internet in the boarding area. But it won’t accept Canadian addresses, and that means my credit card info wouldn’t match. And that means no internet. However, at US$10, it’s expensive and I would have a max of an hour online. Go buy a copy of Wired which has an indepth article about Podcasting (!).

Midnight – Boarding time. My routing takes me though Houston. Score an aisle seat – in the emergency row! Pop some anti-histamine to deal with the allergy symptoms. Hope that it will knock me out.


12:30am – Another bonus: free seat between mine and the guy sitting in the window seat. Pull out iPod, book, prepare to read. Fall asleep.

1am – Annoying and tall man behind me starts shaking his seat – he wants me to move my seat up. Now, if he’d been pleasant about this, I would have moved my seat up 100%. Because he was an asshole, and woke me up, I moved it up an inch at most. Fall back asleep.

3am – Turbulence wakes me up. Move seat back. Snicker. Fall asleep.

6am – Wake up again, we’re on approach to Houston. Really bumpy as there are tons of thunderstorms.

6:30am – Land. Bolt off the plane.

6:35am – Make long journey to next boarding area. Walk for what seems like miles. Need the energy boost. Find a Staryucks, get a big one.

6:45 – Pass statue of 1st George Bush, whom the airport is named after. People posing to take pictures with him. Feel like vomiting.

6:55 – Disappointed to discover no wireless internet in my boarding area. This sucks as I have another 5 hours to kill. Decide to hunt for some overpriced and greasy breakfast, an AC outlet to run the computer and save the battery,

7:30 – Watching CNN out of the corner of my eye. They run a story by Ted Chernecki from BCTV in Vancouver. Odd. Sad story: Seattle man found digital camera in Thailand. Lots of images of the Tsunami approaching. Somehow tracks down kids of the people who owned camera. Heads to North Vancouver to give it back. The parents are missing. Sad.

10:39 – Finally found hotspot! Near gate E11, from the president’s club!

Uploading… Cheers!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

from the "I'm in heaven" dept.

5pm. Currently at the Apple store in Seattle.
Hot day. Had beer.
Off to Airport soon.
More from there and pictures?
Flight leaves at midnight.
All good.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


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This is another test

from the "boarding will commence now" dept

Another trip begins in about 12 hours.

Belize. The fourth time.

I've been looking forward to this for a long time. It's going to be good to get away and recharge.

The Tuesday plan: work until 6, then drive to Seattle. Overnight. Fly to Belize at midnight Wednesday... I arrive Thursday.

A long journey ahead. But most of the running around is now done.

More to come...


Sunday, February 13, 2005

My Home In March

My Home In March
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Ahhh... 10 days to go....

It's hard to see, but the little red dot in the upper right of the picture is Caye Caulker. The other red dot is the City without Pity: Belize City.

Oh, and check this out:


from the "it's alive!!!!" dept.

I missed the call, but the voice mail contained today's gift. It was my missing-in-action accountant. He left a message saying that he had been out of town dealing with his terminal father... and was back and able to give me my tax stuff.


This is beneficial in several respects. It keeps RevCan at bay, and it means that I should be expecting a nice tax refund. Which means some money for food whilst toodling around Albania in May.

It also means that I can get 2003 done... maybe this week... and get that monkey off my back.

And that leaves 2004. Which should be a cakewalk as I am somewhat prepared. And, as it stands, I have no work from April 7 through May 5.

Yep. It always works out!


Thursday, February 10, 2005

from the "good bye my old friend" dept.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of my 1987 Mercury Tracer.

I acquired the little car from my pal Chris Holmes, who decided it was time for a new car. This was back in December of 2002. The cost? $500.

The Tracer ran quite well for a year, the only expenses being gas, tranny fluid, oil, insurance and parking.

In B.C. there is a nasty thing called aircare -- a test to make sure old cars don't spew too much. It's a yearly thing -- and in 2004, the Tracer failed.

It wasn't the end of the road. I was able to keep it going after getting a conditional pass (even though it failed, I could still drive it for up to 3 months).

During that time I put about $400 worth of work into it, plus a can of Guaranteed to Pass. It passed!

But problems soon cropped up. Rad issues. New tires needed. Carb problems.

But it still ran, with little investment.

In December, it the carb went on the fritz. I parked it and rented cars as necessary.

When I finally was able to to take it in for a estimate (to the tune of $100), it was apparent that Tracer, with its 390,000km on the odometer, had come to an end of its useful life.

There is a program in BC where you can take an old car such as mine in to have it scrapped and receive one of a number of incentives ($ towards a new car, bike, carpool, etc). I elected 12 months of transit passes -- worth 12 x $65 or so.

All that needed to be done was to drive the car under its own power to the scrap yard in Surrey. Which I did with the help of Lorne last night. Incidentally, Lorne bought a new car recently, and I bought his 1990 Park Ave or whatever for $400.

We dropped it off, and this morning I went out and had the paperwork finished. The plates were removed and I drove off before the crane came by to lift it away.

It was a great and mostly dependably car. If there's an automotive heaven, you know they've got a hell of a... sub-compact. And a years worth of bus passes are a good thing!

Cheers, little Tracer!

from the "and now the fear sets in" dept.

Well, it's done (the booking of the travel). And the fear is here.

It comes back anytime I make a big purchase or plan a trip. Can I afford it? Will there be work? And so on.

You'd think that after freelancing for nearly 4 years -- and still being somewhat solvent, if broke -- that I would have learned to push the fear away and just concentrate on the positive.

For some reason, this time, it's hard.

The good thing is that I should be able to make quite a killing from writing stories whilst on these adventures. However, that money will arrive long after the trip is taken. And the funds are needed before the trip. Ugh.

Anyway -- it's generic, this worry I have. And, as usual, it will work out. I hope. Yikes!


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

from the "how am I going to pay for this?" dept.

Well, it's official. I am going to Europe:

Luckily it is a free flight... I booked using my Aeroplan points. The Itinerary then:

Depart Vancouver Thur May 5 @ 12:55pm
Arrive London HR Friday May 6 @ 6:25am
Depart London HR Friday May 6 @ 9:30am
Arrive Vienna Friday May 6 @ 12:45pm


Depart Vienna Sun May 23 @ 5:05pm
Arrive Copenhagen Sun May 23 @ 6:45pm
Depart Copenhagen Friday May 27 @ 12:05pm
Arrive London – Heathrow Fri May 27 @ 1:05pm
Depart London Saturday May 28 @ 8:40am
Arrive Vancouver Saturday May 28 @ 10:35am

It's a bit of a haul, and it's all economy class. And I've had to add a couple of extra days in Vienna -- one upon arriving, so I can get some sleep before the border expedition begins... and then another before I fly to Copenhagen.

I estimate I can write 5-8 stories from this trip, so there will be some money to be made, but unfortunately it's *after* I return.

Albania, here I come!


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

from the "run for the border" dept.

From the NY Times 2/8/05:

The New York Times
February 8, 2005
Some Bush Foes Vote Yet Again, With Their Feet: Canada or Bust

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 4 - Christopher Key knows exactly what he would be giving up if he left Bellingham, Wash. "It's the sort of place Norman Rockwell would paint, where everyone watches out for everyone else and we have block parties every year," said Mr. Key, a 56-year-old Vietnam War veteran and former magazine editor who lists Francis Scott Key among his ancestors.

But leave it he intends to do, and as soon as he can. His house is on the market, and he is busily seeking work across the border in Canada. For him, the re-election of President Bush was the last straw.

"I love the United States," he said as he stood on the Vancouver waterfront, staring toward the Coast Mountains, which was lost in a gray shroud. "I fought for it in Vietnam. It's a wrenching decision to think about leaving. But America is turning into a country very different from the one I grew up believing in."

In the Niagara of liberal angst just after Mr. Bush's victory on Nov. 2, the Canadian government's immigration Web site reported an increase in inquiries from the United States to about 115,000 a day from 20,000. After three months, memories of the election have begun to recede. There has been an inauguration, even a State of the Union address.

Yet immigration lawyers say that Americans are not just making inquiries and that more are pursuing a move above the 49th parallel, fed up with a country they see drifting persistently to the right and abandoning the principles of tolerance, compassion and peaceful idealism they felt once defined the nation.

America is in no danger of emptying out. But even a small loss of residents, many of whom cite a deep sense of political despair, is a significant event in the life of a nation that thinks of itself as a place to escape to.

Firm numbers on potential émigrés are elusive.

"The number of U.S. citizens who are actually submitting Canadian immigration papers and making concrete plans is about three or four times higher than normal," said Linda Mark, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver.

Other immigration lawyers in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax said they had noticed a similar uptick, though most put the rise at closer to threefold.

"We're still not talking about a huge movement of people," said David Cohen, an immigration lawyer in Montreal. "In 2003, the last year where full statistics are available, there were something like 6,000 U.S. citizens who received permanent resident status in Canada. So even if we do go up threefold this year, we're only talking about 18,000 people."

Still, that is more than double the population of Gettysburg, Pa. "For every one who reacts to the Bush victory by moving to a new country, how many others are there still in America, feeling similarly disaffected but not quite willing to take such a drastic step?" Mr. Cohen asked.

It will be six months, at least, before the Canadian government has any hard numbers on how many people are really making the move.

Melanie Redman, 30, assistant director of the Epilepsy Foundation in Seattle, said she had put her Volvo up for sale and hoped to be living in Toronto by the summer. Ms. Redman and her Canadian boyfriend, a Web site designer for Canadian nonprofit companies, had been planning to move to New York, but after Nov. 2, they decided on Canada instead.

"I'm doing it," she said. "I don't want to participate in what this administration is doing here and around the world. Under Bush, the U.S. seems to be leading the pack as the world spirals down."

Ms. Redman intends to apply for a conjugal visa, which can be easier to get than the skilled worker visa required of most Americans. To do so, she must prove that she and her boyfriend have had a relationship for at least a year, so she has collected supporting paperwork, like love letters, to present to the Canadian government.

"I'm originally from a poor, lead-mining town in Missouri and I know a lot of the people there don't understand why I'm doing this," she said. "Even my family is pretty disappointed. And the fact is, it makes me pretty sad, too. But I just can't bear to pay taxes in the United States right now."

Compared with the other potential émigrés interviewed, Ms. Redman was far along in planning.

Mike Aves, 40, a financial planner in Palm Beach, Fla., where he has been active in the Young Democrats, said he was finding it almost impossible from that distance to land a job in Canada. "I've told my wife, I'd be willing to take a step down, socioeconomically, to move from white-collar work to a blue-collar job, if it would get us to Canada," he said.

Many of those interviewed said the idea of moving to Canada had been simmering in the backs of their minds for years, partly as a reaction to what they saw as a rightward drift in the country and partly as a desire to live in a place they see as more tolerant, pacific and, yes, liberal.

But for all, the re-election of Mr. Bush was decisive in their decision to take concrete steps.

"Not everybody is prepared to live their political values, but these are people who are," said Jason Mogus, an Internet entrepreneur in Vancouver whose Web company offers marketing services for progressive companies and nonprofit groups, and whose Web site at is often the first stop for Americans eager to learn about moving north.

"Immigration to Canada is not like packing your family in a car and moving across the state line," Mr. Mogus said. "It's a long process. It can take 18 months or even longer sometimes. And if you hire a lawyer to help you, it can cost thousands of dollars."

So Mr. Mogus said the response to the Web site, from all over the United States, had amazed him. Some are drawn by Canada's more tolerant attitude toward same-sex unions, he said, and there are a surprising number of middle-aged professionals.

"My wife and I have talked for a long time about perhaps retiring to a condo in downtown Vancouver," said Frederick Newmeyer, 61, a professor of linguistics at the University of Washington in Seattle. "But the election was the tipping point."

Since it may take all of the two years he has until retirement to get a permanent resident visa, Mr. Newmeyer said he and his wife had hired a lawyer and begun the paperwork.

Canadian officials decide on potential immigrants by awarding points for certain skills or attributes. Being 21 to 49 years old is worth 10 points, for instance. A bachelor's degree is worth 20, a master's 25, with up to 21 points for certain work experience and 24 points for being fluent in English and French. At the moment, 67 points are required to qualify for the visa.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, workers in certain jobs can also qualify for residency permits if they land a job in Canada.

Mr. Key has made several recent trips to scout for jobs in the Vancouver area. He thinks most Canadian employers would prefer to hire a Canadian.

Chris Mares, a recreation therapist in Albuquerque, said that he hoped to move to Canada in about a year, when he qualified for his pension, but that he could not do it without first landing a job.

"I put a bunch of applications in and filled out a bunch of forms and now I'm waiting to hear back," said Mr. Mares, 54. "But it's not easy. It's not like they open the door wide and say, 'Hey Americans, come on in.' "

Jerry Gorde may be taking the longest view.

"I'm on a 100-month plan," said Mr. Gorde, who runs Vatex, a company in Richmond, Va., that creates promotional campaigns for corporate clients.

A former civil rights marcher and antiwar protester, Mr. Gorde said he built his company in Virginia because the state was not one of America's liberal enclaves, hoping to spread progressive ideas in the heart of conservatism. He was once named the state's entrepreneur of the year.

"I think George Bush's re-election, in itself, is nothing compared to what happens, over the next 10 to 15 years, if he gets to make three or four appointments to the Supreme Court," Mr. Gorde said. "I foresee a much darker period in front of us."

Beginning now, Mr. Gorde plans to gradually shift his life from Richmond to one of the islands near Vancouver - buying a home, spending a little more time there each year, gradually extracting himself from his company in Virginia until, 100 months from now, his life will be Canadian.

"When I set my mind to something, I'm the most organized and driven person in the world," he said. "I have made this decision and I'm going to do it."

He knows that some who share his political views wonder why he does not stay in the United States and battle it out.

"I'm 53 years old, and I don't know if I have the energy to go out in the streets and organize again," Mr. Gorde said. "Or maybe it's just a matter of becoming a little bit spoiled at this point in my life."



Monday, February 07, 2005

from the "relief is on the horizon" dept.

The busyness of life continues.

Lots of back to back shifts, a lack of sleep, and an extra-long to do list are the order of the day.

In point form:

- Old car dead. Off to dump soon. Bought new one (Lorne's old one) for $400. It will be insured this week. Crisis solved.

- Booking Europe soon. Three days off beginning tomorrow to deal with that. Aeroplan, I hope.

- Have to write article for Playback mag this week.

- Podcasting moves forward. Last week's test recordings went well.

- Finances are the same as they ever were.

- Missing accountant still missing. Plan B going into effect tomorrow (re-issue request for tax forms)

- GST done... only 7 days late!

- Days to Belize departure, thank God!

- Angling for some work whist in Belize

- Days getting longer, hoping to have the time to start cycling again -- Daddy needs it!

And that's basically it...