Monday, December 31, 2007

from the "1-2-3-4" dept.

Great parody of the Apple iPod spot... courtesy MAD TV:

And here's the Feisty original:

And, of course, the actual song and video:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

from the "it's almost over" dept.

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

- Bill Vaughan (h/t JG)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

from the "tell me more" dept.

Christmas dinner at Dave and Catherine Gage's was grand. The full meal with much wine.

Their house in West Van is a treat too. Right on the water, although you have to brave a driveway they aptly named "leap of faith."

As luck would have it, it snowed, rendering my vehicle useless in any attempts at climbing leap of faith.

We cracked another bottle of wine and I stayed the night.

Boxing Day started with a stunning view of Horseshoe Bay. Dave cooked up an unholy amount of bacon to go with a feed of eggs. A pot or two of coffee later, it was time to be on my way.

I'll be back though. To house sit! Bwah ha ha!

The rest of the day was filled with running around. I gave up on attempting to shop for new shoes. Instead I spent time with Sammy the Cat at Don and Linda's.

Then I headed home to do some preps for my online work. And then an aborted attempt to visit some friends in Burnaby. I found the general area of the get together but was unable to raise anyone on the phone.

I headed back to Deep Cove and planned to get to bed early. I'm writing Alberta news for the remainder of the week. I get to work from home but I have to start at 6. Meaning I have to get up at 5 so my brain is functioning by 6.

And it was. Actually I got up at 4 in order to be ready to go for 6. And I was able to watch the sun rise on a snow covered Deep Cove.

The work day went quickly and ended before I knew it. I decided to reward myself with a trip to a deep discount shoe seller on Granville St. I walked into the empty store and walked out with $250 worth of shoes (actually a pair of shoes and a pair of sandals) for about $70 including tax.

I may go back for more.

You're now up to date!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

from the "baby Jesus" dept.

Christmas. Wasn't it just?

Now I'm feeling the culture shock.

I worked Christmas Eve day at the CBC. It was the first time back working in a Canadian newsroom in a long time.

And how was it? OK. And surprisingly familiar.

The odd thing is that I'll be writing more news for the Corp. this week and next, but from home. Unless I drag my ass into the plant. I may.

Christmas eve was very quiet. Aided by a couple of tins of Kilkenny, I chilled at Randy's place in Deep Cove. Nice.

It is midday on Christmas Day as I write this. So far:

I spent the morning at Ted Shredd's place, feasting on waffles.

I spend some quality time with Sammy the cat at Don and Linda's.

And I'll soon be heading back over to the North Shore for Christmas dinner at Catherine and Dave Gage's.

A full day. Although part of me wishes I was back in Africaland. *sniff*


Friday, December 21, 2007

from the "Kasting out Peanuts" dept.

This could be the perfect mixture of classic Christmas pop culture with that funky modern (though almost classic) beat.

(h/t: Wendy S.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

from the "I've been here before" dept.

So... yesterday I headed to the CBC for my first day of work since returning to Canada nearly two weeks ago.

I've been asked to write local news and, because there have been many changes over the past year, I needed a refresher.

Holy crap! Changes? It's all new!

Needless to say the day was a big challenge, so much so that I'm going back in tomorrow for more training. Which means I miss the CTV sales party. Crap.

But I'm flying solo on Monday and methinks I need to know how to pilot the broadcast news airship more than I need to guzzle free egg nog.

Today is the CTV engineering party. I'm all over that.

Full report to come.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

from the "wha happened?" dept.

As unbelievable as it seems, I've been home for a week.

Over the past seven days, I've been struggling to write something that sums up the experience of returning to Vancouver after nearly a year in West Africa.

Trouble is, new and noteworthy events occur daily, causing me to delay putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Additionally, I'm writing an opinion piece for about reverse culture shock -- which, I find, hasn't really happened yet. That does not bode well for the bank account.

Rather than delay what is sure to be a lengthy treatise about my return to Canada, I thought that, for now, I'd take the easy way out. Here then, is a series of top ten lists.


1. Regaining my anonymity.
2. Coffee, coffee, coffee.
3. Sushi, sushi, sushi.
4. Obscenely hot and powerful showers.
5. Potable, flowing and soft tap water that encourages soap to lather.
6. My friends.
7. The sweet, delicious cold.
8. Customer service.
9. Good beer on tap. And the availability of decent whisk(e)y.
10. Driving my own car.


1. The rain.
2. The cold.
3. Rude people and that me-first attitude.
4. Traffic.
5. Regaining my anonymity. I'm not special anymore!
6. The prices.
7. Rejoining the workforce.
8. Bills.
9. Everything is so normal.
10. Feeling like I never left.


1. The people.
2. Globug.
3. Gato (who eventually became known as simply "Cat").
4. Cheap everything.
5. Big bottles of beer.
6. Red-red.
7. The sun.
8. The outrageously warm sea.
9. Travelling around the country.
10. Pints with Leffler.


1. My inconsiderate (and light fingered) roommate.
2. The heat and humidity.
3. The occasional water supply.
4. The almost complete lack of customer service.
5. The blackouts (though these really dropped off this fall).
6. Being the centre of everyone's attention.
7. Ants.
8. Malaria.
9. The lack of pedestrian rights.
10. The molasses-like internet.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from the "familiar territory" dept.

So... how am I faring now that I'm back in Vancouver (or, rather, Deep Cove)?

It's certainly been a head-spinning experience. The first battle: adjusting the body clock.

After last night, I think I'm finally normalized.

A full report is coming. But I have some errands to run.

Watch this space!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

from the "newsbreak" dept.

I had a hoot at the blooper party Friday night and finally, after being up for nearly 48 hours straight, I slept. Until 6 a.m. Dammit! However, I managed to roll over and eke out another few hours.

It was great to see so many friends and colleagues at the blooper party last night. I'm so happy to be home. Yet, in many ways, it felt as though I had never left.

The reaction to the long hair was mixed, though edged towards the positive. Methinks I'll keep it for a bit. And everyone was shocked that I came directly from the airport to the bash (stopping only for sushi dinner at Osaka in Deep Cove and a long, hot shower - not at Osaka).

Saturday morning started with a stroll to Honey's in Deep Cove for a double Americano and TWO Baden Powell muffins.

Up next: shopping. I need pants, t-shirts, a jacket, a working mobile phone, toiletries and a hard copy of the Globe and Mail.

Tonight: Dinner at the Arms Reach bistro, also in Deep Cove. And some quality scotch. I imagine it'll be a much earlier night.

The weather is certainly a change. It's cold ( 0 degrees) but the sun is bright. I can't express how nice the old air and hot showers are. Heaven.

Right. Best head out to the shoppes. It's that crazy Christmas shopping season -- and I'm ready for my first blast of reverse culture shock.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

from the "in transit" dept,

I'm in Frankfurt.
I'm bored.
I have 4 hours of boredom to kill.
I have a 10.5 hour flight ahead of me.
I just finished a 8.5 hour flight.

Africa is far away, t'ait it?

But, I am happy to be away from all the negative crapola at the house. Dorkus Roommatus is telling more lies. Good riddance!

More from Vancouver. And I'm going to name names.


from the "on the road again" dept.

Greetings from Accra.

Gloria and I arrived in the big city around dinner time last night. We headed for Dot's hotel... and then had dinner at Tante Marie (sp). Tasty! Even got a few moments of visiting in with Kat.

Today (Thursday) has been typical Accra. Croissants and espresso at Koala. Internet at SharpNet. And lunch at an as yet to be determined joint in Osu.

I'm checking in at the airport late this afternoon. Departure time is around 8pm. Then the really long haul begins. 8.5 hours to Frankfurt. 5 hours in Frankfurt. 10.5 hours to Vancouver.

I'm gonna be baked. But I look forward to it. And the blooper party.

That's it for now. I'll post if I get access in Frankfurt.

Otherwise, the next time will be from Vancouver.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

from the "coundown" dept.

I suppose the countdown to my Canadian return began last January when I landed in Ghana.

I didn't give it much though until about a month ago when the countdown suddenly became much more real and important. I am leaving my African life and returning to my Canadian life.

I'll trade the hot for the cold. The smiles for the frowns. The goat soup for the graffiti.

I don't mean to sound down. I'm not. I'm really looking forward to being back in Canada. But, despite all the bad things that have happened (evil roommate, thefts) I am really going to miss this place. Likely more than I realize at this point.

With that in mind, I've already convinced the fine folks at CBC online to purchase a short piece on the culture shock I'm sure to experience when I land back in Vancouver. I'm nothing if not a good marketer of my experiences.

The last few weeks of my Ghanaian experience have been far busier than I'd anticipated.

I feel like I've been on a whirlwind goodbye tour of the country. While it could have been more extensive, it still was a big journey: Takoradi to Tema by bus. Tema back to Takoradi on the USS Fort McHenry. A bus from Takoradi to Kumasi. Then another bus to Tamale. Then back to Kumasi and then Takoradi. The last stop: a one night in Accra before the winged beast lifts my weary bones westward to Vancouverland, with a five hour layover in Frankfurt.

Tuesday night I had a final dinner with Christian and Eben, two reporters from SKYY. I haven't seen much of the SKYY people since I finished working there, and this was a chance to let me buy them dinner for all their help over the past eleven months. Plus, I wanted to give Christian my video camera. If I make any kind of a difference here, hopefully it comes from equipping a journalist with the tools to do his job.

They told me about some of the stuff going on at the station. Security cameras everywhere. Mass firings including the news director. A shift from reporting real news to reporting stories that generate revenue. In other words P.R. It's a shame, because SKYY is filled with some exceptional journalists -- and they feel let down and are wondering what to do next.

But a job, even one with long hours and small pay, is a job. And when SKYY is the only real TV game in town, it's not like you can cross the street to the competition. The only options are to leave the business all together (which many do), move to a competing radio station (and earn even less money), or move to Accra in the hopes of landing a job there.

It's tough to be a journalist in Ghana.


The farewell tour started about two weeks ago when I left Takoradi for Tema, a port city located about 35 km east of Accra.

Former-CTV colleague and JHR Kumasi trainer Brennan Leffler and I had arranged to join a US Naval vessel and spend two days chugging up the coast.

The USS Fort McHenry is on a seven-month mission called the African Partnership Station initiative.

The initiative includes officials from African and European nations and NGOs. The deployment in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa's west coast is, according to officials, designed to help central and West African nations build up their maritime security.

Leffler and I are working on a story about the ship's mission. There's a lot of outside interest in Africa and we're wondering if the Americans are beefing up their presence here because of China's increased interest in the continent.


It's dark when I finally arrive at the Tema bus station, which is really nothing more than a parking lot. For a moment I think that this can't be the end of the line -- but the bus driver confirms it.

It's just after 7 p.m. and very, very quiet. There isn't a taxi to be seen. How odd. Normally when you step off a bus, the traders and cabbies pounce. In Tema, not so much.

I walk to the road and flag down a taxi. I tell him that I'm going to Gussy's Hotel and he replies that he knows where it is. But after driving around for several minutes -- and being asked if I think he should turn this way or that -- I begin to suspect he hasn't a clue where to go.

I ask him if he has a clue. He doesn't.

In these sorts of situations I've learned to always carry the telephone number of the hotel. That way, I can call them and pass the phone to the taxi driver so he can get directions.

It worked like a charm and after a long drive through the hinterlands of Greater Tema, we arrive at a hotel conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. It's the keystone in a new development. And the only building for miles.

Meanwhile Leffler is still in the middle of his long journey from Kumasi. He eventually arrives at Gussy's sometime after midnight.

Brennan was supposed to travel with a reporter from LUV-FM in Kumasi. However the reporter decided to take an overnight tro-tro to Tema. Brennan advised against this, telling him that timelines were critical. The reporter wouldn't listen.

The Navy had instructed us to be at the port for a 7 a.m. departure. Brennan worried the reporter wouldn't make it.

After too few hours sleep, Leffler and I were meeting Mike Morley, the Navy's PR guy, at the Port of Tema gate.

We'd been told to meet at the west gate, which was a bit troublesome, as there didn't appear to be one.

Brennan called his LUV colleague and, as he had predicted, the reporter was mired in Accra's traffic. The Navy wasn't about to wait.

Mike, Brennan and I shrugged our shoulders and walked to where the USS McHenry was berthed. Rows of shipping containers lined the pier to create a security barrier. Ironically, all the containers were emblazoned with "CHINA SHIPPING."

Everyone is interested in Africa and its abundance of natural resources. Americans. The Chinese. The Europeans. The Canadians.

The plan was to sail from Tema back to Takoradi. Mike explained that we'd maintain a distance of about 50 miles off the coast and pull into port roughly 28 hours after departure.

To keep this entry short, I'll save the minutiae of the trip for a separate entry. But we had an amazing time and met a shipload (500!) of great folks.

[story continues below images]

Looking out over the Gulf of Guinea.

View from the bridge of the USS McHenry.

Tema and a rusting hulk.

Brennan and Mike Morley.

Into the sunset...

No topic was off the table including politics. I came away thinking that the men and women serving in the US Navy are far more moderate and clear thinking than the U.S. administration.

We came away with enough material for a decent story -- which is now in Leffler's hands and may be coming to a (Global) channel near you.

True to Mike's word, we pulled into port around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. We said our goodbyes and made plans to meet several of the crew for dinner that night in Takoradi.

The ship was scheduled to remain in port for most of the week and Mike gave us an open invitation to come back. Unfortunately Leffler had to get back to Kumasi and I had to head north to Tamale.

[ to be continued]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ghana reflects progress in Africa - Yahoo! News

"The picture across the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa is still very much a patchwork. But a yearlong exploration by The Associated Press shows that progress — while fragile — is finding a foothold, in spheres ranging from democracy to education. Perhaps most strikingly, after few results from five decades of advice and $568 billion in aid, today's developments in business, education, government and other areas are being led by Africans themselves."

Full story:

Ghana reflects progress in Africa - Yahoo! News

[h/t ASL]

Monday, December 03, 2007

Vespa Vagabond

Here's a cool idea: hop on a Vespa and ride across America.

Vespa Vagabond: "...from san francisco to new york city on a vespa..."

[ h/t gadling]

from the "hold yer horses" dept.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

You're waiting for the US Navy story.
You're waiting for the Kumasi story.
You're waiting for the Tamale story.

They're coming. Really. I just have to finish 'em. And I'm close. But today, there were distractions aplenty.

I'm still seething about ANOTHER theft. The value is low, but the disgust is the same. This time 5 kg of rice. I hope the thief chokes.

There's been no water for the past few days. Normally, this isn't a big deal. Still, I'd like to have one more real shower before I leave town.

Packing has gone swimmingly. I'm leaving a lot of clothes and stuff behind -- no sense carting it all to and fro.

Unfortunately I've still crammed my faux hockey bag and backpack full of stuff. Plus a carry-on holding two laptops. And my camera bag.

I had intended to blow out of town tomorrow (I want to put as many KM between me and the thief as possible). But I also wanted to have dinner with two SKYY reporters first. We'd planned to do that tonight -- but one had to delay.

That means I'll take the bus to Accra Wednesday -- stay somewhere swanky Wednesday night -- then head to the airport midday Thursday.

I'll be leaving with mixed feelings. In many ways, this has been the best experience of my life. And, in many ways, the most disappointing -- though that has more to do with the bad roommate who continues to blind people with his layer of bullshit. Bitter? Definitely.

Though through the rose coloured glasses of hindsight, I'm sure the stuff that has my blood boiling will seem petty. As in petty theft. Bwah ha ha.


Tuesday I'll commence a-writing. Finish up the remaining chores. And take a beer or two with Christian and Ebenezer.

After that it's one more sleep in Takoradi. Two in Ghana.

Good night and good gravy!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Telecommuting from the road: the art of combining work and travel - Gadling

Telecommuting from the road: the art of combining work and travel - Gadling

Virgin America adds a little humor to safety video - Gadling

This has to be the funniest safety video (save Duck and Cover) ever:

Virgin America adds a little humor to safety video - Gadling


from the "touchdown" dept.

I landed back in Takoradi Saturday, courtesy of a five hour bus ride from Kumasi.

Gloria was waiting at the bus station and we headed to Akroma Plaza, the standard "welcome home" dinner spot.

Justice, my preferred taxi driver, picked us up and after a quick visit to the supermarket (the last time?) it was home for a rest.

Call to prayer interrupted that at 4:10 a.m. And the Christians had their go around 6 a.m.

It's now late Sunday morning as I write this. A day of sorting stuff and deciding what to take/leave lies ahead.

I'm only here until Wednesday... then off to Accra before flying home. There seems to be a lot of stuff to do (write about the US Navy ship and the trip north)... but for now... it's just multiple cups of coffee and the Sunday New York Times online.

And some snickering at the snow in Vancouver. Oh, goodie!

More to come.