Monday, December 29, 2008

from the "climate change" dept.

One doesn't normally associate Vancouver with snow. But after the last two weeks, it's hard NOT to associate Vancouver with snow.

I bet we had two feet, or more. And of course, with something like three plows, the city became a driver's worst nightmare. Even if you could navigate the clogged streets and avenues of Canada's most expensive city, there were no parking spots. Spots were filled with either abandoned cars or heaps of snow.

I came home why?

Elsewhere, I was shocked at the lack of people in the stores and malls before and after Christmas. I hit all the big stores (Future Shop, Costco, etc) on the 27th and they were vacant. And nary a person returning gifts. Very, very odd. And ominous.

At least gas is cheap. 75 cents this morning. See how long that lasts.

There's more, of course, but, you're just going to have to wait!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

from the "white out" dept.

A very abnormal winter continues to ravage Vancouver. After a week of cold temperatures and record amounts of snow, the city is becoming paralyzed. It's beautiful but tiring. And a good reason to get outta Dodge.

Here's a shot of Burrard Bridge in downtown Vancouver taken at 9:30am on December 24.

Merry Whiteness!

The current image is HERE at

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

from the "democracy, American style" dept.

While officials are getting closer to calling Al Franken as the winner of an extremely tight senate race in Minnesota, I'm getting a kick out of some of the contested ballots.

Perhaps this voter knows something we don't?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

from the "really big shoe" dept.

Bruce MacKinnon, editorial cartoonist for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, is arguably the best in the land. Here's his take on this week's infamous shoe incident:

from the "numbers tell the story" dept.

The software that keeps Roadspill running also allows me to look at a myriad of stats: How many visitors, what pages they looked at, how long they stayed, and, most interestingly -- where they're from.

But these stats are anonymous - I know where you're located, but I don't know who you are.

That said, I can usually deduce who most visitors are by their location, whether it's Winnipeg (Mom), Accra (Mac-Jordan) or Belize City (Brent).

But some locations leave me scratching my head. Tuscon? Argentina? Angola?

I'm not complaining... I think it's pretty cool that people in such distant lands are reading my blather. But I am curious.

So, if you're one of those folks, why not post a comment below. Who are you and why do you read Roadspill?

I'd love to know...

Cheers & thanks!

from the "if the shoe fits" dept.

Nice piece in the Guardian (UK) about the White House Press Corps and their lack of spine.

Ian Williams: Ducking the issue in Iraq


Sunday, December 14, 2008

from the "clearing out" dept.

In an effort to downsize and raise some cash, I am reluctantly selling a bunch of stuff. Everything is in Deep Cove...

2003 Norco Sasquatch Mountain Bike - offers
Shure FP-33 ENG-EFP mixer - SOLD
Nikon D300 digital SLR body - $1499 OBO

Collection of current Lonely Planet titles in new condition: West Africa, Australia, Canada, more... $20 ea.

Looking for something specific? Just ask...


Friday, December 12, 2008

from the "reverse migration" dept.

I've been back nary a week and the economic climate in Canada scares me. More specifically, the media industry.

Is everyone getting laid-off? It sure seems like it.

For your humble freelancer, this is something of a problem. More skilled people on the street, fighting for dwindling freelance crumbs. Someone's going to go hungry.

Normally December is a freelancer's dream. More work than one could handle. I remember working all day at CBC and then running up Robson and pulling a night shift at CTV.

Those were the days.

But now, in addition to the increased competition, there seems to be far less opportunity. Slashed newsrooms don't need writers. Eviscerated promo departments don't need producers. And don't get me started on the print side of things.

But that's here, not everywhere. And during this time of change the key is keeping expenses low. A tough thing to do in Canada. A much tougher thing to do in Vancouver.

Is there a solution? Yes. Will I explain it? Yes. But not yet.

I have to crunch some numbers... and leave you with a cliffhanger!


Monday, December 08, 2008

from the "Tesla would have been proud" dept.

Some of you may be familiar with a problem I have with electronic devices. I seem to have some sort of electrical aura that makes them go nutty. There is some quasi-science behind the phenomenon of Street Light Interference, about which you can read more here.

I am able to make street lamps flicker, mobile phones sputter, and computers up and die. It is an expensive curse and a bloody pain in the arse.

The latest example of my electronic hell occurred Sunday. I went to start my car after being away for some time. Not surprisingly, the battery was flat.

This has happened many times in the past and a quick jump is usually all it takes to get the car running again. But not this time.

After hooking up the booster cables to my pal Randy's van, I turned the key. After a few seconds of turning over, the car roared to life. Normally a short drive around North Vancouver is all that is needed to recharge the battery and have dependable transportation.

Suddenly the headlights came on, even though they were switched off. Then the door locks went crazy: up, down, up, down. The engine began revving. 1000 RPM. 2000. 3000. 4000.

She's gonna blow!

The lights on the dashboard started glowing. Bright then dim. The radio crackled. The engine dropped to 1000 RPM. The headlights switched to bright, then off. The turn signals began indicating on their own.

The engine revved again. At 4500 RPM I turned the key, praying that this would actually kill the engine before it exploded into a thousand parts.

The engine stopped but the door locks started up as the dome light flashed. Then the doors locked as the dashboard lights slowly flickered their last breath. Luckily I was able to open the door and escape the confines of my demon Dodge.

We decided to try again, but the results were the same. The engine and electrical systems went crazy. I managed to move the car about 5 meters before it sputtered and died on its own.

A third attempt to resuscitate the beast failed and we were forced to push the vehicle back into its parking spot.

My 1995 Stratus has apparently joined the heaps of electronic gear that my brainwaves have managed to fry.

So now the dilemma: Get it fixed or scrap it? I paid $1500 for the car three years ago, so my ROI is better than most mutual funds. And fixing it will likely equal the value of the car (if there is any).

I reckon I'll make that decision in a day or two, after I find out how much it will cost to bring my MacBook back from the dead, another victim of my curse.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

from the "in transit" dept.

On Interstate 5, near Seattle.

I am riding a wifi equipped bus from Seattle to Vancouver. At 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon, the traffic is already heavy.

I arrived in Seattle around midnight, after the long flights from Belize. After a great sleep and a free breakfast, I am on the final leg of this journey. Hard to believe that I'll be eating sushi in Deep Cove tonight.

The list of things to do over the next few weeks is long. And then who knows what 2009 will offer up.

More from Deep Cove... And photos in the coming days.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

from the "back to the future" dept.

Greetings from Belize City, Belize.

The journey from San Pedro to here began on Monday. And what a journey! First to Antigua Guatemala... which really wasn't much of a journey at all. About 4 hours from the shores of Lake Atitlan.

I hung out. Ate. And went to bed early.

On 5 am Tuesday I rolled out of my $8-a-night bed and hopped a shuttle for Guatemala City. There were only three of us on the 2 hour ride to the bus station.

I arrived in plenty of time to grab the 10 am bus to Flores, about 8 hours north of the capital. Armed with a fresh episode of Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann and an unabridged audio book (Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith -- partially set in Chernobyl) the time flew by and I didn't even need to take my Valium (especially useful on Chicken Bus rides).

I arrived in Flores just after 6 and grabbed a ticket to Belize City for the following day and a cab. Some half-cut wanker hopped in the back seat in the hopes of scoring a few bucks helping me out. Unfortunately for him, I know Flores like the back of my hand AND I knew where I was going. He wasn't dangerous, just annoying.

Luckily there were rooms at Lacandon, a cheap but clean hotel (about $12 night) on shores of Lake Peten Itza. I headed to the tienda to buy some stuff for breakfast and then had dinner at a tiny restaurant I first visited in 1999. Some things never change, like the price of BBQ chicken: $4. And 2 beer for about $2.

The bus was scheduled to depart at 7 am Wednesday, so I hit the sack early. In the morning I hailed a tuktuk to the bus station, arriving far too early. I suppose I could have actually had breakfast instead of warm OJ and some cookies.

The bus left on time and before I knew it we were approaching the border. There was a long line-up of transport trucks on the two lane road to the crossing. Our driver decided to pass the trucks. As he pulled past the final truck, he cut the wheel and -- surprise! -- the rear of the bus collided with the front end of the truck. This was far from dangerous, as it happened at about 2 km an hour. But the force was enough to flip the fiberglass hood of the semi open and crack it in several places.

The bus stopped, we poured out and joined a rather large group of bystanders made up primarily of money changers. The accident was probably the most exciting thing to happen all week.

Thinking the accident would be resolved in short order, we went to Guatemalan immigration to get stamped out of the country. It is normal when crossing the Guatemala-Belize border to get off the bus and walk across with your luggage.

After getting stamped out, we waited around what is essentially a no-mans land between the two immigration offices. After a while it became apparent that the accident was not going to be resolved quickly. A hint to this fact was when the bus took off, back into Guatemala. And, of course, any customer service disappeared with it.

Several people decided to wait, but I decided to cross by foot and find a plan "B" in Belize. A fellow from Edmonton followed.

We crossed into Belize and into another thick crowd of shouting taxi drivers and money changers. We hailed a taxi to take us to the next big town in Belize in order to catch a local bus to Belize City.

We found a cabbie, settled on a price and when we arrived in San Ignacio, we saw a bus for Belize City heading out of town. The cabbie flagged down the bus and said there was enough room for us. Perfect.

We handed the cabbie the agreed on fare in Belize Dollars and suddenly he demanded American Dollars -- exactly double. A shouting match started, but after a few minutes we told the cabbie to call the cops. We jumped on the 1965-vintage school bus and drove past the cursing cabbie.

The ride to Belize City was slow. We stopped in every little town to let people on and off. I realized that I have grown substantially since the last time I rode a 1965 vintage school bus on a regular basis.

Just outside of the city we were detained at a police checkpoint for about half and hour. No reason was given.

Eventually we made it to Belize. I bid the Edmontonian adieu and hailed a taxi for Brent's place. A few minutes later I was banging at the door. No answer. Brent has run out, said a neighbour.

Eventually Brent came home and we fixed a much deserved rum and coke. After discussing the events of the last month since we last saw each other in San Pedro, it was time for a good long sleep.

Today, Thursday, I did little more than surf the internet (with limited results) and sort through my stuff. My summer gear (shorts, sandals, t-shirts) will stay behind. I'll fetch them on the next visit.

On Friday I hop a late afternoon plane to Houston and then Seattle. I arrive around midnight and will overnight in the Emerald City. On Saturday a shuttle bus will drag my sorry ass back to Vancouver.

I can't wait for the cold and rain. Mmm mmm!