Sunday, October 31, 2010

Getting a MacCar

Once, a long time ago, (2008!) my car was dieing and refused to pass inspection. Of course, I drove Wee Red anyway. A fine would had been cheaper than a new car. (What's that you say? Dangerous liability?) In May 2009 I sold my car to someone who basically wanted it for parts. The battery was quite new, but he was probably attracted to the well functioning cassette player. You just know he had recently purchased a copy of Dance Mix '93 and was itching to blast it while cruising whatever road 55-year-old men cruise down while listening to "Jump Around".

Since then I haven't owned a car, except when my parents went away on vacation. So when my parents are away I have a car. How High School mature of me. Oh, and, like, there is totally a party this weekend. Can your older sister buy me some Mike's Hard Lemonade?

Randomly I'll decide that I should act like a grown-up and purchase a car. Usually this occurs when the weather is awful and laughing at me, when I feel a huge urge to spend the day frolicking in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, or when I want to buy something awkwardly shaped that won't fit into my backpack.

For awhile there was a car plunked in my neighbour's yard that was for sale. I looked at it and approved, though was slightly hesitant on having a standard. Sometimes I still get a little nervous if at a red light on a hill. I thought about buying it, approved the colour, and even more important, felt the car "fit" me. Then I never bothered calling the phone number on the For Sale sign. I suppose I figured if it were meant to be, the owner would somehow magically know so and approach me? Riiiight.

Tonight I started the car search, again, for the 6,000 time. My searches either happen online or on one of my bikes. In the bike sense, usually I'm out enjoying myself and bike by a car dealership. I think to myself, "Hey! I should look at cars!" and pull in. And keep biking because I'm enjoying myself and stopping to look at cars wouldn't be very fun. The online search generally goes a little better. I open Kijiji or and select the car category. Being a mature adult, I select the "$5,000 and above" category. I then realise I don't know anything about cars other than what a few of my friends drive. Then I look at car colour. Instantly rejected is white and any shade of blue, because white gets dirty and is "wrong" for me and I hate the colour blue. Particularly dark blue. If you are a fan of blue it's okay, it means more blue for you because I don't like. Cars older than 2005 often get initially rejected. Why 2005? Because my new car should be at least a decade newer than my old car. Yes? Yes. I'm sure that's what a professional car salesperson would tell you.

My next step is usually sidetracked by undertones of distraction. My Google search history would show important queries like, "What kind of car should I buy?" which leads to some crappy quiz that I excitedly take and think will offer the solution to my problem of uneducated indecisiveness. Generally using Google to solve life's bigger problems doesn't work. Once I Googled "most fun job in the world" and was lead to a site about driving RVs from distributors to a retailers. It was in the US so I couldn't apply.

Another Google search will often be "environmentally friendly cars" since I'm a quasi-environmentalist except when it comes to airplanes and flying away to, well, anywhere really.

Tonight I made a GREAT STEP when I actually contacted someone on Kijij about a car posting. Oh, and what car was that, you ask? Only the wee red car that was parked in my neighbour's yard. Still posted online... waiting... for me...

After watching 49-million episodes of
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Summit Preparations

Long, long ago, three brave travellers headed out to climb the summit of PEI. The day prior had been extremely busy: two had dipped into the icy harbour and all three played at the levees during various intervals of the day. Although the crew was slightly fatigued, January 2nd had a big adventure awaiting the Three.

Base camp was located in Fredericton, PEI. Poorly armed with a GPS with a dwindling battery life and no source of hydration, the three failed to reach the summit of PEI. Although they did overcome a variety of challenges (fierce winds, not knowing where to go, thin air at high altitudes,) the overwhelming sense of failure was something that would haunt them for months.

Until now.

Although Team Member H is no longer with us (off to Newfie-land she went, b'y,) the remaining two members have put months into preparing for Summit Attempt no. 2. They have been exercising at high altitudes (the air is so thin at 140M), consulting maps, and researching the necessary equipment. All this has built up to Saturday, October 23. The leaves have changed on the trees... but something else has changed as well. We have been stripped of the innocence of our childhoods are our forced to face our mortality. The trek to the 140-m summit will likely be dangerous. Foxes have been known to frequent the woods of this fine province, with some growing up to 17 *dangerous* pounds.

You cannot tell me this doesn't make your heart stop cold in fear.

Supplies needed for the excursion:
  • Walking sticks - at least three each. High potential of breakage.

  • Gatorade (red) - we will be sweating lots and will need to constantly refuel.

  • Compass.

  • GPS.

  • Oxygen mask (again, 140m.)

  • Tent and sleeping bag - should night fall before we reach base camp on our descend.

  • Flare gun.

  • Protein bars.

  • Water purification tablets.

  • Cupcakes.

  • Axe.

  • Snowshoes (you never know when the weather might change).

  • Bathing suit (you never know when the weather might change).

  • Life size cutout of Tom Selleck.

  • Donkey (for travel mate).

  • Llama (for me).

  • Bible.

  • Sushi (Mr. Potato Roll).

  • Fishing gear (in case we veer way off course).

  • Fur pellets (in case we need to barter with the local tribes).

  • Polio vaccination (in case we need to barter with the local tribes).

  • Radio (for our dance off!)

  • Shovel.

  • And lastly, Christmas tree decorations, just in case the adventure take much longer than we originally planned.

Please keep us in your thoughts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Just" = 4-letter word

I started another post about my new obsession du-jour (effect of left brain vs. right brain dominance on, well, everything) but got inspired for something possibly better, as only 2:30am Saturday night/Sunday morning conversations can do.

The word "just" is an awful word. My first note-worthy experience of recognizing its negative nature was at NSO (New Student Orientation) week during first-year uni ten years ago. I was sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a group of students and a random professor. The prof asked if we had picked majors, what courses we were taking, etc. One student replied, "I'm just doing an Arts degree."

Just an Arts degree.

The professor said to him to remove the word "just".

"It's not 'just' an Arts degree, it's a degree."

Basically, say it proudly, and don't imply it's less than it is.

More recently, when I was biking the Biking for Breakfast challenge someone was recording some pre-ride interviews at North Cape before we left. He asked if we could chat, and I said of course. The "interview" started and I stated my goal was to bike to Charlottetown.

"You're just going to Charlottetown?" he responded.
"Hey now," I reply cheekily, "I'm not going 'just' to Charlottetown. It's a 175-km ride away. That is not 'just' a short little ride. The furthest I ever biked in one day was 105 kilometres. This is an extra 70 kilometres"

He agreed. I was not going "just" to Charlottetown.

More recently in the almost wee hours of the night, a just-graduated culinary student told me he would be "just" a cook now. He was undermining the discipline he spent two years studying. Which leads to why I don't like the word. It implies too little, something unimpressive. You are implying to whomever is listening to you that he/she should not be impressed.

The Arts degree would not be as impressive as a science degree, it wasn't as good.

A 175-km bike ride in one day is not an accomplishment.

A career choice shouldn't be respected.

So no more "just", please.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stress eats your brain

If you were part of the solar system, would you be a planet or the sun?

I would be a planet. I tried explaining this to someone recently in regards to change. The person nodded like I was making plenty of sense. Good sign.

Essentially, I don`t like when change revolves around me and I'm merely a bystander. I'd rather be involved, directing rather than reacting. But once in awhile I play the role of the sun and watch life rotate around me and feel the stress of being static creep into my head.

(Also, although I suppose Pluto isn't a planet anymore, I would be Pluto. Entirely based on my Junior High obsession with, cough, Sailormoon. I recall telling my mum one day how wonderful it would be to have black hair with dark green highlights, à la Sailorpluto. While she didn't disagree, her silence was noted.)

Last week lots of people moved away (lots = 3) and I siiiiighed. Last time oodles of friends moved away on the same time I spent the following six months hanging out with a recently-moved-home ex-boyfriend.

Hey, you know what's a bad idea? Hanging out with your ex-boyfriend for six months. (Three months = obviously acceptable.)

So people were packing up luggage, cars, etc., and I was just, you know, hanging out. Medium-length story short, I had a job offer on a CIDA internship mid-week last week. Interview was random seeing as I hadn't actually applied for the position. I Disney-attacked the interview (new verb for bouncing in with 800% energy and 589% enthusiasm). References were called and I had the job offer less than 24 hours later. Job would involve working with local organisation in Charlottetown until Nov 4, then flying to INDIA for five months, followed by two more months of work in PEI. I would had spent this week in Nova Scotia at training and the rest of October trying to finish my current work contract (have been very busy at work lately) and trying to fulfill commitment to local organisation.. oh, and all the administrative fun that goes with moving to a new country.

This is what my brain looked like as it tried to figure out how to spend the next eight months of my life:

That's right, like a giant cat following a jellybean into a vortex as music flows through the air.

Maybe not quite exactly, but somewhat accurate. In a related note, I love graphic software.

Here is what happened between Tuesday post interview until turning down the job early Thursday afternoon.

First: Hmm, think that interview actually went quite well. YYAAAAAY, I'm moving to India and am going to have a pet elephant and help wonderful children!
Second: Wait - do I actually want to move to India?
Fourth: But you'll be unemployed in June and will have just spent eight months earning minimal dollars. You HATE being unemployed.
Fifth: But you love travelling and "experiencing"!
Sixth: I will not accept the job right away if they call, but will tell them I will let them know within 24 hours. *feels responsible and smug, and falls asleep*
Seventh: Following morning... Huh, do I actually want to move to India?
Eighth: Phone call comes in.. job offer, become bouncy and excited.
Nineth: Fall into state of panic and do not want to leave job that offers 48 weeks of vacation per year
Tenth: Start freaking out about dorm living accommodations, closest city not being super safe, read about isolation and volunteers felling confined in living accommodations.
Eleventh: Read about local National Parks. Perk up again and decide will accept job offer!
Twelfth: Hostel style accommodations for five months creeps back into brain

blah blah blah. So essentially I changed my mind about 30 times, and finally decided not to accept the position. Things I realised:
  1. You do not move to the other side of the world just so you will have something to talk about and new Facebook profile pictures.

  2. You do not move to the other side of the world to impress people. Most people won't care and just think you're even flakier than they originally thought.

  3. Seeing an elephant not in a zoo is not a good reason to move to India for five months. (Still not convinced of this, but anyway.)

  4. If warned living conditions may leave you feeling isolated and confined, two of your least favourite things that aren't food, perhaps you should really take that into consideration.

  5. Giving up flexible job in crappy economy might not be so smart.

  6. I like *doing* things when I travel. I'm slightly passed wandering around in a city for hours. I want to bike for seven hours. I want to zipline. My holidays, as of late, tend to focus on being with friends that I see only once every couple of years and being active.

I dunno. I'm still trying to justify the entire 'no' thing. It's hard to turn down something that's a good opportunity and would be an amazing experience. But you don't have to do something just because it seems like you should. I guess. Ugggggggh. But I'm pretty sure I made the right decision.

If not, it'll be a long winter of me making weird pictures to post on the Internet. See above photo again for reference.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why you shouldn't read about the blitz late at night

Do you recognize this flag?

It's actually an editted version of the Czech Republic's flag and I haven't been able to find a record of it actually existing. However, I saw it very vividly in a dream a couple of weeks ago.

Backstory: About a month in a half ago Indigo was having a massive book sale; the type of sale where one buy books one would generally never buy, but do, because they are only one dollar. One such book was "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900".

Sounds rivetting, no?

It's the type of book you pick up when you feel like it, skip huge sections and focus on the ones of personal interest. I started the book at the beginning (Boer War? Huh?) and have mostly focused on World War II, with some reading of the early 60s. Before going to bed one night I was trying to fix my chipped nail polish and knew I couldn't (well, shouldn't) go to bed with wet nails. So I stayed up too late and read about the Blitz (German bombings of Great Britain in the early stages of World War II).

Nails dry, fall asleep.

In my dream a friend and I were close to the old North River Rink when we looked up to see a bizarre looking airplane flying very low in the sky. A massive door opened and out jumped paratroopers with guns and grenades. They started shooting everywhere and throwing their mini hand bombs. It wasn't a scary dream, but I remember looking up and noting one of them had spread his country's flag in his parachute. In my dream I told myself to study the unfamiliar flag and race home to do more research on it. I tried to find this flag in real life but haven't. However, I may be incorrect in assuming its the flag of a country and not a municipality, province, organisation, etc.

Speaking of flags, remember learning to draw your country's flag at a young age? Canada was a bit hard. I always mastered the red exterior stripes (so talented!) but struggled with the maple leaf. Instead of working on it symmetrically and creating a mirror image, I always started at the bottom left and worked clock wise resulting in a lack of space and a product that looked like a crumpled maple leaf that 90 school school stomped on in the playground.

May I present to you, Nigeria:

A flag that causes no stress for young Nigerian patriots. Unless, tragically, you don't have a green marker or crayon. The other children push you out of the way running to the art supplies cupboard.. and you are stuck with blue. BLUE. You can't love your home country of Nigeria with BLUE!!! Traumatized, the student moves to Finland, Scotland, Antarctica, or Honduras. This is what happens when children don't learn to share.

Some of the other more ridiculous flags I came across:

Governor General of Canada

Queen Eizabeth II of Canada

Flag number one looks like a newspaper editorial comic making fun of a GG scandal. The lion is holding what appears to be a maple leaf lollipop and standing on one of those long marshmellow twist candies. Nice.

QEII's Canada flag was clearly designed by someone in the "less is actually less, more is MOOOORE!" art camp. In the top left we have royal lions, top right the Scottish flag which represents royalty, mid right a few fleurs de lis because the Queen LOVES Quebec, some maple leaves at the bottom similar to those on Ontario's coat of arms, and finally, a harp. *blink* Huh? It's actually the flag version of the Shield of Canada, which we can learn about on the Canadian Heritage website. This i what happens when a country tries to please everyone. Of course, for overall good vibes, a unicorn was added.

Research shows people like unicorns!!

That's all. Happy Thanksgiving! Sorry about the chill in the air. My fault, I told someone I wasn't dreading winter this year and was looking forward to some outdoor winter activity. Then the temperature dropped notably and now it's 6C, windy, and my bike is sadly propped against a table wishing for one last 65-km ride. Sorry, vélo. I am full of regret and will never speak of winter favourably again.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Faire your velo, lassie!

Heeeeeey! YOU!

Eight-thousand four-hundred and sixty eight of my best looking friends have moved away so now I'll write. This week has been stupid and feels like my brain was in a tilt-a-whirl for six days. Now, Jen loves rides, but six days? No thank you. Result would be similar to this scene in Problem Child 2.

The most disgusting movie scene ever. I hated it when I was young. Maybe because I puked a lot as a child - though not on rides.

In testimonial to how little I wrote this summer, two blog posts down are about my strategy for biking the tip to tip in one day. And now, the result!

My day started at 2:20am when my alarm went off. It was such a refreshing 1.5 hour sleep, it only made sense to participate in a massive bike ride. I went downstairs and greeted the housefolk who were just getting home. Nice. Hopped in the auto, and went to the Charlottetown Mall to catch my ride up to North Cape. I stood around in a daze in the parking lot waiting to load the bus. It was a school bus, and freezing. I basically slept for twenty minutes on the 1.5ish hour bus ride and curled up against a heater. I grabbed some brekkie at the school we stopped at to pick up more riders. Too early to eat, but I tried to swallow anyway. Then finally fell asleep on the bus for about six seconds while we drove to North Cape. People on the bus seemed very cyclish and were holding their wheels, which they had taken off their bikes. I, on the other hand, can barely get my wheel off (or worse, on) my bike without muttering foreign curse words.

The winds in North Cape were about 6,000 km/hour, but in a very favourable direction. We stood around and did nothing and I tried to make small chat with people. However, we should all recognize by now I can barely hold a coherent conversation prior to 9:30am.

We were supposed to start pedaling at 7:00 but got a bit delayed waiting for missing (late) cyclists. I positioned myself towards the back of the group for a few of reasons:
1) I'm slow.
2) Still new to clipless pedals. Was semi-convinced that the more people I could tip over and crash in front of the higher likelihood it would happen.
3) Suspected most slow people placed themselves at the back. This would increase probability of finding someone to ride with, instead of chase after.

And eventually we took off. The first leg was about 55km to Portage. All was smooth but our route was closed in one spot and we got diverted down a dirt road. After a series of flats last summer (which stopped one I purchased Bicyclete new tires), I tend to panic on roads with tiny pieces of rocks or gravel, particularly when on a road bike (aka, Lady Velo) with tires the width of an oxen's tail. However, I survived (thrived?!) and Lady Velo's tubes remained puncture free. I would have high fived them, but high fiving rotating bike wheels is not advised. You will crash and likely rip your hand on the spokes. Even worse, you could damage your bike in the process!!

Pit stop no. 1 was well timed as I finally felt ready to eat some breakfast and made myself a 4-diamond PB&J sandwich. It tasted like the clouds of heaven, mixed with the temptations of the Under World. Also made executive decision to have a blue gatorade day, not orange. Least favourite artificial flavouring is orange.

In a too much info sense, but those who have ever travelled with me know so well, I feel the need to pee at any available moment. Even if I don't have to, but it seems like a good idea, I will. Pre-bike events I pee about 452 times leading up to start time. So in Portage I proudly strutted towards the building anchoring the parking lot we were in and realised it was abandoned; shuttered. This turned out to be a trend for the buildings we biked by in Upper Prince. So I "watered the grass".

My biking partner and I got back on our bikes and took off for Summerside, only about 45 km away. Weather was pretty much perfect - wind was at our backs and the sun was shining. Could had used an extra degree or two temperature wise, but I like sweating. The ride to Summerside was easy and uneventful. We biked by the visitor info centre in .. somewhere. Pleasant something? One car in the parking lot. Made a mental note of that.

Summerside = more food + more actually-not-necessary peeing

Summerside also marks the end of ease. Prince County is such an easy ride. No real hills, and the Economic Action Plan (go recession!) has ensured that most roads are nicely paved.

Then, there is Queens County.

PEI doesn't have a high elevation; the highest point is only 145m above sea level. However, central PEI can be classified as 'rolling hills' - constant up and down. It is exhausting, but great training for long rides such as this.

This is also where I bonked. Going up the overpass to head to Charlottetown was a struggle. But, bless them, the three people I was biking with at that point slowed to let me catch up. I mentally smothered them with kisses and nibbled their earlobes. At some point heading towards Crapaud area I made the best Jen MacBike move ever: I was sipping from my water bottle while in a small pace line, and completely missed my water bottle cage when I tried to put the water bottle back. It fell to the pavement and I ran over it and skidded around. *cough* amateur. *cough* epic beginner, ACTUALLY. The fact I didn't crash is actually quite impressive. Had people been watching I would have received the slow-clap-eyeroll combo.

Then the fun started. Oh, hello, hills. Flew down into Crapaud. Slowly climbed out of Hampton. Up/down/up/up/up/UPPPP/down. I looked at my bike computer at one point and it said I was creeking along at 9.5km/hr. People RUN faster than that. A lot of people. I could probably run faster than that and I only run when I'm being chased OR chasing something (boys? penguins? ice cream truck?). This is when you drop to your lowest gears and realise you keep trying to gear down, but there are not any gears left. Instead you just pant a lot and feel fire burn through your legs. It's actually kind of amazing. Going down the last biggest hill (Churchill!) was insane. Pretty sure it's the fastest I ever went on a bike - 60km/hr - with braking due to fear of (1) death, (2) cars, and (3) hitting the tiniest pothole and flailing thirty feet into the air, feet still attached to bike. Hopefully body still attached to feet.

Oh, right, if you are a concerned adult relative, I wasn't going 60km/hr down a hill on the TransCanada. I, uh, dismounted my bike and walked down the hill and encouraged all the other cyclists to do so as well. At one point we linked hands and sang Koombyah. (NOTE: looked up proper spelling, apparently "kumbaya", which sounds like something that would be said in Newfie porn.)

At this point I was giddy. I had originally planned to bike only to Charlottetown ("only" being 175km) but thought I might do the whole thing. Then I got word that my dear friends were going to meet me in Ch'town with a cake AND there was a party that night. So I had decided Ch'town would be the end, which I kind of regret. The weather conditions were so perfect that I don't think the day will be as nice next year. Ugh. But yes, hyper brain kicked in and I started pedalling like a mad woman towards Charlottetown, but then slowed as my pedal-mate was starting to slow, like I had in Borden. Returning the favour, I slowed and encouraged her, being much more familiar with the geography than her.

Then the paparazzi showed up. Ahh, the MacPhail parents. Finally, the chance to capture their daughter in an athletic activity after many years of Brother-hockey-baseball action. No longer did their daughter simply twirl around in the livingroom with a scarf tied around her waste (IT WAS A TAIL, THANK YOU), now she actually uses her cardiovascular system for good instead of nothing.

Then I got to Charlottetown and ate food. Friends were there with cake (love you, friends!) and parents. It was pointed out that I had white crap (dried up cocaine?) all over my face, but upon licking my arm I realised it was only salt from my sweat (aka healthy woman glow). Then I got really indecisive about whether to keep biking or not, but decided that 6.5 hrs on my bike was enough. I didn't feel like sitting anymore. Shoes came off, and friends and I wandered to Peake's Quay for a bevvie. If you ever want a beer to hit you with the power of four bottles of wine, may I suggest having a pint post six hours of cardio activity. Bang for your buck, b'y. Then Shan drove me home, after a stop at the place where she was housesitting. There was leftover pizza in the fridge. I let it make love to my face. Got home, turned on laptop, fell asleep. Woke up to half-eaten slice of pizza and bag of gummie worms next to me. Wish I could wake up with a breakfast like that waiting for me everyday.

Showered, napped some more, drank some gatorade (this time with vodka! what an athlete!) and went to a party. Then to a bar. Around 11:00pm I wanted to lay down in the middle of street and pass out from exhaustion, but instead I drank about 30 glasses of water. Then got my 9th wind of the day and rocked out til 2:30.

The following day I didn't hurt so much, but ate way too much and then got violently ill and half died on a friend's couch. I blame exhaustion and dehydration.

Monday my legs kind of hurt and I was wearing wedge heels at work. Walking outside with my coworker I completely tipped over started bleeding from the knee. Coworker seemed concerned (very kind of him - I probably would had laughed provided no serious injuries were obvious) and I laughed. I like to think it was exhaustion and sore muscles which explained the tip over, but it was probably me being clumsy and stupid. So now both knees have scars - right from tipping over on my bike, twice, onto pavement, struggling with new pedals/shoes, and left, from being a moron. *fist pump*

So next year I do the whole thing, weather pending. Start praying to your favourite weather God now, please.