Back in Canada

Filed under: Vancouver — Russell @ 9:27 am  

After 6 months we’re back in Canada.  The plan is to stay in Vancouver for at least two months.  It has been a year since I quit my job.  So now it is time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.



Filed under: British Columbia,Plans,Vancouver — admin @ 11:17 am  
March 1, 2011toApril 30, 2011

On the plane

Filed under: Toronto — admin @ 8:52 pm  

We just boarded the flight to Iceland. Now the real trip begins!

Last Day in Canada

Filed under: Toronto — Russell @ 5:47 am  

Today is our last day in Canada.  We leave tonight for Iceland.  It seems strange to be leaving with no firm plan to return.  Still, I’m sure we’ll be back at some point.

On Wed we were in Waterloo.  I dropped off the final load at the storage unit.  Then I sold the car to our neighbour.  It is funny to get rid of this car.  We bought it when we moved to Waterloo over 10 years ago.

We saw a movie with our friends Barry and Debbie and then took the bus back to Toronto.  We’ve been house sitting for some friends on the Danforth.  It has been a lovely slice of luxury before we hit the road.

Last night we watched UP.  It is a cautionary tale about not letting your life slip by; an appropriate message today.

I realized a couple days ago that while all this planning has been worthwhile, the truth is that we can’t really prepare for what comes next for the simple reason that we don’t know what will happen.  There is a tremendous freedom to getting on a plane.  Anything left undone is suddenly beyond your reach and the wisest thing to do is to put it out of your mind.


Thai Shan

Filed under: Toronto — Russell @ 11:26 am  

Last night we went to the new location of the Thai Shan Inn Restaurant. This is my favourite Thai restaurant in Toronto. It had been in the same location on Eglinton for 20 years. The old dining room was small with wood panel walls and a linoleum floor. The food was great and people lined up to get in.

About 10 years ago they had a sign saying, “We will be closed for renovations next week”. I asked the owner, “Are you renovating the dining room?”. She looked at me like I was crazy, “No,” she said, “the kitchen”. Clearly, she knew what was important.

The new place is around the corner on Dufferin. The decor is much more upscale. The food is still excellent and there are still disposable plastic covers on the tables. We ate until we were stuffed. At the end of the meal two things happened that reminded me of why I like this place. The bill came and the four of us had eaten our fill for $52. That’s a good price for fine dining in Toronto. Then the owner came out to visit. We were delighted to see her and she recognized us from all our visits years ago. Then the treats started coming. In the end we begged her to stop tempting us and left promising to return.


The Sleeper Awakes

Filed under: Toronto — Russell @ 7:49 pm  

This post may contain minor Inception SPOILERS!

Last night I met my friend David and we went to see Inception.  Given the complexity of the story it held together quite well.  Leonardo DiCaprio does a good turn as the haunted leader of the group.  I had expected he would be too pretty to play someone with a painful history but he pulled it off.  There has been some criticism of Ellen Page as exposition girl but as always I found her quite watchable.  I’m also warming to Joseph Gordon-Levitt although he still looks a bit boyish to play an action hero.

After the movie David and I went for dinner and talked about big life changes.  He left his job at the bank several years ago to become a clown, an announcement almost designed to bewilder his former colleagues.  In the context of the movie we talked about what people label the real world.  Typically, this is coded shorthand for the unpleasant aspects of earning money.  What is surprising is that when you stop worrying about making enough money, a task designed to be asymptotically unattainable, you find that real life is more about connecting with people.

I think the theme of knowing what is real (what is the Matrix?) is coming to prominence as our ability to create simulated worlds increases.  Video games strive for realism as they contemplate the leap across the uncanny valley.  Perhaps we have started to worry that the electronic wool can be pulled over our eyes so that we live unknowingly in an artificial world.  Inception plays with this fear.  The Matrix made it look cool.  If one suspects that the world as seen is not real, rather looking for some physical contradiction that would reveal the trick, try building deep, complex, meaningful relationships with people.  This is much harder to simulate.  So if you find yourself engaging in shallow interactions with people who seem strangely disassociated, wake up!  You are either dreaming or living a shallow life.  Either way, time to move on.


Lazy Toronto Day

Filed under: Toronto — Russell @ 6:41 pm  

I’m boat/cat sitting for a few days.  Living at the marina is very different than living in a house.  It is like urban camping.  Last night we had dinner on board and watched the sunset.  It was dark enough to see some of the Perseids.

Today to make up for Erin’s generous loan of her boat I’m trying to find some contacts in the South African wireless industry.  She is in South Africa working with the Stephen Leacock Foundation.  If you have any experience wiring up remote African schools please send an email to:

After doing some work I headed down to the Toronto Beaches and watched the water while a nearby man chanted.

I originally rendered this using edge detection to protect the chanter’s identity.  It makes the video look like a pencil sketch which is kind of cool.


Sweet Sorrow

Filed under: Calgary — Tags: — Russell @ 4:56 pm  

I’m sad to be leaving Calgary.  Yesterday, we had our last class at the Moose and a final performance of Micetro.  The Italians brought the house down, especially Tania’s “Dear Diary” scene.  Afterwards, we went to Shawn’s place for a party where we drank, signed each others’ pictures and promised to visit.  I’m hoping to visit as many of the people I met on this course as possible.  This would take us to Italy, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, England, Hong Kong and the US.

I’m flying to Toronto in a few hours.  Toronto still feels like home even though we will be couch surfing for the next 3 weeks.

I’m leaving Calgary exactly where I wanted to be.  The world looks different now.  Every interaction feels like the start of an exciting game.  Ordering breakfast was fun because everything was moving fast except for one person who ordered very slowly.  So the game was to do everything quickly and then pretend not to be impatient. This makes the slower person (who was in on the game) even more stressed and slower.  Eventually, someone else ordered extra food and shared.  For extra spice add vegetarianism and another language.  Done with a good natured attitude, this is a game everyone can enjoy.

A game that several Calgarians seemed to be playing was “how many things can I hang from my belt”.  Waiting for the bus one morning there was a guy strutting up and down the sidewalk with a flashlight and a radio on his belt.  Soon he was joined by another person with even more things on his belt.  Immediately, the first guy stopped strutting and watched the newcomer take over as top rooster.  This was hilarious to watch particularly because the participants didn’t consciously know that they were playing.  Given enough time it would have been fun to approach them with even more belt trophies.  I wonder if they would back off or fight for their position even with their clearly inferior belts.


Stilt Walking

Filed under: Calgary — Tags: — Russell @ 1:24 am  

We had no classes this morning so some of us tried stilt walking. Sam took us to the workshop of the Green Fools and ran us through some basic exercises.

Even with short stilts it was quite difficult.  Notice the look of concentration/fear on my face.  We each tried walking in place for about a minute while holding Sam’s hands.  I had assumed we’d all be walking in about 20 minutes but it was not to be.  Still, it was fun.


Dancing around the world

Filed under: Calgary — Tags: — Russell @ 10:32 am  

This blog has been around for a while but a friend reminded me of it today.


I’m impressed by the number of places he has been but more so the happy spirit of the site.  The video always makes me smile.