Easter with my family, friends

Someone’s out to get me, I swear. Unfortunately, that someone is probably me.

This has got to have been one of the most hectic weekends I can remember. Here’s the general gist of some of the things that were going on:

  1. A project deadline (for our largest client) that was due yesterday.
  2. Several planned family meals.
  3. My mother’s birthday.
  4. A friend in town.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the overall effect was unbelievably distressing, and the victims ended up being my mother, my father, and myself. My father, you ask? Well, I just came the realization that today is his birthday, and I forgot to call. (I have a lame excuse — I dropped my cell phone the other day, and the antenna broke, pretty much rendering it useless until I get it fixed. I haven’t had the time to get it fixed yet.) So dad, I apologize for not calling — I’ll make an effort to call tomorrow.

The weekend started on Thursday night, with another Hitmen hockey game. I’ll have to dispense with the details, as much as I would love to recount the game — it was a thrilling one. It was the first night in a while that I had left the office early. Even without the game, I still would have left — the power was being shut off to install our server room UPS system. (For those of you who don’t know what a UPS is, it’s basically a giant battery.)

The next morning (after attempting to catch up on the weeks of sleep I’ve managed to fall behind on) Chris and I went over to my cousin Pam’s new home for a massive family brunch. This included my aunt, uncle, and cousin from Calgary, Pam and her parents, Pam’s aunt and uncle (who also live in Calgary), her boyfriend, our grandmother (Nana), and my mother, who had flown out to Calgary for Easter. It was also her birthday, which her brother was all too willing to bring to light.

Brunch was huge — lots of fruit, pastries, eggs, bacon, a spinach pie that was to die for, and champagne and orange juice. It didn’t take long for Chris and I (and just about everyone else) to overfill. Yes, it was going to be another one of “those” weekends (see [[Easter in Calgary, Visiting with Friends, Eating Russian Food]]) — non-stop food. Luckily for me, I was going to be locking myself in the office, keeping me from eating too much … in theory, anyway.

Around 1pm, Chris and I made our exit. I had to go to work to work on the aforementioned project deadline. But first, I had to swing by Chinook Centre to get mom a birthday present. No, I hadn’t had the chance to get her one yet — and my previous attempts had yielded no fruit. Success was not far away, however, and I was soon heading back towards the office.

I worked away until almost 5:45, at which point I had to leave to go to dinner at my aunt and uncle’s, in honour of my mother’s birthday. I made a quick side trip by the Greyhound station to drop off Carl (Critical Mass’s newest Web Developer) so he could go to Invermere, and then stopped by the apartment to pick up the photographs of Julie’s wedding (which had been meant to show around, but in the chaos of returning from Ontario after Christmas, disappeared into the “Behind The Couch” void).

Almost 45 minutes late arriving, the six of us (my aunt, uncle, cousin Jen, Nana, my mom, and me) had a wonderful dinner. The centrepiece was a Cajun marinated steak, served with a fruit salsa that made the flavours just pop out. I never thought fruit could be used so cleverly.

Around 10pm, my body was screaming for rest. I withdrew my presence and retreated to the comforts of my apartment, where I attempted to fall asleep in front of the TV. However, I was at that uncomfortable point in exhaustion where you’re actually too tired to sleep. I stayed that way until Chris came home from his almost-but-not-quite date, and suggested we go to Pongo for a while.

I gotta learn to stop doing stuff like that when I’m exhausted.

The next morning came far too early, despite being noon. I felt like I’d only slept an hour. But back to the office I went. I slaved away until about 3:30, when I returned home to prepare for the next round of family engagements. We were off to Ron and Dawn’s home (my aunt Alaine’s sister and brother-in-law) for a pre-dinner get-together. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jen in attendance — I had assumed she wouldn’t have come. But Jen, unlike myself at her age, is quite willing to experiment with new foods.

We hobnobbed until 7:15, at which time we headed en masse to Bodega, a Spanish tapas bar about four blocks from our apartment. I’d been there one time before, on a pseudo-business lunch, when our office had literally been around the corner. It was an excellent meal, and I was looking forward to having it again.

All 17 of us piled into the little restaurant, taking up a large (and loud) portion of the tables. For the next four hours or so, we ate, talked, drank, shared in Jen’s drawings (my cousin is becoming quite the artist, and is adept at on-the-spot works of art), and were merry. For a short while, I forgot how tired I really was.

When we finally left (in the vicinity of 11:15pm), I returned to the apartment to pass out. Chris again tried to coax me out for an evening, but I (fortunately) said ‘no’. I’m not even sure if I heard Chris leave. Somewhere between Chris leaving and the alarm going off the next morning, I’d managed to haul myself to bed.

I awoke early to get in some work at the office before Easter brunch with Stuart, Therese, and Jordon (one of our co-workers and friends) at “The Ranche”, a restaurant in Fish Creek Park in the south of Calgary. It used to be a ranch house back in the day, but is now the home of a mid-upscale eatery. A very filling (and tasty) repast, but a little too long in length.

As we were heading back, my mom called. I had hoped to spend some more time with her before she had to go to the airport, but there were simply not enough hours in the day. Her phone call reminded me that the clock doesn’t stop. I broke just about every speed limit dropping Chris and Jordon off at Chinook Centre and then hauling myself up to my aunt and uncle’s house. Not even five minutes after arriving, I was taking my mom to the airport.

Despite her protests, I saw her to the gate. I had seen my mother for a collective 8-10 hours over the course of four days, but had only really visited with her for a small fraction of that. I wanted what little time there was left to see her before she left. Before I knew it, she was passing through security. Three entire days vanished before my eyes.

Returning to the office, I tried to finish off the last of the known work. There were still issues to be solved, but we were having problems with the back-end code, and couldn’t find the developers to fix it. I continued at the problems until Greg called.

Greg had been in town since late Friday. He had called me on the Saturday, but I had simply not the time to call him back. At 7pm Sunday night, I got together with Greg for a couple of short hours. A few beers, a few conversations and debates over my choice of Academy Award winners (see [[Bowling with Co-workers and a Review of the 2001 Academy Awards]]), and a short walk around town, I returned Greg to his aunt’s, arriving home at 11:15pm.

Yesterday was a blur. Too many things to do, not enough time. Same with today, which is why I only noticed 30 minutes ago that it was my father’s birthday, and I’d forgotten it. So again, sorry Dad — I didn’t mean to forget.

But at least Easter’s over. Maybe now I can get some rest.

Stress and Blepharospasms

Blepharospasm (n.):
The repetitive contraction of eyelid muscles in a rhythmic fashion. In some instances, the eyelid may repeatedly close or attempt to close. The most common causes of muscle twitching in the eyelid are fatigue or stress.

This is how I managed to notice that I’ve been at Critical Mass for a year and a day. Well, not so much the blepharospasm as it was the stress that keeping bringing it back.

Yeah, I’ve been here a year. I’ll forego with torturing you with the recap (you can stop cheering now), but suffice to say it’s been quite the year. Made a lot of new friends, and missed a lot of old ones. I’ve seen a lot of the rise of Critical Mass … and I’m really hoping that I never need to experience the fall. With luck, our management will keep us in check and we’ll just keep on sailing.

Hmm. I guess “surfing” would be a more appropriate word.

So back that that stress and fatigue thing… This was something I really hoped to avoid this year, but that was one New Year’s resolution that got shot down in short order. Too much dedication to my job, I guess. Either that or obsession. Not sure which. (Some argue one way, some the other.)

Been working like a dog again (woof, woof). (Has anyone actually seen a dog work? All the ones I ever saw just laid around all day. What I wouldn’t give to be a dog for a couple days right now.) I keep forgetting that the more senior you get, the more work seems to migrate in your direction. And while I try to pawn as much of it off to others as I can, there are a handful of projects that (for now) only I can do. Blech.

I just hope this doesn’t get any worse. People get insomnia from this kind of thing. I don’t get enough sleep as it is without being able to catch a few Zs. Next thing you know, I’ll be fighting myself in parking lots, being two people, and planning to blow up credit card companies.

But I’m not my freaking khakis just yet…

Three Parties and a Little Hockey

Who’d ever have thought that I would one day become the centre of attention?

Okay, be invited to come near the centre of attention…

Alright! Be allowed to look towards the centre of attention from a far away, but otherwise intrusive distance. Ya happy now?

Sheesh…

I can’t remember when I’ve had a less productive weekend, except when I was either on vacation or was entertaining visitors. But there were no such distractions this weekend. Instead, we were flitting around like we were … *gasp* … popular.

It all started Friday afternoon, at just after 5:00pm. A large portion of the company, exact number unknown, all headed down to the Drum & Monkey pub to wish our now former co-worker (but still friend) Ben. Ben’s off to slightly greener pastures in Edmonton. Ben was a very visible person around here, and a lot of people (myself grudgingly included) will miss him a lot.

So, yeah, we all got drunk.

Ben has a few interesting friends, who also attended the little affair. One of them was the host of A Channel’s morning show. (A Channel is our local CityTV-owned independent rabble-rousing station.) Ben used to work at A Channel, and had invited them along. I attempted to introduce myself to him. Unfortunately, not only could I not place him to save my life, I was … um … slightly incapacitated. It went something like this:

Him: Hi, you’re some of Ben’s co-workers, right?
Us: It shows that badly, eh?
(He starts to go around the table, introducing himself, starting with me.)
Me: (A little louder than I normally talk, and slightly slurred.) Hi, I’m Geoff. This is gonna sound really stupid, but have we met somewhere before?

(I kid you not, that is the first time I’ve ever used that line. I just wish, in retrospect, I’d used it to talk to an attractive woman, instead of some guy who’s name I still can’t remember.)

Him: (Not missing a beat) Yeah, I used to buy all that LSD from you out behind the Cecil!
Me: (Surprisingly also not missing a beat — yeah, I know, it’s rare, but it does happen) No, I sold heroin. I don’t deal with that wimpy sh*t.
Him: Yeah yeah yeah! I remember now — sorry, I was usually too stoned to notice.
Me: Not a problem, you get used to it in my line of work.

For the record, I have never dealt any form of drug (illicit, or otherwise), nor have I sampled anything but alcohol.

I hopped tables most of the night, wandering from conversation to conversation (participating for a while in a semi-strategic discussion with George (one of our account managers), and the guy from A Channel — he must think I’m a total freak by now), meeting new people (most of whom I’ve now forgotten), and generally causing trouble. But hey, what else are you gonna do when you’re out getting drunk?

We all started departing around 10:45 or so (I really don’t know what time it was, I’m just taking estimates from when I first saw the clock when I finally got home). A small number of us were heading over to a place called Calypso’s, which is one of the white trash bars in Calgary. Luckily positioned right next door to our apartment building. Why there? Easy: Karaoke.

No, I didn’t sing. Aside from the fact that I can’t (and have a serious case of stage fright), I was also crashing fast. Even with a caffeinated beverage to attempt to offset the sleepiness, I was at home shortly after 11:30. Chris, on the other hand, was ready for Phase II of the evening (he had left the Drum & Monkey a little earlier) — he was going to meet with the people at Calypso’s.

The following day was marked with me at work. (There’s a surprise.) But only for three hours. Then it was back home to prepare for the evening — we had a birthday to go to. But first, we decided to go see a movie (Spy Kids — yeah, it’s a kid’s movie, but it’s a good, funny kids movie) with our friend (and co-worker) Tamara.

After the movie, Chris and I walked over to Kensington for Chrissie’s birthday. Chrissie is one of our Project Managers, and though we really don’t know her that well, we thought it would be fun. But first, it was over to Safeway. Just as we reached the bridge to cross the Bow River, I suddenly realized that we had no gift to bring [insert bad “Little Drummer Boy” joke here]. So did Chris, only he had a good idea — flowers. So instead of going directly to Bass Brothers (the pub where Chrissie’s birthday celebration was in full swing), we stopped by Safeway to pick up some white roses.

The roses were … well, Chrissie told us that she was going to make a lot of phone calls today and brag. I’ll let you pick your own description as to how happy/overjoyed/ecstatic she was. Either way, it scored major brownie points for Chris and I … now we just gotta use ’em while they’re still good.

We hung out at the pub for about two hours or so, before deciding to keep on going. You see, for perhaps the first time in my life (I’m not sure about Chris), we actually had multiple invitations (okay, two), and we didn’t want to disappoint.

Arif, our other inviter, had said that the second soiree of the night wouldn’t get moving until midnight. Chris and I took the opportunity to get something to eat at Pongo’s first, before braving the wilds of a party where we knew two people.

We arrived at Arif’s friend Kim’s house around 1:30 or so. (Yes, in the morning.) It was packed with strange people. So naturally, we fit right in. We mingled as best we could, but it wouldn’t be until later in the evening that I found I was able to mingle without being near Chris (unlike my friend, I find a bit of libation takes the edge of my awkwardness).

We arrived home just before 5:00am. (Technically 4:00am, but there was that goofy time change. I wish we’d just get rid of that.) I promptly passed out.

My alarm went off at 10:30. I was so not ready for it. But it was a dim sum morning, and there are some things that are worth getting up for. We met Jordon (yet another co-worker and friend), and Stuart and Therese at Silver Dragon, where we promptly disposed of a dangerously high stock of delicious bite-sized Chinese edibles. This, for us, is almost a ritual now. But it’s one, that unless I’m mistaken, is beginning to become too routine. It’s almost to the point where I … and I shudder to say this … don’t want to have it every Sunday. I actually think I’ve had it too much.

Following dim sum, the four of them went off for their afternoon (Therese to work, and the other three to no good) and I went off to the Calgary Hitmen hockey game.

This was the sixth (and potentially deciding) game in the series. You could certainly tell that there were a lot of very avidly interested people (9,022 in all, according to attendance figures) going — you couldn’t miss the cars and pedestrians. No-one cared that there’s been a transit strike here for about a month — they still showed up in droves. The Saddledome wasn’t packed — but considering it’s minor league hockey, it was a solid turnout.

Before I continue, a couple of corrections. Some of the Observer’s Log’s avid readers caught me on my knowledge of hockey. I would like to state, for the records, that I know sqwat about sports. I went to the first game because it sounded like fun. I went to the second game because the first one *was* fun.

First off, the Hitmen and the Pats play in the Western Hockey League, not the World Hockey League, as I had originally assumed. My bad. As for the Pats, their name has a long history. To save myself a heap of typing, I’ll just take Joel’s explanation:

The Regina Pats Hockey Club is the oldest major junior hockey franchise in existence, first stepping on the ice in 1917. Over the past 82 years, there have been several stories as to how the team got its name, but the truth is the name came from both Princess Patricia, granddaughter of Queen Victoria (this is also where the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment, organized at the outbreak of World War I, got its name). A top-level junior hockey team began play in Regina in 1917, and went by the name “Patricias” until 1923, when it was shortened to “Pats”. The hockey club won the Memorial Cup for junior hockey supremacy in 1925 under the guidance of the legendary Al Ritchie.

So there you go, and now you know. Joel also added that he’s also not a hockey fan, but had been to Pats games. His reasoning being: “What else is there to do growing up on the Prairies?”

I think that explains the crowd in the Saddledome. The noise was booming even before the game started. But once it did, it became a madhouse. The Hitmen literally exploded in the first 15 minutes of the game, and the Pats looked like there were trying to fight off an angry pack of rottweilers. (I can only assume this was partly due to the cheap shot one of the Pats had made at the end of the last Calgary game, and because the Hitmen really wanted to wrap this series up.) The first period ended in a 1-1 tie.

The audience was revved. Toronto Blue Jays fans are quiet folk. Calgary Hitmen fans are not — you should hear 9,000 people in the Saddledome cheering on minor league hockey. It’s unreal. Not to mention deafening.

Like the previous game, the breaks between plays were interspersed with contests and prize giveaways (I can only assume to entice people to come out — it’s otherwise distracting from the game). During the first intermission, they had even more entertainment — former WWF wrestler Brett “The Hitman” Hart against a pack of angry 10-year-old midget hockey players. They had to flip him on his back, for some goofy reason.

Hockey’s a strange sport.

The second period could only be described as an utter disaster. The Hitmen had more or less fallen apart. Although they got another goal, the Pats got two. And the Pats were the ones in control. They were swarming. They were passing. They were making the Hitmen really angry, and the Hitmen were responding … with penalties. A lot of ’em. That’s how the Pats pulled ahead.

It affected the crowd, too. They started to get quieter. Even when one of the Hitmen managed to get the puck and skate towards the Pats’ goal, the now-normal rise in cheering was more subdued. The energy was gone.

Something happened during the second intermission in the Hitmen’s locker room. I don’t know what the coach said, or what performance-enhancing drugs they took, but the Hitmen were breathing fire when they came back out on the ice. I don’t think I’ve seen as good hockey played … ever. The first 13 minutes of the third period were really good — the crowd noticed too. But the energy in the crowd’s cheering didn’t come back.

Not until Brendl scored a the tying goal at 13:15 in the period. No-one was sitting down. You could barely hear the announcer. Now the crowd got loud.

The chanting was deafening. I actually felt a little sorry for the Pats. You could see the Hitmen actually playing better the louder the crowd got. All you could hear was “Go Hitmen, Go!” and rhythmic thumping through the stands. People were cheering, crying, roaring … and going hoarse very quickly.

The game intensified — playoff Olympic hockey isn’t this good. The puck changed ends constantly. The Hitmen wanted to win the game to finish the series. The Pats wanted to win to stay alive. Both wanted the game, bad.

With less than a minute left, I was really to call for overtime. But I didn’t, and I don’t know why. It’s probably a good thing, too. With less than 15 seconds left in the game, Brendl swooped down the ice, swerved around the Pats’ defenders, and scooped the puck in the net.

I, like every other capable person in the Saddledome, flew out of my seat. Not only did I nearly wrench my right arm out of its socket (still not sure how I did that), but I could feel my vocal chords tearing apart from my unearthly screaming. My ears were ringing. You couldn’t hear anything — not even the overly-loud high-bass music. All you could hear were the blood-curdling screams and ear-piercing whistles of 9,000 crazed fans.

That’s assuming, of course, that you weren’t already deaf.

No-one sat down for the last 15 seconds of the game. The Hitmen just let the clock run out. The cheering barely stopped during that time, and only increased when the game was officially over. Now we’re aiming for tickets for when they come back in the next round of playoffs (not sure if it’s semi-finals or finals).

And now I’m back at work, but only to catch up on email. Soon, I’ll head home to finish of my weekend with the most exciting thing yet.

Laundry.