Nov. 16th, 2011 12:26 am
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I awoke today the freshest so far: darn near bright eyed and bushy tailed, as Mom used to say. After a mediocre buffet breakfast, I set out for my first sightseeing destination:

Lieutuvos Radio Television (TV) Tower

It's honking' big and there's an observation deck (and obligatory rotating resto), but it was foggy again. Besides I wasn't there for the view: it was the Lithuanians who first took on the Soviets in 1990--for which they paid dearly. Estonia had. "bloodless" singing revolution because blood was spilled in Vilnius.

Why a TV Tower? Well, s/he who controlled the state broadcaster could rally their side--or demoralize And disinform the other. Unlike the other Baltic SSRs less than 10% of the Lithuanian population was Russian: over 80% were ethnic Lithuanians. In Latvia and Estonia a third or more of the population were Russophones trucked in during the Soviet occupation to "Russify" each republic.

So the Soviet Army went in. Almost 20 Lithuanians were killed; upwards of 200 injured. Moscow won the battle, only to lose the war a few months later when the independence of all three Baltic republics was recognized by Moscow.

Suffice to say this impresses me more than any view or buffet ever could. Pretty awesome I say.

I next wanted to head back to the Old Town, since a couple of sites closed in the morning were scheduled to be opened. But stoopid me wanted to try a different route. Somehow I ended up at Akropolis, Vilnius' mega mall. Found Japanese for lunch: here's the view from my table:

Hockey lines and curling sheets, all in one. How economical

At this point I betrayed my gender and asked for directions to a bus back to my hotel. Then I headed back out to catch the twilight (at 16h30). Visited the mega cathedral ( where the 18 killed in 1991 were given a mass funeral in the square out front). And then I found the Holy Mother:

From the street; I went up too

After Krakow this apparently the most sacred shrine in Polish Catholicism. The end. ;)

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After relaxing yesterday morning at my Warsaw hotel I decided, as much to shake myself out of lingering jet lag torpor, to head to the airport a bit early. Upon my arrival I do as I always do: I checked to see if that elusive bulkhead aisle forward seat had become free. Because being stuck precisely one row back was a human rights violation.

I then got in the queue to drop my bag, which wasn't moving very quickly. No...make that not moving. At all. Several passengers were,in fact, sitting on scales blathering into mobiles. The check-in agents were all doing nothing. Eventually a wandering LOT agent trundled by: their entire airport management system had crashed.

No check-ins. No gate controls. no airport operations, in other words.

I did discern, however, some slight movement on the right periphery of my vision--aha! One queue was moving, albeit rather languidly doing so. It was, as it turns out, the online check-in podium (I was in the Star Alliance hawt poo line up, 'cause Air Canada see I'm hot poo), so I jumped into that queue.

The computer processed a person every 10 minutes. Thus in 40 minutes it was my turn. Ten minutes later I was at security: ten after that in the lounge. eventually enough passengers for the Vilnius flight trickled through and we boarded. And left an hour late.

Oh yeah: while we were waiting to board an air ambulance crew and some military personnel came out of the gate. 15 mites later they returned with a blonde fairly strapped onto the gurney shouting "nooooo!". Very disturbing.

Vilnius has an adorable little airport, where the bags come out quickly, the tourist info folks are charming, warm, and multilingual, and the woman in the kiosk is too. Because of my large bag I needed 2 tickets into town. The citybus was waiting and jumped on just as the doors closed.

TheComfort Hotel was about 100m away. After twice trying to stiff me with a dumpy room, Mrs Egan's withering glare appeared--at which point they transferred my booking to the much nicer Panorama Hotel hotel. A large studio suite in fact. With a jacuzzi bathtub.

My wanderings around Vilnius at night led to pizza and salad. And a sound night's sleep. Today's been MUCH better.

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Jun. 26th, 2011 07:44 pm
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On Friday morning it was time to say "dovidjene" to Belgrade (and Serbia) and "dobar dan" to Sarajevo (and Bosnia). I'd already purchased my train ticket for the 9 hour journey (a whopping $22): all I had to do the morning of departure was to grab a few supplies (there's no meal car on this recently relaunched) route, and exchange my Serbian dinars for either € or Bosnian konvertible markka (km). I'd scoped out the grocery store the night before, so I was in and out of there by 07h45--plenty of time for my 08h15 train.

Except I forgot about exchanging the dinar--more about that later.

I thought I was being a bit silly boarding the train at 08h00...until i got on. the more seasoned travelers were all already onboard, marking their territories, doing anything they can to discourage having to share their (6 seat) cabins with strangers. Luckily, being a non-smoker in Serbia means many more seats available in the non-smoking car. Rather quickly I found a pod with one woman in it: we smiled, said "dobar dan" and both settled into our reading. Which was perfect, because there wasn't much else I could say to her anyways... ne govorime bosanski (I don't speak Bosnian).

The train passes through Croatia en route to Bosnia--that means two border crossings each with two transactions. Firs the Serb folks come on, see who's leaving the country, then the Croatians see who's coming in. A couple of hours later the Croatians see who's leaving and the Bosnians who's coming in. nary a question or comment: just a "hvala" and a passport stamp. Of course they didn't stamp the Bosnian woman's passport even once. Yugosphere, don't ya know. each border one country's conductors march off, the locomotive is disconnected, a new locomotive attached and a new team of conductors come on board. Which, unsuprisingly, takes waaay longer than scheduled. Hence our first delay of the day. Times two (once entering Croatia, then again entering Serbia).

The three car train's coaches were typical Serbian Railways: former Yugoslav railway cars from the 1980s. The bog was hideous--no exaggeration. The seats were worn and the floors grotty. And the smoking--oy the smoking! Apparently non-smoking means "stand outside the non-smoking pod with the door open and puff away." I was a good Canadian: I quietly seethed rather than (try) to say anything.

In fact, the train journey was something of a metaphor for the three countries. On the Serbian sector the conductors were decently groomed, but no one's uniform fit: they either swam in them or were bursting out of them. The Bosnians were decidely more casual. The Croatians all were impeccably groomed and their unforms very nicely fitted. They clearly were stylin'. In fact, the Croatian Railways trains we passed were also decidedly more modern looking

Not many people got off or on in Serbia or Croatia, but as soon as we were in Bosnia the train was like a revolving door. Lots of folks getting on and off at each station. So for the last 4 hours of the journey we had 1-2 new people join us at nearly every stop. In the end we had a jovial farmer who I suspect was bringing his fresh cherries to the Sarajevo markets. The two large buckets overflowing with cherries was something of a clue. I thought it was awesome how folks passing by would grab one as they passed and he just smiled. Very cool. My first impression of Bosnians (fruit dude and my long time lady companion) was they're very salt of the earth. I like that . For last couple of hours we were joined by a young man one sees a lot of in the region: very tall, razor thin, black hair and chain smoking. Southern Slav, in other words...
About three hours from Sarajevo things got very exciting, however. Belgrade was having a hateful heatwave when we left: 35C each day, only getting down to about 20C at night. When our train left it was already at least 25C and humid. A cold front was making its way East though, and it got to Bosnia first. Very quickly dark rainclouds appeared, which then let loose a monsoon-like deluge. Which was mixed with hail. Then it was all hail. Then all golfball sized hail. For about 20 minutes. All the other passengers had their mobile phones out taking video or photos. But it was sure cooler afterwards.
I suspect the driver couldn't see very far in front of him, so we stopped at the next station for a long while. Then longer. Turns out a bridge signal wasn't working. Eventually we got moving again and arrived in Sarajevo around 90 minutes late. So that's a nearly 11 hour journey. The Sarajevo station had no tourist office, no ATM machine, no currency exchange (remember those dinars), and it was POURING out. So I dug out my hand Vancouver 2010 poncho, and rolled off into the twilight in search of an ATM. Found one in about 10 minutes...though my VanCity cards wouldn't work. Stuff it, I thought, and took out a small cash advance on my Visa. Needed.To.Get.To.Hotel.Stat.
I see an empty taxi and wave and smile. He turns around and drives in the opposite direction (did I look like a Blue Meany or something?). Then I find a taxi stand...but give up waiting for one to show up. Then I find a shopping mall...with no public washrooms (I needed to go before the train arrived; by now I was dying for a wee). But then I look and see the infamous Sarajevo Holiday Inn! Where there's a queue of taxi drivers. I was at my hotel in 5 minutes and weeing in 5 more. A nice hot shower and I was ready for Sarajevo!
My hotel--the Hotel Hecco Deluxe--is at one end of Ferhadija, the pedestrian high street leading into Bascarija, the Old Town. Great location. As it was Friday night, many observant Muslims were off to one of the 5 or so mosques in the neighborhood. But lots more folks were out for their Friday stroll. From the onset Sarajevo had a very chill vibe compared to Belgrade.

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Jun. 23rd, 2011 03:15 pm
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Yesterday was full of excitement. After a final morning at the conference it was off to the train station for a simple, straightforward 1.5 hour journey to Belgrade. Except this is Serbia ;)

There was only one wicket open. Then a second opened. Then no one spoke English. But my pidgin serbish got me through and on the platform with plenty of time. I found my seat. I was a good little traveller and put my bag up above. And the train pulled away precisely on time.
And travelled approximately 3m and died. Way.

Why not take the bus, you mint think? Yes the bus station is next door. But yesterday the folks who maintain roads in Serbia blockaded novi sad, Belgrade, and Nis. So a bus couldn't get in our out of either city.

90 minutes later a new engine was connected and we were on our way. With a nearly empty train. Since many passengers had elected to jump on a local train rather than wait. My hotel is directly a Ross from the station and I've stayed here before. While still in the station I bought NY ticket for tomorrow's train to Sarajevo. That's a 10 hour journey so I'll be packing supplies(no dining car).

Oh and Berlusconi is watching over me. For real, yo. Oh it's been 35C yesterday and today.

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After a wicked long journey (22 hours door-to-door) today's my first real day in Serbia. Thanks to better living through chemistry and a decent night's sleep so far I've not fallen over in the street.
NS is a nice little city. There's an ubiquitous cafe culture and, as is often the case here in the former Yugoslavia lots of very tall 190cm men.
Jeebus took care of me during my talk this morning: a full room and only one quasi-asshat. Forage paper in first session--I'm a free man!

So far the calibre of the papers has been mixed. And I've forgotten what tools sone audience members can be. Oh and btw: if you haven't verified your sample is a Gaussian distribution...don't submit a paper with a t-test. I mean, come on. Really.

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Right now

Sep. 15th, 2010 09:44 pm
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Canada Line after French class

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Apr. 22nd, 2009 08:20 am
jawnbc: (mountain high)

Here's a tip: don't interrogate a new contact. And don't whinge about your current role. Oh, and learn how to (at least) feign listening.

Can you say "missed opportunity?" I knew you could.

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Small town airport airports can be funny places. We arrived an hour before our departure, only to find a long queue for check in. Despite there being an empty self service kiosk. We couldn't use it either (international flight), but by trying to use it attendant dude appeared. So we got through quickly.;)

While [ profile] querrelle finished some shopping Ma and I had a nice chatty evening. Mostly about the clan, how awesome all her grandchildren are (they really are; my brother and sister did a great job), how we both worry a bit about my brother Mike, and about happiness.

"are ya happy Jawn?"

"yeah Ma. I'm happy. I've a great life. "

We also talked about their finances and I was pleased to know they are well sorted on that regard. They don't have buckets of it, but their pensions and Social Security (and being mortgage free) means they're fine. That pleases me: few people worked as hard in their lives as Ma and Da. Who will be married 50 years in June.

This is the first time in recent memory I've not said goodbye to Ma without wanting to cry. [ profile] querrelle being here is part of it; seeing her looking better than the last time probably too.

My brother Tommy came by with 2 of his yesterday--nobody cracks me up like Tommy. Though Cait, his oldest and my goddaughter, is getting there.

I have a great family. J'uis chanceur. Blessed really.

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Mar. 21st, 2009 01:31 pm
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I went to bed Thursday night in pain. I woke up Friday feeling much better. Drive to Whistler was dead easy. Got up on the mountain to tons if new snow and blizzard conditions. Had my fun skied out.

Today is gorgeous and sunny and the snow is magical. See?

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Collins run, Cypress Mountain, 19h20

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Full photo set here.


Feb. 12th, 2009 08:51 pm
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I'm in the. Lodge at cypress, sipping a bevvie and feeling blessed. My Vanoc friends took me up here to 'board and the conditions were great. I got lots of great runs including my first blue of the season. And now my chicken burger and poutine sont arrivées.

Je suis chanceur, ben non?

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RSS feed

Feb. 2nd, 2009 02:02 pm
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Can anyone help this eejit set up an RSS feed for his LJ FRIENDS page?

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Jan. 31st, 2009 01:00 pm
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Has chosen "lose control" by Waldo's People" and Denmark is between Hera Bjork's fab schlager "Someday" and Brinck's Ronan Keating penned "Believe Again."

I vote for the latter, but Jaysus Ronan'll be kneecapped I'd Denmark won the Contest with his song.

Edit: it's Brinck! Posted via

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Our first of 3 national finals has concluded and the UK has voted for Jade. The good news is that Andrew Lloyd Weber's "it's my time " is a great pop anthem. It's the best song the UK has sent since 1997.

And Jade sings it very well. Top 10 I think , unless she does Javine.

Am now watching the Danish final and I'm pleased with 3 of the 4 "super finallists". I'm guessing it'll be Det Det (90% of the males across Europe will be drooling; the other 10% squeeing over their frocks and 'dos).

Finland may be the most interesting final though. There's rock,dance, schlager, folk pop and hip hop. In fact the hip hop features a deaf rapper who signs his rhymes. Very kewl!

Stay tuned

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Jan. 29th, 2009 05:11 pm
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Back in January 1999 I came off my scooter on the way home from work. I broke both arms that day

Almost 9 years to the day, and a mere 10m down the road, my rear tire blows out.

I'm fine but 'Twas fookin' scary. And now I await my tow.

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Size queen

Jan. 12th, 2009 04:34 pm
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42" LG plasma. :) ;)

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[ profile] querrelle evicted me while he grunted and sweated. Fine. Shop I shall then, so there.


First stop the Apple shop to have my laptop tested. The power source proved to be the issue--yay. Next, off to The Bay to return something I bought for a dinner guest who never came (everyone should get at least a wee prezzie on Xmas): sorted.  Then I wandered Pacific Centre up, down, and all around. Last stops were Future Slop to perve our new TV (OMG such a great picture) and Winners, where I scored an Xmas tree skirt 50% off! Now you can't see the tile cutter box!

Am now on the bus enroute to the credit union to do some banking the socialist way. Our credit union kicks every kind of ass--from financial stewardship to community development to customer service to kewlness.  A couple of years ago our Catlick archdiocese didn't like VanCity's homo ad campaign--so VanCity dropped them. Principles before profits, but still lots of profits.

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With 462 soon to be useless business cards, I had to use them somehow.

:)  )

Le repas

Nov. 11th, 2008 02:37 pm
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At McDo with [ profile] beverly_sutphin and her progeny. One of whom smells like poo. But it's nice to spend time with her.


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It's a lovely autumn day here in Vancouver. [ profile] querrelle and I wandered down to Chinatown for lunch and some browsing. Really nice time, but am knackered. We're now having a latte on Denman street. Noice.

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