Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jake's Barber Shop

When we first moved to Abbotsford about four years ago, my Dad and I came across Jake's Barber Shop which was two stores down from the main post office.

Interestingly, there is no Jake that works there! Matt and Karl are the names of the two barbers who own and run the shop. I'm unsure where the name came from, but nonetheless it's a good place to get a haircut.

When it comes to getting my hair cut, I want to find a place that has a good barber, not just someone who is a 'hair cutter'. No hair salon for me! Just a good old fashion barber shop... if there's no spinny blue, red, and white thing out front, there must be something wrong!

Now all I need, is a good accountant!

Monday, March 21, 2005

West Coast Express: From the Inside

A few weeks ago I showed a picture of one of the trains from the outside. I recently found a few pictures I'd taken of the inside and here they are:

This is a picture on the lower floor. You can see just to the right there are a few spots for people to secure their bicycles. Way down on the end is the bathroom. One car on the train doesn't have a bathroom, which is replaced by the coffee shop where you can order a variety of snacks.

As I mentioned, that is the main floor. There is a top floor as well, which has a number of similar booths with tables and even electric outlets if you want to plug in a laptop or something.

I should mention, these trains are built by Bombardier. They make other trains, and perhaps even airplanes. The WCE trains do have an airplane feel to them, from the plastic used on the walls, to the sliding door on the bathroom. No turbulence here though!

This is my favorite seat on the train. Certain cars have a control booth on them, and it pushes the seats back a bit creating a 'cozy' pair of seats facing the wall. If at all possible, I take this seat.

How much does one pay for this kind of fancy transit? The daily round trip is $19, with discounts for weekly and monthly passes, of course. Is it worth it? Compared to taking the skytrain with small uncomfortable chairs, and packed in with hundreds of standing riders... Yes!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Book Review: The 9/11 Commission Report

It is likely that 9/11 is the event that has had the biggest impact generally on the people of the world. Travel, for one, was greatly affected. Many people's way of thinking changed. Definitely more people have become more aware of their surroundings, more aware of what's going on in the world around them, and many have made an effort in some way to take part in forming the post-9/11 era.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the President and Congress passed a law creating the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The end result of their work is The 9/11 Commission Report which you see here.

The report is divided into 13 chapters, covering a wide range of topics (please note that when I mention 'sections' further on, it does not necessarily mean only one chapter). It begins with the 9/11 story itself, giving a minute by minute account of the hijacking, from the time the hi-jackers checked in for their flights, until the attacks were completed. This account is the most complete I have ever read or heard and is well worth the read. In the past, such detail would not have been possible, and only because many passengers had cell phones did much of the known information get passed on and recorded.

The next part of the book is concerned with Osama Bin Laden and his rise to power. For those who are interested in knowing the difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, this book will explain it and much more.

Naturally, being a serious document and not a novel, it is not a 'page turner' all the way through. The report goes into detail about the structure and workings of the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence and security organizations previous to 9/11 and how certain problems may have hindered the detection and prevention of such an attack. It also covers a number of terrorist attacks that happened during that period and how they were handled.

Then, it launches into a lengthy and very interesting account of the planning of the 9/11 attacks. This was no small undertaking, and some of the planning started years before... indeed the ideas began forming many years before that. The restrictions and higher security being imposed on travellers these days will come as no surprise when you read about how easily the hijackers were able to come to the United States, enroll in flight training schools, and generally get along quite well even with severly limited English in some cases.

The second last section goes back to 9/11 itself and analyses the actions of the first responders, both emergency and civilian. I found this to be the most fascinating part of the book, which contained a lot of interesting information. For example, did you know that when the first plane hit, the explosion went down one of the elevator shafts more than 90 floors and blew out on the main floor and a parking level four levels underground? There are also diagrams of the internal structure of the building, showing how the stairwells were constructed, as well as diagrams of the layout of the World Trade Center complex.

The sheer size of the rescue operation is outstanding and the people involved deserve a lot of credit for their actions. Also to be commended are the groups responsible for training the staff of the WTC buildings and the improvements made to the buildings escape routes after the terrorist bombing a few years previous.

The book concludes with all of the recommendation the commission has for the President, Congress, and the intelligence community. This information is directed at those groups in particular, but it is interesting to see how the government and intelligence groups have changed since the end of the Cold War, and how they might continue to evolve in the future to better protect the country.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants a full account of September 11th, and wants to become educated beyond what is known by the general public and distributed by mainstream media. Even if you skim over sections you're not interested in, it will be well worth the read for those sections you are interested in. The price of the book is a bonus too, only $10 US ($14.50 CAD), and should still be available in most bookstores.

My overall comments: Buy it. Borrow it. Read it!


Our Orchard

Our (my) dream of having an orchard in the backyard is slowly becoming a reality. We now have a nice apple tree, an Italian Plum tree, and now...


We bought it last week at Minter Gardens. It's a really interesting one, as it has five types of cherries grafted into the main tree. The five types of cherries it will grow are:

  • Bing
  • Ranier
  • Stella
  • Lapin
  • Sam

The leaves are starting to come out soon, and we're going to plant it in the backyard within the next week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Anthrax Investigation: Vancouver

When I drove to work this morning, I took a slightly different route to scout out some 'cheap parking' I had seen a few days earlier. Found my spot and started walking to the office (it's a few extra blocks if you want to save money).

Interestingly, when I got to the block my office is on, the entire road had been blocked off and there were emergency vehicles all over the place. They were concentrated around the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency building where all the action was obviously happening.

The typical situation for something like this is when a fire alarm goes off, but usually the road is never closed. Someone suggested it might be a bomb threat which sounded reasonable at the start.

However, it became apparent very quickly that it was something more than just a bomb threat when the Hazardous Materials team showed up.

When a camera man showed up, the spokesman for the fire department came out to talk to him and I listened in. He said they were investigating a white powder which about four people had come into contact with.

By this time, the building had been evacuated and the announcement was made that all staff should leave the area until noon. At that time, they were to call the 1-800 number on their ID cards which would have a message containing further instructions.

They had also set up a tent which I believe is for the hazardous materials teams to decontaminate when coming out of the building.

And this is my favorite shot. The two media guys who showed up were a little late and missed out on this type of thing. Below is a picture of a clear plastic box with those gloves built into them so you can work from the outside without coming into contact with what is on the inside. They must have used it to look at something more closely, or perhaps to do the chemical testing.

I sent emails to the two local newspapers and actually got a phone call from The Province. I talked to them for a while about what happened and they said they were interested in looking at my pictures, and would pay me if they were used in the newspaper! I'm not sure when it would show up, probably tomorrow since it'll be old news if it's any later than that. Might have to pick up a paper to check!

UPDATE - Thursday, March 17, 2005

Checked three papers today (Province, Sun, Metro), not a word about yesterdays events. Everything is being overshadowed by the Air India trial, but by the time that blows over, it might be too late for this story.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Petro Points: New High Score

I now have 41500 Petro Points! That's a lot of gas, and I've used a few thousand points here and there to get a few little things free. Still, that works out to almost $4000 gas since I started collecting!


Visit the Petro Points site above to see what fabulous prizes I can claim with my current balance!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Galaga - My New Personal Best

Instead of going to bed early, I decided to play one game of Galaga. Turns out it was a good time because I got my highest score of all time. 184,000 points, and made it to level 20! At level 19, you meet a new kind of alien, some kind of pink mosquito thing. Just in the bonus round though, it doesn't show up on level 20 which is back to the regular game.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Book Review: Think Like a Billionaire

Think Like a Billionaire is a book by Donald Trump released in 2004 before the second season of The Apprentice came out on TV.

I recently finished this book, which I was reading in-between two others. Because it contains information on a lot of subjects, it didn't seem like something you could read straight through, so I read a few sections every couple of days.

The information part of this book is divided into three groups.
  • Real Estate
  • Money
  • The Business of Life

Donald Trump is big on real estate and likely has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to buying, selling, and managing it. He discusses how to buy a house, how to find a good mortgage broker, when to renovate, and more. There are a few key ideas that you will pick up on, but with only 41 pages dedicated to Real Estate, it seems a little short. On the other hand, he does have other books which may deal more closely with the subject, leaving this as a more general book.

The Money section contains information on how to properly manage your portfolio, manage debt, and generally keeping on top of your finances.

The Business of Life section is one of the more interesting in the book, and has some of the more important suggestions. How to be happy with your job (or get out and find one you do like) for example, how to improve your golf game, and how to impress anyone in business. He makes an attempt at giving advice on marriage, but coming from someone who's been married three times, it seems a bit much to me.

After you get through those sections, he launches into two further sections that give you insight into what it is like to be a Billionaire. There is also a "Week in the Life" section which is also interesting. There's no doubt that The Donald is proud of his accomplishments and likes to flaunt it a bit (perhaps too much for some). His (now) wife Melania gets a lot of attention, especially in the photo sections, and who wouldn't... with a woman at least 25 years younger!

If you're a commie and hate people who are capitalistic, this book is not for you. If you want to read some advice by someone who has become a billionaire through lots of hard work, and also want some entertainment, you will enjoy the book.

Thing I didn't like: The book could have had a little more detailed information. Many sections ended halfway through a page, leaving a bunch of white space and the next section started on the following page.

Things I liked: It's definitely a fun book to read with some useful bits of information. Trump knows who he is and what he wants and isn't afraid to tell the world. One thing I was particularily interested in was his mention of involvement in the "Salute to Israel Parade", and a matching photo in one of the picture sections!

The book is worth a read, but it isn't a must-buy. If you can borrow it from the library, or from a friend, read it and take some notes and you'll be fine. If you're growing your own library and want an interesting book from an interesting guy, it might be worth it!


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gas stations prepare for $1.00+ per litre

This cannot be good...

This gas station was under major renovations. The scary thing to me is that they added the third digit. This must mean they expect the price of regular gas to go above the one dollar mark at some point. I wonder if gas prices have actually been kept below a dollar simply for the fact that they can't display the values. I have seen prices more than a dollar for premium gas, on the pump though where it can be shown. Most street displays only have enough for 99.9.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fire Alarm: No Fire Trucks

On Friday just before 3:00pm, the fire alarm went off in the building. They never do fire drills that I've seen so this was out of the ordinary for sure. It's interesting that most people hesitate in these situations, not sure if they should go or wait for instruction.

I am one of two fire wardens for my floor, so I ran over to where Anna (the other warden) works. She was checking the main hallway to see if there was any indication of what was going on. Since nothing seemed to indicate a test, an evacuation was in order. My Executive Manager gave the word to move out which got even those who were hesitating on the move.

I've been reading 'The 9/11 Commission Report' and had just recently read the part regarding the World Trade Center and the evacuation process. They say that in the 1993 terrorist bombing under those same buildings, the general evacuation took four hours. In years after that time they have put a lot of effort into making the staircases safer (such as putting glow strips on the railings and stairs) and educating the people who work in the buildings on proper evacuation procedure. After the 9/11 attacks, the general evacuation took only one hour. That turned out to be critical because it took under two hours from the time of the crashes until both buildings had collapsed.

One thing everyone should do is know of every stairwell in the building they work or live in. I realized the importance of that during this fire alarm. Coming from the back of the office, by the time we reached the staircase, it was packed inside and people were waiting in line! One thing nobody realized was that about 15 meters down the hall is a second staircase that nobody ever uses and don't even know it's there. I took myself and a few others in that direction, and likely made it down to the ground floor in a fraction of a time since that staircase was practically empty.

Now that we were safely on the ground floor, it was time to take some pictures (what else?). I went around taking pictures of some of the staff.

Marc showing off for the camera.
In the background you can see many of our office staff

Here is Donald using the time to read the computer paper (HUB).
I work with Don frequently as we're on the same team.

Okay, so what happened then? ... Nothing! The alarm was turned off and everyone headed back inside. This didn't seem quite right though, as the emergency crews have shown up every other time I've been in a fire alarm situation. Not only is it good for the photos, but they should be there to check things out, make sure everything is okay. Not a one showed up.

I sent an email to a few people in the company to see if they knew anything, but didn't hear back during the rest of the afternoon. I think I may call the building management company to see if they have any information... maybe even the fire station if nobody can tell me anything.

Car Maintenance: 100,000km

I took my car into the dealership this morning for my 100,000km maintenance package. Should be in there for about 6 hours or so. A little pricey, but it's good for the car. New spark plugs, almost all the fluids changed, tires rotated, oil change, the works. Ooh and probably a car wash too. I'll be good to go for a while after this!

Zoom Zoom!


Got my car back, and the total price was less than any previous quote I'd received from them before. $690.73!

Some of things that were done:
  • Oil Change / Filter
  • Flush Cooling System
  • Multi-point Inspection
  • Tire Rotation
  • Brake Inspection
  • Lubricate Locks, Hinges, Latches, etc
  • Check / Clean Battery Terminals
  • Replace Air Filter
  • Replace Fuel Filter
  • Flush Transmission System
  • Check / Service Steering and Suspension
  • Replace Spark Plugs

Also... they charged me $1.45 'Enviro Disposal Fee'. Guess that means I'm helping save the environment. =o)


Thursday, March 03, 2005

The commute: West Coast Express

Taking the train is a big part of my life right now. I spend two hours a day on it, which takes me from Mission to downtown Vancouver and back again in the afternoon. It's a really nice train, better than the bus or skytrain... this is a real passenger train.

Why is this better than the bus and skytrain? Well, it's double decker, has high back seats with leather headrests. It has small tables with electrical outlets for laptops or other electronics. It has a bathroom on each car. And... something very important for west coasters... there's an onboard coffee shop!!

I took this picture from another train sitting across the platform. In the background you can see a few buildings near the harbour. The low building on the right is the current train station where the West Coast Express, the Sea Bus, and the SkyTrain all meet. Quite a busy place at times! I believe this was actually built many years ago to service the regular trains which also run through this same area, and was a natural place for a number of transit systems to use.

When I get a chance I'll take some photos of inside the train and post them here as well, give everyone a better idea of what I see on a daily basis.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dress vs Casual

Once in a while I dress up a bit for work, something different! Actually, I've noticed that more people in the company are wearing nicer clothes than what we're used to, so I figured I might do kind of the same thing... even with casual clothes.

The question is... what is this type of clothing called? You can't see it here, but I was wearing a nice pair of blue jeans. One person thought I was wearing full on business clothes with a tie and button down collar. The guy sitting next to him thought it was casual because of the jeans...

Is this:

  1. Casual
  2. Business Casual
  3. Business / Dress

Press 'Comments' below, let me know what you think.