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Lightning Biking in Toronto

After our one and only movie today, followed by a late lunch, Scott and I returned to the hotel for a bike ride. Dan remained in Toronto for some shopping and to catch another movie. Scott and I actually headed back towards Toronto this time (a few days ago we went North, deep into Mississauga). Our target was a peninsula that we thought would give us a unique view of downtown Toronto, without actually going all the way to the Islands (which we considered doing yesterday, after finding that the CN tower was booked for the evening). At any rate, we made it where we wanted to go, but it turns out that the best vantage point was on the way there. It was also getting late, so we turned around and began hightailing it back in the fading light. Just as we started, I thought I noticed a flash of lightning off in the distance, where, of course, we were heading. Hooray, an adventure, thought I. Scott was less enthusiastic. At any rate, it was lightning, and we rode straight into a flashing, thundering rain storm. By this time all was dark, and the rain was coming down so hard with strong headwinds that we couldn’t keep our eyes open, so we took shelter under a nearby building until the rain died down a little. Soon after we took off again, we passed a huge group of about 30 bikers. At a fork two passed us; we decided to follow and ended up having to turn around after about a mile down a wrong road. Still, it wasn’t so bad, and the rain had stopped, so despite cold feet and many miles (kilometers?) to go, we retraced our steps and got onto the right road.

Like so many other places, Ontario has many good drivers and a few jerk-offs. On the four lane road we shared on about half the ride, a lot of drivers got out of our way and passed on in the left lane, an easy task as traffic was light. A few decided it would be better to honk at us and look at us with evil eyes while they (eventually) passed us in the left lane. Some of them got fingers. We made it back, wet but happy. Quite the ride; quite the adventure. This town is pretty nice.

For the Want of Internet

Somewhat to my surprise and chagrin, we are checked into a hotel that doesn’t have the internet readily accessible. While there is a single computer in the lobby that is connected to the internet, there is no wireless or wired connectivity provided by the Ports Hotel. There is some “interspot” company offering wireless access, which we have been sporadically able to use, but their hours of operation are extremely limited and so far we haven’t been in the area when they are open to attempt to purchase connectivity from them. Of course, they have to automated system, which Dan and I would have both readily used. So tonight, I wandered around with Dan in search of internet. The first trip yielded some temping morsels, but no luck. So now that everyone is asleep or headed there, I took off again in search of the internet. And, as the last post and this one makes clear, I found it, to the tune of 18 Mbps on the Linksys Community Network.

At any rate, it is nice to be able to check my mail again. I just hope Canada is as safe as it is cracked up to be. Actually, I’m not worried — after all, I biked through the lightning today. For reals (see next post).

Stuck In First

Last Saturday, after Frisbee, a few of the gang hopped into my car to head to Jamba Juice, a nearly weekly tradition. While the 1996 Saturn SL1 sedan I drive had been working fine on the way to frisbee, when leaving I quickly noticed that it was not shifting into second gear, a gear I use very frequently. It felt like something the shifter connected to had come loose — somewhat like the connection between a sink drain plug and the knob used to set it, had fallen off. The problem quickly grew worse — after Jamba Juice, the car would no longer shift into any of the gears that involved pulling the shifter down — namely second, fourth, and reverse. Needless to say, getting out of the UVilliage parking lot was difficult — thankfully, Ananth and Boby were both there to push. Nevertheless, I managed to persevere for the first half of the next week — I park on an upward incline and can therefore back out without reverse. At work and around town, I parked in a way that allowed me to exit by pulling forward. Nevertheless, things were still worsening. On Wednesday, I was beginning to have trouble shifting out of gears. Wednesday after work, I found that I could no longer shift out of first gear at all. So, it was definitely time to visit the shop. The drive to Saturn of Bellevue was a bit painful — I couldn’t shift out of first so the trip involved a lot of slow, high-rpm travel. On flat areas of the road, I would bring the engine up to about 5,000 rpm, which would bring the car up to about 35 miles per hour, then I would coast down to about 15 and repeat. Up hills, I just let the engine run at about 3,000 rpm and took the hit in speed. I finally made it — and even managed to park the car backwards into a stall by using gravity and a little bit of fancy footwork. My Dad picked me up and I ate dinner with the parents before heading into Seattle to pack for the trip to Toronto that I am currently on. On my way out of Cleveland to Toronto, I talked to my Dad and recieved the happy news that the repair cost only $65 — $60 for labor and $5 for the piece that had broken.

Meanwhile, to coincide with my trip, I took my mountain bike, a Giant DS2 ETX into Recycled Cycles for some more planned maintenance. The estimate came to a cool $265 for a new cassette (rear gears), a new middle gear on the front (the old one was bent), a new chain (the old one was stretched and worn), a new rear wheel and tire (both practically falling apart), and a new cable and cover for the rear derailleur (the old one had become frayed and kinked). The repairs will actually total more than I paid for the bike originally, just about a year ago. With the use its seen since then, I think this maintenance is well worth the price.

TIFF: Three Movies, Three Winners

Despite a number of logistical setbacks leading up to TIFF, we managed to exchange a majority of our vouchers for tickets this morning with a very nice lady who put up with all of my inane anti-TIFF comments very well. We ended up seeing three movies today: at 10:00am we watched Persepolis, an animated movie about an Iranian girl growing up amid the Shah, the revolution, and the even more oppressive regime of the Imans. It was a little unexpected and a little sad, but quite good actually. Next we walked across the hallway to our second movie, My Kid Could Paint That, at 12:15. It was a documentary about a child abstract painter, Marla Olmstead, whose family became mired in accusations of helping with her paintings when they claimed to provide no aid. The documentary was deeply textured but overall quite damning on the topic of whether Marla actually painted “her” masterpieces herself. The director himself was there and answered a few questions afterwards; he came across as a very likeable character who almost hated himself for coming to the inevitable conclusion that Marla had some help. He leaves open the possibility that his implied accusation is false, but he couldn’t find any other way to interpret the mountain of evidence that was gathered while making his documentary. Finally, we hoofed our way to the Visa screening room where we watched an epic about Ghengis Kahn, Mongol. It was a great and epic way to end our first day at the festival — unfortunately, our day didn’t end there. Although making it into Toronto without any problems in the morning, traffic leaving the city was something truly incredibly awful: In about two hours we made it only about two miles and nearly ran out of gas. We finally made it to a gas station, where we decided to hang out for a while until traffic died down some. We finally made it back to our hotel about 9:00, when we had originally left at 6:00. It was a somewhat stress-ridden ride, to say the least. At any rate, here are my totally off-the-cuff ratings (:

Persepolis: 3.0/5.0
My Kid Could Paint That: 3.5/5.0
Mongol: 4.5/5.0

In Toronto

Dan, Scott and I arrived in Toronto today. We stopped at Niagara Falls briefly right after passing customs into Canada, and while very impressive, the falls would be a lot better in a nature preserve instead of overly commercialized as they currently are. Nevertheless, I’m still glad we went — it was pretty cool.

At the moment, we have only 15 of the 40 tickets we asked for; the balance we have in the form of vouchers that we have to find movies for. Thats crap; never come to the Toronto International Film Festival because they RAR you: as it currently stands, we paid about $50 per ticket for movies the bottom half of the list of movies that we wanted to see. Awesome.

At any rate, its nice to be in another country again, even it it is “just” our neighbors to the north. And we’ll make the most of it. Scott and I went on a run tongiht, and tomorrow we have two movies. Should be fun!

TIFF via Cleveland

Today I purchased my tickets to fly to Cleveland, Ohio, from whence Dan, Scott, and I will depart for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Scott already laid out the big bucks to purchase 40 tickets that the three of us will somehow split among ourselves. It has been a long time since I have been to Canada — a long time since I have even been out of the country (the last time was in the summer of 2003) — and I am looking forward to the excursion.

Long Beach, California

As part of my CREE Traineeship, I am in Long Beach, California, for the 34th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Controlled Release Society. I’m not too interested in controlled release myself, but I came here for the location and the people. We got in last night a little past 10 after a slightly delayed flight, then we took a shuttle to our hotel before wandering around the waterfront for several hours, returning at around 2:00am. The night was nice and mild; this also means that there were many homeless people out and about or sleeping. We weren’t harassed too much though. Despite our wanderings, we didn’t find the beach (we happened to head the wrong way along the shore; my fault), so along with checking into the conference, I think we will try to find the beach today.

The hotel we are staying at doesn’t have any wireless, so this morning I went to the local Radio Shack and picked up a MIMO Wireless-G router. I’ve been without an extra router for a while, so I think it was a worthwhile purchase even without the current need. Plus now I can blog from anywhere in the hotel complex, and everyone around has access too, since I don’t implement WEP or WPA.

Now its time to shower after my morning job to Radio Shack and then head to the convention center.