What a weekend

Well, for the first time since I got here, I can honestly say I had a really busy weekend. It’s not like we haven’t had stuff to do or that we haven’t done those same things, but it always felt like we were sitting around doing nothing for at least part of it. Not this weekend.

Friday was like any other workday: we got home and sat on the futon and watched a couple of movies and other random things to keep us from falling asleep at 8pm. We threw the idea of going out back and forth between the three of us, but in the end we all made the decision to just stay home thanks to the long weeks we’d all had.

Saturday morning, however, found us all awake around 8 or 9am. If you know me, you’d know that on weekends, seeing me up before the crack of noon (without assistance) is damn near unheard of. Even more so for Hazen. Yet here we were, bright and early Saturday morning, sun is shining, and for a change, we’re all awake to enjoy it.

We all decided to make it to Saturday brunch around 12:30 at Bistro 12, along with 5 other work guys and their girlfriends. We eat and talk about everything non-work related in an attempt to preserve any semblance of sanity from the previous week. Of course if you put 6 geeks in a single confined area, the topic of conversation will naturally flow back to computers, which meant that we all found ourselves quite upset, quite quickly, and realized that we needed to get our minds off anything with a keyboard for a while. We hummed and hawed over what to do. Finally we walked down to The Little Theater (yes, that’s its name) to check if there were any tickets to the new 007 movie left. There were. We payed.

I promise to only digress just a teeny bit here. Going into 007: Casino Royale, I was a little nervous about Daniel Craig as Bond. Not that he isn’t an amazing actor (you really should see Layer Cake if you want to see him at his best), but in my head, I’ve always had a picture of the dark haired, slick-as-an-oil-spill, debonair Bond. From the moment I heard that Craig had signed on, I was a bit apprehensive for a few reasons.

1. He’s blond. No, hair color shouldn’t matter, but blond (to me) just screams beach-volleyball-playing, surfer dude; not sophisticated special agent.

2. He’s never been in a role on the “good side” before. In movies like Layer Cake, Munich, and even Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, he’s always been on the wrong side of the law, and he definitely fit the bill. He was rough, scruffy, and was able to get the job done, even it meant using brute force. Becoming James Bond would require a transformation to a much more refined role; one that would require less brute strength and more cunning.

After seeing the movie, I found myself not only relieved of any misconceptions I might have had previously, but also wanting more. Craig was amazing as the latest double-oh-seven, and I cannot wait for the next one (which has already entered the production phaze).

Being that Casino Royale was about Bond becoming 007, the first scene didn’t begin with the trademark gun barrel and flowing blood. The movie begins and we find out that James has only had one kill in his entire SAS career. Within minutes, he has number 2, but I’ll leave that to the viewer to determine who dies and how. The fact that he doesn’t begin as a double-oh also explains the lack of Q and his nifty gadgets that always seem to save him just in the nick of time. A lot of people I’ve spoke to about the movie weren’t aware that this was the “prequel” to James Bond and as such were disappointed by the lack of traditional bits from the Bond universe, but believe me, it’s well worth it.

You see Bond (and perhaps since it was his first Bond movie, Craig himself) put between a rock and a hard place many a time, being forced to prove himself without any magic lasers or exploding gum, flying cars or voice replicators; he simply has his body, his trademark Walther PPK pistol, and a lot of ego.

I definitely recommend it to anyone who has ever had an interest in Bond films. It definitely brought the franchise back down to Earth (at least as far as Bond movies go) with some real emotion, and some great acting.

Now back to the weekend. Saturday night, Monbill (one of our co-workers) was having a Thanksgiving dinner, being that he’s from Boston. Instead of the usual turkey, he had turducken. Now for those of you out there who are lucky enough to never have tried or heard of turducken, let me explain what you are absolutely not missing. Turducken is quite simply duck, stuffed in a chicken, stuffed in a turkey. *barf* I’m pretty sure that starving children in Africa would turn down turducken just from the smell alone.

After the turducken was cleaned up, deserts were served which ranged from pumpkin pie, to ice cream, to all kinds of things really. We sat around for just a bit longer, before Georgina (a.k.a. “G”) showed up with her……wait for it…….ACCORDIAN.

“I’m sorry, what now?” Don’t feel weird if these were the first words out of your mouth. They were mine too. Thanks to the fact that 95% of ACT is made up of east coasters, singing drinking songs like Home For A Rest (by Spirit of the West) and Liquor and Whores (by Bubbles of Trailer Park Boys fame) is apparently the hidden national treasure that Bermuda was waiting to unleash upon the world and—No, wait. No they’re not. Not even a little bit. Getting 15 east coasters to drink their asses off while singing drinking songs is something like watching a drunk baby with a bucket on their head; for the first little while it’s entertaining, but sooner or later they just start going in circles, and break everything within arms distance.

Now I’m sure at least for a second, you wondered why I picked “Home For A Rest” and “Liquor and Whores” as examples of the names of the songs that they played. The problem was that those were the only two songs sung all night. Now I can hear you now: “2 songs? Justin, that’s not so bad, you’re over-reacting.” Yes I would be over-reacting if they’d only played each song once. Or twice. Or nineteen times. But no, I was subjected to accordion renditions of those two songs back-to-back-to-back-to-back (ad nauseum) from 8:45pm until somewhere around 3am. No stoppages in play, no smoke breaks, just six hours and fifteen minutes of the same two songs over and over and over. It was like the universe was burnt on a scratched CD, and was stuck on repeat. I really used to like “Home For A Rest”, honestly I did, but I swear to Ayesha that if I ever hear it again, the DJ will very promptly and very swiftly receive a crowbar to his face.

We woke up yesterday (Sunday) morning around 10am, angry that the sun had risen and poked its way through our eyelids. Cursing the stupid gravity that keeps our planet in orbit with the sun, Matt and I slowly started to get ourselves mobile (Hazen was called into work even earlier to deal with some massive system fault, like a screensaver not working or something equally as stupid) and went outside to surf the internet in the sun. After an hour or so of that, we decided that we would clean the house as it hadn’t really had a good one since we moved in. Out came the broom and cleaning supplies and we got to work. An hour and a half later, the house looked genuinely clean for the first time since we moved in, which prompted us to reward ourselves with an afternoon at the beach.

We got to Horseshoe Bay around 1:30pm after a good 35-40 minute scooter ride (it’s on the other side of the island; about 25km from our house) and laid on the beach while we waited for the usual weekend crew to show up and play beach volleyball. After waiting for a half hour or so and no one familiar walking by, we realized that our bodies were starting to get a bit crispy so we ran into the water and made the best of the 5 and 6 foot waves by body surfing them.

Body surfing (for those of you who have never had the chance to try it) is actually incredibly fun, but takes a lot of practice. You stand facing the shore, but watch behind you for a decent sized wave. When it gets to about 10 feet behind you, you start paddling toward the beach as fast as you can, and then straighten out and go stiff as a board when your feet almost reach the crest of the wave. It’s really hard to time, but if you can do it properly, you can ride a wave 100ft or more.

We body surfed for a couple hours and after realizing that our arms had maybe become a tad over-worked, we left Horseshoe and took the scenic route through the city and made the impromptu decision to stop at the Aquarium at Flatts Village. Unbeknown to us, the aquarium is also connected to the Bermuda Zoo. So for 10 bucks, we were able to see a ton of fish, and the cutest monkey of all: the golden lion tamarin (click here for image). They are maybe a foot tall, bright orange, and the cutest little faces. Matt and I are actually going to see about getting one as a pet because it would A) be freakin’ cool, and B) possibly be able to fetch us beers. It’s a double whammy. :)

After our bodies were sufficiently worn out from body surfing, we made our Jello-armed way back home where we proceeded to veg out long enough to find ourselves all very hungry. Rather than cook actual food, we decided we’d take Matt out for dinner to The Swizzle on the last night on the island before leaving for the real world this morning (Monday). The lucky SOB apparently wasn’t hot enough, because as of this morning, he’ll be spending a week in sunny Miami, Florida for some HP training.

And that brings us to today. Sore and sick of newfie songs, I sit here in my work chair hoping that no one asks me to do anything today because for the first time since I arrived here a month ago, I really just want to go home.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I ended the previous sentence with “I really just want to go home.” For those who didn’t catch it, it was a play on words, being that previous to the go home sentiment, I explained that I had arrived here a month ago, which would hopefully instill in the reader that the two were related. They are not. When I say that I just want to go home, I mean in the sense that I would like to ride the 10km back to my house so I could go back to sleep and possibly regain some feeling in my arms. That is all.]

Stupid rain

Well, for the first time since I’ve been down here, it rained the entire time I rode to work. Now with Bermuda rain, it’s quite different than rain I’ve experienced anywhere else. You see, the droplets seem to have some sort of supergravity within themselves which allows them to contain the same amount of water but exist in a smaller, more compressed space. What does this mean for the casual scooter driver? Well it means that at any given second, it feels like your being stung in the face by 100 bees.

The rain down here is also incredibly consistent. What I mean by that is that when you’re outside, you’re either being dumped on or you’re completely dry; “drizzle” or “light mist” don’t exist here. Thanks to the constant dump of water soaking everything in it’s path, the casual scooter rider mentioned above must do everything within his or her power to cover as much of their body in nylon- and plastic-covered materials as possible, to prevent from becoming one with nature (and by that I mean: drenched). This includes (from the top down) a helmet, sunglasses/goggles, a waterproof jacket (think of a really expensive snowboarding jacket, minus the ultra-thick lining) with hood on underneath the helmet, and matching rainproof pants. You essentially look like a plastic mummy making your daily commute to go reign terror on unsuspecting victims.

I want to take this moment to apologize for not writing much last week. Some time around Tuesday or Wednesday, I had something of an epiphany and realized that the life goals (or expectations) I had set for myself 10 or 12 years ago were not the same goals that I have now. I can vividly remember being in grade 5 and teaching Mr. Harper’s computer class, and not only teaching, but designing a web page (in notepad, none of this WYSIWYG crap like Dreamweaver) between instructions. Being a systems engineer or a network administrator was all I ever wanted to be, but somehow in the past 10 years, I’ve gone from loving computers to absolutely despising them.

I guess I should have seen this coming, and looking back, it’s pretty obvious to see that I’m just another burnout that the IT industry has used, abused and kicked to the curb, and my mental status is a very obvious reflection of that. I’ve become even more cynical than I used to be, I’ve gone to work with a pretty big chip on my shoulder, and I hate it; this is not what I wanted to grow up to be. Or if I pictured myself growing up to be this cynical, I would have pictured it being later in my life; like maybe 25.

I mean, the sheer fact that I’m not even 25 and I’ve already been burnt out from one industry really scares me. I know that IT has a huge burnout rate in and of itself, but I still worry about what could happen if I just pick another industry and end up “burning out” from that too. I know I’m still young and have a lot of idealism still stuck in me, so I really do want to experience what else is out there, but at the same time, I’ve had it stuck in my head from certain family members that doing something “crazy” like trying a completely new career path would be a waste of my “meal ticket”.

I obviously believe them (to certain a degree) because I know IT, I know how it works, I know how it runs, and I’ve made some great choices in terms of career opportunities, but I still have this part of me that wants to get the hell out of IT once and for all. Or maybe not “once and for all”, maybe just “once”. Since I started in IT, that’s all I’ve done. That’s not necessarily a problem, but I haven’t had the chance to experience what else is out there. Maybe I’d be happier as a beancounter. Or maybe I’d be happier as a factory worker. Who knows. What I do know, is that sometime in the next year or so, I’m going to start working towards getting out of IT.

How will I accomplish such an incredibly difficult task, considering that university is too expensive and that any job I might even find even remotely satisfying will almost require a degree of higher education? I know it sounds cliche, but I’d like to go to China and teach English. Those of you who really know me know that I do like teaching people new things, plus you probably heard about my possible move to be a junior high math and science teacher a year or so ago.  I think this would be a great move for myself personally, because I’d be able to use my (hopefully decent) teaching skills plus I’d be able to go to a country like China and experience a completely different culture.

I’ve been researching this teaching thing for about a week now, and while I obviously haven’t made any firm decisions on anything yet, I’ve definitely been looking into what would be required if I did decide to make one later.  One of things that is considered a benefit (but not required) is TESL Certification which stands for Teaching English as a Second Language.  There are accredited courses online which cost around $400-800 for a 40 hour program which will get you TESL certified, which is pretty darn good.  (I found these prices by using a site which is something like an Online Better Business Bureau, so I would assume these places are at least somewhat reputable).

On top of the TESL certification, I’ve downloaded two different computer courses that teach you how to speak Mandarin.  I have enough material that if I start before Christmas, I could be at least semi-fluent by Christmas of next year.  The courses are the Pimsleur Mandarin I, II, and III, plus the Rosetta Stone English-to-Mandarin class.

I know it probably sounds ludicrous that someone like me who has basically been given his career path to him on a silver platter would make the conscious decision to throw it all away, even if it’s only temporarily, just to “see what’s out there”.  To be totally honest, it’s a combination of being an IT burnout plus realizing that I haven’t experienced ANYTHING professionally outside of IT, and I feel so sheltered.  It would give me the opportunity to see the world, and would also allow me to come back (if I didn’t like it) with relatively little damage to my career path.  I know it’s easier to get a job when you’ve already got one, but it’s not 100% impossible, and if a prospective employer asks, I will be honest with them: I took some time off to explore other opportunities before I made a firm commitment to any particular industry.

Anyways, I should be getting back to work.  有一个早晨好!

Is it Tuesday already?

Well after a fairly eventful long weekend, it’s back to work to reshape the foundation of how IT works here at Bank X. I know it sounds like it’s almost become cliche, but it was so beautiful here this weekend that we couldn’t help but try and get outside and often as possible.

Where to begin? Friday night was the pre-gameday party for the Bermuda Rugby Classic (not to be confused with last Saturday’s “Week Before The Bermuda Rugby Classic” party). Of course the drinks were flowing just as fast or possibly even a bit faster, considering the tickets from last week were still good this week. Anyways, after about 5 double Dark and Stormy’s (Bermuda’s other official drink, consisting of Gosling’s dark rum [a blend of rums, itself] mixed with ginger beer) within a 2-3 hour period, and Matt drinking about his body weight in beer in the same timeframe, we decided it would be a good time to head home, while we a) were still conscious; and, b) remembered where home was.

After reminiscing about our memories of Winnipeg in the cab ride home, we entered our house with the enthusiasm of the winning team at the final of your sport of choice, with Hazen and Sarah joining in moments later. We popped open a few more beer and christened the house by having a celebratory drink in our honor.

After the toast, we made our way outside, where I made the stupid decision to climb on top of the plastic children’s “castle” that had been sitting in our backyard since we moved in. After carefully maneuvering myself to the top of the castle and declaring the structure “Justin’s Castle of Doom” for all to hear and see, Matt pushed the damn thing, almost causing the entire thing to come crumbling down. Luckily, the castle stood standing. Unluckily, I didn’t. I managed to scrape up my back pretty bad, and managed to actually get myself stuck in the castle.

Saturday, we were planning on going to the Bermuda Rugby Classic after-game party, but we were still feeling under the weather somewhat from the night before, so we just decided to head out to Swizzle Inn – Airport for some dinner at around 9pm. It was amazing. It was 9pm, middle of November, and we were eating out on the patio, with shorts on, not to mention that I have finally decided to quit eating the same damn food over and over (e.g. chicken fingers) so I made took a leap of faith and ordered the fish and chips.

Now, I’m sure they probably would have tasted a hell of a lot better had my stomach not been the star attraction at Justin Smith’s Internal Trapeze, but it was decent nonetheless and I congratulated myself on not only eating fish, but eating it from a restaurant. Sure, it may have been a bit bland, but hey, baby steps right?

Sunday, we went to Paget (almost right across the street from the old apartment) and bought a kitchen table from a leaving-the-island sale. I think we paid like $75 and after a quick Simple Green wash (I think I’ve found my new favorite cleaner), it looked almost brand new. There were some scratches on the top, but the main thing is it sits relatively flat, and will hold food above the floor. Mission accomplished.

Yesterday, Matt, Hazen and I were planning to meet up with Vane (pronounced: “vaughn”) for brunch, but Bistro 12, where we always go on the weekend, was closed in lieu of Remembrance Day. We decided to walk around downtown Hamilton and find somewhere else to eat. We walked less than a block and made our way into the Hog Penny, which had the feel of an Irish pub, but was a restaurant instead.

Everyone had burgers, but of course I am on this try-new-things kick, so I tried these ribs that were apparently covered in a glaze of some sort. After taking one bite, I nearly threw up; while it looked very elegantly prepared, it smelled and tasted like a combination of feet and old urine.

We finished brunch/lunch rather quickly, and made our way to Makin’ Waves, which is a decent sized surf-shop (read: just another Quiksilver/Billabong retailer) where I picked up a pretty nice cotton button-up for about $60. Hazen got a shirt too, but it’s made of Rayon, which breathes about as much as plastic. Ahh well, he’ll be complaining, I won’t. :)

After Makin’ Waves, we went to M&M’s Audio/Video, which is like a Visions or Best Buy back home, but on a much smaller scale. They also sell pro audio gear. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. We spent about an hour oogling the loudspeakers and PA systems, deciding on which one to purchase to effectively deafen a 4 block radius from our house. While we didn’t make a purchase this weekend, I’m pretty sure we will be in the near future.

After M&M Audio/Video, we walked the 9 steps to M&M Sports (talk about diversification) where Matt and Hazen picked up some workout gear. Matt bought some free weights (40lbs in all, I believe), and Hazen got a chin-up bar and a workout mat. Wait a second. The three idiots buying workout gear? Now I know the world has gone topsy-turvy.

I feel I owe the reader an explanation before I carry on. I have officially begun to hate my body and how skinny I am, Matt has actually put on too much weight, and Hazen just wants to get fit again, so we all decided to be each other’s motivators. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we’ll be doing free weights, and other upper- and mid-body strengtheners, and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday we’ll be doing cardio, like running, and rollerblading. We worked out yesterday, and even though my arms still feel like wet jello, I feel pretty damn good about doing something about my body.

After picking up the weights, I managed to bang up my scooter somehow and knock the exhaust of alignment, which brought my scooter up from the sound level of an annoying mosquito or so, to the level of a Harley-Davidson convention. Dammit. Now I have to bring it in sometime today and see if they can repair it, or if it will need to be replaced.

We finally got to Big Savings & More (think: The Brick) on St. David’s Island and we took a quick look at beds, since I’m currently residing on Matt’s futon. We found one that I really liked, and asked a salesperson what the cost would be for the mattress (Posturepedic, yum), the supporting boxspring, and the frame which comes in a bunch of colors. He said “I’ll be right back”, but after waiting for 20 minutes, and trying to search the entire store for him (which was barely the size of small grocery store), the lack of air conditioning in the semi-oven of a store forced us to leave.

We made a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home to pick up the required materials for making taco’s, since it’s the only place I’ve seen on the island that sells the Old El Paso taco kits. Hazen picked up a 5L mini-keg of Heineken and Matt and I picked up our every-three-or-four-day supply of 24 Coronas.

We finally got home 4 or 5 hours after we left, and after feeling like we’d actually accomplished something for a change, we got changed, worked out, and then ate dinner and watched Robot Chicken for an hour, before scattering to do our own things.

If anything, I’m the most proud that we’re all making the conscious decision to start getting healthier. The fact that we’re all doing it at the same time is helpful too, because we can all be each other’s motivators and pick each other up, and get each other motivated when a day might come where we don’t necessarily want to go for a run, or lift weights, or whatever. It all boils down to the fact that we all want to make a change in our lives, and what a perfect way to do it: together.

PS: I want to apologize for the lack of pictures. I had actually brought my camera with us yesterday, except the battery died before I could take the first picture. Assuming Matt plays poker tonight and assuming it’s bright out, I’ll be going picture taking right after work, and then working out when Matt gets home.