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August 29, 2006

I Like My Coffee Crisp!

One of the most inconvenient things about my apartment is the fact the laundry machines are coin operated. Oh sure, sometimes there's contention for the three washers and three dryers between the occupants of the 32 units, but I find my lack of quarters to be most bothersome. I rarely use cash, and when I do, I jealously squirrel away any quarters I get as change. This method usually leaves me short, so I became somewhat less picky when it came to sniff testing my not-quite-dirty clothes. This was, until I found out the vending machines at work give quarters for change, no purchase required. It has now become routine for me to stop by the vending machine on my way out the door, slip in a fiver, and walk to the bus stop, my pocket jingling with the promise of cleaner clothes.

Yesterday I as I knelt down to scoop my 20 quarters out of the change return, I glanced at the various snack foods behind the glass. Most of it was the usual programmer's fare: potato chips, candy bars, two packets of Jimmy Dean beef jerky (plain and teriyaki), wasabi almonds and three kinds of chewing gum. I was about the walk away, when I noticed a familiar yellow and red wrapper. I couldn't believe what I saw. I ran to my co-worker Thomas's office to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Me: "Hey Thomas, have you been to the vending machine lately?"
Thomas: (staring at me for a few seconds, then smiling) "Coffee Crisp. I had two on Friday."

Coffee Crisp was one of my favourite childhood chocolate bars, and I was more than a little disappointed to find out it wasn't available in the US. This meant that along with Tim Horton's Coffee, Niagara Ice Wine and ketchup chips, Coffee Crisp would be part of my undeclared swag from trips across the border. And for three long years it was. Luckily for me and countless other Canadians, some kind-hearted souls set up the Coffee Crisp Petition to get this Canadian delicacy sold in the US. In July, 2006, Nestle caved to the incredible pressure of thousands of site visitors, and agreed to sell Coffee Crisp across the US, eventually making its way into Microsoft's vending machines, and into my trembling hands.

Having just returned from a weekend in Vancouver, I turned Bonnie into a Coffee Crisp addict. She started asking daily when we can return to Canada so she can get her next fix. Now she has to look no further than her corner store.

When someone asks me how I like my coffee, I can now answer proudly, I like my Coffee Crisp!

21:08 | Canada | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

Skydiving Photo

In case any of you were wondering what I looked like hurtling towards the earth at over 120 miles per hour, here's an artist's rendition (thanks Bonnie).

Artist's rendition of Chris skydiving

19:29 | Stuff | Comments (3)

August 20, 2006

Nine Point Eight Metres Per Second Squared

Last November, Bonnie received a birthday gift certificate good for one jump at Skydive Toledo, and has been waiting for the summer's clear warm weather to use it. July this year had been unusually hot, so she sent out an email to her closest friends inviting them to jump with her on July 29. I was the only one who accepted.

The two of us headed down two hours to Toledo, Washington, a sleepy little town you have no reason to visit unless you're skydiving. We registered, initialed and signed pages upon pages of disclaimers and waivers, then began waiting. After waiting for half an hour, I asked the woman behind the counter what the hold up was. Apparently we were waiting for the cloud cover to break. I really wished they had told us that there was a chance the jump would be cancelled before I forked over my non-refundable $200 (good for a reschedule). We hung around another two hours before giving up and heading home, vowing to return next week.

The next week, we made the same long drive. It was a hot, clear day, and we were certain the jump was on. We got there at our appointed time of 1:00 pm, and were told there was a two-hour delay. Apparently they had run out of fuel, and needed to have some more driven in. We decided against hanging around the hot hangar, and drove out to the nearby Lewis and Clark camp grounds for a hike.

We cam back to the site in time to see some people land from their jump. The skies were full of hooting and cheering, as the jumpers sailed down. The landings were as graceful as could be expected, and didn't look the least bit painful. Another hour went by, and we went out to the local burger shack for some milkshakes. When we got back, we got a basic training session by the owner on how to position oneself, etc. Basically, our job was to not interfere with the tandem jumper's ability to not let us die.

We were then informed that Bonnie's gift certificate, although good for $200, was not eligible for the same $200 jump I had bought. For reasons that remain mysterious to us today, her $200 gift certificate was only good for a 10,000-foot jump (about 3 km), while my $200 was good for 12,000 feet (about 3.6 km), and all sales were final.

At around 5:00 pm, we were ready to get suited up into our harnesses. Both Bonnie and I forwent the jumpsuits in favour of the clothes we were wearing. Just then, another round of jumpers had just landed. One of the tandem jumpers, a blonde surfer-dude type, ran in excitedly telling everyone how the chute and become twisted, and he had to cut it loose and use the reserve chute to land. His customer looked a lot less thrilled. He then introduced himself and told Bonnie he would be her tandem jumper.

I met my tandem jumper, a much more sedate guy named Mickey. He checked the straps on my harness, and declared us ready to go. We walked over to the tiny prop plane on the runway. This was easily the smallest plane I had ever seen, let alone ridden in. The four of us crammed in behind the pilot, and we took off. Despite what I said about Toledo having nothing to offer, it is truly a beautiful part of the country, especially when viewed from the air. The higher we got, the more pastoral landscapes and mountain ranges we could see. We saw Mount Rainier, Mount St Helens and Mount Adams, and even Mount Hood in the distance (here's a map to get an idea what I'm talking about). With every 100 feet we climbed, the more nervous I became. It seemed like all the moisture from my mouth was being sweated out of my palms. When we reached 10,000 feet, Bonnie's instructor strapped himself to her back, then the door opened. I was still strapped in by my seatbelt, but the rushing wind inside the plane made me feel like I might get sucked right out. Bonnie and her instructor positioned themselves with one foot each onto the step just outside the door, then they were gone. Just like that. My instructor told me to watch them fall. Cautiously, I peeked my head out the door, but only saw horizon. "No," Mickey said. "Watch!" and pushed me so my upper body was hanging out of the plane. Then I saw Bonnie and her tandem jumper getting smaller and smaller. It looked to me, in no uncertain terms, that they had indeed just fallen out of an airplane. Then Mickey pulled me back in and the door shut. Well, I thought to myself, There's nothing I can do for her now.

It took another few minutes to reach 12,000 feet, but it felt like an eternity. I just kept replaying the sight of the figures shrinking against cow fields in my head. Then, it was my turn. Mickey strapped himself to my back, and I put on my goggles. The door opened, and the rush of cold air hit me face first. I put my right foot on the step, and I thought to myself that this was my last act of my own volition. Everything after this step is in the hands of this guy strapped to my back. I had never been more scared in my life (I'm getting that same tingling in my palms just writing about it). Before I knew it, Mickey pushed off and I was falling.

It took a good ten seconds before I could regain my senses. During that time I was completely paralyzed, true sensory overload. I remember seeing the bottom of the plane, the flipping over and being it in the face hard by wind. When I did regain control, I was falling through the air, accelerating at 9.8 m/s2. The wind was rushing into my nose, and I felt like my heart had stopped beating. Then I noticed the incredible view. The world is a truly beautiful place, I thought. Too bad I'm about to die. As we fell, we passed through pockets of progressively warmer air. It was about 85°F (30°C) on the ground, and it seemed we were warming 10° at a time. After about 50 seconds of freefall, the chute suddenly opened, and I was yanked upwards with 3Gs of force (my crotch and armpits were sore for days after). With 5000 feet (1.5 km) left in the drop, we sailed leisurely over cow fields and dirt roads. I started laughing. I wasn't scared anymore, my adrenal glands having exhausted themselves 3000 feet prior.

The landing was as smooth as I could have asked for. We slid on our butts for a few feet, and that was it. Bonnie was waiting for me in the landing field, and I was sure to kiss her before kissing the ground.

It was an incredible experience, redefining my senses of fear and relief. For days afterward, I felt invincible. Suddenly crossing the street against the lights no longer felt like living on the edge. I had just upped the ante, and I feel great. People ask me if I would do it again, and I don't think I've ruled it out, but let's just say it doesn't top my list.

15:27 | Misc Rambling | Comments (2)

August 17, 2006

NYC Photos

Yes, I know I owe you all stories, but to appease the masses, here are some photos of my trip to New York City. Stories to come...

18:16 | Gallery | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

That's Just Great

I woke up this morning, made some coffee and checked the news like I do every morning, and saw the headline Airline bombing plot foiled. Apparently would-be terrorists tried smuggling explosives onto commercial airplanes traveling from the UK to the US. Luckily they were caught before they could deploy their terrible plot.

According to the article, the US Department of Homeland Security has raised their colour-coded threat meter to "Red - High" for the first time. Then I remembered that I will be flying to New York City tonight to attend Shawn and Kat's wedding. Well that's just great. Of all cities to fly to during the Red Terror Alert...

Hopefully my airline won't consider my iPod and a bottle of water as carry-on contraband like the British have done.

Update: I just got a call from a friend taking an earlier flight, who informed me the lines at security at SeaTac Airport are several hours long, and recommended I get there six hours early, so that's what I plan to do. Good thing I charged up my iPod. I'll be back on Tuesday.

07:39 | Stuff | Comments (4)

August 6, 2006

Still Alive

Just a quick note to say I actually jumped out of a plane, and lived to tell the tale (actual telling of tale will be coming later this week). I will say that it was an incredible experience, and I'm really enjoying being on the ground again. More to come later.

00:33 | Stuff | Comments (1)

August 1, 2006

Maintaining Intensity

Flipping through my usual news, I came across a headline that caught my eye: "5 p.m.update: Chris strengthens...slightly?" Well, I thought to myself, I have been working out. No, wait a minute, I haven't been working out at all. In fact, I was just eating ice cream right out of the container. Clearly their sources aren't reliable.

Clicking the link brought me to South Florida's Hurricane Blog. Apparently the tropical storm du jour shares a name with yours truly. I think I might subscribe to their feed, if for no other reason than to get headlines like "11 p.m. update: Chris maintains intensity" delivered to my desktop.

22:34 | Stuff | Comments (1)