Atlanta (2)

Posted in Atlanta on March 27th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: A few photos from my Atlanta trip are available for viewing. I am unable to upload these from my hotel room for some reason, so am doing it from inside the ACS Exhibition area.

My presentation yesterday morning went well, with about 40 people in attendance. I was the sixth of eight speakers. I tried sleeping in the afternoon, then attended a couple of low-keyed receptions. This morning, after eating more junk food at the food court at CNN Center, I went through some of the exhibits, spoke to a few vendors, including an FBI Special Agent at the FBI Special Agent booth. I left to go to the Georgia Aquarium, which despite the build-up, wasn’t that impressive to me. I think my reaction was based on the lack of spectacular tropical fish, but also because the place was jammed with people, many pushing strollers. It was too hot, and often difficult to see any exhibits. Still, it was worth the visit. Tonight I’m meeting my cousin for dinner, then home tomorrow.

Atlanta (1)

Posted in Atlanta on March 25th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: Yesterday I had to take three flights to get to Atlanta. I had booked on Air Canada, rather than the much-preferred Northwest, because I had missed an NW seat sale, and needed to book the cheapest flight available. My first flight was to Calgary from Edmonton on a Dash 8, a 35 minute flight. I arrived at the Edmonton Intl’ Airport with pre-printed boarding passes, and checked my luggage. I turned to go to through security to find a line of at least five to six hundred people waiting to be processed, the majority of which were parents with their children, seemingly off their collective ritalin prescriptions, waiting to board flights to Nice Warm Places during Canada’s version of spring break.

Patiently, I moved slowly through the line. My flight was scheduled to leave at 0800, and it was 0710. By 0800, I was at the front of the line. I walked through the security scanner, and it did not beep. However, the security officer with the scanner wand asked me to stand and spread ’em – I asked why, she said I was a “random search.” She took her time, asked for my belt, and checked it, seemingly one notch at a time. It was 0805, and I heard my name called on the PA system. I grabbed my stuff and ran to the gate and just made the flight. While in line for 45 minutes, I noticed Westjet personnel pulling some people out to move to the front of the line. These were passengers destined to miss their Westjet flights because they were not going to clear security in time. There were no Air Canada personnel to be seen showing similar concern for their passengers. I asked about this at the Calgary gate, and was given a terse response, something to the effect of, “we are too busy today, we have too many flights.” After the plane took off, we were informed that there was much fog on the ground in Calgary, and that the plane might be diverted to Cranbrook BC. This didn’t happen, but we landed in Calgary in dense fog nonetheless.

In Calgary, I boarded the next flight, which was scheduled to land in Toronto, home of the most non-functional airport in the history of this space-time continuum. I had 75 minutes in Toronto to switch terminals, clear US Customs and board another jet. But the flight didn’t leave on time, because the wings needed to be de-iced. So we left late, and I still held out hope that I would have time to switch planes. But with about 30 minutes left in the flight, changes to connecting flights were announced, including the one to Atlanta. My flight was scheduled to leave Toronto at 1700.

Calgary flight landed at 1625. At the gate, I was given a different boarding pass to a flight that left three hours later. One of the Air Canada attendants said there was no way I could make the 1700 flight – this is due to the aforementioned non-functionality of the Toronto airport. You see, at this useless airport, when you fly in domestic but leave international, you need to switch terminals. This requires boarding a shuttle that drives and drives and drives across tarmacs endless, to another terminal, where you then walk through a huge, empty, abandoned terminal and must retrieve your luggage, and clear US Customs. Long after my 1700 Atlanta flight left, I finally cleared US Customs, and spent yet another three hours of my life I will never have back in the airport I most detest. (This happened to me last October when I was returning from NYC.) As for Air Canada, the expression “customer service” is, now and always, an oxymoron when applied to this airline. Expect no sympathy or understanding from Air Canada employees, with rare exceptions. It’s not in their job descriptions.

After thumb-twiddling at the Toronto airport for three hours, I went to the assigned gate to catch my final flight of the day, and was told I had to take another shuttle to another building. I couldn’t believe it. However, the AC employee, Adele, was sweet, understanding, and sympathetic, which was a nice change from the usual AC aloofness and indifference. Maybe she was doped up or something. By this point, my day-long frustration had manifested itself into a knot in the middle of my back that was so tight, it hurt on my left side to take a deep breath.

Note to self: avoid Air Canada and the Toronto airport as much as possible, like any plague in history.

.: In Atlanta today, I wandered about the streets surrounding the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. It was cool and windy here today, and I saw many people walking with mitts or gloves on. I bought a ticket to the Georgia Aquarium for Monday afternoon. I browsed through the store at CNN Center, and ate fast food. I walked through the Georgia World Conference Center, where the ACS Meeting will be held, and where today, a dental conference was ending. While I was eating at a four-seat table in the food court at CNN, I noticed two beautiful young Georgia women with food trays looking at me, obviously needing seats, and I invited them to sit at the table. They were dental hygiene students attending the conference, Jennifer and Karey, and we chatted for a while. It was a great conversation, until I blew it. Talking about the perception of America as seen by the rest of the world, I said that perhaps this would improve when the government changed in 2008. Jennifer sighed, and said, with deep, heartfelt honesty, “I don’t know…I love our president.” While not dissing Bush directly, I felt deflated, and that I had not offended so much as disappointed her – I hope not. (I thought, you’re in the south, moron, they love Bush down here!) But we kept chatting, and they told me about the sacrifice their husbands were making so that they could attend school, and how they felt like second-class conference attendees because of how they were treated by some exhibitors. When it was time to leave, we shook hands and parted warmly.

When I returned to the same food court around 1700 hrs, I was surprised to find it filled with among others, at least two hundred people drinking beer from 9-inch-high plastic cups. The food court is adjacent to the Phillips Arena, and apparently this is a pre-event ritual for many sports fans. Tonight it was an Atlanta Hawks-Dallas Mavericks basketball game.

I was considering seeing a movie tonight, but was disappointed to learn that there are no movie theatres in downtown Atlanta. In the hotel room, the first four channels on the television are CNN, CNN HN, CNN FN, and CNN en EspaƱol. Well, duh.

Georgia Peachtree

Posted in Travel on March 23rd 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: I am flying to Atlanta tomorrow to participate in this by presenting this during this program. I’ve been to Atlanta once before, to attend the SLA Conference in June 1994, when it was scorchingly hot. Temperatures for this visit will be in the 10-15C range, much more tolerable.

Atlanta is home to CNN and Coca-Cola and other interesting things. My cousin Adam lives and works in Atlanta, and is a co-owner of the Sutra Lounge. I won’t see him until Monday, however, as he is in Las Vegas for the weekend. He did suggest that the Georgia Aquarium is way cool, so I might try to see it while I’m there.

White Out

Posted in Weather on March 19th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: From Friday night to Saturday night, Edmonton received >18 cm (~7.1″) of snow, about 3 cm short of the record for March 18th. Edmonton had no permanent snow until Feb 21 or 22, so I can’t complain about this much snow so late in the winter. The only complaint is a typical one: the City of Edmonton never gets the roads cleared of snow with any speed whatsoever, and the side roads and residential streets are always ignored. Yesterday after shovelling my driveway, I got into my car and backed out onto the street, where the vehicle was stuck immediately, unable to move forward because of too much snow underneath the car. No one was around to help, and I spent 20 minutes digging myself out.

No worries: winter ends tomorrow morning!

.: 21 March 2006 update: apparently a record was set on Saturday, as just over 22 cm of snow fell that day.

Baseball Blues

Posted in Sons-&-Daughters, Television, The-Unit on March 12th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: Well, that didn’t last long, but it’s ok, the win over the American team is something that can never be taken away from the Canadians.

.: Whenever discussing All Things Pop Culture, the only constant is the number of hours in the day, and how one parcels out that time. In 2005, the number of movies I watched was way down from previous years, in fact it was the lowest number since the late 70s. Why was the number down? A combination of things: fewer quality movies made it to Edmonton, the cost of a movie ticket continued to rise, and the overall moviegoing experience continued to lose its appeal. Seeing a film in the theatre is a crapshoot. You never know who will be sitting behind, next to, or in front of you, and whether they will talk throughout the film, flip their cells phone open 10 times, or actually just watch the movie peacefully.

But the other reason is the ongoing increase in the quality of television, traceable back to the days of Hill Street Blues and St Elsewhere. HBO has raised the bar very high, with shows like The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Rome, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show, and many more. Last week, I watched two new network shows, and found myself pulled in almost immediately. The two shows are Sons & Daughters and The Unit. If I am able to keep up with both shows, I will essentially write off my Tuesday nights, which already includes Law & Order: SVU. There is always bit torrent files and video tapes to make it a bit easier. Rather than expound on the virtues of either show, read Tom Shales to learn more about why each is worth making the effort to watch.

Blame Canada

Posted in Canada, Sports on March 8th 2006 by Randy Reichardt

.: And so, the World Baseball Classic is underway, and a team of Canadian underdogs, which include a handful of Canadian-born MLB players, and without Canadian MLB pitchers Eric Gagne (who won the 2003 Cy Young Award), Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster, pulls off a major upset and defeats Team USA 8-6 today. Love it, love it a lot.

.: I leave for Atlanta on March 24th, to attend the ACS 231st Meeting. I’ve been struggling with creating a presentation for this session, and made some small progress today. I hope to have something ready in a few days. I’m fighting writer’s block, fear of presenting to the converted, and a general feeling of lethargy.

.: Connect2Canada is an interesting website from the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC.

On July 1, 2005, Ambassador Frank McKenna launched Connect2Canada.com, a virtual network for Canadians and friends of Canada who live in the United States. Since that announcement, thousands have signed up to receive information on subjects as diverse as our global troop deployments, updates on BSE, Canadian events in the US, and the latest on our efforts to help out the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Many Canadians have told us how proud they are to be a Canadian in the U.S. Many Americans with links to Canada have also signed up to be a part of this network. They are emblematic of the proud and deep history between the people of Canada and the United States.

Connect2Canada is a way to exchange news and ideas, and find out what is happening in the U.S. related to Canada. Members of the network can receive email notices on a range of topics of interest to them and can share their views with others. As the network grows, it will serve as a knowledge base and a ready resource for facts on the major issues in the United States and Canada today.

We invite you to sign up to the network, so that the next time the conversation turns to Canada, you can have key facts at your disposal, such as:

    Canada, not Saudi Arabia, is America’s largest supplier of crude oil.

  • Canada has put 15,000 troops through Afghanistan.
  • None of the 9/11 terrorists came through Canada.
  • Facts on why the US market needs tariff-free Canadian lumber.
  • Canada-US trade, at more than $1.5 billion US per day, supports over five million jobs in the United States.

Please spread the word to anyone you think would be interested in joining this network. We are also interested in feedback on how this network can be useful to you. You can send us your thoughts when you sign up to the network.

An article in today’s Edmonton Journal suggests that one reason the website exists is to help dispel myths many Americans have about Canada, such as:

  • Some of the 9-11 Hi-jackers entered through Canada: FALSE. This is simply not true. In fact, they had all been legally admitted to the United States, as has been confirmed by senior American officials.
  • Canadians are all Hockey Players: FALSE. The most popular participation sport for Canadians over the age of 15 is Golf. In 2000, there were 730,000 registered soccer players in Canada, compared to 500,000 for hockey.
  • Canada is all ‘way up North’: FALSE. Twenty-seven of the fifty U.S. states have land North of the Southern most point of Canada – Middle Island, Ontario.
  • Canada caused the blackout on August 14, 2003: FALSE. The initial cause of the blackout began in Ohio.

It’s a good effort, but don’t expect the majority of Americans to ever change their views and impressions of Canada; it’s the nature of the beast down there.

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