June 29, 2012

Unpacking thinks

You ever come home and start emptying your pockets, all of them, onto the table? Or dump out your purse, and just stare at all the crap in front of you, and think, "how did I accumulate all that crap?". Well, I am doing this blog post as a way of emptying the pockets of my brain. You've been warned.

I've driven about 7500 km in the past 3 weeks. Half of them, I've been behind the wheel. I think while I drive. It's an occupational hazard, but I think and think and think. And then I have to put all the thinks somewhere. Some will be columns. Some will be conversations. Some will be nothing, but some will be right here, right now.

I just wrote a bunch about who buys what cars, and why, and what role car reviews play and what role car reviewers play, but decided it was a column, so I just cut and pasted it for that. Sorry. It started out bloggy, but got interesting and succinct, and we all know that can't happen here.

I've been home about 3 nights in the past 3 weeks, and I am going to try to get caught up with laundry and stuff today. The house is just suitcases everywhere; seriously: my biggest one is still in the middle of the living room floor, open, where I left it over 2 weeks ago when I dropped it back home after deciding I could drive across the country with a pair of jeans and a toothbrush. We were getting in so fricking late at night that the fact I actually put in a dress for dinner is laughable. Maggie the Cat has been sitting in it. The suitcase, not the dress. Black isn't her colour.

I had a letter delivered yesterday from an old friend of my parents. Actually, it was quite sweet. She had written to the Toronto Star, and they forwarded it to the Globe and Mail, who sent it in an envelope of other letters they'd received for me. I think that's pretty cool, of both papers. Thank you. As soon as I saw the name, I remembered her. Her note says I won't remember her, but I remember tons of details, even though I was probably 8 when I last saw them. She told me where they now live, and I drove through there two days ago. Kind of freaky - if I 'd received it before I left, I would have stopped by. She doesn't know Mom died 12 years ago, but I found her number and will call her later. The lady, not my Mom. If I want to talk to Mom I just yell it out.

Had a really nice few days with Ari up north. We did a loop around Georgian Bay for a tourism piece I'm writing. I made him come with me, baited him with a lot of neat stuff they'd scheduled. Some of it turned out to be a little un-neat for him, but the kid is a great sport. And yesterday was a blast: at Blue Mountain, we went to Scenic Caves Eco Adventures. Oh. We did this walk around the treetops thing, which I nodded and said fine. IT IS A SERIES OF TINY, SWINGING PLATFORMS THAT YOU HAVE TO HOOK HARNESSES TO AND WALK ALONG WHILE THEY SWING UNDER YOUR FEET AND YOU HANG ON. DID I MENTION THAT THEY SWING? Suspension bridges. All through this big section of the forest. I was terrified. Ari went skipping along, laughing at me. I kept asking our (trained in medical emergencies) guides when they'd last replaced the wood. Every time something creaked, I screamed. 2 of the guides were totally certificated in medical stuff. One was in the midst of his training. I asked that the first two attend to me while the not-ready guy pull out a cell phone and scream for help if I fell.

Oh, then we ziplined out of the forest. There are guides who catch you at the bottom of the zipline. I asked how many giant asses they have aimed at their heads all day long.

We also went to Wasaga Beach for a standup paddleboard lesson with Eagle Adventure Experiences. Now, this is fun. I called it Ontario surfing. You essentially stand on a surfboard and paddle like a canoe. I am not sporty, but I have been canoeing forever. And of course, thanks to my tango excellence, my balance is a little better. Ari of course, has a lesson for ten minutes then is off ready for tryouts for the Olympic team. I was doing this wobbly trying to stand up on the board thing that was not quite as photogenic. And he wants a board for the cottage, and for once, I'm in agreement. Awesome workout, and really fun. On the itinerary I kept calling it 'waterboarding', and had to keep correcting myself. When people ask you where you're off to next and you  say 'our waterboarding lesson', they look at you funny.

Ari was a good sport. He was on his phone learning of how many parties he was missing to be with his mother, stuck on a ferry between Manitoulin Island and Tobermory. I took him to Tobermory on a gig when he was 13 in a Mini, and I kept saying 'remember when we went here?' because to me it was a magical bonding experience. He nodded and said it hadn't been THAT magical. Then he asked if we could go home a day early because Sarah was having a party. I said no.

As we left Sudbury on Tuesday, heading north towards Espanola, the highway was shut down. I'd earlier pulled aside to let a procession of cop cars go past, escorting a giant crane down the two lane highway. I forget the number. Sorry. Anyway, about a half hour ahead, everything stopped cold. Maybe a dozen cars ahead of us, you could see the cop standing on the road. Apparently, the crane had to stop at a bridge undergoing repairs, because they were worried the crane was wider than the construction entrance to the bridge. Cars piled up behind us, as everyone shut off their engines and got out to find out what was going on.

It reminded me of when we were kids coming home from the cottage, and a tracker trailer would jackknife across Hwy 69 and shut it for hours. We'd scramble up on the rocks by the side of the road, have picnics, and generally think it was great. My father did not think it was so great.

Thing is, on Tuesday, that crane was headed to Elliot Lake, where the mall roof had collapsed. It was supposed to be digging out those poor women who died. We learned this as we shared information on that highway, between conversations with the OPP on the phone and the cop. As we all tried to figure out why we were going to be delayed, and what a pain that was, and wow, it was so hot, but it costs too much to run the a/c, and that guy on the motorcycle must be burning up, here's a water, dude, how long is this going to throw us off schedule?, is there another road around here we could detour too?, any of you locals know another way around?, this is such a pain, how did the cops not know about the bridge construction?, it's so hot, have a nap in the back, you'll live, look how far back the cars are stacking up, wonder what the other side looks like, the traffic southbound is usually even heavier and on and on...

People died. People died in a damned mall. That crane was supposed to be trying to help them, and stupid logistics delayed it at least an hour. It's frustrating and sad and scary. And we stood around wondering how this would impact our schedules.

I'm sorry.

Labels: , , ,

June 24, 2012

I'm baaaaaack!

Not that you guys needed me. Usually when the teacher leaves the room everyone throws spitballs. You guys throw car reviews.

I just got up after being asleep for 12 straight hours. We've been getting 4 or 5 hours sleep a night on the road, and I was starting to look like one of the little apple doll women. All crabby and shriveled looking. Good to be home.

But my, what a blast we had. I just drove with the Shell team all the way from Halifax to Vancouver. I looooove that drive, I love any road trip, and this was truly great. We happened to hit the Saskatchewan border the day after my column on my Dad ran for Father's Day, and his birthday was a few days later. I didn't even pick the driver switchover spot; it was random, but right at the Welcome to Saskatchewan sign. In I hopped, and along with my coach Helen Taylor (what an awesome lady; she was my copilot the whole way) we laughed and cried our way across the province. We hit incredible headwinds, rolling black skies, blasts of sunshine, spectacular fields unrolling beneath us, and curious little tailwinds that propelled me forward. I decided Dad was in the backseat the whole way, seeing his home for the last time. Helen agreed.

If you've been following my blog in the Globe & Mail Drive section (or trying to; wifi is erratic and crazymaking in so many spots, my filing was as irregular as a kid who just ate an entire block of cheese), you'll know we were attempting to set a world record for fuel efficiency.

We were doing something many call hypermiling, though the Taylors hate the word. Don't blame them; it's associated with the idiots on the road who toss a thimble full of gas into their tank and take off for the coast, creeping down the highway, drafting trucks, sailing through red lights and all manner of dangerous stunts to save gas.

We don't. 'Hypermiling' is still a useful word, though I will always pair it with the Taylor's sigh of being lumped in with the whackos. They do do extreme things to establish records, but safety is first. I refused to drive too slow. I was on board with no speeding, which produced some interesting results at times, but I warned them I would not be a nuisance on the roads. My numbers? Excellent. It can be done.

We had a curious cast of characters, though Ice Road Trucker Alex Debogorski might just have reinvented the word 'character'. Tower of a guy with a huge booming laugh that reverberates through, well, wherever he happens to be, is a hoot. It was immediately established that, as the two drivers who would be along for the whole journey, there would be a little competition between us. Just a little. I do believe the words "I shall kick his ass" may have been mentioned. I thought the using the word 'shall' lent it a little class. As if.

I am writing like a writing demon. Washing machine is going non-stop, and groceries need to happen. Cats are giving me the 'oh sure, now you want to be friends' look. The boys are good. Ari and I hit the road first thing Tuesday morning for a Georgian Bay trek for a few days that looks awesome. There will be a shiny Land Rover LR4 in the driveway that will be our chariot.

But first, laundry.

That pic is with Alex, somewhere near the Quebec border with Ontario. In Halifax, I got to drive first. Of course I did.

Labels: , ,

June 14, 2012

I just snuck in the house...

I had a night off - our Smarter Driver Challenge landed in Toronto today, where we'll spend the next three nights doing media stuff and the Eco Wheels Show in the Distillery District on Saturday. Come down! Meet us!

Anyway, tonight was a quiet night, so when we landed I grabbed a car (thanks, Lindsey!) and hightailed it for home. The trek west has been awesome, but a different bed every night means the thought of your own is like candy. I'd told the boys I'd probably be trying to stop in at some point, but I wasn't sure what day. What better way to see what your little darlings are up to while you're away then pulling in the driveway unannounced?

You know what the little buggers had been up to? Cleaning. The place is cleaner than it has been in months. Dastardly kids.

I got a note from Christer my second night away that they'd had to take Maggie the Cat to the hospital. She was breathing funny. Maggie never, ever gets sick. I was in Halifax trying to plot my run home. For a cat. Pammy and Christer got her to the vet, got her meds, and have gotten them into her. She looks great. I still think it was retaliation for me leaving. She hates me.

Anyhoo. I'm doing laundry, leaving a suitcase full of stuff behind (I've accepted it's easier just wearing the same grungy jeans every day) and turfing through my inbox. Oh, and reading your comments. All of you.


I can hear you, even when I'm away.

EDIT: Oh yeah, I also came in and realized all the windows were open. I started to freak, then Pammy said "the air conditioning isn't on". I fell over with a thud.  

June 8, 2012

Leaving the asylum to the inmates

I'm on page 5 of undecipherable notes I'm leaving for the boys. I don't know why I bother; they're gonna see the 'you both are going to have to scoop litter *once*' and quit reading. This is the longest stretch away for me; two weeks. They began celebrating as soon as plans were finalized. They are calling this their vacation. From me. A vacation from me. Brats.

I realized I don't own shorts, so I got some of Ari's old ones. He watched me iron them, and asked what I was doing. I call them hand-me-ups. They look kind of cruddy, but I reckon everything looks better if it's ironed. Yes, that's what I reckon.

I'm telling them things like 'if you see the cat barf first, clean it up. Don't pretend you don't see it'. This won't work, until the day before I come home and they're knee deep in cat barf and finally realize they have to do it. I've left them each some cash, and a grocery kitty. I should have just given it all to the pizza place. I have begged them to eat fruit. They will eat Doritos. I have left lots of milk and juice. They will buy root beer.

I actually went and got a pedicure today. That's like, my third one, ever. She asked what colour polish I wanted. I hesitated, wondering what I'd be wearing the next few weeks. My toes are now army pants green. I think they call it something else. But I realized I'd packed 3 pairs of army pants, in various styles. That's me, a style sensation from coast to coast.

The first installment of my hypermiling extravaganza is here. I'm actually pretty curious, and really anticipating this. I love finding things out first hand. I think this is a cool opportunity, and you all know I'll report back the truth. Commenters on the site are already getting crabbyapplesauceface about it, which I find odd; I think most people would dive at a chance to do, well, anything, in a heartbeat. Isn't that what life's all about? I've committed to the journey, and I'm looking forward to it. I can't stand armchair quarterbacks - if you want to know something, what better way than to dive right in? I'm lucky I have chances like this.Check the Globe site for blogs I'll be filing as I go. I'll try to check in here, too, but my technical abilities will no doubt be challenged.

Oh! We're driving a spanky new VW Passat. Alex Deborgorski, the ice road trucker, and I are the two in for the whole haul. This is going to be a hoot. We'll be taking orders from John and Helen Taylor, the hypermiling experts. And Roz? Don't worry. If I think I'm in danger, I'll be putting the boot into it. I'm a driver first...

If you're on Twitter, follow me at TweeetLorraine. Yeah, three 'e's. I'll be snarking away on there, too.....

I shall keep you all posted!

Labels: , , , , ,

June 7, 2012

Hypermiling, Mustangs, Robots & Body Parts

I'm flying to Halifax on Saturday, the beginning of a quest. I'll be part of a Shell Canada team driving a 2012 VW Passat to Vancouver. The goal? To do it on 6 tanks of gas. We will by hypermiling. The first feature runs in the Globe & Mail tomorrow, and I'll be blogging there throughout the trip. If you see us in your town or city, come over and say hi! You can walk alongside the car! Actually, I'm pretty curious about this. I'm the only media going along....stay tuned.

Of course two weeks on the road means trying to get things ready around here. The boys were so excited when I said I was going, they ran and got my suitcases. As usual, only the cats will miss me. When I get back, I turn around and head out for a Georgian Bay loop, which will be beautiful this time of year. But the timing means I've filed three weeks of work as of ten minutes ago (yippee!) around doing laundry and shopping and packing and laundry and cleaning. I've told everyone to stop wearing clothes until I leave.

I was thisclose to having a Mustang this week; I'm speaking to the Golden Horseshoe Mustang Club, and I thought it would be cool to fake it and show up in a 'stang. Timing was too tight on a press car - I'll just have to dazzle them with my Santa Fe.

The robotics Ford Drive One 4 UR School was on Saturday for the Burlington Central High Robotics Club - awesome day, terrific success. We raised over 4200 bucks on the test drives, and another grand on the carwash/bbq. The kids worked really hard, and I owe a ton of thanks to my car peeps: Lesley Wimbush, Peter Bleakney and Jeff Voth. Their assistance allowed us to add in extra cars to up our numbers. That's me and Lesley in front of the Taurus SHO she brought...definitely a crowd favourite. The car, too.

I wanted to do a blog blog, and talk about the man-horror mailing body parts around the country, and the demon who opened fire in the food court of the Eaton Centre, and how we don't have to import our freak shows from the U.S. anymore. Then I realized it just depressed me. I read a blip on the news feed last night that some political offices had been mailed a white powder-like substance. And I Tweeted that it's a sad day in Canada when political offices are happy to get white powder in the mail instead of body parts. The only things I get in the mail are boots. And bills. For the boots.

Not sure what my time will be like when I'm away; I'll try to check in, but with blogging the paper, I'm sure my blogger parts will get clogged. You only get so many words a day. It's a rule; any writer will concur. I think you should lean on Webgod Jeff to blog. He's done it before, and he's great. I'd get Roz to do it, but she will demure, then take over the comments, anyway.

June 5, 2012

Square Off Tuesday

Is Facebook setting its sights on still younger kids?

As if 'click here to tell us you're 13' ever worked to start with.

Join us on Square Off at 5:30 on CHCH Channel 11.

June 3, 2012

When do kids become a joy?

Me: "Hey, I just realized that if I have a mail, a little envelope shows up on the bottom beside the Outlook thingee!"
Ari: "Are you kidding me? It's taken you this long to figure that out? It's the same as on your last computer."
Me: "My last computer did that?"
Ari: (I'd write what he said, but he was mumbling something as he left the room. I didn't catch it...)

What's your password?

This link should be required reading for anyone who uses the internet.

An excerpt on Salon from what looks to be a fascinating book by Parmy Olson, it's about the group Anonymous. Whatever you want to call them (and good luck even defining 'them') - hackers, hacktivists, thugs, geniuses - watch what happens when a self-annointed 'cybersecurity expert' gambles, and loses. Big.

I'm writing a piece on bullying right now, and it's interesting that my time out from that was this piece. Is Anonymous a bully? I dunno. I'm having a wickedly hard time reconciling what has happened to the world economy due to the bullying and lying and outright degenerate behaviour of supposed business and political 'leaders'. I'm leaning towards loving that this crew handed this stupid fool his butt on a platter.

Corruption, both legal and illegal, has destroyed millions of lives. This piece is a brilliant peek into the what's really behind the curtain: not much. Wikileaks changed the landscape, and it looks like the internet really is the next wild west. It's going to be interesting to see who rides into town.

Labels: , , ,