Wednesday, June 8, 2016


This morning was the important presentation: the concept piece proposing a radical change to the way electronic health projects are delivered in Canada.  Today I suggested that OntarioMD's HRM product could satisfy clinical report delivery needs across the country - not just in Ontario. In contrast to yesterday, today's session was well attended, and I was nervous. Surprisingly, neither my boss nor colleagues from OntarioMD were there to start.  Actually, that's not true - the Chief Physician of OntarioMD was the facilitator and gave me the most generous introduction. Coming from someone that accomplished and intelligent; an amazing compliment. Additionally, one of my colleagues joined the crowd partway through. The 30+ people in the audience were legitimate audience attendees, and the reception I received was great.  If only someone there is in the position to take this beyond theory...

Once I was done talking with folks after my presentation, pretty much all that was left was the keynote closing speaker. A fascinating talk by an emergency department physician from Edmonton.  He was billed as provocative and challenging, but more than anything he was just honest. It was an interesting way to book-end the conference; the opening speakers were largely painting an unrealistic picture of the supposedly imminent possibilities of electronic health, while the closing speaker was honest about the immediate needs for healthcare - not limited to the eHealth realm.

And then it was done.  The work reasons for my trip to Vancouver were concluded, and I was starting a real vacation. I met Mindy at the hotel, and we proceeded in a rental car to the Capilano Bridge and the surrounding rainforest. The bridge was surprisingly underwhelming, but the forest and the catwalk along the side of the cliffs fed my soul.

The suspended platform along the edge of the cliffs is more impressive than the park's namesake bridge.

Temperate rainforests that make you feel better all over!

Looking up at breathtaking forests hugging the lip of the cliffs.

From Capilano we took the short drive to Grouse Mountain where I was determined to try out the Grouse Grind. Rob had described it last night as a soul-crushing route where you start walking far too soon and quickly hate your life. He was right.  It's almost straight up for 3km, climbing over giant steps of rough-cut rock. By a few minutes in, I was barely lifting my eyes beyond the next step, and missed the signs indicating a quarter done and halfway there. I was pretty demoralised when my Garmin chimed off the first kilometre in 16 minutes. I paused, debating whether to wait for Mindy rather than admit that it would take me almost twice as long as Rob Watson's 29 minutes to complete the Grind. Shelving my ego, I returned to racing (walking) up the mountain. Good thing I did, as I had forgotten how poorly Garmin measures distance uphill in the trails. I finished the climb in 30:21 - not bad for my first time!

Mindy has run up the Grind before, so she was less concerned about her speed this time around.

We debated running back down the mountain, but opted instead for the cable car. After enjoying the incredible views from the summit, of course.

I thought I was racing up the mountain, but it turns out the real race of the day was to the ferry dock. You are supposed to arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time.  We arrived seven minutes before departure.  We were literally the last vehicle on the boat!

I suppose it would have been interesting to cross over to Vancouver Island in the darkness of 11pm, but I'm glad that we enjoyed the beautiful vistas instead.

The sun setting over the ocean is an amazing sight!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lulu and the Olympians

Ladies and gentlemen, today I did the extraordinary.  Today, I went to the source of good-looking bums all over the world. Today, I went to the head office of Lululemon.

Mindy's friend Kate Gustafson (who is, incidentally, a fantastic runner) works at Lululemon and invited us by for a quick tour.  Actually, Kate works for ivivva. I was confused when she told us that she works for the girls' brand at Lululemon... When did Lulu become so male-dominated that they had to devise a focused brand for women?  Kate clarified that ivivva isn't for "girls" as in females, but actually for young girls. Makes a little more sense. For a variety of reasons, I would never get any work done if I got a job at Lululemon in Vancouver. The prime reason, though, is that they have a totally open concept work area, and I suddenly found myself grateful for the short walls of my cubicle.

Prior to the corporate tour, there was work to do.  I didn't run this morning as I was doing final preparations for my first presentation at this conference. While I am told I presented well - on OntarioMD's Hospital Report Manager and how it is a showcase for the Rhapsody product from Orion Healthcare - the whole thing was rather anticlimactic. There was little to no promotion of the session by the conference, and so we ended up with about a dozen people in the audience, largely from Orion. Whatever.  The important presentation - in my opinion - is tomorrow.

After taking in more of the conference - the sessions, networking, and learning about products that could revolutionize healthcare - I escaped for another evening in Vancouver. Tonight we joined Olympian Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson, the "almost winner of the Boston Marathon", for a social run with their coaching group Mile 2 Marathon. Rob is every bit as friendly, chatty, and personable as you might expect if you've read his blog.  What I didn't expect, from the author of a blog with more expletives than I use the letter "e", was to be running beside him as we approached a man walking two dogs, and to hear Rob exclaim: "That is just adorable.  Adorable!" And as far as I can tell, he meant it.

After the run we went to a local pub called the Tap Shack for a few drinks. Partway through the run I had deked back to the hotel to pick up my credit card; randomly, I picked up my ID as well. Turns out this was a good thing. As Mindy and I ordered drinks from the server, she asked us for ID.  Somewhat incredulously, I handed over mine as Mindy explained that she didn't have hers on her because she hasn't been ID-ed for years. I assumed that the server, upon seeing that I am 34 years old, would realise that Mindy is nowhere near 19 (sorry, Mindy). Instead, I was served and Mindy was declined. Because she looks too young.  With good intention, the server commiserated with Mindy, explaining that she brings three pieces of ID to get into clubs because the enforcement is so strict.  Which is fine, because our server was maybe 21 years old! We called over the manager, but no dice. Now that his server had decided not to serve us, he wasn't about to go against her decision. When the 40-year old man sitting across from me was also denied a drink because he didn't have ID, it went from hard-to-believe to downright ridiculous. As we paid our bill to leave:

Server: What are you doing the rest of the evening?
Mindy: I'm going to go have a drink!
Rob: Yeah, time to play catch up.
Server: Catch-up?  What's catch-up?
Mindy: Um....I'm going to catch up on the drinks I couldn't have here.
Server (laughing): Oh, I thought it was a drinking game and I was thinking "I want to play!"

We didn't actually go out anywhere else to get drinks. We wandered around looking for an enticing restaurant, but the only things open were very nice restaurants (we weren't dressed for that) and a single Starbucks. I got a chocolate frappuccino.  Delectable.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Good morning, Stanley

Today is actually a work day, for me, so I was up early for a run around Stanley Park before the opening keynote speaker. Apparently I wasn't up early enough, as Mindy and I managed only 12k (partway around the park and back) before time was running out. Later in the day we managed another run; this time we completed the Stanley Park circumnavigation, which actually wasn't much farther than 12k.

The opening keynote was...interesting. It started with the usual banter between the hosts, and then the lead host introduced a native speaker who would bless the conference - in keeping with tradition of the natives in this region.  The host called down Mr. Bob Barker! Bob walked on to the stage, looked up at his name printed in bold lettering across two twenty foot screens at the front of the room, and commented: "It's Baker.  Bob Baker." Whoops!  Awkward moment....

As I have learned, the native tradition when addressing an audience is first to explain yourself - your heritage and your background.  Bob explained his family background on both sides, and the background of the tribe from which he hails. A branch of cedar was used to figuratively sweep negativity out of the conference, and then Bob launched into a song accompanied by drumming on a hand-held drum. The back of the drum held various tribal medicines - likely including tobacco and other plants from the nearby forests. When he concluded, a small number of the audience bounced up for a standing ovation, which was probably not warranted.  It was a very interesting opening, but I can't say that anything about it struck me as fantastic, except perhaps Bob's restraint at being compared to the host of The Price is Right.

Working through the day was entertaining and hopefully useful - to me in the form of education, and to OntarioMD in the form of the information I could impart to the curious people who visited our booth. By the time the wine and cheese was rolled out as part of the welcome reception, we had less traffic at the booth.  Apparently my smiling face doesn't compare with a glass of red.

While I was working, Mindy was checking out the local restaurant scene with some treats from Medina (highly recommended!) and a forgettable bistro for lunch. In keeping with that theme, Mindy made plans for our dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in Gastown - Nuba. What a treat! I recognized some of the lawyers from one of the big Toronto firms (also here in Vancouver for the eHealth conference) at a neighboring table when we arrived.  I took that as a good sign.  Generally speaking, one assumes that a corporate lawyer knows where to eat out. The dinner was magnificent and plentiful! I love the cuisines that embrace vegetarianism! The walk through Gastown was an adventure in itself.  Not only did we witness the latest response to the sticky-note art war:

(Note that is the same window as is in the Vancouver Sun article in the link above.)

...we also witnessed a drug deal.  Apparently whatever she was selling would give you a high like you've never had before! Call me naive, but I don't normally picture drug dealers as young, healthy-looking, attractive women. I suppose that broadens the potential audience.  I mean, who really wants to buy it from the sickly-looking thug? (There were some sickly-looking bums nearby, who might have been selling, too.  I didn't ask around to find out.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Wreck of a Protest

Nine old nudists explaining to the media why they were protesting. It really wasn't very powerful. Even the media that were on hand to capture the protest seemed to tire of the sparse group of campaigners, especially as hordes of beach-goers streamed past them and down the stairs to the beach below. It was a weak argument; if the elimination of the bus-stop prevented people from getting to the beach, then how were so many people arriving for a day of sunbathing? Nonetheless, I am inclined to side with the protesters. Ostensibly, the bus-stop was eliminated due to the number of assaults that were happening on UBC grounds.  So...the people who are carrying out the assauls were taking the bus there? I'm not normally a conspiracy-theorist, but it seemed pretty obvious that the bus-stop was eliminated to have an effect on Wreck Beach attendance.

Our stroll to watch the protest (we weren't the only gawkers) wasn't my first time to the Wreck Beach stairs that day.  In fact, it was my third. I woke up early - thanks largely to the time change - and headed out for a run while Mindy slept in. (At least, according to my standards.) I ran by the totem poles outside the Museum of Anthropology, and down the relatively unused stairs to the north end of Wreck Beach. Hundreds of stairs down and back up to the top.  I didn't dally at the bottom....there was nothing to see.  Nobody was there at 7am except for the rare fisherman seeking smelt. Along the path and on to the next set of stairs for Wreck Beach. 480-ish stairs later I was at the bottom (once again, empty shortly after 7am), and then a hurried trek back up.  Who needs a gym with a stair-climber? Then I carried on along the path toward the real destination of this run: Pacific Spirit Park.

Many trips and vacations include a moment where I suddenly want to live wherever I am visiting; this moment came as I entered Pacific Spirit Park.  Massive trees, sun filtering through the canopy, clean, fresh air, and a well-trod dirt path.  I was so excited, I barely tested out a few trails before I was racing back to get Mindy for more exploration.

With Mindy up and ready to go, we re-traced my steps from earlier.

With the runs complete and the protest a disappointment, we did the only logical thing remaining when hanging out in the UBC neighbourhood.  We checked out Wreck Beach in full swing (no pun intended).

More than half of the beach patrons were "textile folk", including both Mindy and me. Nonetheless, we were still able to appreciate the hippy vibe of the place, not to mention the hot sun, cold water, and some not-entirely-unappealing bodies on display. (I'm still not clear whether naturists consider it appropriate to appreciate the appeal of a fit and aesthetically pleasing body.)

We made our way from UBC to downtown in preparation for the first conference event this evening. Thank-you, work, this next hotel is a little nicer than where I was staying last night!

As our room wasn't ready when we arrived, we found the hotel gym and made this into a hardcore training day with another workout.  This time, no stairs (though we did some walking lunges). Finally in the room, I cleaned up to head to the convention while Mindy relaxed and read. Dinner at Sandbar restaurant with my colleagues was a great way to end the evening - even though I felt a little foolish ordering vegetarian at a seafood place on Granville Island.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Go West!

I understand that when you travel all the time for work, the novelty quickly wears off.  However, if one's usual "traveling" for work is to the next building for a meeting, a trip to Vancouver is REALLY exciting! Coming this far, we had to make a vacation out of it.

Mindy will be occupying herself over the next couple of days while I actually work, but I feel like my vacation has already started. I had a rather entertaining flight attendant who interspersed the usual pre-flight instruction with jokes at his ex-wife's expense, claiming: "Don't judge me for these comments about my ex-wife.  You don't know her.  If you do...then you know what I'm saying is true." He then reminded everyone about the Westjet vacations travel company, which does all inclusive trips and holidays all over the world.  He looked out at the plane full of people, smiled and said:

"Who here remembers those Westjet commercials from Christmastime?  You know the ones where we give everything away?  Today is a special day; it's one of those days.  Fifteen people on this plane are going to win all-inclusive vacations for a week to any Westjet destination in the world. Take a look at the floor at your feet.  Fifteen passengers have a red dot on the floor. Bend over and take a look. While you're there, push in the baggage under the seat in front of you and check to see the life-vest under your seat. By the way, nothing is free in this world.  Even I have to pay for my own vacations."

By the end of his spiel, the flight attendants in the aisles were laughing, confirming for even the most hopeful passengers that this was all a joke.

Flying over Alberta, I glanced down at the mountains I'll be tackling in the Canadian Death Race on schedule for the end of July...

I can't say I gained confidence looking at this.

Once on the ground, we headed toward our accommodations for the evening in the UBC residences. My phone's "Google app" tells me there is a nude protest taking place tomorrow just down the street from these residences. (For clarity, I learned this AFTER I booked the night at the residence.) Apparently the protesters are campaigning against the closure of the bus stop that services Wreck Beach.

The residences were surprisingly well-appointed; we learned later that students pay around $1100 per month during the school year for these mini-apartments. I guess in expensive Vancouver, even students have to pay real rent! The view from the window would be worth a lot for many a student, I think:

It always makes sense to lock your luggage when flying, right?  You know what doesn't make sense?  Locking your lugagge, but not bringing the key.  Damn! I brought the key to my shed instead! That cheap lock was remarkably resistant to picking, so I was debating how best to break the zipper. Mindy - smart woman - suggested that we see if the front desk had bolt cutters before I mangle my luggage. They didn't have them handy, but suggested I leave my luggage with them and the lock would be cut.

When the school year is over, UBC shuts down early.  We had limited options for dinner, so we tried Mahoney & Sons pub while the front desk was chasing down bolt cutters.  The pub did the job, and we returned to the room to crash into bed. My luggage was returned to the room shortly after 10pm, and it was all I could do to stay awake until then.