Six Weeks in Jakarta

In mid-January, I was asked to plan a 4-week stay in Jakarta for a project for a special customer. I would be assisted again by the Head of Sales and Ashish, a verification prime from India. As I had previous experience in Indonesia, and I was available for such a long deployment, I was given the opportunity.

The project was to test a new feature with the customer that had requested it.

Upon arrival, I checked-in to my home for the next month, the Hotel Kristal. At first I was checked into a room with two bedrooms, but it was on a smoking floor so I asked to be moved to a single room on a non-smoking floor. Each room has a small kitchen, so I was able to prepare my own meals and have cold drinks when I wish. The hotel was conveniently next to the Hero Supermarket, so keeping my kitchen stocked was not a problem.

My first week in Jakarta was dedicated to planning for the upcoming testing, including the test plan and test site selection. We agreed with the customer to use the Museum Transportasi in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII). TMII is a huge culture-based recreational area in the Southeast part of Jakarta. It contains many museums, a huge lake with artificial islands in the shape of Indonesia, venues representing the cultures of all 33 Indonesian provinces, gardens, public buildings, religious sites, a cable car and wind-powered monorail (one of only three in the world), recreation facilities, an aviary and a reptile zoo. It was a fascinating location.

The museum site was two-stories tall, with the long building overhangs connecting to form a sheltered walking area on the ground floor. We worked mostly on the ground floor, enjoying the open air but avoiding the hot sun and heavy rains.

Richard with fans at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.
Richard with fans at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.

During our 2 weeks working at the site, I was a frequent point of attention for Indonesians visiting the museum. Often I was asked by school children and adults if they could take their picture with me. I was told by my Indonesian cohorts that I was often discussed by people walking by. I guess that many had not seen a Caucasian before, so I was the subject of much curiosity. I took it all in stride as I was just as fascinated by Indonesians as they were of me!

Of my Indonesian cohorts, I grew very attached to them and made some deep friendships that I value greatly. We had the best talks about life, family, history, politics, and religion – some of my favourite topics. Many an evening we sat in a nearby café drinking chocolate milkshakes and having a smoke, talking for hours.

The integration testing went well, any issues were found were addressed quickly by the design teams. Ashish was invaluable as he was the validation prime for the feature we were demonstrating. As I had only 2.5 months experience, his deep knowledge of our products were critical to the completion of the testing. I learned so much and I am glad that I was able to contribute.

I had little time off during February, as we were working 7 days a week. When I was not at the test location, I was at the hotel writing reports and emails. Sometimes I could take a few hours to go to the malls. The nearest was Citos (Cilandak Town Square Mall), which had a great variety of restaurants and a fabulous bookstore called Aksara. The other mall was the massive Pondok Indah Mall (PIM) which also has a huge variety of foods and hundreds of stores.

Monumen Nasional in Jakarta is 132 metres tall. It is the national monument for Indonesian independence.
Monumen Nasional in Jakarta is 132 metres tall. It is the national monument for Indonesian independence.

Only once did Ashish and I take time to visit a tourist site in Jakarta. One Sunday morning we traveled to see the National Monument (also known as Monas). It is a 132-metre tall tower in Central Jakarta built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian independence. In the base of the plinth is the Indonesian National History Museum, which uses dioramas to portray the long history of Indonesia from pre-history through the events of the past few decades. I wanted to continue to walk around the area to visit the huge Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia, but we could see the rain clouds gathering so we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

The downside to being in Jakarta for 6 weeks was how much I missed Rosa. We spoke every few days using FaceTime and Skype, and wrote emails every day. The 12-hour time difference made realtime communications difficult. I also missed driving in the MCO Ice Race. I called my friend and co-driver Jay the next day, and he told me about the event. I so wish I had been there.

Along with the friends I made in Jakarta, I also really enjoyed the opportunity to try so many local dishes. They would take me out to different restaurants that I would never have found by myself. Some were very spicy, but I was able to finish everything I sampled.

As I approached the end of my stay, I was asked to extend my trip so that I could provide a training session for the customer. I agreed and extended my stay at the Hotel Kristal by another 2 weeks.

Weekly fashion show at Citos (Town Square) mall.
Weekly fashion show at Citos (Town Square) mall.

As the Visa-On-Arrival is only valid for 4 weeks, I had to go through the process of extending my visa. This involved a lot of research on the internet and two trips downtown to the Kantor Imigrasi office. I was nervous as I was going alone and was not confident that I would find enough people who spoke English. The process was very confusing, involving going to areas on three different floors in the building, but the tips I read on the Internet provided the guidance I needed.

By this time Ashish had returned to India so I was by myself for the remaining time. Providing training was a real challenge, as I felt I was so new to the area. I prepared very hard and was able to provide a half-day training session for about 20 people. I think it was well received.

After the training was completed and the trial results were accepted by the customer, I could book my return flight for the second week of March. I was faced will some big challenges, but I very pleased with the accomplishments and achievements for my 6 weeks in Jakarta. I hope I can travel back again in the future.

Bandung Indonesia

On the second day of my new job, Yanick, a Wi-Fi teammate, came into my office and said we were going to Bandung, Indonesia next week. Wow! Even though I expected a lot of travel, I just didn’t think that it would start on my second day.

The trip was to perform a proof of concept, which is a demonstration of our product capabilities. These are sometimes done as part of a ‘bake-off’ with other vendors to be allowed to bid on future contracts or to win an existing RFP. I would be traveling with my co-worker and would have help from our Indonesian office.

The trip to Indonesia took 33 hours including layovers. I flew from Ottawa to Toronto, where I met up with friends for dinner before heading back to Pearson for the 15h40m flight to Hong Kong. This flight flew up over the pole and down through Siberia, Mongolia and China. From Hong Kong I flew to Jakarta (4h50min) and met up with Yanick, who had flown from Detroit. The Indonesia office booked a car to take us the 2-3 hours to Bandung.

The view of the southern part of Bandung, as seen from my window at the Hilton.Bandung is a city of about 2.4 million that is packed on the weekends with Jakartans who want to escape to the cooler climate in Bandung. Many families own homes in both cities. Bandung is well known for its international brands outlet shopping area and people often come from the surrounding countries for a discount-shopping weekend.

We arrived at the Hilton in the late afternoon and had dinner with the Head of Sales. The next morning, we prepared for the first meeting with the client. We were also waiting for test equipment to arrive from Jakarta. We arrived at the customer premises in the late afternoon. We had a very high-level overview of what we planned to accomplish over the next two weeks and planned to reconvene the next day for a full test plan review.

The next day we again waited for more equipment from Jakarta; it was hard to scrounge up exactly what we needed (routers, switches). While we waited, we continued to review and refine the test plan. We also visited the BEC – Bandung Electronic Center. The BEC was amazing; my teammate and I were gobsmacked. It was four floors containing hundreds of electronics businesses. The first two floors were just cell phones and SIM cards. The upper floors had PC components (video cards, motherboards, drives, printer, and so forth) intermixed with a few camera stores. I was drooling over some of the high-end camera equipment that was available.

We were looking for a cheap Layer-3 switch, but we could not locate one. We also had to buy an unlocked Android phone for Hotspot 2.0 testing. We had a special firmware for the phone to Hotspot 2.0, which is still very new and not yet officially supported on any device. We also bought a SIM card for the phone.

For the proof of concept, we broke the work down so that we could run multiple tests at the same time. I took on the Access Point (AP) Throughput and Outdoor Performance tests.

The first test was interesting. It is basically the RFC2544 test suite. We received a testing unit from Jakarta and wired it to two APs, then tested the throughput between then with various different packet sizes. The test was simple in execution but it required a lot of time for set up and to run each test. We had to perform the same tests on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels.

Late in the first week I started to come down with an upper respiratory tract infection. It hit me hard and by the weekend I felt really awful.

Shops along the lip of the upper crater of the Tangkuban Perahu volcano.On the weekend, we planned to play tourist in the area around Bandung. We reserved a car and driver for Saturday and went north to Tangkuban Perahu, a dormant volcano. There were two areas to see at the volcano. The first was the main tourist area where a long line of souvenir huts lined the rim of the upper crater (named “Kawah Ratu”). There was a modest amount of steam rising from the crater. Even with illness diminishing my sense of smell, the sulphur smell was very strong. The volcano last erupted in 1983.

We took a few pictures and walked through the souvenir shops. We found that there was another crater (named “Kawah Domas”) down a forest trail, but we were only permitted to go if we hired a local guide. This sounded interesting, so we hired one. It started to drizzle, and the trail became very slippery.

The drizzle turned to light rain as we reached the lower crater. It was hellish. There were pools of steaming, boiling water turning the crater into a scene from a war movie. Locals were boiling eggs in the water to sell to the tourists. We were allowed to walk around inside this boiling cauldron before the heavier rain chased us back to our car.

IMG_0294For a late lunch we stopped as a well-known restaurant, the Kampung Daun. We invited our driver to eat with us. We sat on cushions around a low table under a palm-roofed hut with a gentle brook burbling beside us. We had typical local cuisine (“nasi timbel komplit”), which included chicken, rice, tempeh and some very spicy condiments. It was delicious, but my illness was taking a toll. Instead of continuing on to the discount shops, I was dropped off at the hotel to rest.

Before the trip, I had researched interesting things to do. I found that there were weekly ram fights (“adu domba”) in the villages around Bandung. The rams are not hurt by the fighting, as this is the normal way they determine superiority. The villagers bet on the fights.

However when we asked about it, we were told that they were were no events that weekend, so we could not see them. I will have to find a way to see this spectacle sometime in the future.

The second week was spent completing the test plan. We were able to finish the most difficult tests including the outdoor coverage test. This test was made difficult by the heavy rainstorms that would start daily around 11:30 and last for the rest of the afternoon. This meant we only had about 90 minutes each day to set up the equipment and test area, run some tests then rapidly tear it all down when we could hear and see the wall of rain advancing on us.

My return flight was Saturday. It was suggested that we should stay in Jakarta overnight and head to the airport from there, saving 3-hours of driving and reducing the risk of a traffic jam causing me to miss my flight.

We stayed at the amazing Ritz-Carlton hotel in Mega Kuningan. After a delicious meal at Loewy, we went out to Dragonfly, a nightclub frequented by the rich and the beautiful of Indonesia. We stayed out far too late and returned to the hotel well after 3AM. I checked out around 7:30 and was on my way back to Canada.

I am so pleased to have this opportunity to learn on the job and to visit an exotic country like Indonesia.

[Dec 31, 2013: little did I know then that I would return again to Indonesia many times, spending a total of 14 weeks in the country over the following year.]

My new job

After nearly 10 months as Release Technical Leader (Sustaining) for CDMA OA&M, I have moved to a new role in our new Wi-Fi organization.

Early this year, as the future of CDMA R&D was in great doubt (as CDMA spending was expected to decline as 4G wireless technologies ramp up), I had a terribly stressful time looking to secure my future. I was not told that a position was being held for me, so I assumed that there was no job for me. It was a horrible 3-4 months not knowing what was going to happen but seeing everyone else around me get job offers.

This time, I was kept in the loop about my future. I was put forward as a candidate for our carrier-grade Wi-Fi unit. I had one interview with my future boss over a late lunch, then a second interview with a future co-worker.

The new role is in a customer-facing role, different from my technical/project leader role I have held over the last 10-11 years in CDMA. My role will involve up to 50% of my time traveling to customer sites for testing, demos, proof of concepts, technical support and even some training.

In the interviews, and re-emphasized by the HR prime, everyone wanted to make sure I was ok with the travel demands. I spoke with Rosa and had an honest appraisal of my desires, and agreed that I would welcome the travel.

With that, I was offered the job and I accepted.

Today is my first day. It is a different office building than the rest of the Ottawa teams. But I already know many people from Ericsson (and even one from Nortel).

I have spent the day going through the training program again. I want to ramp up on Wi-Fi technology and our products quickly. I want to be useful to my new department as quickly as possible.

I am really excited to have this opportunity! I am really looking forward to my future in Wi-Fi.

My new position

Finally, after 2.5 months of anxiety, I have been offered a new position at work. My previous position in CDMA had been moved to a team in Beijing, China. I only had 2.5 weeks left in my old role, and I was immensely frustrated in the lack progress in finding a new position.

As of last week, everyone in my former team had secured positions in the 4G business unit except myself and my manager. What really pushed me over the edge with stress was that I was told that the management team “might want to keep me”, but in 2.5 months no one told me what my new position would be, or when it would start. It felt like I was the last one being picked for a high school baseball team and not even my own team wanted me.

I was told that I was wanted in CDMA because of my experience and skills. But with no formal offers, it felt hollow.

But it has been settled now. I will be a EMS Release Tech Lead for the rollout of a new Ericsson program. It is a position where I can exercise both technical side and project management skills.

I am feeling much better now. In fact, I am really very happy because I consider this new role to be a bigger challenge and a real growth opportunity.

15 Years

The more I reflect on 15 years of working at Nortel/Ericsson, the more it seems incredible.

I moved to Ottawa during the last week of January 1997. I drove up in my dad’s Chevy Tahoe filled with all my stuff. There was a snow storm in Quebec, so it took two days to reach Ottawa.

For the first few days, I slept on my friends couch until DJ left to move in with his girlfriend. I took over his portion of the apartment and rent. It was good times. We ran our internet connection on an AMD486DX40 in the basement, played Duke Nukem 3D until 4am, watched Jackie Chan-o-thons at the Mayfair Theatre and listened to The Cardigans and KMFDM.

Has it really been 15 years? A decade-and-a-half?

I think of how much time that is by comparing to my childhood up until I was a teenager. That’s a long time. I think back to Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, where I lived until I was 7. My best friend was Steven, who lived next door, and then just down the road when both of our families moved.

Then in November 1977, my family moved to New Minas, where my parents opened a McDonald’s restaurant. Three more schools – New Minas Elementary, Port Williams Elementary, and finally the move to Horton District High School.

All those friends I met and with whom I have fallen out of touch. All the adventures. All the class mates and teachers. From my birth until I could get my beginners drivers license – 15 years.

And that’s how long I’ve been here in Ottawa.

So much has changed here too: 4 apartments, 2 houses, a marriage, and a racing career. When I moved to Ottawa, it was just sparking with excitement. Corel, Rebel NetWinder, Linux Chix, and Microserfs. It was the tech bubble. I knew more people in Ottawa than I did in Wolfville, where I had graduated and worked at Acadia University. It seemed like everyone from the Acadia Computer Science program went to Ottawa after graduation.

Now, I hardly know anyone from that era. The bubble burst at the turn of the millennium. Everyone I knew closely has moved away. Nadine (moved to Nova Scotia), Dana (moved to San Diego), Christine and Kevin (Nova Scotia), Nick and Bev (Nova Scotia and changed career), Rob and Deb (New Brunswich), Peter (New York); Julie is still still in Ottawa married with kids.

Of the 15 years in Ottawa, I’ve been with Rosa for seven. For all that has changed, for all that might have been lost to time, I have gained so much that is valuable to me: my relationship with Rosa, my most precious treasure.

Work update

My current job ends in 4 weeks.

In November, it was decided that my CDMA project would be transitioned to a new team in Beijing, China. The decision came very quickly, and by December I was in Beijing to handle the initial transition training. The training was very well received. It’s a good team there.

This transition means that I need to find a new position. I thought it would be easy in a huge multinational company with around 100,000 employees.

Most of my teammates have received and accepted offers from our 4G/LTE business unit, and I had hoped to move as well. But so far, I have not received any offers or interviews. I was told I might be kept back in CDMA but I haven’t heard what that might be either.

I’ve become very frustrated and anxious with the lack of information and offers. I’ve sent my resume to a few jobs in Montreal, but they have not replied yet.

I’ve become so anxious about my future and the lack of information. Yesterday, I reached a point where I was physically ill with stress. I am concerned that the uncertainty is impacting my health.

Then this morning I was greeted with an email from HR congratulating me for 15 years of service. I started at Nortel on February 19, 1997. I can choose from a list of nice service awards (gifts). I think I will take either the Hipstreet iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard or the 3-person Coleman tent. It’s been an emotional roller coaster.

So then I fainted…

I’ve been feeling sick since Saturday, and I got worse on Sunday. My throat and nose were sore and burning. By Monday, I thought perhaps it was a reaction to the smog. The burning sensation is uncharacteristic of a cold or flu.

Mountains near Rancho Cucamonga
Mountains near Rancho Cucamonga

During the day Monday, I debated what to do: should I see a doctor or just get some rest and wait to see if I would get better.

After talking with Rosa, I decided to see a doctor. I had to call my (business) travel insurance provider. They sent me to a care facility in the city. I went and the doctor looked me over, listened with his stethoscope and prescribed some antibiotics and cough syrup.

Two hours later, I went out to supper with two co-workers, Roddric and Theirry. I ordered a pound of snow crab legs. I normally would not order them because of the mess and cost, but I thought I should treat myself – the company would cover the meal. I love crab.

I was still not feeling well though. I started to eat but had only eaten a single leg before I started feeling much, much worse.

I stopped eating for a moment but I was still getting worse. I was feeling light-headed. I waited for it to clear, but it just got worse. I knew that something was very wrong, and told my co-workers that I was feeling light-headed. As I was seated on the inside of the both, I could not sit down to get my head between my knees, so I slid down in my chair to lower my head.

So then I fainted…

When I came to, Roddric had already called an ambulance. I was immediately coherent and I told everyone the current date and that I knew were I was and that I had passed out. My face streaming with sweat for some reason, even though I did not feel hot.

The ambulance and a firetruck arrived in less than 5 minutes. The paramedics asked me what happened and looked me over. They checked my blood sugar. They hooked me to a portable EKG machine I think. They offered to take me to a hospital and after thinking about it, I agreed. I hoped that my travel insurance would cover the costs, but decided that my health was important and that if they did not, it was still the right decision. The paramedics would not allow me to walk to the ambulance in case I passed out again and hit my head. They strapped me to a stretcher and pushed me outside through the crowded restaurant. I hated that. I was embarrassed.

The ambulance trip took about 10 minutes. I was wheeled into the emergency room.

The doctor came to speak with me after I had been checked-in. He told me that they would run some tests. Everyone asked me if I had a seafood allergy, which I do not. I was hooked up to an IV drip, had my blood taken, and a more extensive EKG taken. A chest X-ray was also taken.

The tests confirmed that I did not have a heart attack or stroke, and did not have low blood sugar. But the doctor was not able to determine the root cause for me fainting. We doubted that I had had a reaction to the antibiotics either.

The doctor explained that the fainting was caused by vascular dilation, meaning that all my blood vessels dilated open. This very rapidly decreased my blood pressure and drained blood from the brain. I felt the process starting when I felt lightheaded. He said that this was the body’s way of ensuring that the person lay down, and it is a involuntary reaction.

He also thought that I had a virus inflection, so the antibiotics would not be effective. Unfortunately, there are no medications for viral inflections. I just have to wait it out.

I was supposed to go to work at the customer switch for the maintenance window starting at midnight. My co-workers called my manager and director back in Ottawa. The director said that I was not to go into the switch, and that someone had to stay with me in case I had another problem. I made a compromise that I would connect from my hotel room and that one co-worker with a backup room key was just down the hall in case I needed something.

I was able to talk with Rosa from the hospital for about 15 seconds before the batteries in the cell phone died. I told her that I was fine. I was so worried that she would be worried about me when I was already feeling much better.

It was an interesting experience. I’ve never fainted before. I remember the sensations as I started to pass out, and I’m glad I had enough sense to say something and attempt to lower my head before I blacked out.

I still have to deal with getting over my illness, which is not really diagnosed. I just need lots of sleep. I’ll keep up with the antibiotics though, as they should not do any harm.

Visiting Los Angeles

I’m here in Los Angeles (technically, I’m in Rancho Cucamonga, which is east of LA) for a customer testing cycle. I’m here for a full week. As there is no testing planned during the weekend, I’ve had the weekend free to play tourist around Los Angeles. This is my first trip to LA.

Saturday morning I woke up quite early, as I am still adjusting to the 3-hr time difference. I packed up what I needed and went down to the car. I had an iPod Nano with some podcasts and audiobooks, hat, jacket, sunscreen and the Eyewitness Travel Guides Top Ten Los Angeles. I brought all my camera gear as well, including my Amod AGL3080 photo tracker.

I stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s and was on the highway around 7am.

Dennis Hopper - Walk of Fame
Dennis Hopper's star

My first stop was Hollywood. It took about an hour to drive there (Los Angeles is huge – more about that later). I parked the car and started walking down Hollywood Boulevard. My first stop was the Art Deco style Pantages Theatre and the Capital Records building. From there I walked down the Walk of Fame towards the Kodak Theatre (where the Oscars are currently presented) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I could see the famous Hollywood sign in the distance on the hills to the north. The sign is smaller than I expected. As with the Statue of Liberty, the photos I’ve seen are shot in such a way as to make it look bigger than in real life. It’s also because it is actually quite a distance from this part of the city.

In front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre are the handprints, footprints and signatures of famous Hollywood stars in concrete tiles.

After walking back to my car, I drove south from Hollywood Boulevard to Sunset Boulevard, where I drove westward. I drove by the Viper Room (where River Phoenix died), the Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Whisky a Go Go (where The Doors were the house band). From there, the road leads through Beverly Hills, past UCLA, Bel Air and into Santa Monica. Lots of nice homes, but I didn’t spend much time looking around as I did not want to get lost.

Once I reached the Pacific Ocean, I took Highway 1 south with no particular destination in mind. Driving by kilometer after kilometer of beach, I decided to pull over and take a walk. I could see a pier in the distance.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

It was a great day for walking along the beach. From where I parked, it was about a kilometer to walk to the Santa Monica Pier. I did not realize until I arrived that Santa Monica Pier is also the west coast terminus of Route 66. The Pier had an amusement park, including a roller coaster and Ferris wheel. There is a trapeze school as well. Many people were fishing off the end of the Pier. I walked around for about an hour, taking lots of pictures before I stopped for lunch – deep fried shrimp – and then headed back to the car. I decided to walk on the beach instead of the sidewalk. At first it was nice walking barefoot along the sand, but the sand was unbelievably hot. I walked along the edge of the water to cool my feet  before crossing the beach to the parking lot.

I wanted to head south to Long Beach. I thought it would be easy to get there. Lacking a good map, I had no idea how difficult it would be.

I followed along the coast for as long as I could before I had to start taking other streets, due to the marinas in Marina Del Ray. I took Washington Boulevard, thinking that it looked big and I thought it was heading south. After driving for what seemed like an hour, I drove by the Sony Pictures Entertainment studios in Culver City, which allowed me to find out where I was the tiny map I had brought. All that driving and I had barely moved on the map. This is when it really hit me how big Los Angeles is. Almost an hour of driving and I was maybe 10% of the way to Long Beach. The only way to get there would be to get on a highway.

I found the 405 and 110 and it still took about 40 minutes to drive to Long Beach.

The map I had did not show Long Beach, so I had to guess my way around. I was looking for the Queen Mary. I thought, “Hey, how hard can it be to find a huge ocean liner?” Stupid question. I was still not grasping it how big the city is! I stumbled upon the SS Lane Victory, a World War II Victory Ship, so I stopped to take a look. I found out that it still functional and is used for tourist cruises!

The Port of Long Beach is stunning in size. The Port of Long Beach and the nearby Port of Los Angeles combine to be largest port in the world (109km of waterfront and 43 km^2 of land area in total). It goes on for mile after mile. I had heard that the rows of giant cranes along the many waterfronts inspired George Lucas in the design of the AT-AT Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back.

I took a bridge and highway east until I could see signs for the Queen Mary. I got off the highway, followed the signs to the entrance to the parking lot, but for some reason all the cars were being waved back onto the surrounding streets. I thought perhaps there was a problem, so I circled back around. This time I was allowed into the parking lot, but was soon directed back out again. I was driving around in circles, all controlled by the parking attendants. I circled around once more and again was directed back towards the exit. I stopped at one of the parking attendants to explain that I wanted to stop and see the Queen Mary. I was told that the parking lots were full. Oh, that would be why I was directed out of the facility. I was told that the facility was being used for the 7th Annual Iron and Ink Tattoo & Kustom Culture Festival. Oh, that would explain all the goths, biker dudes and pink-haired punks.

RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary

I explained that I only wanted to take some photos of the Queen Mary. I guess the parking attendant liked me because she let me try to find a place to park for free. I thanked her and found a spot next to a light standard (technically it was not a parking spot). I walked through the crowd to the bow of the ship. I felt awkward because it was obvious that I The RMS Queen Mary is a fine example of an Art Deco ocean liner of a time when liners were the only way to travel between continents. Incongruously, there is a Cold War Soviet Foxtrot submarine moored next to the bow. I was not able to get on the ship (or sub) to look around due to the festival. I wish I had been able to go onboard.

After that, I decided to head north again to see the Hollywood Bowl. Once I got there, near suppertime, I was mired in a traffic jam. I found out that it was a jam to get into the Bowl, as it was the Playboy Jazz Festival.

I gave up and drove north past Universal Studios, and into North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks. I gave up randomly driving around and decided to head to see Griffith Observatory, which was a good choice.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory overlooks Los Angeles. It’s a fantastic example of the Art Deco style. It’s still a functioning observatory, and I went inside to see their coelostat (solar telescope). I was starving, so I stopped at the cafe. I bought two peanut butter and jam sandwiches and a huge Rice Krispy square. That really hit the spot. I sat on the patio eating and watching the sun set by the Hollywood sign. At one end of the patio was a photo shoot – an Asian girl in a cocktail dress posing on the stairs while her boyfriend (?) snapped away. An assistant was holding the rest of the equipment and flash.

I went back to the roof to watch the lights of Los Angeles in the growing darkness. I waited about an hour for night to fall and then started shooting some longer exposures of the expanse of the city, bright against the clouds (or is that smog?).

I walked back to my car with some difficulty. It was pitch black and my knee was felt like it was burning – my body was telling me I walked too far for one day. It was a long day and I arrived back at the hotel around 9:30pm.

Today, Sunday, was a little shorter. This was because I needed to get some sleep before heading into the customer site at midnight for the start of the maintenance window.

Again, I stopped for pancakes at McDonald’s, filled the gas tank and headed back to LA.

Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl

My first stop was the Hollywood Bowl. I had no problems getting in and parking at 8am. I grabbed my camera and walked into the site. No one stopped me, as I think everyone thought I was part of the event staff.

Next I went north to the start of Mulholland Drive. It winds along the top of the Hollywood Hills. There are some fantastic views north and south over the city. All along Mulholland you can see spectacular homes. I stopped at one viewing area and took a short walk (my knee started to hurt again) though the hillside. Lots of people were out walking their dogs along the dusty trails.

Once I reached Interstate 405, I drove south (past the Getty Center) and down to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is just south of the Santa Monica Pier. I parked and started to walk along the infamous boardwalk. I was expecting it to be a complete freak-show, but to be honest, it was actually nothing like its reputation. Perhaps Sundays are quieter.

There were lots of artists displaying their works, a few buskers, a dozen shops offering “free medical marijuana tests”, clothing stores and tourist traps. There was a fantastic skatepark, where I stopped to take lots of pictures. I could also practice my french with another tourist who was visiting from France. Next were the streetball courts, where there were multiple pick-up games going on.

Further down was Muscle Beach, although there was no one training when I walked past. I bought some ice cream for lunch and then started to head back.

Venice Beach Drum Circle
Venice Beach Drum Circle

I took some more pictures at the skate park and then came across a drum circle. I sat and watched the drummers for a while. Everyone was having fun. One older guy in a muscle shirt and surfer shorts was whaling on his drum while a Che Guevara look-alike was in his own groove on a shaker.

I started back to the hotel around 4pm. It took longer to drive home because it was close to the Sunday rush hour.

Last Work Day of the Decade

Today is the last work day of the decade for me. I’m still working in the office in Lab 9, as I have some work to complete before I leave on vacation. I end the decade only feet from the exact point where I started the decade.

Jan 1, 2000, at 12:00:01, I was here at work, in Lab 6, as part of Nortel’s Y2K task force. We were all carrying pagers, waiting by the phone and basically doing nothing. For me, it was a non-event, as our software had been updated in the months before, and patches sent out to all of our customers. At the exact moment of the new millennia, I was in the cafeteria, where Nortel had brought in some light snacks and (secretly) handed out glasses of champagne to anyone working to celebrate. I did wish I was downtown though – I’m sure it would have been quite a party.

At the start of the decade, the US elections were in full swing. I told anyone who would listen that Bush would set the US back by decades. Never did I expect that his performance after becoming president without winning the election would have been worse than I anticipated. Of course, no one could have expected 9/11, except for the US agents who specifically told Bush 4 weeks before that an attack against the US was being prepared. And who would have guessed that the US would have invaded a country who had nothing to do with the 9/11 tragedy, other than Donald Rumsfeld who said on 9/12 that the US should attack Iraq because “there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan“.

The year 2000 was also the start of the layoffs at Nortel. The earliest reference I can find is that they started in October 2000. This was my life for the next 9.5 years. I made it through the first year of layoffs before my entire team was cut 2 months after 9/11. I returned and worked for CDMA, dodging more than a dozen layoff rounds before being picked up in the Ericsson purchase a few months ago.

The time at Nortel was good in one respect. I was introduced to the love of my life at Nortel: a blind date over lunch in the Lab 6 cafeteria. Rosa and I talked for 2 hours that day, and we knew immediately that we had found who we were both looking for. Seven months later we got engaged in Paris, and on Jan 3, 2007, we married in Rome.

I’ve traveled more in the last 5 years than I had in my entire life. Rosa and I have visited Halifax, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Istanbul, Ankara, Athens, Warsaw, Krakow, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Jerusalem, Amman and London. In 2 days, we leave for our next trip: Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Vienna. Before Rosa and I met, I had also visited New YorkToronto, Montreal, Dallas. 2 years ago I had a business trip to Bangalore.

I seems like I have been racing for so long, but it was only in 2001 that I became a licensed marshal and 2003 before I received my race licence. I have raced in a 1971 Datsun 510 (“The Pumpkin”), 1991 Nissan NX2000, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Formula-1600 and this year multiple Acura Integra Type-R’s. I also became a Secretary of the meet for 5 MCO Race Schools and 5 Ted Powell Memorial Race Weekends, including the first full race weekend at the new Calabogie Motorsports Park.

I’ve starting learning French, so I may become a bi-lingual Canadian. And I started to kayak.

I wonder what December 2019 will bring?