Another change in plans

Due to more unforeseen circumstances, it looks like I will likely be back in Calgary in March!

One of the main reasons for an early return is that I need to pick up a project or two to cover off a couple of bills. There are a couple of potential projects I can grab in Calgary so I will head back unless something drops in my lap when I am in NY or Austin. While I suppose there is a small chance of that, I also need to follow up on some stuff for Game Plan. I thought I would do it remotely but this will be easier. Plus I am starting to miss a few people back home, so I am ready to head back. A trip up to Edmonton will definitely be part of the plans as well.

I was thinking of heading to Maui in April or May, and if I can land a contract or two, then that's still in the cards. We shall see.

Barcelona Booked

Flight out at 7am tomorrow morning, to return Sunday at 9.30pm on SpanAir. The guy I'm renting from returns to Malaga on Sunday, so that will still give me a chance to meet him and if I really want to do Morocco or Madrid I may still have the chance if I go back to NYC early (which is looking more and more likely as I think about it).

Yet another rainy day in Spain

I'm getting lots of work done the last few days, but I'm also getting a bit antsy. I wouldn't mind getting a chance to check out Barcelona, Morocco and Madrid. I've been looking at the 7-day forecasts around Europe and it's not good anywhere. The only place remotely close that is experiencing good weather right now is Egypt, but flights in to Cairo on short notice are in the $2,000 range - so that's a non-starter.

I had a bit of a brainwave, which was to change my return flight and come back to NY a week early. I've already considered scratching a return to NY out of my plans after checking out SXSW, and instead hitting up San Francisco and then possibly Maui. If I did that, then I would miss out on a couple of things on my to-do list for a return to NY. Namely:

  • having a caesar-making contest with some friends I met on the last night I was in NY.
  • a couple of follow ups with some contacts I made there
  • getting my luggage & selling my bed
  • going to see a couple more bands
  • go to a few more events where I can meet advertising and online marketing folks

As you can see from the above, these are high-priority activities. My biggest consideration is cost. I would be saving on my place in Spain, as I'm sure I'd get some money back on the place - however it will cost me about $260 to change my flight and I will likely need to stay in a hotel in NYC. Accommodations in NYC won't be cheap, but I think that I may want to try finding a place in Brooklyn for a change of pace. It will be way cheaper, plus any time I made it over to Brooklyn it was a great experience.

As I'm somewhat (or completely) impulsive, I suspect that the decision on this could be made as soon as tonight. This will likely mean sacrificing Morocco and/or Madrid - but I think that I'm okay with that. I can save it for another trip & come back with a friend.

So long NY! Hello Malaga!

Some final notes which will bring me up to my first Malaga post:
  • I ended up #89 on the foursquare top 100 for NYC when I left on Thursday. I know I couldn't sustain it through Fri/Sat, so its a good thing I left when I did.
  • One of the final places I visited was Washington Sq. Park with a Mamoun's falafel... a good send-off.
  • They served Nanton water on my British Airlines flight from NY to London.
  • When I asked for wine & expected to get charged $20 for a very small bottle, they gave me 2 full serving bottles at no cost, as well as 2 great full meals (and I was in coach)

The Colbert Report

On my actual b-day I went to a networking event where I met a couple of people, including a very cool person who I met up with again at another event and hope to hang out with when I'm back in NY. I also went to Of Montreal, which was fantastic and included several Of Montreal'esque antics.. including 2 fighting pigs (fake) that got spanked by Susan Sarandon (real). Ask me about it in person if you're interested in hearing about it.


So another thing on my to-do list was to go on a talk show. I will admit here that I love TV. I don't often make time to watch television anymore & rarely turn on the tv at all... nowadays I typically get my fix by getting obsessed with a series and then watching it via rental or online in a ridiculously short time frame. The last few series where I have done this are: The Office, Battlestar Gallactica, Mad Men, Lost, Dexter & 30 Rock. I abandoned Weeds and True Blood... they didn't really hold my interest. I have the Wire queued up.

This behavior is not very unique, as most people I know do this. However the exception I make is the Colbert Report, I will regularly stay up to watch his show and to say that I'm a huge fan is an understatement. He's awesome, and I have a bit of a man-crush on him.

When I went to NY, I did a bit of research to see what you needed to do to get tickets for the show. Much like SNL, the Daily Show, Letterman and Late Night - tickets to the Colbert Report were given out months in advance and the few seats available were given out on a standby basis which involved waking up early and standing in line all day. I thought I would have plenty of time to fit in a day of line-standing but it turns out that 10 weeks in NY can go by pretty quick.

In a last ditch effort, I went online again to see if there was another way. It turns out there is. In many cases, the VIP tickets that get handed out months before become available, because traveling plans get changed or something comes up, etc. VIP tickets are non-transferable (to prevent a black market for the free tickets), so when that happens the Daily Show and Colbert Report post the ticket openings back on their web site. Because of their popularity, normally they go extremely fast (4-5 mins). The good news is that some guy made a twitter feed that alerts its followers when those tickets become available. On Jan 27th, I had tickets for that night within a couple of hours of following the twitter feed. If you are in NY and want to see Colbert or Jon Stewart... follow @dailytix.

So enough about getting a ticket. The whole Colbert experience was excellent! I won't go in to the detail displayed above for the rest of the post but here are some highlights:
  • they let you in to the show based on your arrival. I was #83 (the number of Ales Hemsky - my favorite Oiler);
  • before the show they lead you in to a room where you go through security and watch Colbert highlights as Colbert himself rehearses in the studio;
  • once in the studio all cell phones and cameras have to be off & there was a security guard right behind me. I got a couple of shots, but bad ones;
  • I sat beside a guy who looked like a guy I used to work with named Mac (my 3rd such encounter in NYC - see him in the photo in the security room);
  • we had about 45 mins of stand-up from a warm up comic before Colbert came out to do his deal with Jon Stewart. At the end of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart does a little chat with Colbert to end off the one show and lead in to the other. Stewart was on closed circuit TV, so after Colbert sat down they had a warm-up/rehearsal which lasted about 5-10 minutes where they chatted about topics from the day. This included a fairly in-depth conversation about what the guest on the Daily Show was talking about & Colbert's opinions on it. Of course, when the actual taping for the segment happened, Colbert took Stewart completely off guard by pretending not to know who the guest. The old bait and switch. I don't know if that was set up or not, but Stewart seemed genuinely dumbfounded, which was pretty hilarious;
  • Colbert then went off-set and they brought back the warm-up comic, who told us it was rare that Colbert went off again (apparently go right in to taping the Report) & also thought the bait & switch was hilarious and odd... so maybe it wasn't set up;
  • Colbert finally came out again and did an out-of-character Q & A. He's equally hilarious out of character, but its obvious just how much of an informed genius he is when he can talk openly about various issues. Of course most of the questions were pointless (like 'would you rather kill Bambi or Winnie-the-Pooh?'), but he gave great answers for those too;
  • before the taping he launched a bunch of Wrist-Strong bracelets out in to the audience. Both people beside me got one & I did not;
  • the taping was great... if anyone wants to watch it go online for January 27, 2010 at (Canada) or (US);
  • I expected lots of jokes about the iPad, but he kept it rather light on that, which is fine because I'd heard it all by that time. His focus was on Justice Roberts' decision to allow corporate financing of political campaigns... he was genuinely fired up of camera as well. He talked a lot about it off camera as well, mentioning his run for President in '08 which he had sponsored by Dorrito's Nacho Cheese. He said that when they were doing it, they tried to come up with some of the most ridiculous things they could think of... and now it's actually not a joke;
  • his guest was a mathemagician, who basically was this uber-nerd savant who used magic to make math fun and interesting. I'm usually not a huge fan of Colbert's live interviews because the guests usually have a hard time navigating Colbert's persona (the editing done in the taped interviews makes them wayyyy more funny). However, this one was pretty good and the guest was probably already used to people not taking mathemagics seriously;
  • after the taping was done, he did a bunch of high-fiving with the audience (I was near the back so couldn't partake - but got a blurry pic where he's on the left of the shot);
  • then he sat down on the ground in front of the audience and started singing Kumbaya. The audience joined in and I got another blurry pic, but his head is barely visible at the front center of the audience.

So I started the week off strong...

My friends left on a Tuesday. When they left I was in 82nd place for all of NY on foursquare for the week. Like I said, I'm a nerd... but being in the top 100 was something I'd never accomplished & NY is massive with tons going on (goes without saying), and foursquare was originally developed in & for NYC so the userbase is pretty solid. I got a massive geek high when I saw that.


I was in NY for about 10 weeks, and I was very lucky to have 3 sets of visitors from home and seeing some familiar faces is definitely something I'm going to miss on my European leg.

It was my birthday last week and I was especially fortunate to have a couple of good friends visit so we could celebrate Alberta-style. By the time they made it down, I was already a well-seasoned tour guide, so I was able to become the mayor of several places on foursquare... something that gave me a lot of nerdly pleasure. I was also able to knock a number of things off my to-do list, including: have a NY bagel, skate at Rockefeller Center, have a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery, visit the Guggenheim Museum, go to a fancy NY nightclub, eat NY cheesecake, and go to Tom & Jerry's bar.

The last thing on the above list was the first thing that we did. Over the course of my trip Yelp! had become something that I'd come to rely on to find great places to go. The reviews for Tom & Jerry's was pretty much the kind of pub that I was looking to find in NYC. It delivered. There were several large animal heads on the wall, which I found interesting, and had an atmosphere similar to the Black Dog in Edmonton. We did a lot of bar hopping that night and 2 of us got good and drunk... my other friend is pregnant, so she is an unbelievable saint to let us be hammered well in to 3 of their 4 nights there.

My b-day is Jan 26, but since they flew out that day we celebrated on the 23rd. This was basically the day:
  • went to square diner for breakfast (my Phil's equivilant in NY);
  • went on the Staten Island ferry to see Statue of Liberty (was a great day btw);
  • walk through West Village and along High Line Park;
  • Chelsea Market where we rested up from an afternoon of walking and drank some tea (they had Roibus & I mention it because they are Roibus connoisseurs and I have another friend who has an unreasonable distaste for Roibus which makes me laugh... anyways, I had Yerba Matte);
  • Magnolia Bakery for a delicious cupcake - although I think Crave might make a better one;
  • met another mutual friend who was in town visiting some Torontonians who were in NY on business. It was one of their birthdays as well so we all had a great birthday dinner at a place called Malatesta Trattoria. I got a chocolate mousse with a candle on it brought out for me, which was very nice;
  • went to a place called the Sullivan Room, which I call "fancy" because the cover was $25 and it was a normal night. I'm the opposite of a "club" guy as I don't dance, but every once in a while it makes for a nice change of pace and I at least wanted to experience it one time in NY. Turns out the guy from TO that shared the birthday was a DJ and knew some people to get us in the back door. The cover was waived for me and him, reduced for everyone else and we got a private table with bottle service, including a complimentary bottle of vodka and champagne. I don't think the champagne ever showed up and we went through enough vodka that we'd worked up a $700 tab by the end of the night... but was a great time. There was a mural of 2 wolves painted on the wall, and I think that was what I needed to get my dance on;
  • moved on to a little establishment called Cafe Wha? where they were finishing their final set;
  • ate a falafel at Mamoun's... which was my second home in NY.
At the end of it we realized that we lost their camera at Cafe Wha? so it meant that most of the evening was lost with it (although I got a couple with my iPhone which I've posted below). The next day the camera woahs continued as I fell while skating at Rockefeller Center & broke my zoom lens (the rental place only gave out figure skates... the toe picks are my excuse). Aside from the camera mishaps the rest of the visit was solid with a trip over to Brooklyn for some Grimaldi's pizza and a pub find in the Lower East Side that topped Tom & Jerry's: 2A.

Below are a couple of the photos from my iPhone.

Networking Events

To define the marketing, advertising, web, and tech industries in Calgary as small would be more then accurate.

The above is not a statement about the level of talent, or the potential for greatness, as some of the most talented creatives and developers that I know are based in YYC and are doing tremendous work. There are also some awesome things that are starting to incubate this growing community.

However, aside from one massive interactive firm, 3-4 great agencies (all with 30 staff or less), and a couple of stock photo sites - there isn't really a lot of options for a world-class writer, programmer, designer, IA, or programmer who wants to be paid accordingly (apologies to all those Calgarians that disagree).

As a web entrepreneur it has been particularly tough at times to reach the people that I need to make my business grow. The people that have "been there" in the web space can be counted on one hand and, of those, there is a high likelihood that their experience comes from the stock photography business (Eyewire, iStockphoto and Veer all started up in Calgary). I am not directly connected with any of those people (yet). In many cases when a new technology starts up in Calgary, it will go elsewhere to become successful (ex: StumbleUpon).

The most common expertise in Calgary is Oil & Gas related, and the most common advice I'm able to get is "you should go on the Dragon's Den" (a Canadian "business" reality show where investors will offer up $100k for 51% of only the very best companies brought forward... usually in some sort of dramatic combined effort that will fall apart after the cameras are off). I am thankful for all the advice I can get, but I am hungry for more.

I am traveling for personal reasons, not for work. Aside from sending some emails back to Canada, tinker with my Google AdWords account, and sketching out some plans for my company, there isn't a lot I can do work-wise until I'm back in Calgary.

One of the things I can do while traveling is meet people, so I've tried to go to as many networking events as possible to try to meet some like-minded folks and perhaps one or two people that can help me when I make my return to Canada. When I was in NY I went to 5-6 events and met some fantastic people in the process.

Anyways, one event that I went to was at Bloomberg LP. They are hiring UI specialists and had a networking event for UI, with a speaker from The speaker was quite good, although the information he was able to share was a little limited. He admitted so by telling us that he knew information that would answer some of our questions but was limited to telling us information that was already public knowledge. Nonetheless, it was a worthwhile evening and just to give a sense of what a networking event for those involved in UI in NY was like... it was attended by approximately 200 non-affiliated industry people (in YYC having 200 industry folk at an event likely means 80 are made up of 2 companies), had free wine and hot food, and was held in Bloomberg's offices.

Here are a couple of pics from the event and the link below is the presentation (on slideshare w audio).

Finally saw some live music.

It took a while, but finally got a chance to see some live music in NYC over the past week.

13th: The Drums and Surfer Blood at Bowery Ballroom
16th: Tip the Van at National Underground; Takka Takka and La Strada at Mercury Lounge
18th: Beth Orton and Sam Amidon at the Bell House

Hopefully I'll get a chance to see another show or two before I take off, but brought back a souvenir from both Beth Orton and the Drums...