The Days Before Tomorrow: The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” - Mitch Albom

“Though lovers be lost love shall not.” - Dylan Thomas

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Almost 30 years ago I met her. A bit over 20 years ago I broke both our hearts. 10 years and a few days, she broke mine, and those of “our” children one more time forever, when she was killed by a drunk driver.

The daughter of my heart, if not by genetics and marriage, my dear sweet Georgia will be coming to Calgary in a few days for a friend’s bachelorette party. I’ll see her for an evening, and then she’s back to Vancouver, all 3-4 months pregnant as well. But I know that while our reunion is in her mind, today of all days 10 years past is there as well, as in my son Terry’s too, as it was her death that profoundly changed things in all of our lives those days long ago.

As I think upon her, and of the path not taken, I still wonder what it would have been like to have had her in my life and to have raised the kids as my own. Would we have finally fit in the cosmic scheme of things? Would all doubts I had towards reconciliation broke us apart again? I really just don’t know.

But I do know this, and it’s something I’m simply so amazed by my wife, WK, is so understanding about. There will always be a part of me that was with her, despite the madness, the insanity of the situation and secret unspoken longings that we both shared yet never uttered to one another.

She was my muse of beauty and light, a mystery within, an enigma wrapped in a smile that could dazzle and warm the coldest of hearts. She was a lover of fine music and arts, curious of the glorious stars and galaxies above and a shield maiden to those who threatened her family. She hated high heels and the illusion of fashion, yet stood for all that was right in the world without, even if not satisfied personally within. She was that rare spirit that yearned to be free, yet was determined to be tied to the chains of love and memory. She was a warrior against fate, and saw that fate was in large part what we made of it, and fought for the chance for the both of us to reunite.

In the end…. she was as rare as lightning in a bottle and just as electric to the touch. The memory of her kiss, her skin, the deepness in her eyes, and the simple way … the way she embraced joy in the dance of thunder above still aches in me deep inside. She was my 1st love, and no matter how strange things came to be, I am thankful that she was a part of my life.

Good night my sweet these 10 years now past. While I may not believe in a heaven, if there is one, I hope you have found it and that you have found peace now and forever now that your… no… OUR children and I have been reunited after all this time.

Good night. I miss you. Terry, Georgia and I. We miss you.

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The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

2014 Update on Westgate Vacation Villas – Ripoffs and Solutions

3 years have gone by since I first made my first video on how Westgate tried to defraud me and stole my credit card. In that time, almost 22,000 people have seen the video, and 46 people complained, sometimes to the point of trying to get personal (appearance, etc…). Given that that’s less than 0.25% of all of the viewers over all this time, I’m inclined to believe these are mostly Westgate employees trying to discredit me.

Anyhoo, since then, the last few people who insulted me or made their own comments had asked me about value and so on. Here’s my reply, on why :

1) it makes NO sense to buy one of their time shares as it’s actually cheaper to just use Travelocity;
2) why haven’t they yet to respond about why they tried to have me sign 3-4 versions of a contract that was completely different than the terms originally negotiated?
3) why did they refuse to return my credit card?
4) why there is no resale value in the timeshare?
5) why is there is literally hundreds of complaints and a poor rating in consumer sites for Westgate resorts?

If you’re thinking about getting a Westgate Vacation Villas timeshare, watch my original 2011 and this video. I’ll save you some money in the long run. In the meantime, here are NEW additional links on top of the links from my original 2011 video.

http://www.timeshareconsumerbureau.com/19/post/2012/11/westgate-timeshare-reviews.html

http://www.pissedconsumer.com/reviews-by-company/westgate-resorts.html

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/directory/westgate-resorts

http://stoopidhousewives.com/2013/04/30/timeshare-vacations-dont-do-it-siegels-did-not-pay-employees-employees-had-to-sue-westgate-resort-time-share-vacations-get-bad-reviews/

http://www.scambook.com/search?cx=partner-pub-4525425135553407%3A9452903570&cof=FORID%3A10&ie=UTF-8&q=westgate&sa=Search

Lesson Hopefully Finally Learned, Never Try To Bother Debating a Zealot

My Rant for This Month… feel free to ignore if you’re religious as I warrant you’ll be happier if you did.

Earlier this week, and admittedly a few times in recent years, I’ve gotten myself into debates with the extremely religious over my atheist based view (we just don’t know yet, but one day through scientific method we just might) to his absolutist view (it’s God that’s the way, the life, the truth and the source of everything and go to hell you stupid Atheists if you don’t agree with me). To him, he couldn’t understand why I would rather live with that answer (where did life come from, or what goes on after us) unanswered in my life time, as allow it to be a mystery to be one day solved, than a world where his i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed by the all ever enveloping umbrella of surety and faith that is “The Answer is Always God.”

There’s a bit of wisdom from other Atheists/Agnostics that I’ve failed to heed, “Don’t debate creationists.” Why I didn’t follow that, I hate people acting like bullies. Period. This latest fight came from a guy trashing others Atheists with no one responding with a counter-view and a simple explanation. All he kept coming at me was, “you’re wrong, I’m right” and it was pretty obvious quickly that I was wasting both our times and told him so. I just stopped responding, having given the view that atheists are simply asking for solid proof and evidence. And then he kept on going and going, and I just ignored him and shut myself off from that thread, as I should have from the start.

Why did I fight though, and do continue to be vocal in general about religion? Because I find it appalling that religion is encroaching on secular matters as day to day government in our lives. I am shocked by how a right wing extreme christian movement is lording over Congress, and while to a lesser extent, trying to change things from time to time in Canada. And I’m so glad that a show like Cosmos has returned, to give and inspire the next generation on proven scientific fact, theories and show how religion in the past has limited the imaginations of our best and brightest because the beliefs were based on dogma invented by a small group of people of various beliefs who are more interested in maintaining power and structure than bringing inspiration and wonder to the people.

The universe is vast, and so far beyond any explanation as of yet, or possibly ever. Isn’t that enough?

The Tyranny of the Yelp Reviewer – Thoughts on Responsibility

“Chef Michael Noble has had one of the most distinguished culinary careers ever for a chef. He is a multiple gold and bronze medal winner for Team Canada in several of the world culinary Olympics, former head chef of Catch (leading to the resto being awarded the Best New Restaurant award a…” – Dec 2010

Terry, not quite a renaissance man yet...

Terry, not quite a renaissance man yet…

Those were the words that began my journey into food reviews and blogging in the #YYC community. Since that time, I’ve co-founded a city-wide food event, became a bit of a fixture on Twitter and in person at certain restaurants, and have built a bit of a reputation as the go-to guy for restaurant choices. I’ve written well over 150+ restaurant and related market reviews, some serious and some especially whimsical (my TWO reviews of downtownfood are more than self-explanatory) and made friends at every stop ranging from the chefs (Darren Maclean of downtownfood, Duncan Ly of Yellow Door/Raw Bar, Dustin Schafer of Sky 360 etc), those who I call the established writers (Dan Clapson, Vincci Tsui, Linda Garson, etc) who make a living writing and working in the food industry, to the “next tier”, who are established in their own right but make their bread and butter in other industries. I’ve built a name that’s growing, and I’m honoured to know these people as they’re all fascinating, brilliant in their chosen arts, and passionate about their dedication to food and what I like to call #RealFood.

But while those words above started the journey, it was being awarded “Yelp Elite” status that gave me a voice on what I wrote about, and in some ways how to write even if I didn’t necessarily agree with the full structure. It’s a controversial review website, international in scope, with a structure and a power that in some places can make or break a business. As it’s the one I’ve been associated the longest, I’m going to start this week to give my friends and followers some understanding on the structure, and some thoughts on responsibilities that we all have to consider.

Yelp is basically a review website, with content written by the normal consumer (ideally). Literally 10s of thousands of reviews are written every day throughout the world, for the most part written by the average every day person, on virtually every known type of business from auto body shops to gourmet restaurants. Each reviewer is requested to give a star rating out of 5 (sorry, no 1/2 stars though Yelp really should allow that). The reviews are then analyzed by some special algorithm that tries to determine if it’s a valid review, a fake or even a deliberate attack. As a backup, there’s a small army of readers in San Francisco that reads the reviews themselves, and reviews can also be flagged by other Yelp reviewers. But there are 2 types of reviewers, the regular Yelp member and a smaller group designated as the Elite of which I am one.

Me in full Yelp Elite Mode in Yelp Sunglasses

Me in full Yelp Elite Mode in Yelp Sunglasses

What’s the difference between the two? Well, I’d like to say quality of writing and general integrity. A lot of the average Yelp writers tend to make a review about a few of their favorite places, or places that made an especial impression on them. Far more are what I call one-timers, that is they would write one or two reviews in all, all to help out their friend’s business, a popular local hangout, or in a lot of cases, to purposely attack to try to ruin a business with horrific stories, very often imaginary. A Yelp Elite will almost always write about their actual experience, especially engaged with their local community  and were selected for what appears in their writing and general personality to be honest overall (though occasionally incorrect). As such, especially as the Yelp Elite tend to be like a small percentage of the greater group, and highly sought for their opinions and reviews.

Now I will write a post on how the reviews are analyzed, how to write one and so on, but for now, I’m going to deal with one thing… what I like to call the Tyranny of the Yelper. Yelp, for better or worse, can seriously help or hurt certain businesses. In really depends on the nature of the business I find, but there have been actual published studies that back this up. As such, there have been offers by businesses to solicit a positive Yelp review from an Elite. Now this isn’t as prevalent in Canada as it is in the US, but there it is for all to see. The Yelpers, through social media, have an unprecedented amount of clout that otherwise didn’t exist 10 years ago. Bad word of mouth can always hurt a business, but through Yelp, it’s magnified a thousand fold in many instances.

Former food bloggers, the Calgary Foodies, were at one time the leading food blog in Calgary. But parenthood has superseded that passion understandably, and their site has since been shuttered. But I had contributed occasionally to their blog, including the review above about NoTAble’s Sunday Brunch, right up to a somewhat negative review I wrote about the last days of Mother Tucker’s in Calgary. It was never published, either on the Calgary Foodies’ site, or on my own.

When it was rejected, I looked at it myself, and then had a few friends’ read it as well. It wasn’t really a horrific review, just one where the age of the place was showing, and that for the very last Sunday Brunch sitting, it was pretty much without hoopla and protocol which was a bit saddening to see after such a long successful run. I never did ask Nolan, one of the foodies why it was never posted, but not too long after, he wrote a post himself about something he had learned himself, that just because you have a voice that people follow, it doesn’t mean it’s a voice that can be used as a hammer. A light flickered on in my head when I read that, and while my review wasn’t one that was slamming a hammer onto a business, it was one that was still negative in tone.

The Yelp Elite, and reviewers in general, have a voice that can do genuine harm to genuine people. A review about a bad experience in a restaurant could be the difference between a mom and pop shop being able to make the rent or shutter the doors. As my fellow blogger and friend, Wanda or @momwhoneedswine likes to state, Everyone could have an off day, or a bad experience. I’ve had some so-so dishes at my favorite places, poor service at my mechanic and so on, but this is something that should be expressed there and then WHILE you’re having that experience to give that business a chance to correct a perceived wrong. Your steak was underdone? Ask them to re-fire it. You don’t think your barber did a good job with your cut. Ask them to touch it up. But do it WHILE you’re having that experience.

Here’s where responsibility comes into play. Too many of us Yelpers and reviewers stay silent about a bad experience, and then take it out brutally on the business in a review afterwards. Again, if honest, a bad experience is a bad experience and if honest, should be reported, but should be done with the knowledge of the potential impact. I’ve admittedly written some pretty bad reviews as well myself, but no one can state that I didn’t at least try to give the business a chance to correct the issue. If the business still went out of their way to be complete jerks, well, so be it. But I’d like to remind everyone that we Yelp reviewers have a power to actually hurt people in real terms. This is our city, and I do my best to support it as best I can. I’d like to challenge the reviewers who are writing something negative that:

1) is the city really better with the loss of this business? Did I try to give them a chance to make amends?

2) depending on the nature and size of the business, am I crushing someone’s dreams? Do I really want to be the cause of the destruction of this venture?

In the 80s, an obituary of a legendary Montreal food writer had stated that she, over the years, deliberately shelved many a review of restaurants because while the experience may have been poor in execution, she knew that to publish a poor review would bankrupt that mom and pop business. I never understood why until I became reasonably well-known in the YYC Food community. There are so many that are literally struggling day-to-day, but have proceeded anyways because it was their dream.  I ask, unless it was truly a horrific experience, hold off. Give them a little time. Try them again.

To my fellow Yelp reviewers, especially the Elite, and to reviewers of YYC in general, I know many of you already keep this in mind. But there are so so many of us that don’t.

Next week, I’ll explain the Yelp review model, my thoughts on how it works and the pluses and minuses.

A Quickie On My “Imaginary” Wife – Is He or Isn’t He?

Not too long ago, I had an amusing little triple event the same week, all revolving around my marital status:

- One person had “discovered” I was married through careful analysis of my social media profiles on Twitter and Facebook and later joked about it with my wife at a work social event;

- Another was dead certain I was Single and asked me out;

- and EVERONE else who knew I was at least dating were wondering if my galpal even existed or was she imaginary;

Well, let me get this clear once and for all, though I have to break one of the rules imposed on me and state: Yes I AM Married, and happily so since 2010.

A Quote about The Secret Wife from Conan O'Brian

A Quote about The Secret Wife from Conan O’Brian

There’s never really been any kind of serious secrecy about it, but I do understand the confusion. And worse, because certain OTHER rules that are ABSOLUTE have been imposed on me, some friends might still think my wife is imaginary. So here’s the rules:

1) My wife, hereon stated as “galpal”, does NOT want to be part of my social media circle. She likes people, but hates being the outsider when everyone starts talking about this account or that SEO technique or whatever. So understandably, she is almost never around at any event and doesn’t want to be talked about or even mentioned as well. In fact, she removed her FB page to ensure her virtual privacy and has virtually never touched her Twitter… (set up by me long ago to just reserve her name at the least). Strangely enough, since she knows me to be a bit of a flirt at times, she’s totally at ease with having 2/3 of my friends and work associates to be female.

2) I am to post NO photos of her on FB or Twitter or whatever. Anyone who’s a close enough friend is allowed to see what few photos there are of her on my FB page, which all date over 2 years or more.

I already posted this one in 2007 long ago... so hopefully this doesn't break the new pics law

I already posted this one in 2007 long ago… so hopefully this doesn’t break the new pics law

As such, this blog post is breaking rule #1 right now, but I think this is for a good purpose. Seeing as I don’t wear my ring either (just hate wearing jewelry) and I literally don’t talk about her out of habit now these days, not to mention referring her as “galpal” or not at all, well, you can see why I pretty much show up on my lonesome most times.

So just making this quickie note to my really wide circle of foodies, social media pals and so on who are still wondering to clarify things.

And nope. No new pictures. If you’re a close enough friend or associate, and really want to satisfy your curiosity, friend me on Facebook. Check out my pics in 2010.

Just to let you know, to break that rule is literally a fatalistic action. After all, she knows the exact lethal food allergies I have. Knowing she can take me out anytime… well…

Chinese Eat Everything, or Do They? – A Tale of Allergies, Misguided Thoughts and Racial Beliefs

“Chinese people eat anything on two wings, except a plane, and on four legs, except a table.” – Ancient Chinese Quote, probably said by a white guy who was having lunch with a Chinese guy sometime in the last few decades.

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Scorpion Skewers (Photo by NationalStereotype.com)

Yesterday, a good friend of mine, Laurel Livingston wrote a blog about her rather extensive allergies, and how it makes some of the simple things that we take for granted health wise a rather scary place to be in. It was a frank well written piece. It’s also one that pretty much shows what’s facing ALL of us in the future as new super antibiotic resistant bugs are coming out.  Take a look at this episode of CBC’s Marketplace (I’m not sure if those outside of Canada can see it) to get an idea about how scary it will be.

Nevertheless, Laurel lives in a scary world when it comes to medical procedures. Imagine trying to go to a dentist, and you can’t use certain types of antibiotics around her to keep the area safe. Or try having an operation of any sort for that matter. Regardless of it all, she remains a positive, beautiful soul always.

Inspired by her, I decided to take a break from my usual updates on the ongoing saga that is my kids, or more tales from the Spy world, to tell of my own problems with allergies, albeit in a unique Chinese cultural way. You see, the quote above is actually held by Chinese people practically as a mantra. During Chinese New Year, I had my guests fighting over who can eat the fish eyes in a whole steamed fish! But in my case I was diagnosed with a lethal allergy against raw fruit of the Rose and Plum family of plants.

“Waitaminute” you’re probably crying out. If you know me, I’m probably one of the top 100 foodies in Calgary. Thankfully, this allergy only kills me when the fruits and related nuts are RAW. I still have to cook the living crap out of it to ensure that I can eat it safely without worrying about that pesky DEATH side effect though. Imagine not having Apple Pie until it’s been nuked into Applesauce. That’s been my existence since childhood.

As I said, it’s a badge of honor for Chinese to eat virtually anything. I was the same way until I turned 10 when I noticed that eating certain fruits actually started to hurt a LOT. I couldn’t bite into an apple without having my throat tighten, my tongue swell, and my lungs literally feel like it’s being constricted by an MMA fighter on a ‘roid rage. Needless to say, I stopped eating fruit in general then and there.

As I grew up, I got a reputation as being a really picky eater as a result. My parents couldn’t understand it and my extended family definitely didn’t. Heck, my Uncle William gave me this lecture that “sometimes the body reacts if the mind rejects it” speech. If there was ANY time I wanted to deck that son-of-a-…. , well, it was that time (and another time when he had the balls to tell me to my face that he was ashamed that I was his nephew for not being Chinese enough). It was frustrating, but hey, what was I to say really. I had heard of peanut allergies, but APPLES?

When I was 18, my mom took out a Japanese pear. She was needling me to try it out, saying that “because it’s Japanese, it’s safe for me”. Well, I suppose I just got fed up and decided to test it out. My logic was, “So what, I’ll be uncomfortable or in pain for a few hours, but mom stops bugging me.” So I took one bite. No reaction. Curious. A second. Curious indeed. My mom then said, “See, it’s safe, why don’t you finish it.” I didn’t even make it to a third as I started to black out and the old reactions kicked in with a vengeance.

After that near death event, I saw my doctor asap who arranged me to be tested. There it was, “allergic to the Rose and Plum family”, and worse, I had found out that I crossed into the lethal range at some point over the years. That was enough for me to steer clear of raw fruit for good, but there were always little accidents as I didn’t know that this extended to certain types of nuts as well. For example, I could eat peanuts and walnuts, but I can’t eat almonds or macadamia nuts. I could enjoy raspberries and blueberries, but not blackberries and strawberries. And then there was the problem with my mom again. She hated that I was deprived of certain tastes and flavors, and kept trying to introduce these foods to me in the hope I could develop an immunity. THANKFULLY, my dad would fight to keep me alive. Considering the insurance policy on me, I always playfully joked that mom would be the first suspect if anything happened to me.

A bit later, I discovered that my dad and my sister had the SAME allergy, but not at the same intensity. They just shrugged it off, and avoided the foods themselves. As they were a bit more discreet, no one really noticed (yeah, I admit I was a bit of a jerk by openly refusing the foods).

Since then, there’s been a number of accidents involving epipens, ambulances and a notable episode of crabcakes with unmarked slices of apple on my honeymoon while trapped on a cruise ship. All of them are pretty funny, but it’s a tale for another day.

But one last closing point, my allergies are probably the secret to success with my marriage. I have a LOT of female friends, and I’m a bit of a flirt, but I don’t DARE do anything that crosses the line. As my wife cooks the dinners, it’s a scary thought knowing she can take me out for good if I ever do cheat!

ADVENTURES IN THE SPY BIZ : A PARANOID WORLD

It’s sad you know. The world where I lived in makes so many people paranoid for the stupidest reasons. And when they’re that paranoid, you really have no idea what to expect.

So to make a change of things, I’ve decided to talk about some of the past cases I’ve been in, that a psychologist was better warranted.

First, I’d like you to understand that many of these people genuinely need to have treatment. Of all of the cases I’ve been personally involved in with people I call paranoid, in only 1 case out of 6 YEARS actually panned out as a genuine situation… and even then that went sideways.

Next, if you’re wondering why I even took the cases in the first place, there’s 2 reasons. One, there’s the old saying, when there’s smoke there’s fire. For my “normal” clients, I’ve found that to be accurate. But in the realm of madness, it’s so much harder to tell. I had to give them the benefit of the doubt. Second, sometimes just having my presence and involvement was enough to give a little peace of mind. Either way, here are a few memorable clients or would be clients.

1- Killer lasers from above.

C-130 Hercules armed with the Advanced Tactical Laser

C-130 Hercules armed with the Advanced Tactical Laser

Around 2008 or so, a gentleman came in saying that the US army was after him, even trying to kill him. I admittedly went instantly into “look serious but try not to sigh” mode for obvious reasons. He barely looked like he had $100 total to his name, but I calmly stood by and listened. As for that plane you’re seeing, that’s a C-130 Hercules. It costs thousands to keep in the air. It costs hundreds of thousands to maintain. Inside of its belly is a 100-kilowatt laser capable of knocking hole through a 3′x3′ piece of metal from 20 km an hour, and costs tens of thousands of dollars to fire. But according to the would-be client, it wasn’t flying around New Mexico test grounds or somewhere in Afghanistan. Somehow, it was circling Calgary around and around, for the sole purpose of striking him.

2- Radiation girl

Radiation Warning

Radiation Warning

In 2009, this poor girl came into my store and gave me a pretty harrowing take of how an international conglomerate has been purposely trying to kill her. No matter where she would move to, this secret Illuminati was going to send a would be assassin to move into a nearby apartment or house or wherever she was and would dose her with radioactive isotopes. That’s when she requested I find out who was this international group, and to see if I could obtain a lead-lined suit of some sort.

For months, she would come in asking for one bizarre thing after another, but for the most part it was harmless. It was around the time that she started to ask for enough copper to make a Faraday cage and enough lead to line her home against plutonium is when I started to stall. Basically put, she was asking me to procure her tens of thousands of dollars of metal, to combat a supposed beam of radiation or a stick of plutonium that just happens to be lying around that was sent by secret illuminati killers. I couldn’t in all conscience take advantage of this. In the end (well so far at least), she still has her money, doesn’t appear to have been radiation poisoned the last 6 years, and I can sleep at night.

3- From the Tabloid Pages

Ninjas in Trees

Ninjas in Trees

Now this is something that’s unique. This client, I had honestly thought she was a paranoid schizophrenic. She walked into my office, and told me a story about how things were missing all the time.

Buuut, I hooked her up with a hidden camera, and then had it watch her living room. And wouldn’t you know, she really DID have someone coming into her place. The super of her building was later convicted for breaking and entering and theft, as she was one of many victims in that building while the super padded his income. Mission solved, and that was that… or so I thought.

The following week, she came back, with a video that she stated was conclusive proof that a team of ninjas with camcorders were filming her 24/7 for some secret website. Needless to say, I hate it when my initial thoughts of a person is later confirmed in such a surprising manner. As I couldn’t convince her otherwise, I ended up watching a 30 min video of trees swaying in the wind where apparently there are invisible ninjas. I have to admit, those ninjas were good. Never saw a thing.

4- The Purse Whisperer

Cameras catching thieves in women's wear

Cameras catching thieves in women’s wear

This lady came in all perturbed and upset in a manner that was almost worrying. As she tried to describe her problem through her tears and her fear, she described how someone was trying to gaslight her by moving her purse every day a few inches here and there. Please note… I said MOVE, not steal, damage, break or hide… just move.

Well, I tried to reason with her, but there are just some cases that you can’t talk any sense to, so I just gave up and my boss designed a hidden wireless cameras system that did nothing but watch her purse all day long. Being a custom job, it wasn’t cheap, so I hope she found what she was looking for.

That’s enough for now, as there’s plenty of memories of my 6 1/2 years as a Spy/Investigator. In the meantime, I close off this entry with my farewell interview as I walked off into the sunset last month.