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

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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…