Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fun things my eldest son has said

Hi all,

This post is as much about remembering these quotes as it is about sharing them. Although both of my sons are completely awesome, my eldest is 100% more vocal, so all of these quotes are by him.

"When I get to Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Tony's house, I'm going to go into the living room, and yell 'How's everybody doing?'"

"I LOVE YOU, THE SYSTEM!" (yelled to no one in particular, so, to the system, I guess?)

"I shouldn't stand up in the car so that you'll love me."

Joel: "I have a headache."
Heather: "What does it feel like?"
Joel: "Potatoes. And cold."

"We have to run across the desert, Jerome!" (I was Jerome the camel from Little Drummer Boy, the scariest puppet show there ever was.
"Oh wait, we don't have to run, because I have all my gadgets"


What awesome things have you heard from youngins?




Saturday, December 8, 2012

Time Travel

My friend and blog mentor recently posted about visiting himself in the past.  This was an awesome way to jog my brain - thinking how I would tell myself things.  I'm not going to lay out the conversation the way the inspirational entry did, but here are four basic thoughts I would absolutely convey:

1 - Do what makes you happy - I spent (spend?) a lot of my time doing my best to make people happy.  I wouldn't do away with that part entirely, but I would remind myself to consider what I want.

2 - Stop trying to be cool - This one is harder to get across, because it's tough to prove the absence of something. Growing up, I was sure my every choice, every word, every action, and every emotion was being meticulously reviewed by SOMETHING, to determine if I was cool. This mythical judicial committee does not exist.

3 - Hope is good. I've found that having hope is considered by society to be "silly" in some instances. I should have held on to hope, and there isn't a time when it isn't awesome.

4 - Other people are interested in what you're interested in.  I didn't have any interests which completely ostracized me while growing up, but living in pre-internet society in Canada led me to believe that society was boring. Hockey is fine, and wrestling is passable if you're looking to justify watching a soap opera with different characters, but I wanted lazers, space ships, and robots ALL THE TIME. Pre-internet, outside of my group of friends, I didn't think I could share those things with other people, and worried about that. I didn't need to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

From "just internet" to full meal deal


Cross posting so I can test writing on wordpress and Blogger.

So, this evening, we get a knock on our door at 6 something pm. It's a Bell guy talking about a new promotion they have with FibreOp, and I am PSYCHED to shut him down with my objections. I've done the research, and the promotional rate lasts for a paltry amount of time, and then you're stuck with a horrendous rate for another eternity to fulfill a contract.

Dude stuns me immediately with both barrels - "We stopped requiring contracts and the promotional rate lasts for 12 months. After that, you can do what you want without penalty."

Yes please!

The dude is giving his spiel about the full meal deal package (internet, phone, tv), but I stop him to say all I dig is internet. His face falls, and he gives me the rate, which is way better than I was expecting, and he's in.

While we're doing the obligatory credit check, he asks me about why I only want internet, and I launch into very familiar territory - everything is available online (no mention of torrents) and my better half and I both have cell phones, so cable and phone are un-needed expenses. I totally believe these objections too. We've lived without cable TV since 2007, and without home phone since 2008 (not counting magicjack's awesomeness for a year). Despite minor reservations, it's been awesome, and for those who want to cut back in spending, I heartily endorse this method.

Since a land line is something I'd like to know more about, I ask what the diffference would be. Small potatoes, appparently, and since my wife's cell phone is through Bell, we get a $5 bundle discount. Hmmmmm. Would it be all that bad?

20 minutes later, we're signed up for cable, PVR, land line, internet, and I have to cut up my custom "lived without cable for 5 years - and I'm still here!" tshirt. I feel like a baby looking at "channels" and "networks", and I'm excited.

Although I hope to go bqck to minamialist in 2 months (a built in trial so that we get to keep a gift card), I'm going to try to stay open to my previous self and see how it goes.

How have your experiences gone with or without cable and/or landlines? Any pitfalls I should watch for?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Technology RULES!

Hi all,

This feels like it's a self serving post for me, since I'm a person who makes their livelihood by "making things go" with technology.  Even still - it's worth talking about.  Technology makes everything awesome, and I'm not just talking about computers.

Here are some things that I used today that made my life a kabillion times easier:

Google Maps

GPS

Cell Phone

Email

Smartphone Apps

Social Networking

Online Voting

Torrents

Anything else that makes you feel like you'd be all curled up without?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Airplanes are Awesome (if I could remember this stuff)

Hi all,

Airplanes are truly awesome - they get us from Point A to Point B in a matter of hours instead of days.  Sure, flying is expensive, but so is the alternative sometimes.

Once upon a time, I learned all of these tips through either the wisdom of others, or my mistakes.  I've done more driving than flying lately, so I forgot nearly all of these, so I thought I'd write them on the blogosphere for next time.

If you're flying, airports are your biggest challenge, and where you might end up spending a few extra hours for weather, or sinkholes, or other awesome events that make planes late.

Here are musts to have in your carry-on bag, preferably near the top, but you can only do what you can, right?:

1- Charger for entertainment - Whether you entertain yourself with a laptop, an iPod, a BlackBerry, a Kindle, whatever it is, bring a charger.  Playing a video is an enormous drain on battery life, just to keep a screen alive, and heaven forbid you're using a physical media like DVD or Blu-Ray - spinning the drive will suck the battery drier than most deserts.  A nice physical book is a fantastic backup, but it can be a little bit bulky.


2 - Your wallet, keys, and cellphone - Huh? Won't I need those in my pockets or purses? Yes, but if you're a pocket wallet, keys and/or phone person, and you need to go through security, SURPRISE! You have to put them all in a bin, and then take them back and re-arrange.  I don't know about everyone else, but when there's someone in front of me to get their stuff back from security, and they have to put it back into 15 different pockets, holding everyone else up, I get a tiny bit annoyed.  It saves you time going into securtiy too, because you don't have to go into those 15 pockets to get the stuff out.



3 - Earbud headphones - This is for those of you who get sucked into screens (myself included), but they're a must for us.  No matter how much I want to avoid the in-flight entertainment, those screens are just so pretty, that I eventually succumb to their wily charms.  Even if I manage to last through take-off without plugging in, my neighbour ends up watching something amazing, so instead of reading lips and watching over shoulders, I'll pop in my headphones and watch in my own pod.  Most airlines are cool with all types of headphones for the middle of the flight if there isn't any turbulence, but those earbud headphones let you enjoy the awesomeness during takeoff, landing, taxiing, the whole she-bang.


4 - Collapsible travel pillow- Awesome for quick airport naps (remember to set an alarm somehow), back support or nap support on the plane itself. The ones they sell in the airport themselves are complete rip-offs, but they've got a captive audience of people who sit around doing nothing...

5 - A light sweater (also near top) - Planes and airports alike do not follow weather patterns, and often like to crank the air conditioning. Being cool is cool.  Being cold sucks.



These 5 things being said, it's a good idea to keep your carry-on luggage pretty light, especially if you want to grab a meal or something.  This is one of the reasons I will always check a bag rather than cart it around. I know, it's faster since you don't have to wait, and it's more secure since the airline doesn't have to lose your luggage, but it's hassle at security to go through your toiletries  and you have to hire a pack mule to go to Tim Horton's. To each their own.


Seating deserves its own bullet as there are a few mistakes I've made:

1 - The front row of an aircraft might have extra leg room, and you will be the first off the plane if you've got your carry-on luggage. That's a big if, because if the airline keeps their stuff in the cabin, it's often up at the front so the staff can do the safety dance and show you how to wear an oxygen mask.  To prepare for this eventuality, I recommend carrying numbers 1-3 in a jacket, which will also be your pillow and sweater, and you can put it in your lap.

2 - The emergency exit has awesome leg room, but some airlines will charge extra for the privilege of stretching out your tootsies.

3 - The last row of a plane is often built for tiny people without elbows. Sure, it might not be a priority to get off the flight first, but after sitting jammed into that tiny space for awhile, those priorities change FAST.

4 - This might be common sense, but if you're a person who might have to go to the bathroom, or is a brave soul who travels with children, pick an aisle seat. If you're gonna hold it until the airport anyway, pick a window. Please.


Some other airport tips:

1 - Wear slip-on shoes for ease of getting through security.  Quick off, quick on.

2 - If you're bringing a laptop, have it out already before you get to the station, or pack it in checked baggage if it isn't your entertainment.

3 - Wear a watch, or find a seat facing a clock - this keeps me "in time" so I don't lose track, either missing stuff, or thinking it's been FOREVER when it's really only been 5 minutes.

4 - Online checkins rule, and should be done as soon as you can. That way you get access to the prime seats (first row or emergency exits for legroom), and if the airline decides there aren't enough people, or the plane is broken, they can let you know before you show up at the airport.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Am I a "Gym" person? Time to find out...

Hi all,

Last weekend I had the discovery that my belt makes me uncomfortable. It took me a few hours to figure out, but when I did, and moved my belt one notch in, my world darkened. I've known for awhile that I've been out of shape, but this brought things home. I'm extremely happy it wasn't a health issue or anything serious, so I decided to take action before anything serious happened.

Some backstory:

At the end of 2011, I was working for RIM, and they have an amazing package designed to keep people happy. They give you a certain amount of money every year to spend on fitness, smoking cessation, or to make your health better in any number of ways.  It's a fantastic idea, and I fully commend them in the pursuit of happiness for their employees. One of the cornerstones of their idea is a deep discount on gym memberships at Goodlife.  When I joined RIM in 2006 the number of Goodlife franchises in Nova Scotia was 1, and the number of those franchises which allowed men to work out was 0. Since the merger between Goodlife and Nubody's - that number has increased (11 in Halifax Regional Municipality), and the discount increased, so... what the hey, I got a year's membership.

In January of 2012, I went into the Goodlife near me, signed my membership agreement, got my swanky barcode thingie to let me in the doors, and I was all set to go.  Although it was offered (and kind of expected), I had no intention of working out that day, but would absolutely return to do the exercising.

Fast forward to last weekend, and I went back a grand total of 0 times. I returned tonight to make sure I was still able to come and play, and sure enough I was. The staff were super keen to have me join classes, and it kinda weirded me out, but I went on the treadmill for 30 minutes (running is way too generous a term for what happened) and came home.

It was kinda surreal, as I hadn't been in a gym or locker room environment since my teens, and I was very unhappy at first, but I've decided to keep going when I can.  I won't do any classes (yet), but I'm going to "run" on the treadmill and listen to music, and see where that takes me.

Any helpful hints of stuff to try?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Deep thoughts while lawn mowing (or how I learned to stop worrying and keep doing chores)

Hi all!

My first sentence of this entry seems sarcastic, but I assure you it isn't.  I was lucky enough to get to mow my lawn today. It's a chore that I don't mind doing, but when the chips are down, I'd rather sleep, eat, surf facebook, or whatever. It leaves me with a gnawing guilt kind of feeling, especially when I feel the blades of grass tickling my knees (only slight exaggeration).

Today's domesticated bliss was enhanced by inspiration yesterday when a friend's awesome t-shirt read "What if we all lived like heroes?" The thought went around and around my head through the chore like a fly that doesn't quite understand why the light it's bashing itself against is awesome. I started thinking about how I express my likes and dislikes, which used to be done the old fashioned way (telling people about them), but then progressed to t-shirts, and then evolved to facebook.

Somehow, my mind went from thinking about that expression of what I like to faith and the potential of the human mind.

I can't explain how it happened, but that's kinda what's cool about it.

This evening, a series of chores lined themselves up in such a way that I could get a bunch done really quickly, making me think that I leave too many chores undone because they don't line up properly.  Regardless, I got them all done, but because there was a bunch of them to do, my mind didn't have the freedom to wander like it did when I was mowing for an hour.

Conclusion - I should mow the lawn more and really get to work on WebThought so I can capture these thoughts directly from my brain and transcribe them somewhere quickly.

Yay labour day!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My 2011 Experience with Headcount Reduction

Hi all!

This week has been a tough one for employees at my previous job (RIM), and my heart goes out to all of them. Whether they were downsized, or just feared it watching the others go, the whole process is heartbreaking and has left me with scars that will never heal.

That being said, the process I underwent with my downsizing was mostly a good one.  That sounds silly, but I mean every word.

First of all, I was on vacation for the time that everyone was learning their fates, so although I heard news of some people being let go, I wasn't there to experience the terror first-hand, so it was all somewhat removed from me. I was also in a location where cell coverage isn't the best, so that built a stronger buffer between me and the news going around.  Looking back, I appreciate this the most. Even though worrying doesn't change anything, it's human nature to do it. This buffer allowed me not to worry, since I didn't have enough information to worry. Van Wilder says it perfectly, "Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere." I immersed myself in enjoying my vacation and spending time with my family.  Awesome.

On the morning of my son's birthday, I got an email from my grandboss inviting me, and 4 other members of my 7 person team (all but 2) to a meeting. The tone of the invite indicated something was serious, but I didn't grasp how serious it was yet. I replied that I wouldn't be able to attend, but could I have the minutes of the meeting when it was over. My grandboss replied advising that this was something that couldn't be done over email. The possibilities kicked me in the gut. It could be anything, but it didn't sound good at all.

I fretted a bit, but I didn't have a clear direction for my worry - I kept thinking of different things it could have been, but the fact that 5 of us were called to a meeting kept me from thinking that I had lost my job. After all, they would probably tell us individually, right?

Then a call came in from one of the people who weren't invited to the meeting. He told me that he wasn't sure what was going on, but that 4 people all got called into a meeting, and then someone else came to get their stuff and put it in boxes.  He was terrified, thinking he would be next, and he didn't know that I was invited to the meeting too.

It was pretty much laid out for me, then, but I was glad to know before I officially knew, so that I could get my ducks in a row and prepare.  I backed up all my contacts and started the mental transition of doing something else for a living, and it was almost liberating. I started mentally making a plan of what I could do, and I had time to put some of those plans into action before I lost resources like my phone and my laptop.

My first day back to work was... weird. It was a Tuesday, and the area previously populated by my co-workers was empty. I emailed my grandboss to tell him that I was in the building, but didn't receive a reply for an agonizing hour and a half. I used the time to pack my stuff into my car, using the knowledge I gleaned from earlier to know that I wouldn't have a chance to come back to pack. When I was all done, I considered that maybe there was a mistake, and started to work for a bit, but then the reply to my email came and I went to a room where my grandboss was present via audio conference.

The package I was given was more than generous, which leads me to the second part of why it was a good thing. I was given time in lieu of notice, severance, and a month of career counselling including a resume polish process. I was told by my family to not sign anything in the room, and fully expected to be asked to, but I was told to take everything with me to consider it before I signed. Cool. I asked my questions, which seemed petty after having been handed this golden turd, but all of the questions were answered fully and completely, and I didn't feel like I was being hung out to dry, just a victim of unfortunate circumstances.

So that was that - the deal was done, and I headed to my car to drive away without a phone, laptop, or tablet, but I felt pretty good. I was treated more than fairly, and I bore the company no ill-will whatsoever. I was off to explore the wasteland of unemployment, but I was armed with resources provided by RIM, so I didn't feel impotent.

It turns out that I was able to get hired back on at RIM in a different role, which I was extremely glad for. Throughout the whole time, I had to defend the company, and let people know that they did what they had to do, and did it with compassion. In light of what I recently chose, I still have to defend them a fair bit, making sure everyone knows that the reason why I left was actually made harder by my treatment - not easier.  Downsizing is hard, but RIM did what they could to make it easy.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I'm (unofficially) a Google power searcher

Hi all,

Remember back before Google, you could tell a person's expertise with the internet depending on which search engine they used?

Google has absolutely obliterated the rest of the field, and I'm kinda glad they did.  Their motto of "Do no evil" is awesome, and I feel completely happy giving them everything I search for online in return for their awesome service of giving me what I need, and quickly.

Still, with great power comes great responsibility, and Google's innovations have been landing on deaf ears for the past while. To combat this slide, they created this awesome online course designed to teach everyone the different features of Google which are available to anyone.  If you knew the features existed - awesome for you -the course still gives an excellent way of describing to the members of your social circle who are less Google-literate.

The highlight for me was Google Images - something I have seen a lot, and have even used occasionally, but mostly for these posts, and nothing more.  It has now become a go-to for searching, as it seriously changes how I search.

Here's an example which didn't work out, but it gave me some practice:


My son's third birthday was this last weekend, and his Aunt gave him some plastic dinosaurs for his present.  I knew there would be some questions regarding the dinosaur's name, or race, and I'm sure I learned it at some point, but the name wasn't coming to me fast enough.\


I had learned the week previous that all Google Images needs is a picture of the item (with the searching item taking up as much of the frame as possible), and if you drag that photo into Google Images, it will look for visually similar photos which are available.


Here's the pic I took:


and the results:


Nope. But, put in the word Dinosaur, and it shows me that this race of dinosaur was in the movie Dinosaur from Disney.  Having recently watched it, and wanting to know more about the races in it, my wife found a page describing them all.


So there you have it Google didn't completely solve my issue, but it gave me the tools to make it happen!


If you've got the time, I highly recommend Google's Power Searching course.  You won't get a  certificate for completing it anymore, but it's still cool.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Steam is awesome!

Hi all,

I know I'm super late to the party, but Valve's Steam service for offering video games is awesome.

I joined last week to get ready for a LAN party my friends were having, and was pleasantly surprised that I stumbled onto a sale.  Before I could say "Minimum Requirements", I had 6 games in my cart!

The main game I wanted to play (Day Z) required the purchase of some beefier equipment than I had, so I'm typing to you now from my new laptop, which I think I will actually keep this time.

The experience with Day Z was awesome, and I think I've picked up my previous addiction of gaming. I downloaded a game I love (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - some creative tweaking needed to get it to run on Windows 7), some franchises I've missed out on (Batman Arkham and Assassin's Creed) and psyched to try out Rockstar's L.A. Noire.

I now intend to make the most of the kids napping and play video games for several minutes.

Take care all!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thank you Suzanne Collins

Hi all,

My wife inspired me to read (or more accurately, have read to me in audio book form) the Hunger Games trilogy. I'm about 1/3 into the second book, and I'm already convinced it's awesome. It is what every dark future tale should be - thinly veiled warnings for our time.

As she so wisely said, the books are very cinematic, and I look forward to watching the movies,  but for a totally separate reason.  The books are beautifully subversive, but the movies will be cool. Both extremely valid as far as I'm concerned.

Hopefully the trilogy's popularity will spawn more subversive stuff, because I feel like the more we as a society are subtly warned about the dangers of excess in fiction, the more wary we'll be in reality.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A New Relationship - Part 5 (epilogue)

Hi all,

Here's the ending, and thank you for your patience getting to this part. This is my favourite entry, where I answer some of the questions people have asked, and some that may be floating around too. After this bit, if you're still pining for information on my transition, feel free to ask. I'm an open book, and happy about what has happened.

Epilogue - How's it going in the new job after 2 weeks?

Right off the bat, I should mention that I made the decision I made entirely without any knowledge of what was about to be in the media about layoffs at my previous company (which haven't happened, as far as I know). When a company is as under the microscope as that company is, having their name in the media is kind of a given, and only 1/10 of the time it ends up being based on facts. I heard the news when everyone else did, and my move had already been made.

That being said - living under the cloud of "Your company isn't doing well" wasn't fun, and it contributed abstractly to my overall decision.  The only concrete reason I left was because of the new opportunity.

To start this new gig, I was given the option to become incorporated (which most contract workers do), or to become a sole proprietor. I did the latter, because it meant a bit of a safety net if things turn sour. Part of my pay will be given to EI, and if I become redundant before my contract ends (June 2013), I can collect it while I get my next contract in line. I got to choose a company name (Positive I.T.), and that's kind of the end of it. Unless things change a lot, the entire purpose of this company will be for me to work for the current client. Although the idea of contract work is exciting, it's more of a backup to my Plan A of getting to work for this client full time. 88% of the people in my department started as contract workers, and are now working full time, so I'd like to keep up the statistic.

It's been a rollercoaster of a 2 weeks, with more good than bad. The bad parts have been more boring than anything, and I don't think there will be much of that. I've gone from not knowing anything about what I was doing, to knowing more than the people who I was looking to for guidance. I went from making work for myself by colour coding spreadsheets, to not having enough time to eat. It's been great. That being said, there are cons so far, which are:

1 - I don't like telling people "it's not my job", but I have to a lot.

2 - I work for a month before I see my first pay day.

The pros far outweigh them. I'm working with great people, I'm working awesome hours (Mon-Fri 8:30-5, no overtime, no on-call), when I leave work I leave work (no work email on my BlackBerry), and there's a LOT of flexibility. In my previous gig, there was no flexibility, but I thought that was a fine thing. Now, there's nothing but flexibility. I make my own schedule, and as long as my work gets done, no one bats an eye. Awesome.

Thanks for sticking through my blathering. Now back to... more blathering? :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A New Relationship - Part 4

Hi all!

This is the second last entry in the series - I've written them all, now it's just to add some pictures, and they'll all be up.


Day 22 - Rebuttal

The next day, my recruiter called me up very confused.  After all, I had accepted the offer.  I told him it was the contents of the contract, which I didn't see yet.  He asked for specifics, and I gave him some sections I didn't like.

He offered to fix the contract, and gave me a new one. All my concerns were addressed, but I felt bullyed into it, so I didn't want to make the change. I got so stressed out, I needed closure, so I emailed the client and told him that I wouldn't be joining.






Day 23 - A Kind Hand

The next morning, I had a modified contract with everything I wanted, and a frantic recruiter asking why I was done with the deal, but I was 99% sure I wasn't going to change.

An email from the client directly to me made me re-think.  He was kind, he genuinely understood my concerns, addressed them honestly, and didn't make me feel crazy for having concerns.   He provided information on his team, and shared some details he didn't need to in order to make me feel comfortable, and to cap it off, he told me to take my time in my decision.  The recruiter kept asking me when I'd have an answer, but here was the client telling me to take all the time I needed. Amazing.

The client also advised that a member of his team would be in HRM next week, and that it might be beneficial to meet with him to get some more information before making my decision. Great idea, and one I wanted to do. It was a bit of a struggle to tell the recruiter that I was taking my time, but I was coming from a good place, and was up to the challenge.

Day 30 - Confirmation

That week was very enlightening.  I read a lot of stuff on the web about contract employees, what they liked and what they disliked. I read about the client, and how people loved working for them. I felt kind of excited, but I wanted to meet the team member from the client with an open mind.

The day of the meeting came, and I was impressed. The guy was awesome, and gave me the absolute impression that this was the right move to make. I waited for a bit, just to let it sink in, and then emailed my boss at RIM asking if we could talk.  I figured I'd talk to him about notice before making it official, but I was confident things were going right.  I drove to the office, and everything went great - no hard feelings, and I'd keep working up until the day before I switched. Everything was cool.

The next entry has to do with my feelings after the first 2 weeks at the new gig. Sneak peek - I'm happy with my decision.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A New Relationship - Part 3

Hi all,

Part 3 comin' straaaaaaaight atcha!

Day 20 - Video Conference

Heather was gracious enough to take the boys to visit their Grammy, so I had the house all to myself for my video conference. I was prepped over the weekend by my recruiter, who told me that this was like an interview, and provided some tips and things to speak on.

I mis-judged the timing because of the difference of time zones, but that gave me an hour to work out some technical kinks, so it worked out quite well.

The call itself was more the client talking than me - lots about the position and about the company, and he only asked me one question - describe yourself in 3 words.

We ended the call with the plan that the successful candidates would receive a face-to-face interview the next week.
Day 21 - Really?

The day after my video conference, the recruiter called back and asked how it went, and the ever so sly question "If you were to receive an offer today, would you take it?". I said that yes I would, thinking that a negative answer would halt the process, and I wouldn't learn more.  After all, I thought the next step was a face to face interview.

About an hour later, he called back and offered me the job. I was flabergasted, but accepted, and awaited the contract via email.

The contract was an excellent reality check, and gave me a ton of questions that I would have asked in the face-to-face interview, and I realized that I didn't want to make this move.

I confirmed that I had received the contract, but that I needed time to mull it over.  I used the time I bought myself to solidify my feelings, and get some wording for it.  Once that was done, I wrote the recruiter that I would not be accepting the contract, but thanking him and the client for their time.

I thought that was the end, but I was very wrong.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A New Relationship - Part 2

Hi all!


I'm relying heavily on my trail of emails, which justifies my "never delete anything" mentality when it comes to email:


Day 3 - A Lie (from my point of view)


It's very important that this next day was a Thursday - near the end of the week. The recruiter calls to keep me up to date, and he tells me he has enough information to take to the client. I may have mis-heard him, but I have the distinct impression that I heard, "You should be hearing from them this week, or at the latest, Monday."


When Monday came and went, and I didn't hear anything, I thought, "Oh well, I guess I wasn't what they were looking for". I waited until Tuesday, and then casually emailed the recruiter, asking if there was any feedback. He wrote back all confused, and advised that my next communication should be directly with the client. I read and re-read that email, trying to find my mistake. Sadly, I didn't have the ability to refer to a paper trail about our call the previous Thursday, but felt lied to. Regardless, I didn't have any news, so I let it be. The recruiter advised me to sit tight, as I would be hearing from the client "any moment now". I didn't know that a moment could last a week, but...


Day 10 - Video Conference Invitation


After having abandoned hope of feedback (even though I didn't want the job, I masochistically wanted to know why they didn't want me), I proceeded with the day-to day awesomeness of family and working for RIM. Then, out of the blue, the same recruiter is calling me and is asking if I can have a video conference with the client, as they weren't able to make it out to Halifax, but that they'd like to "meet" me.  I was cool with that, and soon received an invitation from the client. I thought it was pretty nice of them to give me my feedback over video chat, but I was mistaken.


Next days - my video "interview" and it's my turn to lie

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A new relationship - Part 1

Hi all,

Thank you for your patience!  I hope to get this blog up to date soon - here's part 1:

April 18th - Day 1 - Courtship (telemarketing style)

Around 11am, I got a call asking me if I were interested in a job. Based on my previous experience where jobs I'm qualified to do pay very little compared to what I did at RIM, I blew it off. Besides, it sounded like the dude was reading from my resume, not from actual qualifications. A+ and MCP are excellent assets? Those are just initials I haven't looked at or cared about in almost 10 years.

However, I'm me, and I avoid confrontation like the plague, so I agree to be sent information - expecting to see something like "must be willing to sell children" and take my easy out.

I got the email, and it was pretty generic - just saying that it was a "long-term contract position". That phrase was a warning to me, but I thought I could use it to my advantage when weaseling out of this malarkey. No statement about who the company was, or what the role was other than support.

*edit - reading the email now, there are all kinds of clues to who the company was, but I guess I wasn't looking hard enough.

I responded advising that I had the information, and to get myself some more information, I asked some questions about hours of work and the all-important salary (bound to be pitiful).

I had my answer in just over an hour, and was mildly surprised. I talked to my wife, and I figured I'd find out where this was going and talk to the recruiter the next day.

April 19th - Day 2 - 2nd date


Armed with my "easy-out" of talking about how contract work isn't for me if things start to go south, I get a call back from the recruiter the next day.  Right away, he asks if contract work is a concern. I was taken aback, because that was supposed to be my topic to bring up, but the gentleman was now telling me some drawbacks of contract work, and now able to tell me the company name that the role was for.  He also didn't scoff at my salary question, and asked what my minimum would be. Huh.  This was taking a turn for the weird.

The recruiter said that he would get in touch with the client if I was interested in pursuing the role further, and I let him know that was cool.

I hung up the phone feeling absolutely sure that this wouldn't lead anywhere, but I would follow up with some people just in case...

Next part includes what every relationship has to have - it could be either a deception or a misunderstanding, all depending on your point of view.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quo Vadis

It's been a couple of weeks (yes - only a couple of weeks) of upheaval for my employment situation, and I want to talk about it in depth, but I'd like to see how the next bit plays out fully before I embark upon the quest of publishing it.

For now, I'll summarize:

I was provided the opportunity to do a contract gig after having worked full-time since 1999. At first I scoffed, but then I got everything I asked for, re-considered, and now I'm taking the gig.

I swear there'll be more details.

We cool?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Radiohead - Love doesn't need a reason

Hi all,


I make the case here that our love of music doesn't need a reason to exist.  At least I hope it does'nt, since I'm living this very theory.


My absolute favourite band is Radiohead.  I've followed their career since turned on to them by a friend in High School.  They've alienated the majority of their fans with their latest records, but I'm still a die-hard fan.  Their album that was released in 2007 (In Rainbows, for those not obsessed with Radiohead or willing to click the link) is my current favourite, although I change this stance a fair bit (here's their whole discography - I'm sure most have spent some time in the coveted favourite spot).


When talking to my wife about a song recently, I voiced the fact that I had no idea what the words were.  Then, I thought a bit, and I think I might understand the words to 10% of Radiohead songs. Of those 10%, I understand the meaning behind 0% of the songs.  I just love em.  


My absolute favourite song of theirs (Paranoid Android, for those making a list.... creepy), I completely melt every time I hear it due to its sheer awesomeness. The video is potentially better than the song alone, which is high praise. Just don't ask me why either the song or the video is awesome.


Do you have any bands whose tunes you just DIG, but don't understand?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My bad behaviour - Part 2 - Transportation

Hi all,


This is one that I feel less guilty of, but I am absolutely guilty of doing bad things.


Transportation (public and private) - Road rage has been known and discussed for a long time, but my bad behaviour is kinda the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I can get overtly angry at people when they do the wrong thing (which they constantly do), but I'm cool with that part. The thing I do which bugs me is being a huge perpetrator of the "distributed responsibility" phenomenon while I'm safely wrapped in my plastic/metal bubble. 


Here's an example since that last paragraph was kinda weird: Every day I drive to work a similar way. I often see the same person, or people, walking to work, and I knew where they were going (the same place I was). I absolutely had room to pick them up (before I had two car seats lashed in), but thought to myself "someone else will pick them up". Inevitably no one picked them up. This sucked huge donkey balls when it was raining, or heaven forbid snowing.  I could feel my credibility as a human being decreasing every time I saw them come in drenched.


The same thing goes for people having problems with their car.  I'm totally not able to help with technical car stuff, but I have a phone and a CAA card. Instead I think "someone who's good with cars will stop...", and I'm pretty sure that never happens (sad face).


Buses are a whole different can of suck. Bus etiquette is weird, awful, and possibly just in my head, but I think these are the rules:

  1. If there are the half the number of people on the bus as there are seats on the bus, no one should have to sit next to each other. 
  2. ONLY if there are more than half should people sit next to each other, and if two people are sitting next to each other they CANNOT acknowledge each others existence. 
  3. "Saving" a seat next to you by placing any belonging on it is a totally acceptable way to not have to sit by anyone, and who cares if it makes people stand.
  4. If there are more people on the bus than seats, it's a stare-down battle by the standing folk to determine who claims any seat vacated. Physical ability has nothing to do with it.
  5. Happy people are weird. Stay serious and/or numb.

Am I close? Am I wrong to be angry that this is the bus etiquette situation?


People should feel good about taking public transportation, they're helping the planet and stuff. This etiquette certainly doesn't inspire me to take the bus any time soon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My bad behaviour - Part 1

Hi all!


I've recently become aware that although being a pretty decent dude in most situations, there are some where I alter that behaviour for the worse.  Hopefully by discussing them, I'll get over these hangups, or embrace my bad behaviour as being part of the "social norm".  Heck, I might even contribute to changing what people consider to be normal - who knows :)


Here's my first instalment of situations where I regret my behaviour:


Public restrooms - If I'm going to a public restroom and a friend is also going, I will often pretend they don't exist for the duration of being there.  There are exception, but that's the basic rule.  I shut down completely - no sounds, staring at the floor, and only speaking when spoken to.  This happens to me 99% of the time now at work, so I'm kind of ok with it there, but I feel like I'm marginalizing my relationships with people I do know because of those walls.


Isaac Asimov wrote about humanity's behaviour in restrooms (or Personals, as they're called in his universe) in "The Caves of Steel", which I had the good fortune to read at an early age thanks to my Dad. The accepted behaviour was pretty much what  I do now, and what others around me do too.  However, this norm is challenged by a Robot, claiming that this behaviour is illogical.  The protagonist has been forced into this norm with something very personal, and here's how he describes his indoctrination: 


It was the first time he had spoken in a Personal, proper, since he was ten years old. That had been in his uncle Boris' presence and had merely been an automatic complaint when he stubbed his toe. Uncle Boris had beaten him well when he reached home and had lectured him strongly on the necessities of public decency.


I think this thinly veiled reference to our behaviour in public restrooms is right on the money. Granted, I'm not afraid of being beaten for talking in a restroom, but I'm consistently appalled with my behaviour, or lack thereof, in a public restroom, sometimes even when I go in alone.


In trying to find the above passage online, I stumbled across this thread of people talking about restroom behaviour, and whenever I did a search for an image, I came up with a bunch of etiquette stuff, so maybe my lack of talking is a good thing?  It certainly doesn't feel good, so I either have to become ok with it, or change.  What do you think?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Favourite and Life Changing Media

Hi all!


During my transition to Google Drive (which is awesome btw), I found a note to myself about life changing media.  It just had two entries, so I'll start with those which I'll leave in italics for, you know, the archives. I'll add some entries too as I firmly believe that media has shaped me a lot, and I don't think I'm alone there:


Recently, I've found myself saying more and more that things are "life changing".  I hope I was truthful in most of these outbursts, but just to clarify - here are the pieces of media that I have found life changing:


Book - Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.  The potential of the human race is often theorized about.  I always hear statements like "Geniuses only use 10% of their brain", but Heinlein describes the potential of what could happen to a human who uses more of their potential.  Michael Valentine Smith is a human raised by martians, so his abilities are unlike anything that has ever been seen before.  He thinks nothing of bringing his automatic bodily functions such as heart rate and breathing down to a level where they are imperceptible.  He makes things vanish which distress him.  Tremendous. *edit - 2/3 of the book is mind-blowingly awesome. The last third has its place, but is definitely not for the faint of... genital? (there's a lot of sex).



Video Game - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  Without exaggeration, playing this game felt very much like a religious experience.  You do good things, and good things happen to you.  Not that far off what some religions claim to offer their followers. *edit - I played this game twice through on PC, and when I got it on XBOX, I played it through again Totally awesome. The sequel, while not well liked in the media, was good enough for me to play through, and I shudder at the awesomeness that is the current massively multiplayer online role-playing game installation. If I had 24 more hours in a day, I would be playing that game NON-STOP.


These entries still stand up today as my favourites of those types of media. My current favourites of other media exist, but they fall a tiny bit short of being life changing:


Movie: Fight Club. 1999 was a banner year for cinema in my life. It was definitely the year I spent the most time in movie theatres, that's for sure. Star Wars: Episode I was released (I saw it 9 times in theatres and am a fan), the indie Blair Witch Project (proving you didn't need a budget to make a blockbuster), and Fight Club were all released. My group of friends was psyched enough to see Fight Club that we showed up at the theatre a week before it was released, without checking to see if it was even going to be playing. No great loss, as we watched Three Kings instead, but talk about committment! After being completely blown away by it, I returned 6 more times, even dragging my then girlfriend on her only weekend home to see it. When it came out of DVD, my friends and I watched it several nights in a row, until we had completely exhausted the special features (which took a long time, but was extremely worth it to hear the awesome commentary tracks!). I often call Fight Club the movie of my generation, and I don't think that's overstating it. I might be a bit young for it, considering that it was talking to people who were already established in their lives, while I was still living with my parents, but it absolutely spoke to me. I love everything about the movie - the messages, the actors, the direction, the set (locations that were mostly built to be awesome), all amazing.


TV Show: Star Trek: The Next Generation. The first show I can remember waiting for an episode to air, and I can't remember ever being disappointed with the awesomeness. Sure the effects are hokey, and the costumes could be lame (especially early), but it was so darned awesome! When the series was re-released on DVD one season at a time, I found a way to buy each and every season. 99% of the episodes were golden - even the early ones for pure kitsch factor. The morals and values inspired by this show go far beyond what I could ever put into words. Sir-not-pictured-here Wil Wheaton was my absolute least favourite character on the show, but even he has risen to the ranks of supreme awesome with his honesty, candour and amazing code. Check out his recollections on him leaving TNG here. Beautiful.


Album: Billy Joel - An Innocent Man. Honesty in relationships. Not dealing with gossip. Appreciating the good after the bad. Leaving good enough alone. Modern star-crossed lovers. The performer of this album couldn't possibly a mess himself, could he? Separating the art from the artist, this album was completely formative for me. It was the first time I really understood what was being said in songs that were years beyond what I was supposed to understand. I'll always remember and appreciate that, even after I heard about the car crashes, and the drinking, and the failed marriage... I think I need to re-evaluate... Moving on!



Concert: Radiohead - Montreal - In Rainbows Tour. Driving from Halifax to Montreal in one shot is no biggie - it's been done before, and it'll be done again by others, but I consider 2008 my last "hurrah" when it comes to that travelling gig, at least until my yungins are old enough to not stop every hour for potty, snacks and streches. Where was I? So my absolute favourite band is coming within driving distance! Their set was amazing, playing all of the In Rainbows album as well as some personal favourites of mine (the title links to the setlist - a gem of a show). Although it was an outdoor show and it rained a bit, it was incredible from the first to the last. Major highlight was frontman Thom being distracted enough to forget the words by fireworks in the distance. I can't give the show enough credit. Amazing.


Musical Artist: Hawksley Workman. This kinda looks like an honourable mention next to Radiohead, but I gotta give credit where credit is due. While my then-girlfriend and I were living in Ontario, she was working with these cool folks who were listening to this dude named Hawksley Workman. His lyrics are like poetry, and they were pretty cool, but I wasn't absolutely sold until we went to see him live in Halifax at the Marquee. It was a packed show, which surprised me, and the dude was ELECTRIC. After that show, I acquired his stuff, and it was really awesome. I played it over and over again - it makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and most of all it makes me think deep thoughts, which I love doing. I stole Hawksley's music, transplanted my words where his were, and came up with a proposal song for the one who brought Hawksley into my life. It's definitely not all she's done :)


This entry was a lot of fun, and you can have fun too! Is there any media that has shaped who you are, or that you just really like?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Entitlement

In the past, whenever I've driven over a pothole, I've thought "Oh, the CITY's gonna PAY if that made something bad happen to my car." After all, they didn't fix it soon enough, and now it's a hazard, right? My taxes have to be for something. 

This image was floating around Facebook, and it has made me re-think that stance:



My taxes are there for something - they're there to pay for the people to do the stuff that keeps our system moving.  However flawed the system is, you gotta give it some credit - the system is there.  That's a monumental achievement. I'm not saying that the system doesn't need change, it totally does, but while affecting that change, we need to acknowledge the accomplishments of others that have gone before, even if they're flawed.  We're seriously standing on the shoulders of giants over here.


Whaddaya think? 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Having kids is making me a better person

The other night I had a dream where I was being very selfish. I didn’t have a reason, I just wanted to act out, and I wanted everyone around me to notice that I was unhappy. I was just about to unleash my master plan (walking in the rain until I was soaked so people had to see me and help me) when my toddler brought me back to reality by doing the unimaginable - waking up.


The transition was jarring to say the least. One minute I'm scheming about ways to spend the minimum amount of time to get the maximum pity, and the next I'm brushing aside any tired feelings to re-assure my offspring that playing with the black flashlight with the black button is DEFINITELY going to happen. For the record, I had no idea what he's talking about.


Something which constantly passed in one ear and out the other while my better half was pregnant was that your life becomes about your kids when you're a parent.  You become their role model. I didn't understand what that meant until recently - well into my first child's life. I kinda thought I could just do stuff that I always did, but I'd have to do it while not around them. Reality check - they're always around, and when they're not physically around, the things you do still absolutely affect them. Selfishly, this kinda sucks, as it means I have to be a role model 24x7, which is super tiring. Also selfishly, it's cool to see the good stuff I do echoed in another human being.  It's humbling and depressing to see the bad stuff echoed, so it's an excellent behaviour modification process. I was never a super bad dude, I was always kinda boring, and I liked it that way.  Now I'm like bland... bland stuff.  See, even my imagination is bland!


Overall, I'm better off now psychologically than I have ever been to my memory. With less time for introspection (and sleeping), I feel like I know myself better now than I ever have. Weird and backwards sounding, eh? My wife is amazing, and is keeping the house together completely. I'm just along for the ride, and helping when I can.  I want to do more, but we're in a place where if I do more, I'll be an awful person (sleep deprivation makes me into Mr. Hyde).


Here are three positive (I think) things that have changed in my life since becoming a parent:

  • I'm less of a risk taker. That makes it sound like a daredevil, but in reality, When offered insurance in the past, I literally said "why gamble on something like that?".  Now, I'm clambering to sign on the dotted line if it means an iota of security and well-being.  Chalk it up to self-worth, or knowing that I'm worth something - either way = awesome.
  • I don't need as much to get me to sleep.  I used to require that I go to bed, think about the day, process it, zone out for a bit, and then I'd sleep.  If I got up in the middle of the night, I had to start the whole process over again.  Now I just go to sleep.  If I'm up for 5 minutes, and can go back to sleep, I do. My dad has the same ability, and my jealousness of it is over.
  • I'm less of a gossip. I used to kinda thrive on the trials and tribulations of other peoples' lives, both thinking and talking about them. I'm glad to not do this one anymore.  Wasted energy.
Here are two negative things that have changed, but they might flip back into my parenting life:
  • I don't watch many movies anymore - they're too long. I feel old, but I worry about falling asleep, and I'll miss all the awesomeness that is film.  Very sad.
  • I don't play video games anymore, as they require too much attention - mental and physical attention.  Based on past experience this will change, but I'm ok with it now - an acceptable tactical loss. 
Lastly, here are some things that haven't changed in my life, but might at the drop of a hat:
  • Television viewing - the times have changed, but we still watch what we used to watch, just after bedtime. 
  • When driving, I still speed, but when my kids are old enough to read the speedometer this habit's gotta go.
Overall, we all win.  Thank you kids, you're shaping me into a better adult, while I strive to shape you into good people!  Yay!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Privacy's (d)evolution





So, I talked about privacy here, and was backed up extremely nicely (thank you Colleen), but privacy concerns are still out there.


A little over a year ago, friends and I were discussing what you should share on the internet, and what you shouldn't.  I made the case that in today's society, I didn't see a reason to keep anything secret, since everything was out there anyway - the only thing keeping anyone from something they want to know is time. The amount of time to find stuff out has decreased dramatically (remember when going to the library was the only option?), but my naive brain believes that it's always been the case - there is paper tied to your every moment, from birth to death and everything in between. My friend's question to me was if I would put up signs on my lawn declaring what I was up to, if I would be considered weird.  I think I would be the weirdo of the neighbourhood (every neighbourhood has to have one, right?), but his point was well taken.  Just because we can share, doesn't mean we should share.


When I was thinking of coming back to the blogosphere (is that a word?), privacy was on my mind a lot.  My worry was that I wanted to be honest with my opinions, and those opinions might not be accepted happily by my friends, family, and even loved ones.  I have thoughts that I express to these people, but frame them up so that they seem less... crazy. Here, I don't really have that opportunity, so I'm going to try and let my freak flag fly, and just express myself openly.  It won't be easy, and it may not be entertaining. For that I sincerely apologize, more-so for the not entertaining part, as I like to be the guy who people laugh with (or at, it's hard for me to distinguish).


My first topic I'd like to talk about is the news article describing potential employers demanding people's facebook usernames and passwords. It's been out of the news for awhile, but it's hot on my radar, since I've got the opposite view that most people seem to have.  They're outraged, at the distinct lack of privacy that this draconian world seems to have. I'm actually ok with it.


"Say it ain't so!", I hear you say, while others might be clambering to correct me or make me change my mind.  You're totally able to attempt it, and you might even succeed, but I think I've got a firm grasp on why I feel the way I do, and that's not likely to change.


Here's my nickel's worth (upgraded due to the lack of penny in Canada, which I think is awesome), and I'm not trying to sway you to my way of thinking at all - just putting my view out there. Having recently gone through a spell of unemployment, I would've gladly forked over my goodies in order to secure successful employment. The employers using this tactic are not asking for sexual favours, or for money, or anything tangible, they're seeking information. Information that you're volunteering.  If you're worried about anyone, ANYONE, in the world not knowing what you're talking about, what you like, who your friends are, what your private messages contain, or anything, I have three words of caution - don't share it.  


Another reaction I personally had to this story was, "What if the schmuck interviewing me uses my username and password to login and destroy my social life?". They could do stuff like spread gossip, or spread spam messages through my friend list or even *GASP* unfriend people! Then I remembered what other information we give to employers, specifically if we want to get paid. We trust these organizations with our bank account information, our Social Insurance Number (which I'm told is dangerous, although I don't know why), and all the rest of our emergency contact information in case of an emergency.  


Giving an employer access to your Facebook account, is not giving them the keys to your head, unless you share willy-nilly without a filter. It's only giving them access to the stuff you volunteer without even being coerced.  When discussing my view with a friend, they expressed that they were worried about employers gaining access to your browser history, since some of us might not browse to the most savoury of sites all the time.  To my knowledge, that's not something anyone shares, and not something visible on Facebook (except potentially to your Internet Service Provider). If I'm wrong about that, or I'm missing something, feel free to let me know.


Speaking of that - what do you think?  Am I out of my gourd?  Is there something I missed?  I'm anxious to see.


Take care!