Society is Dead, Long Live Liberty

O 2020, thou harsh and cruel year.

I won’t recap all the things that we’ve been trying to live through this year, those are matters for history books and YouTube videos. What we’ve all experienced is unlike anything the world has seen since the 1920s, an era that most of our current population has no memory of, and regards as little more than topics for … well, history books and YouTube videos.

But it’s been more than a pandemic, more than Black Lives Matter, more than political instability. In 2020, we came to realize the death of common civility.

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How to Work Remotely

Welcome to the Global Plague of 2020, courtesy of COVID-19. The world has not seen something like this in a century, even the polio, cholera, and various influenzas that have struck since then haven’t created the worldwide need for isolation and restriction that we’re currently seeing.

One major kink in all that is the need for businesses to, somehow, keep operating. Everyone is worried about the effects to the economy, a faceless pseudo-entity that doesn’t provide anything more than an indicator of wealth, forcing businesses to attempt to remain operating, potentially affecting (and infecting) the very employees upon whom they rely to make the business operate.

The COVID-19 epidemic comes at a watershed point in human history. Never before in our developed world (I count the planet, here, not specific countries) have we had the capacity to conduct our operations apart from one another at scale. We have the technology to continue … but there’s a little more to it than that.

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Healthy 10th Birthday, Choo Choo!

A decade ago right now, Mommy and I were preparing to go to Foothills Medical Centre. There, Mommy would have a caesarian section and you would be pulled forth into this world — not of woman borne! — with your arm draped around your neck like a feather boa, safe and sound.

Well, mostly. That whole anti-K thing and all, as we remind you of every now and then. Which is almost a bizarre parallel to today: almost immediately after you were born, the doctors wanted to whisk you away to the NICU to ensure that the anti-K situation wasn’t affecting your health. You were isolated.

Ten years later, you’re isolated again. This time, none of our doing (biological or otherwise), but because of COVID-19. You’re spending your birthday apart from nearly everyone but your family.

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The Story Is Key

Years ago, I started blogging because I had moved away from home and wanted those I knew and loved to know what I was up to, things I’d done, and that I was, in fact, okay. (The grand irony in that belief is that I wasn’t, in fact, okay, and that this blog made that pretty clear to everyone but me.)

In the years that followed, these stories started to give way to my “professional” life, and the need to publicize my own wisdom and knowledge and bla bla bla. Yeah, I soapboxed a lot. Most of it, when I read it now, makes me feel ill. Because that’s not what I really wanted to do — I did it because I felt I had to.

It’s high time to get back to story-telling.

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10 Years in Canada

I was born in what was once the small town of Oakville, west of Toronto. I lived there until I was 18, when I went to university, and split my time between Waterloo, Oakville, Ottawa, and Toronto, until January 1998, when I moved away, apparently forever.

I moved to Vancouver, where I spent two bipolar years of amazing experiences and painful relationships. I came to Calgary in March 2000, got married, had a kid. In 2008, my family made the epic decision to move to a completely different part of the world for nearly 18 months of … well, painful experiences and amazing relationships.

Ten years to the minute of this post, we came home.

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Why your manager sucks

This year, I celebrate 15 years operating as a manager, in one form or another. I am by no means an expert, I certainly wouldn’t be the sort of person to conduct high-priced seminars that espouse “empowerment” or “entrepreneurism”. I’ve had the luxury of having some really good managers over the years, who were solid mentors, able to point out what it would take to guide others, to handle problems practically, and offer feedback in constructive ways.
My many years of not being stuck in the weeds has also allowed me to look around at those with similar roles, and see how they approach the same challenges. The ability to talk to them, to see the results of their labours, to hear from those they manage also lets me get a better idea of what I’m doing right, and where I can improve. That’s given me a strong sense of what makes a good manager.
Like I said, I ain’t perfect. But if your manager fails any of the following, they’re doing it wrong. Continue reading “Why your manager sucks”

Dispelling a myth of centralized IT

“Information Technology”, or IT as it’s more commonly known, tends to get a bad rap. It’s a black box to organizations, there to serve arcane purposes that always seem to have a habit of getting in everyone else’s way of doing whatever they need to be doing. The end result is the idea that “IT is evil”.
It’s a bit unfair, truth be told. IT doesn’t try to be evil (heck, some IT organizations actively espouse not being evil), it’s often a net effect of just being misunderstood. And like any misunderstood creature, problems arise, misconceptions arise, and pretty soon people are chasing down systems administrators with pitchforks, and…
Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s rewind a tad, shall we?
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She Choo-Choo choosed me

(Yeah, it’s grammatically incorrect. So shoot me.)
Choo Choo and Monkey did a couple of early Valentine cards tonight. The one Choo Choo gave me might well be one of the best I’ve ever gotten.
I’m rotating this 90 degrees from how she wrote it. But every word (and spelling) is hers.
I should add that Choo Choo is learning to spell.


y –
o – onoying [annoying]
u – usfull [useful]
a – a jerk [believe me, it’s a term of endearment]
r – relatev [relative; she’s not sure what this means, either]
e – evelushenery [evolutionary; I’ve never been called that before]
m – my dad
y – youth
v – vacation man [Best. Superhero name. Ever.]
a – amene [a meanie; see above note about being a jerk]
l – loving
i – I Love you [the “L” was backwards]
n – nativ [native; not sure what was meant]
t – tae [tea]
i – I Love you [the “L” is the right way around
n – nativ
 
Yeah, “valentine” isn’t spelled correctly, either. I don’t mind one bit.

A farewell to neighbours

We moved into our current home in March 2007, a few months before Monkey was born. We were not newlyweds anymore, we were bracing for a family. The home we had lived in was nice, and ideal for a couple. For a pregnant woman, the home was turning into a challenge; it would be hell with a child.
When we arrived, the building was bare, but it housed a history that we would slowly learn over the years to come, from those who lived around us. We would contribute to that, as well, as we brought our own lives to bear on the structure. This history was taught to us largely by our neighbour, Jo-Ann, who had been next door the large majority of her life. This week, she turned the keys over to a new family.
So let me tell you a few things about our friend.
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The importance of experience

“Experience” is a tough word to use in the digital marketing industry. Quite often, it’s used to encompass one’s adventure and awareness through a user interface of an application. It’s one of the most common applications for “experience”, but it’s not the only one.
There’s also the definition that includes knowledge and wisdom, held by those who have spent years honing skills, learning from mistakes, and becoming enlightened from real-world execution.
And it’s the latter that I’m finding, more and more, to be a key to delivering the former.
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A wintery drive to Drumheller

I met my friend Nancy when I first joined Critical Mass in April 2000. She was my first project manager, as we slugged away at the Proctor & Gamble Presiva project (it’s a fringe product that thankfully died out about eight or nine years ago). We reunited on the Mercedes-Benz USA project, where we continued to do battle with the forces of … uh … weird client requests? Sure, let’s go with that.
Nancy (wisely) left the digital agency world over a decade ago, and went off to start her own business, using horses to teach leaders how to be effective. It was a novel approach, and it’s done well. One advantage of her doing that was moving out into the country (after all, that many horses do not do well in city limits). Which means she started to make good contacts with her neighbours.
Including one that raised sheep.
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The last tooth has been lost

Well Monkey, you’ve hit a milestone: today, you lost the last of your baby teeth. You told me you pulled it yourself (rather brave, if I do say so myself), and presented it to me like a strange kind of trophy. Your last baby tooth. There’s only adult teeth, now (and quite a few to come). Does that make you … an adult? Well, not in the legal sense…
I remember when your first tooth came in, so many, many years ago. I remember naming your teeth … or at least being told their names. I remember when the first one came loose, and then fell out. You were quite a bit more scared than I thought you’d be, but I suppose things falling out of your head are cause for alarm when you’re a kid.
Man, is your tooth fairy going to be disappointed…
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20 years from Ontario

Two decades ago today, I did something immensely stupid: I left home. Literally and figuratively. Twenty years ago, I was still sleeping in my room on Gatestone Avenue in Oakville. While I had lived on my own at university, and while I was on my co-op work terms in Ottawa, staying at home was … comfortable. And as my parents didn’t object, it seemed like a good idea. Literally leaving home wasn’t the problem — I’d already done it a dozen times.
Figuratively leaving home — notably the familiarity of the Greater Toronto area, but Ontario in general — was another matter. I’d not really lived abroad, where going to my parents’ house was something I did in an afternoon. I decided to throw myself into the world without any plan whatsoever.
Twenty years on, it was the smartest move I ever made.
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The kids' first New Years Eve

Okay, to be fair, Monkey is now 10, and Choo Choo is rapidly approaching 8. They’ve seen “new years eve” a few times, but they’ve been more the family-friendly type. Staying up to midnight is the new thing. The only time they’ve ever been up past midnight is because of travel, and that’s always been a bit of a struggle.
Last night, for the first time ever, they watched a clock tick from 23:59 of one year to 00:00 of another. Honestly, they fared better than I did.
And that, my friends, is not a good sign.
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Marketing is common sense

I’ve worked in the marketing industry, in one form or another, since the mid-1990s (save for a couple-year break when I did technical writing, but we’ll ignore that for now). I’ve seen a lot in those many (many) years, but one thing has really stuck through all of that: what marketing does.
That’s not a question, it’s a realization. Truth is, most people don’t know what marketing is, or what it’s supposed to do. Most people think marketing is advertising: making TV commercials, radio blurbs, internet banners, print flyers, and so forth. To a degree, marketing is absolutely involved in that process, but the act of doing advertising is tactical, whereas marketing is strategic. And the end of the day, marketing does something that most people don’t realize:
Marketing is about creating common sense.
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Why calling people "cowboys" is wrong

You follow standards, you follow procedures, you follow policies. You’re making sure that things are done consistently, on schedule, on budget. You’re one of those people who have ensured that their work (and their legacy) will outlive you.
Then you see something that’s against everything you stand for, and the first word out of your mouth is that the antithesis of you is “a cowboy”. People nod, and comment how people shouldn’t be doing things like that.
But you know what? That’s an insult to cowboys.
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Things I learned by leaving social media

On 8 November 2016, Americans elected their new president, whom I hope to never have to publicly acknowledge. That night, I came to a rather painful conclusion: I needed to abandon social media for a while.
In this particular election, the media had (unwittingly, foolishly, stupidly, or all of the above) enabled a level of insipid, unchecked banter that intelligence and logic were utterly cast aside in favour of whomever had the best catchphrase. Basically, a Hollywood political satire come to life. Very real, very painful life.
It hurt so bad that I had to turn it off.
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Disney World 2016: 'Twas the day before Christmas

The Art of Animation Resort had left information on our door regarding our DME pickup. We had until 1:30pm to relax, do any final shopping, and pack.
For our final breakfast, we went to Pop Century, to experience their morning fare. I can’t say that the quality was markedly better, but Alex got her gluten-free waffles, and we had something different for a change. So it was far from terrible.
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Disney World 2016: Magic Kingdom

This was the day I’d been waiting for since June. I have nothing against Epcot or Animal Kingdom, and I very much love the Kennedy Space Center. But when it comes to magic, the closest I’ll ever get to witnessing real magic, it’s the looks on children’s faces when they see something wonderful. I had great memories of the Magic Kingdom from when I was a kid, and I wanted to see what it looked like through my own kids’ eyes.
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Disney World 2016: Animal Kingdom

I moved the family as quickly as I had the day before. My biggest need that morning wasn’t to get to Animal Kingdom, it was to return the car before we got dinged another USD$133. I’d gotten over the fact that we’d ended up with an inappropriately large and expensive car, I just didn’t want to be reminded of it again.
We charged through breakfast, Alex and I started to really dislike the constant pattern of food without sufficient variation. Finishing first, I double-backed for the car, and brought it closer to Animation Hall for pickup. However, either due to miscommunication or misunderstanding, my family went left instead of right, and took longer to get out than I’d planned. I ended up literally chasing them around the building, only to find them at the car, wondering where I was.
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Disney World 2016: Kennedy Space Center

We were up early, hitting the front of the hotel for 8:20, to catch our shuttle bus to the Alamo Rental location just inside the Magic Kingdom‘s outer gates. We were renting a car for exploring!
I had originally arranged for a small car the day before, but we’d switched around the days (because we could) to make it a bit easier. I knew the day was going to involve a fair bit of driving for me and the girls, so I figured the day wouldn’t matter. We were going to the coast: I wanted to see the Kennedy Space Center, and I promised the girls we’d go to the beach afterwards.
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Disney World 2016: Resting at the resort

It’s genuinely amazing what a single night of sleep can do for a person. I woke up feeling human. And apologetic about my behaviour the night before. And dying for coffee. Which, fortunately, the Landscape of Flavors has in spades.
Originally, we had planned to go to the Kennedy Space Center. However, we were all still quite tired from our experience the day before, so we opted to take another pool day, and relax. It was definitely the right decision to make.
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Disney World 2016: Epcot

Our first FastPass was booked for 9:40am, so we had a need to usher ourselves along that morning. Up, shower, dress, eat, and on the bus for 9am. It was a bit hurried, but nothing more dramatic than trying to get the kids up for school.
Arriving at Epcot was unique, in that the first thing we could readily see was Spaceship Earth (colloquially known as “the golf ball”) as we drove around Epcot’s massive parking lot to the bus drop-off. The bus ride was punctuated by a conversation with a rather bright girl from Georgia who seemed very interested in the girls’ first trip to a Disney park.
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Disney World 2016: Disney Springs

Walt Disney World covers an area of 110 sq km, encompassing the four theme parks, two water parks, 27 themed resorts, and their shopping/entertainment district, called Disney Springs  (formerly Downtown Disney, among a few other iterations). It’s an experience freebie, in that it doesn’t ding you the $100+/person entry.
Getting there — well, anyway, really — would be a bit of a challenge for anyone without a car. Even with the distances between entrances (we had a minimum 30 minute walk to the nearest park), there was also the reality of walking on freeways (and very few roads in the area had sidewalks), not to mention the wildlife: signs everywhere warned of snakes and alligators. Walt Disney World is built on a swamp, and many watery channels remain.
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Disney World 2016: Arrival at Walt Disney World

We arrived in Orlando at about 1:00am. Amazingly, the girls were still awake (given, it was only 11pm Calgary time). The airport was nearly empty. And yet, Choo Choo sprinted ahead to see a giant (fake) Christmas tree, and neither complained about the extra walking to retrieve our bag. All I wanted at that point was a bed, but they needed tranquilizer darts.
Our first exposure to Disney came on Level one of “Side B” (Orlando has strange names for their terminal building arrangement), where we arrived for our Disney Magical Express. I was half-expecting it to be closed. But there was a nice gentleman, who smiled and said “Good morning!” as if it were breakfast time, but with enough levity to suggest his apology for the late hour. We were directed to Line 7 (devoid of anyone), and led to a large coach bus. There was no extra cost, no hassle: it was simple. This was a pattern that was about to be repeated frequently.
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Disney World 2016: The kids find out

The biggest problem with Christmas around our household is Alex’s work schedule. Being an X-Ray Tech at Rockyview means that she has to work any conceivable day of the year, Christmas Day included. Add to that a near-impossibility for her to get vacation at peak times (notably summer), and we have to wait for when Alex gets vacation.
In May 2016, Alex declared that we “were going somewhere for Christmas”. Originally, that was meant to be Hawaii, which I was all for. However, when we looked into it more, the costs were rapidly approaching “prohibitive”. I think I even joked that “Disney would be cheaper”.
My jokes have a tendency to spur thought on alternatives…
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My Hip Stories

In two days, I’m going to see The Tragically Hip play at the Saddledome. I will freely admit that, somewhat stereotypically Canadian of me, The Hip is my favourite band. So I will also state that I’m excited to see them play. However, I’m also somewhat dreading it, too. It’ll be the last time I see them live, in person. It’s their final tour.
Not all Canadians care. I don’t know how many do (I’ll optimistically suggest 40%), but a few of us are more passionate. But it’s not because we’re that passionate about the band per se, it’s more about how The Tragically Hip have affected our lives (past and/or present), to the point where we have defined stories that involve or revolve around them.
Here’s mine…
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I need your help to be an author

[UPDATE: 7 February 2016]
On the advice of a more experienced and wiser friend and author, I dug deeper into the terms and conditions of both the contest and Inkshares standard contracts with authors. And … well, I didn’t read them closely enough, it seems. I got caught up in the potential of being associated with Nerdist, and not enough in protecting my own creation.
Basically, between Inkshares and Nerdist, I end up losing control of my own creation. It took me long enough to get it out of my head and into a stable form without someone else being able to decide what “derivative works” are suitable without my direct say-so, or be able to publish in whatever languages without any involvement from me.
This is my creation, and I want say in what happens to it.
So I’m pulling out of the contest, and won’t be using Inkshares in the future. I don’t know what I’ll do yet, but I know this path isn’t for me. I do appreciate the support received, as it’s really validated that I can do this. I just need another avenue.
[ORIGINAL POST]
Hi friends!
So here’s the deal: I’ve been writing a book for about seven years. I’m not kidding. It’s taken me that long to write down the ideas, write the actual book, edit it, get feedback, and so forth. (A lot of that was trying to find the time to write, but that’s another story…)
Anyway, the Nerdist and Inkshares is putting on a contest whereby the novel/idea with the most pre-orders might be … [drum roll here] … published!
Needless to say, I’m game for this one. And I’m hoping I might be able to ask you for help. Here’s all that I’m asking:
Go to [URL REMOVED] and pre-order the book. There’s no commitment — if I don’t win, there’s no sale. And given that I’ve had a few people read the book now, the feedback is fairly positive. Is it award-winning material? Don’t make me laugh. But I can also assure you that Hollywood repeatable puts out far worse that you pay twice as much to see…
Thank you in advance for any support you get. And I apologize in advance for how annoying I’m about to be for the next couple of months.

A new year, a new car

Today, Alex and I picked up our new car. And it’s new, not a previously-enjoyed vehicle. It’s a 2016 Honda CR-V. Yes, it’s an SUV, the very thing I often rail against. It’s not even our first. (More on both of those in a bit.) It was not a decision taken lightly, I assure you.
It’s a bit of a weird feeling having such an expensive new toy, even though it is still (kind of) the Christmas season. It’s also weird trying to talk myself out of going for drives, as all I really want to do is get in the car and drive around. Given that I spend most of my travel time in busses and trains, feeling the urge to drive is definitely a change for me.
It’s a good change. And a bit overdue.
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