Touring Montreal

We woke late. Had it not been for Allen returning from the office to prepare for Sunday service, I would might have slept entirely though my only chance to actually see him in action. It wasn’t the service that interests me — it was seeing Allen doing his thing. If it hadn’t been for him returning to the apartment, causing a ruckus loud enough to wake the dead (which we almost were), we’d have slept right through everything. Thankfully, we woke with about 45 minutes to spare, forcing a hurried dressing.
Knox Crescent Kensington & First Presbyterian church sits at the opposite end of Godfrey St. from Allen’s apartment. It takes only a few minutes to walk that distance — Godfrey is only four blocks long. The neighbourhood is wonderful to walk through, with its old duplex and triplex buildings, some attached and semi-detached houses, and huge trees that have witnessed countless hundreds of seasons and countless people walking under them. Like the trees south of Montreal, these have yet to sprout their leaves (though some are trying as hard as they can).
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Earth Day in Montreal

We were a little slow waking up this morning. Might have been due to the change in time, or possibly due to the fact that we’re beginning to relax on this vacation, or because we simply didn’t get out of bed. All the crashing and banging however, conspired us out into the day.
Earth Day 2006 would not go unnoticed. Normally, I don’t really acknowledge Earth Day. The first one was a novel idea, but years later it’s just something for people to murmur about much as they would about that odd uncle who wears underwear on the outside of his pants. It’s not something that most people — myself included — take seriously.
Today would be different.
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Going through Montreal

Under normal beginning-of-vacation circumstances, I would have risen without too much a care about work and prepared for my imminent departure to wherever it is that I’m going. However, things being what they are, I had to work. From home. The joys and detriments of having laptop, a wireless internet connection, and a phone line.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too much work. In fact, the work was a CMS presentation from Interwoven. All I really had to do was watch the LiveMeeting take place, interject with a few words here and there, and answer a few last emails before logging off and going on my merry little way.
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Stuart McLean and Vinyl Cafe come to Banff

Not long after I met Alex, I was introduced to The Vinyl Cafe. This is a weekly show on CBC Radio, featuring the short stories of author and host Stuart McLean. It’s a wonderful show, and I try to listen to it as much as possible. With the weekly visits to the Calgary Farmer’s Market as of late however, I miss the show more often than I hear it.
The Vinyl Cafe is the name not only of the radio show, but also of the fictional store run by Stuart’s protagonist, Dave. Most of Stuart’s stories revolve around Dave and his family: wife Morley, daughter Stephanie, and son Sam. Not to mention most of their neighbours, friends, and relatives. The stories take place over many decades, going back to Dave’s childhood. There are a lot of stories to be heard, such as Dave’s experience cooking the Christmas turkey or Sam believing his mother is a shoplifter. Most of them are a tremendous mix of hilarity and seriousness. Some will put extreme strain on your bladder, others a tear to your eye.
Stuart is more than just a gifted story teller. He’s a music geek. This is very clear from the way he writes his stories that involve Dave and his love of music. It’s not popular music, it’s good music — great music. Music that I’ve rarely heard of. This love of music extends beyond his story-telling, and into his radio shows.
Except for the rare occasions where the show is done from a CBC studio, most of the Vinyl Cafe shows are recorded live in front of an audience. The shows are held across Canada on a series of tours. Stuart doesn’t do the show alone — though he could, if he needed to. Stuart’s love of music brings along mostly-unknown musicians to perform in between story tellings. (And even perform in some of the stories.)
I’ve seen the Vinyl Cafe live once before, at the Jubilee Theatre here in Calgary. It was the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show. It was my first introduction to the joy of seeing the radio show done live. (The Calgary show might have been recorded, but wasn’t the one broadcast. From what I gather, the shows sometimes have to be edited to account for things like flubs while reading the stories. The live shows are quite a bit longer than the radio shows (two hours vs. one hour).
Tonight, the Vinyl Cafe came to the Banff (Bamf!) Centre. Not exactly a local venue for Calgary, but it’s worth the drive. Stuart brought his regular musicians John Sheard and the bassist (whose name I sadly cannot remember). They back him up during the various segments of the show, such as the Story Exchange. John and Stuart usually also throw in a song and dance at the end, which is usually current news and politics thrown into a half-song, half-rap.
Stuart also brought along long-time Vinyl Cafe performer Suzie Vinnick as one of the two featured musicians, the other being newcomer Reid Jamieson. They came and went as Stuart weaved the stories of the evening. They also participated in a classic radio show recreation … one written by Stuart to be like the shows of yore, the ones who grew up with.
Front row centre seats. Pure fluke that I happened to get them. So close you could almost have received some of Stuart’s spittle when he got really animated. Which was most of the time. Stuart doesn’t just read — he performs. The story sits on a music stand, as Stuart’s arms fly about in all directions, sometimes adding to the story and sometimes just there. He reads exceptionally, adding levels of inflection and emphasis that one can only guess at if you’re only reading the story. Hearing it adds that extra level of meaning not normally present. (And for some reason, that includes Southern Albertans getting most of his innuendos. “They didn’t laugh at that in Ft. McMurray!”)
The shows are never long enough. A couple of stories of Dave and Morley, a Story Exchange, and Stuart’s radio show about Eggs Blackiron (complete with a basket of egg jokes). Soon it was all over, and all there was left was to go home. But rest assured that Stuart won’t be able to come back this way without me knowing about it, and I will be back. For there is always a reason to see the Vinyl Cafe.

The Great Critical Mass Shuffle

Not quite five and a half years ago, [[Moving into Critical Mass’ New Building|Critical Mass moved into our current building]]. It was a monumental exercise that required a lot of forethought, planning, and organization. When we moved into the then-new building, we separated into our departments: Project Management (along with Reporting and some account services) on the first floor, Technology (and internal support) on the second floor, Creative on the third floor, with Administration (and some executives) on the fourth floor. Dewi and the Bistro were in the basement.
That’s pretty much how it was from the moment we got in the building. We’ve moved around a bit within the floors (I changed seats three times, landing in the same desk space twice), but generally kept the department separation.
That was until a couple of weeks ago, when the Leadership Team (which, apparently, I’m loosely attached to now) called a meeting to announce the next great move. My first thought was that we were going to move buildings again. We know we’re running low on available space in this building. We need more people all the time, and are running out of places to put them. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to lay siege to one of the surrounding buildings and take the space for our own. Personally, I’m all for buying up the self storage building on the next block and installing a connecting walkway.
But this wasn’t about running out of space. Well, not directly, anyway. This was Phase 1 of making more effective use of our space. And the first step was to do something that many of us veterans have talked about for years: reorganizing the floors so the project teams sit together. I was a little surprised to hear this, as I honestly thought that the idea had been so thoroughly squashed as to not even render a single drop of whine. We were outlined the almost laughably short timeline under which it would take place, and that no-one would officially know until the week before it took place.
(The irony was that most people already knew — even before I was told, so I gather. It was one rumour I hadn’t heard before hearing official notice.)
The trickiest part was that we had to sort out the seating plans so administration could rearrange phones and network connections. (The sad part is most people around here seem to only grudgingly acknowledge the Herculean tasks that Administration regularly pulls off without anyone noticing.) “Tricky” because most people had their own thoughts of where they wanted to sit. The task of setting the seating plan, however, would be left to the team leads, to minimize the inevitable cacophony over who was sitting where.
Originally, my business unit was to stay on the second floor. Fine for me, as I’ve been there for years. Creative, however, wasn’t so keen on that. As a result of discussions with Misch and Jason, we figured out a plan that would work … and would give me one of the choicest seats on the floor. (I can rationalize nearly anything. Especially when I can get something good out of it.)
Lest you think I purposely positioned myself to get the best seat, here’s the reality: I wanted to merge our team members, putting PM next to developer next to designer. In my oh-so-educated [insert sarcasm here] view, it was the best way to try and get projects running, by letting people learn from each other across disciplines and departments. That’s what I wanted … but I knew it was going to be a hard sell. Mostly because I’m the only one who wanted it. So we grouped by department, and the most convenient grouping happened to put the Technology group into the southwest corner. Looking at the desk plan, it just made sense to put me in the corner.
Then we had a business unit rearrangement. Dell’s been getting bigger and bigger, and finally (like Mercedes-Benz and Rolex before it) be ejected into its own business unit. But it wasn’t just as simple as moving an account. It meant people had to be moved to handle the movement of the other accounts. It meant the Rolex team had to move — we were bumped to the third floor. And we had to make a very quick replanning to handle the team’s movement up one floor. As it stands, we more-or-less moved straight up one floor. And due to fortunate happenstance, I managed to snag the corner desk again. Two windows. Goregous view (compared to what I used to have, anyway). And way too much space.
When we left on Friday, everything packed up and labelled, I questioned whether or not this move would go truly smoothly. My key concern was for things like the side tables. They’re hot property around the office, and as soon as one becomes available it’s snapped up. Sure enough, when I arrived on Monday, it was clear that monkey business had ensued in the hours before I arrived. I have no idea exactly what happened, but I sure heard about it.
The other thing I’m sure I’m going to hear about is the extra space I’ve ended up with. There’s a good desk’s worth of space between my desk and Jim and Scott’s. Someone’s gonna complain about that, I know. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having someone else in there. It’s too open. I just don’t know who would want that space. Frankly, I’m amazed Jason let me have it. He claimed it was a concession for us having to come to the third floor. Like moving into the best floor of the building is a concession into itself.
Overall, the move is a good thing (irrespective of my desk location). I think it’ll help the teams work better, even if it means departments suffer a bit as a result. But since our end product is work for our clients, not for ourselves, I think it’ll go to help the movement. But like many things, only time will tell.