Thursday, May 31, 2001

I went to an interview on Tuesday to (once again) start my search for the perfect job. Aside from a bone-headed headhunter who gave me the wrong address for the interview (I was ten minutes late and suitably stressed because of it) the interview seemed pretty normal. Oil company big technology boss was looking for a right hand man. He seemed nice enough, but very formally casual in dresspants and a tie (with the suit jacket back in his office, probably), under the gun and looking slightly annoyed that I was late. I knew the interview was going to be rushed when the interviewer said that he had a meeting right after the half-hour (now twenty minute) interview. Sure enough, just as it was getting interesting, he got a call on the omnipresent cell phone and said, "No, I won't be long, just a couple of minutes." snap - the cel phone is shut - Then, back to me - "So, do you have any questions?"


He told me I was one of seven applicants, and they would get back to the agency if they wanted me to come for a second interview.

After the interview, I left the small meeting room on the forty-second floor of this monolith of a building, walked past the executive's secretary who seemed very stiff and proper, got on the elevator and cursed the day that Jonathan Klein decided to take over the place at which I used to love to work.

Monday, May 28, 2001


Busy class.

Racing fun, but I skinned my camera.

Today, I am off to another Microsoft technical class. After class I'll catch up with my EyeWire compadres at a team-building event of racing noisy, fume-spewing go karts around an indoor track in the spirit of Ben Hur, where we all try to emerge, victorious, over each other.

Film at eleven.
Sunday night marked the end of an era for the Collins family. As I was putting McMonkey, my youngest daughter, to bed, we were talking about her latest wriggly tooth. It caused her to mention the Tooth Fairy and the impending coin she'd find under her pillow when the tooth finally came out. Then I got the straight, level question.

"Parents are the ones who put out presents from Santa Claus, right?"

I had dodged this question for a while ("The presents must come from somewhere, right?"), but this was it. Point blank, nowhere to run, straight answer expected. So I gave it to her. I told her my version of the story (even though it's not the most accurate). I explained that many years ago, even before her grandparents have been alive, there was a guy named Nicholas who gave presents to children just because he knew they needed them. I said that he did it for a long time, for lots of children. I told her that the story of this really good person had spread to so many places and families that after a while, there was no one person that could do what Nicholas was supposed to do - give to all the people who wanted or needed gifts as Christmas time. For that reason, adults and people that *could* give gifts, gave gifts to each other from Saint Nicholas, or Santa. Eventually, Nicholas himself became too old to visit and leave presents for kids that he knew, and so the parents, brothers and sisters took up his tradition of giving gifts. When he died, his spirit of giving and the memory of his gifts had become the spirit of giving at Christmas time.

I then made her promise that now that she knew that Santa was no longer a live person and was just the spirit of giving, she had to help this spirit. That meant letting people believe in Santa until they could understand about helping Santa's work to be done. It also meant doing the work of being generous and giving to those who need it without expecting thanks. She put her hand on her heart, looked me steadily in the eye and promised she would. I gave her a big hug after that.


I struggle with deceiving children, even if it is about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. The way I direct myself out of this moral dilemma (keeping up the legend versus always giving your kids the straight poop) is by telling myself that you should only give kids as much information as they can handle. Giving anonymous gifts in the spirit of goodwill is a pretty abstract concept for most kids to grasp. The Santa Claus legend (this magic guy that no one sees that gives gifts for no reason) is a nice placeholder. Kinda like how most organized religions (in their purest forms) are a nice place holder for the true meaning of spirituality. They will do until we are mature enough to grasp what's *really* going on. Get me drunk sometime (or even just corner me when I'm comfortable) and I'd love to discuss this theory with you.

And don't get me started about how our society of consumerism has twisted the legend of Santa Claus into this high-pressure, greed-inducing spectre of the Christmas season. That's a whole different rant.

Sunday, May 27, 2001

Yesterday, saturday, was another lovely day (are you getting tired of reading about the lovely ones?).

It included a fresh 'do for the interview in Tuesday; two hours of uniterrupted Sean Music driving to and from Banff; a hike in Banff that was not enough to wear me out but certainly enough to fill my soul with some nature; a barbeque with the guys from work where I had a chance to show off my chilluns; a few Harp Lagers, some delicious food and excellent conversation; a evening movie on Gabe's version of the Imax; and finally some fun with a felt marker and a coworker too drunk to know better.

Life is good sometimes.

Well, most of the time.

Friday, May 25, 2001

What a beautiful day for a field trip. Banana's class is going to the local bird sanctuary, and I wish I was going with her. I'm going to compensate for it by escaping to the mountains tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Well, today didn't turn out to be interview day. The guy that was supposed to interview me postponed the interview until next week (Tuesday). The interview is with an oil-and-gas company here in Calgary. From what I've heard, they are a progressive, dynamic (as far as oil companies go) place to be. I'm not sure that I'd jump from here just yet - the package that's being offered to those who stay until the end is pretty juicy. I just want to keep my options open. I also want people in the company to be aware that the "looking around" process should still be going on.

Next week I am off to *another* Microsoft certification course. I am quickly getting as much training as I can to increase my market value. The courses have been helpful in understanding how this whole Windows 2000 platform works - I'd have been reading and re-reading for weeks to get as far as I have after 5 days of lecture and labs.

Monday, May 21, 2001

I've got an interview tomorrow. It's gonna scare the peanut butter out of some folks to see me in a suit. He he.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

I have an entry on arrogant people rolling around in my head, but I really should get some sleep.

Everybody at work got the word today on when their last day in the saddle would be. The place is closing on March 31, 2002, but I think there will be a big drop in activity around here by September 31st, when many of the departments will have off-loaded their duties to Seattle. I am glad that people are taking it well and now starting to plan for the future. The compensation packages that were offered were fair, so everybody is going to just stick it in their pockets and go on their ways. I wish that we all got to go at once, so we could shake hands, hug, get on the bus and head our separate ways. Instead, it is going to be a long, drawn-out process. It's going to really suck to be one of the ones that has to stay and clean up after the party.

One group that is staying on in Calgary as a lone Getty bastion are the web developers. In talking to some of them, they feel like they are the ones getting the raw deal (staying behind to code, while the rest of the gang heads for new and interesting stuff). When all the designer and non-programmer types are gone, the atmosphere at the office will be drastically different. I hope their boss can keep them all in good spirits.

I'm off to the last day of my Windows2000 class tomorrow. I also get to find out how much junk I bought at the auction at work.

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Before I toddle off to bed, I would like to pay tribute to one of the pioneers of the blog, even before there was such a thing as blogging - Andrew Hicks. Somehow, I was made aware of his online diary (perhaps through a forwarded e-mail that bore his web address) back in 1994, when the web was just a shiny new thing to most of us. He was candid, amusing, and apparently in possession of *lots* of free time, as his diary entries had to be coded by hand. I remember looking forward to his e-mails (it was a mailing list before it was a web site), wondering what was up next with this young Missouri college student.

His journal entries were usually witty, politically incorrect, biased, honest. I thought that if I had the time someday, I could pen classics like Hatemail 101 and McDonalds Orientation. Well, just look at me now.

I spent the whole day cramming my head full of Microsoft propaganda, raced through the practical lab exercises with Will B. Arrogant, the over-qualified and under-personalitied instructor, ran back to work (which doubles for the set of Dazed and Confused these days) and read e-mail, drove home to cook dinner (yummy Caesar salad and potstickers), then finally got a chance to go downstairs and created my very first animated gif! I'm so proud!
I am a stone trying to soak up water at a computer course today, and my lab partner isn't helping. She's been pretty non-porous for the whole course.

"I just don't understand this section. We probably won't need to use this 'permissions' thingy in our jobs, anyway."


Tuesday, May 15, 2001

I found something at the grocery store that just made my day - a simple brass sprinkler. I've been on the lookout for a new sprinkler, as we have one of the percussion types which works great in an arc, but not so great in a small area. I have been looking for a handy, simple sprinkler for some time now - did you know Canadian Tire has 44 different types of sprinklers?

This little fella (that I found for $3.50) is a straight diffuser. It has no moving parts so it won't ever break through use, and you ALWAYS know which way it is going to start spraying - straight up. Due to the pattern in the top, it just diffuses the water in a nice rectangular shape, and I can control the volume (and hence the size of the rectangle) at the faucet. It is small and therefore won't take up much space in the tool shed, and has a heavy and wide-enough base to land with a satisfying but inaudible thunk when dropped onto the grass.

Hail my newfound garden implement. It will be serving me long into my senior years, and may even be an item that my children need to dispose of when dividing up my worldly possessions upon my demise.

Sometimes it's the simple things that please you.
Water shirt tomatoes blue cool kick fresh storm ride awake Potter class unopened calm lazy affluent sandwich clean attentive amusement drink happy goosebumps add tight grey produce wobbly sprinkler quiet braggart separate.

Sunday, May 13, 2001

I bought an authentic IBM Model 30 (80286 processor) with monitor, keyboard and *original cables* today for $10. I am so dead when Jennifer gets back from her trip.
My brother and his garage band, Ed, were playing at a hockey team year-end party this evening. The place they were playing was an acreage of one of the team members, way the hell (now there's a Canadian redneck expression) out southwest of Calgary. I haven't seen my brother play recently (perhaps due to the fact that his band does two, maybe three gigs a year) and so I decided to go take in the event. I talked to his wife about where the gig was being held. After telling where it was, she remarked that she and their 11 year old daughter were going out there. I thought it would be a good idea to take my kids too (Jenn is out of town).

It turned out to be a great idea. The kids that live on the acreage have a swingset, waterguns, a trampoline, bicycles, go karts, dogs, cats, a huge back yard and very, very little parental supervision. Being out on an acreage that is twenty minutes from the secondary highway down a gravel road, you get a sense of seclusion and a feeling of being the only one around for miles. For this reason, I felt free to let my kids run loose with the others, play in the woods, leave my sight for a hour at a time and just wear themselves out in the fresh air.

Kids need the freedom to be kids, and often the paranoia that has crept into parent's lives (which sometimes is justifiable) can throw a wet blanket on the kids' need to be independant and hamper the development of their ability to amuse themselves. In the search for safety for our little charges, parents carefully schedule them into instructor-led activities in controlled, risk-limited environments. Children are handed things, told how to act, where to go, what to use, what not to touch, how to behave, when to speak, and on and on. This can't be good for a child's natural creativity. Having the freedom to run wild for a while probably did them a world of good. I notice that my daughters do get owly if they do not get enough free space and time.

So, when my kids immediately bounded out of the car and headed straight for the gang of kids (all but one they had never met before), it made me wonder if I shouldn't be living in a place just like this. I also wonder how long it would take for them to miss their badminton lessons if they just had the racquets and shuttlecocks in a shed somewhere and could play when they felt they wanted to learn.

Probably be really, really poor high-speed Internet access out there, though, and one looooong commute.

Saturday, May 12, 2001

Words that are extremely fun to say:
  • juxtapose
  • foobar
  • Abu Dhabi
  • Koozbane (the the planet where muppet aliens come from)
  • omicron
  • enchillada
  • persnickety

Send me yours and I'll add 'em to the list.

Thursday, May 10, 2001

Did you notice that I never write about playing the piano any more?

Wednesday, May 09, 2001

OK, this time I mean it. I'm calm. I know I said I was before, and there was this flair up, but this time, I really think I'm OK.

I mean, it's not like they're doing this to personally persecute us. It's their strategy, and that's how they keep the wheels turning. It's worked before and it will work again. There's probably a lineup of small, struggling companies that would *love* to be wooed by BigCo. If it was such a bad thing, why did we celebrate when EyeWire was bought? Has any one of us conscientious objectors given up our stock options because the company was evil?

Uhh huh. Thought so. Me neither.

Yah, we did it better. Yah, they're gonna screw it up. It's like making sandcastles, kids. People enjoyed what we did, we all had fun, made heaps of creative folk happy and learned an immeasureable amount, but now it's time for the waves to do their work.

Tell people about what you helped make. Tell people that you had the time of your life doing it, too. Tell them that you couldn't wait to get to the office to work on it, that the challenges and inspirations and frustrations and failures that it brought about hand-jived with your creativity until new ways of making things better came forth. Tell them your colleagues were unique, thought-provoking and sometimes mentally exhausting to work with. Tell them that every one of the friends that you invited (yes, invited) to your office used "cool" or "funky" to refer to the environment, and even the feel of the office was invigorating. Taking pictures never do it justice, either - just hold the image, the sensation of what it was, dear to your heart.

Use the warmth of that memory to keep you going while you look for a new place (or to shield you as you put away the mess that remains at that old place). Time will be kind to the memories of those you sparred with. Spread some of that uniqueness that was our company (because you are the company) to all the places that you end up visiting.

Jeez, listen to me. I think I gotta learn to lighten up a little.
Yoo hoo, you other managers that are still a part of the mothership, please wait until the body is cold before you start shovelling dirt.

Is morality and respect any part of business in North America? Fifty bucks to anyone who can show me a company in North America with more than a hundred employees that acts morally. I know my money is safe, and at the same time, I'm saddened.
Swirl pop kleenex cold phone paper capital plane buzz book buy smooth clear long fish stare green read chocolate anxious windy grass shiny anger concrete woman cash straight cheese drive check.
OK, OK, I've calmed down now.

Monday, May 07, 2001

Calgary, AB: In a brilliant business decision today, Getty Images, a Seattle-based stock photography company, has decided to shut down operations of their Calgary office. This office was, at one time, home to, an up-and-coming threat to their main brand, PhotoDisc. It could be speculated that Getty Images made the purchase in 1999 with full intention to cripple this adept, agile company with bureaucracy, break down internal communications and team spirit and then enviscerate the remnants so no threat remained. It is rumoured that plans were announced to remove a few key components immediately and then allow the rest of the company to slowly whither on the vine.

Our office is going away. Shitty, shitty, shitty for everyone here. Mourn the death of a wonderful thing.

Sunday, May 06, 2001

A bike ride was the order of the day today.

I caught up with an old buddy at a local coffee shop (which is really weird 'cause I don't drink coffee) and among other things, we were going over what we did with our free time. He said that he hasn't been skiing much this winter because no one has been available to go up with him. "Funny," I thought, "I often go skiing for the specific reason that no one can go with me." As his wife often travels and the two of them are childless (correllation? perhaps. :-) ) he has all the privacy and solitude he can eat. He doesn't even work right now - I bet that on most days he has to look for another human to interact with. In my case, I'm boss, dad, husband, son, acquaintence, subordinate, fixer, defender, pedestrian, the guy who needs to buy stuff, a sympathetic ear, consumer and even the asshole in the other car, sometimes all within twelve hours.

Once a month, I make a point of taking a day off and bugging out, being totally alone and enjoying solitude. I find that it gives me time to clear my head of others' thoughts and demands, listen to myself and consider what I want and need. I had some of that "alone time" during the skiing junket I did in March, and I enjoyed my solitary ride home from the coffee shop for that reason, too. It was during one of these little outings that I came up with my own personal bill of rights. It listed things that I needed and demanded to be a healthy, happy individual. I *could* list my own personal items here, but I don't think I will. I'll give you a few categories to get you started - feel free to add any of your own.
  • physical needs (diet; exercise; physical growth and comfort stuff)
  • emotional needs (respect; personal time; chances for growth)
  • intellectual needs (mental exercise; chances for learning; stimulation; time with certain types of friends)
  • spiritual needs (even if you are not a church-going person, especially if you are not a church-going person, these are important)
  • relationship needs (ties into emotional needs but focuses on how you give and take from others)

I fould it was worth the effort to create a list. I made it quantitative (with measurable amounts) and work hard to stick to it - I think it makes me a better person ... and not just feel better. If you make a list for yourself, you'll probably find that it gives you permission (from yourself) to do some things that your instinct has been nagging you to do for some time.

To top off the day nicely, I made a lovely caeser salad and I didn't burn the chicken on the barbeque.

Saturday, May 05, 2001

I had a nice chat with some ex-work buddies today, and it really cheered me up. We have some very rough waters coming up at work. Some of those buddies felt that they copped out because they didn't stick around to deal with the stooges. I remind them that by not sticking around, they kept from being one of the stooges, or (worse yet) one of the stooges' henchmen.

Yes, a learning experience this has been. And when all the hand-wringing and shouting and political posturing is done, I get to go home every day and play with my kids. Kinda puts it all in perspective.

Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Whatever you do, don't click here.

Or here.
Sorry Howie. I knew I'd seen the "Blog Jam" pun somewhere. You know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.