Sunday, July 29, 2001

All the books I've been reading lately have been to do with self-improvement. Technical books (which is as much a hobby thing as it is work-related), philosophical books, financial independance books and the like. I think I'm trying to make up for the challenge and growth that's not happening at work. I'm way too young for a mid-life crisis. Maybe I'm just an early bloomer.

One area I could stand some improvement is social awareness. There are some social situations that have been developing around me lately to which I have been totally oblivious. Someone pointed one of these out to me today and I ended up figuratively slapping my forehead once it was stated. I have never been plugged in to the gossip undercurrents - times that I do note something and pass it on to my reliable sources (trying to show I'm somewhat with it), I get a comment to the effect of, "... and you're just seeing this now?"

A buddy was mentioning that those in the know should start a Clues-For-The-Clueless mailing list to keep us hapless souls from saying or doing inappropriate things as we deal with the more socially nimble. I'd subscribe to a list like that. I'd even be willing to hire a personal trainer to follow me around and make note of the barrage of social interaction that seems to be going on about a foot over my head - they could gently guide me towards interpersonal conciousness.

Then again, maybe it's just a guy thing.


I am planning to sit down with a good fictional novel during my upcoming vacation (I'm off to Vancouver Island for two weeks). I've had a novel recommended to me - it's called Larry's Party. It's about a guy who fumbles his way through life and ends up being quite successful, even though he doesn't mean to be. He just rolls with whatever comes his way, dabbling in things that interest him while this flurry of extraneous activity shapes his life. It could be a story all about me. I am not following some carefully laid out life map - I am much more the type that seizes the quick random opportunities that fall in front of me from out of the sky. I don't feel that life is prepackaged and predictable enough to follow a carefully conceived forty-year plan. People that get wound up in following a plan are missing out on adventures. It really is the adventures in your life that stand out, isn't it? It's through the adventures, through going beyond what you think you can do/handle/take that you grow and remember.

Keep that in mind next time someone comes up and plants some harebrained idea in your head that you should run away and join the circus. You might just learn something, hanging from your knees.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

My goodness, another blogger amongst us. Who'd have ever thunk it? She seems so mild-mannered, so proper, so unassuming ... who knew the measure of the beast that lurked within?

Well, dearie, you're part of my required daily reading now.
Banana used the word "disgruntled" at the breakfast table today. I asked her if she knew what it meant. She said, "It kind of means angry, but I like saying 'disgruntled' instead. It's a better word."

A girl after my own heart.

By the way, I'm doing a grammar sweep through my blog today at lunch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

I found out they canned one of my buddies on Monday - He was the one that I met in London to open the office with there. He was always a pessimist, but a genuinely nice and caring guy. I hope he finds something interesting and fun to do. I hope I find something like that, too.


I'm feeling like a crappy boss today. I hope that my crew feels challenged enough. I want them to think that their time here was a growing opportunity and not just time and effort that are being thrown away. As much as many of us say that we are being paid and we don't care (within boundaries) what we have to do for this company, I think everybody wants to see their effort go towards something positive and effectual. It just doesn't feel like that is happening anymore.

One of the managers that's staying after the rest of the Calgary office is shut down said that he's noticed many of the employees here have "mentally checked out already." Those that have "checked out" are doing that out of mental self-defence. Otherwise, they'd all be wandering around thinking, "What did I do to cause this thing to tank?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2001 got a re-vamp last night. It now looks like it was put together using the same template, at the same time, by the same person. I have to admit, I plagiarized heavily from the original blog template that Blogger offered, but hey, it looks very snazzy, don't you think?

Friday, July 20, 2001

You can view the results of my cynicism poll if you'd like.
A Compiled List of First-Thing-in-the-Morning Thoughts
  • where am I?
  • I can snooze for ten more minutes
  • what's that smell?
  • is it raining?
  • How is it possible to work hard at a job that you could do in your sleep? Doesn't working hard imply having to think?
  • I wonder if she wants to ... (!!)
  • my mouth tastes awful
  • what is he doing here?
  • (singing along with the radio song)
  • I feel so much better
  • god damn phone!!!
  • god damn dog!!!
  • already?
  • oh no, not again ...
  • I am never going to move
  • my arm is asleep!
  • where am i? ( this is usually followed by - why am i on the bathroom floor?)
  • why must i be a drooler?
  • i cant feel my legs! no - wait - there they are.
  • ouch.
  • why am I in this tub full of ice, and what does this note on my chest say?
  • good morning cruel world

It isn't too late to add your first thoughts to the pile! The whole idea is to tell me what is the first thing that came into your head as you woke up this morning.

Editor's Note: People kept coming back to this post, reading the note and adding new thoughts. I had NO idea it would be so popular. Instead of me having to keep coming back to this entry and editing it, I moved the list to it's own page.

Thanks for understanding.

Ever got nostalgic playing a video game? It happened to me tonight. I had some buddies over and was showing them Midtown Madness. It comes with two cityscapes to drive through - San Francisco and London. As I was tearing through the streets of London, I took a turn down Oxford street and was travelling along the route I walked to work when I went over to set up the London EyeWire office. I slowed down and began to look for familiar landmarks; they weren't there on the screen, but they were as vivid in my memory as if I was actually there. I clearly remember the days when I was there, creating this funky, cool office, working with Steve the Contractor, who had built the Spice Girls administrative office (honest!) there in London. Designing the technical aspects of that office had its challenges, but it was something cool that we (Don, the office manager, and I) had built out of nothing. It was a really good feeling to have created that space, and to be there, totally focused on work - no distractions, no family, no outside commitments, .... It was a second shot at being a fancy-free youth. I can't believe that it was only three years (and a few months) ago that I was there.

I have nothing but good memories of that place. (sigh ....)

Thursday, July 19, 2001

True Story: An employee comes into my office for the sole purpose of saying goodbye for the evening, and puts a bottle (2/3 full) of apple juice on my desk. He says, "I just added a bit of this to my glass of water today - I didn't drink from it. You can have it." The container has what looks all the world to be like apple juice.

The words, "Do Not Consume If the Seal Has Been Broken" readily spring to mind. It's a good philosophy and has served me well in the past.

Am I a Cynic? You be the judge.

Monday, July 16, 2001

We may be all getting laid off in a few months, but we have a slushie machine in our company lunch room for the next week.

Top that.
Step 5: Secure the cleat to the bottom of the shoe by passing the bolt through the cleat, into the cleat slot, and fasten to the shank with the cleat nuts.

Cleat nuts? What do you MEAN I need cleat nuts? There weren't any in the box!

Saturday, July 14, 2001

What a productive day - housecleaning, auto repair, horticultural bliss and the impending return of my family from Montreal and Quebec City.

Today included a trip to Pick Your Part, a local auto wreckers where you go into a great field of wrecked cars, try and locate a wreck with compatible parts (hopefully in working order) to what you need, and wrestle the said parts from the wreck. You then carry/drag the item to the exit where you pay according to some obscure formula of weight/size/condition of the item. The main building had a bright, family-oriented atmosphere, and it looks like they often cater to newbies to the wrecking scene like me. I walked into the main building (entrance and exit to the yard) and and was greeted with clear signage showing where to go to get tool boxes inspected and/or customer assistance. I walked up to a 16 year old clerk in overalls and automotive grease from fingertip to elbow and asked him how I could get a radio for a 1990 Ford Aerostar and how much it would cost.

"Radios are fifteen bucks, but they're hen's teeth, man. Out the door, second sign on your left."

I went through building, past the tool rental desk and consession stand (that looked amazingly clean considering it's clientelle) into the yard. I walked down a long (several hundred metres) center aisle, with rows on either side of vehicles (cars, trucks and vans) sorted by make. They were balanced on blocks, making all parts of the car (top, sides and bottom) easily accessible. Most of the cars had various doors, seats, and trim missing. I found the Ford section just where he said it would be and began to look for an Aerostar of my vintage. There were families there with young (down to preschool) kids wandering about, while dads (and sometimes moms) worked to extract their prize from a wreck. Everyone seemed quite happy to be there and getting the parts themselves. I know that I get a certain satisfaction from recycling, and really, that's what we were all doing there. We were also there to save money - a new radio of the same calibre as the one I was after would cost upwards of two hundred dollars.

The clerk/mechanic was right - all the Aerostars I found had the radios stripped out. I resorted to looking for any type of Ford that was the same vintage, assuming that Ford would want to make the radios of all Fords in the same year compatible, thereby reducing the number of types of different radios they'd have to have built. I was right - a 1989 Mercury Sable (Ford product) looked like it was a a recent addition to the yard. I checked and, sure enough, the radio was in tact and had all the features I wanted. I managed to get the radio out and examined the wiring harness on the back. It looked identical to what I had in the van, which meant I wouldn't have to splice wires - I could just plug it in and (theoretically) it would work.

Twenty minutes and sixteen dollars and change later, I have a new radio that I easily installed myself. It even has a 90 day warranty. I'm sooooo pleased with myself.


I had the strangest feeling as I prepared to mow the lawn. I went into the shed in the back yard, pulled out the lawn mower (careful not to knock over my trusty mountain bike), grabbed a garbage bag for grass clippings (almost a fresh box of 'em in the shed) and the spiffy stand that holds the bag open for me and the gas can. As I was filling the lawn mower with gas, I realized that I had everything in front of me and in working order that I needed to do the task at hand. From there, I did a mental search for items on my "need to have" list and came up completely dry.

I've got everything I need. Even the list of "things I want" is growing thin. Oh no - what am I going to do for the next fifty years?


I haven't got my pedals on my bike, but that *should* happen tomorrow.

Time to go pick up the family from the airport!

Thursday, July 12, 2001

It's Sports Equipment Acquisition Week for me. I was driving by a ski shop and saw that they were clearing out some demo skis. I picked up a set of skis and boots for about 40% of their original price. The boots fit properly, and the skis are yellow. That pleases me greatly.

I also bought some new clipless pedals for my bike (something I've wanted to have for the past 12 years) as I am riding my bike more these days. I didn't get a chance to put them on my bike, as I had a surprise BBQ dinner to go to last night (surprise because I totally forgot about it). My mom had an grade school friend come to visit from Wales, and booked me about a month ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

It's quiet here tonight. Almost ... too quiet.

Our company's stock is tanking badly today. How bad is "badly" you ask? 25% of its value lost in 2 hours of trading. In reaction to this, of course, our CEO announced that we will be firing about 350 people. I'm sure that this will inspire those left behind to dedicate themselves even more to the company. I wonder how many of those 350 people will be managers? I wonder how many meetings this layoff decision will produce? I wonder when our CEO will pull his head out and have a look around at what is going on?

It's indecision of upper management, not focusing on what's profitable (sell what you own, not what you get commission on) and endless, boring bloody meetings (often with NO AGENDA - how big a mistake is that?) that are doing us in. We are supposed to be nimble and fast, but we can't get up enough momentum to go anywhere. At this point, I'd be happy to be running, even if it were to the wrong end goal.

And tell the development team to quit buggering around with useless changes to the websites that the customer didn't ask for. Only put out a release of the website when it does something new for the customer.

Monday, July 09, 2001

There's nothing like adding a form to irreversably screw up the formatting of your blog.


Time's UP! Pencils down.

Last week, I asked you to keep track of what your first thought was as you awoke each morning. Let me know what they were. If I share them here, I promise I won't say who said what. Remember, there's a prize for the the most interesting ones.

Here were my first thoughts (separated by semicolons or commas):
e-mail (optional):

All Done! Now, just

Thanks for the info.

Thanks for the info.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

My youngest daughter, McMonkey, is driving me nuts lately. I never thought I'd want a mindful child (i.e. having her do as I say, not as she pleases) but it sure would be nice if she were that way. It seems that the more I push her to do things, the more that she finds other ways to do as she pleases that follow the letter, rather than the spirit of what I've asked. Either that, or she makes excuses for acting against my wishes.

Case in point: going to bed when I've asked her. She makes a game of staying up late (bragging the next morning that she "tried" to stay up to midnight, or 11:30, or some other time) even though I've tried to discourage her from staying up late. I explain that I don't want her to stay up, siting reasons like her being tired will make her grumpy, even threatening to not let her have friends over, etc., but it doesn't seem to stick with her. We have a bedtime routine of putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a story, lights out and then going to sleep, but she will often come out and "visit" me or Jennifer several times after lights out time. Even if I am dead tired and zonk out as soon as the kids are in bed, she will come and visit. This and all the other little things - not wanting to help with household chores, keeping the TV off (we have limited TV time every day) - are all combining to make me feel like I am losing my ability to raise and discipline this child. Barbara Coloroso, where are you when I need you?

Friday, July 06, 2001

McMonkey told me that when I pass wind, it smells like bacon. BACON?!?


I want to start riding my bike more and driving less. I must be going through some sort of phase.

Thursday, July 05, 2001

This evening was another hectic evening, not unlike the rest of my life, where I left work and went to pick up my daughters at their after-school activity. They are both in the parade tomorrow morning, which meant that we had some errands to do after I picked them up. As we were driving around, we were all getting a bit grumpy - it was 7 pm and we hadn't had dinner (they have an after-school snack at about 3:30 pm - I don't starve my kids, don't worry). My hunger, distance from the house and laziness combined to make me decide to stop at McDonalds to get some mediocre but filling sustenance. As soon as we got into the place, my youngest daughter, warily (because she knows it is an anger trigger for me) said, "Dad, I know you don't like me getting Happy Meals because of the toy, but I just want to see if they have the necklace today." That did it. I am so tired of my kids being a target market for the big advertising machine that I gently suggested that we go somewhere else to grab a bite, and my kids took the easy road and agreed.

It didn't help that I saw a poster from adbusters today that had a picture of a one year old child in a brightly colored McDonalds bib and a bonnet adorned with an image of french fries. The caption read "If we can hook them, get them between the ages of two and eight, they're guaranteed to be consumers for life." I saw my kids as consumers of this crap, wanting to go to McDonalds because they knew that there was a toy there - not because of the taste, quality or nutrition of the food that they were going to get there. Toys should be offered in toy stores, food in restaurants. Ne'er the two should meet. I don't allow my kids to bring toys to the table of my own house - why would I want them to be coerced into settling for crappy food just to get some cheap, plastic throw-away item that I'll step on with bare feet as I make my way down the stairs in the middle of the night?


As you can probably tell, I'm more than a little disenfranchised (no pun intended) with big business and advertising these days.

We ended up stopping at a locally owned, non-franchised drive-in on the way home and buying milkshakes, then going home and cooking up a Chez Collins dinner. I felt much better about that.

Did you see the movie, Best in Show? Did you get it?

Shows like this (that walk that thin line between plausible and parody) keep me cheerfully cynical and give me cases of the giggles for weeks afterwards.

I know lots of people that couldn't tell it from a real documentary. That's scary.

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

Hey! Dave Irwin's OK. Lucky guy.
September, September, September. I keep hearing that month. What the hell is so relavent about September?

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

I found an excellent HTML cheatsheet that trounces WebMonkey's cheet sheet. Maybe now I can stop bugging all them smart HTML gurus that I know.
I just finished a fabulously sunny, mostly relaxing long weekend. I had very few family obligatory duties. Our home was kid central, as we had invitees over for sleepovers *and* had a tent-campout in the back yard on Sunday night (Canada Day weekend, you know, and the kids are out of school for the summer anyway). I put a good dent in the useless junk that exists in our garage throwing out a good portion of old files, broken computer equipment and office stuff that I've been carting around for years from house to house. We're getting ready for a Garbage Sale at the end of July, and what a sale it is going to be. I've jettisoned most of the useless junk, leaving only the high-quality, ultra-usable junk. Stop by and I'll cut you a deal.

I even got a little quality hammock time in on Monday as the weather was being sooo cooperative.


I've been cranky lately, and I can't put my finger on the reason why. It could be the amount of travelling Jennifer is doing these days, but I don't think so. I think it has to do with thoughts of work creeping into my weekend (maybe creeps working into my weekend?). I'm still chronically resentful about Seattle shutting down our office. The last week has seen much of my responsibility move to Seattle, leaving me very little to worry about (I think) other than to support to the end or Calgary brethren. In the past weeks, I've seen hints and glimmers of what my group was capable of - speedy, thorough implementations; responsive action to crises; responsible helpful action ... it's a shame that the only thing that I can give my team to focus on is a decisive blow to a nail in the coffin, and only then are the blows allowed to fall when Seattle deems themselves "ready".

I hope that going through this personally makes my more empathetic if I have to decide to and then direct another group down the office-closure path.


By the way, how's your homework coming along?