Category: Work

Starting Over

In just over one week, we pack everything we own into a 6×12 trailer and drive across the country to our new home in BC. When we land, we’ll land with family, but land jobless and probably tired.

We would leave behind family and friends, our own home and jobs that no longer exist.

It’s both terrifying and exciting, and I can’t wait to start the journey.

Tara and I have been planning this for more or less two years. It was during a dog walk in February, I think it was about -30 outside, when we both looked at each other and said “Who the hell colonized this area?!?” When we got home we spitballed the idea of moving out west, the money we would save and the future we could create. It was supposed to be a 5 year plan; we would live on my salary and bank anything Tara made, then move back and try to buy a house outright.

It was a good plan, and would have likely worked really well. So we got moving on it. We had someone come in to give us an assessment, and then we planned to make some improvements ourselves to squeeze a little more out of the market. Tara got pregnant, the improvements took longer than we thought, and time marched on.

Then it all really came to a head during Christmas. We flew out to BC to spend time with Tara’s family and realized that this was the place we wanted to be. So when we got home we committed ourselves to make this work. And we did, off and on, make it all work. There were some setbacks(flooring mostly) and we got on the market a little later then we planned.

Oh, and I got laid off from work(my last day is 3 days away) so that kind of put the fear of the future in us. But we got on the market, and with what we did, the market responded by having us sell our house in two days.

Two Days!

All of a sudden we were “This is really happening, holy crap, what do we do next?”

And that’s how the last month has been. Sorting and packing, letting go of things and arranging travel across the country.

That’s part of the exiting bit. We’re gonna drive, and it’s going to be great.

We’ve planned out about 7-8 days of driving across the country as I don’t think the kids can take 12 hour drives just yet. It’ll take us a little over three days to get out of the province and then the same amount of time to make it across the rest of the country. We’ll see Northern Ontario, the plains, the Rockies, all in a weeks time. And I hope, for Liam at least, it’ll be something he’ll always remember.

The whole lack of job thing does worry me. But not worried enough to put the brakes on everything. In fact, it makes more sense to get out there now so that I don’t have a whole house to support. The utilities are cheaper out in BC, and the rent isn’t bad either. So we’ll be able to make the money stretch out a little longer if we have to. I don’t see it taking too long for me to find something as there is a good IT industry out there, and who knows, I could end up working in the movie industry(a boy can dream!).

I’ll be trying to post here more often, but things like twitter/facebook/instegram make life so much faster and easier, so look there as well.

Brazil Day 3 and 4

I’ve gotten a little behind as I was writing these at night in the hotel room.

Day 3 ended with “happy hour” as it was the best way they could put it. It just meant we went out to snag some drinks and something to eat. As I am in Brazil, I would like to take in the cultural things that other Brazilians do(that needed some work). They all knew this and suggested some strong booze that would be typical Brazilian drinks. One was Caipirinha and it was a cocktail. It was rather sweet, but also really strong. I could feel the effects about half way down the drink. But after that I apparently needed a shot of their local super strong alcohol, cachaça. I think I disappointed them somewhat when I didn’t immediately pass out or make strange faces, reactions Winking smile

I mean, come on, I’m Canadian Open-mouthed smile

But the night ended well with a quick cab ride home and a call to my lovely wife.

Beyond that Day 3 was like Day 2 but with a better lunch. We headed to the local mall this time and just grabbed something from the food court. It was Brazilian style food and it didn’t cost a fortune, so we enjoyed.

Day 4 started too early. Actually, most of the mornings started too early. I’m not sure what the problem is. It could very well be that I’m just not having enough coffee. That’s one problem here. They claim that because the coffee is stronger, they use smaller cups. I call shenanigans. I’ll have two ‘cups’ in the morning and still be falling asleep in the morning cab. I eventually wake up, but it’s because I’m using my work brain a little more than usual. Which sounds silly, but when you’re being asked a barrage of questions about different aspects of the product, you have to think fast.

Day 4 started with terrible traffic(an hour to get here) but turned into a pretty typical day.

We had lunch at was best described as a typical Brazilian resturant. We ordered and shared food and I have to say it was all pretty awesome. It was mostly meat and cheese, but it was this great salted shredded pork(at least I think it was pork, it could have been beef). I’ll have to get the names to see if I can find something like it at home. I suspect not though Sad smile

After work was also pretty typical. There’s not a lot to do at this hotel other then watch TV/Movies. I got to the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones, but that was about it.

Tara, Liam and I did get to connect a little though. Skype can be a wonderful thing when it’s working correctly and not going to the wrong system. But I think that’s the problem being logged into multiple devices at a time.

I have to admit that the days are starting to blur together. Good thing I ‘m going home soon.

Don’t get me wrong, Sao Paulo is a great place, or at least what I’ve seen of it. But during the week there’s not much to do. I mean, I get off work at 6, by the time I’m catching a cab it’s 6:30, and by the time I’m at the hotel I ‘m lucky if it’s 7. That leaves a little time to connect with home, have something to eat and then, well, crash. If there were more places that were close to the hotel and open later, that would be perfect.

But ah well, that’s life Smile

Brazil Day 2

So again today I am glad I didn’t actually rent a car. What the hell was I thinking? I mean, if you brought the average Ottawa driver into the middle of Sao Paulo and let them drive somewhere, it would take about 3 minutes flat before they got into an accident. And it would have been because *they* weren’t paying attention. I have to hand it to the drivers in this city, they have their wits about them. The number of close calls I witnessed to and from work, but it all seemed so calculated, as if they meant to do that.

Still gives me shudders.

Anyway, workwise, today was an excellent day. The guys I’m training are really great and I can feel that they really appreciate me being here to give them that personal experience that you just can’t get from books and slides.

This morning was the *boring* part, the one with the most slides. We went over program features and the like and I was kinda dreading it. When it comes to learning things, I’m the guy that just has to get in there and start doing things. And I think they are too. So we’re going to work well this week.

During the *dull parts* they asked questions and we had great discussions, it really felt like being here was worth it. I mean, we could just have easily done this remotly, but I don’t think it would have turned out the same way.

So dumbass me forgot my credit card again, and this put a little crimp in lunch but it really just meant that I had to pay with cash. I didn’t want to do this as I want to use that only if I had to. Such as paying for a cab to get home. Which I had to do as well. I didn’t make any arrangements with the hotel to be picked up, and I called in the middle of rush hour so they didn’t have any cars available. And I only had $50(which isn’t a lot) so one of the other guys lent me an additional $40 and that got me home (with $30 to spare).  But it took close to an hour to get home.

So, for tomorrow, I will bring my card and my MP3 player. As I’ll need them both. The car service is good to get there, but I think the cab will be better to get home.

Right now I’m enjoying a frozen dinner and a beer, not sure how much I paid for either Smile

Brazil Day 1 (mostly)

The day really started with the trip to the airport.

No, the day really started with waking up with my wife and hearing Liam chatter on the monitor. We invited him into bed and he almost stayed for an entire 5 minutes, but wanted to head downstairs to watch Dora(or trail, or diggers, he kept changing his mind).

Then it was breakfast, pants hemming and just some last minute packing. I would like to think that, at some point in my life, I will be organized long before I actually have to do something. I don’t see that day coming anytime soon, but I like to think it’ll get here eventually.

Before we knew it we were in the car on the way to the airport. Tears were shed but goodbyes were quick(as they should be, like a bandaid) and I wandered into the terminal. The self checking thing was pretty useless(as always) but I was happy to find out I didn’t have to pay extra for my checked bag as I was just in route(American Airlines allows for two free checked bags). Not that it would have mattered, I think, as work would have covered it. I grabbed a coffee, muffin, some water(too much) and plopped down to surf and do some last minute work. The wireless at the airport takes a sec to authenticate but once it does it’s pretty quick. And little did I know it would be the last free internet access until my hotel room.

Oh, security was quick as there just wasn’t a lot of people, but I still got tagged as “random search guy” and had to go through the scanner.

I had previously setup another Skype account so that I could chat with Tara on the phone. As long as she keeps Skype running. We chatted and then off I went.

The first leg was boring, but kinda short. AC has built in screens for shows and movies. I just started to listen to music, but decided to check out the first 45 minutes of Alien. Told ya the flight was short.

Arrived in New York, tried to find out where I needed to go, found security, and was told to go back to ticketing. Security was quick as I had to ditch my extra water(didn’t expect to go through security again for some reason). And for the second time this trip had to go through the scanner. When you exit these things they show you the result, and both times, it appears there’s a problem with my head. I don’t know exactly, but a box appears on my head. Maybe an implant I don’t know about. Could be exciting! But not likely.

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That’s what I got to see of New York. I mean, I could have bought some random “I ❤ NY” stuff, but as I’ve never seen it past the airport, how do I know I ❤ NY?

The next leg was about three hours, and they didn’t have something to watch. OK, not personally anyway. There were other screens that popped down, but everyone was watching the same thing. And, as I’ve seen that episode of Parenthood already, I opted out and read. And listened to music. Because I could.

When we finally landed I thought I would be really late for my connection. I wasn’t. In fact, I so wasn’t that I got some M&Ms and a drink and just sauntered over to the gate. I’m cool like that.

I was in the last row(44G) on the isle seat. I’ve been isle seat the whole way, and I don’t mind as I don’t have to crawl over people to get to the bathroom. Not as important on a 3 hour flight, but very important on an 8 hour one. The movie selection wasn’t all that great, so I ended up watching Beautiful Creatures and Identity Theft. I can’t really recommend either, but if you had to choose, go with…reading.

They did serve us two meals. “Chicken” and breakfast. I think it was croissants, but I’ve been known to be wrong about these sorts of things.

I must have slept for about an hour, as I put on an episode of Elementary and don’t remember anything past the opening credits. That was the only sleep I got. I think I’m a little bit picky when it comes to sleeping and actually need to be comfortable.

After that was done, I hobbled through security again and found the hired taxi. I am SO glad that I didn’t end up renting a car. I wouldn’t be writing this now if I had. In fact, I would be in one of two places; lost or dead. I mean, the drivers aren’t that aggressive, but just enough to get me in trouble. That, and I had been awake for almost 24 hours. Driving in a country where I knew all the rules would be tough enough. He found the hotel easily enough, I checked in and crashed. Actually, no. I checked in and called Tara. She was happy to know I had made it in one piece(as was I) and then I let her get back to sleep(it was 6am there). Then I crashed.

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That’s the view from the hotel.

After a nap I wandered out a little. Not too far, but I was hungry. There’s an open mall attached to the hotel, and it has a Starbucks, movie theatre and some places to eat. Including a sushi place. Wonder if that’ll be dinner? Winking smile

The surrounding area was mostly closed shops. Shopping on Sundays is still not a thing here for the most part. But that’s ok. I grabbed something to eat at “New Dog” and it wasn’t what I thought I had ordered. I thought I had ordered a burger and a coke. The coke was right, but the burger ended up to be some smoked meat with a lot of cheese and a fried egg. Not bad really, and it totally hit the spot. I then headed down to something that could be a mini-grocery/variety store. It didn’t have a whole lot in terms of food, but it did have microwave popcorn. So I got some, even a bacon flavored one. I mean, why not?

Now I think I’ll do some last minute work stuff(tidy slides mostly) and then call it a day.

Habits (mostly Bad)

We all have them. Good, bad, productive or not, we all have some habits we like and some that we don’t.

I’m of the impression that I have more bad than good, but that could just be my perspective.

What got me thinking of this today was washing dishes. When I have to manually wash dishes, I’m the guy that leaves the water running so that I can wash and rinse quickly. If I have just a few things to wash then it doesn’t make sense(to me) to fill up a sink then use more water to rinse. And, if I was doing it properly, I’d save water in the long run. If I was doing it properly.

I don’t.

I have the water shooting out of that faucet at full force, all the time. That’s not the right way to do it. But, as I’ve been doing it that way since, well, forever, that’s how I start out. It’s not until I’m about half-way done that I think to lower the output to a more reasonable level. And this happens every day.

But I am thinking of the amount of water that I’m wasting and doing something about it. And slowly but surely, day by day, I turn the water down to a more reasonable level sooner and sooner in the course of washing dishes. And one day, soon I hope, I’ll start that way.

Then, knowing me, for no reason, blast it back up again. But until then, I’m working to break this habit.

Yes, that’s another bad habit; rambling. But it’s what makes me me, so I’m less likely to change that.

Productivity. That’s also a bad habit. I know that there are a lot of things that I need to do or get done, but I’m unlikely to do them unless prompted. Sadly, this is both true in work and home life.

Again, I’m trying to resolve this. I’m making more use of my iPhone for this. Scheduling reminders for various work tasks is a good start. This way both my laptop and phone beep at me at certain times of day to remind me to do something. I just hope that it doesn’t get to the point where I see these all the time and start to ignore them. But that’s part of the process I guess. Doing things on time.

Changing topics half way through writing. That’s another one. But much like rambling, that’s just not gonna change.

I wonder how many of these bad habits come down to just being forgetful or absent minded(is there a difference)? I suspect that if I had a better memory(either through training or otherwise) then I would have less bad habits.

You never know.

Back to the Office

I think it’s been about three years that I’ve been working from home. However, it’s only been since last November that it was made official. What did that mean? It meant I could also bring my other equipment home with me. Which was really nice to have as VNC over a VPN is VS(very slow). And it’s not like I was missing anything from working at home. The majority of my team is in Toronto, that is if they’re not over the big pond. So it’s not like I could talk to them face to face even if I wanted to.

I suppose I could have used Skype or something, but still. There was no real reason for me to be in the office.

So of course that’s when upper upper upper management decided that attendance in all labs was low, and basically ordered everyone back to the office.

Uh huh.

Other than the attendance excuse, the other major one was, as far as it was explained to me, random stealth collaboration. Yea, it makes as much sense now as it did when it was explained to me. So what does this mean? Well, the idea is that, by being in the office, I would over hear conversations about other teams processes and think to myself; Hey, my team could make use of this. Over hear other teams processes? Really? Yes, that was pretty much the exact explanation that was given.

I’m going to review a few problems with this:

1. Even though we’ve been ordered back, there’s still not a lot of people that actually show up

2. When I walk down the isles, the people that I pass all have their headphones on. And when I get to my desk, the first thing I do is plug in my headphones.

3. While we have a water cooler, you don’t actually get people ‘hanging out’ at it. I mean, people are busy. They get water, they go back to their desk. Just like I do.

In summary, the people that actually show up don’t talk to each other, or hang around each other. So the random stealth collaboration just isn’t being done.

But hey, at least we’re all back at the office. Well, some of us.

What does this shift mean to me personally. Well, I drop Tara off at the bus. Head home and hang out with Liam for about 20 minutes. Then drop him off at daycare. Then head to the office. Then head home during my 30 minute lunch to let the dog out and feed the cat. That leaves me with 5 minutes to prepair and eat lunch(usually in the car). Then head back. Then go get Liam and then Tara at the end of the day.

So it’s a lot of driving. Back and forth. And that’s just me. What about all the others that now have to drive to and from work. Usually on their own. Now we’re an excellent source of green house gasses.

But why not take the bus? Because there isn’t one that goes anywhere near our office. So that’s not helpful, and people are forced to drive. Carpool? No one actually lives anywhere near each other. Why would we, we were all working from home.

So for the sake of having people work in an office, we’re killing the planet just a little bit more.

But all that aside(and it’s a lot), there are benefits of working at the office now. The internet speed is uber faster. Downloading logs and whatnot take just a few seconds. There’s free coffee(that’s just god awful, but free). Umm…I suppose I use less water at home because I use the WC at work. I suppose I could also use less heat/AC during the day.

But there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll suck it up and make the most of it. I suppose it could be worse.

I could be forced to sleep there….

Ideal Job Qualifications

This was a writing prompt from the NaBloPoMo site, and it caught my attention.

It used to be simple; the ability to wear jeans, wear sandels and have a good sized cubicle.
When I joined IBM, I had all three(eventually), but I find myself wanting more these days.

I used to just want to be the worker bee, the guy happy enough to have a job that didn’t completly suck. I like tech support, I like helping people, but I don’t know if software support is where I’m at these days. I started at EDS during more deskside support, and I think I really liked that, but I’m not sure if that’s where my head is at these days either.

I’ve had the bug in my head about moving up to management. Not sure how long it’s been there, but being a husband, and now a father, have really driven this home to me. I know that some of it is wanting to make more money, but I really started to think of where my career was going. And it was just going to be support, and I think I’m over that.

Mind you, as usual, as soon as I really came to act on this move up, I kinda missed the boat in terms of classes and other stuff I had to do, but it’s not like it’s too late to get this done eventually. This will be the first thing I do once I come back from Christmas break. My current manager is more than happy to help me move up and out of support and into mangement, and she’s someone that I want to be like in terms of a manager.

Not saying that I’ve had a lot of bad managers, in fact it’s been the opposite for the most part. And I’d like to think that I’ve learned some good things from my past managers, things that I would like to move forward in my own management style.

I think I’m finally ready for this. I’d like to move away from day to day customer support, solving technical problems that I can’t really solve anyway as I have to hand most things off to the higher level devs anyway. I’d like to be able to sit in on meetings, and make decisions that will actually help whatever team I have. I’d like to be a mentor to my staff, and not be one of these micro managers, but trust my staff to do their own work.

So what’s the new qualifications for my ideal job?

A small, dedicated team. Higher wage. More regular hours. I see that it’s shifted more so that I can help my family out, and be with my family more.

We’ll see how this works out, and when.

Christmas & New Years

This Christmas marks the first time Tara and I have been able the holidays together. We were both looking forward to it all year really. And it was a wonderful time, I must say.

Bascially what we’re going to do is switch every year, and since we’re saving up for the wedding, it made sense to have Tara stay here this year and we’ll go to her familys place next Christmas. This was a little hard on Tara as it was the first time she’d been away from home for Christmas, but that’s where ‘project awesome’ came in.

What I had done is secretly arrange to have her brother get a webcam setup with Skype and I did the same here, so that on Christmas morning Tara could login to skype and see her family.

I got an A for effort and idea, but a D for presentation. See, since her family is 3 hours behind us, the best time for them would be noon, and that means 3pm here. At which time we were napping. But her Mom called, I answered, and quickly went to set everything up. By the time we had it set(there was some technical problems on the other end) Tara had fallen asleep again, but I didn’t know. So when I went into the room with the laptop and the webcam, I woke her up without knowing, and she was all groggy and didn’t really want to be looking into a webcam.

But she loves me for the idea and effort, and that’s what counts. Maybe a resolution for myself is to work on my timing 😉

Tara got me the gift of learning this year. She knows that there’s a ton of stuff that I want to do, so what she did was get a bunch of different course catalogues, highlight some courses she thought I would like, and then offer to pay for one of them. It was a little overwhelming to be honest, and I might have gotten something in my eye. There was a lot to choose from, and the main contenders was boxing and guitar lessons. I finally chose guitar as, well, it’s somethign that I do want to do, and I also want to exercise with Tara as incentive to us both. So sometime soon I start my lessons, and I’m really looking foward to them 🙂

The rest of the time was spent taking it easy. We both had to work the week between Christmas and New Years, but really, it wasn’t working. I spent time catching up on presentations that I need to review anyway for the new version of the product, and it was really quiet for Tara at work as well. But the week went quickly, like we hoped it would.

For New Years Eve, we decided to go out and see a comedy show. The show was later and they stopped just a little early to hand out party favors, hats and champaign. Then we all counted down to midnight and made noise and drank. I’m not 100% sure it was worth the $40/each, but it was a nice night out and we’ll have to do something like that again for next year. Mind you, I don’t know where I’ll be next year(not sure how much vacation we’ll both be taking at that time).

But now, Tara is trying to nap away a nasty head cold, and I’m catching up on blogging and TV. I’m invested in Heroes, and I’ll watch it until the end. And I finally saw the rest of District 9. Good times.

We were planning on going to Upper Canada Village tonight, but not sure if that’ going to be possible. Tara really isn’t feeling well and I’d rather her sleep and be better than drag her out into the cold just to see some lights. But it’s on for another few days so we still have a chance.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

Tuesdays

People often say that Mondays are bad, but Tara and I are under the impression that Tuesdays are actually worse.

Yesterday was a long day at work, but at least it ended. This morning was a lot of scrambling looking for code and instructions and some misunderstanding on my side.

It was an evil morning.

But the afternoon was better.

Yesterday Tara thought she caught the flu, but it turns out it was just a ton of dust that had found it’s way into her. Nasty stuff that dust.

Todays update is brought to you by the letter C, for copout. 😉

New Lappy…ish

It’s been some time, but I was finally able to get the work lappy reloaded.

For the longest time it’s been acting all sluggish and just annoying the hell out of me. It’s been acting this way since the day I nearly killed it.

See, what happened was that I closed the lid(as I am apt to do) and it didn’t go into standby mode, but blue screened. And for some reason, it bluescreened at 100% cpu.

Not knowing this, I stuffed it in my backpack and left it there for about an hour and a half as I went to work.

When I went to retrieve it from my backpack did I realise what had happened. And then nearly burned myself on the metal hinges!

It’s been acting a little wonky ever since.

The tech guys had some fun with this. What should have taken about 2 hours took the better part of a full day. They had to replace the hard drive and the ram.

But now it’s reloaded, all clean like, and working probably better than ever. The screen resolution is better, and smaller, which is a little worse.

Fine for when I’m in the kitchen, but not so much at work.

And of course I spent hours loading it with non-work related crap, but it’s good crap.

Crap like Samurize. Which is a neat little app that will display text docs as a background. Actually kind of helpful.

And fences. Fences rocks for people like me that keep everything on the desktop. Squares it away into nice little packages.

And I’ve also installed things to allow me to catch up on podcasts. Very helpful when working.

They still need to replace the fan in this thing, but other than that it’s a good little work station again.