Tag: Life

A Sad Day

A Sad Day

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One of the saddest days of my life, actually.

No joke.

My son moved out today.

Oh, I’m excited for him, moving in with his friends and getting ready for school, getting ready to start his life. He’s got so many awesome things ahead of him in the next little while.

But he’s left home. He doesn’t live here anymore. The only time he’ll be home is to visit.

I thought I had until the end of August, but they rented a house and got the keys yesterday. Of course they want to move in.

I’m just going to miss him, is all.

I should post a picture of him as a little kid. That would be the normal thing to do to provoke some kind of emotional reaction from whoever might be reading this.

But I haven’t got one handy. Instead, here’s something goofy from the Christmas he was seventeen.

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Interview Limbo

Interview Limbo

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question-mark-male-silhouette

There’s nothing like having your future be partially in limbo to get you to overthink everything.

Although, I suppose that’s kind of normal, depending on your point of view. Under the logic that no one ever really knows what’s going to happen, that there might always be fewer days ahead than there are behind, that everyone’s future is always unknown.

But I’m in a moment where I might be less than 48 hours from a job offer that will mean a major career change, that will, in some ways completely overturn the life and routine I have right now. And I have absolutely no idea if I have a chance the job or not.

You see, the final interview in the process was the least interview-y interview I’ve ever had. There were practically no interview questions. It was basically an hour-long, business-based conversation between myself and the General Manager, with the HR manager participating here and there. He’s building team, to open a new facility, and he was quite open about the way he sees the process: it wasn’t the conversation to see if I was qualified—the screening process to that point, he was sure, had taken care of that—but a conversation for him to figure out my basic personality and to decide where or whether that basic personality would fit into the matrix, the jigsaw puzzle he’s putting together.

I like to think I’m personable, presentable, and can get along with anyone. Most of the time, I’m fairly certain that’s even true. But it was a strange, strange interview, even if I left more comfortable with the process than I entered. The best I could do was to be myself and speak honestly, and if that’s always the right thing, it’s not always the best thing.

I left the interview having had engaging conversation, and developing idea of the direction he wants to take for the team, and some of the qualities he was looking for. The question is, how well did I personify those qualities? I suppose the next question is, how well do I fit into the thing he’s building?

I should find out somewhere between now and Friday afternoon. Until then, I still have a job to do, and I still have family that needs me. Either way, both of those things will continue, even if the job changes.

Be well, everyone

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Holy Giant Mushroom, Batman!

Holy Giant Mushroom, Batman!

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So I’ve lived in Ontario since I was twelve, but my formative years right before that were spent on Vancouver Island. Not the same species of anything, really, except maybe grass.

When I think, for example, of a puffball mushroom, I think of something like this colossal one that still, more or less, fits in the palm of your hand:

Western Puffball

Actually, I think of them as being able to more or less fit in my 10-or-so-year-old hand. Yes, I knew they could get bigger, but you found those in the deep dark forest where no one could see you and no one ever went. My friend’s cousin’s uncle found one the size of his head. You get the idea.

But yesterday, walking along a trail while geocaching in Prince Edward County, we found this monstrosity:

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I wear size 10.5 shoes, and those are winter-ready hiking shoes. So, on its short axis, this particular puffball is 2.5 times as wide as my foot instead of half again as wide as my 10-year-old-hand.

Apparently, they can get to be about two feet across.

Visions of the <dramatic music> Mushroom that Ate Toronto.

Be well, everyone.

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Something This Way Comes

Something This Way Comes

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HiResSo I’ve been pretty quiet lately on both the blog and Facebook, creatively speaking. There are reasons.

The big one is that I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to accomplish creatively. If I look at my recent journal entries, I’ll find a debate with myself between creating a torrent of words (one goal set was to draft six novels this year) because I have a lot of stories I want to tell, or to work harder on a much smaller number of really finely crafted tales looking at big ideas and concepts dear to my mind, or even to try for some combination of the two.

The slightly less big one is that there are things I want to do other than write fiction. Family things, creative things, social things, academic things, athletic things, philosophical things. Lots of things. Many, many things.

How do I get done everything I want to get done?

The quick answer is live forever. Which means the real answer is that I have to make some choices. Some of those choices are hard, but that’s life.

Creatively, there are stories I want to tell and stories I need to tell. Need comes first and want follows as time allows. There’s audio and video coming, too. Yes, some of this relates to my writing, but not all of it. I need more satire in my creative life, and more collaboration, too. And more poetry.

And perhaps a wee bit of help.

Choices are being made. Things are happening, but it’s pretty much all been background stuff so far.

That’s about to change.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Believe it when it happens, not before.

Be well, everyone.

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Three Teenagers?

Three Teenagers?

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12So today is my youngest child’s birthday. She’s turning 12. I’m not sure if you can count 12 as a teen year or not, but if you can, that means I now have three teenagers.

When I was a teenager, that would’ve been the furthest thing from my mind.

In my 20s, especially before we got married, kids were a distant thing on the horizon, at least until we decided we wanted them.

In my 30s, when I had those kids, when they were small, the teenage years still seemed comfortably far away.

Now, not so much.

16, closing in on 14, and just turned 12. Two-teen, right?

Okay, I’m reaching. But why is it necessary on each of my children’s birthday that I’m the one feels old? It’s a parent thing, I guess. I’m always nostalgic on my children’s birthdays. I especially feel it today. My littlest baby is a dozen years old. And she’s incredible.

And while I can’t wait to see how she turns out, I’m entirely fine if she stops growing up, too. Well, not really. I love her so much for who she is, but I won’t hold her back from who she’s becoming.

Happy birthday, Youngest. You are an awesome girl, and you will become an awesome woman.

Love, always,

Dad.

XOXO

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Life Lessons From 2014

Life Lessons From 2014

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We should always be learning. I’ve learned lots this year as well as others. But some lessons stand out and sometimes because they were hard to learn or relearn. I have four picks for this year, each learned or relearned or reinforced in a different way.

If someone is wrong on the Internet, it’s not that important.

Rather than telling someone they’re wrong on FB (or Twitter, or wherever), it’s often just as satisfying to comment out loud to yourself without posting. Humans being humans, most people are just going to resent the correction anyway. Make an exception when they’re posing a danger to themselves or others.

If you haven’t got anything nice to say, say something nice about someone else.

There’s something about our modern society that entitles someone’s opinion to be as valid as carefully researched and proven facts. Combine this with the fact that many people think that just because they have an opinion that other people have to listen to it. Throw in a little anonymity on the internet to bleed belligerence through into the real world and you’ve got a veritable douchebag cocktail at work in western society. Try not to contribute to it. Find something you like about someone and say something about that instead.

Do something to make the world a better place.

Anything. Stand up for something that’s wrong. Be kind to strangers, animals, and small children. Pick up a little garbage. Write a protest letter. Be the person you wish everyone could be.

Meet your kids where they are.

They’re still pretty young when they stop automatically coming to where you are and joining in with your interests. Finding their own path is important, but you’ve got to learn to walk it with them, and that’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s bloody hard. But it’s also incredibly important.

Be well, everyone.

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Field Trips

Field Trips

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So all of my children have different ideas of what school should be, and what it means to be social, and things they should have to do. This is normal and natural, and I expect no less from them, but they are coming into an age where they can actually argue better than, “I don’t want to”. This is a good thing, but sometimes makes discussions take a little longer. I love that they are using their brains to try to get their way rather than a just flat black and white argument.

But as a result of this growing brain power, both of the girls did not go on their year end field trips this year.

Amanda, because hers was to camp Quin-Mo-Lac again and she feels she’s done that one before, and doesn’t really like to go outside anyway. Melanie did not want to go to the the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, for a similar reason: been there, done that, on several previous occassions.

I kind of agree with the reasoning. They’ve both been on this trip two or three times with the school before. Unless they have something really new and exciting, and that seems possible, but is a difficult argument to make next to all of the e non new and exciting things still at both locations, they’d rather not go thank you.

So, my counter proposal is that they will each go on a field trip of my choosing with me in the first week or so after school is out. They both easily agreed to this, although I’m not certain what I’m going to do with either one of them, especially considering my promise that it would be something each would enjoy. I’m not going to drag them somewhere they hate to punish them. That would be pointless, and really punish me more.

I thought about taking Amanda to a geocaching event in Toronto, although, as a day trip it doesn’t have as much to recommend it as an overnight or weekend. The COG event, Central Ontario Geocachers, is in Tottenham, and looked big and exciting the Saturday after school is over, but it wouldn’t necessarily be something different. We’re already planning to go to the mega event in Nappanee in August, and I’d rather have that one be exciting and new than her making comparisons to the another one. So I’m still stuck.

And I have no idea what to do for Melanie.

But we’ll figure something out. Preferably something in less than a two hour drive from where we live. Shouldn’t be too hard. Summer is coming, and there’s an awful lot of stuff to do.

And that’s aside from the fact that I’m hoping to manage a number of short duration summer adventures in the area. Amanda and I are going to learn to kayak. Both of the girls have expressed some interest in the idea of a tree top trek with zip lines and rope bridges. I’ve also been threatening white water rafting for several years now.

Plus the debate has continued between fan Expo and Montréal Comic Con, though I think this has probably been decided now.

Montréal had my vote on the strength of the announced guest list, having booked the attendance of almost the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, including Denise Crosby who was a main character in first season but was killed off, with the exception of Patrick Stewart. With the addition of John DeLancie, who played Q as a guest star several times, plus visited the ships and sets of both DS9 and Voyager. Of less interest are several of the Power Rangers. Oh, and Robert England will be there. Since we missed him in Ottawa that will be a good opportunity.

Fan Expo on the other hand has announced William Shatner who is always a big deal for me. It’s hard to beat Captain Kirk. Elijah Wood (Frodo from the Lord of the rings movies) tops my wife’s list of any announcements made for any con so far this summer. They’ve announce some other big names as I write this, but are doing just a few announcements per week, building tension as much as they can.

All that said, my understanding is that if you want to go to a hockey game, and spend the night, you’re going to spend between $300 and $500 spending on your tickets and how much you like expensive beverages and food at the arena. So, for me, that equates a single evening hockey game with an overnight stay ito a three-day science fiction convention extravaganza. Fan Expo is closer to two hockey games with the high ticket price and extra night. Yes, I need more spending money for a con, and so do the kids, although they tend to save a little bit leading up to the con, but we’ve never been, and will never be sports fans. No competition, and even if it were, I think a convention wins value-wise.

Be well, everyone.

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And Now, Your Moment of Cat

And Now, Your Moment of Cat

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Is it normal for a grown man to write about his cat?

More importantly, do I care? As far as I’m concerned, we all define our own normal. Therefore, it’s normal for this grown man to write about his cat.

I’m a cat person. This doesn’t mean I don’t like dogs (I love dogs, though I am slightly allergic), but cats have much to recommend them as pets. Even when they’re lactose intolerant, like mine.

A.K.A. Fluffball, Tribble, Cybacca, Bubbles.
A.K.A. Fluffball, Tribble, Cybacca, Bubbles.

They’re affectionate, independent, entertaining, far more adaptable to you working odd shifts than many other pets, and if you leave extra food out to cover them for an extra day due to a crazy work schedule or last second trip, they don’t eat it all in the first few seconds.

Ah, but I haven’t said why you should care, particularly about my cat. Because it doesn’t matter to you that it’s taken him eight months in our house to get around to exploring the second floor in detail or starting sneaking into people’s beds when they’re not looking. It doesn’t matter to you that he understands and adapts to our schedule and family to the point where he meets you at the door when you come home. And it certainly doesn’t matter to you that when I pick him up, he puts a paw on either side of my neck and starts rubbing on my chin.

None of those things, or any of the other cute, funny, or annoying things he does, matter to anyone beyond the immediate family, except perhaps on a reaction level of “Aw, isn’t that cute.”

Except that on some level they inform my writing. Some of his odd little behaviours might find their way into a pet in a story, or a character, or both. The way his fur drifts in the wind when he’s shedding, the scent of a needed clean up when someone has left out half a bowl of cream of mushroom soup somewhere he can reach it, the thump he makes on the kitchen floor when he falls over in front of you so you can rub his belly.

But there’s a higher level, and a far more important one, than that.

The fact that I’m a cat person and how I feel about my particular cat will tell the keen observer many things about me. It’s part of how I see the world, and that can’t help but inform my writing, because it’s part of who I am.

So if I post a picture of my cat on Facebook once in a while, or here, take it for an expression of part of my worldview and smile that he’s cute and fluffy.

Be well, everyone.

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How To Lose a Friend On Facebook In 3 Easy Steps

How To Lose a Friend On Facebook In 3 Easy Steps

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How To Lose a Friend On Facebook In 3 Easy Steps

So we all have that flaky friend on Facebook. I have several. Probably you do, too. I have one in particular, who posts all kinds of crazy things. Some of it amounts to newage (actually a lot of it), and some of it is stuff that a single google search will take care of. I ignore a lot of the first kind of post, because there’s probably nothing I can do other than roll my eyes, and because I have indications that she’s had a rough time at various points in her life and she can take solace wherever she likes. I’d prefer she take solace in the people around her instead of conspiracy theories and so called spiritualism, but some changes are harder to make.

It’s the second thing that I find easier to deal with, and while I let a lot of it go by, I do google something for a lot of them and post an article or two to point out what’s really available.

Sunday, things took a more dramatic turn, when she posted this:

K01 Capture 01

The usual, as far as I could tell. An article about how eating cannabis extract oil (hash oil) cures not just Cancer, but Arthritis, Crohn’s, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s, among other things. The author contends that “There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of scientific studies showing that cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as well as whole plant formulations, are effective against nearly any disease you can think of.” He offers a place to click for that “incredibly extensive list” but there’s no hyperlink. I do wonder if he’s referring to the large amount of science done backing up marijuana as a pain management medicine, but that’s something entirely different from a cure for anything.

Read the article a little further, you’ll find out he’s apparently been giving it away to people for years with incredible results, there’s a conspiracy to keep people from finding out about how awesome it is, and he’s produced his own documentary to explain the benefits and the conspiracy.

After a little reading at a few more reliable sources, I picked my favourite, a quick article from the Canadian Cancer Society that addresses the curing cancer claim. It boils down to how there’s no reliable evidence that cannabis/hemp/hash oil can treat/cure cancer, but that some cannabis extracts and synthetic THC are effective and licensed for pain management and relief of nausea from cancer treatments. They have a separate page on medical use of marijuana, still talking about pain/symptom management, not a cure.

So I posted this:

K01 Capture 02

Now, I’ve since gone back and read a lot more on the subject and the article’s author, and in a variety of places, and there doesn’t seem to be a direct indication that he’s selling it, so I’m fine with being wrong about that.

So, business as usual, as far as I was concerned, and expecting that my raised eyebrow would come through with her as it always has before. And yet…

K01 Capture 03

Um, wow. We went from lmfao to finding out I’ve lost my heart and soul in under a minute. “You people”… and other less veiled insults. Not good. Try to get back on track:

K01 Capture 04

Okay, so I should have specified which ‘your’ I wanted to correct, and maybe it was the wrong time for the grammar nerd to be raising his head, but I was looking for ways to bring her up short and didn’t manage to stop myself. I could have gone back and edited, but chose not to.

Still, there were a lot of exclamation marks in place of the missing question mark, so I picked blunt for my response.

K02 Capture 01

I’ve made this point with her before, usually in a more joking manner, but it seemed like she was deliberately trying to goad me here. Maybe, I thought, it was time to put the card actually on the table.

K02 Capture 02

Or maybe not.

I haven’t yet denied that weed might help people. As I’ve said, there’s a lot of science that indicates it assists with pain and nausea management. Cure? Not so much. The winky face gave me pause with last comment, at odds with the rest of the string. Let’s lay out another card or two to completely express my real argument.

K02 Capture 03

Typo for me! But it’s not “tonne”—that’s the Canadian spelling.

Am I being unreasonable in my expectations? Evolution has given us some pretty good tools for the most part. Why sacrifice them because we want to believe something? Shouldn’t we figure out if it’s real or not?

K02 Capture 04

No, I’m not. But apparently I’ve derailed the argument. At this point, I’m a little bewildered, wondering how I got sucked into an argument that wasn’t. Where did I go wrong? Probably in responding in the first place.

K02 Capture 05

And another typo. What I get for trying to get the words out quickly on a touch screen, I suppose.

But the response this time was silence. I didn’t know if I’d actually made her angry enough to walk away from the computer or it was dinner time at the house on the other end of the “conversation”. As far as I can tell, she wasn’t even on Facebook for the rest of the day.

The silence continued until late yesterday afternoon after I finished the draft of this post. An apology along the lines of “I wasn’t being serious and you couldn’t hear me laughing. Hope I didn’t offend you.”

I’m not offended or upset—the first is difficult at a personal level, and the second I try to save for special occasions—though I think I did push things harder than I might have once or twice and that bothers me a bit. Maybe the thing is that it’s not actually my job to point this stuff out.

Except I feel it should be. In fact, I feel it should be everyone’s job. Like I said, evolution has given us some pretty awesome senses and quite a large number of brain cells. We owe it to ourselves, and to the people around us, to look at the world, and particularly the things in front of us, critically with the benefit of those. Blind acceptance of things just because we want them to be true doesn’t help anyone, least of all ourselves, and it’s worse when we decide other people should blindly accept those things too.

Be well, everyone.

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Underclocking My Life

Underclocking My Life

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Once upon a time, I was a pretty smart guy. At least, I thought so. And, to be honest, so did most of the people around me. I’ve breeze through school, elementary and high school. And by breeze, I mean that I barely had to show up. I always knew what was going on even when I wasn’t paying attention. No teacher ever caught me flat-footed unable to answer a question in class. I never volunteered to answer the question, but I always knew the answer, unless, of course, I wanted to entertain the people in my class with some smartass response. Even then, I still knew the answer, and would give it a pressed.

I always scored at or near the top my class. The near came in high school when I met other smart people who actually worked for their grades. But I finished high school in four years, when its time regulation was five. Grade 13 no longer exists where I live, but I don’t know that means people are any less prepared. It’s a different game now. Even shaving a year off the typical honours high school diploma, my University acceptances were never in doubt.

But boy did I screw up University. Way too much time spent chasing girls and drinking beer. And even after I caught the girl who would eventually become my wife, there was still plenty of beer to be consumed. I had a lot of fun and University, and learned a little bit here and there, just not enough to do anything with it. High school was a joke, but university required some serious tension. Or at least more than I was willing to give it.

Ultimately, high school taught me I could under clock and still exceed most people’s expectations. University tried unsuccessfully to beat that out of me. In my 20s, starting at the bottom of a retail career ladder, I learned to do just a little bit more than the people around me to stand out as a superior employee. It’s not hard in a minimum wage job where no one really cares. A little more effort let me continue that trend the further I moved up the ladder. From worker the supervisor to manager’s office to office manager. It was an easy game.

At least, it was an easy game until, after a hostile takeover, I had a boss who realized that while I was good at my job, and had earned the respect of the people around me, I wasn’t interested in bending all, and I do mean all, of my talents into making her look good while she put forth minimal effort. I wasn’t playing the corporate game to her satisfaction. And it cost me that career.

I eventually fell into another career, also retail, but this time starting in the office. It went similarly well, for the most part, making some adjustments to a different corporate culture, but I left this one early of my own accord. Mostly because I was working too far from home, missing everything about my children, and really didn’t want to divorce. Well, divorce might be putting things a bit strongly, but my wife’s stress level was just as high as mine, or higher, with me out of the house four nights a week and her home with three small kids.

Starting a completely new career at the bottom, as a part time dealer in a small casino, my stress level was still pretty high in the beginning. I learned to focus again, because I had to. I learned to do new things, expand my skills, and actually have some manual dexterity. I had to. My wife and three small children counted on it.

For most of the first year, I smiled and nodded and gave every impression I enjoyed being a part-time dealer. And when training opportunities came up, I pounced on them. Not just that, but at work, I focused on being a good employee. The guy who never said no, the guy who went wherever he was told, who did whatever needed to be done.

And it worked.

Beginning in mid-February the following year and ending the first week of December, I went from being a part time, blackjack only dealer to a full-time dual rate supervisor (promotions are done in half steps in the gaming industry) who dealt every game our site offered, including the one we had just gotten in. A year after that, I’d given up dealing to supervise full-time. And in another year and a half, I was running the pit part of the time.

If you’re keeping track, that makes it 2009 and I’m 38 years old. Come summer this year, I’ll have been in that same job for five years. The opportunity to apply for the next job up (which would actually have me skipping a level) has come twice, and I’ve ignored it, in spite of a bit of pressure. My children will only be home for so long. Worsening my work life balance is not a good idea, and contrary to what I want.

But I’m still under clocking.

I’ve been doing it for decades, figuring out the minimum relevant effort, and putting that in, or exceeding it enough to stand out for the crowd around me who doesn’t care. I’m lazy. Most of us are, really. And while I may know it, that doesn’t change anything else. I’m lazy, and I don’t like that about myself.

Perhaps this is my version of a midlife crisis. I used to joke about getting that out-of-the-way early, to save time later. But maybe it’s time now.

I don’t need a sports car, and I sure as hell don’t need a mistress, but I do need to start living up to my potential, or trying harder. Maybe we all do, but the only one I can affect directly is me. Maybe my children by example.

There’s a lot of stuff I wish I’d done, a lot of stuff I still want to do. Most of it is only going to happen if I start to get my ass in gear. I’m trying that right now, setting unrealistic goals and working like hell to meet them. You can be lazy and still be good at something, at a whole lot of somethings. But if you want to accomplish stuff, if you want to get really good at something, or great at it, you have to put some effort in.

And I am way past due.

Be well, everyone.

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