Working with geeks

A couple of weeks ago, VeloCity (the residence/program for entrepreneurially-minded, media and mobile-lovin’ students at University of Waterloo), capped off a startup week with the VeloCity 101 mini-conference.

The students had started over a week before, brainstorming ideas, forming groups, and getting going on Startup Weekend-like projects of basically building a company and product from scratch (although in a slightly longer time frame).

The following weekend they gathered for presentations from local folks in the tech industry, and to do their pitches for the projects they’d been working on. Jesse Rodgers, their intrepid co-director, was kind enough to invite Carol (our CEO at PostRank) and myself to speak. Basically, I was the only non-CEO on the docket that day.

Jesse suggested a few potential topic areas, including an overview of community management, and “working with geeks”. The second one amused me, and Lord knows I have plenty of experience, so I wrote up a bunch of notes, gathered up the remains of my cold-addled intellect, memory, and voice, and headed over to the university on the morning of Saturday, the 16th. (I am fairly certain this will be the only time in my life that I lecture in one of University of Waterloo’s Engineering lecture halls.) 🙂

Aaaaanyway, lack of of a slide deck and a brief fear that Daniel Debow, the day’s first speaker, was stealing my thoughts aside, I think things went well. There were some laughs, a few students stopped to chat afterward (since when do students have business cards?) and my voice remained functional until the following morning, when my four-day adventure in laryngitis began.

I’ve finally finished cleaning up the notes for the presentation, which can be found at my new professional site: VeloCity 101: Working with Geeks. (It’s a bit hefty, so you might want to go get a coffee first.)


Courtesy of Melissa, her fine familiar at work, in good company, of course.

Philip the sockmonkey

If anyone’s inclined to become my sugarperson…

Sherry and I took a spin through the new Paula White Diamond Gallery location at the Bauer complex yesterday. Typically my taste in art, especially modern/non-representational stuff, is fairly picky. But I honestly really liked just about everything they had displayed.

David Bartholomew‘s photos are gorgeous, and I could hang them everywhere, but it was Tim Packer‘s paintings that really got me. How sun looks shining through branches and leaves is always a favourite visual of mine, but create different pieces reflecting different seasons and I am totally sold. If I had a spare $2000 the autumn one would be filling that big space on my bedroom wall across from my bed right now. 🙂 Ahh, one day…

The hashtag isn’t #apathy

No Prorogue Rally, Waterloo, Jan. 23rd, 2010

I am one of those apathetic Canadians that Rick Mercer recently referenced. I don’t talk politics much, I don’t read political blogs or books as a matter of course, and while I faithfully vote at the federal and provincial levels, I’ve never voted municipally.

Today, with Sherry and Melissa, I attended my first political rally. Along with several hundred Kitchener-Waterloo residents and thousands of others across Canada, I spent part of my Saturday protesting the Harper government’s prorogation of parliament. Kinda disappointed that, unlike Toronto and Vancouver, we didn’t go a’marching. 🙂

However, the weather was lovely and there were lattes to keep the hands warm, and the audience, ever so Canadianly, shushed the rude man who kept intermittently hollering at the speakers. Mostly to tell the truth…

I dislike Harper a great deal, and have never voted for him, so it’s fair to say I’m more likely to get inboard with protesting his actions than other parties’.

And I hope we make something happen. It’s our responsibility, after all, since we, as Canadian voters, put Harper in power. Twice. Or, perhaps more accurately for folks like me, failed to keep him out of power with shamefully low voter turnout. (<60% in the last federal election, I believe.)

Democracy, like any system, requires maintenance, else there will always be someone more than happy to step up and set to work using it to fulfill their own agenda.

It also occurred to me that this morning’s rally was a celebration, too. Being able to organize largely online, with unfettered access to social media, and peacefully gather in large groups in public, across the country, to protest our democratically elected government’s actions, without fear of injury, arrest, or death. There’s a lot there to be impressed about.

I am in full agreement with the idea that those who don’t vote don’t get to complain. And it also makes me smile to consider that where, when, and how we complain, particularly at an in-the-crowd level, certainly appears to distinguish us as Canadians.

(Can you see the heavenly light of righteous indignation streaming down upon us in the photo at the top of the post?) 🙂

Our corvid neighbours

At work, thanks to all the windows and being on the fifth floor, we have a fairly panoramic view of the area. And every afternoon, usually soon after 3pm, though sometimes as late as 5pm, a murder of crows comes to roost in the trees around the building. Sometimes there is just a few, other times it looks more like 100 (can’t say that doesn’t make us a bit nervous…).

They stick around for a few minutes, then just fly off en masse. When they’re there around sunset, the effect is quite striking.

Our office neighbours

Our office neighbours


I rarely get around to cataloging or chronicling the books I read — one of those things I always mean to do, but I wanted to make note of a couple of recent ones.

Juliet, Naked is Nick Hornby’s latest, and while I’ve appreciated his wit and nuanced understanding of human relationships a number of times before, I’d have to say this has been my favourite. Most likely because it was just the right book at the right time.

I mean, really, a couple who complement each other well but have never been a great romance getting jolted from their comfortable existence by assorted circumstances, etc. Sound familiar? 🙂 And it closes with hope, though not a saccharine, all-loose-ends-tied-up ending, which I do appreciate.

The other is Three Cups of Tea, which is fascinating and inspiring and probably the first and only book to make me think, “Hmm…” about climbing some of the world’s most perilous mountains. And that’s not even the point or most inspiring part of the story! 🙂

It’s the story of Greg Mortenson (co-written with David Oliver Relin) and his accidental life path change to begin building schools in the poorest and most remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’m not even done this one yet, and am loving it. It’s incredibly evocative of the regions, the people, the poverty, the mountains.

One of the biggest benefits of his and his team’s work is that education and that sort of self-sufficiency and sovereignty for those people is one of the best ways to fight extremism. In the very areas that produced the Taliban. And not only are they turning the boys away from that life, they’re educating girls, too, which I support with every fibre of my being, unsurprisingly. Definitely something I’m happy to contribute to.

Momentum, part 2

Momentum, part 1

Almost a year ago, I started seeing a nutritionist to see if we could fix some chronic issues I’d developed (my digestive system has been problematic since day 1 — sorry, Mom). The changes and such went on for a number of months, I had to radically alter my diet for a while, and it wasn’t cheap. However, at the end of that run I felt a lot better, and had pretty much vanquished my digestive issues.

But, unsurprisingly, I slid back to where I was. Honestly, my workplace doesn’t help. “Don’t eat sugar or caffeine!” Umm… yeah. I work with 20-something caffeine and sweets junkies. We have cake so often we actually NEED a proper cake lifter in the office kitchen. But what goes in my mouth is my responsibility, no one else’s. I managed it once, and I’ll manage it again.

To add to the fun, I had some other intermittent issues checked out recently, and turns out I have gallstones and will likely be enjoying surgery for that later this year. When my Dad had his gallbladder surgery, around the same age I am now, they practically cut you in half across the abdomen. Since then, the Baby Jesus has given us laparoscopic surgery, blessedly. But hey, if they still did the Big Scar Surgery, I’d just get a badass dragon stomach tattoo or something. 🙂

My sluggish thyroid has apparently gotten more sluggified, too, which goes well with the return of my digestive issues. I’m sure it’s guilty (along with winter weather) with my rosacea acting up, as well. (I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about how all our various moving parts work or fail together). I joked that I now have half my Dad’s health issues (the gallstones and thyroid), and if the other two show up (deafness and diabetes), I’m going to start to suspect cloning… Aren’t I just a hot mess of health?

Though let’s face it, I’m in my mid-30s and overweight. Diabetes is entirely plausible, and became increasingly on my mind over the past year after my friend Colin was diagnosed with it at 30. At the same time, I see how far he’s come, and know that I have much less work to do, which helps.

I know what my problems are on the exercise front, and I’m trying to address them before they affect me this time around. The biggest one is, like many academics, is that I live in my head. A lot of the time my body is mostly here to carry my head around. And when I try to get my body into the game, chances are it can’t quite keep up (unsurprisingly), and so I am disappointed and retreat back into my head.

You see, for me, exercise has never really had a strong enough draw on its own. I’ve never felt a runner’s high or needed it to keep my mental state level, or anything that important. And it gets boring. Honestly, if our ancestors could peek into the windows of a gym, could they possibly wonder anything besides “WTF?”

So this time the gym will be but one part of my arsenal. I’ve signed up for a yoga class, since paying for it should help get me out and doing it regularly, plus it’ll be a good thing to learn with proper instruction/correction. I’m also looking into a dance class (bellydance? hip hop? so hard to choose). That way I’ll have fun and learning in my fitness arsenal, and not just grinding repetition. (And when I am at the gym, I have made sure to load up on podcasts and documentaries for my iPhone to keep my brain engaged while my body does its thing.)

So really, all this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution that’s going to go down the drain in two weeks. It’s more of a “I’m not giving up several years of my life to preventable disease” stubbornness, which is infinitely better. And let’s face it, the weight loss effects of improving my diet and getting regular exercise will help my dating game, too. (I won’t stop despising dating, though. I am stuck with my introversion after all.)

Though more importantly, I’m being forced to focus on me for once. I suck at that, always have. (I am very good at looking after other people.) Of course, as obvious as it seems, it’s hard to internalize that unless you take care of yourself sometimes, eventually you won’t be able to take care of other people. It’d just be nice if “taking care of yourself” didn’t require so much hard stuff, but hey, that’s life. And I’m glad to be here.

Neil Gaiman trotted out some old New Year thoughts and put forth some new ones, and I wish them for you and for me this year, so enjoy.

Momentum, part 1

This got really frickin’ long, so I’ve broken it into two posts, split along reasonable fault lines, I think.

I admit it never even crossed my mind that that decade (the aughties? naughties?) was ending until people started mentioning it on Twitter a couple of days ago. And to be honest, the #10yearsago meme that was going around just kinda made me sad.

At the end of December 2009 I was newly arrived back in Canada from Australia. Steeped in re-entrance culture shock, didn’t have a job, was figuring out where I was going to live, and my relationship was effectively over. Or, at least, thousands of miles away and planning to try and get accepted to the seminary… Don’t ask…

I was as lost as I’ve ever been, but hey, like everything else, it passed. At the beginning of July of 2000 I started working at Descartes as a temp, and ended up spending the next four years there. During that time I met Sherry and Andrew, still my two best friends. And in my own back asswards way, I made my way to my real career, and am happy with my job, skills, and prospects for the first time in… I don’t even know when.

The last little while, though, I haven’t been thinking back to the beginning of the decade, but rather to about four and a half years ago — July 2005, when I started this blog. Andrew and I had just broken up and things were very bleak, indeed. Interestingly, I took a peek at my first post, which was mostly just a link to another blog post. It affected me profoundly — as I recall I printed that post out and had it on my wall for a while. But it no longer exists. The blog is still there, but not that archive. Perhaps there’s a message there. 🙂

I think back to that time because I’m kind of in the same place now. A few weeks ago Andrew and I pulled the plug again. We never really officially got back together, we just fell back into the same pattern over several years. And as friends and partners, we’re great, and it’s good to have that. As a couple, though, we were never going to be a great romance. Starting over always sucks, but we both deserve a bashert. You’d better fucking be out there somewhere, mister. 🙂

What buoys me, though, is that I’m not back in the same place I was then. At that time I was a ruin. In shock and in mourning and largely unable to function. This time, I had a couple of hard days right after, adjusting to the pain of change, but since then, I’ve been surprisingly okay.

Perhaps it’s just the hustle and bustle of the holidays keeping my mind off things, but I don’t think so. I think, probably, I was just waiting for it for a long time. Though we did do the already-planned family get togethers and such together. I thought it would make for good closure, and it did. I’ve had a few down-ish moments, but honestly, I usually have as bad or worse over any Christmas season. It’ll be different, I’m sure, when either/both of us start dating, but no point expending mental or emotional energy on that now.

Hell, it’s different now when I consider myself from a “profile” perspective (my minimal dating experience has largely been done, or at least started, online). I’m not delusional with any ideas that I’m any trophy by general standards. I’m fat, which automatically disqualifies me from a large contingent of the male radar. (Sometimes it can make you entirely invisible, which is an interesting thing to experience.) Even if you have a gorgeous face you can be invisible if you’re fat. A powerfully ironic thing, that.

Beyond that, I tend to intimidate a lot of people, though my social presence continues to improve (I think). I’m smart, I use big words, I’m snarky, and I don’t suffer fools (unless I absolutely have to… don’t we all…) Again, I fall short of any smiling 50s housewife ideal.

Sure, there are guys out there who like women like me, but they’re not the average, just as I’m not. And by my age most people have paired off already. The fact that eligible men are far more likely to have divorces, kids, etc. by this point is still something I’m working to wrap my mind around, in good part because my immediate friends circle has an unusual number of old, single people, like me, though in many cases for them it’s by choice, which is also something I can’t quite wrap my mind around. 🙂

I have been finding hope in people around me. In seeing where the lives of friends are now who, not all that long ago, weren’t doing so well, and whose relationship histories are worse than I think mine has been. Instead of feeling all “woe is me”, which, to be honest, I kind of expected, I am feeling more “if it can work out for them…”, which is much better for the psyche. (And there have been moments of feeling genuinely lucky, in spite of it all. This isn’t me, for example.)

Hell, even seeing the unabashed schmoopiness of the famous on Twitter (Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) makes me smile. Kevin Smith is frequently raunchy enough for an Elizabethan playhouse, but if you get past the language, you’ve just got a guy who really loves his wife, and whose sex life certainly sounds like it’s just getting better 10 years into marriage. Who could ask for better than that?

So anyway, yeah, been thinkin’ about myself a lot, kinda… getting reacquainted (umm… that sounded dirtier than it should have) with some thoughts and feelings that have resurfaced or which are the result of recent events. And thinking about the future, as much by necessity as human nature.

Momentum, part 2