Tuesday, December 11, 2007


On May 15, 2001, I received the news that my office was going to be shut down and everyone in that office would be losing their jobs by the end of the year. I took some time to digest this news and went through most of the stages of grieving. I went quickly through denial (hard to deny something when the CEO is standing in the front of an all-company meeting telling everyone what is going to happen) straight into angry. I stayed in angry for about a week. Bargaining was taken care of by the HR department. I was a bit too busy for depression - besides, my department (Technology and Infrastructure) and my minions had a crap-load of work to do before the lights were turned off and Seattle stopped paying the bills. Suddenly, I found myself in acceptance. Acceptance that maybe, finally, this *might* be the winter that I could ... ski.

Being a responsible, family-oriented dad has always been first and foremost in my priorities. I want my loved ones to have what they need and some of what they want. I made plans (which I made known to my concerned wife-at-the-time) for acquiring new and gainful employment. I would consult, a new company would be created and I would continue to bring in money. A secret motive existed for this arrangement, though - being master of my own schedule meant to me that certain days could be 'booked' to allow me some time in the mountains that I love so much.

Another benefit of the big layoff was a severance package. Some of this money I claimed for myself went towards the extravagant (at the time) purchase of some good-quality-but-used demo skis, boots and bindings from a local high-end ski shop. This was one of the few treats I allowed myself in those lean years. I hadn't skied a whole lot previously, but knew that I loved it. I thought that this winter would hold much mountain-time for me.

Fate had other plans. Days after the office had officially shut down, the old gang called me up to be their infrastructure guy. The (ex)wife was beating me with a stick to get out there and drum up business, and very little ski time was had.

Years pass. A divorce happens. Life bcomes busy with re-establishing myself. I become master of my own time. A home is set up. Children become older and require less hands-on time. Some financial resources are freed up.

Suddenly, I can afford a Sunshine Pass. Suddenly, HR at my current job realizes that they have been calculating my vacation accumulation incorrectly this year, and I actually have two weeks stored vacation time instead of the four days I thought I had to stretch through the winter.

Could this be the year that I actually learn to do moguls?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Photo Booth

I was the subject (and photographer, kind of) for a good photo. Let me set this up before you view it.

At our company Christmas party this year, we rented a photo booth. It is a pretty standard booth that takes 4 black-and-white pictures and puts them all on one print, one after the other. You (and as many as your friends as you deem worthy) get in the booth, choose your background (a curtain or a plain white wall), sit on the stool, and push the button. A blinding flash hits you, then you have six seconds to choose and prepare yourself for the next pose.

Just six seconds.

OK, now perhaps you'll fully appreciate the series.  Click on the photo to the right to see the full photo strip.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I just heard that someone in our office signed up for a 40 year mortgage.

Them leg shackles are gonna chafe for sure.

She's a young, happy, no-so-sharp pencil that is starting a new marriage and family. They recently bought a BRAND NEW car and I bet they both dine out for dinner all the time. Yikes.

I hope her hubby has got a good, stable job that pays well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Today's Lesson

If you need to send a message to a woman, you should use a card and flowers.

If you've done a proper job on the card, the flowers will only be the punctuation at the end.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time for a Treat

I consider myself to be a patient and tolerant man.

I have many examples that point to my ability to put immediate gratification in the back seat and make it sit quietly whilst I get things done. I went to university right out of high school when I really would have liked to have traveled. I married and had kids at the request of an insistent girlfriend. I moved a few times on the insistence of the said-girlfriend-turned-wife when I would have been quite happy (each time) staying where I was. I've bought vehicles I haven't wanted, pulled trailers (full of stuff that had no right going anywhere but to a garbage dump) across the country when I really didn't want to. I've scrimped and saved when I would have liked to spent a little money on myself.

Now, I have an opportunity to treat myself. Due to the big event at my little company, I am seeing a payoff from my investment of some money and much-much-much sweat, time and effort. I intend to take a little of this reward and treat myself. The majority of what I've worked for will go into responsible things, like paying down some of my mortgage, into RRSPs, against debts induced by my renovations to the basement. But, I've decided that I need to treat myself to something that says, "I've done alright in life."

A few ideas I've come up with are:
  • a new(er) vehicle
  • replacing the carpet (yes, carpet) in my kitchen with hardwood and tile
  • a new sofa in the noise room I've built downstairs
  • some help with the finishing touches to the renovations (the ones that I just can't seem to find time or skill to do myself)
I'm not used to treating myself, either. I've always had more demanding people in my immediate circle (wives, kids, employers, girlfriends) that have found uses or needs for my resources of cash, time and effort. I've been the good and obedient worker bee, always ready to help, always ready to give, always ready to try and dazzle with my effort and delivery.

This is the first point in my life that I have been the director of what is going on with me. Now, here I am, a man who is seeing the results of five years of ultra, ULTRA hard work; a time when I have some good things - even enough to share - and nobody wants all they figure that they are due and some of my portion, too. For once, I have more than enough for myself.

It's been a little scary, having pushed so hard against the rock to finally have it roll away from the cave door, but I'm liking the feel of it lately.

Monday, November 12, 2007

First Length

I am thirteen years old.

I like girls, but they sure haven't noticed me. I'm not athletic, or funny, or handsome. I don't wear fancy, expensive clothes, or have cool toys. I think that being smart is the thing to do, so I spend lots of time reading and hanging out with my friend Dale, or my friend Blake. I don't do much sports because I've never been great at hitting a ball or a puck. My aim is terrible.

I think Mr. Spock from Star Trek is cool, because he is super-strong and in control of his emotions and the situation he's in. He always knows what to say and Captain Kirk is always going to him for stuff. He knows about everything, like he's memorized everything he's ever read. I want to be just like him.

My mom wants me to get into sports, so I'm going to a swim team tryout today. I'm pretty nervous about it. Our neighbors, the Prince family, have a pool and they let me swim there lots. On hot days, I love to go other there. I help out by skimming the leaves off the pool and helping Mrs. Prince take the solar cover off and put it on when it's time to close the pool. I like being in the water, and I can do some stuff like swim underwater the whole way, holding my breath. I'd like to race and I can swim faster than my mom or my little brother (who is a total hockey kid). Chris Prince is eighteen and is a jock and has a really pretty girlfriend. I'd love to have a pretty girlfriend.

Maybe swimming will be my thing. Maybe I could be a swimming jock. We had a big competition in Edmonton this year called the Commonwealth Games. The swim races made a bunch of headlines in The Edmonton Journal. There was this guy from Edmonton who set a world record. He's the fastest guy at that race IN THE WORLD, and he's from Edmonton. Maybe I could do that, too. I saw a picture of him on this poster, and he looks so strong. I'd love to look like that. Maybe swimming can make me strong, too.

If I make the team at the tryouts, I'll get to practice two times a week at the County Pool. Its a great pool they built last year. There are two pools in the building - one for swimming and one for diving. There's a one meter diving board that's easy to jump off of, and a three meter board that is so scary! I can dive off the one meter, but I can only jump off the three meter.

I think being a swimmer would be fun.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Swimming is going well this year. This season got off to a great start, anyways. One of the only gifts my ex-girlfriend left in her haste to dump me was a depression that helped me shed 25 (apparently unneeded) pounds. It helped me this summer to have one of the best triathlon race seasons ever. In my toughest event of the summer, I finished 45 minutes ahead of my expected time (and 17 minutes ahead of my dream time) for a half-Ironman. Now that the triathlon season is over, I've calmed down my busy training schedule.

I started swimming with my Masters swim team again, after a self-imposed hiatus in the spring. It's nice to be back in the water with my pals, training hard, hot tubbing afterwards and even sharing the occasional beer on our monthly post-swim Wing Night Wednesdays. The coaching has been pretty good so far this year. My technique has improved due to tips from the various coaches (we've gone through a few in the past three months). The fact that I'm going pretty regularly means that the things I'm working on (head down, elbows up, completing each pull, and faster turns) are sinking in.

Swimming is a really wonderful sport. I love the feeling of the water as I cut into a calm, undisturbed lane for my first length in a set. I love the pounding of my heart when I stop in between intervals, cherishing my few seconds with my face out of the water, breathing big, delicious lungfuls of air. I love racing someone in a near lane for the last 10 meters of a length, digging past tired for a bit of reserve to keep ahead of them. I love hearing from muscles and joints that normally don't talk to me through the day, reminding me that they are still there, able and willing to do their job. I love the type of body that swimming gives me, and that I can use it to do just about any other sport reasonably well (or giving me the endurance to keep trying until I *can* do something reasonably well).

I wonder if my dear ol' mom thought that I'd end up so enamored with this activity when she first took me (a fresh 13 year old) to a one-length "tryout" meet at Strathcona County Pool.

I'm grateful for many things in my life and being able to swim is one of them.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blogger, Jr.

I'm so proud. Banana is back into blogging, and she's good.


I love my spaced out family.

Mackenzie: BRIANNA!
Brianna: is silent
Dad: Brianna. Your sister is talking to you.
Brianna: What?
Mackenzie: ...I forget.

(then we all turn and watch cat lick its anus)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Veer gets Owned

The event that I have been waiting years for has finally happened. Yesterday, it was announced that Veer had been purchased by Corbis, a company out of Seattle, Washington.

My Veer. The one that I am part owner of.

I've been through an acquisition before and it didn't have a happy ending. I remember when Getty purchased EyeWire, we ended up closing the office in Calgary and I was one of the last guys to go. It wasn't pleasant, seeing all my coworkers go off to new and exciting things whilst I stayed to clean up the messes, both literal (their flotsam of desk belongings, old computers, files, corporate documents and such) and figurative (systems and processes that hadn't been transitioned before their release dates). Some left willingly, some hung on to their jobs until the last day and left with tears in their eyes as I escorted them to the door. It was an experience that I do not want to have to live through again.

This acquisition, I don't see the same thing happening. Times (and my duties within the company) have changed. The guys we are dealing with are after our brains and ability, not just the assets of Veer. They know our business is making money, and we're not even competing directly with them. The see us as complimentary to what they are doing in Seattle.

I am tentatively striding into the future with my ever-optimistic attitude.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Oh ... my ... goodness.

There's some big ownership changes afoot at our little company.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lunchtime Treat




Three beautiful words, made even more beautiful by their proximity to each other.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Miss Heard

My daughters are getting to that awkward age where boys are quietly becoming a part of their lives. Although they don't talk directly about their romantic interests, I hear snippets of conversations and know that puberty is happening.

Now, take that parental knowledge and add a suspicious edge. You now have the girls' mother's mindset. I got a second-hand description of a conversation that went on one evening between McMonk and the Warden about one of McMonk's friends (Zach) and his family.

McMonk: Do you like Zack's mom? (which, to the Warden, sounded like "Do you like sex, Mom?")

Warden: Well, I ... that's a difficult question to answer. Honey, why do you ask?

McMonk: Well, I sure don't!

I would have given anything to seen the expression on the Warden's face.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Off To The Fair

Our family has a long tradition of road trips. Road trips are de rigeur for the Collins Family. With Banana and McMonk, I have driven across our nation TWICE, been to Vancouver Island (a 14 hour jaunt, not including the ferry crossing), up to the mountains at least monthly and back and forth between Edmonton and Calgary (a paltry 3 hour trip) more times than I can count. Our trips are always enjoyable and always a bonding opportunity. The girls and I love our chats, be them winding down before bed or trapped together in a metal box, tearing down the highway.

Two years ago, we started a tradition quite by chance. One fall afternoon outside of our favorite record store, we saw a poster that caught the girls' eyes. There was to be a Pop Culture Fair, where you could get t-shirts, music, collectables, and other trendy knick-knacks that was right up their alley.

"Oh, this looks like fun, " McMonk said.

"We should go." Banana said.

"Hmmm, it's being held two weekends from now, in Edmonton." I remarked.

"Oh well," remarked Banana, "that's the end of that."

They both looked pretty sad when they realized that the event was 3 hours away, as my car had just been totalled in an accident. They saw us with no way to get there. I thought it would be a good bonding thing, remembering all the trips we had done in the past and decided right then and there that we could do it - it would just take some arranging.

The weekend of the fair, I got them up early and told them that we were going to go, and not to worry how. They were extatic. We called a cab and took it to the airport. From there, we rented a tiny little car (for all of $38 a day plus gas) and proceeded to drive to Edmonton. We played our music, joked, stopped for lunch, went to the fair (which was good, but not the highlight of the trip), wrote haikus (a different, long story) and had a wonderful, wonderful day.

This weekend, we did a return visit to the same fair. hightlights of the trip included:
  • a dance party at the Millet turnoff by the side of Highway 2

  • stopping for a Tim Horton's fuel-up of sugar and caffiene (me with hot chocolate, the girls with Moccacinos) as our first stop

  • our vegetarian exclaiming, "Mmmm, gravy and chicken" and meaning it

  • Banana saying, "Everything that's important to me is in this car." McMonk and I, thinking it meant us, responded with a heart-warming, "Awwwww." Banana clarified by saying, "I meant my bag of candy."

  • having a Zen-calmness test by getting stuck in traffic for 45 minutes on a detour

  • imitating the Zoolander-dance-and-drive actions as we'd pass other cars on the highway

  • planning our Free-Range Rodent shop that we will someday open beside our Scary Clown Hotel

Making time to uphold traditions is important. It gives us all something to look forward to, look back on and bind us together as a family.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I had a successful experience setting some tiles and grouting in the new downstairs bathroom. Jim, my contractor-turned-instructor gave me the low-down on how to set, grout and sponge the tiles and the result looks great! I am as proud of the skills I have gained as I am of the finished work.

As well as working on the new bathroom, I was also using the basement to do some computer work. As I sat downstairs, I couldn't help but admire the basement in it's 95% complete stage. It's not fully furnished yet, but the family drum set, the guitars and a new-to-us soundboard are all in place and working now. The X-Box and TV have also been set up, leaving me to wonder how I thought a sofa and several bookshelves would all fit. Speaker wires hang from the ceiling, waiting for me to be able to afford a theatre-style sound system. The walls are a comfortable, warm green and the pine flooring completes the cozy and enveloping feel.

After an enthusiastic start to the basement, I hit a major speedbump with my relationship turmoil. It knocked the wind out of my sails with regards to finishing the space and making it habitable. My thoughts were, "Why finish building it if it is only going to be me in the house?" Also there were a lot of emotional ties to the old girlfriend down there. I started working on it while she was a big part of my life. I had intentions of sharing the finished product with her and her kids, and now she was gone. After lots of grieving about lots of other things, I remembered that although I asked her input on the design, she wasn't involved at all in the creation of the space. I was the one who had done the framing (with Jim's help), wiring, drywalling and painting. All that I saw around me when I was down there is my effort, my decisions, my attention to detail.

My basement is a nice place to be. My house is a nice place to be.

When I moved in here, I nicknamed my place The Haven. The work on The Haven is allegorical to the work on my life. In the work that I am doing, I am gaining skill and learning lessons. I realize that I still have much work to do on both, but both are both livable and I am in no hurry for either if them to be finished. I am taking a few days off this week to do some work on my house. As my life moves on, I look forward to creating many great memories of being here.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Yep, I'm doing this again (blogging, that is).

It's about time.


Thanksgiving is my kind of holiday for a number of reasons.
  • First, it is a holiday all about gratitude. One of the messages that I keep reminding myself of is we all need to be grateful for the situation we are in and what (and who) we have around us. I have to work harder sometimes to realize the hidden gem that I'm meant to appreciate, but I can usually locate it after some introspection.

  • My second reason to love this holiday is the food. I am lucky enough to be invited to two, (count 'em) TWO turkey feeds this weekend. I'm a big fan of mashed potatoes, gravy, peas and carrots, warm buns and dessert in whatever form it may come. I'm going to have to ensure exercise is part of the weekend so I don't feel sluggish the day after the dinners.

    We live in a time of abundance, in a place of abundance, and (personally) in a situation of sufficiency. I, like the ants from the well-known fable, am working hard to ensure I'll be comfortable further on in life. Right now, I have enough food, enough company, a little too much space, and way too many interests and options for activities. I definitely have an abundance of experiences, wonderful and harrowing, to draw upon for stories and knowledge. This idea of abundance is most easily celebrated and shared by big meals.

  • Another, tertiary reason for loving this holiday is having an extra day off work, and knowing that I can't do much for errands so fun will be the order of the day. Work has been a mixture of busy and slow, feast and famine. I'm looking forward to some home-focussed time. McMonk and I are together on Monday, so I hope we can find some fun to get into. A crawl along Inglewood might just do the trick.