Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Few Weeks Out East

Kate and I are gently swaying side-to-side at 140+ km/hour along the rail lines between Ottawa and Quebec, having come to La Belle Provence to visit our darling daughter.  Brianna is nowhere in sight, though.  There's a method to our madness.

I have held fast to the belief that houseguests are much like unrefrigerated fish, in that you wouldn't want either sitting around for more than three or four days.  For that reason, when planning to visit Brianna in Montreal this fall, we decided to incorporate other destinations and use Brianna (and Heather)'s place as a base.  Quebec City and Ottawa, both just a few hours away, would be where we ventured to during the weekdays.  The weekends would provide some time catching up with Brianna and getting to know Heather better. 

Quebec was wonderful for a few reasons: first, we stayed at the Chateau de Frontenac.  The Frontenac is considered the castle of the town, perched on a high bluff overlooking Old Quebec and the St. Lawrence River.  We had what had to be the BEST room, directly looking out over the St. Lawrence. Wandering the cobbled streets of Ville de Quebec seemed to peel away any stress I had and made for a very relaxed time.

Traveling by rail means that both of us can read, look about, blog and relax whilst we get there.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Birthday Reflections

This year's birthday thesis is that life still seems to be getting better.

I make an effort to take a look forward and back on my birthday and evaluate how I am doing in life.  It helps me justify breathing air, eating food and taking up space and resources on our little planet.  by "how I'm doing,"  I mean the amount of suffering I'm reducing.

Personally, I'm not suffering very much.  Most parts of my life (emotionally, relationally, financially, intellectually) are advancing, and measuring progress against yourself is the best thing for me.  My business is is doing well and I am doing well at my business.  At work I am doing what I need to and occasionally making mistakes, but I work hard to correct those mistakes and ensure that the same mistakes aren't made again.  I feel like I have a plan that I am working towards, and that plan is yielding the results I want it to reveal.  That, in itself, makes for a very satisfying life.  I am feeling less want in my life and I know most of my needs are already taken care of.

The others in my life are suffering less for my actions, too.  I am watching the end result of my influences on my daughters and seeing some positive results.  Kate and I are communicating well, enjoying each others company and helping each other be better people.  Even those that I have conflict with (my ex-wife and my Dad, specifically) are being dealt with in a manner that will help them, too.

On a very high level, I am quite satisfied with my life's path and can only see things improving from here, even though maintaining my lot in life would not be that bad.

I've reconnected with McMonk this year; grown my adult relationship with Banana; finished the stress of having non-adult children with The Warden; deepened and developed friendships with interesting people (my neighbors, my buddy Ron, my in-laws); traveled to Cuba and South Africa (big wanna-sees on my list); chunked down mortgages and made big strides towards making work more and more optional.

There are still challenges and goals for next year (and next decade), but seeing the fruits of some of my plans starting to ripen is pleasing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love-Hate Relationship

I love what I do, but today isn't a fun day. 

Internet providers make mistakes that get blamed on poor communication.  Microsoft makes software that doesn't live up to its promises.  The end result is that I start a process on a Sunday morning to fix a problem (thinking it should take one, maybe two hours to resolve) and end up working until long after all the city's bartenders have gone to bed, then get back up to beat the first early riser into the office to continue working on the problem.

It's a challenge, and it feels good when I have it under control, but I don't enjoy learning the intricacies of my trade while a business owner is watching over my shoulder, tapping his foot.

I'm pining for the open fields (ok, actually at this exact moment, I'm pining for bed) when I am not working at all.


I've had some easement of the my nose from the grindstone when I left Veer, as I was quite exhausted.  The pressure of bills to pay, mouths to feed and child support to pay (yes, don't get me started - I pay child support to my millionaire ex-wife) means I've never really felt at ease with taking time off.  Of all the things that I *could* do for work, computer and network support are the most appealing.  I worry that if I didn't work, I would fall into a "do nothing" mode that might be hard to get out of. 

That's one of the problems with doing nothing.  It's hard to determine when you are done.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Staving Off Old Age

At 46 years old, it seems silly to be considering old age. But, subtle hints of my impending frailty constantly poke their heads around corners in my day-to-day existence.
  • eyesight - at Kate's insistence, I have taken advantage of the optometrist benefit offered by her company's health coverage and went for an eye-exam. Although I still have 20/20 vision, I admitted to my optometrist that after 8 - 10 hours of sitting in front of a computer, my eyes do get tired and I focus on the screen only with some effort. She recommended a set of ultra-low prescription "working and reading" glasses that now sit on my nightstand.
  • recovery time - I am used to exercising hard, falling into bed exhausted, then bouncing back to fully-charged energy levels first thing the next day. I am finding I don't make it back to 100% the next day after a particularly hard day of skiing/climbing/running/cycling.
  • body aches - I find my back is a little stiffer than it has been, and I need to spend more time stretching. This is after (and possibly because of) doing nothing more than sitting at my desk. My knees are noisier (cricking and cracking) and my legs don't have the same amount of spring to bound up stairs two at a time whenever I climb a flight.
  • eating habits - due to worsening eczema, I've gone to a naturopath to find a fix to my skin troubles, and she's advised me to alter my diet. No dairy, no refined sugar, no yeast (meaning no baked goods or bread - egads!), and no tropical fruit. Basically, I'm not allowed to eat anything I like. We'll see how long I can stick to that diet and whether it actually fixes me up.
In the past five years I have noticed how much my father has slowed down and it troubles me. He has become a shell of the man I used to know, although taking some of the vinegar out of such an inherently angry man is not all bad. I look at what he has become and know that we must all end up dependent, but I hope to hold off my slide into that state for three or four more decades, at least.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is This Helping?

Part of what I do as work involves an opportunity to give back to society. I call it my "Ability To Pay" Rate Scale.

Companies get charged the full, going rate. Likewise with people that live in starter castles in Springbank. Home trouble calls get a slightly gentler tally of the bill, based on the perceived expense of the neighborhood and furniture, and if I'm offered a beverage while I'm working. Non-profits get charged a much-under-market rate. Seniors (such as my beloved Nazi-transvestite-senior citizen, Walter) get charged a dignity-saving nominal fee, like $20 and a little, individually-wrapped chocolate from the bowl on the coffee table. Family and friends are encouraged to think kind thoughts or write me more substantially into their will.

Then, every once in a while, I make an exception to The Scale.

On Wednesday, I received a call from gravelly, sounded-like-he'd-smoked-too-much-in-his-life Dave, who claimed he couldn't "see" the Internet. He had recently got the computer from the Drop-in Centre and tried to describe to me what was (or wasn't) happening, but without much success. I quickly summed that I wasn't going to be able to help Dave without a visit. When I told Dave this, he told me he wouldn't be able to pay me right away as he wasn't getting a paycheque "until next week". When he told me where he was living (a run-down apartment in the inner city), I suspected that I was going to be working for free if I went to help him. I was feeling the need to build up some good karma, so I decided to help Dave.

I went to Dave's very-rough-looking place of residence - an uncleaned, cigarette-butt-filled one room rental which contained furniture that imagined (I later had this confimred) had been salvaged from the alley after other tenants had done their worst to them. It was here that I found, on a wobbly Ikea workdesk, his 10 year-old Windows XP box that was (indeed) FUBARed. As I proceeded to reinstall his operating system (about a 2 hour operation), I had a chance to chat with Dave and learned a bit of his history.

  • Dave's trade is painting, and although Calgary is booming he has been unable to hold a job as of late (confirming my suspicion that I might be working for free that day).
  • Dave has the Full Meal Deal with regards to Telus' internet and TV options. He pays $120 a month (about twice what I pay my internet and TV provider) and admitted he was a few months behind in his payments.
  • When Dave signed a 3 year contract for the Telus internet subscription, he had been provided with a brand new laptop. Why then (I asked) was I repairing a 10+ year old XP machine? It seems that shortly after Dave got the laptop, he had a few friends over for drinks a few weeks ago and those friends had brought friends of their own. At some point in the evening Dave went out on the balcony for a smoke, he came back to find that the laptop was no longer sitting happily on the coffee table. One of the guests' guests had taken off with the laptop. He called Telus and asked them to GPS-track it, as he was sure all laptops had that technology built in. When they told him they weren't able to do that, he gave up trying to find it. He hasn't file a police report because the person who took it he suspected was a crackhead and would just trade the laptop for a hit.
  • When Dave originally got his machine from the Drop-in Centre (for free), it worked. When I asked him why it has stopped working, he admitted he had been pretty drunk last night and had "deleted some stuff from the computer," but he couldn't remember what.

So here I was, 3/4 through getting this guy's computer back up and running, which I assumed he would use for some noble task like trying to better himself or find work. Instead, I realized that if I got the computer working and Dave didn't go on a binge tonight and delete critical files again, it would be only a matter of days before one of Dave's drinking buddies noticed he had electronics that worked (besides his 13" TV) and steal it out of his apartment.

I felt like I was wasting my time. Dave had been given things before and didn't have a good track record of taking care of them.

I did end up staying and providing Dave with a working machine. If I am doing good deeds like this, do you, gentle reader, think I should help the next "Dave" that calls, or find a better outlet for my kindness?