A trip almost 15 years in the making

A trip almost 15 years in the making

Coming up on 15 years ago Jen and I for completely random reasons ended up choosing New Orleans for our wedding destination. Neither of us had a burning desire to get married in New Orleans or even visit but I’m ever so glad we did.

We were planning our wedding and we knew we wanted to keep it simple. Neither of us had any desire for a big wedding. One of Jen’s longtime friends had been working on cruise ships and she offered us a free cruise as a wedding present for when we did get married, we just had to pay for the travel to and from the port city. We briefly thought about getting married on one of the stops the cruise made, or even on the boat itself. After pricing these options out they still seemed pretty expensive. Luckily one of the port options for the cruise we were taking was New Orleans.

Jen did a bunch of research and she found the perfect idea for our wedding. Simple, small, and cheap. We were married on a river paddlewheel boat called the Creole Queen on the Mississippi River. The Captain of the boat married us, the wedding planner and the photographer were our witnesses, and that was it. After the ceremony, we took a cruise down the river on their historical tour. Even if nothing else this would have made New Orleans have a very special spot in my heart and our families start.

The day after we hopped on the cruise ship which docks just down the river a short ways from the Creole Queen and headed out on a week-long Caribbean cruise. The cruise was lovely, but this story is about New Orleans. After the cruise was over we stayed a week in the city. We had a hotel right in the French Quarter and we explored all over. Walking up and down the streets of the Quarter, into the Garden District, and riding the St. Charles Ave. street car.

We were pushing our finances pretty hard just to make it to the city, get married and stay afterward so there were a lot of things that I would have liked to do that we didn’t get a chance to. We had something like a budget of $30 per day for food, so we kept things pretty simple. But some of the local food I did get to have was amazing. The people in the city were all so friendly and helpful. Just the laid-back nature is really fun. No wonder they call it the Big Easy. Even though we didn’t pay to hear any live music, you could still hear it all over as we walked. The balconies and the buildings are so unique, unlike anything I had seen to that point.

Over the years we’ve talked about going back to New Orleans. Bring the kids and explore, show them where we got married and all the touristy things. There was always something that got in the way, usually the cost of taking a family of six on an adventure like that. This year though was finally the year. Everything aligned in our lives and we were able to plan the trip and have a week-long stay in New Orleans.

As I write this it’s our last day in the city, but we’ve had a wonderful visit. We’ve walked the French Quarter, rode the streetcar, gone to the Aquarium, taken a swamp tour, eaten pastries, I could eat the beignets every day, and one of the best things we were able to take the kids on the boat we were married on and the same historical cruise. It’s still a fun city to visit, and the kids enjoyed our stay as well. We again didn’t get to catch a music performance but there was music in the French Market while we were there.

We haven’t even left yet and we’re already talking about when we might be able to come back again. Maybe just Jen and I for our 20 year anniversary?

Meds Reminder

With my last post I talked about having to take eye drops every hour when I’m awake and then an ointment for while I’m asleep. I thought it would be hard remember to put them in and keep track if I had done it for this hour yet or not so I wanted to set reminders for myself.

On my phone I have almost all notifications turned off but on my Fitbit I do get notified of phone calls or text messages. Very rarely do I get either of those so typically when I do it is something important. Instead of setting an alarm for every hour of the day I thought I could finally try out the Twilio trial I had signed up for some time ago and send myself a text message every hour from 6am to 10pm. It was surprisingly easy to setup.

I’m most familiar with php and I’ve been really limiting my screen time so I can rest my eyes. I haven’t worn my glasses in days so it’s a strain to read without them and keeping them closed is when they feel the best.

Here’s the very simple setup I did, most all of it came directly from the Twilio documentation and all of it was done from the terminal.

  1. Signup for a Twilio account.
  2. Create a new site on an existing hosting account I have.
  3. Downloaded the Twilio PHP SDK using Composer.
    I’m not really familiar with Composer but these are the commands I used:

    • Download Composer
      php -r "copy('https://getcomposer.org/installer', 'composer-setup.php');"
      php -r "if (hash_file('SHA384', 'composer-setup.php') === '544e09ee996cdf60ece3804abc52599c22b1f40f4323403c44d44fdfdd586475ca9813a858088ffbc1f233e9b180f061') { echo 'Installer verified'; } else { echo 'Installer corrupt'; unlink('composer-setup.php'); } echo PHP_EOL;"
      php composer-setup.php
      php -r "unlink('composer-setup.php');"
      
    • Download the SDK
      php composer.phar require twilio/sdk
  4. Create a new php file with the following code
    <?php
    require_once 'vendor/autoload.php';
    $sid = "ACxxxxxx"; // Your Account SID from www.twilio.com/console
    $token = "xxxxxx"; // Your Auth Token from www.twilio.com/console
    
    $client = new Twilio\Rest\Client($sid, $token);
    $message = $client->messages->create(
      '+15555555555', // Send text from this number
      array(
        'from' => '+15555555555', // From a valid Twilio number
        'body' => 'Take your drops'
      )
    );
    
    print $message->sid;
    
  5. Create a cronjob to run the hours you want and visit the webpage
    0 6-22 * * * wget -q --read-timeout=0.0 --waitretry=5 --tries=5 --background http://{url for file created above}

Now I get a text ever hour on the hour from 6am to 10pm and my FitBit notifies me that it’s time to put in the drops.

Eye have had a tough week

For over a week now I’ve been suffering with an eye infection. Just before last weekend my right eye started itching and I could tell something wasn’t right. From there over the weekend it continued to get worse swollen and red. I’ve had eye infections a few times over the years and usually over the counter antibiotic drops have always cleared things up. This time it didn’t seem to help at all as things kept getting worse.

By midweek I decided it was time to see a doctor as I couldn’t deal it anymore. The past number of years my body hasn’t handled infections well so I take things more seriously now than I would have when I was younger. Back in 2011 we were on vacation in Ottawa and I ended up in the hospital having emergency surgery and I think that’s where it started. My bowels had torn and infection was all through my body, it took lots of antibiotics and healing. When I made it home I ended up back in the hospital with an infection. In April 2015 I ended up having an infection which turned into Cellulitis in my throat that landed me back in the hospital as well. Right on the heels that with all the antibiotics I had in my system I was struck with Clostridium difficile or C. Diff. which was a terrible experience.

With those rough experiences I wasn’t messing around so I went to the hospital to get my eye looked at. After a couple hours of waiting the doctor looked my eye over and with the poking and prodding I wanted to cry, but he told me it wasn’t infected and that it was likely the drops I was using which were causing irritation. He gave me some just lubricant drops to use and said things would clear up in a couple days. A couple days later things were getting worse not better. My eye was pretty much swollen shut, sore, red, and so painful. I went to a couple eye doctor offices trying to get in and see someone. Neither were able to help me as they didn’t have doctors in but one felt so bad they started calling around to their other offices in other towns and got me an appointment for the next day. Back in she was much more gentle than the previous doctor and she was confident that it was infected and prescribed a stronger wider antibiotic drop and an ointment for night.

For the first couple days I need to have the drops every hour I’m awake. Jen was supposed to fly out today to meet up with her team for the week. With my history she was worried about leaving and cancelled her trip. I feel terrible that she is missing out on this experience but after waking up again today with my eye swollen almost shut and a terrible night sleep, I’m glad I’m not responsible for the kids and house by myself. The love and support of my family, friends, and colleagues at work, never cease to amaze me.

I won’t gross anyone out with pictures but I’m very hopeful that the combination of medication I have now will clear things up and I can get back to myself.

Childhood Excitement

Childhood Excitement

Last night I had a bit of a strange dream. In it, I was a young child again, probably about Noah’s age 9-10, and I randomly ran into and was able to meet Fred VanVleet. For those of you who don’t know Fred VanVleet is a basketball player for the Toronto Raptors, and someone I enjoyed watching this season. This article tells more about him and shows why he has gained a lot of respect. What I remember from the dream most though is that feeling of pure childhood excitement I had when meeting him.

For many years I haven’t followed sports, but I did when I was younger. It was mostly hockey and baseball, but there was also wrestling, as in the WWE, or WWF at the time. Watching my favourite team win the Stanley Cup, or the World Series or favourite wrestler win the championship belt, would give me some of that excitement. Back then it was more about feeling part of something; I could join in with my friends at school and talk about the win, or call family from any who had taken me to see the Blue Jays play in real life when they won the World Series.

It’s different now though, I enjoy watching basketball, but I only started watching again because of Noah. His interest is growing, and he asks me all the time if there are any basketball games we can watch. Maybe it’s not so different after all. It’s still being part of something, but this time it’s a father and son bonding. It could be because the Raptors didn’t win, but the excitement I get now isn’t from watching them play, but from watching his enthusiasm while playing or watching.

The excitement of the kids is part of the reason we’ve tried to change things like Christmas and our vacations. Instead of buying things we try to make experiences that will bring out that excitement in the kids. Then I can drink it in and have it myself, and we will then share those memories for the rest of our lives. Our vacation this year is going to be the best one yet. While we have a lot of things we’re going to do and see, the big part is finally taking the whole family to Disney!

Proud Dad / Coach

Proud Dad / Coach

This weekend has caused me to fill with pride, not because anything I’ve done, but because the effort and growth Noah and his whole basketball team has made this year.

Last year I had told the coach of the Little Dunkers group Noah was in that I’d be happy to help out with anything I could. At the beginning of this year in the Under 10 group he asked me if I was still interested and that led me to be sort of an assistant coach to the team. Basketball is the sport I know the most about, because I played a lot of in my younger years, but I was never coached and have no experience being a sports coach. Thankfully the other coaches are fantastic so I get to learn from them and basically repeat everything they say while helping the kids in practise. Honestly I’ve probably learned as much as the kids have over the year.

We technically finished our season a while back but didn’t want to quite yet. We asked some of the kids from our team and another local team if they wanted to keep going and so made up a new team. We’ve been practising hard usually a couple times a week and they are keen to learn and push themselves. It’s inspiring to see the kids put in the work, get noticeably better, build trust with each other, and really become a team.

At the beginning of the year Noah was timid, would pull up early when dribbling down the court, and just hold back in general. Throughout the year he’s become a good defensive player, he’d stick to players and fight for rebounds. This weekend he took it further, he was diving for loose balls and driving to the net. Watching Noah’s confidence grow makes me so happy.

This weekend we played in a small tournament we were invited to. We played two games on Saturday where we won the first game and then lost the second by one point in a very hard fought battle against a strong team. This morning we won again which took us to the final game against the team we lost to yesterday. Once again it was a hard fought game that came down to us winning by just a couple points. You can see from the players on the bench in the background while Noah was taking this foul shot in some of the last seconds of the game how invested they all were. Everyone on their feet as each point here made a difference. I don’t have many fingernails left today.

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We still have a couple tournaments we’re going to play in and I can’t wait to this group get even better. Here’s a little video that we put together as part of a contest to see more of this team.

Dial-up Internet

Dial-up Internet

Sometimes I miss the beautiful singing of dial-up modems communicating with each other and negotiating the terms of their courtship.

A brief thread in Slack at work had us joking about old technology, even though some of it isn’t all that old, but it had me try to be poetic about the days of dial-up internet. The sound really does hold some nostalgia for me. I remember the first time I heard a modem dial-up and connect with another computer on the other end. At that point, I didn’t understand what was going on and how it was working, but listening and then seeing information slowly appear on the screen from out on the Internet was special.

My career in support and technology started by providing support over the phone for an Internet Service Provider. People would call us up when they were having problems dialing up and connecting. Init strings, disabling call waiting, removing those splitters and dollar store phone cord, and uninstall and reinstall dial-up networking, were all familiar things we’d do so people could hear that sound.

The Internet has changed so much since then but people are still using it to connect, and I’m still earning my living by helping them to do it. It’s just a little less noisy.

That’s not your email

That’s not your email

Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of email that is meant for someone else. The majority of the time it seems it’s people who don’t seem to know their own address.

I signed up for Gmail near when it first came out, it was still invite only. Though I wasn’t lucky enough to know anyone with invites, so I bought one off eBay for something like $10. Money well spent. As I signed up early I was able to get a fairly short address and it seems to be a common one people think is theirs.

I can’t seem to remember all different things I’ve ended up having access to by people using my email but here are a few: Someones dating site profile, a Barnes & Noble account, peoples vacation pictures, someones home owners association, job reference requests, someones cell phone account, an invitation to join a soccer team, and numerous personal notes meant for family members or friends. That’s not all of them but some of the ones that come to mind. Recently I went through a stretch where someone used my email as their own to sign up for a bunch of author’s newsletters that I’ve had to unsubscribe from.

This just doesn’t happen to me, email is broken. It’s especially bad when you can sign up for services without verifying your email. My colleague Davide thought of a humorous way to highlight what’s wrong, A diary of broken emails. A little while ago I shared a few of emails I’ve recently unwillingly received and they’re now published on the site.

Does this happen you you? Share your examples as well.

This guy wouldn’t let the cold stop him

This guy wouldn’t let the cold stop him

Yesterday I didn’t move very much. Right up until about 9pm my Fitbit was only showing about 1200 steps, that’s pretty lazy. Earlier in the day when it was even lower than that I was chatting with my team about how I should go out for a walk but that I was being a wimp about the cold. Trying to assure them that I wasn’t always so lazy, and afraid of the weather, I shared this picture from a few years ago when the cold didn’t stop me and I’d go out running in about anything.

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This morning my teammate Guga shared this, I think he was trying to make me feel better about being such a baby about going out in the cold that he tried to make me look like a badass. Even funnier this was the only first person shooter style game I ever played any amount of, I was terrible at it.

sandy-counter-strike

 

Writing, Creating, and Personal Perspective

Writing, Creating, and Personal Perspective

This morning while sitting at a coffee shop reading a bit of His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay. I’ve had it on my shelf for a while now and slowly getting through it. Not because I don’t enjoy it, I just haven’t made the time to read lately. This is the second book by the author I have read. I found the first, Alone in the Classroom, on clearance table at a book store and bought it based on a review on the back of the book saying it reminded the reviewer of Annie Proulx. She authored the book The Shipping News which I very much enjoy.

Anyway, this paragraph really hit me for this morning.

If you like different points of view, and Jim did, then you like old magazines. They open doors into other worlds and you slip in so easily. He used the typewriter too. Typing with two fingers THE SKY IS BLUE, he discovered he had made it so, even though it was raining outside and was supposed to rain all day.

Writing is a big part of my job and I’ve been working at improving it, I want to be a better writer. To be able to create new worlds people can feel a part of, or that I could get lost in myself, is a remarkable thing to be able to accomplish. While I believe I can and will improve the technical aspects of my writing, I don’t believe I have the creativity needed to imagine characters and their surroundings out of my own mind. Maybe some of that could come with practise and by reading more, but I’m not convinced I’d ever get there.

For a brief while I thought about writing some short stories loosely based on some past adventures I found myself in as a child and teenager. At least I wouldn’t have to completely make up the people and have a place to start from. Even as I reminisce and type out the facts for myself I can’t describe the details enough to really draw people in or allow them to slip into the story.

Writing probably isn’t the outlet for me. Maybe it is more about creating something in general. Previously I built digital things. Programming web applications, or little tools to make things easier. That was creating something new, but I don’t do it very often anymore. Is that what I’m missing? Maybe there’s a personal side project I can come up with and find time to work on to create something new again. Even better can I find away to incorporate this to my work?

There has been lots written about moving from an individual contributor role to a leadership or management one. When most of my day was spent directly with customers and helping them I was Engineering Happiness and problem solving. Most of the time these were short term problems where were resolved while talking with the customer or shortly afterwards. There was that instant gratification of completing that. While self employed and building things for clients there was something tangible at the end and clear progress along the way. These were usually smaller projects not big complex systems. There were tests I could run and in short time see if changes I made were working. In my current role there isn’t typically that instant gratification anymore. Challenges being worked on are longer and not always as easy to see and measure the results.

Perhaps this, like many things, is all about perspective and I need to find a new one or adjust mine again. Find those gratifications and better see things I can help create in a different way. As an example I’m struggling through now, instead of getting the specifications for a new tool or project and creating it, I need to put the thought into what the specifications are and communicate them in a way that it can be built. There is obviously so much more for me to learn, work on, and grow.

Fourteen Years

Fourteen Years

To my best friend Jen,

There isn’t a day which goes by where I don’t want to spend it with you. For the past fourteen years you’ve stuck with me through many ups and downs. The whole time you’ve been my rock that I lean on, encouraging me to take risks, and holding me up when times get low.

You are one of the smartest, most courageous, hardworking, and kindest people I know.

A tiny list of the things we’ve been through together:

  • 8 moves
  • 9 vehicles
  • 12 of my jobs
  • 4 years of University
  • 4 children
  • Some immense heartache
  • Near death experience
  • Awesome vacations
  • Countless memories

Topping that list however is the endless love and happiness we share. I’m so thankful that we’ve had this time together, getting to know you better and better, and watching our family grow. It makes me extremely proud to tell people you are my wife and I’m looking forward to creating many more memories together for the rest of our lives.