Toronto March break vacation

Toronto March break vacation

We’ve been waiting since Christmas to take this trip. This year we surprised everyone with tickets to see a Toronto Raptors game over March Break. This may just become new tradition. We haven’t really done anything big for March break before, but this ended up being a great vacation.

We debated for a short bit about flying but just too expensive so we did our usual road trip. We broke up the drive over a few days and were able to see friends along the way. We drove to Northern New Brunswick the first night and stayed with friends there who we don’t get to see nearly enough and we stayed on the way back as well. Next we headed to Montreal for a night.

Montreal

In Montreal we were able to meet up with a couple co-workers from my team Jupiter! They met us at the Montreal Science Centre which was fun and a good way to stretch our legs for a while.

Since we were in Montreal we figured we should have some real poutine as well. The locals humoured us and came along too. There were so many other people that I’d love to have seen a long the way but our dates and plans were kind of up in the air until the last minute. One of the benefits and downfalls of working in a distributed company, you know people everywhere, but on short trips it can be a challenge to take advantage of that.

CN Tower

Though the main point of the trip was to see the Toronto Raptors play when in Toronto for the first time as a family we had to do some of the other tourist things a well. We spent pretty much the whole day on Monday in Toronto and first hit up the CN Tower. There were some impressive views. Noah was pretty hesitant to go up and buried his head into me the whole elevator ride up, but once we were there he loved it. Even out on the glass floor jumping up and down. Caile and I on the other had almost didn’t go out onto it. Last minute right before we left we finally went out, slowly and tentatively.

Ripley’s Aquarium

We had heard from many people that the Aquarium was a must see. Everyone has really enjoyed on all the ones we have visited over the years and this one is right up there for sure.

Toronto Raptors Game

After the aquarium we walked to get something to eat at Jen’s favourite restaurant Wahlburgers. The burgers are pretty good, but it’s her love of Donnie Wahlberg and NKOTB that makes it for her.

Timing the whole day worked out really well and we made it back to Scotiabank Arena with just a bit of a wait before the doors opened. While in line we saw two people from here in Nova Scotia going to the game a well. Earlier on our way to the CN Tower we ran into one of Jen’s friends from school as well. There were other people of we knew of who were at the same game as us but we didn’t see them.

The game ended up being fantastic, though not really suspenseful. They beat the Knicks 128 – 92. Seeing an NBA game live regardless was a lot of fun and it was great to see them win.

Going into the game we were a little nervous. There were a bunch of players that we might not be able to see play. It was the second night of a back to back game which meant we were pretty sure Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t play and that was right. Serge Ibaka was out due to a suspension and both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had been out some games due to injury so we were hoping they would be back. Thankfully they both played, though Kyle was re-injured in the third quarter and hasn’t been back yet.

Danny Green and Pascal Siakam are both favourites in our house and being there early we were able to get down close and see them both warming up before things got underway. One of the other big highlights for me was seeing Fred VanVleet get his first ever NBA double double. He’s one of my favourite players, if you’re not familiar with him this is a great article written last year.

Everyone had a lot of fun and is looking forward to our next opportunity to see a game, maybe next March break again.

Escape Room

One of the things we talked about on the drive to do an Escape Room. I’ve done a couple on work trips, but no one else had. We tried to find one to break up one of our drive days but it never worked out. One day after shopping at the Eaton’s Centre we intended to head to the Ontario Science Centre but realized it was too close to closing time. So we were trying to find something else to do and Ella thought of an Escape Room. We found a good family friendly one we were able to book last minute.

It was a Christmas themed one where we had to help an elf save the Christmas Spirit. It was a lot of fun solving all the clues and puzzles. Everyone was involved and together we escaped the room and ended up with some snow on us as a result.

Toronto Zoo

The whole trip we were watching the weather both for our drives and because we knew we wanted to go to the zoo. We timed it well because we had a lovely day for it. It was the first day of Spring and it even felt like it.

There was weather in the forecast for our scheduled drive home though so we called the trip a day short. We hit the zoo first thing when it opened and pretty much had it to ourselves. Once we were done we hit the road on our way home.

Automattic Pumpkin

Noah and I have most of the day together. We’re off to play some basketball shortly but this morning he helped me carve my pumpkin.

He choose to paint his own this year, it has the first coat only so far, so not ready to share.

For a while I’ve wanted to try this kind of carving where you more skin the pumpkin, so I choose a fairly simple design. Maybe I’ll try something more detailed next year.

Happiness Patches

Happiness Patches

A few Grand Meetups ago some of my awesome colleagues started a new cool thing, Happiness Patches. For any team you have been on, or done a rotation with, you get a patch. There are a few fun patches as well and they’re expanding a bit. The idea is similar to merit badges.

Each Grand Meetup I’d collect new patches and then they would live in a bag in my office, I never knew what to do with them. The one main idea I had saw others do was to put them on a backpack. Backpacks wear out though and I didn’t want to lose these. Finally this weekend I did something with them and I’m really happy with the result.

While the kids were doing a craft at our local Michaels store I went and grabbed a shadow box to frame the patches in. Had I just been doing the patches a regular frame would have likely worked, but I had a few pins to throw in as well so needed a big more depth. It has now joined the Automattic wall in my office.

The wall started out with just the print based on the Automattic creed, then shortly after I added the three logos and it has continued to grow since then. A local business, who creates custom pillows, made the WordPress logo pillow for me. Jen wouldn’t let me use it in the living room so now it lives on the top of my bookcase. The next additions were the award I received at work, and the WordPress pennant. One of my previous team members brought me a big glow in the dark Jupiter sticker which made it’s way to the wall as well. Jupiter is our team name. Last night I re-arranged things a bit so I could make room for the new shadow box. The wall can still use some adjustments to fit things better, but I really like it and it makes me happy when ever I walk into my office.

 

 

 

Jupiter in Lisbon

Jupiter in Lisbon

Our team at work, team Jupiter, recently got together in Lisbon Portugal for almost a week to socialize and work together. This is our first meetup as a team and since the last company wide Grand Meetup our team has grown by four people so this was our first time meeting in real life for a good portion of us!

We have such an awesome and diverse team it was such an opportunity to get together and build better bonds with everyone. We have two team Brazil, two Spanish team members, one from Spain and one from Bolivia. Two Americans but one has been living in the UK for some time. Three people living in Canada, though I’m the only native Canadian. There is also another from the UK but they weren’t able to join us on the meetup. Our team is evenly divided with five women and five men. Four of us have children. Though I don’t contribute to this I believe I counted about 17 different languages known on our team.

The main purpose of the trip is of course to work. We did a series of skill building workshops which members prepared and put on, the main focus was around feedback and giving and receiving it. We have some good followup work as well which we can do async now that we are back to our respective homes.

When we first booked our meetup we had a fair amount of extra space in the deal we received for our accommodations so I helped convince another team to join us as well. Independently another team booked their meetup in Lisbon which overlapped ours by a few days. This allowed us to interact with a couple other teams as well and do a bit of work together.

In the evenings especially, and one day which we set aside, we were able to explore Lisbon and take in some fun activities. Just walking around the city was an experience itself. Such neat buildings many with beautiful tile work, the roads and walk ways done with stone. The city is pretty hilly so we were up and down hills and stairs on our walks. There were trolley cars in some areas which would take you up and down. There was live music being played in many areas by street performers. One day we had a parade right outside our co-working place which we took a few minutes to go and see. On a walk home one evening in the square right in between our accommodations and co-working place there was a group swing dancing. So many little cool moments.

One afternoon we last minute signed up for an escape the room as a whole team. The concept was that we were to follow the clues and solve the puzzles to show we were worthy to join the Illuminati. We were pleased when we finished the room the host came out with a stop watch showing us that we had beat the record in the time it took us to solve it. What great team work!

One of the highlights for me was a pastry cooking class we did together on the morning of our activity day we set aside. One of Lisbon’s famous treats are Pastel de Nata which are a delicious custard pastry. Since I’ve been home I’ve made them twice to rave reviews. There were a couple others treats as well but these were my favourite by far.

We made our way to São Jorge Castle as well. Many of the team ended up here at different times. When I went there were five of us together. We timed it to go up just before sunset so we could have some light but also watch the sun set  from the great view the castle provides. Walking around the castle grounds was impressive, but it was when we made it up on the castle walls where I had to stop and take a few minutes to take in the the whole situation. So thankful!

At home I missed a dance competition where Ella and Caile did awesome. Ella was offered an invitation and scholarship to do a dance tour and experience in either Barcelona or Paris. Unfortunately even with the scholarship it isn’t meant to be. It’s fairly expensive and we wouldn’t feel comfortable sending her on her own so at least one of us would have to go with her. Though it sounds like an amazing opportunity. Maybe another year she’ll get a similar chance and we’ll be in a different position to do it.

Vegas Trip & Bruno Mars

Recently a bunch of the team leads in the Happiness division at Automattic got together in Las Vegas to learn together and work to ensure we are all working together. It was a very productive trip. I came back with things I can do right away and be better at my job, and feeling jazzed at the bonds I started or strengthened with my co-workers.

View this post on Instagram

I ❤these folks #happleadsinvegas

A post shared by Andrea Badgley (@andreabadgley) on

We stayed in the downtown area which is away from The Strip that everyone thinks of, we spent most of the time working and then quiet evenings at dinner together or socializing in one of the hotel rooms. One night though we did go down to the strip for a dinner though to experience the famous Vegas Buffets.

Ever since I caught Bruno Mars on Carpool Karaoke I’ve had one of this songs stuck in my head 24K Magic which has the music video set in Vegas on the Strip.

The night we went to the buffet we went to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, there was about ten of us but everything was pretty impressive. We walked through to the buffet and there was a lineup to pay and enter. Once we paid they pulled our group out of the line and started us towards the entrance. I was feeling all Bruno Mars, like yeah they know who we are, Automatticians getting the VIP treatment and skipping the line.

Instead they moved us into our own little area that was like a sad little holding pen. Not a lot of 24K Magic going on there.

New .blog Site Address

New .blog Site Address

For many of my tech following readers may know Automattic, my employer, is behind the new domain extension .blog. The .blog domains were just recently released to be generally available to anyone who would like to register one. If you would like to, you can over at https://get.blog

Yesterday the activation was finished and I setup my new address for my blog here. Automattic allowed each employee to reserve a domain name and I thought long and hard about it. I came close to asking for sandy.blog because it’s nice and short. But I already have a pretty nice short domain name of sandym.ca which also redirects people here. So instead I opted for a more useful domain and received mcfadden.blog

This allows me to also create sub domains so that others in my family, if they wanted to start their own blog, could have a fantastic domain name too. Because I have access to mcfadden.blog I can now setup sub domains like https://sandy.mcfadden.blog/ which is the main address I’m using for this site now. Maybe my kids want to start blogging some day, I can then set them up with theirname.mcfadden.blog if they wish. Last night we switched my wife’s address for her site over so that it is now https://jen.mcfadden.blog/

I’m pumped to have this new domain for my blog, thank you Automattic!

Hermes Team Meetup

Two weeks ago our team (Hermes) at work got together in Durham North Carolina to spend time together and plan our coming months. As I’m sure most readers of my blog know, Automattic is a fully distributed company. So while we communicate all the time, it’s rare we get to spend time in person together. That makes the time we do get all the more important.

Even though I’ve only been on a couple meetups, one team, and one company wide, I don’t think it will ever cease to amaze me the awesome people I work with. Since the last team meetup we went on our team has changed a great deal. In fact there are a number of people on the team who weren’t at the Grand Meetup in October so I hadn’t met them yet, so I was really excited for this one.

While I was excited I was also pretty nervous. I volunteered to organize and plan the work we would be doing while together. With the help of my colleague Simon who introduced me to it at our last team meetup, I came up with different activities using Game Storming. This was something out of my comfort zone but very was really fun and seemed to go pretty well for my first attempt. We spent our work days exploring different questions to help bring our large team together and come up with a shared understanding of what our teams contribution to the company goals over all should be, and what we can do to get there.

Although we accomplished a lot work wise during the week,  I think my favourite part are the connections we build. When you spend a week working closely, eating meals, and spending fun time together outside of your normal day to day routine, it really seems to speed up this bonding process. A couple team mates have said that after returning from meetups they can now hear the persons voice when reading things they’ve written. It just helps add that extra bit of context to written communication when you have a better feeling for the personality behind the words.

Durham is a neat city. It is really easy to get around, which is great, as it gave us the opportunity to explore it by walking. In the mornings some of us would get together and go wandering. It’s also how we went to most meals as well. The weather was beautiful just about the whole time we where there and I miss my early morning runs and being able to wear shorts and t-shirt.

We were staying right beside the beautiful Duke campus which we walked around. A group of us also spent a lot of time one day taking in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Coming from a place barely hitting spring and seeing all the flowers in bloom and all the green trees made for a memorable time.

Things are in the planning stage for this years company wide meetup and I’m already looking forward to seeing all these folks again.

Here are some pictures from my iPhone of Durham and the people I’m fortunate enough to call team mates!

New Frame Hung

The other day when I added the Automattic Creed to my wall I found another frame that wasn’t being used. There was also a spot on my office wall that it would go but I wasn’t sure what to put in it.

Last night I was I thought of something that I thought would look fairly neat. So I printed out a few logos and put them in the frame. My printer isn’t the best so it doesn’t do a great job but I think it looks pretty good.

Photo 2015-07-28, 12 01 43 PM

The Automattic Creed

Right in the offer letter when you accept a position at Automattic you are presented with the creed right above where you sign to accept. I love this. It really describes how things are here. You can read more about the creed in Matt’s post Why Your Company Should Have a Creed. You can read the creed below.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

A little while ago a co-worker, Nick Hamze, commissioned a design for a t-shirt around the creed. He also did one on canvas. The things Nick creates or has created is awesome. I love his creativity. I printed one out and just put it in a frame and on the wall today. I might try shrinking it down a bit more to have it fit in the frame a bit better, but I love the look of it hanging in my office.

Edit: I did re-print it so it is smaller and fits in the frame better. I replaced the old picture with a new one.

Photo 2015-07-22, 9 50 54 PM