Voting 2015

Yesterday I went to an Advance poll to vote early. My station at a local middle school was lined up out into the rain for most of Monday. Over 2.4 million people voted over the weekend, a 16% increase over the last election. Either we are in a titanic struggle for the soul of our country for the next four years, or we have finally discovered how to use awkward Thanksgiving political conversations for peaceful purposes.

Still, the Conservatives will probably win in my riding no matter who I vote for. The fate of our leadership ultimately rests on what goes on in Ontario and Quebec anyhow. I don’t like it, but I’m putting my ballot in anyways. Like many democratic rights, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

If I can’t have the election I want, at least I can make sure my fellow voters are well-informed. If you want to know what your local MP has debated on or how they voted, go to It contains full text transcripts of every parliament since 1994. Included are also the voting records on every bill since then, such as the Anti-Terror Act Bill C-51, the Strengthening of Canadian Citizenship act Bill C-24 and The Fair Elections Act Bill C-23.

You can just type the issues you care about into the search box and find out how your MPs have acted on them in real life as opposed to their campaign promises.

Now here’s where I turn into your disapproving Dad and tell you to vote. As a favour to me. I know you think you are just encouraging them, and I know you think you can’t make a difference. I’m not asking you to vote for the benefit of any one party. I want you to think you have a say in this country’s future. It’s a little trick of human nature. If I can get you to go through the motions of heading to your local school gym and ticking that box, you may start to think of yourself as someone who cares about what’s going on in Ottawa and will take action when the need arises. If that happens, then we just might have a chance at having some real change in this country.

August/September Review: Well, that was fast.

So I thought figuring out my new job and commute would be a mad dash. Clearly the universe did not believe I knew the meaning of a mad dash. It. proceeded to remind me.

No sooner had I spent a week on the job when Sara and I finally got an offer on our condo. It had been on the market for 6 months, and there were so many false starts and lightning-round cleaning sessions that we had begun to lose hope. A university student needed our place for the coming fall semester, and suddenly we were out on a property tour again. The first few houses were underwhelming, with the kind of upkeep that I can only classify as a “renovator’s dream”. Then a vision appeared off a former country main road. It had a double garage, a backyard, a spacious kitchen, and a basement. Not a suite mind you, but a basement that I could put an office in while I watched Gavin in the rec room! After some deliberation, we put in an offer. It was rejected, and we were suddenly faced with the prospect of being homeless. 48 hours later, we learned that the other buyers had dropped their offer. The house was ours.

So I had gone from taking sad selfies while job-hunting at the local library to commuting to an exciting new job, packing everything I owned into my parents’ garage, and staying in their basement while we waited to take possession. It was completely nerve-wracking having to co-ordinate things over the phone while on my lunch break. Fortunately, my amazing wife, who coordinates 60 12-year-olds for living, made sure our family was in good hands. She managed to fit all of this in even as she started the new school year as teacher team leader. Thanks, Honey!

In the end, we made it into our new house, I’m typing this at my very own desk in my very own study, and I have not done ANY side-project work since my last blog entry. However, I’m ready to get back to it with some new strategies.

Now that I’m working at company that doesn’t require me to bring my own computer, everything I do on my Macbook is either for entertainment or professional development. I’ve got a little tool installed called “RescueTime“, that tracks which apps or websites I’m working on at any given time. I used it before a performance analysis tool to measure my focus, but I think I can now use it as a time-tracker. I can also set goals on it so I can improve my time management step by step. Plus I get all these cool infographics breaking down my time. Why don’t we take a look at August and September?

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.07.29 PMScreen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.07.37 PM
Wow, that is a lot of red there. Okay, it looks like I’ve got some work to do here. That’s okay! I can also use the pomodoro technique to enhance my focus. The pomodoro technique involves working in 25-minute bursts broken up by a 5 minute break. I’ve tried to use it before over an 8 hour day, and I felt it didn’t really work since I might forget to take my break or I would forget to track my time properly. If just do one or two pomodoro sessions tonight, I might be able to stick to it.

June/July 2015 Review: Landing on My Feet


Here’s the thing about a job search. As soon as it’s going really well, it’s over. Until then, it’s going poorly, which makes it really awkward to post any updates. Sure, I could be bringing inspiration to anyone else who is going through the same thing, but with all the support I’ve gotten from my family and friends, my plight was really the most first world of first world problems. Now, it’s all over. I’m starting a new web developer job in New Westminster next month. At 7 weeks, this is one of the shortest lulls in employment I’ve ever had. So what else is new?

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Nelson. My wife’s family decided having 3 cousins under the age of 3 simply was not enough excitement, so we brought them on an 8 hour drive into the Kootenays for the 60th wedding anniversary of my wife’s godparents. Good, and surprisingly incident-free times!

I was able to keep up with a few side projects while I was looking for work. The hours I put in, or lack thereof, really showed me just how important ritual and routine are to your productivity. I am also still trying to sell my condo through all this, so if I’m not filling out job applications or going out to interviews, I might be either cleaning the apartment for a showing or taking my son out so my wife can do the same. I also tried to switch from using a notebook to track my time to using iOS notes and transferring the entries to freckle. For some reason, I couldn’t keep up with typing my hours on a computer. Just like my son needs a glass of milk and have three books read to him before bed, I need to put my time into a moleskine notebook (which I now refer to as “the binky”) and put the hours into freckle so I can do some reporting. On that note, here are my totals for June and July.

Open source work 10.5 hours
Code speaks louder than resumes in today’s job market. This time I decided to immerse myself in the open source process and contribute to some actual projects. I was able to contribute to 2 projects, Ginatra and Empirical Core. I’ll be writing a blog post soon about how I did it.

Seating Plan Project 14.25 hours
Of course, it’s also important to spearhead your own ventures. I hadn’t worked on this one for a really long time, so most of the libraries had to be updated. I really have to get used to the structure of JavaScript. When you want things to happen in sequence, you can’t just type out e function you want on the next line. You have to nest function inside each other like a matryoshka doll. It’s counterintuitive, but I think this will really help me if I ever have to put together systems that have to work in real time.

Novel 2.75 hours

The dream lumbers forward at over 16000 words!

Indie game project 3.5 hours

I managed to follow a tutorial that got a character to walk across the screen, but that’s about it. I might be psyching myself out over the idea of working with a physics engine. I really should just focus on getting ideas out there so I can keep my momentum going.

The new job starts on August 4th, so I’m going to be on a little bit of a summer vacation until then. After that, it’s going to be a mad dash to figure out my new office, my new commute, and how to spend whatever little time I have left over. As always, if I learn something useful that I can share, I’ll be sure to pass it on to you here. Until next time!

May 2015 Review: It’s that time again!

Well then, May sure was super eventful this year! I put 2 hours into my novel, I started a new gaming project with my friends in Seattle, they announced X-com 2, something else happened in the news, and Tomorrow Land was certainly a surprise hit for this Memorial Day. Oh, and I also got laid off.

Don’t worry, I’m okay! There were no hard feelings, we have plenty of savings, and the recruiters were very happy to talk to me last week. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shake up. It probably means I’ll have to commute into Vancouver, but that also means I’ll be in touch with some colleagues I haven’t seen in a while. Last week I managed to get through a lot of IT and sysadmin work at my house. It just seemed to pile up because I was at work all the time. Of course, there’s a lot more time for side projects now.

It’s tempting to spend all my time sending out resumes, but it’s going to be the side projects that land me a new gig. They are actual examples of my work. They will carry a lot more weight than sentences “I am a detailed oriented professional capable of working individually and as part of a team.” I also get the chance to fill some gaps in my knowledge without a deadline getting in the way.

The project that I hope to get finished this month is a seating plan app I started some months ago for my wife. I also want to get really deep into that gaming project I mentioned earlier. As for the novel, well, I think I’ll give it an hour a day and just see what happens. Onward and upward!

Give and Take



Another book that’s had a significant effect on me is “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.” The theory behind the book is that successful people are distinguished by their reciprocity style. First there are Takers, who focus on how they look towards the group and rush to take credit for their work. Their logic is, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? Matchers rely on an equitable system of favours to get ahead. Givers focus on helping as many people as they can. Givers are a particularly interesting case because they make up both the top and bottom performers in many different studies. Givers who help people with no regard for their own interests make up the bottom performance rung because they are too busy helping other people to focus on their own work. Givers at the top have structured their giving so that a maximum number of people can be helped for as little effort as needed.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 1.37.03 PM

givetakeI took the survey on the book’s website, I may have been a little primed by the book, but here’s how my tendency results broke down: 73% giver, 14% matcher, 13% taker. You need to ask your friends to rate you for a better assessment, but I have no idea who will take me up on that!

This could have implications for how I choose my side projects. Now the book hinted at, but never really went into, how Giving can work in the digital age. The Internet is a communications network, and its greatest strength is that the cost of reaching one additional person is zero. That means you can educate one person or a thousand without any additional effort. Does this mean I should choose my projects with a bias towards stuff I could share over the internet? If I’m working on a talk, should I create a video to practice? Should I do a freelancing project that helps one person, or fix an open source bug that helps thousands? Should I take a policy that states, “If I can’t share it, don’t do it”?

I do believe that the internet’s potential remains underused. If I’m going to get anyone else to believe that, I’d better start practicing what I preach. The next time I program in my free time, maybe I should start a google hangout and post it on youtube. Programming projects always take an indefinite amount of time. It could be weeks or months before I produce something I can share. If I post my process for everyone to see, maybe that can inspire more people to take up programming, or at the very least educate people on what I do. It won’t be much, but if I’m motivated to give, I had better start doing it early, and often.