Fiction Workshop at the University of Guelph

Today, I went to a session at the Fiction Workshop that was open to the public at the University of Guelph. I attended, Finding Your Voice, a three hour workshop led by Kathy Friedman.

We discussed the different ways that someone can explore and evolve their voice, through picking a subject, reflecting yourself in your writing, and trying to find ways to figure out both your audience, and your narrator. I had a great time at the session and got to do some writing exercises, so I’m going to post the results here for you all to read, and enjoy.

Voice Experiments: Exercise #2

Write a scene at a party from the perspective of a person in love waiting for his or her spouse to arrive. Do not mention the spouse. Then write the same scene from the perspective of a person who is trying to quit smoking. Do not mention smoking.

Try to change the style you use in each scene. Including word choice, sentence length, tone, and point of view. Remember that what people fail to observe ca be as revelatory as what they do notice.

Endlessly Waiting

Trays of food, some empty, and others not, were slowly packed up. The music was shut off, and Helen found herself smiling at the hosts as they continued to shuffle about, cleaning the garbage, and returning their house to its original, pristine state.
“Are you sure you don’t want any help with anything?” She said, hoping for a distraction.
John, the owner of the house, waved her off. “No, we are doing fine.”
Helen looked out the window. Headlights shone back, and her heart skipped a beat. For a moment, she perked up, before realizing it was just an ambulance rushing by. She couldn’t help but tap her feet. Her heavy boots created a dull thud as they tapped against the large rectangular mat, with its bright red, “welcome home” text. Echoes of the fight from the previous evening still lingered in her mind.
“We could drive you home.” John’s wife, Sarah, shouted from the kitchen, as she threw a pile of dishes in the sink.
“No, it’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
“He knows you are here, right?” Sarah said walking towards Helen, her arms now empty.
“Yes.”
“Was that an ambulance?”

Addicted Mind

I grabbed the garbage scattered around my house. I couldn’t wait until everyone had left. My hands continually shook, no matter what I did. Tearing into my nails with my teeth only seemed to remind me of what was missing from my mouth.
My mind tried to convince me that I was causing myself pain and anguish for nothing. I tried to push through, providing myself with positive affirmations. Unfortunately, my imagination, my addicted self, was just as intelligent and creative.
Each thought that I tried to focus on was ripped away with a negative slant. I couldn’t find anything that would make me feel better, and everything around me reminded me of what I was missing out on.
“This is all going to work out.” I tried to focus on the positive reason for my change. “Think of the money you’ll save.”
“You fool, you were happier, more productive. Remember how you used to feel?” My addicted self replied.
“I won’t stink anymore. I won’t have to go outside in the cold anymore.”
“You’ll miss out on all the conversations between your co-workers. You only got your raise because you knew what was happening in your department.”
“I’ll live longer.”
“You’ll enjoy that longer life less.”
“I’ll be healthier.”
“I’m sure you are giving yourself so many more years with that weight you’ve gained.”
On and on it went, the cycle was so exhausting, so infuriating. I just wanted to give in.

Another New Apartment

Written February 8th So Annie and I are moving again. The process of moving so often has definitely taken its toll on me. We are moving from Georgetown to Guelph. I’ll be around another half an hour to forty-five minutes away from my Kingston and Ottawa family and friends, but this apartment provides Annie and I with everything we need.

It is a two bedroom, plus den condo apartment that we are renting. It comes with in-suite laundry, dishwasher, and an underground parking spot. It has an elevator so that Annie’s mom can live with us without issue. It has enough space where we can feel comfortable, but not so much that maintaining it will seem overwhelming. It is also brand new. No one else has lived here before. Annie has been enjoying that fact immensely.

Having a great place to move into doesn’t fix the issues with moving out of the old place though. Today, I was expecting Bell to come and set-up Internet at the new apartment. Why am I going with Bell after having enjoyed Distributel so much? Well, the building we are moving into are fibre buildings, and it goes right into the unit. Apparently, Bell made a deal with the condos to have exclusivity for a period of time so that it was worth their time to set-up the infrastructure. As far as I know, you can also get Rogers here, but since my cell phone is currently with Bell, I went with them to get a few extra dollars off in a bundle deal.

Annie and I “camped” out at our new apartment so I could be here for our 8AM to 10AM window for the Bell technician to start doing the installation. At 9:45AM, Bell called and let me know they weren’t coming today, but that they could come tomorrow. Unfortunately, I can’t stay here and work from our new apartment yet as my desktop computer is in Georgetown, and I can’t trust that they won’t move the appointment again. On top of all of that, Annie had already left for Church in Georgetown, so I’m stuck, in Guelph, alone, until she is able to get back to me this afternoon. So I called Bell, and let them know how displeased I am. I asked them to move the appointment to next weekend. and guess when the only open spot is? The same time as this weekend. So I’ll miss Church again with Annie, and they better not move the appointment again.

Hopefully, by the time they come, we will have most of our Guelph apartment set-up. On Saturday, Annie and I did a small load of stuff from the storage unit and our apartment, and I quickly realized I have some kind of stress disorder from all the moves I’ve done, and I almost broke down. My poor wife, I was so angry, so frustrated, and there wasn’t anything she could do to help me. I quickly realized that maybe hiring professional movers is the smart choice, both for my emotional state, and my marriage.

I’ve sent out requests for quote to a bunch of BBB listed moving companies in the area in hopes of finding someone that is dependable, high quality but doesn’t break the bank. This move is costing a small fortune, but it had to be done.

Update on February 9th: Of course, once I got the quotes back, the range was from $950 to over $1600 for the move, so I don’t think that’ll work. Annie and I are back to our other plan, which is to rent a trailer or U-Haul and hopefully that’ll work out okay if we can get enough people to help…

Short Story: Safer at Home – Page 1

“The long road of man to get to this point is an achievement that will change humanity forever.”
Sean was speaking to the computer again, narrating everything. The flurry of activity occurring around me was loud, but not enough to drown out his voice. I tried to keep my cool, but there was something about the way he spoke that made me just want to slap him. “Do you really have to do that?”
An engineer laughed as he clipped my helmet into place.
“I could do it after we lift off if that would make you feel better.”
“Sir?” I responded back, waiting for him to clue in on his oversight.
“Right. I can do it later, sir.”
The sarcasm in his voice only served to irritate me more. I turned my attention to performing my final checks. With the engineers leaving the small arrow tip shaped pod, I locked the doors behind them.
“Three minutes until launch.” A body-less voice stated in a forceful timbre.
I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement and anxiety in equal measure as a countdown update was broadcast. I had been training to go to space my entire life, struggling as every possible barrier was dropped in my way.
“A wave of tension fills the Renaissance as we get ready to launch.”
“Sean! Shut up!” Rhea shouted both through the comm system in her suit, and through her open visor.
Everyone in the crew, save Sean, laughed loudly. The tension Sean referenced cleared out, and an intangible change occurred. I felt as though we instantly refocused on the serious mission ahead of us. I pushed down the visor on my helmet, sealing myself in. Status checks happened in a timely manner and as the countdown reached its final seconds, there was nothing stopping us.
“Ten, nine…”
I couldn’t help but think of the seven scrubbed attempts to launch and the heightened anticipation before the frustrating delays.
“Six, five…”
A deep rumbling shimmied up the rocket, through my chair, and into my helmet. It all felt unreal, like a dream I was going to wake up from any second. I tapped my console, giving the all clear, double checking the pressure in the fuel system, and performing one last battery check.
“Two, one.”
The acceleration is unlike anything I can fully explain. The entire front of my body felt like it had hit a brick wall, my brain felt like it was bouncing around in my skull. I was pressed deep within my seat, it was uncomfortable, but not so painful that I wanted it to stop. The simulations, and preparation are nothing like the real thing, even the rocket sleds that we had tested in didn’t really compare to the real experience of fighting Earth’s gravity with huge controlled explosions pushing a small pod into orbit.
It lasted for several minutes as I watched the blue sky above me slowly shift from a bright blue to a deep rich blue before darkening. Rhea had been to space before, but Sean, Leonard, Kyle and I had never experienced something so transcendent. I couldn’t help but let a few, less than professional, gasps slip out, and over the internal communication system.
“Everything okay?” Rhea asked on a private channel.
“It is truly more beautiful than I could have imagined.”
Growing up in a city, I had only seen the full beauty of the night sky on trips between cities. Until I was ten years old, I had assumed there weren’t more than a few dozen stars. I remember seeing thousands of them litter the night sky with their beauty, and feeling as though I had been cheated up until that point. I had always known I wanted to go to space, but I didn’t realize how much there was to see. Being outside of the most dense part of the Earth’s atmosphere provided me with the same experience. The thousands of stars were joined by millions more, and the universe seemed infinite.
“It only gets better.” She responded, a smile in her tone.

My First Real Taste of Project Management: Gif the Halls

I’ve been wanting to learn how to run projects and I recent had an experience that I want to share.

I’ve done some project management previously, but never at the caliber required by my position at 10up. I was recently given the leadership role on a project with WPEngine called Gif the Halls. They came to us with the idea, and asked us to build them a website that would allow for the submission of holiday card text, a way to project the text onto the side of a building, and the record people seeing the projected text. It sounds simple on the surface but required a great deal more work than even I thought.

In the end, I didn’t successfully lead the project from beginning to end. I needed my boss, Dana to step in and help me and Vasken, a VP level staff member, to also jump in and take over pieces of the puzzle. It was disheartening to feel like I had failed in accomplishing my goal, but I’m so grateful for their support. I knew I wasn’t quite ready to lead a project, but I was very excited at the opportunity, and I learned a great deal from my experience that will stand me in good stead the next time I’m given such an opportunity.

I also owe a huge debt to the team that I work with as they put in ridiculous hours developing pieces that were forgotten about at the eleventh hour of the project. We worked through our Christmas holidays to make the project as successful as possible, and I think what we did accomplish was monumental.

There were moments of hilarious revelation as we realized that we had a person in China controlling a digital SLR in California, while working with a team member in Germany, watched by myself in Ontario, Canada and my boss in Florida. Just so very crazy, but exciting and part of what makes working remotely so interesting and engaging.

I’m spending a great deal of time reflecting on the choices I made, and what I could have done better. I am looking forward to the team involved getting together for a meeting and really dissecting this project so that I can continue to learn more and become a better project manager. My goal with working at 10up is to lead a team, and I feel like this experience has helped me get closer to that goal.

In the end, I hope most people that saw the exhibit, and participated in the project are happy with the outcome. I wish it could have all worked perfectly, but it was much more complicated than it seems on the surface, and I know that my team engineered the best solution that we could come up with.

If you want to read a bit more about the project, check out the blog post that was put up on the 10up corporate blog: Gif the Halls: Holiday Cards Gone Wild (Thanks Jake for helping me with it!)

Short Story: Ownership Papers

BODY ID: CAN-MD1182-KON
RECIPIENT ID: USA-FJ0270-MFL

Welcome to your new body. The previous owner spent thirty-two years in this body, and while it was not always well taken care of, I am sure you will find it to your satisfaction. Before you begin, there are a few things you should know.

You are now male. This might be a bit confusing at first, but you will acclimate quickly. You selected on your rebirth card that the gender of the donor body didn’t matter to you, and hopefully you will enjoy this change. There are some simple pleasures to being male. Please let us know if you would like more details or instruction relating to this change in gender.

You are also now six feet and one inch tall. The perspective of the world around you will have changed slightly. An increase in six or more inches has previously been shown to be disorienting to those taking on new bodies. Please take your time over the next few days, and explore around you. Dust hiding on top of surfaces that you have never seen before might be surprising.

The body you have entered weighs two hundred and eighty pounds. This is obese, but with your history of physical fitness, we are confident that you can fix this over the next few years. Just be aware that your new body will not initially be as athletic as you are used to. Take your time and provide it with plenty of rest between physical activities.

All organs are in relatively good shape. The body you now inhabit did not drink much alcohol and does not smoke. Your new body also has never had any broken bones. You may feel some aches and pains in the wrists, knees and back, but this is likely due to the original owner sitting for far too long. Up to this point, the career path of your new body was focused on office work, and you may notice minor calluses on your finger tips. Compared to most men of this age, your hands are soft and smooth.

As a youth, and teen, your new body had pneumonia more than half a dozen times. This means that your new body is prone to respiratory issues, and it is recommended that you continue to live away from major pollution zones.

You have likely noticed by now that your eyesight is not as good as it was before. You require prescription glasses, but your eyesight does qualify for laser eye correction surgery, and if you would like to take advantage of a special offer we have, please feel free to contact us.

Overall, we hope that you enjoy your new body, and take full advantage of the second change you have been given. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please keep these papers on file, as they include details relating to your ownership of this body.

Short Story: Transfer

They told me that I would feel better, but I knew that they were wrong. Watching the man who killed my wife get hooked into the glowing red and blue machine that would kill him wasn’t bringing me any satisfaction. There was no forgiveness on his face, no remorse. He knew what he had done, and his only frustration was that he had been caught.

“So you understand what will happen next, right?”

A warm, but slightly clammy hand rested on my shoulder, her index finger grazed my neck and sent a shiver down my spine. “Yes. I do.”

I looked at the nurse, she was a few inches shorter than me, wearing light blue medical scrubs. She stood with me, in the sterile and clinical room. We watched side by side as Samuel Jennings was strapped down. The metal clasps dug into his skin as the attendants pulled them tight. There was a disconnect between what was happening and what I felt. It was as though I was watching the entire situation unfold from outside of my body.

“Once they flip that switch, his life force will be drained before it is transferred to you.” Continue reading

10upcanada

10up is Hiring

While I’ve only been working here for a few months now, I’m happy to report that the company is a great fit for me, and I’ve been told that we are hiring for many positions, so I am doing all I can to make sure those that know me or read this site know about the openings we have.

I am a Project Manager, and as far as I know, we are looking for more people able to do what I do. Can you organize projects, make sure people stay on task, report to clients your progress, and otherwise support a team of developers through creating websites? Then apply today!

We have lots of openings for Web Engineers and Senior Web Engineers. If you are a full stack web developer with PHP experience, and knowledge of WordPress, then you owe it to yourself to apply. We have a wide variety of projects, and are looking for people that are able to work from home and work on any sized project.

It is a great company, with many awesome perks, not to mention you might just get to work with me, and how cool would that be? Contact me and I can help with introductions. If you’d like more information, please contact me, and I can fill you in with more details.

You can contact me via comments on this site, or via the contact page on this site. I’d love to see more Canadians represented at 10up!

Helping Manage a Pod Meetup

At 10up, where I work, teams are called pods and the pod that I belong to is called Voltron. Voltron recently had its pod meetup in Toronto, and I helped organize the events of the visit of around seven people coming from various parts of the world.

I am hoping that for our next meetup in about a year we will go somewhere a bit more exciting for me, but that remains to be seen.

I can definitely say that helping organize such an event was outside of my normal skill set and I found it a bit uncomfortable to do, but I’d like to think that things all worked out well. It helped that most of the time everyone was around, we were attending WordCamp Toronto, an event focused on the software that 10up uses to power the websites it develops and supports.

IMG_3544

It also helped that my wife came to the weekend events, and it meant that our team had a second vehicle (a co-worker drove up from New York) and that I had an expert on Toronto available, since Georgetown is not Toronto.

I really enjoyed meeting all the people I work with on a daily basis in person, and learning more about who they are as people. It is amazing how little social interaction we had before the pod meetup. Since then, we seem to all be communicating a bit more effectively, and socializing a bit more here and there, though it is hard to keep up the momentum from the meetup.

One thing of note was that the first day we were to get together was on my 32nd birthday, on November 14th. I hadn’t really brought it up as I don’t get too excited about my birthdays, so it was really awesome that my boss brought out a cake at Swiss Chalet for us all to enjoy. It was awesome to celebrate with my wife and co-workers.

i-nNJ3d9C-X2On Monday, the 17th of November, we went to the ROM, did a brewery tour, went through PATH to the Eaton Centre, ate at some nice restaurants and capped it all off with a visit to the CN Tower, where we ate in the 360 restaurant and stood on the glass floor.

Once home from the events of the long weekend of socializing, I quickly wrote up everything from the event and posted it to our company’s internal blog, crafting the longest blog post about any pod’s meetup thus far, and probably including the most pictures as well, something I’m extremely proud of.

I really enjoyed myself, and can’t express how much I appreciated 10up footing the bill for me to really interact with my team.

Did I mention that we are hiring?

My Christmas Letter 2014

Before I begin looking back at 2014, here is a link to My Christmas Letter 2013, for those that are interested.

I had many goals for 2014, but I’ll likely review those in a separate post. The first thing you have probably noticed though is that I didn’t blog much this year. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that it was a boring year, or that there wasn’t much that happened.

I moved out of my apartment on Main street, to rent a nice house from a family friend (my twentieth move in my life), only to end up back in an apartment on Main street less than half a year later (my twenty-first move). It knocked a bit of wind out of my sails, and I’m still trying to recover from it all. I think Annie feels the same way about the whole situation, but we did enjoy living in the family friend’s house while we could.

My career was just as in flux as I went from working at Rocketgenius, to being the Communications Manager for Envirotech Office Systems, to working for a short stint as a Web Developer for Solinst to finally landing in a position that fit my needs well as a Project Manager at 10up. I am working from home again, which has its advantages and disadvantages, especially in the current apartment, but I’m trying to make the most of it and I really love what I’m doing now. Annie continues to work at the same school, and her case load seems to be suiting her well. She has more days where she comes home excited to go back than days where she feels she isn’t getting paid enough. There has been more office politics for her to deal with this year, but she is handling it all in stride, and focusing on doing the best she can for the kids she works with.

On April 26th, Annie and I were married in Georgetown. My post about my perspective is on another blog, click here to read it. Most of my family were able to make it, and it was a nice, intimate ceremony and reception. I think most people had a great time, and once everyone was dancing to the music, I was able to relax. The music ended up coming from Mark’s speakers that he brought from Kingston in case they were needed, which they were, so I am super grateful for his willingness to do that for us. We shamefully still haven’t sent out thank you cards to everyone that provided us with such wonderful gifts, but it is on our list!

Annie and I also bought a new computer in the late spring, and we named it Valen. Annie built it herself, with only a tiny bit of help from me. It runs amazing, and meant that she mostly inherited my MacBook Pro. Her previous machine was a laptop that would create the dreaded purple smoke and we were certain it was hours away from being unusable or catching fire…which I suppose would have made it unusable.

Scream a Little Dream finally came out. It was a web-series crafted by Tom Leroux, my brother from another mother, and his friend Greg Murphy. I acted as a data wrangler (copying files off cards and backing them up), as well as the Thug in two short scenes. If you haven’t seen it, search for it on YouTube.

Once school was let out, Annie and I went on our honeymoon. Going to Florida with her was great, and we really enjoyed her mother’s condo. It wasn’t too close to anything, but we still made it work, and ended up having a great time. Apparently, no one in Orlando walks anywhere, and there were more than a few times where I thought I was going to be run over. We got to see the new Harry Potter section of Universal on its second day open, and it was a very immersive experience, despite being packed to the brim with people. I loved the daily storms that seemed to happen between one and four in the afternoon, and thankfully, Annie and I only got caught unprepared in them once during the two weeks we were there.

When we were back, we decided to use Kickstarter for our novel, Second Class Supers, so that we could afford to pay for some top notch editing and get the book in people’s hands, for real. We are still working away on it, although a bit more sporadically than I’d like, as we struggle through the editing process. I really had no idea it was going to be like pulling teeth! Our Kickstarter was successful, and so now, sitting in my bank account is the funds required to print a bunch of copies of the book, something I can’t wait to do.

In the fall, Annie and I tried to organize the purchase of a house. We found one that we fell in love with, but they wouldn’t budge on the price, and ended up selling to a property management company that now rents out the place for a bit more than the mortgage price would have been. The second house we put an offer on slipped through our fingers as well, causing me to be a bit stressed as we realized that we’d be stuck in our current apartment for longer.

I have also been struggling with depression this year. It is not something I publicly talk about, for fear of it affecting my career aspirations, but I am currently on medication, and hoping to go through some therapy to get some updated strategies on better managing it all. It has been a few years since my last bad bout, and I’m confident that I’ll get back to a place where I’m better able to manage my symptoms. The only stressful part right now is that where we are living is having a negative effect on my emotional state. Annie and I are looking at options to move to another apartment, but it might be tricky as we are supposed to be on a one year lease here. I should note though that my health has been really good otherwise, I’m a bit heavier than I’d like to be, but beyond that, things seem to be doing okay.

Just recently, Annie and I took advantage of an offer made by Kia Motors, and traded in her Kia Rio for a new Kia Forte. We knew that her warranty was running out on her Rio, and it worried us a bit as that car had been a bit of a lemon. The less entry level model, Forte, had many good reviews, and was reasonably affordable. So far, Annie has been enjoying driving it, and the winter package gave her bells and whistles she is super happy with, like a heated steering wheel.

Christmas is quickly approaching and we are looking forward to visiting as many people as we can. Other than the wedding, twenty-fourteen hasn’t been a great year for me when it comes to visiting, but I hope twenty-fifteen will be better.

Christmas Wishlist 2014

I’m starting to get Christmas stuff organized, and as such, I’ve been thinking about my wishlist. Annie’s family is using Wishlistr, and so I’ve posted my details there.

Check out my Wishlistr List.

You’ll see a variety of products at different prices. I’d also love to get gift cards for Cineplex, Chapters, and Mark’s.

Annie and I are tight for space, so being able to go to the movies or other experience style things is ideal.

I haven’t been doing as much photography this year, so I’m not skewing my gifts in that direction, though I’d always love receiving photography stuff.

If you have time, please sign-up for Wishlistr and create your own list, as I don’t have a ton of ideas for what to give people, and I’d like to find things that people really want or need.

Christmas is coming up fast!