Recently in the life in general Category

New Beginnings

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It's been a long time since I've updated this blog. Many things have gone on in my life over the past few years; relationship breakdown, divorce, single parenting an angry teenager, adjusting to life on my own, beginning a new relationship, fledging the teenager, position changes at work, relocating my house - whew! It's been a busy time for me.  Add to this that my dog, my furry best friend, died in the midst of this, an injury sidelined me in my beloved sport of fencing, and then a health issue the next year put the kibosh on fencing altogether for the foreseeable future. Many changes in my life over a relatively short period of time.

I like to think these changes were placed in front of me as a series of challenges to overcome. Change is never easy, even more so when one is comfortable in the known (even if not completely satisfied). Change requires discomfort and who, really, readily seeks out discomfort? I suppose when you are discomforted enough in your current state you will make a change - you are forced to change. But that occurs of your own doing. When change is forced upon you it's very hard to take. A lot of what I learned over the past few years is that change happens and that no matter how uncomfortable it might be, how we accommodate it is our test. I lost a lot of things that were very important to me, but I also gained a lot of things that are important to me now for which I am thankful.

Life's journey takes many twists and turns, at least it has for me, and I've often had to recalibrate where I'm headed with what I want. Nowhere is this more apparent that in my position at work. People who know me would say I have an intense curiousity about things - a real hunger to learn. I'm also a problem-solver and have an appreciation for aesthetic. These attributes led me to the field of web design in 1997. Curiosity about the web coupled with the hunger to learn how to create web pages got me started. The ability to add the aesthetic qualities to these rudimentary sites was what secured me a position at my current place of employment where I was hired on as a web manager in 1999. Over the next decade and a bit, the organization changed (as organizations do), our department realigned and roles within were shifted. Strategic priorities were established or changed and positions were adjust to reflect this. Through twists and turns, through what I call the "dark times", our department emerged into a new beginning which seems much more focussed. My role now incorporates a heavy amount of problem solving as I'm now involved in the richer field of Usability, User Experience and UI design. The biggest change to my role has been that the aesthetic determination is now removed from my role and placed elsewhere. This was difficult for me because I really loved that part of my role. But while the aesthetic might be frontman of the webdesign rock band, without the structure of the show, and the quality of the music, the overall concert(ed) experience will be lacking. What I once did end-to-end has been broken down into specialties and reformulated as a team effort. Which, while there can be challenges to this way of working, is actually not a bad way to do things. And the learning, to my great delight, continues.

So that is where I am at this point in time. Emerging from a whole lotta change but feeling renewed and re-energized and hoping I can keep the momentum going.

Another outstanding user experience: Apple's Genius Bar

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This is an article I meant to write and publish back in December, however, the entire month was ridiculously hectic and it seemed that I could find absolutely no time to sit and write. Fortunately, the event was memorable enough that I should have no problem at all remembering exactly how it went.

In early December I was lucky enough to attend the Web Builder 2.0 conference in Las Vegas and while there I decided to visit the Apple store and have them take a look at the battery on my new (few months old) MacBook Pro. Shortly after receiving it I had noted that the battery was no longer flush with the underside of the case and in fact seemed to be ever so slightly bulging a bit. Upon removing the batter I found that I could easily separate the casing by hooking an edge with my fingernail and pulling gently up - this did not seem like a good thing to me. Plus, the raised edge underneath was annoying. So in I went and got an appointment with the Genius Bar techhies. The wait wasn't overly excessive (20 minutes) even though the store was bustling. In fact, they bumped me into a no-show slot within 5 minutes. Cool.

They took a look at it and felt that it was not a safety issue, rather more a cosmetic issue but were willing to swap it out for a replacement if I liked. Uh, yeah! Absolutely. And swap it out they did. One concern of mine was the charge status as I would be flying out of Vegas later that evening to which they responded by hauling a stool over to the end of the bar and letting me sit there and work for as long as I liked while the battery charged.

Well that was awesome. So work I did while while other customers came and had their issues taken care of. I was so impressed by the guys manning the bar and their professionalism in dealing with the customers. One poor woman came in with her "broken" brand-new iphone - she could talk through it but couldn't hear anyone from the other end. The techie took a quick look and, without making her feel like a total dunce, peeled off the anti-scratch film it ships with which was covering the ear piece hole. Very impressive.

I've read online both pro and con articles of the people staffing the Genius Bar, and well, my experience was definitely pro. In fact, all the staff I dealt with were awesome there - it's heartening to see that the art of customer service is not dead.

Happy New Year (4 days in)

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Well, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Years. December was pretty much a write-off for me in terms of "spare time" for blogging. I swear (and it's now down in writing) that next Christmas I'm going to set up a Christmas project (with timelines, task lists, milestones etc.) so that I can get to mid-December and be done with the madness. Maybe even have a bit of time to kick back for a bit and enjoy the holidays. It such a stressful time for me that pretty much as soon as Christmas was over I ended up getting a nasty cold that came on full force on New Year's Day (just lovely) so just when I had time to do some extra work around the house I ended up completely devoid of any energy. Ah well - it's not all bad. I actually got some rest on my extended holidays.

I can't complain however, even though it was a whirlwind of activity (and over much too soon) I am humbled by the yummy tech gifts that came my way. A lovely widescreen lcd monitor to replace my aging 17" flat panel BenQ; and an iPod shuffle clip-on for when I'm out running. Both very useful and very much appreciated.

Of course, the new monitor didn't fit on my old crappy computer desk so I ended up buying a new desk too.


Yes that's me (with D's handy dandy power driver)! Only 6 hours of putting the new desk together later and now there's more room in my office at home plus I got the chance to go through all the junk that had been accumulating and toss a bunch of stuff out. I've got seriously a bankers box load of 3.5" floppys with the most archaic stuff on them - heh - I don't even have a floppy drive on my computer anymore. (ok well I'm not quite done going through all my junk but we're getting there). Getting organized - what a great way to start the new year.

for the love of god... ban microwave popcorn

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if you hate your co-workers microwave some popcorn right now
I sit here in my office, zoned into the project I'm working on while blissfully listening to Imogen Heap when the malordorous tendrils of microwave popcorn waft down the hallway. If there's one thing that distracts the hell out of me it's the nauseating smell of (overcooked) microwave popcorn. And let me just mention that I work in a trailer (yup - a double wide carved into offices), with like 8 bathrooms down the hall (which add their own pleasant aroma to the area on occasion) and I've just found out there's some kind of mold in my office (offgassing a lovely musty smell as it eats through whatever it's embedded in and spores dancing merrily through the air). Throw some gag-riffic microwave popcorn into the mix and I'm about ready to puke. Please! Ban this insidious snack "food". Right Now!


Just call me traveller ...

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It seems this past week that I've been more in my car than at my desk, work has taken me on the road Tuesday, Wednesday and I'll be leaving shortly for Fredericton again today for a work function. From there I'm off to Halifax for the weekend to compete at the Dal Open fencing tournament. It reminds me a bit of my younger days when I was more footloose and tooled around in an ancient and battered electric blue Mazda GLC named Zeke. (He was a hand-me-down car from my sister). I took to leaving a backpack of clothes and some shoes/flipflops in the trunk for those impulse days of heading out to a beach, or out on the town clubbing, or road tripping with friends. Now it's mainly road tripping for work or fencing. I don't mind the driving so much but it's so much more interesting under clear blue skies. I was wondering what the new highway from Fredericton to Moncton was like after seeing the almost lyrical writeup in the paper about the "soaring vistas" and "rolling hills". I wish the weather wasn't so gloomy today so I could enjoy the view - well perhaps it will clear a bit for me. One can always hope so anyway.


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Ugh - caught some sort of kid plague up in Dalhousie over the weekend. It seemed like most of the kids were sick at the tournament so, lucky me, they passed the misery along. Achy, sniffly, sneezy - no fun. Spent the day in bed, medicated with DayQuil/NyQuil and slept and read the day away. Hopefully will feel better tomorrow...

Hello - I'm back!

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Well, it's hard to believe it's September already and here we are closing out the first full week. It's been a busy, busy time for me since my last post in mid-August as I was part of three interview teams for some new hires in our department, as well as trying to keep up on top of the project work that builds to a frenzy as the start of term nears.

And while the on-campus frenzy was building to welcome students back to school - a different freny was building at home as my daughter started in high school this year. I honestly cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. It really seems like it was just last year that she was starting in kindergarten. High school! So day one went well for her and all the anxiety was for nothing. She happily making new friends and signing up for all kinds of stuff so here's hoping she has as much fun there as I did.

And, of course, the new fencing season is starting up and I'm right in the thick of things getting prepared for the first tournament of the season on the weekend of the 16th. I've been invited to the High Performance squad again so I might look into starting a new blog just to track my training. We'll see. It might be a bit ambitious of me to work on two blogs when I barely have time to nurture one.

So all in all, yes, it's been a busy summer but things are moving forward and stuff is getting done and that's a good thing. I expect I'll be able to make time to post more often now - so stay tuned.

vacation's over - back to work...

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Well, my vacation is officially over today and I'm back to work. I say officially because I've been working "unofficially" while at home. See, that's what happens when you stay at home instead of heading for the hills (or beaches or what have you). But it doesn't really chafe as much as it could when you're working on your on call. So I feel rested and somewhat more energized - much more so that the fried husk of a person I was before going out. I think the best part of vacation is switching off the alarm clocks and just getting up whenever. Sinful! Decadent! (awesome!) It wasn't all lazing about at home though, we managed to get to the beaches a couple of times, take in the Rodin exhibit at the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton, party with family most evenings, and take in a couple of movies: Miami Vice - loved it; Step Up - meh, it was ok.

So now it's time for some serious switching of the gears back into the multi-tasking dynamo we all know and love - yup there's websites to design, stylesheets to craft and tons of assorted stuff to get done. Have at 'er.

vacation! finally!

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And it started off swimmingly on Friday night with an impromptu family & friends get together at my sister in law's home for an evening of wine, music and song. My husband's family is very musical - they either all play something or sing well and I play a bit of guitar and sing as well so we all do the family song circle kind of thing. It's a blast and always a great time.

*** Saturday July 29 ***

The following evening we had a wine tasting seminar hosted by my brother in law who is down visiting from Ontario. In addition to being very accomplished on the guitar, he's currently studying to be a master sommalier (which will make him one of three in Canada). It was very interesting and informative. There were 5 whites and 4 reds, and in learning how to properly appreciate the wine I realized it was something I'd never done before - breathe in the bouquet and try to identify all the various scents. Some were earthy, some were fruity, one was even mouldy smelling - clearly a bad bottle which he said had oxidized - another first, I don't think I'd ever really smelled a bad wine before (but I've probably drank one thinking hmm... I don't like the taste of this one).

*** Monday July 31 ***

Today, we (D, myself, Aliya and her friend) spent the afternoon in St. Andrews by the Sea. A delightful seaside resort town with pretty much only a main drag of touristic boutiques and fine arts and crafts shops. The eating is awesome - if you're partial to seafood. We had supper at The Gables and it was awesome. D had the seafood platter and I had the fried whole clams, huge juicy clams maybe as big as the end of a man's thumb (not like the scrawny bits you normally get at a Deluxe or something). Aliya and her friend had a chicken caesar salad and seafood chowder respectively. All had either big pieces of chicken, or chunks of fish or assorted sea treats like shrimp and scallops - all was deeeelicious. Photos posted on my flicker site.



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