My Shopping List

Sometime quite awhile ago, Tamara bought me the book The Secret. I ended up buying the movie on iTunes and watching it. It really came across as being somewhat “new age”-ish but at the same time, it also fell in line with a few things I had been thinking about already.

Sitting in a hotel room tonite, I finished another episode of Bones (I’m on a re-watch lately before the series finale) and decided to watch the movie again. I had tried some of the techniques described in this movie and surprisingly enough, they actually did work. Now whether that’s the work of the LOA or not, who’s to say. But it doesn’t really hurt.

LOA refers to the Law of Attraction which is what the “secret” is. One of the things they tell you to do is to make a list of the things you want, and then envision them to yourself, and experience the emotion of having them already. This sends out signals to the universe that then draws those things to you in some way.

Ya, it does sound kind of weird, but the idea of positive thought producing positive results is not some new age thing. Positivity has proven itself to be a powerful tool for helping oneself so even if the “magic” of things being brought to you by thought isn’t really real, it can’t hurt to think positively.

I’m going to make my list, try some positive thinking, and see what starts to happen.

Categories: MOTD | Leave a comment

Wanting it to be more than just…

Update: January 3rd, 2017

I found myself laying in the tub the other night (yes I have baths. It’s relaxing and helps me think) and after I dropped one of the bath balms into the water, I watched as it fizzed and began to dissolve. In a way, I started thinking about that ball of chemicals and comparing it to my own life.

I saw myself in that silly bath balm. Starting out as one whole person but over time, parts of you dissolving into the world around you. Much like how you tell one person a story and they might repeat it for someone else. Or your children telling their children about you. By the time the balm dissolved, or I die, the only thing left of me is what was dissolved into the water. Still there, sort of, but not really having much substance. Yet when I looked at the water, it had gone from clear to a sort of pinkish color.

When my balm dissolves, will I have changed the color of the world around me, or will it be the same as it always was.

43. I just turned 43 a few days ago. And I’ll be honest, my birthday sucked.

At this very moment, I can’t even tell you why it sucked but I can tell you that it did. I can also tell you that I told Tamara I may be done with having birthdays. It is just another day and whether you celebrate it or not, life goes on.

I sat in the living room telling Tamara that although I am not unhappy in my life, I do not feel like it has a lot of meaning. That might sound a little contradictory but I assure you it is not.

I have a great life. My wife is awesome. My kids are great. I have a great job that I love to do. I get to travel the world and see all kinds of cool stuff. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences in my life. But with all of that, I still feel like my life is not really complete.

When I turn 86 and the piano falls out of the sky and lands on me, people will laugh (because hell, that’s funny) and then they’ll be sad I died. People will mourn me and remember the quirky things I did. My kids will tell stories about me and so will my grandchildren. But beyond my immediate family, once I am gone and the mourning has passed, all of the things I have accomplished, and the things I have seen and done, will all disappear in the blink of an eye. I’ll have made no real mark or change in the world and that’s what bothers me.

There are literally millions of people who die one way or another every year and a year later, no one remembers them, or knows anything about what they did because really, they didn’t do anything that ever made a big difference around them. Sure, many people’s actions have big influences on those around them, but once those people are gone, what’s left of you?

I find myself every year wondering if the same thing will happen to me. Will I be one of those people whose friends and family loved but just got swept away like all of the others.

How do we find a way to make our mark on the world so that when time passes, you won’t be forgotten?

Categories: MOTD, Weird Things | Leave a comment

I wasn’t really a “hacker” per ce

My friend Paul asked me if I could help him rip some CDs he’s had laying around. He didn’t have a CD drive as those are hard to come by these days. Having an old laptop laying around, I offered to do the ripping for him. So here I am, in my kitchen at the table, with a stack of CDs sitting here and going through them one at a time.

One thing I had forgotten about CD ripping, since it has been awhile, was how some CDs rip faster than others. Some are blowing through in no time flat while others seem to take forever. But in the process of ripping these CDs, I was reminded of when I first really started my ripping. Back in college.

In 1997 I was at EBCI here in Moncton. The college, as well as the building are long gone now. The internet was just starting to bubble up and MP3’s had just been introduced into colleges and people were ripping CDs like mad. I joined in on it during my IT classes back in those days.

I was studying to become a Network Engineer. It was a fancy class name for what was meant to be a Network Administrator job. But the real fun came when we learned about putting servers up and things we could do with them.

As a pet project me and Chris, a friend outside of college, opted to try and teach ourselves Linux. We had heard the best hacking tools were in Linux and had already been exposed to it via some web development work we tried to do as well. We spun up a copy of Slackware Linux and named the machine “dragonfly”.

Dragonfly would come to be a machine that would stand for some of the most interesting experiments of how young kids get access to tools maybe they shouldn’t have.

In those days, and to some extent still today, many of the better hacking or DDOS tools exist for the Linux platform. These tools usually involved sending specially formatted packet data from one system to a source. If the source doesn’t process the packet correctly, the end machine suffers. Like a basic reboot or blue screen of death or sometimes just the machine locking up completely.

Through a series of websites, research, and conversations with people we met online, we acquired a series of cool tools known for crashing computer systems or causing network havoc. They all had interesting names but here’s the ones I can remember: ssPring, WinNuke, boink, bonk, fraggle, land, nestea, teardrop, tear, newtear, syndrop, tentacle, smurf and sniffit. Many of these tools wouldn’t work today if compiled but if you dig hard enough on the web, you’ll find references to them.

ssPing was probably the first one of these that we ever really used to test what we could do. We’d have a user send us an email, or communicate with us for IRC chat. In those days, firewalls were few and far between and rarely used by home users. ssPing would send a large malformed packet of data and when the OS read the packet, it crashed. By crashing I mean the entire OS would just lock up. No ability to reboot. Just turn it off and start again. Blue screens of death were also common. When the system generated a BSOD, the computer would run but their access to the network would be dead until they rebooted.

Many of those other tools were variations of ssPing’s original concept just changed slightly for different ports, packet types, or in some cases changed to perform the same task after they fixed the patches.

None of the tools we ever used were capable of frying or wiping a computer remotely. 

In those days, the main online place for people to hang out was on IRC channels. #Moncton was a channel a lot of us hung out on. We had built up a small little community of people who hung out there. And like all communities, you had the people who annoyed you the most. Me and Chris got to the point where we wrote a script called ding.tcl which would detect the annoying individuals entering the channel and then fire off one of our tools to lock their machines up. We also had access to IRC botnets which with a “.flood” command would cause hundreds if not thousands of IRC users to just flood a specific user with junk data. When this happened, the user got kicked off the network. 

Outside of IRC, Infodog was quite big those days and it became a running joke to use the tools on Infodog and break their web servers every day. IIS on Windows NT4 was notoriously unstable and pretty much any Linux tool could crash that system.

But the height of our so called “hacker” days can be broken into two specific incidents I recall. We had one tool which we had been given called “smurf”. This tool was meant to take down networks, not just computers. If you smurfed a computer, it would reflect against every PC on that network and cause all of them to repeat the same attack against its self. By accident, I killed the entire manufacturing plant of Norampac by accidentally using smurf through their systems (I was an intern at the time) to cause what we used to call and IRC split. Worked really well but shut down a bit of production in the plant for a few hours. 

The second, and probably the most proof of how hard we insisted on respect came to a guy in a rival class. The “tech” vs “network” class rivalry was one that was pretty common at the school so we wanted to insure they had “respect” for us in the network class. He had also spun up a Linux box. We had made accounts for people in my class on dragonfly so they could explore. One person went exploring and found out where we kept all our goodies and gave his information to our rival class. Our rival logged into our system and found our scripts and attack code and made copies for himself.

At the time, we’d been told by a “real” hacker that there’s a sort of code they follow. Guys share code from time to time to help each other out. But there’s also an underlying respect in that if someone gives you something and says not to use it or distribute it, you do as was asked of you. By doing this, you earn the respect of the hacker community and it can open doors into other larger tools you would not have seen prior. At the same time, if a lesser hacker obtains something they shouldn’t have and the senior hacker tells you to destroy what you took, you do as your told or pay the consequences. If it sounds a bit mobster-ish, it’s because that’s kind of how it was. If the guy above you tells you to do something and you don’t, you get knocked down a peg or two.

We were by no means “real” hackers but certainly more so than a guy in the tech class who built a Linux box and copied some files. He had then given his root password out to a bunch of people in his own class as well as my class. He also told them about the tools he had got from my system and made sure everyone could make use of them on their own. It wasn’t long before a handful of others were crashing Windows PCs for something to do during class.

Chris came into the school one day and both of us approached Shane, the guy from the rival class. In an almost mobster like fashion, we “asked” that he remove the tools from his machine he had stolen from us. He said we left our stuff open and that it was our fault for not securing them better. We told him those didn’t belong to him and that he needed to remove them or there would be consequences. He shook his head and said there was nothing we could do and walked away.

Later that afternoon I was in class and spotted the guy next to me about to connect to the other Linux box. I quickly fired up my own connection and launched a packet sniffer. The packet sniffer allows you to see the raw data that is being transmitted across a network. In those days, the way networks were designed allowed for the transmission of anyone’s network traffic to be read by anyone else on the same segment. I was sitting right beside him so I was as close as I was going to get. And just my luck he happened to open a connection to the Linux machine in the tech lab and log in as root. I now had the root password and could teach Shane his lesson.

After logging in as root on Shane’s box, I immediately ran commands that wiped the drive completely clean. There was nothing left of his Linux box, including the tools he had copied from me. We had also secured our own box so no one but me and Chris could get to our tools again.

We never said anything to Shane about what happened but the next day it went through the school that “mysteriously” his Linux box had been wiped. He never did replace it.  I saw him in the halls later that day and he didn’t say anything to me. I guess his lesson was learned.

Good times 🙂


Categories: Flashbacks, MOTD | Leave a comment

Looking at pure airline stats

So again I have seen a few people on Facebook bitching about Air Canada and their “horrible” service. Every time I see one of these people I wonder what happened. I’ve been flying with AC for years and have had very few issues with them.

I decided to do some digging of my own and as it turns out, Stats Canada has some really cool information on airlines.

This link provides you stats on both AC and WJ. This gave me the exact information I wanted so I could try and prove and emphasize a point.

According to those stats, if you add up all of the passengers flown by AC between February 2015 and January 2016, you get 28,489,000 (approximately). For WJ, it’s 20,401,000 (approximately). 28.5 million people flew on AC and 20.5 flew on WJ. Those huge amounts of numbers when it comes to air travel.

Let’s look at that number again. 28 and a half million people flew on Air Canada during that time period. 

Let’s now assume that 2%, a relatively small number of people, of those travels had a horrible experience. That translates into 569,780 people. That’s a hell of a lot of people who are pissed off at AC. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with all of them together.

But, let’s not forget the people who did fly with AC and had no issues. That’s a much larger number: 27,919,220. Just shy of 28 million people flew without a problem.

Of those two groups of people, who do you think you’ll hear from more often? That’s right, the people who are mad and pissed at the airline saying “they suck”. You don’t hear good things because most of the time people don’t share their good experiences with airlines. It’s always the bad.

Now, maybe 2% is too low. Let’s jump that number up higher and assume that 1 out of every 10 passengers during that time period got screwed. That’s a big leap but let’s use it as an example. That means that this time, 2,848,900 passengers think AC sucks. That also means 25,640,100 passengers don’t think that bad of AC.

Again 2.8 million vs 25 million. Who will be the more vocal?

The exact same logic can be applied to Westjet. If you apply these exact same numbers against WJ, it would still mean that by far and large, most WJ customers are happy. You just don’t hear from them. We only hear from people who bitch and whine about how they got screwed because the airline sucks.

I know this won’t change people’s minds and it won’t magically make people stop complaining about airlines. But I do hope that you can see that it’s purely a numbers game and sometimes they work for us, and sometimes they screw us. That’s just life. Learn to live with it.

Categories: Rants | Leave a comment

My Own Suicide Story

Be aware, this is a VERY long and VERY personal story about my own suicide attempt experience. If you want to understand more about what it’s like to be at the edge, I suggest you read this entire story despite it’s length. It really does tell a unique point of view about suicide.

I also feel compelled to mention that this is my perspective and my perspective only. Everything that I wrote here is how I felt and how I perceived things to be at the time. I would never proclaim to know how others feel or what they were thinking. I can only tell the story from how I saw it.

Over the last few days, I have seen a few people posting these status updates on Facebook with the hashtag #SuicideAwareness. Every so often these suicide prevention or awareness memes goes around and when it does, most of the time I see a lot of people who I believe genuinely want to help people who are feeling like that, but don’t really understand what it is like to be there. Maybe some do, but I don’t think most people really understand.

I do.

On December 15th, 2002, I swallowed an entire bottle of prescription medication, laid down in my bed, and waited.

Now obviously I didn’t die. But unlike many of you, I know what it is like to be at the bottom of that well and I can tell you, at least for me, it’s not anything like what most people think. I’d like to tell you exactly how it felt and exactly how I came to the decision to do what I did.

To understand my reasoning and where I was that year, I’m going to tell a story I have never written about before. My wife and a few close friends know this story (and in a lot more detail than I’m going to write here) but it’s not something I have ever shared publicly. I’ve left out certain names, and kept some of the details somewhat vague as it’s not necessary to go into excessive detail for you to understand. But it is necessary for me to explain the type of situation I was in so you can understand what led me to my attempted suicide.

I got married to my first wife in 1999. In retrospect, it was a horrible decision. In those days, I felt very much alone, and this woman was someone who I knew, who I got along with, and who I had a lot of fun with. At the time I thought I should marry her because maybe I would never find “the one” and I had spent too much time already alone in my life. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. 

But, I was young, and so was she, and we were, and still are, very different people. In 1999, I got a new job, moved to Poughkeepsie, NY, and got married. New job. New home. New city.  New country. New wife. Sure, let’s throw all of this together and I am sure it will work out just fine.

Three years later, I had given up a dream job at IBM, moved back to Moncton and began teaching at my old college, and had alienated my best friend (Chris) because my then-wife hated him. Add to that the fact that when we moved home, an entire part of her personality emerged that I had never experienced before. On a daily basis, I was subjected to constant criticism of my actions which resulted in me taking that criticism and steering it in an unhealthy direction.

What direction was that?? It made me angry. I got mad at her almost every day. We fought constantly. If you’ve known me long enough you know that I have struggled with a bad temper my whole life. When we were married, she brought out the worst temper I ever had. I once picked up a coffee table and threw it at her because she made me so angry. I once jumped onto the hood of her moving car when I lost it during a fight. I was never physically abusive to her but I sure did a lot of yelling. I am sure from her perspective, it probably seemed like she was married to The Hulk because I got mad so often. There were reasons behind the anger but that didn’t change the end result. Since then I have found much healthier ways to channel my anger so it doesn’t ever get to that point. But at the time, it came out through daily shouting matches with her.

Cut to summer of 2002, an incident involving my then-wife and her choice of actions while out clubbing one night with her girlfriends, resulted in her coming home at 6am to tell me that “we need to talk”. A huge fight followed and by the next day, we had decided to unofficially “separate”. 

This is where the downward slope that would eventually result in my pill popping began. See, when we separated, in my mind, this was not us splitting up. I truly felt like we were simply taking a step back, re-evaluating ourselves, and that we would find a way to make it work. The entire time we were separated, I kept remembering those wedding vows where you say “for better or worse” and that this was just a bump in the road.

The reality was, the marriage was already over. It had been over for months. If she had truly been happy with our marriage, then she wouldn’t have made some of the choices she made that resulted in our split. But I didn’t see that. I saw it as two people who got married and were having troubles and needed to figure out how to fix it.

I moved out and within a month or two, she told me she didn’t want to try and make it work, and that I should file for an official separation. She was already involved with another man and didn’t want to reconcile with me. I walked out of the duplex that afternoon, drove my car around the block, parked it, and proceeded to ball my eyes out. My marriage was truly over.

At this point, I was feeling pretty miserable. I didn’t have a lot of friends at the time. I had no romantic prospects for myself, and any friends I did have, just didn’t understand what I was going through. Me and my ex were trying to be friends, but she didn’t exactly make it easy. Anything and everything she said to me felt like she was flaunting her happiness while I was miserable. I also know that a lot of that perception was skewed by my own misery. Sure, she had her moments where she was a total bitch to me, but there were just as many times where I would take something innocent and twist it into something that was so far from the truth only I would see it. I was hurt and I wasn’t going to see it any other way.

Plus, the reality was, it really hurt that she was more happy with someone else, than with me. I was watching a woman that I had married be far more happy and jovial with another man, than she was with me. It made it feel like she was flaunting it in front of me and trying to shove her happiness in my face. Maybe part of her was, but the truth is she was finally able to be with someone who actually made her happy. I didn’t see that side of it until me and Tamara had a conversation one night in our kitchen. She told me a story from her perspective and when she explained it to me, a light bulb went off in my head and I saw that entire scenario in a completely different light. But in the moment, at the time, when my marriage had failed that’s not how I saw it at all.

When you’re feeling like you have failed because your marriage just ended, do you have any idea how soul-crushing it is to see the person you married be more happy with another person instead of you? It’s one of the most awful feelings you can ever have. If you happen to already have someone in your life, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad. But if you feel like you are alone, and that your life is a failure, every time you see the two of them together, it just sinks you even further into that pit. Your mind runs trying to figure out what it is you did wrong and why you failed at your marriage.

Throw into the mix the fact that I was expecting to hear from my dad on my birthday and he never called, and the fact that I hated my job, December of that year was about as bad as it could get.

On December 15th, 2002, I went into Walmart to buy some Christmas gifts and as I was looking at stuff in an aisle, I spotted my ex-wife with her new boyfriend. That was it. I could not take how I felt any more.

I shook my head, bolted for the door and went home. I took out my bottle of thyroid medication, put every pill in a long line on my desk. I got a glass of water, and scooped some of the pills up, swallowed them with the water, and repeated this until they were all gone.

Why? Why did I feel the need to do this?

I’m not a stupid person. I am not unintelligent. But I am an emotional person. I am someone who feels and who feels deeply. And when I hurt, I hurt deeply. 

The whole time I was driving back to my house, my mind raced with all of the miserable things I was feeling from that year. I had given up my dream job. I had failed at a marriage. I pushed my closest friend away because of my spouse. I isolated myself from other people because of how I felt in my marriage. I felt alone. I felt miserable. And I felt angry all at the same time.

I was at the bottom of the well looking up, and all I wanted was all of that misery to be gone. I didn’t want to feel alone anymore. I didn’t want to feel sad anymore.  I didn’t want to feel like a failure anymore. I just wanted to feel the same way I had felt before I got married. I wanted to be the crazy guy who did silly things just to be silly. I wanted to go back to being spontaneous and fun. But it felt like that guy was long gone and all I really wanted was to stop feeling so awful.

I didn’t want to die. I had no interest in actually dying. I just didn’t want to feel so horrible and miserable anymore. I just needed the anguish to go away and there was nothing else that I could think of in that moment that could make the pain disappear.

Why didn’t I call someone or talk to someone?

I felt alone and I felt like no one around me would understand how horrible I was feeling. But I also knew that the moment I picked up the phone and called someone, they would feed me the “it gets better” speech which to me was the last thing I wanted to hear.

Yes, we’ve all seen the commercials, and after school specials that tell us it’s never worth taking your own life. It will get better. Time heals all wounds. Blah blah blah. If I’m at the point where I want to die to make my misery end, do you really think telling me that at some mysterious point in the future everything will be fine is somehow going to make me feel better?

How the hell does that help someone when they are at the bottom of the well looking up and feeling helpless? 

“It’s not so bad. A year from now things will be so much better.”

Great. I only have to wait a whole year before my life doesn’t suck anymore. What do I do until then?

This is why I didn’t call anyone or try to reach out. I didn’t want to hear that things get better later. I wanted to stop feeling so awful right now. I needed to have that pain and misery taken away from me and I didn’t want to have to suffer anymore. I just wanted to stop feeling so awful. So, I swallowed a bottle of pills and hoped that would magically make everything better.

I got up from my desk, laid in my bed, stared at the ceiling and wondered what would happen next. But as it turns out, my journey was not meant to end with my mom coming home and finding me dead in my own bed. I don’t know how long I laid there, but at some point something inside me just switched. Next thing I know, I was in my car driving myself to the hospital. Checked into the ER, told them what I had done, and then had to face the consequences of my actions.

I called my mom and a friend from the hospital and had to tell both of them what had happened when they arrived. I stayed in the hospital a couple of days and then was released. But things were different. I was now a person who had attempted to take his own life. That action stays with you for your entire life and alters your perception about the world around you.

14 years later, I can be even more honest about what happened that day. A big part of it was wanting to get rid of the misery. But I also think there was a part of me that knew taking a bottle of pills wasn’t going to kill me. I think on some level I knew that if I took the pills, I wouldn’t die, but I would have to force myself to go through the repercussions of a suicide attempt and try to work my life out. Regardless, I ended up in a place where I was so miserable that suicide felt like the only way I could cure the misery.

So now when I see people talk about suicide prevention and doing everything they can to help, I often wonder if they actually know what it’s like to be in that place. Do they really know how a person feels when they reach that point? Do they really understand that for at least some of us, it isn’t about wanting to die, but simply wanting these feelings of despair to be over.

Now, I get the feeling that if you’ve come this far in my story, you’re probably wondering what someone like me, who’s gone through this experience, would suggest to others who do feel like they are in that same well. Or if you know someone who is pushing towards ending their life, what would I suggest you do to help.

The truth is, no one around me had any idea how sad I was. When you hear the stories about these people who take their own life and it comes as a huge shock to those around them, that is how I think it would have been for me. Despite how awful I felt, I did my best to put on a nice smile, pretend to be happy, and no one really knew how horrible I felt at the time. But people did know what I was going through. People did know that me and my ex had split up. They did know she was with someone else and I wasn’t. They were aware of the situation but because I seemed “fine”, no one thought to take it any further.

My advice to those of you out there who wonder what you should do, or what you can do, is to be aware and be sensitive to the things going on with your friends and family. Most people are not going to come out and tell you “I’m so miserable I want to kill myself”. But for those in your life that you care about, you should take the time to be aware of what they are going through. If you care about them, and they are important to you, you should be in the know about their lives and what’s going on.

By being “present” and “aware” of what’s going on in the lives of the people you love the most, you can take the time and effort to be there for them. When big emotional things happen to people, it doesn’t matter what the person says, they are not fine. No one goes through a breakup, a death, a tragic accident, assault, excessive bullying, or any other large emotional situation without being affected in some way. They may not even know they are being affected by it, but they are. We all want to think we are “fine”, but the reality is, we all have to deal with the shitty things that happen in life, and sometimes when one bad thing keeps happening after another, we lie to ourselves and others to say things are ok, but it really isn’t. It’s on both the person who is miserable and their loved ones, be it friends or family, to do what they can do pull them out of that well.

A true friend is someone who knows you are going through something awful, and despite the fact you keep telling them you are fine, they get you to talk or do something with you to help you, even when you don’t want them to. Those true friends are the ones who are paying attention to what’s going on in your life enough to know that when something bad happens, they need to be there with you whether you think you need them or not.

And to the person who is miserable, you cannot hold it inside. You cannot lie to the world. You cannot hope that your friends or family are going to come to you to help. You have to do your part and reach out. Whether that means you call someone, you write about what’s bothering you, you record a video on YouTube about how awful you feel, or you just go out for a walk and talk to yourself to get it out of your system. It’s hard as hell to do, and I know exactly how it feels, but if I had just called someone, even if I hadn’t been talking to them much lately, and told them I’m in a bad place, that would have been it. They would have been there in a flash and I would have told them how I felt. I’d still feel miserable and awful, but I would not have felt alone. Even if I didn’t have anyone in my life, I could have called 911 and said I think I want to kill myself and someone on the other end of the phone would have helped me.

It is scary to ask for help. We all think we can do it alone, but we don’t. No one ever does it alone. Whether it’s a spouse, a partner, or a friend, we all get through the worst of times together so don’t ever think for a single second that you are alone and have no one. There’s always someone, even a stranger, who can help.

And if by some strange chance a random stranger is reading this and feels like they are at the bottom of the pit, and need someone, then email me. I know exactly how you feel and would be glad to talk to you to help you out of that well of despair.

So that’s my own suicide story. I hope that if you read this whole thing, my story has given you a bit of a different perspective on what it’s like to be in that pit. It’s a scary place to be, so if you can do anything to help someone who might be near the edge and thinking about jumping, maybe some of my words can help you help them.

 – Matt

P.S. I said in my story here that I didn’t want to hear the “it gets better” spiel from anyone because it wouldn’t help me in the moment. But ironically, I am going to say that “it gets better”. 

In the summer of 2003, less than a year after my attempt, I began a romantic relationship with Tamara. In the spring of 2004, we bought a house and the following year we got married. Since we got together, my life has seen a 180 degree turnaround and it’s because of her. She has been the most amazing person I have ever had in my life. We have two kids and a life that I could not have ever fathomed I would have. I am so blessed and grateful for having her in my life that I cannot imagine how I ever existed without her. I went from settling for someone because I didn’t think I would ever find “the one” to actually finding “the one”. It was a hard journey to get where I am now, but here I am, and it’s better than ever.

So ya, it does get better and I know in the moment it may not feel that way. But all those stories people tell about it getting better over time, as lame as they may sound, are all true. Somehow find the strength to keep fighting and it will get better.

Categories: Flashbacks, Friends & Family, Rants | 5 Comments

Uber to the Rescue

I have literally been around the world and have found my way to and from where I was going without much difficulty. But today I experienced a bit of panic as I found myself in the middle of a very busy city, in a foreign country, with no way to get back to my hotel.

I’m in Bangalore, India this week doing a training class at our office here. I arrived here on Friday night (it is now Monday night) into Delhi, and made my way here to Bangalore yesterday. As part of the travel arrangements, I booked car service for pickup and dropoff as needed. By booking the car service, I didn’t have to worry about taxis or getting to and from the office because the service is supposed to take care of all that. Well, today they had a massive fail.

Today was the third and final strike against this car service. Strike one was at the airport in Delhi when the driver was nowhere to be found. After calling and looking repeatedly, I finally found him about 30-40 minutes after I was supposed to be picked up. Apparently he opted not to go inside the airport and figured somehow I would “just know” where I was supposed to go and get picked up. No, none of the emails or other communication told me what to do. My colleague who had been here the week before praised the car service and said they were at the airport with a sign with his name on it waiting for him. Not the case for me in Delhi.

Strike two was yesterday in Delhi as I waited at the hotel for my car. 11:00am passed and no car. 11:15 came and still no car. As it got closer to 11:30, one of the guys working at the hotel asked if he could call the driver for me. Sure enough, the driver said he wasn’t coming because he had a pickup at 1pm and that I just had to deal with it. The hotel got me a drive to the airport.

I had my confirmation for a pickup today at my office for 4:30pm. I had the drivers phone number, car model, and license plate information. 4:45 came and no car. 5pm came and no car and I finally tried to call him. I had been told that the car service had “good English speaking drivers”. This guy couldn’t understand much of what I was saying and proceeded to say something about being at “the gate”.

The office is a secured area so cars have to pass through a gate. I thought maybe he meant he was there and couldn’t get through. I walked up there but no sign of his car. Tuk tuk’s were everywhere, along with many other cars, people walking, cows wandering the streets, stray dogs walking around looking for food and humping each other (that part was at least funny) and just massive congestion of anything and everything.

I went back into the office and asked one receptionist about where car services are supposed to pick us up and she had no idea. I asked another person if she could call the guy on the phone and she did. Guess what? He was on the other side of town. Thought our office was somewhere else so there was no way this guy was going to pick me up.

At this point, it’s pushing 5:15pm and I’m starting to wonder exactly how I am getting back to the hotel.

The hotel… They have car services. I called the hotel and the woman on the phone was very helpful. She said she’d call me back with information on car availability. I took a deep breath and felt better.

The sound of “Take A Picture” by Filter came on my phone and sure enough the hotel had called back. No cars available until 8pm. Uh oh.

Ok, now I’m getting a little freaked out. It’s pushing towards 5:30 and I know I can’t walk back because it’s a good hours walk, and it’s in the middle of a city I don’t know, with massive chaos on the streets. No taxis in sight and only a small, limited amount of cash on me, I go back out to the gates and look around and then it hits me, “WTF am I going to do?”

There’s no one in the office I know. I don’t speak the language. I don’t know the area at all. There’s cars and livestock wandering everywhere with a 100 horns blasting each other trying to drive through what seems to be the most chaotic system of roads I’ve ever seen.

I started to get really freaked out. As I am sure some of you know, when your mind starts to panic, rational thought goes right out the window. Yes, I probably could have gotten in one of those tuk tuk’s and found my way back to the hotel. I could have probably went back inside the office and see if they could call a taxi for me. It’s easy to think of these things now after I’m back in a comfortable room feeling a lot more calm about the situation. But at the time, I’m looking around me and all I am seeing is just chaos everywhere and no way to get out of it. I can feel my heart beating a bit faster and I know it could get worse.

I was really starting to get freaked  out.

But as I looked down at my phone a light went off in my head. What about Uber?

I quickly opened the app and sure enough, there’s a ton of Uber options here. I pick my destination, say I want a ride, and 5 minutes later, I was sitting in a car on my way to the hotel. He didn’t speak much English either but he had Google Maps on his phone with my hotel dialed in. I breathed a sigh of a relief and watched the madness around me continue. He pulled up to the hotel and I thanked him feeling a huge sigh of relief.

I got out of the car, came into the hotel, and it hit me. The raw wave of emotional panic that was bundled up inside of me burst out of me as I started walking down the hall towards my room. I was just a spaghetti bowl of nerves and emotions that just erupted all over the place and it took me a good 20 minutes to calm down.

Thankfully, a very nice employee saw how distressed I was that he helped me to my room and even put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for me. 5 minutes later, the assistant manager shows up and wants to know if I am ok, and if there is anything he or the hotel can do for me.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in hotel rooms but I have never had a hotel seem this genuinely concerned for my welfare before. I am absolutely blown away at how gracious they are here. It’s amazing.

My nerves have finally calmed down, and after a quick chat with my wife, and a rearrangement of my car services, I’m feeling a whole lot better now. I was never in any danger. I never felt like I was unsafe. But I certainly did feel like I was stuck somewhere and had no idea what to do. In this case, it seems like Uber was the saving grace for me.

It also serves as a reminder that when things start to seem like they are spiraling out of control, you need to take a beat, and just remain calm. The “panic” of it all really didn’t hot me until I got back to the hotel and realized how spooked I was by the whole thing. It could have been far worse. I’m glad to be feeling better now.

It’s only Monday. What’s the rest of the week going to be like?

Categories: Travel | 3 Comments

An Awesome Early Christmas Gift


Tamara decided that since she got an early Christmas gift from me, she’d return the favour. She gave me this a few days ago and man, it is awesome.

As you may recall, in August of last year, I went to see Faith No More in Toronto. I chronicled the concert here where I told the story of how I finally got to meet all 5 members of the band, and they signed my 7″ LP. Well, at the same show, I also purchased a signed poster-art piece that was done specifically for that show. When I finally got home, I had said to Tamara that I should take the poster, the autographed 7″ and a few other things related to that concert and get them framed and hang it in my office.

Well, looks like she did it for me.

As you can see from the image, the poster for that gig is on the left, and on the right I have a Faith No More “patch” (which came with the CD/LP set I ordered when their new album came out), the concert ticket from the show I went to, the autographed 7″ picture disc all the guys signed, and their Sol Invictus CD for which they were touring on. All of this in one really nice frame and a cool blue matte to go with it.

It’s a one of a kind item and will be going up in my office as soon as I can pick a good spot for it.

HUGE thanks to my wife Tamara who is just pure awesome.

Categories: Concerts, Friends & Family, House, MOTD | 1 Comment

Electronics are not Evil; Parents who are Lazy Are


This image came up on Facebook today and I finally had enough. I’m writing here to rant on people who keep posting this crap.

Electronics are not evil. Computers and the internet are not horrible things. People said the same thing 50 years ago about us watching TV. It was so bad and was going to rot our brains and blah blah blah. It’s been said 100s of times before and will be said again and again for years to come.

What I want to say is that this is not about the electronics. This is about parents who don’t want to do their job and make sure their kids grow up having a well rounded childhood. For me, let me cite my own kids as prime examples of this.

Both Dylan and Megan have a tablet. It has games, Netflix, Youtube, and other video content. We also have a Wii U which the kids play games on as well. These kids spend far more time doing other things than playing on their electronics. Yes, they do like their electronics time, but they do not live on them. They get very little electronics time during school days and limited time on the weekends. But for the most part, my kids enjoy doing lots of other things other than playing on electronics.

They play Lego. They play Pokemon. Megan plays with her Shopkins and makes up games all the time. Dylan and I play air hockey downstairs all the time. He also enjoys going outside and climbing the trees and making up games with himself and his sister. He loves building things with Lego and using his imagination to create hybrids of sets he already has.

We go outside and walk or bike around the block. We go to playgrounds and climb on things. We go swimming and hiking now and then.

We also sit and talk at supper time. What did you do today? Did you learn anything new today? Was it a good day or bad day? We actually carry on conversations about what’s going on in our lives everyday.

THIS IS WHAT PARENTING IS ABOUT FOLKS!!! I’m not saying I’m the perfect dad. But I am one who knows that having a child is not just something you do for fun (although it is fun making them). You have a responsibility to your kids to do the best you can to insure they have full and happy lives. Get them to play in the real world and experience their surroundings in many different ways. It makes for happier kids and happier parents.

But it also doesn’t mean that if I give my kids my phone to play Pokemon Go I’m being lazy. Just because my son is watching Netflix one afternoon does not mean I am taking anything away from his childhood. If Megan wants to watch Shopkins videos on Youtube for an hour during an afternoon, it’s not the end of the world.

I spend countless hours with my kids just playing and hanging out. But my kids also want to play on these magical electronic devices and as long as they are getting a well rounded life experience, I see no harm in letting them have access to these kinds of electronics. It’s only when their whole life is buried in there that it’s a problem.

Categories: Rants | Leave a comment

A Plea to Harmony Gold

If you’re not a fan of Robotech, or don’t know anything about it, skip this post. It won’t hold much meaning for you.

Please stop. Seriously. Please stop now and put your energy into something that fans actually want.

We don’t want yet another re-issue of the soundtrack.

We don’t want another re-issue of the shows on DVD.

We don’t want another “new” movie that is really just old material spliced together with a tiny bit of new material.

We don’t want more and more ridiculous merchandise that no one ever asked for (skateboard decks, really?)

We don’t want more convention appearances that make empty promises about projects that never happen.

We don’t want more news about a so called live action movie that was originally announced in 2007 but no one has seen anything actually happen with this.

Seriously, enough is enough. Stop milking us fans over and over again and actually PRODUCE something.

In 1985, I was introduced to Robotech and it literally did change my world. Robotech became a staple of my youth and prompted me to start writing my own stories within that universe. Even in my 40s, I still love that show and have been following the Robotech website since it launched.

But since then, all I have seen is a constant barrage of harmony Gold’s milking of the franchise. I can’t count how many times they have “released” so called “new” versions of the DVDs, soundtracks, and countless other source material. The same stuff packaged differently over and over again. Add to that a constant advertisement for their latest toys and merchandise to sell to the fans. I mean, seriously, who the hell wants a skateboard deck for Robotech? Is this truly what this company is focusing on?

Lastly is the constant sea of tweets about convention appearances where supposed staff of Harmony Gold talk about the latest Robotech projects, but never actually announce anything people want to hear about. In 2007 they announced a live action movie. It’s 2016 and still nothing has happened. Gee, I wonder why.

WTF is wrong with Harmony Gold? Seriously. With a property as valuable as Robotech, you would think it would be easy for you to produce something that is ACTUALLY NEW AND INTERESTING instead of a constant stream of retreaded crap.

I cannot fathom how this company thinks this is what fans want.

STFU about whatever new toys or DVDs, or underwater basket weaving devices you have for sale promoting Robotech. Get some gawd damned content made and put it onscreen. THAT’S what real fans want.

Categories: MOTD, Rants | Leave a comment

Not Guns. Not Mental Health. It’s Fear.

I have a tendency to keep some of the more controversial topics off my blog because I really don’t feel like getting into a debate with trolls on the internet who insist that they know everything. But, once in awhile I feel compelled to write out my own feelings. With yet another mass shooting down in the US, I’m taking a few minutes to write out what I have been thinking about this for a long time.

As a Canadian with many American friends, I am in a position where I know a lot of people who live down there and have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. I also happen to know that for the most part, the people I do know that live down there are really nice, really great people. They feel just like the folks I know back home. But the reality is, the culture in the United States is definitely different than those of us from Canada and it can clearly be seen when the whole gun debate thing comes up.

Since this last shooting, again Facebook is flooded with a ton of people writing about their opinion on gun control and making it safer for people to live. I have an acquaintance who loves guns and went on a bit of a rant on Facebook about how guns are not the problem and that people should have a right to own whatever gun they want and that people only blame guns because they want to spread fear and so on and so on. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn his attitude was that of the pro-gun folks from the USA. But, none the less, he’s entitled to his opinion and I have mine.

So let’s take both sides of this equation.

Side 1: Pro-Gun Control

The folks who say guns are the problem say that if you remove the gun from the equation, the likelihood of mass killings like this  will go down. I actually agree completely. If the shooter did not have access to a weapon like he had, a lot less people would have been killed in that moment. Sure, he could still have gone out and killed people, but the ease at which he would have been able to do so would have been reduced. You cannot tell me that someone without a gun can kill 50 people as easily as they can with an assault rifle like the one that was used. Yes, there are plenty of ways to kill human beings, many of which you can look up online, but beyond a bomb, none of them are as effective at mass killing as a gun. Any gun.

If something had been done to prevent a gun from getting into the hands of the shooter, a lot less people would be dead, in my opinion.

An argument made against gun-control is that it doesn’t stop criminals from obtaining guns. I agree completely. But what it does do is make it harder for the criminals to obtain those guns. No criminal is going to obtain a gun legally. But where exactly do you think these criminals obtain their guns? They steal them, or they buy them from people who do steal them. And guess where they steal them from? They steal them from people who have access to them legally, or buy them illegally from people who have legal access to them. So one way or another, at some point in the supply chain there’s someone who has legal access to those kinds of weapons and then they end up in the hands of those who would misuse them. If you make it impossible, or very difficult to obtain those weapons in a legal manner, then it hurts the supply chain of the criminal manner. One goes hand in hand with the other.

Side 2: Pro-Gun

The folks who are pro-gun (in the USA mainly) say that the gun is not the problem but the person holding the gun is. The gun doesn’t kill someone, a person does. They claim that it’s a mental health issue and that those who end up with these weapons are sick and need mental assistance. Now, I could buy into that if it were true in all nations where guns can be acquired but that’s not the case. Many nations in the world allow people to own weapons or have criminal elements that allow access to weapons but the amount of mass shootings and deaths by gun are staggeringly low compared to the USA. You can’t claim it’s a mental health issue when the issue doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The only way mental health is the issue is if it’s something unique to the USA that’s causing the mental illness. For me, this is where I side with my own version of what is the real cause of the problem.

Side 3: Fear

I believe that the “mental health” issue that exists in the USA has nothing to do with people being insane and going on a killing spree and everything about simply being afraid.

“The right to bear arms” seems to come up a lot when these things happen. Many people in the USA feel that they have the right to own a weapon to protect themselves, their family, and their property. They feel this is a core value of being a citizen of the United States of America. To those who feel this way, they feel they have the right to own and use a weapon on anyone and anything that they feel threatens them or their family. It is this very value that I point the finger at as being the root cause of what’s wrong in the USA.

These people, whom many of them are well respected, intelligent, and gun-safety aware individuals, feel that if someone breaks into their home, they need to shoot and kill that person to “protect” their family and their property. I wonder why they feel like this. And although I am not one of them, what I am guessing is the root cause is that those people think that the folks breaking into their homes are there to do them harm. That they are there to break into their home, kill them, murder their spouses and children, and do general harm to anyone who gets in their way. So it’s a “kill or be killed” mentality. The problem is, no one seems to be thinking about what is actually going on.

I live in a relatively safe neighborhood in Atlantic Canada. Kids ride their bikes in the streets. My neighbors are friendly and I have no worries about being safe. But I also know that at any time, someone could break into my home, steal my stuff, or whatever. I know the reality is that anything can happen at any time. That really is the way of the world. So why don’t I own a gun to protect my family? Because I don’t want to live in fear.

Those people who arm themselves in their home insist that they do it to protect themselves. But I think this is not the case. I think they are afraid and the gun gives them a false sense of security. They are scared that someone is out there and is coming to kill them or do them, or their family harm. They see the world as one where they cannot rely on anyone else and have to be ready for anything to happen. They would rather assume that the worst is always the most probably case and to be prepared for it.

I know that if someone broke into my home, I’d be scared. But I also know that the odds of them breaking into my house to kill me or my family are slim to none. Yes, sure there are crazies in the world, but if I live my life obsessing over every crazy thing that could happen, I’d never leave my house. So instead, I live my life assuming that the majority of people I know are good people, and that things will be fine. I might be living obliviously, but I believe it’s better for me to be optimistic about what the world is, then to be afraid of everything.

The guy who breaks into my house is not likely there to kill me. He’s probably breaking in to steal something so he can sell it for money to pay off a debt, or buy drugs, or something else. That’s why people break into other people’s houses. Most of the time it’s theft, not murder. If a thief came into my home, he can take whatever he wants as long as he leaves me and my family alone.  And yes, if he came near my family, I would do anything in my power to protect them, but I’m not going to go out and buy a gun to do that. To me, that’s kind of like saying fear has beaten me.

Do I worry that bad things might happen? Sure. We all do. But if you focus on all of the bad in the world, you’ll be miserable. I have been there and it’s not a place I want to go back to. I’d rather live in a world where things are optimistic, even when sometimes I know it’s not possible.

Therein lies the difference. Those who choose to view the world with optimism, even if it’s misguided sometimes, don’t live in fear and therefore don’t need to have a gun to feel safe. Since I don’t need to have a gun, I don’t have a gun and since I don’t have a gun, I can’t kill anyone. In the US, because this fear culture is so prolific, you can go pretty much anywhere and buy any kind of gun to “protect” yourself. Those same retailers can either sell the guns illegally or may even get their guns stolen and hence the criminals now have access to the same gun library. If everyone wasn’t so afraid of the world, there wouldn’t be a need to have guns in every corner store. This fear culture has bred into a gun culture which people mistake as a way to protect themselves when it’s really just a way for people to not be afraid anymore.

There’s also another side to this that I don’t think people think about either. If someone breaks into your home and is trying to steal your $100 blu-ray player and you shoot him dead, exactly what have you done? You literally took the life of another human being for $100. No, that person should never have broken into your home and scared you like they did. But was that human being’s life really worth taking over a $100 media player?

And now that this person is dead, you have to live with the consequence of taking the life of another human being. Regardless of what actions the person took that drove them to steal from you, it was your decision to end their life and now you have to spend the rest of your life living with the fact that you killed another human being for $100. You will never live that down and will carry that with you for the rest of your life.

I happen to know of someone through my extended family who did kill someone. That someone was a father, son, brother, husband, and friend to many people. And although in this case it was entirely by accident, that person lives with the mistake they made to this day, despite the fact it happened over 30 years ago. Imagine if in your case, you did it on purpose. You will have that scar forever.

I believe the issue present in the United States is that they have bred a culture of fear and are paying the price for it. It’s not going to change with gun control, or better mental health. It’s only going to change when the people of that country realize that living in fear is not a way to live at all. It’s ok to be a little afraid, but you shouldn’t be living your life assuming that everyone else around you is out to get you and that it’s only every man for himself.

This is further complicated by the fact that religious zealots have used terrorism over the course of the last 15 years to scare people even more. At one time, the residents of the US were kind of oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the world. 9/11 changed all that and now the fear of others coming to harm you is even stronger. As terrorism continues, and the hate proliferates, this issue is going to become even worse before it gets better. Throw in American media which loves to glorify violence and terrorism on television, people are exposed to it at every corner and become more and more afraid.

I wonder if the day will ever come where everyone living in the US realizes that you can live a much happier life looking at the world with a smile, than with a snarl.

That’s my own take on the whole issue. It is just my own personal opinion but I wanted to get it out there. Take it for what it is.

Categories: Rants | Leave a comment