Road Warrior Blues

It’s 7:23 on a Thursday night and right now I feel like the worst father in the world.

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The photo above was taken on Dylan’s last day of kindergarten and guess where I was? On the road, again. Not only was on the road, but on the road for the third week in a row. I’m currently sitting in an airport lounge waiting for my flight so I can come home, be home for two days, and then leave again. For the month of June, I will have been at home for a total of about 100 hours. That’s it.

It’s extremely rare that this sort of heavy travel comes to me but this is the first time in my entire career I have had to spend this much time away from home and when I saw that picture, I just felt like I should have been there.

I mean, I know I am not a bad dad. In fact, I know I am a good dad. But right now I feel like I’m turning into my own dad in that I’m never around. I should be in that photo with my wife and kids and not stuck in a classroom for the third week in a row.

I know that my work has me traveling and I also know that there are times when there is no travel so I have a lot of time at home, but right now, despite knowing these things, I still feel quite bad. I’m very anxious to get home, hug my kids, and enjoy every moment I have before I have to go again. Thankfully after next week, I finally get a little break from the road warrior status.

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Confessions of a Business Traveler

I’m sitting here in a little hotel about a five minute walk from the Tower of London in London, England. I went out for a walk earlier and found myself a bit depressed as I wasn’t even sure where to go. This is the fifth time I have been to London in a year and I find myself wondering what I should go see or do. I also realized that in seven years of working for Whitehill, this is the most repeat travel I have had to the same destination. But here I am, in a city of amazing history, and I find myself bored. Many folks who wonder how that’s even possible.

Although I love to share stories of travel, I do find myself in recent times being a little less willing to open up about my travels. Mostly because I don’t want to come off as being some sort of douche who shows off about the places I’ve traveled to. I’ve been very fortunate that my work has taken me to some nice places but a lot of people don’t get to travel at all so talking about it can sound a bit egotistical. If I talk about how I was in London for a week to someone who’s never left Moncton before, it can sound a bit douche-ey.

However, when the topic does come up, people are always asking me what it’s like to travel all the time with my work. People always seem to say things like “Oh it must be cool to get to see all these different places”. Yes, it is cool. I do enjoy it, but for all the places I get to see as part of my job, there’s a side to business travel that folks probably know nothing about. Today, I’m opting to share what it’s like to be in a job like mine. There are some nice perks but there are also some things you might not have thought of. Let’s break it down into pros and cons.

Pros

Seeing The World

Let’s get this right out of the way. I get to see the world. I have travelled all over the United States from Los Angeles, to New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta, St. Louis, Tampa, Boston, Portland, Chicago, and Dallas. I’ve also traveled to London now several times (along with a trip to Cardiff, Wales), and got a rare chance to go to Sydney & Brisbane Australia last year. I’ve even had a couple of trips to Toronto and one to Vancouver. So all in all, I do get to see some pretty nice places as part of the travel. Make no mistake, being able to see these places is an amazing opportunity and I soak in as much as I can when I go somewhere new. I took extra time in Australia to see Cairns, and did the famous Sydney Bridge Climb as well. I’ll take any chance I can to see and do something cool.

Points To Freedom

Secondly, I get to keep my points. The company I work for is very gracious enough to allow us folks who travel to keep the frequent flyer points we earn when we fly. As a result, I can use my points to fly other places when I have vacation time. I went to LA, Seattle, & Las Vegas on points and even took Tamara with me to Vegas and Tampa. I even flew my mother-in-law to London with me for a week as a Christmas gift. I’m also racking my points up currently to take the whole family on a trip next year. Having the points helps cut the costs for flights and even hotels. I stayed in a Halifax Hilton for a night a couple months ago at no charge using points.

Making Connections

In a world that is far more connected than it ever was, I’m now making friends around the world the old fashion way. Putting faces to names and actually getting to interact with people instead of seeing their names on a computer screen. We spend so much time interacting online that sometimes IRL interaction seems antiquated. As socially awkward as I can be meeting new people, my job forces me to be a bit more outgoing and meet these people I train so I have met quite a few interesting individuals in my travels.

Misc

There are plenty of other minor little perks/pros to traveling for my job but those are the ones that stick out the most.

 

Cons

Missing The Family

There are a lot of cons to traveling for your job. Let me start with a big one. I’m not at home with my family. I am fortunate enough to have a wife who supports my career and me in any way she can. But that doesn’t change the fact that when I am gone half of the month, she’s the one taking care of the kids. Speaking of kids, the kids miss me and I miss them. Thankfully technology makes it easier for me to stay in touch (when wifi works that is) and my trips are usually only a week at a time, but it can be hard to be away. I am very lucky to have a wife that is able to handle my travel as I know a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to deal with it. But still, being away from home for extended periods of time can be difficult.

When Do I Get To See Anything?

The whole “getting to see the world” thing is actually not quite what people think it is. A lot of people seem to think those of us who travel in our job are on vacation when we are in these other places. There’s no sight- seeing like there is when you don’t have work obligations. I spend my entire day standing in front of a class of students who are paying attention (usually) to every little word I say. My days usually run anywhere from 9am to 5:30pm depending on the client. By the time I am done, I am exhausted, my feet hurt, and many times I’ve got a sore throat from talking so much. A lot of times the last thing I feel like doing is going out and seeing anything. I mean how do you feel at the end of a long hard work day when you get home? Do you feel like going out? Not likely. But, many times I feel I should go out and try to see something because I am often in new places I’ve never been before so I should go see something shouldn’t I?

Add to that the fact that most museums, galleries, or other interesting places to see (typical tourist stuff) is all closed by the time my day is done. That means that the only real time I get to see anything is on the day I arrive after I have checked into a hotel. If I am lucky, I might book a vacation day or two ahead of or after my work trip but those meals and hotels are on me, not work. So the amount of time I actually get to “see” anything is very limited because I spend my days working. Yes, work is paying for me to be there, but they aren’t paying me to sight see. The only time I might get extra days that are covered by work is when it’s an overseas flight and extras nights are cheaper than flights. A single day can make a flight $1000 cheaper in some instances. It’s kind of crazy.

Airports, Delays, Crying Kids, and Cancellations

For folks who don’t travel by air often, there’s a novelty of being on an airplane. After having been on what I am sure is more than 100 flights, the novelty has worn off. Business travelers typically want to get to the airport, get through security, get on the plane, and to their seat as fast as they can because the sooner they get in that seat, the sooner they can relax while the flight is underway. The problem is, business travelers have to put up with everyone else.

This might sound a bit weird, but I’ve become a bit of an asshole when it comes to air travel. It drives me nuts standing behind the dumbass in security who has no clue about what to put on the belt to be screened, and sets the metal detector off, making me stand there and wait. It pisses me off to no end standing in the jetway waiting to get on the plane because some asshat on the plane is taking his good old time to take his jacket off, fold it nicely, and hold the entire line up because he forgot to take his phone out of the his bag and now has to do it. Put your shit away, sit down, and let everyone else pass first before you hold everyone up. Flights get delayed by hours because of people like this. Delays cause missed connections and can seriously muck up an entire day of travel. I just get to my seat and then I hear the screaming baby. I’ve had the screaming baby. I have two kids and know what it is like to deal with kids who won’t stop crying. I can’t get my headphones on fast enough.

Then there’s the constant fear of flights being delayed or cancelled. I’ve had plenty of flights cancelled and gotten stuck in airports waiting for the next flight. I even had to sleep in the terminal because all the hotels were full and my flight wasn’t until the next day. It’s even worse when you are on your way home, in your seat on the plane, with the plane on the runway about to take off, and the captain announces the flight has been cancelled due to bad weather. They turn the plane around and head back to the terminal. That’s when I want to look for a gun anywhere I can find one so I can shoot myself. I just want to come home.

Air travel is great in that we can go great distances in a relative short period of time, but dealing with airlines who won’t give you good reasons for delays or cancellations is very frustrating. I once had a flight delayed because the toilet was frozen. A colleague of mine had his flight cancelled because the flight attendant didn’t have the demo seat belt to do the safety walk through. My first flight on my Galapagos vacation was cancelled because the pilot couldn’t turn a knob counter-clockwise. I kid you not.

I average about 8-10 flights a month depending on how busy I am. For June, I will travel on 16 different flights, to four cities, in two countries, with two other cities being used for connections. Dealing with security lines, delays, cancellations, dumb travelers, and countless other air related follies is something that is both physically and mentally draining. The stress of flying is hard on the head, and running your ass off from one end of an airport to another is physically tiring. The last time I had to run for a flight, I ran all the way from the US connections portion of Pearson airport to the Canadian side in about 13 minutes. It was bad enough that when I got on the plane, I actually had the flight attendants a bit scared for my health as I did not look very good. I was definitely having a hard time breathing and the sweat was pouring off of me. Speaking of which, I really need to get in better shape. But, to add insult to injury, after running all that distance, the plane sat at the gate for about 45 minutes before it left. Talk about infuriate me.

Time Zones, Jetlag, & The Return

Currently it is 8:47pm where I am. But back home it’s 4:47. In exactly 7 days, it will be 3:47 and a week after that it will be 1:47, and the week after that, it will be 3:47. In the span of four weeks, I will have gone from Atlantic, to GMT, back to Atlantic, to Eastern, back to Atlantic, to Pacific, back to Atlantic, back to Eastern, and then back to Atlantic time. The general rule is it takes your body about a day per hour of time change to get back to normal. Looking at my schedule for June, when the hell will my body know when to sleep? Seriously, the time zone shifts mess with your sleeping habits and I’ve become semi-addicted to anything that can put me to sleep early because I’m always in another time zone. It can be hell. Maybe I should start reading blog posts like this one to put me to sleep.

That being said, when I finally do get home and get to stay home, I usually am quite pissy. Usually because I’ve been on a plane for so long and am just tired. It puts me on edge and makes me grumpy. It’s very hard to actually catch myself from snapping at others but I do my best knowing that it’s just my body adjusting back to being home. Getting in at 3am and then going to sleep doesn’t help either.

Then when I finally get myself back to normal, I have a little while before it all starts again. It is exhausting.

So with reading those points, do you still think it’s so awesome to travel for your work? Ironically, given the cons shown on this post, I actually do love the travel. I don’t like the cons I have listed, but you only get to live once and I have been given an opportunity to see parts of the world I would never otherwise have seen. So, I tolerate screaming babies on planes, shake my head at the 192 year old woman at the airport security who thinks her teeth will set off the alarms, and I take in everything I can. I know that the annoyances are worth it because they help me be able to make dreams of mine come true. The job I have is the reason me and Tamara get to go to Egypt and Jordan in November. No, work isn’t paying for it, but I would not have been able to afford it if I hadn’t taken this job. So I take the bad with the good because the good will always be worth it.

The next time you hear someone say they travel for their job, try and remember that there are perks to it, but it’s not all long vacations in cool spots. I said I traveled to some cool locations but I left out places like Livingston  New Jersey, Omaha  Nebraska, Blue Bell Pennsylvania (where I spent several hours in a hospital passing a kidney stone), and Utica New York. Sometimes you get to go to cool places. Other times you wonder where the hell you are and why anyone would want to live there.

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1:29AM

It’s 1:29AM and I am awake. I’m awake because a couple of days ago I was in Los Angeles and fully adjusted to Pacific time. That’s four hours behind Moncton time which means in about 2.5 hours, I’ll be ready to fall asleep. Despite being home since Friday at noon, I still feel myself unable to get back into routine things here.

Today was the big Fundy geocaching event and as proud as I am of what we did for that event and for Fundy themselves, I am still tired and feeling a bit blah about the whole thing. I talked to Tamara a bit about my thoughts on things tonite and it kinda goes like this.

I’m not someone who is very ego-centric. I try to be more humble than anything although I do think I sometimes come off as a bit show-offy when it comes to my travel. But when it comes to the things I do for geocaching, I really do try to be a lot more reserved. That being said, I’m pretty proud of myself for the things I have accomplished through my work under Cache Up NB. I mean, it’s something _I_ started. I took it on and moved it forward and look where it is today. It’s kind of amazing really.

I think that’s why when the appreciation comes in on days like today, I really need to soak it in as much as I can because it’s only the large things that people tend to really appreciate. It seems that when it comes to geocaching, and the stuff CUNB does, most people have no idea what goes on outside of a little website. It seems everytime I turn around it’s something else that we’re doing for people, but not a lot of folks realize, or acknowledge it. That’s why on days like today, it’s nice to hear a thank you and people supporting the work we do.

That being said, there are also times when I’m kind of tired of it all. I really do like the things I am doing but there are times when it feels like all this geocaching stuff is like another job. I don’t have many hobbies so I tend to throw myself into the few I have and I think this is where my passion is right now. The problem is, there are days, like tonite, where I’m jetlagged and really beat, but just not able to sleep cuz my head is swimming in what feels like 100 different things to do. Add to that, I’m supposed to leave the house at 7:30AM to go back to Fundy for another event. It just feels like a lot going on for just having gotten home.

Which is another thing. When I travel, it usually takes me a day or so to get my mood back to normal. I’m kind of an ass when I first get home. Short tempered and not much patience for much of anything. That’s the reason why I usually try to keep a low key for a day or so until things are sane. I guess that will have to wait until Monday.

I’m starting to yawn and my eyes are getting sore, and my typing is becoming error prone so I think it’s time to try to go back to bed. Hopefully I can get a few hours sleep before the madness begins again.

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Android vs iOS

I read a very interesting article today and I really enjoyed it. What I enjoyed most about the article was the fact that this guy seemed to really hit the nail on the head about what should dictate which platform you should choose. His point of view was very in the middle and he made a very good point.

The jist of the article is that if you don’t own an iOS or Android device yet, then the choice is entirely in the air and you can simply try out whatever devices you like and the one that you like the most wins. The other side was if you were already an owner of a device on either platform, it’s probably best for you to stick with that platform. Now, this isn’t always true, but the more I think about it, the more it made sense.

I’ve had discussions with friends who are big Android players and they always tell me about how my iPhone is crap because blah blah blah. It’s usually the same arguments I see all over the web about walled gardens and lack of openness and so on. I’m not going to get into that discussion but I would like to present a point of view that is a bit in line with what Mr. Kingsley-Hughes is saying.

I got an iPhone through work when the 3G was released. At that time, Android wasn’t even worth looking at. Even the most diehard fans of that platform can admit that the early versions of the OS was complete shit. Apple had a huge gain on anyone in the mobile market at the time and it took a long time for Android to catch up, and now perhaps in some areas, exceed what Apple had started at. Regardless, the iPhone 3G was the first smartphone I ever owned. That was around five years ago. Since then, I have upgraded twice to an iPhone 4, and now an iPhone 5. As a tech-head, folks might wonder why someone like me would stick with a device that seems so anti-customizable vs the open Android platform. In the end, it comes down to one very simple concept addressed in the previously mentioned article. I started with an iPhone.

In the roughly five years I have owned an iPhone, I have gotten used to, and enjoy the way it works. I’ve paid a considerable amount of money for apps on my own phone as well as my wife’s iPhone and the iPad. I’m in that world and have enjoyed being in that world for sometime now. Given that I have already invested a good chunk of money into that platform, and I’m quite content with the way it works, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to jump ship to Android because some people claim it’s a better platform. To give you another example, I present to you the very old argument of PC vs Mac.

In the world we live in today, desktop and laptop computers are mostly running Windows with Mac, Linux, and other OSes taking up a small portion of the market. Why do people choose PCs over Macs? I would bet that in most cases, it’s because that was the technology they were introduced to first. Many folks who own Macs have owned them all along and that’s the only thing they have worked with until they HAD to use a PC. For most Windows users, they have no reason to switch to Mac because for them, there’s nothing overly compelling that makes them want to switch. Those that do switch do so either because they have come to despise the Windows environment, or an application they need is only available on the PC. The same might be true for those who switch from Mac to PC.

The same is now true in the world of mobile devices. If you started with an iPhone, odds are you’ll probably stay with it and the same is true for Android. Yes, for some who feel Apple has fallen short on the innovation train (which I actually agree with) you may opt to abandon the platform, but I would bet by far and large, most people stick to what they know. I know this because the market share never ever went towards Mac. It stuck with Windows. There’s a reason for that. People like what is familiar to them. People do not like change and this is still true with their mobile devices. Yes, Microsoft won with their marketing of Windows so we saw it everywhere, but how many people do you know that started on a Windows computer, jumped ship and went to a Mac? It’s not a large percentage. I’d bet the number is even smaller of those who started on Macs that went to a PC. People stick to what they know and like.

The other point on this discussion for me has to do with actual reasons for switching. As someone who is fully immersed in the iOS world, for me to switch to Android, or any other mobile platform for that matter, there has to be a good reason to jump ship. Android lovers will always try to sell the idea that Android is an “open” platform so you can do whatever you want with your device as a reason to switch. They’ll talk about how Apple’s walled garden makes it “impossible” for you to do many of the things you want to do and that this should be enough reason for you to jump ship. Lastly, they’ll mention how much more advanced the hardware is for Android devices compared to iOS. A lot of the newer mobile devices have a lot faster CPU & RAM than many of the iOS devices and thusly, this should be enough reason for me to jump ship. Android fans will also list off “dozens” of features that Android can do that iOS can’t do, but will conveniently forget to mention the things iOS can do that Android cannot. In that regard I see it as being a level playing field but in the hardware and open platform debate, I can see their point. I however have a different view.

If I’m using a device I am comfortable with, the apps I run on it run very well and very effectively, and I am perfectly happy with the apps I have available to me, how does any of those “advantages” to Android actually help me? If I find the apps on my iPhone launch and run very fast and quickly, how is having a faster processor going to help me? Instead of it taking 1.5 seconds to launch an app, it takes 1.25 seconds. Does that really constitute a “need” to switch platforms? CPU & RAM enhancements are fine if you are running applications that require excessive CPU & RAM. I would argue that because Apple has such strict criteria on what apps can go on a device, they insure that only ones that will provide a quality experience pass the test and get approved. Therefore speed issues don’t really account into the equation.

A person has to really evaluate exactly what it is they use their device for and how well they use it. If I really like the way my device works and how I interact with the OS and the apps on it, any “new” device I get needs to be able to provide that exact same experience as good if not better than what I am used to. Beyond that, any new device has to “wow” me into wanting to change.

What I am really trying to get at is that if you take the best Android device and the best iOS device and put them side by side, much like what Adrian is talking about, they will compare quite evenly. Some things will work better on one vs the other, and some features will differ on each device, but at the end of the day, there’s no “killer feature” that exists exclusively on Android that makes a user go “WOW!” and their jaw drops and realize they NEED to switch today. Yes, I know that some of the Android phones support things like NFC which doesn’t exist on iOS, but since there’s no real standards for that in place yet, it doesn’t really help gain any credibility to Android’s support of them. And yes I’m sure some of the Android fans out there would point out other “features” that are nice that iOS lacks, but I would always come back and say that it’s more icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Little things are nice but if I’m going to abandon a platform I have invested a considerable amount of time, and money into, there better be a real good reason to do it.

Both platforms perform very well but there’s no killer apps or killer features. Think about the reaction the world had when the original iPhone was released. That was a game changer. Before then, smartphones looked like a Blackberry. Look where we are today? People saw what Apple was doing and went “WOW! We need to do something like that.” and now look at the mobile world. If all of a sudden Android phones came out with some sort of holographic projection phone calls, now THAT would be a WOW moment and something to consider jumping ship for. Letting me play my music or videos on certain models of smart TVs is not a killer feature. It’s called Airplay and iOS has had it for some time. It always seems that one platform releases a feature and then shortly thereafter, the other platform releases a similar app. The turnaround time is usually very quick. How long did it take Android to get to where iOS is today? It didn’t happen in a couple of months. It took several years. I’d love to see Android do the same to Apple because then I would seriously consider switching. But as it is now, it’s the status quo. Copy the same stuff your competitor made, say it’s better and now you’re even. Both Android & Apple are guilty of this but it still doesn’t yield the “killer feature”. When is Android finally going to do something that’s over the top and make people go “WOW!” like Apple did when the iPhone was released? If the feature is awesome enough, I’ll jump onboard.

Apple’s innovation has definitely died off in the last little while, but ultimately, I haven’t seen anything that jaw dropping from the Android community yet. If you want folks to switch from iOS to Android, you need to give them a killer reason to do so. Right now, it’s really just more of the same.

 

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My Displeasure With The UK Health Clinics

It’s Friday and in a few hours I start my journey home from Philly. I only had about 18 hours of being home last weekend after being in the UK for a week. To top it off, I was awful sick that week so it made for a horrible trip. However, the worst was a trip to a local clinic in an attempt to help myself. Here’s a little tale of my trip to London and how it made me physically ill.

It was mid-February and Tamara and the kids had been pretty sick. Somehow it managed to skip me and just hit them. But by the time Wednesday night came along, I was feeling it and waking up on Thursday I was definitely sick. Unfortunately because I had a training class to give that week, there was no sick days for me.

By the time Saturday came along, I was feeling a whole lot better but had to travel that day. I was headed to London via Toronto so I left Moncton at 7pm and thought all would be fine. My plan was to take a sleeping pill at 11pm and sleep on the plane and wake up in London feeling pretty good. Well, that never happened.

Instead, I landed in Toronto to find it in the middle of a blizzard. A freak storm hit the city and only lasted about two hours but was enough to completely screw up flights going out of the city. Delay after delay hit until finally at about 2:45AM, Air Canada cancelled the flight. Now, I fly AC a lot and I normally have no issues with them but what they did this time around was pretty sad. They didn’t bother to tell anyone the flight had been cancelled until after folks around got the notices on their phones. Then they refused to re-book everyone telling them they had to do it themselves. I then had to spend the next 6 hours or so sitting/sleeping in the airport to try and get back on the next flight.

After not being able to sleep in the airport, and not getting any rest, I felt the illness hit me again and by the time I hit London, I was a mess. I managed to get a little rest but I basically spent the entire week just barely pushing myself through my training class, coming back to my hotel, and going to bed. But after all of that, the one thing that irritated me the most was when I went to try and get some medical help from a local clinic.

I found myself at a clinic and got an appointment but was told that because I wasn’t a UK citizen, I had to pay a 50 pound fee to see a doctor. I expected this which was fine. But when I got into the dr’s office, he told me because I was Canadian there was nothing he could do for me and more or less told me to get out. I had paid 50 pounds (about 78 dollars CDN) for absolutely nothing. I WAS PISSED!

I was not able to get a refund but wrote a VERY nasty review of that clinic on the NHS website and have also written them a letter telling them they are nothing more than scam artists sucking money out of people who aren’t from their country. I never felt like such a second class citizen. I can tell you that this experience has seriously dampened my opinion of London. I always thought of it as kind of a cool place but after going through that, my opinion has been tainted.

I have two more trips there this year and trust me, if I have to see a doctor there again for any reason, I’ll be damn sure to get the facts straight before I go anywhere.

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The Decline of Microsoft

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile  but I only decided to sit down and write about it now since I’ve kind of need a break from my work writing. This time around I want to take a little jab at a company that used to make a difference in the tech world: Microsoft.

Back in the days when I was in college, Microsoft was a company that everyone both hated and loved at the same time. This was a company that owned the operating system market as well as the desktop office application world. I remember the days of me and my friend Chris saying that Bill Gates was the devil because his software was everywhere. NT4 came out and eventually lead to Windows 2000 and beyond. Many corporations were moving away from Novell and taking on the Microsoft platform and it just seemed like they were a big company that was never going to go anywhere.

Then, in 2000, Bill Gates stepped down as CEO and took a back burner to new CEO Steve Ballmer. Gates remained in some capacity for a few more years until eventually giving up his controlling interest to allow Ballmer to do more on his own with the company.

Now, Windows XP was released in 2001 and this is an OS which quickly became the standard for all desktop PCs. Everywhere you looked there was XP. This was the first desktop OS to be released after Gates had stepped down as CEO. Now given that Gates still controlled some of the direction of the company, XP came out of that. That was also the same year that the XBox came out. Yes, there were other software releases as well but those are definitely two things that stand out as perhaps the last big things to hit while Gates still had some control of the company.

After that, the next “big” thing to come from Microsoft would be in 2007 with the release of the much anticipated new desktop OS, Vista. This would be the first major desktop release under Ballmer’s stewardship. After suffering an onslaught of delays, code changes, feature changes and removals, the software hit the shelves. This was supposed to be the replacement to XP and was supposed to be the next greatest thing in desktop OSes. It fell flat. Considered one of the biggest blunders in Microsoft’s history, the flack they got over Vista was enormous. Many machines wouldn’t boot, wouldn’t activate, and countless supposedly supported hardware didn’t work with the OS at all. It was a complete and total disaster.

It would take two years for Microsoft to finally admit that they had made a mess and fixed it with Windows 7. Ballmer himself even admitted that they dropped the ball on Vista. But that was just the beginning.

Microsoft released Office 2007 with what was considered the single worst UI “improvement” in Office’s history. The “ribbon” incorporated into the product was abhorred by users everywhere. Countless requests and calls came in for that feature to be pulled and changed back to what was working just fine before.

Since then, Microsoft has released several versions of it’s mobile platform, which has never really gone anywhere. Their tablets have shown to be subpar compared to what Android and iOS are doing. They released their long awaited follow up to Windows 7, Windows 8 (gee that’s original) which has been somewhat panned by critics as being a miss of tablet attempt vs desktop overhaul.

It seems that in a world that is now moving away from the PC, Microsoft is sitting in the back waving it’s hands and saying “Hey!!! We still matter!!!” while not bothering to put out anything of actual use.

I find myself wondering where Microsoft will be 10 years from now. At one time I would have thought that this is a company that wasn’t going anywhere. But now it seems that everytime they release something new, it just seems so out of date compared to what other companies are doing. They continue to play catch up and aren’t really doing much in the way of innovation. Their inability to understand that the mobile market is really where things are moving is going to be their undoing. Unless they find a way to successfully transition the traditional PC desktop to something more mobile, the days of Microsoft’s king of the hill status are numbered. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Microsoft one day end up much like Word Perfect did so many years ago. Pushed out of the way by other products who had a much better mass appeal.

Personally, I think Ballmer needs to go. Microsoft is falling behind and the best way for them to restart is to pull the plug on the man who brought us Vista.

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Violent Media Is Not The Problem

This morning I read yet another ridiculous article about how folks are still trying to blame violent videogames and other media for the recent shootings in Connecticut. This time it’s a group near Newtown that wants people to bring in their violent videogames in exchange for money. The plan is to burn all of the media obtained to try and send a message that violence in media is the cause of these types of abhorrent behaviour.

Seriously? You people actually think that these violent games, movies, and whatever else are the cause? You actually think that destroying them is going to make any difference?

Everytime I read or see an article anywhere that tries to claim that the violence on television, in movies, or in videogames, is the cause of so much violence we see everywhere else, it makes me want to find whoever wrote the article and punch them straight in the face. You just don’t get it.

There is not a single person anywhere that will ever convince me that someone who plays a lot of Call of Duty will turn around and murder people. You’ll never convince me that watching movies like Die Hard or Expendables is going to turn me into a maniac who opens fire at a movie theater. Why? Because NONE OF THAT STUFF IS REAL! It’s “pretend”, imaginary, art, illusion, whatever you want to call it but it is not real. Where the REAL problem comes in is when someone who has other mental problems that they either don’t know about or choose not to control properly, take things they see in movies or TV or games or whatever, and misunderstand that they are real or think that they are being communicated with through said media. The media didn’t make them crazy or mentally disturbed. They were already there.

Do I think that the violence in those games and movies contributes to it? I think in some cases, it’s probably the item that pushes them over the edge. But the truth is, if it wasn’t something they saw on TV or in a game, it would end up being a real person, or a bad experience that would do the same thing. If you removed all of the violent media we have around us, a mentally disturbed person will still be disturbed and still get to that edge and be pushed off by something else. It’s merely just convenient to blame media for the problem.

In the US, advocacy groups are always trying to pin major tragedies on TV and movies but they never consider the fact that the epidemic of violence that exists in the US is not anywhere near as bad in other developed nations. Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and countless other developed nations around the world consume much of the same media as the United States does. In Canada alone, how many movies or TV shows do you watch that are specific to Canada only? Pretty much every TV show I watch is an American show. I can’t tell you the last time I went and watched a Canadian movie. And as for videogames, Canadians play all the same games as they do in the US. For movies and video games, the same is pretty much true around the world. American based media is everywhere, not just in the US.

So with that said, why is it that the US seems to have more of an issue with violence than these other places? Sure, Canada has it’s share of problems, but school shootings and violent murder and attacks are not exactly something that Canada has a lot of. The same can be said of many of the other places I’ve already mentioned. We all consume more or less than same media and we don’t suffer from the same kind of mass violence issues you see in the USA. Even if you factor the population up to the same as the US, the crime ratio wouldn’t be anywhere near the same.

If TV, movies, and videogames are the driving force behind all of this violence, then why is it us Canadians, and other developed nations, don’t seem to be affected by it as much? I’ll tell you why, because it’s BS.

People will always want to blame someone or something for tragedy, especially violence. TV and movies are easy targets because yes, there’s a lot of violence on them and even more so in video games. But to say that they are the cause of the problem is irrational given that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have that problem.

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The Inability To Take Suggestions / Criticism

Recently I had a situation arise where I found myself wanting to help someone else out. Specifically, it had to do with a particular geocacher and something they had done.

Now the thing is, most of the time I tend to just keep my opinions or suggestions to others to myself unless I am face to face with the person. But now and then I figure that a little friendly suggestion to others isn’t harmful at all. Well, I certainly learned to keep my mouth shut.

I sent this person a quick little email and mentioned how something they had done could cause some issues for other cachers. I didn’t tell them what to do but just told them what had happened before and that maybe in the future they might want to reconsider what they had done. I then received an email back basically tell me to piss off and that if I didn’t like the way they were doing it,  maybe I should do it for them.

A response like that, although not very polite, was annoying and frustrating because all I was trying to do was help. Ok, fine, you don’t want my advice, that’s perfectly fine. But then said person decides to go on Facebook and go off on a rant about how people are telling them how to do things and that maybe they should just give up what they are doing because they are getting so many emails making friendly “suggestions” and that no one is appreciating what they are doing.

I read the message and was pretty surprised. It would seem that I was not the only person who had sent them an email about certain things. Turns out they’ve received several other emails about subjects similar to the one I sent. Apparently all friendly, but definitely enough for this person to decide to go on a Facebook rant about people’s lack of appreciation.

I had replied to the piss off email and was quite frank about how I was just trying to make a friendly suggestion and not tell them how they HAD to do anything. I also told them that since they weren’t interested in being polite about it, that I would be sure never to make a suggestion again.

I read another comment from this same person today on Facebook and it certainly became clear what the issue was (from my perspective anyway). It seems that when some people start working on something and have been doing it their own way for awhile, when others come along and give them suggestions or give a bit of criticism of the things they do, some people interpret that as someone pissing all over their hard work. It seems that it doesn’t matter how friendly or how well meaning your message is, some people don’t want to hear it. They are going to do it their way and no one else’s suggestions matter.

It’s not like this is a giant revelation to me as many people don’t take well to criticism. What I don’t like is how folks then decide to go on a long rant on Facebook defending what they do when no one else has any idea what in fact has been said or suggested. It’s a very one sided point of view and when I read something like that, and I know there is a whole other side that people aren’t aware of, it irks me. No, there’s nothing I can do about it, and no I shouldn’t care, but it does irritate me to some extent.

Regardless, I learned my lesson. Unless I really know the person I am dealing with, I think that it might be better for me to just keep my suggestions to myself and then smile when I see the inevitable outcome. Either that or post a meaningless blog entry about my frustration :)

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Teaching my kids about technology

A few months ago, my wife told me a story about my son Dylan that concerned me a bit. Turns out he had been at a friends house and his friend, who is the same age as him, was quite skilled at using a mouse on a computer. Dylan was however not as skilled. He struggled to play the game on the computer. As a result of this revelation, I dug out Tamara’s old laptop and put it in the living room with the intention of having the kids spend a little time on the computer over the course of the week. Just a bit here and there to get them used to using it. The laptop has sat pretty much unused since it’s been brought out. We’ve turned it on a few times for the kids, but by far and large, they prefer the iPad. This brings me to my current quandary.

Dylan and Megan both know how to use the iPad very well. They both know how to navigate around it’s screens, launch apps, and use the apps they like to play. Dylan has become amazingly skilled at playing Angry Birds (loves the new Star Wars one which btw is VERY well done) and Megan loves playing her word games with Super Why and drawing with Dora. Both use the tablet without any issues what so ever. But when it comes to them sitting down at the computer and trying to use a mouse, they get lost, and frustrated very quickly.

Since tablet computing went mainstream with the launch of the iPad, and now multitudes of other tablet/touch devices out there, it got me to thinking about the future of computing. At Dylan’s parent-teacher meeting, we asked about when the kids would start using computers and the teacher indicated that they would get started in the new year with basic keyboard and mouse skills. Knowing that Dylan is going to learn in school anyway, it made me start to re-think whether or not it’s worth it to continue the same at home.

It’s not that I don’t think that learning how to use a mouse is important, but I started thinking about what the world of computing is going to look like to him and Megan as they grow. We are in a major turning point with technology in that it seems things like the PC are slowly dying, and things like mobile phones and tablets are becoming the computing platform of choice in the future. Dylan and Megan have already mastered the iPad and so any other tablet device they go to will be just as easy to learn. If that is indeed the future, is it such a bad thing that I feel like packing the laptop up and giving them more tablet time?

There’s the part of me that wonders if I don’t try and help them learn mouse and keyboard skills at home, I am somehow doing them wrong. But then another part of me wonders that if they are going to learn those skills in school, why not try and focus their at-home skills on things that are the wave of the future. They aren’t going to be using tablets in grade school anytime soon but by the time high school hits, that could be all that’s out there.

I’m somewhat torn because part of me really wants to help them learn more about the same things they are learning in school, but I also want to prepare them for the wave that is approaching. When the time comes that my kids need to have their own computer, am I really going to be buying them a laptop? Odds are they’ll get a tablet device of some kind that will serve them just fine. And if that really is the case, is it such a bad thing to just let the school handle the antiquated interfaces and I can teach them about what they’re going to be asking for down the road.

As someone who grew up with technology, I have been very careful in how much technology I have exposed the kids to. The last thing I want is them to be stuck in the house playing video games when they could be out “playing”. But I am now starting to feel that perhaps a little bit of guidance on all things technology is needed.

I guess the bottom line is that regardless of what I do, as long as they are learning, that’s more important than anything else. I just want to them to learn the things that will be helpful for their future.

Categories: Dylan, Megan, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve been blogging for more than 11 years?

According to what I could find, this was the earliest “blog” entry I could find for Bobsroom. It looks like some of the entries between there and here never made it into the current database I use for all of my blog entries. Still though, it’s a bit insane to think of the fact that in one form or another, I have been writing about my own life and blogging for 11 years.

Let’s put that into a bit of perspective. In 13 days I turn 39 years old. That means that for 28% of my life, I have been writing about what’s been going on in my life, or giving my own unique perspectives into the world around me. It also means that I was pushing towards 28 when I started blogging.

It’s a bit hard to fathom that this much time has passed and what has transpired in that time period. Since 2001, a lot has happened. Let’s see:

  • My grandfather died
  • 9/11 happened
  • I split up with my first wife
  • Got divorced
  • Bought a house
  • Changed jobs twice
  • Survived three company acquisitions
  • Got married again
  • Lost my first child
  • Had both a son and a daughter join me and my wife
  • My dad died
  • My step-father died
  • My longtime dear friend J.C. died
  • I bought a cottage
  • Watched many of my friend’s marriages/relationships fall apart
  • Had my gross income from my job actually double
  • Traveled to Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, London England, and Australia
  • Got to see Faith No More play live again (and met two more of the band members)
  • Reconnected with a longtime friend whom I’d been distant from
  • Bought a mini-van
  • Launched a successful regional geocaching website
  • Made plans for the biggest and most anticipated trip of my entire life
I’m sure there’s plenty of other things that have happened but those are the ones that I can think of at the moment.

When you start looking at all of the things that has happened to you in the last decade, it’s pretty insane to think about how it all happens so fast. I can’t imagine how my life will look when I make this list again in 2023.

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