Excuses Me

December 26 of 31 December-ish posts

We were driving home from the last of multiple family christmas gatherings today and, as we sped north down the highway, we passed the giant outlet mall on the outskirts of the city. Then we passed about five hundred cars driving slowly bumper to bumper in the southbound direction and queuing for the mall where the possibility of countless sales, deals, bargains, and boxing day shopping bonanzas waited therein.

We kept driving.

What did you want this year
… but not get?

As a guy who has a small category on his blog about “gear” I use and like it would be too easy to write about a “thing” that I was coveting and didn’t happen to find a way of adding to my collection this year.

On the other hand, my Christmas gifts included all manner of delicious coffee bean blends, running kit, microbrew beers, and spice mixes so I can’t really complain about my lack of holiday haul.

It has occured to me, particularly as I look at blank notebooks, missing blog posts, and a stack of unread novels on my bedside table, that I didn’t find myself with a lot of productive time this year.

I’ve been busy.

What a terrible excuse, huh?

When I did find a bit of time here or there I managed to paint many awesome sketches, upload a hearty collection of writing, and even crank out a healthy smattering of code. Not as much as I would have liked, but still… quite a bit.

But, all that said, work was consuming this year, consuming in the way that it followed me home and drained my evenings, and sapped me of motivation. I’ve been work busy. I’ve been dad busy. I’ve been family busy. I’ve been health busy. I’ve been paying the bills busy.

Also, put that all with the fact that I haven’t been for a decent run in over six months thanks to my knee injury, and the free time I did have was usually spent doing physiotherapy exercises and trying to get something resembling recovery going on down there. Not running and instead doing physiotherapy at the gym is far less exciting than running through the trails with my friends.

What I’m trying to say is that productive time was not my companion this past year.

I hope to change that up in 2023.

I hope.

Thing is, I can’t buy more time from the outlet mall, and no matter how long I queue on the highway I don’t think motivation will be waiting at the other end.

But I have started thinking about my 2023 projects: drawing comics, making videos, writing more frequently here (though still unlikely back to daily right away) and generally easing my foot off the metaphorical gas of my career in favour of some creative pursuits to balance out my life.

I didn’t get much of that in 2022, but maybe my personal boxing day deal will be to give myself this big ol’plan to put some productive time at the top my my 2023 priority list. Thanks, bud.

Objectively Looped In

December 3 of 31 December-ish posts

What’s your favourite subject in school, I ask a kid.

Recess, he replies.

What’s the best part of your job, I ask myself.

Working from home a few days a week, I almost write.

Except that’s not really true.

What made your job
interesting in 2022?

I’ve spent a few posts this year writing about the possibility of job change.

And I’ve been serious. Last week I marked the twelve year anniversary at my current employer, and at times like that, birthdays, anniversaries, new years, one tends to get reflective and contemplative about life, the universe and everything. It’s a double-shame for me because all those things tend to fall within roughly one month and I have a heckuva December feeling all philosophical about my life.

I try to keep the line between work and my words here pretty fuzzy because, well the thing is, I’m a public servant. We have strong codes of conduct, by which I mean documents that tell us how we should conduct ourselves in our roles inside and outside of the office, and those codes of conduct do include things like internet participation and having a public opinion particularly under the flag of our professional role. That gets tricky to navigate especially when I want to write about all the things I do in our parks and the runs and walks I take on our trails and even the various fun I have in my own backyard. Why? Because those are spaces sometimes managed or governed by bylaws and services provided by my colleagues.

For example, I have a fire pit in my backyard that I use to build adventures and that leads to me sharing stories and content here on this site.

But there are rules for how fire pits are allowed to be used properly. Minimum clearances. Fire bans get declared routinely. Good neighbour policies exist and overlap with smoke dispersal, and noise bylaws and ash disposal. If I was to declare myself such and such an employee and suggest (which I’m definitely not doing) that my job gave me some kind of authority to set an example or declare exceptions or shrug off proper processes (all of which I also am definitely not doing) I could get into a bit of hot water for implying that professional connection.

So, I keep a fuzzy line.

This guy who you are reading here is just a guy, a guy who lives and plays in this place. My expertise is personal, and I (and this is actually pretty true because all I really do is work in one of our technology teams and not any of those more hands-on services) have no special knowledge or influence on anything related to these places or spaces about which I sometimes write. And I definitely have no power over decisions or budgets or political stuff. I’m just a dwarf in the silicon mines.

That said, things do get interesting because I’m a guy who seems like he should have special knowledge, but doesn’t really. That I’m in this weird position to see behind the curtain of the show, but I’m little more than a set designer, and usually go take my seat with the rest of the audience when the show starts.

In the context of what I do, why I do it, why I continue to do it amidst the possibility of so many other options, and deep down how that is rooted in why my job can be interesting is this: I could have a different job. I could be selling or buying or moving or building or driving or talking or any of a hundred different tasks. But at the heart of what I do is that I’m creating and informing.

That is why things are so fuzzy.

I try to create and inform for fun. I build websites, I draw pictures. I write stories. I grow and cook and explore and tell more tales about all that.

And then for a job I build websites. I commission pictures. I post information. I watch as everyone else at work grows and makes and cleans and serves, and we share more information about that.

I work daily with the teams doing the interesting work of keeping this place running.

I know people who are integral to the functioning of our community.

I help a million folks who live here stay informed about all of it.

Objectively, I’m looped in. That’s a pretty sweet (and interesting) place to be even if it’s often a lot of hard, thankless work.

Reminder: Blogs are not a replacement for professional advice. Please read my note on safety and safe participation.

Monday Zen: Simplification & Leaving Spaces

Cultivating a less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy shouldn’t need to be an active, busy pursuit towards simplification. How would that even make sense, after all?

I opened up my email inbox this morning to a corporate reminder that I had excess vacation to use up. Somewhere in a human resources database I not only have a number that represents a full year’s worth of unused vacation days but there is a second number that is reminding me of the days I neglected to spend last year.

That second number represents nearly three weeks of time off.

Combined with the first number, I could theoretically take the entire summer off.

I say “theoretically” because realistically my work schedule and project due list is not so forgiving as to let me vanish for two whole months without consequence.

I write this if only to note that as much as I evangelise here about that aforementioned less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy, it is a daily effort even for me to draw a clear line between the professional self that I so often am and my personal self whom I aspire to be.

Working from home has blurred that line even more, eroding the old barrier between being at work and at home, on and off.

How then does one seek to cultivate that philosophy, pushing against the momentum of a work-a-day lifestyle that comes with being a modern suburbanite and needing to pay the bills and save for retirement?

It is like attempting to stop a boulder already rolling down the hill, and instead just following the routine and letting it roll.

Apart from scheduling breaks, the existential mindset that seems to be necessitated by a carefree approach to simplification doesn’t jive with daily video chats at exactly 9am and thirty minute lunch breaks and commuting through jostling traffic.

And as much as I have nearly two months of overdue vacation hours pending some confluence of opportunity and action and approval from a higher authority (in other words my boss) even setting aside larger chunks of time to be less “at work” doesn’t really shift anyone into a permanently new mindset.

Actively thinking about it helps.

As does planning to unplan. Preparing your world and your space and your mind to be ready when a bit of clear space opens up, for when an opportunity arises.  True spontaneity is rare, and almost impossible in the type of structured life that is required to hold down a forty hour office job.

But a plan that leaves unfilled gaps is ready to help cultivate adventure.

A simple analogy might be to think about the choices made when doing something as simple as parking your car or riding the bus. 

Often we’re inclined to reduce the gap and park close or hop off transit as near as possible to our destination. Choosing a parking spot or a bus stop with a larger gap to where you need to be leaves a space, a space that might be filled by a meandering walk through a trail, neighbourhood or a park, and through where you never really planned to go.

Cultivating a less-complicated life and living the cast iron philosophy comes from the same kind of planned lack of a plan “gap” and in leaving spaces between those more structured moments.

I look at my weeks of unspent vacation and ponder how I can best make use of it.  Sure, I should travel (and I will) and sure I could take off a big chunk of time and do something useful.  

On the other hand, those hundreds of hours of unplanned time could make for dozens of meaningful gaps in my life, gaps to be filled with spontaneity and simplification.

Cooking. Campfires. Hikes. Runs. Or even just sitting somewhere and sketching a while. 

Who can say? And that’s the point.


It’s been nearly a month since I’ve dropped a post here, I realize, but with the world swirling in chaos and my life sometimes feeling like a lot of the same, I now find myself needing to write yet another explanation post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my professional life these days.

I’m locked up in golden handcuffs, as they say, doing a job that pays entirely too well, can be occasionally cushy, and gives me a lot of flexibility in life. On the other hand, I have no passion for the work, I’m a cog in a bureaucracy and rarely seem to have any effect on anything, and my work life is a never-ending series of video meetings on what amounts to the same general topic day, after day, after day… after day.

It’s boring and frustrating and unremarkable all at once.

I’ve been reading about midlife career change.

I’ve been talking to people who have pulled the plug on something in their forties and reinvented themselves.

I’ve been pondering budgets and possibilities and realities of economy and family and obligation and how it all fits together into a giant jigsaw that is my career choices.

This morning I took the first tenuous step towards a massive change.

Not a plunge. Not a flying leap. Not an irreversible veer.

A step.

And it may amount to nothing. Or it may turn out to be everything.

Only time will tell.

But if and when something comes out of that first step, and it’s time to take a second… third… and on and on, then I’ll likely have a lot more stuff to say, and be able to be much less cryptic about it.