a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies


The Inability to Relax

I’ve found myself almost wholly unable to relax this vacation, so far. It has nothing to do with the vacation itself. Though there have been two days of somewhat stressful, unfamiliar drives, those didn’t stress me overly much, in retrospect. There’s just a kind of base level, inescapable stress right now.

I know they say you should stay away from work email over vacation, but I found myself getting nervous about what was waiting for me. I usually find it eases my mind to check work email a bit over the weekends or breaks. Nothing huge, I check it on my phone. I have it on a separate app which is under no circumstances allowed to send me any kind of notifications. My boss has my personal email if there’s something somewhat urgent, and my cell phone number in an absolute emergency. And she’s good about knowing what’s what.

So I’ve been checking and there’s been nothing urgent. Couple little things, and some people seem to not be getting my out of office email, but as far as I can tell that’s not my fault. 

So why can’t I shake this base stress level? Do I need some kind of detox, to remember that the office will likely not burn down around me? That the few projects I left unfinished are in no way urgent? I spent the first few days in one of, arguably, the most beautiful places in the world, marvelling at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. And yes, I checked work email from my balcony, watching the sunrise over the Rockies, and felt good about it. But since then it’s all weighed on me. Am I spending too much money? Is work okay? Is there work or other such things I should be doing, instead of sitting back and zoning out with a book, or Hearthstone, or WoW? Hell, even this is a bit of a concession to the part of me that says I should be productive (blogging being more productive, I suppose).

I used to be so good at this. Now I just worry a lot. Not sure what the key is. I started working on the WoW/gaming blog I’ve been planning on setting up forever, just to feel productive. 

Anyway, practice makes perfect, right?



I’ve made mistakes in my life. Personally, professionally, in all aspects. I make them…if not daily then likely weekly. A missed deadline, a misspoken word, anything and everything. 
I say this because I think we don’t say this enough. I think we curate our lives too carefully, on Twitter and on social media. I get a bit frustrated when people seem to be only sharing the positive things in their lives. Life is not all positives. If it is…well, then you’re very lucky, or you’re not doing too much. Or more likely you’re just not being honest, either in public or with yourself.
One of the difficult things for me is to admit to mistakes and to remember they aren’t the end of the world. I’ll never forget what a friend said to me once when I was worried sick about a mistake at work: “Did anyone die?”. We want to do the best at our work, absolutely, and in no way am I saying not to take mistakes seriously. But there is no point in beating yourself up over it. It happened, all you can do is learn from it. And guess what? You can be perfect, you can do everything right, and things can still slip through your fingers. It’s still possible to make a mistake, no matter how cautious you are, no matter how many precautions you take.
And someone will say that that’s terrible, and that something like 99% is not good enough, as a friend said his boss said to me. And…I’ll be honest, I don’t think that makes sense. We should all strive for 100% perfection, of course, but for it not to be good enough is just not realistic. 
I think it’s important to be honest about mistakes. To own up to them, and to share when we make them. I think it helps normalize it. I think to expect that perfection is unrealistic, and sets a dangerous standard.
So, I’ve fucked up, occasionally. I’ve caught a couple recently, despite my best efforts. I slightly hate to be that guy who always asks a question at the end of the blog post (cause I feel like it’s a bit of a blatant grab for comments) but I’ll ask this here, and feel free to tell me here, over email, or Twitter, or smoke signal, or telepathic emanation:
What was the last mistake you made?
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The Want of the Road Not Taken

I've entered one of those things lately where all I want is something different in my day to day life. Where I lament the fact that, in all likelihood, I'll be working an office job for the next 30-40 years or so.

And I mean, it's fine. I'm grateful for my job, I like it, and I love the idea of HR. It may be that I need to explore taking it off the beaten path, out of the office. That I need to look more into work from home HR jobs, or maybe even something entirely unrelated. Web design? Graphic design? Finally writing one of the 40 novels I have in my head?

The problem is though, in the end, I don't have a passion for those things. What I want, really, is the freedom. The sleep. The ability to not have to go in 9-5 every day. I'm happy to do the work, I am. I think I just wish there was more flexibility to it. I find myself often jealous of many of the housewives I follow on twitter, who work from home, or work primarily on the home. It's hard work, but I feel like in the end it would be more rewarding, somehow. Not that my current work isn't rewarding. It's just…different. I feel like I need a change.

Looks like the laptop must be going off soon. On the plane now, by the way. 

I don't know. I don't know what the answer to this is. I don't know if it's about changing jobs, changing careers entirely, or winning the lottery. It may even just be about finding a shorter commute. A job where I could leave the house a few minutes before work, instead of an hour and a half. Where I could leave my desk and be home in a few short minutes; start on dinner at 5:30 instead of 6:30. 

K, off we go. Not sure I'll post this. We will see.

Editor's Note: This was written a while ago on a plane and never posted. Going through old posts and thought I'd throw it up now. 

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The Value of Experience

I feel like I've learned a lot in the last few months.

My job has shifted slightly and become, overall, a lot more stressful. I'm responsible for a lot more, and in varying fields, and don't have a lot of backup on some of this. I don't say that as a complaint, merely that there aren't really a lot of people to catch something I might miss.

And I miss things. More often than I'd like. I'm pretty hard on myself about those mistakes, I think. Likely a little too hard, but I suppose that's debatable.

Over the last few months though I've noticed a shift. I'm catching things. I'm figuring out systems to make sure I don't miss things, to work more efficiently. Now when my boss asks about something, there's a decent chance I can say "it's already taken care of." And that's a good feeling, folks.

I'm starting to realize that there is value in my experience. I used to think there was no real difference between Tom Fresh Out of School and Tom With 4 Years in the Workforce, except higher pay (hopefully) and people more willing to give him a chance. I'm learning there is a decent difference between those two guys. 

In some ways that bugs me. Those job ads always asking for 3-5 years experience bugged me, because I thought I could do those jobs, if someone would just give me a chance. I'd still like to think Tom Fresh Out of School could have handled himself, but I'm realizing there are things I knew, I'd been told, but in the end I had to learn. I'd heard them before, sure, but in the end, I had be there, realizing I wasn't catching things, I was making mistakes, to learn how important simple things like putting things in a calendar, writing down EVERYTHING, asking for clarification, and any number of little things, were. 

And I still make mistakes, to be frank. Far more than I'm comfortable with, but fewer than is terrible, really. 

Life's funny, sometimes.

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Scintilla Project: Day 1: The Story of the Cursing Elderly Woman

Hi! I'm Tom, and this is my Scintilla Project post, day 1.

That sounds so formal. But I feel like I've introduced myself many times. I am a nerd, an HR guy, a gamer, a Canadian, a blogger, vlogger, homeowner, friend, Servant to Cats (I used to say cat owner, but they didn't like that much).

Today for Scintilla, we have the option of talking about a time we were drunk under age, or a story from our first job.

I'm going to go with a bunch of little stories about my second job instead. DANGER ZONE.

Mainly because I did not get drunk under age. In fact, I resisted alcohol for a while, until I got a little pretentious in university and decided I wanted to drink scotch and fancy, foreign beers. I was turned off alcohol initially, I think, because I was an uncool kid (well, I thought I was cool, but all the drinking kids couldn't see the inherent awesomeness of Star Trek and video games) and because my main exposure was my Dad's Coors Light. I'll tell you, I can drink almost any beer you put in front of me, except Coors. Damn.


My first job was painting for my Dad in the summers between school. It paid well, but I can't say I loved it. Lots of time outdoors, lots of early mornings, slightly later nights and occasional weekends. If I was a more outdoorsy person I suppose I would've loved in, but it tended to involve a lot of traipsing around in dog shit ridden backyards, dealing with bugs, dirt and paint. And for a pale kid allergic to just about everything in the summer, this was not ideal. And, to be honest, I came away with very few good stories. 

After university, I got a job working for the federal government in one of their offices doing data entry. It was a pretty good job overall. Good hours, good pay, nice people. Some of them a little jaded, but good people. The summer afterwards they cancelled the program I was hired under, and I went back to painting.

The summer after that, however, I was hired back again, and asked to work the front desk. Now, this was an office where you could get copies of SIN cards, apply for Employment Insurance and check the status therein, and a few other government services. I dreaded working the front desk. I'd never done sales or reception or anything of the sort before, and I'd heard some of the horror stories others had told me about how some people would act and treat government employees. I was tossed out there with precious little training, the front line representative of a huge government with thousands or programs. What follows was going to be a few short snippets, but one story ended up ballooning up a bit, so just the one. I have more, like the time a guy threatened to kill me, or the time we accidentally triggered a near lockdown, or the time I was nearly given a cushy high paying job, or the time someone attempted to bribe me.

An elderly woman came in to apply for a new Social Insurance Card. This is actually a pretty big deal; that card contains a number with which you can do some very terrible things, so we were required to ask for certain documents to prove a person's identity. A driver's license, library card, credit card, passport, Subway Sub Club Card, nor almost any other document you may have with you, will be accepted. Birth certificate, citizenship card, permanent resident card or work permit. The thing is, technically none of the other documents prove you have the right to get a SIN card. They prove you can drive, read, shop at Subway, or travel as a Canadian citizen, but not that you're able to work in Canada.

I know, it's stupid. I never got why passport wasn't accepted, but alas, my job was to enforce the rules and, sadly, to inform this sweet old lady that, no, she couldn't get a new SIN card, and would have to come back with her birth certificate. 

"What? I have my driver's license!"

"I'm sorry, miss, we need your birth certificate in order to issue a replacement SIN card."


"It's your primary means of identification. It shows your citizenship, the driver's license doesn't."

"Can't you just look it up?!"

"I'm very sorry, miss, we can't, we need your birth certific-"


She stormed off to the nearby phones that linked to the central government lines. I paused a beat, looked to the next person in the massive line, smiled with what I can only assume was very little conviction, and said "Next please."

The rest of the people in that line were quiet and kind, I found. However, a few minutes later, the same elderly lady started waving at me and pushing in front of the line. Now, I don't know whether I've always had this pet peeve, or whether this developed during my time at the government, but to me, those who demand to skip the line, for "just a quick question," who think cause they're "just here to drop something off" they can jump ahead of everyone, who think they're too busy or important to wait in line with the rest of the plebs, those people deserve a place in a Special Hell in my mind, with child molesters and people who talk in the theatre. To this day little pisses me off more, as someone in line or someone managing a line, then someone who hangs out near the front hoping to get whatever they need taken care of ahead of everyone else. It doesn't matter why. YOU DON'T DO IT UNLESS YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER.

"They want to talk to you!" she said urgently, gesturing to the phone she had gotten ahold of. "Sorry, I was here before," she said, sweet as can be, to the person I was talking to. "They want to talk to you!" she repeated to me urgently, with a hint of warning in her voice, as if I was about to get a stern talking to. I look to my coworker, who nods, as I step away from the desk to pick up the phone.

"Uh, hello, this is Tom, from the office."

"Hi, yes, I've been speaking with this client and I wanted to know why you didn't offer her the Old Age card?"

"The what?"

"The fireworks card?"

"Um, I'm sorry, I have no idea what that is."

"You know, the card senior citizens on Old Age Security can order over the phone that has their SIN number on it."

"…No one told me there was such a thing. I'm new here."

"Oh, well, she can just call in and order that without the birth certificate. Here, hand her back the phone and I'll explain it to her."

I handed back the phone and waited a minute. She nodded happily through it and, after jotting down a number to call, hung up.

"Oh, I'm ever so sorry!" she said to me, suddenly sweet as sugar again.

"It's okay, miss." I said impassively, a small, fake smile on my face. She did seem somewhat distraught, I'll concede, but I can't say I was in a very forgiving mood after being sworn at, loudly, in public, for doing my job to the best of my ability, and then told off about not telling her something I didn't know. 

So, next time you encounter a bitter, beaten down public servant? Cut them a teensy bit of slack? There's no excuse for rudeness, or not doing their job, but these are people on the front lines, often dedicated people who really care about what they're doing, even if they may not show it well. Give them a break if they're not super cheerful, eh?

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Saying Hello Around the Office and Confidence in Speech

When recently changing jobs I went from an office with 13 other people in it to working for a company that employs over 150 000 people. Not all crammed onto my floor, of course, but the number of people I interact with on a daily basis has increased a fair bit.

It's posed an interesting issue for me on a social interaction basis. Again, this is one of those things that I feel like I missed in school.

When do you say hi to people? Do I say hi to every person I was briefly introduced to in my office tour? For those long hallways, what's expected? A short, slightly loud conversation, asking how the person is, trying frantically to recall their name and something, anything about them? Is that too personal, too much? Is a simple "hi" enough? 

I find myself often copping out. Doing a smile and a nod if I catch their eye. Doing an anemic little mumbled "Hi" as I walk by with a wave that doesn't come above my waist. It's a cop out, truly. I worry about putting myself out, about saying hello confidently and the person…what? Not replying? Not wanting to talk to me? Somehow intimating my lack of worth and interest and responding appropriately?

When I explained this to my therapist her reaction, as it is many times, is sheer awe at how wrong I am about myself, how hard I am, how much I assume about others. She challenged me to say hello to everyone I walked by, loudly and confidently.

Shit's TOUGH, yo.

I've been doing it, though, mostly. Sometimes I get no reply. Sometimes I'm still too quiet. But I'm trying. Making an effort. Working on it. Shockingly, no one has looked on me with disgust that I dare speak to them.

I'm still not really clear though on what to do when you've greeted someone already that day and walk by them in the hall again. A hi again? The look away? The intent stare at the smart phone as an escape?

Seriously, awkward people, what the fuck did you DO before smart phones?!


Point Form Updates Return!

Oh hi! I've been busy, dear reader. And I'm trying to squeeze this in on the train. So, point form updates for all!

  • I am changing jobs! The firm I work for is joining with another one, meaning I'll be moving offices, working with some new people, and doing a bit less random running around. It still isn't exactly what I want to be doing, but this will be a much larger organization with room for growth, so we will see how it plays out. The transition has kept me busy, but I think this will be good for myself and everyone involved.
  • I've been doing my best to go to the gym, and have been going most mornings. I haven't gone much on the weekends lately, last weekend was my birthday so I was swamped, and this weekend I really wanted to just hermit a bit. I'd like to try and do one longer workout on the weekend, as I normally only have about 30 minutes in the gym in the mornings (managed to squeeze things a bit and bump it up to 30 from 20). I also need to figure out the best, most fun way to work out. As much as I've been going and doing some cardio, I walk away not really feeling like I worked out much, which is kind of annoying. I haven't really seen any results yet, but it's early still, so I'm not too worried about that.
  • I got a ticket to #BiSC! I'm super excited for it, honestly. Already been talking to a lot of great people.
  • I've had this feeling lately that I want to try to be more involved with my friends. This may be a bit of a longer post, but I get this feeling sometimes that I forget things, that I don't follow up on things they tell me, and I don't like that about myself. A lot of it is honest scatterbrain, really, but it's just a little thing I want to work on, being more considerate.
  • The house is coming together still. I'm discovering little things I keep realizing I need (paper towels, garbage can) but slowly everything is coming together. It still feels odd sleeping there. Really odd. I think it will be a while before my bedroom really feels like the sanctuary my old room did.
  • I'm getting two cats! My aunt has a couple she had asked about me taking off her hands for a while. She says they're really intelligent and sweet, and a while ago she asked me to name them. I went with Ender and Bean, though we eventually realized they were girls, not boys. So now I think I'm in a position to take them, and I should get them in a couple weeks. It'll be really nice to have some animals in the house. It'll mean more work, and more expenses, but I think it will be worth it.

So. That's me, pretty well. How're you?

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Wine and Love: 14

5641043482 6f577b210d mToday I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week! It's hard to keep track, I know, but do try to keep up!


  • No word on the iPad, so I think it is likely gone. It's still possible it may turn up in the lost and found, but at this point I have my doubts. On the plus side it does appear someone just wiped it straight away, which in the grand scheme of things is the best I could hope for, in terms of data integrity. I don't quite understand the mentality that could take something like that, even carelessly left behind, and not feel a pang of pity. I almost wish I could talk to the guy/girl who picked it up and made the conscious decision not to turn it in. Maybe they sold it to feed their starving family, I'm not sure. So that sucks but, really, if I'm gonna have something bad happen, losing a non-essential item is hardly the worst. I am realizing how much I use it, though, and I did order a new one (though a cheaper model than before).
  • Work stress continues unabated. It's partly just the time of year, partly that they keep expanding my job duties, partly that we have some major projects, but overall it means I'm often leaving work exhausted and unhappy. I've been leaning into WoW a bit heavily lately but, truthfully, I'm glad the outlet is there.
  • I love my parents, but I get some judgment from them on leaning into WoW, at staying locked up in my room, at my more introverted nature. When I try to open up to them lately I've gotten interrupted with "solutions" and, truthfully, I feel like it may be time for us to part ways. More on this in the section below.


  • Tying in with what I said before, I am having such a blast in WoW these days it's not even funny. I'm learning to tank on my monk (who's level 86), I'm taking my time going through the Mists questing and it's just been so much fun kind of losing myself a bit and forgetting my cares. And smashing mobs with kegs of beer, obvs.
  • After I finish this post I'm emailing my realtor. Period. No more excuses. No more "I'll wait until"s. It's time to start. I keep putting it off but, I also have to realize that it's not like tomorrow I'm gonna find my place and move. This will be a long process of finding the right place, for the right price, and it's time to get started. My finances aren't 100% totally perfect, but will they ever be? I'm tired of waiting. Course, I'm emailing my realtor to say "can you refer me to someone else?" because I'm pretty sure he doesn't work in the area I now want, but hey, still! Progress. A start. My goal would be to host a birthday party in my new house, but I'd rather find the right place than the quick and easy place.
  • Therapy has been going well. There haven't been too many huge and amazing break-throughs, but I'm making quiet, small changes that seem to be helping. I'm catching myself before I'm spiraling into bad thoughts. I'm stopping myself before I read too much into things. One of the big things has been reminding myself that, often times, when someone criticizes me or speaks harshly to me, it's more reflective of them than me. I'm trying to stop myself from taking such things personally, and instead just shrugging and saying "ah well, buddy is taking out his/her bad day/insecurity on me. Next."
  • As much as I may have some issues with my parents, they have been pretty good about letting me be and recognizing I'm stressed and need some time. My mom has been really good about helping me out, which I'm grateful for, and my Dad's been pretty good too, they just don't quite get it. They grew up in big families; privacy and introversion are entirely foreign concepts to them, as are the ideas of just wanting to talk things out and not really solving problems.
  • My friends continue to be awesome people, and I love them all for it. Positive, supportive and awesome. The only problem is that so few of them live nearby. MOVE TO CANADA YOU PEOPLE.

What are you loving this week? And what's making you whine?


Wine and Love: 3

So today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week!


  • Didn't get a job I interviewed for. Spent almost a whole day in interviews too. While it was a good experience overall, and looking back it may not have been the best fit, I still can't say I was too pleased to get that news.
  • I'm slowly getting sick. Every morning I can feel my throat aching a little more, and I'm just waiting for it to blossom into a full blown cold. Definitely need to sleep much this weekend.
  • Eaten poorly the last while. Given in to stress/emotional eating a few too many times.


  • I'm feeling a renewed passion for blogging and vlogging. Been reading and watching more and feeling excited, with some new ideas of things to do and maybe some new projects coming up. GFM's been writing some drabbles lately, which has got me thinking about trying my hand at some creative writing as well.
  • I've been trying to walk a bit. I'm aiming for just a short, 10 minute walk every day, just to get moving a little bit. I've also been trying to keep off my phone, mostly, and do a bit of walking meditation. It's nice because it's very hard to say "nah, I don't have time for that." Cause I totally do. Though the weather lately has been the biggest deterrent. But it's been nice.
  • I'm getting a handle on things at work. Saying that may be the kiss of death, of course, but I'm getting there, for now.

What are you loving, and not loving this week?


Interviews, Technology and You

"This may be a little awkward," the woman said as she led me into the conference room. "We're sorry he can't be here in person!"

The room was a bit dark and larger than I would have thought. Inside, a man waited for me on teleconference, and a seat was prepared for me, with the camera facing me. The seat was angled such that I had to lean back and rest one arm on the table, with the other dangling free.

A little bit awkward turned out to be an understatement, but I understood the constraints of a large, multinational corporation with new technology they must justify using. In the end, though, I feel like I would've done better had I set up my iPad and Skyped.

The next day, they called to tell me they were "unable to offer me a position at this time."

It may shock you to learn that, as an HR guy, I hate that kind of HR language. Some of that stuff I love. Inclusive language is awesome. But couching things like that? No. You aren't unable to offer me a position. You're unwilling. Or, to be a bit nicer, you feel other candidates are better suited to this position.

The day after that call, I was scheduled to attend a seminar about the use of technology in the industry I'm currently working with. The talk was largely full of terms and tools I expect you all are familiar with; tablets, cloud computing, DropBox and the like. But the time flew. I was excited to get back to work and start to think about using some of these tools, to campaign to implement some to improve our workflow and to make all of our jobs easier. I chatted with my boss on the way back about all the ways we could improve things for everyone in the company.

I'd never have gotten to do this, had I gotten the job I interviewed for. I'd have ended up in a cozy, comfortable position with a large company, and it would have been very easy to just work my way up there for the rest of my life. Everything I did, technology wise, would have had to been approved by IT.

I'll admit I was a little bitter over this. I still am, which I think is understandable. I was spurned. Rejected. But in the end, I think it was a blessing. A message, even, if you believe in that sort of thing. A sign I could do…something different. Something that would get me really, honestly excited. Work that didn't feel like work.

I'm still figuring out exactly what that looks like. It's still not quite where I am now, but it's not terribly far off. I love technology, I love what it can do for us. And I love helping people work better; looking at systems and organizations and figuring out how we can use everyone to the best of their abilities, so maybe we can get our work done in 35 hours instead of 40, and all get to go home an hour early every day. Or, do a half day on Friday.

So, in the end, maybe it was good we had an awkward teleconference interview.