Archives: “working wounded”


I so rarely talk about work here (hell, I no longer talk here about anything, but ironically there’s a post percolating regarding that very thing) but I do some fairly big work-related news I’m quite excited about that I thought I’d share with the five of you that are still standing (hi mom!).

Giant Lizard

The Big Lizard

At the beginning of November I start my new job working at the formidable Mozilla Corporation as a senior user experience engineer. I will be mostly handling design, usability, and other yummy experience-related stuff for the various Mozillian web sites, but I may also get an opportunity to contribute design, writing, cross-stitching, and various spices and herbs to other projects as well. Yes, I’m seriously geeked.

A few people that I’ve mentioned this to asked if I was moving to the US, and no, I’m staying put here in Toronto. It doesn’t seem to be a very well-known fact, but Mozilla actually has an office here. There are quite a few Canadians that work for Mozilla here (some of them in very high-profile positions) and I’ll be joining them to ensure that the proper spelling of “neighbourhood”, five-pin bowling, poutine, toques, and other uniquely Canadian things get their dues around Mozilla.

As with many things web-related, this job seemingly plopped right out of the interwebs into my lap after a chance email from Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s director of user experience. One thing led to another and here we are, with my web site being directly responsible for yet another job opportunity. Who says blogging doesn’t pay?

Take my (previous, equally cool) job, please

As with any new opportunity something must move aside to make room, and my previous user experience / front end developer job with (the very coincidentally named) “HomeZilla” is now open. If you’re interested in working for a new & cool real estate start-up with good funding and a super awesome boss get in touch with me and I’ll hook you up with the details.

What about the Firefox optimized builds?

As for the genesis of this whole opportunity, my optimized Firefox builds, it’s still early days but as far as I’m concerned it’s business as usual. I’ll now have a direct line to people that can hopefully help me figure out once and for all if these builds are actually faster or if they’re just a perfect example of the placebo effect. Also, I will probably look into seeing if I can get my builds blessed by the Lizard as “community editions” so they can be hosted on Mozilla servers.

Onward to complete and utter inebriation

For a total web browser ass like myself an opportunity like this is like some strange geek manna dripped from a giant poindexter honey pot in the sky, and I’m drinking it up and getting rather inebriated on the coolness of it all. The jury is still out whether I get so drunk I make a complete ass of myself, however, but I’m going to enjoy the opportunity all the same.

Strange fascination, fascinating me

I wish I could remember where I read this, but one quote that has stuck with me since elementary school goes something like this:

“To live free and happily, you must give up boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.”

(edit - it was author Richard Bach. Thank goodness for search engines.)

Life around here is going to get rather unboring (sorry, Ikea) quite quickly.

In just over seven days Renée leaves for a six-week business trip to Bogotá, Colombia. This is both very exciting and equally disturbing in a “freak my shit up” way. Colombia is, after all, a country where western tourism has been almost non-existent for so long it’s almost impossible to find maps for sale or travel information that doesn’t mention the FARC, paramilitary groups, or the Colombia drug cartels.

I’m going to be joining her at the end of June for a couple of weeks, so I’ll get to see first hand what life in Colombia is like. We’re both trying to be positive about it all, and from what I can tell the security situation in Bogotá is much better than, say, five years ago. I’m sure the trip will be uneventful and incredibly rewarding. But the unknownness of everything leaves me feeling more than a little queasy. I wish the newly revised Lonely Planet guide was available.

This will also be the longest that Renée and I have been separated since we started dating, which will be strange and lonely in itself.

Yahoo!Luckily, I will have my own new challenges and changes to keep me busy. I have just accepted a position with Yahoo! as an highfalutin Senior User Experience Designer working out of the Canadian office. My first day is in a couple of weeks.

It seems weird in a way to be moving back into full-time employment after living as a freelancer and consultant for so long; having the luxury of the occasional two hour lunch and bi-weekly “underpants-only” work days has definitely been pretty sweet. But it was time for something new.

There’s something beguiling about getting a chance to tackle some of the big-ass design challenges like those a huge media company like Yahoo! can provide. It doesn’t hurt one bit either that Yahoo has been getting involved with some really cool stuff as of late. So colour me jonesed.

As usual for this site, that’s probably most of what you’ll hear about my work. I don’t write about work very often (for obvious reasons) and this will probably be no different. But now you know.

I’ve been so busy lately I completely forgot to wish the BeatnikPad happy birthday. Last week marked five years since I started this site, and it’s been six and 1/2 years since I started self-publishing online. I had been hoping to roll out a redesign that I’ve been sitting on for ages as long-overdue birthday present — there’s nothing like some new duds to cheer up a slightly ignored friend — but alas, it’ll have to wait.

This year’s birthday resolutions: write more and ramble less (too late), crack more stupid jokes (because it feels good), post more photos, and redesign the damn site before Christmas is upon us. Come back next year to see how I do.



I just launched the first stage of a site redesign for a friend’s band that I wanted to quickly pimp. Novillero (spanish for “novice bullfighter”) hail from my hometown of Winnipeg, and I think they’re just super. They’ve got this interesting mix of pop, rock, and soul, mixed with a healthy does of energy and melodies that quickly become pleasantly embedded in one’s cerebral cortex.

If you believe that the company one keeps is an indication of worthiness, you should know that they’re signed to the same label that is home to The New Pornographers and Neko Case - Mint Records.

At any rate, I took on their site initially as a favour because I thought (and still think) that designers need to use their superskills to spread the word on interesting or cool things. In my book Novillero passes that test with flying colours. Do yourself a favour and check them out.

Running, Playing, Working, Broken

Montreal Subway floor

Renée and I are off this weekend to Ottawa for the Ottawa marathon. I’d love to say that I’m running the marathon this year (going to beat last year’s time by at least 45, yessir), but the sad fact is I’m merely a lazy ass spectator. I have started running, ‘tis true, but my report on the status of that endeavor will have to wait for another day when my self-esteem can handle the shame.

Renée has been training to run the half marathon for over eight months, and I’m going to cheer her on, run along side her trailing links of energy-providing bierwursts and kegs of Macedonian wheat grog, and generally make a complete idiot of myself screaming out the melody to Chariots of Fire until I’m hoarse. I would have made a killer cheerleader.

» Running, Playing, Working, Broken continues...

Vacation from Myself

Today was the last day of classes for the first semester of the year. Can you hear me heaving a sigh of relief?

This year was crazy, but went rather well, considering that the number of students that I directly teach tripled from last year. I was scared to give assignments, as that automatically meant hundreds of assignments to crit, troubleshoot, evaluate, mark, and potentially deal with.

One of my students commented earlier this week on how us teachers have it easy. I had to hold myself back from guffawing out loud in his face.

There's still final semester assignments to mark, which is going to suck up the next week, but after that we've got a couple of weeks to relax, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and enjoy the season before it's back to the books in January. I for one am looking forward to putting some juice back into these rather anemic batteries.

I enjoy this, but I look at teachers who have been teaching for fifteen or twenty years, and I marvel at how they manage to avoid burnout, while still being enthusiastic, passionate teachers. It really is mind-boggling.

'I see nobody on the road,' said Alice.

'I only wish I had such eyes,' the king remarked in a fretful tone. 'To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too!

Why, it's as much as I can do to see real people by this light.'

Heck in a Hand Basket

It’s rapidly approaching that time again, when stress levels start to rise, and students start to wander the hallways with increasingly panicked looks on their faces. Men will start cultivating woefully neglected facial hair faster than you can say “David Suzuki!”, and the younger students will quickly adopt a kind of rictus of horror as they realize that this just isn’t high school anymore.

Yep, it’s end of semester time for my students, and I’m slowly burning out along with them. If I could grow facial hair without it looking like a handful of pitifully kinked strands (did I mention David Suzuki?), I’d be sprouting some of the most swankadelic pubs on my face that you ever saw.

As it is, I sometimes catch myself walking from my desk to class with the sound of steam whistling from a kettle escaping from my clenched lips, and have to pull a Scooby Doo shake and “huh?” to get myself back in order.

Yes. School is stressful.

It doesn’t help that the environment around work these days is becoming even more politicized. I won’t go into details, less I suddenly find myself waking up with lead boots and a large melon crammed into my mouth, but it really does boggle the mind how accurate Dilbert is, PHB’s and all. Yes, it really does.

Path Finder 3 launches

I'm happy to announce that a project that I have been working on for the past couple of months has finally launched.

Cocoatech's Path Finder 3 was released early this morning. It's a Mac OS X file browser and integrated file utility application that I actually have been using for quite a while, now, and been happy with. I did a full redesign of the Cocoatech site, as well as flexed my rather puny marketing muscles when I wrote all of the site's copy and the media release for the application.

The web site is fully XHTML 1.0 strict, and uses CSS for layout and styles. That was the fun part. Writing marketing copy is not something I would like to find myself doing eight hours a day... it's so hard to not sound like a cheeseball.

Anyway, if you're interested, check the site out. It's no Doug Bowman, but I'm still quite proud of it.

Encounters with a Man That Could Have Been Herb Tarlek

manThoughts.gifAn old story, just because I feel like it, and because I feel like writing about work but know I can't (because everyone at my work knows about this site). So this will hopefully be a good proxy:

This is the story of the Scary Project Manager Man.

I was consulting on a large, regional portal site, doing some design work and information architecture. The project manager for the job was one of those annoying yobs that threw around industry catchphrases and turned nouns into verbs ("Incentivate!" [sound of retching]) with the intention of covering up the fact that he didn't understand a single thing that was actually happening.

Little did I know how prescient this behavior would actually be...

» Encounters with a Man That Could Have Been Herb Tarlek continues...

Yes, Maybe, Maybe no, No

Spent the evening with my fellow evil dwarves at work going through the entrance portfolios for next year's course. It's long, tiring work, but it's kind of fascinating, in a Doctor Evil pinky-to-the-lip kind of way. It's strange and discombobulating to know that you hold the decision which could spin a person's life into a wholly new orbit.

At the same time, it's bizarre what some people try to pass off as their portfolio work. "Yes. I am applying for a visual design course. Here are my pencil-rendered stick figures that I spent a grand total of 30 seconds thinking about, and five minutes actually drawing."

» Yes, Maybe, Maybe no, No continues...


I love those moments when you feel, right at that precise moment, like you're in the exact place in the world you are meant to be.

Sitting down on the couch this morning, with a steaming cup of coffee on the table (perfectly brewed and with the proper amount of sugar and cream), the cats curled up together sleeping quietly next to me, and the calming gurgle of the radiator intermingling just right with one of my favorite melancholy morning albums (The Rachel's Music for Egon Schiele), I felt as though everything was perfectly in its place, just for me.

After nearly two months of teaching full-time at the college, I'm quickly realizing why teachers get their summers off.

I really am constantly working, whether I'm prepping for an upcoming class, troubleshooting a student's computer or software problem, or giving some one-on-one help to a student that's having troubles keeping up with their workload. Weekends are filled with assignment marking, course planning, and brainstorming ideas for future classes, all the while trying to find private, quiet time for myself, and for my sweetie.

I love my students, and I'm really enjoying the intellectual challenge teaching full-time presents, but the constant work is draining. This morning I felt like a moment, no matter how fleeting, had presented itself for me, and for me alone, to luxuriate in. I swooned in it.

a small adjustment

Now, I'm not inherently a lazy person. In fact, I think I've got a rather healthy work ethic: I work hard when I need to, and when I don't, I sit on my ass and enjoy the inaction. I think that's healthy.

But this is the thing about teaching that requires a small adjustment on my part: I can't slack. I can't come into work after a long night of partying, or staying up late watching horribly dubbed kung-fu movies, or after abusing my body in ways that isn't worth getting into detail here, and go through the motions.

In my old life as a semi-willing corporate slave it was quite easy for me to simply bury myself in the depths of my cubicle, headphones blasting Frank Sinatra's i got you under my skin, and fake it. Corporate work is at least partly about that; becoming more anonymous, faceless, and cog-like.

I'm convinced that most of the management of any given company I've worked at consisted of people who excelled in just that - willful slackism, anonymity, and excellent Dammit-but-am-I-busy-over-here-or-what bullshit skills.

At the school, however, I need to be on. Students are often coming by my office asking for help with their computers, or a project that they're working on, and I need to be there. Half-assed instruction is obvious, transparent, shaming, and not something I want to be known for.

I can't slack anymore, and that's pretty great. I finally have a job that not only requires mental exertion; it requires me to be me. What a strange feeling.

Careening, part two

(Welcome, Wander-Lust readers! And muchas gracias to Daphne at for the blush-worthy feature.)

I gave my notice at work today.

Now, you may, or may not have noticed a distinct lack of entries about my working life here. There's a really good reason for that. You see, two weeks after I started working at my present job, I was blogging something about Winnipeg and pickup trucks. Or was it perogi? Or the preponderance of baseball-cap wearing, massively homophobic men, and the relationship between male-pattern baldness and said caps? Something stupid like that. In the process of this, I made a somewhat snarky remark about salespeople.

» Careening, part two continues...


[Caveat: this is completely hypothetical. Any resemblance to any person living or dead exists completely in your mind and is not part of reality as the rest of the world knows it. Now go have yourself a coffee and danish.]

This week's hypothetical question:

One day, a person posts on his / her Weblog non-sensitive, work-related complaints - eg. "That person is an idiot". or, "I am surrounded by incompetence", or, "Today something really stupid happened at work," - in other words, typical work complaints.

There is absolutely no reference at all on the person's Web site as to where they work, and no possible way to connect the complaints with any specific person by name. However, a couple of days after posting the complaints the person is fired and told it is because they have an "unprofessional attitude".

Checking their server's logs, the person discovers visits from the company's proxy server the day before they were fired.

Right? Wrong? Have you ever complained about work on your Weblog and been reprimanded for it? Post in the comments.

Do you know what sucks?

I'm really trying to hold back a full-blown fit of muppet anger at the moment (and the accompanying sprew of fuckshitdamnmotherfuckergoddammit that always seems to be right on a muppet anger's heels)... but, goldarnit, I'm pissed.

It looks like a big round of layoffs are imminent at my old job, and before this starts sounding like another case of fuckedcompany, let me just say this: I could care less about the company's success. I could care less if they make their profit and pageview targets, and if some sketchy wannabe gets promoted to middle management...

The thing is, there's a lot of really, really good people there (like Leslie, Dolon, Barb, Mark, Trevor, Thandi, Dave... and on and on and on)... and the idea of them getting screwed over by some asshole corporate idiots, more concerned with the bottom line than employer loyalty... well, it makes my blood boil.

Okay. I'm gonna go off and stare at my cats for a bit and try to mellow out for a bit. Seriously, though, the injustices of the working wounded just sometimes make me want to quit it all and hole up in some far off farmstead...

Well, that’s that.

Officially “locked out” of my old employer’s Exchange mail server. I guess I don’t work there anymore…

Feelin’ strange

Worked my last day at my now "previous employer". What a strange feeling. I must be in this big-life-change induced disbelief where no reality can survive; nothing feels real. The long weekend will pass, I'll wake up on Tuesday, crawl out of bed, make some oatmeal and head off to work like nothing has happened.

Picked up moving boxes today with a friend. What do I need to do to get this move into my head? By this time next week I will be back home in Winnipeg, and the last three years and my life here in Toronto will seemingly feel like a distant dream... going home has that effect on me. Being enveloped in HOME conspires to flood out any new memories with the overwhelming familiarity and comfort of the past.

I feel incredibly fortunate, though. I've met some amazing people here, and contrary to the reputation Toronto has for being a dull, cold, money-grubbing den of selfishness, the people I have met here have been wonderfully kind and giving.

Folks, you know who you are. Thanks for giving me reason to be sad and sentimental.


How to fail at business without really trying. Oh god, this is so true. From

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