Friday, April 30, 2010

Am I Blue (...why?)

It's strange. I'm now working up in the sky in a building almost in the heart of the biggest city in my country… okay, it's not Queen and Bay but it's only a few miles from there. I'm earning more than I ever have, and my commute is down to a single subway ride. But as I stand here in the light of the early dawn looking down on busy intersections where six-laned thoroughfares meet, I find myself pining for days when I was down there walking streets like that in my mid-20s, making so little I had to linger on for years living with my folks. But there was something about those days. They were fresh and new, full of promise, hope, adventure. I felt free. Now I'm in my early 40s and it's all about just holding on, and somehow it's making me a little blue. The thing is, I wasn't happy back then, either, and no doubt would have given an eye tooth for what I have now. What is it about human beings? It's a rare thing indeed for any of us to be content.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sens go golfing

I'm no big hockey fan but I've watched some of the playoffs with my dad and my uncle over the last little while. They're from northern Ontario so their team is the Ottawa Senators. I kind of adopted the team for the playoffs for that reason (hey, it's not like the Leafs are ever gonna make the playoffs)... as well as the idea that it might be nice to see a Canadian team win the Stanley Cup once every million years or so.

Last night my folks called me and my dad reminded me the game was already on. The Sens were already winning 3-0. I would have tuned in even if it weren't so great, but to be honest, the idea of watching them coast to game 7 after being down 3-1 in the series had its appeal. Anyway, I tuned in.

Now, I don't know how the Ottawa Senators got three unanswered goals up on the Pittsburgh Penguins, because the team I saw from the middle of the second period on in couldn't have organized a peanut butter sandwich. One of them would have just hurt himself on the butter knife. There was no guts at all left in their play... whether that was due to complacency or simple weariness, I don't know; but their offence was lackluster and their stickhandling and passing were sloppy. They looked like a team that had given up. Even the one "goal" I did see them score, which ended up with more people than pucks in the net, was such a Keystone Kops blunderfest that the officials took ten minutes just deciding whether it was actually a goal or not (it wasn't.... and in my experience, The Disallowed Goal is usually the kiss of death for a team. It sure turned out to be this time.). None of them seemed to have any idea what to do in the rare occasion that they found themselves in control (and I use the term loosely) of the puck in Pittsburgh's end. I think everyone who's ever watched hockey knows that when you make it to the other end, you put a couple of guys in front of the opposition net; one right in front, and one deep on the other side in the hopes of catching a free puck and dumping it behind the goalie. I saw two or three chances for Ottawa to advance doing that, but every time, the puck just drifted by to the boards with no one there to stop it. It's like the Sens all decided it was someone else's responsibility or something.

On the other hand, the Penguins were all over these guys. Most of the remainder of the game was spent down in Ottawa's end with the Penguins pounding away at the Sens' goalie and the Sens getting more than a few defensive breaks. But, as it turned out, not nearly enough. The Penguins played circles around them, ate up the 'field goal' deficit, and forced the game into overtime, where they won it, 4-3. What can I say? I don't know what happened to the Senators; maybe some Penguins fan used a time machine to transport their hockey skills back to junior high school or something. Whatever it was, I just can't begrudge Pittsburgh advancing, much as I'd like to be petty. They fought bloody hard and they earned it. They deserved to win. And ultimately, geography and patriotism notwithstanding, even a fair-weather fan like me knows that's what the game is all about. Kudos to the Penguins. Sens: tee-off time's at 9; we wuz robbed, just wait'll next year, etc., etc.

P.S. I'm sure glad I wasn't in the same room with my dad last night. :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ontario, Canada

Ontario, Canada.
A snapshot of the national and provincial flags flying together.

Addendum: I never noticed before that the red of the Red Ensign is a little more maroon than the red of the Maple Leaf flag. Funny that it took digital photography to bring it to my notice.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections in transition, redux

Yesterday was my last day at the company I've worked at for over four years. Technically it's next Thursday, but I'm taking my vacation time next week in order not to have to deal with the person they've hired to head my department. It's a long story, but I guess it can be condensed to the following... my manager resigned last May, recommended me to succeed her to a guy the company parachuted in from England to oversee a restructuring of our office. He dithered, listened to armchair quarterbacks and took their advice where our department was concerned. He let me work all summer completing projects of once-in-a-decade importance to our company and left me hanging on my status. When it was out of the way, he told me I wasn't getting the management position. A couple of months later, he gave the title to someone in the company with a department head title but no departments to head. Still, I was the effective day-to-day manager, setting deadlines for my junior and myself and tracking our tasks. I kept things on course, even when this fellow interfered with his "good" ideas for documentation. Apparently, he was ineffective, because the fellow from England decided to replace him... not with me, but with a junior writer who bailed from our company just after I started. It was the last straw. It took me four weeks, but I found a slightly better-paying job elsewhere, and now I'm out.

This is weird for me. I spent the last ten years of my life in that building, working for two different companies on two different floors. I've been amusing myself looking over my comments from THAT transition, here on this very blog. It's funny how little difference there is in some respects. I chickened out on walking the floor and saying good-bye, same as last time, and for the same reasons. I also don't have that bright, happy "bang, zoom!" feeling in taking this new job, either... it was a matter of survival and salvaging a little professional pride, not seizing a great opportunity. But this time, I'm not driving to the same building, parking in the same spot. Those days are over. This is a bigger adjustment.

Ten years. I was in that building on 9/11 when my friend Jody in Texas paged me over ICQ and told me the first tower had been hit... and then the second. I was in the place when, about a year later, his dad called me up to tell me Jody had cancer... and in the building two years later when he told me that, during a meeting I was in, Jody had died. I was there two years after that when I was told the father himself had also died of cancer. I spent weekend mornings and afternoons in that place alone, doing some of my most productive, satisfying work, feeling like I belonged and was really contributing. I feel like I really matured in my job and was rightly on the verge of something better, but at the last moment, it was denied to me, and with this insult in terms of the choice of the person to whom I would be reporting. After spending three years documenting a new product, getting the suite of manuals created, reviewed, and correcting them – when the hard work was done, that's when the English guy saw fit to hand all my work over to some half-experienced girl to simply maintain... a shopkeeper. Yeah, you could say I'm a little bitter about this. Stepped over twice, and never told why. Never told the issues, given the challenge, afforded the chance to right whatever was supposedly wrong.

But what can you do.

Well, you can email everyone in the office with a pointed, but professional, exit note, like I did...

Hi, everyone,

I know I should have come around and said this in person, but I’m really awkward at this kind of thing, so I hope you’ll forgive me for wimping out. Today’s my last day at [company name]. I’m not happy to be leaving, but recent decisions about the management of my department have made it plain to me the future of my professional career lies elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed my four years here. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve, and I’m better for having worked and learned here. I would have liked for it to have gone on for years to come, and I worked hard to make that happen over the past year since [previous manager's name] left, but that’s not how it’s panned out.

To those of you who were subject matter experts for me: my sincere thanks. I literally could not have completed the tasks that I did, without your indispensable help. Some of you came through for me at times when you yourselves were under the gun with your own projects, and for that in particular I’m especially grateful. If I failed to say so then, and I hope I didn’t, well, I’m saying it now. Thank you.

I really do wish you success in your endeavours, here and elsewhere, as your own careers progress. I can be reached at...

So, anyway, the new job will be at the other end of the subway line I live on. A bit more expensive than just gas, and longer than my comfy 15-minute drive, but on the other hand, I won't have to face all that nerve-wracking traffic in the winter. And the subway leads directly into the building, which, I admit, really does kind of jazz me as very cool and very cosmo.

Not sure what else to say. This just seemed like the kind of thing you really have to blog about, if you're going to have a blog at all.