Month: January 2007

My Confession

Okay, I’ve got a deep dark secret, something that I’ve kept close to my vest to all but my closest friends. It’s a secret which will probably bring my manhood into question (although I have a staunch record of unblemished heterosexuality in my favour on that regard), but it may come as a shock to those of you who don’t know.

For nearly ten years of my life I worked for Canada’s Sports Leader, TSN.ca originally as an online journalist, then later as one of the brains behind the direction of the website.

But I don’t like sports.

I hate football, can’t stand basketball, barely tolerate baseball, have no patience for golf, am bored to tears by any flavour of Olympics or god forbid skating, dislike tennis, get bored by soccer, but I can appreciate a good hockey game, and I will confess I used to love boxing (but now that love has transferred over to mixed martial arts).

Whew. I feel better already.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t understand sports, or I don’t understand sports users. As a matter of fact, I can hold my own in most sports conversations, and I’ve done more with my meager sports knowledge than many others have.

I was an online sports editor for 3 years, I wrote CFL, NHL, Curling, and Auto Racing stories from scratch. I edited Soccer Saturday for about 6 months for the TSN network. I edited SportsDesk briefly. I wrote feature articles for TSN.ca, on the wrestling site, on the boxing site, and even on the former “Magazine”. I know sports users not only because many of my good friends are avid sports fans, but also because I spent years reading every single technical complaint from users.

If anything, I think that my ability to remove myself from the subject matter made me a better user advocate. I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what a user wanted, I actually asked users what they wanted instead of building what I thought they wanted.

I loved my job too, even though I wasn’t addicted to the sports news and info, I loved the freedom that I had, and the fact that I really had my finger on the pulse of what users wanted. It got harder and harder to try to please all of them all of the time, and whenever we did a redesign, I was a very hated man for a good long while, but I really did try to make the product better.

I always think back to the six months I spent at what should have been my dream job…but which wasn’t. I worked at Alliance/Atlantis, which is the largest distributor of movies in Canada, and who produces the very popular CSI franchise. I thought it would be the best job ever. I love movies, I love TV, Alliance/Atlantis did tons of both. However the reality was that nobody there understood the internet, yet they all wanted to make it the way they thought it should be. I rebuilt all of their websites quickly pulling them out of the frames-centric 1997 design they were mired in and into a passable 2000 design, which I managed in record time (2 weeks to pull off a half dozen websites, to this day I don’t know if I could do that again). I also built a website for a feature film (with Samuel L. Jackson), a website for a TV movie of the week (starring Elisha Cuthbert), and the site for a Canadian TV Series (the Associates).

Each one had its own special frustrations. For the film site, I was sent a dozen poster concepts. I wanted to leak them on the internet, and was told by a producer that they’d have to run it by legal first. I wanted to make the Lucky Girl site all crazy dynamic, but was told not to spend a lot of time on it. The TV series website ended up being pretty cool, although it had an annoying “skipintro” on it which drove me mad.

In the end I left the joint because I loved the product too much, and wanted to make something better than I was allowed.

Which is why TSN.ca worked out so well for me. I was allowed to make as good a product as I wanted. They trusted me to make the right decisions, and allowed me to help steer and shape the online vision for TSN.

Even though I was never a huge sports fan.

With this being one of the biggest sporting weekends of the year, I feel glad that I don’t have to lie to people and tell them that I enjoyed the Superbowl. With the advent of the internet, I can watch all of the commercials on Monday morning (not that we get the good commercials up here in Canada anyway), and not have to spend one moment wondering whether the Bears or the Colts will have a good game…yeah, I know who’s playing. Just because I don’t particularly care for sports, doesn’t mean that my DNA isn’t keyed to know who’s playing.

In the meantime, I can lord this over my wife, reminding her every Friday night that I don’t care about Friday Night Football, every Saturday night that I’m not watching Hockey Night in Canada, and every Sunday that I’m not spending 8 hours on the couch watching the pre-pre-pre game show and the post-post-post game highlights wrap up and over-analysis.

…and reminding her that the once a month I spend watching a UFC pay per view is but a drop in the bucket compared to what most wives have to put up with.

Congrats to the ‘pod!

Our friends John and Danielle of the Teeter Pod 3 just had their first, a 7lb 1oz baby girl! Congrats to them. Go over and send them a hearty “Welcome new bean”.

I'm really excited for them, they've wanted a baby for a long, long time, and they're both the types of people who will make great parents. They also make tons of great comments about the Kegger and how cute she is, and ironically they have never met Kaylin!

This week should be a lot of fun. Not only will I get to pop by Casa D'Teeter with a box o goodies (which I'll probably leave on the porch so they can enjoy their “babymoon”), but it's my goddaughter Paige's third birthday on Thursday.

It’s time for some resolutions

So here it is, January's almost over and I've yet to make my New Year's Resolutions. What kind of insanity is that? In this entry I look at how I did last year, take a look at what I'd like to do this year, and where I'd like to be next year.

First off, how did I do last year? Looking back through the Archives, I see last year's resolutions properly filed under the “Kaylin” category under the title of “Whirlwind Holidays come to a close“…well played 2006 Brian, well played indeed.

Now, what did I say last year:

New Year's Resolutions:
1 – Work out at home (getting into shape is a nice bonus).
2 – More home renovations (paint and trim the living room, upstairs hallway, and build some things in the office).
3 – To build All New Comics into a viable business.
4 – Pursue the next phase in HeadsDown.

Hmmm, looks like I batted about .500.

#1 didn't really happen. I did join a Gym and I went for a few months until it got too tough to juggle. It's a new year, so I'm going to put that back on the docket.

#2 was done. I painted the whole house, did some trim stuff, and totally built a kick @ss garage storage system.

#3 All New Comics ended 2006 with a 1000% increase in monthly revenue and went from having 5 subscribers to nearly 30. That's a pretty good increase.

#4 I pursued it, and I made a plan, but I haven't followed through on it yet.

Maybe I should have added one last year “Totally upheave my family's life and move from Ajax to London”. That would put my average way over .500

Here's five things for this year (and by “five” I really mean “seven”).

#1: Move
#2: Eliminate unecessary things
#3: Only pursue projects that make money
#4: Learn to say no
#5: Get a doctor. Go to doctor. Look after your health.
#6: Go away.
#7: Be better

#1: Move from London to Ajax

Simple enough resolution, I should be able to stroke this one off completely by March 3rd or thereabouts.

#2: Eliminate all the clutter in my life

Our basement and our garage are both perfect examples of how quickly little things can get out of control. I went through a few boxes last night, and there were dozens of books that I've carried from our apartment to this house, which I will never read again. They need to be sold or donated. I'm going to cut my comic collection back to 5 boxes max, and pare my Graphic Novel collection down as well (luckily I know a place to sell the excess stuff…smile). Old computers, tech, etc, needs to be sold, given away, or donated. Lean and mean baby, we're paying by the pound to have this stuff moved, so we need to take that all into account.

#3: I resolve to only make all of my side-businesses make money. If they don't make money this year, then it's time to move on.

HeadsDown, All New Comics, neither one of them are making me any significant money. HeadsDown brings us in a little bit of cashish, which frankly for the amount of effort required is good enough, but it should be bringing in a lot more money considering how long it's been around.

It needs a few tweaks to be fully ready for the next level, and I should make the time to make those changes.

All New Comics has been in business for about 19 months now (about a month longer than Kaylin's been around). It's making a little bit of money for us, but we've kind of stalled. We need to get over that hump, and I'd like this to be the year that we turn a small profit. Not much, just a little. A profit with some extra that we can donate to a charity…even better.

Getting these two making me some money will allow us a little more flexibility and maybe even result in a trip or two for the family.

#4 In keeping with #3, if it won't make me money, I need to say no to it

This is pretty self explanitory, but I do a lot of little side things that don't make me any money. Reasonably at this point there's very little portfolio work I need to do, I've worked for two of Canada's largest media companies, I am one of a half dozen people in Canada with the breadth of experience I have, if that doesn't sell someone on why they need my services, then doing yet another website for free isn't going to tip the scale. Saying no to more stuff from other people will mean I can do the other things on my list.

#5 Get a doctor, get healthy

It's been a couple of years since I was at a doctor, there's a few nagging things bugging me, I want to get them looked at, and I need to take care of my fitness. I know I'm out of shape, and I'm definately overweight. With our new lifestyle, I should have more time to do these things, and I need to make them a priority.

#6 Go Away

We didn't really do anything last year, we need to go somewhere this year. Just because we have a child doesn't mean that we should stop living.

#7 Be better

I want to be a better dad, husband, son, friend, business guy or whatever. I need to write more. I need to draw more. I need to read more (regular books…not just books on design/CSS/webstuff). I need to play more. I need to build more websites. I need to do more, and do it faster. I know all of the stuff I need to do…now I just have to do it.

There we go. Seven resolutions. Some are easy, some are big, all are attainable. Let's see where I am in a year!

Un-Converging

About a year ago I decided to converge all of my devices into one. No more would I be shackled to a PDA, Phone, and MP3 player, no, I would buy one device which would do all of these things. I would buy myself a Windows Mobile PC Phone. Slowly though I've gone back to multiple devices, and this week I completed the dis-convergence of devices when I bought a new PDA.

Now first off, let me just say that I love my phone, it's an Audiovox SMT5600, it's a great phone, it integrates to my Outlook contacts really well, I can surf the internet, it has phenomenal battery life (I regularly go 3-5 days between charges and I never turn it off), and it's got a terrific form factor, small…but not too small.

However, as an MP3 player it's a pale shadow of my 30gig iPod, not only that, but as soon as you start using the phone as an MP3 player you quickly suck up the juice on it…and the phone is too essential a device to be wasting juice on listening to music. As a PDA, it has a horrible interface (I love the touch screen of the Ipaq, which is totally missing from the phone form factor), and the cost to get on the internet is ridiculous for the terribly slow speed that you get.

I just bought an iPAQ rx1950 PDA, which I will be using for my notes and all that goodness. Back in the day I used my PDA for everything. I'd take notes on it, I'd make appointments, I'd write articles, or schedule tasks through it. I really miss those features, and one of my resolutions for the year is to get more organized, something I find hard to do with all of these little pieces of paper flying around.

Plus I want to start developing for hand held devices, and since this has WiFi built in, it's a great test platform for that stuff.

It sucks that I have to carry around 3 different devices, but it's better than carrying around the half dozen pieces of paper that I'm currently depending on.

However this is why I think the iPhone, while a cool toy, will ultimately not do as well as everyone thinks it will. Sure, loads of people will buy it, but after the initial honeymoon period, the phone will quickly lose its lustre.

Here's a few things I wonder about:
Battery Life: How long will it last on a charge? Sure it's easy enough to plug into your work computer…so long as that's where your primary library is. In the best of situations though iTunes is flaky as heck on a Windows machine.

What do Northerners do? I'm not talking about Canadians in particular (Rogers will allegedly have a version of the phone out in late 2007/early 2008), but people who live in cold climes. I know I have gloves on from mid October through April, but you can't wear gloves while using an iPod because the clickwheel is actually operated by the electrical field in your fingertips. It sucks to take your gloves off to navigate the clickwheel. It will suck more to take your gloves off to answer a call (quickly monkey!!! It took you two rings to dig it out of your inner zippered pocket!). UPDATE: I just figured out today that if you moisten the tip of your glove, you can control your iPod!

How annoying will that thing be against your face? My current phone has a mute button right at cheek level. If I'm talking and walking, I often hit the dumb button and then can't talk.

How much cheek grease will it attract?

Of course these last two items could also lead to a proliferation of those stupid wireless Bluetooth thingies.

Which reminds me. When did it become so difficult to tell nerds apart from crazy people who talk to the air?

IT’S SOLD!!!

The sound you are hearing is a HUGE sigh of relief. On Friday night we sold our house. Although there are two conditions, condition of insurance, and condition of inspection…and a condition of sale on the couple's existing house which will be firmed up on Thursday…for all intents and purposes, our house is sold!

It was an incredibly nerve-wracking, and tremendously disruptive process. We had around 15 showings, including 5 last weekend alone and another 3 last week (meaning that over 50% of our showings happened in the last 5 days), and in the end we settled for a tiny bit less than asking price…but we're tremendously happy.

We agreed to a March 16th closing, but I think we're going to try to get bridge financing for a week or two to allow us to move to London relatively worry free.

Of course now comes the fun part. We need to pack, find 2 lawyers (one in London, one in Toronto), find a moving company, figure out any improvements we need to do before moving in (such as painting the basement floor, or garage floor), make sure cable/phone installation is done, and find a new dishwasher.

But it's done, and as soon as the first week of March we will be living in London! That's good news any way you slice it.

Remembering my great uncle Jim

They say that the measure of a man is the impact he left behind on those around him, if that's truly the case, then my great uncle Jim Cornett was a huge man indeed. He passed away on December 26th at the age of 74 after a long battle with Alzheimer's and Pick's disease. It's taken me a couple of weeks, and about a half dozen attempts to get these words out, but I'm going to give it a shot.

My favourite memories of growing up are of going out to my grandparents' farm, hanging about, not much to do, nowhere to go, just me and the farm dog Sandy, wandering around and having a blast. My grandma and grandpa were great people, Grandma Muriel (although everyone calls her “Moo”) is still with us, but Grandpa Ralph passed away nearly 20 years ago.

“RB” as everyone called him was part of what the media has recently labelled the “greatest generation”, he signed up for military duty when he was 17 and served as a Military Policeman in the Canadian Army during World War II. Whether it was his military service, or a lifetime of being a “farm boy”, he was as conservative as you got. He was the one who told me to sit up straight, he was the one who made sure that I wrote, shovelled, and played hockey the “right way” (Right handed…there'd be no communist pinko lefties in his family by the good lord!). Don't get me wrong, he was a blast to be around, and I think it's pretty safe to say that I share a lot of his qualities, both the good and the bad, but you did things his way, or you just didn't do them.

Aunt Hettie is Grandma Moo's sister, and she was married to Uncle Jim. The two of them lived in Windsor, and if my memories of weekends and lazy summer afternoons on the farm are some of my best, then I'd have to say that trips to Windsor qualify as close seconds. Yup, Windsor Ontario, a place that I've always had a soft spot in my heart for because of Aunt Hettie and Uncle Jim.

When I was young, they had this awesome house that had three or four levels, there was an attic where my cousin Tim was, a floor that had 3 bedrooms for cousin David, Janie, and the master bedroom, the main floor which I can still picture fairly well in my mind, and the basement, which had the best board games of all time (including Rock-em Sock-em Robots!). I remember Art in the Park, I remember the tree-lined street. I remember hanging out with my cousin Janie who introduced me to Styx and the violin, but most of all I remember my uncle Jim. I grew up in single floor houses, but Aunt Hettie and Uncle Jim's home is what always made me want a multi-floor home.

If Grandpa Ralph was a dyed in the wool conservative, then Uncle Jim was a big “L” liberal.

For one thing, he worked for a Newspaper…and I think you have to be a Liberal to be in the media (I know I am). For another he was just “cool”. Not “cool because of what you wear or where you live” cool, just a neat guy to hang around. If I live to be 100 I'll never forget his firm handshake, the earnest way he'd talk to you, and his smile which was so genuine that it made you happy just to be around him. He and Aunt Hettie seemed like the perfect match, they both were always so friendly, happy, and quick to laugh. The entire family reminded me just a little bit of the Brady Bunch (with Tim playing the role of the mysterious attic dwelling brother Greg).

Uncle Jim was a bit of a trickster too, we were walking down the street when he passed our new car, and he said “That must be your car.”, to which I asked how he knew. “London plates, 800 is the London license plate number.” It would be about 10 years before I'd find out he just made that story up and there were no such thing as “City assigned plates”. Aunt Hettie has this wryness about her that I adore, and I'll bet that her sense of humour was honed into razor sharpness by Uncle Jim over the years.

Heck, I didn't know his name was really Thomas.

When I decided to go into TV, he and I talked about his years in the Newspaper business. It was fascinating to hear about how he started with no real training, just the ability to “turn a phrase”, and worked his way up. Oddly enough my career in the internet kind of mirrors that because when I first started I got the job largely because I knew how to turn on a computer.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease any way you slice it, but I think it's even worse for someone who made his life out of remembering little stories, and who was a master of words. I remember the frustration in his face when words would fail him and he couldn't find the word he was looking for.

Uncle Jim was a great man, and I know that one day I will meet him again. When I do, I know he'll have a warm smile for me, a firm handshake, and a good yarn or two to keep everyone entertained.

Some very happy holidays

Our week's worth of holidays have come and gone, and what a whirlwind ten or so days it was, filled with fun, frivolity, family, and friends…and more than a little Kay Kay Crazyness!

We started the holidays out with the last annual Tri-City Tour (Ajax – London – Chatham), and had loads of fun at both Grandma and Grandpa's place as well as Meme and Pepe's place.

Of course Kaylin got spoiled rotten, with tons of clothes, lots of toys, and even though she doesn't quite understand the whole concept of opening presents, she had a blast doing it. She loves her new pink rocking horse, her new baby doll, her puppy, and her Ark with all its animals. I think mommy's favourite gift was the Xylaphone, I've heard some pretty cool songs coming out of that thing (and she's totally self-taught folks).

Lest we think Christmas was all about Kaylin…I got spoiled too, with three new Xbox 360 games, some good reading material, some clothes, and a boatload of chocolate.

Kaylin had her own room at Grandma and Grampa's (the addition of the “Pack and Play” to G&G's sitting room makes any room a bedroom), but her routine was off just enough that she got up every night, one night for an hour, another night for two hours. That made us pretty sleepy, but she seemed to weather the storm alright.

As nice as it is going to my mom and dad's place (and hey, right now I do it once a week for two nights…so I must enjoy it), it will be really nice to spend next Christmas in our own little house, wake up with our own little tree, and be only a few minutes drive from my folks' place, and only an hour to Char's parents.

In house selling news, we were supposed to have four showings over the holidays, and of them, only one family showed up. Allow me to give you some little common courtesy advise. If you are in the market to buy a house, and you tell someone that you are coming to see their house, either actually DO IT, or call to cancel.

It is a pain in the ass to gather Kaylin up, interrupt her nap schedule, and get out of the house only to find out that nobody showed up at your house.

I'm working on a major update for All New Comics which I should be able to launch in late January, and I'm hoping to do a couple of other websites as well. I'd like to get all of my web work off my plate this month so that I can start working on packing and getting ready for the move.

That's it for today, check back later this week for my annual “New Year's Resolution”, where I look back at last year's resolutions (I think I batted about .500), and look forward to this year.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy new year.