Playing Catch Up

I truly enjoy coaching hockey. There are dozens of reasons why organized sports are good for childhood development and being able to share in that experience and having even a tiny impact is an amazing reward. Sharing a passion is always fun. The big kicker here is that, by and large, all the people involved are doing so on a voluntary basis. Issues with parents stems from unreasonable expectations and they are almost never a volunteer. Issues with the kids are quite rare, and if they do occur, it’s almost exclusively because of a parent’s involvement. Once you let the kid know there’s no reason for them to stick around if they are not happy, that outcome becomes rather clear.

The theme here is that the kids themselves have a fundamental need and desire to learn. You can break it down into smaller digestible pieces, demonstrate practical examples, and then see results upon which you can build the next lesson. You’re not born a rocket scientist, you are crafted into one, with a LOT of external help.

Adults are not the same. Many of us are set in our ways and the concept of learning as an adult is implicit rather than explicit. If people take any form of training, it’s less for the journey and actually learning, and more about the result – the certificate or such. It doesn’t help that a lot of training is non-practical, and only deals with theory. There are apprenticeship programs where the entire program is based on practical application over years. I’m more in the space of a week/night/end training session where people are provided the high level theory and come away with a piece of paper saying they have all they need to apply the knowledge. I have many books on home repair. No way you’d want me to build a house.

It doesn’t help that as adults, few of us make time to concentrate on learning. It’s often incidental, a happy coincidence that you have experience doing something, not necessarily understanding how it all works. How often have you met someone who claimed to be an expert in your field, demonstrated their work, and you were just plain amazed at how the house of cards hadn’t fallen yet? Adults are prideful and not willing to accept that there is something they may not fully understand.

I’m more than happy to help people along that path. Either through coaching (the how) or mentoring (the why). I’ve done it many times in the past and hope to continue to do so. The “success” in that work is predicated on a single factor – the people wanted to learn. One standout was an individual who was emotionally upset that they had done “all the right things” but had been continually passed over for opportunities. We sat down, reviewed what they thought was “all the right things” and realized there was a noticeable gap between their perception of expectations and reality. Built a plan, coached and feedback throughout, and a year later they got the opportunity they were looking for.

That first session was not a pleasant one. When one thinks they are doing everything right and have never had feedback along the path, it’s a massive strike to the ego when there is critical feedback. Separating the individual from the performance is essential. Clearly the desire was there, it was the approach and tooling that needed work. Someone who is willing to accept feedback and apply it, that’s exactly the type of person people want to have around.

And then we have the other side of the coin, where there are people who are not willing to accept feedback and are part of the team through obligation. There are times where it’s just not possible to find progress with individuals – less a failure of the process than of the relationship. In my entire adult career, I have only ever met 1 person who was purposefully doing a bad job. I’ve met plenty who willfully disregarded the rules, because they thought they knew better. They were being sheltered from the consequences of their actions, and once they were held accountable for the results, the behavior changed quickly. Being able to have a conversation where and individual is respected but understands their tools/approach needs work is a ridiculously exhausting process. Every person is different and merits a different level of tact.

I’m in a spot now where I am coaching 2 sports teams, mentoring a half dozen people at work, and coaching 3 individuals. I am growing conscious of the mental & physical toll this is taking. It’s like a slow leak, and every day I have just a tiny bit less energy to get through the day. I know what needs to be done to address this, and I can’t do that alone… the plan is in place it just needs to come to fruition in the next few weeks.

I’d like to get back to a sense of balance while still being able to help other folks. Fingers crossed.

Reading Fatigue

Brought on By Belghast’s comment on Blaugust.

Back in the before-times, I worked downtown. If there wasn’t snow, then there was a festival. Ribfest was one of them, and while the prices were eye-popping, the food was amazing. We’d head out and pick up a copious amount of delight, and the first day was always the best. We’d head out every day, try to hit every stall. By the last day, you’d be just overstuffed on ribs, and while it was still enjoyable, it was also a bit of a chore to get another set in the belly. And that was less than a week.

Reading is a bit like that. I really enjoy reading, truly. A fair chunk of my work relates to reading things, quickly parsing it for valued information and taking action, then reading the next thing in line. By the end of the day my mind is fatigued and I can just use a nice break. When I used to take time off work (the before-times), I’d read through 4-5 books in a week. There’s certainly a hunger there and the muscle needs exercise.

Reading blogs is a tough bit. There’s some absolutely amazing stuff out there, but it’s not consistent. A writer may have 1 glorious post a month and then some OK bits for the rest (this is normal). I use Feedly to sort through my rather substantial list of blogs, allowing me quick access and a list of previously read content. In the spring, I’d have a dozen+ articles to read through per day, and I’d honestly struggle to get through that many. Commenting is its own challenge, given that not all blogging platforms are integrated, and there isn’t often things to add to a discussion.

Blaugust compounds that 10-fold. It’s a buffet of content, but in a different context. Folks like Wilhelm have no true need for feedback during this month, but someone who is new to the community can certainly use it. With that context, commenting has an increased value, just like when you meet a new person and shake their hand (we still do that, right?). I’m horrendous for this by the way, only able to make it work in bursts. Summer in igloo-land is just so special, and time is a finite resource, making August a very internally focused month. I should still make more effort, as a few minutes from me (or you) can make a really large impact on someone trying to find their voice.

So I guess I have my own challenge to surmount in Blaugust. Let’s see how that goes…

Blaugust – Late to the Party

More info on Belghast’s site

Every year I tell myself I’ll give it a go, then I realize that it’s smack in the middle of my summer vacation plans and I do not have the ability to schedule that much for my blog. Hence why you’re seeing this NOW and not at the start of August. On a given year, I average 3 posts a week. That’s ~150 per year, and certainly more effort than a tweet. I came to the conclusion long ago that blogging is a form of mental therapy for me, so the measure of success here is less volume and more general health.

Blaugust has been around for a while now, and it’s always a pleasure to find new folks in the community. Those who are “new” to blogging often find it a struggle to find a system that works for them, and the mentors/themes of Blaugust really help folks along. While the goal is certainly a post a day, that’s a serious achievement. If you’re not on the discord server, you’re missing out.

One tip that’s less for the bloggers and more for the readers (from Bel):

Mingle with the participants of Blaugust 2022. Get out and see the blogs, read the posts, and comment frequently! These folks represent a social structure that you can lean on for advice in the coming years. I deeply value the ties I have made with other bloggers and started this process as an attempt to cement those and build new ones.

Even if you are not a blogger, the comments are always appreciated and more often than not, act as further inspiration for content.

Looking forward to it!

Echo Chambers & Autocracy

I’m on record a few times now stating that social media is like a cancer. It slowly spreads itself, and unless you’re checking in, it will take over your life.

I deleted Facebook a few years ago, when my youngest was born. I still recall the reason for it, one of my friends on there was posting multiple links a day about some racist conspiracy theory. His volume was filling my feed. I talked to him about it, he was absolutely convinced about the topic and was surrounded by the digital equivalent of walls of “news” articles on the topic. Even if he tried to get out, the algorithm was feeding him more garbage. I wanted none of it, and just deleted everything.

It’s not like things have gotten better. The proliferation of mobile apps made fast food junkies out of many of us. When’s the last time anyone actually read an article that was more than a paragraph? Hell, one that covered a few pages? The pandemic on top of it has made more people turn into hermits and reach out for any type of social link. And the “system” rewards people for taking advantage of this, either with an “influencer” tag, streaming donations, or political aspirations. The more rage-inducing content they can pump out, the more the algorithm feeds eyeballs and $$$.

Tangent for a bit here. The UK election a few years ago, there was a fair amount of online weight that Corbyn was going to win against Johnson. It didn’t matter than Johnson lied profusely, it only mattered that he had sound clips. Johson beat the tar out of him, to the incredulous voices of the interwebs. The echo chamber of the online communities could not bear to hear that any other option was present. Not much different than /thedonald, where if you didn’t tow the line, you were banned. This in effect builds multiple rabbit holes that go in completely divergent paths, and the folks within are either oblivious to the other, or are mortal enemies. It will, at some point, reach enough of a fever pitch that an individual with lesser capacity, will take it as incentive to do something horrible. And then nothing will change.

Autocracies (or dictatorships) are quite similar. They focus on inner circles of sycophants (yes-men) who are only as good as long as they tow the line and say what the “leader” wants to hear. Take a different path, and you’re out on your butt. In reflection, it’s pretty clear that Trump was/is surrounded by this model and the loss of the election turned into his typical – it’s someone else’s fault. Whether he actually believes this or not isn’t relevant, it’s the impacts of that message, and the refusal to accept that a different narrative is possible. It’s created its own echo chamber.

Russia is the more recent example of this, in that Putin’s military information clearly was not accurate. We are 1 month into the invasion of Ukraine and still Russia has not taken a major city. Russia the superpower, with UN veto power, the saber rattling country that has been a boogeyman for decades. He’s been cleaning house of his advisors ever since, which makes you wonder who in their right mind would want to step into those shoes. It bears pointing that even the West has been surprised at the results of this war. Not so much how effective Ukraine has been at resisting, but at how poorly organized Russia’s machine has been. The logistical errors alone are baffling.

I’d be lying if I thought there was an obvious solution out of this. There are historical reference points, but none that can account for the speed of social media and hunger for outlets of anger. I can only help those around me by talking to them, looking at multiple sources of information, and having actual discussions over a coffee/beer. I can supervise my kids consumption, and talk with them about the reality of the content (Mr Beast is neat and all, but I have a better chance of becoming Spider-Man). I didn’t think we’d end up here so fast. Wonder how long it will last.

Getting Away

The family took a trip last week to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been a few times now, and the kids have travelled with us as well. It’s seemingly one of the prime destinations for our spot on the globe.

It was a slightly different trip, for a multitude of reasons. Obviously, being at the tail end (?) of a global pandemic has stretched my mental state to a frayed one. It’s one of those slow scrapes, where you don’t quite realize how far along you are until you are able to take a few steps back. I had been working pretty much non-stop for 2 years and there are limits to that. Hell, I had spent weeks working out of a garage while the rest of my family was out on the water… or sitting in a church parking lot to get a decent LTE signal. I took a few days prior to rest up and close out some needed bits, and that really helped be relaxed for the trip.

Second, the DR itself has had a rough time. It is primarily run through tourism, so they’ve had a hell of a time these past few years. The sense of normal, or at least the potential for tourism to return made for a very pleasant experience. The vibe was relaxing (at least in our end) where people were just happy to be out.

Third, the kids are old enough now to not worry about so much. We still spent our time with them, but they are old enough to order a drink or get some food on their own. And young enough to spend 6 hours a day in a pool or on a beach without complaining. Not having to babysit, but instead being able to share the experience with the kids is a world of difference.

Finally, the act of travel itself and vaccinations/masks is an interesting one. Everyday more restrictions are lifted, though you can see that people are still easing into that mindset. The resort staff all had masks, but it’s hard to wear one while in a pool. The plane and airport all had mandatory masks. We did a lot of prep work (paper copies and electronic) to be sure there would be no stress… and that worked out quite well.

When we left, I had just finished snowblowing a good foot+ of a snowstorm. When we got back, there was grass almost everywhere and much milder temperatures. Never quite sure what March will bring here, so it was a very welcome sight to see Spring inching its way towards us.

I do realize that travel is a luxury, and this post isn’t so much about the destination itself in as much as the fact that we got away and recharged our batteries. It’s been an incredibly shitty few years now (and for some it’s certainly worse now), so any ability to just stop and take a breath of normalcy was sorely needed. Hope others are able to do so as well.

Cost of Living Math

Gas prices are reaching records, and I wanted to do a rather simple math exercise to see what that meant. I’m not going to go into why prices are as they are, that’s quite complex and perhaps another post.

  • In my city, gas is $1.85/L. In BC, there are spots at $2.20.
  • The average car has a 65L fuel tank, average truck is about 120L.
  • To fill a tank in my city costs between $120 to $220. In BC, that’s $145 to $265.

Next up, minimum wage.

  • In my city, minimum wage is $15, in BC it’s $15.20.
  • A 7.5hr day that’s net $112-$114. Gross depends on taxes and a few other deductions. Let’s be super generous and say it’s 10% tax, so ~$100 in the pocket per day.
  • A tank of gas costs between 1.2 and 2.6 days of work, at minimum wage.
  • Find a better job is often the reply. A daycare worker makes $16/hr, the people effectively responsible and raising children. Auto mechanics are at $27/hr. Nurses are between $33-47/hr. Teachers are about $45/hr.

Depending on the work you do, transportation options are quite limited. So what’s an acceptable amount of time spent to fill a gas tank, at minimum wage?

  • Half a day? You’d need to make ~$35/hr for a car, $70/hr for a truck.
  • A few hours? We’re in the $90-$180/hr range due to tax brackets.

The median family income in Canada was $62,000. For non-seniors, it was $93,800. Assuming 5 days a week, 50 weeks of the year that comes to: $248/d and $375.2/d. That’s a massive amount of income heading towards fuel.

Fuel Economy

So let’s look at the ratings for a bit. Their discrete values are always optimistic, to the point of frankly absurd, but their relative values have meaning. Let’s use 20,000km per year as the baseline, with 55% city driving, and fuel at 1.85 for regular.

  • Let’s say a 2021 Dodge Ram Classic. 11.9L/100km. That’s about $4,400 in gas per year.
  • Conventional SUV, like a Ford Escape, is 7.7L/100km, or $2,849 per year. Nearly half of a pickup.
  • A mid-size conventional sedan, like a Honda Civic is 7.1L/100km, or $2,627 in gas per year. Nearly half the cost.

Hybrid vehicles next:

  • A pickup, there are less options, like an EcoDiesel or a F-150 hybrid. Both run around 9.1L/100km, or $3,640 per year. About 30% cheaper than conventional.
  • An SUV, like a Highlander is 6.7L/100km, or $2,479 per year. Not any real difference with a conventional.
  • A mid-size, like a Toyota Camry is about 4.9L/100k, or $1,813 per year. This one is practically half of a conventional.

Electric vehicles now.

  • There are no electric trucks yet.
  • SUVs are extremely limited.
  • Mid-size cars have more options, though dominated by Tesla. The average annual cost is around $600 per year – or the price of 3 full tanks of gas for a pickup.\

Again, these are very optimistic numbers. I’ve used a Dodge Ram. I can assure you, it has never hit 11.9L/100km… maybe 14L/100km on pure highway, with 17 as mixed use. That $4,400 turns into $6,285 pretty quick.

I get that hybrid and electric vehicles can cost more, and that plug-in stations in Canada are really only options in urban settings. But I’m also aware that a pickup truck runs $60k, and cities are full of them that have never had a piece of lumber in the box. There are obvious choices and hard choices everywhere.

Personally, our 2013 Subaru Outback (tows + AWD) is at best 9.9L/100km and $3,600 a year. It’s due for replacement. Wife and I had a chat in the summer and hybrid was the only viable way forward… likely a Toyota Highlander at 6.7L/100km and $2,480 per year (32% cheaper). Recent prices have cemented that idea.

Certainly this is an opportunity to reflect on our energy dependencies and long term options. Perhaps this is the kick in the knees where our habits move towards renewables, and give us an actual change against global warming. It’s certainly an incentive for those who are able to work from home to NOT commute. And there’s going to be a price point where it simply does not make sense to drive at all.

General Fatigue

I haven’t had a real night’s rest in weeks now, which is pretty frigin’ rich coming from someone who has pretty much everything going for them. That’s ironically part of the issue. I take some solace in there being some purpose, or logic in *waves hands* but these past few years have really pushed that to breaking point. The 2020 Australia bush fires until this point have been seemingly a barrage of events to test our joint sanity and cohesion.

I’ve tried to be optimistic, that my kids have some sort of more positive future than I was presented. I dunno anymore. Our leaders seem to only care about themselves and enrichment, and the dregs of humanity hunker in the echo chambers of social media. We’ve inflicted all this upon ourselves, put away our morals for the rush of the meaningless crowd and on-upping the Joneses.

It’s more disappointing than anything else. We’re supposed to be better than this.

Social Break Ups

I had another post up about a recent Kotaku article about D&D. It’s a really good example of platforming a very divisive topic that even those moderately supporting the concept will have trouble jumping on board with. It reminds me of an old SNL sketch.

I won’t comment much further on it, except to highlight that these types of topics that focus on gatekeeping are emblematic of the similarities between the far right and left, and why those in the middle lack a whole bunch of empathy for either.

Instead, I want to lightly touch on the fun divides that this pandemic has brought about. It’s really quite fascinating. Social media gives zero opportunity for any actual discourse or debate – everything is a sound clip or 140 characters. Long form constructs, such as blogs, are still pretty much 1 way conversations. A comment reply is rarely as long as the originating post. Video formats give you the non-verbal aspects, but actually finding them is like a needle in a galaxy hard.

What we get instead are opinions caked in more opinions. Relationships with seemingly reasonable people all of a sudden take a very quick turn into something else. Anti-vaccine is a deal breaker for me, full stop. Luckily we’ve only had 1 family in all our contacts that went over that deep end, enough to move to Mexico. It’s the more minute items. Any attempt to have a conversation about the topic was quickly directed to Facebook research and hidden agendas. Pretty hard to have a relationship there.

The trucker protest in Ottawa is making national news. What was originally a relatable event to protest the restrictions for cross-border truckers (which affects less than 10% of all of them, is required in the US as well, and has had no real impact on supply chains) devolved into a more anarchist bent. They wanted to reverse election results (sound familiar?) and replace the Governor General. Well, they got rid of one leader, just not the one they expected. But the message now has been warped to something else, and seen replication in other parts of the world. This is going to be an interesting social marker in our country for some time, where the fors and againsts have a wide gulf and no true path to reconcile.

It doesn’t help that the Liberals and Conservatives are both using this as a wedge issue. Nearly half of folks are empathetic to the issue, but 2/3rds are against the actions. That’s a heck of an us vs. them conversation.

What will be interesting is how this particular model is applied in future protests, by other organizations. There are numerous examples of first nation protests having nowhere near the impact of these protests and them being broken up quickly and railed against. This particular event is showing a new method of causing disruptions and what society seems to be willing to tolerate. And how conversations about new protests approaches develop. Is the method of protest debatable, or the actual topic itself?

It’s an interesting time, with some very complex answers. And it would appear that few want to find a way to mend bridges, simply build more chasms.

The Challenge of Being For Something

Back to politicking for a bit. There’s a simple matter that it take little effort to critique and a ton of effort to lead. Quick sound bites and headlines are the meat of an opposition, and the ‘easy’ method is simply to simply focus on the negative. The hard part is to actually propose an alternative, because if it was easy, it would have already been done.

I’ll pick on politics here because it’s the the most prominent example that most everyone can see. A person will have an idea, then people will think of every reason why it won’t work. These are often very, very minority views on a topic, which is the purpose of democracies after all, to give a voice to as many as possible. But there’s a difference between a voice and actual power. If 99 people agree, and 1 person dissents, then odds are that 1 person is just going to have to live with it.

There are a lot of things my wife and I don’t agree on. I don’t just pack up my bags, or stage a protest when that happens. I find a compromise, or in some cases one of us simply ‘wins’.

In Canada, the Conservatives (right-leaning) booted their ‘socially centrist’ leader and now need to find their 3rd leader in 2 years. The why of the boot is interesting, primarily due to him being elected as leader as a ‘socially right’ and then swapping platforms to an actually electable one. The challenge with the “right” is that they just can’t seem to get any messaging out that isn’t offensive to wide swaths of the population. If your platform is only targeting the older white CIS male, I got news for ya, that’s not a demographic that is growing.

Now we get to take the popcorn out and see who tried to take the reigns of a party that can’t figure out its own identity. Are they going to take someone with zero experience leading but oodles of biting sound clips (Pierre Poilievre)? Are they going to go with someone who’s only platform is pro-life (Leslyn Lewis)? Will they take a “red” center-leaning candidate (Peter McKay)? Will they even bother trying to please the fringe, or just focus on what’s in the majority’s interest? Or will they shift further to the right and give up the middle? Or maybe, in the weirdest of spots, simply split up to avoid distractions?

One things for sure, people will have plenty to complain about.


This is a tad off topic for the blog, but quite on topic for the times. Today is an interesting vote for leadership in one of the two primary parties in Canada.


Canada has a parliamentary system, which means that we elect individuals that are registered with a party, and that party elects their own leader. The party that can collect the most votes, either on their own or as a group, forms government. There are dozens of countries with this system. Those of that were/are in the Commonwealth only have a few parties. Others often have 6+. The advantage of this system is that it generally offers more representation because it’s near impossible to have an outright majority, and the governing party is based on compromise. In a 2 party parliament, you often get massive and ever increasing political swings. I won’t get into Republics too much, but just say that they have historically proven to be the least effective method of governing due to the concentration of power and corruption in a single role. It’s simply impossible for a single person to represent millions, so they don’t.

How we got here

Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post. It is about a fracture in Canadian politics. We have 5 main parties here, though only 2 have ever managed at the federal level. Liberals are center-left, Conservatives are right, NDP are left, Bloq Quebequois are centre left (they are a provincial party, which is another topic), and then the Green (they are as you can guess). The Liberal party has been around since the start of this country, generally hovering near the center with a traditionally socially-left/financial-right structure. The Conservatives are different. They were a founding party (center-right) which was all but abolished in the 2003 following some atrocious financial reforms (they lost 151 seats, which was more than half of the total amount of seats in Parliament). They merged at that point with the Reform party, which was a full-right leaning party. This effectively unified the right, and provided them a new party that governed for a long period of time. The lack of social media meant that the fringe elements could be controlled somewhat.

In 2015, the Conservatives were in the election and launched a “barbaric practices” hotline to call in if you saw people doing things “un-Canadian”. This wasn’t the only event, but the culmination of multiple culturally divisive efforts by the party that culminated with them losing 60 seats and the Liberals claiming 148. That was a very large swing. The Conservatives realized that the fringe elements were taking more air and spend efforts to squash them. (As an aside, the leader Stephen Harper, was a staunch delegator at the start of his term, and by the end became autocratic trying to control all these elements. It’s truly fascinating.) There was a leadership vote following the election and the one of the more populist members split to form the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). Conceptually, this is a libertarian party, but in factual matters is built entirely on fringe/conspiracy elements.

The Conservatives have been unable to make inroads across Canada since, as the core of the country is socially liberal and financially conservative, with the social part having more weight. Plus, the US President was a massive red flag here where people associated the Conservatives with the Republican party (e.g. they are against everything nearly everything, want to help business, don’t believe in the environment or health care, and have no systems to help individuals.) In 2020 they elected a new leader (Erin O’Toole) who was put in on a “true blue” platform, meaning the right/right of the spectrum. The 2021 elections came, the leader moved towards center (which was smart) and they still lost seats. The party split became more evident and the fringe elements wanted him gone the next week. The last 6 months have been primarily about Conservative infighting, and today is an early vote on their leadership. It would seem that 30% of the party willing to vote to let him go. That is a substantial group.

The repurcussions

A party that is not united cannot unite a country, that’s a simple fact. The last 6 months have amplified a fundamental challenge in any party that dominates a spectrum, there are simply too many voices to please at all times. Party loyalty is not a given fact anymore (at least in Canada) and that assuming the middle will stick with you is no longer the case.

This party leadership vote has one of 4 possible outcomes.

  1. O’Toole wins and stays. The factionists accept the outcome and the party finally unifies and accepts that the centre is the way forward.
  2. O’Toole wins and stays. The factionists do not accept the outcome and continue to sow discord within the party, or create a new one.
  3. O’Toole loses. A new party election comes along and the party moves solidly to the right. That leaves the center wide open for the Liberals.
  4. O’Toole loses. A new party election comes along and the party as a whole agrees that the middle is the way forward.

I won’t weigh the odds of this coming to fruition, but it would be a longshot to say that any fringe element will be happy with any outcome here (that is the fundamental aspect of a fringe element, the unwillingness to accept any view but your own). If O’Toole leaves, then they have no leader for a year and need to fight for relevance in that election, then somehow sell the fringe to the rest of Canada. The center can’t be happy either, as they just want this in the rearview and get back to being a federally relevant party.

This is one of those events where it appears that everyone loses, no matter the outcome. Quite curious as to how this all plays out.