More Volunteering

When I was a young lad, I clearly recall spending most weekends in a hockey rink.  Either I was on the ice, my dad was coaching, or he was organizing other bits.  When I stopped playing competitively, I opted to get into coaching.  I did that for a few years, but live took a hell of a left turn and I needed to refocus.  I stopped skating altogether for about 3 years, then joined some league play and have been skating 2-3x a week since.

I make a concerted effort to not have hockey fall into family time.  The majority of my games are after 9pm.  The flipside is that my kids know I play (and watch) the sport, and they’ve been to a fair share of games in their years.  My eldest started playing 3 years ago, and I helped on the ice.  Last year I was assistant coach, this year head coach.  I figured since I was at the rink anyway, it would work out.

Which in one space that’s true.  Assistant coach is a near similar time investment as a spectator – emotionally not quite.  Head Coach, it’s about double the time.  I’m extremely grateful to have an awesome support team of AC, manager, and treasurer.  We just spent an amazing weekend in North Bay for a tourney.  The girls had a blast and progressed like crazy.  The parents stayed up late and polished off WAY to much vodka.  That we were able to experience the moments without worry is a highlight.

I’m also the webmaster for the association.  I took this on after noticing in my first year how atrocious the site was.  Updates were months apart, files were no longer valid, really important information wasn’t present.  I’m a big proponent of open & transparent communication, and I really dislike complaining without providing options.  So in the Spring, I ran a new build for the site, updated all the content, and added extra bits to help out the volunteer staff.  I also have it set up on my phone so I can make updates from anywhere.  Very happy with the results… just a ton of hours at start/end of the season.

There’s also a development stream (DS) offered through the association, but they need extra volunteers to run it.  At my level (Atom) they spent a fair chunk of time searching… and I figured my kid would be there anyways.  More volunteering ahead.

An important part here for me is that this is time I’m spending with my family, so it’s not really seen as a  lost opportunity.  The kids get to see their parents involved in the community, and hopefully they can catch the same “give back” bug when they get older.  When they age out (or simply leave) the sport, then that will be a harder decision to stick with it, or move on to other things.  But that’s not going to happen tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I need to run a game and a practice.

It’s Over, It’s Done

Canadian elections are over and everyone is full sorry.  Liberals remain in power, but with a minority.  There coalition that will form will have two main goals, social equality and climate change.  There are high odds that the 0.1% are going to get a tax hit (estate taxes are bit odd here).

The downside here is that the country is effectively split east/west.  West prioritises more immigration control, and less environmental regulation.  The former topic is way more complex, depending on what part of the country you live in.  This election had only 1 party talking about this, and they didn’t get a single person elected, not even withing voting margins of error.  So yay Canada!

The second issue is the environment and here is a split that is much more straightforward.  The “center” of the west is Alberta, where our oil fields are located.  For 100 years now, Alberta has been a boom or bust location, and nearly all of that is due to natural resources.  This part I understand… when all you’ve ever known is somehow deemed as evil, you get super defensive and confused.  There’s a similarity to the coal mines in the US.  It doesn’t matter if people promise more jobs, people need to be willing to buy it.  And it’s pretty hard to compete with indentured labor overseas in terms of cost.  The fact that Alberta hasn’t diversified, even in the boom years, is a true lost opportunity.

I won’t go into the west’s “less taxes” mandate, which historically has shown as non-tenable.  It gets complicated, so quickly.  Canada’s programs that are “ripe” for cutting are education and health care.  Two programs that if you cut, all hell breaks loose.  A similar aligned party tried it in Ontario… reverted everything.

Now for the good news.  As a general rule, even though we have different parties, we have shared views on nearly all topics.  There really isn’t a dramatic gap between parties, except on election-specific topics.  I say that in the objective sense… of course people between parties have significant disagreements.  But you’ll never hear of main line party rallies being assaulted, or threats from leaders.  There’s some comfort in knowing that at the end of the day, regardless of the political parties in charge, we’re still all Canadians.

Sorry.

 

Training Wheels

A /venting post if there was one.

Two things are providing oodles of stress lately – work and coaching hockey.  There are a surprising amount of similarities between both.

At work I’ve taken on some new responsibilities, and a large part of that is to replicate the culture I put in place elsewhere.  The group I oversee now has their own culture, and one that really is a struggle to understand.  They certainly have their hearts in the right place, but the approach taken is just full of grievances.  Extremely valid ones.  I’ve done a bit of digging and the history behind this is just full of interesting bits.

Coming into this I’m put in the middle of the process and find myself saying “no” on a daily basis, because rarely does it pass the sniff test.  A fair chunk of this can be handled with some simple guides and training.  It’s frankly surreal that I have to train people at this, given their current job titles, but at the same time it seems clear they’ve not had the necessary support in the past.  If I can hit 80% of them taking a “smarter” way to tackle these big issues, that will have significant morale impacts.

As for hockey, we’re in a new league and a different approach to scheduling.  Our first game is this Saturday, and the schedule is still undergoing daily updates.  I have conflicts on Sunday, no practices from Nov until end of Jan, and games across town at 7am.  I coach house league, and if the game is not fun, then people won’t play.

It does beg the question as to why this is so difficult though.  People have been making sports schedules for over 100 years, using computers to do it since the 80s.  It’s entirely likely this is just learning curve, and next year will be 100x better.  Yet here it is also pretty clear that no one seems to have asked anyone how to make this work – checked with other leagues that have done this before.  Previous years, it was all done in a single Saturday with all coaches in a large room.  Somehow this new process is taking 3 weeks.

Enough venting for now.  Time to breathe.

 

 

Politics and Life

I rarely post anything political here.  There’s just so much complexity on the topic, and a significant portion is impacted by your local culture.  A person only an hour’s drive away may have a completely different set of motivating factors, let alone someone half-way across my country.

I don’t begrudge any political view, but I do take note when views are so entrenched that they can’t stand up to any form of discussion or debate.  If your point of view is so fragile that it can’t take a couple knocks, then there’s no real point, is there?  I’ve lucked in that my family and I have realms of similarity, but differences in specific points.  I can have a conversation about immigration with my grandfather, and we both come out the better for it.

Canada generally has a tame political sphere.  We’re often seen as being polite to a fault.  This electoral cycle is fraying my sense of own.  We’re a multi-partied country, and the parties themselves move along the social/financial axis as they seem fit.  Often it’s to chase more votes, and to stay in power.  The alternative is that parties start looking really similar.  And when things get a little to similar, then the differentiation becomes qualitative – which our US cousins exemplify in name calling & attack ads.  A bit of irony there, since their policies are often so diametrically opposed.  I digress.

There’s some batshit crazy stuff going on around the world right now.  Or perhaps it’s best said that there’s more light shone on the stuff.  People are taking some really interesting stances, in nearly all cases financially motivated.  China is, by simple definition, a dictatorship (absolute authority) regardless of the window dressing.  It’s a hell of a lot more complex than that summary statement, but the point remains that any voice that conflicts with government wishes is crushed.  Any voice – regardless of where it takes place.  The NBA and Blizzard are the latest two to get caught in this trap of ethics vs. finances.  It’s interesting to see how each has taken their stance on the subject.

In Blizzard’s case, does that really matter?  Is anyone on this side of the Firewall going to stop giving money to Blizzard because of this ethical stance?  Should they?  China has 20% of the world’s population.  (India will pass then in ~10 yrs due to the 1 child policy and aftershock effects – see, complicated!)

As with most political discourse, there’s no answers, just a discussion.  It’s just not possible to please everyone, and even pleasing the majority is something that only seems to happen every 10 years or more.  More food for thought.

A Little Bit OCD

My brain works with structure.  I put things into imaginary spreadsheets, liking big ideas in chunks, and allows me to reference a whole bunch of stuff really quickly.  It allows me to absorb a new situation, reference previous occasions for options, evaluate those options, and take action without a whole lot of panic.

Well, more like a duck on the water – peaceful on the surface but paddling like crazy underwater.

With that, there’s an upper limit on the amount of new data I can absorb in any given time.  That number changes based on fatigue, hunger, and mood.  Right now, I’m running at about 120% intake.  It’s making me lose focus in other areas to make up for the backlog.  A week or so ago I was running a squat routine, clearly lost focus in the middle of a rep, then felt a tweak.  A wake up call I guess.

And sleep is harder to come by too.  My brain is digesting all my normal things (wife, kids, job, hobbies) and now has to deal with

  • wife & kids return to school
  • new kids activities and scheduling
  • new job starting in a week
  • job opportunity for an interesting position, outside comfort zone
  • coaching duties for kids hockey (start of year is crazy)
  • friends in social circle going through really rough spots
  • my comp hockey team needing WAY TOO MANY SPARES

The act of digesting all this new intake means a lot of brainpower and not enough hours in the day.  So I’m now thinking about this stuff when I would normally be resting.  Falling asleep is taking longer.  I am dreaming about these things.  I am putting them in their boxes, and building plans to – for lack of a better term – mentally survive.

The good news here is that nearly all of this is good problems to have, and they are extremely rewarding.  I also know that quite a few of these items will get dramatically better in the next 2-3 weeks.  Having managed way more chaos for longer periods of time, I know that this is just a speed bump.

For now, I am hyper-focused and obsessed with this new data set.  Just need to ensure that the essentials that make my family health & happy are not neglected.  Writing about it, that’s a big part of it.  Best cure for everything is sunlight.

Finding Joy

I’m in a weird mental state lately.  My winter hockey has restarted (and I’m short a couple guys).  Both kids have started too, I’m coaching one of them, and I’m the association’s webmaster.  A vendor at work is nearly 4 months late on a critical delivery.  There’s a rather significant re-org underway too, with some new opportunities presenting themselves.  There’s something wonky with my back/shoulder, making it hard to get a good workout.  Our social circles seem to be going through midlife crises.

A lot of spinning plates that are taking up both physical and mental real estate.  Feels like I could use a couple more hours a day.  Blogging as a whole has taken the side.  I am feeling the need to focus on the things that bring me joy/energy, and let the rest of the stuff just wash over.

Hockey

The older I get, the more I realize that playing hockey brings me a ton of joy, as long as the rest of the team is all on the same page.  If I’m playing rec, then it’s a rec attitude.  Comp is the same.  When those two worlds mix… things get less fun.  But there’s always a good beer after the game.

Coaching, that brings something else altogether.  There is something to be said about seeing 15 kids grow before your eyes, and being part of their enjoyment of the sport.  I’ll need to write another post about my process for coaching, but it would appear that it’s popular as a few kids this year put in requests to transfer to my team.

Working Out

We all need to move, or things just stop working.  I’ve been doing strength training for a few years now and it’s made a world of difference in nearly every aspect of my life.  It requires planning (since time is limited), focus (to not get injured), tracking (to see progress), consciousness (smarter eating choices), and provides a solid example to my family.  I can tell you that when you have 225lbs on your shoulders and you’re at the bottom of a squat, if you’re not focused then you’re going to have a bad time.  It’s a different form of meditation I guess, and the endorphin rush you get is a great high.  Plus, when you hit the pillow, you sleep like a rock.  Completing a workout, setting a new lift record, seeing changes in the mirror… all great feelings that push out the rest.

Baking

This is a family root type of thing.  Baking requires planning, patience, and confidence.  I had a pile of recipes from older relatives that just say “a fist of flour”.  Decoding all that is half the battle.  Yet when I am able to replicate a recipe my grandmother made me when I was a child… that hits every single right spot.  It’s a great way to spend time with the kids too, and teaches them a pile of lessons with a great result at the end.  We end up making ~500 cookies as Christmas gifts every year, as well as the boys getting together to make ~50 tourtieres in the fall.  You can’t rush baking…

Active Listening

You can be a wallflower and just listen, or you can be a jabberbox who’s just waiting for their turn to interject and one-up the conversation.  I dislike both, and prefer to have a conversation where the other person(s) get to share, I take it in, and I get to share as well.  That means paying attention, asking clarifying questions, debating ideas.  I enjoy this with my kids… it has them spend more time thinking about what they are going to say.  More enjoyable even with my wife, who brings an entirely different perspective on nearly all topics.  Hockey boys are similar with all types of views.  Does a decent job of avoiding the echo-box that social media builds around us.

Breathing

This sounds corny, but just taking a breath when things go a bit sideways is a great tool.  It’s common enough that my team at work recognizes it as a sign.  I dislike reacting, because it often lacks forethought.  There’s a way to say something is dumb without saying it’s dumb.  Getting that piece of news, taking a breath, allowing digestion of it and looking at potential options… that allows me to focus on the bigger picture.  Example: a team member inadvertently disabled 8,000 clients, and caused a 8 hour outage.  It was entirely accidental, happened while fixing another problem that wasn’t ours and running on little rest, and mistakes happen.  I mean, they know they did something wrong and me reacting negatively is just going to make it worse.  Breathing, focusing on getting them involved in the fix, and away from the mistake… that’s the only way to grow.  Seeing them come out stronger.  One breath makes all the difference.

Next Little Bit

The next few weeks are going to be a bit in the same rough spot, but it should even out at the start of October.  One breath at a time, one day at a time.  Things are good.

 

 

Weekend Ramblings

Warning – RANDOM.

Went to a pool party for a few friends that were hitting 40 this weekend.  I think it’s the 6th such party I’ve had this year, each one with a completely different vibe.  Mine was axe throwing & a pub.  This particular group’s history with pool parties dealt a lot with actually being in the pool.  That was not the case here, and it was extremely mellow.  There were tacos from a local truck.  Mellow people tend to have odd conversations.  Refreshing since it’s not at all small talk, but still out of left field.  The really neat bit was that there were people taking differing views on all the topics – far from an echo chamber.

Weather

I live in the national capital (Ottawa) and we get some wild weather swings in a year.  We’ve had:

  • Coldest = -33C (including wind) (-27F)
  • Warmest = 43C (including humidity) (109F)
  • Most snow = 25cm (101.8cm in Jan)
  • Most rain = 35mm (300mm over Apr/May/June)

It was a 76C swing between hot and cold, and there are few places on the planet that have those swings.  It was also the year with some recordbreaking snowfall, and a repeat 50-year flood from 2 years ago.  Oh, and a couple tornadoes to boot.  We shouldn’t be breaking records every other week.  This isn’t the Olympics.

US Electoral System

What pool party doesn’t talk about this???  I’ll withhold comment on the current administration, there’s more than enough people to pipe in on that.  What I will talk about is the insane electoral system.  No rational person can think that this is a reasonable system, right?

  • 1980 election – Reagan wins with 50.7% of the vote but 91% of the colleges.
  • 1984 – Mondale wins 40% of the popular vote and gets 2.4% of the colleges.
  • 1992 – Perrot wins 20% of the popular vote, 0% of the colleges
  • 1996 – This was a really close race, and the person with more votes lost. 537 votes in Florida (0.009%)
  • 2012 – This was also a close race, though not as close as ’96.  Nearly 3m total votes more (2%), yet lost the colleges by 77 (14%).

It’s utterly fascinating to see that machine at work, and the absolute insane amount of gerrymandering at play.  This was a problem in Canada a long time ago, but there’s an independent group that draws elections lines based on population totals – politicians have no say in it, except at municipal levels.

It’s one of those odd things were there’s a special list of countries that endorse gerrymandering.  I wouldn’t think any of those countries are on a top 10 destination list, if you catch.

Elon Musk is Lex Luthor

So deep thoughts on this one.  Elon is clearly at the genius level intellect.  You don’t manage to do what he’s done if that’s not the case.  Plus, you don’t build a working flamethrower and sell it.

He really does have all the comic book signs of a super villain.  Rough upbringing.  Makes wave as a teenager.  Successfully builds and runs multiple multi-million/billion dollar industries, in different genres (IT, auto, power, engineering, heavy machine, rocket propulsion, AI).  And it’s not like he’s Warren Buffet-owns-tons-of-stock leadership here.  He’s the face of all those companies.

His stated goals match the Foundation series, where all his actions are meant to improve/prolong humanity’s chance at survival, and reduce the change/duration of a dark age.  That he has the actual power to accomplish these goals…

So if you look at the current Lex Luthor, there’s a lot of maniacal drive move forward.  A lot of ends justify the means, where only he can do it and no one else.  There is an ultra fine line, and the absolute best comic book villains thread it (Victor Von Doom).

And More!

There were plenty more conversations that had nothing to do with each other, but none were really debated/discussed as much as the above.  There’s a part of me that’s both confused and impressed at the types of conversations that exist when you’re not throwing an axe at a piece of wood.  I really should go to more pool parties.