Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Fri. Nov. 11, 2006: Missed the flight

David sees signals of overload in missing his flight to Helsinki via Frankfurt.

(by David): It looks like I’ve really maxed out on stress. My colleague in my day job said that I always look like I’m not under stress, but I guess I hide it better than most. I know when I’m tired, and try to watch out. On Thursday morning, when I drove into the office, I pulled into 3 parking spaces, before I decided to choose one. I got into the client office late — after making a stop at our downtown office to pick up printouts — and the remaining parking spaces were pretty tight. Since I was tired, I decided that I shouldn’t take any chances, and gave up on 3 parking spaces before I found a space that wasn’t so tight.

On Friday, in packing, I seemed to lose sense of time. I know that it usually takes 4 to 5 hours to pack for a trip of 2 weeks to Finland, if I don’t do any packing in advance. I got up late (having stayed up until 4 a.m. finishing up a report, and then puttered away at things that needed to be done: re-registering on the company’s medical plan (on the last day of registration), and checking in with DLH (since people in Finland will ask about him).

Diana picked up Mary — they were planning to go shopping out the direction of the airport, after dropping me off — and I was still packing. With a 5:15 p.m. flight, I had planned to leave around 2:30 p.m., knowing that if I left around 3:00 p.m., that I would probably still be okay. By 3:30 p.m., I was throwing things into the suitcase, and we were rushing to leave.

And … by 3:30 p.m., we were hitting rush hour traffic. I’ve been doing the trip to the airport almost every day for the past 8 weeks — the client office is right across the street from the airport — and Mary said that it was clear that I was taking all of the right side routes to get out of traffic — but it still took about 40 minutes to get airport. When I got to the Air Canada counter at about 4:30, the check-in clerk said that I was arriving about 20 minutes after the flight had closed, and that I would have to rebook.

I walked across to the ticket desk. In line, I phoned AmEx, and they said that the alternative flight at 7:15 to Frankfurt was full, so I might have to go the next day. When I got to the ticket counter, the check-in clerk was very nice, and said that I could get the last seat on the flight to Munich. I’ve taken that route before, so I said yes. She checked with some other reservation clerks, and put stickers on my tickets. Since I was booked on Air Canada for the whole trip — yes, the Germany-Finland legs are actually Lufthansa, but they’re Air Canada codeshares — she said that Air Canada usually charges for ticket changes, but that she wouldn’t charge me today. I thanked her profusely.

At the other end, Annaleena was scheduled to pick me up from the airport, but when I looked at my PDA, I hadn’t updated her phone number from when she was in Sweden. I phoned DLH, and asked if he could call Annaleena. At that point, since the time would have been past midnight in Finland, DLH said that he would phone Annaleena.

As soon as I got on the Toronto-Munich leg of the flight, I put on the eye shades, and went right to sleep. (The plane was full, so I was in upright seating). On the Munich-Helsinki leg, I tried to do some reading, but still fell asleep.

When I arrived at the Helsinki airport, Annaleena wasn’t there. I phoned her, and she said that she had come to pick me up for the original flight, but I wasn’t there. (Sorry). I took a taxi to the hotel, instead.

I’ve been definitely stressed out this past week. I know that DLH has been pretty stressed out recently, but I guess that I was so stressed that I forgot that, and he probably miscalculated the time zones to speak with Annaleena. These are signals that everyone is just too busy.

Postscript, adding injury to stress: As the flight was landing in Munich, the overhead door flew open, and someone’s laptop fell onto my lap. The top of my left thigh hurt initially, and then was okay. After sitting on the Munich-Frankfurt flight, my thigh started to hurt again, and I’ve been walking with a limp. It could have been worse … it could have hit a bone ….

Thurs. Nov. 10, 2005: Hours like a student

David’s work hours seem to follow those of student days.

(by David): In my work like, not much has changed since 1976, when I first started university. I read articles and books, and write reports, most of the days — work days, and weekend, although the content is sometimes different.

Working in consulting usually means a little bit of a rush towards the end, even if the project is well-managed. In the earlier days of a consulting gig, there’s always a possibility to move around deliverables a bit, but at end of the project is the end of the project, so everything has to be wrapped up.

I’ve known since August that I was planning to leave for Finland on November 11, so this hasn’t been a surprise. I’ve been managing the consulting time pretty well — there’s really only me and antoher consultant, and we’ve been working together well — but working towards a final report means that there can effectively only be one person that “owns” the document at any given time. It’s possible to work on sections, and copy-and-paste them into a master document, but there’s always the risk of making mistakes doing that.

So, the schedule was a four-hour slot for a Powerpoint presentation on the second last today — this Thursday — and then the final report due on the Friday.

On the late Wednesday night (actually early Thursday), I was up until 1 a.m.

On the Thursday night, I asked my colleague to finish up around 8 p.m., and hand the document over to me. I started working on the document around 8:30 p.m., and finished at 4 a.m. When I spoke to him on Friday morning, I told him that the document was all his to finish. The amount that he had to finish was up to him, but most of the content of a 70-page-plus document was done.

These types of deadlines definitely give me a flashback to student days …. Nothing much has changed.

Tues. Nov. 1, 2005: Slipping into academic lectures

David sneaks over the university to hear a lecture, and is found out.

(by David): I take advantage of living in downtown Toronto, and being an alumnus of the commerce program at U. of Toronto, to attend various Rotman School events. It’s one of the leading business schools in the world — no one would argue that it’s top 50 worldwide, and there’s always the quibble about whether it’s in the top 20 worldwide, and its position in the top 5 in Canada — and it’s got a strong academic staff, so there’s always good speakers coming through. I just have to mark my calendar to remember to go.

My attendance at Rotman events isn’t directly related to my day job — I don’t have or want any official power there — so I just slip the event into my work day, and shift some hours around later, so there’s no real impact on my day job.

So, on this day, there was a debate between Nicholas Carr — famous for his IT Doesn’t Matter article — and Don Tapscott, who is a well known consultant who happens to live in Toronto.

Normally, my visit wouldn’t be a big deal… I usually just come in, and take a seat at the table up near the front of the lecture area. I came into the building, picked up my badge, hung up my coat, and slipped in beside the curtain up near the stage, and went to sit down at my usual position in the front row … and then I noticed that the CIO — my current client — was sitting two seats over from me.

We said hi, he introduced me to someone he was with, and I did my usual note taking and recording.

No damage done, but at least one person at my client knew that I wasn’t billing for those two hours that morning! At least this is some recognition that I work for a client for my knowledge, and not really by the hour ….

Mon. Oct. 31, 2006: Next generation PDA

David gets a replacement for his Palm IIIxe.

(by David): Back in the Palisades days, IBM had a deal with Palm, so I managed to get an IBM Workpad, which was the first generation PDA. It was black-and-white, and didn’t do much, but since I would sync it to my laptop, it was helpful when I really didn’t want to boot my computer just to look up an address or phone number. I’m on my Thinkpad so much, that I really don’t need a lot of computing power. The old PDAs used to run 2 months on 2 AAA batteries, but then everyone went crazy for more features, so the PDAs had to start using rechargables … and they had to be rechanged everyday.

Of course, the old Workpad broke, so I got a second generation one from my job at Palisades. IBM stopped selling the Workpad, so when that one broke, I ended up buying a Palm IIIxe from Factory Direct. Under $100, with 8 MB of RAM, and still black-and-white screen on two AAA batteries.

Somehow, I lost the Palm IIIxe, and I’ve been working away from the desk at home, so I’ve been a bit annoyed at not having a PDA. I looked at what was new in PDAs, and decided to wait a few weeks … for the new Palm TX.

The Palm TX is, in effect, a Palm Tungsten T5 with Wifi access. This means a mobile browser! The other advance (from older Palms) is non-volatile memory. On old Palms, when the power ran out, everything on the PDA was lost. Now, when the battery runs out, at least I don’t have to reload everything!

The TX has been a nice luxury — it’s cheaper than the older models, but I could almost buy a cheap used laptop for that price, these days! Still, I’ve been listening to Podcasts recently, where the user interface has been discussed, so I’ve bee considering this my portable alternative to a Mac. (I’m still on Sony minidisc, no iPod!

Two annoyances with Palm, so far. One old application I used — Currency — a useful cross-exchange rate program that hasn’t been updated since 1999! — caused the TX to go into a loop. I had to reload the TX many times until I figured out that it’s a lost cause, and replace Currency with FXPilot from Oanda, which does the same thing, but in a user interface that requires two more taps. Secondly, I bought an SD card and then got Realplayer for Palm under the assumption that I could now play Realaudio (which is a super-compressed streaming format, which I normally have use Total Recorder to convert to MP3). Wrong! It turns out that Real doesn’t support Realplayer on mobile technologies! What are they thinking? (It’s possible to get WMA support — Microsoft’s version of streaming audio — on the Pocket PC format).

On the whole, I’ve been satisfied with the TX. It’s brand, brand new, and I bought a “multilingual” version over eBay, instead of going to a store, because this multilingual version comes with a multi-voltage adapter that I would otherwise have to pay $40 for!

Postscript: In packing for Finland, I discovered the Palm IIIxe in my travel luggage. I remember now …. I was taking notes at the conference in Florida, and already had all of my luggage packed. I just slipped the Palm into my travel luggage, because I tend to use the Palm when I’m on the road! Maybe Diana would like the Palm IIIxe.

Fri. Oct. 28, 2005: Flu shot and scarf

David prepares for winter.

(by David): Flu shots are free to residents of Ontario, and the advertising push is on again. We’re used to the lineup at Gerrard Square, but they’ve been transforming that mall, so flu shots aren’t there this year. Since I try to prevent catching or giving the flu to people on the trans-Atlantic flights, I decided that I needed to go to one of the earlier flu clinics. Diana and Ryan will have to schedule a time for themselves.

The lineup at the Eaton Centre for a 6 p.m. shot was probably about 40 people. There must have been a dozen nurses there. Line up, get a shot, have a seat for 10 to 15 minutes, and leave.

While I was in the Eaton Centre, I thought that I would check out the price of scarves. I had bought two microfiber scarves at Target a few years ago, when I was working on a U.S. gig. Diana had given one to the boys, and they lost it. Then, in packing for Adam’s trip to China, she gave him my scarf. This isn’t quite a traumatic as losing my scarf, but it’s an annoyance. Since I won’t be going to Target anytime soon, I should find a substitute nearer to home.

I went to Sears, and saw a plain acrylic scarf for $12.50 — probably about what the Target scarf cost, but not as nice. I then went to H&M — I’ve never been to the one in the Eaton Centre, although I’ve been to the Big Apple branch in Espoo, Finland! — and found a plain polyester scarf with a velour finish for under $8. The Target scarf was much better finished, but this is cheaper, and will do ….

I hope Adam brings my Target scarf back from China when he returns.

Wed. Oct. 26, 2005: Fake fur winter envelope hat

David laments the loss of his winter hat, last spring.

(by David): I’ve now become famous for wearing my fake fur hat during the winter — as well as in the late fall and in the early spring. Somehow, I’ve become unfashionably fashionable because I don’t like to have a cold head.

In the last millenium, probably when I went shopping with Diana at Value Village, I managed to pick up a Persian lamb skin hat. The style is described as a “envelope hat”, since that’s essentially the shape. It’s like an envelope that you would stuff a letter into — although there’s a slight indent over the top of the head, to accommodate the fact that human heads aren’t narrow. Eventually, Diana thought that the Persian lamb skin hat was looking too ratty — the lamb’s wool was glued onto the surface of the hat, and some was starting to separate. Thus, I retired the hat, and, in the interest of not supporting undue cruelty to animals, started wearing the fake fur version that people are accustomed to seeing on me.

I wouldn’t actually mind paying a reasonable price for the hat, because it’s become a signature for me in the winter, but it doesn’t seem to be in production anymore. Once, when I was in the hat section at Eaton’s — and that should date the visit, since there hasn’t been an Eaton’s in the Eaton Centre for some years — I spoke to a hat salesman about the hat. He said that he hadn’t seen one in a long time, but remembered that the Crystal Cap company (a local company) used to make it.

Then, a few years back, I lost the hat. I managed to find another one at the Goodwill on Jarvis Street. (More dating, because that building has been demolished, and there’s construction over there right now).

In the spring, when I was shuttling Eric around to bike store — that’s when we bought the Trek that he’s riding now — I lost my envelope hat. I’m not exactly sure where it was, because we visited about six stores, and I got tired of carrying it in and out of the minivan. It was a rainy day, and not so cold, so I didn’t absolutely need it. I was sorry that I didn’t have it when I got home, but really didn’t need it for the season anymore, because it was spring.

Last week, it started getting cold in Toronto. I really wanted my hat. Phoning around, winter hats aren’t really available yet, at Goodwill. (They’re still working their way through Halloween sales). I started pressuring Diana to consider tailoring me a hat.

When I came home on Wednesday, Diana said that she had a surprise for me. She had found two hats at the local Value Village. The smaller one didn’t fit, but the larger one did. (I have an extra large head). Diana said that she wished that the smaller one did fit, because it’s in better shape, but I can’t get it over my forehead.

I’m warm again!

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