Writer, Broadcaster

Category: Life (Page 2 of 20)

Spring Cleaning

Astute readers of this blog may have noticed that I have been sprucing it up a bit lately. Less astute readers will not have noticed anything. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t noticed anything; many of the changes have been subtle. Why, I myself might not have noticed anything had I not been the one doing the changes.

Angela Misri kindly did the heavy lifting a few years back, establishing the look and the template and so forth. Since then I’ve long wanted to do some serious tweaking, and lately have found myself in exactly the right head-space to do so. Head space that should perhaps have been directed at working on novel number two (working title Captain’s Away), but I’m at a part of that project that requires some extra heavy thinking, which I’m doing as I putter around this blog.

So what have I done? Well, first of all I’m generating posts at a rate I haven’t matched since about fifteen years ago. A lot of them are from rooting around my laptop, peering into old files, where I’m unearthing all sorts of interesting treasures (well, to me, anyway) that I’d long since forgotten about, and that have proven good fodder.

I upgraded from basic Dreamhost to DreamPress to ensure better stability, better support, and faster loading.

I added a newsletter sign-up form in the right side bar (though I’m still not entirely sure it’s working properly. If you’ve signed up, best let me know via [email protected] so I can double check that your sign up worked).

I added content to my Media/Interviews page. Allow me to reiterate here that this blog does not itself generate any revenue (other than indirectly selling a few books, theoretically) and all the content I post I do so under the Fair Dealings provision of Canadian Copyright law. I think some of it is of historical interest to some people. I do my best to give credit. If I’ve posted anything (pictures, audio, etc.) that you own or have anything to do with that you would prefer I not post, just let me know and I will take it down. Check out my disclaimer here.

And oh yeah, I’ve updated that disclaimer.

A while back WordPress changed the way posts are created (from classic to something called Blocks) which screwed up the formatting of a lot of my old posts. I’ve cleaned them up to make them easier on the eye.

I’ve tweaked some of the content on various Pages, editing and adding bits here and there.

And I’ve updated links to other blogs, removing stale links and adding new ones. I was sorry to see some go, but in some cases the blogs haven’t been updated in years. And there were a few blogs that I should have added long since, such as Dr. Robert Runte’s blog, and, and Pigdump, and the Five Rivers blog. And I just find everything Den Valdron writes inherently interesting, so I’ve added a link to his blog.

Is any of this worth it? Well, it hasn’t resulted in any additional book sales that I can see. If that was the only reason I was doing it there certainly wouldn’t be much point. So, it’s worth it only in the sense that keeping up this blog is something that I enjoy. It relaxes me. And from time to time I hear from people who tell me they derive some enjoyment from it.

And that’s enough for me.

A Host of Data

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

I worked on a summer replacement radio series called NEXT once with host Nora Young and producer Alison Moss. They were so great to work with, and indulged my passion for high production radio with bits like this one, which introduced one of the episodes.

Boy I loved making stuff like this.

Here’s the script, with the actual produced version at the end.

NEXT: A Host of Data

SFX: OFFICE AMB BG

NARR: Indefatigable Nora Young surfs the net, quietly sipping tea.

NORA: (LOUD SIP)

NARR: She is thinking furiously:

NORA: Hmm… I wonder what today’s show should be about? 

NARR: Friend and colleague Alison Moss appears in the doorway.

ALISON: Hey Nora!

NORA: Oh!

SFX: KNOCKS OVER TEA CUP

NARR: Startled, clumsy Nora knocks her tea onto the computer.

SFX: COMPUTER SHORT CIRCUITS

NORA: Dag nabbit!

SFX: OFFICE AMB BG OUT

SFX: WOOSHING DATA STREAM

NARR: A freak chain reaction occurs.  Our hapless host is drawn inside the computer!

NORA: Noooooooo!

SFX: NORA LANDS WITH A THUMP INSIDE COMPUTER

NORA: Oof!  (GRUNTS IN PAIN) Where am I?

NARR: Nora is trapped in a virtual landscape of ones and zeroes.  Drowning in a sea of binary information, Nora comes face to face…. with herself.

DRONING NORA VOICE: Nora Esmerelda Young, born nineteen sixty-four, daughter of Clem and Doreen, brothers John, Alfred, Immanuel, postal code L2N 3G5, (CONTINUES BG) 

NORA: (OVER VOICES) All this information… about me!

DRONING VOICE: (CONTINUING) Favourite food: schnitzel, last purchased July 28th, 2004 at Loblaws on the corner of Dufferin and Brock…

NARR: Clever Nora can only to come to one conclusion:

SFX: OFFICE AMB BG

NORA: That’s it!  I’ll make the show about data!

END

Nora Young: A Host of Data

A Few Words on Motivation

A bit of speechifying I did a few years back on the subject of motivation:

Photo by Olenka Sergienko from Pexels

How do we stay motivated?

How do we stay motivated in the face of long hours, lousy shifts, hard work, thankless tasks? Or worse, when sometimes it seems like life is actively working to demotivate us. I mean motivation beyond just getting paid, and putting bread on the table. Because psychology tells us that once we earn a certain amount of money, once we have food in our bellies and a roof over our head and can afford a few of the pleasures that life has to offer, then money no longer motivates us. Beyond a certain point it doesn’t matter how much more money you throw at someone, it’s not going to make them work any harder.

So here’s a little story about how I personally address the question of motivation.

The other day a friend came into my office and said, “I hear it’s your birthday and you seem a little depressed. Is it because you’re getting old?”

I said, “No! I like birthdays. I get breakfast in bed and I get to buy myself a present and me and the family make a big day out of it. And who’s getting old? Not me! I’d rather get old than the alternative. I know people who never got the chance to get old. I will only start to feel old when I actually am old.”

So my friend said, “I heard that one of the ways you’re celebrating your birthday is by getting a colonoscopy. Is that why you’re depressed?” And it was true, I was getting a colonoscopy a couple of days after my birthday, but that did not depress me. That’s preventative maintenance, and we all know how important that is.

No, I was depressed because at a meeting the day before someone important had made a cutting remark at my expense. I had said something stupid and I was called on it and made to feel stupid and look stupid in front of everyone present. And in that instant I was, completely and utterly, demoralized. Demotivated.

Cause here’s the thing. Since the last quarter my department has dealt with, and resolved, massive problems. We have upgraded and expanded important systems. We have prepared extensively for the Olympics, setting up equipment, testing infrastructure. We launched a documentation committee to figure out how to retain and make long term documentation available. I personally worked ten, eleven hour days for an entire month. I deal with one hundred to one hundred and fifty emails a day and then go home and work another hour or two to get caught up. I get called in the middle of the night. I work weekends. I turned my life upside down, as many here have, to work shifts during the Olympics.

And what do I get for all that? Humiliated in a public forum in front of my colleagues. Actively demotivated.

Maybe I’m over sensitive. It doesn’t matter. I don’t mean to dwell on it other than to use it as a teachable moment.

So the question I’m posing is, how do we stay motivated in the face of that kind of nonsense? And everything else actively working to demotivate us? Why even bother?  Why not just give up, start phoning it in, dial back the effort, the long hours, the passion that brought us here in the first place? Cause operationally there is definitely a need for us to remain motivated. There’s so much left to do. For my department, we’ve got a system expansions, system rollouts, unresolved technical issues, new systems to implement, virtualization, tons of training to organize. We cannot afford to be demoralized.

Here’s the answer I came up with for myself. We stay motivated for ourselves. If we do not stay motivated, we are cheating ourselves. We’re letting the bad guys win, the bullies, or whatever other forces might be grinding us down. I know people who continue to do a good job despite being dealt bad hands. They don’t always get the training opportunities. They don’t always get the praise. They don’t always get the promotions. But they continue to excel. Many of them are in this room. Many of them are you.

Why? Partially because it’s their nature. They can’t stand the thought of performing poorly. They couldn’t live with themselves, couldn’t look themselves in the mirror. But also, they know on some level that it’s the smart thing to do.

I have heard intelligence defined as the ability to maximize options. Limiting your options, that’s dumb. Maximizing your options, that’s smart. Allow yourself to become demotivated, demoralized, and people might start to look at you and say, well, I don’t know what happened to them, but they’ve clearly checked out. We can’t give him or her that opportunity because they won’t do anything with it.

Or worse, I know someone who got dealt a bad hand and took it out on everyone around them until finally he was frog marched out the door. This person later called me and asked for a reference. I told him I would give him a reference, but if I got called, I would tell the truth. This person had seriously limited their options.

Finally, I don’t mean to hand the responsibility entirely back to you. Yes, you are ultimately responsible for your own state of mind and your own conduct. But as a leader, it’s my job to help keep you positive. Here’s a quote I like from someone who used to work here. She’s not here anymore, but I think her opinion is still valid.       

I’ve never slammed a door. I’ve never, ever yelled at anyone at work. I would never let my mood infiltrate the room. Working my way up from assistant I think taught me how unfair it was when others got subjected to bad behaviour through a mood of a leader. I said I would never want to be the boss people knew was having a bad day.

Kirstine Stewart. Twitter Canada’s Managing Director. Quoted in Flare magazine.

You will never hear a cutting remark from me designed to make you feel bad. If there’s something about your performance that you need to know, I will tell you, but I will do so discretely. In a way that, if at all possible, will leave you motivated to do a better job. And with that will come those opportunities. That promotion you’ve been bucking for.

In other words, options.

Which will be good for both you and the company.

Meeting Minutes

I’ve rummaging through old folders on my laptop and unearthing all sorts of interesting artifacts, including these meeting minutes that someone who shall remain nameless wrote, possibly while inebriated (I’ve changed pertinent details and all the names)

If you’re a Production Hardware user and your livelihood depends on Production Hardware, you should (expletive deleted) well read this.

Betty Rubble

The long awaited meeting commenced at about ten-fifteen after all the usual suspects were hauled kicking and screaming from their morning double decafs and chocolate croissants.

In attendance, looking splendiferous one and all, except perhaps a shade grumpy here and there: Fred Flintstone, Wilma Flintstone, Ned Slate, bespectacled Don Knotts (elegant in summery pastels and sneakers), Tim Conway, denim clad Betty Rubble, Marilyn Monroe, Carol Burnett, the ever ebullient Doris Day, and myself, Jim, taking a few little notes here and there.

Fred Flintstone, who chaired the meeting (charmingly, I might add) opened with the startling observation that there are certain problems with the production systems that must, I repeat must, be rectified.

First on the agenda was Production Hardware. I shall elaborate:

  • Don Knotts spoke eloquently of the existence of four Production stations, plus Fred Flintstone’s.  The latter is apparently “obsolete,” while three out of the other four have Version 6.
  • In Studio C two of the systems can work with SCSI, but only one with Firewire, because some intrepid soul has busted the Firewire on the other one.  How they busted it is a matter of some debate, but likely it involved poor vision, questionable motor skills, and a reckless disregard for exactly how to plug things in.  This unit will be kept in service despite the busted Firewire because hey, the SCSI drive still works fine for the two and a half people still using SCSI
  • To rectify the problem of people breaking or losing cables, we are confiscating all cables and will install them permanently on each system so you only need to carry your drive around with you.  So there.  This includes both power and Firewire cables and will be done pronto and, according to Tim will include studio B.
  • As a result of this initiative, Tim will no longer be able to mock the amusing manner in which Don plugs things in
  • Fred in his fatherly manner issued the following caution:  ALWAYS take your drive out of the computer when you’re done, and NEVER fire the computer up with someone else’s drive plugged in.  If you want to know why, never mind, just do it, dammit
  • Producers were warned that they must initialize (erase) their drives on a regular basis (once every six months) or suffer the consequences; namely, their overloaded drives would begin to malfunction and/or call the producers names, in which case we recommend both erasing the drives and booking stress leave – don’t laugh, it happened once in Windsor. 
  • You should consider backing up your material regularly, to CD or DVD, in the event that you should lose your drive or break it
  • You should not lose your drive or break it
Photo by Manuel Geissinger from Pexels

Briefly, we discussed the issue of plug-ins. Currently, Jim and Ralph are researching the issue and will report back in a few years. 

In the meantime, producers are not encouraged to use plug-ins because plug-ins are only for people who have had considerable book learnin’ on the subject

Uniformity

  • Uniforms will not be required
  • Unicorns will not be permitted to use Production Systems
  • We attempted (being serious now) to decide upon a “neutral” state in which to leave systems at the end of each session
  • Users MUST return systems to this neutral state
  • Leave all cabling the way you found it
  • Leave all patching the way you found it

Desktop Folders

The Hard Drives of each system are divided into four count’em four volumes, the folders of which you can clearly see on the screens if you squint hard enough. 

Mac OSX HD is the brains of the computer.  Do not touch this folder.  Don’t load anything into this folder.  Don’t even look at it for more than a second or two if you can help it.  You never know what might leap out at you

Support

  • Jim and Tim are only too happy to help with whatever problems you have.  Especially if they’re Production Hardware problems.  Call them.  Don’t forget to say “please”

Firewire

  • Fred Flintstone volunteered the information that Studio F has a D-Cart system as well as two production systems with Firewires and that with three people working in there it was ridiculous – if things get busier, this could become a problem
  • Betty volunteered to “ponder” this information
  • Arnold further volunteered the information that studio B “sucks”
  • Betty volunteered to “ponder” this information too

Availability

  • Fred expressed the opinion that these notes (the very ones you are currently perusing) should somehow be helpful
  • Jim expressed considerable skepticism at this notion

Training

  • Some people have (gasp) zero training
  • Betty suggested that in situ tutorials might help (I’m just guessing at the spelling of “in situ” – Betty and her fancy French!)

Th-th-th-that’s all, Folks!

You’ve come to the end.  If you’re still reading, phone 5555 and utter the code word “Rosebud.”  No, really.

Photo by Ana Arantes from Pexels
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