Blog Round-Up: Things I Saw This Week

Tanya from Dharmage points out the very real and very frustrating problem of HR simply neglecting to follow up with you even after you’ve been in for interviews.

I have a hypothesis as to why this happens: After the final interviews are done, a decision is made within about a week or two. Then, the offer is made to the successful candidate. There is a period between the time the offer is accepted and when the candidate actually starts the job, which can be anywhere from immediately to a month, depending when their current job can release them. Until that new hire can start, HR cannot inform the unsuccessful candidates in the event the new hire is somehow unable to take the job. They may want to keep the runners-up in reserve. But by the time the new hire actually begins, they simply let the other candidates drop. Hence, the “ghosting.”

It is an HR practice that really needs to stop.

Hey, speaking of HR, I’ve had a few interviews in the past few weeks, both in person and over the phone. They’ve all gone well but I believe I’m in that zone between waiting to hear back and being ghosted myself.

I have another tomorrow that came together at the last minute. It would be in an industry that I’ve never worked before and doing a few things I’ve never, ever done like matter budgets. But they want to interview me anyway. It was one of those “invisible job market” things where someone I met at a networking group got on with this firm and suggested my name to them. So who knows? I’d be working downtown so there’s that.

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Cartoon by Michael de Adder.

I am terrible at predicting political outcomes but here goes nothing: If reality TV star Kevin O’Leary becomes leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can breathe easier in 2019, despite my own misgivings about his leadership. My family back in the Maritimes, who are generally Tories, are perplexed by O’Leary’s popularity. He’s done none of the work one would normally expect a successful leader to do: win a seat, become Opposition Leader, serve in a government, read the Constitution. Lisa Raitt, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Maxime Bernier, and Steven Blaney have all done, in most regards, have done that work. Even Kellie Leitch has done that work and she’s a nutty racist. What O’Leary doesn’t know about government would fill a book that he would never read.

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Former fellow YULblogger Frank went and lost a truckload of weight. That’s no small feat because for dudes in their forties, when that fat is on, it will fight every inch of the way to get off.

As I mentioned last time, I’m on a bit of weight-lifting kick so it’s harder for me to lose weight when putting on muscle at the same time. Still, as I’ve gotten better at the exercise part of it, I’m now seriously monitoring my food intake with my trainer. Apparently, you can’t just go lift 300 pounds and then go to Five Guys for lunch and expect your waist to shrink. And there’s nothing like doing a deep squat and seeing all that fat pool around your midsection.

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Finally, here’s “Once They Banned Imagine” by Drive-By Truckers. A song I’ve been listening to since, oh, about November.

Are you now or have you ever been in cahoots with the notion that people can change
When history happens again if you do or you did you’ll be blamed
From baseless inquiry
To no knocking entry
Becoming the law of the land
To half cocked excuses for bullet abuse regarding anything browner than tan

Cause once they banned Imagine it became the same old war its always been
Once they banned Imagine it became the war it was when we were kids

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Speaking of America in crisis, I finally started watching The Americans on FX, in which a pair of KGB spies go deep undercover in Reagan-era America. It’s so good, I have to put my phone down while watching it!

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December Catch-Up

I’ve often been told by my homeowner friends that the first few years of owning a house is a bit of a strain on the finances, unless they’re my loaded homeowner friends who are simply allowing their lives to unfold as they expect them to. So we’re broke and facing a much more modest Christmas than years past. So far, presents have included a new hot water tank as a gift to each other.

In general, for every birthday, anniversary, and now Christmas, we’ve just been saying to each, “Happy Birthday/Anniversary/Christmas! I bought you a house!”

Still, we do see a light at the end of the tunnel when cash will be flowing a little more freely and we’ll just need to be frugal until that time comes.

In the meantime, renovations on a budget have begun. The downstairs powder room has been repainted Tardis blue. Our winter project is to tear up the carpet in the rec room, paint the walls, and put down a new floating floor and moulding. Further down the line, more rooms will be painted and the kitchen will be spruced up (without actually replacing the cabinets until a later date).

Now repeating kindergarten, James is now getting help for his dyspraxia from the Mackay Centre on Friday afternoons. But there is some concern from his teachers about his ability to handle a mainstream school. This a big worry of mine because I want him to manage his developmental delay enough to do regular schools with his friends. He has gross motor skill issues, some emotional issues, and an almost violent obsession with screens. But he loves books and our nightly reading of The Hobbit. But all of this will be discussed with his doctor in terms of options for the future. It’s a source of a bit of stress but we’re managing.

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On a happier note, we are now obsessed with a TV show call Real Humans that just finished its first season on Space. Broadcast in Sweden as Äkta människor, Real Humans takes place in an alternate present in which humanoid robots (or Hubots, as they’re called) are integrated in society as a servants and workers. This leads to a number of issues with regards to labour, friendship, politics, discrimination, and sexuality. Some Hubots, thanks to an obsessed scientist, have become free and wish to free other robots. These Hubots are lead by a Chrissie Hynde lookalike.

The show works really well when it presents the social issues and not quite as well when it gets down to the actual plot of the series involving a government conspiracy. It felt as though the writer was more interested in Hubots like Rick, the creepy personal trainer model who is altered to become his owner’s boyfriend and then starts behaving erratically. Some plot threads get dropped (or perhaps put off until season 2) but overall, it’s an engrossing series.

I’ve also been attending a writers’ class at the local library and as a result, have been writing a bit of fiction here and there that may, one day, get sent to a publisher. Maybe. I write about 500 words here and there, when I can steal time. Over the past couple of sessions, I’ve been presenting a science fiction story as I’ve developed it. One participant kind of sniffed and suggested it wouldn’t pass muster with the Quebec Writers Federation who prefer more literary efforts.

That instantly reminded me of Tom Gauld‘s famous cartoon.

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Other than that, work is good. I.T. is a whole other world from where I was. I do conference calls with Mumbai so that’s new. I have another week and a half of In work before Christmas and then we’ll be spending the back end of the holidays in Saint John. Hopefully we’ll meet up with some friends we haven’t seen in a while.

My Information Addiction

Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. I watched this spectacle on a solar-powered TV in a small Senegalese village (so small, in fact that not even the Google car has found it yet). The sound was bad and with my high school French, I struggled to understand it. I knew in the events leading up to it, that Berliners of both side were permitted to travel back and forth and I thought this was simply more of that. I had to ask around for a few days until I confirmed that, yes, it had come down.

I was eighteen years old at the time and while I missed home, there was a weird, helpless feeling not knowing what was going on. In that village, there was no electricity and few people had radios. The TV belonged to the village and was turned on once per night. The news would be presented in the majority language of Wolof, then again in the official language of French (or maybe I have it reversed). There were no shops so I couldn’t even scan newspaper headlines.

So I spent three months seeking out radio broadcasts or finding newspapers. I particularly liked the International Herald-Tribune. Late 1989 was a time of several historic events like the fall of communism, the impending release of Nelson Mandela, and the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique. I struggled to get details on all these events.

I’m not sure why it was important that I was aware of these things as they happened. My immediate knowledge of these events wasn’t going to change them. Perhaps it was because I wanted to be a journalist in those days and would eventually go to school for that. I made that my excuse to inhale news. Whatever the reason, I hated not knowing of certain events which is a silly thing to hate, really.

Later, when I attended a community college radio journalism programme, as part of our coursework, we had to run a community radio station. The newsroom had a teletype machine that I would watch type out breaking news. I loved the idea that as soon as I pulled that off roller, I would be the first to share this news over a closed circuit PA system with a bunch of disinterested agricultural students. I guess it was like being given a secret.

I would later repeat this behaviour at an FM station in Saint John where I did a work-study thing (I also may have sabotaged my career by refusing to work as an unpaid intern when my work-study stint was over). In the end, it may have been for the best. And later, when I attended university to get a degree in English, no Drama, no just English, I did the same thing and spent more time at the campus radio station than I did in class. But I did get to interview Svend Robinson and Rage Against the Machine, though not at the same time.

On trips out of Saint John to larger centres, I would find well stocked magazine stores so I could load up on alternative magazines like the Humanist in Canada, the Progressive, This, and Might. I wasn’t just interested in getting the news, I wanted to get a specific take on the news before I got the news. I subscribed to newspapers, went straight to the opinion pages. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be informed, I wanted to make sure my opinions reflected those of writers I admired and wanted to emulate as a journalist. I realize, of course, that this is what they call cognitive bias.

So, as you may imagine, when the internet became widely available and little more user-friendly for the masses, I declared that I had been waiting my entire life for this point. In the 2000s, it became extremely easy to tailor your bias through the news you consumed by simply choosing to read websites and bloggers who leaned a certain way and then declaring yourself well-informed.

Today, I still do this. My phone gets news alerts from CTV and Huffington Post. I love Flipboard for Sunday morning reading and when news breaks, I go to Twitter.

But I’m backing off a bit these days, in baby steps. I try to get other views on events, not just the ones that conform to my biases. And it’s really ok if I miss a story here and there. The fact remains I changed careers long ago, or simply realized that my original career just wasn’t going to happen, as they say these days, because of Reasons.

With all that said, it’s worth noting that my addiction to information was generally national and international news and almost never local, which I found dull. Today, that’s changed somewhat as, while it’s easy to find sources of national and international news, local news can actually be a challenge so I’ve been seeking out that out a bit more.

I think this has been just a roundabout way of me saying that I’ve been waiting all my life for nonstop, multiplatform access to news and opinion and now I have it and now I think its finally enough.

In Which I Dream About Justin

Warning: This post contains the recounting of a dream, which is officially the boringest thing one can talk about.

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of The Canadian Press

Photo by Sean Kilpatrick of The Canadian Press

Last night, I dreamed about a family reunion in which I was reunited with my long lost cousin Justin Trudeau. We had a good laugh about how long it’s been and he gave me a good natured ribbing about my support for the NDP and I, in turn, gave him a good natured ribbing about how, the last time we met, he had hair like one of the Musketeers.

People asked how we were related and, as it turns out, it was on both of our mothers’ side as one of my uncles married the sister of Margaret Sinclair.

We had such a good time at the family barbecue that I forgot that I gave bad directions to a friend who ended up parking her Yaris on Wolf Island (not Wolfe Island), a small circular land formation in the middle of the Bay of Funday which can only be accessed by land for one hour a day, thus stranding her there for the night.

I awoke in the middle of the night trying to figure out if I was in fact related to the leader of the Liberal Party. No, I only had one uncle on my mother’s side and he married a woman from New Brunswick who is no relation to Margaret Sinclar. Then I began to wonder if I was going around telling people that I was related to Justin Trudeau and a slight panic began to set in as I was sure I had and people would think I was a liar or a fantasist. It took a while for me to calm down long enough to remind myself that, no, I haven’t been making up stories about famous relatives before I would fall asleep again.

On a related note, I am attending a creative writing class at the local library tonight. I may be asked to leave.

September Catch Up

I realize that it’s been since June that there’s been a post so here’s a little update of what’s been going on.

We Still Have a House

Beyond the initial painting, not much work has gone into as summer came and we got ourselves busy. It was a combination of relatives coming through the place as they re-immigrated from Scotland to Canada (no they weren’t fleeing in the event of a Yes vote) and just the lack of desire to do any work when the weather is nice.

Plans are forming with regards to what we want to do with it. It needs a new kitchen, bathrooms, and rec room. All of which cost time and money which we don’t have at the money. In fact, since buying the place, we’re actually stretched a little thin. It’s temporary but it’s a pain and it prevents us from doing more with the place. What worries me is that we’ll get complacent and think, “Yes. The brown kitchen suits us fine.”

We Still Have a Child

He hasn’t moved out or anything as he just turned six. He may well be going to the MacKay Centre to help with his dyspraxia. Motor skills are still an issue for him but he’s a great reader and loves his books, especially comics. This bodes well for future movies we’ll be attending together. He may or may not be trick or treating as Star-Lord this year.

He also started a new school to go along with the new neighbourhood. It’s a bit different from his last one as I’d reckon our neighbourhood is maybe a peg lower on the economic scale than the last one but the people there seem pretty devoted so I’m generally happy with where he’s ended up.

He also learned a lot about Terry Fox this year and has continuously reminded us that he is dead now.

I Still Have a Job

It’s been about eight months since I started in the new place. I say I work in I.T. but I’m more of a link between the business and tech side of things. I’m for sure not bringing any special skills or knowledge to the table other than some general background from my previous department.

Anyway, it’s still interesting and I’m still learning but in general the vibe of the place is much preferable to my old place.

I’m Still Married 

Two years and some, doing life in reverse: baby, wedding, house. Take that, society and your so-called “rules”.

I Still Get Migraines

And they suck,

I Still Have Panic Attacks

They also suck, but I don’t get them as much as I used to.

I Haven’t Been to New Brunswick Since March

Mainly because of a busy summer but also, because we travel standby, the flights have been too full. It may be March before we get back.

Yes, we were planning to move there and have tried to make this happen a number of times, including me interviewing with a Certain Large Company there just to get there. You know how Maritimers have a reputation for being laid back and funny? This Company is not that. Oy, those interviews were un.com.fort.able. I may have dodged a bullet there. I’m sure I’ve said that before but it bears repeating, I guess.

Anyhow, I have a colleague who moved back to NB for similar reasons to us (larger family and social network, cheaper cost of living) and is thinking she may have a mistake. Quebec has a lot of services that NB can’t provide, particularly when it comes to education.

So the new job and the decision to buy a house means we’re here for quite a while.

And there are worse places than Montreal for a kid to grow up in.

My 2013 in review, according to WordPress

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2013: The Shatnerian Review

I think like a lot of bloggers, I’m constantly on the cusp of being a former blogger. Social media ultimately serves a more satisfying purpose for link-sharing with limited commentary. I certainly spent a lot of time on Twitter and Tumblr these days and, to a lesser degree, Google+. Facebook is where I share light-hearted PG-rated stuff because my mother reads everything.

But if I want to take a little time and just ramble on for a spell, my blog is always here for me.

So this was 2013.

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January

We rang in 2013 quietly, as has been the habit we’ve acquired this past few years, with curry and beer from the Indian restaurant down the road from our place.

I also interviewed for a job in Saint John. It was one of those remote interview things where I sit in a conference room and talk to people on a TV screen, Star Trek-style. Except Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway never had to deal with the video feed just cutting out. I didn’t get the position but over the past year, I noticed it kept getting posted and, twice, I was contacted via LinkedIn to see if I was interested in applying. The recruiter didn’t know I had already interviewed.

So I’m not sure who they think they need for the job. I hope they found him or her but somehow I don’t think they have.

February

We took a trip to Saint John in February to visit family and do some old school Maritime candle pin bowling. Seriously, It was like being back in the Maritimes in the 1980’s. I kept expecting Richard Hatfield to walk in and order a bottle of Moosehead Golden Light from the bar where people still smoke indoors.

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Pope Benedict XVI resigned and was replaced by an Argentinian who criticizes trickle down economics. And he was named Time’s Person of the Year.

So that was unexpected. That has pretty much been my reaction to everything he does as pope: “Oh, that was unexpected.”

But I’m not a Catholic, nor a Christian, nor a believer of any kind, really, but I do find these things interesting.

March

The first big concert of the year was Disney Princesses on Ice at the Bell Centre and en français. Hey, the tickets were free, the plastic souvenir sword was stupid pricey and James was afraid of Ursula.

The second big concert of the year wasn’t quite Disney on Ice but it was Sigur Ros.

By the way, that song is this:

In addition to Sigur Ros, I also got excited about some new music again. Frank Turner released his fifth studio album, Tape Deck Heart in March and it took up residence in the car for Spring and Summer.

In less edifying cultural news, Canada got its own version of Big Brother which was like all the other worldwide Big Brothers in that it started with a lot of promise and then you realize there’s no way you’re watching this for three hours a week.

I do know that a woman named Jillian from Nova Scotia won because the person casting the deciding vote messed up.

So that was a first. So..be proud, Canada?

April

Was it a shit winter? Yeah, it was a shit winter. Luckily, we were given a free stay in a small beach condo in Ormond Beach, Florida. So, of course that meant taking the wee lad to Disneyworld.
He didn’t know we were going until we got there, which is odd given that the minute you land in Orlando, you are reminded that the entirety of Central Florida is owned by that mouse.
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It was a last minute, unexpected vacation and I hadn’t been to Florida since 1981 and, really, after four months of winter, it was just nice to go somewhere with palm trees. Even without Disney or hand feeding giraffes at the Brevard County zoo, if I could sit quietly with a drink and look at the Atlantic Ocean, I would have been happy.

But Florida’s a weird state. On one hand it’s all tourist destinations like the theme parks, and the beach bars and Margaritaville and on the other hand, it’s places where you can pawn gold to buy a gun before hiring your “males only” divorce attorney. I avoided turning on the local news.

May

After spending a small fortune in car repairs, the old Corolla was finally retired and replaced with a gently used Mazda 5. I’m not sure how long I’ve lived this long without sliding doors and seats that lay down flat. The stereotype is that middle-aged men have a crisis about their faded youth and run out and get a sports car but a) current family budget does not allow for impulse purchases and b) I’ve always had a thing for practicality.

And that’s pretty much what I was doing in May.

June

In June, I received a beer kit for Father’s Day from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. Kerry thought it would be nice for me to have a hobby and well, I do enjoy the beer from time to time. Beer making is a actually a very relaxing process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail.

Because this is me we’re talking about, naturally, the bottled beer exploded all over the kitchen. So that experiment failed. But I may want to do it again, perhaps with an easier kit until I know what I’m doing.

July

It has been one year since we got married. To celebrate, we went to the UK for the first time since James spent his first Christmas in Scotland. The main point of the trip was to attend Langholm Common Riding which is basically an old home week for the Borders towns.

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But we also spent some time in London, Somerset (to see Kerry’s childhood home), and Edinburgh.

Seriously, go see Edinburgh. It’s beautiful.

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I also turned 42 in a pub near Paddington station in London where I enjoyed some real ales while Kerry and James were passed out in the hotel around the corner after a full day of walking around Covent Garden and Hyde Park, not to mention the bus tour and boat tour on the Thames. When James started falling asleep face first into his fish n’ chips, we figured we were pushing our luck with an almost five year old. We were also around the corner from where Prince George was to be born but we missed it by three days, fortunately. I think our part of London would have been insane.

I watched the news of the royal birth from a hotel bar in Edinburgh (yes, pubs and bars often feature prominently in our trips to the UK). The Scots weren’t quite as excited by news as the English but it didn’t exactly go uncelebrated either. I did have an interesting discussion about progenitor laws with a gentleman in there. We both noted that Elizabeth is Elizabeth I in Scotland as they never had a Queen Elizabeth before. He bitterly pointed out that the mailboxes are all stamped “ERII,” even in Scotland. Perhaps now that the Royal Mail has been privatized, that policy may change.

August

In August, my sister got married at our family church, followed by a backyard reception at our other sister’s place. My new brother in law is a great guy and I’m very happy for them both.

September

A new chapter in our lives began as our child entered kindergarten. It’s more expensive than daycare, if that’s possible.

Over the past year, we learned our child has a developmental disorder called Dyspraxia which explains a lot. Now that he’s been diagnosed, he’ll be getting some extra help at school. It’s been a challenge and a bit of learning curve but now that we know how to approach it, we’ve already seen improvement.

He also has a renewed interest in Lego now that he can get his fingers to listen to his brain.

Also, Janelle Monáe released The Electric Lady and all was right with the world. It’s like she’s invented her own genre of science-fiction inspired R&B/Hip-Hop. More sci-fi concept albums, I say!

October

The Mazda 5 had its first road test when we drove it from Montreal to Saint John for Thanksgiving. It still astounds me how long it takes just to get off the island of Montreal but when you’re doing it at rush hour, you’re just asking for trouble. We stayed the night in Riviére-du-Loup and saw snow geese flying over the St. Lawrence River. That was pretty much the highlight of the journey. The stretch between Quebec City and Edmundston may just be the dullest in Eastern Canada.

James is obsessed with superheroes. I may have nurtured that a bit. For Halloween, he got a Captain America costume and insisted on wearing it for days before the big day. Which was a good thing because Halloween night itself was kind of a miserable, rainy affair.

November

I interviewed for a new job which would see me moving into an IT-related role. I had two interviews in which I made the decision to be a little more frank than I usually am. That led to a second interview and that led to a third interview.

We’re also looking into moving to Saint John but I think the reality of that is that it will be a much longer plan. The career opportunities just aren’t as plentiful there as they are in larger centres.

For the first time since moving here, I wasn’t able to vote in the Montreal municipal election because I no longer live in Montreal. But Pointe-Claire got a new mayor. For the first time, I voted for the guy who won. It was between Morris Trudeau, a long time councillor and former cop, and businessman with little public service experience. I went with the former.

December

The Christmas season is full-swing at our house. The plastic tree is decorated with James’s homemade ornaments, 2012 Olympics Sydney Crosby, and Captain Kirk. James still believes in Santa Claus, which is nice. This, however, being his first year in school, some kids are trying to convince him the parents do it, like the mysterious American girl in Grade 2 who has no friends and is mean to everyone.

My parents are coming up for Christmas this year for the first time. I’m sure my father will somehow wrangle a trip to Chenoy’s for chopped liver.

Santa came early for us. The old PC and laptops were dying slow deaths (the latter was the result of an apple juice spill from someone who will not be named) so a new PC was ordered. And we got a Smart TV after 10 years of watching the old 27″ tube TV so we’re all technologically advanced these days. We’re running movies off the PC, we got the Netflix and YouTube and I’m getting caught up on movies I’ve been meaning to see.

Best science fiction movie of 2013? Pacific Rim. Hands down. I didn’t expect this much character development in a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters.

Or maybe Gravity is the best, but I haven’t seen that yet.

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Oh, yes. I also finally saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel because I will always watch Star Trek, even when I hate it (and boy did I hate it) and will always watch comics-to-film adaptations.

I don’t so much hate the new movies (although they are aggressively dumb) so much as what they represent which is a discontinuation of the universe built by the shows and movies up until 2009. I have a long, really nerdy blog post about it but I’ll leave it at that.

Man of Steel seemed almost embarrassed that it was about Superman so they made their title character kind of dick. It was also two hours of this:
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I’ve been a member of the NDP for the past couple of years but lately I’ve been thinking about giving up the membership and going unaffiliated again. But then Tom Mulcair went and sent me a Christmas card so now I feel guilty for wanting to leave.
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How could I break that heart?

Nelson Mandela died. The only time I had ever been to Africa, he was still in jail but mere months away from being released. I was in Senegal, six thousand kilometers from South Africa but Mandela still loomed large there. I remember the taxis had one of two photos in their rear windows: Nelson Mandela or Marilyn Monroe.

Remember that third interview from last month? Sure you do. Well, that was the one that did it. I got me a job in a kind of/sort of I.T. field. It’s a completely different background from what I’ve been doing for the past eight years. But it’s a relief, in a way, to go into something that is completely new.

So there it is: 2013 turned out to be a pretty big year for us. Kid starting school, two big trips, a new career, and some new stuff. So what can we do in 2014?

How about a new member of the family?

A cat. I meant we’re going to the animal shelter to adopt a cat.

Happy Holidays, everyone!