The Push to 300000

So. My car is getting old. 2017 - 2008 wants to be nine years, but given the reality of the car market, it's closer to ten years. I've only owned it half that time, but I have to say that I've used it a lot. So much so that it's gone over 200,000 kilometres. 140,000 of those were mine, give or take.

With my new job, I am putting a lot of kilometres on the car, and I thought it might be nice to get something new, that is a little easier on the gas tank, than my 5 cylinder, 2.5L car. It's good, but I thought something new would be more appropriate, and would be less likely to run into the problems that a senior citizen of a car would have. So, I took a look at the Nissan dealership and found out about the Nissan Micra. Holy crap. A car that is less than $10,000, brand new? Where do I sign?

I went out for a test drive today, and, despite being underwhelmed by the power, and less than enthusiastic about the handling (honestly, my Rabbit is the best driving experience I've ever had), I was convinced. It is the less-than-impressive-but-good-on-gas car I thought it might be, and it's starting at kilometre 1. Throw in a warranty, and a tank of gas, and I'm sold.

Except.

Really, senior citizens get no respect. Despite a clean record, smooth running, and reliably conducting me from the country to the city every day for four and a half years, the people at the Nissan dealership were not even willing to give me a thousand dollars on a trade-in. Not that I would have accepted that, but that's what it was.

Now, I expect that kind of thing from car dealerships. When they're selling super-cheap brand new, low-level cars, their profit margin has got to be super-tight, so their ability to negotiate is minimal. I do accept that, and if the Rabbit were on the verge of falling apart, as the trade-in value would have you believe, then I would be willing to accept their deal. But it didn't feel right. I didn't like the idea that the Rabbit was done, that there was no value in it for me. And yes, I accept that I could go down the road of kijiji, and I could use that money as a down payment for a Micra, but that's not good enough.

I know that giving up the Rabbit for a Micra would be a step down. It was a step down that I was willing to take in order to save money on gas and nip old-age problems in the bud before they happen, not to mention avoiding the work that needs to be done to fix a fuel pump problem. But if the trade-in value of the Rabbit is essentially nothing, then that gives me some freedom. The car is essentially paid off, nothing that I do is going to lower the resale value, and let's face it, a few hundred dollars here and there to deal with decrepitude is NOTHING compared to the price of a new car, even one as cheap as the Micra. So, this is what I'm going to do:

I'm going to keep driving the Rabbit. I've scheduled some maintenance time at my local mechanic, and we're going to see to the fuel pump thing, get an oil change, and maybe clean up some nagging problems, then we're going to see if we can't get the old girl up to 300,000 kilometres. At my current rate, I figure that's about 4 years. But I'm not done yet.

If I pretend like I have a car payment coming out every month and set it aside, then in 4 years (assuming the Rabbit is up to it), I'll have something like $12,000 in the bank, which would either be enough to get something like the Micra or a reasonable down payment on something else. What is that something else? I don't know. Maybe something akin to the Chevrolet Volt.

Regardless, this is the plan. Unless the cost to keep the Rabbit on the road is too big, right off the bat. Then I'll go in and get the stupid Micra.

Impetus for Change

For any constant readers who don't know, I've accepted a job offer and I'm moving on from Haemonetics. Moving on, once again, from Bisonweb. In order to do so, I've had to come to terms with how things ended at Gamesys, and basically, and as stupid as it sounds, had to forgive the notion of permanent employment and the failures I've suffered at its hands.

When things fell apart at Gamesys, I was angry, I was bitter, and I didn't want to be. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to be productive, and, if I couldn't have what I had at Gamesys, I wanted just a crap-ton of work to bury myself in.

Coincidentally, Haemonetics had a crap-ton of work that they needed to get done, and no luxury of time. Sounded good, so I signed up. Bisonweb rides again. It's funny how, three times, a contract at Bisonweb has rescued me from a bad employment situation. I probably should give some thought to that and acknowledge the role they've played in my career. Maybe that's a blog post for another day.

Anyway, it didn't take long for all that pent-up crap that I was feeling but not acknowledging about Gamesys to get into my head. I started going to a not good place. You know what? Fuck it. Call it what it is, Liam. I was in a full-blown state of anxiety for two months.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is what anxiety looks like for Liam: No sleep. Sleep is for people who can take care of their shit. You want to rest? Stop fucking up, idiot. Also, increased work hours. I'm not talking, like, an extra ten hours a week. I'm not talking about maybe picking up some extra time on the weekend or after the kids go to bed. I'm talking about 40 extra hours a week, that I didn't bill for, busting my ass because ... I dunno... because the big bad boogieman is going to get me if I slow down? Anxious Liam doesn't stop to take a look at what he's doing. It's too late for that. It's time to buckle down and put on the ol' hermit-hat and just get the job fucking done. I'm usually wide-eyed, looking in the direction of my laptop, and if you're talking to me, you're getting maybe a quarter of my attention. Not because I don't appreciate you or care what you have to say, but because I need to be on top of things.

Needless to say, last November and December, and more than a little into January (but I think I'd moved past it by February) were my own little Hell. It was a Hell of my own making, I accept. It was my unwillingness to stop, take a look at where I'd come since September when my job fell apart, fear of judgment, and the pride that says, "You can do it yourself. Just work a little harder." I didn't ask for help. I didn't speak out. And I didn't slow down. Eventually, I hit a breaking point and talked to my team lead. I forbade myself from working any overtime for a couple of months, and I got my life back on track. Boy, I bet I was a bundle of fucking joy to be around. I'm sure Kim could tell you.

All right, that part's done. It's said. No takesies-backsies. Anyway, I'll admit that things stagnated at Haemonetics. We've been waiting for new work to be approved for a couple of months, and I know that, despite the attitude in Edmonton, head office doesn't like using contractors. I didn't start a campaign to get a new job, but when my friend Robb asked about how I was doing, I was honest. I did all the stuff I talked about in the other blog post, forgave an abstract concept, and took the job.

And they all lived happily ever after, right?

Not so much.

There was a fair amount of anxiety that came with that decision. The new job has a whole bunch of new responsibilities, challenges, and growth that will be pushed on me. I'm equal to the task. But, you know, things. And the past. And anxiety telling me things that aren't true, sending my mind in circles, trying to solve problems I haven't been given yet.

I took control. I took a step back. You know how hard it was to make myself take that step back? Let's just say that, when I agreed to meet with the bosses at IntelliWave, I knew I was going to have to have this conversation with myself. That was December 7. I managed to push it off by just about a month before I finally managed to make it happen. The first step was the hardest. I took out a notebook. I took out a pen. It's galling to me to realize that up until that time, I hadn't sat down and written anything the whole time during the application process, or anything for a couple of weeks before that. That first conversation with myself didn't really go so smoothly. I chit-chatted a little bit. Not exactly about the weather, but, you know, things that weren't consequential to where I needed to get. Still, as I wrote in that entry, "For now, it feels good to just spray some ink onto the page." I knew I didn't have it in me then, but I knew what I needed to do, at least.

Finally, I got on my ass and sat in front of that notebook until words came out. And I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote about what went wrong at Gamesys, I wrote about where I had failed, where I had not failed, and what lessons I would take from that experience. Finally, I wrote down some intentions that I am going to take with me to IntelliWave, to start the next stage of my career, with a company I am ready to believe in. I think this will help me get a good jump-start on my new job, and I am happy to say that, with this analysis, the anxiety is gone, replaced with an almost giddy anticipation. I get to work with my friend Robb again, with tools and process I can help choose. Let's get to work!

Originally, the intentions I wrote about were going to be the thrust of this blog post, but I realized I needed to get the rest of it out, the bits about the anxiety, both at the end of 2015 and at the end of 2016. I do intend to write about the intentions, their genesis, and what it can mean, but I've exhausted my reserve of words today, and I'm sure you've got... oh... something to do besides reading more of this.

The Evening Redness in the West — or — Forgiveness all Around

I'm not going to lie, when I left Gamesys, I was done. Done with permanent employment, done with "career paths" and "the promise of advancement." I was angry, sad, and disappointed. I went back into contracting, sure that I would never go permanent again. It was a fool's notion. A silly thought that I could stick it out, that there was even something for me in that world. I turned back to contracting with Haemonetics. It was something I knew, somewhere I could just put my head down and work.

Jon Secada, you crazy sage, you, you were right when you said that Time Heals all wounds.

The fact is, the first eight months or so of my Haemonetics time was very cathartic. I had my head down the majority of the time, working copious overtime, and getting stuff done. There were no politics, no worries about getting shut down, and it was something I was familiar with.

Eventually, though, I started feeling the pull of the things I'd had at Gamesys. Leadership, mentoring, a little agency where process is involved. Let's not kid ourselves, when you're living under ISO-13485, there isn't much room for a contract developer to have any sort of opinions about the software development lifecycle. Regulations are strict, and if a company wants to be in that space, they need to meet or exceed those rules every single time.

I'm not saying I'm a guy who plays fast and loose with the rules. I work with what I'm given, and I do my best. But I do my best when I feel like I have a voice. When I feel like I can have a say, and maybe in a place that isn't quite so locked-down.

Three weeks ago, I started interviewing for a position. It sounded great. One of those positions that doesn't seem to come along very often. Something a lot like what Gamesys was, without the heavy breath of head-office on the back of my neck. I made my way through the twists and turns of the hiring process at Intelliwave, and they seem to like me as much as I like them. The TL;DR of this piece (not just at the end, Cliff, but buried in the middle of the story. Beat THAT...) is that I've accepted a position, and I start on January 16th.

What am I going to be doing? Well, it's been made clear to me that I'm one of two senior developers on the team, and the way the team grows and accommodates a backlog that is as impressive in its scope as it is in its ambition is going to be, at least partially, up to us. But for the most part, I'm going to be heading up the web development. Robb (you may know him as the double-b, I sure do) will be in charge of the back-end services, and together, we will make great things, build an awesome team, and have a lot of fun doing it.

I'll miss my spot at Haemonetics. They've turned a pretty big corner since the tall-cubicle days of 2009. The open concept is something I feel like would be a benefit to pretty much any development office, and I think Robb and I can take a bit of credit there too, maybe, as we dismantled part of our cubicle partition to more easily collaborate, way back in the day.

So, I've forgiven myself and Gamesys, and, absurdly enough, permanent employment. I really want this to be the one, the position where I can see myself retiring in ... ah, whenever they nail the coffin shut, I suppose, and I'm going to give it, and myself, every opportunity to make that happen.

Thanks, Haemonetics, for being there when I needed you.

Liam

Writing Lull? What Writing Lull?

Hi there. It's me, Liam. You might remember me from such times as that one Summer Blog Challenge, or the times that I've done other blog things. I'm looking around here, and it's hard to make anything out through all the dust. I mean, that picture in the corner, it's all faded from the sunlight, and dang if that 20 to 40 blog challenge didn't make a huge mess and just refuse to clean up after itself.

I wonder what anyone who cares to keep up with this blog thinks when I go away for a long time between posts. I mean, I'm reasonably active on other social media platforms, primarily facebook and twitter, so I doubt there's any concern after my health. But I wonder if you think I'm not writing.

Because I am writing. I write all the time. Just that a lot of the things that I write are not suitable for the blog. But I hit a milestone last night in some of the writing that is not for the blog, and I thought I'd bring it up, because it's something that I'm proud of.

Last year, despite professional upheaval, I decided to try something epic. I was going to try to write a 50000 word book in a month. By hand. I figured it was a new way to look at writing a novel, would let me let my thoughts outpace my writing, and hopefully come to something that was more readable than the novel that I'd successfully completed the year before. The novel I completed the year before is only notable in that it exists. It will not likely ever be edited or cleaned up, because it is stupid.

Anyway, as I should have anticipated, work and life got in the way of my lofty goal and I did not complete my hand-written novel in 30 days. It was too bad, too, because through two weeks, I was keeping up. But work just demanded too much.

Instead of 30 days, the novel took 362 days to complete, hand-written, every single word. And I think I like what I have. It's raw, no joke there, but it is a story that is remarkably less stupid than the one the year before, and if it isn't as cool as the one from two years before, it has the distinction of being finished. four days before NaNoWriMo is scheduled to start again.

I don't think I'm going to hand-write my book again this year. It's tricky, what with word-counts and time, and then the added time of eventually typing out the book into a computer if I want to ever actually do anything with it beyond putting it on a shelf to stare at.

Still, I wouldn't trade the last year of writing this book for anything. It's been an experience I won't forget, and if I do, there's a physical reminder of it. No, not the book, the indentation I have permanently scored into my middle finger from my pen.

Anyway, this isn't where I'm going to recommit myself to writing. I'm still writing, and I've been writing. But there are a few things I want to share with you before I jump back into the NaNo insanity. Thoughts about Luke Cage, thoughts about Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. You know, things.

They might not make it up here, especially if I don't get them written in time, but I am thinking of them, and chances are, I'm writing about them too, even if they don't end up here.

On Writing

Well, if that title doesn’t dissipate the cloak of humility I usually try to wear, I can’t imagine anything else would either. Now that it’s out of the way, I can get to what I want to say.

I’ve meant to be a better writer than I am. I’ve meant to be more consistent in my writing effort, and more conscious of the effort I am putting out, in order to be a writer with greater skill. I’ve wanted to fill my blog with poignant pieces, both about social issues and about personal things; about writing and programming, as well as the occasional piece of fiction.

I haven’t done any of this.

In fiction writing, I got off to a great start with my current project, sprinting out of the gate for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve stalled out a half-dozen times, changed directions more than once, and I’m at the point where the story feels stupid, unnecessary, and not worth my time.

I feel like I've been spinning my wheels and struggling uphill with writing, and the worst part is, I feel like I haven't gotten any better. It's very discouraging.

I'm sure that this would be a super-appropriate place to pledge renewed commitment to improving and inspire myself to new heights of productivity and quality.

2015 Houston Texans, Week 1: Kansas City

Week 1 with a new quarterback. Is there anything more hopeful than a team going into the season with a quarterback who earned his way into the lineup with an open competition? Never mind that he barely won the competition over the guy now holding the clipboard. Never mind how the guy actually performed when he played for the Browns. No. forget that. Mute the uncertain voice down to a buzz. At least for now. This is the coach's guy! Let's go! Game 1!

[Note: I'm kinda finding my way on this game writeup stuff. This one is going to be a bit more wordy than I intended, but there it is. --l]

The first drive had a couple of concerning pieces for Houston on defense. Nothing major, but Jonathan Joseph looked like what he was: a player who hadn't played at all in the preseason. Still, as the Chiefs got to near midfield, Jared Crick made a couple of plays and Whitney Mercilus made another, and the Texans got the ball inside the ten yard line.

One play. One play on offense was all the Texans got as Hoyer channeled his inner Matt Schaub.

Quite often, I can figure out a quarterback's decision-making process, what leads him to the thing he does. In honesty, I'm probably wrong, but I can at least make a guess with some level of confidence. I bet, if you were able to remove the identities from the game tape, Brian Hoyer would look at that video and be completely unable to tell you what that guy was thinking. He made some sort of blind fade-away pass straight to a Chiefs' player, and the Texans' drive was over.

The Chiefs didn't turn their noses up at this gift, and within a couple of plays, it was 7-0 Chiefs.

The Texans didn't make much of their next drive, but at least they didn't turn it over. Unfortunately, the improved field position didn't make much of a difference, and the Chiefs scored on that drive too, thanks to a wide open Travis Kelce.

The Texans made something of themselves on the following drive, when they put it in the end-zone, but Randy Bullock, clubhouse-leader of the "Why exactly is he still on teh team?" competition coming into the season, missed on the now-longer extra point.

On a drive that verified that Kelce is a beast, and that they were totally justified in paying Jeremy Maclin, the Texans managed to hold the Chiefs to a field goal.

Hoyer had some really non-stellar drives, one with head-scratching throws and a punt that led to another KC field goal, and then a fumble by Hoyer which was followed up by a one-play drive into the end-zone. The team traded three-and-outs then Houston got a field goal on their last drive before the halftime whistle. Remember when it used to be the halftime gun? Neither do I, but I do remember when they used that as a joke on a Goofy cartoon, so I suppose it must have been at some point.

HALFTIME: KC 27, HOU 9

Houston received the ball to start the second half, and some questionable hands on the part of the receivers led to a three-and-out. The defense was up to the task, though, forcing a punt as well.

3-and-outs and punts dominated the second half as both teams struggled to score. Eventually, it looked like O'Brian had enough of the futility on an intentional grounding call, since he went Full-Kubiak and called a draw play on third and a mile.

Strong defense got the Texans the ball back with something like 7 minutes left, and down by 18. Suspicions about O'Brian's patience with Hoyer were confirmed when the enigmatic Ryan Mallett took the reins. I will let my notes from the game tell the story of the following drive:

Mallett. Zip! Zip! Good throws with 5 minutes left, down by 18... TD! 2PT!

Exciting. And just enough time left so the argument could be made it wasn't garbage-time.

The defense stopped the Chiefs again, and Mallett drove them into scoring range again. A couple of WTF throws, though, meant they had to settle for a field goal. No biggie, since they needed two scores anyway. Except the kicker was Randy "weak year for kickers" Bullock, and the field goal was 47 yards. Still, the ball made it through the uprights, providing a little bit of drama with a doinker off the inside of the left upright. Within 7 points! One score! Not enough time, though, and no timeouts. So, the game ended on an anticlimactic note, with the Chiefs taking a knee or two and running the clock out.

FINAL: Kansas City 27, Houston 20.

There really isn't anything to pin on the defense in this game. There was the one drive where Kansas City scored on a play where Kelce was running wide open, but that was about it. They really clamped it down in the second half, completely shutting out the other team.

I won't say that Hoyer was complete garbage. He showed some flashes. Mallett looked like the man against a defense that was trying to hold onto a lead. Maybe I'm damning him with faint praise, but that was a lot more than Hoyer whose flashes were not nearly enough to balance out HANDING THE OTHER TEAM 14 POINTS. You're supposed to be the SMART quarterback, the one who manages the game and doesn't do stupid things. If you use your brain, for Christ's sake, maybe sneak a quick score in there somewhere, and the defense gives you this game.

2015 Texans after Week 1: 0-1

Up next: have fun trying to stop Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

2015 Houston Texans – Preseason

Through the magic of the internet, and thanks to the NFL, I have the ability to watch every game from last season right now. So, what am I doing with this newfound ability? Am I tracking the championship season of the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's last season? Am I looking at has, of late, been my second-favourite team, the Arizona Cardinals, and their nigh-unprecedented success? Or maybe scouting division rivals, to see what they might bring to bear against my beloved Texans this year?

Nah.

Instead, I'm getting ready for the upcoming season by looking at the Texans and how they did last year, the turmoil-filled season that saw yet another injury for Arian Foster, and a revolving door at quarterback between Ryan Mallett and Bryan Hoyer. Also, which saw the mid-season ouster of oft-underwhelming but never impressive kicker Randy Bullock.

You might ask yourself why I would subject myself to such a regimen. After all, there are more things to life than football, which will likely consume a large portion of my attention once the regular season comes around. Well, the thing is, I want to write posts about the Texans this year, and I figured this would be a chance to practice. Alongside this is the knowledge that I've been less than enthusiastic for football the last couple of seasons. Kubiak's dismal campaign coupled with the regime change, as well as other stuff going on in my life meant that I didn't have much stake. Well, I want that to change. So here we are, with the regular season looming, and I don't feel like I know my team as well as I'd like.

I plan on doing a write-up of the Texans game each week, and over the next couple of weeks or so, I'm going to watch the 2015 season, from the first game, a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, to the last game, a... um... a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. And you get to follow along.

Starting with my next post.

For now, I want to talk about the 2015 preseason, which was under a microscope for the Texans, the roster last year, and where it felt like we were heading into the regular season. Keep in mind, I'm going off a memory from a year ago, relying on a brain that has since celebrated its 40th birthday. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Hard Knocks

I didn't watch Hard Knocks last year. I don't subscribe to HBO, and I honestly wasn't concerned about it. But what I did get was an awful lot of hearsay from the announcers on the pre-season games, which were all available on the NFL Network. Who was funny on-camera, who was on the bubble, who was absolutely killing it in practice. These are things that I would have done horrible, bloody murder to know back in my pre-family-man days. As it was, life was happening pretty thick right around the time of the pre-season and Hard Knocks, so while I managed a job loss, a job search, and a new job, not to mention the dismantling of my main floor, the Texans went about the business of getting ready for the season.

Standouts

Some of the players that stood out were obvious: DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Jackson, the rookie corner Kevin Johnson. But there were some new guys. Obviously, getting gravity-hog Vince Wilfork was a big deal, and he impressed in camp at the same time as being a hilarious guy. But there was also Charles James. He was amusing. He was old-school, able to play defensive back and carry the football. I don't know why, but somewhere along the way, they let him go. Just released him. Spoiler alert, they eventually brought him back, but I'm still not sure why they got rid of him in the first place.

Open Competition

At quarterback, it felt like everyone was gone. EVERYONE. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Case Keenum. T.J. Yates. Pretty much the only one left was Tom Savage, who played in the preseason, but wasn't a factor in competition. Ok, ok... Ryan Mallett was also a holdover from the season before, but it never felt like that since he was hurt in 2014 and wasn't very much a factor.

He was one of the two quarterbacks in competition in training camp, however. He and Brian Hoyer who the Texans brought in as a free agent. Mallett had all the physical gifts, but Hoyer was supposedly the steadying influence, the guy who went about his work with a more professional attitude. In the end, in a much replayed and chewed over, and stewed over, and over-analyzed clip from HBO, Coach O'Brien let the quarterbacks know that Hoyer was his guy. Kind of. He said he wouldn't have a hair trigger, but that he wouldn't hesitate to go to Mallett if Hoyer wasn't up to the job. It was the most marshmallow decision I've ever heard, and it is very prescient over the rest of the season.

Impending Season

So, with the roster boasting a three-headed ... I won't call it a monster, maybe a three-headed muppet at running back, tight ends without a clear number one, and quarterbacks whose jobs were safe until they weren't, the Texans closed up training camp and got ready for the regular season.

Next post: Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs sees OB's words come to bite him in the butt.

Rescuing, Fostering, and Other Acts of Heroism

It started, for me at least, with good feeling. I learned about Zoe’s Animal Rescue through a friend who was fostering one of their dogs. Kim was maybe, possibly interested in adopting him. I wasn’t incredibly against it either. We could give a dog a good home, especially since we’d moved out to the country. Jack could use some caninely companionship. And really, I love dogs.

But it wasn’t until I got to know Jagger-who-would-become-Bear’s story that I really got an appreciation for just what Zoe’s do for the animals they take into their care.

When we got Bear, he was a skinny little thing, just sticks for legs and a bunch of ribs. I’ve seen photos of him from when Zoe’s picked him up, and if possible, he looked even worse. I’m not a veterinarian and I don’t know the details, but from what I understand, Zoe’s invested thousands of dollars to keep Bear from death’s clutches.

We’ve basically spent the last couple of years feeding Bear, and he’s filled out. No longer a skinny stack of twigs, he’s a massive, glorious dog, healthy and happy, whether he’s jumping in the pond for the fourth time that day or pulling a sled.

That was my good feeling. Y’know, the one that got me into fostering.

We’ve had, I think, five fosters since then, of varying shapes and sizes, from Melanie, who left us too soon, and passed on from a heart failure, to Sweet Georgia Brown, who was as sweet as her name implies. She came to us mangy and miserable, and every time I see pictures of her, with her shiny, healthy coat, and playing, I get wistful. Then there’s Chance, the big dog who liked to play and who didn’t like to be on the leash, and Poppy, who we completely failed to foster, because we fell in love and adopted her ourselves. And finally, Two-Bit, the super-cute chew machine we’re taking care of for now.

With all of the hard work that Zoe’s volunteers do, with all the emotion, time, and money they’re willing to invest to keep these dogs alive, it seems like a small sacrifice to open my doors to a dog for a week every couple of months. With three dogs already, the idea of a long-term foster doesn’t seem feasible to me, but I’m certainly happy to provide an interim place to stay, before they go to a long-term foster home.

My Friend Cliff

We grew up playing countless games of street hockey, football, tennis, even baseball. I totally forgive him for breaking my nose with a baseball bat the day of grade nine graduation (mostly because it was totally my fault).

Apart from sports, we've worked together on a lot of things: we've been writing partners, we’ve been the protagonists of our own stories, we've podcasted, we've had blog challenges together, and dueled via comments on various platforms.

I've been friends with Cliff for at least two and a half of his four decades, and as he embarks on his fifth, I can't help but look forward to whatever it is he cooks up.

Favourite Cliff Moment: I dunno. There are so many. Is it sneaking out of my house at three in the morning after waking up my mom? Is it the hilarity over whether I could drive some piece of construction equipment at Bonnie Doon Mall? Is it the complete debacle that was the NBA Hoop-It-Up tournament? Could be any of those.

Worst Cliff Moment: Was I not clear before? Dude broke my nose. Though there was also the ankle thing on his front lawn. And the wrist playing street hockey. Come to think of it, Cliff might just be hazardous to my health.

Happy 40th, Cliff. We're so goddamned old.

Also, Ass-kick and Nunchuk.

Becoming

I was too young. Then, I had my head in the sand. I honestly believed that racism, hatred, and xenophobia were on the sharp decline. I thought that things like, y’know, gender equality, and acceptance of LGBTQ were, if not here, at least inevitable. I have to face it: I was naïve. I was doing the lazy man's "good job" of substituting my life and my experiences for those of the world at large. This helps nobody and serves nothing but my own ego as I stick my fingers in my ears and smile inwardly at how good a man I am.

A child received rape and death threats because her mother dared to have an opinion. men made the decision to send rape and death threats to a child. A child was abducted and murdered because her mother made bad relationship decisions. a man decided to kill a woman and her child. And a very real human piece of garbage is about to be handed nuclear launch codes. But everything is getting better because, hey, none of that happens in my immediate vicinity. In fact, if I narrow my scope enough, nothing bad ever happens.

LA LA LA, can't hear you over the sound of me not raping or killing anybody!

I have to do better. We have to do better. Men, we can do better. Instead of "not raping anyone" and "not being that guy" being the alpha and omega of me making the world a better place, instead of just telling my son not to rape anyone instead of telling my daughter not to get raped, maybe I should see these as a pre-requisite for being a man. Not a good man, but a man.

Instead of letting my lack of horrific decisions be my legacy, letting that be the change I want to see in the world, maybe I should start doing things that are actively positive maybe I can say the things I think instead of just thinking them, and following it up with a "tsk tsk, how terrible," before finishing my cereal and getting on with my day.

Guys, and by that, I mean all you guys out there who are doing the hard work of not raping anyone and not sending death threats to little children, maybe you can join me in this. Instead of letting "not horrific" be good enough, maybe we can make our voices heard that not only should WE not rape and murder and threaten the same, but yes, ALL MEN should not rape or murder or be pieces of shit on the internet who hide behind anonymity and threaten little girls.

Finally, instead of carrying the standard and defending the purity of the millions upon millions of guys who are so amazing that they don't send death threats over twitter, instead of standing up for poor put-upon men who are lumped in with rapists and pieces of shit by women who have had enough, before you slam on the caps lock and unleash your "never done anything life-alteringly horrific" indignation with a "NOT ALL MEN" blast that you're sure will finally let the man's point of view be seen, because, by God, we haven't heard enough from the offended heterosexual white man, put your keyboard away, and try to understand. Before you try to explain why you're offended at being lumped in with all other men, maybe try to understand why that person chose to do that. Then try to understand why you're offended. Then, if you're still offended, log off and go eat some chips. Because I promise you, if you try to override someone else's feelings by telling them what they should feel, not only are you one of "those guys" but it's been said and done so many times by "those guys" that you won't be saying anything anyone hasn't heard.

As for me, I will make this my next first step. I admit that I haven't understood. I accept that I need to know more, to do more, and to do better. I hope I have the guts.