And We’re Back!

FTP Screen
I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at this FTP screen lately.

It’s been a fun three days.  I decided to make some changes to my hosting setup, which changed the location of this blog among other things.

After several emails to my hosting support, including one step that only they could perform, I have my hosting configured properly.  My bakery website is not completely moved to a new hosted wordpress environment and this host is configured for this blog and a some other blogging ideas I have.  (The skeleton of my next project is underway.)

The biggest unforseen hiccup was that I was without email for two days.  One day for the hosting folks to make their change and one to adjust all my MX records properly.  But even that’s all working now.

Onwards and upwards!

My Three Words for 2016

I’ve been listening to what Chris Brogan has to say for at least 8 years now.  One thing Chris does consistently is to pick three words to guide his work and life for the coming year.

Three words.  Way simpler than a vision statement or grand manifesto.  Or is it?

I mean, if you’re going to dedicate the entire year to focusing on only three words, they better be pretty good ones.  Broad.  Vibrant. Important.  Talk about pressure!

I’ve never done this before, but I have been struggling with focus lately (some may say for a long time) so I decided to do the three words exercise this year. I need some direction and it’s gotta come from inside me.  So here goes.  My three words:

Present.   Open.  Carnal.

Oooh, deep!   Let’s break this down.

Present

I have a really hard time living in the here and now.  I’m either full of regret about the past or worried about the future.  It’s no fun, believe me.

When I’m working, walking or talking with friends,  I will focus on the present. What I’m doing, seeing, hearing right now.

Where I am is much, much better than where I was or where I think I’ll end up.  So let’s love what’s happening around me now.

Open

When I’m caught up inside my head, everyone suffers.  I’m going to open up a lot this year.

I’ll open myself up to truly listen to people.  Their dreams, desires, problems and joys.  I can better help people if I’m truly listening.

I’ll share my hopes, dreams and challenges too and ask for help.  There’s no point putting on a strong face if I’m struggling with something.  And there’s no sense being afraid to say what I want to accomplish either.

I’ll take a page from Austin Kleon and show my work.  If I keep things bottled up till it’s perfect I’ll never ship anything.

Carnal

Here’s a word I picked up from Mary Karr.  It’s powerful.  Possibly controversial. It’s also perfect, so I’m using it.

The way she uses “carnal” it isn’t referring to sex specifically.  It’s referring to experiencing the world and talking about it, using all one’s senses.

That’s what I’m going to do.  When I write, I’m going to capture everything: the feel, smell, taste and sound of thing I’m describing

I’m going to capture the light and colour of the world around me when I paint

And when I travel, around town or around the world, I’m going to capture everything I experience as vividly as I possibly can.

Carnal is also a reminder to write the truth of what I see and experience.  I often sand off the rough edges of whatever I’m describing so as to not offend anyone.  I’m likely going to turn some people off with my writing this year.  That’s OK.  I’m going to turn others on even more this way, I know it.


 

So there you have it.  Three words that will get me out of my head and seeing things in bold, loud, smelly colour.  I’m very excited about the year ahead.

Fear of Music

I bought a premium subscription to Spotify several months ago.  It’s really starting to grow on me.

The main purpose was to have some peace at the bakery.  My Dylan-heavy playlist was getting on the nerves of the other bakers, but I wasn’t willing to listen to their house music or kiddie pop.  The Spotify subscriptions has a wide enough selection of music that there was something for everyone, even (god forbid) customers.

It’s really cool to be able to think of pretty much any music artist and be able to find their music in one place.  We can get a reggae playlist in seconds.  Same with soul music (you want classic or contemporary R&B?)  New music, old music, rock, country, folk or classical, it’s all there.

Sure there are a few things missing.  The Van Morrison collection is very, very slim, and I can’t find a good version of David Bromberg’s “Testify.”  And the Spotify curated playlists can be woeful (“Your Favourite Coffeehouse” is so mellow I’d need to order 3 extra shots of espresso.)  But Discovery Playlists make up for all of that.

The Discovery Playlist is a playlist selected just for you.  It’s around two hours long (30 songs or so) and is  based on the music that you pick regularly.  The twist is that the algorithm picks similar music, both old and new.

A new playlist shows up every Monday and exists for only one week.  So I have a week to listen to the whole thing and flag the artists and songs I want to hear more from.

It’s a neat trick.  I’m reminded of older artists or albums that I haven’t heard in ages, but the playlist also highlights new artists that I want to check out further.

I’ve been paying attention to my Discovery playlist for several weeks now.  If there’s a song I like, I add it to a special playlist so I won’t forget it (my Discovery playlist refreshes after a week and I can’t get it back any other way.  That “Master List of Discoveries” now has over 300 songs and I’ll likely add 20 more next week.

The only problem, and the one that inspired the title of this post, is what the algorithm says about my current musical tastes.  It’s trending towards 60’s and 70’s folk rock and American roots music.  I love it, but my tastes are actually more diverse than that.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to experiment with listening to specific styles to see if they will show up on my Discovery playlist.  Will listening to AC/DC for a week get more hard rock on the playlist?  What about a week of Orchestra Baobab?

I’ll keep you posted.  :)

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

We just got back from a Christmas holiday to Calgary and Fernie, and not a moment too soon.   Another day or two and I’d end up causing a big fight.

The trip was great, but highlighted by a series of strange communication errors. Either I would only hear half of what someone was saying, or I’d only say half of what I meant.  So many situations were unnecessarily strained, from arranging a meeting with my aunt and uncle or sorting the recycling as we cleaned out the condo in Fernie.

Inevitably I’d get frustrated by the misunderstanding.  Of course we were going to meet today!  Clearly this pile is recycling and that is garbage!  Then I’d get accused of being ‘snippy’ which would raise the tension three more levels.

Luckily we had a nine hour drive home where I could stew, mope, then try to figure things out.  I was taken back to a “Crucial Conversations” class I took years ago where the instructor kept quoting the Spice Girls.

Tell me what you want.  What you really, really want!

If what I really, really want is smoother, easier, stress free conversations with my friends and family (and I do), then that’s what I need to focus on.

Relax.  Get centred.  Explain in detail what I’m thinking.  Ask for feedback.  Ask for input.  Ensure we have understanding.  Then ensure we agree on the next step.

It’s hard for me, because I’m either experiencing life in big gulps and don’t want to stop, or I’m anxious about something and am dancing around the issue.

But if I’m going to reduce the number of Defcon 4 moments, I better stick to the program.

Relax.  Get centred.  Explain in detail what I’m thinking.  Ask for feedback.  Ask for input.  Ensure we have understanding.  Then ensure we agree on the next step.

I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, but it seems I have one this year.

Thanks for this

(this post is written on my ipad, so is likely festooned with typos. Sorry. When I make my million I shall buy a Macbook like all the cool kids.)

(it deserves pictures and links too.  That will need better than this iPad!)

We left the frozen prairies yesterday and flew to the Shangri-la that is Victoria BC. We almost didn’t make it; the fog was so thick and so low that the pilot didn’t think we would be able to land. But we landed OK (I saw the ground 5 seconds before we touched down) and before we were in the city the fog had burned off.

The rest of the day was spent walking around one of the truly beautiful Canadian cities in brilliant sunshine and +8C weather. I kept muttering, then saying, then shouting “It’s the freaking 8th of January!!” It was glorious. I don’t know why I put up with -30C weather in Saskatchewan every winter.

The 10 day blogger challenge had a rest day yesterday – no posts required, but we were all asked to meditate on the things for which we were grateful. I think the point is that we’ll be better writers if we write from a more generous and grateful posture. No complaints there.

It’s tough to meditate when you’re walking and gawking and staring into the sun though. But by the evening I had some time to sit and think and make a list. I decided to post it anyway. Here we go, in a rather jumbled order, but I want to let it flow and not get into ranking things.

– Independent Food Purveyors. I admit it. I am a first world, city dwelling, North American man. I have first world problems. I can eat anything and go anywhere. But I have a big problem with the pervasive sameness of chain stores and chain restaurants. I’m so sick of the Walmarts and Costcos and “Original Joe’s” of the world. So here’s a shout out to Willies and Big Wheel Burgers and Fry’s Bakery, three must eat places in Victoria. When I think of this city I think of you first.

– Farmers, Gardeners, Growers and Millers. You folks care so much and work so hard to take care of the land and make us the best food. Nobody knows you. Nobody gives you the credit you deserve. But without you we’re nothing.

– Mother Earth. Gaea. Nature. The Land. Call it what you will but please don’t call it “the environment”. You are beautiful. You are majestic. You are comforting. You are formidable. You are nourishing to body, mind and soul. I may be a city dweller but I feel a deep, deep connection to the land.

– My parents and sister. From my earliest memory, my mom thought I was brilliant and smart and could do anything. I’ve been driven my whole life to make her proud. I miss her so much. My dad teaches me acceptance every day. To accept people as they are and not as you want them to be. That everyone has their own definition of happiness and contentment. And my sister reminds me that relationships change and morph and grow over a lifetime and are worth working on.

– My heros and mentors. I’ve been so lucky to have met and been touched by amazing people. In this internet world, I’ve not even met them all face to face, but that’s OK (for now.)

Some are bakers (thank you Tracey and Nancy and Yvan and Michel and Didier and Eric and Fran and Amy and Leslie and Trent and Craig) some are former co-workers at SaskTel (that’s a whole other post), some are local business owners (hi Rod, hi Aimee.) Bob and Neil just inspire me to keep things weird.

But two people stand out. Seth’s writing and speaking has influenced me more than anyone; he’s pushed me to make a difference in the world every day for over 10 years now. And Bernadette inspires me to think deeply about the people I serve and to make a deeper, meaningful connection with them. They are as important to what the bakery has become as any baker or miller.

– My friends. I’m come to terms with the fact that I enjoy the company of many, many people, but I don’t have many friends. If it comes right down to it, I have three, but they are lifetime friends. When you get to the point in your life where you’ve been with some of these people for over 30 years, you know there’s something special there. So thank you Kirby, Renee, and Curt. I’m so glad our lives have been intertwined like this.

– My family. Oh my God how I love my family. To connect with another person the way I have with Cindy is the most amazing thing in my life. To say she makes me complete sounds so corny, but it’s true. She’s my rock when I am drifting. She’ll give space to figure things out but will also give the the kick in the pants I need to keep moving. She’s forced me out of my comfort zone so many times and out of my head when I’m too deep in my thoughts.

I cherish the relationship with my kids so much. I see so much of Cindy in them, and myself, but they are their own unique people too. It’s a miracle really. I love every day with them, good, bad and neutral and have at every stage of their lives.

Hmm…if the point of this exercise is to make my heart bigger, it’s worked. My chest is full to bursting. Now I’m off to enjoy another sunny, warm, ‘winter’ day!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Today is Day 3 of the 10 days to a better blog challenge and the topic is all about The Writer’s Environment.   What is your writing space like, what rituals do you go through, and so on.

I can’t bear to write about my space because it’s a complete and utter mess. My writing space is also my home office, where I do the books, payroll, filing and the like for the bakery.  Well, kinda.  I haven’t filed anything since Thanksgiving and hadn’t really done any book work in a month either.  So my office was a sty. Major cleaning was required.

It took a good couple of hours to get to where I could see a work surface, but once I got the momentum going I was really into cleaning.  Next up:  the bakery file system.  That needs cleaning too, but I needed to figure out how to print a list of all the folders in the file system.  How do I do that in Windows 7?

I Googled a solution and it turns out that I can do it the same way I could when I was 20.  The good old DOS “DIR” command.  Ahh, DOS.  I haven’t seen the lovely C: prompt in years!  And wow was it quick!  No windows, no icons, just a fast, complete data stream.  I spilled it to a text file, printed it out and I was set to cull. A simple command did the job.

I was inordinately happy.  That simple command line, short command, with switches even, took me back to my youth and my first days as a programmer.  It really got me reminiscing…

One of my first ‘professional’ jobs was as a Co-op student at SaskTel, back in 1986.  I would configure and install PC’s in peoples offices.  Back in those days, PC’s were expensive — $3000 or more, heavy, and they didn’t do much.  But if you had Lotus 1-2-3 you could run spreadsheets.  WordPerfect let you write reports (typically business cases to buy more personal computers!) And if you had DataEase you could build a full on database application.  Just memorize the function keys and all the commands and go!

lotus-123

Back then, if you were stuck on a problem you couldn’t just Google an answer. There weren’t even “Dummies” books.  Everything there was to know was in the big, bulky manual.  Or even a set of them.  Every cubicle had a shelf above the computer desk that was full of manuals for every software package on the computer and they weighed more than the computer.  Including the Operating System.  And the only real operating system was DOS.

I remember so clearly how I’d comb through the back of the manual, looking for the command, or series of commands I needed to get my computer to do what I wanted it to do.  Sometimes it would take hours but it was necessary and so much fun too.

runningdos1

And I very clearly remember all the support calls we’d get from users who wouldn’t read their manuals.  They’d never even take the shrink wrap off! Instead they’d call 4135 (how can I still remember that number?!) and we’d answer their question.

(My favourite all time call didn’t have anything to do with the manual — a lady called because she missed the disk slot — she’d stuck her floppy disk between the drive and the computer housing!)

With my computer today I can do amazing things.  I can write this post and instantly publish it to the world, while listening to the Australia – India Test in the background.  I can edit pictures in seconds and even record a video of me typing if I want.  All in seconds, from my tiny basement office on the frozen Canadian prairies.  But these days I’m always looking for the easiest, best way to do everything within the top 5 Google search results.  I miss the feeling of digging and digging to find the right command to do the simplest of things.

So I think Day 11 of this ‘blogging’ challenge might just be taken over with Day 1 of the ‘Learn Python (or Ruby, or Javascript) in 10 Days’ challenge.

I’ll be sure to write all about it.

 

 

Why I Write

I’ve been thinking hard today about why I write, why I want to write more and why I want to get better at this.  As can be expected, this is a work in progress, but here’s what I have so far:

  • I just plain admire writers.  Writers who make the complex seem simple. Who make me laugh.  Who make me cry.  Writers who inspire me to live my life fully and do great things.   I want to be one too.
  • Writing makes me extroverted.  Deep down I’m a really shy guy.   I’m not the person who’s going to make contact in a crowded room.  It’s a real force of will to make a phone call some days.  But I’m a bolder, more outgoing person when I write.
  • I want to teach.  I want you to bake great bread.  I want you to eat great bread.  I don’t ever want you to have a bad meal or a bad outing in Regina, or any city I’ve been to.  I want to be a better person and help you be a better person.
  • I want to entertain you. A nod.  A smile.  A belly laugh.  I want to be the guy who makes your day better.
  • I write to make sense of things.  There are a lot of ideas rolling around in my noggin and writing helps me make sense of my own thoughts.  I’ve written several posts that start as a problem and then have to be re-written, since the act of writing about the problem opens up the solution.
  • I write to silence my inner critic.   Left to its own devices, my mind will destroy me.  Oh yes it will.  90% of the time my lizard brain is telling me I’m no good, I’m a fraud who will soon be found out, and I’m better off just quitting everything and go for a nap.

Bottom line for me is that I write to touch people.  Whether it’s a blog post or a love note.  Whether I get a comment or it just fades away.  I want to make a connection with you and change you a little.

Even if it’s as simple as slicing your own bread.

Proper Meals

I was inordinately happy at suppertime today.  Ben and Robyn and her friend Josh were all home for supper.  Cindy and I made a nice, simple pasta dish, with a salad and garlic toast.   We started cooking at 5pm and sat down to eat at 6.

That may sound rather boring but we needed to be on vacation to pull off a standard, nothing fancy but made from scratch meal.

One of the things that I miss the most about life “before the bakery” is the absence of proper meals.  That is, supper made at home, served between 6pm and 7:30pm, and eaten at a table by at least two or maybe all four of us.  Our crazy sleep patterns mean that this very rarely happens.

Why is that?  Time, really.  Time of day, that is.   Cindy and I typically get home from the bakery between 1pm and 2pm and our bodies are screaming for lunch.  Aside from a snack at the bakery we really haven’t eaten a meal since 3:30am and that is typically a bowl of cereal or some toast.  So by lunch time we are hung-a-ry!

So a big lunch at 2 means we’re not really hungry at 5, so who wants to make supper then?  Not me, that’s for sure.  And maybe I’m up for a snack by 7:30, but I thought one’s not supposed to eat and then go straight to bed.  I try to get to bed by 8pm, 9 at the latest so a proper supper is always crashing in on my bedtime.

I think the proper solution is to make supper when Cindy and I get home from work, even if it’s at 2pm.  Then the kids have something to eat at a more normal time, even if it’s left overs.  And we get more time for things to settle before bed.

Now I just need to get the energy to cook after a long day of baking.  That’s a lot of time spent in a kitchen! But it’s worth it if that means we can eat better and maybe lose our ‘too much drive thru’ pudginess.

Travel Plans

Cindy and I are heading off to Victoria for a few days later this week for a rest and some warmer weather.  It was -33C this morning so even rainy and +6C will feel pretty darn nice.  And we get to visit with our great friend Renee.  AND, it’s off-season, so we got a suite in the lovely Oswego Hotel in James Bay for barely half what the Super 8 in Estevan costs these days.  Lovely.

victoria
Our hotel is just behind this little building.

I enjoy these little mid-winter getaways.  Victoria is a lovely city to walk in — lots of coffee shops, the best used bookstore ever, and some fine restaurants and bakeries.  Great breakfasts too.    But my highlight will be getting to visit Fry’s Bakery when they are open!

Many, many hours will be spent here.
Many, many hours will be spent here.

The past two times I’ve been to Victoria, Byron has been closed.  We bakers seem to take a break at the same time.  But I checked and he’s open this weekend.  I’ve already sent an email offering to tote flour and do dishes one night so I can watch him do his thing.  I hope he’s up for some company!  If he agrees I’ll be sure to have a full report on the Orange Boot blog.

There be a massive brick oven in there!
Thar be a massive brick oven in there.  Oh yes!

It’s entirely possible this is my only trip this year, unless the Bread Bakers Guild is going to offer a class I can’t refuse.  The next vacation I want to take is Paris, and that’s going to take some saving and planning.  Spring 2016 is my best guess for that one.

Having typed that though, I can’t imagine staying here all year.  Camping maybe? That would be nice…

Photos by Evan Leeson, Jen Arr and …argh! I went looking for the bookshop pic for a link and can’t find it again.  Thanks, flickr!  :(