A Tip for Introverts

Sometimes its tough being an introvert — especially in a room full of extroverts. All that pressure to make conversation and to be the life of the party. Here’s a tip that might help:
Most extroverts don’t remember what they’ve told you.
They’re so busy buzzing around the room talking to everyone, that they don’t really pay attention to what they’re telling to who. They just want to talk.
This means that within a day or two, you can ask them a question they’ve already answered, and they’ll happily tell you all about it again! They’ll go on and on as if this is totally new information, and all you have to do is sit back and repeat the same reactions you gave them last time. Or, if you feel like it, you can try out new reactions, just to see if something works better. They’ll forget about it in a couple days anyway.
I’ve found this information to be a huge relief at parties and social gatherings. Instead of wracking my brain to come up with the kind of superficial small talk extroverts seem to enjoy, I can just find one and ask them questions I already know the answer to, then relax while they carry the conversation!
One warning, though, don’t try this on an introvert. Not only do they remember the topic, but they remember when they told you about it, and how you reacted. They’ll be very offended if it seems you don’t remember.

The Best Awful

And so begins week #2 of our month apart. We’re planning for a brief respite from our separation this weekend, when I’ll hopefully be able to see my family for a little more than 24 hours (paid for with 18 hours of travel.) Otherwise we’ve been both been busy in our respective countries, taking care of business.
I can’t report much on what Nicole’s been up to, since I’ve been very busy with my own tasks. My goal last week was to re-paint Benjamin’s room as a pre-requisite for tasking it as the storage room… which was a pre-requisite for doing the rest of the apartment. Our place is so tiny that we had boxes jammed in every conceivable corner. When I pulled the furniture out of Ben’s room, there was only a small pathway from the bed to the bathroom to my little square of empty space on the couch where I went to take breaks.
I got it done, though, and you can see the metamorphosis in blurry phone-cam shots in this Flickr set. It was more work than I had thought it would be!
Now the rest of the place has that echoey, empty feeling, like its barely lived in.
I did get to talk to my family on Skype once this weekend — I’m bringing my computer from work home onthe weekends to get some actual computing done. Truth be told, I didn’t have time this week to miss having a computer around.
Ben actually seemed somewhat interested in the screen this time, and toward the end of the conversation even tried to reach out and touch my nose!
The kid’s citizenship paperwork has been submitted, so now the countdown clock is ticking on their Ontario health care. We’ll have to make at least one trip to New York for a doctor’s appointment for Abigail that has to happen while we’re still in our 3 months of limbo between countries. Fortunately, I arranged to keep our NY health insurance for that period. That means, dear New York friends, that we’ll be back in June. Hopefully we can see some of you then.
I can’t say that its fun being away from my family, but so far its been survivable. Things are quiet, and there’s a lot of work to do yet, so it works out good for me. It’ll be nice when we can all live in the same country again, though… even if we will be sleeping on a mattress on a floor for most of the summer.
Nic has been faithfully updating the Flickr feed, so check that out if you’re interested in seeing some adorable kids doing adorable kid things.

eLondon: A dead-tree technology blog, circa 2003

In 2003 I wrote a series of articles for a small but ambitious little technology magazine distributed in the London, Ontario area. The magazine, eLondon, made it for only two years, so I’ve archived what I still have for my own records.
All of these articles were written by myself (Jon Wise) and are theoretically the property of eLondon, or its owners, should they want to claim them again in the future. The posting of these articles does not imply that you have permission to copy or re-use them in any fashion.

Continue reading “eLondon: A dead-tree technology blog, circa 2003”

Not Getting Twitter

I realise I said this about Facebook not more than 2 years ago, and Myspace not long before that, but I am not signing up for Twitter.
Twitter is like… stripping everything that’s good out of a blog, and increasing the frequency by a factor of 100.
Think about it: the most basic, most boring blogs are the ones where someone talks about their day. “Today I did this, then that, etc…” Unless what you did today was exceptionally out of the norm, most people are just going to skim them over then leave until you post something better. I know that most blogs start this way, and that’s OK for awhile, but if they don’t mature past that, they inevitably grow stale really fast. Its observational, thoughtful or humorous posts that catch people’s interest. All of those generally require some context. Before you can deliver the punch line, you have to explain the situation, or the events leading up to it, or at least offer some background on the item of discussion. Even if your daily activities were unusually interesting, you still need to give your reader some context, or some reason to empathize with you.
Heading to work!” or “I’m pooping now” just isn’t worth reading.
Twitter is just hundreds of tiny blog posts, free of context, about what you’re doing. I know bloggers (myself being one of them) tend toward a little bit of narcissism, but do that many people really think their lives are so interesting that someone’s going to want to know what they’re doing throughout the day?
Facebook status updates are a decent application of this “micro-blog” concept. Most people update them no more than once or twice a day — and you could argue that these little updates might be good conversation starters (although I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been a party to a conversation starting that way.) Twitter, on the other hand, encourages you to update at ridiculous intervals. Now maybe I lead a boring existence, but who’s life is really that fascinating?!
The ability to aggregate status updates from multiple sources presents an interesting use-case, that may yet have some business function — I can imagine dozens of plant-floor devices, for example, “tweeting” their status to a dashboard that a manager can view at a glance. But for individuals who, lets face it, have a fairly limited repertoire of regular activities, what return-on-investment am I going to get for my time by following you on Twitter? Unless I’m stalking you… none I can think of.
So I’ll say it again, and maybe this time it’ll end up being true: I am not signing up, and no, I won’t “follow you.”
If you need to vent about your day, or record it for the world to see; if you have interesting thoughts… put these things together in paragraph form and at least provide the enjoyment of a little prose with your report! The occasional picture helps too!

The Dream of Evan and Chan

We now have new contact vitals, for those who keep address books and such things.
We’re maintaining a US address as our primary mailing address for all non-urgent correspondence. Don’t ask for the Canadian one, because we’re months away from having one, and even then we won’t use it much. Our address, then, for your records is:
Jon and Nicole Wise
1971 Western Ave #171
Albany, NY 12203 USA

And no one lives here, and its nowhere near our old NY place, so don’t bother trying to stalk us, creepy Internet people. Its just a mailbox at a UPS store. If you show up, they’d be glad to sell you some boxes or ship a package for you. Everyone else can mail us nice things at this address. Gifts, and money and such.
We also have a Canadian phone number now. Nicole’s old cell phone number is no longer active. The number is: 503-7202
The area code is one digit more than our US area code. For example, if our US area code was 123 (which its not) then our new area code would be 124, get it?
Its also the same area code as the one we had in Ontario before, for those that had that information.
Again, creepy people need not apply — I have your IP address!
PS: My cell phone number has not changed, and will remain a New York number for the foreseeable future.

The Emporer's New Clothes

We interupt our regular programming to bring you this rant about sunglasses.
Ladies, over-sized sunglasses are NOT attractive. I don’t know who started this trend, but they should be shot.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most stylish person around. The only sunglasses I can wear are the ones that clip on to my regular glasses. But I’m still qualified to point out ugly.
These glasses, see, they cover half your face. Glasses are supposed to cover your eyes — not your eyebrows, most of your forehead and half your cheeks! Yet people prance around in these bug-eyed lenses thinking they look hot. You don’t look hot! You look mostly obscured! You could be the elephant man under there!
Unless these things have some hidden utility as diving goggles, I’m going to have to declare over-sized sunglasses the worst fashion trend since bell bottom pants. Don’t walk, run to the nearest store and replace them with something that doesn’t make you look like a character from A Bug’s Life.

No matter how far we've comeI can't wait to see tomorrow

Few things make me angrier than incompetence. I can show grace in most situations most of them time, but when someone is intentionally, or through sheer ineptitude, incompetent, it makes my blood boil. If you know what your job is and you’re capable of doing it, but don’t… I can’t take it!
Want some examples?
How about the payroll department who first forgot to put me back on payroll when I returned to work after Abi was born, then, when I complained, over-paid me by 56 hours then, over the weekend, sent me a letter asking when I would send them the money back. How about never? That money was payment to me for you being stupid.
Or then there’s our bank in Canada, who stopped submitting credit information to the Credit Bureau when we left the country. Yup, for over 2 years we’ve been dutifully paying off our student and car loan, and during that whole time the bank didn’t once update our credit. We go to buy a house, and for all intents and purposes it appears like we haven’t paid our creditors for two years! That looks real good on the mortgage application.
Even better is the system my employer has in place to verify my employment to a lender. They will not release to me any information about my own employment. I have to send the lender to a website, with a company code and my Social Security Number, where they can pay $15 to get a piece of paper that says I work here! I’m sure the mortgage brokers are just going to line up to pay money to get me to pay them money — especially when all the Canadian banks think we’re dead beats who don’t pay our bills.
Don’t even get me started on the cell phone companies we had to deal with this weekend.
Anyway, we’re not as screwed as it sounds. We were able to prove that we pay our bills by showing our mortgage broker our statements. That those statements don’t correlate to what Canada’s credit authority has on file is really only a matter of paperwork. If I can figure out how to get through to someone at our bank who has the authority to do anything, we’ll be able to get it straightened out. And there are other ways to verify my employment… just as long as I don’t count on say… my employer to help me at all.
Once its all sorted out, our position actually is pretty strong for buying a house. We’re able to swing a $270,000 mortgage, but thats a little more than we’re comfortable with. We’re shopping in the $230-240k range, which is a slightly nicer market than where we originally looking. There’s a lot more paperwork to push and many more incompetent people to yell at deal with, but we’re making good progress so far.
On another topic, I’ve long wished for a park near where I work that I could spend my lunch hours at. There’s actually a nature preserve behind my office, but I found out shortly after I took my first walk through it that its infested with lyme disease-carrying ticks, so I don’t spend much time there. Then today, after nearly 2 and a half years of working here, I randomly turned right into a skinny driveway on my way back from lunch and discovered this.

Its beautiful and peaceful and quiet. In short, the perfect place to hide out at lunch time and read a book. Too bad I’m leaving in a month.
Nic and the kids are doing well, and getting things done on their end. We’ll have new contact info shortly for those interested.

Stabbing Westward

Well we survived our first road trip with two babies! It was a long haul — about 9 hours. But the kids were pretty good, the roads were pretty clear, and the weather was beautiful (if a little hot.)

We’re settling in at Nic’s parent’s place. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Nic grew up in a little country paradise. Paradise and little being the operative words. There’s an acre of green grass for Ben to explore, a beautiful pool to swim in over the summer, and nothing but the chirp of crickets to hear at night.
In short, its absolutely gorgeous out here. The down side is the size. We’re setting up in the room Nic grew up in, and when she was little, it was perfect. Now that she’s over 4-feet tall, however, its a little cramped…

…and we have a lot of stuff to pack in there for the month! Can you believe all of this fit in our two cars — 90% of it in the SUV!

At any rate, Ben just puked, Aunt Pammy is here to visit, and I’m not far from passing out. A couple more pics in the Flickr feed. Nic has been given a tutorial on how to update Flickr, so hopefully that will stay fresh during the month.

Phase 1: Steal the Underpants

Tonight is Nicole’s last night in New York.
To pull off this move, we’re doing it in 3 phases.
Phase 1 kicks off tomorrow. We’ll move Nicole, Ben, Abi, my computer, clothes and bedding, toys and entertainment enough for all of them for a month. They’ll be moving into Nicole’s parents place for that month, where Nicole will start the leg work to set us up in Canada. I’ll do my best to give her a head start while I’m there with her this weekend.
Our combined task list includes: setting up the computer and the bed’s for both our children, obtaining a cell phone with a Canadian phone number, meeting the real estate agent, meeting the mortgage broker, and making sure there’s working capital in the Canadian bank account.
As soon as I leave her jobs are to: submit the paperwork for our kid’s Canadian citizenship (kicking off the 3 month wait before they’re eligible for Ontario healthcare), finding a storage facility to move our furniture into, arranging the details for the apartment we’re moving into for the summer, then starting the house hunt for a more permanent place to live.
Phase 2 starts May 19 when the movers come. My job is to get us ready for that. Our remaining possessions need to be boxed, indexed and inventoried, our heavy furniture needs to be sold and moved out, the rooms we painted need to be painted over in “apartment white,” and the carpets need to be steam cleaned (two babies and a cat practically guarantees there’s a poop stain hidden somewhere!) I’ll over-see the loading up of our possessions, and the closing up of our US bills and accounts, then get in the car and drive back to Ontario, carrying enough of our stuff to get us through another 2 months of squatting in a temporary residence. We’ll move into that place as soon as we can, so I can resume work.
Phase 3… well we don’t have a date for Phase 3 yet — or even a destination. This phase comes when we’ve found and purchased a house, had the services turned on, and can get our stuff out of storage and do our final move into our new Canadian home. Our drop-dead date is mid-August, when the students from whom we’re renting our temporary apartment will likely want to be moving in. That leaves us a little over 3 months to finish this move.
In short, this is going to be a challenging summer — especially with two babies in tow. May will probably be the hardest, because we won’t have each other for encouragement (and/or bickering). Fortunately, God has quite literally gone ahead of us…
Our dear friends, Mark and Elisabeth, are moving their own family into the same town on May 2nd. God’s set them up with a new ministry, and a beautiful new home (with a pool!) They recently adopted a two year-old boy, and we’re looking forward to spending some time with them again, helping out their ministry, and watching our kids grow up together.
Also in town is my mom, followed not long after by my dad. They’ve both been in Asia for over a year now, having a blast over there, and we wouldn’t wish for them to move back to boring, bland North America. But we are glad that they’re going to be around over the summer to help out, and to see their grandkids (and babysit them for us.)
And of course, Nic’s family is there, and I’ll finally be out of hot water for moving Nicole to another country. When Nic’s parents were here visiting after Abi was born, it was amazing to be able to leave the kids with them and go out to a movie. We have wonderful friends here who have been very supportive and helpful — Ben has a great babysitter that he’s in love with (and we like her a fair bit too :o), Jason and Brooke have gone above and beyond to help us adjust to Abi’s arrival, the Matula clan has literally showered us with love as we’ve prepared to leave, and of course there were all the friends bringing meals for nearly 2 weeks straight — but nothing beats having grandparents and aunts and uncles around.
We even have a new home church to crash land at — where we already know people!
It’s going to be a grueling couple months that will test our stamina and our relationship and probably our faith. But its going to be worth it when its all over. In fact, we’re kind of looking forward to it.
As I mentioned, I will not have a computer once Nic is gone. I’ll have my iPhone for Facebook/e-mail/Digg and the XBox for MSN, and there’s the ridiculously slow and filtered Internet at work. But my connectivity, and thus posting, will obviously be limited. We’ll do our best to keep you updated, and we’ll look forward to seeing our Canadian friends in person really soon!