Saturday, July 29, 2006

Winded yet sure

Giant steps forward, no turning back now.
My lack of posting lately has been for the simplest excuse...I've literally had no time. And I mean, literally.
I have taken on a second job, one that I am very excited about. For the first time in almost five years I'll be putting my programming and database skills to the ultimate test. Not only am I forcing myself to learn new languages (VB.NET 2003 for instance), but I am on a considerable time crunch to deliver the goods. It's nerve-wracking, exhausting, but altogether the most wonderful career choice I've made since my early days at Sprint Canada, forever known in my psyche as ye lost me a thousand bucks in stock, ya bastards!. When I started at Sprint, I was already fairly competant at using databases, but I had very little programming experience (beyond my 20+ year old Commodore Basic skills). From day one, I learned everything I could, and became pretty good at automating all of the old databases we with VBA, but then the challenge was gone, and I wanted something new.
Then it happened. Our one resident staff member with programming knowledge was being transferred to a special projects area. The role he was leaving behind included administration of two large Customer Care applications, two SQL Servers, and a Pager to be left on 24/7 (adding one hour of pay per day to the holder). The managers were going to offer his gig to somebody else in the department. So, I went completely against my own character at the time, and took a chance. I marched into my bosses office, and literally DEMANDED that I get the job. I got it.
The next couple years were spent playing, for lack of a better word. I experimented with VB6 and SQL Server 6.5, and if I learned some cool trick, then it usually found its way into my programs (which grew steadily from the solely mandated 2 apps to around 7).
I was in my glory, until after a department shuffle I found myself suddenly a member of IT, being forced to follow SDLC guidelines and having a boss who did not care for my excitement over programming and need to actually make customers happy. It chafed like no tomorrow. I decided to stick out my thumb. And someone bit.
And I promptly fell directly into the pits of hell. It took awhile to notice, but there I was.
The job required a move all the way out to Cambridge, Ontario. I would be working in a huge industrial facility as the sole VB programmer. At first, I loved it. I'd stick my hardhat on, and walk through the factory, sparks falling around me. going to this meeting or that. In a short period of time, I seemed to have the respect of many around the plant. However, one person seemed to not be a fan at all. Unfortunately that one person was my boss. I'm not sure if it was because she was threatened by my take-charge attitude to my programming, or if she just missed my predecessor, who was a consultant called away by his parent company. No matter the reason, she browbeat me fairly regularly, and my morale began to drop.
Suddenly I was finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Not depression, exactly, but I was physically having problems getting up...my legs weren't responding as they used to, and my joints all hurt. Even though I lived only 10 minutes from the factory I was chronically late. The shouting matches soon began between my boss and I. So, after 3 months and one loud word too many from both sides, I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. Her second in command was almost in tears when he walked me to my car.
Problem #1, I had a one-year lease on my condo. So, I looked for more work. And then Nortel happened in a big explosive fireball of doom, and there was a big glut in the market of technical people looking for work. Plus I lived practically next door to one of the largest technical universities in the world - Waterloo. What chance would there be for a college dropout like me; having recently left a job after only a short time frame, plus someone who was experiencing ever worsening physical problems all of a sudden (by this time I had lost my ability to run, walk fast, or even ride a bike).
It was dire. I lost almost everything in my mad scramble to retain my lease and to stay in Cambridge. But then I found a job, back in Newmarket, where I had just moved from. Soon enough, I found a new place to live, with a roommate who was destined to be my wife. I packed up my place in Cambridge (rather poorly, as my friends are want to inform me of often), and made the trek back.
I was still programming in the next job, by my heart just wasn't it. I was still wrecked financially and my body was so stiff I looked 80 years old when I walked. I did have some fun though, and am still proud of what I acheived there. And yes, I was shocked when the company was suddenly bought out and my job became redundant after one year, but it was a good thing two. I took a year off, began fixing my financial burden up and investigating my health issues. I volunteered in non-profit sectors to get my confidence and morale back, and after that year was done I was ready to go back to work.
My current full time job has been good for me and bad at the same time. It has been a wonderful provider. However, my programming skills have been left in dark to rot. Pretty much, if I ask for a tool, I won't get it. I've been given MS Access and told this is the only corporate tool I'll need. No problems, but so 10 years ago for me. No challenge in any way, shape or form.
You may ask yourself, why don't I just program at home to keep myself in practice? Simple answer, same reason that a mechanic drives an old beater - no ambition to keep working on it at home. Add that to my theatre hobbies and family life, and there you go. I needed something specific to get me back in the game again.
I've found it. Or, it found me. But no matter what, I am inspired to be a full time programmer again, and if this new gig works out, pretty soon that is exactly what I may be - a FULL TIME Programmer. Hence one of the two jobs will need to go away...it's pretty obvious which one.
I'll update soon....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jasper Station - the beginning

So, tonight I joined up with the new cast of Jasper Station at Theatre on Main, and was surprised to find that including myself, only 3 cast members from the earlier attempt made it back for this one. The exact reasons I'm not sure of at this time, but I'm sure I'll find out more later. Steve Thomas, who wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics with Norm Foster, is completely in form as Musical Director, and I'm excited to see how the show will grow. All we really did tonight was ensure that each of the actors ranges suited the music as written, and from that point Steve is prepping us music on CDs to practice with over the summer. We then will begin rehearsals in the fall, and then we open on November 9, for an unprecedented 4 week run. This is the longest run I've had in my career so far (not including my stint of Neil Simon's Rumors for two different companies back to back), and I think it will be fun to play with the character of Sterling for that extended period.
Too often I've found I've auditioned, joined the cast, worked for two or three months and then the show wraps up after 4 shows. Well, now I get to play with at least 13 shows, and I'm looking forward to it.

btw...No news yet on an owner for the Budgie. I think he's a keeper!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Healing away amongst the sounds of...birds?...

The first part of the delay in my blogs was the fact it hurt too much to type long entries...so I didn't bother. Then, even when I began to get enough range of emotion to reach my mouse without wincing, I found much more interest in my reading and playing Neverwinter Nights, a game I'm extremely fond of. I'll try to be a good boy and blog more often now that I'm healing.
It was a rough patch for awhile there. The first night home I found myself awake at 1am running to the kitchen for more meds...excruciating pain. And slowly that ebbed away. After the first week I was able to take off the hefty bandage pack, and a few days after that I removed the smaller tape-like bandages. I have seven exercises that I need to run on a regular basis to gain range of motion back, and day by day I am actually getting stronger.
First accomplishment was driving the automatic. The second, reached just yesterday, was driving the standard. The last few days alone I have added about six inches to my reach, and am quite pleased at the result. I do expect that it will be 4-6 more weeks before I'm fully capable of beginning some regular strength training again, but it's all for the good.
The final verdict? It was a really screwed up shoulder. My surgeon found a huge bonespur that had begun to cut the tendon and the rotator cuff in half. Also, it was so swollen with damaged goods that there was zero room to move in there...he had to cut away part of the bone so that he could stitch the tendon back (it will heal on its own, apparently). Fortunately there wasn't too much damage to the rotator cuff, as I would be still in a sling for weeks if it was. I lucked out.
Other news at home, I have a surprise pet! I was looking out the door yesterday, and to my surprise there was a budgie sitting in front of my car pecking for food. I walked over to it, and after a halfhearted escape on its part (the poor little guy was starving), I picked it up, placed it on my shoulder and walked inside with a simple question; "Honey, can I keep him?"
The Budgie
I wil continue to look for its owner...I've made the routine calls, and have asked around, but if nobody calls back about him then the little fellow will officially join the family. Even Melanie has admitted to liking the sound of his chirps. Haven't named him yet...wanted to wait to see if somebody showed up. I'll call him something cool though. Hey, it's my first bird as a pet, I have the right to get a little excited. Melanie just keeps saying something about the house being a zoo. Hey, until I can have one of those screech monkeys or a tarantula, the house has not met zoo status yet. Just wait a few days. {grin}

First Jasper Station get together is tomorrow night. I'll soon know who the rest of the new cast is. I'll report more then.