Mom

My Mom passed away July 2010 and three years later, I still really miss her.  I think about her a lot, about her illness and what she was going through at the time but also the great times we had together.

She lived in Vancouver for 10 years having moved out from Edm in 1996 after my father passed away.  In her last year, she lived in Edm near my oldest sister and was getting treated for her illness.  The last year of her life even was incredibly special for all of her children.

My Mom was a nurse, trained as a nurse, so knew a lot about medical stuff and my oldest sister also knows a lot about medical info.

My Mom was really intelligent and well read.  She liked to stay abreast of the news and national news, politics, sports, etc.  She was 74 when she passed away but as her kids grew up, she was like a sister to me and my two sisters.  We would travel together and celebrate special occasions together.

Her passing made me realize the fragility of life.  Nothing last for ever; everything is temporary including our time here on earth.  Things can be going along great and an illness can strike very fast and take you out.  I guess a lot of people feel they did not do enough or where not there enough for their loved ones and I definately feel that.

I miss taking to her; she was a big Vancouver Canucks fan and loved watching them play  Even when she moved to Edm, we got the NHL Center Ice package so she could watch their games.

I miss just taking about current affairs with her and her kind ways.  She was a really kind person, quiet but smart.

Some of her favorite things were:

- great books

- a glass of wine

- watching Canucks hockey

- Monteray, California (she loved it when she would travel there)

- Nice things such as nice and simple pieces of furniture such as stuff from Bombay Company

- long walks

- eating out for lunch and having a good chat over lunch

- coffee

- she liked art but simple pieces

- salmon.  She really loved a great salmon meal

- her kids.  She loved to see her kids and grand kids.

- she works as a libririan for a time and loved books

- cleanliness.  Her place and things were spotless, totally clean.

I was not easy having 4 kids in 5 years and she did everything she could for us.  My Dad traveled quite a bit in his working years so she would have to look after us.  She was a great cook and would make all my father’s favorite food.

She was a really incredibly special person to me and I miss her terribly.

Available for a software position

I was watching Internet Development star Paul Irish talk about how to improve ones software skills and he said blog about the stuff you know.  Get your voice out there and try and be heard plus get feedback on the stuff you are building.

I feel I know that and it’s a great strategy so I am going to try and update the blog more often.

I left Schneider Electric in August of 2013.  It was a lay off and a bunch of people were affected.  I was working in R&D adding some features we’d developed on the project I was on into the product and they wanted to cut costs.  I signed some sort of legal document saying I would not talk about it so that’s all I say.

For the last couple months I’ve been looking around Calgary for a new position.  I feel my skills are somewhat of a “mixed bag” – I like coding but I also enjoy requirements gathering and writing.  I am a good technical writer as well.  The position I just left was using C# and SQL and I did a lot of SQL stored procedures work.  It was WinForms.  A lot of the positions out there want someone specialized in specific technologies, tools and software packages.  Here in Calgary it’s heavy on the oil & gas focus.

I am using PluralSight – an online traning company for software developers – and for the first bit was focused on learning ASP.NET MVC.  I feel now I have a pretty good handle on that.  I’m not sure but can a person say they know a technology when they’ve done training with it and not been paid to create stuff with it?  That’s my challenge now. I want to add web development skills to my resume but I am self taught and the companies I’ve worked at have not done web.

In addition to ASP.NET MVC, I have been really reviewing C# and getting better at that.  It’s my strongest language and I really love using it.

Not sure if anyone reads my blog but if you know of a software position based in Calgary, I’d love to hear about it.  My email is mbbrennan at gmail dot com.

Updating the blog

I moved my blog over from http://www.mbbrennan.ca but still not updating it much.  I’ve had some extra free time recently so here I am.

Calgary has been hit really hard with flooding and many people are struggling with damage to their home and being displaced from their home.  There is a strong sense of community in Calgary and this is really showing through in this case.  The downtown core has been closed for a week and still is not opened.  I’ve found it challenging personally and so many people have been affected.  A lot of great people have bills in excess of $50,000 for repair their home.  I appreciate when people express their concern as it has been very trying for the city.

I hope they can repair the Saddledome but I have to say it’s less important than getting the people in High River back into their homes.  High River is a disaster area and it’s painful to see.  Imagine having your home flooded out and not being able to get in and get stuff and start to assess the damage and move forward.  The province is trying to help but all the politicians admit the damage is more than anyone has ever seen before.

At work, we are moving to a new office building about 10 minutes further east in Calgary and the planning and amount of work that’s gone into that has been a lot.  I have not done any of the moving organizing but others have and I can see how much effort and coordination goes into moving 500 people into a new building and getting all the hook-ups taken care of.  The company I work for has some amazing people and things appear to be moving along well with the official move date July 4, 2013.

Personally, I need a new challenge.  I need to start a new project.  I think I am going to focus on health.  I want to lead a healthier lifestyle.  Right now, having started a new job in a new industry and learning the software and new industry, I pour a lot of time into trying to be at my best but I now need to find a balance between doing well at work and living a healthy lifestyle.  It seems very simple but I get off track sometimes and need to re-dedicate myself to being healthy.

Some specific steps:

- getting out for a walk even for 15 minutes during the day

- cut out sugary drinks and going with the diet and low-cal version instead

- eat less.  I don’t like feeling full.  I like the taste of the food as I eat it but if I feel full or over-full, I don’t like the feeling.

- walk more.  Desk job is the worse for my posture and trying to be healthy.

I am heading to Kingfisher Resort and Spa in Courtney, BC tomorrow for a few days so looking forward to relaxing and seeing some of BC again.

 

Keep the blog or not?

I started a new job in January of 2012 at Telvent Canada and it’s keeping me quite busy so have not updated the blog much.  Wondering if I should pay to keep it or not.

I like the position (Senior Systems Analyst) at Telvent.  It’s natural gas software built using Microsoft .NET with a SQL Server database.  It took about 3 months before I started getting the whole picture of how the system works.  It’s fairly complex technically.  My role is working on customer projects customizing generally the software to the requirements of the customer.

Telvent was started in Spain and their head office is in Spain but a year ago Schneider Electric bought Telvent so integrating the two companies is ongoing.  I’ve not worked for a large company before.  First Calgary Saving was probably the largest company I’ve worked for with about 500 people but Schneider Electric, based in Paris, France, has over 100,000 employees.  Day to day it’s not different from a smaller company – still have to deliver and be accountable to your manager, etc but the company does have global operations.

December 2011

In December I started on a movie watching kick and saw the following movies:

  • The Muppets
  • The Help
  • Gangs of New York
  • Spiderman 1
  • Page One: Inside the NY Times
  • HBO’s 24/7
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Kinsey
  • Oliver Twist
  • Into the Wild
  • Hugo
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Drive

I`m not sure what spurred on this movie kick.  I went to The Muppets with my niece and nephew and that was great but was generally finding movies a nice escape and good for imagination.

Into the Wild was really good but sad.  The producers did a great job bring this real life story to the big screen.  Revolutionary Road was also a very good movie though a bit upsetting.  Kate Winslet and DiCaprio were both great in it.  Drive has received a lot of great reviews and some even mention it as the best picture for 2011 but I was disappointed.  Story lacked something to me and I basically found it pretty forgettable.  I also enjoyed Oliver Twist more than Hugo though some people I`ve read online felt Huge was also one of the best movies of 2011.  I purchased HBO`s 24/7 and love it but I am a huge hockey fan.  The swearing is excessive but if you are at all a fan of the NHL, this is really worth checking out.

The Artist is getting great reviews and I`ve not seen it but want to.  I have The Departed on rental from iTunes in my queue; it is suppose to be a very good film.

Bits and pieces at the end of Nov 2011

I’ve been hitting the reading and self education in software and business relatively hard this past month.

I finished George W. Bush’s Memoir, “Decision Points”, a few weeks ago and really thought this was an interesting book.  I recommended it for someone interested in US Presidents.

I’m working towards completion of Mount Royal University’s Business Analysis Certificate.  I only have 2 of 9 courses left to complete; one of these courses being a term type paper that is the “capstone” part of the certificate.  Maybe soon I will write a blog post about this education and what I got out of it.  I’ve found the instructors very good – really know their stuff and really believe in the whole BABOK, ” Business Analysis Body of Knowledge”.  From what I can see, someone took a look at the PMBOK for Project Managers and created a similar framework for Business Analysis.  I guess what part I wonder is how well – similar to the PMBOK – such a structure translates into the messy day to day work of being a BA.  It would seems at an 0rganizational level or at a department level someone in power decides we want to implement these BABOK practices, otherwise the usual “just get it done as quick as possible” methodology applies. From my experience in Calgary, this Mount Royal certification and further getting certified as a BA through IIBA is favored by some employers here in Alberta now.  I expect to complete the certification in the first quarter of 2012.

I’ve been interviewing for a new position here in Calgary.  I took some time off but am back and pursuing hard a new position.  I’ve had interviews but have not found the right fit just yet but I hope it’s close.  Not having an oil and gas type background is a bit of an issue for Calgary.  I’ve been reading a lot of on C# and SQL.  I feel I am an intermediate level in C# but have spent a lot of time teaching myself more and more.  There is just an incredible amount of books and blogs where one can learn the language – even the advanced concepts.  the publisher Murach and Deitel are two of my favorite publishers of C# books.  In interviews I’ve had, I get quite a bit of SQL questions so I’ve been brushing up.  Itzik Ben-Gan is my favorite author and I ve 3 of his books on my Safari Books Online bookshelf.  Itzik shows by taking apart the SQL select statement bit by bit how the SQL select in interpreted and executed.  I have such a better understanding of how the SELECT statement is processed but I could still learn more.

As far as music goes, Feist and David Usher have been in regular rotation.  I’m tired of the Feist CD now – her new one called “Metals” – that I’ve taken a break from it.  It’s good overall but not very up-beat.  David Usher is amazing and I’m currently loving his music.  The former Moist lead singer lives in Montreal now with 2 kids and is so talented.  I would love to see him live.  My sister in Edmonton bought me a ticket to Prince live in Edmonton the first week of December.  I grew up a huge Prince fan and his music reminds me a lot of my youth where I would buy everything he put out.  I hope I can go to the show.  If I recall right it’s on a Tuesday night so it will depend on if I am working or not (and have to be at work the next day).  Getting home from Edmonton at midnight in December is not the easiest thing though I could take the 7 AM bus back but as I recall from taking it before, it does not get into Calgary until 9:30 AM which is late to start work.

My 8 year old nephew is taking ice skating lessons and I love going to that.  I was a ringette player in my youth and love hockey so being around the ice with my nephew I love so much is really special.  He tried about 3 years ago to learn to skate but did not like the lessons and stopped going but loves it this time.

I’m also watching a lot of hockey; mostly Flames and Canucks.  I have a hockey blog called NHLJUNKIE where I post some of my thoughts.  It’s just a fun thing to get some thoughts out because I do spend a lot of time following events around hockey for the Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary teams.

I have Ryan Adams in my queue to listen to and I’ve heard the CD I bought, his latest, is excellent so I am looking forward to hearing it.

I just bought Mark Cuban’s recent book about business.  Since he was pushing it on Twitter and it was only $2.99, I could not resist.

Other than that, I’ve been sick the last week with a head cold and flu.  I recruiter I talked to today mentioned she had the flu for 2 months so I am hoping mine stint in sickville is a lot shorter.  I was sick all last weekend and this week but feeling a bit better today and yesterday.

Blog update October 29, 2011

I’m not sure what direction I want to take this blog.  I’ve started and abandoned more blogs than I care to count.

I really like the WordPress software for blogging.  I find the software is really easy to use and install and has a ton of nice features for blogging.

I tend to blog about what I am currently interested in or reading.  I started to think it’s better to stick to one subject per blog or generally have a blog theme and have your posts stick to that topic so the fact this blog does not have a general theme sort of bugs me.

I am interested in music so I post about that sometimes.  I am currently listening to new Coldplay, “Mylo Xyloto”, and rate it so-so.  Their older/past work is better that “Mylo Xyloto”.  I’m starting to wonder if Coldplay is really that great.  Tons of rhyming and not very creative lyrics but I was a big fan to so not sure where I stand but “Mylo Xyloto” is disappointing to me.

I also watched the Steve Jobs memorial from the Apple website that was held at Apple’s headquarters in California and thought it was really well done though still find his passing very sad.  Nora Jones performed and she was, as usual, amazing.    Her music is really romantic and pure.  Coldplay also performed and they were OK.  Having the small stage and no lights etc did not lend well to their type of show and production.

I bought the Steve Job’s biography on audiobook but trying to finish George Bush’s audio book, “Decision Points”, first.  “Decision Points” is actually a really good book.  I don’t agree with Bush’s politics but the book is an inside look at how he arrived at big decisions and a small sampling of what went on behind the scenes of the Bush presidency.

I got half way though Tom Friedman’s new book, “That Used To Be Us”.  I posted my review on Amazon but to summarize, I think I’ve OD’d on Tom Friedman and his ideologies.  I still believe he is very smart but find he really is either saying the same things over and over or plotting out a lot of theory and irrelevant stats.  I totally respect what he has to say but I feel I’m educated on his ideas and politics.  Time to find a few others talented thinkers to gets some other sides of the politics in the States.

I’m also half way through David Chilton’s new book on personal finance.  Chilton wrote “The Wealthy Barber” 15 years ago and its general idea is to PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Take AT LEAST 10% or, if you can, 20% off every pay cheque and stuff it into savings.  Also, live within or even below your means and save some money.  Chilton’s also says avoid taking on debt and keep credit card balances very low.  He sees how the banks extend everyone a lot of credit as a huge problem in Canada and basically everywhere.  This is a beginner book on personal finance just as his first book was. There is tons of stuff online to read about personal finance and I read some of it so did not find Chilton’s book that enlightening but there are definately some great reminders on how to cut down expenses and save some of what you earn.  I still find the reading interesting but the book that influenced my finances the most was a book I read back in 1999 called “Stop Buying Mutual Funds”.  I devoured that book and found it excellent.

I was looking for some new music recently and bought new Ryan Adams, Feist and Foster the People.  Still haven’t gotten into these ones too much but am most looking forward to the new Feist.  I think she is really talented and original.

I’ve been doing a lot of professional self study these past few weeks on software development.  Specifically, the Pluralsight .NET videos are really great.  If you are interested in learning programming using the .NET Framework, getting a monthly subscription for $30 to Pluralsight is a great investment.  I’ve learnt a ton and find the videos a great way to learn.  I’ve been focused on ASP.NET and they have Web Forms as well as ASP.NET MVC videos by really experienced speakers.  I’ve totally gotten 100% value from their material.

Another company that I’ve learnt a lot from is Murach.  Their books are really great and I recommend them for learning .NET.  I needed to brush up on some C# and review and spend 2 days reading “Murach C# 2010“.  Their books provide an excellent mix of theory and examples to back up the concepts.  I also have their ADO.NET book and their ASP.NET book and have really gained a lot from reading them.  One book that is on my list to read next is an Apress book entitled “Pro C# 2010 and the .NET 4 Platform“.  I will read this, I just have to finish a couple other books first.  I also need to update myself on web services and will do that.

I just bought Jim Collins of “Good to Great” fame new book called “Great by Choice”.  I’ve not started it yet, though.

Amazing Adele!

I am really loving Adele’s latest CD release called “21″.  She is so talented and only 24 years old.  Amazing!

The beauty and honesty of her music really floors me.  I don’t really like sappy music too much and Adele is all about relationship but there is beauty in her music that is unmatched.

The whole CD, “21″, is great!