Evolution of a Workspace

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime. That’s 11,250 workdays or 43.2 years. Of your life. Working. Over a third. Of your life. Working.

At some point way back when I decided I wanted to make my work environment as welcoming and comfortable as possible if I was going to spend that much time there. Being a graphic designer, I work at a computer. At a desk. By my rough calculations that means to date I’ve spent roughly 16.3 years at a desk of some kind. 5,980 days. 47,840 hours. With conceivably a considerable amount of time still to go.

I’ve had a lot of jobs – and desks – before coming to work at Kiers, but I didn’t keep as much a track of things then. I would still try to customize and personalize my workspaces, but I don’t have any record of them. When I got to Kiers – due, probably, in no small part to the new prevalence of smartphones/cameras – I started documenting things.

2009

At the time, Kiers was situated in an old, converted church. The main area had been converted to a two-story ‘loft’ type setting with open offices arranged upstairs. It was unique in that it could tend to be somewhat dark upstairs which wasn’t all together bad for staring at screens all day. There were windows – due to the nature of the old church windows – they continued up from below so were at ‘ground level’ which made for interesting lighting, but at least there was some natural light coming in.

The divided offices featured built-in desks. My particular cubicle had desk on three of the four sides, allowing for copious surface area – something I readily appreciated.

2011: DIY Standing Desk v.1

Somewhere in 2011, after hearing and reading about them for years, I decided to try and give a standing desk a go. My years of working in school at drafting and drawing tables had already given me a taste of working standing up sometimes and I’d enjoyed that. I think those big drafting tables had also engendered my appreciation of large, expansive desktops with lots of space as well.

After reading about the ergonomics, I decided to ‘build’ myself a standing desk vs. spend on a prefab one, to make sure that it was something I was going to stick with. I’d become more aware of my posture and ‘hunching’ over the years sitting at a desk. It turned out to be relatively easy, I was able to just use the existing plywood desktop and just raise it by mounting it to the wall and some legs that I’d cut and stained. It looked very integrated with the existing built-in pieces.

Over time I experimented with floor mats, and various heights by standing on different things. I found an old adjustable chair online which was great for the occasional times I wanted to sit for short periods. Overall I was really happy with the experiment, and never really considered going back to a traditional sitting desk.

2018: Partial DIY Standing Desk v.2

In December of 2018, Kiers moved next door, into what used to be the rectory of the old church. Having been an interior design firm for many years, it was more of a ‘traditional’ office space, but well appointed.

Since we were making the move, I decided to splurge and get myself a Christmas present. Checking around online, I found an adjustable standing desk base and ordered it up with the intention of finding something cool to use as the top. Poking around town I went to ReStore – a local place that accepts and resells used building materials to benefit Habitat for Humanity. I found an old hollow core door for $10. Picked up some blue wood stain elsewhere and away I went. I eventually decided I needed a monitor stand as well, so I had an old piece of pine shelving at home – stained it the same blue and got some cool hairpin legs online and that was it.

The door offers a ton of desk real estate and included a nice pre-drilled ‘cord port’ on the back side. After some sanding, staining and a few clear coats, both desk and monitor stand were ready to rock.

I am really glad that I chose to go this route and the adjustable base is something I appreciate far more than I thought I would. The ability to move things around once in awhile or adjust better for my chair when I want to sit is a feature I hadn’t thought much of when initially ordering, but am really enjoying now. I opted for the manual height adjustment model, mostly to save a few bucks, but I can see now how the electric versions would be nice as well, especially as some of them offer preset heights you can store and access quickly with a single click.

2020: DIY Standing Desk Corona Edition

So recently when COVID-19 decided to roll across the planet and eventually land in New Brunswick, I decided it made the most sense to work from home (temporarily?) – something I’d always wanted to try anyway. There was no way though, that I could go back to sitting at the desk we had at home for the family computer. In addition, I felt like in order to be as productive and efficient at home as I could be at the office, I wanted to create a purpose built workspace for me specifically.

Although I initially wanted to put it upstairs – more natural light – I was somewhat worried about a lot of glare on screens in all the locations that seemed possible. Checking downstairs, I found a spot that seemed to work in what was already sort of the ‘man lair’ – or the closest thing I have to one anyway. I also realized that putting the ‘home’ office downstairs would make it easier to make the physical distinction of being ‘at work’ and ‘going’ to work and ‘leaving’ work. I didn’t want work to become all-consuming simply because it was at home now.

A trip out to the shed netted me an old bi-fold closet door that had been retired. It was already painted, a little dinged up, but I left it as-is. I was actually able to use the same legs and cross support that I’d used from my first Kiers standing desk in 2011 – I’d saved them fortunately. Instead of free-standing, I mounted this one to the wall at the back, like I’d done with the first Kiers one as well. Brought home my monitor stand, lamp and a few other items from work and voila, DIY Standing Desk Project:Cornona.

I’m pretty happy with the way it tuned out. The door isn’t as deep as the one at my office, but that’s ok as it doesn’t intrude in the room as much that way, a nice feature since this is also the space in the house that I do yoga, stretching and other workouts. How long will I eventually be here vs. at the office? Only time will tell. For now, I’m good.

Celebrate Every Day

These are some pictures from my bike commute – in March of 2018. I called it the ‘Viewers Choice Commute’ because I’d posted up the night before and asked my 7-ish Instagram followers to vote on which bike/route I should take. I don’t remember how cold it was that day, but it was a good @winterbiketoworkday – Last night, when I got out of hockey at midnight, it was snowing pretty good – I was surprised at how much had come down and I was still on the fence if I was going to ride today. It was cold so the snow was nice and light – super fluffy like powdered sugar. I knew today was likely to be a great day to be outside – especially on the ride home – as the call was for crystal clear skies and full sun. No doubt would have made for great scenery.

I was still waffling though. I was tired. I didn’t want to risk getting sick – but still having the internal argument (which seems really silly now in retrospect). I checked my Instagram feed before bed. I’ll credit my wise Aunt @lindambourne for bringing it home with her sage comment on my Instagram post, “Seems to me you celebrate this day more than once a year already.” Bam. There it was. Truth. The reminder I needed. The reminder to get out and get some whenever you can, but that those moments aren’t necessarily going to align perfectly with the rest of the Universe. What’s important is that you observe them when possible.

Props to anyone who did ride today, whether in the freezing cold or balmy climes. You are a singular badass. And if you can’t make it tomorrow for some reason or another, you’ll still be a singular badass. I award you each 1,000 Internet Bike Points. They say discretion is the better part of valor – which is my fancy way of of saying ‘it’s old and I’m cold’. I opted out today and am totally at peace with it, thanks Auntie Linda. And thanks to others who offered thoughts and words of encouragement as well.

Tune in to Neurotic Cyclists of Instagram next week when I try to decide if I mount my paniers on the front or the back of the bike and discuss the pros and cons of each in Part 1 of a 6 part series.

House of Sisyphus

I joined a new gym. I found it on kijiji. House of Sisyphus. “We train the body AND the mind.” That was all it said. Not much to go on really, but the price was right, FREE.

So I shot them an email. I got a reply from some guy named Bert Camu. Weird name. I think he might be European. His emails were weird. He said nothing about a gym, but instead rambled off a list of things I needed to get. Snowshoes. Rope. An old tire. A bucket. Luckily I had it all here already. He told me to “start to walking around yard pulling tire. Every day. Especially after it snows. Den adding weight to bucket. Den again.” Ok, I thought, must be some sort of tree-hugger CrossFit shit, but whatevs, I’ll give it a try. “How long do I pull it?” I asked him. “Until you feel to vomit.” he said. “Every day. When you arrive from your work.” So I did. Didn’t hear much from him. He would send one line emails, “you are doing tha pulling, yes?” I would respond, yes. When I told him that I had started to do the workouts in my street clothes that I wore to work – that I seemed to get some perverse pleasure in getting my work clothes all sweaty, he replied rather excitedly, “YES! YES! GOOD! GOOD!” Finally I got up the nerve to ask him if I was ready to level up, maybe move to the next routine. “No.” He said. “Dere is nudding else.” That seemed odd, but I thought maybe it was just a language thing, so I kept doing the workouts, and finding I was feeling better, happier. I‘m sure my  neighbours are having a laugh. “There’s that guy again, pulling his tire. Doesn’t he know it’s just going to snow and he’ll have to do it all over again?” Truth is, if they asked me why I’m doing it, I don’t know that I could put any logical answer into words for them. Or that I care. As an added bonus, now when I take the dog out at night, I have a nice path all the way to the back of my yard, away from the house and the lights and I can stand and stare at every star in the sky. My last 3 emails to Bert have bounced back. His ad isn’t up on kijiji anymore. Weird. I didn’t imagine at first I’d be happy with such a simple exercise routine, but strangely enough I am. Just gotta roll with it I guess.

Neil Elwood Peart, 1952-2020

I’ve been a Rush fan since high school. Being a drummer I was attracted by that, then eventually got into Neil’s lyrics. He influenced me in so many ways. He made me realize rock musicians could be smart. He got me to read again. I wrote poetry. 

Over the years I have owned all the albums on CD and cassette. I’ve read all his books. Several times. I’ve read all the magazine articles. I own the DVDs. As I mentioned on my About page,

Rush albums mark and coincide with distinct periods of my life and I have memories of time periods that jive with each release.

Several years ago I wrote Neil a letter explaining what his music and words had meant to me, and included some books I thought he’d enjoy in return as I knew him to be an avid reader. Later I received this signed postcard and word of thanks.

In contrast to many celebrities, he’s always been an intensely private guy – a weirdness with fame that he addressed in songs such as ‘Limelight’.

“Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend”

Though he shared little, what he did share was thoughtful, thought-provoking, and at times brutally honest. I felt like I did know him, ironically – though that’s far from the truth.

What I do know is that he aimed to live a full life – and inspired others, including me, to do so as well. In this capacity he far surpassed simply ‘being a drummer’ – even if he happened to be one of the best of all time. An article in Rolling Stone at the end of their last tour summed it up:

Neil Peart likes to ask himself a couple of key questions. One is “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?” The answers lead him to travel between Rush’s shows on a BMW motorcycle instead of a plane or bus (creating scheduling nightmares for the band’s management), and to embark upon extracurricular bicycle trips through West Africa and China and Europe. He aims to fill every minute of his life with as much much-ness as possible, which may also help explain all those 32nd notes.

While I am sad at his passing – it is too early, the paradox is that this supremely private man still had so much worthwhile to share with us, musical or otherwise – I know that Neil managed to cram several lifetimes into his unfortunately abbreviated one and for those of us that remain remembering him, that is his last lesson and reminder to all of us.

Get out and find as much much-ness as you can my friends, and perhaps pause a beat once in awhile in the rhythm of life to remember those that have inspired us and moved on.

Universal Holidays

Derek Sivers hits the nail on the head for me in his blog post, Time is personal. Your year changes when your life changes:

Your year really begins when you move to a new home, start school, quit a job, have a big breakup, have a baby, quit a bad habit, start a new project, or whatever else. Those are the real memorable turning points — where one day is very different than the day before. Those are the meaningful markers of time. Those are your real new years.

To force these celebrations on universal dates disconnects them from the meaning they’re supposed to celebrate.

Happy New Year people, whenever it is you may be celebrating.

FACKENTHALL AGREES TO TERMS FOR TNHL 2019-2020 SEASON

OCT. 3, FREDERICTON, N.B. – Gritty defensive winger and perennial fan-favorite Kent Fackenthall has agreed to terms with the Thursday Night Hockey League to play full-time for the 2019-2020 season. 

After a lackluster season last year, where he saw most of his time spent in the minors with the occasional call up-to The Show, Fackenthall admitted that his game needed work. “Yeah, last year was a a bit of a disappointment for me. I felt like I could do better. I struggled with some nagging injury issues and had a hard time adjusting to the late ice-times. I was – y’know – tired – it was past my usual bedtime – and it was hard to get up the next day. So that sucked, now that I’m older.” When asked if he’d done anything in the off-season to help get back on track he replied, “yeah, I rode a lot of bike to try and strengthen my knees and I’ve worked with my trainer on a pretty comprehensive nap program that I’ll be trying out this year.” 

At the end of last season rumors swirled that Fackenthall might end his long and storied career, retire and go to work in the front office in player development. “I had some talks with the league, with my family, my agent, and the guy who does the ice at the rink and decided to give it one more go. I wanted to try and play another year and then assess – maybe go out on a high note – also, there’s the money, too, right?” Long noted for his aggressive play and willingness to mix it up on the ice – even when it is entirely inappropriate – Fackenthall has developed a reputation, and in some cases a report – with other members of the league. “Yeah, he’s a bit of a dick at times,” – says Mike Morton, a veteran center that often finds himself battling opposite Fackenthall on the ice. “He’s not above the frequent cheap shot, slew foot or butt end. He likes to talk smack, but he’s easy to get off his game – you can get inside his head and then he’s done.” 

When asked if he planned to change his game any in an effort to secure his spot on the team, Fackenthall replied, “Yah, uhm, no, I don’t think so. Not really. I mean, pretty much my style is look for the guy on the other team who’s maybe not having the best night, then go out and maybe try and make it a little worse for ‘em, y’know. Mostly I don’t want to work too hard and just try and get out of the room fast afterwards so I can get to bed.”

When asked if Fackenthall’s return to full time play would have a positive or negative effect on the profile of the league, Commissioner Collin Sleep replied, “Kent WHO? Oh, oh, oh, THAT, Kent. Um, yeah, whatever – as long as he pays me it’s up to him if he shows up or not – I just gotta cover these ice time costs. Some of these bastards still owe me from LAST year.”

Looking longer term, Fackenthall was non-committal on his future past this season. “Yeah, I dunno, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll play another year, or I could just coast through this one, then into a cush front office job or maybe a sweet real-estate sales gig, probably.”

The TNHL kicks off Thursday, October 17 at 10:15pm at Willie Oree Place. Admission is free and the league asks that if a couple of fans could bring water bottles on the off chance Collin forgets them or doesn’t show, that would be appreciated. 

‘Willie’, The Willie O’Ree Story

Took Colin and Olivia to see a screening of the documentary of Fredericton hometown hero Willie O’Ree last night, ‘Willie’. It was followed by a lovely Q&A with the man himself and the director of the movie. Truly a magnificent and inspiring story .

For those not in the know, Willie was the first Black player in the NHL, and if that wasn’t enough, after playing pro for 20 or so years, he retired, but went to work taking the game of hockey to kids all over North America who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to play – AND continues to do so now at 82.

A superbly well done documentary. I don’t know where or when it’s screening, but if you get the chance I highly suggest you check it out. It’s about so much more than hockey. It was great to learn more about this man, I feel fortunate to have landed in the region of Canada from which he sprung, and I’m proud that my kids get to play in the same rink that he did and one that now bears his name. Totally a class act.

Willie said it best, “They called me the Jackie Robinson of the NHL, and I guess that sort of stuck, but that wasn’t me, I’m the Willie O’Ree of the NHL.” You know he’s a class act – and a badass – because they only let those kinds of guys wear fedoras. Thanks to @discoverunb for the free screening.

Different Rivers

When I moved here in 2006 I discovered there were two options for a commuting route from my house, both about 15km one-way. One was on the road, the other, almost entirely on converted rail-to-trail. My policy has always been and continues to be to avoid slicing and dicing with grumpy morning folks trapped in confined metal boxes, so whenever possible, the trail it is.

Up until 2010, my commute to work took me across two rivers, The Nashwaak and the St. John. After 2010, I changed jobs and now work on the north side of the St. John, so only cross the Nashwaak each trip. I used to keep track of my rides and mileage and all that but have stopped bothering. So, subtracting weekends, holidays, weather, sleep-in’s and other misses and adding back in various market trips, rides for coffee and group rides, I’d say conservatively on average I’ve commuted or ridden this route 150 times a year (each way, so 300 total) – at some point during every season and kind of weather you can conjure.*

Some dude, wiser than I, many seasons ago, once observed that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Well then it must also apply that a man can’t CROSS the same river twice either.

Doing the fancy math that accounts for both jobs, that means approximately 5,100 different rivers crossed for this cat in 13 years. And I probably have at least half that many pictures clogging up the internet and cloud storage to prove it.

The thing is, they are truly different. Every. Time. Which is why I almost always stop. And while I didn’t always stop, make coffee, eat home made granola with chocolate milk and watch the sun come up on Fredericton across the St. John while tons of ducks do whatever it is ducks do in the morning – I have been quite a bit recently. If I had my druthers (and I don’t know what a ‘druther’ is – or why anyone would want one) I’d just ride my bike around rivers drinking coffee all day, but like so many of you, I have to go to work. I’m pretty sure though, that if one HAS to go to work, I may have stumbled onto the absolute best way to do it. Even without coffee and snacks.

*That’s also roughly 58,500km of commuting for those playing along at home. Also, there’s not enough space here to discuss how I have changed as a man, so don’t ask.

The Positive Wolf Sits One Out

Some mornings the Positive Wolf stays tucked in his den, curled up and snoring. He can go out all day, he’s not some working chump like you. So you end up alone in the basement with your the Negative Mind.

It starts with the usual questions. “Why the hell are we doing this again?” And then starts the barter, “hey, you know bedtime was late last night and all we’re short sleep, so you could just do the minimum number of sets today and skip the two extra…”

Sometimes you can’t even hear the banter over the popping and complaining of your 47 year old joints ringing with their years of misuse and abuse. Forget the actual exercises, you pathetically struggle and grunt just to get up off the floor and transition between them. And really, you have no answer for your Mind, you don’t know why you’re doing it except that, if you can remember and remind yourself often enough, it’s to avoid the feelings of regret, disappointment and lack of accomplishment when you don’t.

Those are far worse, and you try to remember that when you’re struggling to even stand up off the floor. 

Spring Snow

Northside Trail, Fredericton, NB, Canada

Bit of a late season spring snowstorm dumping about 10cm of snow on our neck of the woods today. That ‘spring snow’ that is very heavy and wet and clings to everything. Huge monster flakes that are hard to miss. Went out for a walk at lunch just because.

I find days like this tricky for cameras on phones. Snowy and overcast, the photos always end up with a lot of blue in them. I adjusted this one in Photoshop a bit, but it’s still not quite what it was like standing there.