Microburst

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Microburst: a word I’d never heard before this week — but now that I’ve seen what one can do, a word I’ll remember. The Montreal Gazette calls it “an intense, rain-fuelled downdraft of air from a severe thunderstorm that slams hammer-like into the ground.” Within minutes on Tuesday, its 120 km/hour winds brought down trees and power poles across my neighbourhood, leaving us without electricity. We were very fortunate not to suffer any damage; some of our neighbours weren’t as lucky. Nothing like a reminder from Mother Nature to put things in perspective.

Five

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Five years ago today, I started working full-time at Automattic. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked for someone besides myself.

Thanks to Automattic, I’ve eaten pastéis de nata in Lisbon, tucked into tapas in Barcelona, devoured croissants in Paris, and savoured street art in London. I’ve travelled all over the US and Canada, developing a burrito fixation that haunts me.

I have colleagues and friends spread out on six continents.

I’ve answered more questions about WordPress than I could have ever imagined – and (amazingly?) I’m still not tired of it.

I have skills I didn’t when I started – responsive design, child theming – and got comfortable enough to teach them to others.

My imposter syndrome is still a part of me, but it doesn’t consume me like it once did, and I share tips with others on how to tame it.

Thank you, Automattic, for giving me opportunities to learn, stretch, and share over the last five years. You’re still my people.

Trapped: A Story

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I find myself trapped a lot. Too often for my liking, really.

And I’m not talking metaphorically.

There was that time I unexpectedly rode an elevator up and down nonstop for 45 minutes at a hotel in San Francisco. (Did I mention I’m very susceptible to motion sickness? You do the math.)

There was the memorable experience of getting locked in a housing project in London, England, after being given the wrong address where I was to meet people. That one was really interesting, since I didn’t have a local SIM card, so no way to reach anyone to let them know I was trapped. How the heck would I get out of the locked gate — who locks an exit gate, anyway? — and how the heck would I find the people I was supposed to meet? (Thankfully, my colleagues sent out a search party to find me, and when I finally escaped the compound, they miraculously ran into me wandering the streets.)

This afternoon I was trying to exit an underground parking lot, but could not get the garage door to open. A note on my receipt said the exit code was 1245, but there was nowhere to enter said code. With my car parked at the exit booth and hazard lights flashing, I meandered (well, lurched, semi panic-stricken, is probably more accurate) around the lot, looking for an attendant, to no avail. I picked up several serious-looking red “emergency” phones and waited for a security guard to answer, but got no response.

The lot was eerily quiet. Not a soul was around. I called the toll-free number near the booth. “You’ve reached ParkSafe. We’re not available, but please call back in 10 minutes.”

When these things happen to me, I sometimes have a brief flash that this will later make for an amusing story.

You’re reading this now, so it means I finally made it out of the garage. While I was having dinner with my friend, I got this brief text from Mark at ParkSafe:

Hi it's Mark from ParkSafe I just missed your call you can reach me on my cell at [redacted] - Ha thanks! I was trapped in a lot but made it out, whew!

It was cool that Mark got back to me. He seemed nice.

Signs of Summer

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I’ve fallen way behind in posting. Instead of continuing to stare at all the great ideas I have for epic posts and not actually writing any of them, I’ll try to break the bloggers’ block by posting some amusing signs I’ve come across in my last couple of months of travels. They might be amusing only to me, so no guarantees… Photos taken in Montréal, Toronto, and Paris, France.

Défense d'afficher (do not post)

Do not post. File under: “Irony”

Ice Cold Ramen

File under: “Who thought this was a good idea?”

Est-ce que les sacs pour les fruits et légumes vous conviennent?

How are the fruit and vegetable bags? File under: “Low-tech, in situ survey technology”

no stapler here

File under: “If staplers are such a common request, why don’t they just keep one there?”

Petit bar à chiens

Little dog bar. File under: “Just plain cute.”

Hey, LA

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I’ve been to Los Angeles a couple of times, but the most recent trip was over 20 years ago. On this visit, what struck me most was the disparity between rich and poor, highly privileged and not at all. Homeless people sleeping outside in a neighbourhood of multimillion-dollar beach homes. Expressive, colourful street art vs. sedate European treasures at the Getty Museum. Kids arriving at the art centre in a black smoke-spewing school bus that looked like something from the 1950s lining up alongside their preppy uniform-clad counterparts from a private school.

My recent trip was full of many contrasts like these, but since I’m usually too shy to take photos of strangers, all the images I have to offer are of inanimate objects. Here you go.

Hairstory: a father-daughter tale

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Every year at the Automattic all-company Grand Meetup, we each have to give a short presentation in front of our colleagues. This “flash talk” can be about anything at all – and it can be in any format we like, whether a more traditional talk with slides, a song, video, or interpretive dance: pretty much anything goes.

This year was my fourth Grand Meetup flash talk, and I decided I was finally ready to do something more personal. My past flash talks had been about growing garlic, the peculiarities of Quebec English, and foods from Quebec that everyone should try at least once… but this time would be different — it would be a story about me, my dad, and our hair.

I hope you like it.

Transcript

Last year, my flash talk was on growing garlic. This year, I’m going to talk about growing hair.

Even before my birth, the subject of hair in my family was fraught with anxiety. You see, my dad Bob had an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata. By age six he’d already lost much of his hair.

He wore a hat constantly from 6 to 13 so the other kids wouldn’t bully him. They bullied him anyway; they knew what the hat must be hiding.

By 14 he began wearing a wig.

A pretty bad wig.

What had started out as alopecia areata was becoming alopecia universalis – as in hair loss everywhere. Eyebrows, eyelashes, leg hair, my dad was losing it all.

By his early twenties when he married my mom Ellie, he’d ditched the wig, and was attempting to pencil in the missing patches on his head instead.

Doctors didn’t know very much about alopecia back then – they don’t know much more today – but they thought there MIGHT be a genetic component, so my parents were understandably concerned this condition might be passed on to their kids.

So when their firstborn – me – came out with a small little head of dark hair, my folks were pretty relieved that I appeared to take after my mother in the hair department.

Still, my parents held their breath a bit as I grew older. Watching. Waiting.

The hair grew. And grew.

My dad stopped penciling in his head every day and eventually shaved off the last stubborn locks. They never grew back.

By the time I got to elementary school, it was clear that my thick, curly, unruly, hair was here to stay. My parents were very happy.

Ironically, I decided around that point I hated my frizz and wished I could just have straight hair, like the rest of my friends. My mom would blow-dry it for me in a vain attempt to turn tight curls into the straight hair I’d never have.

After certain really terrible haircuts – by hairdressers who hadn’t the faintest idea how to cut curly hair – I would go home feeling like I looked like Little Orphan Annie – but with MUCH less optimism.

After one particularly horrific haircut I professed to my mother quite earnestly that I needed to become a nun so I could hide my hair every day. Never mind that we were Jewish, that was just a detail. The Catholics needed nuns, surely something could be worked out.

When I got into acting, my hair took on a leading role.

Hair got big.

Hair got short.

I went through my own hat phase.

My yearbook photo was a big disappointment. I detested it so much I covered it up with a retake. This time, with a hat.

I went prematurely grey the summer I was 17. But it was just for a play.

As I got older, I gradually began to hate my hair less and less. Adolescent angst turned to adult apathy. It just didn’t matter so much anymore.

After meeting a cartoonist named Shane, he took a stab at drawing me. My hair had made an impact. You can see how he was trying to get it just right.

Five years later when we got married… he made this for our wedding cake

These days, my dad & I are both pretty accepting of our heads and our hair.

As I get older, grey hairs have come along. Real ones this time. I used to pull them out as they appeared, but in the wise words of a former hairdresser, “That’s probably not a good coping strategy.”

Will I dye my hair? Time will tell.

A few years back, a relative shared this picture of my great-grandmother Rose. I wouldn’t mind rocking the grey frizzy look as well as her someday.