Thursday, November 30, 2006

More Upgrades that Suck: Yahoo TV, Part 2

Just went online and thought I would share the Yahoo TV comments so far.

Rushi's Ramblings

Jason Blogs

Paul Kedrosky

Dave Winer


Oh, and my comments.

Yahoo, please give us an opt-out on this monstrosity. Or better yet, do a complete rollback.

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Interesting Google Reader Error

Google Reader gave me this error this morning.

Interesting and perplexing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Upgrades that Suck: Yahoo TV

Looks like Yahoo TV upgraded overnight.

Guess I will get my TV schedule information from other sources now.

DHTML/AJAX Schedule is slow and confusing.

Front page looks like a Flash designer got lucky -- Look at all the dancing images!

Complex, complicated, and visually disturbing.

Oh, and no option to downgrade to the original, functional version.

All I want is the TV listings.

How hard is that?

Here we go again

I wrote this in December 2004.

A lot of things have changed since then. And a lot has remained immobile.

I don't know whether to add creative burnout to the raging fire I now know is Bipolar, or to see it as a part of a more general work-related malaise.

I need to talk to a few more people to get a sense of where the work environment is going, what goals I could set for myself. What people expect of me, as compared to what I expect of myself.

We have a strong feeling where the landing points for the family will be within 12-18 months. We have set three possible targets, and each has it's positives and negatives. We aren't making a final decision yet, as we want to see how the winds blow.

All we have is 75-80 years. Sometimes it moves too slowly.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snowstorm -- Victoria, BC -- November 2006

A photo of the Causeway (in front of the Empress Hotel) in Victoria, BC after the Sunday/Monday snowstorm.

Snow in Victoria is pretty rare. Snow that sticks is even more rare.

Picture by Darren Stone -- Victoria Times-Colonist

Monday, November 27, 2006

Skype: One month left....

Here in North America, we have a little over a month left in our free Skype-2-North America phone service. (here)

I'm addicted. I will pay whatever they want me to so I can keep calling US phone numbers from one application.

And I can't figure out why more people in the US and Canada still don't use Skype. Maybe they think that it's too good to be true.

Guess what?

It's very good, and it's true.

Get it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Maine: Sweetgrass Winery -- Under Construction

Up here in Maine, wineries are done the old-fashioned way. Back-breaking physical labour. Check out these photos of construction on the winery part of the winery (here).

However, the nicely framed and hospitable winery space has another side: The old barn with the trench down the middle. Well, yesterday it had a trench. After two days of rock-hurling and dirt-flinging (mainly by Samantha and a small amount by me), the three-foot wide and two-foot deep trench running to the formerly askew septic tank is mostly filled in.

It had to be done by hand in order to protect the PVC waste pipe from damage.


That said, the work that Keith and Constance have done up here staggers my mind. They have done more work in a year than I have done in all my life. Hard, brutal work. While Constance holds a full-time job, and they manage a flock of sheep and three kids.

Next fall, you should be able to sample their winery and distillery products.

And (shameless plug) if you want to invest in a winery, or need winemaking/distilling consulting, let them know; e-mail and snail mail address on their web-site.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Maine: Digging a hole, and filling it

So, how did you spend your Thanksgiving Day?

Keith is installing the run-off / septic tank for the Winery. Last week, in the heavy rains, the hole it was in filled with water and the tank was bobbing up and down in a pit of muck.

Now that the muck has been drained, he needed to make the tank level and fill around it. Keith did most of the work, but we had to jam rocks under it, and then lever it until it was level. Then Keith dumped fill in around the tank.

Hopefully it will be stable.

Now, it looks like we will get a blast of frozen rain.

Oh, the joys of farm life.

And not a Starbucks in sight.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Going North

So, we're packing up the minivan and heading for the idyllic wilds of Maine for the Holiday weekend.

I will have connectivity, but frankly, there will be too much going on with five kids, four adults, a dog, and a flock of sheep (no sheep-human interaction! You people are sick!) to be online much.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Skype, Skype, Skype, Skype...OH! Wonderful Skype!

Over the next 12-18 months, my plan is to move to working from home more. Like, 100% of the time, when I'm not travelling. To help accomplish this, and to free myself from the servitude to the Telcos, I have started to migrate almost exclusively to Skype for my work communication.

In this area, I bought two SkypeIn numbers over the weekend: One for the US, and one for the UK. So, if you want to contact me (oh yeah, I'm beating down the doors to keep people out -- NOT!), I can be reached at:

SKYPE NORMAL: stephen.pierzchala
US: +1.508.471.3865
UK: +44 20 8133 3865

If I am online, I will likely be willing to chat; if not, you'll bounce to my Skype voicemail.

I love Skype.

Did I mention that I love Skype? Oh, ok...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Me on South Park -- November 2006

Been a while...but this is least recently.

What happened to the good stuff?

The last two months have brought substantial changes to my life, and to my view of the world. I am in flux, in change, in limbo. Evelyn Rodriguez of Crossroads Dispatches went through a similar phase lately.

The society we live in is driven by disruption, change, atomization. When you actually translate these messages, they are simply new ways of saying "buy more stuff".

I don't need more stuff. Given some of the plans we have for the next 12-18 months, we need less stuff; or at least more portable stuff.

And if you want disruption and atomization, live inside my mind for a day. The internal chaos of my mind that I am trying to understand is disruptive enough without having to absorb the external chaos people want to bring to my life. So I crave external calm.

The written word, on paper. The beauty in a photograph. The smell of the woods.

My life has been dictated by achieving the ephemeral, in a world completely addicted to "change for change's sake".

I'm tired of keeping up. So I am consciously falling behind. Life is finite, ephemeral. Stuff doesn't matter.

Change doesn't matter.

People matter.

Walk away from the technology for a day, a week. Live with yourself.

It's been a revelation to me.


Apparently the fog is getting thicker in here. My neuro-chemistry must be pretty messed up, as I can't concentrate on anything and all I want to do is sit outside and watch the wildlife play in the "wetlands" that surround our building.

I remember being productive, I really do.

Of course, my short-term memory is pretty shot right now, so I may be making that up as well.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dosage: “Well, it's . . . um . . . it's green."

For a 38-year old man with no outward symptoms of a physical ailment, my daily drug/supplement regimen is one that would leave many of my peers stunned.

The problem is, that like most people who are bipolar, I take a cocktail to try and balance out the variety and multitude of symptoms and effects I undergo. The current melange, as prescribed is:

It's the last one that causes me the greatest concern. Paxil/Seroxat/paroxetine is prescribed much less freely now than it was when I was first given it in 1999. The side-effects can be stunning and as dangerous as the condition they are supposed to assist with.

I have tried multiple times to take paroxetine out of my "diet". Unfortunately, I immediately slip into SSRI discontinuation syndrome -- aggressive behaviour, irritability, and a host of other issues. In the final calculation, paroxetine will likely be a part of my "diet" until I have 6 months in a Tibetan hermitage to wean myself off of it.

Until then, I am adding things such as Omega-3 oils and Ginkgo Biloba to the mix to see if they help my body control my cycles naturally, using the methods it has used for millennia.

It's interesting to note that, when we are mostly aware of what's going on, Bipolars are the best ones to play with and adjust their own treatment regimen. Most high-functioning Bipolars seem to enjoy tweaking and turning the knobs in most things anyway, so why not in our medications.

[The reference in the title is from a Star Trek, Original Series episode. You know how to use Google; you find out what it means.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When you get to the bottom, you go back to the top...

I can already tell that today will be a write-off. I am vibrating, I can't concentrate, and my new boss starts today.

I felt warm and fuzzy this morning, which is now a symptom I recognise of the ride up the cycle. I didn't want to stay in be; I wanted to get out of bed at 04:30 and go to work. I felt that I could do anything.

But now, the world-beating energy is gone, and the sporadic chaos, and paralysing lack of motivation have kicked in. I want to hide and stare out the window.

Wheeee! Let the Winter fun begun!

20 Years Ago Today...

On November 14, 1986, Charles Mountbatten-Windsor turned 38.

And I turned 18.

I have always been haunted that our two lives are intertwined, twenty years apart.

Happy Birthday Chuck.

All in the Family

Time to put the manic energy I have this morning to use.

One of the most interesting things about Bipolar is that genetics plays a substantial role in determining whether you will have it. In my case, my family is a disaster when it comes to mental health.

On my father's side, there is a long and glorious history of schizophrenia and bipolar, including at least 2 grand-uncles, and their children. Two of my father's cousins have committed suicide.

My grandfather committed suicide in 1978.

Everyone says that this was out of the blue, there was no reason for it. He left no note, or showed any indication. But as I learn more about this condition, this state of mind, I realize that the suicidal depressions can often swamp you, flood you, to a point where a person who appears fine will take the final action in the next minute.

On my mother's side, my grandfather medicated with rye. As well, he had amazingly manic states; at least, that's what we would call them now. He passed the genes along to two of his children, one of whom is my mother.

Over the last 10 years, my mother has degraded to a point where she lives alone, rarely goes out, is socially inappropriate, and has tried suicide at least once.

When I speak with her, it is hard to stare into the face of what I might become, what I must be aware of, what the costs of this condition can be.

So, I was doomed from the start. My father, a man who was challenged by his own demons, married a woman who is a wildly cycling bipolar II.

My family is lucky. As far as I can tell, I absorbed all of the bipolar genetics, leaving my brothers to conquer the world in their own ways, without the chaos that tears my mind apart. I am sure that they look at me and wonder why I am so nuts. I am sure that I am not alone in being the odd family member in a sea of normals.

So when you are in the depths of your misery, or at the heights of your mania, try to step back. Ask your parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, uncles. Try and find the thread, the trail that leads through your family. Somewhere along that trail, likely in many places, the "characters" or "eccentrics" or "troubled souls" will leap out at you. These are the people who suffered, and revelled, in their condition, and passed it to you.

And realize that you can't lay blame. You can't transfer your woe and misery and mania to someone who is likely long gone. You just need to understand that you are the current carrier of a torch that originated long before you were born.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Other signs of mania: The hoarder

I have talked in other posts about being an accumulator, driven by the mania to buy things that I have no need for, nor will I ever use. A slight variation of this theme is the need to hoard.

How can accumulation be different from hoarding? It's simple, it's not simply the accumulation of things; it's the hoarding of them in caches, stores, and never share them with anyone.

As well as accumulation, I hoard. I am loathe to throw anything away. I must have it there, in case I need it, sometime, anytime.

Files. Papers. Photographs. Gadgets. Their mine. All mine. Don't touch them! Get out of my space!

It is another inexplicable part of the Bipolar. The manic need to keep it all close. To protect it from others. To keep them from taking your irrationally collected things.

Isn't the mind a fun place?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

UK: Ancestry and the Commonwealth

I just found out today that I one of the ever decreasing number of Canadians who has a free five-year work visa waiting for them in the United Kingdom, courtesy of their grandparents.

It's called the UK Ancestry Visa, and it opens up a whole new set of options to me. It streamlines the hideous visa process I have encountered in this country (USA), to a form and the birth certificates of my grandparents, my parents, and myself. Oh, and their marriage certificates.

And yes, it appears that I may score 3 out of 4 in the grandparental category, as my Scottish grandparents were all born over there.

And no, Pierzchala is not some strange Highland clan, lost to the dark fog of the ages. I am 25% Polish. I have always wanted to have a custom flag made, with the Imperial Polish Eagle superimposed over the cross of St. Andrew.

So, let's see: hideous work permit process that takes years and has no guarantee of success; or immediate entry and work with a simple form and some family documents.

Now, admittedly, I have it easy due to my UK ancestry. However, the entry of highly skilled workers into the UK takes days, not years.

And the US wonders why emigrants are loathe to come here anymore.

T-Mobile USA: Your upgrades suck

Dear T-Mobile USA:

I have been a dedicated customer of yours since 2004. I have become an advocate for GSM services, and think that my brethern who continue to use CDMA services are not looking to the future, and don't see the world coming at them.

That said, as a customer who likes gadgets and all the bells and whistles, your upgrades are pathetic.

And no, that level of emphasis is not used lightly.

I have just returned from the UK. Over there, the phone choices offered by providers stagger the imagination. Bells and whistles are yesterday -- people base their lives around their phones, and the quality and range of phones available are, to say the least, impressive.

They also know that to retain customers, they have to provide astounding FREE upgrades. The latest, greatest are available as free upgrades just for becoming a slave to their contract.

I went and checked the upgrades you offer right now, T-Mobile. They suck. There is no motivation for me to stay with your service, no motivation for me not to move to another GSM provider and kiss my customer fidelity goodbye.

A simple thing: upgrade your upgrades. Please.

Thank you.

London: Back home and some travel tips

Now that I am back on US soil, I have some tips for surviving your trip to London.

  1. GSM Phones. If you are one of the millions in the United States who subscribe to a CDMA service (Verizon, Sprint, etc.), invest a few bucks on eBay and buy a low-end, unlocked, tri-band GSM phone. I have used GSM for years, and the unlocked phones give you an amazing advantage -- you buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card once you arrive.

    In the UK, incoming phone calls are free. If you have a half-decent office phone system, you should be able to remotely forward your desk phone to your UK number and voila! You have a local number that folks in the US can always reach you at.
  2. OYSTER CARD! If you plan to travel anywhere on the London Public Transit system, buy an Oyster card. Same concept as the pay-as-you-go SIM card. And you're never fussing with change or daily passes for the tube, DLR or busses.
  3. Saline Nasal Spray. This seems like a bit in the "too much information" category, but trust me on this one. London's atmosphere makes New York seem like an untouched Alpine pasture. After one day there, your sinuses will feel and look like the inside of a pool filter after a dust storm. A simple nasal spray takes of this, and often provides a somewhat scary indication of what man does to the urban environment he lives in.

    If you don't want to pack one with you, you can buy some truly awesome stuff at any Boots -- Sterimar. What makes this stuff uniqe is that it is aresol powered. Unlike the wussy atomisers we use over here, this stuff is freakin' jet-propelled -- if it can't blast the crap out, it's likely brains.
  4. Look to the right. Yeah, we all know that the Brits drive on the other side of the road, but many an American has been nearly killed in the first twelve hours on the ground by using their instincts and not their brains. I am in this group.

    Thankfully, the Brits provide nice warning labels at most crosswalks; look down, and they will tell you which direction to look in to avoid becoming a hood ornament for a Bentley.
  5. Change Wallet. Dear lord; you will need one of these or you will blow out every pocket you have. The Brits still use a lot of cash, and like the rest of the world, the lower denominations of their currency are coins, not bills. A solid change wallet is key.
  6. Take the red-eye. You will search online and find a multitude of strategies for dealing with jet-lag. I have a simple one -- make sure your flight takes you overnight so that you land at Heathrow/Gatwick/Stansted/Dublin/Luton first thing in the morning. For folks on the East Coast or Central Canada, this means flights between 19:00 and 22:00 Eastern. For West Coast folks, it's a 11-12 hour flight and an eight-hour time change, and Heathrow opens at 07:00, so 11:00-14:00 Pacific is a good range.

These are the top six I can think of rigt now. Comment on your strategies if you have them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Originally uploaded by spierzchala.

Stop, and remember.

The US has no symbol for this day.

In London this week, poppies were everywhere, even on cabs and lorries. In Canada, it is likely similar.

Read "In Flanders Fields" -- then you will understand.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

London: And now the disease sets in

So today, the cold leaped from behind the bushes and threw me down to the ground.

I managed to limp through my meeting Portsmouth, and then get back to the hotel for a two-hour nap. Now I am seriously medicated, I am limping through some work, then I need to go find some food.

I am surprised it took this long to get me. Usually I am sick within the first 2-3 days. Maybe living with my disease breeders helps me develop a limited tolerance.

Tomorrow, I fly home.

London: The Summary

I am in London for the rest of today and most of tomorrow, but London has been a good experience. Lots of Tube time, lots of good discussions with my UK colleagues, and lots of good food.

However, all things must catch up with you, and today I feel like my body is here and my mind is following about 5 minutes behind. Foggy, groggy and dis-oriented. I think I need to go to bed at 7PM tonight.

Or I'm getting a cold.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

London (V & A): The sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci

I went to the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum today, which isn't too shabby considering that I am jet-lagged and trying to get my body on the local schedule after taking the red-eye in.

The Da Vinci exhibit had pages from his notebooks and sketchbooks. Seeing the mind of a genius, the range of interests...the scope of what he accomplished, is astounding.

Go see it. Worth the trip to London.