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I am convocating this week (well if i was actually attending the ceremony). So after three long years of work and study and stress and little socialization…but still lots of fun…I find myself asking what now? Aside from having a ton of free time all of a sudden, I wonder how I want to utilize this new specialization I have. Not only has it been 3 years of school, but also 5 years at Environment Canada, time to assess the situation I’d say.

I eagerly accepted a job at Environment Canada because I wanted the work I did to make a difference.  I didn’t want to be a part of the development of the next useless gadget or widget (don’t get me wrong…I LOVE useless gadgets and widgets as much as the next person) but I knew it would be easy to get caught up in all the big business hype of software development.  I know government work has it’s (many!) drawbacks but I do feel like I’m part of something that’s trying to accomplish positive things.  Yes, most of the time it’s indirectly…and there’s a lot of bullshit you have to deal with to achieve something, but trust me, government is not the only place i would experience such a thing.

I also chose my research topic because I wanted to look at something that would hopefully make a difference to people.  I appreciate that government aligns itself so closely with accessibility standards, even though most developers and clients groan about it.  My father was a computer programmer who also suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.  When he went on disability, his major lifeline was the computer.  As his mobility degenerated it got harder and harder for him to use the computer.  I know all too well how important it is to design tools for an accessible audience.

The thing that’s making my feet itch though is at EC I’m sitting in front of a computer, talking to clients who are also EC employees.  I’m not actually in the thick of it to see the impact any of my work may be having.  At UofT, I’m sitting in front of a computer and hoping that at some point my work may have an impact.  I have a selfish desire to “get out there” much like my days as a NetCorps volunteer in Ghana, that I endlessly talk about because it’s so close to my heart.  I interned as an IT Specialist, but most of the time instead of helping out with anything IT related, I was visiting the women’s shelter to deliver supplies, or going into the villages to participate in HIV/AIDS information sessions.  I am daydreaming for something like this again, if even for a little bit to refresh my commitment to the fact that yes, even the people sitting behind the computers in the gray cubicles have the potential to contribute positively in some way to the world.

Making decisions has never been an easy thing for me, and I am usually pretty easily influenced by the people I love and respect.  But instead of just doing what they tell me…I’m trying to take some time, and just consider their opinions as well as take part in things just for me while I figure it out.   I have been having a lot of fun flexing my carpentry skills, getting involved in a group I am passionate about, studying french, a few other enjoyments here and there, and well, just being with the people I love as I owe them a lot of time from being in a bubble for the last 6 months or so.

Any suggestions for me to consider?

I’m also trying to figure out what is going to happen to this blog, as I have come to enjoy writing posts…but it was originally intended to be a research blog, and not much of that is happening right now. Stay tuned if interested.

Now that I have finally reached the end, I wanted to write a bit about the remarkable group of people I met while at UofT, and how grateful I am to them for helping me through this…and now being a part of my life. WARNING:  I do touchy-feely pretty well, so the following is not recommended for the cold-of-heart.

Greg Wilson – I remember the day I went to Greg’s office for a routine meeting about a class project and walked out feeling full of hope, ideas, inspiration, and a new advisor to boot.  Greg didn’t know me at all, but was still concerned about how I was doing, not just in respect to the course project, but in general.  After spilling the beans that I just wasn’t feeling that the whole part-time thing was working and I’d probably just take some courses of interest here and there, he was determined to review all of my options and help me reach a solution.  And that is basically how he has worked with me through this whole process.

When many other students left meetings with their advisors feeling bogged down, stressed and defeated, I would leave feeling elated, confident, and full of determination. Greg worked around my schedule and constantly gave me options, never once complaining…although occasionally guilt-tripping 🙂  When I let him know something wasn’t working for me, he would always try to come up with a new way to approach a situation in order to help me succeed, and he did it with such positivity that you couldn’t help but feel positive as well…something his others students and I have deemed “The Greg Effect”.

I don’t know many professors or managers who would take on such a high maintenance student, or one who would put so much effort behind helping them succeed. Students at UofT are definitely missing out on a great educator now that Greg is no longer on the faculty. But I am very glad he took a chance on me, and that he is now one my friends. Just to share one of the many reasons why I love Greg, in the midst of my thesis-writing woes he sent me this link, and yes although you may think it cheezy…Greg takes the time to get to know each and every one of his students, and he knows just how well a high cheeze factor works with me.  I ended up writing 5 pages that day! Thanks Greg! *hug*

Jon Pipitone – I have Greg to thank for putting Jon in my life…another one of his great ideas when he saw I wasn’t saying a word in meetings, and not making an effort to get to know any of his other students.  When Greg suggested Jon and I become research partners, I don’t think he meant for us to take it as seriously as we did.

Even though Jon already knows how grateful I am to him, I am still going to gush about him in a public forum (oh how he will hate this).

Jon has a way of listening to my nonsensical sentences, processing it, and repackaging it so that when he relays it back to me I sound like a genius. And although his project management skills leave something to be desired 😉 he kept me thoroughly entertained during our long sundays at the lab, fed me with an endless supply of dumplings, provided me with a steady stream of music to work with, as well as constantly emailing me funny and sweet links/words that gave me a break from research.

In the past 2 years(ish) I think there have been very few days when I haven’t seen, spoken, chatted or written to Jon…unless we were fighting of course ;)…who knew a research partnership could be so complex? But after countless hours of chatting about research and then some, he definitely rooted himself into my life wether he meant to or not!  Jon, you’re the best! *fist bump*

Andrew Trusty – You gotta trust the Trusty…and do I ever! I would not have survived this last lap, writing up my thesis without having you there as my constant.  Thanks for being there to work with, talk with, eat with, walk with, run with, sit with, chat with, celebrate with, laugh with!  I could always depend on you for great company…even if you tired of me sometimes 😉  You kept me on track when I so easily fall off it.  I am very glad to know that you are sticking around these parts, as I don’t think I’m done with being your sidekick just yet. A.T. this pics for you.  Thanks Coach! *pat on the back*

pigeon with tin can on head

Jason MontojoI blame my shyness and unavailability for missing out on the first year or so of Jason.  Who would have thunk that such a great friend was within my reach all that time?  You have been a wonderful listener and advice giver.  Sprinkling all of my dramatic woes with your wit and humour, I look forward to our chats and have come to value your opinion so much.  Thank you for reviewing my work so speedily and constructively, as well as the motivational lunches and inappropriate jokes.  You know how much I appreciate your unique sense of humour 😉 Yay Jay! *high five*

I’m winding down the lovefest I swear…

Jorge Aranda and Jono Leung:  I am so glad I got to know and become friends with both of you.  Jono you were one of the first people I met when I started at UofT, and Jorge you were one of the last as I was intimidated by the legend!  Jorge you were always available for advice and support…is there anything you don’t know?!  Jono, so charming and funny, you are endlessly entertaining.  I came to the lab just so I could be in the presence of you both, that’s how fun and helpful you both are.  Thanks guys! *group hug*

The whole gang!  Rory, Abayomi, Neil, Carolyn, Mike, Zuzel, and Andrew.  The whole SE group and lab posse.  They were there to tolerate my high energy, field my questions, review my work, offer desk space, and gossip breaks.  It was great to have you guys around, and I’ll miss you! hmm I’m out of appreciative actions…so lets all just dance.

Never thought I would have a blog, but here we go.