I Did An Ignite Talk And Didn’t Blow Up!

I meant to write about this back in November, but November and December sort of got devoured, so maybe I can do it justice now.

Every November, our company does a little internal conference where people do talks and workshops and stuff for other people to learn from. When it came time to make presentation proposals, I was low on ideas, so I thought “Hmmm if I don’t have ideas enough for a 45-minute talk, maybe I can do an ignite talk about the new criteria in version 2.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. That’ll be less work and preparation. Yeah!” So I decided to take a deep breath and see how this went. I’m really glad I did because I learned a lot from it. I had to prepare less material, but about the whole less preparation and less work thing? Oh how wrong I was.

So in case you don’t know what an ignite talk is, here’s a quick description. Each speaker gets 5 minutes, in which they have to go through 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide, and the slides advance automatically! So if you lose your rhythm, it kind of looks like what happens when an orchestra’s parts go out of sync with each other. When your time is up, it’s up, and that’s it! When I was a kid doing public speaking, my folks would joke that if I took too long, the judges would get the hook and drag me off the stage. Well, in this case, they just might…in a polite way of course. So, here’s what I learned while trying to avoid getting the hook.

  • Usually, my presentations end up getting peppered with babble that I come up with on the fly. This does not work in an ignite talk. There is no room for rambling or excess things or repetition. Everything has to be timed out just so, so I have to plan my funny comments right into the script.
  • The first thing you have to do is break up your big idea into your major points. About 3 or 4 points make a good number.
  • Remember, it doesn’t have to be one point per slide. You can have a point that takes two slides and it’s just fine.
  • Time it as you go. Otherwise you could end up in a heap of trouble. Also, when you find a slide with timing that works, do a word count. Then you can sort of eyeball things as you go along. I found about 60 words ish seemed to fit into the time.
  • What I had to do was use a stopwatch on my phone, but have JAWS read the slide content. But keep in mind your screen-reader’s speech rate. If it sounds like an auctioneer, it might not be speaking at a rate that would be comfortable for you to duplicate. So change it if necessary.
  • If you’re using Powerpoint, you can make your slides make a noise as they transition to the next one. Here’s how. So you can practice and make sure you can fit into the assigned 15 seconds, and when it’s presentation time, you can hook an earbud up to the presentation computer, run your slides, and you always know if you’re on track or not.
  • Make it so you have room for error. So if you go off track and have to cut a slide out, your presentation still makes sense.
  • I admit I cheated a little bit. Since Ignite talks need pictures in their slides, I sent my slides to someone who is good at finding pictures, gave her some ideas of what I would want, and let her put the images in. But I’m sure you could figure out other ways to do it.
  • Practice your talk a whole ton. Practice so all you need is a couple of words to remind you how each slide is supposed to go. Practice in front of people who try to distract you and throw you off. Practice it until you can pretty much do it in your sleep. Practice, practice, practice! Then you cannot get flustered. Flustered people splutter and stammer and go off track and smash! Hey, look, there’s that out of sync orchestra I mentioned.

So here’s my Ignite talk. Here are my slides, and here’s the audio. If you wait a few seconds until I really get going, you can sync them up and hopefully it will work.

Admittedly I was still nervous, and I was having to talk a bit quickly to get everything in there, but it was my first try, so I’m not going to beat myself up too badly.

I think I’d do an Ignite talk again. I just need to remind myself that it’s a five-minute overview of something. If I keep that in mind, I’ll be good.

What Matters Most, What Makes Us Whole, Is Knowing Who Is Annoying The Hell Out Of Us This Christmas

This friggin commercial drove me batty this Christmas season.

and not for the reason you’re probably thinking, that it ran six jillion times an hour, especially on certain channels. No, it’s for these three reasons.

First, I had no idea what it was for. This happens more times these days than I’d like. I’d like to record the audio of a bunch of these suckers and post them one after another just to give people an idea. It’s ridiculous! What’s up with the commercial where a guy’s voice talks about how you could tell her that she has the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard or that her eyes sparkle like diamonds, but you won’t, because that’s not you? Or that one with the creepy music and some high-pitched voices going “Quack quack quack!” Or the one singing about how we all need a hug in the morning, and one at the end of the day? And those are just the recent ones. I know TV is a visual medium, but part of getting products in people’s heads is to hit them with its name in multiple ways. And blind people do watch TV and might want to know about your stuff.

Second, I can’t understand if “what matters most, what makes us whole,” is being “around the evergreen, with the whole family-ee-ee”, why is she calling to wish someone a “merry Christmas, merry merry Christmas, baby”? Is he stuck in some foreign land on military service? Is there a reason that “baby” can’t be “around the evergreen with the whole family?”

And the last one is completely irrational. This commercial really started stepping it up when I decided that maybe this year I should break with tradition and go home to be with my family instead of going to Steve’s family because my dad was about to go through heart surgery. I was discovering that it might be harder to do than I had planned, and this stupid commercial kept taunting and taunting and taunting me. Listen, unknown entity, being told that what matters most is to be with my whole family when it looks like I can’t really pull that off makes me hate you with a burning passion.

I found out that the entity deserving of said burning passionate hatred is Sobeys. Thanks, Sobeys, for the frustrating and taunting commercial.

It ended up not being possible to get home to my family for a multitude of reasons, but I did have a good time with Steve’s family…so I got to be around the evergreen with that whole family, and they put up with my frequent calling and texting of my family, so it all worked out.

Now we just need to have my dad pull through his recovery from Monday’s heart surgery. It sounds like it’s going to be an uphill climb, but so far he’s doing ok.

Merry Christmas

So um, it’s Christmas Eve. I have to keep reminding myself that yes, in fact, Christmas is here. With everything else going on, I just sort of tumbled haplessly into Christmas.

So, before it’s too late, I hope everyone is having a happy holiday full of family, friends and fun. Hopefully, soon I’ll be able to write all the posts I’ve wanted to over the last year. Oops.

Tansy Lump News

I feel like a bit of a jerk for not giving everyone an update sooner. I got the update two weeks ago about Tansy’s lumps, but haven’t really had a chance to write it all down. So here it goes.

It’s all good news! All the lumps came back as benign. The one on her leg that they thought was a mast cell tumour was called a keratoacanthoma. I’d link to an article, but everything I google is written for vets with big ol’ degrees. Plus the one I’d link to is broken. this link isn’t so bad. Her tumour is under the Cornifying Epitheliomas section. The point is it’s some kind of wacky tumour coming from a hair follicle and it’s harmless. The other two turned out to be lipomas, those fatty lumps. So, there shouldn’t be any next steps and we go on as usual.

Tansy is healing up well, but I can still feel stitches in a couple of places, especially on her back. But the spots are getting smaller. As of the 10th, she has been cone-free and she’s been allowed to go back to work.

So far the harness hasn’t been rubbing on anything it shouldn’t. The school sent these fleece things to help minimize the harness’s rubbing but things seem to be ok. I felt bad for Shmans at the beginning though. The first day after she was cleared to work, we took the train, but I was afraid to put her coat on because I thought it would rub. But I didn’t quite realize how cold it was…and didn’t take into account that she has bare patches of skin. So off we went and everything seemed fine…but when we got to the end of the mall driveway, she would not continue. We were going to the mall and that was it! Never mind that it wasn’t truly open yet, and I don’t know my way from the mall parking lot to the train, so we had to wait for someone, so we had to be out in the cold longer. In her mind, the mall was warm, she was cold, she was going where it was warm. Frustrating as it was, I couldn’t help but laugh because I knew what she was thinking and it was my own fault I was in this pickle.

I can’t decide if she enjoyed the little holiday when she was housebound or not. Whenever I would leave, she would circle around my legs as if to say “I’m here, I’m here!” and she would step back when she saw the cane…seemingly sadly. But whenever either of us would try to take her for a sniffy walk, she would insist on coming back in, and after we got in, she would just go off to bed and sleep. She wasn’t bugging us for stuff too much. But boy, was she ever happy to see everybody when I took her back to work.

When the news came back that the lumps were benign, some people wondered if my vet clinic took me for a ride. There thought was why, instead of knocking her out and yoinking all of them, didn’t they take a biopsy of a little more of the lump rather than take it off. For one, the lump they were really uneasy about was super small, so I don’t know how easy it would have been to biopsy. Plus, the other two they took were hard to get a hold of while she was awake because her skin would twitch. So, if she’s already out for one lump, they might as well take the other two and then they can be sure. This seems to be the general consensus, so I don’t think I was taken for a ride. Plus, Tansy has 5 other lipomas and they’ve never tried to take them. I think these were weird.

I have to backtrack a bit. For a few months, I’ve been wondering if Tansy is winding down, heading for retirement. If she is, she’s winding down slower than Trix, but I’m still seeing things that make me go hmmm. I’ve been keeping a log to try and keep me honest.

For a few days after she was allowed to work again, I thought maybe she had new energy, and even though those lumps were benign, they were somehow making her feel more under the weather. But after a particularly busy couple of days, Tansy actually refused to work for the first time. So…I guess my first suspicions were more correct than I thought. But for now, she still enjoys seeing everybody at work and enjoys some challenge. I just think she actually has limits now, which is a new development.

So that’s the end of the Shmans lump saga…for now. Thanks for asking about her and sending good thoughts.

He’s Got What In His Head?

A Thousand Miles From Nowhere by Dwight Yoakam just came on the Spotify. I hadn’t heard that song in ages. It even brought back an old, fuzzy memory that I doubt anybody else in the family would recall.

I remember one night we were all out driving. Don’t ask me where we were going to or coming from, that part’s gone and it really isn’t important. What I do remember is that song being on and getting to the line about him having heartaches in his pocket and echos in his head. Then, out of the blue, somebody who was probably my dad because it usually was him in one of these stories pipes up and says “What? He has pickles in his head?”

Don’t tell me you don’t hear that. I have ever since. Even after all these years, apparently.

I Found A Store In A Mall That Gets Christmas Music Right. No, I Can’t Believe It Either

I need to give a shoutout to the Bootlegger in Kitchener’s Fairview Mall, one of the few stores seemingly in the world that has figured out how to handle its Christmas music.

I was in there doing some Christmas shopping this week and I couldn’t help but notice their music mix. I don’t know who or what was supplying it, but good on you, whoever you are.

When I walked in, I was greeted by some Christmas song or other. I want to say it was “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but maybe that’s because of the 37 other times I heard at least part of it that day and not because they were actually playing it.

In any event, it soon ended and was immediately followed up by…this.

Happy holidays!

The switch was jarring, but kind of awesome. Made me not mind staying in there a little longer.

It was back to Christmas after that for a song or two, but again, don’t ask me which ones.

What I can tell you is that when it ended, it was time for some Strokes.

I couldn’t stop myself from quietly singing along as I waited in line with the things I wanted to buy. I was actually feeling happy to be Christmas shopping. What a concept!

By the time I paid and left there was a Coldplay song on. Not Clocks or Yellow. It was one of the upbeat sounding ones that came out in the last few years. I know it, but the name escapes me. I don’t care much for Coldplay, but I still appreciated it.

And even more, I appreciated the effort to even out the shopping experience. Most places just go hog wild on the Christmas, and it’s awful. I don’t hate Christmas music at all. In the right doses, some of it is kind of nice. But being constantly bombarded by it whenever I turn on the radio or go out in public, that I can’t handle. A closer to equal ratio of normal songs to festive ones is nice. I wish more places would do it. Thank you, Bootlegger.

Who Nearly Had A Worse Name: Creed Or The Black Crowes?

Most of the entries on this list of the 25 Worst Original Names of Famous Bands are just silly and not very good, but a couple of them easily hit “Holy shit, that really almost happened?” levels. They’re the sort of thing you might expect out of some punk band just looking to fuck with people, but not out of bands that are actually trying to become mainstream famous.

For instance…

The Georgia rock band led by battling brothers Chris and Rich Robinson played a ragged mixture of garage rock and alt-country for about five years under the name Mr. Crowe’s Garden – reportedly inspired by Johnny Crow’s Garden, an early 20th century children’s book by Leonard Leslie Brookes – before changing it to something a little more in sync with their newfound Humble Pie/Faces obsession. As limp as their original moniker was, though, it could have been much, much worse: According to Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, Def American head honcho Rick Rubin once told them, “‘I think you should be the Kobb Kounty Krows and spell it [like] the KKK.’ And we all laughed, and he goes, ‘No, I’m serious. . . I think that’d be marketable.’ We told him to go fuck himself. I mean, it was completely insulting on every level.”

Not all of your ideas are going to be good ones no matter how successful you’ve been, but Jesus Christ, Rubin. Even by the standards of three decades ago that one is completely insane.

Perhaps through some act of fan mercy, the words “Naked Toddler” do not currently appear anywhere on Creed’s Wikipedia page. But the fact is, when the group first came together in the mid Nineties, guitarist Mark Tremonti presented his bandmates with a newspaper clipping he kept in his wallet containing a story about an abducted “naked toddler” and convinced them it would a good moniker. “The name didn’t go over well,” singer Scott Stapp wrote in his autobiography. “Girls hated it and said it made them think of pedophilia.” The band eventually adopted Creed as a shortened form of the name of bassist Brian Marshall’s previous outfit Mattox Creed. And yet, the group apparently aren’t totally ashamed of their NAMBLA-esque original name. In 2012, they posted a piece of “Creed Trivia” to their Facebook page asking fans if they knew the band’s original name. About 600 fans have replied so far, all confident in typing “Naked Toddler.”

Wait. Creed was still around in 2012?

I don’t know what’s worse. That Mark Tremonti legitimately thought Naked Toddler was a good name or that the rest of them gave it some thought and then were like yeah…it’s not bad, let’s do it!

We Lost A Court Case? What Do You Mean? I Don’t See Any Court Case Here

Who could have possibly seen this coming?

The Ford government is trying to use the new powers it buried in the budget bill to dismiss at least eight lawsuits against it, including ones that it’s losing or has already lost.

Tell us about the case of Adam Capay. This is a former inmate who was held in solitary confinement in a windowless cell in Thunder Bay for a long period of time. Tell us what’s at stake with that case?
Mr. Capay is a member of the class in a case called Francis, which is a case we brought on behalf of people who’ve been solitarily confined in jails in Ontario and whom have mental health issues. So that case was certified last year, on consent, I might add. The government agreed to that. And now they’re seeking to have this law used in order to retroactively dismiss the case.
Some of the other cases relate to people suffering from bail delays, claims by disabled adults whose funding was cut off, solitary confinement of children, Crown wards who were mistreated, abuse in provincial training schools or other provincially operated institutions — it’s a wide variety of cases, most of which, if not all, don’t relate to budgetary questions. They relate to negligent acts by the Ontario government over a period of many years.

And on that, I want to ask you about one of your cases, which is that the government’s argument will be tested in March in this case involving a 21-year-old woman named Briana Leroux. What’s that about?
Ms. Leroux’s case is being brought by her litigation guardian, who’s her father, Marc Leroux. And in Ontario, those with developmental disabilities have certain types of funding up to their 18th birthday. And then the day after that, that funding is cut off and they’re moved into a very badly run system.
There are numerous wait lists, and our allegation is that the wait lists are run in a negligent fashion. There are no objective criteria. It’s sort of a Kafkaesque situation where people are sent into a system that has no beginning and no end and changes every day.
So we had a motion to get that case certified. It was fully argued over three days. We were successful and the judge found that we had a claim in negligence and under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government appealed that decision to the divisional court, and that’s being heard in March.
But, in the meantime, this law was passed and now they’re seeking to rely on it retroactively to get a case they already lost dismissed.
The government argues that the core issue is policy and funding, and so you can’t sue the government for policy and funding issues. This is something that they are saying they must protect. So how do you argue that?
The problem with that argument is that that’s what they said in front of the motions judge with respect to us being able to sue them in the first place — that it was a policy decision.
And our statement of claim, our lawsuit, is expressly framed to not be about the policy of funding adults or not who have disabilities with certain programs, but about the operation of the program once it is funded and passed by the legislature.
So the judge already found in the court below that this was not a case about policy, but about the management or mismanagement of this province-wide system. And so it’s a complete red herring to raise the policy question because our case was never about policy in the first place.

Hopefully Kirk Baert is right and there’s no way this ridiculousness will stand up in court, but regardless, there’s something very important here that would be good for governments and other organizations to keep in mind. It might seem like the cheaper and therefore better option to paper over incompetence, cruelty and generally poor decision making by abusing power, rules and regulations to cover it up or make it go away, but over the long-term it tends not to work out that way. You might get away with it for a while (sometimes a very long while), but eventually it’s going to come back around and you’ll end up on the hook for much more than you would have had you just done the right thing in the first place.

Phone Red Or Yellow? Goodbye, Scammy Fellow

I’m not sure how effective any of this will be since plenty of online spam still makes it through all of our blocking technology and into the hands of people willing to respond to it in volumes large enough for sending it to remain worthwhile, but I’m willing to wait and see. I’ll at least give credit to the CRTC for trying something, because scam calls have gotten seriously out of hand.

I do wonder about the accessibility of the warnings as described, though. Colour coded squares and triangles might be fine for most people, but they aren’t going to do blind dudes like me a whole lot of good. I don’t have gobs of faith that it’s happening, but hopefully somebody involved in this process has come up with a plan for audio describing things in a way that is helpful but not so verbose as to render call display virtually useless. CRTC announces new plan to help prevent nuisance phone calls

After years of complaints from Canadians about fraudulent telephone calls and voicemail spam, the CRTC says it’s stepping up its fight.
Canada’s federal telecom regulator said Monday that telecom companies have until the end of next September to implement a new tool that puts the onus on carriers to recognize suspicious calls amid a scourge of caller ID spoofing that has seen fraudsters pose as Canada Revenue Agency auditors to defraud consumers.
The new technology, called STIR/SHAKEN, is designed to allow service providers to confirm the identities of callers and assure consumers calls are coming from legitimate parties.

Officials say the new system — on top of call blocking technologies already being implemented in Canada — won’t stop all scam calls, but will add a layer of prevention and could be especially effective in flagging illegitimate calls originating from internet-based services such as WhatsApp.

Once the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited/Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens technology is in place, it will allow users to see if the origins of calls they receive have been verified.
The framework does not work on landline phones, although the CRTC says telecoms are also expected to meet a Dec. 19 deadline to implement universal call-blocking. That system prevents internet, mobile and landline calls, but only those that don’t comply with the North American Numbering Plan and may not stop spam calls that come from numbers that appear legitimate.
Canada’s major telecom companies say they are in the process of implementing call-blocking to combat calls from those who can change the information that appears on the caller ID display to misrepresent themselves — a tactic known as “spoofing’ — and are on track to meet the deadline imposed by the CRTC.

A spokesperson for Bell Canada added that the Montreal-based carrier has also applied to the CRTC to conduct a 90-day trial of customized call blocking technology it has developed “to further protect against fraudulent and scam calls.”
Developed by web engineers and pushed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the STIR/SHAKEN framework adds a digital certificate, meaning that calls travelling through interconnected phone networks would have their caller IDs “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers. It has already been adopted in parts of the U.S.
CRTC officials said incoming calls could be labelled with a yellow triangle to indicate that the call is suspicious, or a red square to notify users that the call could be spam, although the commission will work with carriers to determine exactly what call display changes will be adopted.