family history and genealogy

Category: Working

My Foot on the Pedal of Progress

Transcription using cylinder phonograph copy. By The drawing is signed, 'Electrical World, N.Y.' [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons I’m celebrating the acquisition of a new piece of electronica—an AltoEdge USB foot pedal. This little gadget connects to my Mac via a USB interface and controls the ExpressScribe software I use to play back my oral history interviews as I transcribe them. The pedal and software combined take the sting out of a difficult job and boost my productivity in a key area of my enterprise. They also provide an object lesson in change, which is the underlying topic of all history. Continue reading

Something Durable and Luminous

Long after my family history is finished, after the writing is done, after my book is published (or not), after all my relatives and I myself are gone, our voices will still be audible in digital recordings. Our words will also be legible, provided anyone takes the trouble to dig through my files. I have no idea how posterity might receive this archive. I’m still grappling with the oddity of this situation in the present. Continue reading

Where Your Feet Never Touch the Ground

Like many northern cities, Calgary has made provisions for residents who wish to avoid its harsh winter climate. Montreal has its underground city. Toronto and Minneapolis have their skyways. Calgary has a similar network of elevated bridges, the Plus 15s.

Calgary’s +15 walkway system has the distinction of being the largest network of elevated skyways in the world—over 16 kilometers, or 9.9 miles, of enclosed bridges connecting the towers of its downtown core. There are 59 of these bridges, all at a nominal height of 15 feet above the pavement. You can locate a +15 walkway just by looking for the man with the white cowboy hat:

The white cowboy hat is a big deal around here, but that’s another story. Continue reading

Return to Officeland

Calgary, Alberta at dawn looking south from Crescent Road. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo. Wikimedia Commons.


My hiatus after being laid off in June didn’t last long. As soon as the old job ended, I landed a small contract, editing reports for a structural engineering company. It was only part-time, and I worked from home.

Then I picked up a new contract in downtown Calgary, editing reports for a major energy company. This job naturally brought about my return to officeland. Continue reading

Getting Laid Off

Empty chair. Badudoy, Wikimedia Commons.

Last summer I had an experience that millions have had these last few years—I got laid off. I was working at the time for the Technical Publications department of a software company based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Word got out that the director of our department, a woman I’d never met, was coming to Calgary to visit our little outpost.

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The Man at the Bottle Depot

Liquor bottles. Scott Feldstein, Wikimedia Commons.

I was at the bottle depot one Sunday, recycling my empties, when I noticed the man. At first glance, there was nothing distinctive about him. He was middle aged, of medium build, dressed in unremarkable clothing. A trim, brown moustache divided his face. His voice had a raspy edge.

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