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Another Humble THANK YOU!

I do my best to blog consistently, but as I am sure you all know, sometimes work (and life) get in the way.  I assure you it is never my intent to shirk the blog… but the reality is that (despite my having placed a very handy PayPal link on the site) I have never earned any money from blogging.  Don’t worry, that is not why I do it.  I blog – I have always blogged – to help the IT Pro community, and to entertain, and to inform.

Blogging for me is not entirely selfless.  I get true satisfaction when I help people, and the way I know I am reaching you all (since it is not from my PayPal balance) is from comments, replies, and sheer numbers.

That is why it makes my heart swell when I watch my WordPress statistics page.  It is especially meaningful when I write something personal (as I did on September 30, 2014, when I wrote My parting words as a Microsoft MVP.  With all of the technical articles and how-to blogs I have written, that piece resulted in the single highest hit-rate day I had experienced in ten years of blogging… September 30 held that honour for nearly a year.

I have been busy with a lot of different technologies over the past weeks, not to mention my participation in the Pan Am Games.   So in the last week of July I posted five articles in five days – two technical (on PowerShell), two product review/comparison, and one personal completely non-technical piece on the PanAm Games.

If you haven’t noticed, all of my completely non-technical articles are saved for Fridays.  That is the day that I assume people want something lighter to get them ready for the week-end.  Two weeks ago it was a long-overdue piece on Las Vegas, last week and this week it was on the Pan Am Games.  I enjoy writing these pieces, and I know that I do have a growing non-technical audience that I like to write for.

When the week started (with a piece on PowerShell) the statistics were leaning toward an average month – about 16,500 hits, which by the way still blows my mind because I remember the days when 10 hits a day made me happy.  It usually breaks down as 600-650 from Monday to Friday, 500-600 on Fridays, and I am happy if I get 300 hits Saturdays and Sundays.

However as piece after piece came out, something amazing happened… Monday ended and I had 711 hits… 700 hits in a day is not unheard of, but it is usually when I post something either interesting or controversial.  Tuesday was 743 hits… two days above 700 hits is amazing for me!  Wednesday reached 861 hits… wow, I can literally count on two hands (maybe three) the number of 800+ hit days I remember.

I should point out, by the way, that Wednesday was also the day that Windows 10 released.  So of course my Thursday morning post discussed the new OS.  With that said, Thursday’s numbers absolutely shattered the previous record.  1,072 hits from 887 visitors.

Wow.

Fridays are always slower, but still, 827 hits from 701 visitors left a huge smile on my face.

What was probably the best single week of hits (5,300 or so) helped The World According to Mitch to shatter another record.  Thanks to you, 18,381 views on my blog were recorded in July, making this month (my birthday month!) the best ever for the site.

I am sure the fact that I did not neglect you helped… In a 31 day month I posted 15 articles.  I will try to remember that the next time I get complacent.

Thank you all… and if you have any comments, questions, or requests… feel free to ask.  I love you all!

A Sour Note From Toronto 2015 Volunteers

Let me start by saying that I had the greatest time at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.  It was a pleasure to spend eight days (plus training) with a group of mostly like-minded individuals who, when they were asked, signed up by the tens of thousands to volunteer at the Games… in any capacity asked.

That being said, I admit that I applied specifically to volunteer for the Taekwondo competition.  It is the art that I have learned, practiced, and taught for nearly eight years, and I will likely continue throughout my life.  Had the Organizing Committee seen appropriate to offer me a spot at another venue, or for another sport, I would have availed myself of the opportunity to decline when I received the offer in January.  I took a lot of time off of work (unpaid) to work the games, but my interest was specific.  Fortunately for me it worked out.

mitch-united1

I received several things along the way – a uniform and a shoulder bag, tickets to the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies, and a gift certificate to Joe Fresh.  I received a couple of pins, a pair of cheap sunglasses, a keychain, and a Pachi doll.  After my last shift I was handed a generic certificate thanking me for volunteering.  While these were all nice, the value of all of them combined does not come close to the wages I did not earn on any of those days… not by a long shot.

[vol-uh n-teer] /ˌvɒl ənˈtɪər/
noun
1. a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
2. a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

I looked up the word to be sure because some (not most, but a vocal some) are expressing sour grapes about several of the things we received. They wanted something in exchange for their service.  Some of them were upset by the quality of the shirts, the scarcity of the pins and key chains (whaddya mean we all only get JUST ONE?) and, on the last day, the participation letter that we all received.  ‘It’s too cheap, it’s not personalized, and anyone can Photoshop it to make it look like they volunteered too!’

I think the first time I volunteered it was to collect signatures to have Anatoly Sharansky released from a Soviet prison.  I don’t know how old I was the first time I did so, but as he was freed several years later (when I was 14 years old) we can assume I was 10 or 11.  It never would have occurred to me that I should receive compensation for my work… but when Sharansky moved to Israel in 1986, I beamed with pride.

That was 30 years ago; can someone else claim that they did what I did?  Sure, it’s easy.  Does that mean they did it?  Of course not.  In the same fashion, anyone can mock up a letter that says they volunteered at the Toronto 2015 Games… but they don’t have the memories, the experiences, and the new friends to back it up. 

‘But that doesn’t change the fact that someone could put it on their resume and tell prospective employers that they volunteered!’

Firstly it doesn’t take a lot to do that… 99 times out of 100 an interviewer is not going to say ‘Hey, you claim you volunteered… can I see the certificate to prove it?’  But they might ask you to talk about the experience and what you learned from it… who knows?

I was in a bar several years ago with some friends, and there was someone telling people that he served in the Israeli Defense Forces.  He was trying to impress women, and from what I could tell he was about to succeed.  I went up and started asking him a couple of questions.  Nothing like ‘Where did you serve?’ or ‘Did you see action?’… I asked him what his Mispar-Ishi was… I didn’t explain to him that it was his Army Serial Number, because if he served he would have known… no matter how bad his Hebrew was.  It took about 30 seconds to expose him as a fraud, and 30 more seconds for him to understand that one day he was going to claim to be something he wasn’t… no, there was no violence involved, but I put the fear of G-d into him.  For those wondering, he left the bar alone that night… and quickly.

In the same vein, you can claim to have volunteered… but it wouldn’t take more than a few questions to either prove you were a fraud, or at least put enough doubt into the interviewer’s mind that you won’t get the job.  Unless you are Mike from the show Suits you are not going to fool anyone for long.

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What did I get out of the games?  Believe me, I have memories that will last a lifetime, and while there are some pictures, there is no piece of paper that matters compared with the memories.  I also have the swag, some of which is cool and most of it is not.  But the parts that matter… nobody can take that away from me… and nobody can fake it.

So what’s my point?  If you volunteered and had a bad experience (there were 23,000 of us, and I have heard some stories) then I am sorry to hear it.  I’ll bet we all are.  If a venue lost track of you and you showed up for a shift and were turned away because there was no record of you, well that sucks.  If you are disappointed that security guards hounded you for free pins, well that is pretty crappy.  If you didn’t get the right size uniform or there were too many volunteers so your credentials were cancelled, I really do feel for you.  But overall, the games were an overwhelming success; Toronto 2015 was a well-oiled machine and the nightmares that everyone anticipated did not actually happen.  There were no empty venues, there were no gridlock-apocalypse, and aside from one Brazilian water-polo player who is wanted by the Police here and four Cubans who decided to defect, the athletes thought the games were amazing.  Hopefully, most of the volunteers did too.

If an event like Toronto 2015 was expected to be business as usual for the city then there would be nothing out of the ordinary about it… but it was never going to be business as usual, and they were extraordinary.  Did things go wrong?  Sure.  Did the vast majority of things go right?  YES.

Thank you Toronto, and on behalf of the volunteers, in light of the few loud bad apples, I apologize..

Windows 10: Love it… or Don’t.

windows-logoWith the General Availability (GA) of Windows 10, I have been inundated with calls asking my opinion.  I have probably shocked a few people with my response.

Firstly I want to be clear: I do like Windows 10.  I think it has a lot of great features and improvements, and I am sure there are a few things that I don’t particularly care for.  The details of those, which won’t prevent me from running the new OS, are not the point of this article.

“Mitch, I hear Windows 10 is coming out… should I run out to upgrade?”

No.

“Whoa… You don’t like it?”

Yes, I do… I like it very much.

“Then why aren’t you telling me to run out and upgrade?”

Because if your computer works, and there is nothing amazingly new about Windows 10 over your current OS, what is the rush?

“But hey, over the last fifteen years you have been so passionate and excited that I had to upgrade right away!  What’s different?”

This is not a verbatim conversation, but it is an amalgam of several chats and discussions I have had over the past few months.  Let’s look at where we are, and where I am:

1) Starting with Windows 7, Microsoft has released several very good, secure, and stable platforms.  There haven’t been any real duds.  So if you are running any supported version of Windows, you are good.

2) If you are happy with your computer, why change it?

3) In the year leading up to Windows Vista launching I was a user group leader, asked by Microsoft to evangelize that platform.  In the year leading up to the launch of Windows 7 I was a Microsoft MVP, tasked by Microsoft to evangelize that platform.  In the year leading up to Windows 8 I was a Virtual IT Evangelist with Microsoft Canada, paid to evangelize that platform.  Now?  I am older and wiser, I don’t work for Microsoft anymore and am not an MVP anymore.  I don’t run a user group anymore.  All I am is me…

Windows_logo…So let me tell you what I am doing.  Yes, I am upgrading the majority of my systems to Windows 10.  That will include my personal PC (which had been running the Windows 10 Insider builds, so I was able to install the GA bits a few weeks ago), my tablets (which I use to watch movies and listen to podcasts, and are not really mission critical), and one of my Windows to Go (WTG) keys, which I am testing for a work project.  No, I am not upgrading my corporate PCs (either for Rakuten or Yakidoo) because my desktop is not a focus at either company, but my being able to be productive is.  Frankly because it is what we support, my Yakidoo PC still runs Windows 7.

Does this mean you SHOULD or SHOULDN’T upgrade?  No… It means that is what I am doing.  I will say though that from my experience on all three platforms (upgrade from beta, upgrade from Windows 8.1, clean installation) shows me that Microsoft has put a lot of effort into making your upgrade experience a lot easier and more seamless than any version jump in the past.  Rather than having to go out and download an ISO (which I did for my WTG key anyways) you can upgrade through Windows Update.  Nice…

As I type away here, I am occasionally glancing away and looking at an article from Guardian News by Jack Schofield.  Title: Windows 10 review – the final version of Windows might be Microsoft’s best ever.  He’s right… it looks like Microsoft has found a happy medium between what people loved about Windows 7 and what they were trying to deliver with Windows 8.  He makes some great points, and if you are hesitant (and you have a spare machine around) I would try it out on that before diving in.  Virtual machines are nice, but you won’t get the Cortana experience (which I admit I have used once).

There is a new podcast called SurfaceSmiths that I have been listening to that is giving listeners an honest opinion of all things Windows 10… as relates to running it on a Microsoft Surface.  Check them out though, if for no other reason than they also have a segment called Whisky of the Week.

All in all? It’s a good OS, but it’s an OS.  Don’t expect the moon, but expect a solid delivery from the product team.  But if you do not want to upgrade, guess what… I don’t care! Smile

A Tale of Two Tablets…

I like my Surface Pro 3.  Despite a couple of hiccoughs before the drivers were stable I have always liked it.  It is a wonderful computer for what I use it for… and frankly, for a lot of things I don’t use it for.  So when I started commuting to a new office in Toronto earlier this year – a commute that involved nearly an hour on a GO Train each way – I figured I would simply load my movies, TV shows, and books onto the Surface and keep myself entertained on the train.

This system worked perfectly for a couple of months, until I discovered the HP Stream 7… if you read my article (Stream-lining: A review of my new companion device) you will see why I switched.  I have had the Stream 7 for several months, and really the only complaint I have had about it is the battery life.  Of course, it is a little slow… that is to be expected from a Windows 8 device with only 1gb of RAM, but for my purposes (and for the absolutely incredible price) I was not complaining.

A few weeks ago I won a contest, and HP sent me a new device… the HP Pro Table 408.  It is slightly bigger than the Stream 7 (8” as opposed to 7”), has more RAM (2gb), more storage (64gb over the 32gb Stream), and in addition to the micro-USB port that both devices use for charging, it also has a micro-HDMI port to plug in external video.  Okay, It was a present, so I was looking forward to trying it out.

If I was a consumer looking at the two devices side by side I would probably use my Cuban cigar analogy… they are probably 15% better than other cigars, but for 100-200% more money, so not worth it.  The Pro Tablet 408 (the higher end version with the 64GB) retails on the HP Store for US$399, which is 400% of the cost of the Stream 7 at the same HP Store.  Can the slightly larger device really be worth it?  I dunno… The Stream is a pretty good companion device, especially if all you want to use it for is reading and watching movies.

But wait… what if that is not all you want a tablet to do?  What if you want to use it for productivity apps and web surfing and so much more?  What if you are going to use it as a communications device with Skype and Lync (Skype for Business) and Viber?  What if you want to not only do all of these things individually, but multi-task as well?  Well my friend, if that is your game then the $99 Stream 7 isn’t going to cut it.

By the way, I should state one thing for the record right now: The battery life on the Stream 7… well, how do I put it nicely?  It sucks.  It is simply awful. Don’t get me wrong, if I charge it overnight I have no problem using it for the train ride into Toronto, and even to watch a movie or read a book at lunch.  But that’s it… I would expect a device like this to last much longer, and that is just not the case.

The battery is not the only weak component on the Stream 7… the wireless networking is not the greatest.  It takes several minutes to copy files over the network, to the point that I decided it was simply quicker to pull the Micro-SD card out of it and copy the files direct from my Surface Pro than it was to move them over the Wi-Fi.  I am not talking about terabytes of files… I mean it might take 25 minutes to transmit 5gb of movie files.  Yuck.  Also I like to use it to connect to via wireless HDMI to watch TV, and it works fine when I am sitting on the couch directly in front of the TV… but when I sit at my kitchen table eighteen feet away from the TV the signal gets disrupted (as in, whatever you are watching is no longer playing) whenever my cellphone rings.

The Pro Tablet 408, on the other hand… this is a device that you can work with.  I am able to stream Netflix over my wireless HDMI from any room in my condo (which is not something I should be overly worried about, seeing as my TV is no more than 40’ from any far wall in the place) clearly and reliably while checking my e-mail and writing this blog article.  I’m not saying it is going to run Hyper-V or Adobe Photoshop, but Microsoft Office and most of my day-to-day apps work just fine.  As well the 408 has an 802.11a/b/g/n (2×2) WiFi device, as well as (and this is why a lot of professionals will pick the 408 over anything else) HSPA+ Mobile Broadband (in other words… cellular data!

The Stream’s battery is a 3000mAh Li-ion polymer, which is less than 60% of the 4800mAh Li-ion polymer one sported by the 408.  Unfortunately neither of these are user-replaceable, which is a bit of a tease, because when you pull off the back cover of either to put your GSM and SD cards in they are right there… but like a dancer at a gentleman’s club, you can look but don’t touch.

With regard to the battery, I am seriously disappointed by the Stream 7 battery not only because of how long it lasts when using it, but because it seems to drain at a similar pace when the device is off (not Sleep Mode… OFF).  If I charge it overnight and then unplug it, I seem to have about a day to use it before it dies of natural causes.  In comparison: I lost the Pro Tab 408 this weekend.  That’s bit true… on Friday I placed it in the glove compartment of my car, and then spent the week-end trying to find it (eventually checking where it was Monday morning).  I had used it Friday for an hour before leaving it.  As I sit on the train typing away on it shortly after rediscovering it, the battery is at about 80%.  Advantage: Pro Tablet 408!

The weight differential shouldn’t be a factor… .8lbs for the Stream and .83lbs for the Pro 408.  However when I bought the Stream at the Microsoft Store they had a special on a case for about $20, and while the HP Store does have a case in theory, in actuality it has been out of stock, and I eventually opted to buy a third-party case on Amazon (Cooper Case Backlight Executive) which I am quite happy with. 

On the surface the CPU in the Stream 7 is faster (1.8GHz to 1.33GHz), but since the Pro Tab 408’s CPU has Intel Burst Technology (kicking it up to 2.16GHz) the Pro Tab wins there too.

Conclusion

The Stream 7 does what it needs to do very well, as long as you remember to plug it in every 12 hours.  For my ex-wife to share with our 5 year old son for his games it is perfect.  For a professional on the go who may not have time or remember to plug it in, make sure you are also carrying a charging device with you (I love the Aukey 20,000mAh Portable Charger).

The HP Pro Tablet 408 really kicks it… It is more money than I would spend on a tablet for a 5 year old to play games on, but it is about the same as an iPad Mini, and it is the device that fanbois wish was made by Apple.  Add to the superior screen and battery the 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM standard, the SD Card reader, micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports, and you have a winner on your hands. 

By the way, my Aukey charger that I find necessary with the Stream 7 will give both tablets a full charge… three times in fact.  If you are looking for a portable charger, this is a device to consider.

I should mention that I have not done a lot of research on competitive options, so if you have a device you like, tell me about it!

How To Cheat With PowerShell

Admit it… you are a crappy coder.  You may be a pretty fair IT Professional, but you cannot script your way out of a paper bag.  There’s a support group for you.

Hi, my name is Mitch, and I’m a lousy scripter. 

Admittedly I have never been to an AA or NA meeting; I have never really done well with support groups, and the only addiction I ever had I kicked without anyone’s help.  However I’ve seen plenty of AA meetings on TV and in movies, and that’s how they usually start.

4214_Powershell%20blore-logo_png-550x0Recently I wrote an article called iSCSI Virtual Disks: If you have to make a bunch… Use PowerShell! Thanks to one of my loyal readers (who despite or because of their loyalty are always quick to point out when I make a mistake) I realized that despite saying that it did, the script did not actually connect the virtual disks to the iSCSI Target… and I had to find a way to do that before looking stupid for too long.

Here’s the problem… I’m not really a PowerShell guru, just a regular IT guy who realizes the amazing power of the tool.  And as was written in an article that went live this week (guest-written by a colleague and friend), while using Google to find samples of scripts is great, there are two spectacular tools to help you on your way. 

The first such tool is called Get-Help.  You can type that in PowerShell to find out about any cmdlet.  Cool!

However what do you do if you know there is probably a cmdlet, but you don’t know what it is?  Well, the second one is the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE).  PowerShell’s ISE is the easiest way to build your scripts, whether they are simple, single-line cmdlets, or large, vast, flowing scripts that take up pages and pages.

Step 1: Run PowerShell ISE.  This is pretty easy, and if you haven’t figured it out, just click on the Start menu and type ISE.

Step 2: Select your Module.

image

The PowerShell ISE window is generally divided into three parts: A live PowerShell window, a scripting window, and the Commands list.  The Commands section is literally a list of every command and cmdlet in PowerShell… thousands of them.  However let’s say you know the command you are looking for has to do with iSCSI Targeting… select that Module from the drop-down list, and all of a sudden your thousands of commands turn to twenty-six.

What I want to do is to map a previously created iSCSI Virtual Disk to an iSCSI Virtual Target… so the top target (Add-IscsiVirtualDiskTargetMapping) sounds pretty spot-on. I’ll click on it, and if this is the first time clicking on a command for this module, I will get the following message:

To import the “iSCSITarget” module and its cmdlets, including “Add-IscsiVirtualDiskTargetMapping”, click Show Details.

SNAGHTML37e7dde

When I click Show Details, I am presented with several options.  These will differ for every cmdlet, and they will correspond to the optional (and required) command-line switches that I might need.

The Path is going to be the full name and path of the previously created iSCSI Virtual Disk.  In my case I created several, but they all look like q:\iSCSIVirtualDisks\Disk1.vhdxThat is what I am going to enter there.

The TargetName is the name of the target I created… in this case it might look like Target1.

It is important that you pay attention to the ComputerName box because as you saw in my previous article, I might name the iSCSI Virtual Disks (my VHDX files) the same thing on each host.  When I enter the ComputerName TargetServer1 PowerShell knows to look for Target1 on that server.  If you do not enter a ComputerName then it will assume that it should look on the local server… and that could be disastrous, especially if those VHDX files are already otherwise mapped and in use.

The Credential box is exactly what it sounds like… If your user account does not have credentials to execute a command on a remote system, you can use this box to specify alternate credentials.

The Lun box allows you to set the LUN (Logical Unit Number) of the virtual disk.  If you are not concerned by this, the default is for the lowest available LUN number to be assigned automatically.

If you want more help, notice that there is a blue circle with a ? right in the window.  Click on that, and you get a much more detailed Help dialog than you would get by typing Get-Help Add-IscsiVirtualDiskTargetMapping in the PowerShell window will pop up for you.  If you don’t believe me, try them both Smile

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imageSee? I told you!

So let’s go ahead and populate those fields the way I said:

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Once you populate them, there are three buttons at the bottom of the Commands console that you can use:

Run does exactly what you would think… it runs the command with the appropriate switches.

Insert puts the command and switches into your PowerShell (blue) window, but does not execute the command.

Copy is also pretty self-explanatory… it copies it to the clipboard for you to put in the scripting (white) window… or anywhere else you might want to insert it with a Ctrl-V.

So I don’t really know how to script, but I know what I want to accomplish… PowerShell ISE takes me from base-camp to the goal like a Sherpa guiding me on Everest.  Yet another way to love PowerShell… and get to know it better!

PowerShell: HELP!

This is a guest article written by my colleague Michael.  Mike and I have been working closely together for the past two years, and I have turned him into a monster!  He is now trying to learn anything he can get his hands on.  So when he wrote me an e-mail with a suggestion for an article on how to get help with PowerShell.  He wrote it out, and I didn’t feel the need to change anything.  Here is what he wrote. –MDG

I was reading some of your blog articles today (not everyday, sorry!) and the one on Distinguished Names (see article) caught my attention, I started writing a comment but then thought it might be better to suggest a follow up article in terms of using PowerShell and how to really get-intoPowerShell | get-TheMost | out-OfIt.

I started using PowerShell when we first met at your suggestion, but only really used it in a superficial way, get-this | set-that (and do it for 20 computers that I list). So about a month ago, I took the time and went through the MVA (Microsoft Virtual Academy) PowerShell courses with Jeffrey Snover (very entertaining and super informative), the regular Jumpstart and the advanced scripting. I would strong recommend these, as not only did it give me great ideas, but they describe how to make cmdlets that don’t normally work together, actually work together on the fly. Later they went on to teach how to make your own scripts, functions, cmdlets, tools and even modules.

What prompted me to write though, was the suggestion as Google and Bing as a first point to look, and I totally agree, its great for ideas and for examples. My suggestion for a follow up would be the PowerShell Help system, and maybe the ISE (Integrated Scripting Environment) built-in functions (like snippets and the intellisense) later.

For example, I don’t know the cmdlet, but what to do something with Active Directory Groups

Get-help *-ad*group*

Oh, I want Add-ADGroupMember,  but how do I use it…

Get-help Add-ADGroupMember –showwindow ( or –full, or if only need examples –examples)

Cool, I now know Smile

Thanks Michael, you have some very interesting and important points here.  And yes, I promise that coming soon I will write a post on the Integrated Scripting Environment! –MDG

Toronto 2015: What an experience!

A year ago I got an e-mail from WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) Canada reminding me to apply to volunteer for the Pan Am Games. I was walking back to my hotel in Bellevue, Washington one afternoon in January when the e-mail offering me a position came. I started getting excited right then and there. I was going to be on the Field of Play Crew for Taekwondo!

…And then the e-mails started coming in reminding me of all of the training I would have to do – first on-line, and eventually in person – before the Toronto 2015 Games would begin. This wasn’t going to be like the Canada Open, where you show up and do what you are told. We had to do several hours of on-line training (about the games in general, and about Taekwondo (and the other martial arts) in particular. We had to watch videos, read manuals, spend an afternoon going down to the UDAC (Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre) to pick up our uniforms, and then an entire day of in-person training at our actual venue (in the case of Taekwondo that is the Hershey Centre most of the time, but this week it is the Mississauga Sports Complex).

For a while it didn’t seem worth it… what a pain!Mitch United!

Mitch & Tim Suzuki…And then the Games started.

We came in the week before to set up the mats in the practice arena, and there were volunteers all the way through that week, but the games are two weeks long, and the Taekwondo component is only four days. For me, the Games started Sunday.

It is hard to explain just how great an honour it is to be here. I was assigned as a Marshall. My job (not just me – there were twelve of us) had the job of holding anything that the athlete was not going to take into the ring. When the athlete came into the prep area (backstage) we meet them with our large box. They give us their accreditations, and put anything into the box – hats, chains, shoes, drinks, whatever. We escort them through the verification area – they are checked top to bottom with metal detectors and more – and then wait with them to get called into the arena.

The progression into the arena is regimented: Flag Bearer (a fellow volunteer) then the athlete, then the coach, then the team doctor, then… ME. Yes, I was part of the progression into the arena, which means I was on TV… a lot. I followed the athlete into the arena, waited until he walked on to the mat, and then sat right behind the coach. What an incredible experience!

TKD Team 1

Some of the athletes wanted to talk, some of them wanted to be left alone. Either way was fine. No matter what they wanted I accommodated them. Most of the coaches and doctors chatted with me, but I was very careful to stay out of the athlete’s way because I didn’t want to disturb them. However EVERYONE I worked with got a little gift… a keychain, a lanyard, a pin, something. Every morning I went to Dollarama and bought $25 worth of tchotchkes to give out… a little memento. I got a lot of thank-yous, a lot of smiles, a few hugs, and a few pins. It was worth every penny!

Mitch on the Mat

At the end of the match, win or lose, I was waiting with my box to join the progression out of the arena. Some of the athletes stopped to talk to reporters, many shook hands or took pictures with fans, and then we were out, behind the scenes again. I took their armour from them, gave them their little gift, and wished them luck going forward. I escorted them back to the Training Area, and that is where I left them.Mitch & Martin Sio (ARG)

This was, obviously, not my first rodeo. I have worked at several Taekwondo tournaments, not to mention the Junior Maccabiah in Montreal. But like the rest of the volunteers, this was my first time at the Toronto 2015 Games. It was a blast, and I will remember it forever.

I noticed two things that warmed my heart. Firstly the athletes… they are kids. They are the best in the world (or among them), and most of them aren’t much older than my son. Maybe that is more an effect of my getting old than of them being young. The second thing was the sportsmanship. In the ring they were trying to kick each other in the head, but behind the scenes, and even on the mat before and after the match, they were hugging, shaking hands, and joking. I don’t know if that has more to do with the fact that we are all martial artists, or if it is that they are athletes; whatever it is, it was great to see. Losers congratulated winners, winners consoled losers. It was great.

Mitch & Rafael Alba

Certainly one of the great highlights – in a week replete with them – was being in Rafael Alba’s corner for both his semi-finals match and his Gold Medal match.  I was his marshal for the semi, and his coach asked me to join them again for the finals.  As cool as it is to escort the athlete into the arena, and to sit in his corner as he (or she) fights, there are few cooler experiences than when he hugs you after the match; I stood quietly to the side as he spoke with reporters from ESPN and other networks, and then backstage, right after he took off his chest protector, his coach took a picture of us.  Yes, this picture was taken less than three minutes after he won the Gold Medal in the 80kg division.  He shook my hand and hugged me again, and then I rushed him back to the training area to change into his track suit that he would wear on the podium.  I may have been dirty, but I will never forget that moment,  Watch for Rafa in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio… He’s going to win there too!

Pachi & Gold!

I don’t know if I will be able to volunteer again – Rio is in a year, and that would be an expensive prospect. This was, for me, likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. And what an experience it was. Thank you to everyone, and keep fighting!

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