Traveling Sucks

Originally posted on Losing a part of me:

Okay, that is a very misleading title. The reality is that when done in moderation traveling is great. Most of us enjoy it, anyways. But with regard to weight loss and keeping fit, it is crap.

I knew leading up to my trip to Seattle that I could eat healthy and maintain my diet; I knew that I could get up early and go to the hotel gym before my sessions started, and that I could walk as much as possible throughout the day. I also knew that in all likelihood that was not going to happen… and sure enough, it didn’t. So really my goal for the week was to maintain my current weight, and not gain five pounds.

Of course it starts at the airport before you even get onto the plane. If you are a frequent flier then there is a good chance that you have access…

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Meet Dr. Scripto

ScriptoWhile I am sure most of you are not familiar with this crazy character, I suspect a lot of you use the tools that he represents.  You see, this is Dr. Scripto.  I am not sure which delusional drunk came up with the idea and design of the character, but I think it is a fair bet that Stan Lee was not in the room.  You see, Dr. Scripto is the mascot… the hero if you will, for PowerShell.  Yes, I am serious, and no, I had nothing to do with the cockamamie idea that a scripting environment needed a mascot or hero.  I would mention that if it is not enough that someone came up with the idea and sketched it out, this is indeed a three-dimensional bobble-head-like statuette.  Yes folks, somebody spent money having these made.

Before I continue with my mockery, I want to mention that I am a huge fan of PowerShell.  While I am not an expert, I think it is an excellent scripting environment that either does or will make the lives of IT Professionals the world over easier.  In a day and age where servers are moving into the cloud (either private or public) it is a relief that we can now execute the same scripts against all of our servers… wherever they may be.  It simplifies our lives in ways that many do not even understand – the back-end management tools, such as System Center and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, along with dozens of others, are based on PowerShell.  Add-ons like PowerCLI allow us to extend the functionality of PowerShell beyond our Windows servers and manage vSphere and vCenter Server.  I think PowerShell is incredible, and have written several articles about using it to manage Hyper-V, Active Directory, and more.

I also have a great respect for the PowerShell community.  While I may mock them (and they do make it easy, with such fodder as Dr. Scripto and songs like Highway to PowerShell), but they are a passionate group of interesting individuals, some of whom it would even be considered safe to be alone in a room with… although be careful, I am reasonably certain Ed Wilson tried to write a script to reorganize my living room once.  There is no question that if you need to figure out how to do anything in PowerShell one of them has either already written about it, or will be more than willing to do so once you post your question on-line.

If you are more interested in face-to-face interactions then they can be found at user group meetings all over the world.  Now fellas, I am not saying that any of these gatherings are good places to meet women, but if you want to learn about scripting these are the place to be.  (Ladies, to be fair: if you want my advice I would not go there trying to pick up the man of your dreams either…)  Experts like Ed Wilson (a long time Microsoft employee), and his wife Teresa (a long-time wife of Ed) not only attend meetings, they (okay, mostly Ed) speak at them all the time.  Teresa has even helped to create these groups, and does a wonderful job of connecting like-minded individuals.  In fact she is so good at it that she was recently recognized with the prestigious Microsoft MVP Award (in the discipline of PowerShell).  Congratulations Teresa!

In fact, it is Teresa who several years ago gave me Dr. Scripto.  While not a PowerShell MVP, she said I did a lot to help the community both in the Greater Toronto Area and around the world.  I was so honoured that it held a place of honour on my desk for several years, until recently when I emptied my home office and moved into the condo.  Dr. Scripto stayed behind temporarily, until such time as he was once again needed.

Recently Teresa and I had the opportunity to get together at the Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond, Washington.  She told me that it was indeed a shame that a couple of very well known PowerShell MVPs told her that they had never received a Dr. Scripto Bobble-Head.  She was disappointed that there was nothing that she could do for them, but alas, they were a limited edition one-time deal, and even if there was budget to make a new batch (there isn’t) it would diminish the cachet of the existing ones to make more.  She told me the name of the MVP who did not have one, and I immediately recognized it.  It is a shame that he did not have one of these prized (??) collectibles.

‘Teresa, you know your friendship has meant the world to me for many years, and I cherish the gifts you gave to me.  However I know that this MVP is very deserving.  As such, I am willing to part with my limited edition, extremely rare, priceless collectible Dr. Scripto Bobble-Head in order to right what you perceive to be an injustice.  If you give me the shipping address of the MVP, along with a cheque for $2,500.00 made out to cash, I will ship it to him.’

…Okay, the part about the cheque was made up… and I embellished a bit, but the long and the short of it was that when I returned to Canada I was going to look (carefully) through the boxes that my office was packed into to find Dr. Scripto, and if I was able to find it I would give it to the MVP in question.

As you can see from the picture, Dr. Scripto has been located.  He is alive and well, with nary a scratch on him.  He has spent several years – good years – sitting on my desk, but alas, he is needed elsewhere.  When I prepare for my next trip to the USA I will wrap him carefully so that he will not be damaged in transit to his new home… wherever that may be.

If you do not have your own limited edition Dr. Scripto Bobble-Head, don’t worry… you can still learn to script like a champ using the knowledge he brought forth.  He has his own page on (Doctor Scripto’s Script Shop), his own Twitter account, and a number of YouTube videos (which were obviously not made by anyone with a firm grasp on reality or sanity).  Don’t worry, he will be with you in spirit… and hopefully in good sanity!

Remembrance Day / Veterans’ Day

Ninety-six years ago today at 11:00am the guns fell silent.  The Great War was over.  Unfortunately like every successful movie there was a sequel, and as usual it was much worse than the original.  War has been a part of our world since time immemorial, and to this day we dream of a day when that will no longer be the case.

I would like to invite you all to join me this morning in standing for two minutes of silence.  On Remembrance Day every year those of us who served, and especially those of us who served in combat, ask you to join us to remember our friends, our brothers, who did not make it back.  We ask you to join us for two minutes every year to remember those that we remember every day – every minute of every day – of our lives.

To many the phrases like ‘All gave some, some gave all’ is a catchy phrase.  For those of us who lost friends, whose friends came back missing limbs, who came back with a darkened soul, it is much more than that.  We did not do what we did for honour or glory or the medals that would decorate our chests and eventually find a place in a drawer,  We did it in the hope that our children would not have to.

There will never be another ‘Great World War’ like 1914 and 1939 – the nuclear age and the dissolution of the nuclear superpowers saw to that.  The wars of the immediate past and of the future are very different and for some that makes it harder to recognize them as wars, but they are wars and the toll they take on our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen is just as harsh; often because of the reception back home it is much harsher and lasts much longer.

Today I ask you to stand at 11:00am with me.  You don’t have to salute and you don’t have to stand at attention, but stand and do not fidget.  Remember the men  and women who put their lives in harm’s way so that our world can be free of tyranny and oppression.  Remember those who got onto boats, planes, trains, and busses to go meet the enemy so that you, your parents, and your grandparents could be safe.  Remember those buried in the fields of Flanders, Ypres, Dieppe, Normandy, and hundreds of other fields beneath crosses and stars and too often unmarked ground… in Europe, the Pacific, in Africa and the Middle East.  On the ground and at sea, they served so that we could live free.

Perhaps the most famous poem that honours our fallen soldiers is by a Canadian named John McCrae.  He served in World War I, was a physician and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He fought in the Second Boer War earlier, and when the Great War broke out in 1914 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Although he was a doctor he opted to join a combat unit, and while he was also the medical officer he was also a gunner.  He believed in duty, and fought for his country and for the British Empire.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the skyflanders field
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

LtCol McCrae died in January, 1918… he did not see the end of the Great War, nor the publication of his famous verses. We remember him, along with all of the rest.

Lest we forget those who fought for us, protected us, died for us.

SSgt M.D. ‘Taz’ Garvis

When Your World is Very Small…

Pearson In my first year as a Road Warrior Glenn Fincher and I were I were in the Rental Car Shuttle heading to the terminal at Charlotte International Airport.  It had been another successful delivery, and except for the fact that he threatened to leave me at the diner where we had breakfast unless I ate grits, it was a very successful week and one that led to a casual friendship with a respected colleague.  There was a woman on the shuttle with us who proclaimed for all to hear that ‘…this has to be the absolute worst airport in these United States.’  Glenn and I looked at each other and smiled… he had a lot more miles under his belt than I did, but I wasn’t quite new.  I suspect we were both thinking the same thing.  ‘Then I suppose you’ve never flown out of Chicago O’Hare?’ I asked.  ‘Oh dear Lord no… I have but never traveled north of the Mason Dixon Line… I am a true southerner!’

In the seven years or so since that interaction my horizons have expanded greatly.  I have traveled a lot more extensively, across six continents.  Let’s just say that I have come to appreciate O’Hare, for having seen much worse airports.

Saturday afternoon I flew in from Seattle, Washington.  Now I should mention that of the myriad airports around the world, I have a real appreciation for SeaTac… especially after the recent renovations that have made it even better organized, and even more efficient.  It truly is a well planned and run airport.  As I waited at the baggage terminal I heard two younger gentlemen talking next to me, complaining about how long it was going to take our bags to come out.  I was the first passenger off our plane to arrive at the carrousel, and I had not been waiting more than three minutes.  ‘Don’t make any plans, we might be here a while.  This is absolutely the worst airport I have ever been to, especially with regard to baggage handling.’

I looked at them for and smirked. ‘You’ve never been to Bogota, have you?’  Of course the answer was no.

I thought back to the day that I got off the plane in Colombia.  I had been in transit for what felt like a hundred hours, and because it was the first leg of three weeks in South and Central America I had the appropriate amount of fresh clothes, not to mention my personal laptop and my Mobile Datacentre – two 17” HP laptops that ran my servers, along with the switches, cables, and power adaptors.  I was standing at the appropriate baggage carrousel and somehow came to discover that the man standing next to me and I shared a common language.  We struck up a conversation in Hebrew, but he told me that even while we were chatting to keep an eye on the carrousel. ‘If your bags go around once and you don’t grab it, they take it off the carrousel in the back… immediately.  You might get it back later… once they have rifled through your things and decided what they like and what they don’t.’  Nearly an hour later when my luggage finally came through (in one piece) I was relieved… and thanked my Israeli friend who was still waiting for his.

I do not remember the exact story of what happened when I got off the plane in Sao Paolo (Brazil), but I do remember that it took close to two hours to get out of the airport from the time I got off the plane until I was in line for a taxi… and that was just after midnight local time.  I got into my hotel room at 2:45am.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ) has its good days and its bad, and I am not saying that it is perfect… believe me, far from it.  But when we call something out we should put it into perspective.  I understand why these guys were badmouthing the service there… I have done it too.  But how bad is it really?  Probably somewhere in the middle of the pack.  For years I badmouthed Vancouver International – in the years leading up to the Olympic Games there is was a disastrous madhouse.  Now?  Much better.  Is O’Hare really as bad as some of us say it is?  It is certainly a madhouse, and compared to the busiest airport in the country (Atlanta) it is a bit disorganized, but it also has a lot more snow days that does Hartsfield-Jackson would. 

What those airports have going for it, Toronto does not.  YYZ is the home base (and hub) of a single major carrier – Air Canada.  No other airport calls it home.  Sure, it is the entry port to Canada for a lot of people and goods, but for an airport as singularly important as it is it does not get a great deal of respect.  Important how? According to Wikipedia it is the world’s 35th busiest airport by total passenger traffic, 23rd busiest by international traffic, and 18th busiest by total flights.  For those of us in the IT industry, imagine a company of ten people being tasked with running Microsoft IT.  They do the best with what they have, and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they do not.  Yes, I have gotten off a long flight and waited 45 minutes for my bag to come out… on the wrong carrousel.

…Not bad for an airport that was never meant to be the main hub of Canada – when it was originally planned it was Montreal that was Canada’s primary airport.

Can Pearson improve?  Sure.  Can we all?  Probably.  Is it good enough?  I think so.  Would I be happy paying $20 more per flight for that improvement?  No.  I really do think that they do a pretty good job… even though you do hear me complain about it from time to time.

Bon Voyage!

Fourth Year: Thank you once again!

Thank you.

Three years ago The World According to Mitch, a blog that I started because the two or three dozen people to whom I would e-mail my thoughts and insights got sick of getting my e-mails, was recognized by BizTech Magazine as one of the 50 Must Read IT Blogs.  For that year there was no nomination process that I knew of… out of the blue I found out via Twitter that the blog had been put on that list.  There are a few tipping points when the blog readership jumped, and that was certainly one of the bigger ones. (Read A Humbling Recognition)

A year later when the 2012 list was released I was thrilled that The World According to Mitch was one of the few blogs to repeat – I was thrilled, partly because that was the first year that readers were invited to vote for their favourites… and then again in 2013! (Read A Humbling Accolade, A Humbling Accolade, Year 3)

50 Must ReqadThis week my heart leapt when I was informed that once again The World According to Mitch made the list for 2014 as well.  The 50 Must-Read I.T. Blogs 2014 includes this humble site.

I am not going to lie, this year I actively solicited your votes.  I was worried, because I did go dark for a few months… as you might have read, this year has not been a good one for me (personally or professionally), and the number of articles I wrote dropped drastically from previous years.  I am so glad that so many of you stuck with me (and I can tell you that there are ‘friends’ who did not) during my darkest times.  I promise that I will do my best to not disappoint – I will continue to blog and to do what I can to help entertain and inform you all.

For the fun of it, there are only three blogs on this year’s list that have appeared every year… Chuck’s Blog (Congratulations Mr. Hollis!) and CIO Dashboard (Chris Curran of Price Waterhouse Cooper)… and my little site here.  I am humbled to be in such esteemed and respected company.

While I am naming names, I want to congratulate CanITPro, the Canadian IT Pro Connection – or the IT Evangelism Team at Microsoft Canada.  While I am no longer with that team or a resident blogger on that site, it is great to see them recognized for the amazing work that they do.

As you know, I am no longer a Microsoft MVP.  Oh well, I’ll move on.  I did not blog because I was an MVP, I was an MVP in part because I blogged.  I am not going to stop doing what I do because of something so petty.  I am also no longer affiliated with the Microsoft DPE Team.  That is both good and bad – bad because I no longer have the same level of access I had, good because I no longer have to temper my words according to Microsoft’s marketing message.  When Microsoft does something good I will say so and talk about it… and when they blow it (and yes, it happens!!!!!) I am going to tell you (and them) about it.

Thank you all for sticking with me, and as I will do with Microsoft, please tell me when I am getting it right… AND when I get it wrong!


Mistakes Happen… Please let me know when they do! :)

In August, 2008 I wrote an article called The Vasa – Learn from History! It talked about the Vasa Museum in Stockholm and I drove a direct line from that doomed ship to the IT industry.  It was well received, and according to the statistics the article has been read by thousands of people in the nearly six and a half years since it was published.

This past week-end a friend of mine mentioned that he was heading to Sweden, and I told him to look up Sweden on my blog for suggestions of places to go.  I know that I had written a number of articles about the country, and thought he might benefit from it.

I make mistakes… we all do.  As careful as I am with my articles, every so often a typo or other error gets through.  Usually they are pointed out within minutes or hours… but if I do not hear about it within a week it is fairly safe to assume that either there are no errors, or that the errors I did make were pretty obscure (or in some cases that simply nobody is reading that article) .  Either way, it is not going to be pointed out.

Peter read this article and e-mailed me to commend me on it… and he pointed out a mistake.  It was pretty glaring – I wrote the ship sailed in 1968 instead of 1628.  On the one hand, what is 340 years between friends; on the other hand, the ship was commissioned (according to my article) in 1625, and for it to take three years to build is reasonable.  Had it taken 343 years to build, well that would require a special kind of laziness.

I am always happy to hear when I made a mistake.  I read and appreciate every comment to the blog, whether I publish them or not.  Please feel free to scrutinize my work and let me know when I get it wrong, whether that is a typo or a concept.  I will either take the appropriate action, or respond in why I disagree with you.  Either way, I appreciate you reading the pieces!

My OMAC Profile

omacWCLogoA little over a year ago I was going to take over management of the website for the Oriental Martial Arts College (Master Kim’s OMAC).  Several issues, including my long-term relocation to Japan, aborted that.  However I am thrilled to be back with OMAC now, as a Senior Instructor and not as a webmaster.  This week I was honoured when the webmaster, Mr. Al Poulis, added my profile to the new site, which has now been renamed OMAC World Class Martial Arts.  MY profile can be seen here.

I want to commend Mr. Poulis, who has done a much better job of redesigning the website than I ever could have!