Activism

Outside is Always Where Life Begins

By Larry Pattison
Published December 04, 2011

I must warn you, this post is rather lengthy and a bit of an emotionally honest admission of failure, and how those lessons have carried to all aspects of my life. This contest is for charity after all and with doing something for the greater good, comes a mixture of emotions. Believe me, there is a point and a very valid one.

You might be thinking, What? What's football have to do with IT? Don't worry, my wife didn't understand what sports had to do with marriage either. Needless to say I am now separated.

All bad jokes aside, I learned a lot about myself this past year and a little Canadian football stadium in steel town north, was the catalyst for some life changing lessons.

If I were to ask 100 people in the computer field who they feel has inspired them most throughout their lives, I would wage a guess that 90% of techies would say Steve Jobs. If not in life then in death, many of us learned so much more about this highly-driven, outside-of-the box visionary in the stories that have been shared since his passing.

On every level imaginable, life in the 21st century is about networking. Whether it's connecting computers or people, strong communications systems help everything and everyone reach their full potential.

In 2009, Toronto won a bid to host the Pan-American games in 2015. As part of winning the hosting honors, our city - which is 45 minutes west of our provinces capital, was to also host a handful of events meaning after 80 years, our city was finally going to be able to replace our aging stadium.

In August of 2010, I started a blog to fight for that same 80-year-old football shrine that resides in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. For many it was/is just an old dump but for me, it represented so much more.

For 60 of those years, it's been home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. At 140 years of age, the team itself has a very storied past of its own. Hamilton seemed like the perfect place to embrace history.

Of course, I used examples like Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Our stadium perhaps is neither of those, but Canada didn't have a sports venue they referenced with such historic rhetoric and a 30,000 seat stadium surrounded on three sides by houses, three schools, three baseball diamonds, a minor hockey arena, and an Olympic sized pool built the same year as the stadium - 1930 - it all seemed the perfect make-up for a heritage project.

Nobody wanted to talk about saving the old stadium. It was falling apart, had very little parking directly surrounding it, not to mention it was squished into a residential neighbourhood.

The city had grand visions of a waterfront stadium, and the Tiger-Cats drooled over the thought of 6,000 car parking lots and a home at the end of a highway off-ramp.

Many fans didn't even want to talk about the possibilities of looking at working with what we had. Fans and citizens alike were equally divided between wet waterfront dreams, and a sea of red tail-lights in the name of accessibility and corporate sponsorship visibility.

Yet there were those who wondered why neither side would even entertain the idea of a refurbish plan instead of building new. As it turns out, that in itself has been a long-standing debate [PDF] for our city.

A couple of months into my plea to save the stadium, which saw me delegate in front of City Hall, publish my first article in some eight years, and send many emails to our local politicians urging them to at least consider our history, my wife told me that she wanted a divorce.

Often in discussion going forward, the 'stadium card' was brought up. "If you fought for us (our family), half as hard as you fought for that stadium, we wouldn't be where we are."

She was right in many ways. Although our marriage had struggled and I too had questioned on more than one occasion whether we should part, a big part of me didn't want to give up.

I guess I took for granted that things would eventually turn around for us and that we would always be together. I was painfully mistaken.

I switched my focus to saving my marriage, although I did still throw the odd blog post onto my site and sent the occasional email to our City councillors. I even delegated one more time before the final decision was made on the location of our new stadium.

I broke down in tears on a few occasions as I pleaded for my wife to give us a second chance. My world was spinning out of control and I was desperate to save my family. I tried to take what I had learned about fighting for a stadium - fighting for something I believed in, and carry it forward to saving my family.

There were moments where I saw progress and felt there was hope of a reconciliation. We had filed for legal separation immediately after she had told me she was through with 'us', but I never gave up.

Mid-January of 2011, I started receiving tweets, emails and phone calls. It seemed our Mayor and the owner of the Tiger-Cats had decided to look at rebuilding our existing stadium. Two weeks later, it was approved. People commended me for not giving up. A story was written about me in a national newspaper. I had learned a valuable lesson; anything is possible; never give up on your dreams.

I took those lessons and tried to apply them to my marriage; never give up on what you believe in. My expressions of love however, were never returned. I didn't blame her - I truly didn't, but I wanted with everything inside of me to make it all right again. It was just two months ago, that I finally got the message - it was over.

So why the sad story? What does any of this have to do with IT? Networking and communication.

During my fight to save Ivor Wynne Stadium I met a lot of people - many of whom were also very involved in their community. One of those people happens to be a leader in Hamilton's Open Data movement.

One of the tools him and his team uses in his quest to make our City a more open and connected one, is Google Fusion Tables. I won't go into great detail at this time as to what the tool is or how I use it to better manage my network, but it has proven to be an invaluable tool with great potential, a tool that will become more valuable as I continue to grow my network.

Because of the associations I had built up during my stadium plea, I was able to take advantage of workshops, email support, and forums to learn to use tools I would likely have not otherwise known about.

Getting involved in your community (whether online or in the flesh), surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, and being open to new ideas can truly help you get to that next level and most importantly, keep you competitive in the quickly progressing world of business and communications.

It might have been the least important of the lessons I learned over the past 18 months - although hopefully important in the future of my career in data management - but being introduced to thinking-out-of-the-box individuals and tools that could help me better manage my data in spite of the out-dated mapping systems that I have at my disposal, has both helped me in my day-to-day tasks, and made my work more enjoyable and rewarding as well.

I like learning something new every day and Google's Fusion Tables satisfies that need, not to mention that it causes your mind to spin over the possibilities this type of tool presents.

There is a lesson in everything. With moving forward in life and in our careers, there also comes sacrifice. I paid the ultimate price, but I paid it because I was using outdated communication tools - both interpersonal and electronic. Both still require a lot of fine tuning, but I have seen my life change dramatically for the better both in my performance at the office, and in becoming the father figure I had always wanted to be for my children.

All over some concrete, steel, and well-worn wood bench seats with numbers hand-painted on them.

Be reborn. People and thoughts weren't meant to live in the darkness of a box. Come explore where life and ideas run wild.

Outside is always where life begins.

In 2012, I perhaps assimilated some of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned. What better way to honour those accomplishments, than to give to children so that they might be given the tools early on, to help them succeed in life, relationships, and in business.


This essay was first published on toolbox.com as part of its Comments for a Cause series. Larry wrote it to support Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Larry Pattison is a local blogger, life-long resident of Hamilton, and father to two amazing girls. You can follow his writing at Shaking the Tree. Larry is a registered candidate for Ward 3 School Board Trustee.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted December 04, 2011 at 21:12:29

I would wager that not a lot of people would follow through under the circumstances you've described.

Deeper respect. I truly hope that you're not betrayed by the end result.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 14:50:33 in reply to Comment 71848

There are many things I haven't followed through with in life. I had to. I am not sure why but I did.

I hope Ward 3 residents and the City as a whole, are not betrayed any further by this.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted December 05, 2011 at 00:48:38

Larry, I am sorry to hear about your marriage. I do find great inspiration from you as a fellow Ward 3 resident we seem to always be fighting against the rest of the city.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 14:59:01 in reply to Comment 71852

Thanks TnT. Folks in this Ward have been fighting an uphill battle for too long and when you live in the area and have lot's of opportunity to truly see the beauty, you realize something has to change. Code Red branding perhaps hasn't helped either.

The basis is here for something quite extraordinary - for many of us, that extraordinary already exists. ie. Ottawa Street, Gage Park, Ivor Wynne, Jimmy Thompson, The Pearl Company, Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool, etc.

I hope my unfolding situation doesn't mean I have to leave the community I have grown to love but if it does, Ward 3 truly is a gem - The Crown Jewel. ;)

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-12-05 15:48:32

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted December 05, 2011 at 07:21:10

If IT weren't for the fact that I shifted my passion towards getting out of this shack-shanty-city of Hamilton, your story would've gotten me involved here again. My friend, I've been where you're at two full decades ago and I'm surprised I survived if you really wanna know.

However, this networking you refer to is highly overrated and standing tall next to cold shoulders I find gall and I'm constipated. IT is hard to let go but go IT just must, I have lost faith in IT and I push hard for the flush.

2012 will unfold with each gray passing day but how IT unfurls I'm not so bold to say except this, blogging with guys like you Larry is something I'm truly gonna miss (although the rest is too scary even for me to duly submIT).

Thanks for sharing Larry and I'm sorry...I QuIT.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-12-05 07:24:36

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 15:22:26 in reply to Comment 71854

Hmm ... Greg. Nice little insert into the Q. Wouldn't it be nice if what Hamilton had to offer spoke for itself and didn't require us to beg, to get talent to come here.

A CBC logo would like on the side of the Lister Bldg wouldn't it? Is that something we would want in there?

I am only a year or so into civic engagement and I can already see why you feel the way you do. I imagine it can break a person. Leave people fighting fights they shouldn't have to be engaged in.

When you talk about standing next to people though, perhaps it's about standing beside the right ones. I have thoroughly enjoyed a half-dozen or so RTH'ers after fives and I think being involved would provide a different outcome both civic-ally and personally, if surrounded by such individuals.

I have enjoyed blogging with you as well Greg and I hope that moving away, does not mean both in body and spirit. Perhaps when things have settled, when your soul has mended, you might find it in you to write about your new life and compelled to talk about what 'broke' you so that we might not find ourselves in 20 years broken and violated by our civic engagement.

We need to share life experiences with one another. We need to help each other. That is why I started publicly talking about my separation - with hopes that at least one couple (even better someone I know), might be able to avoid the situation I find myself in through the experiences I share.

So many before us have faced the same trials and tribulations and I am all for learning by experience but there are some things it would be nice to avoid having to learn the hard way. Like coming to resent civic engagement or a partner we once loved with all of our hearts. Or even a sports team/league that we shouldn't have to question morally if we should remain a supporter of or not.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-12-05 15:25:46

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted December 06, 2011 at 10:32:32 in reply to Comment 71888

When you talk about standing next to people though, perhaps it's about standing beside the right ones.

You have a point there Larry: Every single job I've had over the last 35 years was by word-of-mouth. The problem today is there are so few jobs to speak of and that no one wants to talk seriously about IT or even begin to articulate solutions to the problem.

To give you an example, check out this recent post by some other poor soul like myself reaching out to the wrong people for help. This person doesn't even realize how few will even read his comment because this is old news and most of us prefer to remain current.

Perhaps when things have settled, when your soul has mended, you might find it in you to write about your new life and compelled to talk about what 'broke' you so that we might not find ourselves in 20 years broken and violated by our civic engagement.

Being broke is what burns me Larry and there is a word for IT... austerITy. So unless someone pays me to write about stuff I'd prefer to take up a hobby because simply telling stories isn't gonna put food in my belly. And as far as things settling someday, that's too funny. You must have no idea what's coming, eh? Yet another reason why we canceled our cable TV subscription just the other day. Besides, I can no longer tolerate what passes for news and entertainment and still be expected to pay for IT.

Hamilton is like any other city in that there is soooo much work to be done but few have the money to pay anyone. Meanwhile, high atop the pyramid (central bank fiat money ponzi scheme) there is more money than you and I can imagine in our wildest dreams but you and I can't have any, even if we're ready, willing and able to work hard for somebody.

You see Larry, I personally feel like I'm wasting my time as an unemployed person in this or any other city with a mortgage on a postage stamp property, when I could be in the country to forage and to grow my own groceries.

But, because of your beautifully written reply however, I am willing to reconsider my boycott of civic engagement one last time Larry although not to give IT another try, but rather to say goodbye and so-sorry. The Hamilton Civic League is throwing a holiday celebration Monday, December 12th at the Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne St. at 6:00 pm sharp. Admission is $6.00 at the door and you must RSVP to Laurel if you plan to attend.

I ho ho hope to see you there my friend:-) Cheers

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-12-06 11:02:56

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 14:11:12

If I were to ask 100 people in the computer field who they feel has inspired them most throughout their lives, I would wage a guess that 90% of techies would say Steve Jobs.

I think you'd be wrong about this one. I mean, everybody respected Steve Jobs for his commitment to design and quality, but for the open-source geeks and the linguists and the gamers and all those folks who love code for code itself and not for producing a perfect bug-free result but the fun of the craft? I mean, Steve made great products, but I don't think any those types would say they felt "inspired" by him. The OSS world in particular utterly loathed him and the gaming world just plain ignored Apple until very recently.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 14:47:37 in reply to Comment 71884

Hmmmm ... Guess I am not geek enough. So who then or would it just be a general respect for all who support open-source?

If it is one individual, was it Marc Ewing - creator of Red Hat? Was this the beginning of open source? I ask this as someone who has never touched Red Hat or Linux.

I guess I was more thinking about thinking out of the box-wise when I referenced Jobs but then again, open source is about as out-of-the-box, none-mine-mine-mine-money-money-money as you can perhaps get.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2011 at 12:42:15 in reply to Comment 71885

Probably Linus Torvalds (creator and active maintainer of the Linux operating system).

Alternately, about a week after Steve Jobs died, Dennis Ritchie passed away as well. A lot of programmers were sad about the comparative silence the media had about his death - Dennis Ritchie was a key man behind the Unix operating system and the C programming language - both of which were a massive leap in technology of their time, and both of which are direct progenitors of almost every modern computing platform (incl. Apple's iOS and OSX). Also, he wrote the canonical book on C programming so a lot of programmers are directly familiar with his writing. Of course, he wasn't really active late in his life like Jobs was, and he wasn't the public face of any massive organization, so it's really no surprise his death went unnoticed by the public.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2011 at 13:40:44 in reply to Comment 71928

Definitely. I'd also propose Richard Stallman, who created EMACS and, more importantly, who established the Free Software movement and the GNU Project to create a UNIX-like operating system composed entirely of free software.

Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation and created the GNU General Public Licence, which established the concept of using copyright law to encourage freedom and which inspired a number of other "copyleft" and permissive software licences.

It's doubtful that Linux would ever have attracted the kind of community support and participation it has enjoyed had Linus Torvalds not released it under the GPL. More significantly, a huge proportion of what we regard as the Linux operating system is actually utilities and applications developed under the auspices of the GNU project, particularly: the GNU Compiler and C library; the Bash terminal shell; GIMP, GTK+ and the GNOME desktop; the GRUB bootloader; and the tar/gzip system for compressing packages of files.

Most of the internet runs on free software that simply would not exist if not for Stallman, the Free Software Foundation and GNU.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-12-06 13:42:52

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted December 07, 2011 at 06:56:25 in reply to Comment 71932

Damn if Ryan ain't the Über-canonical link meister. For all you facebookers out there, here is a Stallman link I'd like to share about your socially engineered proprietary spy-ware.

Innovation is not my highest value, human rights is my highest value - Richard Stallman

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2011 at 14:04:04 in reply to Comment 71932

Yeah, I thought about listing RMS, but RMS is a bit more controversial than Linus. I mean, Linus is the kind of slightly-curmudgeonly coder we can all relate to.

RMS, for all his achievements, is a lot harder to love. He's kind of the extreme case of a lot of negative geek stereotypes. I mean, his movement changed the world of software forever, and he's a great man for it... but he's pretty far out there.

I actually kind of feel bad for him - I mean, I get the impression he'd rather be banging out code and running projects and generally avoiding the public speaking circuit if he had the choice, but he does it for the sake of the movement he believes in.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2011 at 07:23:51 in reply to Comment 71933

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

— George Bernard Shaw

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By good advice (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2011 at 08:19:27 in reply to Comment 71956

sadly few if any on this blog heed it

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2011 at 13:28:30 in reply to Comment 71928

Thanks for sharing that Pxtl. It seems the people who mattered, remember Ritchie.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2011 at 15:45:23

Please do me a favour everyone. If you like this post, please give it a thumbs up on the Toolbox.com site. I believe it's up to $1,300 that can go to my charity of choice (Big Brothers Big Sisters), based on number of comments/likes as part of the Comments for a Cause contest.

I was a Big Brother for 4 years. 2 matched with a Little and 2 as a SOAR volunteer. It's a great program and a worthy cause providing children in our community with good role models. I hope when my kids are a little older, that we might even be family Big Brother volunteers at some point so they too may know the joy of being involved in their communities.

You haven't lived until some random kid you have only known for a short while attaches themselves to your leg because they don't want you to leave. Those are the little reminders being involved throws at you as to why you got involved in the first place. WARNING: Working with kids may leave an emotional lump in your throat from time to time. Kids are really good at pulling at your vulnerable heart-strings.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-12-05 15:49:44

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