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An end-of-year email re: end-of-year emails

[image credit: Kickstarter, evidently]

Sent from the office on my last day of work in 2015.

To a much, much younger cohort of coworkers. (And man, that’s depressing!)

This is my last day in the office before the New Year (barring any work from home, which I might do to get ahead of the curve) so for those of you still here, in case I don’t bump into you this afternoon, enjoy your holidays and have a great New Year!

For most people in the office, this is well before your time, but end-of-year emails were a Big Deal at my workplace at the end of 1999. It was the end of the millennium, after all! (Though technically since there was no year “0” the millennium actually started on Jan 1, 2001. But I digress…)

Starting in early December, people began to send all-company emails to the effect of “see you next millennium!” – with huge images attached. (The animated GIF probably hadn’t been invented yet. Heck, Google was only a couple years old, and hadn’t even started selling ads yet. That’s how long ago 1999 was!)

If you figure on a 2 MB image sent to 500 people, that was 1 GB of storage space consumed per email, and by mid-December, the IT group had stepped in and pleaded with everyone not to send any more “see you next millennium” messages.

1 GB is cheap nowadays – freebie giveaway thumb drives are bigger – but back in the day, when I used to walk to work (uphill both ways, leaving the house before I went to bed each night!) listening to my Sony Discman, carrying a man-purse sized selection of CD’s depending on my musical mood, that was a lot of computer memory.

Memory roughly halves in price every 18 months, in line with doublings of processor speed, so 15 years is about 10 doublings. Which means those emails were the price equivalent of each person loading the company email server with 1 TB. (And remember, there were at least 500 people in the company.) Meaning it was the equivalent of sending each a 2 GB, hour-long HD funny cat compilation video to everyone’s Outlook server!


Imagine clogging each of your colleagues’ inboxes with a thousand copies of this…

Epic Vancouver 2012 (and raw food)

(originally written May 15, 2012 — part of my Great Upload of 2013)


I outlined a piece tentatively titled “Douglas, Deng and Diocletian” on Saturday, as I cycled to Vancouver’s new convention centre along the largely-empty downtown bike lanes.  ;)  But alas, attending the Epic Vancouver “green consumerism” show threw those plans off-kilter.  Musings about historical figures are “evergreen” projects — they can be written up any time — but event-driven patter has a best-before date.  :)

I was surprised that Cadbury didn’t have a booth at the conference; they were the first major confectioner to switch a major product line to all-fair trade chocolate a few years back (their flagship “Dairymilk” bars) and you’d figure they’d want to make sure everyone knew it.  Heck, according to the Tommy Douglas bio I just finished, our Greatest Canadian hired one of the Cadbury heirs to help set up government-run enterprises (insurance, bus services) to help improve Saskatchewan’s finances so the province could finally move ahead with universal healthcare in 1962.  Being able to tie the Cadbury name to Canadians’ most treasured institution, would seem like a marketer’s dream…!


The Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association had a century-old electric vehicle on display (model year 1912).  I was shocked (ha) to see steering was accomplished with a bunch of levers — like a modern military tank.  I guess the automotive Steve Jobs hadn’t yet reinvented the human-car interface with the steering wheel.  (“We think this ‘steering-wheel’ thing is going to be big — it’s insanely great!!“)


As is typical of these trade shows, the headline sponsors were environmentally-conscientious corporate behemoths, but the exhibitor mix went well into the “granola” spectrum.  ;)  One of these was the raw food society of BC, who seemed a pleasant if misguided bunch.  Which isn’t to imply that the rest of us aren’t misguided — we surely are, just in a more mainstream way.  ;)


As I understand it — possibly incorrectly — the idea is that raw food is closer to what humans evolved eating, meaning it’s better for us.  As such, it belongs to a family of beliefs which considers technology unnatural, and hence bad, or possibly dangerous.  Of course, while we may chuckle at the raw-fooders, most of us are a little uncomfortable with GMO’s.  The sad hilarity is that it’s more logically consistent to reject all technology from fire onwards, than to pick and choose an arbitrary point between “natural” technologies and “unnatural” ones!

To adapt an analogy I heard in some podcast, cooking is a convenient technology, just like writing.  The pot gives us an external stomach in which to pre-digest our food (using heat) for easy nutrient absorption, just like paper and other media give us an external brain to store data for easy information retrieval.  And while cooking probably destroys some nutrients, it kills off microbes which cause food-borne illnesses, too.  In earlier eras before modern healthcare technologies, that was pretty important!  The Chinese have been cooking water for at least three thousand years: tea is lightly-flavoured boiled water with a caffeine kick.  It was the Red Bull of its day!  ;)


I imagine most Canadians who go on raw food diets lose weight, if for no other reason that junk food options must be pretty meagre.  Eating less calorie-dense foods, they’d probably feel full sooner, and their bodies would have to work harder to pull nutrients out of the food they did wind up eating.  Since modern urbanites tend to be on the thick side of fit, this probably nets out positive on health, but mainly as a result of better eating habits, as opposed to prehistoric ones.

One species that could definitely benefit from cooking is pandas, who eat 12 hours a day.  Their carnivorous digestive system can’t extract nutrients from bamboo very easily — not that there are many to begin with!  And given all the fiber they take in, they’re not just regular, they’re frequent: dozens of times a day.  Reminds me of when Leo was a newborn.  ;)


I didn’t see any vegetarian groups at Epic, though the crowd was probably their target market also.  While Westerners could probably benefit from reducing meat in their diet, avoiding meat is more of an ethical issue than a “natural human condition” issue.  One theory has it that meat-eating is a big reason why we spread across the earth, and our largely-vegetarian chimp brethren didn’t.

The premise is that meat enriched the milk of human mothers so much, they could wean babies earlier than other primates (traditional societies wean at around 2 years; largely-vegan chimpanzees at about 5 years).  This meant humans could reproduce faster and dominate the world the way we’ve been doing, for the past tens of thousands of years.  It would also imply that to enjoy a truly representative Paleo diet, raw food enthusiasts would want to get used to all manners of sashimi.  :)


Considering how much flack TIME magazine got recently for putting a woman breastfeeding a three-year-old on its cover, this all seemed topical enough to justify swerving my writing plans.  As strange as that may seem to the rest of us, if she was a paleo-diet vegetarian, five years might be scientifically justified (!).  It seems weird to us since it’s so far from our cultural norms, but most cultural norms are laughably arbitrary: while my Ukrainian grandmother looked queasy when I told her I ate raw fish, my Japanese mother-in-law was astounded that I sometimes ate carrots, uncooked…!  :)

Blogging will be light until Equinox…

Blogging has been light non-existent for the past couple weeks, as I’ve been preoccupied with a fifteen-part chronicle of my life in fuel cells.  A vacation now beckons, meaning that blogging should resume around the autumnal equinox.

Back soon!


Where else to start at the beginning, but the end? :)

– – – – –

The good news is that my former employer is going to have a very good chance to break even in a couple years.

The bad news is that it’ll happen without me.

The hilarious news is that later today, I get to fulfill a lifelong dream of writing an “out of office message” that begins:

 You have reached the mailbox of Matthew Klippenstein. I will be out of the office indefinitely…”

It’s almost as cool as the time a few years ago when I had the chance to send a broadcast email to the effect of:

“attn- to the owner of a grey mountain bike, your light is on…”


The very best thing is that I’ll have a bit more time in the interim to write, tweet, and upload a backlog of missives into this blog. Oh, and help take care of my young son, too. Mustn’t forget that…!