Saturday, June 25, 2022

Final Cancer Post?

I want to start by giving a heart-felt thank-you to all the prayer warriors out there.  We won’t know, this side of heaven, exactly how much of a difference you made, but I thank God for all of you.

This week I had a meeting with my oncologist.  He began by calling me his “best patient ever”.  Then he followed that up with "I don't ever want to see you again".  He even used the “c” word (cured), which I didn’t think oncologists even KNEW!!!  Anyway, he says I now have the same odds of dying of cancer as any average person.  That’s difficult for me to believe, and I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to believe it subconsciously.  Still, the cancer testing has now stopped and all care has been transferred to my family doctor.

So, this will presumably be my final post on this topic.  Apparently God still has work for me to do on this planet.  I just hope and pray I can do my part faithfully, and accomplish what He has for me.

God bless you all!


Friday, April 01, 2022

Microsoft's complete lack of support for this partner 😢

I am a small, independent software developer.  I have been a Microsoft supporter and have been working professionally with/on their products since 1985.  My company has been a partner since 1996.  My relationship with Microsoft has had some bumps along the way, but it has sunk to a very clear all-time low.

Frustration #1:  The program has changed quite a bit through the years, and rules have changed occasionally as well.  Until this year I have managed to keep up.  For many years I was an ISV partner, but that changed and more recently I've been a Silver level partner with an "Application Development" competency.  Recently the rules changed yet again and, despite my long history with Microsoft, I was unable to fulfil the demands.  The real frustration is that the requirements are simply ludicrous.  There is a reasonable list of certification exams that are accepted as qualification.  However, of the 9 possible routes, 5 are expired, 3 are irrelevant or too specialized (e.g. Azure Administration or Dynamics 365), leaving essentially 1 reasonable route for a developer.  The one route that is open to general developers is "Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate", so if you develop for anything other than Azure, you're out of luck.  Fortunately I have done quite a lot with Azure, and have used it extensively for many years.  So I began work on the test.  I tried the practice exams over and over again.  They seemed to have very little to do with actual software development, but I plowed ahead, hoping the actual exam would be better.  Eventually I wrote the actual exam and nope - it too had very little to do with actual development, and much more to do with Azure administration.  Fortunately I squeaked by, but when I described the experience to my employees (Microsoft requires two people to certify), I was unable to convince any of them even to attempt it (which makes sense since they don't have nearly as much experience with Azure as I do).  So, my Silver level partnership expires today, and I just remember fondly the sound of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's second CEO, chanting "developers, developers, developers...".  At least we have that in our mythology now.  I guess I'll be telling my grandchildren about a time when that might have been true, because in technology terms, that's right up there with T-Rex:  dead for a very long time.

Frustration #2:  For reasons quite unknown to me, my main account is unable to communicate in this forum.  I raised a ticket on 3/26/2022.  On 3/28 I received an email with instructions that didn't work.  After that I received another email saying Microsoft Customer Service & Support couldn't help, providing me with an email address, and closing my case.  I tried the email address and it bounced!?!  Subsequent attempts to contact Microsoft about this have received zero responses.  Everything I send seems to go into a black hole.  In order to post here I had to create a new account!  It's a good thing I can create as many email aliases as I like!

Frustration #3:  Because I was unable to retain my Silver membership, I purchased an Action Pack.  When I tried to activate the Azure benefits provided by the Action Pack, I'm told I can't have both active at once.  So, there will be a gap when the dozens of services I have in Azure will go dark while I wait to be able to activate my other benefit.

!!!!!-----!!!!!-----!!!!! This is the one that has me the most irritated!!!!!-----!!!!!-----!!!!!

Frustration #4:  On February 1, 2022, SOMETHING changed and I could no longer update the applications I have in the Microsoft Store.  I raised a ticket.  It took over two weeks to get help on that, and when I eventually did I found I was communicating with the wrong department.  I had to raise another ticket which I did on 2/25/2022.  The issue?  "Employment Verification"!  Yeah, if you peruse this forum you'll find dozens, perhaps hundreds of people facing the same problem.  I had my partnership verified in 1996, and occasional domain verifications throughout the years since!!!  Now there's a separate tab for "Developer", and a new verification process.  The new verification process makes no sense.  There are so many reasonable verification processes that could be used.  Instead, they want PDF documents and screen shots!?!  Anyway, I've supplied a steady stream of those, trying various different combinations and permutations, all to no avail.  The last response from Microsoft logged on the "Activity" page is from 3/17/2022.  Every three or four days I get an email trying to convince me they're still working on it.  I've tried escalating this in any/every way I know how, including phone calls, emails, notes in the activity log, and even Twitter.  For weeks, now, I've started my work day wondering how I could get action on it.  Everything I try just seems to go into a black hole.  I've even been trying to figure out how to get the attention of the press to expose the rotten core of the Microsoft Partnership program, especially given how many other people are reporting the same problems.  Except for the fact that my livelihood depends on this, I'd have given up weeks ago.  I really have no idea what to do.

!!!!!-----!!!!!-----!!!!! This is the one that has me the most irritated!!!!!-----!!!!!-----!!!!!

Frustration #5: The partnership web site is so... incredibly... SLOW!!!  I assume it's hosted on Azure, which sure reflects negatively on what I assume is Microsoft's flagship at the moment.

Well, that's my sorry tale.  I suppose I could say I'm in the twilight of my software development career.  Given how my career is pretty much intrinsically tied to Microsoft, and given the state of Microsoft these days, I suppose that's a good thing.  At least I was around during the good times.  Too bad it may end like this.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Stir Crazy

Yep, being trapped in the Fraser Valley, as wonderful as it is, for two years with nothing but a few trips to Calgary and a wonderful-but-too-short weekend in Ottawa, finally got to me.  I broke down and started driving south.  (Yes, I'm well aware that many people would kill for "a few trips to Calgary and a weekend in Ottawa.  I recognize my privilege. :-)

Las Vegas is a far cry from my "happy place" - my "happy place" needs to be either much more rugged and wild or not on this continent.  In many ways I think of Las Vegas as rather distasteful.  Still, in this instance it had a few things going for it:

  1. Sunshine in January.  When wintering in Vancouver, this one’s important to me!
  2. Great shows.  Yeah, I’m a sucker for Cirque du Soleil, and there are a bunch in Vegas.
  3. People willingly subsidizing my hotel room!  Vegas hotels can be remarkably cheap.
Now to explain a little.  This is kind-of a “working holiday”.  There are only two months left on my contract, so now is not the time to take time off.  But as I said, I was going stir crazy from lack of travel.  So because I’d be working during the day, and, being January/February, it would be dark after work, I was looking for somewhere that I could enjoy myself more in the evenings.  I thought about Arizona or California, but in the end it was the “night life” that influenced my decision most.  (Sorry, Dave - can't really golf after work. :-)  Also, I kinda wanted a nice, long road trip (as opposed to a flight), but no more than two days away so that I could make the trip down one weekend and the trip back the next.  Since Sue couldn’t join me due to her work being more in-person, I didn't want to be gone for too long.

On the way down I began making some observations that I thought I should capture.  The "Christian" one is at the end so that those of you that don't want to read that can easily skip it. :-)
  • It is truly amazing how much "waste land" there is in America.  Every time I drive to Vegas from anywhere I'm amazed by the amount of desert.  If you add to that the vast tracts of land not good enough to farm and not good enough to harvest lumber from (e.g. Alaska), it makes for a great deal of essentially uninhabited land.
  • The Vegas strip fills me with a mixture of awe and revulsion.  It's spectacular, but it's also hard to imagine more of a monument to conspicuous consumption based on greed.
  • Pricing for most hotels in Vegas is a joke, and it's important to go in with your eyes open.  I already knew this, but still got caught.  You see there's the room rate you'll see on Expedia or Hotels.com or whatever, and then there's the "resort fee" that almost all of them charge.  It's non-negotiable (as I learned on a previous trip).  Sure you'll see it if you read the fine print, but it won't be obvious and it won't be on the charge you see from Expedia.  Instead, they hit you with it when you check in.  Supposedly it covers things like parking and wifi, but this trip they actually took parking out and I had to pay for that separately, meaning that for all intents and purposes, the resort fee covered wifi.  So, here's the breakdown of a "cheap" room:
    • Room: C$24
    • Resort Fee:  C$58  - imagine... $58 for wifi!?!?!  And that's for a maximum of two devices.  Additional devices still cost another C$22/day!
    • Parking: C$22
    • Total:  C$104, not the $24 Expedia promised!!!
Still, at the end of the day, the room I had (which was very nice) was a small fraction of the cost the same room would have been in other cities.  Also, the room worked out very well as my "work space".  Of course that's a week-day rate.  The rate jumps to several times that on weekends.
  • Other room "amenities" are outrageous:  movie on demand?  US$20; streaming music (through the TV)?  US$10/day
  • If you remember eating cheaply in Vegas, either you are old or you avoided the strip.  Cheap food can still be found (e.g. I still enjoyed steak and lobster for US$12 at Tony Roma's, but it was on Fremont).  The cheap buffets are gone, and the restaurants have gone considerably upscale, with names like Gordon Ramsay or Hell's Kitchen.
  • As a Canadian travelling in the U.S. I'm often amazed at how different our technologies (in particular banking) are between the two countries.  Can you remember the last time you signed your name when making a credit card transaction in Canada?!?  That's still very common in the U.S.  Tap seems very rare, and I couldn't even get it to work.  We can't e-transfer money to friends there.  It makes me wonder how people feel about Canada when they're coming from places like Singapore or Japan where I assume technology is significantly more advanced.
  • I think The Who might be very ashamed of their generation now.  Perhaps more of us should have died before we got old.  I went to see Styx while I was in Vegas and made the mistake of going cheap and sitting in the balcony.  Note the word "sitting" - we were at a rock concert and everyone in the balcony stayed seated for the entire performance!  The show was much better than I expected, but sitting down is not what I go to concerts for!!!
  • If you've been to Vegas you know what the pedestrian traffic on the strip is like.  It's a vast sea of people.  Well, wanna know how to kill that traffic?  Take the temperature down to 4°C.  I thought it was nice, comfortable walking weather, but the sidewalks were deserted.  I certainly didn't complain - I don't like crowds.
  • More and more I believe that homelessness is an indictment of the west in general, and the church in particular.  It's bad in Vancouver, but increases significantly the further south one drives along the west coast.  Driving around significant swaths of downtown Portland can be eye-opening.  Miles of sidewalks have been taken over by tents.  Part of me wonders why it's tolerated, part of me wonders why more isn't done, and part of me wonders "where is the church in all of this?"  This is particularly true in the U.S. where the church tries to take such an active role in society and politics.  The church I observe must understand the Bible very differently from the way I do.  Oh right - our "Christian" leaders are too busy building fancy mega-churches and flying around in private jets, supporting the antithesis of Christ politically, and obviously much too important to be concerned about the people living in tents on the sidewalk in Portland.  Although Portland was a jolt, and Canada doesn't pretend to be a "Christian nation", surely the sheer number of people in Vancouver's downtown eastside is still an indictment of our church as well.  But at the same time it makes me wonder how much I do or what more I should do.  I feel a little helpless since the problem seems to be so huge and I'm sure many others with much more knowledge and insight have tried to solve it, but still I am not innocent in this.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Mortality

Today I was given a solemn reminder of my (our) mortality.  Being reminded of it is not a bad thing, but the circumstance is still sad.  Today a friend, who'd been diagnosed at approximately the same time with the same cancer I had, passed away.  Her fight was much more difficult than mine, so it's been an ongoing reminder, but her passing finally prompted me to write this post.

God has been unfairly good to me.  October 7 of this year marked the five year anniversary of my last cancer treatment (surgery).  Why did God keep me alive and allow so many others with similar health issues to pass?  I'm guessing I won't get an answer to that question, but it does make me want to make sure I'm doing whatever it is He kept me around for.

Katrina, I know your family and friends will miss you dearly, but you now get to enjoy a beautiful new cancer-free body in the presence of your Savior.  Someday we will meet again.

Getting Old - Perspective

I started this on April 11, 2021, but never finished it.  Now I'll just post it in its unfinished state to get it out of my "draft" folder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Quick Update

TLDR:  my last cancer test, for which I got the results this morning, shows no cancer in my system!  PTL!!!

I’m really sorry I’ve let this slide so long, but I really haven’t felt very inspired to write for a while.  Unlike my lovely wife, writing doesn’t come all that naturally to me.  So, this won’t be eloquent, but hopefully it will bring you up to date.  After all, it’s been over a year since I sent my last update, and much has happened in that time.

Just over a year ago, Susan got accepted into grad school at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC.  (In case you don’t know, she’s pursuing her Master’s in Counselling Psychology, but that’s her story – feel free to chat with her about it.)  So, last July we packed up and headed west, leaving our kids behind in Calgary to take care of our house.  For the first month we stayed in residence, but grad students aren’t allowed to stay in residence during the school year.  So we found and rented a lovely carriage house (yes, it’s an apartment above a garage) on an acreage.  I worked remotely, with monthly trips back to Calgary, for my Calgary client.  Then, at the end of January of this year, the company scaled back and I began looking for work here in BC.  The market turned out to be difficult at best, and whereas I had a number of good interviews, an offer was not forthcoming.

I had a cancer test (CT scan) in Calgary on May 21, so, since I was still unemployed and Susan’s schooling could be done remotely, we returned to Calgary a bit earlier than planned.  While in Calgary, I finally got a job offer, but needed to start on May 25.  However, Susan wasn’t quite ready to leave, so I returned to Vancouver alone with a tentative plan of returning to pick up Susan next weekend.  I started the new job yesterday, and today we got the results of the CT scan:  all’s well!

You may be wondering about our plans after Susan is done school (mid-2021).  Will we stay in Vancouver?  Return to Calgary?  Other?  Well, quite honestly we don’t know.  Our plan all along has been to return to Calgary, but we submit that to God and look forward to His leading.

There ya go – all caught up!

God bless!
Brad.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Comfort

I don't feel like I'm a particularly good comforter, but sometimes I wonder how I can use the things I've been through to help others.  The other day I read the following verses and wondered if they applied:

“[Praise to the God of All Comfort] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Sunday, December 09, 2018

More good news...

Yes, I got a new job and I start Tuesday!  This has been quite a significant relief for both myself and Susan.  It has also had a wonderfully positive effect on my depression.  I will not say the depression is gone, and I expect I may experience some effects for a while yet (e.g. I expect to come home from work exhausted for the first while), but the day I got the job was my best day since my termination.

Susan shared a beautiful quote with me from “Out of Africa”:  “that bad time blessed us and went away.”  I won’t claim the bad time is gone completely, but there were many blessings (especially spiritual) gained from it.  Still, I’ll be happy to see it in my rear-view!