wrong answer

Somehow we were discussing life insurance.

Spouse says “Well, if you died, I’d sell the house and move into a smaller place. What would you do if I died?”

me: “Well I could finally get the model train layout going.”

Raptors 905!

We had a moderately fun time at the Raptors 905 vs Capital City Go-Go game last night (won by Raptors 905, 122-119.) Thanks to the Argos for the tickets! (Season ticket holders were given a free ticket to either this, or the Marlies, and I’ve seen the Marlies a few times and you might even remember that Argonotes was the Marlies Band during one epic playoff run.)

Cathy and me at the Paramount Centre for the Raptors 905 game

I have a couple of notes though.

1) I still don’t quite get how the “NBA G-League” works – Raptors 905 are a farm team for the Toronto Raptors, of course – but there sure are an interesting assortment of teams, including the “Capitanes de Ciudad de México“, which explains the Mexican flag hanging alongside the Canadian and US ones.

1a) I eventually figured out that the Capital City Go-go are
* from Washington, DC, hence the ‘Capital City’ part, and
* named after the Go-go funk music genre that originated in DC.

As I mentioned to Cathy, I was never a big Go-go fan, but I did like The Bangle.

2) The game was at Mississauga’s “Paramount Fine Foods Centre” (which I still think of as the “Hershey Centre”) and with a name like that, I wish there had been more Fine Foods on the menu than chicken fingers, hot dogs or poutine.

3) Free Parking! OMG I cannot remember the last time I went to a professional sporting event that had free parking.

4) The team’s called “Raptors 905” in homage to the local area code for the suburbs around Toronto, which is of course area code 416, and they were kind of rubbing in the whole “technically we are in Mississauga” angle, urging people to make an “M” gesture with their fingers, the spirit squad was the “Sauga Crew” or something, and some of the graphic imagery had a stylized map of Mississauga and I don’t know if how many people actually recognize the shape of Mississauga itself; I for one saw the graphic and thought “why are they showing a map of Washington state?”

4a) we made an “O” instead of an “M” gesture. Oakville 905, represent.

5) I picked out what I thought was a good seat ahead of time – on the aisle – but it turned out that Section 19 Row F Seat 1 is possibly the WORST aisle seat I have ever occupied. (At least until we moved a row back.)

See seat below, highlighted in red. Notice any problem?

if you’re sitting there, every single person who’s heading to the lower area on the left is going to walk right in front of you, and there is absolutely no room for them to get by between you and the railing ahead of you. That is just a dumb spot for a seat. They should remove Seat 1 and Seat 2 in that row.

Fortunately there were about 5,000 other empty seats so we just moved back a row.

Section 19 Row F Seat 1

Memories of Cableshare and Videopress – 40 years of touch screens

I’ve been writing software for touch screens for a long time. iPhone and iPad today, of course – but 40 years ago, I helped build Videopress – a system from London, Ontario’s Cableshare that installed colour graphic touch screen systems in kiosks in shopping malls.

VideopressBooth

For a moment, shopping malls in London, Ontario were the center of the touch screen information universe.

It feels like all the information about this pioneering system has been lost in the sands of time. Although it only lasted a couple of years in the early 1980s, it was pretty amazing for its day. Let me write up something here for the benefit of future historians.

I gotta tell you, when I visit shopping malls today, I sometimes see touch screens and mall information systems and I think fondly of what we were doing way back then, and then I think “These systems today are not really 40 years better than what we were doing back then.”

plus I have a few stories.

Cableshare

My first job after graduating in 1981. I wanted to work for Cableshare – a small software company in London that was affiliated with the local Cable TV provider for two main reasons

  • it was in London, and I could live at home
  • maybe I would get free Cable TV.

BusinessCard
(Don’t try to Telex me, I don’t think it still works.)

It worked out GREAT. I got to learn C, I got to build some cool stuff – at first, code for a cable tv monitoring system that detected fires or something in your house and called 911 – and eventually got in to graphics and touch screens, but most importantly, yes, I did get free Cable TV.

One day the boss showed me a touch screen fitted to a VT100 terminal, and one of these Telidon graphic decoder terminals, and asked me to fool around with it. Videopress was the result. I built some page creation software, the team built a booth and a distributed network to make it all work.

Cableshare’s Videopress – a big deal in 1982

The picture at the top is one of our first booths. I think this is at White Oaks Mall in London, Ontario. Or possibly Westmount Mall.

VideopressBooth

Anybody could come up and use the touch screens to search for mall information, check out the news and weather, and shop through an interactive gift guide (about which, more later.) Only hobbyists had home computers back then, and certainly nobody had a cell phone, so the idea that you could just touch a screen to find something out was revolutionary.

Especially because we all grew up with our mothers saying “Don’t touch the TV screen! You’ll get an electric shock!”

I remember bringing my grandmother out to the mall to use the Videopress booth. My grandmother! Nanny! Using a touch screen! Using software I wrote! Inconceivable.

So anyway,

technical stuff

The booth featured 4 terminals from Electrohome (and later Microtel) running a graphics standard called Telidon that had been promoted heavily by the Canadian government. Telidon defined a series of commands that you could send to a decoder – send a particular sequence of bytes, and a Telidon decoder would interpret those commmands and draw, say, a blue rectangle of a certain size, or text at a certain location. Slowly. It was a very clever, resolution-independent protocol where coordinates were all expressed as numbers between 0 and 1, so everything would fit on a terminal of any resolution. (I remember getting laughed at when I asked if we could get a 1024×1024 terminal. What are we, NASA? We don’t need some super thing like that, come on.)

Cableshare had fitted Elographics touch screens on top of these monitors. Another Telidon decoder showed a loop of graphics that you can see behind the booth attendant in the photo above. It all operated over serial lines, connected via an absurdly expensive Datapac network connection to … my memory is hazy here, but I think a Vax/VMS system back at headquarters. Initially this was all run from a tremendously underpowered CP/M computer buried in the booth, with a whopping 64K of memory to keep it all running.

Picture Painter

Artists back at headquarters would create all the content using an app I wrote called the Picture Painter. Perhaps you read this glowing review of Picture Painter in PC Magazine in 1984 –

Picture Painter is not as easy to learn as it should be. It takes a lot of nerve to charge $3,000 for software and then an extra $50 for inadequate documentation.

Tough, but fair.

Here’s a historic photo of a dorky looking guy showing off the Picture Painter app he created – and in case she ever goes searching for her own name, I’d like to say hello to my Cableshare colleague Debbie Shelton, who hasn’t seen me in 40 years either.

Picture Painter

That’d be a Summagraphics tablet, with a custom overlay where you could draw and a grid of buttons across the bottom to trigger editing functions, and a Microtel Telidon terminal displaying the results.

I saved one of the overlays –

Overlay

Telidon graphics were interesting in that they built up as the picture commands came in. it’d draw a circle, and a rectangle, and then it’d wait for more data to come in, and draw some text, and pause again and … It’s hard to believe how slow this was in retrospect but the effect of the pictures gradually appearing was kind of interesting.

so what did you see on the screen at the mall?

I really wish I’d taken some more pictures of what it all looked like. You’d have a menu you could touch through, for mall information, maps to the stores, the latest news and sports scores, and more. It was a clumsy menuing interface because the touch screens of 1982 were pretty limited. The first ones we used had something like twelve specific zones you could touch – and that was it. Twelve little nondynamic islands, and you had to create your content so that the touchable things were under the specific zones.

The Eaton Centre

Our first two installs were at White Oaks and Westmount Malls, in London. Cableshare had partnered with the local newspaper, the London Free Press, to build a joint venture called Videopress and they’d put Russ Demchuk in charge of the project and I’d just like to drop his name again as someone I haven’t heard from in ages.

while I’m at it a few more names of Cableshare people. This team taught me a lot. Frank Mandarino! Tom Martin! Tom McGill! Chris Reinkeleurs! Al Dinelt! Rick McNorgan! Herb Woods! Terry Pocock, rest in peace, company president who really spearheaded the whole thing. And Joe I Forget Your Last Name But You Were Very Nice To Me And I’m Sorry I Complained About One Of Your Functions Delivering Unsorted Data When I Really Wanted Sorted!

anyway. We honestly thought every shopping mall in the world would want some of these kiosks. Many of them came to London to see it in action, and the owners of the Eaton Centre – Canada’s largest mall, in downtown Toronto – decided to dive in, in partnership with the Toronto Sun.

It was all-hands-on-deck to get ready for that huge install. There was going to be a large Videopress booth smack in the middle of the mall. Our team of artists started using Picture Painter to draw – tediously – walking maps from the booth’s location to every store. 300 individual maps. I think they had animated dotted lines showing the route. Fancy stuff for 1982.

Except when the booth was installed, it turned out to be on the opposite side that we were expecting, and all the maps were upside down and had to be redrawn. Oops.

Today when I visit the Eaton Centre, I walk past the spot where the booth used to be, and I get pretty nostalgic….

Sports Scores

One piece of content I remember is a fancy graphic showing Wayne Gretzky’s quest for 100 goals. He was on a tear that season and it really looked like he might score 100; the team built an impressive page with a thermometer of sorts showing his progress, and every night it’d be updated, and there was going to be some spectacular thing happening when he hit 100.

Wayne finished the season with 92 goals. sigh.

The Gift Guide

The sales people were signing up vendors in the mall to participate in the Gift Guide. We had a coupon printer in the booth – using that ancient greasy ATM paper you’ve probably forgotten – and somebody had the idea that we should print special discount coupons that would direct people to participating retailers.

Somehow this morphed into the Christmas Gift Guide. A database driven thing, you’d answer a few questions on the touch screen …

Welcome to the Gift Guide!

  • Who are you shopping for?
  • My dad.

  • What are they interested in?
  • Photography.

  • What’s your budget?
  • $75.

and the interactive database would search through the huge list of participating merchants, and recommend something and print a coupon.

Except … The sales people had difficulty filling all the slots. Most of the time, the gift guide came up with a useless recommendation like Nothing for that combination. Try again.

shoes

One day my manager Bruce Grayson came to me and said “Steve, this doesn’t look good you’ve got to make it return something every time.”

We thought about it for a moment, looked over the list of participating vendors, and decided we were going with Shoes. The perfect Christmas gift! Your dad is interested in photography? Why not buy him some shoes? Have you ever seen a photographer that didn’t have shoes?

I don’t think the Gift Guide lasted too long.

spinoffs

the inuit circumpolar conference

Cableshare got government money somehow to install a few systems at the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which I believe was in Iqaluit, and I am still annoyed that I didn’t get to go. But I did manage to use Telidon’s custom font capability to design an Inuktitut font so content could be presented properly. I remember buying a sheet of Letraset dry-transfer letters that were in that font – all magical circles and triangles – and tediously creating a digital font variant. I hope people liked that.

buick

We modified the system so that it could display video from an attached laserdisc player, and somebody somehow got Buick interested in this as a kiosk for car dealerships. I remember going to see the first install at Buick HQ in Michigan. A standalone touch screen system was there to tell you about the new 1984 cars – but nobody was touching it. Nobody knew that you could actually TOUCH a SCREEN.

Someone had the bright idea to put a helpful sign next to the screen. Touch Here to learn about Our New Cars!, it said.

You can imagine where this is going. I remember seeing somebody touch the SIGN, four or five increasingly frustrated times, and of course nothing was happening. He got mad, and actually hit the real touch screen with his fist while walking away. Stupid thing. Doesn’t work.

Then, of course, the touch screen noticed an actual touch, and beeped, and started playing videos from the laserdisc player. I think the customer came back for a look.

the finger painter

Also I managed to put together a touch-screen based program that let you create graphics without the need for a keyboard or a graphics tablet! We called it the Finger Painter. It was a fun little experiment, and somebody at the Ontario Science Centre thought it was pretty cool and to my great delight, they installed it there and anybody could walk up and doodle a little picture with their finger. Or maybe it was Ontario Place. Or the Ontario Science Centre at Ontario Place. For a few months there, it was all the rage, even though (I can’t believe this memory is coming back) we kept having issues with flow control on the RS-232 line between the computer and the decode.

aftermath

This was huge in 1982 and 1983. Huge! Nobody had seen anything like it. Interactive touch screen information systems that anybody could use. Anybody! Just come to the mall and try it out!

I really wish I’d taken more pictures – here are a few that I do have.

RussBruce

Russ Demchuk and Bruce Grayson check out the first install.

FrankBruce
Frank Mandarino and Bruce Grayson try to use the Gift Guide, as seen from inside the terminal

Lab

Frank, and Tom Martin, in the lab back at Cableshare

and maybe my favourite

CableshareBand

the Cableshare Marching Band, from the 1982 Christmas party.

In 1983 I went back to grad school at Waterloo, and Cableshare eventually pivoted to doing some sort of interactive thing over cable and phone lines and got acquired by another telco, and the booths faded away.

But it was a pretty amazing couple of years.

UPDATE!

I recently stumbled across this CBC video report from 1985 on Cableshare’s pivot to “Touch-n-Shop”, a system for shopping on your TV, controlling it via your touch-tone phone. This used the same Telidon graphics and Picture Painter software I’d built, but reorganized to run on your home TV. Cableshare was convinced they were on to something with this shopping-at-home idea, and JC Penney swooped in.

It’s great to see my former boss, Cableshare president Terry Pocock, in this. He took some big chances. I was only there a couple of years, but I learned a ton, and I have some great memories. Thank you, Terry.

Watch here:

https://www.cbc.ca/archives/the-little-company-that-promised-shopping-via-the-tv-in-1985-1.5755825

Canada 4, USSR 1, September 4, 1972. Hey, I was there!

fifty years ago today

Canada vs Russia Sign

The older I get, the more nostalgic I get about things that happened on This Day In The Past. Especially if I can remember them! Or even better, if I was involved! That means I must not be getting older.

On September 4, 1972, Team Canada played the USSR at Maple Leaf Gardens, in Game 2 of the classic Summit Series – the first ever tournament between the best Canadian NHLers and the perennial Olympic champions from the USSR.

It’s hard to imagine today just how big a deal this series was. By game 8 in Moscow, the entire country was glued to their TVs (in my case, glued to the TV in my Grade 9 English class at London Central.) We saw Paul Henderson score for Canada, and Canada edged the USSR with 4 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie.

But that was by no means what we THOUGHT was going to happen on September 4, 1972. Admittedly, up until a few days earlier, most people thought Canada would win all 8 games. Or that the Russians might squeak out a tie.

game 1

Then game 1 happened in Montreal on September 2. USSR 7, Canada 3. We watched this one at the cottage, and I knew it was special because we NEVER watched TV at the cottage.

Canada had lost, big, to the Soviets. What did it mean? Was this a fluke? Were they really that much better than us? Oh, wow, what if this keeps happening for all 8 games?

game 2

Game 2 was in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens. There had been a lottery of sorts to get tickets. You wrote a letter,with a stamp and everything, and you were entered for the chance to buy seats.

I sent in 10 entries. Because Bobby Hull hadn’t been added to the team, I wrote To Russia With Hull! on each one in a minor bit of activism.

Somehow I won, and I persuaded Dad to come up with the $50 it would take to get the two seats.

Can you imagine that? We had really great tickets, on the goal line about 10 rows back, and they were only $25? If that series were played today, those tickets would cost thousands.

So we went to the game. We drove from London to Toronto, along with my friend Richard Collyer and his father who’d also obtained (not nearly as good) tickets.

Dad actually filmed the trip on his (silent) Super-8 camera, and 10 years ago my brother had the presence of mind to upload that to Youtube. I promise I’ll come up with a higher quality render, but here’s our home movie:

our glorious Super 8 film

It starts out slowly as we drive to Toronto and take the subway to Maple Leaf Gardens, but here are a few timestamps of interest

  • 0:24 Richard Collyer and his father and me on the subway
  • 0:46 USSR takes the ice
  • 3:27 I try to speak to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
  • 3:42 Margaret Trudeau says to me “He’s pretty busy, isn’t he”
  • 4:00 a sign, “We’ll settle for 7 out of 8”
  • 4:06 Taking my seat. Note, nobody in the crowd wears a jersey, few if any flags. A different era for sure.

Canada wins, 4-1 behind a strong goaltending performance from the legendary Tony Esposito.

the book

BookCover

For Christmas I think I got a copy of the book Death of a Legend, by Henk W. Hoppener, a retrospective of the whole series.

Amazingly, you can see Dad and me in a picture from that book!

Book Excerpt

I vaguely recall that Time Magazine also had a picture from the game that showed us. I’ll have to find that.

the aftermath

Canada won, 4-1, and the series was tied at one game each. I believe that if the Russians had clobbered Canada again, it would have been all over, and Canada would have entered a decade of darkness, punctuated by Royal Commissions on What’s Wrong with Canadian Hockey.

I think this was also the time we used the term Team Canada to refer to our national team in any sport.

So where does this game rank? If you ask me, these are the great Team Canada mens hockey matches played here in Canada.

  • 1972 Summit Series. Canada 4, USSR 1
  • 1976 Canada Cup. Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 on a beauty overtime goal by Darryl Sittler
  • 1987 Canada Cup. Canada 6, USSR 5; Gretzky to Lemieux … hey I was at this one too! the 35th Anniversary is coming up September 15th…. but that’s another blog post.
  • 2010 Olympics. Canada 3, USA 2. Sidney Crosby with the Golden Goal.

Which one was the most important victory? As Ken Dryden has said,

The Golden Age of hockey is “whoever was playing when you were 12 years old.”

For me, that 1972 game was the greatest. And not just because I was 12, but because of the huge hype around the series and the way a vastly overconfident Canada had been soundly thrashed two nights before.

50 years later

Well I was very lucky to see that game, so today, September 4 2022, for the 50th Anniversary, I’m breaking out the 1972 Jersey (which I bought for the 40th Anniversary.)

Me and my Team Canada 1972 Jersey

Thanks, Team Canada. I think we’ll be hearing more about this series this month. Ken Dryden’s written a new book, too. Gotta go get that – and see what he says about letting in 7 goals in Game 1.

and thank you Team Canada Women!

Today our womens national team beat the USA to claim the world championship! September 4. A great day for Canadian hockey.

Taking neat photos of moving water with your iPhone

We’re in Alaska and were near a lovely babbling creek in Ketchican today. One of my favourite iPhone tricks is using long exposures when shooting a waterfall or babbling brook – the effect you get in the water is pretty cool. Here’s how! It’s easy, just a couple of taps.

First, the end result. Here’s Creek Street in Ketchican today.

AfterEffect2

How do you get that neat silky blurry moving water effect? Easy!

The trick is to turn on the camera’s Live Photo feature, which captures about a 2 second clip every time you take a picture. Then you can use Long Exposure to average all 2 seconds of that clip into a single frame – which blurs the moving water really nicely.

And as a nice side effect, if there are people walking around during the 2 second exposure, it might average them right out of the picture!

So here’s what you do.

  • Approach waterfall or babbling brook

  • Open the camera app – and tap the Live Photo button at the top. That nested circle thing in the top right. If it’s on, the app will briefly display LIVE as seen here.

Live Photo button

  • Take picture. Hold still! It’s actually taking a 2 second exposure, but just showing you a single photo.

  • If satisfied, great! If not, let’s blur the water.

  • Find the photo in the Photos app (or tap the icon in the lower left of Camera, if you just snapped it now.) You’ll see this “LIVE” indicator in the top left, if you’re looking at a LIVE photo.

LIVE indicator

That LIVE thing is actually a popup button, which lets you choose from several different effects that can be applied to a live photo. Tap it for a menu, like this

LIVE menu

These are your choices –

  • Live – a photo that plays a 2 second movie when you long-press
  • Loop – Turn the 2 second photo into a little movie that loops continuously.
  • Bounce – like Loop, but the movie goes back and forth and back and forth
  • Long Exposure – this is the magic one we want! It averages all the frames together, and the effect looks great on moving water

All these effects are quick and easy and non-destructive, so you can try it and see if you like it.

  • Tap Long Exposure and marvel at how cool the water in the lower left looks now — and in this case, a little harder to see but the people walking on the bridge on the left side have been averaged right out of sight! You can use this to remove crowds!

Before –

BeforeEffect2

After –

AfterEffect3

Note that the averaging also crops your photo a little bit because, I dunno, algorithmic handwaving image stabilization reasons.

Pretty cool, huh. Try it on your next photo of a waterfall. Here’s one I took in the Azores a couple of years ago, using the same trick.

Waterfall  1

Sending off Dad

I promise I’m going to blog about something positive and happy soon – our son’s wedding is coming up next month. That will be great! Especially after 2.5 pandemic years of goodbyes to those we love. Including yesterday …

burying Dad

Mom and Dad's headstone

It was an emotional day yesterday as we gathered to bury Dad. (Yes, he passed away in March, but you might not have heard that supply chain issues mean it can take months to order a monument, and we wanted to wait until everything was in place. We ordered one shortly after Mom passed away last summer and it took most of a year for it to be ready. Fortunately it turned out very nicely.)

It was a beautiful day at Woodland Cemetery and I hope Dad and Mom would be pleased. We tossed in a little sand from the beach at Point View that Michael had harvested earlier in the day, and even a nice skipping stone. Dad was a champion Lake Huron stone skipper and claimed he could make any stone skip, whether it had a flat surface or not. (Sometimes we’d hand him a spherical rock as a challenge and he’d make it skip – maybe only once, but still, that counts.)

Point View sand

I was particularly moved to tears when Nick brought along Dad’s ukulele and sang a song – he’d learned Dream a Little Dream Of Me for the occasion. Not an easy tune! Lots of weird chords, but he did a great job, and my first reaction was – wait, when did you learn to play the ukulele? But Dad and Mom loved it, I’m sure. Dad’s baritone ukulele was a constant feature of so many family gatherings. Thank you, Nick.

We also took time to visit my grandparents, and my great grandparents, and even my great-great-grandparents who are all also resting at Woodland. And Uncle George, who’s interred right next to Dad and Mom and our brother Tim.

John Hayman

HLH Monument

Henry, Mary and William Hayman
The sun was shining and it really was a beautiful day. We even saw a few deer enjoying the scenery. Dad, you picked out a very nice spot and I’m happy you and Mom and Tim are together again.
Tim

Many thanks to Rev. Stephen McClatchie and funeral director Steve Harris, and you know you’re in good hands when Steves are taking care of you.

IMG 2756

Naturally we honoured Mom and Dad afterwards with ice cream at Merla Mae, Dad’s favourite spot and a North London institution since before I was born.

Merla Mae

Remembering Uncle George reminds me: we should PRINT more pictures

George Hayman, age 20

Here’s a wonderful picture of Uncle George (my dad’s brother) from 1950, that was on display at his funeral/celebration yesterday.

This is obviously a great photo of a handsome guy who we all loved very much. And a truck with a three-digit phone number! But here’s what strikes me about this:

Somebody – maybe my dad, maybe my grandfather – 72 years ago, took the time to take this picture, on a low-tech camera full of “film”, and waited a week or more for it to be developed and printed just so they could see whether it turned out OK, and they then put the photo in an album where we could all find it decades later and share in its majesty.

Conversely, what do we all do? We have amazing cameras with us all the time, we take dozens of high quality instant-gratification photos every week with our phones, and we never go through and delete the bad ones or highlight the good ones, and they get stored away in a cloud service and do we think our loved ones in 70 years are going to be able to unearth these?

We all need to PRINT more pictures. PRINT. Put them in a book where your grandchildren can find them and where you can enjoy them now. Don’t just store IMG_7305.JPG off in the cloud somewhere, hoping you can remember and find it later, hoping that that Facebook or Google or Apple’s service is still in business.

Somebody told me once of a service where you could just mark digital pictures as favourites as you took them, and once a month that service would scrape through your photo collection, find the new good ones, and print them in a small book for you. I kinda like that idea.

I am a big fan of printing elaborate hardcover photo books where you spend a lot of time futzing with the layout and getting the captions just right, except for the part where it’s hard to finish a project like that and that’s why I have 3 uncompleted photo books in progress at the moment. I gotta bring those to completion.

Of course it doesn’t help that every attempt to print a photo at home is doomed to end in nothing but cursing at the printer for either laying out the picture in the dumbest possible way on the page, or smearing the ink around somehow and producing very low quality output while simultaneously messing up your future attempts to print ordinary text because you’re now out of cyan. I wish our industry could fix this.

Print the good ones. Please.

Saying goodbye to Mom

(note: July, 2021, but just posted now.)

It’s been a tough year or two, saying goodbye to Dad, and Mom, and mother-in-law Eleanor, and Aunt Molly, and cousin Jon, and friends Linda and Ian, and so many others. I was honoured to give a few remarks at her funeral last summer and some folks wanted me to post them for posterity. Love you, Mom. I know you and Dad are watching us all, and, I hope, laughing and smiling.

Order of Service

Anne Elizabeth Walker Hayman

July 30, 1931 – July 10, 2021

Remarks at Mom’s funeral, Saturday, July 17, 2021

Welcome everyone. Welcome to all joining us here at St. John’s, and also welcome to those watching on Zoom.

I don’t think Mom would have understood what Zoom was, but she would love anything that brought people together.

So, welcome again.

Welcome. That’s a word I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past week. So many people have told us how welcome Mom made them feel. Whether they were new to the Church, or new to Canada, or new members of our family like Brent and Cathy and many other happy spouses, or guests at dozens of Christmas dinners or hundreds of other gatherings, or they’d never been to the cottage before, Mom would welcome them with open arms.

Mom would welcome people to the cottage with a hand-written document called “Things in Odd Places.” If you were looking for towels, or the can opener, or a gravy boat, or a dear little dish, you’d consult Mom’s Things in Odd Places list. Welcome to our cottage.

Mom also wanted to make sure we’d never forget those we’d welcomed, so most photos at home have Mom’s handwriting on the back with names and dates. Thanks, Mom. Some of those are pictures of my own babies and I’m not sure which one they are.

I also fondly remember one time in 1981 when Mom welcomed the entire University of Waterloo Warriors Band, which suddenly spilled out of a bus on our front lawn at 994 Maitland before a game against Western. Mom welcomed them all with a nice lunch, listened to the band as it played a couple of tunes on the street because, hey, why not, and then wished the band well as it headed off to Western. Where, if I remember correctly, the final score was 72-0, and not for Waterloo. But everybody remembered Mom’s hospitality. Especially one flute player in the band, who met Mom back then, and then again 30 years later when she married me. But that’s another story.

Mom was born in 1931 and lived, just a couple of blocks up that way, at 944 Wellington with her parents, Alexander Illingworth Walker – everybody called him A.I. – and Audrey Walker – we called her Nanny – and her older brother John. Two years earlier, older brother Joe had passed away in a tragic accident, so I know Mom’s arrival must have been very special for them all.

A.I. worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway – just over there, at the magnificent CPR station. Mom and Nanny thought nothing of hopping on the CPR train to Detroit to go shopping. For years Mom spoke glowingly of “The Big US”, a magical land where you could buy things that weren’t available in Canada. And it was easy if you could just hop on the train for free.

Mom went to The Until Recently Ryerson Public School which, it turns out, had been built by her future husband’s grandfather. Our family has had a long connection with the School at Waterloo and Victoria, and that over-a-century tradition has continued – granddaughter Katie has just graduated from Grade 8.

In grade 3 and 4 at what was then Ryerson, one of Mom’s classmates was a boy who lived up the street named Roger. I wish I had found out about this earlier so I could ask mom what she remembered of him, but that boy, who learned arithmetic right alongside Mom, went on to win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics. Sir Roger Penrose. One of the most famous mathematicians of the past century – and he was Mom’s classmate. Well – that gets me excited at least.

Mom continued on to high school at dear old Central, the school that claims our loyalty. With colours royal. True hearts and loyal! As we go marching onward, onward to victory – sorry, I’m lapsing into the Central song there. Mom heard that song dozens and dozens of times, as she and Dad faithfully came to every single music night that any of her children were ever in, and from her I learned a valuable lesson: You have to stay to the end! You can’t leave just because your kid’s group has finished! You have to grit your teeth and enjoy the beginning string class too!

She even came to Toronto for some of her grandchildren’s musical performances – and I remember her visiting – on the train, of course – to hear the Runnymede Public School Kindergarten Christmas Concert, where she surely enjoyed the choral performance even though Nick never opened his mouth to sing once. Mom thought it was wonderful.

And then for Mom it was on to Western. Did you know Mom played basketball for the Western Mustangs? I discovered that old Western yearbooks have been scanned and can be browsed online.

To my great delight, in the 1953 Occidentalia yearbook, I found a page dedicated to the candidates for Queen of the University College Ball. Let me share with you a few excerpts about one of them.

Occidentalia 1953

The first thing you noticed is that they incorrectly spelled “Anne” without an “E” multiple times, something Mom battled her entire life. (For the record, I am “Stephen” with a “PH”. Thank you for that, Mom.)

Let’s learn about Ann Walker.

Anne Walker, an attractive brunette … is in her final year of Business and Secretarial Science. After graduation, Ann would like an interesting job, something that offers variety.

Yes, she certainly was an attractive brunette, and she won the Gold Medal in Business and Secretarial Science – she found an interesting job at Labatt’s, where, amazingly, she had an aptitude for beer tasting.

John Hayman and Sons Construction happened to be doing some work at Labatt’s, and one day a young U of Toronto civil engineering grad named Bob was having lunch with his friend Harvey Hurlbutt.

(Ask Dad to tell you this story. He loves telling this story.)

Bob noticed an attractive brunette entering the cafeteria, and asked Harvey who that was. Why, she’s a friend of my girlfriend Frances Branton, he replied. She can introduce you!

That’s how it got started. On one of their early dates, Dad took Mom to see professional wrestling at the old London Arena. Pro wrestling. Dad likes to say that Mom “never complained”, but, well, I’m not sure what she would have thought of that.

Back to the yearbook.

Ann is a member of Pi Beta Phi. Keen on money matters, she was treasurer of the fraternity

Yes she was keen on money matters. I remember at age 4, a major construction project had Maitland Street torn up, and I decided to have a lemonade stand. Get your lemonade right here! Five cents a glass!

Some of the workers would offer me a quarter. Wow. A whole Quarter. Thank you!, I would beam.

And then Mom announced that

I had to make change, I couldn’t keep the entire quarter, and

I also had to pay her for the cost of the lemonade.

Keen on money matters indeed.

Ann is a sports enthusiast. She loves figure skating, basketball, tennis and swimming.

Mom’s love of figure skating took her to lots of events, and when she learned there were actually organized group tours to the World Championships, off she went. Mom loved those trips with Blanche Ward and Janet Cluett, off to Prague, or Indianapolis, or wherever, where they could chat about skating, music, outfits, and unfair judging all day long.

We kids did not exactly develop into Olympic skaters – although Mom took great pride in Rob and Katie’s hockey teams – but at least we learned to identify some of the jumps as often as 60% of the time. Here’s a tip I learned from Mom. The only jump where you take off going forwards is an Axel. Look for that at next winter’s Olympics.

Also – Tennis! Mom loved tennis! I never saw her play tennis, but we sure saw her play Table Tennis. Even up until her later years, Mom was a ping-pong shark. My cousin Kathy says that Mom was the only person who could ever beat her dad, John. And even in her later life, Mom would come alive playing ping pong at the cottage. It’s fascinating which skills stick with you, isn’t it.

In her less ambitious moments, she plays the piano, preferring solitude to an audience

Mom took piano lessons from Miss Taylor, over there on Colborne St, and insisted we do so as well, although Miss Taylor was about 900 years old by the time I started. Thank you for that, mom. Susan played the piano for Mom last week, and I can report with great pride that the last live music Mom heard was Susan’s perfomance of the classic “Yes We Have No Bananas.”

Susan even kindly played it without the extra C#’s I would occasionally add just to see if Mom was listening.

Ann would rather eat corn on the cob than any other food.

August was Mom’s favourite month. By August, the corn on the cob that she’d buy at roadside stands was at its best. Also by August, Lake Huron was finally warm enough for her to swim. Always entering backwards, always keeping her head above water.

And perhaps the best quote about Mom from the yearbook –

Her favourite activity is sleeping

Mine too!

So. With a resume like this, how did she NOT win the UC Ball competition? I demand a recount!

But she won the grand prize – the beer-tasting secretary married Bob, a loving marriage that lasted 65 years, a true partnership in which Dad would have big ideas and Mom would somehow find a way to make them work.

Just up the street at St. Joseph’s hospital, Mom had four children. You know three of us, but you might not have heard of Tim, who never made it out of St. Joseph’s. It’s hard to imagine how devastating that must have been, but Mom showered Dad and the rest of us with love.

Life at 994 Maitland with Dad was full of variety. Of course I remember the vacations – Expo 67, the 1969 Apollo XI launch, which Michael and I have been bragging about witnessing for 52 years, trips to the Calgary Stampede, to England, to France, skiing in Austria, but I also remember Mom’s desserts. Jello 1-2-3! Mom made this miracle product that nobody today has ever heard of. And Mom’s famous Frozen Strawberry Dessert, which I forget the recipe but I believe the main ingredient was frozen strawberries.

Mom and Dad travelled the world too, once they realized they didn’t need to bring us kids along. Cruising the Atlantic, bicycling through France with the Whelens, even a once in a lifetime visit to Australia’s finest resort, Hayman Island.

After a lifetime of volunteering, Mom finally found her most interesting job – remember she wanted one that offers variety, one that had no routine work. In 1993 she was promoted to Grandmother. Alexander – named for her father – arrived, and then Nicholas, and Robbie, and Katie, and just when she must have thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, along come Tyler and Caitie-with-a-C. We told her that Tyler recently got engaged to Diana, and that Caitie is a daredevil at the CN Tower, and I hope that made Mom smile.

Grandchildren, Mom truly loved you. I remember a saying she liked. “If I’d known how wonderful grandchildren were, I would have had them first.” Thank you for escorting her on her final journey today.

Mom had two favourite expressions. One of course, was “Oh, Bob.” But the other was the last word she’d always say to me if I was heading out. She’d say “Stephen – drive carefully!” Every time. And I would try. But today it’s my turn to send her off.

Now, I don’t know what happens when you die. I have a good idea what happens scientifically, but spiritually? I don’t know. But I like to think that you get to meet everyone who went before, and that they’re all very eager for you to tell them stories of what they’ve missed.

So, Mom – Nanny and Bompa are waiting for you to fill them in. And Uncle John. And your brother Joseph who you never met, and our brother Tim, who we never met. Please give them all a big hug from us, let them know we’re all doing great, that we’re taking care of Dad, and that we’ll miss you forever.

And we’ll all Drive Carefully.

epilogue

Mom was escorted out of St. John’s Church on her final journey by grandchildren Alex, Tyler, Nick, Caitie, Rob and Katie – as the organist fittingly played The Skater’s Waltz.

Presentation Tips you Might Not Want To Use

I’ve been fortunate to deliver sessions at Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC) in California on many occasions, and have learned some good things about presenting.

These are not those things. But I’ve saved them here for posterity, because I think after 20 years, the statute of limitations has expired.

Be Sure To Wear the Speaker Shirt

WWDC 2002, WebObjects Technical Overview

It’s important that everybody wear the special speaker shirt.

My thanks to engineering manager Toni Trujillo Vian who went along with this dumb idea that was presented to her about two minutes before the session started.

See If You can Get the Crowd to Stand and Sing

WWDC 2001, WebObjects Technical Overview

What session would not be improved with a singalong? Well, perhaps this one.

(This was actually the second time I got a WWDC crowd to stand and sing. In an earlier session on the very dry topic of WebObjects debugging, we staged the World WebObjects Debugging Championship at the end (between a couple of good-natured volunteers from the USA and Canada) and played the anthem of the winning country at the end. Congrats, Mark Ritchie of Canada.)