My interview with b5media

Well, I’ve finally collected my phone and transfer cable in one place and have gotten the pictures off. So, here’s the story of how I became a b5media Code Ninja.

It all started back at the end of March. I got a call out of the blue from Aaron Brazell, now Director of Technology for b5media. I wasn’t looking for a new job as for almost 9 years I’d been a software engineer for DRB Systems, Inc..

I was in a fairly central position at DRB. All configuration of software and hardware filtered through software and solutions that I made. I was also involved with the HealthWatch Committee which was responsible for getting everyone involved in physical activities and helped radicaly reduce our insurance fees.

But that silken tongued sweet talker Aaron, got my attention.

He told me of the wonders of working at home. Reminded me of the thrill of working for a startup. And seduced me with the lure of spending my days working from where ever I wanted to set myself up.

So, it was two weeks later that I found myself up at six am for a drive to the Cleveland airport. Do you remember the Cleveland Indians’ Season Openner? I do. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. It was the night before my drive. Here’s the video as they tried to battle the snow long enough to finish a came that was a shut out at the bottom of the 5th with two outs and three on base:

(Sorry I had a nice video saved in a SWF file but the sneaky buggers now have it playing an ad software engineering jobs. lol  Here’s a much longer youtube movie instead:


You would have thought that would be a clue to the road crews that they’d have some work to do on the roads. But no, it seems they decided to sleep this one off.

Now I grew up in the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands (Satellite view). That’s right where all of the snow broke at the edge of the Laurel Mountains. So I know snow. I rode a motorcycle year round even when it was 11 degrees out. I KNOW winter driving. But driving up 77 into Cleveland was the WORST conditions I’d ever been in.

Now, I got there in plenty of time for my flight, well ok not plenty but I was sitting at the terminal before boarding was scheduled to begin and actually had a 20 minute wait until they openned the doors. All in all that was really good considering a good portion of the trip was spent going 15 mph. Even at 15 mph with the roads TOTALLY untouched with four lanes of rush hour type traffic, I passed more than a dozen cars that were 40-60 ft off the road into no-man’s-land. I stopped counting at a dozen because I knew I had enough for a great story and had probably missed some at the beginning anyway.

You’d be driving along and suddenly you’d find that your car would be switching lanes and you’d watch for all the other cars to your left and right to do the same. One car about 5 in front of me, in the far left lane slowly started drifting to the right and turning sideways. I was in the next lane over and the cars in front of me just let off on the gas enough to let them go across. They were completly sideways traveling at the same speed as the rest of us when the left the next lane. Up ahead 10 ft off the berm was another car facing the on coming traffic. The non-voluntarily exiting vehicle continued drifting off the to the side and picked up speed. This was a good thing as they managed to pass behind that stopped car and as I passed them, they were facing the right direction and, still in one smooth motion, were merging back into traffic. I suspect it was deliberate…

 So, finally I got to the airport (note to self, always unpack laptop from carry on bag), boarded my plane (standing in the plane’s doorway, I could look directly over the top), and in my seat.

Here was the view out my window the wind had cleared enough for me to see out:

Sent this to my wife....

I was to take this flight up to Buffalo, snow capital of the US and drive from there up to Toronto.  After the drive I had that morning, I was glad of it…  I began to wonder though after several hard bumps occured and the plane still hadn’t moved.   Well it turned out that the tug they had, couldn’t push us free from the slot.  So they had to get another.  20 minutes and several bumps later, and THAT tug wasn’t powerful enough to free us from our frozen grave.  🙂  So a third tug, it must have been for a 747, came after another 20 minutes and THAT got us free and pushed us back into the unplowed run way.

 But we’d lost our slot in the deicer line some 40 minute earlier.  So we had another 20 minute wait to get deiced.  That was somewhat humourus actually.

See the guy on the left of that plane, he’s in a nice enclosed cabin.  The guy on the right is in an open bucket that is now backed off as the antifreeze drains out from the cabin dude blasting him with a firehose stream of antifreeze for 3 or 4 seconds.  He just absolutely nailed this guy full in the face as he raised him self up above the plane and the other guy totally over shot it from the other side…  they both just sort of stopped and had an exchange of some sort or or another :-O

 If you ever have your plane deiced, bring polarized sunglasses.  It makes the whole experience psychodelic as you’ll see rainbows everywhere.

The pale frozen green goop look just doesn’t do it justice.

 However, once I gut to Buffalo, it was clear sailing.  There was almost no snow to be seen anywhere, I had a sweet ride and things were looking up.

I met Jeremy and Aaron at the hotel lounge of the Intercontenental Toronto.

 I was there about an hour before our original planned meetup time, but also an almost hour after they’d called “Hey, we decided to meetup early in the lobby.  Where are you?”  My 40 minute flight had turned into 2 hrs but I was thinkin’ I was still peachy-keen till that phone rang.  Buffalo has a great blues station and some BB King had me nice and mellow for most of the drive.  I’d found a pretty good alternative rock station by the time I’d neared Toronto.  So, I couldn’t have asked for a much better ride.

I got into the hotel shook hands with Jeremy and Aaron, went to my room, splashed water on my face, ran my fingers through my hair and I was on!

Jeremy and Aaron are great guys.  Here’s a shot of Jeremy and doing his “Sexy Entrepreneur” look:

Sorry ladies, Shannon snatched this guy up!

So, we sat and hung out chatting, till Mark Evans , former senior tech reporter from the National Post no now b5 VP of Content, happened to wander by.

We pulled up a fourth chair to the two person table, and we ordered another beer to go with the bowl of mixed wasabi nuts on the table.  Now Mark is a journalist at heart and so, the interview began in earnest.  A few minute later, the pro blogger himself Darren Rowse, b5’s VP of Training, came in from the hotel down the street and pulled up a fifth chair.

And if you ever had an interview

with Darren staring at you this way,

the entire time, let me tell you, it is unnerving!

Ok, it wasn’t that chair but the picture fits doesn’t it? 🙂

As we were quickly over staying our welcome in the narrow aisle of the bar section, about 15 minute later we adjourned to The Cave.  A short stop for Red Bull later, and we were there.

 The best shots of the cave can be found in the standout jobs video they’d made two days earlier.  We hung out there and chatted about the strategy for b5 and the future and what I could do for them.  Later that evening we went out to dinner at a French restaurant.  You can see pictures of all of us here.  I had this wonderful view across the table of Aaron, Gary King, and Darcie Vane:

Gary is a developer intern and Darcie is b5’s Office Manager

Some escargo, shrimp(?) pate, oysters, lamb chops, ice wine and creme brulee later, and Chad Randall b5’s Director of Sales and I were chums:

Watch out for the bunny ears!



Then it was back to my hotel room.  I was beat.  It had been a LONG week.

I didn’t get a good picture out my window, but I could lookup and see the CNTower right out my window.  I caught this nice refelection off of the offices in front of my hotel the next morning:


A quick workout, a swim in the pool with the Disney theme for The Little Mermaid playing in the background and a soak in the hot tub and 10 minutes in the sauna later and I left to have some coffee (with about a dozen false fire alarms sirens as background music) with Aaron at a local coffee house.


Then it was off to home:

Back to Cleveland and the same old same old weather…

Of course, after that horrible drive the day before, I forgot to turn off my headlights…  Not that you could tell because the battery had long since died and they were covered in snow anyway…

An emergency jump kit later, and I was on the road.  Soon to be calling 911 because an elderly couple had driven their Cadilac out into the middle of a snow covered area  between where the two major highways Yd off in different directions.  They were staring at each other trying to figure out what to do.  They were helpless, so I called 911 and sent the police to help them.

 I’d just held out the phone and closed it (why do we do that?) and looked up to see a car totally engulfed in flames sitting beside the road.  As I drove by, I couldn’t tell if anyone was inside or not.  Me and the guy behind me stopped and we ran back. to see that someone had openned the passenger door and dove down the steep embankment to the road down below where there was a police car stopped beside a minivan with its sliding door open…  We had to assume they were OK as we daren’t go much closer.

We retreated to his car, stared at the flames and each other, watched as two firetrucks came up, boxed the car in and covered it in foam, and then continued our drive home.

So… There you have it, my b5media interview weekend.  After that it was a nice relaxing week or so till I got a call back from Jeremy.   Yeah… Relaxing…  That’s the ticket…


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