On the Impact You Can Have on a Youth's Life

Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

Let me tell a story. It takes a major event for a reflective story like this.

I was part of a very skilled group of fastball players growing up. You know, “girls baseball”. It’s not “girls baseball” at all; ladies happen to play the game more than men, specifically at the college ranks. But straight up, fastball is a better game than baseball. It’s way faster, more exhilarating, and takes a much higher level of skill to play.

I was part of this really strong fastball group growing up. Our group of 11-year-olds had to travel upwards of 16 hours to find another team to play that would keep us to within 10 runs. It became expensive for our group to continue playing and we ultimately fizzled out.

When the time came for the team to fold, each player had a choice as to whether they could convert to baseball or quit playing altogether.

Our group was from Winkler, which is nestled in between two baseball-playing communities, about a 10 minute drive from either town. Most Winkler kids went to Plum Coulee to play baseball. It was unheard of to ever play out of Morden — the rival community to the west. To this day, there is an unwritten rivalry between Winkler and Morden. It’s not a good rivalry. It needs to be torn down for the area to progress forward. But it’s there and it was unheard of to ever cross that border.

I asked if I could play in Plum Coulee. I was told Plum Coulee had already picked their team and didn’t have room for me. I was a broken-hearted 12-year-old. I loved baseball. I was pretty good at it. And I was told they wouldn’t make any exceptions.

So my dad called an older gentleman in Morden to see if Morden still had room on their baseball team. The coach said the team had already been picked, but he never wanted to see a young man quit playing baseball. So he let me come down for a one-practice tryout. I grabbed my glove — an old 12.5-inch mitt from the 1980s I found in my grandma’s garage, as I didn’t have a baseball glove, I had a fastball glove — and went to that one-practice tryout.

I didn’t know anyone. I felt completely out of place. I felt like I had broken an unwritten rule by crossing that Morden/Winkler boundary. I felt sick to my stomach when I first arrived.

By the end of the practice, the older coach said he would love to have me on the team. He thought I would play regularly and deserved a chance to play.

Of course, I showed up at the first game of the year, made a big play with my gigantic glove, and the rest is history.

I played a lot of baseball after that. Over 100 games a year, for sure.

I was approached to play on the Manitoba provincial team the year after as a 13-year-old. From then on, I quickly rose the ranks to being the top shortstop in the province, being named team captain of the Manitoba Youth Selects provincial team that played in Alberta at a major national championship. I was scouted for the youth national team (though never made it; a friend of mine from Winkler actually made it — what an incredible accomplishment) and played baseball right through my teenage and early adult years. I won a batting title in the Manitoba Junior Baseball League, helped startup a senior baseball team in Winkler, coached multiple U18 and junior teams, and am currently helping rebuild the baseball park in Winkler. I worked at the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame as a young adult and now sit on the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame board as the interim treasurer.

Even better, because I played in Morden as a 12-year-old and crossed the dreaded boundary between the 2 rival communities, I developed my closest group of friends. I didn’t go to high school with them, but I played baseball with them. To this day, this group of Morden friends is the closest group of friends I ever had.

That group of friends led me straight to my wife. My Morden baseball buddies vowed they had met the woman for me and they set us up on our first date. Indeed, we got married 4 years later as young 22-year-old whipper snappers. We have 3 beautiful girls together today.

Because I had broken that barrier between Winkler and Morden, I had no problem as a young adult working in Morden as well. I gained employment in Morden and eventually found my way into a CPA office in Morden. I completed my CPA designation in 2021 at the same Morden office after 10 years of study and moved my young family to Morden to build our lives here.

Morden is home. It was home from the very moment that older coach gave me a chance to play baseball. I grew up in Winkler. But Morden is home.

Joe Wiwchar today is 87 years old. He became just the 5th Manitoban to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, standing with legends that played and built the game of baseball in our country. Joe coached baseball for 70 years before retiring from the game as a coach only last year.

It was in his 50th year as a coach — after coaching a thousand players before me — that he gave me that last minute chance to play baseball.

Of course, I also had a chance to coach with Joe after my youth baseball years. He gave me a job at the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame, where we worked shoulder-to-shoulder for six straight months in a closet of an office. Joe and his wife came to our wedding. I’ve met and competed with Joe’s grandkids on the baseball field and on the hockey rink and bantered with them at Joe’s dinner table over baseball cards and baseball jackets.

Being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is the highest baseball honour you can achieve in our country. There is no person more deserving of the highest baseball honour. I owe a great deal to Joe and I’m so, so happy to see him receive the recognition he deserves.

It was that simple act of giving a young boy a chance to play baseball that altered the course of a life forever. Who knows where I’d be today. Who knows who I would have married. Who knows what I’d be doing.

We can all have this sort of impact. You simply never know how your actions will alter the course of a person’s life, especially when you can impact them in their mouldable youth years.

Congratulations Coach.

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It’s Not You, Matter, It’s Me

Thursday, Feb 02, 2023

There is only so much an app designer can do when it comes to licenses. Fonts, symbols, terms… — I speak with little knowledge of the issue, but it’s clear there are times when an app maker is forced left or right with little to no control over the outcome.

Matter for iPhone and iPad is one of the prettiest apps on the planet. The folks making the latest read-it-later tool truly understand what it takes to make a delightful reading app. For the longest time, I was saving everything to Matter to read, simply because it was so beautiful to look at.

A close look at the Bookerly font in Matter for iPad. Bookerly is hands down the most beautiful reading font in the world.

There are many design decisions the Matter team have made to make the app so beautiful. One of those outside their control realm was Bookerly, Amazon’s exclusive font which has little to no licensing terms available for use. Great design decisions combined with the world’s best reading font made for a $10/month subscription I joyfully signed up for. Matter was truly the most beautiful reading app ever made.

With the latest update, Bookerly was removed as the exclusive font and fonts like Literata (above) take its place. Literata is really quite nice, but there's something lost from that original Matter design.
Matter's latest update also introduced a purple icon, which may well be one of my favourite app icons on my iPhone. It certainly sets the bar relative to its competition (note Readwise Reader on the right.)

But the Matter team had to move away from Bookerly in the latest update. Alongside the Bookerly removal came a slew of new fonts —some which are nice enough — and a few new theme packages to better suit a variety of tastes. The new Matter app icon options are equally or more impressive; I especially love the latest purple/plum app icon.

As a result of the Matter change, I'm giving Readwise Reader another shot. This simply isn't as pretty a reading experience. Not by a long shot. 

This single font change though has me at a crossroads. I have to turn right or turn left, given the $10/month subscription fee. I’m not ready to fully turn my back on Matter already, but this one font change has me downloading Readwise’s Reader once more and moving all my read-it-later material to Matter’s competitor.

Again, there’s nothing the Matter team can do about this. I get it.

I just wish the app hadn’t come this far with a font they weren’t really allowed to use. And frankly, with a font that became so core to the app’s identity.

For that, I’m (at least currently) exploring other options.

I’m Back in the Plus Club

Monday, Jan 30, 2023

I had to wait a fair bit to get my hands on an iPhone 14 Pro Max. So far, it has been worth the wait.

It’s been a few years, but I’ve returned to the Plus Club. I think the last maximum-sized iPhone I used was the iPhone XS Max. It’s sort of one of those “prodigal son” stories — “I was lost, but now I’m found” sort of thing. In the meantime, I used the iPhone 11 Pro, jumped off a cliff with the iPhone 12 mini (though I tested the iPhone 12 Pro), returned to form with the iPhone 13 Pro, and spent the last four or five months on a dynamic island with the iPhone 14 Pro.

Over the course of that time, I continually put a lot of weight on “carry-ability”. I never wanted carrying my iPhone to be a pain.

I also put great emphasis on one-handed use — something about holding a baby and using a phone at the same time, or something like that.

Either I was wrong or times have changed. I think the latter. But I’ve quickly returned to form with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The bigger keyboard, more information on each page, the better (though surprisingly disappointing) battery life — all are elements I hadn’t realized how much I was missing for a number of years.

There is only one circumstance where I miss the smaller-sized iPhones: photography. It’s a pain in the neck whipping out a Pro Max-sized iPhone from a coat pocket or a bag pocket to snap a quick photo. The Pro Max’s size alone makes it the poorest Pro-level iPhone for photography (I say “Pro-level iPhone” because I spent a year with the iPhone 12 mini and I genuinely missed having that third camera each and every day. All Pro-level iPhones are better for photography than the smallest iPhone.)

On the flip side of this, editing photos on the larger Pro Max display is quite enjoyable. I still tend to do a lot of photo editing on the iPad Pro, as the combination of the Apple Pencil and big, inviting display make for a truly excellent photo-editing experience. Where before I would use the iPhone in a pinch to quickly edit photos for Glass, I now tend to do regular editing on the Pro Max iPhone when I’m bored and looking for something to do.

Of course, the larger iPhone brings back the larger keyboard for my workflow, unlocking new ways to respond to messages and emails throughout the day. For the most part over the last four or five years, my iPhone has only been a notification-delivery mechanism for email. I would never respond to an email on the iPhone. I’d read something, mark it as unread to be addressed later when I was at my Mac, and that was it. The Pro Max’s larger, more comfortable keyboard means I can bang out responses a little quicker and hone in some of my more focused Mac-time to truly productive work rather than email responding. I like this addition to my work life, no doubt.

My last first impression anecdote: battery life on this Pro Max is truly disappointing. For years, I read about stories of folks’ Pro Max iPhones lasting 2 or 3 days between charges. I ran across numerous jealousy-inducing tweets suggesting someone worked 10 hours on their iPhone Pro Max only to have 50% of the battery remaining for the next day.

Either they were all lying or the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s battery is considerably worse than its predecessors. I have put the Pro Max to the test on a weekend day where I’d spend more time on my iPhone away from a charger. Where the equally new iPhone 14 Pro may end the day with 15% or 20% on the battery, the iPhone 14 Pro Max ended the day with 30%. Final minus initial over initial says this is a 50% improvement, this isn’t exactly mind blowing either.

I’m looking forward to the summer when I tend to have less coat pockets for carrying large items to give the iPhone 14 Pro Max a true review. I suspect I’ll still be happy — with an Apple Watch Ultra on my wrist handling notifications, I think the iPhone 14 Pro Max will continue to do what it’s doing right now: typing, photo editing, and nearly all-day work.