I learned my friend was dead from Facebook. I look at her last message. It was the one I didn’t reply to. Now, I could never reply.

Photo by Kal Visuals

All I can do is stare at my friend’s Facebook page. “Happy birthday and best wishes,” a man I don’t know has written. I’m puzzled by this. My friend is one of Jehova’s Witnesses. She has never celebrated her birthday. But that isn’t why she’s not having a birthday party today. She’s not having a birthday party because she’s no longer alive.

I learned of my friend’s passing the way nobody really wants to. The thought struck me that I hadn’t heard from her in a while. It was unusual. Normally, she called or messaged every now and then, if…


I didn’t know it, but in that baseball backwater in 1994, I was watching one of the greatest players of all time begin his professional career.

Foothills Stadium, originally Burns Stadium, was home to the AAA Calgary Cannons for 17 years. Photo by Wikipedia user Resolute. Used under license.

With slightly over a million residents, the Canadian city of Calgary isn’t really a large city. When I was a child, it was half that size. I know this because my dad told me this in the car one day, and half a million was an unimaginably large number to me then.

I have a lot of those kinds of memories about my dad—recollections of fleeting moments without much context, even though I wish I could remember what happened before or after. …


I never set out to become a manager. But, if my time as a leader has had any value, it’s fair to say that I should have learned at least one meaningful thing about leadership each year.

I never set out to become a manager. It just sort-of happened one day.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” one of my interviewers asked me. It was 2011. I was fresh out of school, interviewing for a role as a junior technical writer at a B2B software company whose business I was struggling to understand.

I gave a safe, but truthful answer: I saw no reason why I wouldn’t still be at that company, still working with their technical documentation team, but in a capacity with increased responsibility and expertise compared to the junior role I was…


A story about life in Point Roberts, the town in Washington that’s in Canada, sort-of.

The Straight of Georgia from Point Roberts. Across the water is Galiano Island. Distant peaks are Vancouver Island.

“This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer,” explains Dick Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, as he recites the horrors of the first world war.

War is a real-estate business. As a student of history, I struggled to make sense of that war, in particular. Millions of doomed young men flung themselves into sprays of bullets and artillery shells for four years. Their lives were the currency their nations paid to gain virtually nothing; the western front changed little over the years.

In war, as in peace, some real estate is valuable and some…


I was in my mid-30s when I left behind the only home, friends, and family I had ever known.

False creek is a natural inlet that separates downtown Vancouver from the rest of the city

“Are you familiar with Schrödinger?” Aziz asks. He leans back on his couch and raises an eyebrow, clutching a cup of hot tea to his chest.

The old man is wearing a down jacket and a padded vest on top of it. His apartment is chilly, but he prefers to keep the heat down. I don’t question him. It’s a rainy night, typical of Decembers in Vancouver. The city is warm by Canadian standards, but if you’ve ever lived in the Pacific Northwest, you know that winters here have a certain bone-chilling quality.

“Of course I know Schrödinger. …


Last week, I did something that terrified me. I packed a bag and walked over the border into Mexico.

Aerial image of Tijuana. Source: Wikipedia.

The No-Go Zone

As long as I can remember, northern Mexico has been a no-go zone; the domain of drug cartels, murderers, corrupt cops, and fugitives. The city of Tijuana has a reputation, not just as a place where the laws are a little loose, but as one of the most dangerous places in North America. In 2017, more than 1700 people were murdered in Tijuana. …


Years ago, during an introductory web design course, my teacher asked a simple question: “What is the one thing you hate most on a website?” One person couldn’t stand loading screens that hid partially-loaded content behind them. Another person hated comment sections, and presented a case that he was at the site for the content, not other readers’ “ranting and opinions”. I said I hated websites with lengthy animations created in Flash (at the time, this was still a bit of a problem).

I thought it was interesting that everyone seemed to be bothered by something different. I lacked the…

Ian Alton

I design experiences with content and applications.

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