In Memory of Nicole Maurice

Nicole died on April 5th 2024. This is a copy of the words I spoke at her Celebration of Life on April 13th.

If you or anyone you know struggle with mental health issues, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional in your region or contact a service like better help. If you are having suicidal thoughts, there is help available, including calling or texting 988 in Canada and the US.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Stéphane Boisvert. I was Nicole’s ex-husband.

We are here to celebrate and remember Nicole’s life. I want to share some pieces of her life with you so that you may also remember them. Remembering her is how we will ensure her spirit lives on in our hearts.

The first time I met Nicole, I introduced myself. Hey I’m Stéphane. She replied: “I know.” I thought my reputation preceded me. She continued: “We went skiing together last week”.
I tried to backpedal, I mentioned she looked different without the snowsuit… She eventually forgave me.

Folks often say variety is the spice of life. But, Nicole, she was more of a salt and pepper kinda gal. She knew what she liked. She knew which video games she liked. She played thousands of hours of Civilization 4, a game that we started playing together in 2006 and that she never stopped playing.

She loved Ice Caps made with Chocolate milk, a good steak, a very specific can of Cambell’s soup when she was sick, and crispy bacon. Bacon so crispy in fact, that you’d need to ask for it “nearly burnt” at a restaurant for them to get it just right. 

I once bought 50 packs of bacon when they were on clearance for a dollar each. We put them in the freezer and we ate 2 to 3 of them a week. That is until one day her doctor asked her if she had any idea why her cholesterol had jumped so much. The doctor didn’t understand why. Nicole exercised so much. So we had to cut it down to one pack a week going forward.

But beneath Nicole’s wit, her charm, her authenticity and her love of life’s simple pleasures, and board game abilities, Nicole was fighting battles of her own.

Her journey on this earth was marked by profound struggles with depression and PTSD. She was often in pain. A pain, she faced courageously, tenaciously, but one that she rarely showed to the world. 

Some got a glimpse of it, one time at one of our monthly friend gatherings, we were answering deep questions picked randomly. The one she received said “What would you go back and tell your 15 year old self”. She replied, “It never get better”. 

She was in pain, but she often used that pain to help others. 

She would often encourage and support others on their mental health journeys. Giving them hope, even when she may not have had some herself. 

She would take on a part of their pain, she would take it on herself. So that their load was lighter. 

She is now free of her pain. But her pain, it is now our pain to carry. 

All of us here, we now carry her pain, so that she may be freed of it. 

I’ll be honest, I hate fucking this pain. I wish we didn’t have to carry it. But we must. We must and we will.

Nicole loved children. Especially Mika and her nieces and nephews Marco, Mila, Lily, Robert, and Cedric. And so people were often surprised she didn’t want children. And while the excuses of wanting to be able to sleep in, have a social life, or how diapers were really gross were the usual answers she gave. In truth, she knew the risks. She knew that if a parent has chronic depression, there is an over 40% chance that their child would also have it. 

She feared most being asked “Does it ever get better” and having to answer “it never gets better”. She feared most that other kids would have to carry that same pain that she carried. She wanted to spare as many children as possible from enduring that pain.

Nicole is no longer here to do this. 

In her absence, it is up to us to take this on. 

Let us honour her memory, by not only carrying her pain, but carrying that of others. By continuing to advocate for mental health awareness and support, by reaching out to those in need, particularly youth and kids. By sharing our personal stories of struggle, by acknowledging that sometimes the battles we wage within ourselves are too overwhelming to bear alone, and advocating so that everyone can have access to professional help. 

We can carry this pain by being the kind of people that kids can turn to, and by supporting Kids Help Phone, as Nicole did every year, so that they may have a guiding light, illuminating their paths when the road ahead is dark, just as Nicole illuminated our paths.

As we say goodbye to Nicole today, let us carry forward her legacy. In doing so, we will ensure that while Nicole, Nicole, you will be deeply missed, but your impact, your impact on all of us here today and all those you touched, directly and indirectly, that impact, it will always be remembered.

Thank you

Why aren’t you using a heat pump yet?

I just had my first winter with a heat pump, I saved ~$2800 and reduced my houses’s green house gas emissions by over 85%

Last year I paid 3281$ for heating oil.

This year I paid 427$ more than last year for electricity during the winter months.

Last year I created 4.6 Tonnes of GHG. This year I created 0.6 Tonne of GHG.

I did this with the Canada Greener Homes Grant and loans. You basically get an audit and a follow up that you get back on your taxes. The audit tells you what you should do to improve the house. I got a heat pump, I might get solar panels. You can also apply for a loan, from 5k to 40k over 10 years at 0% interest to pay for the upgrades. On top of that, you get up to 5k$ straight-up cash in grants for your improvements.

A good heat pump and installation will cost you from ~$6 000-$20 000. As a sidenote, a heat pump also acts as an AC during the summer. So it replaces your furnace and your AC.

If you do the math. You can pretty much make money in the first year by switching to a heat pump. Different heat pumps are eligible for different grant levels, I’d strongly recommend you only get the ones that are eligible for the $5000 grant. Those will start at around $9000. If you do, and you’re using oil like me, you’ll have the system paid out and you’ll be making a profit starting year 2. That’s pretty good considering you’re also having a huge impact on your greenhouse gas emissions.

I got mine from Ray at Ross Heating and Cooling. And despite them not having a web site (seriously they should get on that) he was really great. No BS salesperson shit. He knew his stuff and he did the install himself. Great work and the results speak for themselves.

Ross Heating and Cooling.
(613) 203-3778

Last year
This year

How to respond to criticism of Government’s Digital Transformation

This relates to my previous post: The Bureaucracy Will Learn the Wrong Lesson – Why Government Digital is still so shitty in Canada.

So the question now really is, “how to respond to this problem”, or sadly, “how to respond to this news article”. The problem is that there’s the easy way and the hard way. And the hard way would mean prioritizing this issue. Something no one really wants to do right now, I mean, honestly ask yourself if (as of right now, January 2021) you want the gov to be spending time fixing it’s problems with bureaucracy or would you rather they just focus 100% on COVID and COVID related stuff. Even someone as passionate about “Digital Transformation” as myself doesn’t really think it’s the best of times to address this. All that to say, I won’t judge people for taking the easy way out, you could even say I’ll try to have compassion.

The easy way out is basically to just do nothing. Not a real nothing, regardless there will be dozens’ of meetings, probably memo’s going out to Assistant Deputy Minister’s and what not, heck the union might get involved in the HR meetings about the implications of various headers in the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. But in the end, nothing will be done, except maybe having an all staff meeting where folks are reminded of their obligations and how their actions outside of their work may have an impact on the goals they are trying to achieve, etc etc.

Fun fact, the creator of Effin’ Birds was previously a Public Servant

Like most other things in government and in many other institutions with a high percentage of Bullshit Jobs, a lot of time will be spent but nothing real or tangible will come of it.

And now, since it’s very easy to give out advice when you have little to no context and also have no accountability for what you post because you’re a random person on the internet, I’m going to do just that and give my unsolicited advice.

Take the punch.

That’s it. Just take responsibility and ownership for it and explain how you’re going to fix it.

It’s easy to say, and theoretically, it would be easy to do. If there was someone there to take the punch. But that’s one of the biggest problem with digital government, there’s no one ministry and now it’s only made much worse without a Minister for Digital Government. There’s no one where the buck stops.

Taking a punch isn’t all that bad.

No one, ever

There are so many disparate departments, each with their own “mandate”, each with their own problems and there isn’t a single authority who can take, or more accurately, demand accountability on these things.

Whatever department this site was for (I’m guessing ESDC since it’s Service Canada related) won’t want to take any responsibility for it. They may say they are following the guidelines put in place by another department (Probably finger pointing at TBS who would in turn point to many disparate documents on “digital first”). A whole bunch of people will chime in to say that they are working on a “Center for Excellence” on Digital Innovation that would solve this. Folks will argue and point fingers, but no one will, or even can, take responsibility and then actually go thru with it to make concrete change.

So what’s left? The only thing that’s left to fight for if you can’t have accountability, is protect visibility.

The only way that there will be real accountability and visibility is if these things stay in the open and are talked about openly. So in a sense, you may not be able to take responsibility and accountability for changing everything since no one has that power. But many people have the power to stand up to keep even a slight glimmer of visibility and transparency protected. For many folks, that’s the only real way they can follow the guidelines of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector of Respect for Democracy, Respect for People, Integrity, Stewardship, and Excellence.

You may not be able to take the punch and take ownership of fixing the problem, but you can probably take the punch for supporting visibility into the problem.

The Bureaucracy Will Learn the Wrong Lesson – Why Government Digital is still so shitty in Canada

Disclaimer: I’m not sure why I feel the need to say this, but, obviously, the thoughts below are my own and not those of any current or past employer / department / team / loose affiliation of acquaintances / pets etc.

There’s a interesting article in the National Post about how shitty the state of the Canadian Government’s “Digital Transformation” actually is. You’re welcome to read it here. But the source material Paperweight: a cautionary tale of onerous oversight and a A bleak outlook for public sector tech are really the star of the show.

An article which consists of 50% quoted material. Journalism at it’s finest.

While I have many many thoughts on the matters they touch upon there having had a “insightful” experience joining the government for 18 months from the private sector, I really want to touch upon the root problem here.

The root problem is that instead of reading the article, thinking over the points and seeing if perhaps there is some improvements to be made. Most of the time will probably be spent asking the 2 staffers to join meetings about the perception this gave off. Probably a bunch of reprimands. Some vague references to how it could impact their careers.

There will be many very well meaning people there as well. Some will say that you need to improve things from inside. That these kinds of things hurt “Digital Transformation” efforts, etc. But most of it will be total BS.

1. An ill-equipped executive class
2. Agile words but not agile implementation
3. A pervasive lack of urgency

Sean Boots on the state of Digital Government

The current system thrives on this facade of optimism about how great things are. If you follow along on twitter 90% of the tweets are public servants padding themselves on the back while posting meaningless quotes about how “The Digital Transformation will be Agile” ( Anything related to Shared Services, the Digital Transformation Office or the Office of the CIO is always prime material).

The saddest thing to me about the article and the blog posts is not what they show and represent (I’d even go as far as to say that both those blog posts are not critical enough based on my experience). But rather what the reaction internally will be. There will be no reflection on how to improve, rather the focus will be how to cover their asses.

There will be no reflection on how to improve, rather the focus will be how to cover their asses.

Me, just now

Now, before you get all smug and point to others’ failures like I’m doing in this quickly written haphazard blogpost, I think it’s worth taking a step back and asking ourselves why that is. Why do bureaucrats feel they need to cover their asses? I think it’s partly because that’s what “we” (The general public) have forced them / trained them to do.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Walt Kelly

It’s similar to what’s broken about politics. Our expectations, our discourse, our media, our knee jerk reactions.

I wish I had a clear implementable solution for this, but the best I can come up with is the same answer as to most other problems. We need more compassion. We need more compassion for others in all situations, including bureaucrats who don’t have the skills, the knowledge, the training, the environment or the incentive structures to make tough decisions. The problem is, that doesn’t give us that quick hit of dopamine that writing a shitpost dunking on public servants does…. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a mirror I need to go take care of.

Here’s a follow up post: How to respond to criticism of Government’s Digital Transformation

Doing Justice To Our Own Complexity

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, And Silence

Do we really need 5 stars?

If you look at most review online, be it Amazon or Google Apps they often look like this:

Lots of 5s and lots of 1s not much in between. So why even use 5 stars? Are there better ways?

While writing this, I was looking for a a picture of Amazon reviews to put here to further cement my argument, but it actually turned out to be way harder to find items with lots of 5 and lots of 1…. lots of people used 4….

I expected this blog post to be about how we should get rid of 5 stars and just do thumbs up thumbs down. I was going to use Netflix as an example of moving away from 5 stars, but turns out Netflix didn’t change their option to thumbs up and thumbs down because of this, just because it increased user votes:

So…. Not sure what the point of this blog post is anymore…. I guess 5 stars is useful in certain contexts, but you probably already knew that…

The First Noble Truth

In Buddhism, the first noble truth is that “all existence is dukkha” with dukkha usually being translated to suffering. But can also be understood as being incapable of being satisfied. That while there is the “common” suffering of old age, illness and death, there’s also this yearning or craving for more that we can’t satisfy.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Albert Einstein

We keep having these expectations and these hopes. We expect that this new shiny thing will bring us happiness, a new game, a new car, a new “thing”, a new relationship, a promotion, a bigger house, a vacation, etc…

But it never does. We’re always wandering and craving for these impermanent things and transitory states that are ephemeral. We continually grasp at the shadow of happiness, and are left disappointed.

Wisdom vs Knowledge

I feel like I write this blog post every few months. Or maybe I don’t actually write / publish it, it’s hard to know what I’ve been thinking about writing and what I’ve actually written((

At some point in life you start to learn about self actualization & self transcendence and the paradoxical way that self actualization leads to self transcendence. Somehow, having a better realization of one’s self leads to a realization that there is no real “self” without everything around it. We aren’t this “self” in a vacuum, we are part of something bigger.

It’s a bit like if you think about the human body as a collection of cells. While yes, the cells are all distinct and unique((Just as everyone named Chad is “unique”)) but really they form tissues that form organs that forms a body.

The cell has no concept of me. It doesn’t understand what a “Stéphane” is. And yet, there is no Stéphane without cells.

Anyway, the original subject of this post wasn’t supposed to be on self actualization and that, but rather on how often we come to learn things, usually waves hands in the air “deep meaningful things” about the state of the world, consciousness or ourselves. On how to be compassionate or on how to self regulate or on how we always alternate between the victim, the saviour and the villain.

But that wisdom is ephemeral. We forget. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we forget about the actor observer bias and we just muter to ourselves about their incompetence.

It’s not enough to “know” stuff. We need to live it. We need to integrate it in our daily lives. And to me, that is true wisdom.