Another homestretch

Next Tuesday is exam day. From 8:30 in the morning until 16:30 is exam time. Two exams both with a required passing grade of sixty-five percent. No matter how it plays out it will be a load off of my shoulders. Studying has been taking up a lot of time for the past year and a half not that I will be off the hook when this is done but the next courses of study are more my bailiwick. First I have to get through the exams.

Something occurred to me today while studying: if you can remember one key component then the rest can be sorted. Here’s what I mean. I’ve been having trouble with calculating voltage, current and resistance. It’s just something about the letters used that screws me up. There are three basic calculations but it dawned on me that I don’t have to know them I just have to know one of them. Voltage divided by Current equals Resistance. I don’t know why that one sticks but it does. From that the other two are easy to figure out Resistance times Current equals Voltage and Current equals Voltage divided by Resistance. It’s not a shortcut per se it’s just realizing that some of the things I will be tested on can be figured out as long as long as some basic formulae are committed to memory. Some of them are easy to remember some are difficult. I always have a problem with anything to do with spheres – surface area or volume. 4 pi r^2 and 4/3 pi r^3 respectively but they always seem to abandon me when I see the question.

It’s all going to be water under the bridge by Wednesday next week. By the end of August either I will have my ticket or I won’t. Either way if I am going to hang on to the house I’m going to have to get that second job I’ve been waffling about for the last year.

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The Prom

Prom was last Thursday. By all accounts it was great. Here are a few photos.

The unicorn horn makes the outfit!

The unicorn horn makes the outfit!

The boyfriend and prom date.

The boyfriend and prom date.

Our daughter and her best friend.

Our daughter and her best friend.

Proud papa

Proud papa

The tie I am wearing in the photo was a gift from Lynn, she bought it and the tie clip on our trip to Las Vegas in 2007 to renew our wedding vows. It seemed like a nice way to remember her and have a little piece of her at the prom with our daughter.

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All done

My teacher at NAIT texted me my final mark for the power engineering steam lab – 92%. It is done, the steam time required to get my ticket as a power engineer is done. All that is left now are the ABSA exams which can be scheduled at any time.

Today is my last full day with Donna before I have to go back to Montreal and return to work. It’s nice that we get to have a full day together before the return to work. We have seen surprisingly little of each other considering we have been living in the same house for six weeks. I wonder if that is what it will be like if we are both doing shift work.

Donna has been a great hostess through all of this. I’ve been getting up at 4:30 every morning and don’t get home until 18:00 or so. Through it all we still managed to have some meals together, get out a little bit and get some gardening done. Even resolved a couple of tech issues. (What good is it having a computer tech as a house guest if tech issues aren’t resolved?).

Tomorrow it’s wheels up around 11:00 local time and wheels down around 18:00 Montreal time.

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Convocation Day

Our daughter is graduating today, it could be right at this moment as I type but that is not probable. Richard is at the graduation with his iPad and the good folks at John Abbott College have given us wireless access for the night so he is there so that I may see her graduate. The Internet is a wonderful thing.

If there were pictures to share the would be shared but at the moment there are none. It’s all cap and gown stuff anyway but I still am going to buy the photo.

It’s a shame that I could not be there for this, at least not in person, but I hope, in the end it is all for a better future.

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The 4th Week – time is now short

The 4th week is all but done and we are on short time now. There’s no two ways about it though the amount we learned in the 4th week paled in comparison to the first three. The refrigeration component was informative as was the HVAC but we had precious little boiler work this past week. The scheduling is mostly to blame for this, that and there doesn’t seem to be a specific curriculum design for the instructors to follow. Lesson plans are broadly drawn and the detail provided by the instructor is left to their discretion. It’s a good way to do things in one way – allowing those who know what to do to teach what they know. On the flip side though it leads to discrepancies about specifics among people who graduate the same course having had different instructors.

There are some interesting colloquialisms out here that I’ve noticed.

1. Eh! – This has all but disappeared in Quebec but is rampant here.
2. Right – Used in place of Eh by some speakers
3. Give ‘er – To move a process or a job along with alacrity.
4. Git ‘er done – To get started on a job forthwith.
5. Buddy – May be used as a term of endearment, a reference to a person in the abstract or as a pejorative. Everything depends on what follows the use. E.g.: “So, Buddy’s up there cracking the NRV and your his partner: what should you be doing?”

Tomorrow is the start of the long week. Eight days straight, nine hours a day plus two hours travel time. Then one day off and into the last three days.

Next Wednesday our daughter’s convocation will happen. St. Thomas High School does their convocation at John Abbott College. Richard is going in loco parentis and bringing his iPad so he can broadcast the event via Skype to me here in St. Albert. The staff at St. Thomas and John Abbott have been very helpful in getting the wireless network permissions organized so all that has to be done on my end is get home as early as I can and login to Skype. With luck it will all work.

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NAIT – Week 3 – broke in pieces.

Our daughter lost her phone and iPod at a Montreal Impact game. It would be stupid to think that the person who found them would turn them in to security or the lost and found, people just aren’t like that. Years ago I had a similar experience at Disney World and lost all the video I’d shot of our once in a life time family vacation. I’ve no doubt the Yank who found it just wiped the tape and shot their own family vacation with it, that’s the way people are.

The loss lead to a crisis of a sort which is to say that our daughter was without a phone. So I scrambled on my end and phoned Koodo and gave our daughter authorization to get a new phone activated on the account. She chose a cheap Android phone, well relatively cheap at $172, and got it activated. The sad part is that I’d just spent almost $400 on the phone she lost, never mind the cost of a 32 GB iPod, but wait there’s more. Meanwhile back in Montreal she was also buying stuff off of Amazon with my CC and between the new phone and Amazon I got dinged for $417.00. You would think that, that was enough but no. Now there are two more dresses which have to be bought for the graduation season. One for convocation and another for some other thing they do.

If that wasn’t enough our son’s roommate left town on a job but didn’t pay his half of the rent and our son also lost the key to his apartment. Can you say “Key deposit?”. Another 350.00 gone.

Wait,wait there’s more but this time from me. I managed to get a walk around at Computronix in Edmonton. I didn’t bring any interview clothes or shoes so naturally I had to suit up. Even doing that inexpensively is expensive but made more so but getting pulled over on my way to Wal-Mart.

My Alberta Ride

My Alberta Ride

It seems St. Albert, Alberta has a helmet by-law and I was riding the Captain Flamingo Special sans helmet. When I’m at home I ride with a helmet but I also ride a bike which is capable of speed. The tweedy ride Donna is lending me I can barely coax up above 20 with a tailwind. Still the St. Albert constabulary, in the form of a polite RCMP officer who asked a variety of questions that had nothing to do with my unhelmeted head before informing me of the by-law, warned me to get a helmet or face a one hundred dollar fine. The St. Albert Wal-Mart was the beneficiary of the St. Albert anti-cycling law (helmet laws are solely for the purpose of raising funds and discouraging bike use) to the tune of $35.00.

While at the Wal-Mart I bought the requisite clothes for a walk around at a software company and left Wal-Mart $142.00 poorer.

The long weekend was prolonged on the NAIT steam lab front as we were given Tuesday off as well as the holiday Monday. That allowed me to do the walk around at Computronix on the Tuesday morning. As is my wont I took a bus in early and decided to grab a coffee at the Tims on 111th and 170th before walking up to Computronix on 118th and 184th. Along the way I ran across this little gem of a Chevy in a parking lot outside a car customization place.

Chevy Stationwagon

Chevy Stationwagon

Hood Ornament Detail

Hood Ornament Detail

The walk around at Computronix was great. It is an interesting company and growing apace. Their software is niche enough and adaptable enough that I can see where the growth is coming from. On the surface of it I would like to work there and when I dug a little deeper (LinkedIn and Glassdoor) it seems like current and former employees have nothing but good things to say about the place. Who knows maybe I will end up back in IT when I get out to Alberta.

Wednesday brought a pipe fitting class which was about as exciting as it sounds. NAIT is big on teaching yourself so we received minimal instruction on how to use the tools we made our way through the pipe fitting assignment. I was partnered with Osama who is about eight years younger than me and very well organized. We started last in our grouping and finished first in part because we worked well together and in part because we figured stuff out quicker than the other teams. Our piping garnered us a 27 on 30 which was fine as far as we were concerned.

Today, Thursday, is another day off then it’s three in a row Friday, Saturday and Sunday. After that it’s Off, On, Off, On, Off then On for eight days Off for one then On for three more days and then fly back to Montreal.

Donna has been a gem through all of this. I leave early, get home late, dirty and sweaty yet somehow she manages to always make me feel at home. It does feel like home with her, St. Albert, not so much.

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NAIT POWC 316 Steam Lab – week 2

Week two is done. Week two was midterms. Drawing the lab, learning to start up boilers, learning how to tear down valves it is an intense process. The class pushes the students hard and makes everyone uncomfortable, on edge, unsure of themselves all in the interest of making students more comfortable in the steam environment. There’s no magic formula for this it’s just exposure to the environment. Any facility we work in, in the future will have its own character, rules and flow but the process will be similar. The focus seems as much on making certain we know what we are doing as much as it is on making certain that we know how to learn what to do in new environment.

Our midterms were done in a flow of questions, boiler startups, and drills we had to perform. For the most part I did well but there was one hiccough: blowing down the water column and gauge glass. The irony of the screw up is not lost on me. I practiced this procedure over and over again. I could write it out flawlessly. I went through it over and over without error with other students. Come time to do the test I screwed it up. I got to do a retake but of course the max score was limited on a retake but still what mattered to me wasn’t the mark, it was getting it right.

Donna has been a gem through all of this. We barely see each other. I’m out of the house by 5:30 at the latest and don’t get back until 18:00 at the earliest but she leaves for work at 17:45. We get time together here and there. Today is a statutory holiday and she just came off shift this morning so this evening we will have together. Tomorrow morning I have a walk around at a computer company in the morning but we will have the whole afternoon and evening together before she starts back on shift on Wednesday and I start back at NAIT for a weird one on one off week.

Donna managed to arrange for a walk around with a power engineer at the Royal Alexandra hospital which was very informative. I got to meet a third class engineer and a walk around with a fourth who has been doing the job for years now and is working on his third. The Alex doesn’t do it’s own steam but there is still quite a bit of work for an operator there, they employ eleven and keep some on casual as well. The Glenrose across the street is where the steam is all generated and would be an ideal place to try and get in for a full time gig. I’ve been poking around a bit and it seems like some, despite the number of grads coming out of the program, there is still a need for operators. Not surprising though is the inevitable requirement for experience. I’m hoping that this will be one time my age will count for something – reach a certain age and the stupid has been beat out of you and the desire for steady employment far outweighs the desire for excitement.

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NAIT week one done

It was relentless and hard. It is difficult to believe that I landed only a week ago.

Right out of the gate Donna took me to Mark’s work warehouse where I dropped a couple of hundred dollars on work wear for the lab. Then it was over to Wal-Mart to buy some shirts, t-shirts and a pair of jeans – new clothes don’t have dog hair on them and Donna is allergic to dog hair.

The next day it was the first day of class.

Class itself is a little like a steam boiler. It is a high pressure environment where there is little room for error. We have multiple teachers who all have different styles and different subjects to teach. We are learning from all of them but mostly we are teaching ourselves. The process is along the lines of – here’s the lab, go figure this out, come back and check with the teacher, if you got it right there is another task for you, if you got it wrong it’s back into the lab.

We had to trace out all the piping and machinery in the lab which is a huge task. From start to finish, if you worked non-stop and knew exactly what you were doing, it’s a ten hour job. For students it’s taking a little longer but we have to do the tracings in our spare time which makes it kind of entertaining in its own way.

The most enjoyable session we’ve had so far, in my opinion, has been a day of repairs. We changed belts on fans and adjusted the tension, changed gauge glass – which included cutting new glass tubes, and repacked a rising gate valve. All of that was fun, no seriously it was.

It is quarter after five in Edmonton right now, I’ve been up for an hour and will be heading into school in fifteen minutes. The clock will have rolled six thirty by the time I get home tonight. There are five more weeks of this.

Alberta Spring

Alberta Spring

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Shoes and clutch

We finally found shoes which our daughter likes and even a clutch to go with them. Now she is thinking of getting her ears pierced. In the meantime I am starting to shop online looking for pearl, clip on, earrings.

White high heels and a white purse

The Shoes and Clutch

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A party of five...turned into nine for D&D later.

A party of five…turned into nine for D&D later.

Had Lynn lived this would have been THE year for her. Our daughter just turned seventeen and she will be graduating from high school in two months time. We always had a different approach to what are referred to as special occasions. For the most part I ignore them. One day is much like the next in my view and rolling over another year on the clock or graduating high school are things which seem unremarkable to me. Lynn lived for making things remarkable.

What is remarkable to me is that life without Lynn which was desolate for a while has managed to regain its colour and vibrancy. Donna has much to do with that, but so too does watching our daughter grow from a quiet girl to a young woman with a passion for social justice, equality and nature. It would be nice to think that as much as our son’s passion for theatre and acting comes from Lynn our daughter’s passions come from me. It could be that genetics has something to do with it. I’m not certain that there can be any other explanation for these things. My days of political passion are long behind me buried by just keeping it all together. But it is pretty to think that perhaps there is something of us which is bone deep that we pass along to our children.

Milestones are what we choose they are. I don’t remember any of my son’s birthdays though I never missed one of them. I do remember changing his diaper, the first time he shaved, how he used to pop his collar in grade eight and a myriad of other moments which carry significance for me. Our daughter once chased a flock of seagulls down a football field, fed cheese to ants to see if they would eat it, wandered off at will when she was little and has always seemed to enjoy her own company as much as that of her friends. We remember how people are every day much more than any contrived moment can endure.

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