Gathering Resources

Dr. Adrien is a man who is generous with his time. A few days ago I sent him an email outlining a math problem which was presenting a particular problem to me. He took a look at the work done on the problem and pointed out the small mistake made which was preventing the correct solution. He also sent along some pointers on how to prevent making similar mistakes.

Whenever we plan to do something big it is best to plan for help as well. With the Power Engineering course,If I get into the lab section next May, there will be much help needed on the home front. The lab must be done in Alberta, onsite, at NAIT. My regular work will have to be covered by someone who knows my job as well as I do. Before I started on this course I checked with Jeff and Corey. Jeff and Corey were part of the team last summer that stormed the IS needs of 18 buildings last summer – we rocked. Both agreed to help. My boss also agreed to allow me to move three weeks of vacation from summer to May of next year. This move helps offset the fact that I won’t be getting paid for six weeks while on leave.

While I am away I will be staying with my friend Donna who has been very supportive and encouraging of this whole endeavour – she’s pretty good with numbers too. That will save me six weeks of hotel accommodation and restaurant eating leaving only a car lease for the six weeks to take care of.

Unfortunately there is no substitute that can really take my place at our daughter’s graduation which will happen while I am in the Power Engineering lab. There is nothing to be done for it as the lab happens once a year and always at the same time of year. Our son will go and I will make him take video or maybe even try to arrange to watch it over a live stream if I can get things set up with the folks at John Abbott College. Lynn’s mother who was such a rock while Lynn was dying will no doubt also be there and probably take up residence in our house while I am gone to take care of our daughter.

Pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. Now I just have to be as close to dead, solid perfect as I can be to get through all of the course work and ace the lab, get a job and get certified.

I got this…..with a little help.

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There have been lots of little changes of late which have the cumulative effect of making things seem like change is coming fast when it is really just coming: the speed of change is irrelevant because the older you are the faster it seems anyway. We either find a way to adjust to change or we get left behind.

Our daughter is sixteen years old today. She was an April Fools baby. She started out life much the same way as she has continued it: late and on her own terms. This birthday represents to me one more dent in the smooth chrome body of self deception which rests on my aged chassis. In my mind I am of an age which could not possibly have a sixteen year old daughter. Time does not wait nor forgive it just moves forward regardless of whether or not our self perception moves with it.

Our son who was less than enthused with the idea of getting a license and as a result did not get one. What he did do was wait until the $2000 was spent on acquiring one before deciding to opt out. Our daughter is looking forward to getting her drivers license which is a pleasant change. We’ll make the trip this week or next to get her learners permit and then the fun will start. The van may have a few new dents in it when all is said and done but having another driver in the family will be a good thing. At some point that may mean a second car but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Classes started today at NAIT for Power Engineering which actually means that a dent was put in my bank account as books were ordered from the book store. The price of the books was brutal but the shipping charges were not that bad. Specialty books are always hideously expensive. I still have my Riverside Shakespeare which set me back $120.00 when I was an undergraduate. I haven’t looked at it in years but have hung onto it on the principle that all good libraries need a Shakespeare, a dictionary, the bible and Strunk & White. Without these things understanding western literature is close to an impossibility. It will be interesting to see what almost a thousand dollars in books looks like though I fancy that the package will be remarkably small though the contents will be indispensable to becoming a power engineer.

All these things bring to mind one of my favourite poems by Simonides called Flux.

“If you are a simple mortal, do not speak
of tomorrow or how long this man may be
among the happy, for change comes suddenly
like the shifting flight of a dragonfly.”

Even twenty-five hundred years ago you had to keep moving to keep up. Not a good thing, not a bad thing it just is which is enough to keep life interesting without it being overwhelming.

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A fearsome thing

Registration for Class 4 Power Engineering

Registration for Class 4 Power Engineering

There is no limit to how much we may learn. For autodidacts the idea of formal education frequently leaves much to be desired. We see its effectiveness in others but doubt that the effect will be the same for us. There remains though an understanding that the world has nothing but lip service for those who self educate. It is a matter of routine for me to get emails and texts from peers at work and at other companies asking about a problem they are experiencing. The difference between myself and them is that there are no pieces of paper for me to point to when it comes to computers, hardware, operating systems and all the other stuff which makes up my job and theirs. Everything I know is what I have taught myself. Today though I took the plunge and enrolled in a course to learn a new skill entirely from scratch and get a piece of paper at the same time.

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology offers distance learning to those who are motivated to learn that way. I took the plunge and enrolled today in a program to learn Power Engineering. It can be frightening to take on something big and new.

Fear can sometimes be a good thing. Like zip lining for the first time – it can be a fearful thing but it is a good fear. It is a certainty that it is going to be something new and exciting but there is also have no doubt that on the other side there will exist the satisfaction of having done something challenging and emerged unscathed and, perhaps, the better for it.

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Beware of spring snow storms

When the snow started yesterday it was only a few flakes and given the warm temperature (only minus three) it seemed no reason to forego a run. Normally the Saturday run is done on Ile Bizard but the club as at a sugar shack for a morning run and a sugaring off party afterward. Our son had a voice acting seminar which he had to get to so between taking him to his seminar and the club being out at a sugaring off party running from home seemed the best option.

As it turned out the light snow became heavy snow and then blowing snow within about two kilometers. As suddenly as it tuned into a storm the ice from the previous days melt was covered by a layer of fresh snow. For those unfamiliar with the snow on ice combination it is as close to the slipperiest surface you can imagine. By two and a half kilometers my feet went out from under me and down I went. Despite a bit of a groin issue from the fall I decided to soldier on.

As with any sport there is an etiquette to running. When runners are running towards each other on a narrow path each one takes to their right side they can pass each other without slowing down. The problem with that technique on such a day as yesterday is that the ice was more on the side I was running on than on my left. When two runners were approaching me on the path they fell into line one behind the other and stayed to their right I moved to my right and hit a meter wide patch of slick smooth ice hiding under a half centimeter of snow. The result was not good. I went down like a ton of bricks and smashed the back of my head on the pavement. At that point I threw in the towel and decided 6K would be enough for the day and ran back home. It was upon arriving home and taking of my hat that it was revealed that the skin had been broken in the fall.

No blurred vision through the day. No vomiting, no disorientation, no loss of time, no sleepiness and only a mild headache this morning so all in all I figure I got off light. Fingers crossed that the headache will fade over the day.

Bump on head

Bump on head

Bump on head - cleaned up

Bump on head – cleaned up

Bump on head bandaged

Bump on head bandaged

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Bruno riding home from the SPCA

Bruno riding home from the SPCA

Last Sunday our daughter, a friend of hers and myself drove out to the SPCA Monteregie and adopted a dog. Bruno is a Lab cross of some kind. He is quiet, friendly and for the most part well behaved but is a bit attention needy. Once someone starts petting him he will follow them around for more attention as long as they will give it.

The cost was not something easy to bear but there has been a definite upside. While our daughter simply refuses to take exercise on her own or outside of gym class she has no choice with Bruno. He needs to be walked first thing in the morning so she his up at 6:40 taking him for a walk before breakfast. He needs to be walked as soon as she gets home from school. He needs another walk after supper (if I haven’t taken him for a run) and one last walk before bed. The end result is that our daughter is getting out and taking exercise whether she likes it or not. That can only be a good thing. In the end the cost is about that of a gym membership with the added benefit of a girl who is happier with life because she has the pet she has always wanted.

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Too many dead people

I know too many dead people.

My mother and father died before I hit the age of five, my grand parents were gone before the end of elementary school save my adoptive father’s mother who hung on through Alzheimer’s into her late eighties. I was in high school when she died one afternoon after I returned home from school. I found her in her bed seemingly asleep. As it often is when something like this happens I knew something was wrong. Holding the back of my hand to her mouth confirmed that she had passed utterly from this earth.

My adoptive father died in March of 1997. The word adoptive is used only as a clarification of legal relationship he was my father in every sense of the word. He was a good man which is something I have only recently truly begun to grasp. Fathers and sons! My adoptive mother died last year on the tenth of March three days shy of her ninetieth birthday. She was an amazing woman who inspires me even today.

Lynn has been gone a little over two years now and despite what they say it does not get any easier. “It” just becomes something to which you grow accustom. The two statements have nothing to do with each other.

There have been friends and other family members who have shuffled off this mortal coil and every last one came as a surprise.

We either join them or endure. On some anniversaries there just seems to be too many people to remember and we know that we have forgotten some essence, some facet, some great beauty about one of them that will never be recalled. They all die again in those tiny drifts of memory worn smooth by time, beautiful, clean and ever diminishing until we become someone else’s memory.

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The Jar Method


That’s the word which best describes how I have been feeling lately: almost.

Today on the drive into work I almost cried. I almost cried while making a cup of tea at work. I almost cried doing the groceries on Saturday. It has been like that a lot since about the end of January and for the life of me I have no idea why.

Almost crying.

It’s a good thing that tears do not actually appear. The world can handle a great many things but not a crying man.

Crying is not acceptable for any male of the species anywhere on the planet save at particular times.

Drunkenness is an accepted time. A drunk, crying man is an easily managed, maudlin creature. He is tolerated periodically as all may be assured that he will sober up and feel appropriately embarrassed for having demonstrated feeling. The death of a parent, preferably Mother (Father is also acceptable but not as easily) as long as the tears do not last longer than a minute or two at the viewing or graveside. The death of a child, but only if the child was one that the man fathered, several minutes will be tolerated. You would think death of a spouse would be one of those times but alas, no. From experience I can attest that that is not the case: appearing weak before the in-laws or the children at the time when you are most required to be the head of the family would be the end of any respect they may grudgingly bear. Last but not least if you are a professional athlete who broke a cardinal rule of your sport or cheated and got caught then you MUST cry at the news conference even though everyone knows the tears are faked and offered only proof of actual remorse (a.k.a. Bertuzzi Tears).

My best friend Richard thinks it is because I am under stress. Stress finds its own way out one way or another he tells me. He’s confusing the interesting life I’ve lived for the last few years for a stressful one. He’s a bit of a nutter my friend.

Stress and feelings are best dealt with in what is known as The Jar Method. That’s right “The” is capitalized because there is only one such method. Think of it this way: there is a jar deep inside of every person and on that jar is a tight lid through which anything may pass but only one way…into the jar. All stress and feeling can be stored in that jar. The beauty of the jar is that it can accommodate any amount of content. It seems logical then that something missed makings its way into The Jar last month and is trying to find its way back to the lid to pass into the jar. It is just a matter of time before it gets put right and I am returned to the appropriate male range of emotions: angry, neutral, laughing.

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Mike Sides scared the shit out of me when I was a teen. It wasn’t his fault I was afraid of almost everyone all the time. Even now I’m not certain why that is. It could be any number of things. Separation anxiety caused by the death of my mother when I was two or my father three short years later. The forcible breaking up of what was left of our family as we were dispersed to foster homes. Growing up in an isolated part of town where I was my own company for years. It could just be that Mike had it right when he said: you’re an asshole.

That particular conversation stands out in memory because it was the first time I wasn’t afraid of him and it was the first time that I understood me from someone else’s perspective. He wasn’t being mean, in fact he was being quite gentle and it showed in his demeanour. We were riding in the back of Bernie Sides’ pickup truck in route from the Discus store Bernie was building to the wood shop where the parts of the store were being made. How the actual conversation got started is lost to the fog of time and memory but I do remember Mike had a harmonica and played it well. Suffice to say that the topic came up and he said: you’re an asshole. In my memory he grimaced a little when he said it and then patiently and clearly going out of his way to try not to give offence he explained what he meant. An asshole isn’t just an asshole – it is someone who you know is probably an okay guy but he just doesn’t know how to talk to or relate to other people. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just that you don’t understand how to be with other people. He took no joy in telling me this and I did not thank him: I thank him now.

Whether or not he remembers that conversation, or even riding in the back of that truck playing harmonica, is without meaning. What matters is that, in that brief conversation, he explained to me in terms which I could understand my frustrations and fear when it came to just living day to day in the company of others.The conversation bettered my life. Knowing the impact words have keeps me mindful of how I use them now with others.

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Hockey morning in Canada

Our daughter and I got up at six this morning, bundled ourselves into the van and drove sixty kilometres to Otterburn Park to watch the Canada v Sweden hockey match for the Olympic gold medal


It was a blast to spend the morning watching a hockey game with old friends and new and our daughter made all the better by a win by Team Canada.

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My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card. Nothing too exciting in that but the card contained an envelope and in that envelope there was money which I do not want.

If I regift the money then she will believe that I accepted the gift. There is no desire to accept the gift. There is nothing in me which does not rebel at the idea of keeping the money so it must be returned.

The phone call has been made and the message left that: the card and birthday wishes were appreciated (not true as I do not celebrate my birthday) the money would have to be returned. All that remains is how she will respond. It is not the first time she has attempted such a gift and one would have hoped that she would have taken note of the first response. At Xmas she gave me a box of chocolates which I promptly regifted without opening. It has already been made clear for years that I want no gifts from from anyone. There is nothing new in any of this.

If there is a dilemma here it is really a philosophical question of whether or not returning a gift which is unwanted but could be of value to the person who gave the gift is better than regifting and keeping silent. I opted for returning the gift because I simply did not want her to believe that I accepted it on any level.

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