What Do You Do?

When we meet someone new this is often the first question that is exchanged – “What Do You Do?”.  In many ways it helps to form an understanding about the person we’re talking to.  I’ve always felt a bit awkward answering this question – I don’t really feel like my occupation defines me very well.  Maybe you feel this way too?  I’m also not really one to talk a lot about my interests and the things that are most important to me, so I thought maybe I’d make a list. Perhaps I should make up a business card that has a link to this post 🙂

The Stuff About Me List (in no particular order)

  • handyman – When I met my spouse she kept being told that “I’m a handy guy to have around”.  I think that’s true – I like building and fixing things – I’ve built more decks in my lifetime than I can remember at this point, as well as renovating houses, tinkering with electronics, fixing and building all sorts of contraptions.
  • creative person – I get inspiration for new ideas fairly regularly and keep a notebook of things that I think are interesting.  Some of them turn into actual things – many are ideas that may have a future sometime, or that someone else has also come up with and put into action.  For the record, somewhere in my notes is something that looks kinda similar to what we now know as social media – just saying 😉
  • reiki energy healer – This is a fairly recent addition but one that I’m feeling more and more is an important part of my life.  I first experienced reiki over 10 years ago and now, after taking the first 2 levels of reiki training, I’m able to channel the energy myself and learning a lot as I go.  I plan to complete the master course next year.
  • artist – I am a continual student of the arts.  I have done acrylic painting for a number of years now (mostly abstract) and I read and study a fair bit about art/colour/composition etc.
  • scotch – I’m a bit of a beginner scotch enthusiast. Not that I just started enjoying scotch, it’s just that I don’t consider myself much of an expert on it.  I just enjoy it and like exploring the different types and tastes.  I follow this blog written by someone who knows a ton more about scotch than me.
  • beer – Same goes for beer.  I have an app I use to keep track of beers I’ve tried and that number has gotten up pretty high over the couple of years since starting to log it.
  • musician – I love music and enjoy playing music.  I play at the guitar, hack away at the piano/keyboard and enjoy music composition.  I haven’t done as much with music as I’d like – I think there will be more to come – someday.
  • father/husband – I am both and I think I do a pretty good job at it. My family is very important to me and we often do many of the other things I’ve listed here together.
  • cars – I’ve always been interested in cars and know a fair bit about different makes/models.  I can often barely remember the names of people I’ve met but I could tell you the make and model of many vehicles just by looking at the tail lights.  This year I finally got to drive a Lamborghini – which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.  I’ve also been fascinated with the idea of autonomous vehicles since I first heard about the concept, probably 20 years ago now.
  • outdoors – I love nature and the outdoors.  This includes hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, atving, gardening etc.  Exploring different parks/forests/trails/waterfalls/lakes around Ontario is lots of fun.  My favourite place in the world is still our family cottage on Basswood Lake.
  • photography – I have a lot to learn when it comes to photography but it’s something I dabble in and enjoy.  I take a lot of photos (and video) – with my Canon Digital SLR, GoPro Hero5 and the plain old smart phone.  The GoPro is a fairly recent addition and I’ve experimented a bit with underwater and body/bike mounted action video.
  • dj – This one has lain dormant for many years now, but back in the day I used to dj a bit – some dances, a couple weddings, house parties etc.  I’m afraid (or thankful?) that my taste in music and collection hasn’t much kept up with the times.  In many ways I never really moved past the 90s grunge era 🙂  Oh, and my favourite musician of all time is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
  • softball – For the last 2 summers I’ve been playing in a small softball league here in the Soo.  I hadn’t played in years before that and it’s been nice to get back into it, get some fresh air and meet some nice people.

So there you go, a bit more comprehensive understanding than what you might get from my intro as “web programmer at the Canadian Wildlife Federation”.

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Medicine, Energy and More

It’s been a challenging week in some ways.  I find myself more and more concerned about the welfare of others these days, and there are lots of people in the world who need our concern.  On a personal level I have had the following information come to me this week: an old family friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has opted for medically assisted death to take place later this afternoon, a good friend from school has a partner who has been fighting cancer for many years now and is still going through debilitating bouts of chemo and it’s extremely hard on everyone in their family, and one of the children (well adult aged child) of a former school classmate who I didn’t know too well was hit by a car and is in extreme medical distress.

Each of these don’t really affect my day to day life in a tangible way – these people all live far from me and I don’t see them often or in some cases ever, and yet they do affect me.  Part of the explanation for that connection these days is the gifts I’ve been given through the courses I’ve been taking in Reiki energy healing with Anne-Marie here in the Soo.  If you aren’t familiar with Reiki and what it involves there’s a good description here, on the website of another participant in the Level 1 course I took last year.  This month I completed the Level 2 course and one of the main aspects learned is the use of distance healing.  This means that the Reiki practitioner can connect energetically with a person at any distance and channel healing energy to them.  I have really enjoyed this method, even more so than the in-person “laying on of hands” process learned in the first course.  So this week I have been having healing sessions with the three people I mentioned above (and others), and it’s provided lots of insight and learning.  The nature of Reiki is such that a session provides healing for both the person receiving the energy as well as the person channeling it, so it helps me along with those I connect with.  Additionally it’s been wonderful to feel that I might actually be able to help people who need it and enjoy that sense of purpose that goes along with it.

Just another piece of my journey through life.  Enjoy your journey wherever it takes you.

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So Many Distractions

I’m writing too many serious posts these days, but I won’t apologize for it. Not yet. There seem to be a lot of serious things to discuss.

This one tackles something that bothers me on many levels.  It’s the looming disaster known as Global Warming/Climate Change.  Maybe you think “looming disaster” is too strong a statement – but thousands of scientists worldwide are backing it up.

Despite this knowledge, as a society we’re doing very little to improve the situation.  Human nature tends to veer our attention to shorter term pleasures over long term (boring things) such as saving for our own future or saving the planet for for the future persistence of humanity.

Take for example professional sports.  So much time, energy and money goes into the numerous sports leagues around the world.  Not there’s anything wrong with that – they provide joy to millions of fans.  But it seems we should each be putting just as much time/energy/money into whatever is needed to ensure the planet can support life ongoing.  Without that, our favourite hockey teams won’t mean much – in fact they won’t exist at all – and niether will their fans – all of us.

That’s just one example.  To the list we could add the movie industry, travel industry, personal care, even our pets!  We spend billions and billions on these things – and they all have one thing in common.  If the earth can no longer support life they will all be gone.  All of them.

When I hear people say that “we can’t afford a carbon tax” I really can’t believe it.  People, your money will be no good to you in a world with no people.  Sure we could forget about making any changes to our economy – maintain status quo and maintain our current standard of living – for now.  But eventually it will all be gone.  Or we could make the difficult changes now that could lead to sustainable life on our planet.

Right now it’s like we’re all patients who have been given a short time to live unless we make drastic changes to our lifestyle.  But we’re living it up – ignoring doctors orders.  Maybe it’s time we thought about our futures instead?

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Vegas Experiences

We recently spent a few days in Vegas.  Krista was attending a conference for public historians and I went along to see what this Vegas place is all about.  I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling but there are plenty of other things to do around this city.  I spent some time touring the strip and most of the hotels/resorts that can be found along the way. One day walked all the way up Las Vegas Blvd through some rather rundown areas, which of course included numerous garish and cheesy wedding chapels, as well as the pawn shop made famous by the tv show “Pawn Stars” (it was crazy busy in there), all the way up to Freemont Street.  That’s the pedestrian zone with the zip line that runs directly above the street.  There are all sorts of interesting and bizarre people and things to see there and along the way.

Before heading down to Nevada I did a bit of searching online to see what kinds of things I might want to do while there.  My search unearthed all sorts of possibilities but the one that caught my eye immediately was the chance to drive a Lamborghini on a race track.  I’ve always dreamed of driving one and here was a chance to get in one and really see what it can do!  So I signed up at Exotics Racing and on April 17, 2018 I finally got to drive a Lamborghini.  It was a Gallardo – the smallest of the 3 current production models – but still plenty of power for this sports car newbie.  The only other thing close I’ve driven before this was a 1980’s Porsche 911 – under the watchful eye of it’s owner.

The experience at Exotics Racing is very professional.  After checking in the first step is attending their classroom training session where they go over the basics of driving a high performance vehicle as well as what you can expect for the rest of the experience.  Next is a couple test laps driven by a staff member in a Porche SUV.  They take it easy on the first lap explaining where to aim/look around each corner, when to brake etc.  On the 2nd lap he really opened it up and, given that it’s an SUV with a higher center of gravity, you really feel the g-force around the corners and the somewhat disconcerting seeming potential for roll-over.  But they are professional drivers and know the limits of these vehicles and like to push those limits within the range that is safe.

After that’s completed the “main event” comes.  Each person is taken for their drive with an instructor “co-pilot” who provides verbal instructions for when to brake, shift gears (all cars are paddle-shifted – no manual transmissions) and where to look etc.  It can take a while to wait your turn with the size of the groups so they encourage everyone to look around and get into any of the cars you want until they’re ready for you to hit the track.  I was surprised at the open access to all the cars – it was really cool being able to hop in and out of so many supercars. Here’s a few video clips I took with my GoPro wandering around and getting in and out of some of these very expensive vehicles.

The other cool thing they do is record the entire experience on the track for you and put together this neat video (below).  There is an additional charge for the priviledge of having the video to keep of course, but it’s a very well done presentation and in my case I know it’s something I will watch over and over again.  Near the beginning you’ll see another car enter the track before I go – that is a professional driver taking someone for a ride in their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat edition (over 700hp).  He gets the back end drifting around all the corners.  Near the end of the video my instructor makes a crack about me being a pretty good driver “for a Canadian”.  Bit of an inside joke since before hand he told me he was born in Red Deer Alberta 🙂  Apparently the Gallardo is one of the more difficult cars to handle as well – the brakes are very sensitive especially.  All things considered I think I did pretty well, and managed to pass the more powerful Huracan to boot.

This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  There are lots of other “extreme” experiences available in Vegas – shooting off many types of guns is one of them, and I heard that you can even drive a tank over a car at one place!  But driving a Lamborghini was the experience of a lifetime I was looking for and I’m so glad I did it.

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The Stones of Blood

Romana and K9

Romana wearing the fantastic peach outfit with K9 in The Stones of Blood.

The Stones of Blood is the third story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by David Fisher and is part of the season long Key to Time arc. This story was also the 100th televised story.

The first two episodes of the story are set on present day earth and revolve around stone circles and Druid rituals. At the end of episode two we get a drastic shift to space, with Vivan Fey being revealed as the Cailleach/Cessair.

To get it out of the way – I had a whole lot of squee about Mary Tamm’s initial outfit in this story -a Scottish tam,  a peach jumpsuit, and hugely impractical shoes which she abandons. I love the realism of her acknowledging how horrible her shoes are and deciding to forego walking in them.

Beatrix Leahman is also does an fantastic job in portraying the eccentric Professor Amelia Rutherford. When Rutherford discusses her work and gets so excited about sharing her research notes with Romana, I was immediately reminded of so many actual Professors I know. This was a fantastic portrayal of a mature woman with experience, intellect, and charm.

We also get a female companion in this episode in the form of Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos/Cailleach.  The Variety! podcast has a recent episode that is all about Cessair and her role as villain in this story.  I highly recommend folks take a listen for a deeper dive into this female villain portrayal.

The bits that were not so well done:

  • A giant – clearly fake – hunk of rock going around attacking people. The less focus on the Ogri as a failed prop the better.
  • The transition between the historical feel of the first two episodes and the space drama narrative of the last two episodes was a bit jarring initially.

Overall, I loved all of the female characters in this story and how much authority the females had over moving the story forward.  This was also a really great story of K9, with a lot of witty lines and seeing K9 actually maneuvering on grass.

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The Ribos Operation

Mary Tamm and Tom Baker in the Riobs Operation.

Romana and the Doctor.

The Ribos Operation is the first story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by Robert Holmes and is the first story in the season long Key to Time arc. This story is also where we are introduced to Mary Tamm as Romana for the first time.

I love Romana’s sass, intellect, and tendency to challenge the Doctor on all fronts. She is quite capable of questioning the Doctor and putting him in his place when his actions don’t make sense. I also love that she keeps quoting the Tardis manual at the Doctor and telling him how he is flying it wrong – for new Who fans, this bickering reminded me a lot of when River Song flies the Tardis. As a bonus Romana’s fashion sense is so on point – see “The Stones of Blood” story is you need additionally examples of Romana’s fantastic wardrobe choices.

The plot of this story revolves around a scam gone wrong, with the Tardis crew getting caught in the middle of the scam in their attempts to locate the key to time segment.  The plot itself is almost secondary to the setup of the Key to Time mission itself, we are introduced to the Guardian and given a vague reason as to why it is imperative that the Doctor locate all the segments of the key, else the universe implode. The setup isn’t fantastic, but it does a well enough job in providing a framework for all of the stories within season sixteen.

Overall, this was a middle of the road story for me.  I liked bits of it but I wasn’t enthralled by the plot.

 

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The Pirate Planet

Pirate Planet DVD Cover

The Pirate Planet

The Pirate Planet is the second story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9(!). It was written by Douglas Adams and is the second story in the Key to Time arc.

This was the last serial of the classic Doctor Who era to be novelized, but I actually read the novelization prior to watching the story.  This is partially because I’ve been trying to read all the novelizations which are based on Douglas Adam’s scripts, mainly because I simply love his writing and love trying to pick out bits that are purely Adams in the novelizations.  The Pirate Planet was Adam’s first contribution to Doctor Who and the novelization contains an interesting discussion of the early draft versions of this story and dives into the archives which hold Adam’s work.

For the Adam’s fans watching this story, at one point the Doctor says “Don’t Panic” which made the Hitckkicker’s Guide fan in me squee. Additionally, the Doctor’s line “Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves” — was later used in a The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio serial, by For Perfect toward a Vogon.

Personally, I’m glad I read the novelization of this story first.  The half-robot pirate captain and his killer robot parrot looked way cooler in my head then they did in the 1978s costuming. The portrayal of the captain was one of my least favourite parts of the televised story. The novelization contained much more nuance and presented the captain as more than just a bumbling/raging lunatic.

Overall, the story has a great mix of comedy with a sci-fi story line. It is overflowing with ideas and at times seems like there are too many ideas to be contained within a four episode story arc.  However, I loved seeing Romana and K9 in action during this story, they are both some of my favourite classic Who companions.  Plus K9 gets an amazing fight scene with the robot parrot, which is simply awesome in my books.

Given that this was the second story in the Key to Time arch, my plan is to go back and watch The Ribos Operation next.

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The Keys of Marinus

Tardis Crew

Tardis Crew in the Key of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus was the fifth story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. Written by Terry Nation this six episode story is one of the first ‘moving serials’ in Doctor Who, with each episode taking place in a different setting.

The Keys of Marinus is a bit of a whirlwind quest, with each episode seeing the Tardis crew  – and the planet-side friends they have accumulated along the way – solving puzzles to retrieve the five keys of Marinus. These quests are set against a range of backgrounds: Acid seas,  Eyestalk-brains with mind control powers, a jungle that attacks, a cold snowy mountain with a cruel trapper, and a world with an guilt driven justice system. It’s a quick flurry of setting changes, ideas, and adventure. There are also some uncomfortable moments in this story including an attempted rape and domestic abuse.

The splitting of the Tardis crew into different narratives is very much in Terry Nation’s style and each individual story remains on the underdeveloped side.  It is also clear that the budget required to hold each episode in a different setting wasn’t there – the stock footage in the snowy mountain stood out the most as a clear example of where money was trying to be saved. Similarly, the ice caves really did look like they were made of plastic wrap.

The villains at the root of this story, which force the Tardis crew on the key adventure at the start, are the Voords.  The Voords are essentially actors in wet-suits with rubber masks and hand prosthetics. They are a bit lack luster and the ridiculous costuming made me laugh, but they are effective enough to move the story forward.

Despite some of the criticisms of the Keys of Marinus, I actually really loved this story. It was my kind of adventure, character building, world exploring story. I think this is the first Hartnell story that upon finishing I thought I might actually watch again.  I don’t know if that says more about this episode about my feelings for the Hartnell era as a whole.

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The Edge of Destruction

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Planet of Giants was the third story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a short story with only two episodes and it occurs entirely inside the Tardis.  This story was made with minimal budget to fill out season one with two more episodes. This story is another one written by David Whitaker.  I loved the fact that this story begins the development of the Tardis as a thoughtful, sentient being that can communicate with its crew.

Episode 1
The first episode in this story has a very horror movie feel to it.  Distrust builds among the Tardis team, Susan attacks people with scissors, and things keep mysteriously happening without explanation. As the episode progresses the crew grows increasingly paranoid and beings to turn on reach other. The Doctor begins to blame Susan and Ian for everything that is going wrong – Susan does a fantastic job of standing up for herself and angrily highlights how foolish that idea is, and how she and Ian have repeatedly shown their  commitment to the Doctor.

Episode 2 – The Brink of Disaster
The accusing continues and Barbara continues to convince the Doctor that he is wrong.  I really enjoyed that it was Barbara who finally realized that the Tardis is trying to communicate them, and that many of the odd things going on are actually clues to show what the real problem is.  The camera work and light/dark contrast around the Doctor’s monologue explaining the problem was really striking, however the actual ‘fixing’ of the problem – a broken spring – felt fairly anti-climatic to me.

The Doctor delivers a satisfactory apology to Ian, but is apology to Barbara is pretty horrible.  It’s a best a ‘well, actually’ style explanation and I’m glad Barbara walked away from the Doctor.  His second apology wasn’t much better  – the Doctor conludes that without his accusing Barbara she would never have been motivated enough to solve the problem. My reaction to this was pretty much “UGH.” His apology was followed by a condescending remark about needing to take good care of her.  I know this aired in 1964, but some of the male/female power dynamics in this episode have not aged well.

Overall, this is a solid two part story that has a surprising amount of depth and is well done in-spite of the budget limitations.

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Planet of Giants

Susan and Ian with an oversize matchbox.

Susan, Ian, and a matchbox in Planet of Giants.

Planet of Giants was the first story in season two of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a shorter story with only three episodes and it’s basic premise revolves around the Tardis and the Tardis crew being miniaturized and working to regain the normal size.

I’ve been watching a lot of Troughton era Doctor Who recently and what struck me most about this story was how different the Tardis team feels under the first Doctor. The story is also dived into team perspectives with the Tardis crew being separated into groups of two for the bulk of the story.

Part One 
This story hinges on the Tardis malfunctioning during materialization.  Following the malfunction the Tardis team begin to explore outside and come to see giant ants, giant worms, and signage.  Both the Doctor and Susan realize independently from each other, that they have all been shrunk to the size of an inch.  Ian expresses his usual disbelief with this conclusion.

Part Two
We learn more about the ‘bigs’ in this episode.  There’s a subplot all about the development of a new insecticide which kills every type of insect imaginable.  I found this subplot a bit on the dry side, though I did enjoy the hint of environmental activism that is woven into the story.

Part Three
This episode starts with the Doctor and Susan being trapped in a drain pipe and thinking quickly to avoid drowning. I think my favourite part of this episode is watching the actors transverse ridiculously oversize props. Climbing down a huge sink chain, crossing a large notepad, and using an oversize match is pretty amusing to watch.

Overall this was an okay story, but not something I will rush to rewatch.

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