Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Smallville: Epic review addendum: Justice League

So, it seems I wasn't completely comprehensive, as I left out an analysis of the Justice League characters. I will provide that here and now.

The first thing we must realize is that this is very much a Justice League in training. The scale starts small and builds up over the course of the series.

Clark meets an extremely fast kid in a red hooded shirt early in the series. Saving Jonathan Kent from being hit by a car, and then stealing his wallet, Clark goes after this kid to find out more about him and get his dad's wallet back. Finding out the kid is much faster than he is, Clark uses his investigative skills to track this speedy character down. Turns out this kid, using a variety of aliases (all previous renditions of The Flash), has been on the run for a long time, using his quick speed to work as a thief. Finally settling on the name Bart Allen, Clark tries to turn him to the good side, saying his powers can be used for good, instead of petty theft. Bart says thanks but no thanks, saying he might stop crime but he's not done seeing the world. Running off into the distance, the show settles that old, but silly debate as to who's faster, Superman or The Flash. (It's obviously The Flash; he has ONE power, he better be the best at it) Later in the series, as the Justice League forms, Bart comes back to help out. An important note is that Bart is not really The Flash, he is actually Impulse. Not knowing too much about Impulse myself, I will say that Bart, in this show, definitely earns the name. He's constantly grabbing whatever he wants, often bringing flowers and chocolates to girls he likes, and eating all the time to keep up with with his metabolism. I would be interested in anyone's opinion of Impulse in the show versus the comic rendition, but I have a feeling that they would be very different and that the Smallville story would be very condensed.

Clark meets Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman during a thwarted attempt of environmental terrorism. Curry, being a fantastic swimmer and lover of all things aquatic, has been working to shut down dangerous weapons produced by LuthorCorp which will seriously harm aquatic life. Curry is a young, attractive, cocky character who runs around in orange shorts and no shirt, for the benefit of anyone who loves abs and pecs. I know only a little of Aquaman as seen in the Justice League cartoon and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, but I have to admit that this Curry is a lot less serious and intense. Many people will probably not like him, if they liked the original, as this Aquaman does not share or seem to have an origin story, and while he seems to be King of all that is under the sea, we never see any of this in the show. He appears to be a mutant, someone one can swim really fast and possibly talk to fish. Also, without water, Curry can still function on land and even has above-normal strength, but without said water, Aquaman literally shrivels up like a raisin. For anyone familiar with the Aquaman from the comics and the cartoon, you'll probably hate this Aquaman. For anyone less familiar, you'll like him for being: attractive, different and refreshing, and an adequate member of the Justice League as seen in Smallville.

Cyborg comes into play halfway through the show, escaping from a LuthorCorp facility. Now, I know little about the comic-book Cyborg, but in this show, he is a young, attractive kid with implants that seem to not only give him great strength, but allow him to connect and interact with computer systems. Clark meets him and forms an uneasy friendship. True to form, Cyborg leaves only to come back later to work in the Justice League. We don't really get a lot from this character. He's cool, and he is funny and works well with the team, but he is clearly a side character and not really dealt with.

Weirdly enough, Hawkman is introduced in Smallville. Mostly done in two episodes, it seems that Hawkman runs the Justice Society of America, an earlier "golden age" team of heroes. Included on his roster are such characters as Hourman, and Dr. Fate. Again, I am not too familiar with these characters, but Smallville doesn't go into depth as to where these characters came from, except for Hawkman. He seems to be an alien, who after coming to Earth with is wife, basically inspired the Egyptian civilization. Hawkman appears to be immortal, reincarnating in some other body after he dies. His character is stern, bold, and quick to lead. From what I know of Hawkman, the Smallville rendition is similar to that in the comics.

The Black Canary was a little disappointing. I am used to a sexy, tough, take-no-nonsense heroine, and while arguably we still got that in Smallville, I didn't really like her as much. We first meet her when she steals some intel from The Daily Planet. Hired by Lex Luthor, she is an acrobatic, ninja-like, short-haired mercenary with an odd ability to shriek really loudly, knocking Clark to the ground with its force. Additionally, we see that her alter ego, Dinah Lance, works for The Daily Planet. Eventually seeing Lex for the man he is, she decides to take her leave and works abroad trying to create positive change in the world. She eventually joins the Justice League, but isn't really important, interesting, or essential to it.

The most interesting member is The Green Arrow. For a certain friend of mine, he might love and hate this. The Green Arrow as seen in the comics is a tough, wise-cracking man whose views on libertarianism are legendary in comparison to the rest of the Justice League. He is also a martial arts expert and pretty much the best archer in the world. Similar to Batman, the Green Arrow has gadgets, a cave of sorts, and fights crime because his parents were killed. Unlike Batman, he doesn't do so with a brooding or nigh-psychotic mentality, but more because it's fun to him and he thinks it's the right thing to do. Now, in Smallville, those traits are the same, but Oliver Queen, (aka The Green Arrow) is a young mega-mogul, a sort of light side to Lex's bad side. Wearing a silly green leather costume, Oliver fights crime because he thinks it's right but also because he's having fun. For anyone familiar with the comic book Green Arrow, you might not like him. He's not as badass, and he is clearly different. BUT, I think you should give him some leeway, and watch more of the show. Oliver becomes a very important character in Smallville and his character arc is one of the best. He falls in love with Lois Lane, but when he finds out more of what Lex is up to, he decides to take more action as both Oliver and as the Green Arrow. Forming the Justice League as an effort to face off against Lex's impending army, Oliver eventually has to break up with Lois because the world needs him more than she does. It's an interesting stepping stone and prelude to the whole Clark-Lois relationship and honestly very heartbreaking. Ironically, Lois finds out about Oliver's secret, but doesn't tell him. After Lex's disappearance, Oliver returns buying out LuthorCorp. The Justice League is still working under his leadership and he keeps trying to persuade Clark to join his team. Clark is reluctant not only to work with them, but also to work as a hero at all. Superman always has this weird dichotomy where he wants to stand alone, but he inspires such teamwork and collaboration. Oliver Queen falls in love with Chloe Sullivan, and never bats an eye at Dinah Lance, contrary to the comics. His love for her is very real, and is developed very nicely over the series. Oliver Queen seems to act as a testing board for many aspects of the show. In many ways, he is the human equivalent/bridge between Clark and the rest of the world. Both are reluctant heroes, both want to do the right thing, but it is Oliver who steps up first. While arguably, Clark has been saving lives longer, it's Oliver who takes the bigger steps, forming the Justice League, and even stepping forth during the vigilante debate. As mentioned in my previous post, there comes a time in the series where the people of the USA are deciding whether or not they want costumed heroes running around, fighting crime. Oliver decides to unmask himself, showing the world that they have nothing to fear; that the heroes are just trying to help. It is a big step, and one which seriously affects him, the rest of the heroes, the people of the USA, and the show itself. The decision, at first, ruins his life. People will not leave him alone and he has to go into hiding because some people are very upset with his life decisions. Oliver goes through a time of great depression, giving up on being a hero, and almost drinks himself to death. During this time, Darkseid's influence gets to him, making him one of the first to turn against good in this struggle. In an attempt to find himself, and via Clark's influence, Oliver changes at the last minute, and overcomes a great evil. He is the first to do so, and his change was probably one of the hardest. While wise-cracking, and seemingly taking nothing too seriously, Oliver has the welfare of the people foremost on his mind. He becomes Clark's best male friend and close ally and it is Oliver who not only makes the big decisions, his influence pushes Clark to become the Man of Steel. Long story short, give him a chance; he's an important character and the actor, Justin Hartley, portrays the Green Arrow very well.

And that's it. There are minor references to other characters, but these are the ones who work in the Justice League. While less awesome than the comic-book rendition, it fits the scale of the show, allowing us to see the start of something greater. There are some problems, some ups and downs, but all in all, not bad, as long as you can keep it in mind that this is like a re-imagining, not supposed to be a direct origin for the characters you know and love.

Smallville: My short recommendation

I started watching Smallville when it first came out in 2001. I followed it for awhile, and then life and my general disinterest in television prevented me from following the series to completion...until now. I recently ran out of other shows to watch and decided it was time to start and finish the entire series.
I make it sound like torture, but it really wasn't. I am a huge Superman fan, and self-proclaimed expert, but the show is 10 seasons long, that's a bit daunting. Not to mention that I already had my problems with the few seasons I had seen and wasn't sure I'd like the rest. But, I figured I cannot properly complain about a TV show until I had either seen enough to break my interest entirely, or until I watched the whole thing and could take it in.
Let me just say here and now that I liked it. It's a long journey, but really does a great job of getting Clark Kent from his Smallville roots to the hero he eventually becomes.
The first couple of seasons are typical high-school drama, basically mixing the usual woes and worries of a hormone-driven teenager with those of a hero in training. It’s a little repetitive and honestly could have been done better, but thankfully, it does get better.
Later, the scale of things increases, the characters become more real and their struggles draw us in. Eventually Clark becomes the character we know and love and I enjoyed watching how these developments came to pass.
While the show changed a few key things, it also kept many of those things intact, and while drawing out the plot of what happens to Clark before becoming Superman can be a bit tiring, it was also very rewarding getting to know the man behind the steel.
If you like Superman, super-heroes, and drama, all played out by attractive 20-something actors and actresses, you’ll like Smallville. Give it a look, but if you’re only mildly interested, I’d suggest watching only some of the later seasons.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Holidays 2011: Part 2

Christmas time around here is always a time of great fun and excitement, and this year was no different. As mentioned in my previous post, my Nannie, my mom's mom, moved in, and so there was a bit more incentive for the entire family to come here. Usually they all end up swinging by, but it was easier to just have one dinner in one place, allowing everyone to spend time together.

We had 25 people seated at dinner. We have a huge dining room, so that was no big deal, but the meal was amazing as always. My mom has it down to a science now, and while I know it was a lot of work for her, it's spread out over a series of days so it wasn't that bad. Getting the place cleaned and in order was a little annoying, but in the end, the house looked great and even with that many people in the house, we weren't uncomfortable. We managed to Skype with my cousin Roxanne, who's in Winnipeg and celebrating her recent betrothal, so that was nice. Later, the family moved downstairs and we turned on the Kinect.

The next little bit may sound like some promotional work for Kinect, but I love that system. Last year, we had everyone in the house playing except for my two grandmothers, which is saying something considering some of the more reluctant members of my family. This year was more of the same, with some new games, and some new fun. The Kinect unit is really responsive and I am always impressed with how well it works. Also, the games are only getting better, adding voice commands and making for some great fun. We ended up playing until 4am, losing track of time. One surprising and memorable moment was when my dad got up and danced while we played the Michael Jackson game! My dad is a quiet and not very outgoing man, and I've only seen him dance 3 other times in his life, one of those being during my parent's wedding reception. Anyway, it was a really great evening, as I've said.

Christmas Day. Finally. It was a quiet day, and well, anything would be compared to how we spent Christmas Eve. My mom, dad, sister, and Nannie spent the entire day in our pajamas relaxing together. While my parents had said they weren't doing Christmas gifts this year, Santa did happen to give us some movies to watch as a family. Additionally, owing to some ignoring of finances and an overwhelming desire to give back, I got my family some gifts. The one I was most excited about was a Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook for my sister. I'd mentioned it to her and to my mom and both are interested in trying it out over the break. I will work on getting my dad involved, but he may see it as a silly waste of time. We'll see.

So, back to movies. We watched Mr. Popper's Penguins, which was actually quite good; Cars 2 which was better than the first one, having a spy theme and Michael Caine in it; and Cowboys and Aliens, which I had seen before but enjoyed watching again. It was a nice evening, and one I really was looking forward to and needed.

That being said, I look forward to the rest of my holidays. I have a few, very important things to do, and it is my goal to get them done. I hope you all are having a great holiday, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you take the time to celebrate being with family, and taking care of what matters.

I've been neglecting that, but I'm working on it. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Holidays, 2011

Wow, it has been a crazy fall term. But it is over, and I am back home for the holidays!

Tonight is my third night back, and really my first time when I've felt I could relax. I had a few labs due so any spare time I had, I was working on those. Additionally, I didn't get back until quite late on Thursday, and my time's been pretty much occupied the last couple of days. So, what have I been doing?

Well, after Thursday night's bus and car ride home, I spent it just relaxing with my immediate family. I always feel like I'm sneaking into the house as I usually end up getting home late, and some family members have to awake just to see me. It was nice. The comforting feeling of home hasn't changed, even though the layout has slightly.

My Nannie, my mom's mom, which sounds funny to say, mom's mom, like a man's man, or something weird like that...where was I? Right, my Nannie moved in with us. For awhile now, my mom has been taking care of her, my Nannie being 82 and all, and now it's just easier with her being down the hall, as opposed to at her own place. My parents, and my sister, did an amazing job of setting up her room. Honestly, sometimes I take their hard work for granted, but my family is ridiculously amazing at pulling off an insane amount of work in a very short time period. And I have to say, I'm impressed. My Nannie's room is pretty awesome; full of her own stuff, 50" TV, pictures of her friends and family, little electric wood stove, it's almost the nicest room in the house. It's also really nice seeing her so much. She gets a little moody, wanting to be at her old home, and she requires nigh-constant vigilance, but it's not so bad, and it's great to be able to spend as much time with her as I want. I do have to praise my mom, my dad, and my sister, though. They've had to deal with so much, and they've done it with their usual high-stressed, but functional, flair. My family has such strength, and it is by their example that I am reminded how strong and capable I can be.

On a less serious note, my dad and I went on a bit of a nature hike yesterday. It was unexpected, as my dad and I rarely do things just the two of us, but it was good. Cold, but nice. We didn't see a lot of animals, even though we were hoping to, just a partridge and a crow. That's one of my favourite things about coming home, the beauty and serenity of my backyard. My family owns ~40 acres of land, mostly forested, and it is so calming to walk around and hear nothing at all. It was a nice walk, and another great start to my holidays.

Today, my family and I cleaned out my Nannie's old house. There was a lot of junk in there, as she's lived in that house for a long time, over 45 years. It's kind of sad knowing that we'll never be back, that we'll never spend another Christmas there, or drive toy trucks over the hardwood floors, but things change. It's harder on my mom than it is for me; she grew up there, and I know she had a bit of a hard time just throwing out stuff that had some sentimental value, but no one would really want or be able to keep.

Tonight, my mom made a wonderful dinner, a stir fry with spaghetti noodles, and we all just sat together, watching a movie and relaxing. Well...we were relaxing, and then my mom decides to decorate the tree. My mom is very particular, and so the tree decorating is a one-person affair. But, the rest of us got to hold things! and hand her things! so we helped...a little, haha. The tree looks amazing, as always, and I especially love that the ornaments are not only as old as I am, but some were even made by my sister and me. There's one bulb that is red, with green sparkles glued to it, that says 2000. I made it as a holiday time-capsule and after forgetting about it for years, I opened it last year. It had a letter, written and addressed to me, in which I told myself to have faith, and never let anyone, especially myself, hold me back. I don't know how I was so cool back then to have thought of it, but I think I may get my sister and I do make some again this year. The stockings have yet to go up, but I have some work to do one those. My mom used to give them out ahead of time and I would decorate mine. The first patch I added was a ghost, because I loved the Ghostbusters so much, that I made when I was eleven. I know how old I was because the ghost is giving the "peace" sign and I did that because his fingers formed the number 11. Aren't I clever? The next year, I didn't finish it, but I made a soccer ball. I was silly though, and instead of sewing patches on, I tried to knit back and forth, filling up the hexagons. I plan on fixing that and adding a new piece, but not exactly sure what symbol to do yet.

Yes, it's nice to be back, and be surrounded by family and comfortable traditions. It's really nice to unwind, recharge, and kick back. I hope to add more holiday cheer to my blog, and to all those still struggling through school, good luck, I know you'll make it through.

To those still stuck at work, those already at home, and those still in school as well, the holidays are soon upon us. You've earned a break and I hope you get a chance to enjoy it and relax.

Oh, also, it's kind of funny. I'm in a position where I am semi-able to actually give presents this year, but oddly enough, my family isn't. So, I may just surprise them with gifts this year. I know they'll feel bad that they can't give me presents, but I'll reassure them of what they've already given me: love, support, and happy stability.

Take care, thanks for reading!

Monday, 12 December 2011


A friend of mine told me about a show quite awhile ago now; a show with Adam Baldwin and nerd references in it. I laughed, said, "That's awesome" and never got around to checking it out. Then, true to form, I was looking for another show to check out. I remembered Chuck, and decided to check it out.

Let me give you some background: IMDB provides the following promotional fare about the show,  

        "When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down."

While enticing, that tidbit works for only about half the show, maybe a little more than half. The show is about said twenty-something, named Chuck, who works at a "Buy More", basically a Best Buy, and his adventures in espionage. 

Let me just say that the show is formulaic; once you've seen 3 episodes, you'll know the pattern. However, the way they present that pattern, turn it on its head, that's what kept me coming back from week to week. The show takes all the classic tropes involved with spy movies, TV dramas, and sitcoms, and presents them to you in a way which demonstrates their familiarity comfort. The show manages to give you a simple format, while presenting it in refreshing, and often surprising ways.

A show with a character's name in the title is only as strong and interesting as said character. Chuck is a relate-able character whose growth over the series rewards the viewers for sticking with him. We first see Chuck as a mopey, ill-confident extended teenager (a person who hasn't grown up and is still stuck without direction, entirely too common in our world today), working in the Buy More, going nowhere. With him, is Morgan, his sidekick, someone who makes even Chuck's low levels of accomplishment seem extraordinary. 

Chuck receives an email from an old colleague named Bryce. Upon opening said email, images flash and Chuck passes out. We learn that he has downloaded "The Intersect" into his brain, a collection of secrets from the CIA and NSA. Once these agencies find out about this, they move in on Chuck.
Enter Sarah Walker, CIA agent. Blond, sexy, confident, she moves in trying to get some idea where the Intersect has gone. Enter John Casey, NSA agent. Tough, gruff, and to the point, he too wants to know what Chuck knows. Chuck ends up helping them both stop a bomb going off and that's when the three of them form an unlikely partnership. The government feels that they can use Chuck's secrets and Sarah and John are there to protect him and exploit said knowledge, thus the tagline given above, in Italics

As the series continues, we obviously become more interested in the characters. Sarah's ice-cold demeanor melts and so too do our hearts (too cheesy?) when we notice her falling for Chuck. Right from the first episode, there is a goodness to Chuck, an innocence, but more importantly a desire to help people that wins Sarah over. Not that it took much convincing for me...err, I mean Chuck of course, for Chuck to fall in love with Sarah.

Every episode makes it clear how awesome and beautiful Sarah is. Every time she enters the Buy More, the scene slows down, her hair waves in the breeze, combine that with her ruthless efficiency as a spy, and her compassion for Chuck, and well, she's a winner in my book. Oh, and the nigh-inevitable girl-fights featured in almost every episode, haha.
But seriously, while a show that showed an obviously sexy woman, doing things that are over the top and meant to showcase her would normally turn me off, I like subtlety, the show manages to do so without me losing faith. Sarah manages to show a vulnerability, and as she struggles with that, we relate to her, and urge her on to give her heart to Chuck. She isn't just something to look at, she's a compassionate woman who missed childhood completely. As their relationship begins to grow, Chuck manages to get her to search within herself and see herself as more than just an agent, and thus, we do too.

John Casey's stern attitude is one we enjoy right from the start. At first I was happy, and a little sad, for Adam Baldwin's seemingly type-casted role as tough-guy John Casey. I mean, I've only seen him in a few other things, but if you happen to remember a little show he was on before, a show cut before its prime, Baldwin played a grunting, gun-blazing, tough-guy, who's lack of words won us over. Well, he's done it again. He's the hero of Burbank, the man we call Jay...John. However, he too grows as a character, albeit slowly, but it is almost more rewarding. At first, he thinks the entire operation is a joke; babysitting a civilian when he could be out there, sniping terrorists. But, his belief in Chuck, and his team, grows as the series continues. The infrequent times that he displays emotion are diamonds in the rough, and makes you love the "big teddy bear" that much more.

Even Chuck's best friend Morgan has an interesting character arc. At first, he is very annoying, providing some comic relief but often getting in Chuck's way unintentionally. However, he finds out Chuck's secret and begins working with the team. His knowledge of Chuck saves the team on more than one occasion, and his working with the team goes to show you how close the two of them are. That was a complaint I had early in the show: that Morgan and Chuck did not seem very good friends despite their claims to the contrary. But, in working together, you can see why they've remained best friends. Morgan grows up as the show progresses, showing responsibility and bravery. His arc is one of the most impressive and noticeable, going from climbing in Chuck's window to hang out and play Call of Duty, to walking through the front door as a man and solid member of Chuck's team.

Finally, there's Chuck. As a friend pointed out, his haircut changed for the better as the show went on, making him look less dopey, so that's good, haha. Additionally, Chuck moves from being a victim to a hero over the course of the show. At first, he is at the mercy of the Intersect, having to do whatever Casey or Sarah asked/told him to do, having to balance his two lives, and lie to his friends and family to carry out missions he never asked for. Later, Chuck's confidence grows and he becomes a real spy, leading missions and saving the day. While his abilities improve, Chuck's natural goodness, and oddity come out, making for some interesting situations and odd saves throughout the show. 

A couple of things I want to mention about the show in general. First, Robert Duncan McNeil is the producer of this show. For anyone familiar with Star Trek: Voyager, he played Tom Paris. For anyone not familiar, well, it makes sense that the most badass, suave, spy-like character on that show ended up making a spy show of his own.

Secondly, there's one really cool thing I love about Chuck. Their lack of deus ex machina, or more precisely, the show's ability to demonstrate it early on and make it seem either entirely believable or at least, not out of nowhere. The first episode, when we first see Chuck, he is instructing his fellow Buy More colleagues, that there is a website out there, with a virus on it that will cause a specific type of computer to literally crash and burn. He demonstrates that and the show goes on. I thought at first it was just the show's way of showing us that Chuck is a normal person, doing a job. Later, however, there is a bomb in a hotel, and while Casey and Sarah think about how to disarm it, Chuck notices that the computer running it is the same model as the one he was working on earlier. He connects it to the website, and the computer crashes, defusing the bomb. Maybe not entirely believable, but makes me feel better when I see a show actually trying to do things right. 

As a nerd, I love the references. The show routinely throws a movie, comic book, or video game reference out there for you to catch. Often, they're lines of dialogue from the ever nerdy Chuck and Morgan, sometimes, they're background content which adds more flavour to the show. Sometimes, a situation will seem to pan out exactly like one in a movie, and just when you wonder if they meant to do that, they make it obvious they did, but they do something to make it fit and make you laugh.

Surprising guest appearances, from Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise), Linda Hamilton (Terminator, Terminator II), to Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix Trilogy) and even Dolph Lundgren and Timothy Dalton, even Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice Guy), the show keeps me interested.

Oh, one more thing: the creators of the show said they are doing only 4 seasons and then stopping. If they go through with it, I'll be very happy. I never want a good thing to end, but I am tired of good shows carrying on way too long, just to pander to the audience, when they should be wrapping up their craft. You know of shows like that, I know you do.

So, that's it. The show is in its final season, and I for one am excited about how it will all end. Check it out, like I said, it's formulaic, but that's a good thing. If you like the first two episodes, you'll love the rest of the show.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Expectations versus celebrations

I think I must be pretty ignorant of certain things.

I am actually getting tired of people celebrating and pointing out when a commercial portrays gay relationships, or when a TV show has a variety of ethnicity.

The concept of same-sex activities and relationships has existed for quite a long time now. It's not novel, and it's been seen in historical references, fiction, myth, and as a commonplace thing for an incredibly long time now. I am not a history major so I will try not to err too much here by giving dates, but homosexuality was quite common in ancient Greece, as I'm given to understand. It permeated their culture and their myth. I'm sure it existed much throughout all of history, but I guess I don't have the research to prove it. At the very least, it has been known to exist for a long time now.

Additionally, I understand that people with certain backgrounds push(ed) around those of a different background. I acknowledge the hardship, the terrifying ordeal and treatment with which anyone not generally accepted by the ruling demographic has had to deal.

Yes, okay, for too long, society at large made people who were involved in same-sex activities feel terrible, scared, hated, shunned, etc. It was, and I guess is, pretty awful behaviour and I honestly wish none of it had ever happened. But, is it still this way?

I was raised to treat everyone equally, until they proved otherwise. That last part was not actually part of my childhood lessons, but I find I give people more credit than they deserve sometimes. Still, better to hope that humanity is decent and competent than otherwise.

I grew up in a town where the citizens had one colour to their skin, a seemingly primarily heterosexual nature, and worshiped around one of several denominations of Christianity. I heard racist jokes and I heard the vulgar depictions of same-sex. Gay was mistaken as an adjective for stupid in my town. But I never stood for it. I would tell people they were wrong, and call them ignorant, or stupid, as the case called for. I've never understood putting people in a box, and I've never understood making claims about an entire group of people especially if you don't know anything about them.

I'm not perfect, but neither is anyone else I've met, sorry to burst the bubble of those of you I know. And, I know this next point is really going to upset a lot of people, but I hope you understand where I'm coming from:

All these "celebrations" over things like lesbians being in a KY commercial, people of different backgrounds being successful in business, theatre, or otherwise, well, it's great. But, sometimes these celebrations make it seem like such a miracle that something like this has happened. When people point out how amazing it was that this or that feature homosexuality or an equality of ethnic backgrounds, I look at them and say, "" Being gay is not a reason to celebrate, being straight certainly hasn't been. One of them is the way I am, and one of them is not. It's neither a great thing, or a bad thing, it's just what I like and it hasn't hurt anyone so far...except for breakups. Being a Caucasian male might have paved a lot of the way for me, but I certainly had no handouts. I come from a low income family, one that laments not being able to help me financially, one whose background in nigh-poverty has taught me a lot about judging things, and people, by its quality, not by labels or surface observations.

This is where I'm ignorant. I am not in a liberal arts degree, I do not follow the news, nor am I particularly connected to issues of human rights. I am an engineer, and even the stereotypes concerning that profession have changed. My current class of students has the same amount of girls as guys, and the first year student body has more girls in it than I've ever seen before. In terms of race, it's a hodgepodge, a mixture of people from all over the place.

And THAT'S THE THING: In engineering, no one cares if you're man, woman, child, or talking duck, they care if you know what you're doing. If a talking duck came into one of my classes and proved me wrong in a presentation about something, no one would marvel at the amazing ability of the duck speaking despite common sense, and it's own evolutionary background, no they would just consider its point on the error in my presentation, nod their heads and admire the fact that it was right, and suggest I get back to the drawing board.

And that's the way I try to see the world. I will presume you are a decent, competent person until you prove me wrong. I will not label you, think I'm better or worse than you, prejudge, joke unfairly about a group of you, no I will go on living my life, hoping to make your acquaintance. Celebrating that which should be commonplace is not only foolish, it's annoying.

N.B. I realize that not many view the world as I do. I'm sure the inequality of the groups I mentioned above, among others, is so prevalent that you'll be angry that I'm not seeing it. But, the fact is, I don't because I choose not to live that way. If I see injustice, you can rest assured I'll swoop down on it like Batman himself, but so far, it has not affected me so I have not had cause to effect change. Representation is hard to get, so I will make more of an effort to recognize those hard-fought battles you've won. But, don't celebrate the scraps from the table, demand the meal.

Long story short, stop celebrating things which you should expect, instead, make sure you get what you deserve.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Courtesy or common sense?

Hi there, loyal reader(s), it's been awhile since I've ranted, since I've had time to complain about things. Truthfully, I've also had a lack of things about which to complain, so now that I have something, it is all too apparent.

I hate litter. It sounds like such a small complaint, but really, it's more infuriating to me because it's such a small and simple matter and shouldn't even exist. My close friends and family know that this is one of my more vocal complaints. I've ranted about it for years, and I always pick it up litter if I can. Every little bit counts, and I try to live in such a way as to improve upon myself and the world around me.

I don't even understand the concept of deliberate littering. Whenever I have some food or drink in a disposable container, I am always aware of it. In general, I worry that I'll spill it, or I'm so hungry and thirsty that I constantly am sampling from it, or at parties, I keep a close eye, not wanting anyone else to tamper with it.

When I'm done, it's never an option for me to just leave it sitting on the table, or counter. I was raised to leave things as they were, or make them better, and litter is such a useless thing that the very idea of it sitting, unattended, because someone was too lazy to dispose of it properly, well, it's actually making me mad right now. I haven't been to that many places in my life, but generally garbage and recycling bins are close enough that you don't have to go far to dispose of your trash. In fact, I once heard a rumour that at Walt Disney World, the trash cans are situated to be no more than 15 metres apart in any direction as that is the maximum average distance a person will hold onto it before throwing it on the ground.

Throwing it on the ground? What is wrong with you? If you throw garbage on the ground, you have no right to complain if I came over and littered on your floor. Of course, you'll never have cause for that complaint because littering is something I will NEVER do.

I understand that sometimes your hands are full. Sometimes, you just forgot your stuff on the table, but deliberately leaving your mess either because you don't care or because you expect someone else to clean it up, that's just wrong and I will not stand for it.

Yes, there are so many bigger and more important problems out there. But, littering is a symptom of a much larger "disease"; that of apathy and disconnection. If you litter, it says more to me than you're lazy. It says you are either not aware of your effect on the world, you don't care about it or the world around you, or you think that you are better than others and entitled to treat their share of the planet like garbage.

So, please, don't litter. If you see someone litter, ask them why and make them throw it out properly. It's one of those "issues" that shouldn't exist because it's so easy to dispose of. And, if you are a litterer, don't be too surprised if you see a man in a cape moving toward you at high speed.

Thanks for reading.

Critical Decision

So, I've recently made a decision which will affect the next couple of years of my life. As it stands, I was considering trying to finish all of my classes this upcoming term and then go to graduate school the September after that. However, after thinking about it, that is not a very feasible goal.

Trying to complete 7 classes, including some very difficult ones, and some that require a lot of time and attention, as well as getting my grad school research and applications done by mid-January, is nearly impossible. I have faith that I can perform the impossible, but I don't see why I have to. I would love to be done, and moving toward the next step, but if I take some time, I can do each task more excellently.

So, my new plan is to take only some of the 7 classes I have left next term, apply for some internships by late January, hopefully to work from May-December, and then finish the rest of my classes the following January-April. This will give me time to figure out where I want to go for my graduate studies, help me determine what I want to study exactly, give me the breathing space to bring my grades up and finish my undergraduate with honours, and also give me a chance to work in the field adding that experience to my profession.

Like I said, part of me does not like the idea of prolonging my undergraduate. But, I would rather do a thing correctly than hastily, and as a new friend recently said, "sometimes, it's good to just go with things, take your time and just see what's out there." Everyone to whom I've spoken has been very supportive, as always, and I thank them for the constant and immediate pride and loyalty, and I thank you for reading this here and now.

Wrapping up the school term: assignments, exams, final projects

I apologize for not completing this sooner, but I have been working very hard lately to get everything done, and done well.

I feel very elated right now. I am in the heart of it, still busy, but making progress and feeling good about it. So, what have I been up to?

Last Thursday and Friday, I worked on two reports that are due tomorrow. The first is the culminating report and presentation for my Payload Design class, in which my colleague and I designed a radiation detector for Mars. The second report was for my Mechanical Design course, in which we were designing the Magnetorquer.

Still putting the finishing touches on the reports, but the presentations are finished. I'll explain a little about each device and how it stands here and now:

The Mars Radiation Detector is a combination of instruments meant to observe, record, and analyze the radiation on the surface of Mars. To do so, our design includes: a telescopic lens, 4 silicon semiconductor detectors, and a plastic scintillator. For our design, and to save you reading the entirety of Wikipedia articles, the semiconductor works like a CCD camera, basically a grid of cells (pixels) which capture the radiation as it strikes the device. This radiation is converted to electricity which flows along the detector and the information about this energy is logged by a computer. The plastic scintillator works much the same way, but more like a Geiger counter. This is used to study any neutrons which strike the device. As they do, they excite the plastic, which lights up and information concerning this is guessed it, to the computer. We had to do a lot of research for this project, and we learned a lot not only about radiation, which was my choice for choosing the project, but we also learned about the instrumentation involved and what factors contributed to a good design. It was a good stepping stone for me, learning more about Mars, radiation, and the tools we use to work/understand our universe. I am very proud of how it turned out, and I am more confident about my choices and my designs. I want to especially thank my colleague, Natasha Gadkari, for her diligence, hard work, and constant motivation. Without Natasha, this project would be greatly lacking and I would not have enjoyed the process as I did.

For Mech design, the magnetorquer, which some of you may remember from my previous posts, is going well. We have come about as far as we can without assistance from the school/the YU Laboratory. We have completed a lot of materials research, and have brought this device very close to space-standards. Currently, we have a prototype, made of enameled magnet wire and stainless steel. It is less than 1 cm in diameter, and 7 cm in length. With this, we have requested the aid of our professor for testing. As our current design stands, it is both over performance and under cost. Further work needs to be done to test the device, and the exact method of mounting it to the frame of a small-satellite has yet to be resolved, but we are close. Additionally, at this stage, we believe the performance and mass requirements would be better met with the use of a material known as Permalloy. Unfortunately, this material is also quite expensive. However, we have simplified and shown that the implementation and manufacture processes are quite simple and inexpensive, so even with the purchase of custom ordered parts, we believe our magnetorquer will be less expensive than European parts and will still perform as expected. Anyway, tomorrow we present our prototype and I sincerely hope they are impressed and aid us in completing the process as it would be nice to contribute to a working satellite!

Other than that, I have exams, assignments, and lab reports due. Nothing too exciting, for the moment, on which to report, but lots for me to do. Thanks for reading, and I'll "see" you next time.