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.

Monday, 25 June 2012

My 100th post! A near-year in review...

It's time for another amazing blog update by me, and guess what? It's my 100th blog post! So, what to do, what to write about? Well, beyond the norm of telling you what's been going on recently, I'd like to reflect on my life since my first post.

My first post was released on August 17th, 2011, with just an introduction to this blog. Since then, I have learned so much and grown at an astonishing rate. Not physically, that would be awkward and would have cost me a lot of money. No, emotionally and intellectually, the former cost me a bit of mirth, the latter still cost me money but was worth it.

Since that first post, I have had one of the most excruciating, exhilarating, frustrating, and wonderful near-years of my life. As many of you have probably seen, I have been incredibly busy with my engineering degree. I have learned so much and worked on so many interesting and informative projects. I really came into my own this year, and idioms aside, I really felt like an engineer this year. In years past, I did what professors assigned, and wasn't inspired too much in-class. I felt I had to go outside of the courses I was taking and projects I was working on and explore what I wanted out of engineering. Don't get me wrong, I had some pretty cool professors and classes, but this year really made me feel like I was responsible for something.

The skills I developed and put to use, and the technical expertise I acquired have made me feel a lot better about this career choice. Never have I truly doubted this choice, but when I looked to my friends and saw artists, authors-to-be, designers, I finally looked to myself and saw an engineer. (He says while wearing this shirt.)

It felt good to finally see that. All my life, I have had a vague but pointed idea of where I was going and what I would end up doing. I was inventing at age 5 and my favourite saying was always, "Wouldn't it be cool if [insert invention]?" to my mother's chagrin. But, it was nice to have that confidence and experience grow to the point where if someone said something engineering-related, I could not only contribute but consider myself experienced enough in some matters to even clarify and debate points. My first couple of years of schooling did not do this except to give me a crazy understanding of calculus. But, now, I feel like I've worked in the leather that is the jacket of engineering, and it not only fits, it fits well!

Sadly, I do not have the ring yet; I have 3 courses left to take and then I will have graduated. That leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it is what it is, and I'm okay with it.

By the way, if you haven't been following along, you can find all my engineering-related activities and blog posts here.

Anything worth doing will take effort. No sacrifice, no victory, as I'm reminded from time to time. And I certainly felt like I was sacrificing a lot this year. When I look back, it wasn't really so bad. So, I locked myself in my room half, or more than half, of the time and barely saw my friends or spoke with family. They understand; they wouldn't be so close with me still if they didn't. So, the amount of stress added in my life was incredibly depressing at times, so what? Honestly, stress is like a heavy burden I've come to not only carry, but appreciate. It keeps me focused, and protects me from rusting away. It's a part of life, and I've really improved my ability to handle these situations. I am now more confident than ever before about my ability to handle my career.

It took a lot out of me this year, and this only added to some of the emotional changes occurring concurrently.

I cannot really peg down my emotional ups and downs to any one event. I could probably guess, but I think it was a combination of factors which I had not foreseen being so bad. With change, comes growth, and the reverse is also true. I think that I grew a lot, as I mentioned, and this happened so quickly as to cause me some stress over handling it. Friends drifted apart or became closer, and I don't mean purely in distance, people were growing up, and life was moving forward, as standard physics would like us to think. All I can really say is that I had more emotional downs than ups during these past 10 months than before and while unfortunate, I still count myself as lucky. I've seen others have it worse, and other than some shifting around of emotions in my first year of university, I've been free of the emotional entanglement of drama, until this past year. Usually, I am the first to react to change. I'm stubborn, but only when I need to be. I try to adapt quickly, and work to suit my environment, but this year, I think part of me was reluctant to let go, to move forward. I don't know why, perhaps because I was comfortable with how things were, or worried about what was yet to come, but for whatever reason, I struggled, and eventually, after toiling, living in denial, and a considerable amount of help from friends and family, I moved forward.

For those who don't know me so well, let me just say that if it isn't clear by now, all of this is purely internal and not as bad as it sounds. I have a habit of coming across too seriously in what I say sometimes, and this might be one of those times. Ask anyone who's ever had this conversation with me:

[me] "Hey, umm, we need to talk."
[Anyone] "Is it serious? Are things okay?"
[me] "It's not serious, well, it's important. Okay. I think we should see the movie on Friday instead of Saturday." (Or some other similarly trivial situation.)

Anyway, the way I go about life is to have a steady little rock of who I am. A core. And the rest adapts around the world and what's going on. I think I had to take another look at my core, and do a bit of reprogramming, haha. Like I said, it's been for the best, and I think I'm a lot stronger, and more confident about myself and how I interact with the world. I think going to university tried to alter me, change me from being introverted in the sense of relying on myself for the final word, to being more extroverted and relying on the opinions of others. While I have no problem seeking the council of my friends and family, at the end of the day, I have to be confident in myself and what I want to do, and I have to live and work with that.

That might not have made as much sense to you as it does to me. Let me Hulk-language it for you in chronological order: Dallas sad. Dallas not know what to do. Dallas think. Dallas think. And think. And talk. And think. Dallas realize he cool guy. Dallas better. Dallas thanks friends and family. Dallas thanks himself.

haha, sorry, I'm trying to mix up the pathos here. So, let's move on to lighter topics.

In entertainment news, I have absorbed quite a lot, and more than I've even blogged about. Books, films, comics, video games, I've been decently successful at keeping myself balanced by enjoying activities and hobbies outside of engineering. I watched and reviewed the entirety of Smallville, found here, something I really wanted to do and something I felt it was necessary to do, at least for me and my love of Superman.

I've watched and reviewed Chuck, seen here, and while a shorter review and series, it was a bright point in this last year. I grew to not only love the show, but the friendship which grew from it. Before this show, I had been friends with this guy I know, but this year offered us more of a chance to really get to know each other. Time at the gym, time spent hanging out when we could, there was just more opportunity to get to know this individual and part of it centred around Chuck, because while we couldn't hang out too often due to our busy lives, we could always quickly message each other about the show or occasionally watch it together.

I even got to go to my first Comic Con, and when I did, not only did I get to meet and have my picture taken with Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis, and John DeLancie from Star Trek, but I was able to get not one but TWO autographed photographs from Adam Baldwin from Chuck and Firefly/Serenity! It was exactly what I needed to frame my friendship and it was a perfect moment which I will never forget.

Speaking of the gym, while I was busier than ever this year, I managed to take on more than I had before. It's funny how that is always the way; the busier you are, the busier you'll become. But aside from the gym, twice a week with a steady and vigorous workout, I also joined a fencing club and an aikido dojo. I talk about them a little here. While I didn't get into the parkour I had mentioned in that post, I really didn't skimp out on anything else. I saw an incredible boost of confidence, energy, coordination, and strength this year.

From fencing, I learned endurance and I learned how to strike with precision. From being at the gym, I learned that I was stronger than even I knew, and I learned how better to coordinate my body to do what I wanted and needed to get done. Before this year, I hated gyms, and I resigned myself to being more of a stubborn guy than one who was innately strong. All my life prior, I knew I could lift as much as anyone else, but gave more credit to my heart than to my muscles. While this is good, this past year in the gym taught me more about my body and shown that while I may be skinny, and may appear lanky, my heart and brain aren't the only muscles ready to act and grow.

From aikido, I learned so, so much. It was an entirely new thing for me and I really had to rethink how I stood, how I moved, how I thought. The best way to describe aikido is to imagine a rock moving through fast-moving water. Now, that rock can just sink, or it could bounce off the bottom, or that rock could angle itself so as to move with the current, or use the flow to even oppose the current's motion. That is what aikido was like for me. I had to learn how to stand. I had to learn how to move. I had to re-learn balance and make connections between my mind and body which had never existed before. It was an incredible experience and I hope to continue it when I can.

Sadly, I had to stop all three physical acts of training in April. Exams and final projects were getting too much for me and I simply did not have the time to travel to and from anything other than my lab at school. It's a little sad, but it was necessary, and I know that I can get back into it with little to no problems. Like that rock, I can move with the current.

Another reason I cannot and did not take those activities back up has to do with the largest, and most recent of changes.

I moved to Edmonton! For those unaware, if there are any, you can find out the details here. I wanted and needed a change, and I've been looking for technical work and experience in Toronto for over a year with no luck. I tried my luck out west, and I have a job working with Shaw.

While not exactly what I wanted to be doing, it's a start. Shaw seems to be a great company to work for, and I've been enjoying it so far. I'm learned a little about the business, and combining my years of customer service experience with something a little more technical has been great. It pays well, and while the 6 weeks of training I have to go through seems excessive, I'm being paid for every minute of it, and I like that I will be learning pretty much how everything at Shaw works.

While not at work, I have been enjoying a little sightseeing here in Alberta. Not much, as I have limited time and money, but what I have seen here has been awesome. You can follow that here. I have already seen animatronic dinosaurs, a pirate ship and amusement park in a mall, a beautiful skyline, a beautiful university campus with bunnies and rock gardens, and some of the local culture here in Edmonton.

Most recently, things have settled down a little. Work is becoming a routine, albeit a decent one. My apartment is more or less settled, as I finally was able to acquire and have some furniture delivered. And while I haven't been too adventurous as of late, I'm enjoying the time between grand adventures. I've reconnected with an old friend, and our time together has been exceptional! She has really helped make this move smooth for me, and I thank her not only for that, but for her patience, her company, and her support.

I've been playing more video games, board games, and reading. I've really missed reading, as school left no time for it, and my brain has been absorbing every bit of literature it can. It's awesome!

Wednesday, my favourite video game ever is updating, featuring a video about my favourite class in that game, the Pyro. More information can be found here. (Wow, there are a lot of links on this page.) I am very excited for that and hope to catch some of my friends online as I miss them and miss playing this game with them in the days of yore.

I've been using my breaks at work to write letters, although I forgot to get stamps today so I won't be mailing them until tomorrow. I've been enjoying the practice and discipline of writing them and I've also been enjoying the looks of amusement and confusion as they see me handwriting my letters. "Who writes letters anymore? Better yet, who handwrites them?" I do, because I'm awesome.

I've also been drawing! For anyone who knows me and only read this part, you might think someone had hacked my blog. I avoided drawing like the plague. Not because I hated it, but because I was never satisfied with what I could do. But, I made a promise to myself, and I have taken a sketch book with me to work and have been drawing off and one for about two weeks now.

In a related note, I finally managed to re-edit, and post my journals from the Dungeons and Dragons campaign I played in. The entirety of the story can be found here, in reverse chronological order. I wrote a journal for every session we played, and have been really proud of the result. I actually want to put a book together, featuring not only my journals, but maps, drawings, and character biographies from the game. I've been very excited for this and while it's been a long time coming, I've been making progress, slowly but surely. I even made a list of drawings I was interested in, and posted it for any potential artist to try out, if they so desired. I have heard people say they are interested in contributing but unwilling because they didn't play the game. Honestly, if that's the only thing stopping you, I would suggest not letting it. If you read the journals, you'll get a sense of the game, and if you're too busy/lazy to read the journals, a fresh perspective is always appreciated. Plus, you're probably better at this whole drawing thing than I am, no matter what you think, and I would be honoured, truly, if you gave it a shot. For that list, you can check it out here.

Finally, and fantastically, I have seen this blog grown in readership! Honestly, I could not have expected such an outcome. I fear I am too pensive and analytical and that my blog would be viewed only by me and those who I made read it. But, as my topics grew more interesting, and effort put into this blog increased, so too has my number of views.

My all-time record, with the top 10 countries is as follows:
Canada               2290

United States       616

Russia                  236

Germany                94

Ukraine                  80

United Kingdom    56

Brazil                     21

South Korea           18

India                       15

France                     13

And I've had views from all over the place. Countries big and small, near and far, it's been amazing, and I thank you all for it. I try to entertain and add a little bit to every day, but I understand how this blog is not for everyone, and even those who follow it might not necessarily care about my personal life. In that respect, I apologize for boring you here and there, but I thank you for your support, and I promise to work harder to keep you interested.

I have been invited out to see a little more of Edmonton. Nothing too extraordinary, just a pub. But, it should be fun, and with an imaginative cape-flourish, I am out the door!

-Thanks for reading!

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