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.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Talking to Canadians?

A friend of mine posed an interesting question to me today: Why are Canadians so offended when mistaken as Americans?

While the topic has been covered many times, I thought it made good practice so here are some of my thoughts:

The Dissociative Principle
I don't know about you, but I dislike being thought of or referred to as anything that isn't me. I had a hard time with nicknames growing up, not because they were embarrassing but because they were not my name. I'm still this way, although less so. Even being referred to in a positive, inaccurate manner bothers me as it feels like I'm living a lie.

Sibling Rivalry
Canada and the United States are the children of the British empire and sometimes brothers don't get along. The US, being the older brother, went his own way and forged his own destiny. Mother England wasn't too happy but that's okay. Canada, the quieter child, fought in a different way and managed to strike out on its own, but maybe that which keeps us a loving colony of England also keeps us separated from the US.

Commonly mistaken enough to annoy
Maybe it's just circumstance. We share a lot in common, especially media and cultural connections, and we do live right next door. We speak the same language and both countries arguably have similar foundations and whether it be a mixed salad or melting pot, we add a lot of global culture to our own. So, being mistaken must be quite common. And, just as common, people are annoyed for being thought of as someone or something else. Even if you love your brother it'd be annoying to be mistaken for him or referred to as simply his brother.

The United States of America has a rich history full of colourful characters and has been a powerfully active global presence since its inception. For good or ill, the perceptions that people have of "Americans" will be clear and possibly extreme. Perhaps Canadians are not prepared to face thse opinions.

Canada has had an equally impressive history but we seem to be quieter about it. We didn't fight a war for independence, we signed some paperwork and had, in comparison, minor squirmishes. We have been active members in events of world history but we don't seem to make our presence as known, even to our own people.

I have heard Canada's identity labelled as a case of "not being". We're not British, we're not "American", but what does it mean to be Canadian? While an interested question, it is not one I wish to pursue right now. Suffice it to say, Canadians seem to have a harder time identifying what is our own unique culture and so, it seems, does the rest of the world. Perhaps, the sprawling geography and mixed salad approach contribute to that but the long story short is: we don't know what we are, but we know what we are not.

Finally, you may have noticed that I wrote "American" with quotation marks and that I painfully attempted to not even use the term. Why? Well, technically, Canadians live in North America, and anyone in North or South America could claim to be an American. I've often had trouble with only the one country using the term but it's my own foible.

I suppose with my move to France, I will experience this mistaken identity quite often. As always, I will smile, shake my head, and politely proclaim that I'm from Canada, in true Canadian fashion.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Why Would I Want to be a Space Engineer? Part 2

Sometimes, the question is asked negatively, as in, why would I waste my time in this field? Space missions are expensive, the avenues for employment, let alone advancement are small, and the pay is not out of this world. *insert Fozzie Bear laugh* There are problems here on the ground, why look elsewhere?

Well, for the first few concerns, just because something is difficult does not mean I should avoid it. I enjoy a challenge. While space missions can be difficult and expensive, so are most things until some brilliant people, luck, and hard work come along to make it easier. We have space missions and rocket launches running every day, all around the world and you are reading this post thanks to a few of them.

Financial reward has rarely been a concern for me. I chose this career because it's what I want to do, not because I had a set salary in mind. I come from a modest background and enjoy productivity and proper compensation. If I'm making what I feel entitled to be making, I'll be happy, and well off, I know it.

There are many problems here on Earth, problems I'm interested in working on, but I still think space engineering holds some answers.

The two areas I'm currently most interested in are: spacecraft design, and protection from the space environment. The first will force me to consider designs which are better performing, cheaper, more resilient, and more energy/material efficient. Once I learn and apply those practices, I'll be better equipped to apply them here in Earth. A better waste reduction system is needed both in space and here on Earth. A more efficient air recyling and purifying system will be needed everywhere soon if we're not lucky. So, while I could focus my sights here to the problems of Earth, space is my muse so I'll continue to let it inspire me.

I chose this career, and cannot see myself deviating from this course, because I enjoy the challenges, risks, and rewards, and because it inspires me.

Finally, I think John F. Kennedy sums it up very well right here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What is a Space Engineer?

I've had some interesting reactions from people when I tell them about my career plans.

Some raise an eyebrow, unsure they had heard me correctly. I don't blame them, it's not often you hear people who say they want to be a space engineer and on top of that, what is a space engineer?

I don't make it any easier, really, as I refuse to don the more commonly known title of "rocket scientist". Such a title is limiting and confusing to me as it is and I have a weird reluctance to apply a label unless it is incredibly accurate.

So, what is a "space engineer"?

Short answer: here.

Longer answer, onward.

It is not someone who makes space, although I have made that joke before, and it's not someone who designs space, although I do that in my spare time.

A space engineer is a person who designs, tests, and builds products to be used in outer space. While a civil engineer focuses on buildings, transportation, and all that is needed here on the ground, space engineers concerns themselves with objects which need to work in space.

While we share the same physical, scientific, and engineering design background, we apply it differently. A space engineer works on satellites, rovers, comminications systems and sometimes, rockets.

We learn about the physical environment of space, the dangers to equipment and people, the successes and failures of the past, and the limits of the present.

Our field is growing, expensive, innovative, and sometimes a little removed from the daily concerns here on Earth.

In later posts, I'll reflect upon the positives and negatives of my field but while my job title might say "Systems Specialist" or "Project Coordinator", space engineer will always remain the most accurate for me.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Why Would I Want to be a Space Engineer?

Another question I get asked often is, "Why do you want to be a space engineer?" It's an excellent question, if asked correctly.

It is important to know why you do what you do and I have given my career a lot of thought. The short answer is that, oddly enough, space is where I think I can benefit the people of Earth the most. By learning about other worlds, we are forced to re-evaluate our own. By designing for such strange environments, we come to appreciate our own. And by exploring the final frontier, we push the boundaries of what is possible which leads to exciting innovations both here and in space.

I grew up on science fiction from the likes of H. G. Wells, Clarke, Asimov, and Roddenberry. I explored the depths of time and space, and imagined a brighter future for humanity. I've always been a dreamer but I enjoy making dreams a reality.

I chose to be a space engineer because I thought that I could combine a love of exploration and discovery with the pursuit of bettering humanity as a whole. Big, idealistic dreams, but ones worth having.

I know that I'll never stop learning but I'm excited to finish my Masters program at the International Space University in France. The connections I will make, the things I will learn, and the experiences I will have will make me better equipped to understand the real limits of this industry and to be better positioned to incorporate the spirit of my dreams within and beyond those limits.

Currently, my two areas of focus are protecting human crews from the space environment and learning how international policy is helping/hurting the space industry. Stay tuned in the months to come for more thoughts of theory made practice.

Woohoo Trivia and Taking Time

Last night, I went out with a friend to partake in a Simpsons trivia event at the Cadillac Lounge. (Search for Woohoo Trivia Toronto, I'll post a link soon)

We were a team of two looking for a group to join since others had bailed.

We arrived early, grabbed a table, and I grabbed food while she coordinated and got our team together.

Finally, we were assembled, a team of 6-7 which changed over the course of the night but were all united in two specific ways: our love of the Simpsons and the fact that we were all strangers. We were all friends of this someone or that who knew a guy who wasn't there but somehow brought us all together.

It was an enjoyable experience in many ways. The event consisted of three rounds of trivia with episodes of the Simpsons in between. A host asked questions and we marked the score sheets of other teams when she gave the answers. There was beer, laughter, and quoting all over the place as the pub's passions ignited in a way not seen since the Stonecutters.

I work quite a lot, and I usually work weird hours. So it was nice to be surrounded by such an enthusiastic atmosphere. And while I normally withdraw in big groups, I found myself comfortable; talking and listening.

I've been taking a "Yes" approach this summer and trying to go out as often as I can. I have been re-discovering Toronto and, as usual, myself.

I spend so much time devoted to academic and intellectual growth that I often neglect other areas. Health, be it physical, or emotional, is often tucked aside. I've been working hard to merge the important aspects of my life in order to become a more balanced, well-rounded person but excellence is a habit, not an act.

If you can, take some time for yourself today, even if that time is spent thinking about what is important to you, I promise, you'll have a better day.