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.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Three Years of Blogging and 20 000 Pageviews

Hello hello! This is a very special blog post! So much is happening, and I'm happy to share it with you! Two days ago, my blog hit over 20 000 pageviews! I thought I'd start by reflecting a little on my past, talking about my present, and discussing how I'll be interning for NASA soon. So click that "Read More" or just scroll down as the adventure is about to continue!

My first blog post was on August 17th, 2011. Beginning with a tentative "Hello", I was still deep in my studies, and my posts were short and sweet, discussing something I had read, or something I liked.

I was living in Toronto, just moved into an apartment with two of my closest friends, and ready to begin another year of my Bachelor's degree at York University. Friends and family were doing well, and I was incredibly busy, but enjoying life.

In September, one of my closest friends moved very far away. Starting a Masters of Archaeology in Oxford, England, she set out on an incredible adventure. I was very happy for her, but I missed my friend as well. I have to admit that it took more than my usual effort and logic to work my way through that situation, but with time, patience, and effort on both sides, I am happy to say that we are still friends, regardless of the distance.

Around November, two notable things happened. The first is that I decided to post more engineering content on my blog. My original goal here was to create an online portfolio so that employers may have a chance to know more about me, should they wish to, but until then I hadn't worked out how best to deliver. Starting with a post about radiation detection on Mars, it is a tradition I have worked on since; updating you all about my work and progress in my career.

The second notable event was that I chose to extend my Bachelor degree. Owing to scheduling, the only way I was going to graduate that year was to do 7 classes at once. Realizing it would be better to do well rather than graduate quickly, I extended my degree. This left me with a strange 8 month gap between classes, but I had time to figure that out. For the moment, I concentrated on making the choice the best one by excelling in my classes.

In between class projects, I uploaded tales from the Dungeons and Dragons campaign entitled, "In Search of Fate", or "Ori". I had played this game for over 2 years with friends, and it was a roller coaster thrill ride. To this day, I think about those characters, their adventures, and what I have learned from them. I have learned a few interesting things: don't mess with a sorcerer, don't try to put one Heward's Handy Haversack's into another, the power of true friendship, and how to trust my senses.

Around this point, in early 2012, I began seriously looking westward. Trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my 8 months off class, I realized I should be working, somewhere different, and someplace which would pay me more, and maybe require some engineering skill. I was also suffering from anxiety. While I am normally able to handle my feelings, and those of others, quite well, I was suffering from what I will call over-empathy. With the stresses of school, and some personal matters, I began taking on everyone else's problems and concerns. If my friend didn't like something, I would feel anxious on their behalf. It was not a fun time.

Friends and family were always a positive constant, and I am truly thankful for their support as I don't think I would have been successful without them. Interestingly, while I was missing one friend for moving far away, I became closer to another friend, irregardless of the distance.

A friend of mine, who played the sorceress in the Ori game, moved back home to western Canada later in the previous year. We had been friends for years, but we were both on opposite sides of the friend group. We interacted a lot, but always with 5-20 other people. When she moved away, I realized that I missed her. In a time of stress, she was an aloof, objective voice, truly seeing things from the outside.

My friends and I started a D&D blog, which we have continued to this day. I haven't written much lately, but I enjoy the collaboration.

In April, I celebrated my 25th anniversary of my birth! It was a very special day for me, as it always is. My friendship with the girl out west had grown into something more, and I learned there were more prospects for lucrative employment out there, so I was moving out to Alberta for some time.

It was news which I'm sure was bitter-sweet to those in central Canada. Many questioned my reasons, many stated they would miss me. Was I moving out there for a girl? No. I was moving because I needed a change, I needed to get away and re-group, centre, re-focus. I also needed money and despite looking for months and months, I hadn't found anything worthwhile for me in Toronto. Now, was I moving out there for a girl? Yeah. I could have gone anywhere, but I chose Edmonton because I knew someone there, someone I wanted to know better. But, I had worked it out in my mind, and I knew that it was a move I wanted to make. I have always been cautious, but it was time to try something new.

Printing every great photo I could find of my friends, I covered the walls of my apartment with them. I bought over 100 balloons and I asked my friends to dress in fancy clothes. With music, food, suits and dresses, we celebrated in style. I Skyped with my family and far-away friends, to the west, and to the East. One of my friends completely blocked my door with my balloons, I received some amazing gifts, and my friends were full of hugs and kisses. It was an incredibly sweet day, and makes me appreciative of the people in my life.

I got through the last month of classes and projects relatively unscathed. I worked on a project at the Algonquin Radio Telescope, controlling a 46 metre antenna, and completed an exciting engineering project where I worked with two others to create an autonomously mapping GPS/IMU device. I was feeling like an adult, and proud to be an engineer.

In May, just before I moved, I went to my first ComicCon! It was Ottawa's first ComicCon, and the first convention for my family and it was Mother's Day, how exciting! It was an incredible day, full of amazing pictures, great exhibits, and we got photographs and autographs from amazingly friendly stars. I have those pictures on my wall right now. I met Adam Baldwin, who smiled at my story and gave me an extra photograph, for free, signed to my friend. I met Data, Q, and Deanna Troi from Star Trek and had a picture taken with them with my mom and sister. My whole family enjoyed the convention and looked forward to the next one!

Landing in Edmonton, everything moved quickly. It was a beautiful summer, and I really enjoyed my time there. I spent half of it at work, as a Technical Support rep at Shaw Cable, and the other half with my friend. We enjoyed nights of going out, board games, and staying in to watch TV. I powered through Game of Thrones that summer, to this day associating the show with pizza, and enjoyed many of the sites Alberta has to offer.

I saw dinosaurs: real, plaster, and animatronic. I read Game of Thrones, and many other books, and beat Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. I was refocusing, but still, things weren't quite aligned.

My friend and I flew back East for an August long weekend camping party. It was a wonderful time! I reunited with my family, helped my Mom buy my Dad a telescope for their anniversary, saw both sides of my family again, and had a fantastic weekend camping with friends! Sure, half of them were stung by bees toward the end, but I think we can look back on that weekend with smiles. My friends Brandy and Jason were noticeably closer than I had ever seen them, showing confidence and happiness. I was happy for them. I was happy in my relationship, things were good.

And then summer ended.

The summer ended, and so too did my relationship. She was going back into graduate school and, well, there was some disagreement between she, her parents, and me. They seemed to think I wasn't on the same level as her, with my incomplete Bachelor degree status, and while she and I knew the relationship was likely not going to last, she chose to end it abruptly. Objectively, this should have been expected, as it had happened with her before, but it hurt, and it wasn't the best way to handle things, in my opinion. I moved out, into my actual apartment which had sat mostly unused during the summer.

Life was pretty dismal after that.

I was living alone in my apartment, far away from friends and family. But I had a job, and I wanted to get away, right? I spent a good month just feeling down, life reflecting art as I watched Chuck sit on his couch and eat sadly while his girlfriend left.

Then something happened.

Not sure how, but everything clicked. I was still a little sad, but I also realized that now was the time I could get things done. I had an easy job, with a set schedule, and nothing else to do. Productivity knocked, and I answered. I took down my closet door, bought two sawhorses and made a drafting table. I toured the local libraries, finding one using my sense of smell, (thanks to my training in Ori), and began understanding what I wanted to do with my life.

I have always been interested in space. Other kids had dinosaurs, I had planets, comets, and spaceships. I told my parents I wanted to work for NASA when I was older, and now that I was older, I realized that I wanted to help humans explore space. I realized this is what I've always wanted to do, but the more urgent stress of everyday life clouded my judgement.

I found my mojo, got my groove back, and read every book on space radiation and designing for it Edmonton had to offer. Space radiation would be the next obstacle to exploring space, and I wanted to be on the forefront of helping us get out there! I felt better, looked back on things and learned a lot about myself and the power of friendship. I moved back home feeling like a finely crafted sword, burned and tempered by the fires and hammering stresses of life. I knew what I wanted, and in life, that usually means I'm halfway there.

I went to Cuba with my family that Christmas! We had a wonderful time! My grandmother who normally refuses to leave her room, sat on the beach with a hat on her head and a smile on her face. I became a certified scuba diver, and saw a beautiful underwater world reminding me of "20 000 leagues under the Sea", and spent some well-needed time with my family.

I began to get serious with my career. I posted blog posts on how to get into orbit, what to do once you're there, and how to move about it in space. My blog's popularity rose, and I was inspired to work even harder. School was a breeze. It was giving me the tools to succeed and I soaked it up like a sponge. I looked to the future. I looked to graduate school.

My options were limited in Canada. It is a great country, but the Masters programs were too generic for me. They're great for helping you become an engineer, but I wanted to become a space engineer. I didn't care about the civil industry, I was looking a little higher. A friend showed me a website,, which helped me learn of the International Space University, among others. I applied, and worked, and waited.

I graduated from York University, finally earning my Bachelor of Applied Sciences, specialized Honours in Space Engineering! My convocation was nice, but I felt removed from it, as I was thinking about the future. Trying to live in the moment, it was the presence of my friends and family which brought me back. I celebrated the 26th anniversary of my birth and, for the first time in years, did so with my family. For the past few years, I had always been stuck working on exams and assignments and it was too difficult for my family and I to make the time to make the trip to see each other. We had a relaxing, quiet couple of days, which I enjoyed.

I became accepted into the International Space University! I was incredibly excited and scared; happy for the opportunity but unsure how to afford it. I worked hard to get everything in order, and also to make the most of my time. I spent more time with friends, yet enjoyed living on my own. Had some wonderful dinner dates with friends, and played D&D every week. I worked at the Toronto Island Marina, enjoying the company and familiarity of the job, while continuously reading and writing, preparing for France.

The last month in Canada was a blur. After discussing the matter with family, I had several friends and family members come to my aid. I am very grateful for their support; it is incredibly heartwarming to know that I have so many people ready to support me and I work hard to make sure that I am just as available and that I make the most of the experience. I had farewell parties, but I was not sad. I was starting a new adventure, and my time in Edmonton had prepared me. I knew I could live on my own, and I knew that distance was not insurmountable; I had it in me to sustain my relationships over great distances.

The last 8 months in Strasbourg, France, have moved incredibly quickly. The excitement of arrival was quickly replaced with the stress of school. The ISU schedule is very intense, and I have worked on more projects simultaneously here than ever before. I was studying, reading, attending meetings, and taking on as much responsibility as I could handle, and then some.

Socially, I was struggling, or rather, I was apathetic. It took quite a lot of effort to get me here, and I wanted to excel. I have always struggled with balancing my work life and my social life, and for the first 6 months here, I just avoided the social life altogether. This may not have been the best choice, but at the time I felt it was necessary to get me through the day. I missed my family, I missed my friends, and I buried myself in my work.

Living with an Indian roommate, and working with students from various backgrounds, has taught me a lot. I have worked to improve my communication skills, patience, compassion, and understanding. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I am more comfortable in situations involving various backgrounds, and I have learned how to listen and pay more attention to my surroundings.

Early in the program, my friends Brandy and Jason got married! I was sorry to miss it, but it was unavoidable. They understood, as always, but I was not satisfied. They are some of my closest friends, and I have known them since before they started dating. We had drifted back and forth over the years but they have a special place in my heart and I was very upset that I could not stand by their side. Their wedding not only looked like a special day, but one of incredible fun. Once again, they understood, but it was something which didn't settle for me for some time.

I visited my friends Marco and Meredith in York, UK! It was a quick, exciting trip. I saw the beautiful city of York, with its Minster and city walls, I met some new friends, (hi Jim, if you're reading this), enjoyed Halloween, saw Buckingham Palace at 5am, and was glad to have been reunited with my friends for the first time in over a year.

Projects, assignments, work, work, work at the ISU. I took a quick trip with my roommate and our friend Adrian to Frankfurt, Germany. It was a lovely trip, and the hospitality of the Eilingsfeld family was impressive.

International culture nights gave us all a chance to sample some cuisine, music, and perspectives of other cultures. I met Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, cooked Cottage (Shepherd's) Pie for everyone, and enjoyed three Christmasses, one in Strasbourg, one at home with family, and one in Toronto with friends. Things moved quickly, but I did my best to live in, and enjoy, every moment.

Back in France, working extremely hard on our team project. Being a Project Manager was stressful, but it was also exciting to be at the centre of the action! My sleep and eating schedule were drastically disturbed, and I practically lived at the school.

Took a quick trip to Frankfurt again, this time with more friends to see Destination Star Trek Germany! It was a fantastic weekend, devoid of work, stress, and emails. We watched The Best of Both Worlds Star Trek episodes, and nerded out by meeting LeVar Burton, and taking photos on a replica Enterprise-D bridge! I felt refreshed, and closer with these people, finally giving them a chance, and letting down one of the many metaphorical walls I kept between myself and them.

Shortly afterward, I went to Moscow, Russia! Spent a week touring the sites, seeing space history, and spending time with friends. Switched roommates for the week and laughed more than I had in some time. The key difference here was that I allowed myself to. I tend to live life entirely too seriously, but it is my default mode, reinforced when stressed. I allowed myself to relax, to smile, to be social, while in Russia, and this helped bridge the gap between the rest of my ISU peers and myself. It was an amazing experience and I am very thankful that I went. Russia's love of space equals my own and it was inspiring to see monuments everywhere dedicated to human space exploration.

Coming back, I felt stressed again, but I was able to bounce back. I had made friends, and I allowed myself to smile more. Then I heard two pieces of news which made me smile more and more.

My friends Mike and Sarah got engaged!

They have been dating for some time, and I have many good things to say, but I will hold off for now, because I was asked to be Mike's Best Man! It is an honour, and one I take very seriously. I have known them both for some time, and Mike is my closest and best friend. In a world where I am gifted with many glorious friends, the bond we have goes beyond. There are many details to plan, and I look forward to helping in any and every way I can.

The next piece of news...

I will be interning at NASA's Johnson Space Center this summer!

Working with the ISU network, I was able to discover a NASA project involving active radiation shielding. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that space radiation will be a limiting factor for long duration, deep space human space exploration and I want to help protect future missions. My individual project at the ISU involves galactic cosmic radiation (GCR), and evidence directs me to believe that material shielding will be less than effective. Ideas have been around for some time for active radiation shielding, which is the use of electromagnetic fields to deflect the radiation before it can strike spacecraft. I will discuss this in more detail in later posts.

But, the fact is, I found an active radiation shielding project at NASA, and I will be working there! I feel like I am running out of words here, but it truly will be an incredible opportunity! I will be working at Mission Control for the ISS, learning and working with the people who actually design things for space. Plus, it's NASA! Just adding that name to your résumé can be a great boost to your career. I look forward to working hard, having fun, and jump-starting my career. I have always been passionate about space, and I wouldn't want to work in any other industry. I am very fortunate to have found and made this opportunity for myself, and am thankful for all the help I had along the way.

I also discovered that two of my classmates, Adrian, and fellow Canadian Alix, will also be at Johnson this summer. It will be nice to have friends close by and this opens up options for perhaps living together.

Looking ahead, I am not sure exactly where I'll be. I want to do a Ph.D., working on developing this active radiation shielding, but I am not sure where. There are many groups interested in this research, and I have begun reaching out, trying to discover if I have a place there. Once again, I know what I want to do, which means I'm halfway there, now I just have to find a place to study or work. I am sure things will fall into place, once I get past the stressful ISU deadlines and work more on securing my future.

I turn 27 years old in a few days. True to form, I will likely be postponing my party. I always want to spend the entire day just doing what I want and currently, I do not have the time. Major projects and exams are approaching and I have a hard time relaxing when there is work to be done. In a few weeks, when the stress level drops somewhat, I will take the time I thoroughly deserve. And I will spend that time re-connecting with friends, here as well as in Canada, and family.

It has been a wonderful journey, these past few years. I have tried to creatively share my adventures with you, and I hope you have enjoyed the experience. This blog has been a welcome diversion, a creative outlet, a space with which to connect, and a great opportunity to share my thoughts, work, and adventures. I am thankful to each and every person who has affected my life, and appreciative of all the love and support I have been given.

I always joke with people that "I have been a 40 year old man since I was 5 years old", meaning that I have always been serious, mature, and a little too responsible at times. That being said, it is exciting to be starting my career, and making real, observable progress and achievements in my field. I look forward to the next few years when I can establish myself fully within the international space community and, well, begin paying off my debts.

Here's to you (for being there, for reading this, and bringing me over 20 000 pageviews), here's to me, and here's to another exciting couple of years together!

1 comment:

  1. I'm very proud of you Dad love dad.