Crow Photo

The other day I was brushing my teeth when I noticed a crow on a wire out the window. I thought it might be fun to test out the zoom lens on my camera, so I hastily grabbed it and rushed back to the window, hoping the bird hadn’t flown away.


As luck would have it, just as I snapped the first in a series of photos, another crow was stalling in it’s approach to join the other. I took a number of photos, but this one was by far the best. Typically I am not much of a photographer, but for whatever reason I was inspired, and pleased by the result.

I juiced up the image in photoshop with some noise and a grungy frame. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Stupid New Computer

Actually, my new computer isn’t that stupid. I have recently acquired an HP laptop that I love in nearly every way. It’s a 17” one, so it’s hefty to port around, but it is a joy to use with a big, wide screen and a full keyboard (including a number pad!).

Get this. I cannot change my home page with Internet Explorer.

This doesn’t bother me too much, because I am mostly a FireFox guy anyway, but what is with that? I can change the setting, click Apply and OK, but the homepage always reverts back to the hp web site. What is with that? It’s not even a portal! It just tells me about how I should buy more hp stuff. It has the exact opposite effect. Every time I see that site I think, maybe I should have gotten the runner-up Toshiba.

I already bought the computer. They don’t need to force the way I use my browser anymore.

I sent them a huge flame. Guess what. I have heard no response.

I am sure that there is a way around this. any advice is welcome.

Teaching at Langara College

So on a lark, I applied for a job as an instructor at Langara College.

I had heard from a number of people that teaching was fun. That the pay wasn’t bad. That I’d be good at it. That I should give it a shot.

I was terrified of the idea. I have always felt like I am a particularly self conscious person, and I have never thought of myself as a good speaker. I didn’t like the idea of being at the head of a class, a supposed authority on a subject. I’d feel like a sham. I’d actually be a sham. Furthermore, applying sounded stressful. I hadn’t had a job in over 5 years, being a freelancer, a job interview becomes one of those things you file under “things I am glad I will never have to do again”.

But then I heard about this opportunity at Langara College. They were looking for someone who could teach a course in Flash to a class of students in the Publishing program there. There was some part of me that wanted the challenge – I don’t think I would have applied if I wasn’t so scared of the possibility of actually getting the job. I wanted to apply to show myself I could do it. I wanted to be offered the job, and I wanted to be able to decline it just to prove to myself I could have had it if I wanted it.

I received an email shortly after putting in the application requesting an interview. Right on! I could go, then tell myself the money wasn’t good enough, or that I didn’t have the time, or whatever. I could give myself the ego boost of knowing that if I wanted a real job teaching, I could get it. Reading through the rest of the interview, however, it became clear that part of the process was to give a 15 minute demonstration on doing a motion tween in Flash to the hiring committee of 6 or 7 people.

Wait a second! That’s not me shmoozing my way into an offer by pouring on the big smile and the “I’ve worked with bigger clients than you” schtick. This actually involved teaching! being up in front of a bunch of eyeballs expected to talk knowledgeably. My stomach sank. This did not feel good. “I probably should just email back saying I am not interested”. That was my first thought.

I was actually in working on a show in Palm Springs when I got the email. The interview was to happen a day after I got back. This really wasn’t convenient. When would I learn how to prepare a lesson, then accomplish that same task?

Then I thought, well what’s the harm? Why not apply? If I totally blow it, I just don’t get the job. I probably won’t get it anyway. Who cares. I called up my friend Pat, He has instructed at Capilano College, at BCIT, and at a private institution in New Zealand. I asked him how to get through a fifteen minute lesson, and he told me what he usually did. Rehearse an exercise that demonstrates the task. Make a web tutorial showing how it’s done. Show it to the class and then make them do it. Simple!

I set to work in the hotel lobby on my laptop after checking out. I continued doing so at the airport while waiting for my flight. By the time I was home I had the lesson plan down pat. I wished I could just submit the plan and leave it at that. I really didn’t want to do the teaching part.

So when the interview came I was psyched up and good to go. I answered all the questions the committee asked me as well and honestly as I could. When they asked, “what are your strengths and weaknesses as an instructor”, I answered, “Well my biggest weakness would be that I have no experience teaching, at all”.

When it came time to deliver the 15 minute lesson, I was thinking there was no way I was getting this job. I thought, well, at least now I have an opportunity to see what it’s like at the front of a classroom.

I had my notes. I had rehearsed my exercise. I started teaching. I asked if there were questions. I asked if I could be heard. I cracked a self depricating joke. I got to the end and wished I had more to say. I was having fun. On my way out I thanked them for the experience. I figured I’d never see any of them again, but I had learned that teaching might not be so bad.

A few days later I was called and told I had the job. I didn’t hesitate – I knew I wanted it. I didn’t even give it a second thought.

I spent the next weeks putting together my course and realizing the levity of the responsibility I had undertaken. I still felt like a sham, and was afraid I’d deliver a lecture that would fall flat. The first one might have, I have very little memory of the event. I was so nervous I could barely see straight. The second one definitely did. Since then It’s improved steadily. I love teaching. I am trying to find a teaching job in Victoria. It’s rewarding and fun. Maybe it’s nice just to have a change, but it is really nice to be working with people who are making projects to learn and explore new knowledge, rather than just to make a buck.

It also could be my class. There are 28 students. I like them all. There isn’t one among them I’d be disappointed to learn I’d have to sit next to on a cross country flight. They work phenomenally well together – even though I haven’t assigned any group projects, I see them helping eachother out as if they were working in a group.

If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, it is that sometimes it is precisely the thing I am scared of that might be something I’d love. When I started the job application process I thought there was a good chance I’d be a terrible teacher, that I’d hate it, and that I’d regret doing it. There was something about it though – something I wanted to conquer or prove. I think I needed to prove to myself that many of my beliefs about my shortcomings are really just fear – I might have the ability to enjoy things I wouldn’t have known if I was too scared to try.

Why is this Site so Freaking Ugly?

I predict, for a while anyway, that much of my blogging will be about blogging.

This is what I do as an escape from packing.

To give myself the best opportunity to learn this CMS inside and out, I have decided to forego all premade templates for the meantime, and to just build this thing as best as I can with handcoding. I figure this wil give me the deepest understanding of how Expression Engine works, and will offer me the most genuine learning curve.

Some people play video games, I futz with stuff like this.

So I apologize, dear reader, for the meantime at least you have one ugly blog to look at. Hopefully imrovements will be coming shortly.

Finally Settled

So I decided I’d set up this blog for several reasons. One of them was because I wanted to learn to use Drupal, a common open source CMS.

A CMS (content management system), for those of you not in the know, is software that allows you to manage the content of a web site without actually creating an HTML page for every part of it that you look at. Instead, a CMS will typically store the content in a database, and construct the site “on the fly”. It will also allow the author of the site to add content much more easily, by providing him or her with a nice form-based interface that he or she can enter data into without getting all technical.

So I installed and configured Drupal, looking forward to learning a new skill. One thing I learned was that my host didn’t provide the kind of access to my database I’d need to make it work. This was a bummer, as I’d gotten it up and running, and got a fair way up the Drupal management skills learning curve. The technical support guy said I should try Joomla, another open source CMS.

So I did. It was pretty good – I might even say a lot more customizable and friendly to use than Drupal.

Here’s the thing – in the past I have had some experience using a proprietary CMS called Expression Engine. I quite liked it, but really wanted to learn something open source.

Sadly, I have been spoiled – Expression Engine is really a better way to go for me. Furthermore, there is a free version for non-commercial sites (such as this one). So I have installed it, and have given up, at least for the time being on the open source option.



I really

wanted to like Drupal and Joomla, but Expression Engine it’ll have to be.

So, this is a fresh install, and as I post it I am using the default template, so lots about this site won’t work yet. Look forward to a more pleasant browsing experience in weeks to come.

Moving to Victoria

So we are moving to Victoria, my spouse and I.

Julie (that’s the spouse) was accepted at UVic to do a Master’s degree to become a Counselling Therapist. This rocks – Julie has been working on what to do with her life for quite a while, and she’s figured out that this is what she wants to do.

She’s a natural at this job. She took a number of classes that were pre-requisite for application and enjoyed them and did well. She’s been volunteering for the last year or so doing actual counselling-type work, and my impression is that she’s really good.

So, now we move from Vancouver, where I have been since 1994, to the fair isle. Moving day is August 5.

Moving, I am remembering, is a stressful thing to do.

Much of the stress comes not so much from the task of packing and sorting all my worldly possessions, but more from the disassembly of what I used to know as home. I keep looking for my keys on the table in the living room, getting there and realizing that there no longer is a table in the living room. When something isn’t where you thought it was, that’s a little alarming, but when the thing that was under where you thought it was, the thing that was next to where you thought it was, and in fact the whole room is different from what you thought it was, this becomes very disconcerting.

Moving day is less than 2 weeks away. Perhaps a little more than half of our packing is done. I am not so much looking forward to moving to Victoria as I am to having this project behind me.

I am having a hard time imagining what the day after will be like. What time will I wake up in the morning? What will I eat for breakfast? What will I do with that day? Normally, I don’t worry about my schedule all that much, but that’s because these days it is fairly predictable.

Sometimes more than others, life is an adventure.