TEDxUW

Attending My First TEDx Conference

Two weekends ago, I attended my first TEDx Conference. Hosted by the University of Waterloo, this event was TEDxUW 2014 with the theme: Ideas worth spreading.

Now, before I go further, everyone who reads this must understand the what a TED conference is, and how it is more than just a “TED Talk” and that a TEDx Conference is a locally, and independently hosted conference that embodies the same ideas, but the event is not always hosted to the same quality of standard as the official TED conference. (This year, it is in Vancouver, my home town!)

Now that’s out of the way, let me reflect:

I first have to admit, that I have watched a lot of TED videos over the years, first being inspired by them from an Adora Svitak video about what adults can learn from children. That one gave me a lot to think about, and I took away strong themes from it that I continue to keep with me today.

I arrived at the Tannery District that morning, on a bus full of probably 10 other students all destined for the same location. It was obvious when we got off the bus, all of us, heading in the same direction, at a similar brisk walking gait. We went in, checked in, and settled into a theatre room. Oh, it was a pretty room. I counted, 7 projectors, creating a seamless projected wall. I thought it was brilliant, and one of the later speakers told us, that it was actually one of the first such systems. Nowadays, the technology is used widely.

We first went off to a breakfast area, where all the participants mingled. I went around some tables, said ‘hi’ to people, and that was it. Typical breakfast reception, with pastries and drinks, but I didn’t complain. We went back to the theatre, where there was a short performance by the UW Waterboys A cappella group, and then we began with welcome and introductions.

Starting the conference!

Starting the conference!

Rod Regier was the first to speak.

Rod is the Executive Director, Economic Development for the City of Kitchener. His talk reflected a lot upon the idea of driving development in the Downtown Kitchener area to create a livable and efficient work environment for people. He used the Tannery, where the event was conveniently hosted, as an example of the Region’s long term goals of creating a dense, but collaborative urban office space. Waterloo Region is blessed with a rich environment for start-up’s and tech companies. For the City of Kitchener to understand this, and to encourage the growth of its core, is an important part of city planning.

I don’t know if it’s that I don’t see this practice very well in some other cities. I’m sure cities do it, but the thing I find with Waterloo Region is that it acts very preemptively. It shapes it community to develop in the best possible way. In Downtown Kitchener, they redesigned their main street to create a new walkable and open environment, creating a welcoming area for citizens come out. I’ve walked down King Street, and it’s comparable to Granville Street in Vancouver (albeit Kitchener’s is a bit cleaner), or Yonge Street in Downtown Toronto (but Kitchener’s is much more walkable, and not as busy). They even close down that section of the street for festivals. That, I think is powerful — that the city is not afraid to put its citizens first, in front of the needs of vehicles. After all, we should be designing our cities for people, as we’re the ones who live in cities…..not the car.

When I came to Waterloo in 2009, I have to admit, Waterloo Region was just like a small town to me. But over the years, the place has grown on me. The fact that the transit system is constantly evolving to serve the needs of its residents, and the proactive nature of city developments has really solidified my opinion that Waterloo Region has set itself on a very good platform. And within the next decade, I can only see Waterloo Region growing into a wonderful and amazing city centre. And though I’m biased by my hometown, I can’t shake the fact, that I upon my graduation, I am actually proud to have lived in Waterloo Region during this time, and I appreciate the city, a lot, and now, so much more. I will miss Waterloo and Kitchener when I go…. but I will not forget it.

 

Our second speaker was Mike Kirkup, a Directory at Velocity.

Velocity is the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator, and is mainly a residence for entrepreneurial students. I took from his talk, the emphasize of the business of his life, and how he managed to pull everything together (with 2 jobs, 2 consulting, a family, and still manage time for the other necessities of life). As a University student, I find most of us fail at maintaining our time very well.

He said that, we should wake up early. Wake up early to plan your day, and get everything in check, Track the time that you’re spending on activities, and it allows you to address the inefficiencies, and improve. People’s perception of the time that they spend on things is hardly ever accurate about the actual time that is spent on things. Fortunately, I have found myself doing such things more often than not upon the final term of my undergraduate career. But it was mostly the result of…… wow, I no longer have time….. I need to….. figure this out. At least, I suppose it’s something I’m trying out right now, so we’ll see how it goes. However, I can almost definitely not wake up at 4:00am in the morning that Mike can….

Waking up that early allows one to get their work done before hampered by others. It’s a fresh start to the day. On the other side, staying up late, he says, that you are only fighting with your own tired self. So I see merits in his statements. But whether or not I can actually be able to uptake some of that, is a more interesting challenge.

 

After a brief conversation break, we resumed with a short acrobatic performance (with a guy who needs to be stronger — I was a bit worried at times with that much unsteadiness)

 

Dr. Josh Neufeld continued the talks.

I know Dr. Neufeld as a biology professor on our campus who was famous for his teaching and his Halloween costumes. His talk was about inoculation against diseases, and the development of our own ‘microbial garden’.

Now I know if I don’t word this correctly, I’ll be subject to debate, but I’m remembering this based on my memory, so it may not be the most correct representation.

What he talked about was our internal bacterial culture that all humans have with them. It is an integral part of our bodies, and we should be doing more to protect, and nurture it. Overuse of anti-biotics can completely destroy our internal gardens. He also said not to be afraid to let kids go out, instead of protecting them from the world. It is all a process of self-inoculation that is important for overall general health, that people often overlook.

His talk reminds me a bit of other theories such as the hygiene hypothesis, and some other theories (which had come up in discussion after his talk). There is research into this area, so I will try not to make too many judgments, but I do believe there is merit to this statements, and it is in-line with some of my beliefs as well. Society and civilization has changed really quickly in the  past number of years with technology. It is hard to predict some of the effects that are occurring to our bodies. However, I would like to at least spread Dr. Neufeld’s message, and say that, considering microbes in human health is significant, and we should be paying more attention to it.

 

The next speaker was Ginny Dybenko, the Executive Director at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus.

Her talk, in my opinion was slightly weaker, but dealt with the overabundance of technology. She argued that we, as people, mustn’t forget the human component. We are social animals, and as a part of understanding people, and working with people, we need a human element. It doesn’t work, when all we do is pay attention to our phones, and our devices.

Her stance is similar to mine in the sense that I always advocate taking a step back from this technological whirlpool, although, I always emphasize a friendship perspective, Ginny argued more towards working in the field. I believe it is something that we, as people, need to realize, and understand that technology is supposed to assist the human experience. It’s meant to improve our lives, but don’t believe that it should replace all human emotion and interaction. We owe it to ourselves to see the reality. Otherwise, it will be sad when future generations wake up…… unprepared for the world…… (arguably some already are), and wonder… why society steered them into that reality, and how… things seem to be so bleak.

 

After that, we had a lunch break, with food provided by UW Catering services. Decent food, (it wasn’t sandwiches), so I was happy. After lunch, we were presented with a TED video which was Matt Ridley’s When ideas have sex. It was a good talk. I had seen it before, so my amazement at the conference was a little low. But, maybe this is what they do at TED conferences, they reiterate some previous talks which reflect the theme of conference.

 

The next speaker, was my favorite talk of that day. Christina Marchand is a University of Waterloo Co-op student who has done humanitarian work in Uganda.

Her talk, reflected upon her experience there, and ‘minding the gap’ between the benefits of the developed world, and conditions she saw in Uganda. Her talk was moving… powerful. At times, it almost felt like she was going to cry. And I can’t say any more about her story without doing it justice. You will just have to see it yourself (unfortunately it has not been posted yet).

Her experience changed her, and she eventually she found a way to ‘mind the gap’. She is starting a company to sell luxury apparel with the idea of providing medical delivery kits for hospitals in Uganda.

Talk about a Co-op student who is extraordinary. Makes me reflect upon what I’ve done (or rather, not done) as a co-op student. It is humbling, but I am inspired with her story.

 

Following was Frank Gu, a Canada Research Chair, and assistant professor at the University of Waterloo.

His talk was one that presented some of his research on using nanotechnology to clean water in developing countries. Something that would be so small, and simple that it could purify water for an entire village that could be sent over in something as simple as a mail envelope. The technology, I have doubt is still under development, but it is a promising area of application. In my opinion, sending stop-gap solutions is not the best way forward, but given the current situations and realities, it is one thing that can be done. Ideally, I would like to see such technology for use in disaster relief.

 

After that, we were shown another TED video: A performance of Mathemagic by Arthur Benjamin.

That one is always a wonderful video to watch. However, I had also seen that one before, but it does never cease to amaze me.

Following that, we had another conversation break with a ‘What if’ Tree, and a performance from a regular magician (not quite as good… arguably), and then we went onto our final set of talks.

'What if' Idea Tree

‘What if’ Idea Tree

 

Dave Wilkins began the final session.

Dave is a founder of Ten Thousand Coffees.  His story resonates well with our generation. He talked about how university students of our age, we’ve been raised in an environment promised with so much opportunity, but the moment we gradate, and face the real world, we realize it’s not there. What’s the problem? He argues it’s that employers don’t have any good way of finding the people they want. People are fighting over jobs with resumes and profiles, which, in our day and age, don’t properly show a person for what they are. It becomes a competition based on how well one can sell themselves on a piece of paper, and regularly, good candidates have trouble difficulty finding work, because quite simply, their resumes do them no justice.

He talked about his story, how he went through this, and his idea that employers needed to find better ways to connect with prospective employees. It eventually led him to a coffee conversation with a hiring manager who told him, “I can’t hire you — you need to start a company.” And he did. It’s called Ten Thousand Coffees, and it’s a way to connect industry professionals with students.

At my point in development, I have come to realize that this level of interaction is immensely powerful. Getting to know your prospective employers, and having them know you, is powerful. Whether it is applying for a job, or heading into higher education, the same principle applies.

I believe, that in our modern day, that not only are our education systems backward, but so are our hiring practices. There is a lot of competition for school and work nowadays, and it’s difficult to navigate. We need to find better ways of connecting people. In a world where society is constantly glued to their electronics, and have so many (facebook) friends, but don’t actually have (any) friends… it’s something that needs to be addressed. We have the technology now…… let’s find ways of using it to help us, instead of hindering us.

 

Finally, we had a talk by Dr. Paul Salvini, CTO of Christie Digital (same company that developed the projector system I mentioned earlier).

He talked about creative innovation. How people need to try their ideas, and lead innovation. He talked about his story of digital film projectors. There was no market for it originally. Theatres didn’t want to buy new projectors when their original ones worked well. Consumers never would notice the difference. But it was because marketing was misguided. The money that could be saved was not in the projectors, but in the developing of film rolls for theatres. And so, by addressing the inefficiencies correctly, they became a very profitable venture. Saving the money by digital distribution, paid for the digital projectors, which in turn benefited the theatres, and generated revenue for his company.

So it was a case where it put into mind, that opportunities are not always limited. We just need to be more creative, and broad, in looking for ways to apply it. “Innovation, outside one’s field of expertise” — is worth a lot.

We finished off with concluding remarks, and had an afterparty after that.

I had a great time at TEDxUW, and I wish that I would be able to come back the year after that. It was almost like an information over-stimulation. And even right now, two weeks later, all these ideas are still resonating through me. But that could be because of my personal dispositions to do a lot of thinking. I reflect, and this is what this is what my blog is. It is for the pivotal experiences in my life that I have to share.

Now that that is done….. back to homework…

On a side note: I found myself in the school newspaper.

 

Edit: Added links to the talks.

My attempt at a picture I've seen online. I find my ring size is a bit small for this.

Iron Ringed, and the Fall of the ThinkPad

I know I don’t write very often to this blog any more, and truth be told, I don’t expect that I will write a lot here in the coming while. It has been a outlet, and for a period in my life, it has served me well. I will probably have another blog post, or two as I conclude several more milestones in my university program, but I’m gonna say, there might not be much that I’ll be putting in after it.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a little while now, but no better day than tonight when my closest friends are all out having fun, and I’m left out on the other side of the country.

Haven’t really much to share, but tonight it’ll just be an outlet for some things that have crossed my mind recently.

2013-10-29 20.36.10

A Week in Review: “The Incredible Gift of Life”

My very core is the human spirit. I believe in the absolute necessity to be honest with yourself and to make the most of yourself. You have been given an incredible gift just to be alive. And if you don’t use it, if you don’t challenge yourself to make the absolute most of your own given capabilities, then you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself but it’s like a fundamental insult to everybody that ever tried to teach you something or give you a talent or a skill in history.

- Chris Hadfield

I normally don’t do posts like “a weekend in review,” but there have been some things this week that have resonated really strongly with me, and I wanted to put them down and people are welcome to read. The above quote is food for thought for what continues next.

 SATURDAY

This week has been a busy week for me (weekend plus start of week).

 Starting Saturday, I returned back to my University to help out with an internal first aid competition for the Campus Response Team. I had a scenario that I created and judged, much the same as I often do, except this time I was responsible for the joke / silly scenario. We normally have one joke sit per competition. The silly scenario normally doesn’t emphasize much on actual first aid skills, but is a bit more relaxed, and is supposed to be “fun” to help break the stressful barrage and onslaught of the day’s scenarios that competitors have to go through. [Typically eight]

 I had come up with a zombie scenario for this term’s “Halloween” branded competition, and by all standards and measures, it turned out much better than I had anticipated. [In case anyone doesn't know, first aid competitions consist of a number of scenarios, and competitors are scored on how much first aid treatment they are able to get through.] On the day before competition, I was promised (or told to expect) 3 casualties and five zombies. Come the morning of the competition, only 4 of the volunteers assigned to me actually show up.

 So I go “that’s great,” although it wasn’t really a problem. So unfortunately, half an hour into the day, and half an hour before competition starts, I had to start scrambling to reconsider my scenario.

 I wasn’t too upset though, as I had originally designed my scenario for fewer people, and I had to compromise to an earlier draft of my scenario. Generally though, this was more of a minor nuisance than an actual problem, since generally I always try to write scenarios with only a modest number of casualties, as historically we have struggled with volunteer turnout.

 Therefore, I had only 2 casualties, (patients) and two “zombies.” It still worked; I just had to tell my “zombies” to “respawn” whenever they got slain.

 I was happy that I had planned ahead for this and knew to expect less than I actually had. Not only that, it was almost my duty to be able to improvise for my scenario. I only found out my room assignment that morning of, and had only a half hour to think of how I would set up my scenario, in addition to all the other prep-work (briefing casualties/putting up signs/briefing judges].

 What I want to draw from this is the fact that plans can almost never be assumed to go according to plan, and never, depend on the fact that it will. Always try to think of every situation and every outcome, and be prepared for it. In my case, I had 5 different revisions of my scenario write-up, and it was practically report-length, filled with information. I thought of everything [just about]: any options the responders might try to use to get through the scenario, what questions they’d ask, where to put people, how the lighting and sound would play out to create a spooky atmosphere… I had tried to consider it all.

 Moral of the story, is, unfortunately, I can’t really depend on anyone. Every one has let me down at one point or another. It’s a sad truth, but real one. No one else will understand the context, or needs, or priorities the same way as another person do (unless that person is empathetically selfless to the point of…craziness?)

I don't have a picture to show you guys from this event, but here's a picture of some props that I did use for my "very fun" scenario.

I don’t have a picture to show you guys from this event, but here’s a picture of some props that I did use for my “very fun” scenario.

 I’m not saying that other people are unreliable. There are just too many variables to control, too many things that can go wrong,

But at the same time, even though I understand other people will slip up, and let me down at times, I always try very hard not to take it to heart, because if I was in that same position, overwhelmed with the same deluge of responsibility (I’m assuming this, of course,) I know, I’m not used to it enough to perform perfectly. But as long as there is always a fall-back, or a contingency, then nothing’s any worse off.

[About Emergency Spacewalk…] and it is purely due to sweating the small stuff and not being paralysed by fear and planning ahead and it set us up wonderfully for success.

 – Chris Hadfield

 So, continuing on, of all things considered, the scenario mostly went off without a hitch. It was a scramble as always, but it I was deeply grateful to hear good feedback from participants. There were some who got mad at me for creating a scary scenario, but were still happy to have enjoyed it. And as a creator of anything, it is always good to hear positive feedback. It is something that I don’t give enough back to other people. I am trying though, I am trying.

 And that feedback is probably the main reason why I continue to enjoy writing scenarios and judging at these competitions, term after term. Although… I’m not quite sure what I can continue to do to top the level of detail I placed in this one.

 But enough about the participants side, on the judge’s side, I enjoyed being there at the scenario too. It was fun and very entertaining to watch some of the responses and the solutions that people were using in the scenario. I had people who would find the nerf gun ammo and use the gun, people who wouldn’t find the nerf gun ammo, and just whack with the gun. Some people used the [foam] sword and one person even went as far as to conduct combo-moves with the sword and gun. [Bonus points there!] I had guy scream like a girl when he saw one of my casualties that had slowly been transforming into a zombie [as written in the scenario.] I had one person who “creatively” (and questionably) conducted human sacrifices to buy himself time. I had one group pick up, quite literally, every piece of moveable furniture in the room (it was a large lecture hall) and use it to build a barricade (which ultimately was actually unsuccessful.)

 All in all, it was a fun experience.

SUNDAY

Unfortunately, I had to pass on the social afterwards as I needed to be back in Toronto that next morning, since on the Sunday, a friend and I were dropping by an E-sports competition at the Toronto Congress Centre. For the first time in the four years since StarCraft II had come onto the scene, a tournament for the season champion was hosted in Canada. And since it was in Toronto, and choosing not to pass up this rare opportunity, and knowing that there was nothing to lose, we decided to “check out the competition.” (<- that’s a joke, I don’t actually play competitively; I’m nowhere near good enough.)

Setup at the Toronto Congress Centre

Setup at the Toronto Congress Centre

 For what it’s worth though, that was another great experience. To be in an environment surrounded by other fanatics sharing a common interest with enthusiasm was enlivening. Normally things like video games are difficult to enjoy publicly aside for the close knit circle of one’s gamer-friends. To be in a place with so many other fans who shared the same experience, the enthusiasm, the cheer, it was where I could let go all reservations, and be completely free, and take in the experience.

 Of course, of course, many of you are probably saying that this is exactly what a sports game is. And essentially, it is! So now I guess I can say, (and I did say) that I think I finally understand hockey games. I also accept the fact that it appears only StarCraft e-sports interests me. Understanding and knowing the game definitely helps. It really develops a profound appreciation for some of the harder and more difficult feats which therefore end up captivating the audience.

 It may also have to do with the fact that StarCraft is a rather intellectual game, whereas regular sports are generally more physical games of fitness, stamina, and endurance. That’s not to say that I would necessarily be able to sit down and enjoy a riveting and suspenseful game of chess (does that even exist, or is that a bit of an oxymoron?). It also probably works against me the fact that I never got into chess very much, so I lack a lot of knowledge on the intricacies and the strategies used.

 As I discovered though, watching the web streaming on Friday and Saturday, a lot of the experience and enjoyment also depends on the quality of the commentators, for it is them who have the ability to provide useful and interesting commentary that engage and captivate the audience. It’s really hard to listen to a monotonous host, or one unfamiliar with the game and mechanics. But one who has the right personality and knowledge can be both informative and entertaining, something which I have taken for granted. [However Day[9] was there, so it was all good, and even the female Canadian player Scarlett was around. [Represent!]].

"Thank you Day[9]" by Temp0

Day[9] and Gretorp and Clutch dancing along at the WCS Season 3 Finals in Toronto

 Unfortunately, I suppose aside for Korea, e-sports events and venues are still nowhere near as popular as regular sports events and venues. It’s a bit of a shame for us nerd-folk. Yet I do not regret the experience; for I am only saddened by one thing: the fact that I was not able to drag more of my StarCraft-playing and StarCraft-watching friends along. It would’ve been more fun.

 But that hasn’t even come close to the excitement I’ve encountered this week. Monday was a bit of a break, but I still had to upload the photos from the first aid competition, and did some scouting at the local Indigo books.

 Which now leads me to Tuesday.

TUESDAY

 I went to Indigo during my lunch hour to purchase a book ahead of time, a book that had just been released only that day, and was going to be part of a book signing that exact same night. Naturally, I wanted avoid any foreseeable problem, and if there were going to be line-ups, I didn’t want to be in them when there was a line-up.

 So what book is this? – you might ask.

 Well, it’s the autobiography (of sorts) written by the newly risen to fame, and recently retired Canadian astronaut (who has also taken up a teaching post at my soon-to-be Alma Mater).

 Being as famous (and as popular) as he is, my expectations and hunch was correct. Boy, oh boy, was the event busy!

Indigo Manulife - Hadfield Signing Event

Crowding by 8:00pm

Indigo Manulife - Hadfield Signing Event

Another view

 At 7:00 PM, Indigo’s CEO Heather Reisman interviewed Chris Hadfield with some questions about his book, and as always, being no man to disappoint, Chris replied with thoughtfully inspiring words of wisdom. There were some comments and jokes that he had told before which I was a little sore to hear again, but was in no way disappointed. His personality and his life story truly make him an inspirational Canadian figure to behold. (You can believe whatever you like, this is my opinion, and though I recommend you share it, you do not have to.)

 Though it’s probably more on a personal note that I find I relate to the man so well, because I too, was once an air cadet. I too, am a Canadian. I too, am associated with the University of Waterloo, and I too, am an avid practitioner of [amateur] photography. (He’s probably a little bit more professional than I am.) And though I can’t say I normally have idols, but he has made it to my list; he has earned my respect and reverence, and I welcome, and look forward to finding him on the uWaterloo campus.

Commander Hadfield

Yay Commander Hadfield

 As for the book signing, it happened pretty quick and fluidly. But with over several hundred people to get through, I understand every reason for it. I had the opportunity to get a couple quick words with the man, I got my books signed, and posted about it to Tumblr. (Such a wonderful person, ain’t I?) As I kept saying in my moment of thrill, I had forgotten to reach out to shake the man’s hand, but that’s no real loss for me, because the reaction that I got back from my friend (whom the other book was signed for) was indeed priceless enough.

The ensuing reaction I got was "priceless"

The ensuing reaction I got was “priceless”

 Mission accomplished, I told myself, mission accomplished.

So these past few days, I’ve run a good scenario, went to my first E-sports event, attended my first book signing, and met a great Canadian; I feel fairly accomplished. (–Considering how much time I’ve wasted recently.)

 That is what it means to live life to the fullest, as Chris mentioned in his talk, and quoted at the beginning of this post. There aren’t too many times where I have days as fulfilling as this. My generation (and myself included) has been raised in a world full of distractions and easy-outs, avenues of instant gratification and a steadily decreasing amount of self-motivation and discipline.

 if you don’t challenge yourself to make the absolute most of your own given capabilities, then you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself but it’s like a fundamental insult to everybody that ever tried to teach you something or give you a talent or a skill in history.

- Chris Hadfield (During Indigo Books Interview with Heather Reisman)

 We all seem to be slaves to the modern technological era, but it is not the end. We must learn to adapt and live alongside it, work with it, assert ourselves, in unity and cooperation in order to make the best of our lives.

 I know I waste time… a lot of time sometimes, but there are days, or a series of days, just like these past few where things just seem to go all the right way, and for a moment, everything just works perfectly. But days like these don’t happen without time and effort, and I won’t say they come easy either. That is why it’s important to see the rewards, and not to give up chasing them.

Chris Hadfield's Rocket Ship setup at the book signing, just something cool I wanted to post.

Chris Hadfield’s Rocket Ship setup at the book signing, just something cool I wanted to post.

Be it the ten hours I put into writing and preparing my first aid scenario, the organization and search for people to bring to the StarCraft II Season 3 Finals, or planning around everything to be able to see, and meet Commander Hadfield. The rewards, I find, often make it all worth the effort in the end.

Before I end, I’d like to draw one more quote from Chris Hadfield, something that resonated

 I feel like my posts are actually progressively getting longer, even though the frequency of posting has definitely gone down. I don’t see it as a bad thing; it just means when I do post, the topics are deep, and heavily considered.

15 Years of CRT (Members and Alumni)

15 Years of CRT, 4 Years of Memories

This week’s post was delayed to coincide after the CRT fifteen year reunion. Of course, it ended up being much longer than I was anticipating, hence, I spent a little more time on, during the morning and afternoon subway rides.

 This September marked the 15-year anniversary of the founding of the University of Waterloo Campus Response Team.  I won’t blurb much on the history,  it’s not my place to do that.  What I want to talk about is my reflection on these past few years, and my appreciation of the team that has been my ‘family’ while I’ve been here on the East side of Canada.

 I joined CRT in the winter of 2010, as a young, naive-minded first year, wanting to seek the continuation of my first aid career after having to leave the organization I was involved with during high school, behind.  But those years were slow and quiet. I was on the team, but didn’t do much. I put in my hours, met people, but was still ridiculously reserved. I put in my hours, but only just, because even though I was part of the team, I want actually “a part of the team. “

 At least, I didn’t feel that way. It was the problem, or, I like to think of as the characteristic, that I always had: the long road it takes for me to feel comfortable around people.

 I can’t say that I am one who is quick to make friends. In fact, it often takes me about three years of interaction before I’m no longer upright around people. I don’t mean to say that I give in a corner and run away from everyone who talks to me. No, I mean that it just takes that long for me to treat people as friends, instead of just merely acquaintances. (These are the original definitions of the words, not the Facebook redefinition.)

 So it was quiet, and marginally lacked fulfillment. I doubted at the end of every term whether or not there was any point to me returning. But every term, I still did. I joined because CRT gave me something to. I joined because CRT was an environment to meet people. And even though initially I never really grew particularly close with those in CRT, they were people that I knew, outside of the competitive battlefield that was my Civil class. And, in a sense, spread three thousand kilometres away from everyone I really knew, I wasn’t completely alone.

 Perhaps in those early years, the age (and the university hardening) discrepancy between me and the rest of the team was too much, and it was difficult to connect with people. And even though they welcomed me with open arms, I was always hesitant to let myself be caught in the embrace of others.

 But every subsequent term, I still came back. I joined because CRT gave me something to. I joined because I couldn’t let go of my first aid career. I joined because CRT was an environment to meet people. And even though I never really grew particularly close with those in CRT, they were people that I knew, outside of the competitive environment that was my Civil class.

 Perhaps in those early years, the age (and the university hardening) discrepancy between me and the rest of the team was too much, and it was difficult for me to connect with people. But things have slowly changed.

With CRT, I went to my first ACERT conference, a conference hosted by the first aid teams of the universities as an opportunity to meet, connect, and compete with fellow university campus responders. We went to Trent University in Peterborough for the NCCER 2012. There were seminars and a competition. I didn’t compete but I was a volunteer and I got to watch, and I got to be around, part of a group of people gathered for the sake of our own personal interests and motivations in an environment where we were able to let loose the overbearing burden of university, and just have fun.

 And I cannot forget experiences or the bonding that took place between members of the team. And I don’t want to say something as lame as: “and then CRT didn’t seem so bad”, but it was kinda like that. There was a sense of welcoming and adoption that I had not always witnessed from people.

 Peterborough was where it slowly changed for me, where I stopped seeing CRT as an imposition, as something that I had to do to maintain my certification and skill, to a group of people that I would be proud to know and call friends.

 Of course, things didn’t change overnight at Peterborough. (Or in more proper terms, it didn’t change over a weekend.) I was still the reserved person that I had always been, except now my eyes, (and mind, I suppose) had opened up a little more.

Then again, the people were good people too. There was one person from CRT – one person whom I hold in the highest regard of reverence and respect. Yes, there is indeed a person in this world who I respect the most, and do so openly declare it. He was highly instrumental to my incorporation into CRT. I remember he went out with effort to try and bring me to events, get me involved. I wasn’t always persuaded, but it was a start. More importantly, he showed me that I had a place to fill in the team – a niche to fill. He was aware of my presence, and he made sure well that I was aware of it myself. He reminded me of my contribution to the team, and how it had positively influenced others. He brought me into the CRT group like no one ever did before. And where originally I had been hesitant to let go and allow myself to be caught, I was now entering the embrace of my fellow CRT members.

 This person whom I revere was far more mature than me, even though he was a much newer face to the team (Joined later than I had). In university, I have learned that you cannot judge a person’s wisdom by their age or their look. I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable person, but I’ve met plenty more wise people from CRT many of which are not that much older than me, and some are even younger. Hopefully by now, the life lessons I’ve learned are letting me catch up a little bit. (I’ve since informed this person of my debt and my thanks.)

 And so I felt accepted and a part of something. I stood as a part of the team, happy and content to call myself a member, happy to offer my input and support, happy to be a part of something that I personally felt a part of. Other people can tell you that you that they appreciate your presence or contribution as a part of the whole, but it’s never the same until you see it first hand, and believe in it yourself that it takes hold and empowers you. And that’s what was slowly starting to happen.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until this most recent summer that I was finally able to let go of all reservation, throw myself towards the team, and let myself be caught. And I tell you, three long years leading up to that point made it all the more rewarding when that moment finally came.

 And so maybe that is what I am used to when it comes to meeting people. My long road to friendships remains constant as it has always been.

I stand aside; I wait. I wait to watch and see how people respond to me. I watch and wait and then evaluate.  I listen, I learn; and I pay attention to what I yearn. And when the time comes down to it, there are no surprises for me to hit.

 It’s worked for me in High school, it continues to  worked for me now. Why it takes me this long to get used to friends, I don’t know how. But it works; it works.  And those whom I have as friends, I will keep to whatever ends. For I chose wisely, and I keep close. Hopefully, that is a reward to those who are crazy enough to be friends with someone as crazy as me.

So now we pop forward to today. And I’ll admit, being an exec of CRT is not something for me. I like to give back, and give back I have, but in my own way, and at my own pace. I’ve been the “photographer” for the team these past few terms. I’ve added my sweat and blood (yes actually) to documenting and preserving memories for the team. And it’s a niche that I find I fit in very well. It is very “me”. For this was a way that I have ‘given back’ to the team, in my little way.

 I am happy, and my job is done. I have come full circle and all is good in the world.

 

The cake is a lie (it was too sweet)

The intricately detailed celebratory cake for the event.

Yes, we pointed out to our person that the logo isn't properly centred.

Signed by everyone at the reunion.

As it would be said (if you catch this reference): so long, and thanks for all the… cake?

Downtown Core

An Adventurous Heart, And a Map to Explore By

It’s been several weeks at work, and I have finally self like I’ve settled in. I cannot believe that I’m already nearing a quarter of my work term. Time is indeed flying by very quickly.

It’s been a struggle to do things recently, having the motivation to keep true to my goals. But right now, it’s a new opportunity, and this final year of school [of my program] is time that is needed to live the remainder of my University life to its fullest. So tonight I want to reflect upon motivation, at least, one example I’ve been doing recently of how to address it.

Thus far, I’ve been exploring places after work and on weekends, riding the subway to obscure stops and visiting the locale. It’s been a little tiring, but fun. I’ve kept a local transit map that I have drawn on to keep track of the locations that I have explored. So far, it’s turning out to be a nice project.

I say it is nice because of several things. First of all, this is an exploration of the real, tangible world, without the limitation like the virtual worlds in video games I’ve gotten used to. There are no dead ends or hidden corners that cannot be explored [aside for private property, of course]. There is no invisible wall that keeps you to the ‘valid’ area, or a goal that steers you along a pre-plotted course. This is spontaneous exploration.

Just the other day, after work and not paying attention very well after a site visit, I took the subway the other way. Figuring that I was already on the train heading the wrong way, I decided to make the trip into an exploration excursion. I pulled out my map, and looked for somewhere interesting to stop. Found a nice camera shop, stayed there for a while, before charting a new [unexplored] way home.

It was a tiring day, but it was a blast.

The most important thing about this model, I find, is that there isn’t a large amount of effort that needs to be invested before seeing reward. Exploring new locations is fun, and the construction of a map to log this has proven an immediate and progressive realization of that fulfilment. I look at my map, every time, and I marvel at how it has slowly grown.

Highlighting areas on my map is like keeping track of my achievements. It tells me where I’ve been, and where I need to go next. It also gives me an overall picture of the area that I have “conquered.” Truth be told, at the end of the day, it’s also a very nice map to look at.

I am only hoping, that before this work-term is done, a significant portion of this map will be shaded in by pencil.

Even if you are a local in your own hometown, how many places do you take for granted, knowing that you’ll always be around to visit it someday. We keep saying that day will come soon enough, but up until now, still hasn’t yet come.

So start out small, for every journey has a beginning, and that beginning starts with the very first step. And there’s no better time than the present.

Pencil shaded areas represent places that I've phsyically explored [and remember well enough]. There's not much on this map, but I hope to have the downtown core almost completely dark when I last set foot in Toronto.

Explored Areas

Toronto Diorama at CNE

Toronto Diorama at CNE

A New Beginning

Too much to do, never enough time. So many things to do, and no time left for personal relaxation afterwards, it is the life.

 

This last year of my blog doesn’t really count. I haven’t put much here. There are a couple of topics I wish to talk about, but have found no good opportunity, nor motivation to write. But now, I’m back at work, no real schoolwork to bog me down, and it’s an exciting time.

So it is a good time to pick up something productive again.  But, I think in order to start, I will now set the plan here, to promise myself, and set in stone my plan of action:

 

So let’s set the schedule; every weekday after work:

Mondays will be: Photoblogging from the archives (tumblr)

Tuesdays will be: Coursework days

Wednesdays will be: Self-guided project, or breaks.

Thursdays will be: Blogging days (Maybe not this Thursday though)… maybe.

and Fridays will be: “Are you kidding it’s a Friday, do I really wanna do this?”

 

Cheers, and here’s to a third year of blogging.

I call them, the (reminder of) friendship stones.

A Story of Six Stones & the Metaphorical “Ring Around the Rosie”

I know I’ve dreamt a dream…

I dreamed a dream, in time gone by
When friends were strong and everlasting
I dreamed our bonds would never die
I dreamed that we would be forgiving

Then I was young and so naïve
The hours spent I took for granted
There was not a clue to believe
That my friends would have ranted.

I’m afraid I have to stop there. It’s actually quite hard to try and match the song while still making it relevant. But perhaps in the future, I would continue it on further.

Friendships can be stable. Friendships can be quasi-stable, and friendships can be unstable. Just like how an energy surface works to describe how certain mechanics work, friendships, I think are no different.

Friendships that are stable are like the ones that no matter how two (or more) people get mad at each other, they will always resolve their differences and return back to the friendly equilibrium that they were at before. A quasi-stable friendship sounds like a much more chilled one, where no matter where disagreements may go, it never actually changes the integrity of the friendship. The two people are just so incredibly easy-going, and tolerant, and content with each other that they’ll always accept the other regardless of anything.

Then finally, there are the friendships that are unstable. At any moment, and at any turn, something small, something like a minor disagreement will grow – almost unstoppably – into a huge problem. Like a ball resting at the apex of a high hill, the smallest breeze, the faintest touch of a leaf, will cause the ball to roll off and down And though they seem to be resolved in the short term, more problems slowly accumulate and it wears the friendship down to a point that it is completely unrecoverable.

I feel many of the good friendships that people have are ones that are naturally stable. But even these ones, in time, slowly erode, and change, much like the drift of continents, or the occurrence of earthquakes.

My main social circle now seems to be falling into an unstable category. Perhaps this is the case for large groups. With so many factors and interactions, stability may vary of time.

Like all good friendships, it never used to be unstable, but it feels unstable now. Like a circle of people playing “Ring around the Rosie”, it was in a connected equilibrium. It was in balance. And for a long while we had a very stable [metaphoric and literal] circle. It didn’t matter that we were separated by different universities. It didn’t seem to matter that I was on the other side of the country. For three long years after high school, it seemed that nothing had changed, and nothing would change. It felt that our social circle would survive immortality.

But times do change. Handholds tire, and once the first hand lets go, once the first slip of hands happens, it’s half-chance what will happen next. Immediately, once the first broken link happened, the two, who’d held each other together so closely, flew apart like the recoil of all the lash-back in the world. And in that moment, everyone feels like they’re in free-fall. Everyone. With just one broken link in the handholds keeping the “Ring around the Rosie” together, everyone starts to fall, flung out of the circle, no longer able to hold together. [The non-nerd can interpret this as the pseudo "centrifugal" force] The collateral damage, ripples around the group. The most closely affected people, fall silently on their bum, onto the floor.

When all the dust has settled, we realize that the connection that was dependent on the unity and cooperation of everyone, was broken.  And the tie that bound, shattered.

Sometimes, we pick ourselves up. And we restart our merry circle again. Sometimes, it’s harder to pick ourselves up, knowing that the other released their hand on purpose. For what reason, I can fathom, and I can understand. But the consequences, and execution, I do not agree with.

For now, we have lost our circle. The sore butts, and the injuries, linger. We try to help each other, but there is only so much that we can do. For some of us, have rejoined hands, to spin again. But others, have taken a step back, to sit on a bench, or to find another “ring”. And it weighs heavily on the burdens of everyone else. We feel, powerless. We feel, unconsidered.

But in moments of heat, it is hard to consider the full picture. Your hand is tired, your grip is slipping. I admire the ones who hold on to the bitter end of struggle, but not everyone does the same.

It is something natural. Something inevitable, (I see). We are human. And something we must strive to be able to raise ourselves from the ground from, and keep going. We cannot intervene in the fate of others. But we can hold true to ourselves.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.

–Mary Schmich

It makes me sad to think that of the day that comes, from no fault of my own, that I have to let go of a friend. Not because I haven’t tried, not because I’m willing to let them go, but because is futile. It is pointless, and inevitable. We are friends, and we hold true to each other, but for what it’s worth, not everyone is willing to accept help. Times change, and people change. I accept that.

But that is always what hurts the post. To be a bystander, to watch friendship detaching events like this unfold, yet to be overcome by this immaculate sense of futility.

But we must plan for another day, another path forward. We must move on. Accept the past for what the past is, and learn in order to adapt for a new day.

These stones in my featured picture are gifts that I gave to each of the six other individuals in this circle of friends after this had happened. I returned home to visit them, and presented each one with a stone I felt represented, or was a goal to them.

Home was for the friend who had returned at last, to remind him of his place in our circle, and role in this circle.

Courage was for our most outgoing friend, and for him to show strength upon his upcoming graduation, and entry into the working life.

Peace was for the friend who finally at terms with himself, even after all the battles and collateral damage showered onto everyone.

Hope was for the friend to see a better day in all of this, and to have a faith, both in herself and for others.

Love was for the friend who needed to take a step back and to appreciate the true value of the subtleties in friendship.

Joy was for the friend who I wished well to recover from the fall, and hope to soon rekindle happiness again.