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.


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.


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.


 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.


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

One lifetime…is not enough time.

Good end of January folk. It’s been a while since I’ve been writing. And I’ve taken a nice, long break, but it is now time to get working.

Expectation inflation – This is what happens when I seem to expect everything to be at an absurdly (to others) standard and always become annoyed when nothing lives up to my expectation.

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s a product of the University Life: being thrown into such a condensed program that there is quite literally no time for anything else, no excuses, being exposed to the workplace of professionals, where mistakes and errors are indecently frowned upon. And when others seem not to be on the same page as me, sometimes it takes an effort to step back and reconcile to the context.

Maybe this is just me, but maybe it’s not only me.

More and more frequently, I trudge along the daily grind of life, and more and more of the little things get to me. I expect uncompromising reliability in the products I buy — but things seem to break sooner and sooner with every passing generation and new release. Products I buy now, a Logitech headset, and a Logitech mouse, compared with their respective predecessors from three years ago, are already problematic after a month… (right out of the box for the mouse). Even the build quality of cars, electronics, houses…. They don’t last as long as they used to.

Of course, this could always be a product of the fact that when I was younger, I cared less about these things.

I have come to expect no-nonsense from my friends, and when there is, it is usually a half and half chance whether or not I will get annoyed.  I expect common courtesies, respect, and understanding. And though the pretense and context of our conversations are generally very informal, (i.e. Skype Conversation) the standard of quality I expect does not ever really change. I mean, at the same time, I understand a need for an argument here and there… it means people are communicating… but unnecessary drama and disagreement really stresses everything for everyone.

I suppose in one sense, it’s harder… being in an online chatting environment, half the time, you can’t actually tell another person’s true tone. And I know this… because with serious matters, one should never discuss with people over instant messaging… at least… now I know. It’s easier to sense another person’s true emotion, and work with it, instead of either, or both parties, trying to hide everything behind a string of words.

I just feel that there is so little time in life. So many things that I’ve learned that I don’t know; so much content posted online that would take hundreds of lifetimes to view. There are so many things to do, places to visit, sights to see, that I don’t want to waste my time dealing with people who can’t treat another person fairly, who can’t treat another person with respect.

It seems my life is all ready written before me. Once school is done, and work comes along, when all my friends are graduated and off to their own places, there won’t be time for much left over. It’ll be hard to arrange reunions. Even worse, one day if I’ll have kids, they’ll take up time, and any activity/journey/expedition/adventure that I ever wanted to go on… won’t happen for another twenty years. And by that time, we’ll generally be too old to be adventurous any more… Unless of course… I turn out like Carl Fredricton

So please forgive me sometimes, when my patience is short, and I feel you’re wasting my time. I know I waste a lot of time too, but… so does everyone. All I ask is that… when I don’t want time wasted, or things disappointing me… that we get along, so we can all concert our efforts to enjoy the infintessimally small fraction of existence that we can experience in our lifetime.

This is life.

 I wonder if this makes me mature, or rather, immature. I may definitely not be as open minded as I once was… either that, or my expectations and standards have grown almost “exponentially.”

Maybe this makes me more humble, this subtle thought process… but generally, it’s more to seek understanding.