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.

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.

Overusing Your Element of Surprise

It’s been a month….. More than… that I haven’t written anything. This feels bad. But I’m not giving up on this blog, so…

Let’s talk about surprises.

Surprises can be nice. Without a doubt. But surprises can also be unwelcome. Absolutely. But those are straightforward. What about surprises that are intended to be good, but never fully actualize?

Or they backfire.

These kinds of surprises are nice the first couple times.

Say you’re announcing your visit to a friend’s city after you get there. “Surprise!”

Or say you’re organizing with everyone else to pull off a party for someone who’s too passive to organize a birthday celebration. “surprise…!”

Or maybe you’re like me, and you try to pull off a dinner outing without telling people it’s actually your birthday! “Surpr–…” (I almost did do that once actually.) But you know what, morally, it wasn’t right. Morally… it wasn’t.

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The Essence of Valued Time

So I got rather annoyed a few nights ago on a skype chat conversation when I was trying to explain how different lighting angles make for really noticeable photoshop jobs to one of my friends, because she asked me. Now at the time, I didn’t give much thought to it, but she was either not paying very much attention, or quite legitimately confused. I won’t say she’s the bad person here, I won’t say I was the good person here either, (necessarily), but the point is that, after three progressive steps of trying to make the explanation as simple as possible, she still wasn’t getting it, and wasn’t responding unless I asked, “do you get what I’m saying?”I really didn’t want to leave without having conveyed the concept, as it was a failure to me, as a teacher, and an incomplete lesson, from the side of whomever I was explaining to.

I first explained it simply, then I used by using analogies. When that didn’t work, I went through the trouble of finding an image example [which took quite some time] to show the concept, and I even annotated it, circling parts and comparing the dark and light sides of inconsistent shadowing. But my friend didn’t respond. And when I asked if “you get what I’m saying?”, she replied, perplexed, and asked me if I was a blog writer for the site which I borrowed the image from.

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