Nearly Missed Not on My Mind

Ghost

Today has been interesting so far. First off, today is the official due date of our incoming baby. The upcoming changes to life weighed heavily on my mind this morning as I prepped for my morning ride into work. I admired the new kitchen we placed in the home this summer, and thought about how wonderful it is to be done before our lives get all twisted upside down. After feeding and watering the body, a voyage to the garage had me on my bicycle.

I was making excellent time into town.  The re-opened river pathway ensured the ascent up the bluff on the way into town was no longer necessary.  I felt like the day was mine as I pulled in along the Bow from the Nose Creek pathway and I could feel a new personal best ride into town on the brisk Friday morning.  That was, until I got hit by a truck.

I stopped at the intersection between the offramp into bridgeland and the zoo pull off, I waited for a car to pull out of the spot and as a truck came up to the stop sign I started up across the intersection.  The driver did not see me crossing as they were much more interested in vehicles coming up the ramp from Memorial Drive and decided to pull out when they saw the opportunity.  Unfortunately I was in front of his Ford when he decided to mash the gas.  He was pulling away from a near stop, and he probably only went 10 feet before pushing on me and my conveyance.   The impact was decent, although after playing rugby, I have a pretty good idea when I've been hit hard, and this was not one of those times.

A spring up from the ground greeted me with a very worried man.  He didn't bother taking off his shades, and he was very obviously disturbed that he hit a cyclist at a stop sign.  I assured him that I was fine, and then other motorists that saw it happen all stopped to share in the scene.  I spent more time re-assuring people that I was fine than I did worrying if I was hurt.  I stretched out some joints and although I will have a sore arm for a few days, I was more angry that the guy cost me my personal best coming into the core.

Thoughts of how my motorcycle riding mantra of 'ride like you are invisible' would not have helped me in that particular situation swam about my mind as I crossed over the Peace Bridge and onto the bicycle lane down 7th street.  Stop and go traffic whizzed by as my fellow cyclists and I enjoyed the dedicated lane and lighting.  Strangely enough, as a parking garage approached on the left hand side, another motorist that was not paying attention decided to take a left across the two lanes of bicycles without taking too long of a look.  Straight onto the brakes and managed to pull off enough speed to only hit her car and not actually dislodge myself from my seat post.  The wide eyed deer of a driver panicked and tried to hand signal to me that I should go around here.

Screw you bitch, get the fuck out of my way.

I thought it odd that she though I should go out of my way to go out around her vehicle and into oncoming bicycles, when she was the one who nearly sent a cyclist to the hospital.  Obviously Alberta's reputation of being terrible drivers is well deserved.  Theoretical debates on 'would I have been so alert and stopped in time if I hadn't already been hit today' rowed through my mind as I pulled into work.  My personal best sat well out of grasp with five minutes spent arguing that I was fine eating into my time.   A quick shower and a coffee later I was sitting at my desk.  At this point, clarity returned and I once again was consumed with the fact that Sonja is due to give birth today and in very short order I will be a dad.

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Going to be a busy spring

From Ghost River Valley

My head has been down, and the list of things that need to get done does not seem to be getting any smaller.

The winter semester of classes has started at the U of C, and it looks like it is going to be a rough one. The last of the course work that I need to complete is Analysis IV, and for those of you not familiar with the family of mathematical branches, Analysis is one of the more abstract mathematics. It is also one of my weakest areas. Further, there's five assignments and a midterm, which means that over the next 89 days, I have approximately an assignment every two weeks, a midterm that will most likely be nasty, and a final project worth half my grade.

On top of the class work this semester, I need to start putting my thesis work on paper. I have been beating my head against some nasty integrals for months, so today I'm meeting with my supervisor to see if I can apply more computational brute force to get an approximation, instead of attempting to apply quadrature to the integrals themselves. Basically, I'm asking if I can throw out a good chunk of the work done to date, in order to do something easier.

On the BeefyApps front we have a very exciting project for the new year. We worked out a partial ownership agreement for the final product, so it looks like our new partner is in this for the long haul. This should be a refreshing change after the malady we ran into across various projects last year. Being that I'm the project manager for the company, this year is my re-certification year for my PMP, so stack on about 30 hours of education credits I need to secure before March.

Last, but certainly not least, the wedding in June. Sonja, bless her, has been working hard and shouldering a good deal of the responsibilities up to this point. Although there is a lot of work that has to be done in the next few months.

With this stack of work, I've found that I don't have as much free time as I'd like. I'm planning on a couple of ski trips in the next couple of weeks before the mid-semester craziness, and initial product rollouts become my sole focus. This hard work is supposed to pay off, right? Ideally by the fall, I will have more free time to get back to some photography, and to play more with my new found hobby: brewing beer.

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Hump Day

Density of X+Y

For most, I'm sure that October 27th, was just another Wednesday, that capped the middle of the week before the Hallowe'en weekend. For me, the day marked another very important midpoint; October 27th is exactly the middle of the University of Calgary academic calendar.

The geek in me worked out that from my very first class, to the end of the last lab, the midpoint was at 13:30 today.  The moment passed with me buried in a book that blends together functional analysis and probability.  Looking at the syllabuses: the schedules are all half done, the textbooks are now creased half way through, and in most cases the median assignment is now either underway or graded.

Outside of the classroom things are clicking along.  The homefront has suffered, and the Honey-do list has grown; alternatively the projects in which I'm professionally involved are moving along, and all those involved are seeing progress.  I'm sure the Fiancée would like to see me around the homefront more often, and very soon I'll be on winter break driving her crazy around the homestead.

Half of me is thankful, that I've decided to take on the hard trail and get the difficult stuff out of the way right up front; the other half thinks the first is nuts, and would have preferred the easy seat.  I'll admit that by padding myself with undergraduate courses this semester and not wading into the graduate mathematics would have made the journey easier.  Although, if I survive the remainder of this semester and its winter successor, I'm sure I'll appreciate being able to focus on my thesis and not being distracted by the courses which are currently crushing me.

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Bicycling Revolution

Bike

I've returned to bicycling after nearly 7 years. The last time I cycled somewhat seriously, I bombed around on a Giant XTC, until it was stollen. The loss was at the perfect point for the insurance company to basically give me the finger on rates. I could either claim, pay the deductible and have the blood suckers extract it from me over a few years with higher rates, or I could suck it up and just go buy a new bike. I didn't want to claim it, knowing that the single claimed theft would be on the records for years, and I also refused to get a new bike. Bicycling died for me at that point

I learned that MEC had designed a series of bikes, and were now selling them. MEC is a wonderful company, which is aligned with a lot of my beliefs, so I decided I would both return to cycling and support the co-operative at the same time. I was set back a little misreading the catalog, believing I needed to travel to Edmonton to buy a bike when Calgary did in fact sell them. Eventually I prevailed, settled on a bike and purchased it.

Talks of geometries, cassettes, tooth counts, cyclocross, clincher rims, fixies, lacing, grouppos and saddles had to be waded through before I could decide on a bicycle. The cycle ecosystem has specialized in several areas and with that specialization the usual slang followed. I decided on a hybrid style bicycle as most of my terrain is going to be cleared paths or the bike network around Calgary. It leans more towards the road bike, but does have a heavier frame and knobbier wheels.

Next was a vicious lesson in how far bicycling has come since I was last immersed in the culture. My new ride has a pedal system in which you clip in specialized shoes; these shoes needed to be put together. Have you ever had to read an instruction manual for a pair of shoes? It was quite a humbling experience. Technology progressed since I last tuned a bike, and I'm happy to say that most of of the changes make tuning a bicycle easier. The one exception is air pressure, as the tires on this bike have presta valves. I have never seen such an animal before, and every piece of pressurized air equipment I have is useless until I get an adapter.

Excitement rains over me, as this weekend is supposed to have good weather, and I have a new toy with which to play.

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It is official

U of C

At the beginning of this year, I applied to the University of Calgary's graduate program and was accepted.  Excitement and change are flying about the air while an odd blend of worry and optimism mix in my brain.  I would have publicized the news earlier, but I have been flat out between work, studying for my PMP Certification, becoming Batman, and ensuring some residual photographic and programming incomes.

Most often when I mention to people that I'm leaving steady employment to obtain a Masters degree in Applied Math, the responses I receive fall into one of two categories.  The first type of response is 'what will you do?', sometime phrased as 'what does that mean?'.  For those people I'll weave a tail about how I'm going to study in the finance lab and eventually move into writing software for financial people.  The second response, usually from my geekier friends, is a vague reference to applied math not being as pure as Real Math.

Then the conversation usually moves into why I'd give up a relatively comfortable dink's life, to take a vow of poverty and return to the money racket that is higher education.  The answer to that question is complex.

I believe what started me thinking down the path was reading the book: A Thousand Barrels a Second.  Peter's telling of his predictions for the oil industry shook me a bit.  I know that oil gets broken down into many products and that the world won't just change overnight.  I actually predict another really good run, or maybe two, in the fossil fuel based energy sector.  As the price pushes higher, you'll see more technologies that rely on different sources of energy become more viable.  Throw in a little telecommuting + virtual reality to keep us off the roads and the supply-demand balance will shift and suddenly the oil and gas industry will become very tight on the margins.

I probably took Peter's words differently than most because of my upbringing in northern British Columbia and working towards a degree in Computer Science.  I found myself first set back by the tech bust and then the forestry industry getting butchered.  Both seemed like industries that could never fail.

The Dot-Coms were becoming overnight millionaires, and that there was enough of everything to go around in the new digital age.  Stories of Silicon Valley excess, and the adjusting of economics to a limitless supply of electrons made it seem that mankind had now found easy street, and for the rest of time we could employ the miracles of the internet.  I often joke that I heard the dot-com bubble pop.

Forestry in my home town also appeared to be invulnerable.  Forestry itself is set up around supply and demand, and ensuring meeting demand sustainably.  We thought everything in the world could be made from the parts of a tree, including a plethora of biodegradable plastics, and we would be able to just take our refuse and use it to grow more trees.  While I grew up you either worked at one of the many mills around town, or you sold stuff to people who worked at the mills.  Furthermore, the British Columbia Forest Service logo was the most common thing to see on the side of a white truck, which is eerily similar to the number of energy company logos I see now.  Then a piece of legislation, and the price of forest products became too expensive and the industry was dismantled.

Staring towards the future, I became pretty certain that during my lifetime I'll see the oil industry be carved up.  It won't die, both tech and forestry are still alive and breathing today.  I believe it will just become a lot more difficult to be employed in the field, and I don't want to have the unemployment cycle make me a job seeking 50 year old whose only experience is tied to a tight energy sector.

The path now forked.  If I was going to walk away from the oil and gas sector, what would I like to do?  I thought about photography, but reasoned that if I had to flog it for a living, I probably wouldn't like it as much.  I've had a couple encounters doing photography part time, that made it clear that doing it day after day, all day, day in day out would very quickly make the magic of capturing photos disappear in the wind.  I entertained the idea of making custom wood products and becoming a carpenter, and again I thought that my love of turning and making woodcraft furniture would die after I faced the reality that I'd be competing against cheap people buying cheap stuff from Ikea and Walmart.  It was around this time I began to consider finance.

I've carried a wonder of the stock market since I began earnestly investing around 2004.  Furthermore a good deal of available time, I dedicate to analyzing and attempting to understand the markets. I've written useful pieces of software to help me out.  I've voluntarily read books on finance that most people would find to be the most boring print ever put to paper.  I spend most of my day with a secondary monitor showing me what is going on in the market.  When worrying about industries, as long as there is money, there will be a finance industry and if there is no money, I probably don't need to worry about working.

At first the thought was to just switch, and I started probing into what kind of finance jobs are available.  It appeared I would either have to set myself back, and get hired on somewhere as an associate somewhere, and take a pay hit because I would basically be a programmer not knowing what he's programming, or I could try and learn a thing or two about finance before I entered the field.  A few searches about education in finance and I found the finance lab at the U of Calgary.  The rub was that the programme in which I wanted to study, required full time study and a stint as a teacher's assistant.  As the conflict with my day job would be too great, I wearily weighed my options.

Eventually the scales tipped in the favour of returning to school.  I've served notice with my employer, and have started letting people know.  There is going to be a lot of change in my life this year.

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