BCIT ISSP Summer Project for 2018 – A Rarity from what I Understand

Taoex™ Club 2018 BCIT ISSP Summer Program Team
A few days after the presentations of the 3 projects that had been selected and developed by the 3 teams of students for the spring 2018 ISSP program I had received an email from the BCIT Industry Liaison and Student Wellness Coordinator, inviting me to submit projects for a rare summer program. Turns out that a few students opted to conduct their fall development project during the summer instead so that they could concentrate on their studies during the fall semester. Made sense to me.

The invitation to submit projects for consideration by the students carried a weighty requirement; project proposals had to be submitted within a few short hours. Naturally, I was interested, and I contacted the program head right away. During our conversation I told her that it wasn’t much time, but I thought that I could submit 3 or 4 projects by the end of the day. It was at this time that I was informed that there were only 3 teams of students and as such that I could only submit 1 proposal. My response was that seeing as I had 2 types of projects for the students to choose from, games and database development, that she should allow me 2 submissions. In the interest of giving the students a good range of choices for their projects the Liaison agreed.

Of the 2 projects submitted, a team of 5 students selected the database project continuation for the Taoex™ Club built using Laravel. If I had to choose which of the proposals to be worked on over the summer, it would have been the Taoex™ Club. I lucked out twice on this round of submissions it would seem.

With the project selected and the team in place they needed to be given some direction on what needed doing. As previously stated, this was a continuation on a previous ISSP build that while completed for that project, was not quite ready for public consumption. To complicate matters for the project, and just about every other website online, the introduction of the GDPR (general data protection regulation) out of the EU, needed to be incorporated into the project.

The students were given a list of 13 priority and 3 secondary tasks to do over the 10-week course. First and foremost was the installation of reCaptcha to the registration form followed closely by making the site compliant with the GDPR. Some of the other tasks that needed to be completed were various filters to prevent potential users from registering with special characters and vulgar words and a ranking system for players and clubs. By the close of the project I am happy to say that the team managed to accomplish 10 of the 13 primary tasks assigned to them along with creating a new home page and redesigning most of the internal pages.

To date, I have successfully completed 6 different ISSP sessions; 2 for the Fall, 3 in the Spring and 1 for the rare Summer program. The Fall program consists of a 10-week schedule where a team of students normally take on 1 project as they go about their normal curriculum. The Spring program consisting of about 5 weeks where a team of students only work on a project and has no course load. The rare Summer program which also consists of about 10-weeks where the students only work on their selected projects with very little to no other course load. Of the 3 that I have participated in the summer program, by far, offers the best value. Not to take anything away from the other 2 programs in terms of value but come on, 10 weeks of concentrated development time. Hard to beat that.

The Taoex Club, in support of the board game Taoex™ BCIT Industry Sponsored Student Project team for the Summer of 2018 consisted of Samit Bains (team lead), Nam Dang, Aska Fang, Li Wang and last but not least, Joeslito Ayeras. The overseeing BCIT instructor was Amir Amintabar and of course I can’t leave out Shebia Leung, the BCIT Industry Liaison and Student Wellness Coordinator. If your business is in the need of some computer programming I would not hesitate to recommend the BCIT ISSP program but be warned, there is a 50% chance of the students picking your project. If yours is not selected, just wait a few months and submit it again. Eventually your project will find the right team of students to match your project.

BCIT Industry Sponsored Student Projects Selected by ISSP Students Spring 2018

After submitting 2 projects to the BCIT ISSP for the September 2017 term I was very pleased to learn that both of my projects were selected to be developed by 2 teams of students. Both teams threw themselves at the projects and 12 weeks later, presented me with some fine examples of their programming efforts.

Emboldened by the success of having both projects selected I prepared for to enter a total of 5 projects for the winter term. Along with 3 new game projects I also resubmitted the first 2 for continued development. None of the 5 projects were selected by the students for development during the winter term. Knowing that I had a less than 50/50 chance of any 1 project being selected, I figured with 5 submissions at least 1 or 2 might have been selected. None were.

Slightly disappointed by my luck I figured that I would leave all 5 submissions in the mix for the up coming spring term. It wasn’t like it cost anything to submit projects. Good thing I did.

Sometime in April I received an email from one of the BCIT ISSP coordinators informing me that the students had chosen one of my projects again. Having submitted 5 projects I was naturally curious as to which project was selected so I wrote to find out. Turns out that 4 out of the 5 projects were selected. Pretty sweet. Of the 12 projects submitted to the Industry Supported Student Projects submitted I had 6 projects selected. 50% selected, right on the money odds wise.

After learning of the projects that were selected I was informed by email that 1 of the teams had dropped out of the program and as such, only 3 projects would be moving forward. A shame but I am sure the students had their reasons. I am sticking to the 50% selection rate however!

Davis Pham, Anthony Wang, Zhiyuan Lin and Tian Kirkpatric
The first project was a continuation on the TAOEX online game. The team converted their earlier development to a Unity development and it worked out well. The game looks great, has a lot more functionality, is much more stable and incorporates even more of the rules. The AI has been beefed up and the number of players has been doubled. I am sure I am leaving plenty of their work out simply because I am not sure of what was done nor by whom.

The team consisted of Davis Pham, Anthony Wang, Zhiyuan Lin and Tian Kirkpatric. These guys worked well together, and it shows in what they built.

Michael Minhas, Sang Woo Park, Dylan Sim, Paul Kim and Devan Purha
The second project was the first development of a game I created back in the mid 90’s. The board game Trieris is an ancient navel warfare game where players navigate their ships around the Aegean Sea to sink opponent ships and capture ports.

Armed with photocopies of the rule book and the benefit of only playing the game once, the team set out to recreate the game as a Java based computer game. In less than 3 weeks the TrieHard team managed to put a working copy of the game that met their goal of a proof of concept development.

The team consisted of Michael Minhas, Sang Woo Park, Dylan Sim, Paul Kim and Devan Purhar. This team got an excellent start to the development of this game, a little animation, some sound effects and some more development for the graphical user interface (GUI) and this game could be beta released.

Eric Wu, Cooper Shang, Mike Dumycz and Steven Chae
The third project was based on yet another game I created back in the late 80’s early 90’s, this one called MiSDIRECTION. The idea behind designing the game came about from a desire to create a game that would be very inexpensive to produce. Further, it had to be quick to play with few rules and was entertaining to both children and adults alike.

Once again, armed with photocopies of rules and after playing one game on a crude prototype the team took to the task of creating another Java based computer game. The team consisted of Eric Wu, Cooper Shang, Mike Dumycz and Steven Chae.

All of these projects will be flown under the Pixelific Games Inc. banner once they are ready for public consumption.

Interesting day with the fury chainsaw

stolen truck

Cops closed the doors to preserve evidence they said.

What a crazy, fucked up day. One for the record books to be sure.

Those of you who know me know that I have been playing in a yearly tournament with a select group of gamers for decades. We try to get together 1 day per month to play our game, today was that day.

During a break after a rather long game, we heard a large vehicle hit the driveway hard and fast, getting all of our attention. Standing at the counter at the time I look out the kitchen window to see a white truck zoom past much too fast for the amount of driveway that it had left. Fortunately for the driver our parking lot was full and those parked cars stopped the truck from driving into a ravine.

Not knowing what the hell was going on or who these people were who came barrelling into our yard at such breakneck speeds, we collectively went out to investigate. A large, white Ford truck is running in the driveway with both doors wide open, no one in it. I look to my right and see nothing past the white truck or the parked cars. I look to my left and there is a 20 something woman hitching a backpack up and making a beeline up the driveway and back to the road.

I pick up my pace and call out to her to which she looks back at me and quickens her stride. This is not the response of someone who wants help. I’m thinking she looked pretty scared, definitely trying to escape something. She starts half running and easily outdistanced me to the end of the driveway. It is then that I see a man on the street. Knowing that both doors on the truck were open and there is a scared woman running out of my driveway, I naturally change my attention from the woman and move to confront the man.

I ask him what’s with the truck? Who he is and what the hell do they want? He tells me that he has no idea and that he was a neighbor who was coming to complain about the extremely dangerous driving, especially with all the kids out riding their bikes in the cul-de-sac on this fine sunny afternoon. My focus goes back to the woman who continues her hurried pace down the road, moving even faster and still ignoring my calls.

By now a small crowd of neighbors has gathered out front of the house and we compare notes, sparse as they might be.

The other gamers had spent their time checking out the back yard when I went to the front, and added their description of events in the back 40. Turns out that the driver, another woman they thought, had bolted out the door and ran down our very steep back lawn leading to a swampy, overgrown ravine complete with a winding river in the middle. You could even follow her tracks as the driver jumped a fence and broke through a mass of swamp grass. Whoever it was would have gotten pretty messed up in their escape, I wonder if they got away.

The consensus out front with the neighbors was that someone had to call the cops to report this. Seeing as the truck came into my yard I took it upon myself to call it in. Come to think of it this was the first time I had ever dialed 911, I hope it is also the last.

The 911 operator gets on the phone and asks “Police, Fire or Ambulance?” I respond with “Police I guess because I didn’t know who to ask for about a truck being abandoned, running in my driveway.” She asks me the color of the truck to which I respond, white and she tells me that they are actively looking for a white truck. I told her that they could stop looking because it is parked in my driveway.

Upon license plate verification she orders everybody to move away from the truck so as to not confuse the scent because they were dispatching dogs. I was told to go out to the street to look for a cruiser to arrive. While I waited she gathered all of the information over the phone. The neighbors, knowing that the cops were coming, all kind of drift back into their homes. I can hear, and see a bunch of cops racing around on the hunt all over the neighborhood.

Eventually a cop shows up and starts taking the particulars and surprisingly, shares a little information. It turns out they were looking for a pair of women for some reason, he never said, and it was likely these two as they matched the description. Personally, I only saw one of them but the other guys at the house said they thought the driver was a woman and turns out that they were right.

As we were talking to the cop the K9 unit rolls up and it is a black, unmarked, militaristic looking SUV. The cop tells us that we needed to step back and give the “fury chainsaw” some room as he drops his own hands in defence of his crotch as a warning to the wary. The K9 handler gets out of the truck and he is all in black, looking more like a swat team member than a regular beat cop. He brings the dog out and it is an amazing looking German Shepherd, a finer specimen of a working dog I have never seen.

With the K9 unit working the grounds we felt it was a good time to head back in and start another game. With the white truck blocking the driveway until the cops were finished with it and could tow it away, we were all stuck at the house anyway.

Over the past couple of decades of tournament play we have had some pretty amazing times, a lot of good laughs and gamesmanship. Sure, occasionally there has been drama when the competition gets tight or plays are made through spite. It is just part of gaming, no one takes it seriously for too long. But never before have our tournaments ever been so severely disrupted. I mean come on…seriously, WTF?

To make things even worse I had to miss one of our gamer’s 50th birthday bash while we waited for the white truck to be towed. Happy Birthday Rob.

Tragically Hip Over The Years

The Tragically HipAs a long time metal head from the 1970’s I used to take a lot of flack from my buddies over some of my choices in music. My love for art rock was tolerated and why not seeing as a great many of the hard core metal bands would often cite bands like Rush, Yes and Genesis as major influences in their own musical journeys to greatness. My interest in Rock Fusion Jazz was politely ignored for fear of bringing up the subject would result in a rather lengthy session of Spyro Gyra and Return to Forever’s The Romantic Warrior.

But of all the hassles I received over the years for my musical choices I think I got the most grief from being an early adopter of The Tragically Hip music. I would get comments like “What the hell do you want to go see them for and do a bunch of pogo-ing?” For those of you who don’t know the term pogo-ing refers to standing in one place and bouncing to the beat of the music. Let me tell you that The Tragically Hip was a great band to go pogo-ing to, I can’t even count how many times I saw this great band in their early years at some really small venues here in Vancouver.

Now I wasn’t a big fan of their first album but their second album “Up To Here” is a classic with a lot of great songs like “Blow at High Dough”, “New Orleans Is Sinking”, and “38 Years Old” which are radio staples here in Canada with their thoughtful and easy to sing along with lyrics. Who can resist singing “he’s 38 years old and never kissed a girl” when the chorus rounds to that easy to identify with phrase or when the chorus bops around to “New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim?” Nobody with skip in their step that I know of.

Around the time “Up To Here” came out a friend of mine went on a trip to Australia and being a big music fan he went in to a record store to check out the local Aussie scene. While browsing the stacks he asked the store attendants if they had ever heard of the Tragically Hip and not surprisingly, they had not. Being the proud Canadian that he was he pulled out one of those new fangled CD recordings and they played it in its entirety in the shop and made some instant early down under fans for our little bit of Canadiana. As I type this “Boots or Hearts” started playing and it is not possible to avoid snapping your fingers to this great break up song. “Fingers and toes, fingers and toes. Forty things we share. Forty-one if you include, the fact that we don’t care”

I recall listening to the legendary band manager Bruce Allen radio show one evening back in the 80’s where he was once again getting the gears from a caller about how “he blew it when he passed on taking on The Tragically Hip as clients”. I will always remember him saying that listening to their music was like listening to paint dry which was an interesting spin on the idiom but it sure did lower my opinion of Bruce Allen. Of course my opinion of Bruce Allen was never that high to begin with due in large part to Canadian radio icon Jack Webster’s total dislike for Mr. Bruce Allen. Jack Webster introduced my grandmother to her last great relationship but that is a different story for another time perhaps. No Bruce Allen just couldn’t be that bright seeing as he refused to acknowledge the great lyrical work of Gordon Downie and lacked the character to admit he was wrong.

The last time I saw the Tragically Hip was when they were headlining the 1991 New Year’s celebration “Under The Sails” at the new conference center on the waterfront. The show was fantastic with lots of pogo-ing going on. I recall my spirits being lifted a little as my ass kept getting pinched by a couple of shy gals who would pogo out of the crowd to grab a handful of butt cheeks before melting back into the crowd before I could catch them in the act. I never did find out who they were but it wouldn’t have mattered too much as I was heart broken at that time and no amount of anonymous sex would have righted my mood completely. It was a surreal evening to be sure that marked a strange point in my life with memories that linger to this day. I still have the commemorative champagne flutes from that night, they sit high upon my mantle as they always have. Of course I also have the Tragically Hip to remind me of the night that my youthful pursuits ended. But that is an even longer story and one.

Gordon Downie I was so sorry to hear about your medical problems and I shall be thinking of you, your family, friends and bandmates in the days ahead. Your poetry has always spoken to me and it always will regardless of how anybody else feels about it. Thanks for the memories, bitter or sweet, that accompany your words when the music plays on as it surely will.

Oh horrors of horrors – game day from hell

OK for those of you who know me know that a select group of friends and I get together on a regular bases, for decades actually, to play a game I created. The games we play are part of a yearly tournament for the Expletive Award. The trophy is very unique and the championship carries some bragging rights within certain circles. Today was a tournament day and it was brutal.

First game was fairly typical, lasting about a buck thirty seven with me scoring double digit points. One person was taken out and my son eventually won the game with more points than usual with his victory by liberation. A victory by liberation is a fairly prestigious win due to the conditions of capturing an opponent’s piece that is made up of your captured pieces. Not easy to do and as such this kind of win is not common, good on Luke for taking the first game with a very respectable score.

The second game was a quick one resulting in a victory with a 9 point time bonus given to Lorne by winning this one in fifty one minutes. This was not a good showing for me as I only scored five points. The only saving grace was that the other players scored poorly as well. Lorne made up some ground on me in this one for sure but not Luke.

Game number three was a good game with everybody playing at their highest level, no one holding clear advantage across many exchanges. Early in the game Lorne incurred a shenanigans penalty for pointing out a move with Jay claiming aggrieved status for two points. Shenanigans are rarely called as all players know that the game is not a team sport but sometimes players get caught up in the moment. As we approached the two hour mark I manufactured an opportunity to win the game with an out of the way victory by liberation against Jay. He missed the threat and the win was guaranteed on my next move, I just had to wait for Lorne and then Luke to move.

I wasn’t paying too much attention to Lorne and Luke’s conflict as they were too far off and no threat to me or my plan. I think Luke had Lorne under threat and trapped in the triangle leaving his only out to take a chance by rolling on the way, and that is what he did. Not only was Luke threatening Lorne but he was also guarding the way against Lorne’s turn. Luke was guarding multiple points along the way and as I said Lorne took his chance on the way and rolled a one, the only number that would place Lorne directly in Luke’s way giving Luke the victory for his last move before my guaranteed win.

Lorne could have rolled anything other than the one and the only way Luke could have won during his last turn was by rolling the die, mine win was guaranteed. Not taking anything away from Luke’s second win of the day but as we often say, the game played me today.

I started the day eighty three points up on Luke for the year and closed the day three points behind him. Good thing we got at least one more tournament date in 2015 even though the outcome will not have an effect on the seeding for the finals.

Front Street

A few days ago my son, the one in film school, reached out to me for a little assist on one of his class projects. He told me that the class had an assignment where they had to make up a log line based upon a story from one of their parents.

For those of you who don’t know what a logline is, a logline is one or two sentences that are used to entice, or sell, a person on seeing a movie. An example of the log line from one of the highest grossing movies of all time; “On an infamous doomed vessel, a street-wise hustler crosses paths with a stifled aristocratic dreamer to create an unsinkable love story. And a suspiciously accurate erotic drawing.” The movie, if you hadn’t already guessed, was Titanic.

I asked him if he had any particular story in mind and he did so I spent a few hours writing up the requested events that happened one afternoon. Wanting to give him plenty of material in which to craft his logline, I figured I would add a little back story to help set a mood. I put down a few thousand words so he could come up with less than 50 to satisfy his assignment.

I told a few people about the story and they asked if I would publish it somewhere so they could read it. I did and the story follows.

Front Street

Being raised in the 1960’s and 70’s was a lot different than it is today with all of our current distractions and instant gratifications. Back then we had to make our own entertainment which was usually heavily influenced by the environment in which you grew up in. Fortunately for society, most lived within the “Leave it to Beaver” sphere of normalcy where dad works, mom maintains the household and the kids pretty much towed the line of church, education and wholesome pursuits. That was not the society I grew up in, fuck no.

Growing up, for me, included avoiding the glue huffing criminals who made travel difficult at times along the various paths of our heavily industrialized neighborhood. Glue huffing? Yep, we were forever crunching dried up bags of glue under foot as we walked along the railway tracks that separated most of the industrial lands from the lush commercial gardens of our home turf. Criminals? You bet. Not only was the street gang infamous across Canada for their particular brand of violence but organized crime of all stripes would conduct their business along our little stretch of the mighty Fraser River. More than a few bodies were discovered by neighborhood kids as they went about their childhood endeavors on the wrong side of the tracks. Sadly this was my normal. My run of the mill. My same ole, same ole.

Looking back now I can only wonder why I didn’t end up a drug addled criminal floating from one get rich scheme to the next, is beyond me. I might be able to attribute this to several things like blind luck or Saint Leonard not finding me worthy to watch over in prison. Regardless of the reasons, I am thankful. The education I received growing up in this commonality certainly was leading down the path of a life behind bars, or an early dirt nap. Of course at the time one didn’t think in terms of consequences, those were things that god fearing kids and adults worried about. We didn’t care about consequences because when you grow up evading chemically eviscerated criminals, there usually aren’t a lot of god fearing adults around to waggle their fingers in recrimination at the choices we were making.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to place any blame at the feet of our parents because a lot of them simply didn’t know what was happening with us at a street level until it was too late. Their hold over innocence from the 50’s left them woefully ill-equipped to deal with the rapid changes that the surging sex, drugs and rock & roll culture were placing upon society. Hell, I knew kids who were going home on acid with their parent none the wiser in spite of the bizarre behavior on display by their little darlings. At worst they might have thought their child drunk as they sent them to sleep it off. What did they know about drugs, that wasn’t a topic covered by Archie Bunker on “All in the Family”, they just didn’t know they needed to know about drugs.

Like I said, environments have a lot to do with our development. Being brought up that close to hard drug use and criminality at a very young age, coupled with ample opportunities to experience both, provided me with lots of tales from my miss spent youth. Fortunately for me my family moved away when I was about 15 and I suppose, I am grateful for this as the relocation provided better examples for a more positive growth to round out my journey to manhood. But that’s a different phase in my life and I may cover that one day. For now, I want to cover a story that happened toward the end of my time growing up in the South Burnaby flats.

Just prior to being sent out of town to spend the winter watching over our newly completed house that my father had built, my friends and I wanted to attend our junior high dance, maybe get into a little trouble. In order to ensure a good time we decided that we wanted to score some pot, a nickel bag for sure or if we could scrounge up enough money, a dime bag even. That was what you called it back then, nickel or dime bags. Oh and lids too, can’t forget those. After all lids were the straight gag for my favorite Groucho Marx impersonation. With my eyebrows bouncing and an exaggerated flick of an imaginary cigar, “Hey kid wanna buy a lid? Fit your jar nicely!” with a wink-wink-wink.

The pot you could get at the time was called commercial (basic home grown) that didn’t really do much. If you were lucky you might get some Mexican red hair that contained, by weight, mostly stems and seeds, but technically worked much better than the commercial. There was a lot of Colombian and if you really knew people you could get Hawaiian, Cambodian or the crème de la crème, Thai stick. But we were kids, we didn’t know anybody so the best we could hope for was to score some commercial in a risky gamble outside of a dive bar.

We didn’t have any bars in our neck of the woods. We did have a night club but it wasn’t the kind of place where a bunch of kids would hang outside of, there were no other businesses near it to use as an excuse for being there. Besides it was a night club and the action didn’t pick up until late in the evening, too late for a bunch of snot nosed kids to score without it being obvious why we were there. For a place like a dive bar or strip club we would need to go to the next town over as the next town over had a proper downtown core complete with several dive bars and strip clubs that were opened earlier in the day. Absolutely perfect for our needs as we could hang outside the neighboring businesses and ask the patrons as they filed past us by on their way in to get their drink on.

Mug & Jugs New Westminster, BC

Our destination of choice was in downtown New Westminster at the College Place Hotel where they had a regular dive bar located right next door to the strip club, Mugs & Jugs. The two bars in one location hopefully meant not too much hang time waiting to score. While there would be a lot of people going in and out of the bars for us to ask, the tricky bit was that the hotel was also located about 1 block away from City Hall and the police station. This meant that there were lots of cops around and the 5 of us, in our cut off mack/jean jackets combos, along with our long hair, stuck out like a bunch of trouble makers up to no good. The first few people we asked flatly refused to acknowledge our existence which is just as well because, any drug pushers worth his weight in salt wouldn’t hesitate to sell his goods to a bunch of kids and clearly, by their lack of response, they weren’t who we were looking for.

It really didn’t take too long before some guy asked us what we wanted, told us how much and proceeded into the bar armed with our combined funds to secure our bag of stems, seeds and dried leafy crumble. We knew we were taking a chance with our money for had the guy decided to drink our money away instead, there would have been nothing we could have done about it with him safely beyond our reach within the pub. As we waited for our pot to emerge all we could do was try to blend in with our surroundings, pray that our dude was sober enough to deliver our goods while one of the circling cop cars wasn’t driving by just at that very moment.

After a short wait our guy came out and carelessly tossed us the bag of pot before turning heel and disappearing back inside the pub. No sooner had the bag made it into a pocket when one of the cop cars rounds the corner and all 5 sets of eyes focus in on the cop behind the wheel. Now we thought we were being extremely cool about this as we all turned in unison, like we’d been practicing the maneuver for just such an occasion, and ducked into the nearby alley hoping to remove ourselves from the notice of the city cop.

All we accomplished, it seemed, was to draw attention to ourselves as we heard the sound of the cops engine speed up to parallel the mouth of the ally. Just as his car came to a stop with him looking for us he undoubtedly saw the last of us turn the corner that would put us back on the street in the opposite direction that his car was now pointed. The roar of his motor revving up with the sound of screeching tires told us that he was pulling a U-ey to try to catch us up on the next block. We had anticipated the move being the wily veterans of many a chase by people more scary than the law. We simply turned tail once again and doubled back the way we came and turned another corner that would have placed us once again, moving in the opposite direction to where the cop was heading. It was far easier for a bunch of kids on foot to out maneuver a car in the tight streets and alleys that made up the once regal royal city.

We used this tactic a few times as we zig zagged our way along the side streets and pedestrian alleys in our efforts to lose this cop and make our way home with our prize. We were experiencing marginal success as we seemed to be gaining a few blocks on this cop when he apparently radioed for backup. There were now at least 2 cop cars actively trying to corner us and cut off our escape. With more than one car in on the hunt it was getting more difficult to stay ahead of them as they slowly herded us towards the river, potentially cutting off our options for escape.

Front Street Parkade, New Westminster, BC

With less than 2 blocks left before being trapped along the limited cover along the banks of the mighty Fraser River, I yelled out to my friends to head for the parkade and to meet on the second deck. This was our last hope for escape. The parkade was huge with 3 floors at one end that offered up several staircases that led to different areas of the downtown core. As handy as the multiple pedestrian exits were the best part was that if the lazy cops weren’t willing to get out of their cars and chase us up the stairs, they would be stuck using the two car ramps at either end, to enter the parkade.

Huddled in the shadows of the second floor we anxiously waited and watched to see what the cops were going to do. Sure enough 4 cop cars entered the parkade to start their search for us. The plan was working perfectly because none of the cops had gotten out of their cars to cover the stairs. As soon as they drove onto the parkade we flew down the stairs to the street below. Knowing that it would take a few minutes for them to search the 3 decks, and then even longer still for them to circle their way back out again using the corkscrew ramps, we beat our hasty retreat. With the rapidly darkening skies coming to our aid our spirits were lifted as we headed towards the deepening shadows beneath the parkade on Front Street and possible escape.

Front Street Train Tracks New Westminster, BC

Our luck was in as it was about this time that we heard the sound of a locomotive blowing its warning horn prior to crossing Front Street down at the end of the parkade. As fate would have it this particular train just happened to be heading down the tracks in the direction of home. Without giving it even a moment’s thought we all started running for the train and the five of us all found ladders to grab onto as we hopped on that sucker to make a clean getaway. Less than 20 minutes later we had all made it home to our waiting families and dinner.

I can’t remember the dance as nothing really happened that night other than us smoking a bunch of bad pot. Scoring the pot that day is something I will always remember but that probably has more to do with not being stoned at the time but then again, the dance might have just been boring.

A week of Strangeness

Strange LampSo a couple of odd things happened this week, things that give one pause to wonder about the strangeness of coincidences.

My roommate is one of those people that likes to go to car rallies to show off his classic car. I, having spent almost a decade working for a major automotive importer, never got the “stand around in a parking lot with a bunch of cars” as being a fun pastime but he enjoys it.

Well the paid participants of these events receive a shwag bag full of little things like playing cards and such. This one event provided some large promotional balloon that quickly got placed in the discard pile. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good giant balloon I thought I would blow it up and leave it as a booby trap for the cat to play with.

The balloon sat around the house for a few days waiting on the cat’s attention and that wait soon removed the trap from my attention in spite of the fact that the balloon was in plain sight.

Around 3:30 am Thursday morning I was awoken by this really loud cracking sound and it was close by. Sleeping with the window open I just attributed it to something outside, one of the neighbors dropping something as they got ready to drive off to work. I lay awake for a while listening for the sound of a car door or ignition but it never came. Unable to go back to sleep I turned the TV on and watched that until my bladder would no longer be ignored.

Prior to going back to bed I ran in to the roommate as he was getting ready to go to work and I asked him if he heard that noise and he also heard it as it woke him up even though his room was on the other side of the house. Curious we started looking for the source of the sound and it wasn’t long before I noticed the shredded pieces of rubber that used to be the giant red balloon. I started to laugh as I commented about how my little cat trap worked to which the roommate responded with how when he woke he thought the noise was due to the cat but the cat was lying on the bed beside him so it couldn’t have been the cat. We both brushed it off and thought no more about it.

This morning, at around 5:30, I once again woke up needing to use the bathroom followed by a glass of cold water. On my way to the kitchen I noticed that there was light on in the living room. It wasn’t very bright and as such I knew instantly which light it was that was on.

A few years back my younger sister died due to her life long battle with child diabetes. When she passed our mother offered up a few of her favorite possessions to my children as mementos and one of my kids chose her favorite lamp, one of those lamps that responded to the touch to turn it on and off or dim. Kids being kids, a couple of the mementos chosen remain in my care but that is of no concern as I hold them in safekeeping for their eventual retrieval.

After our recent epic black out I thought I would put the lamp in the living room and use it for its intended purpose and lighten up a normally dark corner. This was the light that was on when I woke up this morning, it was on the dimmest setting with not much light given.

I crossed the rooms and stepped down into the sunken living room to tap the lampshade 3 times in an effort to shut it off. As I was doing that I tried to recall if I had turned the light on and forgot to turn it off before going to bed but dismissed the possibility because I knew the light wasn’t on because I turned everything off prior to turning in for the night.

Turning around to leave the room and go back to bed I thought about the strangeness of the event and what could have turned the light on, vibrations from outside the house perhaps when all of a sudden the light snaps on again but this time at its fullest brightness setting. This was especially odd because in order to get to that setting one would have to tap the lightshade 3 times, once for the lowest setting, twice for the middle setting and a third for the brightest. The damned light went straight to the brightest as I was crossing the room.

I thought perhaps my light footfalls created a vibration to set it off so after turning the light off once again I then started thumping my way out of the room in an effort to try to activate the light but to no avail, the light stayed off.
Prior to going back to bed I took one last look to make sure that the light was off and it was so I went back to bed to try to grab a few more hours sleep. No sleep came so after an hour or so I gave up and got out of bed to find the light turned on to the lowest setting once again.

How is that for a week of strangeness?

Evergreen Line of the SkyTrain Light Rapid Transit System

I was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan but relocated to British Columbia with my family when I was a toddler. While I was too young to recall all of the details I do know that we moved to the rural area of Port Coquitlam. The very small port town was a hub for CP Rail and other industries. Probably the most famous person to come out of this community was the world renowned Terry Fox. Not only did he and his family live just down the road from my family but I went to the same elementary school although a grade or two behind him.

The area in which I grew up was basically very rural, lots of forests leading into the nearby mountains. Close to where we lived there was an old quarry that eventually became the man made Lafarge Lake. This small lake then turned in to a park for the ever expanding developments that sprung up in the hills and mountains close by. Soon a community and recreation center was built across from the lake followed by a high school and a college. Lots of houses and townhouses sprung up in the foothills and before you knew it several high rise apartment complexes sprouted up as if from nowhere.

Forty years later my childhood so called “off-limits” playground of Lafarge Pit is quite the well developed parkland with everything one could ever need for easy access recreation. Given all of the other amenities that are very close by it only made sense to make Lafarge Lake the terminus station for the brand new Evergreen Line of the Light Rapid Transit Skytrain system.

Friday night I went for a quick walk down the street and I noticed that they were working on the elevated tracks for this driverless train and that they were only a couple of sections from completion. I snapped a couple of pictures and thought I would share them with you.

I live only a few blocks from this new transit arm but I will more than likely be moving out of the area before it is completed, not that I would use it even if it were completed before I left.


They suspend individual sections, somewhere around 20ft long, and join those sections between the supports structures before moving the whole thing down the line.


There are only a couple of support structures left to be spanned before the elevated section is completed, only a few days from now judging by the speed in which they are moving.

Black Bear Encounter on Sidewalk in Coquitlam BC

Sunday morning finds me like most mornings, out for my daily walk. Rain or shine I try to get in an hour of exercise by walking some of the local trails and for me Hoy Creek Trail is fairly convenient as it runs parallel to you guessed it, Hoy Creek.

Hoy Creek is a nice little salmon bearing creek that runs down from the local hills that eventually spills into that empties in to the Coquitlam River before it flows in to the mighty Fraser River. Naturally all of these rivers have nice networks of trails that form some of this city’s fantastic green belts which generally begin up in the mountains. Just like in most places mountains mean wild life and wild life means predators are out and about looking for prey and these green belts bring them right in to the heart of many neighborhoods in their search for food.

Fortunately these predators are more interested in the easy food stuffs lying around in the form of garbage than us and our pets but it does put us in contact with them from time to time. Sure we lose the occasional pet to a coyote or two. Every once in a while you hear about an eagle or some bird of prey swooping down and snatching somebody’s idea of a dog up but generally speaking, most wild life encounters are more like sightings.

As my walk progresses along I am forced to leave the trail as none of my options provide a way under or over some of the very busy streets that cross the trail. Making my way down the sidewalk the rain starts coming down even harder as I turn off of Guildford and start down Johnson. The rain is really coming down hard as I hunker under my huge black umbrella. Fat drops of water are cascading off the points of my umbrella as I am look down at my feet trying to gauge just how many of them are actually landing on my shoes and pant cuffs.

The study of the run off occupies my attention for a few minutes as I walk down the sidewalk. Having decided that my feet are going to get wet regardless of anything I might try I look up from under my umbrella to see a huge black bear amble towards me. Because I was not paying attention to where I was going the black bear is like 30 feet in front of me before I notice it. By the look of it the bear has no intention of moving out of my path and to be honest the options are few for either of us.

Black Bear Encounter Coquitlam BC

“A” is the first bear encounter and “B” is the sighting that happened a few minutes later

To my left the bush is quite thick with no good openings to escape our encounter and to my right is a busy 4 lane road. I am standing there thinking to myself what the hell am I going to do? I know you are not supposed to run when encountering large predators as your running transforms you in to prey and the buggers will instinctively chase after you. Besides where am I going to run to? That when I look and notice that the oncoming traffic is caught up at a red light and I see that the light behind me has just turned green.

Thinking to myself I if I start running across the street right now I can just make it to the other side before the traffic gets to me. If that bears tries to chase after me well the cars might scare it off of me and I might escape. That is exactly what I did, ran across the busy 4 lane street. The black bear continued on its way down the sidewalk until it disappeared in an opening in the green belt.

Continuing my walk I couldn’t help but wonder what the bear would have done had I kept walking on the same sidewalk without looking up to see it there before me. Would we have passed each other like a couple of pedestrians ignoring the other as we make our way through our busy workaday lives? Or would it have dove into the bushes regardless of the brambles rather than get that close to a human? This would probably been the reaction but it could have given me a swat with its great paws as a warning for getting too close?

As I finish my walk guess who I ran in to again? That’s right the black bear again. In the time it took me to walk around the block I see the bruin stopping traffic across the even busier Guildford as it made its way back up towards the mountain.

3D Printing and Molding – Rapid Prototyping

So for the people who have known me for a very long time you will know what I am talking about without having to go in to too much detail as to what I am working on. For those of you who do not know me well I will briefly describe what I am working on.

Back in the winter of 1982 – 1983 I awoke in the middle of the night one evening from a dream where I was playing a game. I lit up a smoke and and quickly drew out a rough version of the game and went back to sleep. I thought about this game off and on for about 5 years before I actually created a prototype.

Over the years I have tried various ways of making these prototypes that generally involved wood beginning with taking a broom handle and planing it to a long hexagonal rod that I would then cut to my desired lengths. Then I would take these cut off tiles as I call them and then spray paint them with plastic paint. Surprising how much paint it would take as the wood would absorb the paint.

Once armed with my painted tiles I would then apply the information to each tile by hand. In the beginning it was all hand drawn that eventually became decals. These looked pretty good but not very cost effective so I continued to find an easier and cheaper way to create these tiles.

Fast forward a few years and my meeting with a Fellow named Ken who introduced me to the world of hand mold making and a product called Smooth-on. This system, while not perfect, seemed to be a possible solution for my “on demand” printing solution. Of course the making of the molds required a positive to use as the source and for that we went to wood once again.

3D Rapid Prototyping

7.5 inches by 5.5 inches positive mold created by 3D printing.

Fast forward a few years more and I check out 3D printing to make my molds. Viola – very precise positives to work from.

This sample is 7.5 X 5.5 inches and took approximately 11.5 hours to print and cost $280.00. The plastic is kind of sticky to the touch for some reason and while it looks strong and durable the reality is that it is not quite that tough. I guess it makes sense when you take in to consideration that it is printed by laying 1 thin strand of plastic, about the thickness of a human hair, upon the previous strand until you have built up enough layers to finish your finished print.

They all do not work that way but the one I used did and this was not a cheap 3D Printer as it was a commercial grade printer that cost upwards of $50,000.00.

Armed with my new 3D Printed prototype that would allow me to make a dozen blank tiles at a time I mix up a batch of Smooth-On mold making goop and proceed to make my first mold – or so I thought.

The molding material takes 24 hours to cure so I wait a solid day before I make the attempt to de-mold. Having never used this material before I soon discover that removing the mold from the positive is going to be a lot harder than I thought. Not only does this rubber grip everything tightly but there is actually no place for me to grab the mold as the sides of the positive are higher than the mold surface.

Smooth-on Mold

The extracted Smooth-On mold from the 3D printed positive.

I was hoping to use the positive to make at least 6 molds but I am fearful that I am going to have to break my positive to get access my mold. It took me over an hour to coax up an edge of the mold high enough to clear the edge of the positive so I could grip the mold and pull it out of the positive. In the process I actually cracked the floor of the positive and while I will be able to use it to make at least one more mold I am hopeful that by gluing the positive to a stronger surface I will be able to get my 6 molds.

I guess the take away from this would be that while 3D Printing Rapid Prototyping is a fast way to make your molds you have to keep in mind that they are not that strong. If you are going to be using this method to make your molds then you would be well advised to reinforce the prototype by gluing Plexiglas panels to the bottom and sides as the forces required to de-mold may break your 3D printed prototype.

I will continue to use this process to make my components so that I can “Print on Demand” my game creations.