About Me

Me

While the purpose of this website is to provide potential clients with the most important information about my livelihood, this particular page is supposed to be more about me and less about my work.

I am the subject of this 2005 picture but, in real life, I am not missing a front tooth, I do not have a magenta colour cast, and my wife is convinced that I have not worn a tie since the photo was taken. Replacing the image with a more recent and realistic one is way down on my to-do list but if you really want to know what I look like you can find me in some of the pictures on my Gallery page.

My current goal in life is to never sit in another office cubicle. This has been working well since the summer of 2010.

Some of My Most Relevant Interests

Astronomy – I love being outdoors in dark places under clear skies. I am currently on my third telescope, not counting the dreadful ones I built in my youth. What I like to point it at has varied over the years but my current favourite targets are the thin crescent Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, asteroids, and the occasional bright comet that passes through the inner solar system. Lately I have been getting a bit tired of hauling this instrument and its accessories between my basement and my larger car and having to load and unload it for use so my tastes have been changing. I have noticed myself paying much more attention to artificial satellites drifting slowly across the sky and to meteors streaking across it at much greater speeds.

Radio – I started building radios when my age barely had two digits in it. My basement is full of the components and instruments necessary to build more. In theory, now that I no longer have a regular job, I should have the time to do so but I am too busy building antennas. The thing that fascinates me most about radio is the highly variable way that the ionosphere enables EM waves of different frequencies to travel long distances.

Planetary Science – We live in a time when robotic spacecraft can show us finer details of some places on Mars than Google can show us of some places on Earth. This is tremendously exciting and enormously fascinating. How did the Moon form? How much ice does it really have? Where did the water go on Mars? Did Mars ever have microscopic life? Does anything live in Europa’s subsurface ocean? Are Ganymede and Callisto getting as much attention as they deserve? What mechanisms are responsible for all those weird phenomena in Saturn’s rings? For how long has Titan had lakes? Will a sample-return mission to Enceladus happen in my lifetime?

Some of My More Conventional Interests

Scuba Diving – For several years I spent a lot of weekend hours underwater. Those were good times, especially at night but, as with astronomy, I got tired of loading and unloading a bunch of equipment. At least telescopes require less maintenance and do not have to be rinsed off when you get them home. I only managed to sell the tanks at a garage sale in the summer of 2013 so I will try to sell the rest on Used Victoria.

Photography – This was a major interest of mine when I had a roommate who was equally enthusiastic but then we both got jobs and I moved to a different city. My new friends liked my work but were not inclined to take any photos of their own so my activity level dropped. Somewhere in my house are a few thousand 35 mm slides that still deserve to be organized and digitized. I gave most of my lenses and accessories to a friend but forgot to put the darkroom equipment out at the garage sale.

Running – In the 1990s, when I lived close to Dallas Road, I went through a long-distance running phase. It all started when a co-worker assembled a team for the 24 Hour Relay. It ended when I moved further inland and lost easy access to that beautiful running route.

Geocaching – Unlike astronomy, scuba diving, and serious photography, this requires much less equipment. It obviously provides much less vigorous exercise than the running did but it at least gets me outdoors and visiting places I would not otherwise think of going to.

Books
Zen Mind Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Music
The Planets by Gustav Holst
Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Hold Out by Jackson Brown

Movies
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Finding Forrester
Doctor Strangelove
The Hunt for Red October

Teas (all from Terroir Tea Merchant in Victoria)
Margaret’s Hope Moonlight (white, Darjeeling)
Mist Valley Jitpur (black, Illam)
Alishan Eco Red (oolong, Taiwan)
Lung Ya Cherry (green, Taiwan)

Chocolate (all from Sirene Chocolate in Victoria)
Bolivia tasting bar
Tanzania tasting bar
Ecuador tasting bar

Education

I have a B.Sc. in astronomy and an M.Sc. in geophysics, both from the University of British Columbia (UBC). Since earning those degrees I have taken many other courses in software development, teaching, writing, and editing, and even more courses in subjects that had absolutely nothing to do with making a living but which were very interesting, a whole lot of fun, or both.

Work

My first real job after university was as a geophysicist for a company in Houston, Texas. The company went out of business a few years after I left but I still have a free pencil that they gave me on my first day.

Most of my adult life has been spent as a software developer, most recently for IBM Canada and then for the National Research Council’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA). If I look hard enough I should still be able to find some free pencils or other logoware from both of those outstanding organizations.

These days most of my billable time goes into tutoring high school and university students in math and physics. This is enormously satisfying. I look forward to seeing every one of my students every time we meet, whether that happens in-person or online. After each session I come away feeling that I have done something genuinely useful for another human being. So far there have been no free pencils. This is ironic since I now use them more than ever.

Most of my non-billable working time is now spent learning about HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, WordPress, Illustrator, Inkscape, Blender, Gimp, ePub, social media, and anything else that might help my wife with her digital publication projects.

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