Mr. Charlton Starts a Robotics Club

 

Me and a couple people here at the school have started a robotics club. Why robots?

robot-army

I promise it’s not a robot army. I swear.

Before I started school, over a year ago in the summer of 2018, I went to the campus grounds to chat with one of the teachers here who took the time out of his schedule to talk to me about his class. I did some digging before hand and I found out he had previously worked on a satellite that was going to be sent into orbit. When I asked him about it, he said that he joined the group when he transferred over to the University of Victoria from Camosun. He was so successful that when he completed his degree, the University gave him $20,000 to pursue his masters. They even won an award for the project. You can read about it here:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/university-of-victoria-wins-latest-canadian-satellite-design-challenge-1.2676321

Anyways, they don’t have a satellite club here at the college and the truth is most of the students here are green and inexperienced, so building a satellite might be a little out of the scope for the student body at a school this small.

Launch

Turns out this is actually pretty hard.

Now, there is a 3D printing club that operates out of the school, and it’s pretty sweet. The only issue was the fact that the 3D printer was pretty much built when I started last year. I was terrified of stepping into a club where they were hungry for 3D models, only to find out I did that kind of thing for over a decade. After a decade of drafting, the last thing I wanted to do was have someone lean over me shoulder and tell me what they wanted built.

So I talked to some of my friends here at the school, and within about five minutes, we had enough interest from enough people to start up a club. This also means that we’ll be privy to a $400 budget from the school to build you a robot.  Can we design a robot that will recognize garbage and pick it up? Will we able to create a swarm of bots that could build a structure? What what will $400 buy us?

Well, not a whole lot. Nothing sophisticated, at least yet. What you can get is some rudimentary components and get some motors and some wheels and make a bot that avoid running into walls. And then we can teach it to make decisions on which way to turn, and how to avoid obstacles. Then we mass produce them, and then arm them with lazers, and march across the planet instilling my plan for a new world order. Under my iron wing, we’ll build a utopia together! My detractors shall be buried under the wheels of my doom machines!

mad-

This is the most relevant picture I could find.

Truthfully, we will building something more like this…

But a guy can dream of mechanized world domination, right?

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Apparently my spelling of lazer is incorrect, but I absolutely refuse to spell it with anything other than a “z”.

p.s.s. To be frank, ruling the world seems like big pain in the ass. It’d be like the old game ‘King of the Castle’, except the little hill you’re playing on is made of garbage and it’s on fire.

p.s.s.s. See, that’s a GREAT idea for a robot. It could put out trash fires. Why am I not in charge of things?

p.s.s.s.s. That’s right, the whole ‘pain in the ass’ thing.

 

Game of Thrones Ending – Or How I Stopped Worrying and Accepted the Flattening of Round Characters

I have a confession. I can’t stand fantasy novels. Even the good ones like Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I’ve tried, I sat down and gave them the ol’ college try and honestly, because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’m going to try again. Because if you read as voraciously as I do, then there’s no excuse not to read fantasy novels.

Weird, incredibly nerdy, science fiction? I have no qualms about sitting down and reading a book about sentient tanks or space operas involving hive mind wars on distant planets. A novel about rodents that solve crimes? Sign me up. Incredibly cheesy Harlequin romance novels? I’ve read dozens. But fantasy, for whatever reason, doesn’t grab me. There’s a list of novels and series of books that I’ve gotten halfway through and simply forgotten. And there’s no series more prominent today than the famous fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ written by George R.R. Martin, which was turned into the wildly popular ‘A Game of Thrones’ television series put on by HBO. That show has concluded, to mostly lukewarm responses to the finale as ‘Meh’. The last two seasons tell stories that have not yet been touched upon yet by the books, and most fans seem to agree that shows writing and plot have been in decline since that moment.

And I’m going to try and explain why.

Emphasis on the word ‘try’, mind you. I’m not a particular fan of the series, even the show. I thought it was pretty good, but it wasn’t something I was clamoring for. I could have waited for the box set, or never bothered to watch the series after season 7. I was bored by then. But, on the behest of both my wife and my best friend, both of who are not only fans of the show but the books as well, I’ve decided to break down exactly what happened and why the show seemed to go south so quickly.

1. The scope of the books was too large for television.

This is probably the biggest issue facing the series, and maybe why the next time you want to adapt a sprawling, massive book series, you might want to animate it. Rumor has it that GRRM wanted 12 to 13 seasons (or at least had enough material for that sort of length), HBO wanted 10 seasons, and the shows current writers/directors/producers DB Weiss and David Benioff (sardonically referred to on the internet as D&D) wanted 8 seasons, which is what we got.

As a reference point, Breaking Bad had 5 seasons, The Sopranos had 6, and Lost had 6.

GRRM-Meme

Fill it to the goddamn brim. ¹

The point I’m trying to make here is that even 8 seasons of television is a lot of goddamn television. Season 1 through 6 went so damn smoothly because GRRM had finished that part of the story. D&D were simply adapting his works for television. When the show surpassed the novels, GRRM gave the two a sense of where his vision was leading to. But DB Weiss and David Benioff had to come up everything else. Which leads me to my next point.

  2. D&D wrote most of the last two seasons. They were also the show-runners.

Here’s why I’m more inclined to push the blame more towards GRRM than D&D. You see, GRRM has one job, at least that I’m aware of. He writes. That’s his only job. He’s not an architect, he’s not managing a kitchen, he’s not delivering parcels, he’s a writer. And he’s a very good writer, but that’s the only thing he’s got to do during the day.

D&D, on the other hand, they had to write the last two seasons with a tenth of the material they had in the previous six seasons. And they had a show to run. I’m not entirely sure what that entails, but if it’s like running anything, I would imagine they’d also have to worry about…

  • Scheduling of staff and actors
  • Logistics of moving equipment to different sets
  • Making sure people are fed
  • Dealing with conflict among staff and actors
  • A number of other duties I’m certain exist

Clearly, the two of them wouldn’t be doing everything by themselves, but I assure you, that if anything goes wrong in any one of these areas, D&D are going to have to deal with it. GRRM, on the other hand…

       To be honest, that’s what I would be doing with my free time if I were rich.

      3. Just remember, fan is short for fanatic.

Fans are the best. They’re also the worst. They’ll love you when you’re at your prime, and place you on a pedestal and treat like a deity. You might even start to believe them. If you slip up, though, they will roast you alive. One and a half million people want the last season re-written. People are angry. They’ve invested a large amount of time in the series, watched it grow, fell in love with the characters. And the absolute worst thing about fans only happens if what you create is amazing; they’ll take a little piece of it and claim it as their own. You aren’t messing with Game of Thrones anymore, you’re messing with their Game of Thrones. They own stock in what the artist made, and they’ll be pissed if that stock starts to drop.

I’m not a fan of anything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy art. There’s music that has given me goosebumps. There are books that have made me a better person and filled some of the void that exists in all of us. I’ve been stunned by paintings I’ve seen in some of the art galleries I’ve been to. But at the end of the day, I truly believe that art exists in all of us, and it just takes patience and practice to get it out. Whether it’s music, or painting, or writing; your sound, your vision, your story is at your wrists and all you have to do train your hands to get it out. There’s no talent that substitutes hard work and perseverance when it comes to art. If you’re worried that your stuff is terrible, just know that there’s plenty of people out there who have awful taste, and they might lap up your garbage.

At the end of the day, it’s just a television show, it’s just a series of books, and they’ll always be more. Let George RR Martin write in peace, and let DB Weiss and David Benioff go work on Star Wars. Who knows, maybe in 20 years, they’ll do a remake like they do with everything these days. Just be thankful you got eight seasons because I’m still livid they only made one season of Firefly.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I have gotten through about half of the first book. If someone can convince me otherwise, it’s going to stay that way.

p.s.s. There are only a couple shows I really love, but a couple of them seem to cross Westerns and Space Operas (Firefly and Cowboy Bebop). Go figure.

  1. http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/george-r-r-martin/images/40423725/title/grrm-photo

Week 16 – Or 17 or Something

Well.

So the experiment to write every day turned almost immediately to every week, which then turned to every month, which is now seeming to be every semester. Although if you look at my track record, you’ll notice that I skipped right over the ‘every month’ part and didn’t manage to write anything for the rest of the semester.

Until now.

Except it’s no longer the first semester of school, it’s now the second semester of school, and while I didn’t get a chance to put many ideas to paper, I at least managed to do pretty darn well. But I’m here as an arbiter for those souls over 30 years of age who wish to go back to school.  I speak to those who’ve been out of school for over a decade, those who’ve chosen to better themselves with the pursuit of higher education. Listen to my words, you wise old souls, and heed my gospel.

School is hard. I mean, it’s really fucking hard. Granted, I’m studying electrical engineering, and word on the street is that’s pretty tough but goddamn. But after having done a semester, I think I have some choice words for people who are thinking of taking the plunge. Here are some cliff notes to help you decide if you want to go back.

First, unless you have a massive stockpile of money, you’re going to be broke and you’re probably going to have to work or take out loans. I’m focusing a lot of energy on avoiding loans. I was lucky enough to have a good year to save up a pile of cash, so if things go well, I should have plenty of money for the rest of my time at college before I head off to University. My grades are good enough that scholarships are a possibility, and I’ve put my name down for every grant and bursary imaginable. There’s money out there, you just need to go out and get it. Also, working a few hours a week at a kitchen keeps the savings account topped up. Not to mention that my mom owns the place we’re staying at, and is charging way less than the place is worth.

Needless to say, I’m both privileged and lucky to be in the spot I am. If you ever find yourself in that kind of lucky place, thank those who got you there by working your ass off.

But hey, you got the money thing figured out somehow, and you’re off to school. Now what?

Number 2: You’ve applied at you have some time? Get to work. I mean it. The fact that I studied online through a number of outlets before I started school has put me so far ahead of the game it’s not even funny. Come the summer time, if I’m not working two jobs, then you can bet your ass I’ll be studying for the next courses that’ll be coming up. Oh, the ol’ math book won’t be going away just because Mr. Sun is out and about.

If you haven’t looked at a textbook in years, then the pace of post-secondary education is going to be a shock. It’s the second biggest complaint I here from people, young and old. But, if someone were to take the time and get familiar with the material first, well, then you’ll have a great berth of knowledge to cushion that shock.

Thirdly, the only thing people seem to complain about more than the hectic pace of school is the people presenting the materials. Yes, you’re going to be taught by teachers, and you might not like some of them. Nothing solves problems like complaining about them.

“I think that they’re disorganized and not prepared”.

“I’m getting nothing from their class”.

“They are just sooooo rude and arrogant”.

Just a sample of some of the things you hear from other students. Hold on a second, I have a special news bulletin handed to me…

Special News Bulletin That was Just Handed to Me

I’m reading here, yes, it’s saying that no matter how much you don’t like your teacher, complaining isn’t going to do anything. Absolutely nothing will come of it. I’ve had some great teachers so far. I’ve had a couple who weren’t so great. You know what I can do about it? Nothing. Sure, I could complain, I could make a stink, I could bring it to the Dean of the program and point out the injustice having to put up with a wiener of a teacher. Even if I do succeed in getting the teacher reprimanded, they won’t go anywhere until the semester is done. Great, you’ve spent a pile of energy helping the people behind you. While incredibly altruistic, you could have been studying.

Speaking of which, my half an hour is up and I gotta get back to the books.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Alright, one-half hour a week. I can manage that, I think.

 

Week 2 – Rough Around the Edges

The body adjusts to stress. Winters feel a lot colder at the beginning of the season. By the time spring rolls around, you’ve adjusted to the drop in temperature. If you start to work out, it’ll be painful for the first three weeks, that is, until your body adjusts to the muscles tearing and regrowing. But the body takes time to adjust, and because of that, there is always growing pains when you encounter a new routine.

And right now, my body is definitely adjusting to the new environment. It’s been affecting me in weird ways.

  • Twice this week, instead of swiping my student card to get on the bus, I swiped one of my other cards. One of the bus drivers was nice to point out that his bus was not a grocery store.
  • I left some critical gear at home because I thought it’d be a great idea to have a look at the kit before the lab the next day. This was smart because it checking your equipment was the first task of the lab. It was also stupid because I forgot that equipment at home. Thankfully they have backups for the parts I needed.
  • I forgot some wires in one of my classes. One of my peers brought it back to me.
  • I spent fifteen minutes looking for a tool. I walked back to previous classes, I checked both of the bags I brought to school. Turns out it was sitting on the keyboard, right in front of my face.
  • I’ve been having weird dreams. I had a dream where was a massive bug in my ear that was screaming and scratching the inside of my head (horrifying). There was a dream where I threw a melon at the genitals of a giant bear (slightly amusing). And the last dream involved me shaving my head and convincing my fiancee it looked amazing (I would not look good with a shaved head).

Long story short, my body and brain are not used to the new, rigorous schedule I’ve set for myself, and as a result, are stressing out a bit. My mind, however, is fine. Mr. Charlton is holding it together pretty well, it’s just the vessel that holds me is struggling with waking up at 5:45 am and absorbing thirty hours of school a week and doing thirty hours of homework and then working twenty plus hours a week.

Still, though, even with this crazy schedule, I don’t feel overwhelmed yet. I’m still ahead in most of my classes, there’s a couple of knowledge gaps I have to fill with studying, but overall, I’m keeping my head above water. Even though I feel exhausted after these long days, I still wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do some more learning. At the same time, I’m hoping my body starts to adjust after week three or four. I’ve already had people at work comment on how tired I look all the time since my program started.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ve gotten insanely good at managing my time. On the bus? Studying. I’m at work? Some notes are put in front of me to glance at while I’m cooking. Walking home? Trying to recall the lessons from the day. When you don’t have any time to spare, study time is all the time.

p.s.s. Not only am I learning new things at school, I’m learning new things in the kitchen! Me and Kat decided that date night would be wing night, and instead of going out to some greasy pub, we tried making them at home. And let me tell you, they turned out amazing. Seriously, go buy some chicken wings, toss ’em in cornstarch, then an egg wash, then some seasoned flour, and throw them in a pot of hot oil for 8-10 mins.

Snapchat-954206324

Look at these little badboys. We tossed ’em in some hot sauce and teriyaki.

p.s.s.s. You might also be wondering when I find the time to write this terrible blog. The exact time is typically Tuesday morning from 7:15 to 7:45, which is enough time to bang out a poorly written and edited piece of internet entertainment.

 

Week 1 – Gearing Up

The other day I gave a good friend of mine a phone call to wish the man a happy birthday. The subject of school came up, as we’ve been talking about me heading back to class the moment I told him I registered. He asked me how I get to school.

“Well, first, I hop on a bus outside of my place, head downtown, wait about fifteen minutes, then head up on another bus that takes me to the campus”.

“Man, you know what you need to do? Instead of hopping on the bus right outside your place, why don’t you walk to the second bus? Clear your head, get some exercise. Sounds like you aren’t saving time taking the first bus.”

So I took him up on his advice and started walking to school for the first section of my trip. And goddamn if he wasn’t right; I feel way more awake and alert and ready to tackle the day.

20180906_173023

  1. Get some exercise in the morning.

The last three days have been more about getting ready and forming study habits, as to diving right in. Even on the last day of the school week, I’m still missing one tools from the ol’ toolbox, so hopefully tomorrow morning I can track that down. Speaking of tools though…

I’ve been bragging a little bit about how prepared I am for school, the fact that I’ve gotten a lead in a lot of my classes by taking the time to study math, physics, and programming. Well, I found out on Wednesday that being prepared has cost me. And it’s cost me roughly fifty dollars.

You see, back in June or so, when I was in between jobs, I decided to meet a couple of my professors and get a bead on what I was going to be learning. One of my profs recommended that I pick up a little kit for his class. It was a box containing an Arduino microcontroller, a bunch of LEDs, resistors, motors, and other electronic goodies. I took it home and play around with it a bit, learning a little bit about how to program the board. Awesome, right?

The tool kit for the program is roughly $420 ($418.15 to be precise) and it has everything you need, including the kit I had already bought. When I went to go pick it up, I mentioned that I had already purchased the microcontroller kit. This led to some problems, because as I found out, there’s only one guy on campus that knows the exact price of each individual part of the tool kit. Most of the other staff only know the total everything, which is roughly $420 ($418.15 to be precise). I could wait until this particular gentleman got back from his lunch, come back another time, or buy the whole thing and have two kits.

He wasn’t going to be back for about half an hour. In the school setting, a half hour when you have nothing to do can quickly become filled with things you need to do, like homework or eating some vitals or suffering the existential questions of why the hell am I here in the first place. This was the only time of the day where I was actually going to get a lunch, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to make it back to grab this stuff. The power of my stomach turned over, so now I have two identical kits. My hunger cost me $50.

2. Majority of tools purchased.

The plus side of this is I now have a spare kit, as well as a crafty fiancee who wants to make Halloween decorations. Maybe if I get some spare time, we’ll sit down and try to make some interactive Halloween stuff. Who knows? We might be able to whip up some incredibly imaginative decorations.

There was another important event going on Wednesday, and that was checking out a wedding party venue in town here with Kat. Long story short, it was so well suited for our needs that we’ll be scooping it up.

3. Procuring a venue for wedding party.

Now, I should mention right now that due to both my new school schedule and Kat’s new work schedule, we aren’t actually going to see each other very often, and when we do, I’m usually going to be in the office studying. The only day we actually might get to see each other is on Wednesday afternoon, as I’m off school early and Kathryn has the day off. I made a declaration that Wednesday would be date day, and that even if we didn’t have any extra money, we would still hang out and spend some quality time together.

20180906_065330

Ladies love Italian.

4. Romancing the lady.

On another note, I’m going to pat myself on the back and let you all know that for the first time in my entire life, I actually went home and did the homework on the same day I received it. I didn’t procrastinate! I have six sheets of fresh math homework just waiting to be handed in. I’m hoping to continue this momentum this weekend.

5. Finish Math homework ahead of time.

And finally, this is the first day of not only attending school, but heading to work right afterwards. When my last class is done at 3:30pm, I whisk myself off to the kitchen to start work on the line. The restaurant closes at 10:30pm, so at the very latest I’ll be done at 11:30pm, which means I get home at midnight. That’ll make for an eighteen hour day, so even though I’m headed to the campus on the weekend, I might rewards myself by sleeping in until 8:00am.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Right, right, I have to pick up some tools tomorrow before I head to school, and then before I go to work again tomorrow. Well, only four to five more years of this.

p.s.s. I wrote this last Friday, but didn’t post it until next Tuesday. I ain’t working the weekdays.

Day 1 – Back Into the Swing of Things

What is soon to become a ritual, I got up earlier than I normally do, I hopped on a bus, then I headed off to school. There was a couple of observations I made right away:

  1. I’m really lucky to be getting on the bus downtown, because about half way through the trip, the bus was at capacity and ignoring stops. And you could tell this wasn’t the first bus to pass a bunch of people, as they looked pretty pissed off as we flew by.
  2. Any chance of studying on the bus is going to either be done with flash cards or on my phone, ’cause the likelihood of a seat is going to be slim to nil.
  3. Which means that if I do want to get some cramming in on the bus, I’m going to have to either come in really early when no one is on the bus, or stay really late. Or both.

 

20180904_080710

Sardines off to school

I arrive at campus, and thankfully I’m not even remotely the youngest person disembarking. Getting my bearings and with my schedule in hand, I head to the first class. I’m 10 minutes early, but there’s no way I’m the first person to arrive.

And I’m the first goddamn person to arrive.

20180904_131234

WHY WAS I THE FIRST GODDAMN PERSON TO ARRIVE?!?!?

Right off the bat, I’ve got a million questions going through my mind; Am I in the right classroom? Am I on time? Is it Tuesday? (I checked my phone, it is indeed Tuesday) Am I making a mistake? What the hell am I doing with my life? Thankfully, someone else walked into the room. It was a middle aged woman. Maybe it’s the professor?

“Is this the class for ECET-160?” she asks. She is not the professor. But it’s nice to see someone closer to my age. Her name is Izzy. We exchange pleasantries and take our seats. More people start to arrive, with the same lost look in their eyes. “Is this….” “Yeah, it’s ECET-160, come in.” The class is small, like a dozen people. The teacher finally arrives. You can tell it’s the teacher because he comes into the room from the special teacher door, not the student/pleb door. He greets the class.

“I’m glad everyone is here. Looks like you all got into the classroom okay. So your card is working correctly, yes?” Everyone looks at me. I look at everyone else. “…Key card?” I ask. “Yeah, you used a key card to get in here, right?” the teacher smiles. “…No, I just walked in.” He’s not smiling anymore. “It wasn’t locked?” he asks inquisitively. “No, I just turned the door and walked in.” He pauses for a moment. “Huh. Well, anyways…”

He proceeds to talk about the course. His expectations. His requirements. He mentions a number of times that the school networking system that distributes course materials and marks is frequently down and not available. I’m getting the impression that he’s been here for too long, and he’s no longer happy with the work he’s doing. I make a subtle note to keep an eye out for whiskey stains and the look that he’s losing his will to do this job. Besides his annoyance at the systems in place, he seems interested in teaching the material. The words ‘Military’ pass his lips a number of times. I make another note; don’t be late for this man’s lectures.

We finish up early, and I head off to get my key card. Very painless, and I look pretty good in the picture.

Note from the author: I was going to post a picture of my student ID, but unfortunately, it had a bunch of info on there that probably shouldn’t be posted. Also, I’m way too lazy at the moment to edit any of that stuff out.

 

The next two classes are back to back, and it’s the moment where I’m so pleased with myself for taking the time to study over the summer. One of the reference books our circuits professor recommends is the same one I’ve been reading this summer. I instantly recognize some of the formulas he’s throw up on the board. In the math class, the prof gets to a few problems that are only rudimentary because I’ve taken the time to review them on Khan Academy. I breathe a sigh of relief.

I’ve got an hour, so I decide to explore the campus a bit. I find out where my next class is. I check out the gym, where I keep telling myself I’m going to make use of this space. I check out the cafeteria, noticing that it’s mostly empty. There’s the bookstore with a massive lineup. Young people are sitting around playing cards, reminding me of my youthful days in college where I played cards instead of working.

Our English class is the most interactive so far. The teacher makes everyone say something about themselves, and I think for most people it’s the first thing they’ve said all day. Turns out there’s a couple of electricians in the class, so it might be a good idea to get to know them a little better. Also a couple of musicians and gamers, so at least I have a couple of the same hobbies.

I hop into my last class, which is programming an Arduino microcontroller. As luck would have it, Kat had to do a similar course in University, and I learned a ton helping her, so I’ve got a feeling this should be a bit of a breeze.

The day is done, and I’m headed back home. I don’t have any new friends yet, but I also don’t have any new enemies, so we can chalk that down as a win. But still, I’ve been in five classrooms today, and two of the clocks were broken. I’m hoping that’s not a bad sign.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post everyday, not only because I’m busy, but sometimes it’s just going to be kinda boring. First day though, definitely a little weird.

Mr. Charlton Goes Back to School

So, for the longest time, I couldn’t really pick a theme for this blog or this site. Which led me to writing about a weird variety of subjects, from raging wildfires, to politics, with a sprinkling of pop culture thrown in the mix. While this was a good exercise, it meant that my site was lacking direction. Not only did this make it harder to write, it also made it harder to follow and read as well. When you, the reader, visited the site, what were getting? Were you going to get a rant about the current state of American politics? Was I going to rant about an odd sporting event? Or was I going to babble about who would win in a fight, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern? I was struggling to find things to write, because my life has been somewhat unremarkable for the last few years. That’s going to change starting September 4th. I’m going back to school.

I just celebrated my 35th birthday, and I’m going back to college.

I graduate from the SAIT Polytechnic back in 2005, after successfully completing their Engineering Drafting and Design program. And the truth is, I was pretty immature at the time. I was 20 when I enrolled, and I spent a good chunk of my college days partying and playing video games (I actually took a week off of school when Halo 2 was released). Needless to say, I certainly didn’t live up to my potential.

With age comes a certain amount of wisdom. You get a sense of perspective, and if you’ve been lucky enough, hopefully you’ve picked up some humility as well. There’s gray in my beard, my metabolism is slowing down, hangovers last longer, and I look forward to getting up earlier rather than staying up late. And I love it! I look great with a little salt and pepper in my beard, I don’t need to eat four hamburgers in a sitting to feel satisfied, alcohol is expensive and overrated, and I get way more accomplished in the morning than I do at night. So even though I’m a little nervous about hitting the books again, I’m optimistic that I’ll enjoy the experience far more the second time around.

It’s going to be an odd experience, though. The oldest person in my class back at SAIT was 37, so there’s a chance I might be the oldest person in the class. I remember one of my classmates was 27, and he seemed like a paragon of wisdom. Looking back on it now, his advice wasn’t always the best and he wasn’t really that old. He still had the emotional tension that comes with youth. Soon though, I’ll be surrounded by a bunch of sprouts who’s eyes are wide open and whose bellies are full of fire, and even though I’m not sure I’ll be up to the task, there’s a chance I might be mentoring a few of them on life stuff, simply on the grounds that I’ve got more life under my belt. Not a whole lot more life, mind you. In the most extreme cases, 15 years if they just left high school. But fifteen years is still a considerable amount of time, and I’ve made enough mistakes to at least give out brilliant examples of failure.

And if I do befriend a bunch of youngsters, then there’s a good chance I might earn a ridiculous nicknames based on my age, like “Old Man C”, or “Gray Beard the Wise”, or “Papa Smurf”, or some likely variation of these names. I’m looking particularly forward to this.

So how do I feel right now? Tomorrow is the first day, and I start at 8:30 in the morning. I’m nervous. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach. I paced around the house for a good portion of the day. I made a bunch of food to prepare for the week. My new backpack (a birthday gift from my lovely fiancee, Kat) is teeming with new school supplies, ready to be used. But I’m terrified. What if it’s been too long? What if I fail? What if I don’t enjoy my program at all, and realize I’m throwing both money and time into something I hate?

This could be the case, but like everything in life, it’s smarter to tackle these sorts of things head on. I’m hoping I do well enough to garner some financial support from scholarships, but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll just have to work a little bit more next year. And although I might not ace every test, the likelihood of failure is pretty far off. There would have to be some sort of major life change, like a death in the family, or getting addicted to bath salts in order for me to drop my studies.

Still though, the last time I stepped in a classroom was over thirteen years ago. And if I’m calculating things correctly, it’ll be another five years before I finally get an engineering degree. I’ll be forty when I’m done school.

What I’m trying to say is this; Buckle up folks, because it’s about to get weird over here.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ve got maybe an hour left before I go to bed and wake up a student. I think I’ll spend this time wisely by quietly panicking.

Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Note: Never once have I called my mom anything other than mom. Not mother, not mum (which sounds utterly preposterous in my head, as well as out loud), not mumsy, nothing weird. I’ve referred to her in the third person to other people, but always in the vein of “Oh, you know my mom, (insert full name here)”. I feel that, for this Mother’s day, I should point out the particular language I use when referring to my mom.

by now you should have received a package that I sent to you for Mother’s day. And, being the astute person that you are, you may have noticed that it is no longer Mother’s Day. In fact, this posting comes exactly twelve days after the day in question.

First and foremost, let it be known that I did not forget Mother’s day. Even though I was unsuccessful in calling you that day (I made the attempt at 10:34 pm Mountain Time), I still made the attempt. We did have a conversation the following day, in which I congratulated you for being a mother. To me. Which is important, seeing as how if this were not the case, you would not have received a package and you would not be reading these words here.

I should also state that this package is not late. Well, I mean it is late, it’s no longer Mother’s day after all. I should clarify and mention that this package isn’t late in the sense that I didn’t send it before Mother’s day. Although a cowardly man would allow the post office to take the blame for the delay, you certainly raised no coward. The delay was the fault of my own, and seeing as how you raised a man with integrity, I have no choice but to accept my own shortcomings. Truth be told, I could have sent the package priority and it would have arrived sooner, but that was like another $4, and it still would have been late anyways. So, seeing as how you also raised your boy to be fiscally prudent as well, I feel that I’ve made a choice that you would approve of.

Now, part of the reason I have written this letter is to clarify the nature of the gifts that you have been provided. By me, your eldest, courageous, and fiscally prudent son. Now, you will remark that there is some coffee, some tea, and some chocolates included in the parcel. The tea and coffee are both from Murchies, which is located in downtown Victoria. The chocolates are from Rogers Chocolates, which is also located in downtown Victoria. In fact, they are on the same street, and are roughly a block away from each other. You may have made the assumption that I went to Murchies, and then went straight to Rogers immediately afterwards. I assure you, this is not the case! It needs to be stated that I took two trips to downtown Victoria in order to procure your gifts. A thoughtless man would have snagged all three presents in a single trip, and you did not raise a thoughtless man.

Which leaves us to another reason I have written this letter. The matter of the chocolates. Rogers only crafts the finest chocolates, and the tin they were packaged in was exquisite, so I purchased it before a shift at work. This was a smart move, as I was able to acquire the chocolates and walk to work at the same time. Which only goes to show you that you raised a son with excellent time management skills. Once I arrived at work, I stored them in my locker and got on with my day. What I didn’t realize was the temperature of the locker storage room would well exceed the climate required to properly store chocolate. I’m quite afraid that the tin of chocolates may no longer be an assortment of pralines, creams, caramels, and truffles, but rather large brick of chocolate that tastes of pralines, creams, caramels, and truffles, depending on which part of the brick you bite into. This fault is mine and mine alone.

Anyways mom, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s day, and I hope you enjoy your coffee, tea, and chocolate brick. I love you, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with you in the summer when I return out to more easternly pastures.

Sincerely,

your son,

The Illsutrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I absolutely swear I took two trips. But to be fair, had I known there was a chocolate place so close to Murchies, I probably would have made one trip. Again, you raised a son with excellent time management skills.

Mr. Charlton Gets Rid of Facebook

This is one of those blog posts that I had a hard time writing. The kind where I would pump out seven hundred words, only to look back and realize that I was a rambling mess, ranting off in the distance without any kind of coherent structure to my ideas. It was a random train of thought, one that derailed into a small community and exploded into a fiery mess of anecdotes and half-witty remarks. The people I was writing for would be reading with a mouthful of coffee, slowly swallowing as their eyes narrowed; “What the fuck is Mr. Charlton talking about?”. Well, today he’s ranting about Facebook.

I got rid of it, finally.

If you’ve read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you’ll know I have a deep-seated hatred towards Facebook. I’m not a fan. In fact, it’s come up in about ten percent of my writing. That’s a lot, considering that Facebook is free. And there’s a pretty strict rule that I’ve been adhering to, especially recently as I’ve gotten older.

Don’t ever complain about something you’re getting for free.

Being the hypocrite that I am, I’ve been complaining about this free service for years. I’m not alone in my complaints; tons of people like myself dislike social media, especially Facebook. So then why are we using it?

Understand that Facebook, and a lot of other tech giants, have worked tirelessly over the last decade (even longer in many cases) to integrate themselves into the fabric of our society. You might convince yourself you’ll be missing out on something if you refuse their services. Truthfully, you will be. Without Facebook, there’s a good chance I might miss events that are organized there. And that’s a shame.

But…

The party is still taking place. That get-together is going to happen, it’s simply no longer convenient for the host to invite me. They’ll have to get a hold of me some other way. They’re going to have to send a carrier pigeon. They might try and put a message in a bottle, casting it out to the ocean in the slim hopes it washes up on my shores. Or, heaven forbid, they might have to use the telephone app on their smartphone and call me to arrange the party. Facebook is convenient.

Iphone-HomeScreen

A ten year old asked me why the phone app was a ‘C’ shape.

Facebook is too convenient.

It’s so convenient, in fact, that you can have a social media relationship with someone you don’t know. I had a little over three hundred people on my friend list. At least a third of them? People I had met once. One interaction, years ago, was now something that Facebook convinced me was valid. It’s really easy to add people, over the years, over a pint at the bar when you’re four drinks deep and now everyone in the pub is your friend. Now your free social media page needs work. It needs to be culled every now and again. You’re social media image is something you’re going to have to manage.

Years ago, it used to list your friends post’s chronologically. Now Facebook has determined that you want to see what the hottest topics are. Those are the posts that keep you looking at Facebook, your eyes open on the screen while ads fill the sidebars. You know what posts seem to gather the most attention?

The controversial ones.

If you’re wondering why Facebook in particular seems to have gotten more mean-spirited in the last couple of years, it’s not because you’re getting older and more cynical. It’s because the easiest button to push in the emotion panel of your brain is the anger / outrage button. The social engineers at Facebook know this, and capitalize on it.

They’ve also figured out how to give you a dopamine hit when you participate in conversations. Someone says something wrong? On the internet? Fire back a snappy comeback, then watch as like-minded people support your post with likes and LOLs. A thirty second reply takes thirty seconds, but Facebook knows you’ll spend up to an hour or more seeing if anyone else validated your opinion.

All of your rage, your laughs, your accomplishments, your highs, your lows, everything you post to social media is facilitated by companies who are trying their hardest to manipulate your emotions. And they’re doing it because for every hour you spend on their site, they might make half a penny. Don’t quote me on that number. The point I’m trying to make is that your attention isn’t worth a lot to them, so they’re going to milk your attention for everything that it’s worth.

I’m picking on Facebook, but they’re not the only ones doing it. Instagram (owned by Facebook), Youtube (owned by Google), Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Imgur. They’re all competing for your attention.

If you’re wondering what happened to me, well, they ended up getting too much of my attention. They got so much of it that my only solution was to turn it off completely. It wasn’t the Cambridge Analytics issue, it wasn’t Zuckerberg having to testify in front of a bunch of congresspeople he was already donating campaign money to, it wasn’t Russian bots trying to undermine democracy. It was the simple problem of spending too much time on Facebook and Reddit, and not spending enough time writing, making games, learning new skills, and enjoying life.

Zuckerberg

“I swear, your honor, that I put my pants and my flesh mask on just like the rest of you homo sapiens.”

I’ve lost the convenience of easily connecting with people. But I don’t think it should be easy to connect with people. It should be tough. It should be a little bit of work. Out of the three hundred friends I had a week ago, it’s plummeted to roughly sixty. I’m alright with that. Even though it’s going to be a little more work to connect with people, I have at least an extra hour a day to it. And maybe a five minute phone call would be better than liking a photo of them online.

The internet is a powerful tool. But like any tool, it can be misused. Stirring the pot to get peoples attention on the internet is like smearing the walls with shit to get your perfume to stand out. It works, but people are going to eventually get sick of the poop smell, even if the perfume is free.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m four days in of not having access to social media. It’s been pretty zen so far.

1. Image taken from https://news.sky.com/story/five-questions-mark-zuckerberg-needs-to-answer-in-congress-11325242

 

 

Mr. Charlton Moves to Victoria

After months of planning, saving, packing, and preparing, we’ve finally lumbered all of our belongings from one province to the next. A two day trip, 1300 or so kilometers, fifteen hours of driving, a three hour wait for the ferry, the number all added up to transplanting two people from Lethbridge, Alberta to Victoria, British Columbia. Since drawing up the schematics to move back in January, this is a trip that’s been in the making for a while.

Now we’re here, and after a week of unpacking, settling in, scouting out the neighborhood and taking a bit of a break, I’ve finally managed to set up the workhorse and crank out some words for the internet. As much as I love sitting by the beach in board shorts, it was time to plop down in front of the computer and write.

20170731_210544

I had to spend a bunch of time posing majestically, staring in the harbour before I sat down.

See, I could recount the fact that since we’ve arrived, Kat has dived into the ocean and removed five crabs from their homes. I could also recount that I’ve given them new homes inside of our bodies, by boiling the crabs then soaking their meat in butter. Crabs that look sort of like this.

20170803_200422

I know everyone is going to be looking at the crabs, but just so you know, that’s a medley of crooked-neck squash and spinach leaves in the bowl. I just want you to know that.

I could talk about how I finally live in a city again, and there’s a place not too far from home that sells Latin American food stuffs, or there’s a place that does nothing except charcuterie, or there’s a place that sells gentlemanly items like proper razor blades and humorous socks. But all these things take a back seat to the fact that once again I happen to be living in an actual city, even if it’s sort of a tiny city. Mr. Charlton thrives on space and people all over the place doing things in that space.

I might also talk about the idea that after well over a decade, I’ll have family around again. My brother lives in the city, and I have a mess of cousins and uncles and aunts that are dotted all over the West Coast. After fifteen years of being over in Alberta, I’ll actually be able to attend weddings and social gatherings without having to get on an airplane.

The most important thing to take away from this is that I no longer live in Lethbridge, Alberta. To extend that, I don’t even live in Alberta anymore. I now live in Victoria, BC, next to the ocean. I can pop my head out the window and see the ocean from here. I can hear the ocean waves pound the seawall. And I can drive half an hour out of the city to a craggy beach where my amazonian goddess of a girlfriend will literally dive in the ocean and catch live crabs with her bare hands.

20170801_084815

This picture was taken about 15 seconds before she spotted a crab and decided to leap in.

It’s going to be a year before I head back to school, so right now I’ll be saving some cash and catching up with family and friends who live in the area. So if you’re down on the coast, hit a guy up. I’m always willing to get a few beers and talk about small times. In the mean time, it’s incredibly nice to be home.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The crabs were utterly delicious. The mussels weren’t bad, but they weren’t good either. They’re out of season right now, and they tasted a little spawny.

20170801_181641

In the same breath, they were the goddamned biggest mussels I’ve ever actually laid eyes on.

p.s.s. Sure, it’s just crabs right now, but soon I’m going to be hunting for fresh oysters. And mussels. And clams. Pretty much any shellfish you can think of, I’ll eat.

p.s.s.s. The drive down itself from Lethbridge was pretty mundane, except for the fact that the entire province of British Columbia seems to be burning to the ground.

20170802_200543

It’s hazy in Victoria at the moment, because the smoke from the mainland is wafting over this way. Also, if it doesn’t rain in five days, this will be the driest summer that Victoria is ever had on record. This rain forest needs some rain!