What Will My Retirement Job Be?

Last month I was talking to my friend George, who lives in Langley Township, about five kilometres from me, and we were talking about what we were going to have in store for us when we retire, and whether or not there would be any retirement programs left in Canada by the time it is our turn to drink from the trough. George is about five years older then I am, so his take on retirement in Canada is probably more emotional than my feelings at the moment, but nonetheless, I share his sentiments. But George kept saying a totally new phrase to me when referring to his retirement planes that just made me gasp: what will my retirement job be?

Retirement Job

I never heard this until now: Retirement job; sounds straight forward, and easily comprehendible, and it even rolls off the tongue naturally when I say it. Maybe it is just the nature of our times here in Canada. With a government that seems like it wants to totally dismantle the Canadian retirement social programs altogether, and just let its people worry about their means and methods of sustaining their own retirement goals, it seems like we are now well conditioned to accept this new phrase, “the retirement job.”

But for me and George, the sad reality is that we are looking at our retirement in terms of working until the day we can no longer, and then spending our last days on welfare locked up in a Home with the bare minimum. Not the Canadian dream that we expected growing up and seeing our parents enjoying today.

So to the young Canadians out there, what will your retirement job be?

The Nuts and Bolts of Life

Over the years I have cherished those little moments when young in inquiring minds try and tackle the fundamental complex issues of everyday life, putting their parents and loved one’s on the spot, all in public view, asking those all important questions of life. Like the innocent mind, learning by asking can often put their conversations into a flurry of a hundred “but why” questions, as the parents try and answerer them; all the while everyone else in the room tries to look on ward, yet keeping one ear tuned, waiting for what the definitive answer will be. I am going to share some of the best, and funniest, moments that I can remember from over the years. I chose three moments in time, one about chickens, the money making machine and finally, where do babies come from.

The Nut and The Bolt Blender Image  -  Weblog Image

The first story is a little moment in time way back in the late 1980s when I was living in Toronto. I was in the food market right on Front Street in the down-town area where I was waiting in line at a poultry vendor.  Through the glass counter were several freshly cooked whole chickens, all lined up, suspended on a long skewering rod. In front of me were a mother and daughter. The daughter was probably four or five years old, very fidgety, and full of energy, always asking questions, telling her mother about what she did at park, and how hungry she was–hope they would stop for dinner soon. When they got to the counter the little girl glued her face to the glass counter, looking at the roasted chickens dangling on the skewering rod, in a very ordered row under the yellow heat lamps. She then started to laugh, jumping up and down, proclaiming that these where chickens, saying, “look mom, chickens!” After a few minutes of the daughter’s excitement, and amusement, of seeing the chickens through the glass, the mother turned and looked right at me, saying that her daughter really does not understand that these are same barnyard chickens she reads about in her books. I just smiled. Then the little girl asked, “How are they made?” from which the mother replied, “they come from that machine over there in the back with all the buttons on it.” “Oh,” the little girl responded. Then the mother said, ” it is very hot over there, so you need stay on this of the counter. “Oh, Okay, I don’t like hot.” the little girl said in a lowering quiet voice.

In Fort Langley, about nine years ago, I was at the IGA, buying some groceries on a weekday afternoon. There was this mother, with her young son and daughter, waiting in line patiently ahead of me. We were all waiting as the cashier was trying to change the roll of paper in the till, and it looked like we were going to be there for a few more minutes. The children were starting to wonder around the store, so the mother tried to keep them occupied by playing a game of I Spy. The mother would look around the store and then say, ” I spy with my little eye, something that is red, blue and made of shiny plastic…” Then the kids would start pointing in all directions, saying, “is that it… is that it….” And the Mother would reply, “Nop, keep trying.” After a while the children lost interest in the game, and started leaning on their mother’s legs. The finally the till sprang to life, and at the sound of the bell rang, the cash register door shot opened, and the cashier started pressing the buttons and grabbing each item that was on the counter.  The little boy, looking with such amazement said, “Mom, how does that work!” The mother, in her very quick thinking said, “you just press the button.” Right to the point, end of story, tell it like it is–question answered. The little boy smiled with the look of just discovering the greatest secret in the universe, and then he started helping his sister with the bags of groceries.

I was sitting down with a friend in the theatre in Langley City, about to watch a show. The commercials were playing, so we were talking rather loudly over the noise, when I heard this child’s voice coming from behind me asked her mother where do babies come from. I trained my ear on the mother’s response, and waited while she quickly composed herself with a suitable answer for a child who seemed to be around five or eight years old. The child was dead silent, waiting for the answer, and it seem like about ten seconds went by before the mother spoke. “Hospitals–babies come from the hospital” the mother proclaimed. “Oh, you mean you just go to the hospital and pick one up?” the child replied. “Something like that, but you have to be put on a waiting list, and there is paperwork, and medical fees, not to mention registration fees with the provincial and federal governments. Then you have to register with the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and with the department of Toys and Games…. it is a huge process! Plus, both me and your father have to have countless meetings with the hospital becuase they have to make sure that everything checks out. So, it takes about just under a year, from start to finish, before you can take the baby home, and…, you have to make sure that you have a budget in place of at least ten-thousand dollars too. Yeah, it is a lot work.” the mother said. The little girl was already bored with the answer, and she waited patiently for the show to start. I kept laughing to myself the whole night after that! What a great answer.

Post Number 2000: and On We Go

That is right, this is post number 2000! What better way to mark 2000 blog entries, than with a animated GIF logo that I cooked up using Blender to mark this occasion. I knew way back since 2007 that I would hit 2000 weblog posts by the tenth anniversary, around 2014, here at Thomasso.com, I just was not sure exactly what date this milestone would take place. The count down to post number 2000 came rather quickly too when last winter when I was going into a period of hyper-post madness due to how slow work was going, I had all this spare time on my hands as work was spotty. But, it is fitting that I marked it on this day, July 25. It is a Friday, and the sunny weather just started up again after three days of drizzle, plus this is summer, so yay! 2000 Post!

2000 Posts Animated LOGO July 25 2014

About the animation:

I created the scene in Blender 2.71. I also used imagemagick by using a shell scrip to take the images and transfiguring them into an animated GIF image that you see here now. Here is a website that shows you how apply the command line for Linux users: Creating an Animated GIF Image. Primarily, the main feature, in Blender, is the physics function that I used. I am taking the text, converting it into a mesh, then applying the physics function to all of the objects in the scene to make them react to falling on the hard surface.

I am not even going to guess when I will hit the next thousand posts (Number 3000), or how long this website will stay up. All that I can tell you at this time is that I will continue to blog as much I can. Who knows, I may even get serious and start turning this website into a full fledge venture with my photography, or other interests I have?

Not Happy To See the Rain

My happiness towards seeing the rain after such a long period of drought was short lived as it came pouring down last night, in buckets. Also around 6:30am I hard a thunderous cracking sound of a tree falling near by my place, only to discover that the maple tree beside my place had lost one its limbs, landing right on my front lawn. The limb was rotten, so I am assuming that the tree is need of a huge trim. But the final piece of straw that turned my happiness to concern was that most of my flowers in the garden were either flattened, or damaged, from the massive rain storms we had last night.

After the Rain July 24 2014 Weblog Image

I would think that it is fall around here with so many leaves on the ground. I did a little raking on my driveway, and walkway to clear the leaves, but by this afternoon more leaves fell only to take their place. The rain from last night had periods that were so hard, it was stripping the leaves from off of the trees. Around 10:00am the showers erupted again, with some winds and one ten minute period where it sent rain drops bounce off the ground by about 10cm.

It is sad to see the plants in the flower bed beaten down to the ground like this. This same thing happened back in May when we had a far worse storm, and most of the plants did well afterwords, but becuase we are approaching mid summer, I fear that the plants that are gone now are lost for the rest of the season as they have finished flowering.

The good news is that by this weekend we should be getting back into some good sunny weather again!

Happy To See the Rain

We are getting our first full day of rain in just about a month here in Glen Valley/Fort Langley, British Columbia. We enjoyed some amazing days of hot and killer heat, even breaking some records along the way, but all good thing must come to an end. This afternoon I wanted to do some shooting outside in the rain with flash, and with my 30mm macro lens, just to try out some ideas I had for new shooting techniques. The colours during the rain really seem to pop out and seem more vibrant.

Rain Drops July 23 2014 Weblog Image 01

The rain felt good, as I am sure the plants love it too.

I have been trying new f-stop settings for getting different fields of focus in my shots. Normally I shoot in f2.8 in my macro shots, or up into the f22 range in wide-angle, but now I am trying to fine-tune how I focus in on a object in my images, and I am blown away at my results. In f2.8, the above flower would only have just the closest part of it on focus. At f11 the whole flower is in focus while still giving the background the bokeh (blur) I like. Of course on a cloudy like today, it was very dark, so I needed to use my speedlight. I like this shot.

Speed Light and the Stuffed Goldfish

I was setting up for an action packed day of doing Evil-Bay product photos for a friend when I got this great idea to do a image of different poses of a stuffed toy goldfish that my niece from Victoria, BC just loved. She just feel in love with the little toy during her visit here last month. I wanted to take a series of photo of it so she could use it as a desktop background image for her computer. The idea was simple: have a series of goldfishes, in different poses, covering the image in a uniformed pattern. But there were a couple of work-flow issues I had to work out first before I could start.

Golden Falling Fish Desktop July 21 2014 Weblog Image

The first issue I had for my idea of having “suspended goldfish” was how to get the goldfishes to look like they are floating in mid air without the use of obvious strings, or laying on a flat surface, something that would make post editing more difficult. I want to have the least amount of post editing as possible. I had a couple of ideas, but my best ideal solution was to somehow have the goldfish photographed while it was tossed or dropped though the air. From my experience, I would need to use a flash to catch the goldfish while it is being dropped, freezing the image while the goldfish was in mid flight.

First I tried using my regular studio strobe-light. Setting my camera to its sync speed of 1/250, and using a electronic radio-trigger to fire the flash gun, I figured that the flash would be fast enough to capture a crisp clear image of the goldfish as it fell to the ground. I only needed to do one test shot when it became obvious that the studio flash gun was too slow.

Using a Sutdio Strobe on the Goldfish Junly 21 2014

Second, my next option was to use a Speed-light, or portable flash gun that uses batteries as its power source. A speed-light fires a flash at a much faster pulse than any standard studio strobe-light does. Because both my camera (SLT Alpha 77) and speed-light (HVL-F58AM) are Sony, I could use TTL and the camera will set the flash automatically to whatever the camera was shooting at. This means that I could set the shutter speed to a much slower speed, like 1/170, and it will only expose the image sensor after my camera’s flash triggers the speed-light to go off. In other words, the speed-light is “slaved” to my camera’s flash, and when I press the shutter button, the camera flash goes off, and that triggers the speed-light and the camera takes the image. And becuase the flash fires at a much faster pulse, I can freeze an object at about 1/8000 of a second.

Photographing the Goldfish With the Speed-Light July 21 2014

A perfect moment frozen in time of the goldfish falling through the air using a speed-light with a 50cm soft-box.

Once I got a series of shots of the goldfish in various poses falling through the air, I did my general post editing in DarkTable. Darktable is a free open-source photo editor that handles RAW files from almost every major camera manufacture. In Darktable, I mainly just set the white balance and toned up the image to make the background more evenly white to help me in the next phase of post editing.

Next, I opened GIMP to start the final editing process. Here is where I paint out each image with the colour brush, while leaving just the goldfish on a pure white background. I then layered each image, and stacked them onto one larger background image. The final size of the whole image was 6000 x 4000 pixels. once I was happy with the arrangement of goldfishes, I saved the master image and scaled it down to a reasonable size to be used as a desktop background image.

Shooting the Red Hot Flower

Over the last four weeks, my one and only stand of Crocrosmia Lucifer flowers, have been in bloom, and now are slowly showing signs of their eventual wilting as their petals fall to the ground.  So I have been spending time shooting them, getting many different shots of them through their development as I can, and through different times of the day trying to get good sunlight and different compositions. Some of these shots I feel are really great, so I am going to post some of the “best of” here from over the last ten days.

Crocrosmia Lucifer July 21 2014 - Weblog Image 01

I just shot the above image today while the Sun was peaking through the trees.

Crocrosmia Lucifer July 17 2014 - Weblog Image 01

I was trying to get lots of colour dynamics in these next two images. Red on blue, with the dark green background looks awesome. Lots of “pop” in these images.

Crocrosmia Lucifer July 17 2014 - Weblog Image 02

Surprisingly these flowers are doing really well with the hot dry weather we have been getting. I figure in about another week these flowers will be completely gone until next year. I would like to plant blue versions of these for next year right beside them.

A Day in New Westminster BC

A friend of mine invited me out to his place for a visit, and on the side, to help him with his home security system, as he was having some issues with his digital video recorder. As payment for helping him, we went out to the near by fish and chips joint for dinner. Cockney Kings Fish and Chips severed us a great fast dinner, reasonably priced, and with really good service too. We met a few interesting people there too.

Fish and Chips in New Westminster BC July 19 2014 01 weblog image

It took me about an hour to fix the issues with his DVR and camera set up. The problem was that my friend wanted wireless cameras, and the two camera that he purchased were for the same RF channel, so he was stuck with only one camera. The other issues with the DVR was the hard-drive. He ended up having to buy another hard-drive that is specificity dedicated for CCTV work, unlike the normal hard-drive that you would us in your personal computer. A normal desktop hard-drive will only last about a year (or less) being used as a CCTV DVR becuase they are not designed to run continuously.

About the fish and chip dinner. It has been a long time since I had fish and chips, mainly becuase I am not a fan of deep fried food. However, my friend insisted that I at least try some of their food. I was not disappointed. I had the one piece cod burger with fries and salad, while he had the one piece cod with fries. It was funny becuase my friend loves tarter sauce, so watching him load the sauce all over his food seemed like he should of ordered a bowl of tarted sauce, and then added some fish and chips to it.

Fish and Chips in New Westminster BC July 19 2014 02 weblog image

It was great to visit. New Westminster seems like a nice city, with a little of the old mixed in with the modern look and feel of a small city, topped with lots of high rise condos and a vibrant business centre. You are very close to Vancouver from here, and you are North of the Fraser, so if you work in Vancouver, than this could be the perfect bedroom city. Not sure on the prices, but I am sure it is compatible with the market prices in Southern British Columbia.

Would I move here? Too crowded for my liking, but I am not a city kind of guy either.

Final Day of Orientation

Not quite 100 percent finished, but close enough to finally be issued hours of work. I am on my way to earning an income, and supporting the Canadian Government. I nearly completed the required tasks of the orientation yesterday, as I went in for a four hour stint to do that. However, with so much effort and stress trying to complete everything for this employer, I find myself still waiting.

Yesterday, I spent four hours. The room where they let us do the self-sever virtual sessions was so cold from the A/C cranked that I was shivering becuase I never thought of bringing a jacket or a sweater when it was 30C outside; I just never thought about it. So it was uncomfortable. I figured out what was going on with the curriculum calendar as each time I completed one module, the whole calendar would change to something completely different. I started saving the URL (as this was done in Internet Explore, (IE) and one of the greatest vulnerabilities of IE is that you can save and transfer cashed memory over to another browser outside of the network) and running them on say, FireFox on my laptop. Now I could see my work flow, and I quickly jumped into the sessions that I needed to complete. This saved me a lot time. This is just a case of poor layout and bad management system configuration on their server–a mishmash of files and programs slapped together without any constancies.

So I may end up returning to the classroom during my first of actual work before the company will allow me on the floor. This seems common now as I talk to people there and get to know them netter. I printed off a cheat-sheet that lists the entire on-line database of courses so that I can check mark off what I have completed, what needs to be done annually, and of course cross training into other departments.

The downside is that my work schedule states that my first week of operations will be between August 4th, to the 7th: 32 hrs. Two more weeks of zero net income, and my pile of bills growing further. At first I thought this was a mistake, but then remembered that the company works on a four week scheduling roster, so any new scheduling is always added during the following rotation. So, two more weeks. Sigh.

A Lazy Summer Day – The Back Yard: Video

I finally got my short little video edited and uploaded up to my channel on YouTube. It is just clips of flower shots from around my back yard that I shot from July 10, 2014. It has been well over 10 months since I uploaded something to my YouTube channel, so I figured with the little time I have now before I dive into work, I might as well try and upload something now. Here it is:

It is short, with very dirty editing, but I am happy with it. I used 720p format becuase going 1080p was taking so long to upload. All of this was shot using my Sony A77.