In general I just love to create stuff. Whatever I encounter I usually try to figure out how someone could build such a thing. Sometimes I even try to do it myself. I pick up a lot of really useless skills this way, but I've never been one to wander the streets, either.
On June 14, 2006 I start work at Diffraction, Limited on a 6 month contract. The hope is that it will turn into a full time job (kind of like what happened at GoodContacts). They make software and hardware for telescopes, and Iím expecting this to be very interesting work. Iím dreading the long commute and lower pay, so itís going to have to be a quality work experience. Iím keeping my fingers crossed. It will be nice to get back to science related work.
Starting November, 2003, I worked at GoodContacts Research Ltd. , doing typical software development tasks. There was a rather long commute to endure, but they have done a good job of setting things up so I could work from home, so three days a week that's what I did. Interesting business-related product, a bit of a departure from the scientific and engineering software I usually prefer. Lots to learn. But this company was bought out by Los Angeles based Reunion.com and a year and a half later they decided to cancel me.
Before that, I worked at Celeris Aerospace Canada Inc. to write software to gather data from flight recorders mounted in fire bomber aircraft. This was shaping up to be a pretty cool project, but government politics has slowed it down. Nevertheless, I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with good people in a pleasant environment. Bonus: It's close enough to home that I could bike to work in about fifteen minutes!
Until June 2003, when I was abruptly laid off, from August 2000 I worked for Optiwave Corporation. I was the project leader for a simulator called OptiFDTD, Finite Difference Time Domain. It does a simulation of light propagating through various types of materials, and is based on Maxwell's equations.
From August 1994 to August 2000 I worked for W.R. Davis Engineering Limited as a Systems Analyst. The project I worked on was called NTCS, which does a 3d simulation of the infrared signatures of ships and helicopters in a maritime background (a fancy way of saying "no land"). I have learned a lot working on it but man my head sure hurt some days!
From August 1998 to March 2000 I took a part time contract with Celeris Aerospace Canada Inc. My friend Stephen Hall is the president, and he asked me to do the graphics programming for a new program to analyze cockpit voice recordings. It's way cool. I learned a lot of technical stuff, and also learned how hard it is to work full-time, part time, and raise a family, too. Early 1999 was especially crazy because I also agreed to co-author a technical paper on some of the work I did at Davis. I must be NUTS!
From January 1989 to August 1994 I worked at a company that kept getting bought by bigger companies. I worked on a security management tool for VMS called SecureMax. This was my first true professional experience as a programmer. I started small, but eventually was the project leader, doing architecture and keeping a small team busy. I encountered a lot of technical problems, being a self-taught guy, and found solutions for some of them. Once more the company was bought, and the impending transfer to Boston left me looking for work. I found it in time, at Davis Engineering.
I spent one enjoyable year at Atlantic Baptist College (now Atlantic Baptist University). I took about two thousand photographs, accompanied the choir, sang in a gospel team, started as centre on the basketball team, did crazy stunts in the chemistry lab, got good marks and made great friends. It was refreshing to be a Christian and not feel like an outcast for once. I wanted to study science, which was not ABC's forte, so the next year I moved on to Acadia.
I graduated from Acadia University in 1986 with an honours degree in math. There's not much you're qualified for when all you have is an undergraduate degree in math, so after a brief period working days as a draftsman and spending evenings playing with my computer I landed a job as a computer programmer. I enjoyed it so much I've been doing it ever since.
While doing the math degree I also studied quite a bit of music, almost all classical. I'm one of the few people I know that gets a kick out of the stuff I do, but now that I'm no longer in high school it's not really a problem. I like to write music, usually in the classical style, have conducted a small choir in the past (and a large one of about a hundred people on one occasion), and play the piano regularly in church. Recently (late 1990s) I've curtailed my solo performances at special church events to take more time out for my children. Hopefully I can pick it up again in a decade or so.
After Acadia I started a masters degree in Engineering Mathematics at Technical University of Nova Scotia, which I gather has been swallowed up by Dalhousie University. There was waaaay too much politics going on in the math department for me to handle, and after doing just fine thank you in my courses, I took my leave. Promises of finishing the degree in one intense year turned into eighteen months by Christmas, then two years by the spring. You'd think they'd tell you your supervisor was going on sabbatical BEFORE becoming your supervisor, eh? One student I met had been there six years already, and still no degree. Can you say "cheap labour"?
During that year I proposed to Mary, and off she goes to Montreal to start her supervised ministry at Lakeside Heights Baptist Church. I finished up my courses and followed her there. Shortly after arriving a church acquaintance found someone who could employ me as a draftsman. I did that for the summer, Mary and I got married on October 10, 1987, and I took some computer courses part time at Concordia University. By the end of the year I landed my first job as a programmer, with some nut who wouldn't let me put comments in my code. Needless to say that job didn't last too long. I quit in disgust after he started fiddling with my salary, and stayed at home hacking on my Atari ST. Not too long afterward Mary was called to be the pastor at Clarence Baptist Church, and we moved to the general Ottawa area. That was the tail end of 1988. Since then, it's been kind of a blur of jobs and home life, with the odd defining moment now and then.
In the last couple of years I have been heavy into woodworking. My dream of having a workshop has come to fruition and I now have enough power tools to trip half the breakers in the house if I run them all at the same time. I have made a few nice pieces but somewhere along the line I realized that my true love wasn't necessarily building nice wooden furniture (which I intend to continue to do), but to build all sorts of nifty gadgets and machines. All the freaky experiments that I wanted to do when I was a kid but had no money are exciting me once again. A need to build, borne out of a lack of resources to buy, has shaped my life. I'm at my happiest when I'm making something that works. That's why being a programmer is so great. I assemble ideas for a living; it's great to get paid for what you enjoy!
If you're inclined to give me a gift, here's what I would like for Christmas. Warning: I have a lot of interests; it's a big list!