BMW damageI am devastated. I cried.

I was changing the tires on my BMW 330Ci, removing the winter tires and putting on the brand new Bridgestone Potenza RE-11‘s in anticipation of the lapping event tomorrow at Calabogie Motorsports Park. The jacking point on these BMWs is a plastic block under the door sill. I figured out later that the jack wasn’t moving forward as it went up, which generated a strong lateral force on the jack point (the plastic block). The plastic block popped out, the car moved sideways and came down on the still-extended jack. It ripped the rocker panel (part of the Performance Package with the 330Ci) and bent the metal just below the door. It also stripped the paint down to the bare metal, so it will all have to be repainted quickly.

The repair is likely to be expensive.

I’m so upset about this. I love my car. Rosa loves my car. I’ve had people come up to me (when the car is stopped at a traffic light) and tell me what a great looking car.


This is a year that I want to focus on becoming a better photographer.

I think about photography all the time. I read books, read magazines, listen to podcasts, I watch documentaries about it, and most days I carry my camera with me. I’m getting better at the tools too. I gave a demo of Apple’s Aperture software for theNortel Photo Club last week, and I created (well copied and updated) a new web gallery theme in Aperture too.

So far this year, I have taken a 2-day workshop with David Barbour on street photography with School of Photography Arts Ottawa (SPAO). I’ve been taking dance pictures for Les Petits Ballets and the Ottawa Chinese Art Troupe. I’ve taken event photos for the Nortel Asian Business Council too.

The course with David was especially good, including one-on-one interactions, and sharing experiences with other students. But the most crucial part was getting over my shyness to approach strangers. I’m certainly not an extrovert now, but I just feel like I’ve been given permission to do it, when before I was afraid to approach anyone because I wasn’t “permitted” to interrupt them. There’s some deep psychological reasons for my timidity – something to keep working at.

I’m gaining the confidence I need, and it’s showing. During a trip to Virginia in March, I approached a waitress at IHOP to take her photo. I would never have done that in the past.

And I’m finding out who I want to be when I have a camera in my hand. I’m not happy taking pictures of buildings or race cars or wild animals, although I’ve done all of that. I’m really driven by people. I enjoy great close-up shots of interesting people. A look of focus or concentration, a flash of emotion, a great smile, or perhaps the most amazing eyes. I’m so drawn to watching people. Even when I am taking ballets pictures, most of my photos are of the faces of the dancers, not their feet – which does not make for great dance photos!

I’m finding out who I want to be in my primary form of artistic expression.

Hacking the Macbook Pro

I have a 2.4Ghz Macbook Pro (2007) with a 160GB internal drive. However, I only had 2GB free disk space left. My Aperture library with my 7495 photos was taking 80GB of the 160GB. And I knew I would be bringing back another 20GB of photos from London this July. ITunes took another 20GB.

So, to treat myself after a depressing week of rumors at work, I bought a new 320GB internal drive. I planned out the replacement carefully, gathering all my passwords and serial numbers so that I could quickly build up the system from scratch.

There were only two hitches. The first was that I never got around to buying any Torx screwdrivers. In the past, I was able to get around this limitation with a flathead screwdriver that would fix in the star pattern. However, once I had the laptop open, the final two screws would not come out using this method. I was in my office at work, and it was after 7:30pm on a Friday. I ran down to all of the labs in the building to see if anyone was still around, or if there were any obvious open toolboxes where I could borrow a Torx T-6. It took my 30 minutes before I found one soul still in the lab working late, and he loaned me his Torx T-6. I completed the replacement (and put the old drive in an external USB enclosure) and closed up the computer.

Next was to reinstall MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard), and then all of the software. Everything went smoothly until I hit the second problem when installing Adobe Photoshop CS3 (which was one of the last applications to install). I found out that Photoshop CS3 does not support the MacOSX Extended case-sensitive filesystem, which was the format I choose at the very start of the MacOSX installation. I still can’t believe that the CS3 installer chokes on a case-sensitive filesystem – in 2009? Good Grief!

So Saturday morning, I had to start from scratch again by re-formating the drive, installing MacOSX, all of the applications, patch everything, put in the serial numbers and finally copy over some of my old preferences and email databases.

I was finished Saturday night. I also bought a set of Torx screwdrivers at Canadian Tire. Aside from the two snags, the replacement went very smoothly.

Web master

I’ve been working over the past few weeks to complete re-vamp the web site for Les Petits Ballets, one of Rosa’s ballet schools. I was totally unhappy with the first redesign from 2007, but never had enough time to spend to bring it to the level I wanted.

But this year, I’ve had more time. I’ve already completed my personal site (this site). And as I am not the chief organizer of the MCO Race School or Secretary of the Meet for the 2009 Ted Powell Memorial Race weekend, I am having time to branch out to work on other items on my to-do list.

I am proud of the look and feel of the new Les Petits Ballets website, and all of the additions that were made, including adding Les Petits Ballets as a Facebook group.

One item that was especially fun was that I had to create a new web gallery theme in Apple’s Aperture software to fit with the new web site. That took a lot of hacking, as there is no public interface for doing it.

I will work with the Director of Dance to put more picture in the Gallery (which is where I used the new Aperture theme, based on the existing “Picture” theme). So far, the web site does not use any of the photos I took. I’ve taken over 700 photos for the school; most of them are not very good (out of focus, wrong framing, bad background, someone has their eyes closed). Getting feedback on what makes a good ballet photo is critical for my development.

Microsoft Outlook 2

Of course, I realized the solution was one I was using all along. I don’t know what I was thinking yesterday – d’oh. Just accept the meeting invite tentatively, but click the “Don’t send a response”. That way the meeting shows up in my calender, but the meeting organizer does not expect me to come.

Microsoft Outlook

I wish that Microsoft Outlook had a way to decline a meeting invite, but that would still keep it in my calendar.

I don’t want to set expectations that I will attend, but I want to keep the meeting invite so that I can see the agenda for the meeting. Often the meeting invite has information not covered by any other emails, and I want to keep that record (or as a way of keeping a  note of when the meeting was scheduled). I often use “Tentative”, but I don’t want anyone to mistakenly assume I might attend the meeting.

Updated the essay

I thought of one more case I wanted to cover in the essay Why I am An Atheist. The case is a corollary of Clark’s Third Law – a sufficiently advanced being having local control over the evolution of humanity.

The case does not change the thesis, as the lack of free will comes from this, and without free will, I can declare myself an atheist because it’s all I could possibly be.

The essay has now been updated and re-published.

Why I am An Atheist

I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Over all these years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this subject. My reasons are mostly gut-feeling – I just don’t believe in God. I never have.


I’ve spent weeks on finally putting down my thoughts on this subject. The desire to write this essay was one of the driving forces for creating this web site – so that I could have an opportunity to put down on the page all these ideas I’ve had in my head for years.

I don’t intend that this will change anyone’s personal belief. It is only my thoughts, and there are no other expectations. I feel strongly that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, just as I reasonably expect that others will allow me to have mine.

The essay is called Why I am An Atheist.