Capital Pride Parade 2011

Today Rosa and I went to the 2011 Capital Pride Parade. This was the 25th year for the parade. It was our first time. I’ve attended the post-parade event at City Hall in the past with friends.

We were not sure about the weather as Ottawa was about to feel the effects of distant Hurricane Irene. The clouds were building and rain was in the forecast. We viewed the parade from Bank and Laurier. There was a viewing area blocked off.

Capital Pride
Capital Pride

The parade was much longer than I was expecting – it lasted about 45 to 60 minutes. There were floats and vehicles from all over – city, provincial, and federal governments, school board, firefighters, police and ambulance services, the universities, groups and clubs, sports teams and so forth. Mayor Jim Watson started off the parade, following immediately behind Ms. & Mr. Capital Pride.

It was a warm atmosphere (unlike the actual weather) – everyone was clapping, yelling encouragements and shouting, “Happy Pride Day! We are so happy for you!”

The weather held off until the parade finished and it started to rain as soon as the parade finished as we were walking back to the car. The reports about the event indicate that it had record crowds this year – 50,000.

Model Workshop

Today I participated in a model workshop in Gatineau Park. It was organized by Denis Duchesne. I found out about the workshop through the RA Photo club.

Model Tania
Model Tania

We met a parking lot near the Mackenzie King Estate. There were three models and about ten photographers. We split into groups of two or three photographers and a model. I joined one photographer, Steven, and our model for the morning was Tania. We started with some simple posing in a clearing, and learning to use Steve’s huge reflector/diffuser.

After about 30 minutes, Denis gathered us together and went through some of his own images on his iPad, and talked about the use of social media. Seeing the photos on his iPad made me want to buy an iPad on the way home. After the discussion, we broke into the groups again.

Tania changed into one of her outfits. The three of us went up the nearby steps and on to a forest path and started shooting. Tania is great to work with. She is beautiful and fun to work with.

I noticed a stone bench a short way off the path, so we tried that for a while. Tania changed outfits again. We used Steve’s huge reflector to bounce a sun beam into the scene. It was meant to fill the shadows. Visually it looked great, even on the back of my camera. However when I downloaded all the photos to my computer this evening, I could see that it was too strong – it created upward facing shadows that looked unnatural. We should have used a feathering – bouncing the light so that only the edge of it is reflected at the model. This would reduce the harshness of the light.

For lunch, we walked up to the MacKenzie King Estate. I brought a lunch of cold pizza (my favourite). Others bought hot dogs from the BBQ there.

Model Jennifer
Model Jennifer

After lunch Steve and I joined Jennifer, our next model. We were working areas along another path, including a huge fallen tree and a stream. As with the morning, we were using Steve’s 6-foot bounce, but this time we also tried to use it as a diffuser panel holding it high in the air above our head to soften the early afternoon sunlight on Jennifer. It was hard to hold it up for very long.

Looking at the photos of Jennifer, we were much better at feathering the light in the afternoon. The light we created was more balanced.

I need to work on my posing the models and visualizing what I want. I had hoped to learn about that during this workshop, but I was actually stressed and unsure what to ask for.
I will take more workshops in the future.

I also felt that my nervousness was being reflected from the models. I’m sure I had a terrified look on my face, even hidden behind the camera. I don’t yet have the confidence I need. And I continue to find my style. Looking at the selects from the day, my favourites were the close-up head shots. If those are the ones that turned out the best and those are the ones I like the most, then I should continue to refine and explore that realm of portraiture.

Temporary end of manned space launches

For the first time since the beginning of manned space exploration, there are no available spacecraft that can be used for manned launches.

The US Space Shuttle system has been retired and the next-generation launch system will not be flight-ready for years. The Russian Soyuz has been grounded because of today’s failure during the launch of the Progress M-12M. The Chinese Shenzhou has had only 3 manned flights with the next one not scheduled until 2012.

It’s been 50 years (18,396 days) since Gagarin’s flight.

I passed my PMP® Exam

Today I wrote and passed the Project Management Professional® exam! I am now a certified Project Management Professional.

Back in April, a course was offered at work, “Preparing for the PMP Exam” from Learning Tree. About 40 people from Ericsson took the course, including myself. It was a 35 hour (1 week) course that offered to help students pass the PMP exam. It was offered the opportunity on the condition that I make an effort to write the exam, but on my own time and out of my own pocket.

Since then, I have been very busy and did not continue studying. But in the last two weeks, I have been highly motivated. The PMP Exam is changing after August 31st; I wanted to take the exam before the changes, which will impact about 40% of the questions on the exam.

First I had to sign up at and start entering my work history. As I have a B.Sc (Computer Science) degree, I had to document that I had 4,500 hours of previous project management experience. There are web forms and paper forms – I chose to use the web forms as it was quicker. Entering the data took a few days, as the forms were long, and I had to go back and review old emails to get the correct timelines. I also contacted three previous managers (plus my current manager) to ask if I could use them as references.

I submitted the form once it was completed. It can take about 5 days for the data to be reviewed and either rejected or accepted. My previous experience was accepted. About 30% of the submissions are audited and the references are contacted. In my case, I was not audited.

My first mistake was to then sign up for the exam and pick the schedule. I should have first bought my PMI membership. I thought that by signing up at the PMI web site with an account that it was part of the PMI membership sign up, but it is not related. If I bought my PMI membership first, the exam would be less expensive. The exam was $633.

I choose the last available day before August 31, which was Monday August 22. That gave me just over a week to prepare.

Unfortunately it was a difficult week. I have been filling in for my manager and one of our key designers. The team received a very difficult issue, which I had to debug over many long hours. It meant that I could not start my studies until Wednesday when the root cause was found for the issue.

I studied for hours each evening, re-learning a chapter per day. I rewrote the practice exams and even downloaded some free exam apps for my iPhone. I spent all day Saturday and Sunday studying.

This morning, I found a quiet meeting room where I did the last hour of studying and had my lunch. The exam is at Prometric, which is in the East end of Ottawa, nearly in Orleans. I left extra early in case of traffic problems, just around noon.

When I arrived, the staff went through the procedures and time line. I was not allowed to bring anything into the examination room. That meant no paper, no pens or pencils, no cell phones, no pagers, no money, no food or drinks (including water), and no watches. I was given a locker with a lock where I could put my stuff. I had to show two photo ids when I arrived, and keep one of them with me during the entire exam. If I had to leave the room (for food, drink or washroom), I would need to sign out and before going back in, I would have to show my photo id again. Also before entering the room, I had to show my pockets were empty by turning them inside out.

I was allowed to start anytime, as there was a free computer, but I was not obligated. I spent another 10 minutes studying and having some last minute chocolate for energy.

When I was ready I was shown the demonstration on how to use the computer exam system. There were about 7 people in the room already writing various exams. I was given two pieces of blank paper and two pencils and a pair of headphones to prevent noise distractions. If I needed more paper, I would have to turn in the other two pages – I could only have 2 pages at once. I immediately wrote down everything I could from memory on the blank paper.

The exam starts with the 15 minute tutorial; I only needed 5 minutes. Then the exam starts. The exam has a 4-hour timer. I finished the 200 questions in about 3.5 hours. I ran through the exam once, answering everything I could. I also marked about 1/3 of the questions to review again. I did not answer a few questions as I could not find the best answer.

Once I completed the first run through, I went back to the review screen and attempted to answer all the questions I did not answer the first time. I did this a few times until everything had an answer. Then I worked on the questions I marked for later review. I kept running through the list of marked questions until all were clear and I had selected the best answer for everything.

With much trepidation, I clicked the submit button. This was the point of no return. If I failed, I would have to spend another $633 to write the updated exam…

But I passed! The results are displayed immediately. It does not give a score or a list of questions that were wrong. It only shows pass or fail.

After the exam, there is a 10 minute computer survey about the exam and the Prometrics facility.

I left the exam room, signed out, and turned in my used papers.

Then I happily drove home through rush hour traffic with a big smile and a feeling of accomplishment.

Sound of Lights Fireworks

There is so much to do in Ottawa, and Rosa and I rarely find time to explore this great city. So this summer, we are trying to get out to see more and do more.

I have wanted to see the big fireworks competition (“Sound of Lights“) over at Casino Lac Leamy in Gatineau. I mentioned it to Rosa and we agreed to go. I studied how to take good fireworks photos so I would be prepared.

We had an early dinner with friends at Santé and then headed off to Gatineau. However, we did not plan how long it would take to get into the parking lot. It took nearly 90 minutes. By the time we finally parked in the dark, the fireworks had already started.

We walked as quickly as we could, using a flashlight to keep us on the path. It was nearly a kilometre from the parking to the seating area for the fireworks, so we missed much of the show. When we did finally arrive, the best locations were taken, and we were behind a stand of trees. We could only really see the fireworks that exploded above the trees. We missed the ground displays. We were also too far from any speakers that were carrying the commentary and music.

I also left my camera in the car. By the time we parked, it was already starting to rain. That put an even bigger damper on the evening.

We will plan better next year, and hope for better weather.

Roller Derby

Jammer 'D.D.T.' of Slaughter Daughters
Jammer 'D.D.T.' of Slaughter Daughters

Continuing with my plan to keep doing new things and seeing new things, I wanted to go see a Roller Derby. I saw an ad for the Rideau Valley Roller Girls last year and did not make enough time to go. This year I made sure that I set aside an evening.

I was interested because I knew nothing about roller derbys and because it might be interesting for a photo shoot. I thought it would be fun.

The season finale (the “August Assault”) was this evening so Rosa and I went. It was a double header: Slaughter Daughters vs Pioneer Valley and Riot Squad vs Derby Debutantes. It was held in Jack Charron Arena in Kanata. It is normally a skating rink but for this event the track was laid out with duct tape on the concrete floor.

We watched for ten or fifteen minutes to understand the rules. There are two 30-minute periods per match, consisting of any number of jams. The goal is for one of the girls on each team, the jammer, to start from the back, make their way through the pack (including opposing blockers) and then start lapping the pack as many times as possible. They get one point for each time they complete a pass of all of the opposing teams’ blockers.

I got up to walked around with my camera. I tried to capture the action during the ‘jam’, particularly the intensity on the face of the jammer and blockers. It was a lot of fun actually. I am happy with the results but need more practice. But I love the shot above!

For the first match, the Slaughter Daughters obliterated the WMD from Pioneer Valley 218 to 46! However Rosa was bored watching from the stands so we left at intermission.

Weekend in Montreal

Rosa and took our first trip together to Montréal this weekend. We wanted to see a fashion exhibit at a museum, then shop and look around.

Detail of Jean-Paul Gaultier costume
Detail of Jean-Paul Gaultier costume

Saturday morning we drove into Montréal. Our first destination was Le Musée des Beaux-Arts to see the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit. There were many examples of his haute couture costumes. Rosa is a fashion junky, and I’m somewhat interested. Jean-Paul, over his long career, has explored so many areas of fashion, setting trends and pushing boundaries.

Next we walked around the Saint Catherine area for Rosa to shop but she didn’t find much – the area was mostly chain stores. So we left and I dropped Rosa off in the Saint Laurent area.

I drove south to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – the Formula-1 race track. The track is actually a public road. However the speed limit is only 30 frustrating km/h. I set my cruise control and started lapping very slowly around the course. The security guards all waved as I drove by time after time. I’m sure I was not the first to do this. The circuit was split with a row of pylons, consigning vehicle traffic on one side and bikes and rollerbladers on the other.

Then I left to drive north to Lamborghini Montréal. I lost my Lamborghini hat at Mosport and wanted to buy a replacement. I went in but did not see the boutique mentioned on their website. One of the salesmen came over and asked if I was looking for something. I mentioned the boutique and he pointed to a single counter by the door. They had no hats.

Paifang entrance to Chinatown
Paifang entrance to Chinatown

I picked up Rosa and we checked in at Le Place d’Armes Hotel in the Vieux-Port (Old Port). The room was huge and very luxurious! We had dinner in the hotel at Aix Cuisine du Terroir. It was delicious. Afterwards, we went for a walk. It was a lovely warm summer evening. We walked through Chinatown and Rosa had flashbacks from when she lived in China. On our way back, there was a crowd of people looking down at the highway. There was a TV truck there as well. A 25-ton section of the tunnel roof had collapsed on the Autoroute Ville-Marie earlier in the day. Luckily no one was hurt.

We spent the next day window shopping. We started in the Vieux-Port at the Bonsecours Market. The weather in the morning was excellent and perfect for a walking/shopping tour of Old Montréal. We slowly wandered our way towards the Rue University shopping area. However the weather turned nasty in the afternoon while we were indoors. The rain outside became torrential. Unfortunately we left our umbrella in the car in the morning. Despite promising to never leave the umbrella behind again, we had to buy yet another umbrella just so that we could leave the mall.

Rosa shopping
Rosa shopping

During a short break from the downpour, we managed to walk down Saint Catherine towards our dinner spot. We had to stop again in the entrance of Christ Church Cathedral when the rain picked up again. We were drenched. During the next break in the downpour, we ran to the Restaurant Julien.

When we finished, we called for a taxi to take us from the restaurant back to the parking at Quais du Vieux-Port. It was nearly three hours to drive home through a traffic jam and continuing rain squalls.