2012 Ottawa Fashion Week

After the MCO Ice Race, I drove to the Ottawa Convention Centre to attend the final evening of the 2012 Ottawa Fashion Week.  My goal for the evening was to gain fashion photography experience.

I brought my camera, all my lenses and my flash, which made for a heavy camera bag. I recently purchased a Nissin Di866 MkII flash, but as I had not had time to test it out, I brought my older Canon 430ExII flash.

I arrived at 5:30pm and proceeded to the show floor. Soon after, Rosa and my mother-in-law arrived. We left our coats at the coat check.

Rosa perused at some of the booths. People were selling hats, jewelry and cosmetics. It was not a large space, but it was packed with people. It was an opportunity for everyone to dress up. It was fun to walk through the crowd, checking out everyone.

Most people brought cameras.

After an hour, we were seated in the main hall. We thought we had tickets near the end of the runway, but our seats were actually at the start of the runway – the map on the ticketing web site was not clear. We were seated in the third row, but we were encouraged to move forward to fill the empty seats in the second row.

The lights dimmed and the show started. I had expected an announcer describing the outfits, but only dance music provided audio accompaniment for the show.

The location of our seats was not ideal for taking photos. I could not see the entire outfits (including shoes), and I had to look between peoples’ heads. So I got up and went to the end of the runway where the photographer’s scrum had been set up. I did not have a photo pass; I will ensure I get one for the next fashion show. No one hassled me about not having a photo pass. I was not bothering anyone else and I blended in with the other photographers.

There were about 20 photographers and videographers. Some sat on the floor in the front row, backed by photographers in chairs, and then two wooden risers. The videographers had their tripods and equipment on the top riser.

The fashion show was a great learning experience. There were two challenges to getting good photos.

The first challenge was to get the correct exposure. The runway was brightly lit, and the surface of the runway was highly reflective. My camera struggled to find the right settings because the middle of the frame was very bright, and all the rest of the room was dark. I had to use manual exposure. I overheard the other photographers that they also had to use their lens hood to reduce the glare from the overhead lights.

The second challenge was composition. I was standing behind the top riser, shooting through gaps in the other photographers or around them. If I stood to the side, it was very hard to get shots that included the models shoes. People in the audience leaned in to see past each other and they blocked part of my view.

There were three showings. The first two showings had three designers and the last showing was a charity fashion show for UNICEF. There was a 45-minute intermission between the showings.

For the final session I pushed my way into the scrum. There were fewer photographers than the first two showings. I had better photos. Next time, armed with a photographers pass, I will get better access and better shots.

2012 MCO Ice Race

Today, Jay and I raced our Honda Civic in the MCO 3-hour Endurance Ice Race at Capital City Speedway.

The track was a mix of polished ice and a line along the snow banks with more grip. Greg Kierstead and others spent hundreds of hours during the winter to prepare the track, which is used for both the MCO Ice Race and Snow Cross series and the popular Winter Driving School. There was warm weather during the week, but no rain. This helped preserve the track better than the 2010 Ice Race. There were two soft spots where the ice was too thin to support the race vehicles, so cones were placed around them.

I spent 3 hours at the track yesterday to help prep the track. Others, including Greg, worked until nearly 10PM.

This morning I arrived at 8AM. I helped the race staff with the race setup. After the drivers meeting, we opened the track for a 2-hour practice period. I took an early session to get an idea of the performance of the Civic on ice, and to assess the overall track conditions. I went out again just before noon to check how the conditions had changed. A nice line was forming around the outside of some corners.

The race started just after 1PM. Jay let me take the start. The grid was set by the order teams registered. That meant I started in third place of twelve cars. Unfortunately that meant my grid position was slightly uphill on glare ice. When the green flag dropped, I could do nothing and I lost places to the four-wheel-drive cars and to the front-wheel-drive cars that started on the outside where they could get some grip.

I slotted in when I finally got up to speed and tried to avoid sliding into anyone on the opening lap. I had lost 4 places on the start, but made up 2 just before the chicane on the second lap.

Then as we came through the cutout chicane on the second lap, the car in front of me spun. I managed to stop without hitting him, but the cars behind me piled up, hitting me side-to-side and hitting each other. I could feel four good bumps. Luckily I was not stuck, so I reversed out and continued.

My session was good. I had great speed for a FWD vehicle. I made awesome overtaking moves, something that I had thought would be impossible on the slick ice. Instead, the race was about capitalizing on the mistakes of others, minimizing my own mistakes, and having the confidence that came from trusting the car and knowing its limits.

I had a few spins but I was quick to select reverse and floor the gas, which spun the car back around to face forward. Then, just as quickly, I selected first-gear and pulled through the 360-degree spin without losing a spot.

After an hour, I pulled in to the pits. We had lots of time for a drivers change. The Supplemental Regulations stipulated a minimum of 2-minute pit stops (to prevent panicked accidents during refueling) and a total of 20-minutes accumulated stops. Our pit stop was 4m20s.

Jay driving the Civic
Jay driving the Civic

Jay drove for about 50 minutes. He also had no issues. Our fuel usage was low, so we did not need to refuel. I am not sure if any team had to refuel.

At the second driver change, we changed the battery in our GoPro Camera HD camera. We discovered that the battery had already died. This happened at the last race at Mosport too, so perhaps the three-year-old battery is due to be replaced.

Our second (and last) stop was exactly 15m40s in order to exactly meet the requirement for 20-minutes accumulated stop time.

I went out for the last hour of the race. I was going great against the 4WD cars. I continued to overtake on mistakes.

I did have one incident – I was black flagged. Just before I turned in for the chicane, I saw a car spin perpendicular to the track in the middle of the chicane. It looked like the track would be blocked, so I made the decision to take the escape road to avoid becoming part of a pile-up. After committing to taking the escape road I checked and saw that the spun car had actually rotated out of the way and did not block the track. So I waited for the car that was in front of me at the entrance to the chicane to come around; I slotted in behind him. The marshal called Race Control and said that I had gained a position by taking the escape route and I was black flagged. I pitted and explained the situation to the official and strongly disagreed with the reason for the black flag. Looking back, I wonder if the call was actually about passing the car that had spun. If so, I don’t agree that it was gaining a position, as the spun car had lost positions to the other competitors that drove around it in the chicane. My decision to take the escape route was for safety. The chicane was glare ice, and I felt there would be an accident when no one could stop for the spun car.

At the end of the event, I helped the scoring officials calculate the stop times of each team.

I had to leave before the unofficial results were available, as Rosa was expecting me at the Ottawa Fashion Show. Jay called me later to tell me the great news – we had finished first in class and third overall!

Photo Gallery: http://gallery.myredbmw.net/v/Racing/IceRace/2012/

My new position

Finally, after 2.5 months of anxiety, I have been offered a new position at work. My previous position in CDMA had been moved to a team in Beijing, China. I only had 2.5 weeks left in my old role, and I was immensely frustrated in the lack progress in finding a new position.

As of last week, everyone in my former team had secured positions in the 4G business unit except myself and my manager. What really pushed me over the edge with stress was that I was told that the management team “might want to keep me”, but in 2.5 months no one told me what my new position would be, or when it would start. It felt like I was the last one being picked for a high school baseball team and not even my own team wanted me.

I was told that I was wanted in CDMA because of my experience and skills. But with no formal offers, it felt hollow.

But it has been settled now. I will be a EMS Release Tech Lead for the rollout of a new Ericsson program. It is a position where I can exercise both technical side and project management skills.

I am feeling much better now. In fact, I am really very happy because I consider this new role to be a bigger challenge and a real growth opportunity.

15 Years

The more I reflect on 15 years of working at Nortel/Ericsson, the more it seems incredible.

I moved to Ottawa during the last week of January 1997. I drove up in my dad’s Chevy Tahoe filled with all my stuff. There was a snow storm in Quebec, so it took two days to reach Ottawa.

For the first few days, I slept on my friends couch until DJ left to move in with his girlfriend. I took over his portion of the apartment and rent. It was good times. We ran our internet connection on an AMD486DX40 in the basement, played Duke Nukem 3D until 4am, watched Jackie Chan-o-thons at the Mayfair Theatre and listened to The Cardigans and KMFDM.

Has it really been 15 years? A decade-and-a-half?

I think of how much time that is by comparing to my childhood up until I was a teenager. That’s a long time. I think back to Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, where I lived until I was 7. My best friend was Steven, who lived next door, and then just down the road when both of our families moved.

Then in November 1977, my family moved to New Minas, where my parents opened a McDonald’s restaurant. Three more schools – New Minas Elementary, Port Williams Elementary, and finally the move to Horton District High School.

All those friends I met and with whom I have fallen out of touch. All the adventures. All the class mates and teachers. From my birth until I could get my beginners drivers license – 15 years.

And that’s how long I’ve been here in Ottawa.

So much has changed here too: 4 apartments, 2 houses, a marriage, and a racing career. When I moved to Ottawa, it was just sparking with excitement. Corel, Rebel NetWinder, Linux Chix, and Microserfs. It was the tech bubble. I knew more people in Ottawa than I did in Wolfville, where I had graduated and worked at Acadia University. It seemed like everyone from the Acadia Computer Science program went to Ottawa after graduation.

Now, I hardly know anyone from that era. The bubble burst at the turn of the millennium. Everyone I knew closely has moved away. Nadine (moved to Nova Scotia), Dana (moved to San Diego), Christine and Kevin (Nova Scotia), Nick and Bev (Nova Scotia and changed career), Rob and Deb (New Brunswich), Peter (New York); Julie is still still in Ottawa married with kids.

Of the 15 years in Ottawa, I’ve been with Rosa for seven. For all that has changed, for all that might have been lost to time, I have gained so much that is valuable to me: my relationship with Rosa, my most precious treasure.

Work update

My current job ends in 4 weeks.

In November, it was decided that my CDMA project would be transitioned to a new team in Beijing, China. The decision came very quickly, and by December I was in Beijing to handle the initial transition training. The training was very well received. It’s a good team there.

This transition means that I need to find a new position. I thought it would be easy in a huge multinational company with around 100,000 employees.

Most of my teammates have received and accepted offers from our 4G/LTE business unit, and I had hoped to move as well. But so far, I have not received any offers or interviews. I was told I might be kept back in CDMA but I haven’t heard what that might be either.

I’ve become very frustrated and anxious with the lack of information and offers. I’ve sent my resume to a few jobs in Montreal, but they have not replied yet.

I’ve become so anxious about my future and the lack of information. Yesterday, I reached a point where I was physically ill with stress. I am concerned that the uncertainty is impacting my health.

Then this morning I was greeted with an email from HR congratulating me for 15 years of service. I started at Nortel on February 19, 1997. I can choose from a list of nice service awards (gifts). I think I will take either the Hipstreet iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard or the 3-person Coleman tent. It’s been an emotional roller coaster.