Matilda, My Baby Girl

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s been over a year since my last post and yet so much has happened that I don’t know how I could even write about it. The biggest, and to this point in my life, most important, thing that happened this year was the birth of our first child, Matilda. Our baby girl joined us on her due date of October 10, 2014 at 21:25 after over 20 hours of labour. Both Jackie and I were exhausted by the time she was born but that tiredness went away as soon as I held her for the first time.

She had a slight infection when she was born so she had to go on antibiotics but I was with her in the NICU while they were giving her the initial shots, tagging her, and putting a tag on me since I was the parent with her. Jacq had to go for a small surgery post-birth and so she wasn’t there right away. This little 6 lb 7.4 oz baby, who looked more like a little alien with a bent little nose, had just come into this world and I was partially the reason for her existing. The weight of that reality quickly settled on me and my nervousness passed, being replaced by a determination. That determination was that this little being was my responsibility and I would do everything in my power to save her from pain, discomfort, heartache, and sadness. It was a realization, unlike anything I had ever felt in my life to that point, that life would never be the same again.

The first 6 days in the hospital were difficult with Jacq having to recover from her surgery and also having to start dealing with everything that’s required of a new mom. As with everything she does, she handled it like a champ and we were finally able to bring our little girl home. We had Jacq’s parents, youngest brother, and his wife staying with us so they got to meet Matilda right away. Zeus was also pretty excited to meet her but I don’t he realized what he was in for!

The first few weeks were definitely an adjustment period for everybody but we noticed that Mati seemed to constantly be in pain after feeding. We brushed it off as colic since that is very common in newborns and continued with trying to adjust to being new parents. After consulting with Dr Amanda who Jacq had been seeing throughout her pregnancy, she suggested that the antibiotics at birth may have wiped out Mati’s good bacteria and so she didn’t have those, for now, to help with the breakdown of what was in the milk. Of course the milk was coming from Jacq and so Dr Amanda suggested that Jacq go gluten/dairy/soy free to see how that affected Matilda. She was a completely different baby in just over a day and so Jacq, being the champ that she is, changed her whole diet to gluten/dairy/soy free. After a few months she was able to introduce soy again but is still gluten/dairy free. Ya, my wife is amazing!

Over the next few months we settled into a routine of feed, burp, cuddle, change diapers, sleep, repeat. Matilda continued to feed well and hit, and sometimes surpassed, her growth milestones during this time and as proud parents, we were happy to take hundreds of photos of her in the various outfits that we decided to put on her. During this time, I wasn’t too much use except the post-feed burping, diaper changing, and cuddling, but most of the time she was mommy dependent.

As we hit the 4 month mark and she started seeing and focusing better and recognising faces, then it started to become fun. This gave me my first glimpse into the innocence of a newborn child, going through the world full of experiences for the very first time. Watching her absorb absolutely everything she could see and focus on was simply amazing and quite a humbling experience. She saw, and still sees, the world with such naivety and innocence that is so amazing because as we all know, that innocence is lost as one gets older and “grows up”. I pray that she can keep hold of that innocence for as long as she can and look at the world with that unreserved curiosity for as long as possible.

After the 6 month mark we went on a 15 day trip to Beirut for her to meet Dede & Mema, my parents. I’ll write about the trip in a different post but it was simply amazing to be in the other room and to hear Mati giggling and my mom laughing along with her, as well as seeing her sit quietly, mesmerized as my dad sang to her. As parents, the jet lag was horrible and Mati basically reverted to a 6 week old newborn, wanting only mommy when upset, however it was all worth it for those moments she had with her grandparents.

The next few months seemed to me to be a blur of progression on her part. She went from simply rolling from side-to-side, to crawling, to pulling herself up on furniture, and finally to walking at only 9.5 months old. I was a 9 month walker and Jacq walked at 10 months so it makes sense that our daughter was also an early walker. She’s also been developing her motor skills, eating solid foods, and learning how to sign. She’s started understanding things that she’s not supposed to be doing and sometimes tries to test us by doing things she knows she shouldn’t be doing. She’s starting to communicate with the signing and little noises, and is starting to develop her little personality.

The last few months have truly been amazing, though. Matilda has been getting so much more confident with everything she is learning as each day progresses. She’s starting to not only run, but hop, dance to music, and she does the baby sign language like a boss… especially when she’s hungry; she makes it known! I’m so blessed to be able to spend the day, today, on her 1st birthday, with my family. I was raised with the fundamental belief that family is the most important thing in the world and although I felt it deep down growing up, I never truly understood it until I became a dad. I’m so proud of Jackie for everything she’s had to go through so far, and will continue to go through over the next few years. And, of course, I’m so so proud of my little baby girl, she’s growing so quickly, so curious to discover the world, and I love the fact that I get to ride along with her on this journey.

Dear Baby Simonian

Dear Baby S,

Words can’t express how excited your mom and I are to meet you in a few short weeks. As you’ve been growing in your mom’s belly we’ve been keeping up with your activity along the way. We’ve seen some blurry black & white “pictures” of you on 3 separate occasions, one of which you tried to give me an upside down high five, and another one you were hiding behind your mom’s spine and making it very difficult to photograph you. I’ve used your mom’s stethoscope from work to pick out your heartbeat, beating away at a healthy 140 bpm. I’ve lain down and put my ear to her belly and you’ve proceeded to kick me in the head which I guess serves me right because I was poking you to get you to move.

I was in cold, cold Russia when your mom told me she was pregnant and I remember my heart racing at the news and my eyes tearing up with excitement and joy. The first trimester was pretty tense for us but once that was past, it seemed that the second trimester whizzed by. We took you on a little road trip to the northwestern United States and I’m sure you enjoyed all the great food we ate along the way, making sure you got enough to keep you growing strong. And here we are now, approaching the end of the third trimester and you’ll be among us soon. We’ve been busy getting ready for your arrival and fixing up your nursery. I’ve got your bed and dresser built, your mom’s got your tiny clothes all organized and ready for you, and we’ve got the car seat bought and ready to go. We went to a pre-natal class, took a tour of the hospital, and we have a few names picked out whether you’re a boy or a girl.

So as the day gets closer when you decide you’ve had enough of being cooped up and you want out, keep growing strong, saving your energy for your push into this world. As I will be for years to come, I’ll be there to catch you when you come into this world and help guide you to becoming a good person like our parents were there to guide us. I may not have all the answers all the time, and we definitely will butt heads along the way. But all you need to know, is that no matter what happens, whatever life throws your way, I promise you I will be here to hug you, kiss you, talk to you, or just sit here and listen to you breathe while you sleep.

I’m so excited to welcome you into this world and help you get started on this first of many adventures that we call… Life.

Love,

Dad

Growing By 2 Feet!

So as of a couple days ago we put our news of the family growing by 2 feet out there for the whole “social media” world to see when Jacq and I posted the photo below on each of our profiles.

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Winner! This is the one that we shared with the world

When we we were going through the various poses and positions we were thinking of, we were able to get a few runner up and blooper photos that I’ve shared below:

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Runner Up #1: This was the original concept but we felt Zeus got lost in the photo by just showing his feet.

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Runner Up #2: Zeus had enough and went to sit by himself and so I tried a photo like this but we thought there was too big a gap between him and us, and although the irony of the space did not escape us with the new one on the way, this was not the winner.

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Runner Up #3: This was a top contender too but we decided we wanted to have Zeus in the middle because he’s very much a part of the family.

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Blooper! Zeus was sitting and waiting so patiently and we took a few photos where he wasn’t looking at the camera. So I took a piece of gravel and as the countdown timer was about to expire, tossed the gravel towards the camera to get his attention there. For this photo, he decided to give chase!

 

WHAT Camp 2014

On the weekend of February 21st, 2014, I attended Balance Point Racing‘s (BPR) Winter High Altitude Training (WHAT) Camp for 2014 at Silverstar mountain. The camp was to be a 3-day affair which included some snowshoeing, swimming, and running at higher altitude than Kelowna. In comparison to Kelowna which is at around 300 meter elevation above seal level, Silverstar mountain ranges from around 1500-1700+ meters above sea level so it was definitely higher altitude than normal.

The first event of the weekend started with getting together and going on an night time snowshoe on Friday evening. Going into this weekend, my thoughts were that since we were at high altitude, we would be going on longer snowshoe hikes with lower intensity. Boy was I wrong!!! Normally there are perfectly groomed snowshoe trails and that’s where people go. Apparently that’s not eXtreme enough for the BPR people because we jumped into the backcountry right away. On the first day there were 8-10 of us and although I thought they were a little crazy, I trusted that they knew what they were doing and jumped in feet first… and got stuck for the first time.

After to get myself out of the snow hole, I quickly realized that although my snowshoes worked great for packed trails, they were not long enough to give me enough flotation in the deeper snow. Nevertheless, I traded snowshoes with the Guardian, who’s snowshoes were a bit bigger, and was able to get through the night. I got through it, but it was definitely one of the hardest, and funnest, workouts I’ve ever had to do.

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Still capture from the video below of Luke taking a leap

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Still capture from the video below of Ian in a monster front flip

Day 2 had us starting with a morning snowshoe, another 2 hour adventure in the backcountry, followed by a swimming session in the afternoon that Luke recorded for stroke analysis on day 3 at lunch. Day 2 started with some jumping around as can be seen in the video below and the still captures from the video seen above. Luke was nice enough to get me some awesome 36″ long snowshoes from the store so that I wasn’t sinking every time I took a step and these were exponentially better than the ones I used on the first day.

Even with the bigger snowshoes, however, I needed learn how to go up steep inclines and since the way the rest of the group was going was a bit too steep for me, my coach, Emma, and I split off from the main group and went adventuring on our own in the fresh snow. The next couple photos show some of the fantastic backcountry in Silverstar.

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Coach Emma and I trekking through the gorgeous fresh snow

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A selfie in the fresh snow

Day 3 started with a run session and once again, I was amazed that even though there was a perfectly good road to run on, Luke led us through the packed snowshoe trails. Let me tell you that this was quite an experience as well because it all fine and dandy running on the actual packed snow but if you accidentally deviate ever so slightly off the packed portion of the trail, you quickly find yourself knee deep in snow. We had a good 50 minute run after which I was adequately tired and famished and headed back to the lodge to get some food, rest, and change into dry clothes.

We spent our time waiting for the rest of the group who had gone cross-country skiing and Luke took each of us through the swimming videos he had recorded the previous day. After everyone had a chance to recuperate, we got ready for our last session of the weekend which was the third and last snowshoe session. Of course we jumped right into the backcountry right away and as you can see from the videos and photos below it was quite a hike. At one point I was taking a break, having some eLoad, and the rest of the group had gone ahead around a bend so I couldn’t really hear anyone else. It was snowing and I looked around at the trees and the landscape of undulating snow and felt like I was inside a snow-globe. An to top it all off, all the athletes who attended, who are in way better shape than I was, were so supportive and encouraging the whole time. Quite an adventurous weekend for me, eXtremely challenging, and very satisfying!

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Panorama of the trees and snow

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That’s the path we took to start this adventure on day 3. “X” is for eXtreme!

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Another view of the path we started this “hike” with on day 3

 

Olympic Distance Triathlete!

I wrote in one of my previous posts about starting with the BPR team for triathlon and endurance training. The few months since that post have involved a lot of hard training, sweating, muscle pains, recovery rides, a winter high altitude training camp, and general gaining of confidence and knowledge in triathlon training. I couldn’t have done it without the distinct help of coach Emma and coach Luke as well as the support of the lovely ladies in our group who I trained with! For those who aren’t familiar with it, the distances for the Olympic distance triathlon are:

  • Swim: 1.5 km
  • Bike: 40 km
  • Run: 10 km
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Sitting patiently, waiting for the start time of my heat, hanging out with my biggest fan

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View of the pool with one of the earlier heats finishing up

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With a big push of my big leg muscles, my race begins!

Through my training, pacing myself was a very important thing that I had re-learned. Growing up I was always on the school swim team, however I never really swam long distances further than 400 m. The swim for the Olympic distance being 1.5 km, pacing myself was key. I gave myself a few hundred meters to get warmed up and let my muscles loosen and once I felt good in the water, I kicked it up a little notch. I passed a few people, rested in someone’s draft, passed a few more, rested, etc. The way the pool was laid out you had to swim back and forth in 50 m lengths, up one side and down the other side of the same lane. There were 8 lanes so the first full pass was 800 m, after which you got out at the end of the pool and walked back to the 2nd lane to start the back/forth again and complete the remaining 700 m.

As an unofficial rule when swimming a race like this, if you’re approaching someone and you are going to pass them, you give them a little tap on their feet so they know to either pull to the side a bit, or pause for a brief time at the end of the lane to let the person behind pass. Anyway, I got to a point in the race where I was still in the first 800 m, with about 3 lengths to go, where I was in a solid rhythm, pulling strong but not breathing too hard. I approached a swimmer and felt like I had enough juice to pass, but of course there was oncoming traffic so I didn’t have the chance to. So I tapped her foot and backed off a little bit, waiting until the end of the length. Nothing; didn’t even look like she considered pausing at the end of the length and just pushed off again. So I pushed off and was right there, tapping her foot once, twice, three times. We got to the end and again, nothing, she didn’t let me by. So now I was getting agitated so I continued to tap her foot for the last length before we got out and walked to start of the 2nd land for the remaining 700 m. She jumped in a second or so before me put I was pissed off enough to give a massive push with my legs and passed her in the first little bit of the first lane (video HERE). She had the audacity to tap on my foot once, but I kicked in the afterburners and she never got close to me for the rest of the swim.

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Lady that pissed me off just enough for me to blast past her

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Phew, swim check!

Overall the swim went well and I felt great at the end of it. Likely since I grew up swimming is why I feel that’s my best sport from the tri-sports and so off I went to the change tent to get into my riding gear. I ran down to the bike, hopped on the bike and off I went. For some reason, maybe it was that I was slightly off on the timing of taking my Gu, but I lost a lot of energy on the bike and my legs seemed to not want to push as much as I had during training. Regardless, I pushed through the 40 km ride and on to the run I went.

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I really hated having to do that small-ish hill 4x!

About 7 km into the 10 km run, I hit a bit of a wall. My ankle was really starting to bug me and I almost stopped right there. However, I passed a point where my lovely & supportive wife was and she gave me a kiss and cheered me on so I pushed through with the last of my strength and made it to the finish line.

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Believe it or not, I’m giving everything I have left to attempt to look like I’m coming in with some speed

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So exhausted but so proud of myself!

And here we are, having completed my first Olympic distance triathlon!! Now on to Moderne Burger for a celebratory feast and milkshake!!

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So excited to eat this burger platter and have my chocolate shake!

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Yummm!!

Operation iMac Upgrade

The main house computer that we have is our 21.5″ iMac. Since I have a MacBook Air, I have been using it for most of my computer work over the last few years which mainly consisted of photo editing, surfing the internet, and creating/updating this blog. However, the screen on the iMac being 21.5″ is much bigger than my Air’s 13″ as well as having a 1920×1080 resolution vs. the Air’s 1440×900. So it dawned on me that it would make more sense for me to use the iMac to do most of my computer work and have the Air for when I travel.

The iMac still had all its stock components other than having upgraded the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. However, I am used to a solid state drive (SSD) on my Air which is around 6-10 times faster than your standard hard drive and so trying to do anything on the iMac in comparison was painfully slow!! Therein begins our story and the reason for Operation iMac Upgrade.

iMac Upgrade 1

First look at the interior of the iMac once the LCD and glass cover were successfully removed

For one of my previous Apple laptops, I had removed the SuperDrive (CD/DVD drive) and bought a special mount in the same shape but it had room for a laptop hard drive or a SSD. I successfully got 2 hard drives in there and installed the operating system on the SSD and got a speedy-fast computer. So my concept for this upgrade was the same, to replace the SuperDrive with an SSD as well as upgrade the internal hard drive to a larger capacity while I was in there.

Off I went to the wonderful world of the internet to do some research and came up with the following items and tutorials that I would need to make this operation a success:

I ordered all the components I needed, got my USB stick set-up with the MacOS install files, and got started on the upgrade. From everything I read, it seems the trickiest part was removing the glass covering the LCD and then replacing it afterwards without getting any dust particles stuck behind it. It was really easy to remove with suction cups since it’s only held on with magnets. I actually thought the trickiest part was removing the LCD display because after you unscrew it, you have to gently lift it so you can get to 4 separate connectors on the motherboard and remove those before you can take the whole thing off. Regardless, it all came apart pretty easily.

iMac Upgrade 2

Removed the stock 500 GB hard drive

iMac Upgrade 3

About to install the new 2 TB WD Black hard drive

Removing the hard drive was a matter of 2 screws and a few more to swap over the mounts to the new drive after which it went back in place pretty swiftly. Removing the SuperDrive was also a matter of 4 screws.

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New 2 TB drive installed, SuperDrive removed

iMac Upgrade 5

SSD installed on mount, mount installed in iMac. Ready to close up.

I had to make a slight modification to the new “SuperDrive” mount that I bought because it had some plastic nubs in the wrong places but a quick tweak here, some scotch tape over there, and it was all ready to be closed up looking like the photo above.

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Successfully showing the 2 new hard drives installed and ready to be used

Once I had the LCD screen physically back in place, I just replaced 2 screws to hold it in place and stood up the iMac to turn it on and make sure I had made all the connections properly. Lo and behold the 2 new hard drives showed up when I booted from my OSX installer USB stick and I got the process started to install the operating system. It was a little frustrating to make sure all the dust was off the LCD and the back of the glass cover before I placed it on, but after 3 attempts I got most of it removed to the point where what was left was no longer annoying me. 🙂

iMac Upgrade Summary

Upgrade Summary

All in all the tutorials worked really well. My only modification over the tutorial I used was that I was not able to install the temperature sensor onto the 2 TB hard drive because it wasn’t from the same manufacturer as the stock one. However after doing a quick Google search, I found a nifty little software called HDD Fan Control that uses the hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) protocol built into the drive rather than the actual temperature sensor to control the iMac’s internal fan speed.

So far everything has been running at the wonderful superspeed that I was expecting. The SSD allows for the computer to go from being turned off to fully logged in and ready to go in 15 seconds which is fantastic! The applications run blazingly fast so now I can actually consider this iMac usable as opposed to a computer that needs to be replaced soon. I figure with these fairly minor upgrades, this computer can last another 2 years or so before needing to be replaced!

Italy & Lebanon Trip, 2011

In August 2011, one of my best friends from high school, Alessandro, got married in his hometown of Ancona, Italy. He invited Jackie and I to the wedding and also asked me to be one of the groomsmen so, of course, we decided to go. Now as per normal for Jackie and I, we never go on a trip with a single destination in mind, especially when the destination was somewhere like Italy. So, like any normal, adventure loving couple, we made a big trip out of it hitting some wonderful highlights. With my usual orientation to detail, I will be putting together some posts highlighting the places we visited, people we met, food we ate, wine we drank, and all that good stuff that happens when you go traveling:

Quite a few stops, a total of 23 days traveling so I hope you enjoy our tales and most importantly, the photos!!

August 19, 2011 rolled around and Jackie and I were off to our Italian adventure with a brief side-trip to Beirut. We were living in Toronto at the time and booked a direct flight from Toronto to Rome on a Sunwing Airlines flight. We had found an extremely good deal and had paid a little extra due to the good deal to have the economy plus seats which gave us more legroom. Unfortunately for me, these were the seats that had the solid sides and the overall seat was narrower than my hips and so I was squeezed in there the whole flight, quite uncomfortable. But no matter, we made it to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport.

We quickly got our bearings, took the train to Termini station which is the central station and bought our tickets for the express train to Florence. After grabbing some sandwiches and almost getting on the wrong train, we got settled into our seats for the 1.5 hour ride to Florence. Across the aisle from us there were 2 Japanese gentlemen who were having a blast. They took their time getting some wine, cheese, and proscuito out of their bags and sat down to enjoy the train ride. All seemed to be going well until the ticket checker came by to check everyone’s tickets.

The conductor spoke English but it was Italian-English; the Japenese guys spoke English but it was Japanese-English. Basically each of them spoke English but they had such heavy accents that they weren’t understanding each other so since I understood both of them, I decided to play interpreter; go figure! As it turns out, the Japanese guys were supposed to be headed south to Salermo but got on the wrong train. They took it in stride since they’d already had a few glasses of wine but unfortunately they each ended up having to purchase an on-board ticket for the current train for 50 euros and then after getting to Florence they would have to purchase yet another ticket to go back to Rome then to Salermo. Just bad luck I guess. We got to Florence in good time, got our bearings again, and made the brief walk to the Il Giglio GuestHouse B&B where we were spending the next 4 nights.

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From Russia With Love

I know the title to this post is a rip off the James Bond movie title From Russia With Love, but since I’m in Russia, it seemed to make sense to use that title.

I had this opportunity for my first trip to Russia for business purposes and it was quite a haul to get here. I started off with a mid-morning flight departing Kelowna to Calgary. After a 6 hour layover in Calgary I then flew to Frankfurt where I had another 5 hour layover. Finally I made it to Moscow close to midnight where I spent a few hours of sleep and then flew out to the city of Chelyabinsk early in the morning and after another 4 hour drive from there, we arrived in Kartaly. I have to say that it was probably one of the hardest traveling and most tiresome trips I’ve ever had to take:

  • Kelowna >> Calgary: 1h
  • Calgary layover: 6h
  • Calgary >> Frankfurt: 10h
  • Frankfurt layover: 5h
  • Frankfurt >> Moscow: 3.5h
  • Moscow overnight: 8h
  • Moscow >> Chelyabinsk: 2.5h
  • Chelyabinsk >> Kartaly: 4h
  • Total: 40h
Kartaly-map

Kartaly location, approximately 30km from the Kazakhstan border

“Why did you travel over 40h to get to Kartaly?” you ask. For a mine site of course. My company is providing equipment for a new copper mine that is being built here and my role on this trip was to provide some training for the operations team to get them familiarized with the equipment they would be running and some of the philosophies behind operating all the equipment together. Although I was looking forward to it, I was more excited at the future trips that will take place in a few months when the plant would be fully up and running and I would help the operations and processing staff to optimize the plant and make it as efficient as possible.

So now I’m here but unfortunately because they are in the middle of commissioning the equipment, the operators were not readily available for the training and so I will be cutting my trip short by 1 week and heading home tomorrow instead of next week as was planned. However it was good to see the site and meet the management and operating staff to at least network and put some faces to names. Our company supplied the equipment package for the comminution portion of the plant which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with mining terminology, is the size reduction portion of the plant at the front and includes crushing, grinding, and classification equipment.

The equipment package includes a primary gyratory crusher designed for a capacity of 4,000 tons per hour and two comminution lines, each with a design capacity of 1412 tons per hour. The comminution lines consist of two large semi-autogenous mills, two large ball mills, heavy duty cone crushers for pebble crushing and a pebble grinding ball mill as well as double deck screens.

Referenced from: MineWeb

So if you do some quick math, the two grinding lines combined are designed to process 67,776 metric tonnes in a day. Digest that for a second. Sixty. Seven. THOUSAND. Tonnes. In a single day! Granted that in the mining industry there are some mines that process over 3 times that amount in a day but that’s still a lot of rock to be moved around. For that reason you need some very large and very sturdy industrial equipment which is what Metso, my employer, is known for industry-wide.

Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) mill

Semi-Autogenous Grinding (SAG) mill

Top of the SAG

Top of the SAG

View of the SAG & ball mill circuit from the top of the SAG

View of the SAG & ball mill circuit from the top of the SAG

Double-deck vibrating screens that screen the discharge of the SAG mill

Double-deck vibrating screens that screen the discharge of the SAG mill

Side view of the SAG & ball mill circuit

Side view of the SAG & ball mill circuit; this is 1 of 2 parallel trains

The cyclones are the last stage of classification before the material exits the comminution circuit

The cyclones are the last stage of classification before the material exits the comminution circuit

Me and my co-worker, Sergi, from Metso's Ukraine office

Me and my co-worker, Sergei, from Metso’s Ukraine office

 

Stanley Park Walk

One of my favorite parts of Vancouver has to be Stanley Park. Walking near or through the park always reminds me of my first 2 weeks in Canada.

Near the end of high school I got into a multitude of universities and ended up decided to go to the University of British Columbia (UBC), which is located in Vancouver, BC, Canada (just in case my international readers don’t know where that is). So, after graduating high school, we packed up my clothes and other personal items and headed to Vancouver with my parents and brother. None of us had ever been to Canada and I was very excited, and a little scared, to be heading out on my next adventure in life… university! We stayed at the Lord Stanley Suites on the Park which is on Alberni St for you Vancouverites, just a half block West on Denman St. Since we were there to get me ready for university, we went out shopping for clothes, bedspreads, computer, and various other things I would need for my time in university. My dad had rented a car and my job as navigator was to get us from point A to point B without causing my dad any stress and also not getting us lost. So I guess the funniest part of those 2 weeks were the 3 separate occasions that we were heading back to the Lord Stanley Suites, during rush hour on a weekday, and heading back on Georgia St… at the time it made sense to me since it looked like a major street that got us where we needed to be. Those of you who drive in Vancouver know that there are signs for no left turns during rush hour off of Georgia St and so we got stuck on the street which of course took us across Lions Gate bridge and to the North Shore. This not only happened once, not twice, but three times!!

Not to pre-amble too much, but I remember that adventure every time I’m at Stanley Park. This particular day was in mid-January in 2011, a few months after Jackie, Zeus, and I had moved back to Vancouver from Toronto. It was a beautiful Sunday and so we decided to go for a walk around Stanley Park with the pooch. Of course we had to stop at one of our favorite coffeeshops, Caffè Artigiano, to get some coffee before we headed down to the park for our walk.

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A happy wifey with her Caffè Artigiano latte about to go for a walk with her two favorite boys

Zeus, as always, was excited that Jackie and I were both taking him for a walk and so we set out at an easy pace, enjoying the vistas to be seen from the seawall walk. We took our time walking around, breathing in the fresh air, and contemplating how lucky we were to be living in such a beautiful part of the country and world.

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Container yard

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Such an obedient boy!

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Posing with the view

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Seaplane heading west over the inlet

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Lions Gate Bridge with the West Vancouver and Cypress Mountain in the background

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Million dollar smile!

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Log, beach, bridge

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Colours of sunset

Fibrocartilaginous What?

Most people know that one of my best friends since the summer of 2005 is my black lab & greyhound cross, Zeus. I adopted him shortly after I graduated from university and moved to Kapuskasing, ON for my first job. I took him to the vet right away to make sure everything was ok with him and she assessed him to be around 1.5 years old and as healthy as can be. Since then he’s become an avid traveler taking flights from ON to BC, drives to and from Saskatoon, basically following us around the country as we moved for my job.

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Zeus

So picture this.. we’re living in Toronto in September 2011. It’s a beautiful evening in late summer and I take Zeus out with his Chuckit and a tennis ball to the field close to our apartment building that we would typically go to. I throw the ball a few times and Zeus sprints to get the ball, bringing it back to me. Then on one throw he was sprinting to get the ball and as he dropped his head to grab the ball, his rear right leg slipped outward on a leaf. He gave a yelp and dropped onto his bum but tried to get up and couldn’t. By this time I dropped the Chuckit and ran to him. I helped him stand up but his rear right leg could not hold his weight and he kept falling over. He didn’t appear to be in any pain but for all intensive purposes, the rear right leg seemed to me to be paralyzed.

I tried to keep a cool head and grabbed my phone to call the vet. It was past his office hours but I knew that he would have a phone number for a 24-hour clinic in his office voicemail message and so I called them and told them to expect me. Since Zeus couldn’t walk without falling over, I lifted his 70 lb (32 kg) body up in my arms like a deer and carried him for half a block to our apartment building, got him loaded into the car, and drove downtown to the 24-hour clinic.

After a brief wait, the vet took him to the back for around 20 minutes and then came out to tell me his initial assessment was that the injury could either be a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) or a slipped disk. He said he was leaning more towards the FCE because there wasn’t any pain and an FCE causes neurological damage. However, since he was just the on-call vet, he said the neurologist would inspect Zeus the next day and make his recommendation… so yes, my dog had a neurologist! The neurologist gave a very similar assessment and since we didn’t want to pay $2,000 for a special type of X-ray to be sure, he said we could take him home but for 3 weeks he could only go outside to do his business and then back inside. We went to see him after the 3 weeks and Zeus had shown significant progress by then so the neurologist was almost certain it was an FCE but asked us to wait another 2 weeks before letting him play again.

What is FCE Anyway?

To understand FCE, you have to understand some anatomy of the vertebral column. The vertebral column consists of numerous small bones called vertebrae that are linked together by joints called intervertebral disks. The disks are similar to the joints that connect arm or leg bones together in many ways. They allow flexibility between vertebrae so that you can arch or twist your back voluntarily just as you can flex and extend a knee or elbow.

The disks are unique as well. A joint of the appendicular skeleton, say a knee or elbow, has a capsule which secretes a lubricating fluid. The bones are capped with smooth cartilage to facilitate frictionless gliding as the surfaces move during flexion and extension. The disk is nothing like this. It is more like a cushion between the end plates of the vertebrae. It is round (hence the name disk) and fibrous on the outside with a soft gelatinous inside to absorb the forces to which the bones are exposed. This jelly-like inside material inside is called the nucleus pulposus and it is this material that makes up the fibrocartilaginous embolus.

The vertebral column provides a bony protective case around the vulnerable spinal cord. The spinal cord is the cable of nerve connections that transmits messages to and from the brain and controls the reflexes of the body. The spinal cord is fed by a network of spinal arteries. In FCE, somehow the material from the nucleus pulposus enters the arterial system and is carried to the spinal cord where it causes a blood vessel obstruction: an embolism. This area of the spinal cord actually dies. The process is not painful but complete recovery is not likely. Whatever neurologic loss has occurred within the first 24 hours is likely to be permanent, though at least the condition does not get progressively worse.

Reference: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=1663

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One of his favourite things to do at the park: chase squirrels!

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Proud of himself after clearing the surrounding area of squirrels

So, after 5 weeks of almost no activity, he was ready to go to the park. We passed some squirrels along the way and Zeus insisted on showing them he was doing well by chasing them up their trees. We proceeded to the dog park and he spent a good long while running around and chasing some doggy friends. I still had the 70-200mm lens that I had rented for the Toronto Zombie Walk from my previous post so I got some great photos of Zeus at play.

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He loves to chase

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Getting a little too bossy with his buddy

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We taught him how to share!

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Zeus: “I love you dad, thanks for bringing me to the park!”

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Squirrel: “Is that crazy black dog gone yet?”

Although he gave us quite a scare when it happened, it’s been over 3 years since his FCE happened and he’s doing very well. Next month he will turn 10 years old and even though his body is getting old and giving signs of slowing down, he still has the mentality of a 1 year old puppy and is always ready to play. He’s still one of my best friends and looking into his brown eyes each morning inspires me to get out of bed and get started with my day!

Zeus

Zeus2

July 2013 at Pier Park in New Westminster, BC