Thursday, December 09, 2010

Trip To Antarctica

Earlier this week I spent a few days getting photos online from a recent trip to Antarctica. I also did a bit of DJ’ing while I was down there, and have recordings of three live shows online. I’m finally getting around to my last project associated with the trip, ie. a description of what we actually did. However, before I do that, if people are curious about seeing the photos that I took, the gallery is at this link:

I’ve got a few of those photos here in this blog post too, but in much smaller size & resolution. Really, you need to go to that photo page to do them justice.

Anyway, our trip lasted from November 20th to 30th, aboard a Russian scientific expedition ship called the Akademik Ioffe. The trip was organized by a friend of mine, through Quark Expeditions. There were a total of 107 passengers on the ship, although a smaller group of 17 of us were friends who were travelling together.

November 20th – Day 1

We arrived on the ship at about 4pm, turned in our passports (which the ship’s crew had to hold onto during the voyage), and got settled into our cabins. I was in a triple, and the quarters were obviously tight, but still quite clean and comfortable. We had a quick introductory meeting in the dining room at 5pm, and our expedition leader suggested that we go explore the ship and hang out on the top deck for our departure at 6pm.

We had dinner at 8pm, and a lifeboat drill afterward. Then, after watching our progress from up top for a bit, I headed to bed. I already had a scopolamine patch on to prevent nausea, and I took a gravol too, just to be safe. I expected a pretty rough trip, since there was a Beaufort force 11 storm ahead of us. That basically means waves of up to fifty feet, just slightly under hurricane force winds. However, the seas weren't expected to be bad over night, since we were protected by land for a while yet.

November 21st – Day 2

The anti-nausea drugs really put me out. Not only had I slept through the first night with no problems, I also slept through most of our first day at sea, although I had really intended to do that so I could be caught up on my rest for the adventures ahead. The ship’s crew ran lectures and demonstrations all day, with sessions talking about whales, seabirds, and several other topics. I skipped most of them, in favor of resting.

The Captain made a decision to hide behind Cape Horn before venturing out into the Drake Passage, since the weather was so bad. We actually spent most of the day fairly stationary, without making any real progress. I think a lot of people were disappointed by this delay to our adventure, knowing that it would cut down on our time in Antarctica, but I knew that the crew knew what was best. I was nervous about getting sea-sick, so I didn’t mind avoiding the storm system. I’ve only ever gotten sea-sick once in my life, during a storm on a ferry to Newfoundland, but that was definitely one of the worst feelings of my life. I figured that lots of water, only moderate amounts of food, no alcohol, scopolamine patches, gravol, and lots of rest should keep me in good shape. So far, so good. A lot of people were having trouble at supper though. By that time, we were well underway into open seas, and the ship was dancing around quite a bit. Certainly not as bad as I had expected – average big waves of probably only around ten feet. But of the seven people at my table at dinner, five bailed before eating their main course.

November 22nd – Day 3

Gravol tends to make me pretty thirsty. I had a sink in my cabin, right beside my bed, and I am pretty sure that I drank a couple dozen glasses of water. But I didn’t ever feel sick. From the sound of things though, a lot of other people were. It seemed that everyone wearing scopolamine patches were mostly OK. The crew put on more presentations throughout the day.

Our private group was given access to the Lecture Lounge for the evening, to use as late as we wanted. We moved all the chairs aside and set things up for a night of entertainment. The group stated off by doing a “Century Club” of sorts, which they called “Power Hour.” A real Century Club is one ounce of beer per minute for one hundred minutes. This group changed the rules a bit and went with an ounce and a half per minute for one hour. So in the end, they were ten ounces short of a real century. Needless to say, I had nothing to do with these shenanigans, wanting to keep my supper down. Somehow though, everyone in the group made it through without any nausea problems.

Once the drinking games were out of the way, I set up a system and played a couple hours of Drum & Bass music for the crowd. Shipboard Rave number one. We also had a couple projectors, so we could project random video graphics on the walls, and they had a Wii set up in one corner. I recorded my set, and it can be downloaded from my website. This was a bit of a historical moment in my DJ career. Normally, I’ve always mixed on turntables or CD players, but it was obviously impossible to bring a full set of that equipment with me, halfway around the world. Instead, I used Ableton to play my set, and tapped into the ships entertainment system for a speaker system. This was not the first time that I used Ableton for a live gig – I did that once before at Defcon in las Vegas in 2008. However, this was the first time that I actually recorded the set. I think it turned out pretty good. Here’s a link to that:

November 23rd – Day 4

This was supposed to be our first day in Antarctica, but because of the storm delay the first day, this was our last day of travel through the Drake. People were starting to get used to the ship’s motion already, and I don’t think many people were sick. The ship’s doctor was also handing out extra anti-nauseants like candy.

I spent a lot of time on the deck of the boat during the day, watching several different types of albatross species, some other sea-birds, a whale, and our first signs of ice.

November 24th – Day 5

We were in Antarctica when we got up. And I might add, we got up early. There was a 5am wake-up call, because the expedition staff wanted to fit as much activity in as possible, to help make up for our lost day. We got into the Zodiacs (motorboats) and went for a cruise at 5:30am at Orne Harbour. We came back to the ship for breakfast, then went for another cruise at Cuverville Island. Some people went climbing, some people went kayaking, and in the afternoon we did a full beach landing at Neko Harbour. Penguins everywhere! We ended the day with a very tasty BBQ up on the deck of the ship.

November 25th – Day 6

The weather was pretty bad in the morning, so we didn’t get to go out in the Zodiacs. However, we went for a drive in the afternoon at Almirante Brown and saw a couple of bases. However, the ice was too bad to get the Zodiacs to show. We did see seals and a whale up close, and of course lots more penguins and blue ice. It was American Thanksgiving, so we had a turkey dinner on the ship. After supper, about thirty of us went camping and all of the non-campers also did a short landing at the camp site in Paradise (Danco Island). That was pretty cool, and possibly the highlight of my trip. I got to play a short DJ set while camping. That’s an interesting story in and of itself, which you can read here:

November 26th – Day 7

We got up early and went back to the ship, and had a solid breakfast. I had a quick nap after breakfast, and then we went for beach landings at Jougla Point and Goudier Island. This is where we saw Lockroy Station, a British outpost. The outpost is manned for six months a year by four Commonwealth staff. Imagine spending six months living and working in a remote outpost at the bottom of the world, surrounded by penguins, with no cell phones or internet, and almost no electricity! I’d have internet withdrawal for a while, but it still sounds like heaven to me. I picked up a job application, just in case. I saw a couple seals and lots of penguins, and a few whale bones. I also bought lots of postcards at the station gift shop. After lunch, there was a quick zodiac cruise at Damoy Point, plus the kayakers and skiers went for special events. After dinner, we did a special “Titanic Night” and I DJ’ed in the ship’s lounge for quite a while, a bit of jazz and then a full DJ set. Here’s a link to that:

November 27th – Day 8

We spent the day today in the South Shetlands, which were a bit less snowy and ice-covered than the places we visited the previous three days. We did a beach landing in the morning at Whaler’s Bay (Deception Island), and another in the afternoon at Half Moon Island. Whaler’s Bay gave everyone a chance to do a polar plunge. After supper, we knew that we had to start heading north for Ushuaia, and this would be our last view of Antarctica. I spent several hours on deck, watching the scenery, before we finally headed out to the Drake Passage.

The Rest of the Trip

On the 28th and 29th, we passed through the Drake Passage once again. We had waves of about twenty feet one night, but everyone was a lot more comfortable going through it this time. I skipped the gravol, and just used a scopolamine patch, and felt fine. We got back to Ushuaia on the morning of the 30th without any incidents, and everyone headed off for more travelling, or to return to their homes.

If you want to download a PDF summarizing the wildlife that we saw on this trip (probably of interest to the biologist types out there), click here.

One recommendation if you ever take this trip. We drank our ship completely out of mix by the last night of the trip (mind you, I think that can partly be blamed on our small group). If you're going on this trip, and take a bottle or two of alcohol with you for your cabin, make sure you don't forget to take mix too!

Before I go, here's a late addition (June 25th, 2011): some video footage from the trip, set to a dubstep remix of Avicii's "Penguin"

All in all, it was a pretty amazing trip. You’d think that it would be easy to get sick of snow and penguins, but I’m definitely hoping to head back in November of 2012. In fact, I’m going to organize a group tour that would be open to any of my friends and associates from Mount Allison University, and also for music industry friends. Let me know if you’re interested! And again, if you haven’t already checked out the photo galleries that I have online, go up and check out that link at the top of this page. The smaller photos that I included in this blog posting really don't do the trip justice!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Watch Out For Moose!

In many parts of Canada, large animals on the roads are a significant danger at night. If I'm not on a full divided highway, I rarely drive much above 80 km/h at night, and often slower than that, much to the annoyance of my passengers. Although it is kind of slow and painful, it occasionally pays off, like the other night.

On Thursday evening, I was driving a few kilometers away from my property in Port Elgin, and saw a moose on the highway. I swerved to the left, and missed it by about a foot. It's a good thing I swerved left, because if I had gone to the right, I would have hit a second moose behind the first that I didn't see initially. Or maybe even worse, I wouldn't have made it past the first one and hit TWO moose at the same time. This is exactly why I drive a lot slower at night.

(Click on the photos to see them in higher resolution).

I find that moose are harder to see than deer. For one, their coats are darker, so they don't stand out as much. Also, deer are skittish and usually turn to face an oncoming vehicle, so motorists often see the reflections from their eyes. However, a moose is usually either stupid or indifferent, or too high off the road surface for drivers in low cars, so you never see their eyes.

Hitting a moose isn't anything like hitting a deer. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have hit deer. It's the kind of thing that nearly every rural driver expects could happen at least once in their life. But all that a deer usually does is trash your car. I don't mean to downplay this type of accident, because hitting a deer is still very dangerous. Unfortunately, more than a dozen people die every year in Canada because of collisions with deer. I looked up the stats for deer accidents and the numbers in the United States are stunning: there are an average of a MILLION AND A HALF collisions per YEAR between deer and vehicles. That translates to about 150 deaths, which means that 0.1% of collisions result in fatalities. It seems like a low percentage, but that's still far too many. But your chances of getting killed when hitting a moose (or elk or caribou) are a LOT higher. A deer might weigh up to 200 pounds. A moose is usually north of a thousand pounds. Check out the photos at this link:

Recently, our part of the province saw a very high profile moose accident just outside of Moncton, where a young couple died, leaving behind a 2-year old child:

Here are a few tips from a BC website:

- Moose eyes do reflect the light from headlights, but often the moose's eyes are too high above the beam to catch the light. A grown moose often stands taller than a car.

- Moose are a hazard in summer (as well as in winter). They crave salt and often get it from the side of the road.

- Long straight stretches of road are still hazardous. Drivers tend to speed and thus cannot react in time if a moose or other animal does appear.

- Deer are herding animals. Just because you miss one does not mean you are clear of them.

- There are no studies proving conclusively that deer whistles work. It is better to be wildlife aware when driving, and not to rely on the whistle.

Anyway, next time you're driving at night and see a "wildlife on highway" sign, remember that you're going to get to your destination a lot FASTER if you don't run into an animal. Driving slowly isn't a bad idea.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Glen Ballard Scholarship at Berklee

I’m currently in the middle of working through two separate Masters’ programs through the Berklee College of Music, one in Music Theory and one in Production. I just found out that I am the recipient of a "celebrity scholarship," thanks to support donated by Glen Ballard.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name Glen Ballard, you should be. He is an R&B, rock, and pop songwriter and record producer who has had a hand in releases by an incredible number of artists. I’m going to list just a few of the artists that he has either performed with or done production work for, and you’ll see what a huge impact he has had on contemporary popular music: Michael Jackson, the Pointer Sisters, Wilson Phillips, Paula Abdul, Evelyn King, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette, No Doubt, Shakira, Dave Matthews Band, Christina Aquilera, the Goo Goo Dolls, Annie Lennox, and dozens of others. Wow.

It’s quite an honor to be recognized for this scholarship. Now the only problem is that my cumulative GPA is only 3.82. I’m happy with that, but it could be higher. But now that I’ve finally returned home and to my personal studio today, after four months on the road, I’m excited to really dig into the course work more heavily and see if I can get that GPA closer to 4.0.

Many, many thanks to Glen, both for his support with this scholarship, and also for his diverse contributions to contemporary mainstream music.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Save BC's Forests

The reforestation industry on Canada's west coast is in a huge mess right now. As a result of the recent economic downturn, dozens and dozens of mills have gone out of business. Unfortunately, in an attempt to save money, reforestation of logged areas is being thrown by the wayside.

In addition to that problem, the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in BC has impacted approximately fifteen million hectares of forest. It is estimated that around a third of that land will NOT regenerate naturally, and will require human intervention in the form of tree planting. The government has no intention to address reforestation in most of this area.

Twenty years ago, the province planted far, far more trees than today. In terms of reforestation, 2010 is the worst year in a couple decades. The low number of seedlings being planted is going to drop even further in 2011. While the province can invest a billion dollars into the Olympics, it cannot muster the political will to invest a few hundred million more into reforestation, which will provide the backbone of a sustainable forestry industry (and tens of thousands of jobs) for decades to come.

Take a look at this graphic, and you can see how much pine has been killed in the province as of 2009:

Original map at:

Check out this story from the CBC in 2007 that suggested that reforesting the Pine Beetle forests might take about thirteen centuries:

In this photo that I took near Kamloops in 2008, you can see the extent of the mortality among mature trees. The very youngest trees (about ten years and less) are generally not being affected, but almost everything else is:

Please, if you care about the environment (even if you don't live in British Columbia), take a moment to visit the website, and sign their petition urging greater government support for reforestation. It will only take a minute for you to read it and sign. Click on this link so you can read and sign the petition:

Link to the Petition

Please forward this link to any of your friends or family who might be concerned about this issue. Thanks ...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Meaning of 420

For anyone who smokes pot, the meaning of the phrase "420" is very symbolic. Urban legend says that 420 is the police code to refer subtly to someone who is smoking marijuana.

It turns out that this urban legend is incorrect. I just read one of the most interesting articles I've read in some time, which discusses the origins of the phrase, so I thought I'd share it. Check it out:

Click here to read the article from the Huffington Post.

I don't actually smoke pot myself. That probably surprises more than a few people. I'd much rather sit down with a couple of cold beer, and perhaps a shot or two of tequila or bourbon. However, the Canadian culture is so heavily intertwined with the cannabis culture that the subject is fascinating to almost all Canadians. And I am a believer in the concept that people should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to partake, as long as it doesn't hurt themselves or others around them.

Decriminalization? Makes sense to me.

Health-wise? Smoking isn't good for your lungs. I do like my lungs.

But considering the amount of butter and other fats that I shovel into my stomach and indirectly into my circulatory system, I guess I shouldn't criticize others for abusing their lungs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Olive Branch Restaurant

The Olive Branch restaurant, which I used to own, has just recently reopened in Sackville.

Please note that I am no longer affiliated with that business. I sold the assets to the new owners, and I am not working there, nor do I own any interest in the name or venue. A lot of people have contacted me over the past week, assuming that I opened it back up because the Pub is closing, but I am 100% uninvolved with it.

I wish the new owners the best of luck in their new venture.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to Save Yourself $7,500

A few months ago, I sold my house. I spent about a day of effort putting the information online myself, and saved myself $7,500. Well, almost half of that amount, anyway. Let me explain ...

In Canada, when you buy or sell a house, the seller usually loses about a 6% commission to the real estate agent. My house sold for about $130,000, but I didn't have to pay any commission to an agent. It's not that hard to save yourself the same money if you're selling. Here's how:

I started off by making a web page about the house. Granted, I find it pretty easy to throw together a quick web page, and I have my own server account, so that's not exactly the easiest thing for everybody. But if you're trying to sell, you don't have to create your own personal website to benefit from this post. There are ways around that, as I'll explain in a minute.

Once I had the web page together, I put an ad on Kijiji. Anybody can figure out how to do this. You don't even need your own web page - you can let Kijiji "be" the web page. The only reason I made my own was so I could add a bunch of additional information (several pages worth, plus a ton of photos) so interested buyers could figure out more about the house themselves, without having to pester me with questions. Basically, I wanted a filter to save myself some time.

Once the Kijiji ad was posted, I decided to invest a bit of money. I spent a little under $100 and got some major extra publicity for the ad with things like highlighting and home page rotation. You don't actually need to do this, because you can post an ad for free, but I figured that if I was [hopefully] going to save myself several thousand dollars in commissions, it would be worth trying to make sure that more eyes saw the ad.

After that I sat back and waited. I got my first call from someone wanting to look at the house about seventeen MINUTES after it was posted. I definitely did not expect those kind of results. That person didn't turn out to be solid lead, but over the next month I had about a dozen calls. And one of those calls led to the sale.

I wasn't in a huge rush, otherwise I probably would have throw a few extra weapons at the fight. For instance, I had considered buying a professional listing on - a full-package there is definitely more pricey than just putting an ad on Kijiji, but at $1,400 they agree to market your house basically "forever," until it sells (and they also have much cheaper packages). After a bit of investigation, that seemed like a smart idea, although as it turned out I sold the house before getting to that point. I was also considering using Google AdWords to bring more traffic to the Kijiji ad, but again, I wasn't in a big rush.

Of course, most people don't have their own real estate agent training, and selling a house is a complicated issue. I went down to one of the local lawyers, explained what I was doing, and he took care of everything for me for a total of under $700.

The reason that I am mentioning this is because I just read an interesting article in Report On Business that talks about the major changes that are about to happen within the Real Estate industry due to the influence of the internet. If you think you might either buy a sell a home in the next five or ten years, it's definitely worth a read:

And by the way, remember something else. You may think that you're not going to benefit if you're a buyer, because only the seller saves the commission. However, when I was picking a price to sell, I had originally wanted to list it for $134,000. But then, when I realized I was going to lose almost $8,000 in commissions, I thought that I'd "split the difference" and list the house for four thousand less, to help sell it faster, and still come out $4,000 ahead. So if you're thinking about buying a home, it's definitely worth your while to go through Kijiji and the other non-MLS websites out there.

Good luck ...