Monday, December 31, 2018

Books I Read in 2018

For the second year in a row, the number of books I read over the course of the year has declined, down to 86 books this year compared to 123 in 2017 and 135 in 2016. Even worse, my ratio of women to men authors has declined drastically, as has my ratio of genre to mainstream (or "literary") works.

There are a few reasons for this, some new, some carried over from 2017. First, hardly any of my lunch breaks at Stantec are devoted to reading books; instead, I'm either playing Dungeons & Dragons or catching up on Reddit politics threads over lunch. I'm also screening a lot more films than I used to. And finally, Dad's passing and the stress from the quickly unfolding global sociopolitical/environmental catastrophe has made reading more difficult for me; I don't have the same focus I used to.

What reading I did manage this year veered strongly toward nostalgia and escapism. I managed to whittle down some Hugo and Nebula award winners this year, and finally read Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr juveniles and the first of his R. Daneel Olivaw robot novels. I also knocked off James Blish's Cities in Flight books, something I've been meaning to do since about grade six.

Here's the list:

January: 11
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction (Grady Hendrix, 2017)
The Collectors (Christopher L. Bennett, 2014)
Miasma (Greg Cox, 2016)
Q Are Cordially Invited (Rudy Josephs, 2014)
When Angels Wept: A What-If History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Eric G. Swedin, 2010)
Surrounded by Enemies (Bryce Zabel, 2013)
BFI Modern Classics: Easy Rider (Lee Hill, 1996)
Once There Was a Way (Bryce Zabel, 2017)
The Returned, Part 1 (Peter David, 2015)
The Returned, Part 2 (Peter David, 2015)
The Returned, Part 3 (Peter David, 2015)

February: 6
The Dispatcher (John Scalzi, 2016)
The Power (Naomi Alderman, 2016)
Sidelines (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2013)
Shadow on the Sun (Richard Matheson, 1994)
Absent Enemies (John Jackson Miller, 2014)
A Lot like Christmas (Connie Willis, 2017)

March: 4
The Home for Wayward Parrots (Darusha Wehm, 2018)
The Bronze Skies (Catherine Asaro, 2017)
The Outer Limits: Season One (David J. Schow, 2018)
The Klingon Dictionary, second edition (Marc Okrand, 1992)

April: 1
The Berlin Project (Gregory Benford, 2017)

May: 6
Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman (Paul Levitz, 2018)
Those Were the Days (Marty Kaplan and Tom Shales, 2012)
Thor Meets Captain America (David Brin, 1986)
The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era (Vernor Vinge, 1993)
The Flowers of Vashnoi (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2018)
4 3 2 1 (Paul Auster, 2017)

June: 8
The Outsider (Stephen King, 2018)
Grammar: The Easy Way (Dan Mulvey, 2002)
A Girl in Time (John Birmingham, 2016)
Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (Joseph M. Williams, 2003)
Adventure: The Atari 2600 at the Dawn of Console Gaming (Jamie Lendino, 2018)
Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor (Bruce Campbell, 2017)
Wool (Hugh Howley, 2011)
Buying Time (Joe Haldeman, 1989)

July: 18
All Our Wrong Todays (Elan Mastri, 2017)
After the Fact: A Guide to Fact-Checking for Magazines and Other Media (Cynthia Brouse, 2007)
The Stuff of Dreams (James Swallow, 2013)
Artemis (Andy Weir, 2017)
Infinite (Jeremy Robinson, 2017)
sex, lies, and videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1990)
American War (Omar el Akkad, 2017)
The President’s Brain is Missing (John Scalzi, 2017)
They Shall Have Stars (James Blish, 1956)
A Life for the Stars (James Blish, 1962)
Earthman, Come Home (James Blish, 1955)
The Triumph of Time (James Blish, 1959)
Behold the Man (Michael Moorcock, 1969)
The Fifth Head of Cerberus (Gene Wolfe, 1972)
The Planet on the Table (Kim Stanley Robinson, 1986)
The Tale of the Wicked (John Scalzi, 2012)
Slow River (Nicola Griffith, 1995)
Powers (Ursula K. LeGuin, 2007)

August: 11
David Starr, Space Ranger (Isaac Asimov, 1952)
Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (Isaac Asimov, 1953)
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (Isaac Asimov, 1954)
Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (Isaac Asimov, 1956)
Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (Isaac Asimov, 1957)
Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (Isaac Asimov, 1958)
Change Agent (Daniel Suarez, 2017)
Terminal Event (Robert Vaughn, 2017)
Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You (Charles Taylor, 2017)
Trigger Mortis (Anthony Horowitz, 2015)
The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut, 1959)

September: 10
The Keep (F. Paul Wilson, 1981)
Hope Never Dies (Andrew Shaffer, 2018)
Flight or Fright (Stephen King and Bev Vincent, 2018)
The Fountains of Paradise (Arthur C.  Clarke, 1979)
Legacies (F. Paul Wilson, 1998)
All the Way with JFK (F.C. Schaefer, 2017)
The Boat of a Million Years (Poul Anderson, 1989)
Superpowers (David J. Schwartz, 2008)
All My Sins Remembered (Joe Haldeman, 1977)
The Coming (Joe Haldeman, 2000)

October: 5
Hadon of Ancient Opar (Philip Jose Farmer, 1974)
Mockingbird (Walter Tevis, 1980)
The Dreaming Jewels (Theodore Sturgeon, 1950)
The Consuming Fire (John Scalzi, 2018)
Head On (John Scalzi, 2018)

November: 3
Nightflyers (George R.R. Martin, 1985)
Strangers (Gardner Dozois, 1978)
Flight to Opar (Philip Jose Farmer, 1976)

December: 5
Elevation (Stephen King, 2018)
The Caves of Steel (Isaac Asimov, 1954)
Star Trek: The Book of Lists (Chip Carter, 2017)
The Massacre of Mankind (Stephen Baxter, 2017)
Star Trek: Lost Scenes (David Tilotta and Curt McAloney, 2018)

Nonfiction: 16
Fiction: 70

Genre
Science Fiction: 46
Mainstream: 11
Star Trek: 8
Fantasy: 3
Horror: 3

Top Authors
Isaac Asimov: 7
John Scalzi: 5
James Blish: 4
Peter David: 3
Joe Haldeman: 3
Stephen King: 3
Lois McMaster Bujold: 2
Philip Jose Farmer: 2
F. Paul Wilson: 2
Bryce Zabel: 2

Books by Women: 10
Books by Men: 76

Books by Decade
1950s: 12
1960s: 2
1970s: 6
1980s: 7
1990s: 7
2000s: 6
2010s: 48

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Two Little Ships

During this holiday break, I also painted a couple of very small ships, to scale with the fleet I posted the other day: a DY-100 of the style used by Khan to escape Earth, and an early Starfleet vessel of the Daedalus class. I don't have stats for these ships, so they'll probably wind up as objectives in our A Call to Arms: Starfleet games. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Realm of Earl December 2018

The Realm of Earl - that is, the places I've been on our planet - has expanded a bit since I last updated the map. As you can see, I've extended my travels in the American midwest and the eastern seaboard.

I'm hoping to visit Newfoundland and/or the Maritimes next year. I had initially planned to visit Florida, but now I'm thinking staying in Canada might be the better choice. As for Europe...2020, perhaps? 

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Fleet Gathers

At long last, I have repaired and repainted the entirety of my A Call to Arms: Starfleet miniatures. They're all the same colour now, except for the black Section 31 ship at centre, a little invention of mine. The next step is to apply the custom decals I ordered a while back, but I need to wait for some materials to arrive before I can tackle that task. Once that's accomplished, I can actually bring (some of) these ships to battle against Steve in our long-delayed points-based campaign. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Reformation

My robes are royal purple with gold trim, sharp at the shoulders, sleek of cut, almost unadorned save for three gold buttons on the high black collar. I’m walking briskly down a cobblestone street, and I’m not alone; the faithful are gathering, heading, like me, for church. Many nod and smile at me; they know I’m facing a significant transition just a few minutes from now.

It's a gorgeous day. The sun caresses the city, warming the lush parks, the meandering river, the spotless streets, the colourful adobe houses. The church rises from a hilltop overlooking an expansive green pasture; it’s a cherrywood edifice of soft curves and oval entryways and window frames, warm and welcoming.

I step through the side entrance, directly into our administrator’s office, a good-humoured, lovely, raven-haired woman of late middle age. And yet she is typical, for although our people are diverse in many ways, we all share certain traits: a need to poke fun at ourselves, a certain agelessness, and, frankly, good looks. My own frame is lithe and strong, even closing in on 50; my hair remains thick, my skin unlined. The only mark of age is a distinguished touch of grey in my sideburns.

The administrator and the bishop are sharing some acerbic but good-natured banter about paperwork. The administrator waves me through as they hurl balls of wadded-up documents at each other.

I enter the great hall of the church. Hundreds of congregants are sliding into the wooden pews, sharing smiles and quiet gossip. The retiring Cardinal is already behind the pulpit, jotting down notes, peering over the top of his glasses, which are perched on the tip of his nose.

I take my place at the secondary pulpit, and the congregational murmur dies down. According to the order of service, I should now welcome the congregation and invite the retiring Cardinal to speak.

Instead, on my left, the Bishop starts to speak. He apologizes for hijacking the proceedings, but warns of a great evil on the horizon, one that could break the church community. Indeed, he reaches out, pointing at the skylights to direct our attention to the dark clouds forming outside. Behind those clouds coalesces a sharp-edged obsidian shadow, shaped something like the head of a hawk, but at the same time unutterably alien.

The Bishop claims that I must take my place as the new Cardinal, as was planned, but that by doing so I could create a schism in the church. Horrified by the thought, I leave the pulpit and circulate among the congregants, including crucial influencers like the black members, the LGBTQ2+ members, the women, merchants, artisans, veterans, seniors and children. Even among this even-tempered population voices begin to rise, not in anger, but concern and fear. My words feel inadequate in the face of the monstrous evil forming in the skies above, but somehow they’re enough to restore calm, and even resolution.

I return to the podium and am ordained in short order. The sudden appearance of tangible evil in the real world has, indeed, cast the spectre of doubt upon church teachings that reach back more than 10,000 years. But in a short speech of some five or six minutes, I rally the people, reminding them of the many millennia of peace and prosperity our culture built together, urging us all to continue in that spirit. And though I fully intend to literally lead the charge against evil the second I finish my speech, the congregation takes that leadership out of my hands, heading for the exits with a roar, armed with nothing but their faith, compassion, and goodwill. I follow them into the street, and together we face the darkness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day Painting

I celebrated Boxing Day by painting miniatures and watching movies from about 8-3. Here are four Hero Forge miniatures I created a few months ago and painted just now. The character second from the right is Cane Bersk, a Dungeons & Dragons monk. The others have no names or backgrounds yet; they might wind up in other roleplaying campaigns. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Monday, December 03, 2018

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018

William and Robert

Here's a shot of Dad (right) and Granddad (left) in 1959. Dad would have been 17 in this shot. I believe this would have been in Aylsham, Saskatchewan, but it could also have been Dauphin, Manitoba. Note Dad's pipe.

Dad's father died young, at 54, and I believe he only met Mom once. You could tell that the loss deeply affected Dad, who I remember told me once that his father sometimes, as a ghostly vision or a dream, would come sit on the bed in the darkest hours of the night and ask Dad how he was doing. You could tell that Dad found these visits comforting. While I'm not a spiritual person, I honestly hope they're together now, maybe playing crokinole. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

George and Elizabeth in Saskatchewan

This photo was taken by one of my paternal grandparents back in June 1939, possibly in Moose Range, Saskatchewan. Stepping up to the rail we see King George and Queen Elizabeth I; this would have been shot during their 1939 tour of Canada. Grandma's writing on the back suggests that her brother-in-law, Lawrence Woods (yes, Woods; three brothers married three sisters), is in this photo somewhere; perhaps he's the fellow at the far left?

Pretty amazing they could get this close to the reigning monarch.

EDIT: Not Queen Elizabeth I, of course, but Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Elizabeth I reigned from 1558-1603. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Of Uncertain Origin

A fine example of ungood photography, shot during a beyblades tournament at Gaming & Guinness a few years ago. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Job for Supermen

Episode V: A Job for Supermen

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although their base on Yavin IV remains hidden from the Empire, the Death Star has intimidated all but a few brave star systems into capitulating to the Emperor's tyrannical rule.

While in hiding from the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, Ben Kenobi has drawn upon all his knowledge to teach his two wards, Luke Skywalker and Clark Kenobi, the ways of the Force. Luke, strong in the force and eager to learn, rises to the rank of Jedi Knight. But Clark, skeptical of the old Jedi Order and blessed with great power of his own, has abandoned the Rebel cause to pursue truth and justice on his own. Working on the fringes of Imperial space, he has used his great abilities to free slaves and 'droids on many worlds.

The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Kenobi, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space...

***

The Star Destroyer Abbadon dropped out of hyperspace at the edge of the Yavin system, launched a probe droid, and jumped back to lightspeed to continue its search pattern. Several hours later, the probe droid detected life on Yavin IV and touched down in the teeming jungle that covered most of that verdant world. A single eye glowing with malevolent purpose, the multi-armed robot probe hovered precisely one metre above the swampy earth and silently recalibrated its sensors. Then, it slid smoothly through the air, making its way toward an ancient structure in the distance. Its cameras captured a rebel U-Wing returning from some covert mission.

That was enough. Its antennae quivered. Light years distant, the captain of the Abbadon pumped his fist in satisfaction.

"Put me through to Lord Vader. It's taken us five years, but we've found the Rebel scum."

***

The winged warriors of planet Starhaven cheered as Clark Kenobi brought the former Imperial Governor to them, neatly bound in a girder twisted around his body that pinned his arms to his torso. The bald, grey-mustiached despot fumed and sputtered empty threats--threats that died on his lips as a force of Starhavenites marched out of the Dawn Palace with the Governor's elite guard of Stormtroopers their cowed prisoners.

Windspear, leader of Starhaven's resistance, saluted Kenobi.

"On behalf of my people...thank you, great liberator."

"You liberated yourselves, sir," Kenobi said. "I just gave you a little hand to get started."

With that, Kenobi launched himself into the sky, his red cloak fluttering in his wake. Windspear called after him, knowing from experience the young man could hear even though he was already out of sight.

"Starhaven never forgets, young superman. Where you go - we will follow!"

Clark heard. Windspear's voice was just a whisper carried by the last feeble traces of Starhaven's thermosphere, but the message couldn't have been clearer. Clark's eyes were sad even as they glowed red-hot, vaporizing the Empire's orbital intimidator satellites and communications arrays. One more planet freed, one more chance that a freed but wounded people wouldn't be content to be rid of the Empire, would instead take to the stars in search of revenge.

"Hey kid, are you coming in or are you gonna hang out in orbit and mope for a while?"

Clark turned to see Han Solo waving at him through the cockpit window of the Millennium Falcon. Clark waved back and flew to the dorsal airlock. Moments later, he joined Solo at the old freighter's controls.

"Well, if it isn't the Superman himself."

"Come on, Han. You know I don't like it when they call me that."

Han shrugged, eyes wide with innocence. "Hey, I'm just saying what they're all saying out here on the fringes of space. You have to admit you've made quite an impression on the locals. Heck, some of them are putting up statues, calling you a god."

Clark glared. "That isn't true."

"Kid, you may not want it to be true, but great power attracts followers. A lot of people just want to be led, whether it's a guy like you or someone like the Emperor."

Clark was stunned. Solo immediately realized his mistake.

"Hey, kid, listen, I don't mean that you're anything like him..."

But Clark was already heading aft to his quarters. He knew Han hadn't meant anything by the remark. But it still hurt. Clark knew instinctively that using his abilities, so far beyond those of mortal men, introduced a terrible imbalance in the universe. He tried to do the right thing, tried to live by the pacifist principles of his long-lost people, the doomed Kryptonians who died defenceless in a flash of the Death Star's superlaser. But the Rebellion inspired him; against incredible odds, people like Ben and Luke and Biggs and Leia and General Dodonna and Wedge and all the rest risked their lives every day to restore freedom to the galaxy.

But that just seemed to lead to more and more bloodshed. There had to be a better way - a way without killing.

I wish I was normal, he thought. I'm not smart enough or wise enough for this. I'm not even 20 yet. 

There is a right and a wrong in the universe, and the distinction is not very difficult to make. It seemed so simple when the crystals he found in his escape rocket transmitted those words into his head. But the more time passed, the more he felt the distinction was sometimes very difficult to make after all, at least when it came down to the complicated details of star wars.

Han's voice chirped over the intercom.

"Hey, kid. Message from your old man. It sounds urgent."

***

Ben Kenobi leaned across the communications holo-pool, suffused in blue light. "Clark, Han - they've found us. We're evacuating Yavin. We expect an Imperial Fleet and probably the Death Star itself within the hour."

All around Kenobi, Rebel troops were packing up gear and coordinating launch priorities. Leia herself rested a hand on Kenobi's shoulder, silently urging him to sign off.

"Clark, I don't know where we're bound, and we couldn't say over an open channel anyway. Don't come; you'd never get here in time, and there will be far too many Imperials for even you, my boy. Keep the light of hope alive. May the Force be with you."

Leia embraced Kenobi for a moment - but only a moment. "Come on, Obi-Wan. The last transport is ready to launch, and we're going to be on it." She turned to address the Rebels who remained at their stations. "Everyone out! Follow me!"

***

Han turned to Clark as Ben Kenobi's holographic image vanished into static. "I'm sorry, kid. Even the Falcon isn't fast enough to get all the way back to Yavin in time to help."

"I know, Han. I hope I'll see you again."

Solo's eyebrows rose in puzzlement. "What do you--"

But faster than the human eye could follow, Clark Kenobi was gone. Solo caught a flash of dopplered light out the cockpit window, the primary colours of Clark's red, blue and yellow uniform transforming into a violet streak that glowed brilliantly for a moment, then vanished as the youth propelled himself into hyperspace.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Solo muttered.

***

Inside the stormy tunnel of light that was hyperspace, Clark Kenobi tore through reality faster than anything had gone before. His Kryptonian cells supercharged by years of exposure to the many young suns populating the galactic fringes, his entire being screamed otherworldly energy, harnessed by will alone.

Minutes later, Clark soared past the great star at the centre of the Yavin; seconds after that, he didn't even need to use his telescopic vision to see the space around Yavin IV's moon filled with fleeing Rebel starfighters and capital ships. Clark arrived just in time to see a quartet of Star Destroyers pop into existence, swarms of TIE fighters erupting from their bellies.

He spotted Red Squadron escorting a trio of transports. Clark joined the formation, nodding to Biggs Darklighter on his left, Wedge Antilles on his right. Straight ahead, Luke waggled his wings to let Clark know he'd seen him.

Focusing his bottomless will, channeling his power to speed, Clark broke formation to launch himself at the Imperial TIEs. He hoped he could dispatch the fighters before his old friends could meet them in combat, costing lives on both sides.

But then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Death Star appear in the green moon's orbit.

He couldn't move quickly enough to disable all those fighters, the Star Destroyers, and the Death Star without causing more deaths than he was trying to prevent. As fast as he was, human lives were too fragile to withstand more than the tiniest fraction of his power.

He felt Luke reaching out with the Force.

I wish there was another way, Clark. But this is war. Good luck. 

Clark wept as he changed trajectories, swooping toward the Death Star. Behind him, Rebel A-Wings, X-Wings, and Y-Wings clashed with scores of TIE fighters of all kinds. Space erupted in blaster fire, and death followed by the score in mere seconds.

His course fixed, Clark closed his eyes and flew at the Death Star.

***

Governor Tarkin paced the glossy obsidian floor of the Death Star's bridge, chewing on his thumb.

"He's coming," Tarkin hissed. "He's here. Here! How? It's impossible. He was on the other side of the galaxy!"

Darth Vader gazed at the schematic that showed the arrogant young Superman closing in on their position.

"Your lack of faith in the Emperor's wisdom saddens me, Tarkin. We didn't expect him to be here, true, but so much the better. Prepare yourself, Governor. At long last, tonight we extinguish the Rebellion...forever." He turned to address the tactical director. "Target that individual with the superlaser and fire."

The officer was stunned. "F-fire on one man, sir? The superlaser? Isn't that...overkill? It will take us 30 minutes to rech--ggkkk!!!"

"I said fire," Vader repeated, his fist clenched, an invisible cord strangling the tactician.

"Vader, he can't fire unless you release him," Tarken pointed out, though he, too, was mystified.

Vader paused for a long moment, then relaxed. Coughing, the red-faced director repeated the order to his subordinate, who relayed it to the gunnery officer in the superlaser chamber.

Deep in the heart of the Death Star, a massive crystal pulsed with emerald energy. Harvested from the blasted remains of Krypton, the raw jewel provided all the power necessary to vaporize planets.

The Emperor, when he bestowed this gift to Vader, called it  Kryptonite.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Wandering Oven

Wandering oven, where do you roam?
What are you doing so distant from home?
Did you feel so unloved that you had to escape
Unwilling to cook what we put on your plate?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

To Grill an English Muffin

The toaster's red glow
Seals the English muffin's fate
Buttered and devoured

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ventilation with Telephone Line

Photograph, 1990.

I see you on the ceiling
Connecting distant feelings
Bringing air for us to breathe
Tunnels for cats that make us sneeze

No ceiling fan in field of view
But I assume you lurk there too
Just out of sight, ready to blow
Winds from very long ago


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Two 28 mm Coke Machines

I finished painting a pair of 28mm Coke machines. As you can see, they look pretty sloppy up close. Jeff suggested using a miniature roller to paint the raised Coke logo, but I couldn't find such a tool. I also tried several kinds of white paint, and all of them were difficult to work with, forming ugly clumps. What is it about white model paint..? 

I'll probably do one more round of touch-ups on this project, but I think they're good enough to throw into the field now if needs be. I plan to use them as scenery for Villains & Vigilantes or Wasteland Warfare. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

Garden of the Unknown

A scan of a slide shot in 1975 by one of my aunts or uncles, or possibly my maternal grandparents. I find it interesting that fallen birch trees form the garden's boundaries. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Shallow Time

August, 1994. A land line and an answering machine. Physical comics. A printed list of phone numbers. A wall calendar. Relics of another era, so long ago and not so long ago at all. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Day Ryder

Day Ryder, a sunlight drive into the dangerous world of a man who exists. Jeff Shyluk, a middle-aged married man on a crusade to champion the cause of the artist, the innovator, the iconoclast, in a world of philistines who operate beneath art. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Robert G. Woods, 1942-2018

Today we said goodbye to Dad.

Back in September, Sylvia and I travelled to New York. We saw Mom and Dad the weekend before we left. We didn't know it then, but Dad was feeling the early symptoms of late-stage pancreatic cancer. Aside from a loss of appetite, he seemed hale and hearty enough.

On our last day in New York, Dad texted to say he and Mom couldn't pick us up at the airport because they had to head into Edmonton for some medical tests. On our return, we found out about the cancer. By the time I went back to work the following Monday, Dad collapsed at home and had to be hospitalized. Around a month later, on November 3, he was gone. Mom, Sean, Sylvia and I were there in the final moments, along with family friends Robbie and Janice Huggin.

Dad's illness came so suddenly that I think I'm still in shock--a state of angry disbelief that has persisted since the day he died. Up until just a few days before he passed, we were confident that the expert surgeons at the University of Alberta Hospital could save him. And Dad very much wanted to live; he maintained an inspiring, upbeat attitude as long as he could, almost to the very end.

I'm finding this event almost impossible to process, and I've lost sight of what's appropriate to write and share. I'm terribly worried about my mother and brother, and I feel sad and lost to the core of my being. Dad wanted to live; he was healthy, active, as quick-witted as ever, and he had things he still wanted to do.

Dad was unconscious the last four or five days of his life. The last thing he said to Sean and me was as he and I were leaving the hospital one evening. We said we'd be back the next day, and just as we left his room, Dad called out "Sean!"

We turned around.

"You forgot your jacket," Dad said. Sean grabbed his jacket, and we reiterated our promise to return. And we did, but we never spoke with him again.

To the very end, you see, Dad was looking out for us, like he did with everyone in his life, from his parents, his wife, his sons, his customers, his friends. Dad had a well-deserved reputation for integrity, honesty, and compassion. His moral guidance, and Mom's, shaped the course of my life for the better.

I've never told anyone this, but a couple of years after I graduated from university, during the dark time when I couldn't find a decent job despite sending out hundreds of applications, I broke down in despair in the truck as Dad and I were driving home from Edmonton. I don't remember our exact words, but I expressed how worthless I felt, and how sure I was that I'd never amount to anything. Dad immediately set me straight, and confidently predicted that my career would turn out just fine.

And he was right. Dad helped me realize that if I wanted to be a writer, I just had to write until I got good enough that someone noticed. I've been in communications now for 20 years, and Dad gets a large share of the credit.

Dad's life was so big and boisterous that I'll never be able to do him justice with words. I'll have more to say about Dad in the days to come, but for now my thoughts are whirling into incoherence. My world has gone off-kilter.

I'm very grateful to the many people who have sent their thoughts and condolences over the last few days, and to those who came to Dad's celebration of life in Leduc earlier today. I'm afraid I haven't had sufficient focus to respond to your very kind gestures with the time and energy they deserve, but please know that I am indeed deeply moved. It's going to take a while to regain my equilibrium.

Finally, thanks to Dad for being the caring, wonderful, respectful, and inspirational father he was. I was always impressed by the depth and breadth of Dad's talents--he was a figure skater, hockey player, baseball player, race car driver, crokinole crack shot, curler, public-spirited citizen, people manager, and poet--but his character, his genuine, gentle, open-hearted soul, is what I loved most.

I'll miss you, Dad.