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Day 8, Part 1 – The Voice

I wouldn’t suggest I was particularly musical growing up. Sure I enjoyed a good tune, sang along to Christmas carols and Happy Birthday, and played an instrument in school from Grade 4 through Grade 10, but that was essentially it.

And maybe I sell the playing of an instrument a little short. The real magic began to develop when I joined Jazz Band in Grade 8, where I performed a solo & being so embarrassed by the attention (and my opinion of how badly I performed), bawled my eyes out after.

Generally speaking, bawling your eyes out in Grade 8 during the era I grew up in was not good for your hallway school cred.

You’d think an incident like that would’ve been scarring, and maybe it was to a point, yet it also showed me the potential of what I could do. Whether it was due to the vulnerability I showed, whether it was due to pity, or even kindness, a number of people told me that solo wasn’t bad. In fact, quite the opposite.

I decided to do it again in a subsequent class. And again after that. And again. Again.

Next thing you know, there’s some kid bouncing around with a Bass Clarinet during his solos – usually improvised solos to boot – having the time of his life. Sure there were likely a good number of people laughing at me, but it mattered not to me.

I just loved to jam.

Maybe it was the attention I was given by showing this false sense of confidence that convinced me it was a good idea to join Vocal Jazz in Grade 10. Maybe it was due to my girlfriend joining. Maybe a combination of both.

Who knows? I don’t.

But that early morning Grade 10 Vocal Jazz introduced me to singing.

I was one of three boys in that class of 20 some-odd. And considering our age, the vocal variation between us three and the rest of the class wasn’t too significant at first. Until one morning when I decided to explore my vocal range.

I could go low.

Okay, the video above is likely a stretch. I don’t think I had anything near the vocal range of Geoff Castellucci, let alone the ability to go as low. But I did have an octave I could get to that helped me stand out from the crowd.

And boy did I ever.

For the best part of the school year, I sang. And I sang. And I sang.

As the year went on, I discovered my voice did start to change. My higher vocal range began to dissipate, while my reach to the low notes became stronger. Life stuff and all that.

At one point, I genuinely thought singing was something I could do and do well. Until a fateful day in PE where we were playing flag football and I was the Quarterback.

On that day I took a shoulder of a classmate directly to my throat. Like square as square could be. This hit left me on the ground struggling to catch my breath, as the hit – completely unintentional and more the result of lack in coordination than anything – caused my throat and nearly everything around it to instantly swell.

I was sent home that day, and upon visiting the doctor the following day – where I was still unable to do anything more than squeak – was told I had a severely bruised larynx and a few other things. I was also told there it was too early to determine what would happen with my voice, yet to expect changes.

Suffice to say, it changed. The vocal range I once had was no more. The transition my voice was making to that lower octave became more permanent, yet progressed no further.

And that was that. Grade 10 Vocal Jazz was the extent of my singing career.

I miss singing. I still do it here at home, sometimes while drunk at karaoke (years ago), and every so often in the car. Maybe one day I’ll give it a try with people again, but for now… I just live through memories and dreams.

America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still. 

e.e. cummings, May 1927 issue of Vanity Fair.

Day 5 – A Mythical Quest for a Banquet of Ravens

I’ve been known to binge.

Snacks. Toys. Food. Any of them. All of them.

So it should come as no surprise that when the opportunity to sit down and go through hours of television content in one go is in front of me, I take it.

While I imagine there are many out there just like me, the ability to binge and what to binge likely became amplified when we all found ourselves stuck at home with nowhere to go.

Yet the first binge candidate of 2020 for me was actually prior to the pandemic, and one that I consumed while abroad.

If you happen to subscribe to Apple TV+ (not to be confused with Apple TV the hardware/service), they’ve put some serious coin into original content. In fact, I’ll probably talk about some of these other offerings as this project goes on.

Yet the one that I kicked the year off with was Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.

And boy am I happy I did.

If you were to ask me to describe the show, I’d tell you it was a cross between Silicon Valley, Big Bang Theory, JPod & The Office. Extremely helpful if you’ve seen all these shows, not so much if you haven’t.

The show tells the story of a developer of an MMORPG called “Mythic Quest” as they release an expansion titled “Raven’s Banquet.” Add in the requisite collection of eclectic characters, the over-the-top portrayal of online gaming and streaming, with undertones of societal issues and you surprisingly have a very decent series.

Have you watched it? If not. I think you should.

At the very least, watch the 2020 bonus episode 10 – filmed during the pandemic and expressing the feelings that many of us had back in April.

Day 3 – Vancouver Rain

If you live in Vancouver, you know rain. If you don’t live in Vancouver, you likely still know rain. You just don’t know Vancouver rain.

When talking to those abroad, who sometimes think the mere mention of Canada means frozen tundra, I often explain Vancouver as being part of the “tropical part of Canada.” In relative terms, during the Winter season it often is.

Yet all that actually means is that instead of a snowy Winter, we get a wet one.

A very wet one.

I saw Micaela’s tweet earlier today and started to wonder – is Vancouver rain really that bad? Or is it simply rain in general? And having been born & raised here (at least in the Vancouver region – I no longer live in Vancouver proper), am I simply immune to how bad the rain here can get?

Extended Forecast for Vancouver, BC
The Extended Forecast for Vancouver

For instance, the extended forecast for Vancouver – as captured from Environment Canada in the image above – tells a very straightforward story.

It’s going to rain. It’s going to rain every day.

And it doesn’t seem to bother me. Dihydrogen monoxide be damned.

Maybe rain runs through my veins. Having a birthday in the dog days of Winter means my arrival on this planet likely coincided with a forecast that included rain. Sure I do have memories of snow on my birthday here and there, but I’d never bet against a good ol’ rainstorm passing through.

Growing up, my winter sport of choice was soccer. Know what that meant? Rain? Playing in the rain. And when I took up refereeing soccer? That meant spending whole days in the rain. Both Saturday AND Sunday.

What’s that saying from Game of Thrones? What is drenched may never drown? Or was it what is dead may never die? I don’t remember.

I’ve simply come to accept the rain as a guarantee. It will happen. It will happen constantly. And it will last forever.

Except when it doesn’t.

Today for instance. Today’s forecast was for rain. Yet this morning, and well into the afternoon, we saw the sun. And for these few hours, we made sure to get outside and bask in it. In fact, I think every single person in the Lower Mainland made an effort to soak up the sun.

Because we all knew it was likely the last we’d see of it until April.

And I think that’s key.

Having as much experience with rain as we do, we’ve grown numb to its impact on our lives and simply live from one good weather day to the next. We accept rain into our lives if only to give us the authority to share the beauty that is the city when the sun finally comes out.

Rain is life.

And we live in the rain whether we want to or not.

Day 2 – Python. The Code. Not the Snake.

Sticking to resolutions is hard.

Whether it’s something you do at the start of a new year, after a life event, or in my case a pandemic, resolving to do something different can be challenging.

And learning Python has been.

I have always kicked around the idea that learning how to code, simply to add to my collection of hobbies. I remember my early days in the Kwantlen University College computer lab (the lab is probably still there, but it’s known as Kwantlen Polytechnic University now), I signed up for a Geocities website and dove straight into HTML.

This site was the epitome of late-90s awesomeness. It had music (courtesy of a MIDI that started on load). It had the requisite “Under Construction” gif. I’m pretty sure I also had some blinking text of some sort. And likely a “powered by Netscape Navigator” label somewhere.

It was mine and it was awesome.

I actually look back at those early years and kick myself for not continuing to dive into web design. I was really beginning to get the hang of HTML & CSS, and with the extra time on my hands, had one of the best opportunities to give it a fair go. Problem is, much like many of the hobbies & interests I’ve had over the years, I lost interest and moved on to the newest hotness of the day.

So why would I think learning Python here in my 40s would be different?

The desire to learn something new was somewhat driven by the pandemic. I was stuck at home, I was always online, and needed something other than video games & Netflix to pass the time. So I jumped into the StratsCo Discord (a fantastic community of people I’m glad I connected with – you should check ’em out) and asked for recommendations – Python was the consensus.

And if I were to consider the number of free resources (and paid resources that were made free due to the pandemic) available, it just seemed like something I could do.

I legitimately believed with a couple of hours a week, I’d be a professional coding machine by the end of 2020.

print("Hello world!")

I dove into all sorts of online lessons. I watched videos on YouTube. I completed tutorials through DataCamp. I completed classes through LinkedIn Learning. I took tests. I free-coded. I did all sorts of things.

Yet here we are, a couple of days into 2021 and I struggle to access all that I consumed during that time. In fact, if it were not for the Discord bot I pushed over to Github (named BaltarTest, because it was meant to be the test version of bot named Baltar), I’d likely have nothing to show for it.

Will I go back into the world of Python? Probably. Sometime soon? Not sure.

If I do, I’ll talk about it here. That’s another day of content to come back to of the remaining 363 days I have left.

Day One

Over the years, Left Coast By Design has been many things. I used it to talk about video games. I used it to talk about sports. About travel. About politics. The only consistency throughout the different iterations over the years was the “Left Coast By Design, Right Coast By Nature” tagline.

So I figured with this new project, it made sense to keep that one consistency… consistent.

This isn’t to suggest I won’t talk about video games, sports, travel, politics, coffee, Cobra Kai, or Ted Lasso. In fact, quite the opposite. I plan to talk about all of those different subjects.

Every day. Every. Single. Day.

For an entire year.

I’ve actually tried this before. It didn’t stick. And if I include the years before blogging, then I failed there too – often the journals I would pen would eventually fall out of style.

There is some regret not having the wherewithal at the time to see it through. And frankly, I wonder how 2021 will be any different than years past. We currently reside in times that are full of uncertainty, so the thought of committing to something like this seems a little bonkers – if you ask me.

Yet here I am, authoring a post a 7:18pm on the first day of 2021.

Hopefully, I’ll have a second post tomorrow.