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October 01, 2006

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Personal News and Current Projects - Updated December 2005

bullet December 2005 - Wind Turbine installed
bullet August 2005 - Wedding bells!
bullet April 2004 - Opinions, Warnings, and Advice on diverse rants
bullet November 2003 - Famous Artist Cousin Launches Web Site
bullet October 2003 - New house
bullet December 2002 - Retirement!
bullet November 2002 - My own conference
bullet October 2002 - Starring in an animated film


42-foot tilt-up tower for our wind turbine.Our home acquires a new Name and a new Power source

In the summer of 2005, we decided to name our still-new-to-us home Aanimad, which is Ojibwe for "the wind blows wildly here".  We have always been aware of that characteristic, and started researching the use of wind energy shortly after we moved in.  Now, after much work and learning, we have installed a wind turbine generator on our property.


The turbine itself is a Lakota 1kW generator, attached to a 46' tilt-up tower, as shown at left.  The power (wild AC) feeds into a controller where it is converted to 24V DC power and stored in a bank of 4 flooded lead acid deep cycle batteries.

Innovative tower anchor design

The tower anchors employ my own innovative design.  All 8 guy wires are permanently swaged to turnbuckles at the base.  By completely unscrewing the turnbuckles at the 'tow' anchor (see right), the resulting eye-bolts can be dropped directly into 2 drilled holes on the 'gin' pole (showing lying on the ground at left), and attached with a pair of nuts, allowing for quick and easy transfers to the gin pole for raising and lowering.


The turnbuckles allow for adjustment, although the anchors were placed with enough precision that the whole tower can be raised and lowered without altering the other 3 anchors.  The tow anchor also features a built-in roller and tow cable guide.  (If necessary, a single person can lower and raise the tower!)


My cousin the awesome painter has a new web site

My cousin, Christopher Wallace, who I grew up with as a kid in Nova Scotia, is a world-class painter who is beginning to get some serious attention in artistic circles.  He just launched a web site, so I'm putting in a plug here.  I have a few of his pieces, but not enough.  This is Alex Colville meets Andrew Wyeth.  Check it out.  Brilliant composition; meticulous execution; scenes that tell a quiet story.


New house for Elswyth and me!

For some time now, I have wondered about the wisdom of pursuing a home-based and outdoor-oriented career from downtown Toronto.  Elswyth, the love of my life, and I have made occasional forays into the country to see what was available outside the city.  About a year ago, I sat down and contemplated buying some land and building a house.  I completed the rough blueprints and even a simple construction model of a post and beam house built into a hill.  Last July, Elswyth sold her house and moved into here at 5 Selkirk Street.  We've been very happy and very cramped ever since.  Then a few weeks ago, she found a house on the internet that looked very familiar...  a house that was somewhat similar to the one we had contemplated building.  It is not a century home, which was her preference, but we thought we better check it out.

The front of 57 Mary Street, as purchased


It was overpriced, unfinished, and the layout of awkward things like fireplaces was not great.  Still, we saw great possibilities, the view is spectacular, and we're not shy about putting in the work to bring it all together.  And so began the negotiations...


The circular driveway & 'front door' of 57 Mary Street, as purchased


At last we reached an agreement that we could all live with, and the deal was done (and closes in January, 2004).  The property is in Alton in the Caledon hills, just south of Orangeville, Ontario.  Toronto is 45-60 minutes away, which is a bit of a stretch, but we have an answer for that, at least in the short term.


The living room and 3-sided fireplace, as purchased


The concept is to keep the current house on Selkirk Street, create a small apartment in the lower portion, and the rent the rest of the place out.  That way we will have a downtown apartment for early meetings and late shows.  Besides, as a teacher, Elswyth will still have to be in town until June.  Needless to say, we are very excited!


A composite picture of our view from the front deck


Retirement before 40?  Well, YES!  Sort of...

The rumours are true.  I officially retired on November 22, 2002.  Did I win the lottery?  No.  "But how can you afford to stop working?" everyone asks.  My response is often the same: "Who in this day and age stops working when they retire?"  Probably some people do, but I haven't met them, and that certainly isn't me.  So what does retirement mean if I'm still working?


Retirement is a state of mind.  Retirement says you are no longer pressured to do work that does not suit you.  Retirement means that you make very conscious choices on where you spend your time, based on how much a project interests you, not what it is worth to others.  Retirement is doing things differently from how you used to them.  Retirement, properly executed, removes those sources of stress that decrease your number of days in this existence, and lower your enjoyment level on the days that it leaves you with.

So what changed after November 22, 2002?  Number one: my attitude and approach to 'work'.  The definition of my retirement continues to take shape and evolve, but there are other more concrete changes planned.  I hope to close down my home office as much as possible.  That means that my paid work will be measured in hours and specific contracts spent outside my home.  Report writing, design work, and open-ended projects will be dramatically reduced.  In the words of a good friend:  "Life is about living according to your values and your dreams. Not just about work, productivity, and financial concerns."

Canadian Experiential Education Practitioners Symposium

One of my major 'retirement projects' is to create a new industry conference.  I've had the plan in my head for this conference for almost three years.  At last it is a reality, and the first symposium will take place in April 2003.  I am very excited by this project and the interest that it has already generated within the industry in Canada.  I'm also quite proud of the CEEPS web site, which was created in a matter of days and quickly received over 100 hits.  Please check it out.
My first animation feature
I figure I've worn just about every hat in the theatre business, but there was always one thing I longed to get into, and only one thing I could stand to do professionally - animation voice work.  A very twisted chain of fates re-connected me with Steve Hutton, an old acquaintance from Waterloo.  Steve is a a film producer who does technical writing for IBM as a hobby - or so he claims.  (We all know which one pays the bills - at least for now.)  Anyway, Steve had just finished shooting his first independent film and was casting voices for his new 'gay zombie vampiric film noire' animated short, called "The Night Life".  The main character, Dick Gumshoe, is a private investigator, and he asked me to do it.  We went into the studio a number of months ago and had a blast.  The animation work is still underway, but you can hear some of it and actually see a snippet of the rough product (as a 2M QuickTime movie file, which also works with Real Player, but doesn't seem to work with Windows Media Player).  My only regret is that most of my lines were taped near the end of the day when you don't get that same 'gravel in the pipes'.  The final cut should be ready early in the new year.

Yesterday's News...

Career? Which career?

In 1999, I announced that I had undertaken to rapidly phase out all programming aspects of my consulting business. (After 25 years of programming, I decided that it was time for a significant change.) I also substantially reduced my systems management consulting projects.  That plan worked quite well - I reduced myself to effectively one client (in Wisconsin) and occasional chats with an old client in Florida.  HOWEVER, every once in a while, someone stumbles on to this web site and decides to call and see if I can help them out with some systems issue. If this is you, then the answer is YES, I usually can, but some of my knowledge is out of date and I do not take on any projects requiring ongoing development or support.  If you want to read my bio for the old career, click here.

In its stead, I am now well entrenched in a new career designing and delivering experiential education programs. What is experiential education? Well you might want to check out the web site of the Association for Experiential Education, or better yet, the new web site of the Delta Synergy Group, a consulting firm that I am currently affiliated with.  I facilitate learning in the corporate community by creating environments where knowledge can be acquired and shared.  The theory of experience-based training and development is that participants retain a vastly higher proportion of knowledge when they acquire it themselves through active engagement - in essence: doing something, rather than reading, hearing, or seeing something.  Work that allows me to combine my business background, climbing skills, and theatre improvisation is a dream come true.

As an experiential education facilitator, I work with teams of people to create their own learning.  The typical process is actually quite simple (on the surface):

  1. Determine their needs.

  2. Provide an experience that might (metaphorically or directly) recreate that need.

  3. Give them an opportunity to succeed with that experience.

  4. Reflect back on the experience. "What happened?"

  5. Generalize behaviours from that reflection. "So what does that say about us in other experiences?"

  6. Turn generalizations into action plans. "Now what can we do differently in the future?"

If you still don't quite understand, I finally have a photo gallery!

I have been very pleased with the rapid progress of my new career.  I started as an Assistant Facilitator at the beginning of 1999.  In October of that year, I moved up to full Facilitator level.  14 months later, I joined the program design team with Lead Facilitator status, and was delivering programs on my own.  Last October, I was promoted to Ropes Course Manager, in recognition of my ongoing training and experience as a challenge ropes course leader.  As of January, I was offered the position of Director of Resource Development for the company.  In addition to program design and lead duties, I will be responsible for maintaining technical equipment, facilitating ongoing training of Delta Synergy staff, and updating literature and web site articles.

I also get to work with groups of students, mainly junior high school, by conducting leadership and outdoor education sessions at the Bark Lake Leadership Centre near Haliburton, Ontario.

As for my theatre career, I essentially left the professional side of things a number of years ago, although I do appear in the Internet Movie Database!  I did not have the time (no surprise there) or the interest in pursuing productions in that industry, however I still do occasionally work as a murder mystery actor or lighting designer, and I have kept up my ACTRA membership.  I have also been known to take on non-paying projects both on-stage and off-stage, however the production has to fit my schedule and be of significant interest to me.

Trip to Africa - 1999

(It is now a little dated news-wise, but it is one of the most popular parts of this web site.)  For those of you who might recall my 1993 mountaineering trip to Nepal, I once again responded to the call of the wild in 1999.  This time it was Africa.  My travelogue tells the whole story.
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Contents Copyright 2002, Andrew Welch.   This page was last updated February 23, 2006