That’s a good word to describe my state of mind.

Why? Because I always take on a lot of projects.

Observe. Current projects…

  • Create a DVD celebrating my daughter’s first year.
  • Learn some songs for our camping trip.
  • Organize my hard drive.
  • Write some more articles for Toronto Thumbs.
  • Get into shape.
  • Learn some new languages.
  • Try to learn how to write lists without ending the list prematurely with an item about learning how to write lists.


I like to celebrate things. My favourite things to celebrate are people.

When we were kids, my brothers and I would look forward to the times when my dad would set up the slide projector and the screen and we would watch slides of all of the photos that had been taken over the years.

It was pretty awesome to watch ourselves grow and there would always be a new “chapter” to look forward to.

In the digital age, it is so easy to take pictures and just leave them there to look at later. How many people actually go back and look at them all?

One thing I’ve heard a lot of since I’ve become a parent is that it’s easy to forget what your child used to be like. I have a pretty incredible memory when it comes to important things like this, but even I will admit that sometimes I am amazed when I look at a picture from the beginning. She was that small?

So I decided to make a photo/video slideshow with a soundtrack based on the songs we listened to during Little J’s first year on the planet.

Sounds simple enough, right?


The DVD has spiraled out of control. Check out this meaty feature list…

  • Main feature is a two hour slideshow made up of at least eight hundred photos and forty videos, chaptered by month.
  • Songs from the soundtrack fill almost every moment, attenuated manually to allow the audio in the video clips to be heard clearly.
  • The great Don Lafontaine himself was kind enough to provide a birth announcement for us.
  • The Main Feature is encoded in high quality format, with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
  • The second disc (yes, you read that correctly), will have all of the video clips from the year sorted by month and named for the sake of context.
  • This disc will also have a little video showing how Little J has grown, thanks to some foresight by us. We’ve been taking pictures of the three of us in the same pose/position relatively consistently over the last year.
  • Labels, case, the full nerdery.

So yeah. The main feature is done. The first burn didn’t work out well, most likely due to a disc defect. This worked out for the best, as there were some minor corrections to make.

Now onto the second disc!

The Song List for Camping

I usually bring my guitar with me on car camping trips. Two years ago, I bought a Martin Backpacker Guitar knockoff to bring into the interior.

It was nice to have it with us, but all of our songs eventually turned into mumbling and shitty fretwork because on one had we didn’t practice, and on the other we didn’t know all of the tabs for the songs.

That knock-off didn’t last very long, due to the poor quality of construction, so I dropped the money for a real one.

I’ll be damned if I spend good coin on a nice guitar for camping and don’t learn any songs all the way through.

So Dave and I have an agreement that we will each learn ten songs all the way through. Some of the songs on my list…

  • Sucker by John Mayer
  • Some Fantastic by BNL
  • Redemption Song by Bob Marley
  • Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden

Of course, I don’t know how committed Dave is to this venture. One time we had a deal that ended up with me owning every Mortal Kombat inspired music CD and him asking me why I expected him to own every KMFDM disc on the market.

To Be Continued…



What do you do when everything you believe in comes crashing to a halt?

Rob Wilson is dead.

Four words. Four words is all it takes to bring the most stalwart of us to our knees.

The words paralyze us. They make us cold and numb because there was absolutely nothing we could do about what happened. Nothing at all. Even if we were there, within reach, would it have made a difference?

Who knows?

All I know is that this is the second friend to have passed on this year. I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but his exit has left a void and I feel compelled to fill it with all of the wonderful things that I knew about him.

The First Day

I walked into my trial class at High Park Martial Arts, ready to evaluate a class to determine whether or not I wanted to sign up. Since it was my first time there, I didn’t have to wear a full Gi unless I wanted to sign up, so I wore a black t-shirt and my old Taekwondo Tournament Gi pants.

I wouldn’t say that I was nervous. Perhaps to an observer I should have been, clothed in black while everyone else was wearing white Gis. But I had done this before. Excitement was more the feeling that was coursing through my veins.

We did a line-up and then a warm-up.

Sensei then sent Rob (Mr. Wilson) down to my end of the room to take me through the basics.

I remember my first impression of Rob. Soft spoken and hearty, with a sly smile and a reserved manner of speaking, he presented himself without ego. He was a man put in front of me to do a job, and that was the way it was. No more. No less…

Rob: Hi, my name is Rob Wilson, but you can just call me Mr. Wilson in the Dojo.
Jorge: Nice to meet you, Mr. Wilson. I’m Jorge.
Rob: Nice to meet you too, Jorge. Well, I’ve been made to understand that you have some experience in Martial Arts. That’s great! [Rob smiles, almost laughing a little.] But I’m pretty set in my ways and Sensei has asked me to show you a few things and I don’t really like to deviate from instructions, if that’s okay with you.
Jorge: Certainly!
Rob: Okay then, let’s begin!

And so we went through the basics.

Having done similar things before, I could spend some time observing my instructor. He was technically perfect. Every move was precise. Rob’s presentation of the most basic movements of our Art was flawlessly delivered. Nothing was missed, so even someone with next to no level of experience in Karate would only have themselves to blame if they couldn’t perform these movements by the end of the class. Such was the level of his instructional proficiency.

Above all else, he was patient. His methodology was the product of years of repetition, which made his level of interest in what he was doing impressive. I’ve seen a lot of jaded Martial Artists who loathe spending time with a neophyte. But not Rob.

Rob spent the entire time making his students feel like they were the most important person in the world, even if it was just for an hour.

When the class was over, I thanked him for his attention. He gave a curt nod and his patented half-smile and went downstairs to get changed.

Rob was one of the reasons that I went to Sensei right after class and signed up for a full year.

The Years That Followed

After those first classes I didn’t have much interaction with Rob, at least not for a while.

I eventually moved on to the Orange/Green/Blue Belt class, where Rob was not an assistant.

I would see him from time to time. He would always ask how I was doing in my training. He also would ask about Mrs. Jorge. Always a polite conversationalist.

Later on, when I started going out to the local pub after classes and gradings, I would manage to have brief conversations with him about anything and everything. The conversations never really lasted long not because of any disinterest on each other’s part, but more due to the number of people vying for this quiet man’s attention. Although they were brief they were still very enjoyable.

The next time I interacted with Rob in the dojo (in an official capacity) was for one of my gradings, where he was tasked to assist me in some Kata resistance.

After that grading we chatted in the bar about my performance. I liked the fact that he was very realistic when I spoke of all of the flaws in my performance. He didn’t try and dissuade me, but he did not try to make me feel bad about them either. Rob’s philosophy was one of constant learning. A true “learn from your mistakes” way of thinking. After I listed my mistakes, he nodded thoughtfully and put forth his opinions of what he liked about my performance.

Always a gentleman. Always kind.

A few years later I had the privilege of observing him in action at one of his gradings. It wasn’t a surprise to see how technically proficient he was. Like a classical Martial Arts hero from the pages of history, he moved with grace and purpose. His Kiai was quiet, but filled with strength. Actually, remembering his Kiai always brings a smile to my face, because he sounded a little like Sid Vicious.

And so it went, running into him in the Dojo, exchanging pleasantries, sitting with him at the pub and chatting.

The Final Year

The last year for me was filled with the birth of my daughter, my quest for Black Belt and a new job, among other things.

Needless to say, it was pretty busy.

All throughout that hectic year, Rob was always ready with an honest compliment, a motivational tip, or just a genuine smile. It provided a positive boost, whether I needed it or not.

When I attained my rank of Shodan, I started attending the Black Belt class on Mondays.

Rob asked if I wanted to come out for a drink at a newer pub with a more eclectic collection of beers (Rob liked to expand his repertoire of beers), but unfortunately things were very hectic at home and at work. I told him that while I couldn’t go at the time, the evening would soon arrive when I could.

Earlier this month, the day after our Dojo Birthday Picnic (where he asked how my family was doing, as usual), I decided to go out. I figured I would see him at the pub, so I didn’t tell him I would be going.

Unfortunately, he didn’t show. I found out later that he wasn’t feeling well (allergies), so he headed home.

Later that same week, he passed away.

At the memorial service, I learned that he touched many, many people. He achieved a balance with his life, compartmentalizing work, music, Karate, travel, family, and much more. Yet, throughout all of those facets was a common thread comprised of decency, interest and genuine kindness. People went up to the podium to let us all know how much Rob meant to them. Some played songs in tribute, and a few of our Karate friends and I wrote some words that were spoken by another friend of ours in honour of Rob. Sensei even read one of Rob’s essays, causing a lot of us to choke up. It was as if Rob was speaking from the afterlife.

Even though I wasn’t a close friend of Rob’s, I have a void in my heart where there was not one before. The enormity of his passing has still not hit me. It’s still surreal.

He is a common element in all of our lives and those whose souls he touched are lucky to have had the chance to know him.

I will miss you, Rob. I am certain that these sentiments are echoed by everyone who knew you.

Rob Wilson – Friend and Sandan
Photo courtesy of Dave Battler