Today is a sad day for me.  I've been told that 9 years worth of engineering experience that I have under my belt is not good enough to allow me to obtain a license to practice engineering in Ontario. :(

As most of you know, I studied mechanical engineering at U of T, went on to a research master's there, and then worked for almost 8 years at ATS designing factory automation systems.  The job at ATS was a dream job for mechanical engineering grads, because it was one of the few jobs that actually allowed you to apply what you learned in university on your job on a daily basis.  There, I did cool stuff like designing high-accuracy placement machines, high-accuracy dispense systems, laser systems, vision systems, and applied engineering concepts like heat transfer, vibration analysis, dynamics, etc.  Today, I was told it wasn't enough.

Red Tape
It all began a few years back when I decided to go through the formal process of getting licensed in Ontario.  (I heard that one can get great car insurance discounts through Meloche Monnex when one is a member of Professional Engineers of Ontario!)  When I submitted my application, PEO had asked for official ID to verify my identity, which I believe included a Canadian birth certificate or a citizenship card.  So, I gave copies of my citizenship card.  My name on my file came out as "Kwok Tao Wong", which was my Chinese name, and I asked for it to be changed to "Felix Wong", which was the only name that showed up in a majority of my documents, including the citizenship card.  However, "Kwok Tao Wong" also shows up there, and therefore, PEO decided that it was going to be "Kwok Tao Wong" and nothing else, not even the other name that shows up on the same document.  Ok, so I decided I wasn't going to lose sleep over it, but my thought at that time was, "What am I getting myself into?"

It then took me literally a couple of years to finish writing my experience summary, which was meant to describe what engineering work I had done in my career.  When I submitted it for review as part of the Engineering-In-Training (EIT) program, the reviewers told me that the experience looked good, was applicable, but just make sure that more actual calculations were included.  So, after taking that advice to heart, I put in a number of calculations and I thought maybe I put in too much.  The summary was supposed to be 10 pages but I had 17, mainly because I held several positions and felt obligated to write a little on each position.  That turned out to be a fatal mistake.

I had worked at ATS for almost 8 years, nearly double of what I needed to obtain the engineering license.  I then moved on to Ainsworth, where I had worked mainly in project management and process improvement, which would not be direct engineering experience.  But because the 5 areas of engineering experience covered things like management of engineering, etc. I decided to write whatever was applicable.  The letter I got back from PEO said something to the extent of, "the majority of your work was in business operations and facilities management, therefore, we need to interview you."  My first reaction was, "Did you actually read my summary?"  How is 4 years at Ainsworth considered a majority of my work experience, compared to 8 years at ATS?  I was puzzled.

At that point, I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.  Ok, so the name thing was not such a big deal, but now, I need to go to the PEO office and make a defense of my experience.  I know of many people who have done much less actual engineering in their work and are walking around with "P.Eng." after their names.  Why was I selected to be scrutinized in this fashion?

Long story short, I presented at the interview a project I had worked on at ATS and shown my work including accuracy analysis, cycle time analysis, and a conceptual design for a cold staking station, but at the end, I was told that the type of work I presented was too elementary, like it was 2nd year engineering work, and did not have enough breadth.  My friends at ATS, please tell me what you do (and I did) is not 2nd year engineering work!  I felt outraged, but managed to keep my composure.  One of the gentlemen kept saying, "It's not enough to say I did this and that for 6 months, 8 years ago."  I corrected him, saying, "No, it's 4 years ago and I did it for 8 years."  Still, it went in one ear and out the next.

Alas, I think it was really my fault.  I applied for the license too late in my career.  The question surfaced at the interview and also at the EIT review, "You are not practicing mechanical engineering now, why are you pursuing a license now?"  It's a fair question for someone to ask, but it is not a fair question to ask when considering licensing.  I don't recall reading anywhere in the Professional Engineers Act or even in any of the documentation from PEO that the 4 years of engineering experience had to be current experience.

I feel that going into the interview, there had been some prejudice against me, because I was not currently practicing engineering.  Or maybe it's all in my head.  Maybe my written and oral communication skills suck and I wasn't able to convey that my work had indeed been engineering work.  Somehow, I doubt that...

Is There Meaning to This?
Is there any meaning to this episode of my life?  I don't know.  I just feel really agitated at the moment so much so that I had to rant here to let out some steam.  Do I really need a P.Eng.?  Hey, maybe not, since I'm not actually practicing engineering at this point in my career?  But I have this gut-wrenching feeling that I always get when I've been a victim of some unjust act.

There's a part of me that tells me there is a meaning to this episode, and I recall another instance earlier in my life.  During my 4th year in university, I had this great idea that I should apply to MIT for their master's program.  I had been at the top of my class and didn't think it was out of reach, but it was kind of an ego thing.  Wouldn't it be prestigious to say I graduated from MIT?  So, I went ahead and prepared for the GRE exam.  On the practice exams, I did absolutely great and had gotten really respectable scores.  Then, the day of the exam came around and as I sat in front of that computer terminal, I froze.  I couldn't get some of the answers in the test and got so discouraged that I didn't even choose to see my score.  Obviously, I gave up on those hopes pretty quickly.  Afterwards, I reflected on the whole thing and realized that the intention of applying to MIT was all wrong.  Maybe doing badly on the exam was God's way of telling me that that's not His way.  Perhaps applying for P.Eng. is a similar thing.  I really didn't need it, but boy, wouldn't it be nice to be able to finally call myself an engineer and to have a few more letters after my name?

For now, I think I'm going to say this is a conclusion of my attempt at getting licensed.  I have no desire to appeal the decision or to somehow obtain related experience in my current job that offers no such opportunity.  Perhaps, God will reveal the meaning to me in due time...
This post was written on September 30, 2015, while I was 25000 ft above ground over British Columbia.

I'm writing this on my way from Vancouver to Fort McMurray, on a small Bombardier Dash 8 prop.  Usually, I'd be fast asleep by now but because this plane flies at a relatively low altitude, the view outside the window is too beautiful to pass up.

View from the Plane Over the Rockies in BC

Fort What?
You're probably thinking either of 2 things right now.  Where is Fort McMurray or if you know where Fort McMurray is, why is he going there?  As the tourist's destination of choice in Canada, I'm flying there to...just kidding!  It's really for work.  In 4 days, we would have covered 3 cities/time zones (Halifax, Vancouver, Fort McMurray), but earned only about 1000 Aeroplan points.  :(  The nice thing about travelling for work is that it'll bring you to places you typically wouldn't travel to during personal travel.  The bad thing about travelling for work is that it'll bring you to places you typically wouldn't travel to during personal travel. :)

At Ainsworth, we've been working on the implementation of a new work order management system that is to be rolled out company wide.  We're a midsize company (not a household name, but we did build the electrical systems of Toronto landmarks such as then Skydome and CN Tower) with about 800 employees across the country and this software will affect a large majority of the company.  That's why we're visiting the different branch locations to show them what's coming down the pipe.  I'm the project manager for this project and we've got a top notch team, and am very grateful because the team makes me look good!

Hilarious Sign I Spotted in the Airport Washroom

So, WHAT Do You Do? 
Throughout my career, I've been plagued by uncommon and non-descriptive titles.  When people ask me what I do, I usually hesitate to tell them my title because of this.  When I worked at ATS, my title was Systems Designer.  Now, my title is Manager, Business Process Management.  As you can see, anyone's response would be, "so really, what do you do?"  So, I end up saying, "I design machines," or, "I'm kind of like an IT guy, except I don't know how to fix computers."  I can't say I'm an engineer because PEO will come after me so I'm kind of stuck (Hopefully by the end of this year, I can get my license...finally).

Working for a midsize company definitely has its pluses.  My boss is the CFO, which makes me sound like I'm high on the corporate ladder (except I'm not), and I get to interact with the President and Vice-Presidents on a regular basis, which would be rare had I worked for a larger company.  But the best thing really is that my work impacts the company and I feel empowered to make a real difference.

Shaping Your Future
One of the many things that I've learned throughout my short career is that if you want to grow in your career, you have to be proactive about it.  Even if you do good work and work hard, you can't just sit around and expect to get a promotion.  If you don't make it known that you would like to grow, your employer would probably think you're happy where you are, because there are many people out there who have no desire to progress, and you definitely don't want to be grouped in with them.

Sometimes, there is no room for you to progress.  Maybe your boss is the CFO and you're not an accountant!  There could be a thousand other reasons.  I believe you have to search within your company for a gap to fill.  Blaze a new path if one doesn't exist.  Of course, it's more easily said than done.  It takes careful planning and strategizing, and probably a lot of convincing before you are given what you want.  I'm really not one to give career advice, but these are my thoughts...what do you think?

"Ask and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7). It doesn't just apply to your spiritual life.  I think it applies equally well in your career.

春曉 - 孟浩然

If you're 25 years or older, I'm sure you will agree that time appears to pass ever more quickly as you age.  I'm 36 years old now and half my lifetime ago was about the time I started university.  Seriously?!  I still remember those days so vividly that it must have not been more than a few years back, right?  As I write this, I still cannot fathom how quickly the latter half of my life flew by.  The first 18 years of life felt terribly long.  If I were to give it a subjective ratio, it would probably be somewhere around 3:1, where the first 18 years felt about 3 times as long as the last 18 years.

Long Summer Days
I will bet that all of us remember those long summer days as kids.  The 2 months of summer holidays just seemed to last forever and ever.  I have fond memories of my brother, Eric and I, playing endless hours of video games (was it Zelda II?) when it was too hot to go outside.  How I reminisce those carefree days when our biggest problem was figuring out how to get past those stupid armored knights in the game (if you're wondering, the trick is to have full health, jump and shoot a dagger out and then attack his feet at the same time...but I digress)!  Nowadays, summer is almost over, and I still haven't gotten used to writing the year "2015".  I remember sometime last year, I accidentally wrote "2012" in my notebook...I kid you not!

Spring Morning
So, to the Chinese poem that started this post.  If you're Chinese and have studied this poem, read on.  If not, see this link for a rough translation.  Having moved to Canada when I was 8 years old, I'm impressed I can even read all of the characters in this poem!  Aside from the content, this poem exemplifies how efficient the Chinese language is.  The poem is made up of merely 20 characters, and yet, there is so much depth.  I guess this is why this poem made it into the famous "300 Tang poems".

I don't claim to understand this poem fully, but I think I've got the jist of it.  It is a little funny, however, that most sites I visited talks about the poet's love for nature and springtime.  My interpretation is much different.  But as my English teachers of the past tells me, there's no right or wrong in, please don't correct me if I'm wrong! :)

In any case, I think it captures perfectly the subtle melancholy that I feel when I reflect on the passage of time.  When we are young (springtime), we see no need to treasure the time that we have here in this world (waking up after daybreak).  We're captivated by the busy-ness of this world (birds singing).  Before we know it (storm in the night), years have passed and we find ourselves spending the last days of our lives (flower petals on the ground).  How very sad!  Let this poem be a warning for all of us of the brevity of our lives.

I also found this video below.  It's beautifully made and similarly, it captures the melancholic feeling very well.  Note the duration between the candles.

There's Hope
There's a saying about parenting, "Don't blink or they'll grow up!"  I've surrendered to the fact that yes, my kids will grow up too quickly (maybe that's why we keep having them).  It is simply a fact of life.  I try hard (maybe not hard enough) to create as many memories for my kids as possible, but it's almost a lost cause.  Between the day-to-day obligations and activities, it leaves little time to really enjoy each other.  I always feel rushed to get here, go there, buy this, do that...I'm simply a hamster on a very intricate wheel!  But alas, there is hope.

What hope is there?  There is always but one source of hope and it is our Lord.  He tells us, "In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be" (John 14:2-3).  It's not in this life that we will ever have enough time to spend with each other, but the next.  The day I welcome my kids into the gates of heaven (God willing!) will be the day when they truly get the time they deserve of me.
Hello World!

We have started to inform our family and friends, but it's never official unless it's published on the Internet, right? Thanks be to God, we are expecting our fourth child!!  He/she will be due early January.  I'm writing this as I'm sitting at the Ultrasound clinic, waiting for my turn to see the little guy/gal inside mommy's tummy.

First or Last to Know
For all of the older three, we've found out what the gender was since Renee didn't want any surprises.  I wanted to keep it a surprise for Adele but Renee said to me, "You can either be the first or last to know, your choice."  I really didn't have a choice, did I?  Now, she wants to keep it as a surprise whereas I don't.  I have a feeling I  will have no choice again.  ...I'm now back home and the ultrasound technician said it was difficult to see between the legs...LOL!  So, it looks like it'll be a surprise after all.

Story Behind This Story
There is actually a story (well, there always is).  About half a year ago, we started discerning whether 3 was it.  So, we started praying, asking God for a sign. He was kind and gave me two signs.  The first one came from Father Terry Fay.  I had met Father Terry from my time doing my now abandoned Master of Theological Studies program at U of T (maybe when the kids are older, I'll resume).  He would occasionally say mass at Chinese Martyrs and I'd say hi to him every time.  One Sunday, he was there again, and when mass was over, he came over to say hi.  While Father Terry was asking how many kids I had now (and I said 3), fellow parishioner, Ricky, came by and said, "He should have more, right?"  Father Terry didn't even answer Ricky, turned to me and said, "Three is a sacred number," and walked away.  I was like, "no way...".

So, the unbeliever in me prayed to God that night and asked, "Lord, I'm not sure if that was a coincidence or not, but if it's not offending to you, please give me a second sign to confirm the first."  Then, a little while later, while Pope Francis was in the Philippines, I read this article, and it talked about how he didn't think Catholics needed to "breed like rabbits" and "said population experts advised three children per family."  Go read the article yourself...I don't make this stuff up!  Anyway, I was floored when I read it.  If these were not clear signs from God, I don't know what is!

Are Not You More Important Than They?
Well, as you already know, God has a sense of humour!  At first, both Renee and I were somewhat anxious.  My mom already helps out a lot with the kids, and it's definitely not an easy task.  She really is a super (grand) mom!  Would having a fourth mean Renee have to stay home?  It's not easy to get by with a single (or even double) income these days.  But it would be entirely unfair to just toss this burden at my mom.  She already drops off and picks up the kids to/from school and cooks.  So, after Renee's mat leave is over (still 16 months away from that), we're planning to enroll them in before/after school care.  Renee would drop them off in the morning and leave work late, where I would go to work early and pick them up after school.  I can probably take up more cooking duties as well since I'll be home with them early.  This summer has been a trial run (parents were in Hong Kong for a month), and honestly, it's not bad.  Or I might win the lottery sometime in the next 16 months and all will be fine!

This other thought did come to mind.  If Father Terry had said, "Four is a sacred number."  Or if Pope Francis had said "population experts advised four children per family," would I be as concerned or anxious?  Obviously now, having (at least) four kids is God's will, why am I anxious?  Just because I thought He said three doesn't change the fact that four is really what He wants.  I think I might have fallen prey to confirmation bias.  Perhaps I was looking for signs of "three" and ignored other signs telling me to have four kids.  So, naturally, when I heard "three", I  clung onto these "signs" and gave them more prominence than they had deserved.

All of this anxiety has actually passed and we're now very excited about our new addition.  The house will be crazy and that's all good.  In this day and age where people look at you like you're crazy when you have even just three kids, we will be "the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14).  I'm excited that we can be an example for the world that kids are wonderful and they are the greatest blessing that we can receive!

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? (Matthew 6:26)
Euro Grad Trip 2002 with Archie and Kelvin

Technology is a wonderful thing.  Ever since I found out that I could borrow audiobooks from the Mississauga Library on my phone, I knew my 1 hour plus long commute (one way) would be more bearable.  The latest book I've read was The Angel Effect by John Geiger.  I picked it randomly from a list books that were not on hold at the moment.  It turned out to be a fairly good read (er...listen).  It talks about experiences of a "sensed presence" that many refer to as angels.  They typically occur during times of danger, stress, or sadness, and often results in miraculous survival or escape from danger.

I'm not going to be doing a book review here, but I did want to talk about 2 things.  First, in the last chapter of his book, Geiger gives a summary of the topic and there was one section which I found especially interesting.  It talks about the brain versus the mind.  Second, I'd like to share an encounter I had during my grad trip to Europe.

The Brain vs. the Mind
Geiger talked about one of the scientific studies that was done in relation to this sensed presence experience.  In the study, a scientist was able to reproduce this sensation of a sensed presence by stimulating a particular location in the left brain.  This correlates well with the data from most sensed presence occurrences, because a majority of people with these experiences claim to see the "angel" at the right side of their peripheral vision or have a feeling that someone is present just behind the right side of their backs.

At this point, some of us may stop here and dismiss these experiences as purely physical phenomena, where our brains trick us into thinking we're seeing an angel.  If we can isolate the part of the brain that causes this experience, does that not prove it to be something physical, and not spiritual?

In Catholic theology, we believe that the human person is both physical and spiritual. That is, we have a body and a soul.  This is precisely why we believe that at the end of time, our bodies will be resurrected and perfected.  Angels, on the other hand, are purely spiritual. Animals are purely physical.

The intersection between our immaterial soul/mind and our body is the brain.  Geiger sees the brain as a lens into our mind, rather than as being the mind itself.  Our consciousness and mind, through the brain, experiences the physical world.  And so, because there is an inseparable link between the mind and the body, any experience in either realm is manifested in both realms.  For example, when one trips and scrapes his knee, the physical experience is translated, via electrical signals in the brain, into a painful feeling within our consciousness.  Likewise, a purely spiritual experience can manifest itself into physical brain activity.  Therefore, just because this sensed presence phenomenon can be traced to a particular physical activity in the brain, it does not automatically mean the experience was solely a physical one or that the source of this experience was physical. 

I'm quite sure I did a poor job of explaining this, but the point really is this: God created the world in such a manner that He is able to manifest Himself to us, without breaking the laws of this universe.  For example, just because evolution is a product of probability and chance, it does not mean God did not have a hand in shaping the evolution of apes into humans.  In fact, I think this is the beauty in and also the definition of faith.  That is, faith cannot be proven.  God created the world such that He can never be proven to exist.  Otherwise, what merit would we have in believing in something that is true in plain sight?

Encounter with an Angel?
Enough with the philosophical discussion...I  will now tell of the experience I had, which to this day is vivid and also inexplicable.  It definitely does not fall into the same category of experience as the "angel effects", but there is a mystery that surrounds it. 

It happened during my grad trip in 2002.  +Archie Wong and +Kelvin Lai, and I did a whirlwind backpacking trip across Western Europe in 2 weeks.  We spent a few days in Paris, which was one of our last stops.  

Since we were poor university grads back then (I'm now a poor employed professional now), we utilized public transit as much as possible.  One day, while we were at a subway station, heading towards the platform, we heard our subway train approaching it.  There was a flight of stairs between us and the train.  Afraid of missing the subway (don't really remember why we were in such a rush during vacation...), I started running up the stairs.  Since I was still relatively fit in those days, I got to the top of the stairs first, with Archie close behind and Kelvin much farther back (lol... He still smoked at that time).  

That was when I saw a young lady who was standing inside the train, beside the door, looking at us.  The door had been open for some time now and we felt that it was going to close any second.  To my surprise, the young lady stepped out between the doors, as if she was going to keep the door from closing on us.  I got on the train quickly, and as I passed by the lady, I looked at her and said a quick, "Merci".  As I got on the train, I saw Archie do pretty much the same thing as I did.  Kelvin was still taking his sweet time, but eventually, he made it onto the train as well. 

The car that we got on was the first car of the train, and we got on through the door closest to the front.  Therefore, the only place we could go was towards the back of the train. And that was exactly what we did. We walked a few steps towards the back of the train, being still pretty close to the door which we had just gone through.  After we got settled, the train started moving.  At this point in time, we hadn't even had a chance to talk about what just happened, nor was I really thinking about doing that.  What my mind was thinking about was what a nice thing that lady did for us.  In fact, I wanted to get a good look at her.  I looked toward the spot where she was standing (next to the door), but funny, she wasn't there.   She also wouldn't have walked to the back of the car because that's where the three of us were standing.

So, I looked at Archie, and Archie looked at me.  Without even describing what was going through my head, I said to him, "Where did she go?" He looked at me and replied, "I don't know."  It was apparent to the both of us that we were both trying to find the lady who had just helped us.  So, we both turned to Kelvin and asked him if he knew where the lady was.  He said, "What lady?"  "The lady who held the door open for us," I replied.  "I didn't see anyone at the door," was his response.  "How could you not have seen her?  She kept the door open for us," my voice getting a little more excited.

In the end, we couldn't figure out where she had gone.  The only other possibility was that she got off the train after she kept the door open.  But yet, before she had stepped in front of the door, she had no intention of getting off the train; the door had been open for several seconds already.  It just didn't make sense.

But yet, it could make sense.  What if she was an angel, sent by God to protect us from whatever could have happened had she not stood in the way of the door?  But there was no imminent danger.  Worst case scenario is we missed the train or maybe got separated.  It certainly didn't seem like a situation where an angel needed to interject in our daily lives. And why was Kelvin not able to see her, while only Archie and I did?  

I cannot explain the events of that day.  The lady could have been just a really nice Parisian who Kelvin just didn't notice.  But I keep the possibility of her being an angel an open one.  I certainly wouldn't mind having such an experience, but I guess we will never know what really happened... 
Thanks to +Matthew Siu's recent blog posts, I decided to re-start this personal blog.  I'm not sure I've ever advertised this, but here it is!  I even went out and bought the domain (which, by the way, cost me only $13 for the year)!

Anyway, since it's been about 4 years since my last post, thought I'd share a picture of my rascals with you!  Hope it won't take me another 4 years until my next post.

Audrey, Athan, and Adele at Grand Bend
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