Rob Dubois' Weblog

I am the Interfacer since 1992.

Location: Canada

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Rob's Electric Bike

I live about 6 - 7 Km from my work. There is an uphill climb from downtown, which starts at 350 Meters (~1,150 ft.) above sea level, to 550 Meters (~1,800 ft.) in the Industrial Park. This is an ascent of 650 feet in less than 2 miles. Even the fittest cyclers have a difficult time with this climb. I'm not the fittest cycler, so I need some help to get to work by bicycle.

In March 2006, I bought an electric bicycle (E-bike) from Canadian Tire that was made in China by STRONG BICYCLES. You can visit the Strong Bicycle web site, but it's not very well designed. To see the web site and a picture of my E-bike click this link, then click 'photoview'. My bike looks exactly the same except it has regular spoked wheels.

For several months, I was looking for an alternative to driving everywhere. The goal is to get excersize and save some money on gas - helping the environment is a cool bonus. As of this posting, local gas prices are at $1.15 per Liter - higher than prices after Hurricane Katrina.

This E-bike is an interesting concept. The rear wheel has an electric motor in the hub. The battery sits in the frame between the riders legs. Otherwise, it's a mountain bike with 21 speeds, front & rear suspension, front & rear disk brakes, knobbie tires that are puncture resistant, rust proof paint, two sets of fenders (rain & offroad), a rear bike rack and a bright headlight.The motor automatically kicks in when you pedal, until you hit the brakes or stop pedaling. There is also an accelerator that allows the rider to coast along at nearly 30 Km per hour (~18 MPH) using just the motor.

Overall the E-bike is an excellent alternative to cars. There is no license or insurance required, they can be used on all roads and trails (in British Columbia, but not all provinces), they're good in the rain and they last up to 100 hours per charge. My E-bike is well built and solid. When I go downhill, the bike can easily handle speeds of 40 to 60 Km per hour (25 - 38 MPH). There is a small storage box on the bike rack, but it's flimsy and noisy while riding. The bike has a lock for the rear wheel (when parked) and the battery locks in place.

I had my E-bike for about two weeks and it worked very well. Then, one day, the bike's motor stopped working. I was half way to work (just reached the top of the hill) when it died on me. Pedaling without the motor is difficult. The E-bike weighs more than normal bikes and there seems to be a drag or resistance from the motor if it's not turned on. The folks at Canadian Tire were very accommodating when I brought it back to them, but I had to wait two weeks to get parts from China.

My E-bike gets plenty of looks as I ride around. Some folks seem to like it a lot and some ask me lots of questions. Some people will look and look, but can't see the where the motor is. Everybody knows where the battery is.

Some people just don't seem to get it. I've had people in cars drive by and, seeing that I'm riding an electric bike, will say something like, "Lazy". I guess they don't see the irony as they're driving in a car pointing to a guy on a bike calling him lazy - OK?!?!

Really, I don't care if people get it or not. I'm in my mid forties and keeping fit, I'm helping to sustain the environment and I'm not paying $1.15 per Liter for gas. If you think I'm a kook because of that, then I'm a happy kook.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rob and God

Bold title isn't it! That's how He makes me feel sometimes - as if it's just Him & me, and the world.

This relationship officially began 7 days after I was born. That's when I was Baptized. I've since learned that God knew me before I was born, therefor the relationship begins even earlier.

Throughout my life there have been numerous examples of how God has provided for me and that's how I know that the relationship exists. I've enjoyed more blessings than I can count. The three most important and influential blessings have been;

1 - I was born with a healthy body and mind. Lots of people start life without such a blessing.

2 - I was born to good parents. Dad is the most dependable person I know and Mom gives unconditional love. Both have worked, sacrificed and suffered much for their children.

3 - I came to realize the first two blessings. Knowledge of these blessings has given me strength, faith and confidence, while providing me with all the tools needed to live happy.

I didn't always feel this way. When I was a teenager, the rebel in me wanted to break out. I felt indestructible, independent, cocky, adventurous and intelligent. I thought I knew everything and could do anything. I didn't need family, security, money or even God. That was when I blamed Mom, Dad and God for all the problems in my life. It was also the start of two decades of decadence.

Then, in November 1997, after plenty of soul searching, I returned to Church. It was surprisingly difficult for me to enter the Church after so many years away. I didn't just wander in one day on a whim. It took a concerted effort to walk up the stairs to the door.

After 20 something years of garnering money, women, glory and possessions, I had become like a spent pop can. I seemed strong, but easy to crush; nice looking package outside, but nothing inside; useful, but discarded; valuable, but only to the hungry; sweet, but not very healthy. I had confused fame with infamy and built my reputation from lust. Returning to Church was not going to be easy.

There were several reasons for my return to Church, but mostly I was feeling empty, alone and confused. I was doing everything I knew to be successful, but it all failed. My path to fame & fortune was leading to my destruction. Something was telling me that I will find peace when I return to Church. I don't know where this notion came from, but it was overwhelming. Then, one Sunday morning I actually worked up the nerve to do it - and my life changed.

That was about eight years ago. Life has improved dramatically since then. As it says in a devotional poem I keep, "He has taken away all of my dreams and plans... He has given me more than I could ever ask for or even dream of."

A perfect example of His way of guiding me is when I developed a hernia. The stomach pain was constant enough for me to know something was wrong, so I visited my doctor. The first set of tests revealed that I am pre-diabetic (metabolic syndrome). I asked the doctor if that was causing the pain. He said no and I had to go for more tests. The second set of tests determined I had a hernia.

About one third of the people who have diabetes or pre-diabetes, don't know they have it. Too often diabetes is diagnosed after a person has suffered one of it's crippling effects, like blindness, kidney failure or nervous system damage. I don't know if the hernia is caused by pre-diabetes or not, but if it hadn't developed, I wouldn't have known about my condition.

Now, after two years of lifestyle adjustments, I have the diabetes under control. I feel like I'm in my twenties again and I'll probably stay fit for the rest of my life. All thanks to a hernia, so
I thank God for it. By the way, the hernia slowly healed over time due to my lifestyle improvements.

I recognize my hernia to be, at the least, a blessing and at the most, a miracle. Either way, I feel like I had no choice in how things unfolded, except in how I react to the blessing. That's where my third blessing comes in handy - knowing my first blessing, tells me I am responsible for keeping my mind & body in good working order - knowing my second blessing gives me courage and endurance to achieve my goals.

There are several other examples of God's presence in my life. Each is a story in itself. I want to tell you a story which demonstrates how God watches over us all.

A boy and his father, who is a doctor, were walking along a trail together. As the boy was gazing at some birds along the forest trail, he stumbled on a rock, fell and broke his leg. The father, being a good doctor and loving parent, immediately took the boy to the hospital and did his best to set the leg and cast it. The boy felt most grateful to his dad for taking such good care of him.

Now - the same story, except in this case the father goes ahead of the boy and removes the rock. The boy avoids the stumble is never aware of the danger. The father has done even more for his son than before by preventing the ordeal, but does the boy feel as grateful as if he had fallen?

God has been removing the rocks from my life all along and I want to be as grateful as if I had to endure the falls in life. It seems like God's message here is something like, if you want to do something good for someone, it should look like you've done nothing at all. This way you're doing it for goodness sake and not for glory and recognition.

In my rebellious days, I thought I was in control of my ship (my life's journey). When I returned to Church I believed God was in control of my ship and He was drawing me towards Him. But, then I realized, He is not directly controlling my ship, He gave me the ship and provides a light for me to steer towards. Along the way he removes dangers from my path.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rob's Technology Experience

It all started in the late seventies. I left high school (too boring) and took a year off to travel, then returned to Red River College, Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1980. In the first year I began courses in Electronics Technology, then I switched to Computer Technology in the second year.

Just prior to starting college, I wanted to increase my grade point average, so I took classes in university level math, English, physics and chemistry. I placed second in the school's book award prizes for exemplary students.

Once I finished 2 years of college in Winnipeg, I moved to Vancouver, BC., where I was told there would be lots more opportunities. Vancouver was a big hippie town in the mid eighties. Not much work for computer technicians yet, so I ended up driving taxi.

Not satisfied with merely driving around looking for money - I decided to start my own company. My first company didn't do very well. I had one client and about $2,500 to edit some video footage into a respectable presentation. That got me started in the video production industry.

I trained with a local video production professional and soon started my second company in 1992. The new company, Interface Video Productions, offered video production services for casting actors. Casting is the process of auditioning actors. My job was to videotape each actor as they audition. At the end of each day I would edit the selected candidates onto a 'selects' videotape, which goes to the producers, directors, casting directors and eventually the paying clients. They review the videotapes and choose actors to work with.

Still, my desire and schooling is for computers, not video production. So, I started developing computer systems and software for producers and directors to review actors. The company was successful in creating, "Interface Telecasting ON-LINE". IT ON-LINE was a talent database system that stored and displayed actors' photos (head shots), resumes, voice demos and video demos on touch screen kiosks, the Internet and CD-ROMs. The actor database grew to about 250 members, was on-line for about ten months and was instrumental in getting work for dozens of actors in Vancouver.

My next development to review actors was a system I called "Interface Telecasting ON-LINE Live". IT ON-LINE Live" was a real time video-conference service to audition actors remotely. With this new service, producers, directors, casting directors and clients could review actors in Vancouver while still in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. with 'Live' or real time interaction. The plan was to grow the actor database in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Toronto etc. and offer the video-conference services to audition actors from any of these cities, in real time. This service never got past the development stages.

The company reached its peak in May of 1998 with revenues in excess of $127,000. There were two of us working full time with a few contractors helping out now and again. The competition moved to town and the business started it's decline. Revenues were foolishly spent on programming and computers in the hopes that the new technology systems would give us the edge over the competition. We should have opened more audition studios. But, we made our decision and stuck by it. By the middle of the year 2001, the company was bankrupt.

At this time my parents, who had recently retired, both became disabled. I was considering my options when I realized that even though my business went bankrupt, I truely enjoyed serving people. I wasn't much of a businessman, but the clients were always satisfied or very pleased with my services. That's how I discovered my love for serving people. It's not money or business that interests me, but making people happy.

Realizing this, I decided my parents need my services more that anyone else in my life. To take care of them means moving from Vancouver (after 23 years) to Salmon Arm, BC - otherwise known as God's country. In October of 2001, I arrived in Salmon Arm. Within a week I found a house to rent and in two weeks I found a job. Then, I found a few clients who needed my computer services and I also started creating web sites for local companies in my spare time.

I lost that first job and suddenly had lots more time to fix computers and build web pages, so I started bidding on contracts on the Internet. That wasn't very successful. Just over a year later, I started my current job as graphics designer for a window & door company in Salmon Arm. Yippeeee, I'm back into computers, graphics and now 3D modeling too.

As of March 2006, I don't know what the future holds, but I know it's about to change - a lot. The boss wants to retire, so he's looking to sell the company. I may or may not have a job with the new owners. My landlord is selling his house and we have to move, so I will soon have a new home address. Now that I'm in my mid forties, health has become a concern. I need reading glasses. My doctor told me I'm pre-diabetic, so I had to change my lifestyle or start taking expensive and addictive pills. I developed a hernia, so I'm working to reduce that without surgery.

Now, I'm pleased to be able to work on my weblog - something I wanted to do for several years. If I don't get laid off, I'll continue making 3D windows & doors for a while.

Still my desire is for computers and technology. So, next I want to assemble a cluster of computers to function as one super-computer. Then I'll sell computer time to various companies or projects that require super computing power. I hope it works out.

I also have an account with Linked IN, a colleagues and leads exchange web site. Click the link below to:

View Robert Dubois's LinkedIn profileView Robert Dubois's profile

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Rob, the Diabetes Survivor

It was April 2004. I had been experiencing stomach pains like cramps, but it was continuous. I went to see the doctor and he sent me for clinical tests. The pain was the result of a hernia, but the tests turned up something unexpected.

My doctor told me I had a condition called metabolic syndrome, otherwise know as pre-diabetes. This is not the same as full blown diabetes. Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas creates too little insulin or no insulin at all.

Pre-diabetes is a condition where the pancreas is still working, but as in my case, it's working at four to five times the rate as a normally functioning pancreas. This in itself is not harmful, as any excess insulin exits the body naturally. The problem is, unless I change my lifestyle, my pancreas will burn itself out in a few years. The doctor said I'm sure to become diabetic if I continue the way I was. I was 225 lbs., inactive and a complacent eater.

I thought it quite odd when the doc asked me to take a week or two to think about my decision. The choices were; 1 - change my lifestyle with proper diet and exercise or, 2 - start a regime of pills and appointments to deal with the symptoms. I told the doc I don't need a week or even a minute to decide.

I began a new healthy routine. Most important of all, I started exercising regularly. This includes a walk of 3 - 4 km every day on my lunch break, bowling every week and cycling or swimming when ever I can. It was a bit hard to start, but now it's habit.

Changing my diet was a much greater challenge. I was on a pizza, cheeseburger, fries, soda pop, tortia chips and chocolate diet. I knew very little about balanced nutrition, but I was willing to learn.

I had some guidance from my doctor's dietitian and did some research on my own. I learned that a proper, healthy diet must include protein, carbohydrates, fiber, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), vitamins and nutrients. I was mixing all these ingredients each morning into a breakfast shake.

One day I saw an article in a local newspaper that described a product called, VEGA. This stuff has all the essential ingredients for balanced nutrition. It's a whole meal replacement. Vega was developed by a Canadian Ironman triathlete named, Brendan Brazier. This is exactly what I need to start each day with proper nutrition. I started taking half the recommended amount and after several weeks I began taking the full portion every morning.

Now, after nearly two years of lifestyle alteration, I'm feeling great. In fact, in February 2006, I attended the clinic to check on my condition. The doctor told me my cholesterols are in the safe range, my triglycerides are down, my blood pressure is normal and my weight is close to ideal. In other words, I've successfully reduced my chances of developing diabetes.

I told my doctor that I feel like I'm in my twenties again - I'm 46. His response, "I wish I felt that way." - he's 40.

Now it's just a matter of keeping up the routine and praying to God.

By the way - this is not a quick remedy for weight loss. I lost only one or two pounds each month over about two years. My goal is not weight loss, but to slow the rate which my pancreas operates - losing weight is just a side effect.

I asked my doctor if it is possible to defeat diabetes, so that it doesn't affect me the rest of my life. He said, yes - other people have done it, but he won't be able to declare me safe from diabetes for several years. After all it took me years or decades to develop my bad habits. He said we should have a look at my condition when the Olympics come to Vancouver, in 2010. I will be fifty years old and the doctor will be able to review my history, check my current condition and declare me safe or not.

A weblog about: Rob Dubois, The Interfacer

I'm Rob Dubois - alias Interfacer - a forty something 3D graphic designer working with a door & window manufacturer in the interior of British Columbia, Canada (often called God's country).

Actually I wear a few hats at work. I'm also the computer tech, installing and updating hardware and software. As well, I maintain the company web site, emails and a few other Internet services. My main job is to create diagrams of windows & doors along with a 'cut list' of each of the parts. The diagrams & cut lists go to the shop for manufacturing.

I'm the only person at my company that has advanced technology skills. The folks here are all experienced wood workers and keen management types, they just don't have much experience with computers or the Internet - so I was hired in August 2003.

At the time the company was in the technological dark ages. The fastest computer was a Pentium II, 300MHz, 64 Meg RAM and it was the CAD station, yikes! Two of three email accounts were not working. There was no anti-virus on any computers or the server. Quotes and invoices were created with a DOS version of ACCPac and printed on dot matrix printers (one for quotes, one for invoices).

Things have improved dramatically. Now the company is near the leading edge of technology with new Pentium 4 computers, Win XP and a decent 64 bit RAID server with digital media back ups that are stored off site. The boss got me a powerful software package called Inventor, (by AutoDesk, the makers of AutoCAD) and sent me to Vancouver for training. He also bought a much better accounting system so now we can print quotes and invoices on the laser printer.

I also have completely redesigned the company web site in Flash, have a look here >
The boss has been trying to sell the company for a few months now and it looks like there might be another company interested in buying. Nothing is confirmed yet and the boss is on vacation, so everything is pretty much on hold until he gets back. Then who knows what will happen. Either way, I don't think I be looking for work anytime soon. That's OK, I'm happy here, I make a good wage and I get to live in God's country.

Peace and Blessings to all!