Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011: The Year of the Rabbit/Year of the Cat

 "Cuddly, warm and affectionate are the attributes of the Rabbit. ...The Rabbit enjoys being the centre of attention once in a while... is occasionally over cautious and can be a bit boring. He is also one of the luckiest signs in the Chinese Astrology chart."
- from californiapsychics.com


I know two Peter Rabbits - that is two Peters who were born in the Year of the Rabbit. How cool is that? I wouldn't describe either as being exactly cuddly. No doubt their wives would disagree. I'm not sure either would describe themselves as lucky - too cautious to tempt fate.

My mother was a Rabbit. She certainly enjoyed being the centre of attention but also wasn't all that cuddly. She was affectionate and warm-hearted but I could see her fitting the image of the Cat better.

In Chinese mythology, the Rat tricked the Cat into sleeping in on the day the Zodiac was formed. As a result, the Cat missed the race that determined the astrological lineup. The Rat, meanwhile, hitched a ride with the Ox (who might have been slow but was as steady as a proverbial tortoise) then jumped off the Ox's nose to win the race and the first place in the Heavens.

In the Vietnamese mythology, the Cat stays in the race and takes the place of the Rabbit - who might have bolted because of the Tiger ahead of him and the Dragon on his tail.

Astrologically, it doesn't make any difference. Either way, the forecast for 2011 is one of peace, tranquility and diplomacy - at least comparatively speaking. Since this is a metal year, peace, tranquility and diplomacy may come with the help of a sword point.

Both animals are associated with luck. Yes, a black cat is supposed unlucky, but how lucky can a rabbit's foot be for the rabbit? The thing about luck is, it can cut both ways.

It's the image of the Cat that's different than the Rabbit. Cats conjure up a picture of pride, especially in appearances. They are well-groomed and dignified. At least they work hard at being well-groomed and dignified. Cats have style. That's my mother in a nutshell.

On the other hand, knowing two Peter Rabbits is still pretty cool.


Where to get your Year of the Rabbit forecast:


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Three Things I Learned from Star Trek Fans


Neither guilty, nor secret

I am a Star Trek fan. Not only that, but I used to belong to the Guelph Star Trek Club. Not only that, I was Captain of the USS Welfen for about five years. This is not a guilty secret. Far from it. I learned a lot from Star Trek and Star Trek fans.

Like many Star Trek clubs, we were into role-playing. At parties, parades and fund-raising events, we'd dress-up and act in character. This is how I learned my first lesson.


Clothes DO make the Klingon.

They say "Don't judge a book by its cover." Tell that to marketing professionals in the publishing business. The fact is covers are an important tool for discovering what's inside. Costumes take it one step further. They influence what's inside.

Mild-mannered, soft-spoken people can become rude and boisterous with the simple application of a bumpy forehead and a uniform. If they've taken the time to learn some Klingon words, the transformation is nearly complete. Similarly, a rowdy preteen can put on a pair of pointy ears and pencil his eyebrows and become a calm Vulcan. (Maybe I'll buy my son some ears.)

Power-suits are given that name for a reason. Wear red and/or black and you will appear - and likely act - more confident. Dark blue makes us seem more trustworthy. Soft colours make us look and feel more approachable. Uniforms define form as well as function. We dress to blend in or stand out but always we make a statement about who we are and how we expect people to take us at that moment -- even when the message is "I don't care."


Whatever else you do, you can improve the world around you.

Star Trek clubs are primarily run for the entertainment of their members - or should be. If you're not having fun dressing up in costume and acting like someone you're not (or not quite) why bother? That doesn't mean we weren't a credit to the uniform.

The Guelph Star Trek Club collected food for the Food Bank and the Welcome Drop-In Centre in an annual drive we called "Guinan's Goodies". For the "Spock's Socks" drive, we collected clothing and bedding for disaster relief. (It started off with just socks because the doctor delivering the goods couldn't take bulky items.)

When I managed a comic book store, I ran the annual charity auction with the store owner. When I left, I kept the auction going with Star Trek collectibles for the club. Proceeds went to Action Read Family Literacy Centre plus either St Joseph's Hospital or the University of Guelph Arboretum. 

Our club was hardly unique. Most Star Trek clubs do stuff for charity. Nor are Trekkies the only costumed do-gooders. Think Shriners.

Every commander needs a good crew.


You need a healthy ego to be a leader. That means being willing to share the power and kudos.

I was chatting with a new friend and discovered a mutual interest in Star Trek. She mentioned that her daughter had been photographed on the bridge of the Enterprise at a convention. A couple of questions later, I revealed with pride, "We built that!"

As I quickly assured her, when I said "we" I didn't mean "me". Our captain at the time, Frank Orlando, spearheaded that project for Stone Road Mall, and was the artist that created the trompe l'oile effects. He and his crew put in long hours in construction and painting. Meanwhile, as first officer, I kept the administration end of the club going and led the team doing the club's display for the event.

When I took over as captain, I had my own invaluable first officer in Frances Peate (now Nunn) literally my right-hand woman in the above photo. Amanda Bloss (now Maloney) took the role of Ship's Counsellor (that's her on the left). Neil Arnold (who is also the Klingon above) and Janet were two more of many stalwart officers that kept the club going. (The officers in the background are just standing in.)

As it is in a Star Trek club, so it is in the board room or task group. I couldn't have, and wouldn't have wanted to do it alone.


Captain Alison Bruce, commanding the USS Welfen NCC 9011, began her career as an acting ensign aboard the USS Schrodinger. Before transferring Star Fleet Academy, she was part of an unplanned exchange aboard a Klingon war ship. Her experience led to advance training and  deployment to the USS Welfen during its shakedown cruise. After the sudden and mysterious disappearance of the Welfen's second captain, Bruce took command in time for the Dominion Wars. 

(Still role-playing after all these years.)