Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The world is trying to kill you, but

This post isn't meant to be a downer, or morbid, but it is serious.

Our next door neighbour died yesterday evening. I don't know the exact sequence of events or many details, but he was found on his front steps. Did I mention it's about -20 C out, or colder? They suspect he had ducked out to plug in his Christmas lights or sweep the steps. It doesn't matter if he had a heart attack, or a stroke, or slipped and fell. The end comes quick at these temperatures.

As I was leaving Repsol (Talisman pool) this morning several of us noted the air ambulance helicopter flying south. Never a good sign. Going south on 14th, I saw a couple ambulances heading north with lights and sirens going. Then as I turned from 14th St to Anderson road I could see a huge traffic backlog and several emergency vehicles. My side of the road was empty. There were at least 5 banged up cars, another ambulance, several cop cars, and a firetruck. I'm pretty sure that someone wasn't paying attention and triggered a chain reaction series of collisions. That's happened there a bunch of times over the years.

You'll notice I didn't call it an accident. Someone demonstrated their incompetence at operating a motor vehicle. I've done several ranty blogs about the cost of poor drivers. At the very least a bunch of people have had a very bad start to their day. Several people are in hospital, and if the air ambulance attended that scene, at least one is in life threatening condition. They don't send the helicopter for cuts and scrapes, or even broken bones.

In addition, there are several teams of highly trained people tied up dealing with it, along with their specialized equipment. Maybe they would have been sitting around playing cards awaiting a call, but I doubt it. Then there are all the people stuck in traffic, running late for whatever their day is, a widening ripple of lost productivity spreading across Calgary.

So unnecessary. I've ranted elsewhere about what should be done. (Car simulators for driver training and competency checks, assignment of blame with attendant costs, and removal of driving privileges for substantial time, as in years.)

My point today is that even though we live in the safest society humans have yet created, death still walks among us. The world is still trying to kill us every day. Some people make it easier than others. They smoke, don't exercise, eat poorly, or engage in risky behaviours like operating a cell phone while driving. Others, like those poor drivers today, are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if you see the rogue driver coming there might not be any place to go to.

We don't need to be helping the world at this; it's efficient enough. Pay attention to what you're doing! Be mindful. Consider the impact of your actions on others. Yes, I know that's harder for some. Even if they aren't driving a BMW they think they deserve to be, and the real arrogant ones are channeling Donald Trump. We all have to share the public space around us. It doesn't matter if it's a road, a parking lot, or a mall walkway. All of us are stressed, especially this time of year. We all have places to be, people to visit, stuff to get, and we're likely running a little behind.

It's a trying time. Many thousands of people are desperately searching for work, and that's tough sledding in the current economy. Even the ones still working are worried about losing their jobs. The American political sewage is seeping north, infecting some of our politicians, though that's a rant for another day. Lots of people are seeing their retirement dreams drowning in the housing market. I don't think the coming year is going to be much better.

But you and I, my dear readers, all several dozen regulars of you, can make a difference. We can. We can choose to be nice to our fellow humans. We can smile instead of frown. Say hello to that stressed out store clerk, and have yourself organized to make life a bit easier for them. You think it's bad enduring the retail scene for a few hours, but they're in it for weeks. Cut them some slack. Let that driver in. Wave at the ones that let you in. Most of my readers are healthy active people, so take the furthest parking stall. An unexpected bonus is that you're less likely to get your doors bashed.

Leave a little extra time to get somewhere. My rule on this is that if you leave a bit of extra time you'll catch the lights, you'll get that primo parking spot, and you won't have any trouble finding the address you're looking for. Run late and it all goes wrong.

There's a new agey saying about not being able to affect what the universe sends you, but you can affect how you react to it. That's true as far as it goes, but really, consider that you are part of the universe that is sending out stuff. Send shit and you're making someone else work harder at dealing with it. Just saying. Feel free to forward or share if you like, and I always love comments.

Here's a nice peaceful winter scene in Fish Creek to help you chill out and relax.





Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cold sun

I was out for a walk with buddies in Fish Creek on Monday. Out of 179 shots, I developed 20, much to my surprise.

One of the fun things about cold weather shoots is sun dogs.


All the standing water is frozen now. There is a bit of a swamp in there, the one where I got that deer photo, and they shovel it off for skating. I hadn't known that. At first I tried it as black and white, but then realized the sun was putting some subtle colour in there. Look for some purples, greens, blues, and a bit of red. Maybe it's only on the hi res files. Hmmm.



There was a nearly full circle sun dog today, and me without a camera. All my iPhone gave me was a white blur in the middle of the screen. If it happens again tomorrow, I'll try the real camera.

Facebook people may have already seen this morning's sunrise. -20 C, with -32 windchill. Brrr.


No standing around waiting. I saw the light coming, bundled up, fired off a few dozen shots, and was back inside pronto.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The smell of money

There's a saying in Brooks. Most of you probably don't know that Brooks is the home to several large meat packing plants. A bazillion animals a year are killed there, and their meat dressed for consumers. Most of the time it works pretty well, but when it goes wrong, oh boy. People die or are made seriously ill.

There is a peculiar smell just downwind of these plants, and it just so happens that the town is just downwind. There is no escaping the smell. I'm told that after a while one becomes accustomed. That saying comes out on a day when the smell is more noticeable than other days. "That's the smell of money." Or variations on the same theme.

Really, it doesn't matter if it's a meat packing plant, a feedlot, a distillery, a pulp and paper plant, a petrochemical plant, or many other industries. There is a smell downwind. Other than nearly puking one time driving through Kamloops (pulp and paper), and coming close at the Wastewater Plant (the combination of the distillery smell, the barminuters, and a hangover) the smells usually never bothered me. Not everybody is so fortunate. Sometimes the emissions are worse than a bad smell.

There is much talk recently of pipelines proposed for construction or expansion. Juxtapositioned with that is news of pipelines spilling petrochemicals into rivers, lakes, or oceans, of railcars burning in towns, of tankers running aground and spilling their contents. It shouldn't be a surprise that people are concerned. While it's true that nature can and does clean up small amounts of naturally occurring leaks, the timeline involved is usually much longer than a year or two. For some man-made by-products the timeline for natural cleanup is geological ages.

First up, as most of my readers know, our civilization is currently utterly dependent on the petroleum industry. It heats many Canadian homes during the cold winter. It is a feedstock for parts in nearly every manufactured product in use today. It's used in fertilizer to grow crops for humans and animals that humans eat. It provides the fuels used to create electricity and move our vehicles.

Second, while there is growing interest in energy from renewable sources, and rightly so, we aren't going to be creating industrial lubricants, or making plastics from solar or wind power. The petroleum industry isn't going away.

Pipelines are far and away the safest way to move petroleum products, provided they are properly constructed and maintained. Aye, there's the rub. There needs to be incentive for this to happen, or perhaps, a disincentive applied to the executives if there's a leak. Can you spell jail? It shouldn't be accountants making the inspection choices, it should be pipeline inspection professionals with expertise in corrosion mitigation.

As an aside, I'm glad the Northern Gateway got cancelled. With care and a bit of luck, and a lot of sensitivity it might have been possible to get the social license for the pipeline part of the deal, but it was botched by bad management and worse governmental oversight. Once Harper got his mitts on the file it was doomed. But the tanker part! Whoever thought that running tankers into Kitimat was a good idea needs to have their head examined.

More generally, people need to understand the tradeoffs involved in living in a civilized world. If you want to use a cell phone, you need to accept cell phone towers, and the mining that extracts the rare elements required. If you want to drive a car, you need to accept the entire value chain that creates the car and the fuel to power it. If you want to eat meat, your choices are to raise it yourself, cultivate a relationship with your local butcher who sources organic range raised animals, or accept the value chain that leads from a field to Brooks to your local supermarket. I could go on. There are similar tradeoffs in almost all areas of society.

Those industries exist now and change is slow. Wishing them away isn't going to get you anywhere.

NIMBY is a swear word in my vocabulary. I don't mind someone wanting to ensure that meat plants and feedlots are properly regulated to avoid contamination. I don't mind them wanting the cell tower disguised somewhat. I think it's a good idea to push for changes to the automobile ecosystem that creates a safer and more human-friendly world and tries to minimize the usage of petrochemicals. I'm completely for a regulator that ensures the various laws, regulations, guidelines, and engineering standards relating to the petroleum industry are adhered to. These are required because without them companies will engage in a race to the bottom as they try to maximize profit, and externalize all costs. I'm not impressed with companies that try to argue that any regulation is a business killer, and they'll go elsewhere. Which is why Canada needs federal standards, not provincial ones.

But to say NIMBY, and associated arguments is hypocritical at best. I have no time or respect for such people. Talk about the economic outcomes, talk about the environmental impacts, discuss the data. Not your feelings, or assumptions about some idealized world that might exist in the future. Whatever it is, we aren't going to get there in one step. Everybody needs to accept that compromises have to be made. Companies have to make some profit, but they also have to accept regulation and oversight. Society in general needs to accept those industries spin off money, salaries paid to employees or contractors, buying the various goods and services, managing the value chain from extraction, refining, production, transportation, marketing, end use, and disposal.

As I was out for a sunrise shot last week, I saw this and took the shots almost off-hand. I didn't think they would turn out. The light on the horizon didn't look that good, and there was all sorts of light just out of the bottom of the frame.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Snow. At last

Autumn is Calgary's best season by far, and this has been an amazing one. Here it is, early December and we're getting the first real snowstorm of the winter. The weather people say up to 10 cm, and we've got a couple of that already. Everything so far has been minor little flurries that melt quickly.

Technically I should run today. Or spin. I might yet, it's only early afternoon as I write this. What I really want to do is settle in with a cup of that nice Moroccan mint tea and watch Fargo Season 2. Last night it was a remastered Blu-Ray copy of Casablanca with a ton of extras. Love it!

The cats have the right idea for today, even though Curtis popped his head up just as I took the photo. Celina is a hard snoozer some days, not waking up for anything.


Here's another kind of orange to warm your heart on a cold snowy day.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

100, 200

In early September I did a comparison between the 4 lenses I had at the time. I've added a lens since then, a Tamron 70-200 mm zoom. In a pro world I'd set up the tripod exactly in the same place and try to repeat the shots, and display the new photos with the existing photos. Only problem is I'm not sure exactly where the tripod was, and for another, those plants aren't there anymore. Something about winter. Maybe I'll do it again next spring.

One would think that a 200 mm lens would be able to zoom in closer and show more detail than a 100 mm lens. Not so fast! The difference is that the 100mm is a macro lens so you can get right up into the flower's little face. The minimum focus distance is listed as a foot in the spec's page, but there's times I think I've been closer.

The 200 is not a macro lens. The minimum focus distance is just over 51 inches, so the bigger zoom has to be more than 4 times further away. Here's two comparison shots. The first is the 100 mm lens, and the second is the 200. The processing is identical. Unfortunately the light changed slightly so the second shot doesn't look quite as bright. You can easily see how much closer the 100 mm is.



That doesn't make the 100 mm a better lens. Like so many things, "better" depends on what you want. That nice landscape shot yesterday? That was shot with the 200 mm lens because it gave me more options about composition. (And thanks for the kind words about it!)

Another fun shot with the 100 mm, showing a plain old metal ruler. (Anyone care to take a guess about the background?) First there is a surprising amount of detail in the metal. And second, there's a lot of space between the mm marks. I suppose I should have included this in my blog about the resolution of our eyes and hairy flowers. At the closest focal distance the 100 mm lens has a field of view only 37.5 mm wide, which when displayed on my screen comes out to an image 18 inches wide.  You figure out the magnification factor. It means you are seeing lots of fine detail in whatever is in proper focus. A work in progress.


Friday, December 2, 2016

The Elvis Platter, check!

There is a local restaurant called Big T's. They do BBQ and do it very well. One of their signature dishes is called the Elvis platter. It's a huge heap of their various meats. It's delicious. I've always wanted to be part of a group that ordered it, and assumed it would be with a pack of hungry triathletes.  I ran 8K today, so I feel no guilt in participating. Plus I'm swimming tomorrow, hoping to keep up with mini-shark.

A party of six adults ate the whole thing, except for a bit of chicken, some fries and a few dry ribs. Burp! If you see me on Facebook you'll know who we shared the meal with.

I regretted not bringing the good camera. The chinook winds brought some wonderful late afternoon shots, and I'll I had was the iPhone.



To console you, here's a flower shot from a bouquet I picked up along the way last week.


I played with this shot lots, trying to find the right level of settings to fully express the soft folds of the petal in the shades of gentle white. Lightroom kept trying to make it Cervelo yellow. This photo is almost too sharp and clear.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November image of the month

This is the one I really liked from earlier this week, after zooming from near the Fish Creek LRT station down to Road to Nepal. I've got a slightly cropped version of this, but I don't think it works as well overall. Hope you enjoy.


If anyone should want a big print of this, let me know and I'll get you a high resolution image.

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