Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canada day 149

This may date me, but here goes. Do you remember this song? I'd forgotten the trumpet solo went on so long, but the rest was just like yesterday. I don't think we're going to get such a catchy tune for the 149th. Maybe 150, now that the sourpuss Harper is out of office and won't be throwing a damper on the party.

And, dammit, we have a lot to celebrate! I don't want to get into a laundry list because some of you might think I'm rubbing it in or something. But there isn't another country quite like Canada anywhere else. Somehow, we've taken a mix of 3 cultures, added a jigger from just about every other country, and ended up with a place where we mostly all get along.

Somehow, the old white tight-assed Scottish Protestant men that ran the country at the beginning have given way to a multi-cultural world that hasn't produced a Donald Trump. A few wanna-be's I have to admit, but that's all. We should be proud of ourselves for that at least.

Virtually everyone here is an immigrant, or the descendants of immigrants. When the government talked about bringing over Syrian refugees, there was an outpouring of help. It seems counter-intuitive, but this is the thing to do. These people will remember being welcomed. Their children are more likely to be productive citizens. Marginalizing them only creates problems down the road, as UK is discovering.

Do you remember the "boat people" of the 70's? You'd have thought that the world was ending, according to some people. That it would be the end of Canada. Where are they now? Your neighbours, two houses down. Their kids went to university and might be your doctor or your accountant.

We need more immigrants. Our birthrate is gradually lowering, and there's lots of old geezers (like me) who will be cashing CPP cheques for many years, and I want a bunch of people working to keep the economy ticking over. And sooner or later, I'm going to be in a home for decrepit people, and I'll want someone to take care of me. That they might have brown skin, or might be Muslim, or might not speak English all that well means nothing to me. So call me selfish for being concerned about my own comfort.

That isn't to say we don't have issues, we do. Living without issues would be boring. But we talk about them; we don't shoot each other. We come up with a compromise that leaves most people at least not too unhappy. Most of us understand that you don't get everything all the time. At least the grown-ups do, and by and large, Canada is run by grown-ups. Though I was wondering during the Harper interregnum.

Canada has a reputation for being a boring country. Everybody overlooks us. Maybe that's for the best. We don't have to be number one. But if any country is the secret number one, the place people want to live if they can't have their first choice, I'll bet it's Canada.

I don't have any particular plans for Canada day. Sleeping in, for starters. It's been a while since I was on vacation, and I have a week off. It will be nice.

What are your plans for the day?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I didn't have to race it after all

Calgary gets into a cycle about now. We get a bit of rain. Then a hot day so there's lots of moist warm air billowing around. Afternoon thunderstorms are common, adding to the moisture. Hot days make more afternoon thunderstorms. Just in time for Stampede. It's tradition.

They said there was a chance of more thunderstorms today. I was looking at the clouds on the way home, hoping for enough time to run. Just after I started I saw this, looking north and a bit west.

It looked darker than that, and seemed to be moving fast. I tried to move fast too, but I never really got in the groove. My plan was to stick close to home in case it did rain and hail and lightning and all.   Lets just say there was a bit of pressure. It ended up being 4.5 K in 29:15 for a 6:29/Km pace. That's a bit surprising.

Some kebabs went onto the BBQ straight away, as the sky was looking more and more ominous. We put the hanging plants and new pots in the garage. By the time we finished eating it was beginning to break up, and now it's a beautiful clear evening. We aren't going to take the plants out; then it would hail for sure. Calgarians can thank us later.

The run could have been much longer. Another 1.2 K would have been perfect. April was 99.6 K. May was 102.5 K. And now June is 108.8 K. I was hoping for 110 K, but I'll take it. This is as close to consistent running as I've ever been. I'm aiming for 120 K in July. Watch and see if I get there.

Monday was a water run with Katie and a blah swim. The run and the swim, that's it for workouts. So far. Lets see if I swim Thursday, and maybe bike or run Friday.

One more day at work, then a week of vacation. No real plans other than to hang out and relax and play with my new camera. I'm planning an expedition to Fish Creek, if anyone wants in. Then Stampede, which will be a short week as well. Then 6 more weeks and my contract is up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

For the rain it raineth really hard

Three years and a week later, Calgary, or at least part of it, looked like another flood. We were warned of possible severe thunderstorms. At work today we were peering out the windows as it got darker and darker.

There was a little bit of rain walking to the LRT station downtown. It was raining a bit harder at Southland. Then it started raining really hard. We paused in a big puddle at 24 St and Anderson road. I had to wipe the bus window to get this shot. I tweeted it and got lots of retweets.

Just across from the Husky on 24th we stopped for a while. The bus driver wouldn't let anyone out. A fire truck edged past us to check up on a couple cars stuck in the water. We could see the cars bobbing in the wake of the fire truck.

A few minutes later the bus driver started edging through the puddle. The water was deep enough that it came in through the doors.

The intersection in front of Safeway was flooded, and I had never really thought of that as a low point. You can see a couple people pushing a car out of the water. Too late. It's a write off.

Closer of the truck. The drivers of such vehicles live for days like this.

I walked through the neighbourhood to get home. This is the intersection just by the shopper's drug mart.

Just north of that, a storm drain was burbling up from the pressure.

Another flooded street nearby.

A different flooded street. You can see the sun is already coming out.

At home I found this. You can see the water line on the lawn. Up till then I hadn't realized it had also hailed a bit. This isn't bad as far as hail goes. We've seen the lawn inches deep in hail, and drifts of it in the streets. We are happy it didn't happen this time, it's really hard on the poor little plants.

Some of the battered baskets.

Rather than run tonight, I ended up shoveling a huge mound of gravel. It had washed out of the alley and was blocking the storm drain. Total workout!

In the end, our house is snug and dry. A few plants got beat up a bit, but nothing compared to what we've seen. Several of our neighbours had minor floods or roof leaks. One of the roof leaks is a brand new roof, only a month or two old. There's already been an angry phone call about that.

Not sure how the rest of Calgary fared, but one neighbour told me of big hail just south of town, and that Woodbine, Woodlands, Braeside, Canyon Meadows, Cedarbrae seemed to get the worst of it. No doubt emergency services will have a busy night.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Two related topics

My latest read is When Breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi. It's not long, only 200 or so pages, but it is a thoughtful read. I paused any number of times to think about what he was saying, and how he was saying it.

He struggled to find meaning in his life cut tragically short. What makes life worth living in the face of death? His death was all too clear in front of him. He could read the medical test results for himself.

The point is that we are all facing death. Life itself is a terminal disease. The only difference is that most of us don't know when it will happen, just that it will. It could be tomorrow as a result of driver incompetence. It could be next year. It might not be for decades.

There are any number of possible causes, and we need not get into that. It doesn't matter. What does matter is what you make of living. Nobody can give you meaning. You have to come up with that yourself. If you can't come up with meaning, there is nobody but yourself to blame.

I think the very struggle to find meaning is what drives artistic creation, to have children, or to leave a legacy. People strive to create something beyond themselves that they might be remembered. The struggle itself is part of what defines us as human. His thoughts on this, and how he expresses himself make the book well worth reading. I've got a few spots marked I want to come back to.

Most people don't think about countries as living organisms, but they are. They live and die and change. This whole Brexit is just another example of change, and I'm pretty sure everybody will muddle through. United Kingdom itself is a bit of a cobbled together artificial entity and is of fairly recent construction, just over 300 years.

What's important to me is that all too often borders have been changed by men using swords, or more recently, guns and bigger weapons. What's happened here so far has involved a lot of words, a round of voting, and a murder. There's going to be a lot more talk, and probably more votes.

Historically speaking, this is remarkable. All too often situations like this have devolved into a civil war, or a war with neighbours trying to take unseemly advantage of the confusion. As long as people are talking and not shooting, I'm not fussed.

This is just another example of how the world keeps changing, and you're wise to plan and prepare for it by securing your own financial resources. With money, you have choices. No doubt some people are anxious about where they are going to live, and how it will all shake out. The rich and powerful will take care of themselves. Do as they do, not as they say.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

We ran to the salmon

A coolish-warmish rainy morning didn't deter us. We had plans. We were determined. Linda was going to storm the garden shows to enjoy and learn and admire what other gardeners have done. She was much taken with one gardener who has nothing but plants that deer and bunnies don't like. It's just a coincidence that her garden backs onto Fish Creek, which has lots of deer. She came back later with mucho more plants. Good thing she's on vacation next week. (See below)

Michelle picked me up, with the intent to park at Sandy Beach and run north along the Elbow River. The first problem is that Enmax is doing stuff near the dam and we couldn't park there. Since we had built the run around consideration of the famous Sandy Beach bike path hill, and my marking off more paths on my year map, this merited serious discussion about the change in plan. In the end we parked, and after some all important business just at the end of 50th Ave, we started off down the hill.

There was an asthmatic jogger desperate to try to keep up with us, but we lost him fairly soon. Good thing. I was kind of getting the vibe that he was scoping out my butt. We ran along the path, admiring all that there is to admire along the way. (Hint, lots.) We turned to go over the bridge leading to the path on the Elbow Drive side of the river, and ran along, waiting at the lights. I've never in my life been on that bit of the path. Normally I take the street since it's a bit shorter. (You can see where the red line separates.)

Going past Talisman we both waved at the same time, and said "Hi Katie," at the same time. At turn around we admired my buddy Jeff de Boer's salmon art. (note, not my photo, I'm not sure who's photo it is.) My own phone was buried in the spi-belt, and I didn't want to dig it out, hunt for the right spot of take the photo, all in the light rain of the moment. I'll get a photo of it another time and replace that on.

We both had a bit of a slow feeling part way, and going back we were wondering if we had slowed down a bit. Not really. I'd been looking for a 16 K run, and was surprised when it came up on the phone, and then when 17 happened we stopped, and walked back to the car as a cool down, and stretched a bit.

We both nailed the clothing. It's tougher to dress for about zero, and for when it's raining, than it is to dress for -35 C. I wore shorts and a short sleeved tech shirt and was perfectly happy both in between showers and in the bits of sun we had.

17 K, 1:54 for a 6:42/Km pace! Holy doodle! Last week we pushed a bit (within chatchatchat zone) and ran 15 K at a 6:53 pace, and was working it a bit. More than a bit. Today the only place I felt out of breath at all was up the little tiny hills near the path underpasses, and then I was back in the groove again. My feet felt light and happy till about the 15 K mark, then started talking about getting tired. Even at the very end I felt like I could have run faster.

Home and puttering. Here's some repairs to a pair of slippers. Curtis was trying to help. Such a considerate kitty. The problem is the stitching holding it together wore away and the felt part started separating. Once it begins it unravels pretty quickly.

In progress, with Curtis "helping".

Done this much when I finished the cord I had on the needle. I'll see how this holds up.

Dinner tonight. We ended up having the two smaller beef steaks, and the bigger piece of lamb will be tomorrow. That's apple pie in the background. Fresh BC blackberries and raspberries. So yummy!

Some of the flowers Linda brought home. Yes, that's a car seat latch you see.

Another of the less flamboyant lilies. I thought these were succumbing to the lily beetles, and were drooping, but no, Linda says they like pointing downward. It makes getting the shot just a bit tricky. Glad I have the camera with the articulating LCD screen.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

We all survived

A massage is a nice way to start the weekend, even if she is earning her money working on run muscles and a sore shoulder. No whimpering or sniveling though.

Friday morning was clear, cloudless, and already warm when I got up. After coffee and something equally important I headed out for a run. 7 K 45:30 feeling pretty good, running whatever my legs felt like doing. It took a couple K to get into the groove. Lately I've noticed when my legs get tired my left foot starts sliding into the step. This was good all the way. Normally the first run after massage is a bit wonky, but this was good. I'm glad I got out when I did; it was getting hot as I finished up. Later it rained.

On the way down the hill into Fish Creek I saw a couple deer, and managed to get a shot of one of them, without breaking stride. Pretty good, I call that.

From there it was risking life and limb to get the cats into the carriers and take them to the vet. Celina struggled pretty hard about going into the carrier. Then I stalked Curtis. He had hidden in the basement. Celina was shrieking her lungs out like a fate worse than death was immanent. No doubt, she was saying "I'm caught! Run for it!" Curtis is such a good kitty, going into the carrier without a fuss, and strolling around the vet's office.

Curtis needs me to get more regular about brushing his teeth again, and Celina has some dental issues.

Later I was into the library to get some photography books. Interesting reading, but what was even more interesting was going straight from them, to watching Jesus Christ Superstar on Blue Ray, and enjoying the composition of the shots more than the movie itself. I'd seen it before, of course, but I saw it in the library and wanted to watch a couple particular scenes.

One of the books got set aside fairly quickly. Two strikes, but they were biggies for me. Long complicated explanations combined with the word "simply", ending with "when the exposure is right, simply click the shutter button". Grrr. Pushing the button is simple, I'll grant you that. Condescendingly so for the author to say it. It's judging when the exposure is right. There's nothing simply about it.

I hate that word in instructions. Whenever I review any text document at work, I search for that word first. I once sent back a user instruction manual with the comment, "There are 43 instances of 'simply' in this manual, and none are appropriate. Send it back to me when all are gone." That didn't go over so well, but I didn't care.

Today and Friday I've been working the camera a bit trying to achieve particular effects. The results are so-so. Some of the shots are pretty good, just not what I was aiming form. Lots of flowers, and for a while I was trying to capture the bees that were doing their thing. Here's a lucky shot.

Here's the lily that looked somewhat sinister in a photo a couple days ago. Much less sinister now, I think you'll agree.

It's been fun working with the camera. The weather has been kind of crappy, so I've been doing some playing with the free software, just to get a sense of what can be done with the photos.

Three other flower shots, just for fun, all are the iphone.

I was up early for a swim on Saturday, but it was bleah for me and my swim buddy. Keep in mind the bleah is relative. Part of the problem is my flip turns were feeling slow, and when I stopped thinking about my stroke I slowed down. These things happen.

Last thing, I was looking for a birthday card, and saw this. I took a picture of it and sent it to a buddy. It's not the one I got, but I laughed. It's a good rule for life, and you'll certainly learn something on the way out the other side.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Keep trying

Look at this plant.

That tiny little plant, growing out between two blocks of retaining wall blocks. We've been meaning to pluck it out any time.

But it doesn't know that. It just keeps growing. The root has to be nearly a foot long to get to soil.

That's what nature does. It keeps trying. It throws things on the wall to see what sticks. It keeps trying to grow different things. Many of them die what with one thing or another. Or another. Many others. But as long as a few live and breed, nature keeps trying.

Then there's humans. Mostly a blight on the landscape now. So many have so much potential, and they use so little of it. Many of the ones that try give up at the first bit of adversity.

The funny thing is that achieving a moderate degree of success isn't terribly difficult.

Show up on time, ready to work.

Then do the work, whatever it is.

That's half the battle, right there. I've trained lots of people to do various tasks, and I'd far rather train someone with little or no background but was willing to dig in, than someone who already knew lots of it but didn't want to learn more.

The other half is doing it well, better than most of the people around you if you want to get ahead of them. If you want to be in the NHL, you've got a struggle. Lots of competition and at that level the differences in skill aren't big, but they are big enough to be differentiators.

But for most jobs, doing the work well is enough to get ahead. Yes, there are setbacks sometimes. People get laid off. Budgets get cut. Company priorities change. You might find yourself hunting for your next job unexpectedly. So what? Even job hunting, those rules apply. Show up, do the work, which is to find your next situation.

You don't have to be smarter than the people around you. Lots of successful people say they aren't any smarter than other people, they just worked harder. They found a place to apply their talents, and then did it. Day in, day out. Whatever it is.

Think of that little plant. It keeps growing.


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