Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mugged by the begonia

Among all the other flowers are some begonias. We were just finishing up dinner last night (BBQ bison burgers, if you're wondering), and I'm looking around enjoying the garden. Suddenly the begonia a few feet away from me leaped out and grabbed my attention, demanding I run for the camera. That glowing orange just did me in.

There's still some lilies, of course.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The speedy and the erratic

It was fun watching the race on Sunday. I have to admit, though, for most courses triathlon generally isn't what you'd call an exciting spectator sport. You see a bunch of people milling around getting ready. Then they're an anonymous herd, milling around in their wetsuits and swim caps. Then they're in the water in a splash. Depending on the course and who you're cheering for, you've got time for a coffee. Then they burst out of the water and head for transition. This can be exciting, but it doesn't last long.

Then they are out of transition and off on their bikes, and unless you hustle you aren't likely to see both of these. There are some courses where you can hop on a bike and short cut to see them zoom by. Zoom being the operative word. Even the slow riders are going about 30 Kph unless you catch them on a big uphill.

If you can't do that, you end up waiting at transition for them to come back. That might be several hours. Then they are in and gone again, transitioning from bike to run. If you're in the port-potty you will have missed it.

Then there is the run finish. All sorts of drama here. For most of my races I asked Linda to drop me at the swim, and if she wanted to stick around for the bike transition that was up to her. Then I didn't expect to see her again till the finish.

As a triathlete, it's a bit different. You can appreciate better what the racers are going through. Plus, and this is the dangerous part, you get infected with the desire to do it again. I got bit by that a little bit, but I'm safe this year. About the only one I'd be tempted to do is Chaparral Oly, and I've been asked to do the photography for it, so I'm safe.

But I did look up last weekend's finish times for my age group. The winner finished in 4:25, and the middle of the pack is 5:45 or so. I'd certainly have been well over 6 hours, if I'd been so foolish as to try. Just as a comparison, the overall winner finished in 3:35. I know lots of triathletes dream of winning their age group and going to Kona, but I have no such aspirations. I'd be thrilled with a mid pack finish, but that seems so far away right now.

But next year, who knows? I keep saying I want to get into better shape. Maybe this will be the year, without a day job to wear me down. But even "aging up" into the next age group isn't going to help me much. The winner in that age group went 4:35. Speedy.

In the mean time, I'm still getting caught up on photos.

This one is so soft and peaceful. I can see it done huge as a big print in a meditation space.

The hens and chicks blossoms are still hanging in there, though beginning to look a little worse for wear today.

The day lilies are incredible this year! I love the vibrant yellow, orange, and reds. The ordinary ones are nice, but when you get the light right, they look like they're on fire.

Another damp rose. The new bud pushing it's way in there adds even more interest.

Part of the view from the reservoir cruise. Pity about the smoke.

I was quite taken by this railroad snowplow at Heritage Park. This photo is not really doing justice to that orange. Plus I was just imagining certain politicians staked out on the tracks, getting prodded with this. My imagination gets away from me sometimes...

Oh, and the erratic. I didn't take a photo, but coming out of Coop today there was a car with a handicap sticker that didn't manage to make it fully into the handicap spot. It's like they thought they were angle parking. Then on the way home I turn onto the street where I live, and someone is driving down the wrong side of the road, then the middle, then the wrong side again. I was thinking seriously about where exactly was the safest place to bail out. Then they swerved violently into the side of the road where lots of people park, and I think they drove on someone's lawn for a second. It was a tiny old person peering over the wheel. I'm not sure who was more terrified, me or them.

This is why I want to see car simulators set up, and people run through a standardized test before getting their license renewed. Fail, and you get a chance to study, get your eyes checked and eyeglasses prescription updated if necessary, maybe do some practice with a certified instructor, then have another go at it.

There are lots of people that fear the self driving cars, but not me. I fear those other people on the road that are driving distracted for whatever reason, or no longer have the cognitive ability to drive, or suffer a medical adventure while driving. The problem is only going to get worse as the boomer generation (and I'm one of them) ages gracefully or otherwise.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Smoking hot spectathaleting

Today was my day to Sherpa Michelle on her way to finishing her first half iron race! She did awesome in the heat and the sun, but it's her story to tell. My tiny little role in all this was to help her get to the event and carry stuff, and take a photo or two. Or nearly 400.

Here she is at bike check in, wondering if this is her rack.

As it was, she was the very first person to check in. Such a keener.

Lest you think I only had photo eyes for Michelle, here is:

Amy and Steve, race announcers extraordinaire

Our friend Antje, fellow specathaleter

My buddy Kelly from my very first triathlon. She almost always spots me first at events, and today was no exception.

One of my first ever triathlon buddies Julie. She's a tough, but rewarding photo subject, being so speedy and on the move, but with a huge smile.

And lastly, Michelle again, in one of the many finisher photos she has to choose from.

Should Michelle choose to blog race day from her perspective, you may see a few more of my shots, and I'll certainly link to it.

And yes, I'm still behind on flower shots. Good thing I don't have a day job anymore. Soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A little road trip

This was part of the view. I last saw this on a bicycle almost exactly 7 years ago. I wouldn't dream of tackling this on a bike now.
And these.
No, I don't know what either of these flowers are.

I don't know the names of either of these mountains, but suspect some of my readers do.

We had a lovely day browsing in Black Diamond at one of our favourite stores. Then down to Longview to discover 2 new photo galleries. Nice ones! Lunch. Very yummy lunch, and since it's less than an hour's drive we might go back for supper. There are places in Calgary that are about an hour's drive if the traffic is less than perfect.

Linda had never been west of Longview or over Highwood. We took it easy stopping several times to stroll around and take photos. One of my buddies had suggested Ptarmigan Cirque as a hike, and it turns out to be almost exactly 150 K from home. We hadn't planned on actually doing the hike, but it was nice to stretch our legs and stroll on the boardwalk.

I haven't spent much time in K country and was amazed how much stuff there is. More visits are being flanged up while the weather is nice. Up at a civilized hour, coffee, breakfast, deal with any garden issues, head out, have a nice afternoon, maybe dinner on the way back. Should be fun.

Along the way we scoped out the ring road highway construction. Sigh. The start to The Road to Nepal is a construction zone now. I don't think I'll try taking my bike the usual route anymore. There is a heavy haul road crossing where they've put steel plates on the road. Two places actually. You can tell where the first place was because the pavement is beat to crap there. That whole chunk of road has all kinds of clay and other crap on it. Plus there are regular road gravel trucks all over the place. Even The Road itself isn't going to be as much fun. There is a new farmer's market/event destination going in at the bottom of the long uphill. That's going to add a ton of traffic to dodge. The event part of it is open, but not the rest. It's for kids, and there's an admission fee.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Life is just a

From this tree.

Last year we got one cherry each. The hail and the birds got the rest.

This year we got out ahead, and Linda got a big bowl full. She's a big fan of them, but cherries are so-so for me, even if they are fresh off the tree. The magpies love them. LOVE THEM! They are happily beaking them down while the cats are going crazy watching them. Good times.

Now, I remember the song by Doris Day from my childhood. Anyone else?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The July IOTM will be tough

Today was a day for taking stock, making lists, kicking Mr Slackerpants to the curb, and getting started.

I'm still chewing through the images taken before the Heritage park trip. When the first pass looking at 3 dozen photos of a rose with two bees cavorting gives you about 2 dozen look in focus at first glance, you know you've got some careful comparisons to do. I ended up developing 2 of them, but my goodness!

While I was catching up on some other photo stuff I started making a list for the July Image of the Month. Just scrolling through the month's edited photos (128 so far and not caught up yet) I saw 21 that would go into the selection hopper. It's been a good month.

After feeling like no sleep and cranky muscles crap for about a week, I finally felt the run love today. 4.25K 30 minutes, feeling pretty good.

Here's a few catch up photos for you. A peony, two roses, and a begonia. I think that last one is a begonia. What's funny about it is that the plant has not a hint of green in the centre whatever they're called, but the camera sees a bit of green. That was a new one for me to figure out how to make it yellow again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A train and boat/ship

Actually it's a boat. I checked, and there are rules about such things. This boat.

And this train. An actual functional steam engine train.

And Linda in both of them, you can figure out which is which.

Such a lovely day at Heritage Park. Last time I was there, I was working for Talisman, so it's been a while. Linda has a pass and goes several times a year. The quilt show for sure, and there's usually a couple of other things that she goes to.

This time the main attraction for us was lunch on the train. Tres yummy! (Google River Forth dining.) Not quite as elegant as first class on the Chunnel train, or some of the other trains we were on in Europe, but not chopped liver either. We thoroughly enjoyed it, then strolled around the park. Getting on the Moyie was a first for me as well.

You will no doubt be astonished to learn I was out shooting the garden this morning. There are a tonne of shots to grace the blog for a while, and I haven't forgotten about the promised rose and peony shots. Plus more lilies, and bees! I had a couple of cooperative bees in a rose and there are about 3 dozen where the bees appear to be in focus at first glance. I'll have to look more carefully and decide which to edit.

Mr Slackerpants has been scheduling my workouts that last little while, but he's getting kicked to the curb PDQ. There's been lots of muscle tightness and soreness the last little while, and I was mortified to have to bail on a run with BRBE. For sure a run or a swim tomorrow. For sure. Must get in shape to hustle this weekend. I've got a paparazzi gig to prepare for.

I'm testing out a new desk arrangement to reduce the amount of time I sit while writing or editing photos. Check it out.

I don't think it will be permanent, but it is a workable alternative for the short term. The other thing I could do is get a different chair. I'll have to figure something out. At the rate I'm going, I'll be editing a lot of photos during the rest of the year. So far I'm signed up for 2 race weekends and a trip to the Yukon. Plus the 70 or so photos a day (outside of the Wildrose race) could well add up to 20K more photos in the remainder of this year. It's gonna be fun!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Your short reward after two big heavy posts

Your reward is Curtis snoozing, with his long guard hairs glistening in the sun. He doesn't care about the political situation.

Though from this expression, you might believe that he does care.

Or maybe he's just tired of the camera being in his face.

And a bee hard at it. It's always restful to watch them working so hard.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The subtle menace


Doesn't that look like a tooth in there? The jaws about to open? It could be some tendril of the kraken, oozing up from a primordial algae-laden soup, looking for something to eat.

And once upon a time, this.

Dragonflies used to scare the crap out of me. Really. I thought that great long tail was a sting, and if you annoyed the dragonfly it would drill that into you and extract your innards, and probably lay eggs for more dragonflies.

Now I think they're beautiful, and this guy perched on my leg for a few seconds, while I frantically tweaked camera settings and found the focus. We don't see dragonflies very often.

We are finally seeing more and more bees. Maybe they were just waiting till their favourite plants were in bloom. This guy looked me over, then dived into the rose. He rolled and scuffled around in there, sometimes almost entirely hidden in the folds of the petals, then burst out and flew off. I love trying to photograph the bees. I think we're up to 5 different species of bees coming to visit, but to be sure I'll have to get a book on bee identification.

In a bit of a followup to yesterday's political rant, I've been thinking about the menace of changing public opinion. When I was growing up, being (in no particular order) gay, communist, or atheist was about the worst possible thing. Everybody older than a certain age should be married, or want to be, and of course only to the opposite sex, and childless married people were to be pitied.

Times change, though there are some people who don't. Once not that long ago in public spa in an unnamed country, I heard such vitriol about gay people I was surprised. The nicest thing they said was that, well, no point in repeating such hate. The point is that they thought this was the natural and correct opinion, and were offended that there was some push back. There was no doubt they felt threatened.

This is one of the reasons I love Canada. No, it isn't a perfect place, but by and large Canadians accept each other for who we are, grudging though that acceptance might be at times. It's one of the safest places in the world to live, I think largely because of that acceptance. We don't have a melting pot here, and are mostly willing to give people a chance.

Every now and then something happens to spark a discussion about opinion on a particular topic. Without trying I recall, in no particular order, the Vietnamese boat people, the FLQ crisis, gay bathhouse raids in Toronto (and probably other places), women's liberation, the Legion banning turbans, capital punishment, gay rights, the Robert DziekaƄski incident, and responses to South African apartheid laws. All have challenged the assumptions the public have held at the time, and in some cases opinion changed radically.

Gay rights are probably the best example of a radical change. Whether that's a good thing or not probably depends on how old you are, your wealth, and your ethnic background. I'm from a fairly well to do WASP background, and I'm embarrassed by the opinions held by some of my contemporaries, and those a little older. Younger, too, in some cases.  I see the changes as good things. I am baffled that some people apparently sincerely believe that gay marriage is a threat to other marriages.

Women's lib is a good example of an incomplete change. Nearly everybody is for equal rights, in theory. In actual practice, however, we still have women getting paid less than men in the same job, fewer women in corporate boardrooms than men, and all sorts of subtle or not so subtle aggressions against women that I probably don't even know the quarter of. That's one of the reasons I stood and cheered when Trudeau said with that subtle shrug, "Because it's 2015".

Part of the success Trump has had is by stoking fears of the other. People that are different in some way. We can see plain as day where that is leading in the USA, and I will say loud and proud that I don't want to see that happening here.

But preventing it won't happen by accident. There are politicians here who probably have wet dreams thinking of Trump's path to power. Ordinary people need to stand up and laugh when these politicians say laughable things. We need to fact check them, and push back. Not just on the politicians, but your buddy and your embarrassing uncle. What tennis pro Andy Murray did is a perfect example, "male player."

Do it. Be the change. Screw the menace.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A summer doldrums rant

I used to think of myself as a guy plugged into the news. (Celebrities and sports are not news, they are the circus part of the Roman bread and circuses.) It was fun to try to predict what was going to happen next and why. I loved trying to figure out what the news wasn't telling us. If you like that game, by the way, assuming that politicians and corporate leaders are not telling the truth enormously increases your odds of accuracy.

There used to be a fine line on this. One expected a certain spin on the facts, but there were facts that were agreed on. The better speakers could put enough polish on the spin that it seemed to flow naturally from the facts, and it took a certain amount of work to separate out the spin.

Some speakers were (and much more rarely now, are) a pleasure to listen to, even if you disagree with them. I remember Stephen Lewis speaking at our high school once, and enjoyed watching our very right wing history teacher reduced to frothing incoherence. The next several days were filled with "refutations" of what Lewis had said, mainly because he didn't want us to get hooked by "communist propaganda."

Hearing Naheed Nenshi speak not just in complete sentences, but actual paragraphs was refreshing. Obama gets high marks here as well. Brian Mulroney had some good days, and some bad days (roll the dice) on the speaking front, but was completely fluently slippery in both official languages. On the other hand, Jean Chretien was said to be unable to speak either of Canada's official languages, and yet was Prime Minister for 10 years, and is practically the definition of a successful Canadian career politician.

It isn't spin anymore. Particularly in America these days, they are bald faced lies, and they are stupid, easily refuted lies, and nobody seems to care. I don't get it. Why anybody believes anything from Trump or the Republican Party is beyond me. That last election proved there are tens of millions of people that were stupid enough to believe any or all of the following. That a vain and greedy New York billionaire (he says) would take care of the little guy. That he would drain the swamp. Build the wall, and lock her up! (I could go on.)

It's taken all the fun out of following the news, and I don't do it as much any more. Plus the news websites annoy me no end with the auto-start video, but that's a different rant. Particularly since I re-retired, I've been trying not to follow the news. I want to spend my time enjoying myself, not driving up my blood pressure.

A brief digression. A few of my readers will remember my time in a historical re-creation group. Along the way I rose to a position of administrative prominence, and those particular readers will know the two reasons I was chosen. I was often put in the place of arbitrating disagreements or explaining/enforcing the rules. Sometimes that just mean reading the words to them slowly, and explaining what they meant, and how they related to other sections. Some of the people arguing with me on this front didn't understand I had helped write the then current version of the rules, and knew them inside out.

What surprised a lot of people was how I went about arbitrating disagreements. One of the first things was to sit down with each group and talk it over  with them. The end goal was to be able to state their concerns and their wants back to them, to their satisfaction. When they grumbled I was doing that with the people opposed to them, I pointed out that the other group often had exactly the same complaint.

Then I pushed them to be able to do the same thing, state the other group's concerns and positions. This got a lot of people riled up, and it took a while to explain to them that there was a difference between stating and understanding a position, and actually holding or agreeing with that position. Things went ever so much more smoothly after that.

Another thing that had people wondering is why I was on good terms with people who held positions I disagreed with, sometimes vehemently. The difference was competence. Those people had reasons for their opinion, and were behaving rationally with respect to achieving their goals, if perhaps skating along the edges of the intent of the rules. It didn't matter that they held the opinion strongly. As I told one of them, privately, it was a pleasure doing business with them.

What I see in so many politicians now is rank incompetence, disguised by blatant appeals to their base. They rile people up by saying stupid things like "Kahr got a $10.5 million reward for being a terrorist." It's so stupid, and easily refuted you just want to slap them, and anyone nodding along, but it doesn't do any good. That one bit of stupidity hides a lot of the other stupidity they are spouting. Like a 15 year old should be held responsible for war crimes, but a 15 year old kid has to be prevented from joining a gay straight alliance or outed to the parents for doing it, because they aren't old enough to know what they are doing. In what world does that make sense?

It's frustrating that many people can't connect the dots between 1 and 2 in the case of 15 years, let alone 1 to 5 in a complicated discussion of funding medical care. It seems that people don't want to go to the trouble of understanding it, and yet argue with the people that actually do understand it.

Various writers have published volumes about how we should govern ourselves. I agree with Churchill, saying "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." That leads us to the question of how do we make democracy better?

Sit down, pour a beverage. Here's some bullet points:

  • Make people pass a test to be able to vote. In the USA recently, voters were unable to recognize the words of one of their basic governing documents, one that is almost certainly one of the 10 best known documents in world history. The details of the test are unformed at this time, but perhaps it relates to the point further down about teaching.
  • Politicians have to have some skin in the game. They should not be allowed to give themselves raises or insulate themselves from the laws they pass. 
  • I vacillate on term limits. I firmly believe that almost all politicians are like diapers, and should be changed for the same reason. And yet, there are the occasional exceptions. Maybe it just takes longer for them, and we should encourage them to use their talents elsewhere.
  • I'd dearly love to see a bullshit commission that ranks what politicians say, and calls them to account. A more polite way of saying is fact checking, but with teeth. A prospective politician that lies too much or too blatantly should be removed from the election process, or maybe given a time out from the electoral campaign. Sort of like Twitter jail, only more life-like and with less internet access.
  • Teaching people how government actually works. It should be taught in grade school, and a pass should be a nearly perfect mark. In Canada, teachers should get a bonus if they can lead a class into, and out of a discussion about "the elephant, a Federal or Provincial responsibility?" (Google it.) More seriously, students should learn what in fact the Federal, Provincial, and Civic levels of government are responsible for and why, and what is involved in changing it. Sample final exam question, "Discuss native governance in Canada, with regard to the level of governance involved, and support your position.
  • The government reporting rather more transparently where our taxes go.
  • The Westminster first past the post system has got to go! There are several plausible varieties of proportional voting; none are perfect (it is mathematically impossible for a voting system to be perfect), and all are better than the current one. Pick one, teach people how it works, and move forward. Yes, I know it probably means more minority governments. That's a good thing. I'm quite prepared to discuss why.
  • I vacillate about fixed election terms. Fixed terms mean politicians start electioneering well before the fact. Yes, I know, most politicians start electioneering the moment they are declared the winner of the current election. A term whenever the Prime Minister chooses gives too much power to the governing party, enabling them to call a snap election anytime that is politically propitious, though the strategy is not without risks. 
  • The duration of the election should be fixed, however. Six weeks seems like a reasonable period to give the people hustling for a vote time to state why we should vote for them, and yet not so long as to make us sick of the whole process.

And now that you've got through that, enjoy a glass of this.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The hour of the day lilies

Just now there is an embarrassment of riches in the flower department. There is a rose shot and a peony shot on tap that take my breath away. But the day lilies have been blowing my socks off lately and that's what you'll get today. Bud, blooms, withered, and another bloom, just because.

Hold onto your socks as you scroll down.

The fly was an accident.

Sad to say, they wither quickly too, but I think they still make a nice photo.

And this one, with some scrunching down into wet grass, I managed to get back lit.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

You get a hike, and flowers, and Linda!

The hike was lovely. We got a start nice and early to avoid the heat of the day, and more importantly, get a spot in the parking lot at the trail head. When we came down several hours later the lot was full, the back up lot was full, and cars were parked a kilometre down the road.

 No kidding this is a popular hike! We saw more people before we got to the lower falls, than Sean and I had seen the whole time during the same hike in January.

During the nice weather we want to get out for some more hikes. With photos of course. Any recommendations? No scrambles! Linda isn't happy about those at all.

Some photos from the day for you.

Most of my panorama shots are short and wide, but here's the opposite. It would easily print out about 1.5 x 3 feet in high detail. There was a faint hint of a rainbow shimmering in and out, but I'm not convinced it showed up in the photo. Getting this was an exercise in trading elbows with people that hadn't shown up for kindergarten when they discussed taking turns. Most people are really good about waiting for people to get their shot, and the photographers are mostly really good about getting their shot and moving along.

There was a tree stump throne, and I couldn't resist having Linda pose.

I was enjoying looking out at the mist and cloud shrouded mountains. There's been shots where the air is so clear you could almost calibrate the sharpness of your lens, but not this day. It was fun trying replicate in camera the misty effect my eyes could see.

No, I don't know what these are.

Or these. But you've got to admire anything that can grow in a field of wet gravel.


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