Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The L words

For some reason during my swim today I was saying these words to myself, and wondering how anyone learns English that didn't grow up speaking it. In no particular order:

LEED (a Canadian environmental building standards certification.)
led (noun, a kind of light bulb)
led (verb, past tense of lead the verb)
lead (noun, the soft metal)
lead (verb, what you do for a group when you are the one who knows the way.)
lede (journalist term for the most important part of the story.)
Leyte (the Gulf)
lote (A small spiny shrub in Mexico, also called Texas Buckthorn.)
lode (As in the mother.)

These aren't even the most complicated sounds in English, just a bunch of really similar ones, most of which are in common use. It would completely screw up my vocabulary, but there are lots of days I wish we could revise the language so that one could reliably know how to pronounce a word seen in print, or the reverse, spell a word said to you. Don't get me started on aluminum and aluminium, or program and programme.

The damnyouautocorrect alternately enrage and pleases me. Often I know what word I want, and I spelled it right, but the impudent machine changes it. Sometimes it fixes things that I've deliberately typed wrong knowing it would fix it, but this is a slow learning process. Then there are the times my fingers know I've typed something wrong, and they hit the back button the right number of times, except that during that time the damnyouautocorrect has changed it and my back space just makes it worse. Then there are the words I can't spell, or even start them enough for it to suggest a word to me. Like (I hesitate here, knowing what I'm getting into) rhythm. I have a brutal time with that word, and try not to use it because it's so hard for me to spell. I normally have to look it up, and even using a computer it's easier for me to think of a different word, or even rewrite that paragraph.

One of the games that BRBE and I like to play sometimes is to dictate to the phone and send a text message without editing it. Just think about that for a few minutes. I don't think there is anyone else I'd do that with.

These trees have nothing to do with my word thoughts today. I've put them here out of whimsey. They were taken during a really windy morning walk a while ago. These first two trees are the last of a small bush that used to be on the SE corner of Anderson and 37th St. It's been sort of sad to see the trees and bush around here disappear as more houses go in and roads get wider. I think I'll go down to Fish Creek for a walk and hang out with some trees for a while.

The swim was ok, once I got there. But when I first woke up and looked outside, I wanted to go back to bed. Minus 26 C has a way of doing that to you. It was only my promise to feed some kitties while their servants are on vacation that got me up and out of the house. Once out, of course, it was easy to go to the pool. I even got to chat with some buddies there.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cats and ducks

Sounds sort of like a pub name, but it's not. It's just where I am with photos just at the moment, in whatever order blogger chooses to display them.

Curtis, of course, being the most photogenic mammal in the house, gets top billing. He might well be in the top 10 for photogenic mammals in all of Calgary, but there are some who would say I'm biased or something.

I was out for a walk in Fish Creek last week. Normally ducks, geese, whatever they are, don't do much for me. In fact, I didn't even notice them for this shot, I was after the patterns of mist coming off the water and blown by the wind.

I was captivated by Celina's paws in the sun. Just a few seconds before this her nose was in the shot as well. Then she was telling me what a rotten human I am, disturbing her sleep.

The Facebook vacation is going great! Librarians season 3 is fun and done, awaiting season 4. I got through both the Octopus and the Human Deus books. (See here if you are puzzled.) Both have got the brain cells churning which is good, but I ended up being a bit disappointed by both. For the first, the author seemed to be more interested in the evolution of the cephalopods rather than what they are now. The second is interesting, but holy doodle does he need an editor! That book is a quarter to a third too long for the points he's making. The short piece is that mankind needs to get it's shit together pretty quick.

Humanity has dealt with war, famine, and plague pretty well, now we need to deal with climate change and what we're going to do with all the people that will be put out of work in the coming decades, replaced by our robot overlords. I mean, computers that might not be self aware, or constitute artificial intelligence, but in fact are running things.

When the computer knows you better than you do, are the suggestions that it makes still suggestions, or are they orders, or something in between? How many books or discs that "Amazon suggests" have you bought? How much longer before you'll authorize it to spend a certain amount per month on such things, based on your likes and feedback and waiting list?

There used to be a saying, "have your people call my people and we'll do lunch." We are nearly to the point that we'll say, "have your calendar call my calendar and set up a date for lunch." Or maybe the calendars will set up the date anyways, because they see shared interests and goals. The hapless human will just see on their calendar for the day, "Lunch with Bill Smith at Melindas at 11:45, discuss the financing for season 5 of the X show.

When they get there, the greeter sees the reservation one of the calendars made, and takes them to the table. Only then do the two humans realize they hadn't actually planned the meeting, but realize they have lots to talk about. By then the calendars will have cross referenced their various working documents, and there's probably a link to a spreadsheet in the calendar. I can see where restaurants that specialize in working lunches for various industries will provide tables with big monitors and privacy.

Or, another example, traffic. It used to be that knowing how to get from one place to another was a prized skill. Paper maps were a thing. If you had to, you'd ask directions from the person you were visiting. It usually took a minute to get a common starting point, because directions are useless without a starting point. Everybody had their secret route to get across town during rush hour, knowing which roads went through in a useful way, and which didn't.

Calgary is bad that way, with many examples of roads with the same name not actually connected to each other. Maybe the best example here is 17 Ave in the south west and the south east, with the Stampede grounds, an LRT track, a major set of railroad tracks, a neighbourhood, several steep bluffs of unstable soil, and the Elbow River in-between the two sections. Getting from one to the other is not as easy as you'd might think. The grid system is totally broken there.

But many people now are beginning to rely on their phone and traffic app for directions, even if they know the way. Why? Traffic. Some idiot human is all too likely to demonstrate their incompetence at driving, and mess up the traffic for everyone else. Even if I know the way, I'll often check for traffic issues. The trick is what the computer tells drivers for the alternatives.

Let's say there are two equally good routes from A to B, which are also used for many other journeys. There might be a number of other routes not quite as good. Now, route 1 gets clogged for whatever reason. If the traffic app tells all the traffic to go to route 2, it will be clogged in short order. Some of the traffic should still go on route 1, and some of it should be routed onto the lesser routes 3, 4, and 5.

How does it do that? It lies to the drivers. If the app tells you there is a traffic jam on route 1, it might tell one driver to take route 2 because it's the shortest, and the next driver will be told route 3 is the shortest, and the following driver will be told route 4. It might only be a few minutes difference, but how likely are you to take the advice? How are you to ever know if you were sent down a slightly slower path in the name of overall traffic management?

The last thought is, what if you knew other people were getting shown the faster route?  What if the traffic app promised you priority routing for an in-app payment or a small monthly fee? Imagine sitting there fuming that the rich people get told which route really has less traffic. Maybe they're so rich they can pay for the app to direct people off the route they like. Of course, the non-app driver, who has a map in his head (it's likely to be a him) could take that route anyways. Now imagine not getting a choice, in that the car decides which route to take to your destination.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Macro Monday 21: A finger selfie, sort of

Another of my paperweights, this time a blue one, with a white line. There's a story that goes with it.

One of the glassblowing courses was at ACAD. The instructor was showing us how to make a ribbon of coloured glass. He wanted a ribbon of blue glass, a clear space, and the a narrower ribbon of white glass. He got a glob of glass on a punty, then spucked on a chunk of blue glass, some clear and some white. Then he had another student get another punty with clear glass on it, and joined them together. Then they stretched the blob of glass down the hallway at ACAD, about 50 m worth at least.

There was still lots of ribbon left. I was closest so he handed the punty to me and said, go make a paperweight with the rest. And here it is. This isn't the most dramatic of my paperweight macro photos, but there are some lovely blues. The problem is for most of them there is nothing in focus so I didn't do anything with them. The finger part comes in the first one, you can see the reflection of my fingers at the top of the bubble.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The last of that ramble

The scenic route to Red Deer has many charms, some less obvious than others.

Once again I am afflicted with shadows on snow, plus the comparison between the organic shapes of the trees and the artificial fenceposts and utility pole amused me.

I have zero idea what this is. Again, a nice comparison between the organic and artificial. It doesn't look sturdy enough to be an advertising sign.

For some reason at the time I was focussed on finding the space between the silos. That was really important in the moment.

This is the less well known cousin to Okotok's Big Rock, the West Hope Gravelly Bit. I was thinking that during some parts of the year, an aerial shot would have it and the surrounding field looking a little like one of those zen garden thingies, tended by devout monks. That the local farmer uses large mechanized equipment rather than a hand rake seems like a needless complication in the visualization.

More muffets! This family have partially buried themselves in the hope of a peaceful hibernation and avoiding predators. Some of their herd can be seen in the background, on the other side of the fence. I was wondering if these muffets were making a break for it to live free and wild, or were merely wanting to forage on the sweeter delicacies to be had on the other side of the fence. One has to watch muffets very carefully for a while to be sure of such things. For all their size, they are timid creatures, easily spooked.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Reading and movies stuff

So last you heard I was giving Facebook and Instagram a vacation till the end of Feb. You might imagine me locked away for my own good, typing fingers twitching feebly in social media withdrawal. Bah, I say!

This has been good. About the closest I came to looking at Facebook was during a slow grocery store line up. Instead, I looked at the other people and what was going on, as if I had to put it in my book as a scene. That passed the time really quickly. That one clerk really has the most amazing beard.

For a while Co-op had some ok self checkout machines. I got walked through the process and it was pretty good. Then they updated the machines a while ago, and the new ones are brutal. Won't be using them again. It was more fun hanging out in line and watching the clerk go through the items.

Not missing social media at all, aside from being mildly curious about what great stuff Jayne has shared, and what a few people are up to. Down at the bottom of this blog I'd given a list of stuff I'd be doing instead of social media. Loving it!

So. The Expanse.

We had borrowed season one from the library, and I reviewed it here. Since then I've bought the first three books, and we borrowed the second season. We were disappointed to find the first disc missing from the second season. Who does that? None the less, we carried on.

If you're a reader and a watcher, AND you like to avoid spoilers, you're going to have a tough time here. The seasons don't line up with the books. It's actually a pretty good example of why novels are not screen plays. There are some differences between the two, but it's the difference between presenting a scene visually, and writing description, and making things more dramatic for TV.

The first two books are essentially one big story, but you could stop there if you wanted. The end of the second season doesn't line up exactly with the end of the second book, but it's pretty close. Then third book opens it up dramatically. There was one sub-plot in there that I didn't care for, but that's just me. We haven't seen season 3 yet, I think it's just coming out this year.

I was delighted to find Chrisjen Avasarala even more potty mouthed in the books than in the show. I think the casting people for the show absolutely nailed it in casting Shohreh Aghdashloo. They did well in casting other roles, even if they couldn't find a 2 m tall 140 kilo woman for one of the roles. Still they did really well there, in finding someone 6 feet tall.

There are places where in the books you see what someone is thinking, and that adds interesting  complexity. (The beginning of chapter 42 in book 2!) Then again, in the show you see the spaceships and can hit pause to admire them all you like, but you might not particularly realize how big they are, or how big in relation to each other.

This is very much a used universe place. The ships and places are usually scruffy and beat up, except for the places the rich live. At some point someone is going to have to start cleaning up all the bodies and spaceship debris floating around the solar system. It would totally ruin your day to run into a chunk of anything at the speeds they are going.

It's a complicated show, and there's lots to keep track of. The Belter lingo is really hard to track, and sometimes you have to watch what their hands are doing, rather than their heads. Usually in most shows there's the good guys and the bad guys, and it's easy to tell which is which. There is a lot of grey in this, with people having good motivations to do bad things. Loving it!

We started season 3 of The Librarians last night.
This is the TV show, not the movie series called The Librarian. What had me confused for a while is that a few of the characters overlap. What you need to remember is that the TV series is infinitely better. In fact, I'd say bypass the movies entirely, unless you're in the mood for a cheese-fest. Though the Librarian-girl in the second movie (used in exactly the same way as 'Bond-girl') was actually the best part of the whole movie.

The Librarians is goofy fun to watch if you're in the right mood. It's all about preventing evil magic or bad guys/girls from taking over the world. There's a good bunch of "script-babble" to explain things, but who really cares. For sure a wine and snacks kind of show.

I'm working on some non-fiction as well. Home Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. It's really interesting, but really wordy. A good editor could have chopped about a quarter of it out, I think, maybe more. It's interesting and thought provoking. He asks what are we going to do? We, as in humanity. Going to do, as in, many of us no longer have to worry about war, famine, or plague. Yes, some of us do, but it's a small fraction of humanity, and it would be a smaller fraction yet if it weren't for those anti-vax idiots, and right wing bullies pushing military solutions into unsuitable places.

I'm about half way through it now, really enjoying it. Some of the bits may show up in blogs where I comment in more detail.

I just got Other Minds, the octopus, the sea, and the deep origins of consciousness, by Peter Godfrey-Smith. I have often though that octopus were a lot more intelligent that we give them credit for, and am happy to read more about these fascinating creatures. I've often though that one day we are going to prove that some of the other species we share this planet with are sapient, and that humanity's leaders are going to get dragged into a cross-species court and charged with speciecide.

But the photos, you ask? Where are the photos? Patience. Yes, I'm working on photos. There's a backlog, and I'm considering the next subject for Macro Monday. It's snowing out, so it's a good day to be downstairs working with bright lights.

You might think this one is from my photo ramble with Sean out in the scenic boonies between here and Red Deer, but you'd be wrong. I know for a fact at least several of my readers will have seen this in person on their commute to work, and all my readers of this particular blog have seen it. Look closer.

These three are from the snowy night shoot a couple weeks ago now. I hope people don't think there's too much tree in these. I've seen them all many times, of course, but with the snow and the light, they really seemed to stand out.

Yes, that home really has a green lightbulb happening. No idea why. I suppose it's much better than a red one.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Aside from the whiteout, it was good.

A writer buddy of mine is working on a mystery novel set just west of Calgary. She asked if I had any photos of specific areas in winter. She likes to get the descriptions accurate, and use them as promotional material. Yes, to one of the areas but not in winter, no to the other. Not like going out and taking photos is a hardship or anything.

Wednesday was the day. I packed snowshoes and traction aides, plus winter gear, and my camera gear. I knew the first place, a particular set of waterfalls. Traction aids! Hard pack snow and ice everywhere. Some of the walkways were closed off but people had been ignoring that. Some people even climbed over the rail to get closer to the falls. That's why they make bigger lenses.

The weather was cloudy and the light nothing special, but I thought of these as more description photos, and not art, so that was ok. Once the falls were done I headed for the next two places not all that far apart, which happen to be bridges.

Holy doodle! It's maybe 10 K at most from the waterfall to the first bridge I wanted. It went from calm and cloudy, to snowing a bit, to snowing a lot and fairly windy, to snowing really hard and quite windy, to driving along really carefully in near zero visibility with the wind rocking the car like a big truck had passed me. Maybe it did and I couldn't see it. About the time I was passing a telephone or power pole, the next one would be barely visible in the murk. I crawled along for a while, aborted the trip to the first bridge, and ended up in a parking lot in Bragg Creek to wait it out. This photo is after the snow calmed down a bit. When I first pulled in I couldn't see the trees behind the saloon and didn't want to open the car window.

It was a good time for lunch. Afterward the snow had mostly stopped so I was out to the second bridge, scouting locations. The watery ice was a beautiful blue green.

From there it was off to the next bridge, navigating carefully, and driving really carefully on a twisty turny road. By now the snow and wind had stopped and it was almost a nice day. I found the bridge no problem. As I told my buddy, whatever the map tells you, or you may have heard, this location sucks for getting rid of a body. There's an unless, of course, but we need not get into that here. It's not a good looking bridge or interesting in any way, unlike the pink one I found last year about this time. I took some documentary photos for my buddy and moved along.

You'd think that a remote road so close to the mountains would offer some first rate landscape scenery. I drove along for a while, carefully, looking for it, but no. Blah, blah, and blah. Rolling hills and lots of trees. Maybe in better light there are some possibilities. Maybe in the fall or summer when there is more green than the evergreen trees visible. Maybe. It won't be the first place I think of when looking for a nice dramatic sunrise landscape. Home again, still driving carefully.

After supper (lamb shank, if you must know) I headed out to wash the car. It needed it. At first the pressure washer didn't do anything to the snow. I had to work at it.

It turns out to be good timing. My buddy is about to write the more detailed description soon. I'm looking forward to a FaceTime discussion about it.

My own novel, you ask? That plotting the major events from all the novels on one timeline was a really good idea. I found a bunch of contradictions. It gave me an idea for getting a character from A to B that I had been stuck on. I'm thinking about where the story needs to go after the bit I've written so far, and what needs to go with what in each chunk.

Part of the trouble with the first novel (both chronologically and first written) is that it wasn't sure if it was a murder mystery, a tech thriller, science fiction, or a love story. A novel can be a combination, of course, and that makes it a bit more compelling. But to throw it all in the pot leaves the readers awfully confused. I had weeded out the science fiction part (leaving just a couple teasers), and dialled back on the tech thriller part, trying to find the balance between setting description to help the readers, and having the setting drive the plot. So lots of fun there.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Old and New. Newer?

The old gives way to the new, sometimes reluctantly. There is a saying, science advances one funeral at a time. History is full of old men (it's always old men) bleating about something being the only right and natural way and resisting change. A few years later they are proven wrong. It's happened again and again, with the Catholic Church holding the record for never being correct. Tell me again why we listen to doddering old men, especially religious ones?

Except me, I'm not doddering, yet, mostly, today at least, I hope.

I didn't quite put both feet on the brakes when I saw this first scene come up, but close. It certainly would have been a "stop the van!" moment. In front is a modern version of an old piece of farm equipment. At one time farming was a way of life for a great many people. The main advantage to the day in day out dawn to dusk back breaking work was that you got to eat, unless some nobility war trampled your crops or stole them. In 1920's Canada, farming was a third of all jobs. By 2008 it was less than 2% of all jobs. (Statscan source)

Right behind it is a more modern way of making a living. I'm pretty sure that's a two phase horizontal separator. The local land owner makes a bit of money leasing it to the oil and gas company, that company makes money extracting petroleum gas and sending it downstream. People make money maintaining the equipment. Some out in the field touching the equipment, some, like me, in the office manipulating the information about the equipment or the products inside it.

Except even the petroleum industry as we know it is dying. Sure, there will always be a use for petroleum products, mainly as feedstock for making useful products and some lubricants. But the idea of burning it to move a vehicle or for energy to stay warm is going to seem quaint very soon. Photovoltaic technology is moving by leaps and bounds.

Right now solar panels are an add on to an existing house. In some places they are being installed integral with the roof or walls, which lowers the cost. Eventually it will become the standard way of building a home. Right now the payback period is complicated math depending on a lot of assumptions. The killer is not the energy cost, it's all the other fees and service charges. You pay them no matter how much energy you generate yourself. That will have to change too.

A couple of functional oil wells. Lately a lot of these have been shut in because it isn't economic to run them, so it was nice to see these working. I was amused waiting for them to be in a photogenic posture.

Once upon a time, mail came to our homes. Not like in Victorian London, oh no. There, one could write to a friend in the morning inviting them to tea in the afternoon, and get a response in time to get your cook to make fresh treats. Here we got once a day delivery to hour homes. Even in the country, there was a mailbox out at the end of the lane, and someone drove around to deliver the mail, and set the little flag so you'd know if there was mail.

Now they are grouping the deliveries to these new mailboxes. Our home was converted to this system last year, and now we have to walk to get our mail. It's a pain in the behind. I knew we would get the lowest box, and we did. I have to get down on my hands and knees practically to see into our little mailbox, and scrabble like a squirrel after a nut to get the mail out. Most of it's junk, so I put it into the outgoing mail slot, and let Canada Post deal with it.

So look at the photo. There the box is, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. There is no little village or anything else behind me. The nearest building is several kilometres down the roads in any direction. Why there? The newer technology is email, and even newer is social media and texting. How long before such mailboxes are removed for lack of use? In the meantime, I think it emphasizes the emptiness of the space between it and the mountains.

Schools are important. Right from the earliest pioneering days space was set aside for schools. In the west, the surveyors for the Dominion Land Survey marked out space for schools. I'm not sure when this was last used as an actual school, but somebody visits it often enough to leave a well marked path in the fresh snow.

When kids walked or rode horses to school they couldn't go far, though if you believe such kids now, it was eleventymany miles uphill each way. Then school buses were invented and they started consolidating the schools, getting professional teachers rather than the smart local teenager.

As near as I can tell now, being the child free adult I am, schools seem mainly to be a cesspool of disease spreading agents, namely children. I don't think you could invent a better mechanism to breed new versions of flu and colds and other infections, and spread them around.

People with money are trying to starve public schools because they've figured out that educating the masses is a bad idea. Such people send their own kids to private schools, where they can control the curriculum and make sure their children meet the right kind of people. One of us, as the saying goes.

Right now schools seem to have it backwards. They have someone lecturing up front teaching concepts, trying to spread the message to a large number of children in a limited time. Then they send them home to work on imperfectly mastered material. No wonder kids hate school. I'd like to see on line teaching done for the basic concepts, and teachers used when the kids are having difficulty with a concept.

Change happens and I mostly welcome it. Maybe not the mailbox, but generally. I like seeing real new things come out. Real new, meaning something actually new, like the first iPhone and and the next few models. Now they aren't new, and the changes are annoying. Electric cars and self driving cars are new and I can't wait for them to be more widely adopted. I was just reading that they've figured out how to regenerate teeth in mice, and are working on rats. Can't wait for that to be available for people.

All these photos were taken on the Saturday photo ramble, and there are a few more coming.

Monday, February 12, 2018

For Janice

I was asked about my strong feelings about the Olympics. That was one of my very first rants, almost exactly 8 years ago. In that time I haven't seen much reason to change my mind. Yes, call me a curmudgeon if you feel that it's right. I envy the athletes their hard won abilities and skills, but this display of their prowess is obsolete, and should be consigned to the history bin.

Calgary's games are estimated to cost 4.6 Billion dollars. Money we don't have. The odds of making money on the games are trivial. It's not quite fair to play the 'what could we spend the money on if it wasn't on the Olympics?' game, when we probably wouldn't have the money anyways. None the less, it would be another substantial chunk of the Green LRT line, and is about what we are spending on the SW portion of the ring road. One might argue if either of those projects is absolutely the best value we could have had for big dollars, but we know they will be used daily by many people for at least the next several decades, maybe more.

The economists are arguing about what the return is for that money. Mostly I think they end up with whatever opinion the people who are paying them want. Not that they're corrupt, oh no! They just deem certain things to be externalities, and not relevant to the calculation, and so it gets 'overlooked'. They are happy to argue with anyone about it, and will do so until you give up.

To happier topics. Whenever I see local water, I think of my Nova Scotia buddies Janice and Janet. They are close to some of the loveliest beaches and seafront in all of Canada. And a killer good bakery, let's not forget that. But we have nice bakeries here too, and I'd be happy to take them on a tour.

But we don't have nice seafront. Not even close. We have some private lakes that have small private beaches. The closest Calgary comes to a public beach, other than Sikome pond, is some of the gravel bars on the Bow River, the Elbow, and Fish Creek. In the winter, today for example, they look like this.

This is bridge 15 in Fish Creek, at the very north east end of the park. In nice weather it would take me 45 minutes to ride my bike through the park to this bridge from my place. A little further along there are footprints out onto the that big white flat space, that's why I'm pretty sure it's a gravel bar. I don't think anyone would be stupid enough to walk on it if it were ice. I'd like to think that.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

So there we were, driving along

When all of a sudden...

Except I don't like that all of a sudden thing. For a while I was in a job where I had to read incident reports and plug them into a database. While I didn't have formal root cause analysis training, the essence of it is to keep asking why something happened, and why the events leading up to that happened, and you keep doing that at least 5 times. One investigator said the major clue for him was the word "suddenly". It meant that the poor sod involved had not been paying attention to the task at hand, and it got away from them. So then you have to think about why their attention was drifting.

It's almost never just one thing anymore. Our world is sufficiently complex that people have already built systems and mechanisms to cope with a thing going wrong. Think about all the safety interlocks on power tools, for example. In modern cars you can't put it in gear unless your foot is on the brake. There are many examples, but there is an old saying in the auto industry; "the most dangerous part is the nut behind the wheel." Great article here, btw.

So there we were, driving along, looking for nice landscapes. We found some, but we also found something else. It's been snowing a lot here lately, and one of the side effects is people demonstrating their incompetence at driving a motor vehicle. They had to close Deerfoot Trail a week ago because of the number of collision. A few days after that Stoney trail was closed because about 40 cars were involved in a pile up. We saw several cars sitting forlornly in the ditch, awaiting the tow truck. Some mangled, some not.

Now, keep in mind that we don't build roads slap-dash make it up as we go along. It's not like you drive along and there is a 90 degree curve cambered the wrong way. Modern roads are highly engineered, with standards that describe exactly how to build them to be safe. There are fleets of equipment and people to maintain the roads. Yes, weather happens. But it rarely happens "suddenly." Weather forecasting is remarkably accurate in the short term. It's not like winter driving conditions are a surprise to anyone in much of Canada. We know it could be slippery. The first thing that gets said on the news and weather after an announcement of snow, is to take your time and leave lots of space between you and the car in front.

And yet, what I said about the nut behind the wheel? Yeah. Don't get me started.

We were headed to Red Deer via a scenic route, and while the light wasn't the best, it was pretty darned good. I got a number of photos that I'm pleased with, in a white on white austere sort of way, but some nice mountainous landscapes as well, especially once I removed the power lines. I couldn't believe how much better they were with the lines gone. Here's a few of them, all shot quite closely together.

Here is Sean hard at work having discovered a photogenic little shed. I was mainly looking at the mountains, but visited the shed later.

The mountains are a bit of a tricky subject, trying to get nice light on them, and making them look their real size. All too often in photos they are a bumpy line across the middle of the photo.

I mentioned earlier I liked the play of the sun and shadows on snow.

Here's the shed. I was quite enchanted by this scene, with the texture in the snow, and how the wood is weathered, and the shadows.

In other news, I'm not missing Facebook at all. I read somewhere a stat that world wide, there was umpteen bazillion person-hours/days/weeks/whatever of useful human time wasted on Facebook on an hourly basis. Some of those interactions are perfectly nice, such as families and friends staying in touch. Some of them are like my buddy Jayne, who shares things I find interesting, and is likely to be the thing I miss most. There are several photo-related groups I enjoy.

There are cat videos, of course, which provide amusement and comic relief for brutal lives, but one need not get them through Facebook. Then it quickly slides into shite, advertising, trolls posting hateful and stupid crap, those damned stupid which bucket will fill first quizzes, copy and share if you x, and all sorts of other annoying stuff like the Olympics. That was the particular trigger for this vacation, and it also means I'm skipping my usual news sources; they are all polluted just now. Don't even get me started on the Facebook games, but I've trained my system to ignore the very mention of them. I can feel my blood pressure going up just writing about it. Enough.

My solution for whenever I feel tempted to check Facebook, is to think of what else I could be doing at any random moment at home. Those things include:

  • Getting back to work on my novels.
  • Capturing more photos.
  • Editing those photos.
  • Writing blog.
  • Reading the current book on the go, which happens to be Leviathan Awakes, by James S. A. Corry, which is the first book in The Expanse series. Loving it so far.
  • Going for a walk, or a run if the footing is good, or doing some core/stretching/spin workout.
  • Cat cuddling/combing/affection.
  • A nap. Naps are good. People don't do enough naps, and I might try to bring up the average.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

First time for a second try

Generally I don't have much trouble deciding how to crop my photos, if I do it at all. One reason to crop is that what you see in the viewfinder or on the camera LCD screen isn't quite what you see on the computer screen when editing the photo. There might be a tree branch poking in, or a part of a building you don't want, or you want to fix the proportions to better suit the photo. Sometimes on macro shots it's a way of zooming in even more, and I generally try not to do that.

The other thing I generally don't do is obsess about my work. I do what seems right to me at the time and move on. I don't fuss with the settings much because if the only place it will be seen is on the blog, you won't see the difference. If it's one of my better photos, one I might print, or where the settings matter, I'll work on those more.

Still, I'm trying to learn. The other day I put up some night shots taken during a short walk during a snowfall. I'm referring specifically to the second last photo, the one of the sidewalk. When two photographers I respect suggest that I had too much tree on the left, and that a tighter cropping would suit it better, I took another look at it.

They were right, though it took a bit of playing to find a crop I liked. I'm not convinced this on is perfect, with the amount of truck showing on the right, but it's balanced a bit with the truck on the left. Plus if I crop too much, the tree starts looking like a funny dividing line. Anyways, here's the revised photo.

Today was a lovely photo shoot with my buddy Sean, taking the scenic route to Red Deer for me to pick up wine kits. I've got about 2 dozen photos worth another look, and I hope to get a few nice ones out of it. At the very least I learned a new Lightroom trick that fixed one of the photos. (Power lines be gone!)

In other news, I've decided to take a break from social media. Which I suppose blogging is, but I'm not counting that. What I'm talking about is Facebook and Instagram. I'm not going to look at either for the rest of February. You'll still see my "Blogged" notices come up, but I can do them from Blogger, so I'm not counting that either. But I'm not going to notice likes, or comments or whatever else facebook might come up with. I'm going old school. Comments on the blog, email, or texts.

I'm going to try to do something useful with that time.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Susi's measurements: 122+-69-60

I was chatting with my buddy Susi last night, and while she knew it had been snowing here, wanted to know how much. She's an engineer, and wanted measurements. This is a lot of snow for Calgary, but at least it's a dry powdery snow that shovels easily, though it doesn't pile up so well. My neighbour's idiot shovelling service insists on piling it up on top, and lots of it comes down on my side, like where the level is in the second last photo.

This level is 1.22 m long.  This is beside the driveway on the lawn, and I'm pretty sure it's not jammed all the way down to the grass. It's been piled up a bit, but the major pile is further back. I can't reach that far.

This is down at the bottom of the driveway. I'd lose the level if I jammed it in at the top, if I could reach the top. This is just stuck into the overflow, and I tried to shoot the camera level. It's maybe 1.3 or 1.4 m deep. If the neighbourhood kids try to play king of the castle on top of it, I'll totally be that grumpy old geezer running out of the house shouting, "Hey you kids get off my pile of snow!"

This is on the front lawn, and has very little shovelled on. I try to push the snow a bit further along and cover up the south end of the side flowerbed. That's probably a metre deep.

Much of the lawn is a similar depth.

And it's still snowing hard. The driving will be major league crappy today. Retired life is wonderful on days like this. I'm sorry, does that sound like gloating?

This is what my morning has been, in between shovelling. Life is good, snow and all. Maybe I'll go photo snowshoeing a bit later.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mostly we stand at the top

Every photographer in Calgary knows these stairs.

Some of the iconic shots of the downtown skyline are to be had from up there, for some distance either way from the stairs. Any random evening you'll some of the photographer community up there, especially when the light is promising. Many of the runners in Calgary know these stairs too. They, and the sloped path up the hill are a fixture in the running community. There is a reason runners mutter "hills are speed work in disguise." Or maybe they're swearing.

One morning as I was shooting sunrise, I was watching some of the runners. Up, down, up, down. I think I've run the path, but I don't recall running the stairs. Then again, there are documented cases where my memory is faulty.

The most extreme example of running the stairs is better termed hopping. A female rugby team was training by hopping up the stairs. At each landing they'd switch legs. I was impressed. I'm breathing pretty hard at the top of the stairs, and that's taking my time.

I was downtown having coffee with a buddy, and delivering a hand made hat for another buddy, plus looking for photos. This was the first time I'd actually looked at the stairs and the hillside as a scene. One of the many suggestions for photographers is to be looking in the other direction from what is assumed to be the main attraction. I've often seen that with sunrises and sunsets. I took some shots of the buildings, but the light was nothing special.

Here's two shots that haven't made it into the blog for whatever reason. Linda thinks the first is a lemon meringue pie, and has no idea about the second. You?

I'm not sure how I overlooked this one. Lately I've been liking the shadows on snow thing. No shortage of those.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A sunrise to lure you in.

It's still winter in Calgary. Really winter. Cold, snow, the whole works. At least we get nice sunrises. This is from a few days ago. I'm told that today's was nice too, but I was still in the pool.

Now that you're here, lured in, (Linda is laughing!) here's winter at night. We've been getting lots of snow. I was all set to shovel, when I was struck by the pattern of tracks in the snow, and a bit of house light reflecting off the snow.

This is the tail end of lots more snow. I shovelled first, as it was tapering, then still liked the snow against the streetlights. Yes, I'm standing in the middle of the road for this shot. I was thinking of trying to get the brake lights as the cars go around the curve, but the first several drivers didn't cooperate, and I wasn't inclined to stand there all night. The snow is light and fine, and swirls like dust.

Maybe it's the green lighting around the tennis courts and ice rink, but this shot makes me think of Christmas.

This shot amazes me. I stood there a moment in real life, liking the darkness of the shadows and the light from the streetlight, and the nice colour of the sky. I took the shot figuring lets see if the camera captures the magic of the sidewalk. Call me surprised. Maybe you had to be there, but this totally draws me in. You?

One of the roses, struggling to keep branches above the snow. I think it's completely buried now.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Macro Monday 20: a study in amber

Today is another paperweight, this time with amber swirls and lots of air bubbles in it.

This is really a mass of bubbles, but it sort of looks like some primordial creature leaping up from the ooze.

Re-entry in amber! I've got this lighted up with a red laser pointer.

 Here's what it looks like in real life during the shoot. Much of the time I had the camera lens right up against the glass. There is quite a bit of distance between the surface of the clear glass, and the swirl of amber glass. The camera doesn't really see the clear glass and so about 4 x mag without extension tubes was about the most I could get.


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