Friday, October 19, 2018

New Improved Book Club

Once upon a time I belonged to a book club. Two, actually, but I'm talking about the first one. It was mostly the 4 of us, with a few extras from time to time. It went for years, mostly monthly. Someone would suggest a book, and most of us would read it. All kinds of books. Some quick and easy. Some really hard, The Name of the Rose, and Gravities Rainbow, for example. Nobody got through those two. One of our group takes a run at The Name of the Rose every bunch of years and has never made it through.

The joy of it is that it wasn't just a book club. It was a life club. We talked about everything under the sun, which often but not always included the nominal book of the month. Movies, restaurants, stage plays, who was working where and with whom, what schooling was happening, kids activities, it could be anything. It was delightful. All good things come to an end, and my involvement petered out for reasons I need not go into here, and are not relevant to the long time members.

Two serendipitous things happened at the same time, all unknowing. I had lunch with one of the people from that book club, and suggested starting it up again. One of the other permanent members had lunch with a sometimes member, and they suggested starting it up again.

The difference is that we don't choose a book, and everyone read it. We bring the book we are currently reading, or read just recently, and we talk about the various books. It's entirely likely that someone else has already read the book, or has it on their list, or wants to add it to their list.

Here are the momentous choices for the inaugural meeting.


When the Flood Falls is by my buddy Jayne Barnard. I was involved to the extent of taking some photos for it and the sequel. Linda loves it, and two of the book club made a note of it because they want to read it. (Available at Owl's Nest books and other fine bookstores including Chapters. Ask me nice and I can arrange for you to meet up with Jayne for an autograph, but don't expect it to happen in a rush. She's a busy author.)

The other is the sequel to the first book about the 100 year old man that climbed out a window and disappeared. That was delightful, and I laughed all the way through. This one, the first half was good, but not delightful. The second half didn't work out for me at all. Maybe another time.

We borrowed the book one person had been reading, some short essays by Umberto Eco. I'm looking forward to reading those.

I'm not sure what I'll read next for the book club. I've worked my way through a couple of photography books, one useful and one pretentious, but they wouldn't be of much interest to the others. I'll think of something.

Part of the problem with reading other authors when you're working on your own books is that you might have your own writing voice altered. I've seen it happen with me, so I've dialed back on reading over the last few years. I've mostly been editing lately, so maybe that will change.

But.

A buddy reminded me about NaNoWriMo, coming up soon. Hmmm. If I disappear in November, that might be why.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Around the reservoir with photos

The day started well. I put coffee making and cat feeding on hold to run out and capture this. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stitch it into a panorama, but it all worked out. The original is 11215 x 3408 px, or roughly 3.3 wide by one high. It would print out 3 feet wide in exquisite detail, and 5 or 6 feet wide in lots of detail for this. You might want to look at this on a desktop screen and embiggen it.


It was such a lovely day out that I thought it would be nice to take my hybrid bike out for a ride, especially since the MK&A team has made it such a sweet ride it's a shame not to be out on it. Every time I take one of these shots I think of my buddy Amy that posed her bike as she did a bunch of the Mattamy Greenway loop. Maybe next summer I'll get all the way around it.


After dithering a bit I decided to go up and around the reservoir, checking out construction and whatever else is going on. This used to be a tough ride for me, once upon a time. The first few times left me knackered. Then I got more fit. Today was just over 25 K in 1:45, nice and easy, stopping a bunch of times for photos.

Southland drive used to stop at Oaksomething, then it turned into a bike path that met up with the 37th st bike path. The space was reserved to extend Southland, but for at least 40 years it has been essentially an extension of the back yards for the people that lived on either side of it. That was then. Now it's a dust bowl construction zone.

The bike path is going underneath Southland. The surveyor that was putting some stakes in the ground along the proposed path wasn't sure when the path would be moved underneath and open to people, but thought it might be before winter. This is from the north, looking south. A 4 lane road will go over the path, and is to the right of this photo.


The remainder of the shots in Blogger order are mostly me infatuated with the calm water in the Reservoir, and some of the interesting clouds.







The bike path heading south, just north of Anderson. It will be nice once the grass grows in. Just above the hill on the right is a freeway under construction.

The weather for another week is supposed to be nice, so I might even be able to get out on the bike again! Where shall I go next time?



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Red and yellow, or the last dahlia

This dahlia barely squeaked in under the weather. We had hoped it would bloom enough to tell what colour it was, so it could be labelled for next year. I don't think any bees found it though. They were all tucked away in their hives when these were taken late September. We're amazed it did this well.




We only had a few of these yellow and red ones, which is a pity. They are so cheerful and happy looking, and the bees love them in particular, given a chance. I think it's supposed to be yellow and orange, maybe the red came along from the tough growing conditions.

My buddy Sean mentioned the difficulties of yellow the other day. He suggested a little less exposure and a little more contrast on the pansy. I tried that. It makes a slight difference to the yellow, but neither captures the cheerful yellow particularly well. The adjustments make a difference to the dark centre that I don't like quite as much. The photo shows tiny white spots that are invisible to the naked eye, and dark appeared almost black with solid edges. The photo shows it shading from black to yellow, if you look carefully.

Pparticular shades of yellow and red are difficult. I've talked about the red peony being difficult. It's a very dark rich red, almost a Burgundy, and the camera and software want to turn it purple or something well on the way to it. Some of the dahlia yellows don't come out as nice as I'd like. I'm not sure if that's lighting or what. Maybe next year on a calm day I'll set up the camera on a tripod and try a bunch of different settings, just to see if I can see a difference.

Linda is busy today rinsing the dirt off the dahlia bulbs she wants to over-winter. I should go take some photos of the bulbs. Gotta go...




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Insurance, a rant

One of my buddies was lamenting the cost of pet health care insurance. The amounts are outrageous, and after mentally writing a longish response, I did a short one and promised a blog.

The short response is that insurance is a scam. The companies selling it are blood sucking leeches, and the people selling it are either vampires themselves, or are so desperate for personal income that they'll debase themselves by frightening people into buying their products.

Let's begin at the beginning. What is insurance for? It is a bet, hedging against the loss of something. Normally, if you lose something and want to replace it, you buy another one. However, some things you can't buy another one easily. Houses fit into that category for most people. The odds of your house burning down might be small, but the consequence is catastrophic. Insurance shares the risk for when a loss is catastrophic.

Life insurance is another one, along with parts of life. Or your body, whichever comes first. I don't know how they decided how much an arm is worth and how to sell a premium for it, but I did say everyone involved with the industry is a moral vulture.

In some cases you have no choice. If you want to mortgage your house, the bank makes you buy the insurance that protects them. (Note the pronouns there.) Much the same with leased cars (and don't get me started there). The government makes you provide proof of insurance before you can register a vehicle because of the damage you can cause.

But when did they start flogging insurance for cheap consumer goods? That's what extended warranties are, in case you missed it. I remember buying a CD player once, and the sales person put more effort into trying to sell me the extended warranty than in selling the product itself. In almost every case, the extended warranty is a bad deal.

And life insurance. Unless you have children, or a disabled spouse who cannot support themselves, you shouldn't have life insurance. Once your kids are out of the nest, drop the insurance. It is to replace your income if something happens to you. Once the kids can work, they're on their own. Same with spouse.

And pet insurance! Which is what got me started. Say it with me, pets are not children. We love them, we care for them, but they have short lives. They will die. The insurance vampires prey on your feelings for them, and scare up the costs of vet bills. Dental work starts at $1000 and goes up!!! They premium up for the worst, and put you through the wringer on denying your claim, so you have to pay anyways. If you can't afford to pay the vet bills as they come up, then you can't afford pets, or you need to have the emotional balls to say goodbye to your furry friend.

One vet, who we liked a lot, tried to sell us accupuncture for our cat with kidney disease. Ummm, no. Kidney disease was not treatable then, and I don't think it is now. The best you can do is keep them comfortable, and when the time comes, you do that last favour for a loved friend.

Think about the nature of a bet, and the flow of information. Who is accepting the bet, and how much do they know compared to you? Think about life insurance. They don't know how long any individual will live, or what will kill them, but in aggregate, they know that information exactly. They probably even know more about your lab tests than you do. After all, you listen to your doctor saying everything is fine. The insurance industry employ people to pore over those lab results, looking for that preexisting condition, or markers that affect life. They can price the premium and the payouts so they make money, because that's what the industry does. They don't care about you or your children or pets, except as levers to sell you insurance.

It's a profit driven venture, and they have to make money. They know if they sell the premiums, and pay out the expected amounts, and deny your claims, they make money. It's only when there is a huge outlier event, like the Calgary floods in 2013 that they have a bad year. Even then there is a sweet little deal for them called re-insurance.

Same with pet insurance. They have far more information than you about the costs of pet healthcare. Of course they structure the premium so they make money. Figure out your yearly pet premium, over the life of the pet. You will almost certainly spend less than that if you take care of your pet, and restrain the spendthrift impulses of your vet.

Think about what is so valuable in your life that you couldn't go get another one. Insure that. Otherwise, accept the risks of living. Things can be replaced or do without. Even photos can be duplicated for storage off-site. Insurance helps you replace a house, a car. The rest you suck up.

Priceless heirlooms are another thing. That's a tough one. Consider your beloved grandmother's wedding dress that you and your mom wore, and you hope to have your daughter wear. In one sense it's priceless, and no amount of insurance coverage lets you replace that loss. So do you insure it? I wouldn't. I'd spend that insurance premium to take care of it.

And pets again. This is going to sound cruel. Some people put that sign on the front door, listing the people that live there, and their pets, so the firefighters know who to rescue. Sorry, I disagree. I would never ask a firefighter to risk their life for a pet. I love my cats dearly, but that is nothing compared to the love of the other people in that fire fighter's life. If you can't afford the potential vet bill, don't get a pet.

Life is a risk. We live in the safest human society ever, and shit happens. Take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones, take care of your stuff. Here's a test about your stuff. Can you sit down and make a list of all the stuff in your house? I certainly can't, and I've put some effort into listing books and discs. We've lived here 30+ years, and there's a lot of stuff.

There are no guarantees. Life is a risk. Who do you want to trust, you to make the risk decisions that are right for you and your family? Or a vulture insurance company that only sees you as a source of premiums.

Your reward for wading through the rant. Some dahlias in happier times.


Monday, October 15, 2018

There's still colour in the garden

Even after all the snow and several nights of really cold weather, there's still a couple pansy's hanging in there.

The roses are done for the year, but I love the subtle things that happen with the colour and texture of the blooms after a frost.



These two buds never got a chance to bloom. I wonder if they'll hang in as long as these two bud-dies? You aren't likely to see as many shots of these as I did of the last pair. Those ones I could shoot from the driveway. These ones are entirely likely to get completely buried, and even if not, I'd need to put on snowshoes.


I've never really liked any of my rose hip shots, but this one makes me happy.





Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fall. Construction musings of a bloggy nature

Fall hasn't totally vanished. This is another gully into Fish Creek park, a smaller one than a few weeks ago. On this ramble I didn't actually go down into the park. There was some heavy duty wind blowing in and I didn't want to be out in whatever might come along with it. I drove down this way yesterday and those leaves aren't there anymore.


Yes, since you ask, the construction is still happening. This used to be a view of an open field, some bush, and then the mountains.

I was trying to do up a map to explain to some buddies just how much construction is happening in our part of town. That got frustrating. Just like driving anywhere is these days. We cannot get out of the neighbourhood without going through construction. Almost every major major intersection between the reservoir and Fish Creek is under construction.

Between the sad skies and the construction, this last week I was feeling very blah about going out. Just blah, period. Having a really, really crappy run didn't help.

I'm feeling much better now that the sun is out. I'm thinking about some photo rambles in the earlier parts of the day next week, but no idea where yet.

During the recent walk I got talking to the guy that lives right beside some of the storm water construction. And by right beside, I mean if he stands just about anywhere on his front lawn, he could spit into a very deep pit. This deep.


He's a hobby photographer too, and I'll have to make some time to get to know him better. His problem is what do do with the photos once taken. For his kids and g-kids, he does up books with the photos of them. But it's all the others that have him baffled. I've mused about this off and on.

Many of them end up on this blog. The best of them end up on my photoblog. The problem is that unless my readers pay attention, they don't know a new post has been published. They are unaware what excitement they are missing until they see the "Blogged" on my Facebook page.

Except I'm pissed at Facebook. Yes the recent hacking is part of it. But even with Social Fixer, my reading experience is peppered with more and more spam. For a while I was on a roll, marking them offensive, but I don't think that really makes any difference. What I've been taking to doing lately is going to my friends lists and seeing which have posted recently, and going through their feed individually. However I'm not sure I trust if Facebook really is showing all their posts.

JB is probably the most prolific poster on my wall via sharing and her own posts. I frequently comment. I have her marked as See First, and I still don't see everything she posts unless I visit her wall. (Is it even still called a wall? I don't know these things.) Who knows what I'm missing from people that don't post often?

And by Facebook, I mean Instagram too. I no longer see the point of the platform for me. It mangles the photos I upload, the commenting interface sucks, looking at nice photos on the phone is a waste of time, and their computer interface sucks slough water, and as near as I can tell, not one single person has clicked through from Instagram to my blog. So I'm going to mull it over for a bit, and probably shut down the Instagram account. It can join Twitter to languish in the dark. I don't miss Twitter even slightly. If there's something I'm missing from the Instagram experience feel free to enlighten me. Don't even think about saying Pinterest to me.

But lots of my readers come via Facebook, and because the platform is so big it's convenient. Yet I know people take Facebook sabbaticals. I have, short ones. Are there alternatives to Facebook?

One of my thoughts was to get some prints of the very nicest photos, except there are lots I like and there is a limited amount of wall space in the house. We've thought about installing a TV to put a random selection of photos on display, but we haven't totally worked that out yet.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Fall foreboding

When I took this shot, I saw the brilliant fall colours of a late September morning. I liked the lines and the composition. When I edited it, I noticed the clouds. After weeks of Vancouver weather, all I see now when I look at it, is the clouds. It's all we've been getting, essentially. I think it was foreshadowing or something. Ominous.


Supposedly it's going to be sunny and warm for the next week. I'll believe it when I see it. I'll be out doing some photo rambles, I think, though I don't know where or when. Let me know if you want to come along with your own camera.


Friday, October 12, 2018

The latest warning is wind

The snow is mostly gone, and we were thinking we were going to have a nice day. Then we saw the wind warning. Gusts up to 90 KPH. Whoosh!

This, of course, is old hat to my buddy that lives in Crowsnest Pass. The joke goes, how do you know this house you're thinking of buying will stand up to the wind? The answer, it's here, isn't it?

Bada boom!

Ok, so I shouldn't quit my day job. I tried to do it today, looking over my shoulders at the clouds getting closer every moment. I ended up walking about 4.5 K, but bailed on a detour down to bridge 1. I figured I was going to get rain/hail/snow/sleet or some combination of that pelted into my face and headed home after a few nice shots.

Yes, the construction is still happening. No, I didn't get blown away. Yes, I managed to BBQ some steak after I got back, though just in time. I was heading out to put the cover back on, and couldn't find it at first. The wind had blown it behind the lodge.

Tomorrow is so so, then it's looking nice for a while. At least that's what is forecast, but I suspect the weather forecasters are still breaking us into winter mode. They fear that us seeing another week of Vancouver weather will drive us into despondency and madness, perhaps even bad enough to vote for the UCP. We can't have that.

Here's the back yard Clematis. It's perhaps the most optimistic of our plants, sending out blooms even during the cool miserable weather. This is from Sept 24.





Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Repsol/Talisman/Lindsay Park shout out

And yes, I sometimes think of it as Lindsay Park, since that's what it was called when I started swimming there many years ago.

My regular readers know I'm in there several times a week, mostly swimming. The hot tub too, of course. (I'm sad when it's out of service, and there's some days I've nearly cried.) I sometimes run on the track when it's crappy or icy outside. A quick look will show it to be level or essentially so, though my various devices have some interesting numbers for elevation changes. Much more rarely I'm also onto a treadmill, though I don't much like them. I don't run well enough to be comfortable on a treadmill. One of my buddies is (rightfully) on my case about doing more core (Hi KF!) work in the gym, but well, you know. I see lots of people pushing weights, and I don't know how they do it without losing their minds with boredom. Different strokes, I guess.

For a while I worked at Talisman the oil and gas company. It made for some careful conversations sometimes to keep the office job distinct from the facility.

I know some of the staff well enough to chat with them along the way, but lately I've been looking at all the other staff that makes a place like this work. The lifeguards and trainers are perhaps the most obvious people. I feel for the lifeguards some days. Most of the swimmers aren't just good, they are excellent. The odds of someone needing to be hauled out of the pool are very small.

The people that get overlooked the most are the ones that have the most important jobs, keeping the place clean, and all the mechanical equipment working properly. Hundreds of people with their outside shoes and their sweaty bodies come through the facility every day, so keeping it clean is a big task. As for getting the bodies clean before they go in the pool, my modest suggestion is for Repsol to look at modifying those high pressure car washing machines and install it at the doorway from the locker room to the pool.

I've been downstairs during an Open Doors YYC tour, and it's a maze of boilers, heaters, tanks, filters, pumps, valves and the instrumentation that makes it all work. The facility opened September 1983, 35 years ago, so maintenance is an essential ongoing activity, even if it sometimes restricts the availability of the facilities. Some of the maintenance, like the recent roof work or floor tile replacement is probably contracted out.

There's the admin staff at the front desk and behind the scenes making sure all the paperwork happens. There are various managers and organizers for all the different activities that take place, working out of offices tucked into nooks and crannies. For years I've seen the guy working in the parking lot and he always has a smile and a wave. There are people working there as coaches and serving food that don't work for the facility, but they are a big part of making it a functional space. (I sure hope I haven't missed anyone.)

But it's more than just a functional space. It's a nice place to be. I like the vibe, and the sounds of people swimming makes me happy. If I lived closer I would probably drop in and use the one lounge as a writing space.

I love seeing all the different people there, working towards all their different goals. Some of the people are the very best in the world at their activities and it's amazing to watch them. Some are training to get to that level and they're just as amazing. Some are training to win their age group. Most are working their fitness plan or playing with buddies, trying to stay active and healthy. Some are recovering from an injury or a medical adventure, and are working to expand their limits. They might barely be able to get around the track once without needing to rest, but they are working just as hard as the Olympic contenders.

There's times I've had the whole 50 m pool to myself, and times all the water is a gong show of activity. I would imagine trying to schedule all the clubs while leaving space for the general public gets challenging sometimes, especially if there's a problem with one of the pools. Things change, and the staff are always helpful about dealing with it.

So a small bouquet of roses to the staff at Repsol! These are not some delicate dainty pretty roses from a green house. These are badass, tough roses that survived the big dump of snow last week.





Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The last rich plant green of the year, plus a snippet

I'm already pining for plant green. Yes, evergreen green is green all the time, and really green against the snow, but it's not the same. I'm talking leaf green from late September.


Still some green, along with the harbinger of things to come.

Struggling with blogger writer's block here. I had so many thoughts during my swim today, and now they're gone. The swim was so-so. My left arm is still killing me from the two metric tons the other day so it was essentially one arm drill. My massage therapist makes sad noises as she pummels me oh so good.

So here's a novel snippet, a reworking of some of the earliest writing. At the moment this is the opening for the whole kit and kaboodle that is busy getting massaged into shape. A reminder, this is copyright to Keith Cartmell.


Dwen put one booted foot on the air cart, and stretched to try to make her hips click. “Morning Gail, your turn on safety man duty today? Boring, but it beats being in there shoveling.”

Gail had been peering into the digester manway, but turned around and leaned back against the flange. “Morning! That’s for sure. How was your days off?”

“Busy. Hoping for a quiet day here. How much more is there to go?” She ducked down and peered through the manway into the digester.

“We’re well into the sump now, but it’s tough going. I’m hoping Bryan can finish today, and then I won’t have to go in tomorrow to dig. It’s heavy and packs really hard.”

“At least you didn’t have to climb in and out of the sump.”

“No. But neither does Bryan. He just has to lift the pail out. Peter took a bunch of full pails up to headworks, and he’ll be back soon with more empties for Bryan.”

“Days like this I’m glad I’m an operator.”

“Twelve hour shifts, alternating sets of days and nights,” Gail commented with a grimace. “I don’t know how you do that.”

“Some days I don’t either, especially when I’m not sleeping well. Anyways, I should be about it. Let me know if you want any effluent back-flushing action and I’ll do that for you. Tell Bryan I said hi.” Dwen started strolling across the pump house to the stairs.

“Sure thing. See you later.” Gail turned to look back in the digester again. “Hey! Bryan, you ok?” she yelled.

Bryan paused in his digging, and gave her a thumbs up. This wouldn’t be so bad, he thought, if it wasn’t for having to wear the air mask. It was sliding around his sweaty face, and he pushed it back into place.

Then he realized he needed to move the light again. The digester was dim, even with all 6 man ways and the equipment hatch open. The black sandy silt sucked up all the light. He positioned an empty pail on a level spot and started to dig again. He had reached the bottom of the sump in one corner, but there wasn’t enough cleared to work efficiently. The euchre game during coffee break couldn't come soon enough.

A few shovelfuls later something white clung to the side of the shovel and was left poking out of the silt. Even with gloves on he didn't want to touch it without hosing it off first. For good measure he hosed around the sump, then moved the light right into the sump with him. He squatted carefully to take a closer look. It was long and slender with a knob on the end. It came out easily enough, and he gave the rest of it a quick swoosh with the hose before holding it up to the light.

It's a bone. I'm holding a bone in my hand. What do I do now?



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What, exactly, is the problem

I just read an article by Conrad Wolfram about math. The actual blog is here, and an interview about the article is here. Both are interesting and worth reading, but are not necessary before reading the rest of my blog.

No, I'm not going to make you do math. But allow me to begin at the beginning, as Asimov so famously said in his essays.

I hated arithmetic and math in school. There was an unpleasant incident with some adults shouting arithmetic at me, and wondering why I didn't get that 5+7=12. And another in grade 5 or so where the math teacher started with "Let x = blah" and proceeded with word problems like if Bill had some apples and Mary had twice as many, and the total was whatever, how many did Bill have. My response of "if Bill can count, ask him," did not go over well.

Once we got to geometry, that was more fun, mainly because I'd read about non-Euclidean geometry. My high school teachers hated marking my math because I mostly got the concept, but I was shite at doing the actual computations. At one point, briefly, I understood simple calculus and binary math. Business math (present value, annuities, and such) was fun, and one of the better classes I've ever taken. Statistical math (lies, damned lies, and statistics) was fun too.

Calculators became available while I was in grade school, and there was a huge debate if they should be allowed in schools. It was a short debate in our school. No. Such things were the work of the devil, and we had to learn our read'ng, rit'n, and 'rithmetic, the way it had always been done. One of my math classes had a giant slide rule mounted over the blackboard, and our class got taught how to use it, one of the last times that class was given. (A slide rule is, is, oh heck, ask Mrs Google yourself.)

That concept has gradually changed over the years, but not to hear some people talk about it. It's like they think any education beyond the most basic levels is bad. It was good enough for them and their parents, it should be good enough for our children.

Except, not. The world has changed. If the question is, how much seed to I have to buy to sow a crop on my land, the answer is not difficult to work out. Now the questions are, what are the drivers of climate change, which are the biggest, how will the changes affect our world, and what can we do about it. Not quite so simple.

Math isn't just a computational tool. It's a way of describing a problem in clear and unambiguous language, when asking Bill is not an option. Once done correctly we can (usually) program a computer to calculate the answer, though some things are unknowable (the last digit of pi), or will take longer than the life of the universe on our current computers (factoring huge numbers to see if they are prime). Sometimes just stating the problem clearly tells us we don't need to know the answer, because we don't have the problem right yet.

Getting back to our world, I want to see math taught better. Part of the reason idiots like Trump and Ford get elected, and why that loathsome reptile Kenney thinks he can get elected, is they play fast and loose with the facts. For example, politicians love to push the crime button. They make it sound like the (immigrant) barbarians are at the gate and we're all going to be killed in our beds unless we let them turn the full invasive surveillance powers of the state upon us.

Except it isn't true, as even a brief reading of the crime stats would show you. A bit of background in statistics would help people understand the difference between an anecdote (your neighbour being robbed because they left the garage door open) and data (there are x many robberies per year in Calgary where the thieves gained entry through an open door, and measured over decades the trend line is down.)

Math has a terrible rep. It's more than just manipulating numbers. It's more about manipulating concepts and bringing rigour to debate. It's easy for politicians to barf out word salad that makes no sense and serves only to incense their base. I think that's one of the reasons why populist politicians want to cut education and muzzle scientists; without facts and data being brought to the debate, it's easier for them to get the power and goodies they crave.

It's much harder for them to talk details using the numbers. For example. Politicians simultaneously say that immigrants are uneducated criminals and terrorists that are here to steal your job and do criminal terrorist stuff. They don't say it quite so bluntly, of course. It's buried in word salad and dog whistles to their target group.

Except there are more people killed by cows than terrorists. As an aside, these refugees are fleeing a situation that most of us in Canada cannot comprehend. They didn't create it, it was imposed on them, and leads them to make horrific choices like putting their child on a boat that might or might not make it to (relative) safety, while they have to stay behind. Should they escape such a situation, why ever would they want to destabilize their new home? Like any other parent, they want a safe place to raise their children.

And yes, many refugees are well educated, but find it difficult to gain the equivalent accreditation here. Thats why you see people that were engineers or doctors in their home country driving cabs here. (I could say much more on this topic, but that's a whole other blog.)

Another example: How much exactly is the differential between WTI crude, and the WCS price over time, and how does that affect the economics of building a pipeline? What exactly are the risks of a pipeline rupture given various assumptions about maintenance? How do we balance the economics of delivering oil to salt water for export, and the risk of a rupture,  to the impact of a rupture on the people that live nearby? How does all that compare to the economics of shipping oil by rail, or by ship?

If we're going to talk about the economics of oil (for good or bad) in a changing economy, that is all about the numbers and the assumptions made. They can be clearly stated; it just doesn't seem to be in anyone's interest to do so.

Damage to a pristine ecosystem and a way of life is nearly impossible to quantify, but we can account for that by emphasizing the consequence part of the risk equation. Plus we should put some skin in the game for the oil executives and regulators involved, on the scale of if there's a leak, you all go to jail till it's cleaned up.

Another local example. City council is discussing lowering the speed limit in residential neighbourhoods from 50 kph to 30 kph. The reduction in impact forces is clear and straightforward. However, as always, it's not so simple. Exactly how the person is struck would appear to have a dramatic effect on the outcome. Getting struck by some big-ass pickup would surely give a different impact that being struck by a Smart car. What else happens? Do they bounce off a curb, or strike a street sign? How old is the person and does that matter? Does it matter if they are running, walking, or riding a bicycle? How does being tall and skinny vs short and fat change things? Does the slower speed give the driver more time to swerve, and does the sideways component of the impact forces change the outcome? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, how big a problem is it, in the sense of how many people are struck by cars in residential areas outside of existing school and playground zones? I say it's an interesting proposal, but there's a lot more data I want to see. (There is a lot of scholarly data here, if you're interested.)

They say it will add little time to car journeys. What is the actual aggregate increase in time? For me, each one way trip to get to the left turn at Safeway currently takes about 2 minutes, the lowered speed limit would increase that to about 3 minutes. See! The proponents say. One minute more against the life of a kid. Not so fast. Until we see the answer to the question above, we don't know how many kids. And that is a minute per one way trip, another for the return, times as many trips as you take in a period of time. Times as many people as take trips. Make some assumption that those minutes take up some amount of time that could be put to tasks that increase the GDP, thus lowering Canadian trade productivity. Is it worth it? Nobody knows. Rather than yell at one another, let's do the math and find out.

People talk about enforcement; what is the point of it when existing rules are not enforced? Note please, these are the people that bitch the loudest when they get a photo radar ticket. Let's assume for a moment that there is some level of speed enforcement done for school zones. How much would it cost to extend that to every residential area? What is the resulting ticket revenue? Is it cost effective?

I see people speed through construction zones, where the cost of a mistake is killing a construction worker, or writing off your car because you caught a tire on a sharp shoulder, leaving you to roll into a 3 foot deep hole where they're building a road bed. There are days I think the solution is to buy a lot of portable photo radar cameras, train a small army of people to operate them properly, give them some motor scooters to get around, and blanket the many (MANY!) construction zones, plus playground and school zones. Eventually the financial impact would set in, and people would modify their behaviours. I'd like to see that math on that too.

Lastly, if there is a problem, is the speed limit the best way to solve it? It assumes that all people are equally likely to collide with a pedestrian, and I'm not sure at all that's true. I see lots of traffic going by on our street, and the faster traffic is overwhelmingly by young drivers on the way to and returning from the little mall with a 7-11 and a liquor store. Three guesses which of those they are going into, and the first two don't count.

Instead of tinkering with the speed limit, what if we dramatically increase the consequences of a collision? What if striking a pedestrian was an automatic loss of your license for a year, and a fine of 10 percent of your gross income from all sources, plus paying all the pedestrian's medical related bills that are not covered by Alberta Health Care or their own medical benefits. Would that change your behaviour? Is there a way to model that to see what would happen?

Those sorts of things are why I want to see kids getting past the computational aspects of math. We have calculators and computers for that. I want to see them learn to ask the right questions, and learn to set it up so that they can be confident the answer applies to the question they asked.

As a reward for chewing through a wall of text, you get a pair of dahlias and a flower tower from Sept 24. This is after lots of cool rainy weather, so it's a little worse for wear, but still hanging in there.










Monday, October 8, 2018

The nerve centre, and more patio news

Here is Linda, hard at it, decorating a little birdhouse Christmas ornament for Lougheed house. This is one place we are so different. I wouldn't have volunteered to do this in the first place. If forced, I'd have decorated as quickly and efficiently as possible, just to check it off my list and hand it back as done. I wouldn't have enjoyed it.

Linda spent hours doing it, and appeared to enjoy every minute. She dug out various decorating supplies she has stashed away. She compared different options against each other. She thought about what would look nice, and what she liked. There may well have been other considerations I know nothing of, being a mere men who is unaware of the finer points of crafting. Or maybe just generally unaware. I've been accused of that.



There is no photo of the decorated ornament, but she is doing another one. I'll try to get a photo of it.

This is a versatile table. I've done some of my macro shots on it, and there is often several camera lenses or other camera equipment on it. It's a place where paperwork gets sorted out. Other projects happen there too. Plus meals, of course, if we aren't eating outside. I just put the patio umbrella away for the winter, so there isn't going to be much of that.

The retirement gig continues to be busy. We get up when we get up, most days, have coffee and breakfast, and then get on with whatever is going on. Next thing we know it's supper time, and soon after, time for bed. In all of September we set the alarm clock once.

I've been starting to dig into the various projects I've got noted on my phone. Sunday alone I checked off two things, both related to business tax paperwork. I think Monday I'll pick one of the major projects and start chewing away on that. As a hint, one needs to keep financial records for 7 years. Just today I saw an envelop that says it contains tax records for 2001, and I'm pretty sure that down in the basement I've got records going back to the 80's. I can see that when the shredder truck came to the community clean up, I missed a bet. Next year for sure.

Linda's project just lately has been planting the peonies she got earlier this year when one of the major greenhouses closed down. The front patio turns out to be their new home. It's a lovely day (Sunday) out there, and she's hard at it. Here's what remains of the dahlias, drying in the sun in prep for winter hibernation.


This is why we said don't shortcut.

But now you can. Here's the patio now. I'm not sure we'll keep the stacked up patio stones as the little retaining wall, but it will do for over the winter. I think adding some more 4x4 in a nice curve will look good. So many more plants to photo in the spring!


It's snowing again. Sigh. I was water running with my buddy Katie this morning, and she was crushed by that news. She'd been hoping for another sunny day to get out on her bike again. The swim was good, considering I was only really using my right arm. All the shovelling has done in my left arm and shoulder for now.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The toughest Dahlia, and patio news

Look at her! After a foot of snow, and zub-zero temperatures, this dahlia is drooping, but still petal perfect. Wow. Even blowing up in Lightroom it still looks great.


The purple ones seem to be the toughest.

The others have definitely packed it in for the year, but there's still a beauty in the crumpled and dying petals.







These were all in pots in the front patio. Linda has been musing about where to put some peonies she got a good deal on, and had been waiting for a nice fall day to plant them. Peonies do better planted in the fall, or so it is said.

Well, the problem is that we haven't had a fall, essentially. We went from summer, to crappy Vancouver weather, and then a big dump of winter. Yesterday was nice, and most of the snow has melted from the patio. Linda shovelled it off, emptied out the pots, laying out the dahlias to let the bulbs/tubers/roots/whatever dry off in the hopes of preserving them over the winter to be planted in spring. Then she dug out the old concrete patio stones, separated the grass and thyme that was growing between them, humped a bunch of dirt/compost from the BIG bag she scored a deal on earlier this year, and planted peonies, and other stuff.

Here's before, and an in progress look from this morning. It was too dark to take a shot last night when she finished.



Today is supposed to be nice. Tomorrow who knows? So she's going to be going driving herself along like a rented mule trying to get this all finished up to get through winter, plus do the winter decorations she likes.

Note to anyone that comes to visit us. Do not take the short cut through the patio if you park on the side street. I should probably put up some warning tape or something.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A new curtain wall for the house

The other day I wrote about some of the side effects of a metal roof. Sometimes the sliding isn't quite so abrupt. This slowly developed over several days, Curtis complaining more and more because his view was being blocked. Eventually the inevitable happened.





In the mean time, Linda has unwrapped all the plants and is working in the front patio area to get a bunch of peonies and stuff planted. It's a nice day for it, sunny and about 10 C, even though the first task was to clear the snow.

The big surprise was that a couple of dahlia blossoms were still there, not yet shrivelled up. One of them is a beautiful purple. They've now been uprooted and are drying out in the sun. They will be carefully stored over the winter, and I think the plan is to try starting them inside early spring and transplanting them outside when the weather is nice enough.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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