Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day something

I suppose I could look at our calendar to find out which day of isolation it is. But I don't really care which day it is. Life goes on. Photo editing. Reading. Working on novels. Watching Big Bang Theory in the evenings lately, except last night was a video chat with the community association executive.  Overall it's generally been pretty much like my regular retired life. Not bored yet. Nobody here that I know of is wishing for a retroactive option B. Well, maybe the cats.

The couple cm of snow yesterday and last night was a bit of a downer. That's one of the reasons we went away, hoping to avoid the whole darn thing. But then, I guess if you totally want to avoid snow in Calgary, you'd have to live somewhere else. New Zealand is nice this time of year.

The following the news thing has been getting a bit out of hand. We all knew the numbers of infected people would explode, and it has done so. All too soon, the number of people dying will explode too. The headlines are filling up with the deaths of known people, as if they are more important than all the other people who are dying of COVID-19, and all the other causes of death that are not taking a vacation.

Which brings to mind the TV series, Dead Like Me. If you don't know it, a small but plucky group of reapers try to take the souls of people about to die. It turns out they are the unusual deaths division, and are pretty busy, given that human stupidity never rests. They get told who to reap via a sticky note with initial and last name, place, and time. In one episode while awaiting their scheduled death, they are watching a group of old guys playing Bocce Ball and looking bored. The leader the of the reaper groups says, "plague division, I hope they never get busy, because we get even busier." Or something like that. It's been a while since I watched it. You know of some of the people in it, like "My name is Inigo Montoya...", Dr Fraiser and Sgt Walter  from Stargate, and Dr Will from Sanctuary. IMDB is my friend.

And groceries just arrived! Yay our neighbour Jeff!

The editing goes apace, though I can only go so long. I found yesterday I'd made a mistake and it got applied to a bunch of photos. Going back and fixing it was just as difficult as doing it, provided it's done very carefully. I'm just starting to work on March 13 (cave day) and have 5 more days after that.  That's 442 photos to look at. Maybe I'll go wild with some of the cave photos, and set the editing sliders into new and unknown positions, just to see what happens.

As a further informational thing, the photos not blogged in 3 months folder now has 971 photos in it. So having a choice of photos for the blog is not a problem. Deciding which, and why, is a different problem.

1. Taieri Mouth beach. I didn't have to wait for people to clear out of my shot. I like having an island to break up the horizon line. This is the first one where the sand dunes got interesting, and started trying to include them in the driftwood shots. Editing sand is trickier than it sounds.

2. And another for you. Brighton Beach.

3. You tell me, rock or driftwood?

4. Sea lion butt. Susi has already seen it.

5. This is why I want a model to roam beaches with. Without her the shot is so boring I probably wouldn't have taken it. But she was the only other person on the beach beside me and Linda, and watched carefully as she wandered along. When she started scrambling along the rocks I held my breath. I couldn't have asked her to pose more nicely, and yet we didn't even wave at one another in passing. Thank you anonymous lady!

6. I finished this the other day. If you like honest British mysteries with a bit of a twisted sense of humour, you'll like this. You know those movies where the actors are making it clear they know they are in a movie and enjoying themselves? Yeah, that's what this book is.

Driftwood of the Day
The rusty metal found in some old wood can be interesting.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

How's it going, eh?

Many of you are going through the biggest changes of your life right now, and it probably feels a bit weird. There's the social distancing thing. You might be still be going into your work place, and I salute you. You might be working from home, juggling kids and pets, and in a video that nearly made me pee myself, wishing you had taken option B.

Maybe you aren't working at all because your workplace has been shut down by decree, or by lack of patrons. Maybe you are some combination of retired, in poor health anyways, in post travel isolation (me, if you haven't been paying attention, and it's day 8, so far so good and thanks for asking.) enjoying/hating a vacation from school, or something else entirely.

Some of you have talked about getting through your various to-do lists. Some of the lists sound very impressive. So far, the most ambitious thing we have done is started watching Big Bang Theory. There's 12 seasons, but the episodes are short. A disc is a couple hours. Our wonderful massage therapist swapped us those in turn for lending her Coupling. Her spouse is working out of town and she was looking for something to watch. She's not working now, but has a complicated life to manage, and I don't know that she's started Coupling. Anyway's, we're one disc in and enjoying it.

The editing is still full speed ahead. Yesterday was Pohara beach, Porters Rock beach, and Parapara beach. All are up on Golden Bay, right near the top of the South Island. I'd marked 178 to edit, and ended up doing 171. Sometimes you see things on the big screen that didn't show up on a filthy laptop screen. There's been a few photos along the way that I wish I had a do over; maybe the focus wasn't quite right, or the composition wasn't what I thought it would be.

When not editing, I've started The Starless Sea by Morgenstern. She is the author of The Night Circus, one of the best books I've ever read. I'm enjoying it so far, but I can see why some people don't like it.

The cat cuddles continue.

By the rules of self isolation I can go out for some fresh air, and have done so a few times, but after weeks of beaches and sunshine and near tropical greenery and blooming flowers, let's just say Calgary within walking distance of my house isn't exactly at it's most photogenic. So here's more trip photogenic.

1. Linda walking onto Wharariki beach.

2. The serendipity shot of the day, with the same file number as the tree below it.

3. These trees are everywhere in NZ. I don't know what they are called, of course. But they do look nice against the sky, and the light off them is often quite wonderful, even if it doesn't come across so well in my photos.

4. Today's sand pattern. Pity the rainbow doesn't show up as well on camera as it did for my eyes.

5. This is an example of a perfectly nice beach scene. It's what it actually looked like, I'm not digitally removing people. But this shot needs a person and a somewhat different composition. In fact, with the right model draped artistically over the tree, I think there were some amazing shots to be had. There are days I aspire to be a world famous beach photographer, roaming the world's beaches with a trusty but beautiful model in tow, looking for nice photos.

6. The beaches aren't always completely empty. This one had a couple guys trying to get ready for wake boarding or something. So that made 4 people on a beach maybe 1.5 K long. Almost crowded.

7. Lastly, my working field for editing yesterday. You have to come back often to see which 171 of these I edited.

Driftwood of the Day

Friday, March 27, 2020

What's it like?

Trying to keep your devices charged in a foreign country?

First of all you have to start when at home, reading the fine print on the back of all your electrical devices. You know, that rough surface where you have to hold it in the light just so, in the sweet spot of your glasses so you can squint and make out the almost microscopic bumps. Some of them say 110-220 V input. Others say only 110V. Many other countries around the world run on 220 V. Plugging a 110 V appliance into 220V via an adapter is not a good idea.

There are two thingies (hi Julie) you can get. One is an adapter, the other is a converter. The first has prongs that let you plug your device charger into one side, and the other side goes into the wall. Power flows to your device and life is good. The converter also connects your device to the wall, but reduces the power from 220V to 110. Adapters are cheaper than regulators.

As it happens all our electronics can be plugged into 220V except for our tooth brushes. The first trip we took our manual toothbrushes, and for this last trip, Linda found battery powered tooth brushes. Note they come with cheap batteries. The first barely lasted a week, and the regular ones from the supermarket were still going strong 3 weeks later.

So just at the bottom of the photo is a cylindrical adapter, and the yellow extension cord plugs in. The other end of the cord has my phone, Linda's phone, and my laptop plugged in. Periodically I plug in the camera battery charger. The orange hard drive gets plugged into the laptop when I'm working on photos. Putting some thought into managing the cord tangle so you don't trip over anything is a good idea. This is from the swanky Dunedin loft.

The trick is to find an accessible plug in your accommodation which explains the extension cord. One place last year had hardly any, but all the places this year were pretty good. It does make for a bit of a rat's nest at time, but needs must and all.

Other electronic stuff to take care of is the SIM card from your phone. Linda's phone has two slots, so after a bit of playing around we got it to work. Mine has only one, so when the Vodafone SIM went in, mine went into the case that carries my camera SD cards. You really don't want to lose your SIM card.

Of them all, keeping my iPhone charged was the most critical. That USB cord followed me to the car, and the phone was usually plugged in. The battery is getting flakey. Let me just say that some car USB ports are not optimally placed and leave it there. We relied on Siri giving us directions, and mostly it worked out pretty well. There was another instance of Siri not knowing about a road off a roundabout, and she seemed to have a fixation on a particular way to get in and out of a particular New World supermarket parking lot that made no sense at all.

Some cars were painless to plug in and get directions with the music silenced. Others, I don't know why, but it was impossible to get the directions through the car speakers without also getting music. We reverted to leaving the phone unplugged to get directions when necessary, but during the "continue straight for 28 Km" portions we plugged it back in. As an aside, that particular 28 Km stretch took about 30 minutes, and wasn't even particularly hairy by NZ standards.

So how's the editing going, you ask. Chugging along. My edited folder has 544 photos from the trip that are not yet blogged. I've been working through the photo library methodically, day by day. I'm up to March 5, and it has 41 photos to look at. I've temporarily skipped past the two batches of flowers, and the night shoot. Then there's keywording and reviewing star ratings so I can find things again. Some of the beach and driftwood shots are candidates for printing, or display to a wider audience on my photoblog.

I still have no idea how I'm going to deal with all these edited photos. For now I'm thinking the photos will revert to a mix of current photos, vacation photos where it seems like fun, sand patterns when I find them, and the ongoing driftwood feature. For a while I was thinking about doing a pareidolia blog, but then I realized that a great many of the driftwood chunks had eyes, or faces, or animal shapes. There were faces in some of the rock formations. So they'll show up along the way, and you can tell me if you see a face or an animal or not.

Here's a straight up animal, a Takahe. You might remember a close up of the feathers; they look like fabric.

The view from Nugget Point lighthouse, looking SW. Next stop, Antarctica.

To keep you on your toes, here's a rock pattern instead of a sand pattern

Driftwood of the Day

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Still here, still editing, trying not to nightmare

In photo editing date terms I'm up to March 3. No idea where in terms of numbers of photos edited and how many to go. Many, and many. So far I have not covered my eyes and winced at a laptop editing job, though I will take another run at the galaxy and aurora shot.

This morning is Day 5 of self quarantine. Both of us are still alive and feeling fine. Linda has been reading her way through the books that arrived while we were gone. I think she's itching to get out into the garden, but there's still a foot of snow in the back yard, and some in the front. The ground will be frozen for a while. She is planning.

There's been a flurry of phone calls and emails about various appointments. Some have been re-booked for future dates, but that's all very tentative. Nobody knows. I know lots of people who are in our boat, mainly because we've recently returned from trips. I know only one person who may have caught it, and their household is taking dramatic precautions. The suspect isn't quite bricked into a room, but not far off it.

I've been thinking about this. I hope it puts paid to the people who think they are all alone in the world, thinking that people should take responsibility only for themselves, and they shouldn't be subjected to society's rules. That 'the economy' is more important than people, and it should be more efficient, with fewer regulations. You see that a lot in right-wing conservative thinking. You not getting ill depends a lot on how others around you behave.

But who are we relying on now? Grocery store staff. Medical staff. Cleaners. Did we care how well they did their jobs before all this? Not really. Do we care now? Damn right! It could literally be life or death.

Are we going to care afterwards? The ones still alive, I mean. I hope so. These people, especially the medical people are going to take a big mortality hit. They are most closely exposed, and are running short of critical supplies they need to protect themselves and care for their patients.

Why? Because there is no slack in the system. There is no redundancy. No resilience. Costs and staff have been cut again and again in the name of finding efficiencies. We're at the point where our medical system can barely cope with the normal day to day patient load. You know, victims of driver incompetence and other acts of stupidity, heart attacks, strokes, people with chronic conditions that need ongoing care, all in an aging population.

Now comes a huge demand for medical services. This should not be a surprise to anyone, and isn't to many of the medical people. It's only a surprise to the politicians and bean counters that run things. As cautionary examples, there's been recent virus outbreaks, SARS, H1N1, and MERS, and there are others, like the flu that goes around every year. However, that one is always the last one and we don't have to worry about it anymore. Right? Right?

As it turns out, not so much. When COVID-19 starts to overwhelm the system, as it is starting to do here, it isn't just those patients that will die. It's all the other people that need medical attention that won't get it. Imagine if you will, someone who has a heart attack or a stroke. Your mom, for example. Eminently survivable, but seconds count. An ambulance is called, and you wait. They're tied up transporting other patients, and waiting while they get admitted. (This has been happening for a while now, and it's only going to get worse.) You give up and take your mom to the hospital yourself, only to find a scene of barely organized chaos. There are people everywhere awaiting medical attention. The staff are overwhelmed. Your mom dies waiting. You get COVID-19 as you struggle to get the help your mom needs, but you don't think about that. You give it to the rest of your family when you go home. It goes on and on.

The medical staff start dwindling because they're sick. Here's a nightmare choice for you as you lie there needing medical attention. Your choice is nothing, or a doctor/nurse who is known to have been exposed to COVID-19, or equipment known to have been last used on a COVID-19 patient and might have been thoroughly cleaned. It sounds like a bad movie, doesn't it? How can it happen here, in an advanced G7 economy? Answer, the same way it's already happening in Italy, an advanced G7 economy.

Go to an older cemetery and look at how many headstones are dated 1918 and 1919. Look at the birthdates. It isn't all war dead. It's ordinary people, infected in a world where there was essentially no air travel. In Canada, almost as many died from Spanish Flu as died in the war itself. Out of a total population of about 8 million, about 120,000 died from flu or directly in the war. It's why the federal government created the Department of Health, so it wouldn't happen again.

Yet it's happening again. We won't know for a while what the death toll is. So far, the numbers I've seen indicate that of all the people who are identified as having the disease (and we don't know all that do) about 1% die. Though we don't know that number to any degree of certainty either. Did an elderly patient die of COVID-19, or an underlying existing condition? Would they have lived without the new infection?

You may think that 1% constitutes an acceptable risk, mainly because it's old, ill people. (Would you eat 100 candies if one of them would kill you?) That more die of the ordinary flu, or in demonstrations of driving incompetence, or other existing causes, and therefore it's nothing to worry about. That makes you a human vulture in my books. But there's a multiplier effect, as I mentioned earlier. When the doctors start dying, then we start dying of preventable causes, because there is no prevention anymore. Plus, think about this; that one percent, it could be your parents or grandparents. It could be you. Maybe the death rate is much higher than 1%. It's early days yet. Spanish Flu had a second and third waves.

Trying not to be morbid here. Wishing more people would take this seriously. I mean really, how hard can it be to go home? Except, I get it. Many people are one paycheque from going under. They have to work. Why do we permit a world like that to happen? A world where big corporations with exorbitantly paid staff know only how to ask for bailouts and tax cuts, and how to cut staff?

Some don't really believe that asymptomatic thing, and carry on like normal, not realizing they are the reborn Typhoid Mary. Anti-vaxxers, I'm looking at you.

To happier topics.

From St Claire/St Kilda beach. They've got lifeguarding organized there. (As a side note, I could easily have worked in a metaphor relating to COVID-19 here, but I'm leaving that as an exercise for the reader.) As near as I could see, there wasn't a lot of swimming done on NZ beaches. A few people wading to various depth. Lots of surfers. I waded a bunch, then got a sliver on my foot and left my shoes on for much of the trip. Some of the beaches had lots of shells or stones, and often I was walking along the high tide line where there's lots of debris.

Linda and Susi during our walk in Neck Point park.

Sand Pattern
Does it matter which beach? Curves!

Driftwood of the Day

And in the serendipity department from 2017.

Monday, March 23, 2020

OK, where was I again?

We are home, and part way through day 2 of self-isolation. So far so good. The flight home was all good till Vancouver, where things went a bit sideways, as in an unplanned side trip to Victoria. But Westjet was really good about it given the circumstances, and it all worked out to getting home a few hours later than planned. We heard some stranding horror stories in the airports. The cats are happy to see us and determined to catch up on lap time.

I took about 4500 photos in New Zealand. I edited about 400 along the way on the laptop, but might need to revisit some of those. There were another 1450 or so marked to be edited when home. This process has begun. You may safely assume the Driftwood of the Day feature will continue. There are some photos of patterns in the sand that I find interesting, and will periodically publish them. The reflections of the clouds in beach water ranged from 'well that didn't work' to 'holy doodle!' There are many photos of Linda strolling various beaches and smelling the flowers. A few there we were and this is what we saw photos. There are several sequences of star shots from that night just outside of Invercargill that may get made into a movie. Then again, I've said that before about the star shots from Yukon.

To be honest I have no idea how all these are going to show up on the blog or my Facebook page. Making it up as I go along is a really good possibility. Maybe in my 2 week isolation I'll figure out how to do a book of New Zealand photos. Would you be interested in such a thing?

The main point of the trip was to beach our brains out, and that we did. We did many. More than one a day on average. I'm still finishing a summary of the beach visits. Not sure if I want to include a photo for each or what.

First photo of the actual New Zealand trip, taken from the swanky departure lounge in Vancouver airport as the sun set. It was a fabulous peaceful setting, a calm before a busy month; normal air travel as it was before the virus changed everything.

In fact, I'm wondering if air travel will ever be the same again. There are studies showing that jet engine exhaust has an outsized impact on climate change. The airlines may be forced into buying offsetting carbon credits, making travel more expensive.

Maybe that's a good thing. There are some airport sights I wish I could un-see, given that airline travel got to be not much more expensive than bus fare, and some passengers reflect that. Back in the day, when airline travel was rare and glamorous, people dressed up to travel by air. Men wore suits, and women wore a nice dress. There was leg room, steel cutlery, china plates in first class, and actual food. To be fair, there was also smoking. Remember that? People actually smoking tobacco in public like it was acceptable.

We don't need airplanes to spread a pandemic, witness the 1918 Spanish Flu, or the Black Death during the 1300s shows that. Yet jet aircraft can spread it much faster and farther. I'd like to believe that the various authorities will start taking this more seriously now.

Then there's cruise ships, which are practically designed to be breeding grounds for disease. I used to think I'd like to go on a cruise, but not now. Not ever. There's too many incidents of sick ships. Even after Covid-19 was a confirmed thing, they were still letting cruise ships sail with known cases on board. Frankly, the whole cruise industry can go down in flames and I wouldn't miss it.

In the serendipity department, here's the same photo file number from 20160929.

Sand Pattern of the random time period, since I haven't decided how often they'll show up.

Driftwood of the Day
Starting in Nanaimo Neck Point park.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

We have not paid the seagull tax

Two big beach days, totaling 5 beaches and many, many Km walked. I am so far behind on editing it's not funny. So here's just a few, to keep the beach fans off my case.

To keep you up with the story, we're still here. Calling Air NZ in a bit to check in and make sure they haven't given away our confirmed seats, or done something that hasn't been announced. Because I worry about these things, that's why.

The birds here are organized. We were having a picnic on Hahei beach yesterday, and a seagull marched up to within a meter of us, and demanded we share. We got given major seagull eye. But we stayed strong. There was some bad gull language. We didn't budge. As we got up, it muscled right in looking for crumbs.

These are from today. Piha beach, and Karekare beach. Both amazing to walk. Not so much driftwood, though. But amazing. I'd love to live nearby and stroll more often. Watching the surfing. The reflections.

Linda is in the first two, and the last shot. I'm pretty sure.

Driftwood of the Day

Monday, March 16, 2020

News, Whatipu, and Cornwallis

The news first of all. We are still planning to come home on the 21st, and that looks like a thing. The airline says don't call us until your flight is within 48 hours, or you need immediate repatriation to your home country. We don't need that. We are in Auckland, trying to be aware of social distance, and spending time on the beach. Several beaches.

If things get shut down and we are stranded, this Airbnb has space for us for several days, and then they're expecting the next guests (who are Canadians from North Vancouver) to cancel, and we can stay here. Our kitties will continue to be taken care of. I don't mean to sound flippant, and I know many people are in a tough spot right now,  but for us, things are good. If we're going to be stranded, there are far worse places.

We had a quiet day yesterday. Today we were back on the beach, Whatipu then Cornwallis. Whatipu is a lovely walking beach. It goes on forever, is really wide, like a Km wide for quite a while. The only downside is there isn't much driftwood, though there were a few interesting pieces.

Cornwallis isn't quite as nice for walking but still ok. There were really cool roots.

1. Linda scoping out Whatipu.

2. Driftwood of the Day. A dragon emerging.

 3. The lighthouse.

4. A big view of a big beach.

5. The obligatory artsy photo.

6. The promised roots.

7. A stone head.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A short beach and a cautionary example

Here we are, Blogger rearranging the photos again.

1. Linda looking over Kina Beach. Very gravelly so she hung out and listened to the gentle waves while I checked for driftwood. Only a few pieces.

2. This is what happens when you don't pay attention on Kiwi roads. This driver was extremely lucky, in that it's a long way down. I'm not sure how they got the police tape draped across the vehicle.

3. The tiny little blue dot at the end of the white line is our car.

4. Driftwood of the Day.

5. There were some driftwood sculptures on Motueka spit. They don't show up here as well as I thought they would.

6. We were going to book a cruise, then found out this was the boat. Not!

And now for something completely different

Even though it was a beautiful day out, we chose to go underground for part of it. Ngarua Cave, to be precise. I normally thought of caves as being low places, but this one is at the top of Takaka Hill, of which I've spoken of before. It's pretty big, in that most of the time head room was of no concern to me. It's about 300 m long from entry to exit, which was the original entrance. This only happens as a guided tour, but it was quite reasonably priced, and excellent value for almost an hour. Then it was off to the beach.

In other news, we have news that our kitties are doing fine. (Thank you BRBE for special visit!) Cranky about the most rotten humans ever abandoning them, but mollified by catnip. I hear it's snowing in Calgary.

I wasn't sure how dark it would be. There are lights of course, but it's still a bit of a technical challenge to get the photos.

1. Linda found a friend!













14. We all agreed that while the moa bones were cool, this was the gills of an alien.




Plus Driftwood of the Day, of course. Can't deny you your fix. (Including ladybugs, which was a surprise.)