Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Creativity? Returning?

It's been a quieter time on the work front, and about time too. I've spent a bit of time keeping a low profile, charging my batteries, but I've not been a total slug. The other weekend a buddy of mine told me about a photoshoot in Fish Creek that her daughter was the make up artist for. She did a great job! They let me tag along and I got some nice B roll shots. It was fun and interesting watching another photographer at work.

Then I did my own shoot on Monday night last week. This was a bit of a challenge, since it was shot in a brew pub in dim lighting. They are mulling over the social media sized shots, thinking about which they want to use to update their web site.

Then out again yesterday in another part of Fish Creek, over where the creek runs into the Bow. A photobuddy showed up, in spite of the quite literally last minute invitation. We had a lovely stroll and catch up chat. Somewhat unusually for me, there were several other photographers around, and most were chatty. One was nestled right into the interesting part of a chunk of driftwood, looking for birds, and I didn't want to ask him to move.

I'm thinking about several projects, and am beginning to feel the creative energy returning. If you're local and looking for a photoramble buddy, let me know. I'm looking forward to some summer walks through Fish Creek again.

Working on the novel has taken a big hit. I was getting into some serious timeline clarification when the work tsunami hit. I've had some ideas about other events, and need to fit everything together. Some of the events on the time are marked 'when exactly?', because I know the sequence, just not how much time is between them. In some cases it matters.

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time shooting ice, which can be tricky, but a few shots worked out. I liked the dancing/fighting snakes.

I was hoping more of the refraction and rainbow shimmers would show up.

A conventional landscape for you from bridge 11.

In the blog notification department, it seems that most of you were not relying on my putting a post in Facebook saying I've blogged. As near as I can tell I'm getting the same number of readers now as I was then. As always, thank you for showing up and reading! I'm missing Facebook less and less.

What I've begun to do is put a little extra in the email notification that I've blogged. If you'd like in on that action, let me know you want to be put on that mailing list. Email me keith at nucleus dot com, or text if you know the number, or even Facebook messenger will work since I still get an email for that and will check. Or Instagram, I still look at that.

Of the Day

Celina, apricating

Monday, March 29, 2021

A spring walk in Fish Creek

 It's still pretty muddy and icy, but beautiful in a spring sort of way. I hadn't been to that part of Bebo Grove for a while and thought it was time. I wasn't looking for anything in particular, it was mainly to get out and get some fresh air.

Lots of other people had the same idea. Several groups had fires going, and there was no shortage of kids roaming around looking for fun. One of the advantages of going in the winter is that the ground is still frozen, and you can go where it's normally swampy. Not getting eaten alive by mosquitoes is a bonus. The downside is there aren't the obvious photos. One has to look harder.

There's still snow in surprising places, like on the tops of fallen trees that are not in the shade. Or I guess I should say not in the shade now. I kept firmly in mind that all sorts of ankle breaking stuff could be hidden under the snow and was careful about where I put my feet. 

The bits of actual path I was on still had lots of ice on them; enough that it's going to take at least several more days of warm weather to dry up. I saw one guy on a bike, wearing shorts, with a bloody scrape up the side of his shin and knee.

Still, spring is on the way, and that's an encouraging thing. There's still more winter coming, maybe on Monday. That might be a good hunker down day for testing a data migration. As of Sunday late afternoon it's clouded over in Calgary and the wind is howling. There's an out of control wild fire in south east Alberta that's already driven the evacuation of a small town. As of early Monday morning that's been contained and people have returned to their homes.

Here, it's been really windy and we've had a couple cm of snow, though it's hard to tell. Lets hope the flowers getting started yesterday aren't regretting that.



This view, for example, is a tough one to get during the summer, unless you like getting wet and muddy feet. I can't help but wonder if anyone has crawled in there yet. It would be a monumentally stupid, quite possibly fatal thing to do, but lots of other things equally stupid happen all the time. 

Plus I love reflections.






9. I was a bit surprised to see the fungus. I don't know if this is new growth, or hanging on from last year.



Of the Day

Celina got her first sniff of the great outdoors.

This is growing in the bed beside the garage, where there isn't much light. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Things are growing! March 27, snow and all!

I was out looking for a shot on the lawn that I thought I'd seen from the kitchen window. That shot wasn't there after all, but along the way I noticed this. But first, double serendipity!

From May 2017

From almost exactly a year ago, on a beach in New Zealand.

And from today in our garden. 

There's no snow in those particular beds, but ones just a few feet away still have a bit of snow.

Even so, at that back of that same bed, these are popping up.

The front beds are not to be left behind.

Even the bed on the inside of the front patio, where there is still quite a bit of snow and little sunshine, we have this.

Linda knows what they all are, of course. I'm pretty sure she's given names to each of them already. No, not names like tulip or hyacinth, but Alice, or Mary, or Tessie. The conversations have begun.

Of the Day
Driftwood (even though you got one already)


It being spring, this feature is likely to become a regular again real soon now.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

So that Facebook and news thing?

A while ago I realized scrolling through the news and Facebook was making me unhappy. So I stopped doing that, mostly. It's been interesting. I haven't visit CNN at all since then, and that feels much better. PostMedia, which is most Canadian newspapers, are a wasteland, and I don't miss them a bit. I'm a fan of The Sprawl, but don't subscribe and I probably should.

Maybe it means I'm behind on stuff, but I don't care. I figure if the news is big enough, or it needs to tell me badly enough, it will find me. Like the closure of the downtown Y. I only found out about it a few days ago, and it was announced about a month ago. These days, before I go anywhere, I check the website to double check opening hours.

I only know about the proposed changes to Calgary development via the "Guidebook" because it's inundating my email. Linda is involved with community development stuff on behalf of our local community association. Let's just say that City Council and the planning department have been a little secretive about the plans to do away with SFH zoning in favour of increased density housing. When asked why, one planner said that they don't consult as much because they weren't getting the results they wanted. Now we have a minor flap where Mayor Nenshi said the Guidebook wasn't statutory, and therefore not a law, was revealed to be not a true statement. It is statutory, and says so on page 4. That he either didn't know that, or misspoke on such an important clause, seems strange for a guy that's been a city planning policy wonk all his life. Lets just say there are lots of upset people.

Facebook kind of comes and goes. I'll usually drop in every day at some point, typically first to a photo group. I recently scored a Milky Way campout event in August that I'm really looking forward to. After that, well, it depends. If something interesting is at the top I might scroll a bit, but almost any combination of too many ads or posts that don't interest me, and I'm done. I've already dropped out of several groups. A message to me there gets forward to my email, so I will see it.

It's been 5 weeks since I last posted on Instagram. I drop in on it daily, mainly because it's in my bookmark of click once open several tabs thingie. It's usually a quick scroll down to where I recognize the photos again, unless there are too many Tik Tok videos, in which case I bail. I don't get Tik Tok, and don't want to. Maybe that makes me a grumpy geezer.

The astute of you will have noticed this has not translated into more blogging. The last several weeks of this work contract have been brutal. I was already doing some testing this morning, hoping that out of 16738 rows of data there would be only a couple issues and the brutality would end. Not. Oops. I made a stupid mapping mistake building the load file. Sigh. I ended up building a load file to delete the ones that shouldn't be loaded, and a file to add some data that hadn't been loaded. Oh, and I'm still cranky about Excel at the best of times. 

There was a suggestion that Linda should put a swear jar in the office. We don't have a container big enough. It reminds me of the time at a work when we had a jar put on the conference table during an all employee meeting, as either a swear jar, or harsh statements, or something. I forget the details, but I do remember one senior manager tossing in a $20 and asking if he got a volume discount.

In other news, daylight saving time rolled around again. At least the clocks are easy to change, adding an hour. Some of them are harder to take away that hour in the fall, having to push a button 11 or 23 times to cycle through the hours.

Some of them are so difficult, like the oven, I need to dig out the manual to read the instructions. Which turned out to be wrong. It doesn't say you have to press a specific button TWICE to get into the mode where you can tweak the time. Life would be ever so much simpler if we picked a time, standard or daylight, and stuck with it. I don't particularly care which. 

Which reminds me of the one time issue we dealt with during this migration. The source database just gave us a date. The target database demands a date and time. The business didn't care what time as long as it was the right day, so we said midnight. Except the target database importing software thinks it's running on GMT. We added 2003-05-15 at midnight, and it came out 2003-05-14 17:00:00. So we had to add 7 hours back in, so the load sheet looked like 2003-05-15 07:00:00, and it would get loaded at 2003-05-15 00:00:00. Except, EXCEPT that darned DST. Next we noticed some of them came out on the wrong day. So then we went back into the extract SQL and added 8 hours. The whole thing makes writing the test scripts a bit tricky. Plus there is all the usual Excel being pissy about dates and times and how they're displayed and how it evaluates if two cells are the same or not. And people wonder why what little hair I have is gray. Grey. Whatever.

It's now Friday evening, and I don't want to think about work till Monday. The big thing is to get all the photo gear ready to go for a photo shoot I'm doing. I'll need to play with a new light to get a grip on what it can do before then. It's a great group that I've done before, and it should be fun. Here's a hint.

I'm pretty sure we're in fake spring here. We have had almost no snow in March, which is somewhat unusual. It's been warm, so I was a bit surprised to see this bit of ice between the back yard patio stones, with the water evaporated out from underneath it. I was on the way out to fire up the barbecue, so while it was warming up I grabbed the camera.

Of the Day


Serendipity from 2017, with Flower

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Pandemic pondering

Here we are, a year after starting to have COVID impact our lives. We'd known of it longer ago than that, following it in the news, but while on vacation in New Zealand the news started getting worse. When we had a week to go in our vacation the government started saying Canadians should come home. We watched the toilet paper rush with amusement, but the overall situation is anything but amusing. Meanwhile life in Auckland was just like normal. We got the second last Air New Zealand flight out of Aukland to Vancouver.

A year later, where are we, as individual people and as a society? Sometimes it's hard to know. We're kind of sort of on the cusp of opening back up, people are lining up to get their vaccine shots. I think we become eligible to sign up yesterday, and we probably will soon. Lots of other stuff on the go just now, mainly work, during the work week.

The vaccine is no big deal. Honestly, I don't get the anti-vax idiots. Yes, there are a few people that for real medical reasons cannot, or should not get vaccinated for various conditions. I mean real medical reasons as diagnosed by a real medical doctor, not some homeopathic quack, or someone who claims expertise on irrelevant grounds. They'll be fine, as long as nearly everyone else is vaccinated. Disease can't spread if there isn't anyone who will get it.

I got vaccinated as a kid any number of times, so I didn't get smallpox or polio or tuberculosis. Lots of shots as an adult. Tetanus, Hepatitis, Shingles, and probably more. All that isn't counting 70+ blood donations. It's no big deal. To see the production some people make of it you'd think they were undergoing the tortures of the damned. 

Disease has been the scourge of humanity, showing us lots of horrible ways to die. Disease doesn't care what religion you are, what political party you voted for, who your king is, where you live, how old or rich you are, or anything else. It can't be argued with. You can only do your best to prevent it from infecting you, and get cured if you do get it. 

The first is by far the most preferable, since much of what can ail us cannot actually be cured. All we can do is beat it back, and live with the fallout. Some people don't even go through the full treatment, and now we have diseases that are resistant to our medicines. 

For most people, COVID prevention is not rocket science. It's not like you have to go through some arcane complicated procedure involving expensive ingredients. Just wash your hands often, preferably with soap and water (and I realize that for some places in Canada thats a problem, to our shame), but use  sanitizer if that's whats available. That one bit of advice is actually effective for preventing lots of conditions. Wear a mask, and don't breath what other people are spewing out. Things are a bit more complicated for medical people, but they know the drill. Or should. 

So, wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance, get the shot when it becomes available. And yet, for some people this is hard. They think it's a violation of their freedom. An infringement on  their religion. A denial of their civil rights. Or maybe they really are just too stupid to understand how various diseases spread, and that COVID doesn't care. I don't mind them paying the traditional evolutionary price for stupidity, but I'm upset about all the other people they bring down with them.

One of the problems during the last year has been understanding the rules around what was open, and under what conditions. The disease moved fast, so I get that it's difficult to gather the data and put it together, and even more difficult to get politician's attention to understand it's an actual problem, (still working on this step for some politicians where climate change is concerned), and still more difficult to get politicians to act in society's best interest rather than their own by announcing restrictions or shutdowns. Some politicians have surprised me by getting with the program (surprised to be looking at you, Doug Ford) and others were more predictable, (sadly looking at Jason Kenney, in full denial mode pandering to his donors). 

Some of the restrictions don't make a lot of sense, but that's part of the problem when your tool is a dull  chainsaw. There isn't time to understand where exactly for the scalpel to cut. As I told my boss once, when you're hunting big game you don't follow rabbit tracks. 

So you end up making overly broad generalizations, because, no, you can't trust people to make individual decisions on a rational basis. The stock market and daily life has proven over and over that most of the time people are motivated by the balance between fear and greed. They want what they want and the consequences be damned. Most people are not good at deferred gratification. They want that cookie now, and will scheme to get that promised other cookie now as well.

There are lots of people who say they are bored. This baffles me. Almost all of us have essentially instant access to nearly any book ever written, nearly any TV show or movie ever made, more games than Carter has pills as my grandfather liked to say, and good quality video to talk to nearly anyone you know at whatever time of day seems appropriate. Contrast that with the 1918 Spanish Flu, with no radio or TV, let alone internet. Letters could take weeks to reach their destination. How we suffer.

Let's think about some of the outcomes from COVID. Far too many people died or got sick from it. We'll never know how many people died from a treatable injury, like a heart attack, because they didn't call for medical aid because they were afraid of getting COVID, or the local hospital was already overwhelmed. 

There were huge impacts to people and society; kids not going to school for a year, support systems that people depend on being wrenched away, the normal chain of daily events being upended. The impact ranges from the government and the Bank of Canada worried about the macro economic impacts of COVID relief payments, inflation, GDP and other factors, right down to a small business owner wondering how to keep the business open and feed their family.

For almost everybody COVID was a big surprise. Not to the people who study disease, or read history. They knew it was coming, the question was just when. The USA was unfortunate in having a self-obsessed idiot in charge during the beginning of the pandemic, and some other countries weren't much better off. Canada is hobbled by the health system's jurisdictional squabbles, with the feds and the provinces arguing, but we've mostly muddled through.

Now that the other side is coming into view, what now? Lots of people want to get back to normal, so they can continue to plunder everyone else at varying scales. People want to go back to Walmart to buy cheap shit they don't need made by slave labor in China and not be slowed down by the stupid mask, because that's how they amuse themselves. The people running all the steps in the supply chain want that too. 

Business leaders want more tax cuts, and to cut off the COVID relief so that people have to accept their shitty job offers. Kenney and his minister of (conflict of interest) Health Shandro want to get back to the business of laying off public workers and forcing them to to rely on their private services, and forget about the $1.6 billion they pissed away on the pipeline that isn't going to get built. The people busy raping the planet supplying the dying fossil fuel industry want that to continue because filling their pockets, I mean, recovering the economy is more important than saving the planet.

And yet, there are signs of hope. History has shown that people are resilient, and after a huge shock, things go on, but differently. Many changes to public health happened in the wake of Spanish Flu to prevent it from happening again. Black Death essentially ended feudalism. In my own lifetime I've seen people realize that nuclear weapons could end all life on earth, and we've mostly stepped back from that brink. We realized that pollution was a major problem and we fixed some of that. There's lots of other problems to work on.

In many ways COVID relief is a trial system for a UBI. Nearly anyone that asked for it could get it. (I didn't, in case you're wondering.) Some think that workers aren't returning to work because they're being paid to sit at home and eat Cheetos. I think it's more because those workers are afraid of getting COVID. The fact that it's likely to be a shitty job is another factor. The rich want to remove the safety net so people have to take whatever job is on offer. I take the position that with a UBI system, people will be more able to put their creative energy to activities that make them happy. I believe people want to feel useful, to feel needed, and will look for ways to do so, if they don't have to worry about starving to death in the mean time. Corporations will have to offer better incentives to work at what they call jobs.

The way things were, worked extremely well for a few people at the top of the pyramid. You might want to read this rant for more background. Not so well for the rest of us, and downright not at all for many. Time for a change. Putting ourselves back together after COVID strikes me as a good time to step back and review. Do we really want to go through that again, just to maintain a system that only works for a few people?

Or do we want to take that step back, and think about what works for most people? Maybe there are ways of everyone getting a slice of pie, and fixing the climate, and improving the health care systems. The people running things now don't even want to talk about the possibility. Why? Because their slice of pie will almost certainly be smaller and that's all they see, though it's still likely to be far later than other pieces of pie. People don't like change. But more and more of us are asking ourselves, we're grownups, or say we are. Why can't we talk about these problems, and figure which solutions are the best?

The masks are going to form a layer in our landfills. Future generations excavating are going to talk about the 2021 COVID layer, as they date our stuff.

Of the Day

Celina, the sometimes sausage cat. It's this or curled into a tight ball.

Serendipity and a Flower
From a walk in Fish Creek last year.

The fading Amaryllis, though just now there's 5 new blooms looking wonderful.


Artsy, or at least thats what I'm calling it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

I'm being better about getting out

One of the perils of working from home is that it's all to easy to get absorbed into your work, and next thing you know a significant part of the day is behind you and you can barely stand up. I'm trying to get up more often, with idea of not sitting more than an hour or so at once. Much of what I do involves two different kinds of concentration, fortunately not at the same time.

One is the investigative, figure it out, try different things kind. This finds out what shape the data is, where the holes are, what transformative steps need to be done to bridge source and target, where those steps are best done, and how to leave footprints behind so other people can trust your results. This can be interesting, fun, and sometimes frustrating. 

One simple example of a transformation is to extract the craft data from the source. This is both a letter code and a name. There is a map that says this source name matches that target name, which really maps the codes. The target only really wants the new code. But the extract data gives all steps so it's easy to see the match. Some of this can happen in SQL, sometimes in XL. Nulls and incorrect data need to be addressed. New codes might need to be added to the target domain lists. There are further behind the scenes set up to ensure everything is properly aligned.

The other is when I know what needs to be done, and there's a list of actions. Things to double check, columns to migrate to the correct place in the load sheet, transformations to be done, exceptions to be addressed. Often this isn't difficult, it just needs to be done right, and sometimes order matters. Just recently in a formula I typed 373 instead of 393, and we were wondering why we were getting some incorrect results. 

In both cases it's important for me to be able to get to a logical stopping point. Much more important than it used to be. It's even more important that I not have to think about something else. If I'm trying to get task one done, and task two comes along to take over, it's more than likely that task one will disappear from my brain. When I get back to it, I almost have to start over and figure out where I was. 

One guy I worked for didn't get that. I'd hand off something to him and start something else. I'd be deep into it, and he'd come back and ask about something I'd handed off. If the answer was easy I'd be ok, but anything beyond yes or no would drive the new task out of my brain. He insisted on an answer once, and then got upset when I told him he'd just wasted about an hour because now I had to go back over all the steps and get them back into my head again.

This sometimes leads me to being hunched over, freezing my ass off, desperately trying to finish something to a state I can save it and leave it. It's even worse if there's a deadline for some reason. Yes, by that point there's usually swearing involved. There's always some stupid thing in the way. After SQL tools like Toad, the MS Access interface is from the stone age. Or earlier. 

Linda has been going out for a walk during the nice part of the day, every day almost without exception. I was good for much of 2020, going almost every day. This year, especially lately, not so much. You'd think that just sitting there, thinking, isn't tiring, but it is. There was one walk after a tough morning, and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to make it home again. 

Still, I have been out with the camera several times lately, just walking around the neighbourhood. With all the puddles and ice there's lots of opportunity for reflections, if the light, the subject, and the water all line up right. I got several nice shots to give our community newsletter people some choice for the next cover. Along the way, this panorama of Fish Creek Park worked out.

The bike path.

Of the Day


Artsy, or an attempt. This is another version of the intentional camera movement from a few weeks ago.