Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Mostly digressions, but Calgary, buildings, and progress

You might think this is just an ordinary photo of downtown Calgary, but you'd be wrong. Very very wrong.

In one sense, of course, it is an ordinary, there I was and this is what you'd see photo. It's ordinary light, no special lens or settings, no Photoshop tricks, only basic Lightroom edits. If you don't live here you'd never know that there is a major river and a major highway running through the photo. But that's not the point.

The point is you can see nearly the entire Calgary Tower. That's getting harder to do from the various vantage points. Once upon a time the Palliser hotel was the tallest building in Calgary, from renovations in 1929 to 1958 when the Elveden Center was built. Then 10 years later the Calgary Tower was built, although originally it was the Husky Tower. 

Calgary was a small city then, and photos of it (external link) showed the tower head, shoulders, and chest above other buildings downtown, proud against the Rocky Mountains backdrop. More and more buildings arrived amid huge growth fuelled  by oil.  I arrived during one boom (there's been several) in 1980, with the tower still visible from any direction. (As a digression, there used to be a bumper sticker you've probably heard of - 'Please God let there be another oil boom, I promise not to piss it all away this time.' There were, and our stupid Conservative governments and short-sighted individuals did. Again and again. And people wonder why I'm happy to be off that roller coaster.)

In the early 80's they started building what was called Red Square, and in 1984 the Petro-Canada building topped off a bit higher than the tower, blocking the view in one direction. There were a lot of people cranky about this. At least some people thought it was a rule that no building taller than the tower could be erected. (Which as another digression reminds me of one of my blog readers back in the day who's PhD dissertation had the working title of "Huge Roman Erections", I think in reference to the aqueducts. I'd love to know how that turned out.)

More booms, more building. It wasn't quite each one taller than the one before, but there's now probably half a dozen or so buildings taller than the tower. Those interested can look up the details for themselves. Most of the new buildings are either north or west of the tower, and from several vantage points the tower isn't visible at all. 

As yet another digression, there are so many vantage points to get nice skyline shots of Calgary, that the visibility of the tower is a major clue as to where it was shot from. And yes, while I'm digressing, even if the tower is visible, the LED light show often screws up long exposure night shots.

Looking from the tower outwards, the buildings block the view a bit, but there's still lots to see. I've been up the tower on a half a dozen occasions, all on someone else's dime, typically for some swanky corporate affair but at least once with Neil with the camera. Pity the windows are filthy, making photography difficult.

My photo is SE of the tower, from an old refinery site. Not many buildings have been built in that direction. What's interesting is that the taller of the Red Square buildings isn't visible at all, unless your eyes are sharp enough to see a faint bump in the side of the Telus Sky building (another digression, it puts on an amazing LED light show). Of course the Palliser isn't visible, and hasn't been prominent in skyline photos since the early 70's. So visible to so not visible in the blink of an historical eye. (I could digress about how the 70's wasn't all that long ago, but won't, at least not today.)

It's a graphic illustration of how fast things change. They look so permanent, those buildings. There are any number of old (or semi-old) buildings that used to be banks and are now something else. One that comes instantly to mind is a used car office and another is a costume rental store. How the mighty have fallen. 

(Major digression alert! It's getting to be the season for banks to announce their profits. Their multi-billion dollar profits, and yet they continue to gouge Canadians loonie and twoonie fees for anything their greedy little minds can think of.)

And that skyline isn't likely to change much in the coming decade. What with the crash in oil prices, and COVID, many of the buildings are completely empty or nearly so. It was an eerie feeling walking through the +15 corridors to pick up and drop off the computer for the AltaGas contract. At least some of that space was leased, waiting for employees to return, but there's a lot of vacant space. So much they are looking for ways to reconfigure it and get it occupied again.

Yet I suspect in a decade or two, there will be books written on the Western Canada petroleum boom, just like there were books written on the various gold rushes during the 19th century. Future generations might look back on us, wondering how we could have been so stupid as to put up those buildings for what we should have known would be short term, and put them to the trouble of tearing them down again to build something important.

That highway I talked about earlier? Here's an unconventional view of it. 

Yes, that really is some fencing strung horizontally between the bridges. Why? Not a word of a lie, during one of the many demonstrations of driving incompetence that have taken place on that bridge, a guy stopped, and was going to jump over the barrier to help out. I don't know if he had expertise relevant to the situation or what. He fell about 18 m into the Bow. I can just imagine his frantic scrabble and thought processes on the way down. It created another situation that the emergency crews had to deal with. Which is one of the reasons why such crews don't ordinarily want citizens 'helping out.'

Part of the walk was through Beaver Dam flats, and I found a delightful (to me) heap of logs in a bed of leaves, all in wonderful light. 

Of the Day

Artsy, near that piece of driftwood, and only found again now.




Owl. Say goodbye, that's the last of the owl photos, hope you enjoyed.

Celina, in her favourite posture.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Linda's seasonal decorations

Regular readers will know that there are a dozen or more lovely outdoor pots/vases/whatever they're called around the house. In the summer they have flowers in them, mostly annuals, but she has been working hard to overwinter some dahlias. We won't know how that turns out until spring.

Fall is a tough season for her. She works hard to protect the flowers and give them a few more days if they're still blooming, which is often the case with dahlias. It means covering up the tender plants in the afternoon, and uncovering them in the morning when the frost is gone. Sometimes we find bees huddled in a blossom, waiting it out. We picture a bee taskmaster with a little clipboard sending the bee out on a mission, even when the odds of them returning are small. There are no doubt complex bee calculations involved, and they probably know more about the weather coming than we do. I'd be happy to feed them some of our honey scraps if only I knew how to do that and not mess them up.

But eventually summer and fall ends, and there is no hope anymore, short of a heated greenhouse. Which we don't have. The compost bin gets a workout, and the overwintering experiment begins. But Linda doesn't like to leave the pots bare. She likes to create these beautiful seasonal decorations in the pots.

The whole thing is more difficult than you'd think. Supply chain issues restrict quantities of the boughs she wants. One store might have hundreds, the next of the same brand might have none. Then there's getting weather nice enough to work outside in, which is a crapshoot this time of year. Or getting weather that doesn't freeze the soil in the pots solid before the boughs arrive. One year she was seriously thinking about send me out to rent a jackhammer.

And then the creative difficulties, splitting up the various supplies between the various pots to achieve the effect in her mind. As I write this, she is nearly done. So close. Maybe today. I've been out several times to capture photos. Once complete I'll update and post. These should be in the order taken and there could be several of each pot taken from different angles. I'll pass on Of the Day, since you've already scrolled through a great many photos by the time you get there.

So if you're not interested in seasonal decorating, stop reading now and go onto whatever is next in your life. If you are interested, get your favourite tipple, scroll, and enjoy.

Some of the raw materials.

These might still be a work in progress. There might be additional tweaks to some of the other pots to use up the last of the materials, or to balance things out, or to satisfy Linda's sense of The Way It Ought To Be.

These are basic shots. There's no artistic snow or water drops on them, no interesting light. If such should happen, you might well get an update.