Friday, December 31, 2021

So long 2021, not gonna miss you much

As it turns out, 2021 started as we got home from New Zealand February 2020. No, I haven't lost track. We got home, we isolated for a little while, kept a low profile, mostly going out only to buy groceries. Not much has changed since then.

I started a mostly part time work from home contract that went to mid 2021. We walked a lot in NZ, and walked more when back, Linda much more than me. I started swimming again late summer 2021 and that's going quite well, thank you very much. It was good to get back into the pool and I hope they don't shut them down again.

There wasn't much difference between the 2 years. Mostly keeping a low profile, watching the Kenny government try to suck and blow at the same time to pander to their base, and try to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed. Try to figure out how their rules applied to our community association. Try to enjoy life as much as possible while not getting sick ourselves or being a conduit to other people getting sick.

I've mentioned that I'd retired 4 times before, but I think it's for good now. Dealing with Excel on the last contract burned me out. I make a bit of money here and there with photography, but I'm still not trying to make a business out of it. Neither will I drive across town to give my work away.

One of the main activities is going to be putting my consulting company to bed permanently. It's been dormant since June or so, with me gradually subtracting money from it. That will all wind up in January, as soon as my accountant can push the paperwork. One less thing to worry about when it's all settled. It's sort of weird to be putting money into an RSP to offset some income, and to also be discussing when to take money out of it. Tax planning is harder than you'd think.

This year had the lowest output of blogs since I began this whole thing. Part of it was the intense work contract, but if you compare the first half of the year to the last half, there isn't much difference. I think it's just that I didn't have as much to say any more. I've been at this since late 2007. This is blog 3673 or so, and what with some being long and some being short I've no idea how many words. There are two distinct phases, from the start to about 2011 or 2012 it was all about triathlon training with a bit of other stuff. Then it's been mostly photography related and lots more other stuff. Who knows what it will be in 2022?

In some ways I've treated the last half of 2021 like a vacation, but there's things to do. Starting in a few days I'll be getting started on that. I've been thinking of how I manage my time in retirement, and I think it's going to be a work in progress. There are days I think lots, and days I don't.

The COVID years have been a struggle for everyone and it sucks. Who guessed we'd still be dealing with it going into 2022? Anybody want to take a bet we'll all be saying this a year from now?

Wishing you all the best that there is to be had!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

For whatever reason

Linda and I are about halfway through binging The Good Place. One of the ideas of the show is that every act during life adds to or subtracts from your score. When you die, the people with the highest scores go to The Good Place, as opposed to The Bad Place. You get the idea. However, it's much more complicated and amusing than that. Turns out there was 

Now, moving along with today's blog, I've been thinking about Image of the Year, and Image of the month (hint, that one was easy). This morning I'm looking over the 651 images that have not been blogged in the last year for whatever reason. Some of them are straightforward 'there I was and this is what I saw' photos although some of them I was trying for something more. Most of them. I'd like to believe that, so keep the eye-rolling and comments from the peanut gallery to a minimum. P&TY.

Some are photos for my projects that don't get published here, at least not yet. Some are books I read, where I took a photo of the cover in case I wanted to talk about it here, but it turns out I don't, for whatever reason. I suppose there is a case for publishing such a photo, and why I don't want to talk about it, in case you might think to yourself 'that's the book for me to solve all my problems and publish money making award winning photos!'. Yeah. I thought not.

There is a block of photos over the summer of peonies and lilies that I have been publishing in the 'of the day' feature, to brighten the eyes and hearts of my readers shivering through a frigid winter that will never end.

There are some perfectly fine photos, at least I think so for whatever reason, and yet there were other photos I chose to publish and talk about. Some of them, even now, I think are fine photos, and yet I can't think of anything to say about it. Like this from last winter.


Some of them can be grouped into groups (funny how that works sometimes), and yet for whatever reason I can't find much to say. Maybe I was intending to get others to add to the group, or these ones actually belong with other photos that were published but I missed them. So a group of 3.



4.  A serendipity to keep you off balance, since it doesn't otherwise belong to this set.


6. As ought to be obvious, these should have gone into the more clouds blog. For whatever reason I missed them at the time.




And yes, these are clouds, but not quite that other cloudy group. These are merely sunrise or sunset shots over the last year. I've become a bit of a sunrise/sunset snob as far as photos are concerned.









A different but related to that first group set. As you might guess, I'm adding photos as I find them, and kind of making it up as I go along.






And, for obvious reasons, some didn't work

Last call for AMA!

Of the Day


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Christmas reading

Some of my recent reading. These two are new, gifts from Linda.

Both are full of wonderful and amazing photos. Not much text, and more in the first, mostly just photos. Lots of the cloud photos look like paintings.

These two are library books. 

The Liar's Dictionary was a fun read, full of words I didn't know, and people thinking about those and related words. Like mountweazel. I'd known of the concept, but not that there was an actual name. It's a light and fast read, unless you insist on looking up all the words you don't know.

Humankind was an interesting thoughtful read. It slightly relates to an old post leading to a video about making rockets. But there's more...

Social media and news are fixated on the worst, the exceptional (typically the bad), and whatever someone can monetize. Along the way anything even slightly complicated will get simplified beyond the lowest common denominator, and probably incorrectly so. All this gives people a distorted view of the world. A view making them think things are worse than they are. One example is violent crime. Many people that crime is getting worse, because that's all they get in the news. In fact, overall, violent crime statistics are getting better and have been for decades.

You can see why they do it. After all, in 1926 H. L. Mencken said 
"No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand, and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is a folly."

Sadly, I agree with him, though it's a cynical point of view. You probably know the story about Adlai Stevenson, upon being told by a supporter: "Every thinking person in America will be voting for you." Stevenson replied, "I'm afraid that won't do — I need a majority."

This book digs into some of the stories about the failings of human nature, the ones that have been trumpeted in the news as lurid examples. Except, not. Did you know there's a real life Lord of the Flies story, except it turned out totally differently? Did you know the subjects in the infamous electric shock experiments had to be pushed and bullied into carrying on? There are other examples and the author goes into a number of them. All too often the actual results were either distorted because doing so made good press, or because the people running it lied or cherry-picked the data.

Plus Rapa Nui, and a more detailed look at what happened there, taken from primary sources. Turns out Diamond didn't get it completely right.

By no means does Bregman make the argument people are perfect. We certainly are not. And there's lots of people that aren't terribly bright, and in fact some go out of their way to be willfully stupid. But we're better than the news makes us out to be. We're better than the cynics think we are. People sometimes really do things for other humans because it feels good to do it, and it's the right thing to do. (I can see you cynics out there, rolling your eyes.) One doesn't have to be intelligent to do so. One simply has to be connected to other people and not be shameless.

One of the strongest motivators within a group to do the right thing is to avoid being shamed by that group. The problem comes is that some people don't feel any shame. Two prominent examples are Trump and Kenney. They tell lies that are breathtaking in their scope and stupidity. And yet some people fall for them, again and again, forming a cohort that helps keep such people in office, helping to insulate them from truth.

Worse, when people see that others are getting away with being shameless, it turns into a race to the bottom, each person trying to get theirs before someone else does. We see this when a corporation offers a bonus or incentive for certain outcomes, like more sales, or number of defects found, or hours worked without an injury. The result is people doing what it takes to get that bonus, regardless of the other consequences. We all know how that turns out. If you somehow don't, look at the USA. They are racing to the bottom in every measurable way.

But the opposite is true as well. It's well known that during disasters people show up to help out. During the 2013 floods in Calgary, thousands of volunteers showed up spontaneously to help muck out the homes of strangers. There were so many people wanting to help out there were problems organizing them. 

It doesn't have to be a big thing, though. When someone does something for you, you are more likely to pass it along. It can be something small, like holding the door, or gesturing someone to go next. Such actions used to be called good manners, and are now often denigrated as being politically correct, or somehow self serving.

Being honest, lots of times nobody will notice or thank you for doing that little thing. But that's ok. You'll know you did the right thing. And you never know what impact you have on someone else. 

Of the Day
A pair of images I had been hoping to assemble into a panorama, but it didn't go.

Peony, plus a serendipity from almost exactly 6 years ago, that could be from yesterday.


Sunday, December 26, 2021


Some of the people that know me get nervous when I say I'm thinking. They never know what to expect. At one work town hall where the big, Big, BIG boss from London was in town to address the troops, my boss told my two immediate co-workers that if it looked like I was going to ask a questions, they were to incapacitate me on the spot using whatever means necessary. He said, and I don't think he was kidding, that he'd rather explain a limp body and a possible pool of blood, than face the consequences of what my imagination might come up with. 

But I'm thinking about the past year, and the coming year. One cannot do that without the word COVID, dammit all anyways. Nobody thought we'd be here now. Going into 2022 with another pandemic wave in our face, and nobody in Alberta knowing what the situation is because the UCP government doesn't report on weekends, and takes time off for Christmas. I get that it is a statutory holiday, and people are entitled to time off, but I've worked Christmas and other holidays. I kind of think that pandemic response qualifies as essential work, so why aren't we getting the numbers and the info we need to at least try to stay safe? Well, some of us are, don't get me started on the anti-vac crowd.

I had thought that during COVID I'd have lots of time to work on projects. Oddly enough, that didn't happen. Sure, there was a big work contract in the middle of it, but that ended (like all good things) 7 months or so ago. Since then, if I'm being honest, I've pretty much been a sluggard. Not doing much. Oh sure, there were a few photo trips, one of which generated 8 out of the 18 photos currently under consideration for image of the year.

There was some community association stuff as well, including the near-emergency replacement of our long serving facility maintenance man. The exec have been spending much time trying to noodle our way through the COVID situation, trying to balance unclear and sometimes conflicting rules with getting back to normal. It doesn't help when our members ask why they can't come and play bridge when they're all vaccinated and masked, and yet people could go fill a stadium to watch a sports event? There are no good answers. We continue to play it safe; the last thing we want to deal with is someone claiming they got sick at one of our events.

I started swimming regularly again. I've missed that a lot, and it was wonderful to get back in the pool. I'm on a bit of a plateau now, which is not a surprise. I'm still not back to where I was before COVID, which is also not a surprise, but I'm working on it. I know from past experience that trying to reach some milestones is an epic struggle, never quite making it, till one day you blow past it and it was easy. Swimming at Canyon Meadows is not as much fun as Repsol, but I'm saving about an hour's drive every swim, so there's that. Plus CM is about 2/3 the monthly price of R, so there's that as well, not like I'm cheap or anything. I have a buddy still at Repsol, with some free passes, so we might get together for a swim and water run and coffee.

But that brings me around to fitness in general. During COVID I stopped running regularly because my knees and IT bands were getting cranky. At first I thought it was a temporary thing, some time off and it would be fine. Well, there's no massage either, and that probably contributed. Now I'm about 10 to 15 pounds heavier than I was, and it's all around my middle. That isn't good for starting running again, if I should choose to. Did I mention that today it's -26C outside, with the windchill about -38C? There is an extreme cold warning on the weather page. I probably wouldn't have gone running in that even if I was running regularly. I have run when it's really cold, but this is about where I'd start thinking seriously about passing.

Like many people, I'm thinking that I need to be more careful of how much I eat, and how much exercise I'm getting. Less and more, respectively. Carefully. There's an effort level where you push your body to rebuild and get stronger, but as you age that effort level gets closer to where you break. And then it takes much longer to heal, and sometimes it doesn't. I know all sorts of older people that were doing really well until some event, and they were never the same after. I don't want that to be me.

Much of the last half of this year has been sort of like a vacation for me. The idea of not working for a while, and then going back to work is a familiar one for me, and so I think that's why I've treated this time like a vacation. But there are things I want to do, and the clock is ticking. So if I'm going to get them done, I need to get going on it. A little bit every day.

So a couple questions:
-Do you have an AMA (Ask me anything). The cutoff time is rapidly approaching. That thinking thing? I'm starting to dream up questions to assign to people.
-Are you about 50, plus or minus a few years? Do you want to be part of a series of portraits about such people? Male or female. Do you know someone that might be interested?
-Do your hands tell a story? I'm interested in doing a small book about old or beat up hands that have a story to tell. 
Feel free to get in touch with me.

Some snowy icy seasonal shots from the last little while, since I'm still working up the courage to go outside for photos today. Yeah, I'm being a weenie. All the food yesterday from an awesome Christmas dinner and I want to hibernate today.









Of the Day
For a bit of mental whiplash, it's a warm beach.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Down to 18

I've been working on the image of the year selection, off and on, on and off, now and then, every once in a while. You get the idea. I'm down to 18, thinking about what I can say about such an image that I haven't already said in previous image of the year posts. As always, the final selection will be determined by what criteria I use.

What are the 18 photos of, you ask? A bee, two birds, a cat, a dragonfly, a bridge, some flowers, some landscapes, some dramatic skies, and of course, there is some overlap. That still leaves many photos that don't quite make that cut, but are still really good by my standards. 

I'm having a tough time believing it's Christmas Eve. I know some people are all excited about Christmas, and somehow manage it year after year, and how nice for you, but that's not me. Maybe having kids that get wired about it spills over, and again, that's not me. As I write this we are in the process of setting up the tree. I've humped the tree upstairs, but there are things that need to happen before I can assemble it.

Once upon a long time ago, I suggested that we do a really good job setting up the tree and create a nice space for it out of the way. Then after the season we could cover it with a sheet and carry on. The next year all we'd have to do is take the sheet off. That suggestion got made about the same time I said I'd be happy to put up Christmas lights on the house and job done. The discerning will have noted there are no Christmas lights on the house ever, the tree is re-assembled every year on Christmas Eve, and taken down on 12th Night.

Every family has their own Christmas traditions. They're sort of like a virus, the traditions, when you think about it. One person's traditions merge with another when they start living together, and the tradition mutates. It mutates more as children are added. Maybe traditions change as the people move into a bigger or smaller house. Or the Christmas tree lighting technology changes. Or someone gets a good deal on decorations and passes the tired old ones onto someone else.

Which gets me thinking about agent Smith's comments to Morpheus about humans being a virus. We're an extremely slow one, and big, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if he's onto something. Humans are  often behaving in a mindless way. 

In what is not a digression, we recently watched The World's most Outstanding Homes. Most Expensive is a good alternate title. Most of the homes are indeed outstanding, some outstanding from a cliff face, or outstanding from a rocky shore, but some are under-standing, being earth sheltered homes. Many of them are summer homes. Expensive, over the top, summer homes, not built for shelter or particularly practical (In one of them two adults couldn't figure out how to turn the stove on to boil a kettle for tea), but rather to show off. If you watch this, my advice to you is keep a finger on the mute button, and hit it every time the female host appears on screen. That, or play a drinking game where you take a shot each time she says "isn't it?". Bring lots of booze and be prepared for a hangover.

We are going into another COVID wave, and nobody knows quite what to expect. Even vaccinated people are getting the Omicron variant, and the jury is still out if getting sick from it is milder than Delta or not. Last thing we need is for the Omicron and Delta to mate and produce the Omega strain, the one that is more infectious than Omicron, and more deadly than Delta. Human population might actually go down, which is a heck of a Christmas present, isn't it? (wink) Except if it's from the Republican, authoritarian, wing of the political spectrum maybe that's not such a bad thing.

On to happier thoughts.

(Hmmmmm. Contemplation during tree decorating.)

It snowed lots yesterday, and it's snowing lightly now, so it will be a white Christmas. It's cold AF out and will be for the next week. The tree is almost decorated; I'm taking a break to contemplate the wise words of my cousin Sherrie, "glitter is the herpes of the craft world." This year Celina panicked at the sight of the tree, after the first glimpse and some sniffing, she has disappeared. One of the ornaments looks like a sheep doing something obscene to a beet. Or vice versa, if the beet were sentient and perverted.

Not what you'd call happier thoughts, I guess. Strange state of mind, and I'm not even drinking while decorating.

There are no Christmas related photos. I do have what is probably a stupidly expensive house (practicality unknown), what with the cost of buying that lot, tearing down the expensive house that was there, and building another.

The view is this, more or less. If the weather is right there's a mountain view off to the right.

These were seen during a walk with these two.

Of the Day