Bonus Photo of the Day, August 13, 2018

Yeah, this could have gone in the other post, but I like to keep ’em separate for some reason or another.

This is dry tall grass at Langara College. I didn’t set the focus and there was one rogue stalk out front that is blurred. I haven’t decided if I like the effect or not. I may take another shot.

Run 589: So many bicycles!

Run 589
Average pace: 5:54/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CW)
Start: 11:51 am
Distance: 5:02 km
Time: 29:42
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 20ºC
Humidity: 69%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 167
Weight: 160.8 pounds
Total distance to date: 4525 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8

Due to a nasty lingering summer cold, today was my first run in two weeks and I feared the little stamina I’d built up would swirl down some metaphorical drain. I was hoping to come in under 6:00/km again, but as I only managed that by one second last time, I was not optimistic.

But the weather was also drastically different–a mere 20ºC and cloudy. And I did something I never normally do. I checked my pace at each km (except the fourth because I missed the alert for that one). Normally I don’t want to know until it’s over, but I had a goal today and checking my pace would be helpful.

When the first km came in at 5:38/km, I was reasonably confident I could break six minutes. When the third km dipped to an even 6:00/km my confidence wavered slightly, but I pressed on and finished with a pace of 5:54/km, accomplishing the rare feat of being faster after a lay-off. My BPM was up, though, underscoring the extra effort I was putting in.

So overall I am delighted with the results. I experienced no real issues and the knees, while a tad creaky, held up.

Now, the bicycles. :P

After coming off the second boardwalk and onto the lush resurfaced Pavilion Trail, I encountered what seemed like dozens of cyclists. It was a family numbering about six. One of the little boys had gotten too close to the edge of the trail and after resurfacing the edges are quite soft, so his bike folded over and went down in what may have been the world’s slowest bike accident. I had the music playing so I couldn’t hear the ensuing conversation, but the gesturing of the father suggested he was scolding his son for being a dummy. Of course, the accident never should have happened because NONE OF THEM SHOULD HAVE EVEN BEEN THERE. They also completely blocked the trail, forcing me to tackle the soft edge myself to get around them. They seemed oblivious to me.

I then encountered the same group again when I was walking out, but this time at a wider point and with all of them managing to stay upright. I hope they all got flats and then got fined by a parks worker, and were forced to walk their flat-tired bikes off the trail. Yes, even the kids. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

Still, even the cyclists couldn’t take away the pleasant feeling from the run. Showers were originally threatened, but never materialized, so I even got to stay dry. I’ll try to run during the week, but it looks like it may be warmer then.

Also, bonus image time! As I was heading out, I came across a tree that had collapsed just past the 1K mark. Poor, tired tree. It fell probably less than 10 meters from where another tree recently collapsed. Circle of life or secret tree suicide pact?

Tree collapses just past 1K mark. Should have trained more, obviously.

Bad design: The easily-circumvented no-biking-for-you gate

Usually at lunch I walk the loop around the Langara Golf Course. It’s about 2.7 km total and is pleasant enough if the weather is decent. The path does not allow bicycles and there are a few signs to that effect at regular intervals.

Recently the point was made even clearer through the erecting of a pair of gates that are tricky for pedestrians to navigate, but downright hostile to cyclists. These are meant to discourage and turn back cyclists and in theory they should do just that.

Here’s one of the gates.

To bike: You shall not pass. Bike: Well, actually…

You can clearly see some people are winding their way through the gate. You can also clearly see enough people are walking around it to create two distinct side paths, one on each side. I am one of those people.

I have yet to see a cyclist navigate around this gate, but I’m reasonably confident that in time I will.

The other gate is up against a fence, so only one side can be passed on the outside, and it’s narrower, but people are working on it.

This is bad design.

These are probably prefab pieces or otherwise made to a standard size. But if the actual location they’re being used in makes them trivially easy to avoid (and it is trivial–in the one pictured above a jogger can deke around the gate without slowing down), there’s not much point, really. You’re just adding an inconvenience for all the people who walk the trail.

My preferred solution in this case would be to remove the gates. Unless there is a serious problem with constant crazed cyclists, there’s little value to be had in placing these obnoxious, easy-to-avoid barriers.

A collection of drawings and other attempts

Yesterday was the first day of my “write something or draw something or photograph something every day” thing.

I did none of these things.

Actually, that’s not accurate. I did get out the iPad and pencil and did some sketches in Linea, none of which I liked enough to post. But then I didn’t promise quality and you have to start somewhere, so here are all of the sketches in a gallery, with commentary. Enjoy?

This time I’ll really do it! (write, take photos, draw)

Or not. We’ll see.

What will I do? Parade through downtown in the nude? Don a wingsuit and glide down to English Bay from Grouse Mountain? Attempt to lift five times my own body weight? Pull a fire truck with my teeth?

In a word, no. I will do none of these things, for the following reasons:

  • likely arrest and fine
  • probably not physically possible, likely to result in devastating injury or death or both before possibility can be verified
  • would result in arms popping out of sockets or other less entertaining permanent injury
  • teeth would be really sore, fire truck would remain unmoved

But what I am going to try to do is at least one of the following on a daily basis:

  • write something
  • take a photo of something
  • draw something

The “write something” I’ve been pretty good with for the last few years on this blog, though the daily part slips occasionally and the quality varies wildly. I am in no danger of writing a Pulitzer-nominated essay is what I’m saying. But This one I’ve mostly got down. (We won’t mention my fiction writing. That is a separate and semi-tragic discussion.)

Since my kidney infection–which is admittedly a curious trigger–I’ve been more interested in taking photos of flowers and things and often catch myself observing angles and shots, even when I’m not actually taking pictures. I find it relaxing, engaging and possibly a tiny bit therapeutic, though I’m a ways from writing the book How Taking Photos of Simple Things Changed My Life and Made Me A Better Person. Since I don’t always have a ready subject, I can’t rely on a photo a day, but this will encourage me to look for more opportunities. I now also want a phone with some kind of optical zoom. That costs less than a thousand dollars. Make my dream come true, Apple (ho ho, as if).

For the drawing, I’ve wanted to do this for awhile but never seem to find the inclination to just sit down and draw. Part of it is fear of mediocrity–I was never especially great at drawing, though not awful, either. But to improve would take the kind of dedicated practice I’m unlikely to engage in, so I may have to content myself with artfully arranged stick men or something. Still, I do not lack for media–I have pens, pencils, paint (sort of–some dried-up watercolors tucked away in a drawer), sketchpads, plus technology like a Surface Pro 3 with pen, an iPad Pro with pencil and also my own uncoordinated fingers and smartphone (which I used to produce an apple).

In the end I’ll mostly keep writing, but I’ll try to mix in some photos and drawings, something every day. And maybe I’ll post these things to some social media, though I generally think all social media is awful and truly one of current society’s ills. Facebook is terrible. Instagram is owned by Facebook. Twitter is largely a dumpster fire of hate and misinformation. Maybe I could lead a revival of Myspace. Or local BBSes. A man can dream.

The first result will come tomorrow. What will it be? I have no idea!

Beavers dam it

I went for a walk tonight along the Brunette River trail to help work off the 15,000 calories of pizza I had ingested earlier and spied for the first time the fur-bearing stick re-arrangers that have been at work at the small artificial pond created back in 2012 as part of a habitat restoration project. Previously the drainage pipe fed into a small pond that continued into another pipe under the trail and into the river. For the restoration, a new stream was created off the pond to the east that travels about half a km or so down before joining into another. At the same time a large concrete barrier was put in place to create a larger, permanent pond. When it rains this pond naturally spills over and the excess goes into the pipe that leads under the trail. In the winter this spillover becomes a reasonably impressive little waterfall.

Recently I’ve noticed twigs and small branches adorning the top of the concrete barrier. They would usually go away, but inevitably reappear a few days later. They were there tonight and for the first time I saw the culprits lazing about in the pond: three beavers.

There may be more than three, but that’s how many were showing themselves. None were active in the construction as I walked by, but their work is evident in the shot below. You can see that even though we are in the midst of a dry spell, there is still a trickle of water flowing over the concrete and the beavers will have none of it (apologies for the naff picture quality. I was afraid the beavers might dive if I got too close, so I wasn’t too fussy on getting the best angle).

Here’s a cropped version that more closely shows the dam builders, contemplating more dam building. The third one is near the water’s edge toward the back.

I wonder if these beavers are related to the ones that managed to derail a 152 car train.

The internet of despair

In case you had trouble finding depressing things on the internet, Bijan Stephen has an article on The Verge that handily links to several sites that trade specifically in the despair and hopelessness online: The feeling of online is ennui

It highlights how you can feel so alone and cold when in the midst of a billion babbling virtual voices. In the era of an American president seemingly spending more time making typos and complaints on Twitter than actually doing his job (perhaps a good thing), it’s not surprising that stories (and sites) like these would pop up.

Screenshots of despair is my favorite, partly because it’s a blog and not a Twitter account, but also because the humor mostly derives from being out of context, which makes it seem a little less hopeless and awful (though the blog author asserts “I am trying to break your heart.”)

One example:

It only gets better from there.

A few pictures from Burnaby Lake, August 4, 2018

I decided to test my post-cold stamina (not really post, since I’m still coughing a bit and such) by going for a walk around Burnaby Lake. It was quite nice, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid-20s, so sweating was kept to a minimum.

The run-like stats were 2:51 hours total time, 9:26/km pace (slower than normal, to be expected) and apparently 836 calories burned.

Upon arriving home I ate an entire cake.

Kidding. We don’t have any cake in the house.

The current resurfacing is now complete according to the official park website. They finished doing the Pavilion trail, so the area from the second boardwalk to the rowing pavilion parking lot is freshly surfaced. There’s a part not far from the bridge at Deer Lake Brook that has a large exposed pipe you normally have to hop over, but they have either removed it or so effectively buried it I didn’t even notice it when walking through the area. I’m hoping they do the Cottonwood Trail next, but it is all a mystery as they only post when actual work is happening, not thrilling teasers like COMING SOON: All those nasty exposed tree roots will soon be buried safely underfoot as we prepare to resurface the Cottonwood Trail.

I took a few pics along the way.

Some English lavender bowing gently in the breeze:

And I finally did a search on these stupid orange-red berries that I have seen growing everywhere my entire life.

These are apparently Rowan trees and the berries, which I always thought were poisonous, are actually more inedible when raw due to containing parasorbic acid, which can cause indigestion or kidney damage (maybe I sleepwalk and eat Rowan berries. This would explain a few things). Cooking the berries turns the parasorbic acid into the friendlier sorbic acid. I’m not planning recipes any time soon, though. More for the birds.

This shot was of a cluster hanging above my head, so I held the phone up as high as I could and shot from below. The shot turned out okay, though there’s a bit of sun bleed in the corner.

Finally, the bridge at Silver Creek is being replaced. Because there is no handy alternate route, they have put in place a temporary bridge next to it that looks like an unfinished prop from a science fiction movie. It felt solid to walk on, but still a little weird, especially with the overhead bits.

Also, since these walks don’t really count as hikes, I’ve boldly added a new category for the blog. Get ready. It’s called…

Walks.

Yes, I know, it’s brilliantly simple, just like me!

Ultrasound-off

Yesterday I had my third ultrasound. I have yet to be pregnant.

The first was to nail down what turned out to be a prostate infection. The second was to figure out if the unwelcome lump in my pair of coconuts* was something nasty (it was not).

This time, after a sort-of-diagnosis of possible kidney stone or stones during an Emergency room visit (see the previous entry for the epic tale), I called to arrange the third ultrasound to see if there really might be a kidney stone down there.

My doctor will have the results by the middle of next week. It kind of bugs me that the person doing the ultrasound can see everything plain as day in real-time but can’t say a word while the procedure is being done.

For this one I was given one simple instruction: drink three cups of water an hour before and then don’t pee until after the ultrasound.

I figure this is some kind of test, because while three cups may not sound like a lot, drinking three cups of water in a row is a lot. I felt very bloated. I drank them at work, as I was heading straight to the hospital from there. I made it as far as downtown before I had to pee. This was about twenty minutes. I had a 30+ minute SkyTrain trip ahead of me. By the time I got off at Sapperton station my entire world had been reduced to a mad dash to the nearest toilet.

I went home. I peed. I broke the one ultrasound rule. However, I was running early and still have 45 minutes to go, so I downed another two cups, thinking that would more than compensate, while hoping that I wouldn’t experience the same fierce desire to urinate, having just done so.

On the latter I was wrong.

I needed to pee during the ultrasound, but it wasn’t too bad. The ultrasound was about the same as the others. Well, not quite the same as the second one, as the magic wand was not rubbed all over my testicles in a decidedly non-erotic manner. This time I just had to yank my shirt up a little while the technician pressed (rather firmly at times) the wand into my lower back and adjacent areas. She was very thorough. She mad me take deep breaths and hold them a lot, so it began to take on an almost Zen-like quality. Plus the jelly was nice and warm, unlike the nightmarishly cold stuff of the first ultrasound. What I’m saying is that as hospital experiences go, it was not that bad.

When she completed the ultrasound she said she needed to confirm with the radiologist that the shots were good and this would take a few minutes. By this time I had to pee again very badly. They were a very long few minutes. Fortunately the shots were deemed okay, and the nearest washroom was right outside the ultrasound room. I made liberal use of it.

Ironically, the horrible soreness that caused me to go to the Emergency room has largely disappeared, because my body has decided to be weird and bothersome. But the ultrasound doesn’t lie**, so I should have the results soon.

* clever euphemism
** assuming the foreign object wasn’t some sort of clever alien shapeshifter, of course

That 5+ hour trip to the Emergency room last night

Last night around 6:30 I went to the Emergency room at Royal Columbian. I left shortly before midnight. This might sound like the beginning of a horror story, but it’s actually rather mundane.

I have a cold right now. It started with a tickle in my throat Monday afternoon and evolved into full sore throat/stuffed and/or runny sinuses and coughing since then.

The cold is not why I went to the Emergency room, it was jut an added bonus.

Yesterday morning I awoke to a soreness in my mid-back that felt like I’d been kicked by a horse. Not an accidental kick, either, one where the horse was feeling aggrieved and seeking revenge. I took some Tylenol (and DayQuill for the cold), but by late afternoon it was persisting. I should go to the clinic, I thought. But I delayed, had supper and finally decided I couldn’t ignore it, and by then all of the walk-in clinics were closed, so I had to go to Emergency.

It’s convenient. That’s where the happy part of this ends.

Upon seeing that the check-in area was full, I knew I was not exactly going to be in and out.

Just over half an hour after checking in, I was called to the second station, where I answered a few questions and had my temperature and blood pressure taken. I was not told the results, so I figured they were normal or normal-ish. I sat back down.

The two people I remember most clearly were a man likely in his 50s (not me) with a scruffy beard and one of those always-shouting kind of voices, so whenever he said anything, everyone within a hundred meters could hear. This is how I found out he had some kind of steel in his eye and he wanted to get it out. He chatted with several other people and would sometimes wander off for awhile, then come back and chat some more, his jokes and commentary ringing out like machine gun fire.

He seemed defeated, though, by the barfing girl. An older couple brought in a young girl, perhaps three years old. Cute kid. I looked over and whatever she had eaten earlier began burbling out of her mouth. Then it sluiced out. Then I stopped looking over that way. They got a cute little blue barf pouch for her, but I think it was probably too late. They left for awhile, presumably to clean her up. I didn’t find out why she was throwing up because they spoke in normal tones. The girl herself seemed very chill about the whole thing. I’ve never seen anyone so casually vomit.

Another half hour passed–it was now about 7:41 p.m.–when a nurse came along and took me aside to get a blood sample. This was new, but since I’m fine with blood being taken if I don’t fast for 16 hours first, no big deal. She did a remarkably good job of getting the needle in. Today you can barely see the mark. I was sent back to the check-in area with a taped-down piece of gauze on my right arm.About 40 minutes later I am finally moved to triage, which is as full as check-in. I find a seat near the end and fiddle around on the phone, watching the battery slowly diminish. Most of the people here have no immediately identifiable cause for being here, which is a relief. The girl sitting to my right asks if it’s cold or if she’s dying. That’s not exactly what she said, but she spoke very softly. I told her it sure wasn’t warm, which was true. She talked a bit about why she was there. Something about her eye. I nodded and smiled, hopefully in the right places.

At 9:34 p.m.–almost an hour later– I am finally taken to an exam room, where I am told to take off my shirt and put on a gown. This is later revealed to serve no purpose. The nurse asks some questions, takes my temperature an blood pressure again, but this time she notes that my blood pressure is a little high. I have mystery pain in my back, am suffering from a bad cold and have already been here for three hours, so yes, my blood pressure is a little high. She shrugs it off and laves.

Nearly an hour later, the doctor arrives and after a few questions, gives me a bottle to pee in. As it turns out, I really had to go, so this is convenient.

I have to wait for someone who seems to take a very long time in the one available washroom. I don’t want to know why he is taking so long. I go in, provide a generous sample, put it on a napkin on the sample table, then return to triage. It is now 10:46 p.m.

About 45 minutes later the doctor comes by to tell me the blood test looks fine, and there is no sign of infection in the urine. All good! But there is a tiny bit of blood in the urine (the amount is too small to be visible). He says this could be due to being older (he is a young doctor and at least he says “older” and not “old”) or a sign of a kidney stone. I am told to wait (ho ho) for someone to give me a form for an ultrasound, after which I will consult with my doctor over the results.

I get the form and leave. It is 11:37 p.m. I get home a few minutes before midnight and eat a Clif Bar because I’m hungry and in a bad mood.

Today I schedule an ultrasound for 3:15 p.m. tomorrow. I am told to drink three cups of water an hour before and to not pee them out until after the ultrasound. The test is conveniently at Royal Columbian. Less conveniently I will be at work, so I will have to leave early.

What’s funny in retrospect is how I didn’t flip out or go squirrelly with how long it took. I think I just knew going in and accepted it. Also, there was only one crying baby, briefly, in the background.

But the next time I feel compelled to get a health issue checked out ASAP, I am not waiting until the walk-in clinics have closed. That, or I’m taking a laptop next time and writing half a novel while I wait.