Spring 2019: Now with extra spring

As I type this it is currently 15°C and sunny. The temperature is higher than the seasonal norm and the season–officially Spring as of today–has debuted in spectacular fashion. After a good six weeks of below seasonal temperatures in the last month and a half of winter, this is welcome indeed.

Flowers are flowering, trees are budding and people are already getting sun burns. It’s great.

Cooler, more seasonal temperatures and showers are forecast for next week, but for now we bask in the glory of an early spring, the restorative powers of the sun providing an extra boost to the trials of a typical work day.

Today I did not wear my winter coat

Today was the first day this year I did not wear my winter jacket to work. It was 21ºC when I got home, according to Weather Underground.

It was nice.

March 11, 2019: Zero day

I’m still kind of impressed when the site reports no hits at all, like it did yesterday, March 11, 2019. Sometimes, in a remote and distant way, it bothers me that it can happen, that absolutely no one, not even by accident, will happen upon the site.

But then I remember there’s nothing specific to draw people to the site, there’s no hook, no “omg this site has the best listicles/photos/articles/kitten pics ever” and I’m okay with that, because I never intended for this site to have a big audience. In fact, having virtually no audience is kind of nice in a way. Traffic is low, expectations are similar, it’s more a place for me to exercise my writing discipline (certainly not the quality of my writing) without worry. A journal of miscellany mostly relevant to only me.

Or am I actually crying tears of anguish as I type these words, crushed at being left all alone on the web, which is now 30 years old. Also, how do people put so many links in their posts and articles? That stuff takes serious time.

I am way too lazy to have a good website.

But I’m still posting something every day.

And a random list to complete this post:

  • Apparently bananas are in danger of going extinct again. This makes me sad, as I like bananas.
  • I still think it’s weird no one has gone to the moon in 40+ years. It’s right there!
  • The amount of plastic in the ocean is gross. I had a soda at a restaurant the other day and it came with a paper straw. I could have eaten it, if I’d wanted to, a small step to saving our world.
  • Even weirder than not going to the moon: I’m actually starting to kind of like the horribly flat keyboard on my MacBook Pro. This would be about the point that it starts failing, so that I may hate it again.
  • Speaking of Apple, its March 25th event, presumably to reveal its streaming service, excites me in the same way as putting on my socks. To clarify, I find minimal excitement in donning socks.
  • I hope my efforts to reduce the soreness and discomfort in my knees work, because I can’t afford bionic replacements. Also, I don’t think they exist.

March 16, 2019

This is the date that The Weather Network is promising Vancouver will reach double digits for the daily high for the first time in 100 years. The temperature is alleged to reach 10ºC. I will ya out my shorts and t-shirt that morning in anticipation. They are also forecasting showers, so I will also include an umbrella next to my shorts and t-shirt.

With spring approaching this month and the promise of un-cold weather in the near future, let’s review Winter 2018/19:

December: This month was a bit of a throwback to winters of yore, which is to say it was relatively mild and not-so-relatively wet. It rained a lot and I spent many-a-minute eyeing the traffic roaring at highway speed along Brunette Avenue, hoping to avoid being sprayed by a giant wave kicked up by an 18 wheeler. I was mostly successful. No snow. Yay.

January: Mild with some cold days and pretty dry. This is similar to a lot of the winter weather we’ve had in recent years. I like it. Only a few traces of snow. Yay.

February. The entire month was pretty much 3-6 degrees below seasonal temperatures. And it snowed. Not once, not twice, but more than that. Some snow was wet and gone the same day, but the last snowfall has become semi-permanent as daytime temperatures have been too low to melt it much and nighttime lows have been consistently below freezing. We had an actual snow day at work. I am kind of over the cold and snow now, so no yay.

Early March has been more of the same, with cold temperatures, though it seemingly got up to 9ºC today. While it has been getting slightly warmer, this has been offset by sharp winds that end up making it feel even colder than when it’s cold. No yay.

If I was actually running outside right now…well, I wouldn’t be, because there is too much compact snow on the trails, as was the case two years ago during The Great Snow of 2017. At current rates of melting, the trails might be comfortably run-worthy in two or three weeks–assuming we don’t get more snow or another polar vortex or a frost giant heavy-breathing over the region for a week.

The final question is: Why are people so fascinated by the weather? I can only assume it’s because there’s no way to avoid it. And getting soaked by an 18 wheeler hellbent on hydroplaning is an experience you are not likely to forget.

Melancholy and Google maps

I’ll expand on this later, but Google Maps and its street view mode, is incredibly handy for scoping out a place ahead of time (assuming the street view is recent enough to be reasonably accurate).

But you can also use it to travel back in time, in a way, by using a slider to select previous street view scenes, some stretching back 12 years. This may not seem very old, but Google itself only existed for eight years prior. It’ll feel like looking at ancient history in a hundred years, when everyone is driving flying cars.

These snapshots in time can also produce a sense of nostalgia or, in my case, a kind of melancholy.

I used street view to travel around my hometown of Duncan. I last lived in Duncan in 1986–32 years ago as I write this–and while I’ve visited numerous times since then, the frequency of the trips has dwindled over the years and my last visit was in 2011. So I turned to street view to see how it looks now.

Some things are virtually unchanged. The Duncan Lanes bowling alley is still there. All of the schools I went to are still standing, though some have been repurposed. But other things are gone. The 2009 street view shows the small building that housed Paks Grocery, owned by the father of one of my school friends. By this point it was no longer a grocer. By 2015 it was gone altogether, replaced by a new residential complex. I have distinct memories of going there to buy candy and gum, goofing off with friends, and it is odd to think I can never step into the store again.

The same is repeated around the town, with many businesses and places I recall fondly replaced with new buildings and businesses, or, more depressingly, reduced to nothing but a vacant lot.

It’s a reminder of the eternal march of change, and underscores how precious memories are. The Duncan I knew in 1986 is long gone. Where the McDonald’s that opened in 1978 was a major event, the area is now home to every chain store and restaurant you can imagine. The Duncan I grew up in is not preserved in amber, but in my memories and the memories of others. Every time I forget a little detail, another piece of the Duncan I know is gone forever. It kind of bums me out.

Also, the city has way more roundabouts now.

More on this in an upcoming post.

Some days are diamonds, some days are dogs

The title is a slightly mangled quote from a John Denver song released in 1981. The actual lyric is:

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone

I have no explanation for my brain’s interpretation of the lyrics, apart from possible confusion with David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. This would be weird, but in keeping with the way my mind sometimes works.

The reason I bring this up is I have been in a bit of a funk all day, literally from when I woke up in the morning, fresh from a couple of unpleasant dreams. They weren’t nightmares (these are extremely rare for me as an adult), nor bad dreams per se, just…unpleasant. One I recall was being with co-workers in some sort of room and a woman from outside our work said something to me that the others could hear that was effectively, “I’m going to deal with you later, you troublemaker.”

I’m not a troublemaker, I swear! The dream never continued on to where the woman dispensed justice/clever put-downs and/or hit me in the face with a cream pie. Or it did and I’ve subsequently blocked it.

But it started me off feeling kind of lousy and I could not shake the feeling for the rest of the day. I can’t shake it now and it’s 9:46 p.m. as I type this. There are other things in the background that are weighing on me (which I’m not going to discuss here, because this is a blog, not a diary, so no dirty* secrets for you!) and they are no doubt contributing to the current funk. Maybe a good night’s sleep will help. Maybe I will draw a cat. Or dream about drawing a cat.

It’s not all bad, though. I feel I am making continued, if slow, progress on a number of fronts, so I say: Excelsior!

* secrets, as such, are not actually dirty

Snow business

I used to get irritated over snow. I even have a tag for this blog called damn snow. But now I just don’t care much about it and I have climate change to thank for it.

Let me explain.

The area around southwestern BC is temperate rain forest. This means it rarely gets too hot or too cold. But it does rain a lot. Like, for half the year a lot.

Except it doesn’t do that much anymore.

It used to be that winters were pretty mild—temperatures consistently above freezing—and we got lots of rain, days and weeks of unrelenting rain. You could almost smell the SAD coming off people as they glumly trudged around through one downpour after another, batting their umbrellas against one another on crowded sidewalks.

When we got snow, it was usually because it just got cold enough for it, meaning it was a heavy, wet snow. The cold wouldn’t last long. Sometimes it felt like minutes. And as the temperature rose, the snow would change to rain.

The rain would relentlessly pound away at the accumulated snow, making it into a slush sea and turning intersections into lakes, with the melting snow jamming up all the sewer drains. It made crossing the street a bit of an adventure. Not the good kind of adventure, though, the “Hey, my pants are soaked up to my knees” kind of adventure.

But for some time that hasn’t really happened. Now it’s more typical for snowfall to occur when it’s too cold to change to rain, and when the weather clears, it stays cold, so the snow melts slowly, instead of turning into vast oceans of slush under ceaseless sheets of rain. This is generally a nice change, because it is more pleasant to deal with slowly melting snow than slush rivers that swallow vehicles whole.

The downside is the snow can hang around a lot longer. I think back two years ago, to our last great snowpocalypse. I ran in the first week of December 2016. It snowed a few days later. No biggie, I think, I’ll miss a week while the snow melts away.

It did not melt. It snowed again. It snowed some more and we had a rare white Christmas. We had a white New Year’s Eve. A white Valentine’s Day. Every time the snow started to melt, another system would sweep in, and because it remained cold, it just piled on more snow.

It finally seemed that by early March the snow was going away for good—then it snowed yet again, making it three months where I could not run outside at my preferred locations because they were never not covered in hard-packed, icy snow.

That was a bit of a bummer. I adapted by running on treadmills instead. It hardly ever snows inside.

All of this is likely due to climate change. The winters here, usually mild and wet, are trending toward dry, with snow taking the place of rain. It’s not consistent, of course. This past December was wet and mild, but January was cooler and dry. Not cold—not until this past week, anyway— just dry instead of wet.

I can live with that. In fact, I like it. But I know it’s because the climate is changing and this is the new normal and the new normal is generally going to be Very Bad for humans and so I feel guilty for enjoying it.

But I still enjoy it.

So I no longer curse the damn snow, because while it can be more persistent than before, winters are overall a lot nicer than they used to be, even if it means we as a species are probably doomed. You take the good with the bad.

Mysterious book recommendations

Today I got my daily newsletter from Kobo with the usual list of enticements for me to peruse, along with a section specifically tailored for me, based on my reading habits/purchase history. Two small issues, though.

First, “recos”? No one uses the word “recos.” Or no one should, anyway.

Second, two of the books appear to be mystery titles. Or rather, the books themselves are mysterious due to their rather generic depiction. I thought it was because they are obscure books that have no ebook covers, but they appear to have covers when you click the serenely blank exterior of each to find them on the Kobo site. (For the record, they are Britain and Victory in the Great War and a collection of essays called The White Album. I’m not entirely sure why either is on my list of recommendations, but I can sort of see the logic if I chase after it a bit.)

Anyway, I’m not going to buy any of the RECOS because I have a virtual pile of unread books that would reach to my chin without adding even more. No, that’s a lie. I will buy more books. Just not these specific ones. Probably.

Pigeons: 1, SkyTrain: 0

The SkyTrain was delayed a bit when I transferred to the Expo Line at Waterfront station this afternoon, something that is happening more frequently, though with no discernible pattern. But today’s delay was a little different.

There was a track intrusion alert at Commercial-Broadway station and SkyTrain staff had to hold all trains until they could verify that the track was not, in fact, being intruded upon. Tracks hate it when you intrude upon them.

As it turns out, the cause was pigeon poop. Yes, pigeon poop.

I refer to the newly-remodeled Commercial-Broadway station as The Aviary, because the large pillars, with upward-pointing clusters of lights that are part of the new platform, have proven extremely popular for roosting among the local pigeon population. They have since added spiky wires to most of the good perching spots, but the pigeons have not been fully dissuaded from hanging around. And like the best of us, pigeons must, from time to time, relieve themselves. Being pigeons, they do this wherever they are perched, which in this case, is above and around the just-opened Platform 5.

It was more likely an actual pigeon triggered the intrusion alert, though possibly apocryphal stories suggest it was the poop itself, perhaps plopping down directly on a sensor in the track from above. In any event, it’s remarkable how these silly birds have become such a problem for the transit system.

This Daily Hive story posted earlier today notes that they are using pigeon birth control to reduce the problem by literally reducing the number of pigeons (over time). Plus netting, spikes and a falcon for good measure, too.

For the moment, though, the pigeons clearly have the upper…wing.