Mah site is broke

I did a silly thing last night. I decided to revamp the site, spontaneously, into something much more stripped down and streamlined. I didn’t intend to finish it the same night, but I’d get a lot of the planks in place, so to speak.

While I did this, my internet connection went down, because there are evil gnomes at Telus who know the worst time to make my connection fail.

Anyway, the main change was moving from content/sidebar to sidebar/content–simply switching the sidebar to the other side, and re-organizing the content in it. I also switched to a more muted colour scheme.

Everything looked pretty good. I hit Publish and…every widget in the new sidebar disappeared. I rebuilt it and in the preview it looked good. I hit Publish and again, all widgets gone.

The right sidebar seemed OK, but as soon as I touched it, the curse spread to it, but not as fully–for some reason the last widget was retained, and all others wiped.

My database is quite old–it dates back to 2005, when I started the blog, and I’ve already covered how it won’t properly display all emoji because of some old-timey character set issues. So I’m thinking that perhaps the outage may have corrupted a janky database into something even jankier. But I do not know for certain. I am a humble word-spewer and doodler, not a web developer.

I am pondering now. I’ve added a few things to the right sidebar again, and these few things seem to be sticking for the moment. We’ll see how it goes.

I am sad. 🙁

But I also have renewed my hatred of WordPress. >:( (actual emoji for being angry will not display)

An update on this interesting situation soon™.

The Rainening, plus bonus dream report

And so it begins. As I type this on Sunday morning, the heavy rain…

…has begun.

I may go out and take photos later, because that would be a silly thing to do.

In the meantime, I had a bunch of dreams last night and remember bits from at least four of them:

  • Some ancient Greek or Roman stage play where I was hosting people in togas and such, with political intrigue. Also, someone had their genitals hanging out like they were auditioning for Caligula. It was not sexy.
  • Going down the stairs in a university, and they had big art displays in the stairwells that were awkward to move around. I noted this while chatting with a girl, who then bumped into one, which may have been a giant telescope model, and it rolled down the stairs into the lobby. It didn’t seem damaged, but she took off, and then I had to also take off, because even though I had nothing to do with it, I was the next obvious suspect.
  • Visiting the grocery store near our old house in Duncan (which is actually a Shoppers Drug Mart now). I was apparently there very early, as I passed the morning meeting/scrum where most of the employees had gathered. After leaving, I realized I didn’t have my phone and recalled using it in the store, so it seemed odd that I would suddenly not have it. I thought how I couldn’t check with mom at the old house because she doesn’t live there anymore.
  • Speaking of houses, I was in some big mansion or something and being chased by villains or zombies or maybe villainous zombies. I acquired a pistol and might have had a melee weapon in my other hand. I remember shooting several of these whatever-they-were, and it had a very video game vibe to it. It wasn’t scary at all. I took it on the lam and at one point hid in the world’s largest closet as they pursued me. Seriously, the closet was bigger than some of the places I’ve lived. Maybe it was a secret room and not a closet. I hid in a pile of stuff in a corner and remember hearing them talking just on the other side.
  • There might have been a bonus fifth dream, but I no longer recall it.

Birding, May 31, 2024: Sun, Sarcasto and a surprise selection of lifers

Where: Burnaby Lake (Burnaby), Como Lake (Coquitlam), Rocky Point Park (Port Moody), Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam)
Weather: Sunny, 12-20°C

The Outing

With a rare day of sun, we headed off for a day of Friday birding.

Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)

We started at Burnaby Lake–but with a twist! We would start at the Avalon parking lot, walk to Piper Spit, then continue around the entire 10.3 km loop back to the parking lot.

We had barely begun our trek when, sitting on a railing on the footbridge over Silver Creek, we saw a Swainson’s thrush–a lifer. This is the same spot we also saw a brown creeper, so apparently it’s a favourite hangout for Birds You Almost Never See. After grabbing a few shots before it flew off, we continued on to Fungus Face™, where several Douglas squirrels were dashing about, stopping occasionally to sit on their haunches, nibble on food and look adorable. After a few moments, it became apparent that there were more than just a couple squirrels. Several were taking to higher branches and chittering in a vaguely disturbing way, perhaps as a territorial display. As the vibe shifted from “aw, cute!” to “be prepared to run” we opted to move on.

We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently, and this was evident at Piper Spit, where the land mass to the east of the pier–which had been getting larger–was now completely submerged. The lone coot was absent, but in its place was a single green-winged teal. The male mallards and wood ducks are rapidly shedding their mating colours, and letting themselves go, as men do in the summer. The pier was dominated by geese and their rapidly-growing goslings, some of whom are entering that awkward teen phase where they have tiny heads but giant legs. It was apparently morning nap time, so there wasn’t a lot of activity, though the geese were being weird, as usual.

We moved to the viewing platform next door and appreciated the scenery and sun before heading back down. This is where we encountered Sarcasto. He had a BTL1Big Telephoto Lens, identifying him as a likely birder. He was on the trail leading to the viewing platform and aiming at some kind of bird. Apparently as we approached the bird took off. Someone else nearby wondered what it was, to which Nic responded likely a house finch. Sarcasto turned around to us and said, in a clearly sarcastic tone, “Thank you.” Like we had done a terrible thing by possibly and unintentionally scaring off a finch.

Sarcasto would follow us for much of the rest of the way, probably thinking of new sarcastic things to say the whole time.

We continued on encountered two more lifers (for me, at least, Nic can confirm if both were lifers for him as well): a dusky flycatcher and a willow flycatcher. It was a liferpalooza.

Other highlights from around the lake:

  • An osprey circling above Piper Spit
  • A heron flying close overhead, then perching in a nearby tree and looking all stabby-faced for us
  • the water fountains (yes, these count as highlights)
  • Several pretty views of the lake, which is already in its lily pad-covered glory
  • Swallows buzzing low over the water at the rowing club and then hanging out on the marshy shore nearby
  • A surprise killdeer hanging out with them that we didn’t see until Nic spotted it in one of his photos afterwards
  • A coyote wandering the trail right near the 10 km mark. It moved off onto one of the horse trails before we could get photos, alas

With over 20,000 steps already logged on my watch, we moved on.

Como Lake (Coquitlam)

I suggested Como Lake, because it is small and easy to walk around and we might see ducks or something. And we did! We also saw ducklings, which were cute and fuzzy and seemed to enjoy snarfing up the copious amounts of cottonwood dander floating on the lake surface (cottonwood dander was everywhere). This was the place that had famously netted off access points to the water to get rid of the geese and on last visit it had been a 100% success–no geese to be found.

This time they were legion, complete with goslings. But it was worth it for the baby ducks. Maybe they’ll put the netting back once everyone is all grown up.

There are also ping pong tables here now, and playing ping pong on a bright summer day strikes me as both weird and appealing.

Rocky Point Park (Port Moody)

The last time we went to Rocky Point Park, we never actually got there, because there was no place to park, and we left without ever stopping.

Being that it was a weekday this time, we actually did manage to park.

On the downside, there were few birds to be seen, mostly just crows. But the scenery was nice–what we could see of it. We hit the Shoreline Trail and discovered that since our last visit they have been replacing the boardwalk at the end of the inlet (the new boardwalk is being raised significantly higher “to accommodate rising sea levels due to climate change”, which is both a good thing to plan for, but also yikes, because the new boardwalk is going to be a lot higher). This meant we had to go around on the street to get to the other side, where a man showed Nic photos of a local bear (the furry kind that lives in the forest and hibernates, not the furry kind that hits on cubs in bars). I shot a few of the crows, then as we headed back, we encountered two people from Environment Canada (?) that identified us as birders thanks to our BTLs. They let us know about a heron rookery that will still have its hideously cute fledglings for about another month before they leave the nest, so we may venture back to catch some shots before then. We didn’t immediately go because at this point we’d walked about 5 million steps.

While the views were nice, Rocky Point ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I mean, even a couple of seagulls dropping clams from the sky would have been something. Alas.

Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam)

The people above also mentioned a kind of bunting at Tlahutum, which was our next and last destination. Unfortunately, neither of us could remember their general directions on where to go, but it seemed to be two spots: one in a grove of trees near the first and smaller parking lot (which we never park at), and the other past a pond by the forensic psychiatric hospital. We tried the area near the smaller parking lot first, but did not see any buntings–or any other birds. Merlin stayed mum.

We moved to the main parking lot and noodled around near the entrance to the hospital, discovering a grassy labyrinth (complete with signpost identifying it as such), leading to a debate over labyrinth vs. maze. We saw no sign of any pond. Nic wondered if it might be near the gazebo, but it appeared occupied, and it just felt creepy to wander the grounds of a psychiatric hospital, so we agreed to do more research and try again at a later date.

With the aforementioned 5 million steps in mind, we stuck to the community gardens, and only certain parts of it, as all the rain had resulted in big ol’ puddles forming again at key junctions. We saw a lot of swallows, including a violet green swallow. We briefly saw some goldfinches and Nic managed a single shot before they flew away, possibly forever, satisfied at their taunting of us.

The day ended with me grabbing a couple of slightly fuzzy shots of a robin. I didn’t use manual focus because it looked fine through the EVF. One day I’ll learn.

Overall, though, a fine day of birding, with multiple rare sightings, pleasant weather, no sunburn and plenty of lush, green scenery. 9/10 black-capped chickadees (which we did not see, sad face).

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American bushtit
  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Dusky flycatcher
  • House finch
  • Marsh wren (heard, not seen, at Burnaby Lake)
  • Northern flicker
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Swainson’s thrush
  • Tree swallow
  • Violet green swallow
  • Willow flycatcher

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Killdeer
  • Mallard
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Rock pigeon

Raptors:

  • Osprey

Non-birds:

  • Douglas squirrel (a veritable gaggle of them)
  • Butterflies: Tiger swallowtail, Milbert’s tortoiseshell and a Celestrina echo (yes, Nic looked up the latter two)
  • Bumblebees of various sorts, including orange-belted
  • A coyote

Welcome to June 2024 (bring your hip waders)

From Environment Canada:

A year ago, I was noting the FIRE DANGER signs had just gone up. That won’t be happening for a while this time around1My totally scientific prediction is by the end of June, if the weather trends dry after the current soaking. The 10-day forecast does show sunny and warm temperatures returning on June 5, though, which means some will be complaining that it’s too hot by June 8.

But hey, no forest fires. Just the possibility of flash floods, which is totally something you expect with summer 19 days away. Weather2Probably climate change, actually, amirite?

May 2024 weight loss report: Up 0.3 pounds

So close! Three days ago I was still under, but the pattern this month was clear: Every time I lost or gained weight, the near-exact opposite would happen, though the first half of the month the trend was going up slightly, and the latter half the trend was moving back down (I was under three times this month, all three times coming at least three weeks in).

The swings were also generally larger than normal, too. One day, I dropped 0.9 pounds, then gained back the exact amount 24 hours later. I have no good explanation for this.

So while the news is technically not good, the trend is moving in the right direction, and I am boldly predicting actual weight loss for June.

Slightly wacky fact: I’m ending this month exactly as I ended April, at 168.9 pounds, so in a sense my weight didn’t change at all! (It also made it easier to put together this month’s stats.)

Stats (note: I am dropping Body water, it’s not particularly relevant, as it fluctuates within a fairly small range):

Weight:
January 1, 2024: 172.3 pounds
Current: 168.9 pounds
Year to date: Down 3.4 pounds

May 1: 168.6 pounds
May 31: 168.9 pounds (up 0.3 pounds)

Body fat:
May 1: 25.9%
May 31: 25.6% (down 0.3%)

Skeletal muscle mass:
May 1: 30.0%
May 31: 30.0% (unchanged)

Historical: January 1, 2022: 182.8 pounds

“It felt like opening the front door at my birthday party to welcome in a group of iPads on wheels instead of people I like”

Today I came across this wonderfully horrifying blog post about someone using AI (an LLM1Large Language Model, or as I’ve seen some people call them, a very fancy parrot to be precise) to write an email to a friend. Why a friend would do this to another friend is a very good question, because it seems terrible and awful.

The post is filled with great lines, though, one of which forms the title of this blog post, which was generated by LTF2Less than Ten Fingers typing, which is the way I’ll always roll, I think technology.

Construction junction

Right now, in my neighbourhood and as close as literally next door in some cases, we have:

  • A major new bridge being built across the Fraser River (Pattullo Bridge replacement)
  • A gigantic acute care tower for Royal Columbian Hospital (nine storeys with helipad) being constructed next door
  • The lane and pedestrian path related to the above, which has been closed since last August, remains closed and under construction. The work on the path was supposed to be complete by last November (six months ago as I type this)
  • A major office/residential tower being built on Keary St. across from the existing hospital (currently a gigantic1This word will come up a lot hole in the ground)
  • Another major office/residential tower still being finished next to the one described above, with its front-facing courtyard that connects to the Sapperton SkyTrain entrance still barricaded.
  • Plans underway now to redesign and rework Sherbrooke St. and East Columbia where they parallel the hospital (Sherbrooke is the street I live on). The work will happen over the next six months.
  • A new SkyTrain maintenance yard just across from where the Brunette River trail starts
  • Probably other things I’m forgetting. Almost certainly a road or three being torn up for sewer replacement, a project that takes so long it appears to exist in perpetuity.

And yes, isn’t it nice that New Westminster (and Coquitlam) are “cities on the grow”, but you know, it’s kind of wearing me down. We’ve had this construction going on in some form for the last 10 years. It feels like it never ends. It would be nice for it to end. I want to walk the neighbourhood and just see people and buildings and trees, not cranes and open pits and excavators and the constant din of hundreds of construction workers operating machinery, hammering and making a lot of racket, which is part of their job.

It would be nice. Maybe it’ll happen eventually, for a moment in time, before the next project commences.

The allure of the olden times, Part 2: The telephone

Photo by Pixabay

Original post here: Something that really was better in the olden times

I made a note to revisit my February 13, 2024 post about nostalgia and how some things were better in the long ago days of the 1970s, in which I reflected on how life moved slower back in the olden times. I made the note in case I had any new insights to add later. Thinking about it some more, there is one thing I allude to it when I mention a smartphone without reception as a way of escaping the always-connected feeling of life today. And that is the phone, and how we communicated with it (or didn’t) back then.

In 1975, we had a phone in the house. It was mounted to the wall in the downstairs hallway and had a long coiled cord that allowed it to reach partway into the adjacent kitchen, if it was a long call, and you wanted to sit down. 1975 predates any other phone technology–you dialed numbers using an actual rotary dial (at the time you could leave off the first two digits, so you only had to dial the last five, saving some wear on your fingers. Compare to today where there are so many numbers they had to add two new area codes to BC and you now have to dial not just the seven digits number, but also the area code and 1 at the start). Voicemail did not exist in the consumer space and even answering machines weren’t adopted back then, though they did exist in nascent form. This meant that you had one way to contact a person in real time: Call them on your medieval rotary phone and hope they were home. If they weren’t, you just had to try again later, or maybe hope to run into them at the local grocer or something. As a kid, I never called much, I just walked to someone’s house or one of the usual haunts, or we’d pre-plan at school (face to face during recess, lunch or an especially boring class).

Being unable to instantly and always communicate and especially knowing someone who had a lot of 9’s in their phone number (this was a thing) resulted in a certain kind of isolation, but it was never perceived as such. You just had your own little part of the world, your friends and neighbours had theirs, and you made specific, conscious choices to have them intersect. And if you couldn’t reach someone on the phone, you’d just do something else, like read a book, or go bowling.

I’m not advocating going back to rotary phones to recapture some lost magic, they were pretty awful (push button phones were genuinely exciting when introduced), but having that level of removal from everyone else, where we existed as communities, but smaller, more intimate ones, is something I look back on fondly, not with any sense of “we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow” old-man-yelling-at-clouds bitterness, just in appreciation of the quiet it brought. I think of kids growing up today with smartphones practically embedded into their hands, and it does not appeal to 10-year-old me at all. And I was a tech nerd! Maybe that part is a little old-man-yells-at-clouds.

Something to ponder for a future post.

The scales of…weight

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Last night, the Garmin scale flashed a battery symbol in its display, a sure sign that the batteries were needing to be replaced soon. Very soon, as it turns out, as the scale promptly died right after. I did not have the four required AAA batteries needed to revive it. But popping out the old batteries and popping them back in revived the scale one last time. I stepped on, and it insisted I had gained over five pounds overnight.

I did not gain five pounds overnight.

I will get new batteries today and convince my OCD that it’s OK to have a one-day gap in my weight this one week.

And yes, in the olden days this wouldn’t be an issue, because back then scales didn’t need batteries. Such is modern life.

OK, I’m officially lodging a complaint against Mother Nature

I know, complaining about the weather (over which I have no control, at least to my knowledge) is dumb and pointless, but when I looked at the 10-day forecast this morning and saw eight days of everything from “light rain showers” to “heavy rain”, with a mere two days of “mostly sunny” in the middle (which will probably change to “light rain” in the next day or so), I felt I had to…post this.

On the plus side, this will prevent local forest fires, which we don’t really get, because the lower mainland (Metro Vancouver to outsiders) is not exactly covered in forest to begin with. It also means fewer incidents of skin cancer, since no one is going to be working on a tan, except possibly those two “mostly sunny” days (which are a lie, anyway).

On the other plus side (I’m trying to stay positive here), maybe instead of a scorching dry hot summer, it will merely be pleasant and mild and people will wake up every morning and feel refreshed and filled with joy, and return to a nice cool bedroom in the evening feeling the same.

Or you know, we could get maybe another sunny day sometime so I remember what they feel like. I’m just saying. (It’s raining steadily as I type this.)

Obligatory GIF:

A flower on Fader Street

We are in the midst of a rainy stretch here (boo1Yes, boo, not “But at least it means fewer forest fires because the forest fires happen up north, not in the Lower Mainland. People here just grumble when it rains in summer or summer-adjacent months, though admittedly it keeps the grass looking fresh and green.), so when I went for a walk yesterday, everything was rather damp, including this striking flower I shot on nearby Fader Street.

Shot on my increasingly aged but still perfectly capable iPhone 12