At long last, FIRE DANGER is back

Today, with a projected high of 34C, I decided to postpone my run until tomorrow (the forecast is for the same high temperature, but I’m going to try getting up super-early to compensate. We’ll see how that goes!) and instead took a brisk walk up and down the river trail instead, about 7.7 km in total. While I sweated reasonably profusely, it was not nearly as much as the recent soakings I’ve gotten when running.

And after having spent the previous paragraph talking about hot, dry weather, it may seem surprising that these signs just went up on the river trail, the second latest in the season I’ve ever seen them appear (the earliest is May and the latest was never, in 2019):

The FIRE DANGER sign this year is actually new–they added REPORT FIRES TO 911 and removed the line about staying on trails. And actually, it appears they kind of merged two signs into one, maybe because all fire danger is now considered EXTREME. Here’s a shot of the two previous signs from 2017:

This was taken with an iPhone 6 and looks surprisingly bad. Where are all the pixels?

This concludes The History of the FIRE DANGER Sign in Metro Vancouver.

When narcissism and mauling come together

You might think this sign would not be needed, but apparently it is, because it exists. This particular one is at Robert Burnaby Park.

If you see a bear, do not take a selfie with the bear, because the bear will eat you and post its own selfie on Bear Facebook, featuring your mangled corpse.

The same sign also advises that you should not:

  • approach a bear
  • feed a bear
  • run from a bear
  • chase a bear
  • get close to a bear

Basically, if you spot a bear, immediately teleport away, if possible.

The most depressing sign I saw today

There’s a big office building that sits midway between the condo and nearby grocery store and when it opened, we got a bonus walk that acts as a shortcut to the store, saving us having to walk up and around the block. It’s a pleasant little walk, with a nice view of the river (until they finish building the new condo towers, at least), and there’s a little grass area with picnic tables and a garden. The area is a bit truncated due to encroaching construction, but what’s there is green and lovely.

And now the garden there has this sign:

This is not the kind of sign put up proactively, so it means it went up after needles were found in the area. If you stand at this sign and look to your left, you are looking directly at a daycare facility, with a playground beside it. It’s about ten steps away.

Addiction sucks, for sure, but maybe if you’re going to shoot up, don’t toss your needles out where they can prick and infect innocent little kids (or anyone else)?

The ongoing death of brick & mortar: NCIX edition

The personal computer market has changed a lot since I moved to Vancouver in 1986, and the retail market has changed along with it.

In 1986 the Macintosh was only two years old, the IBM PC was all of five. Walking into a decent computer store, whether a hardware-focused place like Future Shop, or a software-focused one like Super Software, you could buy titles for the following systems:

  • Apple II
  • IBM PC
  • Atari 8-bit
  • Commodore VIC-20
  • Commodore 64
  • Macintosh
  • Amiga
  • Atari ST (520/1040)

Ten years later the market every system was dead or dying, save for two. The Macintosh had carved out a niche, primarily for those using it in desktop publishing, but it was the PC that came to dominate, both with businesses and home users, with the advent of VGA graphics and decent sound cards making them viable for gaming. The growth of the PC led to the number of stores selling PCs, PC parts and software exploding.

I did a lot of my early shopping back then at a few local stores such as ATIC Computers and Frontier PC before settling on NCIX for their combination of good stock, retail locations and solid pricing. Just this summer I was still buying from them, picking up a mouse and some USB stick, not realizing they were on the verge of shutting down all of their retail stores and declaring bankruptcy. It makes me sad to see another long-time local business go under, even as I admit to a bad taste in my mouth over the way customers are predictably getting the short end of the stick as the company goes under.

Also, how does a company selling tech in the shadow of places like Amazon and Newegg not realize the future is online? I liked shopping at NCIX because I live in a condo and it’s a pain to get larger items delivered, because they end up at some depot and it’s just easier to get them at a store. But if I lived in a house? I’d order everything online–it hardly makes sense to do otherwise, with either free or cheap shipping. But the owners of NCIX apparently thought otherwise, and even as the competition got swallowed up (Best Buy devouring Future Shop), shifted to corporate/online sales Frontier PC) or just vanished altogether (to my surprise, ATIC is still around, though they have moved to a new location next to MEC), they kept their focus on retail stores that never generated enough traffic to justify the expense of operating them.

And in this case, we’re looking at stuff that doesn’t translate easily into digital format like books, magazines and music. But it doesn’t matter–people are shifting their purchases for a lot of electronics online and NCIX lost out.

I guess I’ll get a chance to see how well delivery works from Amazon and Newegg now.

A lament for Book Warehouse

I’ve been a bit out of the loop with local news lately and so missed last month’s announcement that local bookstore chain Book Warehouse would be closing. You can read the owner’s statement at the Book Warehouse website but I assume that may not be around forever so here it is in full, recorded for posterity.

Dear friends and customers,

Our leases are expiring and so are we. For many years we’ve had a fantastic time bookselling. We’re leaving with no regrets and many, many happy memories of customers, books and colleagues. In particular, I cannot say enough about the support, encouragement and friendship our landlords have given us throughout.

For many years it has been our privilege to be your bookseller in the Lower Mainland. We have been truly blessed to be welcomed into our neighbourhoods and we’ve enjoyed every year we’ve been here.

I would like to express thanks to the many booksellers who have served you so well over the years. We’ve had our joys and even tragedies but throughout we have had a rich and rewarding experience serving you. On behalf of all the Book Warehouse people who have built relationships with you I would like to thank you for all your support over the years. We won’t forget you, and we hope you will remember us as fondly as we will remember you.

Please enjoy our closing sale, and please take the time to chat with us. We’re going to miss you!

Sharman King

This message is much more positive than the “We are doomed” one Duthie’s posted when they closed shop two years ago and that reflects on King’s general optimism. In the end it wasn’t enough to keep the 32 year old enterprise going as the book market undergoes a sea change with ereaders and companies like Amazon changing the way people get books.

I shopped at Book Warehouse semi-regularly, visiting the reference section for books on writing, nabbing the occasional bestseller (always discounted by at least 20%) or something from the fiction section. The staff were always friendly, ready to help and the atmosphere was relaxed. With most of my reading shifting to ebooks I can’t honestly say I’ll miss Book Warehouse in a practical sense but I will miss having the opportunity to walk in and look over the new releases and end up buying something I didn’t even know had existed. That tangible contact, being able to pick up a book and examine its cover, read the blurb, it wasn’t magical or anything, really, but it was nice and now one of my most-frequented places to do this will soon be another memory.

Charlie Smith has written an excellent reminisce for the Georgia Straight. Read it here.

Now hiring (a limited time offer)

The HMV store at the corner of Burrard and Robson is sporting some new signs lately, as seen in this photo I took the other day. Compare the small sign on the left to the rather large one on the right.

I guess they need someone to help unload those Everybody Loves Raymond DVD sets at 50% off. And if you get fed up with the job, no problem, you won’t have it for very long, anyway!

Breakfast from Hell?

Over on East Columbia Street in New Westminster, the Sapperton Place Cafe offers a menu where ‘All Prices included HST’ (perhaps anticipating the tax’s possible defeat in the recent referendum) that includes a morning snack for a mere $2.50. For that low price you get coffee and your choice of muffin or ‘cheese scorn’, a roll that I suspect is either forged in the fires of Hell, merely disdainful of the cheese it features or perhaps is just generally designed to offer early morning contempt to the world in its own small way. Whichever it is, yum to the delicious cheese scorn!

Why video on demand might be popular

It may be a coincidence that services like Netflix and the other video on demand providers are becoming more popular when a night out at the movies no longer considered a cheap evening out. Or maybe it’s because the theater chains aren’t even trying anymore.

Witness this shot taken at Oakridge Centre a few days back. You can see which movies are playing. Good. You also get the ratings. Er, handy if you have young kids and are wondering if Saw 8 is appropriate for a five year old, I suppose. But where are the times?

Look at all that white space on the sign, it is mesmerizing in its starkness, like gazing upon the fields of permafrost at the Arctic circle. At one time this white space was filled with the times they were showing the movies. Now they don’t bother because I guess they figure you’ll just look up the times on your ‘Aren’t you fancy?’ smartphone. Or maybe they figure you’ll actually schlep to the theater box office and check the times there and if they don’t line up for you, you’ll just shrug and walk away, happily thinking about how you were glad to get that little bit of extra exercise walking over to the box office for what turned out to be no reason!

Anyway, lazy theater owners. Bad Empire, bad. Not evil, which would actually sound much cooler, but still…bad.

A sign of the times

In this case, the times are of increasing illiteracy. Or maybe this is new lingo I’m unaware of. Spotted outside a restaurant last night on the north side of False Creek:

My other guess is that it was a reserved party for private perverts, though it wouldn’t seem especially private being in a public restaurant with large windows and outdoor seating. The little heart stands as compelling evidence, though! The privert people gathered all seemed happy enough.