Monthly Archives: December 2018

The Martian Wind (Correspondence between two aging blue-collared friends)

A dashcam view of Ladysmith’s main street..touted as Canada’s award-winning best. The annual light-up festival is a huge drawing card but one has to ask of a town that claims to be green…how many kilowatts of light do we burn up every year?
Just asking!

A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.

Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.

Corn field in winter. As the winter rains return this flooding will increase and then one day, wild swans will descend to swim and feed on the yummy bits in the rich soil below. Man and nature can work together.

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Hello Fred.  It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined.  We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world.  Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!!  It does not bode well for our future.  I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days.  Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles.  Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree!  What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown.  Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China!  Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!

Well, I have to go now.  I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.

Panamanian-flagged, Greek owned, built in China of North American iron ore and recycled Japanese automobiles smelted with British Columbian coal. It will load with raw logs for Asia where they’ll be turned into furniture and other goods to be sold back to us. Did I mention that the flags were probably made in Pakistan? It gets confusing.

Jimmy:

Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef?  Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy  sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.

We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses.  And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.

We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”

Once a tremendous effort was made to clear our rich Southern coastal land of its massive timber. After all that effort, most of this prime ground has been abandoned to eventually become “Developed ” land. With ever more people and less arable land, the idea of being able to feed ourselves is becoming more remote.

Abandoned fields are eventually overrun by Himalayan blackberries, an aggressive invasive species. Hardly anyone tries to even harvest the berries, a rich food source. Doesn’t it make you want to ask a few questions?

On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books.  I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators.  River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking?  Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.

Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!

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Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.

Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

Well balls to it all. I don’t really care where they were made. Remember to hang on to your sense of humour…it may be the most valuable thing you possess.                   Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Hard Frost At High Noon

Arrivals and Departures. A floatplane lands in Departure Bay in Nanaimo as a speedboat heads out toward the anchored freighters. Entrance Island is in the distant background off the Northern tip of Gabriola Island. This is a prominent landmark for mariners in the Strait Of Georgia.

Departure Bay with Nanaimo Harbour in the background. The pall of effluent in the distance is the Crofton pulpmill adjacent to the old farm where Jack and  love to walk. The venerable BC ferry ‘Queen Of Coquitlam’ is leaving the terminal for Horseshoe Bay on the mainland north of Vancouver.

“Dorothy! I do believe it ain’t summer no more.”

Mosscicles

Fluffy Vines

It is a time of year here on Vancouver Island when we usually have incessant wind and rain. For the last week we’ve had clear, cold weather under a massive high with light Westerly winds. High-flying jets leave contrails that dissipate quickly, a sure sign of stable air aloft which means the fine weather will last a while. This afternoon a high ridge of cloud advanced rapidly from the Southwest. Now the cloud cover is descending which means a warm front has penetrated the high. Soon it will bring rain, perhaps with snow flurries at first. As a sailor and former pilot it is instinctive for me to keep an eye on the sky and I can confirm that the forecast appears accurate this time. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas.

A school of higher learning. One adult bald  eagle and three juveniles share a sunny perch .

Wire and Ice.
An unusual sight on Southern Vancouver Island

I have worked in Northern regions where winter was long and hard. The romance of the great white north soon wore off. There were many feet of snow and the cold was extreme. In the dead of winter we would service our machinery around mid-day because it had warmed up to -40. (Celsius and Fahrenheit are both the same temperature at that mark.) Now, much older, some of my health issues probably stem from those days when I was young and invincible and seldom wore gloves or hats. Now with temperatures at a mere 6° and humidity at 90% it hurts. My old bones ache and burn. I am glad that I am not back on the Great Lakes where I grew up. The humid winter chill there was bitterly horrid. The only worse damp cold I have known was in the Northeast of England along the shore of the North Sea.

C’mon eh! With the frost there are a whole new set of smells. Old Jack is eager to explore.

Frosty greens. A deer grazes at midday while heavy frost remains in the shadows.

Frost can make the most mundane things beautiful. These oak leaves would go unnoticed without the wintery touch.

S’no berries like frosty snowberries.

A touch of sunlight.

A road in the swamp.

Incidentally, while working in Quebec long ago, I spent some time one winter in Baie-Comeau. The temperature one night dipped briefly to -72°F and a brisk wind blew in from the Gulf Of Saint Lawrence. Gawd! I shall never forget that insidious, penetrating chill even inside the motel where the steam radiators clicked and banged, threatening failure at any moment. All’s well that ends. We drank a lot of cognac. My employer hired pilots retiring from the French Air Force. They could speak the language and they had considerable experience flying turbine powered helicopters. (The local Quebecois held a huge contempt for these foreigners who were perceived to be taking their jobs.) I went to meet one new recruit at the airport. There was no trouble picking him out as he stepped out of the airplane. It was a balmy -40°. He had left Algeria two weeks earlier where the desert temperature regularly rose to 120°F. He told me that mechanics there often kept their tools in a bucket of water so they were not too hot to handle. I was used to having tools freeze to my bare hands when I had to reach into a tight spot. It’s all relative I suppose.

A sunny picnic. Pass the salmon please. These majestic birds are also voracious scavengers.

Jack and I have taken advantage of the dry days and with life on hold we have gone on some grand walks. Here are photos from this week. There has been a hard frost, even at mid-day anywhere the sun’s radiation could not reach. There are two weeks to winter solstice.

As I was about to post this blog a very happy story came up on the evening TV news. A week ago a disabled Vancouver man in a wheelchair who earns much of his  living by panhandling had his sole companion abducted; a tiny chihuahua. He and those who knew him were shattered. The local community rallied and went on a dog hunt. Eventually they found him in the hands of a n’ere-do- well in a city alley. Dog and owner are reunited.

And…remember Koi Boy as described in my last blog? He’s gone; disappeared in the night, last seen crossing Hasting Street. Eleven prized Koi eaten, he’s got away with his gig. And so there are two happy Christmas stories.  The way I see it.

…And an eaglet in an oak tree.

Well alright! I guess it’s Christmas. Some folks take to randomly decorating trees in the woods. It’s lovely!

Too much of what is called “Education” is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

… Thomas Sowell

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

There Will Be T-shirts

Click on images to enlarge

Morning Ebb
Boats at anchor swing to wind, ships swing to tide. The morning tide in Ladysmith Harbour has just turned to ebb. The ships are turning into the rising current. This was a great shot to manipulate until it looked like a painting

Like many folks around the time of the full moon, I often have trouble sleeping. I’m loony enough at the best of times and right now have a special sense of unrest. This month we have some especially high tides so clearly the moon is showing a potent effect on this planet. The abode where I live has several skylights. They are a delightful feature providing plenty of light. The rain has hammered incessantly on them in the last thirty-six hours. It stopped sometime in the night and the silence woke me up. I drifted back to sleep and into twisted dreams only to be awakened again with a bright light in my eyes. It was the moon beaming in through the skylight. So now I sit at my keyboard, pecking out this blog.

Uphill to the dock. Well it seemed that way. The ramp is almost level. On low spring tides, the far end can sometimes be fifteen feet lower. Note the cold, cold rain on the sea’s surface.

Young Engineers awash. The high tides invade a summer project. A winter storm on a high tide will erase all the efforts.

Winter dock berries, actually last summer’s strawberries. The plants were laden with berries but I did not partake. Dogs like to pee on them.

I’ve already grinched on about how our culture celebrates Christmas, or, at least, the shambles it has become. There are still Black Friday sales pop-ups appearing on my computer screen. That only exacerbates my Scroogely darkness and even if I had cash to spend, I’ll be damned if I’ll succumb to this invasive cyber badgering.

Look ma, no leaks! These skiffs are all partially filled with rain water. They await a little attention from their owners, perhaps on the next low tide.

Now here is a current TV news item that is warming my heart. In the heart of Vancouver lies a lovely place on the edge of Chinatown called the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Here is the link: https://vancouverchinesegarden.com/

You can learn more about this lovely “Urban oasis of tranquility and reflection.” It is claimed to be the only classical garden of its kind built outside of China. Someone had the foresight to acquire the land and create this place while it was still possible. Land in downtown Vancouver is now probably valued by the square inch. Chinatown as it existed is rapidly vanishing inside the swelling cancer of neo-urban renaissance sweeping over Vancouver. All is now glass and metal and concrete. It is easy to claim that the whole of Vancouver has become the New Chinatown, but that is another story.

What is making the news is that a lone river otter has somehow found its way through the concrete jungle of downtown Vancouver to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. They are a long way from the shore of the Burrard inlet from which he had to have started out. There are several ponds in the gardens. They are filled with Koi. This sleek beast is behaving like a fat man at a buffet. He just can’t be stopped. A dedicated sushi addict, he is slowly cleaning out the pond’s murky waters of their much loved monster goldfish. Why he would give up fresh clean fish, crabs and shellfish for scaly bottom-feeders mystifies me. But then, look at the crap we eat simply for the easy pickings that they be. A story of the path of least resistance and survival of the fattest, I find it quite amusing. Folks are frantic. All attempts to trap the otter have failed, now they are evacuating the fish to the Vancouver Aquarium for the interim. So, call me perverse, but I’m rooting for “Koi Boy.” The latest update is then when the ponds were drained in order to catch the remaining old fish, it was discovered that there were loads of baby fish no-one knew about. “Koi Boy” is proving to be a blessing as much as a curse.The intention is to catch the critter and move it miles away far into the Fraser Valley. I think it is a wonderful story and I follow it with glee. In the aftermath, someone will make a movie. There will be Koi burgers sold in local restaurants and of course, there will be T-shirts.

Where otters do not fear to tread. Jack’s tracks cover those of an otter as he tries to find the source of the scent. Koi Boy’s cousin perhaps?

Midnight, the end of a long day. Can’t sleep again. Bugga! More hot cocoa, more abstract thoughts too strange to write about. I’m not usually an insomniac. I guess life is extra troubling at the moment. I’ve just sold my beloved Achilles inflatable boat to make ends meet for month-end. It is on its way to Mexico this weekend, in someone else’s truck. Bugga again. I had my own plans for it down there. So another morning approaches and something good will happen. The dinghy is gone, there was money in the bank for a few minutes, but now at least, the overdraft on my overdraft is cleared up. Haar! The banker asked me about dipping into my investment portfolio. I said “Sure” and showed her my lottery ticket.

Manyberries
A backdrop of rose hips signals the approach of winter. The hips will feed a lot of birds in the lean months ahead. They are a great source of vitamin C and many folks collect them to make tea.

A ghost of spawning passed. Now empty, these eyes saw many things in the thousands of miles travelled since this fish left this stream and then returned to complete its cycle of life.

The rain is hammering down again and I enjoy the luxury of being warm and dry. Many out there do not have even this. Stay grateful and appreciate what you have. A week has passed since I began this post. Now it is December. The weather has turned clear and cold. Recently I’ve found myself working on a friend’s boat. It really is time I stopped squirming around in bilges. It hurts. There is a reason there are few rubenesque marine mechanics.

Well, the latest headline is that “Desperate officials continue hunt for otter.” The beat goes on.

Raw logs for China. This ship has just moored to a dock in front of a shut-down sawmill which was closed for lack of log supplies. I can’t make sense of this. The ship will be loaded with a mountain of raw logs as high as the bunks visible along her sides. It is a travesty beyond any logic. A first snow low on the hills in the background shows “Cut blocks” from which the timber was logged and then  quite possibly exported on ships like the ‘Malau Bulker’

Snow on the mountain. Winter descends down Mount Benson which overlooks  Nanaimo and its distinct waterfront.

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” …Walter Bagehot