Science And Nature

After we’d done Science (a tour of Canada’s national nuclear physics laboratory, and talk by a prominent experimental physicist on what finding the Higgs boson actually means) we walked down to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, considered to be one of the best examples of a traditional Japanese garden outside Japan.

The children are all too young to appreciate it, but Chris and I sure did. It is a place I will return.

I’ve never liked crowds or being around many people. The older I get, the stronger this tendency is, and while I enjoyed the cyclotron and the talk and the lunch in the Student Union Building, I didn’t want to leave this tranquil place.

Last Saturday

Every year we go to the UBC Alumni weekend.

UBC is Chris’ alma mater, as it was that of her father and her grandmother. It’s a big campus, serving something like 30,000 students.

It houses Triumf, one of the world’s largest cyclotrons. It’s old now, built in 1972, but still useful. It is used in ongoing research in various areas, most of which I didn’t understand, but which include medical isotopes, high energy astrophysics, and materials science.

The main cyclotron uses permanent magnets that weigh a total of 4000 tons.

In these two photos, we are standing on the shielding atop the cyclotron – it is perhaps 40, 50 feet below us, separated from our location by building and about 12 feet of movable concrete block shielding.

The physicist leading our tour assured us that the magnetic field was not strong enough to affect credit card strips, but it was still pretty strong.

That’s a paper clip standing up on end. It was hard to get them to stay on the table. It had a slight tilt and they’d spin, almost frictionless, off the end. I managed to get that one steady enough to stay for a photo.

This is one on Chris’ hand.

Because they were standing on end, it was hard to get them to stay anywhere, as they had a strong tendency to spin along even gentle slopes.

I will attempt to post some more photos – it was fascinating to see actual science in action. It’s not nice and clean like you see in the movies – TRIUMF has huge overhead cranes to move massive concrete blocks, and a 4000-lb attachment that hooks the lifting power of two overhead cranes together when 1 53 ton crane just isn’t enough. There is equipment all over the place, everywhere, computers and engineering tools and mysterious shiny objects.

I wonder who vacuums the place? Most of it wasn’t too dusty.

We Have To Call Her Sergeant Numpty Now

Back in the old days, things were different.

Promotions above LAC were strictly on merit. The squadron had a fixed number of NCO positions. I don’t remember the numbers, but they were something like 1 corporal for every 4 cadets, 1 sergeant for every 10, one flight sergeant for every 15, one Warrant Officer 2nd Class for 25, one Warrant Officer 1st Class for every 50. The only way you got promoted was 1. there had been a spot vacated and 2. you were good enough. There were plenty of people who aged out at LAC or Corporal. And it wasn’t unheard of for people to be busted back down – I went to summer camp with a Corporal whose tunic showed the threadmarks of Flight Sergeant.

Now, they promote everybody. All of them. You’ve been there a year, you get promoted to Corporal. Another year, you’re a Sergeant. So promotions, instead of being called up one at a time, come up in big lines. You’re one of 15 going to Sergeant, say. It means less.

It’s also limiting. Recognizing everybody means actually recognizing nobody. HouseApe 1.0 is an Air Cadet of pretty high ability – in the old days she would have been promoted, and her rank would have meant something. She’d have been one of 10 Sergeants, deputy NCO of a flight.

Still, it’s a big deal. HA 1.0 is justifiably proud – she’s earned it like it was the old days, and if it was the good ol’ days, she’d still have been a Sergeant.


Today is my birthday. I am some more years old than I was. The number is getting biggish now. My best present is that my beloved will be home from California tonight.


Well, the weekend came and went.

Saturday morning we shopped for groceries. We did this because I was working Saturday night and we (well, Chris mostly) wasn’t sure that I’d be up to grocery shopping on Sunday morning.

We also bought a ticket on the 649 draw because it’s 55 million! And we paid my lawyer the last of what we owe him.

Then we went home, had lunch, I had a nap, then off I went to work. I didn’t get done until 1:00 AM and boy howdy is it nice to drive home at that time of the morning. I was home in 35 minutes.

Still, Sunday morning I was tired. And I was on call. I got up and took HouseApe 1.0 to her cadet thing, and then returned to the house and made latte for Christine after she woke up at 9:00.

Then a bit later I got a call from work – issues. So I couldn’t go to HouseApe 1.0′s cadet thing. Instead I logged on and started working. I had to run a couple of restores, so I kicked them off and then went outside and started powerwashing the driveway, stopping every 15-30 minutes to check my progress.

I finished the driveway at 5:00 and then I started the charcoal grille. I split a couple of chicken breasts into two parts each and pounded them flat. They grilled in about 10 minutes, after which they served beautifully as chicken burgers while we watched an old episode of Top Gear.

Then I got another call about more problems – fortunately they waited until after Game of Thrones was over, but I ended up having to set an alarm so that I could check the database restore I was running at 12:30 AM. All was good when I did… but by then it was Monday morning and thus, technically, the weekend was over.

Easter Weekend 2013

Here is everybody but me stacked up on a rock.

That rock is the very rock I played on in 1967. We moved from Labrador in July ’67 – we flew to Montreal, then rented a car and drove to Windsor, where we picked up a new Plymouth Barracuda at the factory. That was the only new car my father ever owned, but that is not relevant to this story.

We drove across the continent in July. I remember little of this trip now other than the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, the salt flats, and a roadside guyser. Oh, and a motel room with dark coloured 50′s era arborite on the eating table.

On arriving in Vancouver, we stayed at a motel in Burnaby that is still there. We were there for a couple of weeks, and then we moved to a rental in White Rock, just up the hill from this here big rock. Most days, we’d go to the beach.

This is everybody. My brother is on the left, then his wife M, and then a passel o’ kids, three of whom are mine. Oh, and Chris is in the middle somewhere there, too.

It was a good day.

Day 4

I am on Day 4 of a visit to the big city by my brother and his brood.

On Day One, we visited the beach at White Rock. Being flatlanders, some of them had never seen the ocean. The one in the picture here got up close and personal with the ocean, right after all the Old People murmured agreement that Somebody Was Going To Get Wet.


On Day Two, we visited Vancouver itself, ate sushi, and walked on the seawall around Stanley Park.

On Day Three, I smoked a ham and the Old People hung out in the back yard and drank beer while the 8! young people played frisbee and bought water pistols and did all the things that one does on a March day that feels like late June.

Today is Day Four, and I am tired. Christine has gone off to work for a rest, and I will miss her. I think today we are going to go in to Granville Island.

It has been a glorious weekend. Here in the Lower Mainland, we usually get a spring weekend that smashes the grip of the long grey winter, and we were fortunate that this weekend was it. And may I say that winter has been well and truly banished.

I Keep Coming Back Here

And maybe I keep saying the same thing? I’m not sure.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Chris and I took a flying road trip around the Olympic Peninsula, covering it in two days. Covering such a distance in that period, we didn’t stop much, but one place we did stop and gawk was the coast just south of the place where highway 101 hits the coast.

The next year Chris found that Cape Disappointment State Park had yurts for rent, and so we went. We returned again last year, and one evening we had a gorgeous sunset with the tide out.

This has been converted to monochrome, and then toned. I used a warm tone for the highlights, and a cool one, almost purple, for the shadows. This echoes the original colour exposure, but the mood is stronger.

I am not a big fan of filters and other gimmicks. Way, way too often they are used to disguise a weak photograph – take a dull image and make it less dull. So this split toning is about as gimmicky as I get.

Being The 14th

Considering that it’s Valentine’s Day, I should like to have composed a post about Christine, who is the light of my life. But sometimes life gets in the way and it has done that in the last 24 hours.

I made this photograph a few days ago. On Sunday, in fact.

The river flows, winter and summer. It rises and falls with the tides. It was here before man came, and it will be here after we are gone. It swells in the spring, pregnant with new life. It shrinks in the fall, waiting for the next rush of rain.

The sun spins around the planet, the moon waxes and wanes, the leaves bud and bloom and fall, and the river endures, with a patience and strength that defies human understanding. We can swim against the current for a time, but we will all, all of us, be carried downstream.