Loose ends

Time to bring you up to date on what’s been going on around here.

First of all, the picture I forgot to include in the blog about the Olympus E-410:

640×480 crop of full image.

This shows that the camera used with a good lens doesn’t have problems. You see grain, not blur. That means the Olympus lenses are where the shortcomings are with that system. Goes with this pic, btw:

Lorne’s boat using the 50mm Takumar on the E-410. It’s fine.

Second, we had a visitor on Thursday:

Mr. Otis Bear

He spent most of the day crashing around in the foliage by the creek, just beside the cabin. He was stripping off berries to eat and driving the dogs crazy. I believe it’s one of the cubs that were coming ’round here with their mama this Spring. Seems to have gone now.

Third item is that the smoke has rolled in again as of Friday. Along with a high of 97F. Fires are still bad and people are being warned to stay away from certain areas, not just the evac alert/order zones. Honestly anyone vacationing in BC right now must be certifiably insane.

Beautiful view, wasn’t it?

Fortunately I was able to do some photo work before it got like this. Can’t even breath out there now. It’s looking a bit “life crisis” for me in fact. Bad enough I have to re-arrange my camera arsenal without having to re-arrange my entire way of living.

So I forgot about ‘back button’ focusing of the Pentax, and can’t tell if something is sharp or not anyway. This is a ‘salvaged shot’.

I’m actually working on a new “Master Plan” to go with my failed eyesight. The best camera I’ve got for working with my vision right now is the Canon PowerShot G11, which not only has a purely optical finder and limited zoom range (so basically anything I can see I can shoot), but also the nice colour tones of a CCD sensor. Beyond that … well I’ll explain the equipment shift at a later date. It’s still in flux anyway.

Butterfly, taken with the Canon T100.

More to come …

Where am I?

One view

Friday I needed to go in to town. By the time I got to the main road I was feeling like a cured ham due to all the smoke. In fact BC managed to grab the honours for “worst air on Earth”, with the Okanagon area coming in with an Air Quality Index of 415. That’s “extremely dangerous”; roughly the equivalent of sucking the exhaust out of a semi’s stack under full load. We’re doing much better here with about 100 points less than that which puts us in the “very unhealthy” category.

I started out with fairly clear air when I left. Sucked down fumes through my whole trip. Then came back to a lake full of precipitated particles – which have yet to go away. There’s no promise of rain in the forecast, but possibly more lightning which could start more fires. Of course it’s a holiday weekend here, and lots of morons are heading out for some fun in the sun. Despite roads being closed, trails being closed, campsites being closed, evacuation zones being closed, and of course the whole bloody area being full of damn thick smoke. They’ll go anyway and think it no end of fun as they light their illegal campfires and send more of our province up in flames.

Halfway through “fire season” and we’ve had more fires than the average for a whole one. Also set a record for “wildfires of note” (the ones that endanger people directly). I wouldn’t be surprised if this year surpasses the nightmare of 2017 in terms of total area burned and/or damage done.

What does it really look like? I set the Nikon on “daylight” and snapped a shot (no alterations, colour correct, resulting image pretty much what you’d see in person):

This isn’t the worst-afflicted area either.

I’m doing nothing. The air isn’t fit to breath. I’m too old and too broken-down to deal with this stuff. A HEPA filter and N95 masks are no match for it.

Is my sight getting any better? I can’t tell because the world around me has gone into “soft focus” with lots of real “floaters” obstructing the view.

Side note: for some reason I grabbed the Olympus E-410 when I was home. The first picture is taken with that. I don’t think I’ll be doing any photography any time soon, but I have some prepared from this past week before things really went wahoonie-shaped. I’ve been thinking a lot about what equipment I have (four DSLRs with five different lens systems between them?) and will remark on that at a later date.

Strange vision

The gray is the sky, the gray is the land, the gray is the water.

My world right now: hazy, out-of-focus, and on fire.

Two weeks after the procedure. Progress seems to have halted. Much like the progress on fire-fighting in the province. 300+ fires burning, half out of control, emergency accommodations full up, roads closed, supplies cut off, and a Premier who doesn’t think there’s any reason to declare a state of emergency. After all it’s not affecting him, and the people who are suffering don’t support him anyway. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe because none of the recommendations from the last wildfire disaster year have been implemented? That could be it.

This is my world. According to the camera (P610) it was in focus. Obviously not. But this is what everything looks like to me.

Eyesight: blurred but better.

Nothing is in focus with either eye at any distance, and both are blurred. Think in photography terms; the focal point is one thing, the sharpness another. For those who think focus is over-rated I say repent your sins before it’s too late. Soft focus and blurred images are horrible, especially when there’s no other choice. I’m told my eyes not only don’t see the same, they don’t look the same; there’s noticeable difference in the colouration. Will it clear up? Only time, and a lot of it, will tell.

Large objects I can make out. I didn’t notice the cloud when I took this, though. (G11)

Photography: exercising futility.

I’ve made some attempts. Trying to get used to using the left eye, just in case. How bad is it? Less than half the shots are even viable as pictures, and of the good ones perhaps 25% are acceptable. It’s hard to say because I can’t even evaluate them on the big screen myself. Hey, maybe I can just get out the lousy Lumix and shoot blurred messes badly composed and incorrectly exposed. It would be easy. Judging by some of the “pro” photos I’ve seen in the past I might even win a prize. But it would be embarrassing and debasing of the principals of photography, as well as betraying to all those who put so much effort to bring the form to the quality it is capable of.

This could probably be good, with the moss and trees and light. I can’t see well enough to make a good initial shot, never mind process it.

What is next?

Hunker down to wait out the fires, and hope we don’t die. Or go blind. Or suddenly need some other emergency procedure.

From other cameras

Or Automatic Photography.

This grader has been sitting there for a week; they still haven’t done the first 4 kms! (Dashcam)
Big equipment beside the road. (Dashcam)
Bad choice: someone trying to get down the road in a Ford Mustang. (Dashcam)
Exotic animal in the yard. (Wildlife cam)

Wildfires are all around again. Over 30 just in our district, four of them “of note” (i.e. seriously dangerous). Nothing like the one that destroyed the town of Lytton though. Not yet anyway.

Out at the cabin the sky is clear and you wouldn’t know there was a problem. That can change quickly. The one burning at the next lake over is being ignored because it isn’t close to population. Several people have been asking questions about what seems to be a poor response compared to even 2017. Did we learn nothing from that horrendous year? Apparently not.

I’m too old to fight fires – or political battles – so I’ll just keep doing what I can do, to whatever end.

Canada Day: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Clouds made of smoke.

Canada Day, 2021.

First the good news; one of the missing cats, Hannibal, has returned! I happened to look out the window and there he was sitting on the deck. Appears to be none the worse for his four day adventure, except for an insistence on going out again. That’s not happening, big furry cat.

The bad news; wild fires have broken out all around, thanks to the thunderstorms last night. The air smells of smoke, the sky looks of smoke, and the nearest one is at the next lake over – just five kilometers away.

As seen from above.

This satellite view taken at about 4:30 PM Wednesday off Zoom Earth shows the cloud formations from the two largest fires. The one on the left you can follow the smoke trail down to the Lytton fire, and the one on the right leads down to the Kamloops fire. The shadow on the right is caused be the density of the smoke clouds, and the look white because if reflecting the sun back to the satellite. From beneath they are dark and grey-brown.

Raven lamenting.

The ugly part is that we don’t have much to celebrate in Canada this year. The revelation of the horror that was the residential schools has justifiably put a damper on all the good news, even the advances made against the pandemic. For those who don’t know, these “residential schools” were authorized by the government and operated largely by the Catholic church. For over 100 years, right up into the 1990s, they essentially kidnapped native children and abused them in some delusional effort to integrate them into mainstream society. What they really did was damage and often kill them. Then they tossed them into unmarked graves like so much garbage. The concept alone is appalling and horrific. The way they carried it out is akin to the Holocaust. Really. That this happened under what should have been the watchful eye of a supposed modern-day democracy rather than some ancient civilization or evil dictatorship only emphasizes how horrible it was. I don’t know where we go from here, but the road will be long and difficult.

As always, I concentrate on the little things I have some control over. Slowly work progresses, and I try not to think about the fact it may all burn down soon.

I am tired, I am weary, I am sad.

Around here

Is everybody happy? Anybody? Yes? Well let me just spoil that for you.

This past week here has been full of nasty incidents. Some of them were dangerous, like having wildfires at both ends of our road albeit on two different days. The first one messed up an appointment to look at a house for a friend.

Line of traffic stopped by wildfire.

Turned around, went home, rescheduled. Then that turned out to be a waste because the house that looked so good in the listing pictures was some nice renovations hung on a pile of junk. We’re talking about one of the area’s famous (infamous) bring-it-in-on-a-truck builds so popular in the 1970s when people were slapping up “Summer homes” all over the place. Almost none were done correctly, and they’ve gotten worse over the years. Poor foundations (this one was concrete pillars and pressure treated wood – okay for a shed but not a house), bad joins with additions (two in this case), lack of insulation … et cetera. This house had brand new floors throughout – and they never bothered to level things up first so almost every room was joined via “toe stubber” level differences. I’d show some pictures, but that is unethical under the circumstances.

What else? Well I got raging sick for some unknown reason and lost two days to that. No idea why, except that it wasn’t the dreaded COVID-19. As to that I still haven’t got an appointment for a jab, despite being registered. I have this weird sense I somehow got passed over.

I was going to the cabin for a recky on Thursday, but Lorne & a buddy went out Tuesday – and got stuck on the road. Three times. I had mentioned the distinct possibility that the short road would be full of compacted snow banks as sun doesn’t get through the trees much along it. This was in fact the case. I would have seen the snow, backed out and gone home. They tried to push through. Two 4×4 full-size trucks are still no match for the frozen masses we get here. They did eventually make it in, and warned me not to come. Like I didn’t know?

So there’s nothing to do but wait, which is quite the usual pastime around here. I got some work done on clearing out the shed I have to finish:

Less junk, but not enough less.

Believe me; you couldn’t see that much floor before.

Shopping has become problematic as the stores keep not having what I need. Some of it is essential, just not in stock. Some is not essential, but still not in stock. Buying things has become rather hit-or-miss.

One good thing: Jojo got a bath.

Incidentally, our COVID numbers continue to be outrageous. But not as bad as Ontario. Oh for vaccine! If only Truedope hadn’t spent millions on nothing. But hey, his latest budget … well what do you expect from an idiot who thinks budgets balance themselves?

I’m going to put the Nissan on the road again, although there’s no hurry. I need to fix the trailer too, and then get the materials to finish that shed and get it off the list of things to do. I hope.

Spring is trying.

Oh and the hospital sent me a nice note saying I’m on the surgical waiting list. Which could be up to 50 weeks. Gosh, two more and it would be a year. It will probably become emergency surgery before they get it done. Just weeks ago the government was bragging that they’d cleared 90% of the backlog. I guess that was just another lie.

Anyway I did do some photo experiments and a few pictures around the place, but nothing really interesting. Obviously haven’t been able to take the big camera out for some scenery shots, though.

Oh there’s snow in the forecast for Sunday. It figures.

 

Where there’s smoke

The wildfires burning on the west coast are doing incredible damage, as usual. We here in British Columbia are all-too familiar with the situation. The smoke from those southern fires has drifted up here, even reaching my remote location. Shades of the 2017 nightmare, I’m under hazy skies again.

That would be the sun.

It’s a bit difficult to work in this, but no place near as bad as what it’s like down where the fires rage. There’s nothing to do but wait, and leave the firefighting to the experts. I’m too old and infirm to take active measures. (I spent a lot of time in 2017 trying to explain the methods used and the why for of them. It was a waste of time because the answer is always to fly the Martin Mars, don’t you know. So glad those ‘Internet experts’ weren’t actually in charge of operations.)

Cameras have trouble with this haze too; getting a focus lock can be a challenge when the world itself no longer has sharp edges.

Soft focus only.

Wildlife is in hiding for the most part, except for this brave red-necked grebe:

Art shot.

These are not the kind of pictures I was wanting to take, but we play the hand we’re dealt.

Water bug.

It will have to end sometime. The smoke will clear from here before it does, and things will get back to normal.

Ha! Normal. What is that?

We live in interesting times.

On a personal note

There are some amazing similarities between dealing with a viral pandemic and dealing with wildfires.

We’ve already had our first wildfire here this year. It was started by slash burning getting out of control. Burning which shouldn’t have been done because there’s already a ban on such fires. That’s right: someone broke the law, and endangered a lot of other people.

Over Easter weekend the firefighters were busy extinguishing a dozen campfires left by law-breakers who shouldn’t have been out camping, much less lighting fires, on account of the fact no one is supposed to go anywhere. But they are more important than anyone else and the rules don’t apply to them so they can do what they want. In normal years they are the ones defying the orders to stay out of the backwoods and not run ATVs and chainsaws and such. These morons think they know more than people who actually deal with fires (or viruses) and understand how easily they start and spread – and how hard it is to put them out.

That’s in a normal year. This is not a normal year. When the fires start we won’t be donning the N95 masks like we usually do because there’s a shortage of them thanks to the viral outbreak. There are even significant issues with trying to fight a fire and maintain social distancing. The short form is, it’s not going to happen. What is going to happen? We don’t know, but it is likely to be bad.

Already we’ve had people violating the fire ban, the travel ban, and the gathering ban. The year is just getting started. There’s another holiday weekend coming up in May, by which time the weather promises to be warm and dry and inviting to outdoor activity. If idiots are willing to go out and break the law for their own selfish amusement when it’s cold and the ground is covered in snow, what do you think will happen when it’s nice outside?

Stupid, selfish people. They are the problem. The “me, me, me” bunch who have no regard or consideration for the rest of society. Guess what kind of leaders they elect. Ours has had to do a turn around on his basic narcissism, but the egomaniac to the south is the embodiment of everything wrong in the world today.

These are not only the ones who break the law for their own fun, but also scam the innocent and rob the beleaguered for personal gain. They aren’t the “I stole because I was hungry” lot, they are the “I stole because I could” lot. We’ve already had break-ins not only at shuttered businesses but also at closed remote cottages and homes. In normal times they are the ones speeding down the highway or texting on their phones while driving. As far as they are concerned the universe exists to accommodate them, and absolutely no one else matters. Does that sound like anyone you know?

Personally I’m good with executing every single one of them. Really. They aren’t part of society, they are parasites living off it. They are the ones crying their liberties are infringed whenever they are told that for their own good they can’t do something just because they want to. Anyone who has ever had a child has experienced this, from about the age of two until they actually mature. Some never do of course, and yet they still manage to get into positions of authority. Possibly even president of a country.

And they come out en force when things get worse for the rest of us, because hard times make it easier for them to prey on us.

They already don’t believe the restrictions to reduce viral transmission are legitimate or even worthwhile. I’ve seen too many accounts of them declaring it only kills old people and so why bother because in their minds old people don’t matter. Thank you very much. I hope the ones with that attitude actually contract the disease and see what it feels like first-hand.

And so this Summer we have the prospect of continued trouble from the virus soon to be made worse by the looming threat of wildfires. With any luck the supply of N95 masks will magically increase, but don’t bet on it. I see nothing good ahead, and I’m pretty good at predicting these things.

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Free Ravens

The Last Continent

(No, this is not about Terry Pratchett’s wonderfully humorous book.)

I saw a meme at the beginning of the year which went something like this:

January 1, 2020; first day of New Year, so far so good.
January 2, 2020; Australia seems to be on fire.
January 3, 2020; World War Three announced.

It was meant to be funny, but its humour is dark because it’s true.

I don’t actually know anyone in Australia, but I have a lot of friends there. This seeming paradox can be explained by the fact that when British Columbia was burning in 2017 and 2018 dozens of Aussies came to our aid. Right now firefighters from BC & Alberta are down under trying to return the favour.

Their fires are worse than ours. We burned out 2 million acres each year. They have lost 3 times that total so far. The topography is different between our two lands; they don’t have our great mountains which act as both a fire break and a royal pain for fighting the flames. I fear Australia will be devastated irrevocably from this disaster. Whole species unique to the continent may go extinct. Areas of it may become uninhabitable; that’s how bad it is.

We were warned to expect 3-5 years of such fire activity here, and it seems to have declined already as last year was ‘nothing’ compared to the years prior. But the cycle will return and it will lengthen and worsen. The main thing people do not understand about climate change is that the initial effect is greater swings of ever-more extreme weather, such as droughts or hurricanes. I did a brief and overly simplified explanation of how it works here.

Anyway the point is I know about wildfires close up and personal. I’m too old and decrepit to fight them myself now (I got admonished by a doctor for even breathing the air during the fires; I guess I was supposed to go to another country or hold my breath), but I know what they look like up close and personal:

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And I know what it looked like while we were trapped at the cabin in 2017:

While the ash rained down and burned through leaves and I made repeated mad trips to the house in town to try to save whatever I could because the fire was on the hill 3 miles behind it. That’s when the 4Runner broke:

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Oh well at least I’m not having to explain how wildfires are fought and the why of the methods used. I wasted a lot of time trying to enlighten morons about that back when we were burning. People who have never dealt with a problem invariably have an overly simplistic understanding of it. “Just fly the Martin Mars!” was their usual “solution”. Good thing those people weren’t in charge of the actual firefighting efforts!

By the way, there are certain similarities between Mr. Pratchett’s book and the situation in the real Australia now. Although I doubt Rincewind would be of any help to them. He’d doubt it too.

Now, I do have a friend who lives in Puerto Rico. He’s been hammered by hurricanes every year, and this year Earthquakes have hit and once again the island is without power. We have quakes here too; a week or so ago we got nine of them measuring up to 6.3. If they hadn’t told us, we’d not have known. Meanwhile the same size disturbance has turned his island into a disaster area. Again.

Next week our forecast calls for temperatures of -24°C for a high on Tuesday, and similar cold the rest of the week. My wife leaves for England on Monday to deal with her demented sister again. I will be spending the week inside watching movies I guess (certainly not going out to do any photography), but at least I won’t be watching fires or earthquakes bringing my world down around my ears.

And let us not forget it’s the little critters who suffer the most from these disasters. We humans are fairly resilient; wildlife not so much so. Our huge brains give us this advantage. It’s a pity we don’t use them beforehand so that the disasters aren’t so bad. But alas we insist on creating artificial problems of religion and politics and borders because we, for all our immense brain power, can not see the real troubles all around us.

Until it’s too late.

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Flycatcher