Costs Going Up – Three Year Anniversary For the Green Pathfinder

It was three years ago today that I bought my Green Pathfinder from my sister who lives on Vancouver Island. Today also marks the renewal time for the auto insurance for the green Machine. As the vehicle gets older, the costs for keeping it on the road keeps going up as well–almost in a perfect line on a graph. When I first insured it, back on September 11, 2010, I was paying only $285.00 for a three month package, but as of today, the price has risen to $325.00, as the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) says that it needs more money to pay for everyone’s claims, and to run itself. ICBC also says that it is raising its prices again as of this November by another five percent!

The Green Pathfinder as of June 18 2013 Weblog Image

I should note that here in British Columbia, we have a province wide public insurer, so everyone in the province must pay ICBC for their auto insurance. Most places have private auto insurers, and pay premiums based directly with that company’s policy rates.

I figure that I have about another year to go with this vehicle before it is time for its retirement. already I had to change the rear brakes, costing me about $600.00, and my mechanic friend told me that rust is setting fast. He noted that I should start considering a newer vehicle within the next year or so.

Night Shift – First Month In

I can now say that the toll on my body from working nights is now having an effect me. At first I thought just keeping everything regular would keep me on the straight and narrow, but factors outside of my control creep in, completely throwing off my sleeping rhythm. Also, sunny days are hard to sleep through. I can say, work is fine, but my personal life is not becuase when I want to do something, everyone is asleep.

My number one peeve right now is that I have to shut the phone off when I sleep. No matter how many times I tell people I am working nights, they feel free to call, and visit during the day. Resorting to turning off the ringer means that I also need to remember to turn it back on too–I forget sometimes. Not everyone leaves a message, so I only know if someone has called if I check my call log. Lately, I have been too busy to check that, so I can only assume that there are calls I have missed, and will never know who called because of this.

The unexpected visitors are also a nuisance because they always show up during the early afternoon. I have a few friends who are unemployed, or underemployed, so they have a need to occupy their time by visiting people they know to keep themselves in touch with society. Good psychological exercises for them, but a bloody pain for me while I struggle for sleep. I have since disconnected my door-bell. I have not posted a sign to warn people that I am sleeping, or unavailable, but that may come yet.

When the days were filled with clouds and rain, sleeping was great. The sky simulated an almost night-time look and sleeping was, well, normal. The good weather has since returned and the Sun now shines while I am sleeping. One fortunate change with the season is that the days are no where near as warm as what they were a couple of weeks ago, so sleeping has been by far more comfortable. But the light is something that I will need to fix if I am to continue working nights.

I am still getting use to the new normal that during my off time, the rest of the world is resting. I have to plan out, long in advance, when I need to do things such as shopping. Where I work, I am very fortunate that it is also right beside a big-box store, and my hours do not conflict with that store’s hours of operation. In fact, it is so damn convenient that shopping there has saved me about one-hundred dollars already as compared to shopping at my local grocer. Fore example: a 500ml bottle of Ketchup at the big-box store is $2, at my regular grocer it is $3.25. Because I am spending money on gas going to work anyway, why not use that same trip for grocery shopping as well?

Right now, I am tired, but I know when I go into work tonight I will be fine. As for my relationship with some friends, well that will take time to fix. I am no stranger to working nights, so I remember all of the techniques I used back then, but it is taking time to adjust. By body is still fighting the urge to stay on the day-shift. I have no idea who long with stay at this shift, but one thing is for sure, this is not permanent.

A Tribute to a Friend and Teacher: RIP Mr. Allen

A tribute to a man who played a pivotal part in my academic endeavours, may you rest in peace Tom Allen, you life was taken way too soon. He was a teacher, a mentor and a very kind person who gave more than he took. He cared deeply, and passionately, about restorative justice, and he cared deeply about those who were caught in the web of the criminal justice system. As a teacher of Criminology at Kawntlen Polytechnic University, he toughed many, and touched our lives in his classes. I will never forget my time in his classes, and the knowledge and wisdom he passed onto me. After almost a year of fighting leukaemia, he passed away on August 28, 2014.

I wanted to blog about him becuase he was one of the few people who impacted my life in a very positive way while I was an undergrad.  He took me aside one day while I was in my third year, to ask me how I was doing after I had written submitted  a paper which I had blasted through becuase of lack of time from my busy schedule. He want to help me, so he reached out. I remember him taking me into the staff lunch room, where it was dimly lit, but very clean and well maintained, and I was thinking that I should not be here. He sat me there and took out my paper and said that he could not mark it becuase he knew that I could have done ten times better as compared to my previous papers earlier on in his class. I explained to him that with work, and other assignments that my time was stretched to the limit, and rather receiving a zero for that assignment, I would “throw a hail Marry” and write the paper that morning. He sad, “No, you are going to rewrite it, as I am going to give everyone in the class a second chance because you are not the only one, …but for you, this is out of character.” I did rewrite the paper, as did everyone else in the class, and my mark was substantially grater then before.

My last encounter with him was at my graduation. As I walked across the stage to receive my BA, and greet the Dean, plus the photo op., and just as I walked off the stage, Tom, and one other Prof stood up from their chairs, and walked over me. While on stage, they came over to me and shook my hand saying, “well done–you did it!” They were smiling and their faces glowed with excitement. when I sat down, all the graduates around me were asking what that was all about. They said the Dean stopped and paused, looking at what was going at the back to the stage while I was up there. I just told them that I got the true hand shake from my profs.

I first heard of the news on Twitter back on Tuesday from a current student who said that the university emailed everyone of the news, so I emailed the Faculty of Criminology at KPU. The secretariat replied and gave me a copy of the email. It reads:

Dear Criminology Students,

I’m very sorry to be writing this email and it comes with immeasurable sadness and grief.  Our friend, colleague and teacher, Tom Allen, died on August 28th, 2014.  Tom was diagnosed with Leukemia nine months ago.  Tom didn’t want a lot of pain or to suffer and that was what he was facing.  He’s now at peace.  He spent his last days surrounded by colleagues, friends, and family. 

Tom was KPU Criminology’s social justice heart and soul.  He was one of the most vulnerable/courageous and authentic human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  I also know that Tom loved teaching.  He cherished connecting with students and challenging and transforming their perspectives.  Tom was deeply compassionate and strived to make the world a better place through his students.  He was going to retire a few years ago, but always returned because he loved teaching and the relationships he formed with students.  Over the years, many students told me that they stayed at KPU because of Tom.  His irreverence, humour, passion for social and transformative justice and ability to connect with everyone in a heartfelt way will be deeply missed by students and faculty alike.  

Tom was resilient.  He would want all of you to go into class this week, connect and engage empathetically with each other and the material and breathe life into your journeys.  And tell ‘Tom stories’…there are lots of them. Please also reach out to each other, and to the members of our faculty. 

A celebration of life is being planned and I will relay the information as soon as I have it.  

Sincerely,

Lisa Kitt

Tom lead by example, and taught by conviction, sharing his life with us in those classes. He reminded us that we are human, and that through our humanity we can have society that is caring and tolerant, but above all else, having equality and understanding as its foundation. I will never forget him, and a part of him will always be with me.

 

Foggy Morning In the Langleys

When I started back for home this morning, (remember that I work night-shift now) the fog was so think that it seemed like you could cut through it with your hand. It was cold and very damp–a sure sign that winder’s grip will soon be felt–or will it? At any rate, we have been getting some cold weather, but this soon could change as the weather prognosticators are proclaiming, starting today, until the weekend that we will resume our regular scheduled heat-wave. I am sure this spider is just thrilled about it.

Spider Web Dew Sept 4 2014 Weblog Image

I could see hundreds of spider webs everywhere were there are a branch, an out crop, an overhang of some sort as the dew reflected them perfectly once the Sun’s rays got strong enough through the fog.

This morning I took advantage of Walmart’s 7:00am opening to do some shopping before I headed for home. I like Walmart for the simple fact that I can get good Root-Beer there for $0.98 a 2 litre bottle. When you are on a tight budget, like mine, you need to take advantage of these deals when you can. Also, working right beside the store helps out a lot too. Yes, I am root-beer-o-holic, I admit it. I was the first one in the Langley store today too–no door prize! :(

Okay, I am off to bed in a few minutes. I wanted to get this post up, mainly becuase I just took a bunch of photos (witch I have not done in a long time now) with my Sony A77, and wanted to get them copied onto my PC.

Also, just to let you all know that things are vastly improving for me as I got my work schedule sorted out, and the money is flowing in again. I am almost all caught up on my bills now too, and should be back to normal in about four more weeks.

Yes, I am going to try and sleep through eight hours of pounding sunshine! Do you pity me? LOL!

Oh the Internet

Last night, while surfing the web, searching for information on how to fix my bathroom faucet, I came across a store that sells them at “cut-throat” prices over the internet. Sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I was automatically drawn to the images of the very faucet that matches mine almost perfectly, and beside it, in bold writing, was this amazing price too. I was happy, thinking that I scored big-time as the prices for that very item locally were priced ten times much more. I even had my pre-paid credit card at the ready.

Welcome Down the Country Path Spet 2 2014 Weblog Image

I have been scammed before, both from local businesses, and over the Internet, so I learned a few things before I started typing out my credit card number. When dealing with online buying, such as EvilBay and other sites, it is the shipping that usually hits you with the huge costs. In this case, the price was a fraction of what it should be worth, but the shipping was 400 percent more than what it should have been also. Since the seller was in the U.S.A., I decided to email them, asking if I could pay with a Canadian credit card, and have it shipped to my U.S. address just across the boarder. With in a few hours I received an email back stating that it was against their policy for them to ship for Canadians to a “third party address” in the U.S., and that it was even against the law (in Canada) to do this. Okay, my B.S. detector went off the scale. There is no law; pure bunk.

So I promptly emailed them back apologising that becuase of their shipping cost, I would decline to purchase–I was no longer interested, and added that I found another American seller who would meet my needs. I thought that this would be the end of it from them.

Yesterday they emailed me back stating that they would report me to Canadian authorities, that I was trying to trick them in avoiding paying Custom and Sale Tax into Canada. I just about fell off of my chair after reading it from laughing so hard. I thought about it for a few minutes and decided not to bother with a response. Then around 6:00pm I received another email from them, “We have sent a complaint to your local law authorities…” O.key, I fired back an email, “Please quit SPAMMING ME! STOP IT at once!”

I am not sure how many people they have suckered into this, but I put their email address on my email kill list so I do not have to be bothered hitting the delete key all the time. But these people seem to be sore losers when the scammed catch them at their game and fight back. So watch out for the welcome signs, and those too good to be true ads–they are 99 percent of the time are just that–too good to be true.

Good Old Common Sense Versus the Raw Data

I seem to be getting old, as I am starting to sound like my university professor who first started lecturing me on Statistics 101 way back in the not so distant past. O.Kay, Stats is not for everyone, but the effects from statistics is around us, and will never die out as long as mankind keeps seeking answers to questions that only Maths can answer. This post is about an experience I just had with a co-worker who was dismayed at an article that was written in the March 2014 edition of the “British Columbia Business Magazine,” and how he said that any statistic should (must) be taken with full scepticisms becuase “no one can predict the future, and no one can tell you what the “facts” are without common-sense.” Awe, yes, common-sense versus the science of Mathematics, or in this case, raw data versus one person’s own idiology (idiot + ideology) of what the answer ought to be.

My Normal Curve Worksheet Aug 2014 Weblog Image

There was a survey done asking what people in the business world thought of the current state of the British Columbia’s economy, and whether or not the future looked bright for them. Of course, like all news media generated articles that are not peer reviewed, there was no way knowing for sure exactly if the facts were indeed genuine, other than the author has credentials from the University of British Colombia, but that was it–a person, written in the third person, past tense, with some high authority and super powers above the common folk. So, even for me, it is hard to accept the facts from this article, only becuase the author did not cite the source from which he got his data from, and he added no basic information such as the size of his sample group, who they were, and what types of questions were asked, and so one. All we know is that one out of three people in the business world thinks that our economy is far from reaching growth that is needed for hiring more employees. So, even I could not defend the article–but I can defend the use of statistics.

When I explained to my friend that what is being measured when “crunching the numbers” is the “variance” of the sample group from the average score(s), (I could see the glaze coating his eyes), not averages, he thought that was just stupid. Since most questions are set up with a multiple score answers, the data becomes very complex, and spread sheets become your best friend. But in general terms, when measuring populations sample groups, you want to use variance as your measuring stick, not how many said “yes” to a question.  If the whole world operated with just binary answers, then there would be no need for Statistics–right?

To assume that your common-sense is going to give you the correct answers all of the time is the same reason why for many years continental Europe thought that the Earth was flat during the dark ages. It is not enough just to look around you and gauge what you think people are saying, you really need to spread out and somehow ask as many people as you can, and collect data. Common-sense is just that, what first jumps out at you based with what your own beliefs/expectations are, and what is seen with your own eyes standing in one spot–as we all know we can be easily tricked by illusions. So we use science to cut through the B.S., and help clear the smoke, and see through the mirrors, for us to better understand what it is we are measuring. But, Maths and its use in Statistics is not for everyone, so the best we can do is spell out the findings in descriptive terms, adding as much of the raw data as possible, and also allowing anyone to crunch the numbers for themselves and challenge the findings to either agree, or disagree, in the academic arena. Wait, that is what is meant by “peer reviewed.”

Thank you Dr. Frok (UBC & Kwantlen Polytechnic University) for teaching me the art of Statistics.

The Unofficial End to Summer

The unofficial end to summer has finally come, the last day of August, and although I finally started working again, my time spent enjoying the warmth and long days slipped away becuase of it. I get to enjoy the long weekend, Labour Day, as it is called here in Canada. Monday is the holiday, and I am  not due back to work until Wednesday, which is in my opinion a well deserved rest. Change is in the air already as nature starts to go through the annual reset, ending the good times, starting the bad times, as the cool down creeps it.

Are the days ever getting shorter now! When I leave for home now after work, I need to turn on the headlights when driving. Plus, I pulled out my comforter becuase my place was freezing when I got home. It is a sign!

Work has finally made a turn for the better in that I had the opportunity to communicate with my manager and new protocols for establishing upcoming works hours have been made. Work needs more hours, I need more hours: we have a happy agreement now. The new protocol is simple: consult with him on all new scheduling, regardless of what is posted on the online scheduling system. This was such a relief becuase what is posted amounts to only eight days per month–hardly an income that is sustainable. You can imagine the sigh of relief inside me when my manager rewrote the scheduling without even hesitating, stating that I should never wait to follow what is online, just consult with him on a semi-weekly bases for my scheduling.

I seem to be fitting in now with the staff. Funny how at first people seem very unapproachable on the first day, but then after a few weeks the barriers come down, and you establish your clique within the organization. The last couple of days has been a re-introduction with the staff, sort of like, “hey, you made it this far, and it looks like your are here for good, so now lets get to know one another…”

By the way, I just woke up. Sure it is 5:30pm on a Sunday, but this is my Saturday 8:00am morning. The nocturnal life sure is screwy with the outside world. I will never get use to this.

Smoke, Fire and Volumetrics

With the time that I had as part of my three day weekend, I managed to sit down and do some 3D (2D) creations. I did some still photos of some of the stuff that I wanted to focus on that is totally new in the latest Blender 2.71’s Cycles Rending. First came volumetric atmosphere, where you can make the air in the scene look all smoky, and add rays of visible light from a light source, and then came smoke and fire that was never before possible using the new Cycles render method. Both of these effects are almost life like, and could fool a person if you did not know what to look for in an 3D rendered image.

Oil Plant On a Diffrent Planet - Aug 27 2014 - Weblog Image

The above scene, my take on a oil refinery plant running somewhere on some distant planet, is my very first successful attempted at creating both smoke and fire in Cycles. I learned a lot from doing this scene: mainly that I should have been using a stable version as opposed to the nightly-build version what are bug ridden. Sure, the render times were in the hours, but my machine never crashed. So let that be a lesson to Linux users who are using APPs to contently installing/updating these nightly builds–sure, nice to have the latest, greatest, but they are not stable, full of bugs and are that–just test builds. Stick with the stable release builds!

See the tutorial that I used for Smoke and Fire on YouTube: “Blender 2.71 Feature Preview: Smoke and Fire in Cycles

Next is Volumetric Atmosphere, which my most favourite effect of them all. I am using Volumetrics as much as possible becuase I really like the real-world effect it has in an 3D image. This type of rendering is very taxing on any machine too, so it can take hours getting one’s masterpiece completed–but well worth the time it takes.

Dead Sphere in the Dark Aug 21 2014 - Weblog Image

Now that I figured out how to put it all together using Blender, I will be trying some ideas that I have been thinking about creating during my next long weekend coming up. Perhaps another animation, or two are in order?

It Has Been A Week In Hell, But I Am OK With That

As the old song from ACDC, 1977 “Hell ain’t a Bad Place to Be,” goes, just deal with it, and so as long as I accept everything around me, then I can move forward, and that is what I did. With more tragedy, I mustered myself and kept going, which was probably the stupidest thing I could have done (with from what has gone on, and the current state that I am in), as I am sure most people would have dealt with my situation a lot differently. I had two major vehicle malfunctions in a row. On top of that, errors with my work scheduling that left me with a week long period of no hours, then a weekend double shift, stacked one after the other.

Corn Along 88 Ave in Fort Langley BC - Aug 24 2014 Weblog Image

What would a walk in the country side be like without seeing corn fields! A shot of a corn field on 88Ave (River Road) in Fort Langley, BC, along the route of my 60 minute walk to work, and back home. Photo August 23, 2014.

The result of all of these events has led me to not having a working vehicle, and it could be this way for the next couple of weeks to come, maybe even longer. So the question I had to ask myself back on Thursday night was, “how do I get to work”? The problem, or major obstacle, is I live several kilometres from the nearest public but stop. Without dwelling on it, I just packed up my backpack with my work items, and started walking, hoping that I somehow will make it to work, and on time. The drive that made me do, rather than just phone in, is quite simply that I am still in my probation period. Here in Canada, an employer can let you go during the first 90 day period if they feel you are not the right fit. This is quite legal here. Regardless, I did not want to miss any work–simply because I need the cash. So I started walking.

The walking time from where I live to the nearest bus stop, at my best speed, is 55 minutes. I have not measured the distance out yet, but it is good walk, but a long one. My feet are killing me, I should point out. I am wearing a very bad of runners that were not designed for long walks, but when you are in the situation that I am in, you just boot-up, and go.

I have very little to say about Translink, and the public transit system. Simply put, what I can say about is that some of the bus drivers that I have met are top notch, and awesome, at what they do. As for the system, including its timetable, routes and weekly scheduling, I rate them as terribly inefficient, and not very working class friendly. Most industrial parks and business centres here in Langley Township either have none, or very inadequate transit service. For example, where I work there are many bus routes that pass by within a block, but none that cater to night-shift workers. My commute, including walking times, are two hours each way, and Sunday morning I had a three-and-a-half hours commute back home. And on top of that, I wait at work for an hour because the bus schedule stops two hours before my shift starts, and when I am off, I wait until 8:00am for the first bus back to Fort Langley-so an hour, or two, wait there.

Roadside Grave Marker in Fort Langley BC - Photo Taken Aug 23 2014 - Weblog Image

A roadside grave marker along 88th Avenue (Just outside of Fort Langley, BC) of a man who was killed here 5 years ago working as a flag-person. See: “British Columbia Flaggers Death Leads to Anger – Work Comp Roundup” March 29, 2011.

My secret weapon of dealing with the waiting at the bus stop is my e-reader. If you need to kill time, a good book is the answer. Time moves at a huge rate for me when reading. And, best of all, people generally leave you alone when you are nose deep reading. Rather then packing paper-back novels around, this e-reader that only cost me $20.00 does the trick. I currently have 30 novels loaded into it. Right now, I am re-reading “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (George Orwell, 1949) as I continue to re-read some of the books I read when I was younger. So I have a great reading list with me at all times on my e-reader which is perfect for waiting for a bus to come. I just have to remember to charge up battery each day, even though a charge lasts almost eight hours.

My brakes went. I was coming home from work last Thursday when I noticed the “Check Engine” and “Brake” lights blinking on and off. I stopped to have a look under the hood, but I could not see anything wrong. It was not until I walked around to the back that I noticed a trail of what seemed like water along the road-it was brake fluid. My neighbour was kind enough to tow me the rest of the way with his tractor. I have to wait until Monday to see what I can do.

My work is going terrible too. First, a four week spell of no time scheduled. Second, now loaded with work, double bookings, one day off between weeks, then last minute hours added on top of that. Lastly, the next foreseeable weeks that have been posted on my job schedule, only have 16 hours (two-days per week) for the following two weeks starting in September. This is not good if am to survive financially in the long run.

So I “bit the bullet,” and just started walking. I made it to and from work, and completed this week. I have the next three days figure out what to do with my “brakes” problem. Many do not believe me that I walked from Glen Valley to Fort Langley, and did eight hours of work, then walked back home. I can say I did it–six times in three days! Oh well–shit happens–when you’re in Hell.

I Need a Better Cooling System

I need a better cooling system, and heck, while I am at it, a better, faster machine than the one I have now. I just realized that my current PC, the one that I do most of my work on, is now reaching three years old, way past its upgrade time according to Moore’s Law. My latest creation 3D from Blender was reaching 1.3 million polygons in the scene, and  as soon as the PC would start a render, it would crash. Finally, I finished with a much lower poly count than what I wanted in my final render of the scene, a far reduced expectation of my envisioned art. It boils down to the need for a better graphics card for my PC, and a faster CPU for it, with a more efficient cooling system attached to that.

Ice Cube Blue Aug 20 2014 Weblog Image

An image I rendered with Blender 2.71: The Ice Cube, using volumetric atmosphere lighting, rendering in cycles at a very high render.

It is not surprising that I would reach my PC’s limit on nearly every 3D scene I have created in the last month or so. Achieving a super realistic look,with super fine details, would lead to the machine’s physical limitations. I have switched from the world of that cartoon look and feel, to the real world look in my 3D art. Some renders now take up to a whole day to complete, yet only a couple of hours to create.

With my PC working so hard, I have had on more than a few occasions now where the warning alarm has gone off becuase of overheating issues inside the machine. Sure, I have cleaned the dust-bunnies out from it, and added more cooling fans, but after fifteen hours of hard rendering, and the mid-day Sun, my poor machine just cannot keep up with it all. It is frustrating having to restart a render after loosing a ninety percent completed scene, only to start all over again–hoping for the best.

Low Poly - The Evil Forest - Aug 20 2014 - Weblog Image

Here is the offending scene, at 1.3 million polygons. I ended up reducing the particle system’s count on the floor-plane (the simulated grass) to less than 1000, to keep the PC from crashing while trying to render it out in Blender. There is a lot going in this scene, volumetric atmosphere, sculptured rocks using Blender’s Dynamic Topology sculpting tools, and the trees–using the sapling plugin. In order to pull off the render (as you see it now) I had to leave the scene without using any subsurface modifiers, and a reduced partial system that I was using as my scene’s grass. I never even got to adding in image textures, colours and more objects.