Shooting Stars: A Disappointed Night

After a week and a half of being too busy, I am posting again! I finally made some time to go out and do some night sky shooting with my camera. I took along my Sony A77, with tripod and 14mm lens to capture the Perseid Meteor Showers with. But the shower was more like a trickle, maybe even less, as I saw only five really good streaks fly through the sky per hour. My high hopes were fraught with moon light and  high clouds, alone with the usual Lower Mainland light (and air) pollution. But I stuck it out, leaving around 3:00am with just a few really bad images of shooting stars.

Moon Set August 14 2016 Weblog Image

I was not empty handed, however, as I did manage to capture the setting moon (2:45am), using a timed 30 second exposure with my 14mm lens. I thought that this image looked really nice for all of my efforts. The image above is the Moon just as it was setting below the horizon. You can see the high clouds and ground level fog creeping in as the night grew.

My method was simple for trying to photograph shooting stars. I used a really wide lens, 14mm, almost what I would call a “fish eye” lens. The wider the lens, the longer the exposure time you can use before you start to see star trails from the Earth’s rotation. With my camera mounted on a good tripod, I set the camera to full manual, with my shutter speed to 30 seconds, with my ISO at 100. The Lens, I set the fstop to 2.5, or wide open, and set the focus to infinity. These settings were used in all of my shots.

The ambush. I find an area in the sky where I think the meteors are coming from. I point the camera to that area, and lock it in. Then using the time delay on my shutter button, I press it, and step away from the tripod, avoiding camera shake. Then I wait, hoping that a meteor will fall in the sky right where my lens is pointed. Then after 30 seconds, and another 30 seconds for my camera to format the image, I shoot again. So, in effect, I am ambushing sky, hoping that in one shot I capture a streak of light across the star canopy.

In all, I shot 60 images list night. Only in two images did I find any hint of a light streak. These images were to faint for me to really want posted. Until the next meteor shower.

A Hit to the Head: Did it Make a Difference?

It was sometime around the last week of July that I reached up to pull a box down from a very tall skid of product at my work. I do this almost daily, and I have had boxes fall on me before, sometimes hitting me, or just falling to the ground, but it does happen from time to time, so I thought nothing of it at the time. That time, it was a saw blade in its packaging that fell on me. The pallet full of items was about 40 to 50cm taller that I am. When I went to pull the top box down, the saw blade at the top of the pile was out of my sight, so when it fell, it hit me right in my glasses. Thankfully my glasses broke, not my eye.

So a week went by, and I thought nothing of it.

The following week, I was telling my supervisor about how I broke my glasses, as we, four of us from the department, were comparing some of the shipments from our vendors and how bad they were. When he heard of the saw blade, he reacted a little more strongly than I would have thought he would. Actually, he said he was going to write an email to the regional bosses about this. I assumed that it would go nowhere.

Yesterday I was told that the regional head manager was going to fly over to our department and personally see me about the incident. When, I do not know, but my story made some big waves regarding safety and how the merchandise is being shipped to us. Now, there is an inquiry that has started, though I am not aware of it personally.

I hate being the centre of such attention. I wear glasses, and they did their job. Sure, I might get another set, but I really do not care. What I care about is when they make such huge pallets of freight, that people my hight have to reach up and grab down without knowing if there are other objects hidden above. Maybe this will change the way we get freight, but I doubt it. But I hate being the centre of this type of attention.

Charlie’s Tree Along the Trans Canada Highway

I remember the first time I seen the tree, and how the three lane East bound portion of the Trans Canada Highway moved around it. It was not until back in 2006 when I reading a short story from Reader’s Digest, that I learned more about Charlie’s Tree near the border of Surrey and Langley Township. Then seeing the road as it swerved in ward, that it dawned on me why it was, and how the road builder’s left the tree alone, as the highway was right in its path. Last month I drove down that stretch of highway, just before the 200 Street Interchange, and saw the tree standing there. I made note of it, since reading that story from Reader’s Digest, as I always did. I knew of Charlie, who was a World War One pilot, and how he created the monument for his war buddies and other’s who served once he got back. The tree was always alive with fresh monuments and flags. It was not until I read the CBC News web site today that the 300 year old Douglas Fir tree fell down to the ground on the of evening of July 31st, 2016, with part of it laying across the highway.

I have posted a link from the CBC News story about the tree, and a little more about its history, and the man who created it.

Source:  “Charlie’s Tree, a fighter pilot memorial, falls after 300 years, Experts say the tree died too soon, perhaps doomed by ivy planted at its base.”

The BC Day Holiday

Oh yes, it is Long weekend time. Just enjoying the time off, sitting at home, in the heat, on a Monday. It is so nice out. We need more long weekends like this, with mandatory Mondays off. Aught to be a law, eh? Well, needless to say, I deserve having today off. I know I am going to pay for it at my work for the rest of week as they like to cram five days into four, but for now, I am not even going to thing about that. Yes, the official patio thermometer is saying, 28C out. Sweet!

HAPPY BC DAY in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada!

Laughing at Technology: Working Like a Snail

I am sitting at the department desk, waiting for the network to connect and upload my freshly imputed data to the database, so that I can complete my task before I move onto the next. I wait, tapping my pen on the desk. Time ticks on by, yet the workstation’s monitor show very little progress as the little circular icon spins round and round. We call this the “Wheel of Death,” in that you will eventually die of old age waiting for the software to complete each task. Then suddenly the circular icon disappears, and you stare at the monitor, gripping the keyboard in anticipation, but you are still waiting. Then the circular icon reappears, and you feel like you have just been sucker punched, as all hope fades away. You wait…, again.

I swear, at least an hour a day is spent waiting for the network to connect at my work, or data is complied and saved. The time spent on this, when I could be working, whether on some menial task, or actually on working paper work, is in my mind, huge. And when the whole network goes down, we then go into “stack and pile” mode of incoming merchandise, knowing that later on, the mad frenzy of processing the paperwork will make a bad day even worse.

I feel so helpless. I am qualified to work on I.T. systems, but my hired duty at this job is for labour, not my skills and talents. I see the problems, yet I cannot fix them. Locally, I can do minor fixes, like reconfiguring the workstation, or making sure the twelve year old software and operating system is configured correctly. I also do the mandatory reboot once a day to clean up the digital imperfections due to the operating system’s poor engineering. But this if far from enough.

I bite my lip, hold my breath. There is no use saying anything. To cheer myself up, I can only see the advantage: I get paid to stand and watch the “wheel of death” at my work. I laugh at technology.

The Mini Forest of Swamp Weeds

I live not to far from a swampy area, actually it is a creek that flows into the Fraser River, just a few kilometres before it empties into the Pacific Ocean, so lots of wildlife can be seen wondering around there. In fact, the creek itself rises as the tides move it and out, all the way up to the road I live on. Yes, I am very close to sea level here. But one things that is real cool, are some of the plants that I see growing around here. These weird grass/tub like weeds are taken right at my driveway. Normally I see these growing right by lakes, but in my case, these are a fare ways from that creek I was talking about, the soil they are on is super dry here.

Swamp Grass July 2016 Weblog Image

It was a hot day and I thought these plants look really neat, I want to photograph them. So I did a bunch of shots, and getting the Sun right, I did some shooting at different times of that day to see what was the best light for them. Turns out, I like this shot, taken at high noon, with lots of sunlight beaming down on them, showing the reflections of light on the tiny spike leaves. It is like a forest that is really only 40cm high.

Disabling the “Alt + Right Click” in Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon

This is a “How To” post on disabling the keyboard shortcut “ALT + Right Mouse Button” so that the keyboard shortcut can be use with software like 3D Blender, and some video games which need this keyboard shortcut. The issue, in Linux, is that this short cut is used system wide, as in my case, to resize the active window. I was quite amazed at how easy it is to disable the keyboard setting in Linux Mint 18, where there was no config file editing, or elaborate command scripting in Terminal, or installing more software, unlike what there was in Ubuntu. However, there is a word of caution, this method disables the “ALT” key for keyboard shortcuts. Here are three steps to disable the ALT + Right Click.

One: Go to “Menu” and choose your “System Setting Control Centre.”

Two: Choose “Windows” under the “Preferences” section.

SCREEN 01

Three: Click, the Window Behaviour tab, and choose the “<alt>” tab by the “Special Key to move and resize windows,” and switch it to “<super>.”

SCREEN 02

This screen now should look like this:

SCREEN 03

The change should take place right-a-way. Now run Blender, and you should be able select an edge, and select it with <alt> + <right click>.

Red Photons – A Photographer’s Dream

I have heard this before, red being a photographer’s favourite colour, and that red is one of the colours that stands out to the human eye when one is looking at an image. Regardless of who said this first, I agree whole heartedly, red is awesome. When I see red through my lens, I just cannot get enough, and bathe my camera’s sensor in it. When I see red in a portrait, or digital image, it catches my eye. Of all the colours, red will attract me more because my eye finds it so pleasing.

Red Flowers July 17 2016 Weblog Image

Most of the time when I see a garden, I zero in on the reds and yellows before I hit the flower patch.  For me, red flowers are the most sought after, simply because of the colour’s impact on me. Sure the orange and yellow ones get it too, but red triggers something in me. And I am not alone.

I started asking people who viewed my photos, what photos they found to be their favourites. All included the majority of images with red in them, like flowers, building, and even sunsets where I pushed the white balance over to the warm side of the scale. Even images with people in them, who were wearing red clothing. Of course, there are a small percentage of those who did find other  images where red was absent in the image, but those were rare, unless purple counts as part red.

When I do portrait photography, I always ask my subjects to wear at least a little bit of red in their outfits, or have red somewhere else in the shot. Red sells, especially with women. Nature and landscape shots, if I can find red flowers, or red buildings and objects, then the shots sells that much better. Heck, once, I even CGIed red into one image I worked on a while ago, just to give that extra bit of “eye candy” to it.

The photo in this post I shot just a few days ago. Normally I like to leave flowers where they are, in the ground, so that someone else can appreciate them after me. But since this batch of flowers only has a couple of weeks of life, I cut the older ones off, and put them in a glass, then moved them around so that I could choose good backgrounds in my shots.

The Tale of a Plumbing Nightmare

Only once before has this happened to me, though, way back then, it magically solved itself in the middle of the night after I gave up from hours of frantic plunging with a plunger in the bathtub that day. This time it was plugged—solid, with no magic moment of relief. The next morning, the water level was exactly the same, and when I tried again, using a plunger, the water level stayed the same.  Searching on-line, and asking plumbers what to do, lead me no closure to ridding myself of my plugged bathtub. But then today, success! Bitter sweet success, as my very first try, the plug was the thing of the past.

The problem was the pipe that goes from the bath tub into a holding tank. In R.V. terms, this part of the waste water system is called the Grey Water, and is where water from the sinks and bathtubs collects before it gets discarded into the septic system. I believe that the plug occurred where the grey water tank empties out a long 4 cm diameter pipe, before it reached the outlet valve.

My very first attempt was buying a septic snake, a flexible rod like wire that I pushed down through the bathtub, hoping to knock out the plug. However, this was a dumb idea because the snake went straight into the grey water tank, then curled up inside it—no where near the plugged section. Also during these first efforts, I bought a heavy duty toilet plunger that seemed to work, but because of the grey water tank, I could not create a strong enough vacuum to punch out the plugged section of pipe.

Then one night, after five days of living with a plugged bathtub, it dawned on me that I should try attacking the plugged pipe from the other end. Taking the septic snake, and inserting it through the outlet opening, it would only go in about 30 to 40 cm because of the three ninety degree turns in the pipe. Then I searched on-line for a septic snake that would bend better then a metal one, and found one just a few km away. When I got it home, on the first attempt, it got caught, and I broke it.

Defeated, and broken, I was not at all happy. I was still using the bathtub, but would hand empty it into the toilet with a custom made bucket I made. It was wearing thin on me. I needed this fixed—now.

At my work, there is product that you attach to the end of a garden hose, and it expands, like a rubber bladder. The idea is that you insert this bladder inside the pipe with the water hose, then inflate it with water, and it squirts a fine spray of water inside the pipe. This got me thinking. What if I could take this idea, using water pressure from a garden hose, and force the plug back into the grey water tank. I started researching this idea.

After a night of looking on-line, I clicked on something called a grey-water garden hose cap. I looked at the image, and thought—EUREKA! This is what I need. It is a flat cap, that locks onto the end of the sewer outlet, and on the face of the cap it has a garden hose attachment. The only problem was, the garden hose attachment is a male thread, used for draining water out from the system. I needed one that I could force water into it. Another quick search pointed me to using a female to female connector to the garden hose, connecting it to the sewer drainage cap, thus allowing me to force water back into the grey water system.

This was sure to work!

For a total amount of $14.67, for both the sewer cap and garden hose adapter, I had my new weapon for this cursed plug. On the first try, the plug was defeated! When I took the sewer cap off, a mighty (smelly) serge of water burst out onto the ground. The plug was officially gone. My bathtub drained!

The cause seemed to be a combination of soap and a white sandy substance that came out in chunks. I can only imagine that this build up was sediment from inside the grey water tank, and was high enough to eventually plug the drain pipe. Now, at least, I have the tools to unplug future clogs.

Department Move

It has been nearly five weeks now. Five weeks since the move from night-shift to days, working in a new department, a move that I very much wanted. With change comes challenges, and joining a new team comes finding that new fit comes with anticipation and complications. Working with the new team has pretty much gone as I anticipated.

I knew, going forward, that not all the team members would embrace “the new guy” amongst their space. Old habits, mixing with new blood, will be a challenge for the weeks to come. Already in the last five weeks, I have witnessed the stubbornness by staff as they try to keep their routines,and leave the undesirable work for me. Since I was hired for my skills, for one staff member, I have become a threat in the sense that I exceed the skill level of some tasks, and easily jumped onboard in the workflow, keeping up. Though I laughed as two members peppered me with questions about myself, probing, then relaying factitious/distorted versions of my words to the Manager—who is a good friend of mind. We had a good laugh. And yes, I have names, I know who you are. Nothing like jealous people burning their bridges so quickly.

My new department will have lots of changes in the coming months. I was given an outline of what to expect in the days and weeks ahead. Most of this information I have kept to myself, as requested, so who knows what, or where I will be once the changes take place. I am not worried, as new opportunities are always be around. But for the senior staff, they feel they have been “betrayed,” or “disposed of,” by the corporation, as they have some of the information that I have, and see my move into the department as part of those feelings. I say, “get over it,” because it is going to happen whether I am here, or not.

I have no troubles with embracing new responsibility and change in this case. However, for some of the senior staff, these new responsibilities mean a new level surveillance by management, and they are resisting this, even telling me that I must take this stance along with them. There is a world beyond the walls of the department, and if my fellow co-workers cannot see this, then they miss out on the big picture—at their cost. Remember it is easier for me to embrace change, then for those who have old habits of their daily routines.

Thankfully the good out weighs the bad by a long shot. I am very happy, almost grateful under what is happening in the global market place economy. The pay may not be that great, but I would rather be doing this, than being homeless with no income.