Our Turn: The Cold Weather is Here.

It is the first day of February, 2019, and I must say, “what a mild winter season it has been so far, for us folks up in the North Coast of British Columbia.” However, this will all end, very soon, as a fidget Arctic System is creeping down on us, fast. The weather prognosticators say, starting tonight, the deep freeze will start, and will last until next weekend. But what really hits home for me, is that I saw temperatures as low as minus 14C on the chart! Right now it is minus 2, snowing, with winds from the North, gusting to 40km/h. A piece of cake, by North Coast standards. But, cold is cold, no matter how you slice it. (I wrote this part while I was on my lunch break)

So, here is where we are at for conditions. It is snowing out, although lightly. There is about 3cm of slush on the ground. It is windy out, with winds coming in from the North. So, add super cold weather to the mix, and all this will freeze. Tonight will be the perfect night to stay at home–this I can predict. So, let me talk about my commute home.

(I am at home now) So, I am driving home. The roads in Terrace near perfect: dry, and void of any snow. Once I got onto the side streets of Thornhill, BC, then is was a different story. When I left the nice and dry road of the highway, and hit the first side street, to my house, I was faced with a nice thick layer of ice on the road. I mean, it was perfect, as the setting Sun’s light reflected from off of it, I have to put on my sunglasses, it was so bright. So, I took the first corner very slowly, at about 20km/h, to make sure I had full control. When I had to stop at the first stop sign, my car’s brakes would not go into ABS Mode (Anti Braking System) and I slid a few metres past the stop sign. So, this had me worried. So I started pumping the brakes at the next top signal. Even the very large SUV, behind me, was having troubles of his own, navigating on the same road.

So the lesson here is that, no matter how good your tires are, driving on pure ice, is still a cautionary tail. You treat the road condition with a huge amount of respect, and HOPE the people driving around are doing the same thing.

 

It is now down to minus 4C, to it is expected to dip below 8C, over night. I am prepared for this. I have an emergency kit, if the power goes out. Plus I have my car, if I need to leave. But, since I have lived here, the whole place seems to be build to handle this type of weather, so I have confidence that all this will be a walk in the park. So, bundle up!

The Church of Usk

As we left the Rupert to Terrace, BC Highway, and headed East, we drove through Terrace, and Thornhill, BC, over to Usk, BC, about a 40km trip. Yes, we did this on Sunday, I am a day late getting this out. Writing a post does take a bit of time. So, anyway, we get to Usk. There is not much to do there. We saw the grounded ferry, parked on the highway side of the river, and we walk over to the Cable Car Tower, and then left. I did shoot some photos, and walked around for a short while. But we headed for the Pioneer Church, on the other side of the highway.

So, let me describe the church. It is, quite possibly, one of the smallest churches I have even been in. It could seat a dozen people, without to much trouble. The whole building might be 8 to 10 metres long, and 4 to 6 metres wide. It is small! The door is never locked, and there is a sign in book to sign. The windows are small, letting in just enough light to see around with.

My inside photo shots were not that great with the low light levels. There is no electricity, so no artificial light, and I did not bring my speed light with me. There was no heat either; it was cold inside.

I was in this church as a kid, but I think for Suzette, it was her first time. This is something you do not forget when you are inside it. It is does leave you with an impression: of smallness. On the other side of the property, there is an memorial for the people who die while working as Loggers, and Tree Fallers. It was quite something to see. 

Split Mountain On the Terrace-Rupert Highway

Nestled between the Shames Mountain turn-off and the Exstew River, on Highway 16 going to Prince Rupert, just outside of Terrace, BC, is what we call Split Mountain. I am not sure if that is the official name, but it looks like the mountain is being split into two pieces. It is an awesome sight, but you need to find a spot where the trees do not block your view. Sadly, at the highway pull-off, the trees are very thick in the park, and you have to look across the river to the South, to see it through the trees. Plus, there is a swamp too, that blocks foot access, so getting that “tree-less” shot with a camera is almost impossible.

If you can find a spot away from the trees, then the view is awesome!

I was thinking maybe a hike along the opposite side of the Skeena Valley, to see it, but then you have to hike through some really think wooded areas to get a clear view. The other option would be a river boat on the Skeena River, but I do not have a river boat. Cutting the trees would work too, but I am sure some would find that wrong. Maybe a few trees?

A viewing platform would be the way to go. Build it in the park, and it only needs to be high enough to see over the trees. I am sure this would attract way more people who would want to see the split mountain, without the trees.

So, when I first saw this, as a kid, I thought that this was the result of a fault-line going through the middle of the mountain, causing it to split like this. When I would fish along the shores of the Skeena River, I remember I could hear the odd rock fall from the cliffs. This would happen at least once a day. These cliffs are very steep, and high. The mountain seems to be about 5-7 kms from the road, so a huge rock could easily be heard. But after looking at maps, and seeing photographs taken from the air, I later realized that it must be a combination of the way the mountain had cracked, and water erosion that caused the shape of the valley. I should point out that I am not a Geologist.

If someone knows, I would be interested in knowing what caused it. But, for now, it is a unique looking mountain, with this giant split through the middle of it. The next time you are out on the highway going from Terrace to Prince Rupert, BC, you should check it out.

Added Two New House Plants to the Team!

In my ever growing plant world, I acquired two new additions, a Barrel Cactus and a Spider Plant! I know I can look after the Barrel Cactus, which is a no brainer, but I was a little apprehensive on the Spider Plant becuase this guy need lots of regular watering, and the soil must be kept moist. However, I have the LED grow light, and my Air Plant and pointy cactus are doing awesome with it, so why not go for more…

First came the Spider Plant, I bought it over a week ago. To my amazement, the plant loves the grow light, and since I transplanted it into a larger pot, it has taken off. It has grown several new shoots in the last few days, and the foliage, 0ver all, seems to be growing by about 2cm since I got it. I think it is happy. In a few weeks, my macrame pot holder should arrive in the Post, and I will hang it in the living room window, with a LED Grow Light over top of it. We will see if it takes to that environment with lots of growth.

Yesterday, I bought the Barrel Cactus, which it looks more like a Ball, and it seems to be very healthy. I will do a pot transplant sometime soon becuase it has roots coming out the bottom the pot into the foil wrapper. And a warning, its thorns are very sharp. This guy must have very few predators out in the wild.

So, four plants, with three totally different needs. The Air Plant I have had now for over year, and is super easy to care for. The tall Cactus, I have had it for just under a year now, and it is still growing strong, and seems healthy. I have not killed them off, so I must be doing something right. Here is hoping the two new plants have long lives as well. Yay to the green thumb!

Weird, I am Awake.

I just thought I had to share this becuase it is rare that my body is “awake” when I am starting the day at 5:00am. Last night I fell asleep around my usual time, about 9:30pm, and had no troubles diving into full on REM sleep. In fact, I do not even remember any of my dreams. But needless to say, when I awoke, the whole worlds seemed to be up with me.

Starting the day was awesome. There was no one else commuting at the same time. I saw one truck on the highway, and he was going East bound, in Thornhill. When I got into Terrace, BC, across the Skeena River Bridge, there where only the “Walkers,” or homeless people, walking the main street (Lakesle Avenue) on my way to fill my coffee mug with the Black Throat Charmer that is served at 5:00am in town.

Once loaded up with coffee, I haul butt to my work place, on the other side of town, in the area called South Terrace. There ahead of me, the freshly built Cell Tower, shining its bright red beacon, pulsating every second, lighting up the mist around it, and it seem to say, “you work here.” Yes, if you love radiation, over several  thousand Watts of it, then you will be at home here. And the work day started. With out a hitch, snag or hick-up.

Maybe I ate something that made the difference? Perhaps I got just right amount of sleep I needed? Maybe the alignment in Four Dimensional Space and Time was perfect, and caused a well deserved ripple, at a quantum level? Maybe, being over fifty years old, my brain does not care anymore, and all seems relative now. It all does not matter; I feel awesome. I wish somehow that this moment could be bottled up and stored for later days that suck. Oh, wait, they have that already.

We will see how far it takes me.

Mother Nature Would Not Let Us See it!

As Mother Nature’s shroud blanketed the sky above us, the Moon and her glory sank into the Earth’s shadow, and all we could do was to imagine what it is she looked like as her reflective light faded, then reappeared again. The night seemed to become thicker with clouds, and yet the air warmed, an odd combination for the North Coast of British Columbia this time of the year. The winter snow was melting in the Skeena Valley, and there was no rain falling from the sky. Yet, we were unable to whiteness the Lunar Eclipse, but for one 3 minute period, when the clouds parted for one brief moment during the first phase of the eclipse cycle.

So, the short story, we saw nothing of significance, but the pretty lights of Terrace, BC, from up on the Bench of Kalum View Drive. Sadly, as much as I wanted to photograph the Lunar Eclipse, all I got were clouds shots. But the day was not a total loss…

The trip to Lakelse Lake, in the early afternoon, was a nice departure from the usual Sunday drive into town. It had been at least three weeks since we were at the park last, and the first thing we noticed was amount of snow that had fallen there since. Only half the parking lot was cleared of snow, though. The lake did have a layer of ice on it, but nothing close to being safe to walk on it, though some had tied, when it was colder the week before. But it was the setting Sun that made the day. Oh, was the Southern sky awesome to watch over the lake, as the clouds moved in from over the horizon. It was warm out at the lake too, a mere 3C, though Suzette was not dawning her two-piece bikini just yet.

The second stop was Onion Lake. Because this lake is a little higher in altitude, it was a little more frozen over, but not enough that I would try to walk on it. There sure was a lot more snow at the summit than there was in the low lands. Many vehicles get stuck on this stretch of the highway during the winter months.

The drive home was fun too. Yes, I am being sarcastic. Drivers on the Kitimat Highway love to speed, or have that “me first,” attitude while driving on it. And part of the speeding fun, is to pass other motorist going up hills, while you are doing the speed limit. My poor car did get sprayed with small rocks as the SUVs sped by me; but all was good, there was no damage.

Dinner at my home: Pork-Chops with veggies and salad. All of this smothered with Cream of Mushroom Soup. I got a passing grade! Then we watched a movie on Netflix, “IO,” 2019. and then left to seek out a view of the Lunar Eclipse. None of us saw the Lunar Eclipse, except for that very brief moment on the hill over looking Terrace.

The Yearning of the Sun

Actually, when I saw the sunrise last week, it felt as if I saw an old friend again, the Sun, but really, the yearning was for the return of summer. Yes, I had that feeling of needing the good old days of summer back, as I saw the Sun rise. Here in the Skeena Valley, you have the winter position of the Sun, which is just 25 degrees above the horizon, coupled with the mountains that circle around us. This leaves us with a very short day period during the fall and winter months. Seeing the Sun sink below the horizon, as the Earth spins, (this happens around 4:30pm in the afternoon), puts the damper on daily life, when you get home from your work day.

The above image is Miss Egghead enjoying the Sun rise in the mythical Cube Land. The image is a render done in Blender 2.8 Beta.

It is normal to have weeks with overcast sky, and days with rain in the valley. During the colder months, snow is the daily routine, sprinkled with ice, as the sky is cloud filled, with moments of clearing, allowing the Sun sneak through. But it is the darkness that creeps in, making the night life some eighteen hours long, leaving some people with the “Winter Blues.” However, with seeking moments like this day, where the Sun shines, getting out and absorbing its rays, is a natural rite.

Also, one more point: This has been an unusually warm winter, so far. We have missed the full onslaught of the Arctic Vortex, but nonetheless, it is winter. The Earth spins it usual way, and nothing can be done about that. However, there is, with out any doubt, less snow, than normal. The Skeena River is still way below its usual level, and the Coastal Mountains do not look that snow packed, as compared to last year. These are just my opinions, not scientific facts. Though, I have read some articles in the media agreeing with me.

May we see more Sun, and less clouds in the coming weeks, without causing drought conditions like last year.

The Offers Overflow-th

As of today, I have had three, count them, three offers of employment in one week. It seems that my skills and talents are in high demand on the Pacific North Coast. The first offer came last week, in the form of a text message from a contact of mine when I was doing side jobs in Terrace, where they need a law office person in their Claims department. Next came an office/supply management position for a trucking company. And today, a rental company needing a service and office person for their Terrace outlet. Have I accepted?

Let me say, the Skeena valley is seeing an up-swing in economic development, more than likely in the wake of the proposed 40 billion LNG project in Kitimat, BC, then compared to the last few years. Nearly every business, and investors, are ramping up expectations of this possible increase in revenue. Even though not one penny has been spent, the region is poised to offer services that otherwise were nonexistent, or limited, just six months ago. Even the Real Estate Market is rising faster than bread in an oven.

With the cost of living and inflation rising, so to is the need of higher compensation to attract labour in the area. Employers are, by their nature, exists only for the profit, and are often resisting coughing up more revenue for labour. When the cost of living inhibits, and geographical remoteness is added, labour is harder to attract. The game of “give and take” is played. Business cry for cheaper labour when services are lacking talent to fill it, and Labour looks elsewhere where the grass is greener; Free Enterprise is a B*@#! when it works.

As for my decisions: I turned them all down. None of the businesses came even close to my current level of employment compensation. They could not attract me, as their offers’ fell far short of my merits. They will need to put more up front, to fill their needs. If a business cannot grasp this simple concept, then they need to find something else they are more suited to do, or relocate.

The Local Flu Bug Is Still Attacking

It looks like there are more sick people at my work than there were when I was sick a month ago. It sounds like at least five technicians have it now. That is roughly half the co-workers I interact with that are coughing, and complaining about flu like symptoms. I personally thought we were over the hump for this year’s flu season, but looking at these guys, it appears we just might be getting started with the flu season up here on the North Coast.

Their symptoms appear to be a little different from what mine were four weeks ago. I had full on lung goo that caused me to cough every ten seconds, shooting up flem and goo. These guys, they seem to have the sinus infection with fever, without the goo infected lungs. So, for now, I call this a different type of the flu from what I had, but nonetheless, just as nasty.

The flu bugs still roams wild here on the North Coast. Beware, and trust no one!

New Video Card–A Blending We Will Go!

So, on today’s program, it is Blender Time. So let me back up a we bit, say a month ago. Back then, I installed my newer video card because my older video card was not to speed with the latest release of Blender, loving called software “Blender 2.8 Beta.” As work and time sped on, my time to play with the program and fully test it out on my video card, passed by. It was not until today that I dedicated time for myself to play on the PC, taking the graphic software to it limits on my poor old computer. In general, I am really happy with it. I just love the GUI layout.

I was really surprised with all the changes, as I felt my way around, I quickly picked up on new GUI. At first, Shock and Awe, hit me as I looked at the new layout, thinking, “I have to relearn everything….” This was not case. In fact, I can say, these changes are really quite natural, and mesh with my regular user experience and feel of my Operating System. I am very happy that Blender went to the Left Mouse Click. But yes, I did get a little frustrated having to look for stuff, all over again.

The new look, I feel, speeds up my work flow. Everything can be accessed from the main window–I like that. The new widgets, with names and Icons, also are a huge improvement. And to think, this is the Beta for 2.8. So, every week I download the latest build, and I see the improvements. It is awesome to see the progress.

The new rendering Engine: EEVEE is awesome! However, it has some more work needed before I can say it is perfect. I had to get a new video card becuase Eevee would not work, and even with this card, Eevee clunks and sputters when memory is nearing full. But the real time viewing is nothing short of awesome. You need a fairly good video card that can handle the extra horse power, say at least 2GB of video RAM. And the Grease Pencil would not work as well, as it needed the new video card too. Once the card was installed, the magic happened.

The above render I used Cycles, as Eevee still lacked some of issues of not capturing some mesh areas, and left blacked out areas in the background. Even using the Cycles Engine, the improvements are impressive. Less time rendering was the first thing I noticed. The number of crashes has been greatly reduced too. But the way Cycles is catching light reflections with the surrounding materials, is hugely improving. The above render took only a few seconds to render out, at 150 samples, and the result looks great.