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Camping Trip That Wasn't.

jonathan
Long time since I posted. Sorry, future self.

I'm no longer at Amazon, and the method of them letting me go was as lame as I'd expect. But that's another story. I planned to spend some time outside, making another attempt to reach this fascinating lake I found on Google Earth. As far as I can tell, it doesn't even have a name, and I'm determined that one day I will BEHOLD IT WITH MINE OWN EYES! It doesn't seem like it should be too difficult to reach; just drive about 20km up the Spuzzum Creek forestry service road, then hike 5km up a side valley, then climb the ridge at its head. Well, Google Earth can be deceptive. I've tried three times before, and the Spuzzum FSR has defeated me every time. Still, I've gotten a little farther every time, and this time I intended to succeed.

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Weekend Before New Shift

jonathan
The new clutch shift for my bike finally arrived, three days late btw.

It's now Saturday morning, I woke up around midnight after staying awake as long as I could after my last day on the nightshift. I just spent a lot of time making lasagnas in individual containers for the freezer (only to find later that the pile collapsed before they could freeze and I had to clean up an awful mess of lasagna juice. Fortunately, the lasagnas were salvageable). And I spent a couple more hours writing the previous entry, so I could finally forget all that shit. We've had snow the last couple of days. I'm going to try to get the shift lever on now.

Random comment: while taking the bus to work, I occasionally used the new convenience store that someone set up right by 22nd St. Station. Noticed a few days ago it seems to have gone out of business. Not surprising; it was a pretty amateurish setup. It was nice to be able to run and buy a Coke before work though.

Not that I drink much Coke anymore. I've been trying to be much more frugal with food, usually only eating two eggs on toast when I get home from work. Money is going to be tight for a while, although I'm getting out from under.

The Ballad Of Amazon

jonathan
It's four days before Christmas and I have to post a really long entry because there's been a big change in my life over the last few months and I want to have a record of it. On November 3rd, I started working at Amazon.com (Actually, SMX Associates, some kind of temp agency that supplies Amazon with fresh meat). It happened in the nick of time, since I was skating right on the very edge of financial ruin, credit card maxed out, unemployment benefits running out, and OldCastle still not calling me to ask me back. As of now, they still haven't. And surprisingly, I filled out my last unemployment report online even though I was now working, and the next week I got a nice little 684 dollar bonus. Well, that really helps, believe me.

First day was Nov 3rd, a Sunday, and we went in at 6PM to take a training course in their little 'school' area. There were bad signs from the start, like the way the tables in the staff room all had bottles of Purell on them, AND blue tape laid down to show where the bottles were supposed to be. With little labels saying 'Purell' next to them. Anal to the max. There was a signup sheet for a Christmas party where they actually expected staff to pay 30 dollars to attend (it was later cancelled, because big surprise, nobody wanted to go. What kind of fucked-up company expects you to pay for your Christmas party?) Also, it's a company that has a huge amount of UCJ (unnecessary corporate jargon), like calling us 'associates' instead of employees, or talking about the 5 S's. What are the five esses? Couldn't tell you. I think one of them was 'straighten'.

So they taught us what all the different kinds of tape meant, and they taught us how to use the scanners to stow objects on the shelves. I get the feeling that Amazon really doesn't give much of a rat's ass about us as employees, but tries so hard to make us THINK they do. The way they make us do stretching exercises before shift and after break, 'because they don't want us to get hurt'. But their concern for our health doesn't extend to giving us a health plan. Then there's the mind games, telling us one minute we're doing really well, then the next asking why we're not doing better. The uncertainty about the future of our jobs, the vague threat of consequences if we're a minute late clocking back in from break, etc etc.

A lot of the people are very nice though. Allison, who ran our school. Vidoo (sp?) who runs our shift (4-12:30). Tesha, a co-worker who is 17 and looks amazingly like Candace Haddow (short, blonde, fat and brassy) only not as bitchy. And there are people who annoy the living piss out of me. Sethal, a Problem Solver who speaks really bad English and is incredibly impatient and rude, Jester, a co-worker who has a really loud voice and likes using it.

The job is stowing. We get a cart of stuff, and we are assigned an aisle, and we go down the aisle looking for space to stow the stuff. Scan object, scan bin, put object in bin. Repeat. They expect a rate of about one item every six seconds, which isn't too unreasonable except that the warehouse is basically full and there just isn't much space. And they've got all kinds of little rules that seem designed to make it impossible to reach your quotas. Like, limiting the number of unique ASINs (the UCJ for barcodes) you can have in a bin. Frustrating as shit, when you've got a bin with lots of space, but you can't stow anything because the bin has reached its limit. If you're stowing thin children's books, the bins reach their limit long before they're actually full. It also prevents you from stowing items together if they're too similar. To a point, that makes sense. But when you can't put a DVD of Monk Season Two with a DVD of Gilmore Girls Season Four because they both have the word 'season' in the product name, you just want to shoot whoever made that stupid rule.

We're supposed to yell "Crossing!" or "Corner!" when crossing an aisle, or turning a corner. I don't think it's a very logical system, and it leads to constant shouting all day. And Jester, as I said, is particularly annoying. Voice like a shotgun blast, and he LOVES using it.

Because we worked Sunday the first week, we got Friday off. But this is the Christmas season, and the reason we're here in the first place is to meet the greater demand, so we ended up doing six day weeks pretty consistently after Nov. 18th. The first Saturday (23rd) they bought us pizza. Next Saturday, they SAID we were getting pizza, but then they "forgot". And I was already pretty pissed that day because they'd screwed up my check so I didn't get paid for the previous week's overtime. But that's par for the Amazon course; terribly concerned about getting everything perfect for the customer, but pretty fucking incompetent where the employee, excuse me, ASSOCIATE, is concerned. It happened, I'm told, because my last name starts with V and the guy entering the info into the computer literally got tired before getting to the end of the list. Fuck. It's been weeks since I had two days off in a row.

Birthday on Sunday the 10th btw. Went to an Italian restaurant in Abbotsford, had a chicken Neptune that had broccoli in the sauce, and a completely boring lasagna that tasted like they mixed noodles and Ragu in a dish and sprinkled some cheese on top. I also took Mom to see the bald eagles in Harrison Mills the Saturday after that.

Sunday, Nov. 24
I used my day off to wash my bike and oil the chain. And I was feeling pretty good about it too. I was going to treat myself to pizza at Me-n-Ed's, but the bike wouldn't start so I tried pushing it up the ramp. My foot slipped, and the bike fell down, the gas started leaking out of it and the clutch lever broke. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!! Had a hell of a time just getting it upright, because the gas was making the concrete even more slippery.

The final bus out of Annacis Island is at 12:50. One of the first times I was waiting for the bus now that I can't ride, one of my coworkers Daia (pronounciation unknown) offers me a lift. Hey, that's a nice thing to do, right? Wait. He says he'll drop me off at Scott Road Station, but after driving around Surrey for twenty minutes, he pulls over at a bus stop and says he's dropping me here. I mean, is he fucking kidding? All that time driving around just to end up at another busstop? I was already AT a busstop when you picked me up, asshole, I could almost be HOME by now! Anyway, the bus finally came, I caught the Skytrain to New West, and the 106 was going to be another half hour so I just walked the rest of the way. Fuck you, Daia. I never said anything to him about it, but if he'd offered me another ride, I'd have said 'no'.

I did start getting rides home from Daphne though, after Tesha invited me along.

Briefly, I want to mention one major screwup I made while stowing. I got back from break and picked up where I left off, blithely scanning items into bins, beep-beep beep-beep. But after about thirty items, I suddenly realize I forgot to log back in to my scanner. NONE OF THOSE ITEMS WERE PROPERLY RECORDED. I had to very sheepishly explain to Allison what I did, and after I completed the rest of the cart, she made a list of every item that was still "in" the cart as far as the computer knew, then I went looking for those items in the bins, writing down their locations on a piece of paper, which she would then double-check to make sure that that item wasn't actually supposed to be in that bin. But I did manage to find every single item. But there's a funny postscript: sometimes the receivers make mistakes when they put items into the carts, and we end up with items that aren't officially "in" the cart. These have to be brought back and given to Seethal (rhymes with beetle sitting on a toilet seatle) to sort out and snap at you about. I'd recently had an entire stack of X-Files DVDs that weren't properly assigned to the cart, so that every time you'd scan one the scanner would make its obnoxious 'error' noise (dee-do dee-do) and you'd have to set it aside. Well, in addition to the items I'd scanned without scanning, I remembered scanning a whole bunch of MASH Season Four, which didn't show up in Allison's list of items still in the cart, meaning they were never supposed to be in the cart to begin with. So Amazon now has about ten phantom MASH DVDs in their bins, where presumably they will linger, forgotten, until the end of time. Good, fuck them.

December 1, Sunday
Got around to taking the broken clutch off my bike. The weather has turned really cold, so I wouldn't be riding by now anyway. And then I ordered a new one off Amazon.

The evening shift is coming to an end this week. We got some kind of staff dinner on Thursday, which was really lame. We all picked our preferred dish from a list of about six or seven items, and they all sounded rather gourmet (I picked venison burger), but the reality was, it was just street-cart food. So we all had to line up outside for fifteen minutes while these two carts cooked our meals, then take them in and wolf them down in the fifteen minutes we had left. Compared to OldCastle's actual catered dinner, with tables set up for everybody in the warehouse, it was just pathetic. Merry Christmas Amazon, thanks for the burger.

They're also ending the evening shift this week, and so next week I start the night shift. Sunday through Wednesday, 8pm-6:30am. At least my contract got renewed to the 21st, which wasn't a lock. And at least the buses are always fairly empty at those times. But here's what bugs me about it. First, the constant mandatory overtime continues, so it's not really Sunday to Wednesday, it's Sunday to Friday. Second, no more rides with Daphne. Third, Tesha quit because she was sick of their bullshit. Fourth, since we're starting Sunday, they told us to take Saturday off, meaning I'm getting screwed out of pizza AGAIN. (yes, they did indeed supply pizza that Saturday). Finally, on Saturday, I got a phone message from SMX reminding me that I had to report to work THAT NIGHT. I left them a message saying I was told to take Saturday off and show up Sunday, and they couldn't just change that on me with a few hours notice, but I was a bit nervous that on Sunday I'd find I'd missed all the important first-day stuff.

Sunday, December 8th
Had to leave a lot earlier because the 104 doesn't run to Annacis Island very often during off-peak hours. Fortunately, I didn't miss anything yesterday (except fucking pizza). Some sort of mixup at SMX, and I wasn't the only one who ignored the message. It felt like starting a whole new job. New people, new managers, new location in the warehouse to meet. Same damn stretching though. At least we no longer have to do the damn ankle-bends that Tesha inexplicably convinced Zidoo to adopt. Our new shift manager is Jerry. We had another day of 'school' taught by Gordon, skinny hipster doofus.

I am no longer stowing, but picking. I take stuff off the shelves instead of putting it on. It's a lot better; no more frustrating search for space, and the time just flies by. And no more Jester! He got assigned to shipping. The ten hour shifts are brutal, and by the end my heels are burning, but we are also frequently receiving VTO (UCJ for voluntary time off) because we're doing very well at meeting quotas, and Amazon isn't as busy as they expected to be.

I'm doing particularly well. First day, out of the gate, I was told I was about 150% over what even experienced staff are required (requirements are lower for new staff). We received Friday the 13th off (not because it was Fri 13, just because there wasn't as much work as they thought) and they also said that the overtime on Saturday MIGHT be cancelled, and they'd call us to let us know. Well, they never called (actually, they did call to tell me about my contract being extended to the 21st, but nothing about the shift being cancelled) so I hauled myself all the way out to Annacis Island only to find the place locked up. Another example of incompetence where employees (sorry, 'associates') are concerned. I wasn't alone; Gordon also came on the same bus I did. And since it's 5:30pm on a Saturday, the next bus isn't for another hour. We walked to where the 340 stopped, near McDonalds, instead. Dammit to hell anyway. First time in a while I get two days off in a row and I have to waste five dollars and three hours getting to Annacis Island and back.

Last week of the Christmas rush period was surprisingly slow. Tuesday I got off at 4am, spending a couple hours in the breakroom reading The Language Instinct (been reading it for months, but almost finished, finally). I almost went home early on Monday too, but when I stupidly asked Jerry when the first bus came, he realized I wasn't driving and wouldn't let me go home after all. On that Tuesday they started me doing something different, consolidation picking. Finding a whole bunch of one kind of thing on the shelves, and putting them into one big box to be put in one of the pallet sections. Pretty sweet to be able to pick 207 copies of Man of Steel from one box and put them in another. Got my rate up over 300 units an hour for a little while. The only downside was that Jester was also tapped to do it, so we're back to the Corner! Crossing! bullshit.

Like I said, I've done very well, getting compliments from Linden and Jerry about being a good producer, always working hard. Had an annoying encounter with one of the coaches, who stops me to explain the proper way to arrange items on my cart but somehow failing to notice that I'VE ALREADY GOT MY CART SET UP THE WAY HE'S DESCRIBING!! So, he's moving shit around on my cart while I grind my teeth, because he's not actually reorganizing anything, he's just moving shit. After he left, I moved everything back. Then, when he passed me again, he stopped me and moved it all over again! Fucking control freak. And this after he told me my pick rate was as good as his. Then leave me the fuck alone to do my job, freak!

Anyway, it's so slow now that Wednesday the 18th was completely off. I didn't do much but play Skyrim. Thursday is the final day of the nightshift, and after Jerry gives a speech about how we've made history, broken records, blah blah, Linden takes me aside and says that I should talk to SMX and try to get a write-up he had to give me last month expunged because it could hurt my chances of being extended. The write-up was because my rate was very slow one week, due to lack of space. He knows it's bullshit, but had to do it anyway; and he doesn't want to see a good employee (associate) getting screwed. So he wrote out a little strategy for me to get it expunged.

I did however get extended anyway, until January 4th at least, and I start the day shift on Sunday the 22nd. Two days off!

Photo Dump: Fire on Columbia Street

jonathan
4AM, October 10, I heard there was a huge fire on Columbia Street, so I rode down to see what I could see.

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jonathan
So naturally, I took pictures of the Patullo Bridge, a bunch of spiderwebs, and a few views of Moody Park. And a couple buildings. And that's it, really.

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Photo Dump: End Of Summer Camping

jonathan
Ever since losing my job at OldCastle, I've wanted to get away for a camping trip. After dithering away most of the summer out of laziness, I finally took advantage of the last stretch of good weather and headed north.

Two main places I wanted to visit and photograph: the hills north and west of Lytton, for views of the town from above, and a place in the Bridge River Canyon where the river has carved a huge natural amphitheater out of the rock.

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Photo Dump: Sunrise From Queensborough Bridge

jonathan
Last time I came here for sunrise, I ran out of battery power before the actual sun came up. So, the sequel.

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Photo Dump: Gettin' High in the Canyon

jonathan
My computer is finally working properly again, or at least the mouse is. Which means that I can finally finish processing about six months worth of panoramic photography. This first set is from last August, a long weekend road trip up the Fraser Canyon to Lytton and back. I was looking for good views.


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Photo Dump 2: Vanier Park Panoramas

jonathan
There's a sculpture in Vanier Park I love, called Freezing Water #7. So I went down to see if it was still there, because it had been two years since the last time. It was.

I also got some very nice panoramas of False Creek by sunset. I was the only photographer there, which amazes me. This is one of the best views in Vancouver.

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Photo Dump 1: A Very Patient Heron

jonathan
Two photo dumps today! Actually, both are from the same time and place: Vanier Park at sunset. But in the middle of shooting lots of sunset panoramas, I got distracted by a VERY patient heron that posed for me for more than fifteen minutes. So I'm putting all those heron pictures separate. They're all fairly similar, but feel free to pick your favorite. Let the heron-squeeing begin!

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jonathan
Lisa Brown was banned from speaking in Congress because she used the word 'vagina' on the floor. At least, that's what we're being told.

First of, if I lived in America, I'd be a Democrat. But it's really bugging me how this story is being portrayed. "She was banned for saying 'vagina'?" No, not really. She was banned for making comments that would qualify as sexual harassment in any other workplace setting. Don't believe me? Look it up yourself in your own workplace's standards manual. Or, just try telling a woman in your office "Hey, I know you can't stop thinking about my penis, but no means no." If she has a sense of humor, she'll laugh. But if she's the kind of woman who would take offense at such a comment, she WILL report you for harassment, and the law WILL be on her side. So suck it up, folks. Can't blame Republican congressmen for using our own principles against us, sneaky bastards!

Photo Dump: Industrial New Westminster

jonathan
Not really a 'dump', as I'm only including one photo.

Every day on the way to work, I cross the Queensborough Bridge before dawn, and every day I think that the early predawn light reflecting on the river could make for some nice photos -- wish I could stop and take a few. So I finally got up early on a day off and headed down there. First problem: on weekends, the buses don't run that early. So I plugged Sheryl Crow into my ears and started walking. About three kms.

Results not bad. Ran out of battery juice before the sun actually came up, but got good stuff before then. I'm actually rather particularly proud of this shot, because it's a part of New Westminster that is actually extraordinarily ugly...but I saw beauty there, and I think I managed to capture it. I'll do you the courtesy of only giving you the best one, as they're all more or less identical (they get a bit brighter as the dawn nears).

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Officially hired

jonathan
On March 25, I was called into Scott's office along with several others. I was told that I had been picked, along with the others, to be officially hired by Oldcastle. So I won't be just a temp anymore. The next day, Tuesday, was an employee appreciation luncheon, which was a much higher quality affair than I expected. Actual catering, not just a bunch of pizzas.

All The Young Girls Love Avril

jonathan
[EDIT] Hey, I see Bandaids found this. And now they're saying I'm "one of the meanest people online". For anyone who's curious about how it really went down, I was cheated out of a contest prize by Sharifa, one I worked very hard for. For a year, I waited patiently, while Sharifa told me lies about how she would send it soon. Finally, I admit, I lost my temper. But I'm not remotely sorry. I've since come to realize that Sharifa Mohamed is simply one of the most dishonest, despicable, amoral people I've ever been unfortunate enough to encounter, and that she uses Bandaids to cheat and exploit Avril's fans -- and Avril herself, of course -- for her own personal gain. In addition to what she did to me, her sins are too numerous to list. Here's one: Did you know she signed Bandaids up as a charity in Pepsi's Refresh contest? That's right, she actually tried to steal money intended for charities. That's pretty fucking low. If standing up for myself against a person like that makes me the meanest person online, then I bear that title with pride.[EDIT]

Time to tell the story of the Kelowna road trip. Strap in.

The Trip

As an Avril Lavigne fan, amateur photographer, and biker who will take any excuse for a road trip, I decided to make the most of it when she took the Black Star Tour to Kelowna last Saturday.

Road Trip Day started out in the worst possible way. I woke up at 3AM with a splitting migraine. I've been diagnosed with atypical migraines; normally they just fuck with my vision without causing any pain. Not this time. I couldn't lie down because it made my head throb too much. I just had to take some Advil and sit upright on the couch in the dark until it went away. It finally did after a couple hours, and I went back to bed and stayed there until noon.

So now I'm totally behind schedule. Still plenty of time to make it to Kelowna from Vancouver, but it doesn't leave a lot of time for sightseeing.

I always mentally divide trips like this into legs, based on fuel. Vancouver to Kelowna is three legs, about 120km each: Vancouver to Hope, Hope to Merritt, Merritt to Kelowna. The spacing is perfect, because between Hope Merritt and Kelowna, there's literally nothing; no towns, no gas, no services. You fuel up in Merritt or you go without.

Weather was nice, mostly sunny. Got a little chilly on the Coquihalla Pass on the way to Merritt. Merritt to Kelowna was mostly high mountain highway as well, and it was even colder. But the moment I left Merritt, the scenery got amazing. You hear "mountain highway" and you think of tall peaks, deep chasms, crashing rivers, but this is nothing like that. You're up on a high plateau, and it's all rolling hills covered with yellow grass and stands of pine. It's autumn, so there's blazing yellow accents mixed in with the green. And it was about 4 in the afternoon, so the sun was hitting everything at that perfect angle. I've just got to come back here in October at 4pm to take photos sometime in the future, but today I couldn't stop. Plus I was getting seriously fucking cold by this point. Even through the leather.

Around 5, I got my first glimpse of Okanagan Lake, where Kelowna is located. First thing I did when I arrived was head to the north of the city to Knox Mountain. There was a lookout there that I wanted to check out, and I was originally planning to camp there overnight. I was already having second thoughts about that...I was thinking that it was probably too cold to camp out, and I'd be better off just pulling an all-nighter and riding home after the show. I've done it before at night, and that was SCARY cold -- whole-body-uncontrollably-shaking losing-control-of-the-bike cold -- but at least I'd be home. I found out that the access road to Knox Mountain was gated shut at night, and they had zero-tolerance for overnight parking, which just clinched the decision. But as long as I was there, and had a couple hours to kill before the show, I went up and took some panoramas.

I didn't stay long. There was an obnoxious wedding party already up there. I don't know what's wrong with people...I know it's their happy day, but I don't know why a gang of guys in a limo always have to act like a bunch of complete douchebags. And the photos weren't really happening either. If the sky was exposed properly, the city was too dark. If the city was exposed properly, the sky was too bright. I gave up after five or six sets. Maybe they'll edit up into something.

The Show

I had brought a little present for Avril. I've been a fan for ten years, so I wasn't really interested in yet another autograph. I've got autographs. I wanted to give something back. So I got one of my favorite panoramas blown up five feet long and printed on canvas. So she can look at it and be reminded of Canada. And I don't mind saying, it looked friggin' fantastic. With any luck, maybe her friends would see it, ask "hey, where'd you get that?" and she could send some business my way. But for now I had it rolled up in a white cardboard tube, strapped to the back of my bike with my camping gear. I hoped it would be alright while I was at the show.

Before going into the theater, I took another two Advil. Based on experience, I suspected I'd need them. And when I got inside, I hit the second major bummer of the day: they wouldn't let me take my camera in. I put up a good argument -- I'm up in the seats, it's a ten year old camera, there were people on the floor with phones that had more resolution. It didn't even have much zoom. But they wouldn't give me a break. So, long story short, no photos. It still pisses me off whenever I think about it. Fine, they have their rules. But everything I said was true. Everybody there has a camera, and some of them are pretty high quality. They can't possibly keep people from taking pictures, so why single me out just because my camera is "professional"? Which it really isn't even, by the way. On top of that, this is the first time it's ever been an issue. Nobody's ever cared about my camera at any stadium I've been in, as long as I wasn't on the floor. Rogers Arena didn't care for U2. Even Kelowna didn't care last time I saw Avril here! So what the fuck? I still had a cellphone though, so I figured I'd just record the whole show. So there. Next time I'll hide my "professional" camera on a string down my back and carry a cheap one in my bag as a decoy. ;)

It was about an hour before the show. I tweeted quite a bit at first, but stopped when I noticed I was using up my battery too fast. My twitter ID is @impossiblebones if you're interested in anything I said. Three opening acts...Ewan, Cab, and New Cities, or something like that. Who really cares? Except Cab wasn't too bad. Family of four beside me, two girls both under 13 with glowsticks they bought for 5 dollars each. Your first lesson in Practical Economics, kids. I see Jimmy and Steve standing by the stage stairs, waiting for the signal. Almost showtime! Then the woman to my right nudges me, says "You see that woman at the end of the row? That's Avril's mom." Goddam, she was right! I didn't take a picture, because A, I was already recording, and B, creepsville.

Lights went down, roar (more of a screech) went up. The theater was, I'd estimate, about two thirds full. I was a bit surprised. I wouldn't have expected that Kelowna could muster that many Avril fans.

As much trash as I've talked about Avril, I have to admit that the show was really a lot better than I expected. Avril sounds much better live than YouTube would lead you to think, and she's gotten so much better at performing the high-energy songs. She milked He Wasn't for all it was worth. She did a genuinely impressive long note at the end of I Always Get What I Want. Even What The Hell was passable...if she'd sung it like this while doing promo, she probably would have moved more units. I was actually having a lot of fun, for the first half of the show. Then it sort of faded, as she moved into new material that I don't much like, and ballads that she's just not that good at performing anymore. I think she's so determined to prove that she's strong and confident and has a big voice that she doesn't realize how much songs like I'm With You depend on that 'insecure kid who sings to her sneakers' vibe to work.

Plus, the crowd was getting to me. Over and over and over, the exact same scream, lasting the exact same period of time. "I'm so glad to be in KELOWNA!" wheeeeoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo! "You guys are the fucking BEST!" wheeeeoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo! "I want everybody to be really quiet!" wheeeeoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo!

It was like being trapped in an auditory version of The Wave. But the Advil was working, at least.

My phone started warning signs about halfway through, but it lasted all the way to the end of I'm With You. She disappeared for a long time before doing the encore of Everybody Hurts, I Love You, and Complicated.

I Scare Avril's Mom

Yeah, I approached her as I was leaving, and asked if she was Avril's mom. Me, with the beard and the leather jacket. She didn't seem too thrilled about answering, but she finally admitted that she was. I said I didn't know if Avril was planning to meet fans outside later, but could she tell her daughter there was a guy who'd brought her a gift from Vancouver? She said she would. Hope I didn't scare her too much.

Behind the stadium was a lot more people waiting than I'd expected. That was different from The Best Damn Tour, when there'd only been about ten people, so Avril came out, chatted, shook hands, posed for pictures, etc. Another thing that was different was that instead of a waist high barrier around the loading area, it was a full eight foot fence. With about a hundred girls pressed up against it. Clearly there would be no actual interaction with Avril.

It was pretty much as you'd imagine. Screaming whenever a blond head appeared in the distance, which was never her. Chanting Avril! Avril! Avril! I figured that if she came out at all, it wouldn't be until most of the crowd was gone. Like the end of Titanic, they wouldn't send the boats until most of us were dead...and for pretty much the same reason.

There were a lot of fan-renditions of What The Hell being sung, and Smile. I couldn't resist the temptation; as one song trailed off, I started singing as loud as I could: "DANIEL IS TRAVELLING TONIGHT ON A PLANE! I CAN SEE THE RED TAILLIGHTS HEADING FOR SPAIN!" And not too badly, if I say so myself. I've got a fair singing voice when the spirit moves.

The only other male fan in the crowd, mid twenties, German accent, said I was probably singing to the wrong crowd. And then he asked me something that broke my heart: "Who is that song by?"

Jeez, these kids today. They know NOTHING.

And then Avril actually did come out. Security tried to keep the girls from pushing the fence over. And I saw her face...she may say she loves her fans, and I'm sure she does on some level, but when she's confronted by a screaming horde, I'm pretty sure she just disconnects and goes someplace else. Head down, blank eyes. And who can blame her?

People passed things over the wall, she'd scribble something and move on. I held back -- didn't seem to be much point. Like I said, I didn't care about an autograph. But I saw her mom, hovering nearby, so after Avril and the crowd had moved on a bit, I waved to her, and handed the tube to her over the fence. Said I was obviously not going to get anywhere near her, could she please make sure she got this? She said OK. Avril went down the whole length of the fence, about a hundred feet, before heading back to the bus. Last I saw, her mom was following her back with the cardboard tube in her arms. Dunno if Avril ever got it.

I just had a depressing image of it being tossed in a corner of the tour bus, and eventually thrown out without it even being opened. Whatever.

Aftermath

About midnight now. Surprisingly warm. I wasn't looking forward to getting back on the road and facing the mountain passes at night, but I figured at least the coldest part would be over early. But before leaving, I went back to Knox Mountain on a whim. And to my surprise, I found that although the road had been gated shut, I could easily fit my bike around it. So I got to do some night panoramas after all. I spent about an hour on that. I've gotten a lot better at it -- the first one I took turned out to be the keeper. I took about four more, and figured I was about done.

Heading back to Merritt, it was about what I expected. Cold, but manageable. Time passed quickly. I was about thirty kilos away from Merritt when I heard the awful sound on my helmet...it couldn't possibly be RAINING, could it?

Fuck, it was. And by the time I got into town, it was a real rain. And that was about the limit of my endurance. I fueled up at the 7-Eleven, reminded in the process of the downside of small towns, namely, drunk teenagers. And then I went to a motel and got a room from a sleepy Pakistani woman.

Once I got inside, I cheered up a bit. I hate spending money on motels, but I LOVE staying in them! There's just something about the beds with layers and layers of blankets, and thick pillows, and the TV right at the foot of the bed... I watched Pawn Stars and Life After People before falling asleep.

I started late in the morning, and took it easy. So...lots of time on the bike to reflect on what it all means and what I feel about it all. Just like has happened with every album, now that I've seen the show, it's like the end of this particular cycle, and time for my fandom to go back into hibernation. I think this might be my last time seeing Avril live. I just feel too weird in the middle of that crowd, you know? Unless something drastic happens to her demographic (and seriously, what are the odds of that?) I can't see myself doing this again. Still, I think I'll always be curious enough to check out a new Avril album. I like the girl. I wish her the best.

So that's it. Except of course..

Panorama frenzy!Collapse )

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One Lonely Siwash Rock Photo

jonathan
Clear sky and no moon last night, so I was in Stanley Park at 1AM listening to Elton John and hoping not to get mugged. I think it's about as good as I can get with my camera. I'd kill for a wide angle lens.

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Guerilla Camping and Lost Keys

jonathan
I did in fact make it out to that place I found on Google Earth last weekend.

It's in the Similkameen Valley, about 30 km east of Princeton, if you want to look on Google for it. Only took four hours, not six, and then a hair-raising climb along an insanely twisty and steep gravel road, but at the top I had an incredible view of the valley stretching off in both directions. I made a camp, and then I spent eight hours photographing it, from evening to well after midnight. Tried some experiments; some worked, some didn't. Tried some star trails, but they didn't work at all. Full moon drowned most of the stars out. But the light was amazing even to the naked eye.

Had a hard time getting any sleep. The hammock is super comfortable, but almost impossible to sleep in any position but on your back. And I just can't sleep on my back. At all.

Rode hard to get home early the next day, so I'd have some relax time at home before work starts again on Monday. And then on Monday morning I realized my keys were gone. They obviously had to be somewhere between the parking garage and my apartment, but I couldn't find them anywhere.

Got them back a few days later, after putting a notice in the elevator. Creepy guy on first floor picked them up. I dunno why, it would make more sense to either leave them there, or turn them in to the landlord, but he picked them up and was just keeping them until he saw my sign and then he gave them back. Oh well, at least I've got them.

Anyway, photo dump is coming, but it will take a while to process this bunch and whittle them down to the good ones.

Got something DONE

jonathan
Not a lot of spare time anymore now that I'm working again. Job seems to be going well BTW.

Anyway, I was planning to spend the long weekend on a camping/photo shoot trip. Saw a place on Google Earth that I thought could make a great panorama. Somehow though, I wasn't able to muster the energy to get on the bike and ride for six hours. Plus, it's hard to justify the expense of travelling that far right now.

Still, I was bummed about it. But I put that negative energy into something productive, and revamped the photo website with a new layout and a new logo. And this is just the beginning. I'm going to change the whole arrangement from what it is now to more of a galleries/store emphasis. When it's ready, I'll try putting some ads in the local papers. It's time I started trying to make some money from this.

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I Suffer For My Art

jonathan
I had an interesting weekend.

First, the plan. I wanted to return (again) to the Alexandra Bridge, and Hell's Gate. I've gotten good results over the last few months, and wanted to try different POVs and different times.

So I planned to head out on a Saturday afternoon, get to the bridge around five, set up a camp. Then I'd hike along the train-tracks to Hell's Gate, about five kms. Say, an hour or maybe an hour-and-a-half. That would give me evening light to shoot Hell's Gate by. Then I would cross the river, hike back along the highway, shoot the bridge at night, then head back in the morning.

Second, the setting. Fraser Canyon runs roughly north-south, with the Fraser River running through it. Both sides of the canyon have a railroad running along it; the Trans-Canada Highway runs much higher up the canyon wall on the west bank, until it reaches the Alexandra Bridge where it crosses to the east bank. North of that point is Hell's Gate, the narrowest point of the canyon, funnelling the entire river through it. It's a genuine wonder of nature, passing more water per second than Niagara Falls.

There's a little village there - well, more of a shopping mall/research station - clinging to the side of the cliff on the west bank. You reach it from the highway either via a gondola that carries you down and over the river, or by a VERY steep and rocky series of doglegs that leads down to a suspension bridge.

I've shot around the area from almost every perspective I could reach, except one. The tracks on the west bank run behind the Hell's Gate village. Those tracks would give awesome views of the river, if you could just walk along them, but you can't. Barbed-wire fences keep people strictly within the Hell's Gate village.

So my idea was to start at the old Alexandra Bridge, get onto the west bank tracks from there, then just follow them north. Sort of a back door way to Hell's Gate.

Everything was going fine. Got to the old bridge (which used to be part of the old Cariboo Highway, bits and pieces of which still exist and are still used as trails, but were decommissioned after the Trans Canada was opened). It was about five o'clock. Good late-afternoon sunlight. I found my way to a point down by the river with a view up at the bridge, and took a couple of panoramas. Then I found my way to the tracks with less difficulty than I expected, and started walking.

It was pretty cool for a while. Not as much to see as I would have liked, since trees blocked the view of the river most of the way. But I walked through a long tunnel and several smaller ones, and over a couple of bridges spanning side canyons filled with dense bush and tiny creeks, and it was just generally an adventure.

After I'd been walking for almost three hours, I started to realize something was wrong. I thought that it was only 5km, but it was actually 10. And I should have known that! I had checked it on Google Earth (and checked it again when I got home), so I knew damn well what the actual distance was. But for whatever reason, I'd had some sort of brain-fart, and set off believing the trip was only half as long as it really was.

As I'm starting to realize this, I have a choice to make. I don't want to turn around and walk all that way for nothing. But I know that this is a much much more challenging trip than I'd bargained for. Stubbornly, I continue on. I eventually reach Hell's Gate, find that the view isn't quite as good as I'd hoped, due to obstacles like telephone wires, and it's full twilight anyway. I take a few pictures, but I'm too tired to experiment much.

Now there's a second problem, although in my defense it's a problem I anticipated. There's still a barbed-wire fence blocking me from getting into Hell's Gate, and therefore back across the river. I suppose I could have headed back the way I came, but it was almost full-dark and I didn't relish the prospect of following the tracks in pitch blackness (in hindsight, that probably wouldn't have been much of a problem, due to the full moon), and began to suspect that the only way I'd get back to my bike at all would be to hitchhike. But, the village/mall was closed by now, so I figured with nobody around it wouldn't be impossible to scale the fence. And if someone WAS around, surely they'd open the gate and let me through?

Nobody was around, and I successfully scaled both fences to get across the bridge. Then I had to take the road up to the highway. Five doglegs, and each one felt like a trek in itself. It's full dark now. My feet are aching, and I'm staggering like a zombie with every step. And when I finally got to the top, I was just...done. So now what? It's the middle of nowhere. Eleven o'clock at night. There's nothing up here, not even streetlights. The only people out driving are the long-haul truckers. I've got a load of camera equipment on my shoulder, and sharp pains in my feet with every step. Oh, and I've used up the last of my water. No way I can walk three more hours.

About this time, I remembered I had a celphone and by some miracle there was coverage out here. I called the police department in Hope first to ask if they could give me a lift. They had no officers available. So I called the cab company in Hope, who said they would do it for 60 dollars. I'm willing, but I have no cash and they don't take plastic. Next I tried a towing company. They would do it, but they wanted TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY DOLLARS just to give a guy a lift. Tried the BCAA, but I wasn't a member so I'd have to pay, and they didn't take plastic either. They did give me the number of a guy in Boston Bar with a tow truck, but he was busy doing a tow for the police in Lytton, fifty km north of there.

I started walking.

I went about two more kms (and passed through three tunnels) when I came to a roadside cafe with an Elvis theme. It was closed of course, but I thought it might be a good place to stop and maybe sleep until morning. But there were people out back, and after some initial suspicion I managed to talk them into giving me a lift back to the bridge.

I had no intention of camping anymore. I was just going to call it quits and ride home. But damned if I wasn't at least going to stay for a few night shots. Unfortunately, I soon found out that a full moon is terrible if you want to take star-trail photos. Two minutes exposure under a full moon is essentially the same as daylight. So I got a few night photos that didn't even look like nighttime. And it's just too time-consuming to experiment when each exposure is anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes.

Also I had a headache. So I packed up and rode two hours to get home.

So after all that, I didn't get very much good stuff. But I did get a few nice shots, and I suffered for them, so you will like them or else!

I will spare you all the sight of quarter-sized blisters on the soles of both feet.

You know you waaaaaaant to...Collapse )

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Photo Dump: Siwash Rock

jonathan
A Vancouver landmark, but somehow I've never really seen it. It's actually not easy to get to. Don't be fooled by the 'Siwash Trail' in Stanley Park...it doesn't go there. You have to follow the seawall. And whatever direction you approach it from, there's a bit of a walk.

Anyway, I went down to take pictures. Missed the sunset, but the twilight gave some good results anyway. Nearly broke my ankle on the beachrocks, and had to get off the beach shortly anyway, as the tide was coming in.

Well, enjoy.Collapse )

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Photo Dump: Vancouver Skyline Sunset

jonathan
Last Monday it looked like there'd be some interesting clouds on the horizon so I went downtown hoping for a pretty sunset. I was not disappointed. I originally planned to go to Stanley Park for pics of the Lion's Gate, but changed my mind at the last minute and went to this pier with a nice view of Canada Place. I've taken pics here before, but I didn't have much of a sky that time.

Anyway, enjoy.Collapse )

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Aug. 3rd, 2011

jonathan
You know what's really funny in hindsight? You and your sister spent so much time bad-mouthing each other to me, and neither of you understands that you're exactly alike. So haha about the Taylor Swift tickets -- karma's a bitch, and you two deserve each other.

Deathly Hallows 2

jonathan
I just now got home from the last Harry Potter movie, and it was frustrating as hell. I don't think David Yates can do an action scene to save his life. I don't know exactly how to describe it really, except that it was sort of like listening to a guy with no sense of humor trying to tell jokes. Death of Voldemort...limp. Death of Bellatrix...VERY limp. Even the final shot blows its impact by fading to black too soon. The whole film was just boring as fuck.

I had a lot of spare time to reflect on how gorgeous Emma Watson is with no makeup. Amazing how one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen can be so completely unremarkable as a fashion model.

Photo Dump: Abandoned Alexandra Bridge

jonathan
I spent the day in the Fraser Canyon last Tuesday (June 28) and took a buttload of photos which I'm now dumping onto LJ all at once. To make it easier, I'm dividing them into three groups. The first set of photos are of the old Alexandra Bridge, which used to be the main crossing of the canyon for the old Cariboo Highway. The highway was replaced in the sixties by the Trans-Canada, but the old bridge is still there, rusting away. It's still a popular hiking destination.

Clicky for PiccyCollapse )

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Photo Dump 2: Hell's Gate

jonathan
The narrowest point of the Fraser Canyon. More water surges through the gap than Niagara Falls. A neat place to spend the afternoon.

Clicky for PiccyCollapse )

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jonathan
While at Hell's Gate, I also took some photos of birds and flowers, and thought I'd keep them separate from the others. The last one is a bit morbid.

Clicky for PiccyCollapse )

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Tim Minchin in Seattle!

jonathan
I saw Tim Minchin in Seattle, and it was an amazing show! And yes, I did get another autograph for the Wall of Fame.

I didn't want a repeat of the Patton Oswalt rainstorm debacle, so rather than take the motorcycle I asked Mom if I could borrow her car. It caused me some problems at the border crossing, when they checked the trunk and found a bunch of her empty drug bottles. She was going to take them in for recycling, but I didn't know that at the time. And since I couldn't explain why all those empty bottles were there, they pulled me out of the line for inspection. For almost an hour, some guy in a Kevlar vest asked me a series of remarkably random questions. "Did you ever have a trespassing charge dismissed?" "Um....no, where does it say that?" "I'M ASKING THE QUESTIONS!!"

Finally, they said there were no problems, and they let me go. Honestly, I don't think I'm ever going to return to the States, at least not without a better reason than seeing a show. It's just not worth it anymore.

Found the Neptune theater no problem, in the University district. I was there about two hours early, and good thing too, because the tickets were general admission and people were already lined up. Tim has a very enthusiastic fanbase. The Neptune itself is a very cool venue; it was originally a movie theater, but was recently renovated for live shows. A bar was installed at the back of the theater, and a stage put in. Tim was only the third live act to perform there, and the kinks weren't entirely worked out yet, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Got a seat at the front of the balcony, pretty sweet. Tim came out, and opened with Rock and Roll Nerd, which is pretty much his signature piece. He expressed surprise at the number of people who came out. I don't know why he's surprised; even though he's never really done a North American tour before, he's huge in Australia and the UK, and also on YouTube. And in the Internet age, if you've developed a following through word-of-mouth, as Tim has, that following is worldwide.

He went into 'Context' next. Halfway through it, he stopped and stared up at the ceiling. Water was pouring down onto the floor. A lot of it. I never found out exactly what happened, but Tim's dressing room was up there and he theorized that it was caused by the shower he took before the show. "My cleanliness has come back to bite me on my soapy ass." A stagehand mopped up the water as best he could, and Tim went on with 'Context'.

Can't swear to the exact order of the setlist, but among the other songs he performed were 'Thank You God', 'If I Didn't Have You', 'The Pope Song', and 'Lullaby'. And then he spoke the fateful words: "This is a nine-minute beat poem..." and the crowd went insane.

I can now say I have seen Tim Minchin perform 'Storm' live. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

He finished with 'Darkside' as he always does, then did a double-encore. A cover of 'Country Roads', and then one of my favorites, 'Not Perfect'.

Afterwards, Tim came out to the bar to pose for photos and sign autographs. I introduced myself as Phil Daoust, but let him know pretty quick that I was kidding, lest he deck me.

So, an amazing night, an amazing show, and a new autograph for the Wall. But enough talk...time for PICTURESCollapse )

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I Have A Job!!

jonathan
I gave up on the dental receptionist thing. After five months of job searching, I'd gotten exactly two interviews, and neither of them came to anything. The first one, I was interviewed by the office manager, who really liked me, but later told me that the dentist decided to go with someone else. Presumeably, someone younger with nice tits. The second one was way out on W. Broadway, and I was told they didn't want to hire someone who didn't live closer.

I just realized that nobody was ever going to hire me as a dental receptionist. They all want people with at least two years experience, and they all want young women, not men pushing 40. And I'd probably suck at it anyway. I should have gone with the truck-driving course. What the fuck was I thinking?

Anyway, I started applying for other jobs, and last week I got a call for an interview. It was for a temporary (two month) job at a company that frankly had a hard time explaining to me exactly what it was they did. Something to do with doing information searches for banks and other clients. They had a two-month project that needed doing, transferring files from one system to another. It wasn't even really data entry; just endless cutting and pasting. Hell, I could do that. It would be like all the time I spent downloading Rolling Stones' top 500 albums of all time, and retagging every single file the way I wanted it.

The interviewer reminded me of Stuart's Mom from MadTV. She was very very concerned about whether or not I was suited to a job this boring. I said something about how I was sick to death of customer service, and just wanted to be a cog in someone's machine. And basically I charmed the pants off her. She said she was prepared to offer me the temp job immediately, but she also thought I'd be perfect for a permanent job they had available, doing straightforward data entry. So she called in another woman in charge of filling that position, I had a second interview with her, and she gave me a quick data entry test.

The following Monday, I had to come in for a THIRD interview, and today I got the official email: I got the permanent job!

I start on June 28, after they do a background/reference check.

I'm really excited. It's not a great job or anything, but it's been over two years since I had any kind of job at all. It's been a very dark time in my life. For a while now, I've felt that I just didn't have any future, and had the terrifying feeling of slowly slipping off the face of the earth. I have no friends anymore, hardly ever go out, and stopped doing the things I used to enjoy because it didn't seem like there was any point to it. The dental reception course was a temporary ray of light, but it turned out to be a bad decision. And I was getting to the point where I would simply be living on the street if I didn't figure out something soon. This comes just in time.

And I meant what I said. The thought of spending my days in front of a computer, entering data, not having to deal with customers, not having any particular responsibility or authority, sounds very very appealing right now. I'll make money being a cog in someone else's machine, and in my spare time I'll continue to print and frame my best photos until I have enough to start showing in galleries. Maybe I'll join a gym and learn to box or something. And I'd still like to do the truck driving school thing, after I've saved a little money.

I said back at the New Year that I thought this would be a year of transformation. This is another step on the path.

EDIT: To you-know-who. I'm not embarrassed by anything I write in this journal. If I was, I'd post it privately. So show whoever you want. I bet the Royal Army frowns on things that reflect poorly on the service. What do you suppose is their position on cyber-stalking? Lastly, I just have to ask...what's it like to fuck a woman obsessed with Avril Lavigne? Doesn't it make you feel like a kiddy-diddler?

I Get Very Wet For Patton Oswalt

jonathan


I have an unusual hobby.

I'm into standup comedy, so whenever I hear that one of my favorites is going to be in the area, I'll do a sketch of them in pencil and then try to get it autographed. There's one comedian I've wanted to 'acquire' for some time now, and that's Patton Oswalt. He'd just done a show in Vancouver, but I missed my chance. So when I heard that he was going to be in Seattle recording a CD, I decided to head down on the motorcycle and try to add him to the Wall of Fame. He'd be in some pretty distinguished company; so far I've gotten Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Doug Stanhope, and Woody Allen. (I also did one of Stephen Colbert, but he refused to sign. Turns out he's kind of a dick in real life).

Aside: I continue to maintain that these drawings don't require any particular artistic talent. What I do is, I find a photo on the Internet, trace the basic features to get the proportions right, and then it's just shading shading shading until it starts to look vaguely realistic. It's really more about hand/eye coordination than anything else. If you can play Halo, and have about two hours to kill (which if you're playing Halo you probably do), then you could probably do as well or better. But as a souvenir, it's a helluva lot cooler than a program or a T-shirt.


The show was at the Moore Theater, on Saturday, May 14th. I'd been eying the weather reports nervously for several days, because they'd been forecasting showers, which turned out to be an accurate description; every half-hour or so I'd get a five minute sprinkle that was actually kind of refreshing, and dried quickly. I considered myself lucky. Then I nearly hit an owl. He banked off just in time, close enough for me to see the "oh fuck!" look on his owly face. As omens go, I really had no idea how to take it. It wasn't a situation I'd encountered before.

I made it to Seattle, nervous about my bike. It needs a lot of work done, especially a new chain, and I didn't like the sounds it was making. I tried the burgers at the Red Mill (thanks, Adam Richman!), then headed to the theater. And while hanging out in front, I heard something that really pissed me off: some guy asking if there were any tickets left, and he ended up with a pair in row B. I had bought my ticket the day they went on sale, and I was in row M! It hardly seemed fair. Anyway, I got my seat, tweeted Patton about having a sketch I'd like signed after the show, and enjoyed a fantastic performance.

Since it was the early show, I was planning to kill a couple hours until the second show ended, and then hang around the stage door. That's what usually works. As I was leaving, the MC warned everyone to drive carefully, because it was raining. Shit. And then I stepped out of the theater into a pounding, drenching, last-scene-of-the-Matrix downpour. And as I'm thinking to myself how much shittier this night has suddenly become, I look over to where I parked the bike, and it gradually dawns on me that it isn't there.

Seriously. I stared at the spot for three minutes, just to be sure. Then I tried to make it be there through sheer will. It didn't work.

Stolen? Or impounded? A closer look gave me the answer. I was in a three-minute loading zone. And what really pissed me off was that I genuinely hadn't noticed the sign! A parking attendant told me I could park on the street for free after six o'clock, so in ignoring the sign that said "pay street parking", the second sign below it must have just been swept up in the general mental dismissal. If I'd seen the sign and decided to risk it, I'd be more complacent about it. But since I honestly hadn't noticed, couldn't the Universe have cut me a freakin' break? While literally pissing on my head?

So I was kind of shellshocked, sort of like the time I got stuck in the moshpit at an Avril Lavigne concert. The towing company was 24hr, so I didn't see any reason to go pick up the bike until I was actually ready to head home. So I just wandered the downtown area for a while. Everything interesting (read 'the comic store') was closed. I don't like to drink or interact with other human beings, so there was no point in going to a bar. Eventually, I ended up in a Macdonalds, and just sat and felt sorry for myself.

Aside no.2: Think I'm kidding about human contact? Until just a few months ago, I'd never even owned a cellphone. But holy fuck, was I glad I'd finally broken down and gotten an Android recently. This little marvel of technology made itself astonishingly useful tonight: contacting the towing company, locating it, looking up transit directions, using the GPS to make sure I got off at the right stop...I can't imagine how I ever got along without this little gadget. My life would have been even suckier tonight without it.


When the second show finally let out, I started the process of trying to watch the lobby and the alley simultaneously, hoping to catch Patton. Sometimes comedians come out front to hang out with the crowd. Sometimes they dash for a limo. I didn't see any limo in the alley, just a semi and an SUV. And no obvious stage door. And in the lobby, the ushers are yelling at everybody to GET OUT. I got out my phone and sent the following tweet:

@pattonoswalt I'd still love to get that sketch signed. I'm waiting in alley if you'd like to save my night -sniff

Absolutely pathetic, right? I'm not feeling optimistic. But I went back to the alley and there's some other guys hanging around talking. And I heard one of them say something about 'the guy with the sketch'. Jesus-graham-cracker-Christ!! I'm all "hey, that's me, I'm the guy with the sketch!" And just like that, they're leading me through a door, and there's Patton!

"Are you Impossiblebones?"

"I am Impossiblebones!"

This is, for the record, the very first useful thing Twitter's ever done for me.

Aside no.3: It's been called to my attention that the nickname @impossiblebones could lead a person to assume that I'm a creationist. Nothing could be further from the truth. I chose the name to refer to one of my favorite mottoes: "History is littered with the bones of the impossible." Meaning, it's a bad idea to say anything is impossible, because historically, things are only impossible until they aren't. It sounds more impressive in Latin.


So Patton was amazingly nice, and I told him the tale of my shitty night in somewhat abridged form, and he signed my drawing. And suddenly the whole rotten night was worth it. Including what was to come, because the night was far from over.

I still had to free my bike. Getting there on the bus was easy enough, thanks to Google. 120 bucks later, and it was time to head home and I wasn't looking forward to it. It was after midnight, still fucking pouring, and I was facing a very long, very wet, very dangerous trip back to Vancouver. Oh well. I've ridden farther in worse weather, though I can't remember when offhand. In addition to being cold and wet, I was also half-blind from helmet fog and the generally shit-poor reflectors on the I-5. There were times I was just following the taillights in front of me. And cursing them for going too fast for me to keep up. After three hours of sheer terror, I made it.

Aside no.4: It occurred to me later that I forgot to ask Patton if I could get a picture with him. But that was OK; I looked like complete shit anyway. Also, I found out later that for some retarded reason, none of the photos I took outside my cellphone service area were saved. I have no idea why. Why should roaming affect photographs? It's not like I was sending them anywhere! Fucking cellphones...


So that's the story of how I met Patton Oswalt in Seattle, and got very very wet as a result. Thank you Patton, for your kindness and generosity. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Specifically, next month when Tim Minchin comes to the Neptune! Wish me sunshine....






The Wall Of Fame










Ta da! Patton!





Aside no.5: Wishlist? Christopher Titus, Jon Stewart (you're dead to me, Colbert), Maria Bamford (actually saw her last year, but didn't get around to doing a drawing), Joe Rogan, Penn and Teller (the drawing is done, just waiting for them to come to BC again), Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher and of course the irreplaceable Tim Minchin.


One last thought: If you want to see a comedian at his absolute best, see him when he's taping a show. Patton absolutely killed. And it wasn't just the performance either. He also rocked this awesome, tailored suit and looked pretty fucking sharp. Watch the show when it airs, and tell me if I'm wrong. But here's what he wore three weeks earlier in Vancouver.

Ah well. At least it wasn't sweatpants.

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Latest photos

jonathan
I really spend too much time photographing this statue.

More photos of Harry Jerome statue, and a trip out to ChilliwackCollapse )

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Early Christmas Present

jonathan
I went back to the Lion's Gate bridge. Last set of photos were pretty good, but I thought I could do better. Conditions were amazing...Burrard Inlet was like a mirror. Until a bigassed tug churned by and roiled the whole surface up for an hour.

But before that, I got lots of good stuff.Collapse )

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Late Night Photos In Stanley Park

jonathan
Time for more photos. These are from two separate nights spent in Stanley Park. The first set is mostly of the Lion's Gate Bridge, and were taken during an unusually low tide. The rest are mostly miscellaneous shots of the totem poles near Lumberman's Arch. While making my long exposures, I was serenaded by the sounds of sex coming from the parking lot.

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Snowstorm in New Westminster

jonathan
We got two big snowfalls in the last week. Typical Vancouver snowstorms -- six inches overnight, gone the next day. It's already mostly gone, but while it lasted, I went shooting.

Clicky for piccyCollapse )

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One big photo

jonathan
Remember how I said that I wanted to get a nighttime panorama of Osoyoos when I went camping a few weeks ago? I went back a second time because I didn't think I got it the first time, and the second trip was an even bigger failure?

Well I went back to the original photos I took the first time, and decided to try to cobble them together anyway. It took several hours, but they turned into something decent after all. It's far from ideal -- I had to practically bolt the photos together in some places -- but definitely worth the effort.


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In Which I Witness Two Flaming Disasters While Remaining Personally Unscathed.

jonathan
The test on insurance billing came back, and the bad news is that it was a train wreck. The good news is that my train wrecked least. Carmelita said that she didn't really expect the class to do well because we haven't really worked on insurance much yet. The test was just to give us an idea of what we need to know, and won't actually count. But I still managed to get 16 out of 24 right. Best in class. So Pam, the lady who founded the course, came in to run over a few things we'll need to know.

----

I was working at the computer the other day, and kept getting a whiff of some strange smell. It smelled sort of electrical, which made me worry that my computer was overheating, but smelling my computer didn't reveal anything unusual, so I'd forget about it. But it kept coming back. Finally I started looking around. I looked out the window.

Huh. Dumpster's on fire.Collapse )

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YAY! The Second Batch of Boundary Country Photos

Ow ow ow...

jonathan
Ow pain.

I've done something to my back. I don't think I've "thrown it out" as they say, but maybe some sort of muscle spasm. Same thing happened to me when I was 13, only in my neck. The muscles suddenly tightened up for no reason, and I couldn't move it fully for about a week. I hope it's just that.

Anyway, the course has been going really well. I've finished the first two weeks, and I'm learning a lot. First few classes dealt mostly with dental terminology. I had some biology background, so it was mostly familiar. Then it was memorizing the abbreviations dentists use, looking up procedures in the dental price guide, and calculating how much the client owed vs. how much was paid by insurance. It's really not that different than writing up an order at the restaurant and adding up the prices.

The teacher, Carmelita, is nice, but kind of awkward at teaching. Her strategy is usually to take the readings that we were given, and then just reading them out loud while we follow along. And she has an odd way of dropping letters or syllables from words, or mispronouncing them in other ways. For instance, she can't seem to pronounce a long-u sound, so a word like 'mandibular' comes out as 'mandibbiler.' I amuse myself by composing lists of "Carmelisms" while she talks. First test is tomorrow, Mon Oct 4.

Worst part of the class is that, like I said, I'm the only guy. The women in the class all seem to want to work in groups, and Carmelita mostly lets them. But I prefer to work alone, always have, always will. I think you learn more that way. So, while I'm trying to look up codes for dental procedures and write down their prices, I can't concentrate because of all the chatter as the ladies compare notes and trade answers. It's frustrating.

Also frustrating is that the learning materials are really shitty. I finished an assignment first, so Carmelita checked my answers first, before going through the whole thing with everybody else. She found a number of mistakes. All except one were due to errors in the question. Like, the question would ask for the cost of two x-rays and three fillings, but the answer on the answer sheet was for THREE x-rays and three fillings. So my answer was actually correct, it just didn't match the teacher's materials.

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I just got back from another trip to Boundary Country. I thought the last trip would be the last chance I'd get for a while, but we just got a stretch of unusually spectacular weather, and since my classes are just Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, I thought I'd grab the chance.

But before I get into THAT trip, I still owe you pictures from the LAST trip.

So, without further ado...Collapse )

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Bike Ride

jonathan
While Mom's in Haida Gwai, I thought I'd stop by her place and pick up my old bike. It's been in her attic for a while now. Come to think of it, it's almost brand new. I'm not sure why I stopped riding it, but it probably had something to do with buying a motorcycle. I don't think I've ridden a bike in at least six years now, and while it's true that you don't forget, you sure do lose the feel for it. After a motorcycle, a bicycle feels impossibly light and spindly...like sitting on a box-kite. You're leaning much more forward too, which gives the uncomfortable sensation that you'll fly over the handlebars if you stop too quickly.

Anyway, both tires were flat so I had to walk it home from Mom's, but after filling them up I took it out for a midnight ride around New Westminster. It was fun. I should start riding regularly again. Ten years ago, I rode to work every day, and was in fairly good shape. Today I ride the motorcycle and I'm...not. Hard to believe I once rode a bike over the Rockies and across the Prairies, and would have gone farther if I hadn't run out of money in Winnipeg.

But now, it's time for those photos I promised, from the Merritt Rodeo.

Click for CowboysCollapse )

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I Meet Doug Stanhope!

jonathan
I drove down to Kirkland (just outside Seattle) to see Doug Stanhope at the Laughs club. Got a speeding ticket on the way down. Ran into Mark Stone of all people at the club. He's going to be an electrician.

I did a drawing of Doug beforehand, and got him to sign it.

On the way home, I got a border guard with an attitude; she asked me question after question, and then said she thought I was hiding something. I really didn't know what to say to that, except to shrug. The cunt finally let me go after about ten more stupid questions. I should have told her to just search the car, take as much time as she wanted, provided that when she was done, I could tell her that she sucked at her job.

Anyway, here's the drawing, and a series of photos I took.



Photos from Doug Stanhope in Kirkwood, WACollapse )

The Othello Tunnels, Coquihalla Canyon, Hope BC

jonathan
Some nice photos to show you today. A couple of weeks ago I rode the hourlong trip out to Hope to try photographing the world-famous Othello Tunnels (aka the Quintette Tunnels, aka McCulloch's Wonder) at night. I stopped briefly just after sunset to take a couple of shots at Bridal Falls, just outside Chilliwack (I love living in BC). I hung around Hope for a while, waiting for it to get dark, and when it did, I rode the 8km into the mountains to the start of the trailhead, then since the trail was wide and flat (it's old railbed) I took the bike the rest of the way. It wasn't far. I set up the tripod, opened the shutter, and shone a flashlight on whatever I wanted illuminated. Each exposure took about ten minutes. It was pretty spooky, but worth it.

Then last week, I went out again, but the original intent was something I've had a bug up my ass about for a while now. I found a mountain lake on Google Earth that looks absolutely beautiful, but there's no trails of any kind going to it. Forestry service roads would get me about three km from it, then it would be a hike over a ridge. I decided I wanted to reach that lake. I didn't even get close. The road was a bit steeper and rougher than expected, and eventually my bike just decided not to go any further. It died on a steep and unstable uphill slope, which is a terrible position to find oneself in... You have no power, so you can't go forward. You don't want to slide backwards too fast on gravel, because if you do, you won't be able to brake without skidding; and skidding backwards downhill with a sheer drop on one side of you is a terrifying prospect. But eventually I managed to finesse the bike around to be facing downhill again, and managed to get it started. With tail between legs, I decided to try to salvage something by returning to Hope for some daytime pictures of the tunnels.

Photos Under The CutCollapse )

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The Queens Of New Westminster

jonathan
Photo treat!

I've wanted to get this panorama of the Patullo and Skybridge for a while now, so I finally went. Sorry it's six shots of basically the same scene, but I cut it down from twelve and couldn't bring myself to lose anymore of my babies. So please tell me your favorite. Anyway, take a look:Collapse )

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Canada-gasm!

jonathan
Ready for a blast of Canadiana?
Pictures from Downtown After Hockey GoldCollapse )

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Panorama Frenzy!

jonathan
This is so frustrating. A few nights ago, I spent almost an entire night roaming downtown Vancouver taking panoramic photos, which are a bitch to process; well, I finally finished those all up and then I went downtown AGAIN for the closing ceremonies party and got ANOTHER buttload of pics to work through! I'm so glad the Olympics are over. Maybe now I'll have a chance to catch up.

Speaking of which, I couldn't be prouder of how Canada did in the Games, or of how Vancouver did hosting. Considering all the shit that went wrong, from the death of the Georgian luger, to the torch not working correctly, to the lousy weather, it all just felt amazingly perfect.

I'm actually a bit bummed at just how much I missed out on. I was hoping to watch the hockey final somewhere downtown, but got the game time wrong...by the time I realized my mistake, the third period was already starting. And what a bloody incredible finish that was, eh?! I also never got to ride the zipline, I missed out on an amazing opportunity to photograph the cauldron from the top of an office building so I could go see Colbert instead...and that worked out so well, didn't it? I never even sampled any of the nations pavillions. Mostly it was the rain that kept me out of downtown. Nevertheless, I feel that I took part in something special, something that will live in the hearts of Vancouverites for generations. One day I'll get to say "I was there."

Meanwhile, in a few days you'll be seeing my photos from the downtown party. But for now, it's time to post those panoramas I've been working so hard on. Enjoy!Collapse )

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Two Days Of Stephen Colbert

jonathan
While in Vancouver, acting in his semi-official capacity as the Assistant Sports Psychologist to the US Olympic speedskating team, Stephen Colbert made a call out to the Colbert Nation to be in Creekside Park (by Science World) for taping of a week's worth of the Colbert Report.

I was down there at six AM, and there was already a moderate clutch of people waiting, so I took a few minutes to try a panorama of False Creek. Click for many many pictures of Colbert.Collapse )

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Downtown Olympic Flavour (With A 'U')

jonathan
Monday, I finally headed downtown to check out the Olympics. I parked the bike in the Tinseltown parkade because motorcycles park free there, then headed through Gastown, rolling my eyes a bit at all the tourist kitsch, towards Canada Place and the Cauldron. The crowds were pretty heavy, but also well-managed, and it wasn't hard to get around.

Click for lots more photos!Collapse )

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Panorama Love

Olympic Pictures!

jonathan
I was downtown the other day checking out some of the Olympic flavor. Then today, I went down again and saw Stephen Colbert taping a show. Pictures of both days are coming. But first things first: I promised pictures from the torch relay through New Westminster last week, and we'll start with those.Collapse )

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Bees!

jonathan
I saw bees in a flower garden a few blocks from my house, and today I went to try shooting them.

Results were beyond expectations.Collapse )

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Friends Only from now on.

jonathan
Sorry, too many people I know read this, and too many that I don't want to know. Comment to be added, I'm not picky.

Another Manic Monday

jonathan
Rod Stewart tickets went on sale at 10AM today. I was planning to buy some to resell, but by the time I heard my alarm, it was already quarter after. So I thought 'fuck it' and went back to sleep. It turned out I was lucky: when I checked Ticketmaster that evening, the show still hadn't sold out, so if I had bought tickets they probably wouldn't be worth anything.

I had a letter in the Vancouver Sun today. Surprising, because it's been over a week since I wrote it. It was a pro-RCMP, anti-media opinion about the guy who died after being Tasered at the airport. I'd given up on it. But apparently, they've been saving up letters on the topic, and printed a bunch of them at once.

Did some diet shopping at Safeway, got cereal, skim milk, canned pasta, pickles. Canned pasta is great for when you're craving something that tastes like fast food; it's surprisingly low on calories. I just wish Heinz didn't stop making plain ol' spaghetti. When did that happen? When did every kind of canned pasta become some sort of kiddy gimmick? Alphagetti, Zoodles, Simpsons, Dinogetti, Dora the Explorer...I just want spaghetti, dammit!

And somewhere along the way, they seem to have stopped making my favorite cereal, Team.

Then I went across the street to the library to photocopy my tax return and return an overdue book (Adventure Motorcyclist's Handbook or something like that).

My PlayStation 2 crapped out for good, and I was thinking about treating myself to a PS3. I drove down to BestBuy (after a brief stop at Staples to buy laminate sheets) but at the last minute I decided that 400 dollars was just a bit more than I wanted to spend on ANYTHING right now. Especially when I need a new mattress, and to get my bike fixed, and since stopping at Staples, I suddenly want a new filing cabinet too. With fancy hanging folderrrrs! Mmmmmmmmmm. God I'm a nerd.

And I finally put my bed back together. Since the bedbug spraying, I've been sleeping on the couch, only 'couch' is a rather generous term for what's really more of a loveseat. Bloody uncomfortable. I need to stretch out!

Meanwhile, Stephen Hume responded to my email.Collapse )

Daily calorie count: Super big gulp (700), cup of dried apricots (350), bowl of corn flakes, skim milk (120). Total: 1170

Shit, I can actually FEEL those apricots going through me. Wild.

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