I definitely deserve a raise; I've learned just about every packaging procedure there is, and now they've got me doing calibration, and I work at a good rate.
Thurs Oct 2 I badly sprained my ankle on my way to work. I was walking through the parking lot of the shop behind Avigilon, stepped on a chunk of wood, and went straight down hard. Wasn't sure I could even stand at first, felt a burst of nausea from the pain, just had to sit there for a minute or two. But when I got up and tried walking on it, it gradually seemed to fade so I hoped it wouldn't be too bad.
And it wasn't, at first. The morning went by and it didn't give much trouble. But during lunch, after taking weight off it for half an hour, it started to throb and then it kept throbbing after lunch was over. It got so bad I had to leave at one.
I worried about working Friday, but a good night's sleep helped a lot. I made it to the weekend.
Then there were a lot of doctor-related things. I made an appointment with Dr. Toews for several things -- varicose veins I should probably get taken care of, a numb patch on my foot, and now my ankle. Jay has had a lot of health problems recently uncovered, leading to his major change in lifestyle and diet, and it had me worried. Toews checked my blood pressure, said it was perfect, and sent me to get blood tests, and referred me to a doctor for the veins.
An appointment was later made with the vein guy, but I missed it.
Blood tests were done at the clinic in New West just across the street from me. Toews later called me in to discuss it. Seems that everything is fine except my glucose levels seem a little high. So I have to get a second test called a glucose tolerance. Take blood, drink sugar solution, wait two hours, take blood again. It requires an appointment. While I was there, I also had him burn off a mole next to my ear that I keep nicking while shaving, and a big skin-tag right under my left ass-cheek. I also mentioned that I'd been having heart palpitations this past week. Like, really long attacks of them...over an hour. Maybe it was magnesium shortage, maybe it was stress from work, but he also added an EKG to the lab instructions.
So I went to get the EKG, which was no problem; but while there, I tried to make the appointment for the glucose test. They said they couldn't make an appointment in person; I'd have to go online and do it that way. Seemed like an unnecessary complication, but whatever. So I made an appointment for the following Saturday at 12:30. When I got there, they told me that since the test took two hours, and they closed at two on Saturday, they wouldn't be able to do the test. Which is the sort of thing they would have been able to tell me if they'd taken the appointment in person.
Oh well, at least it gave me a story to tell during birthday week.
Finally got the test done Saturday, November 21.
Now let's see if I have diabetes or not.
Next up: dental appointment on the 28th. I've been waiting almost a year for it. Hope there's not much that needs doing, since dental coverage at Aerotek isn't great.
I watched a lot of Colbert's Late Show this weekend. It's growing on me, although there are things I don't like about it (mostly the cold open, and the bandleader Batiste). But Saturday I finally got around to something that's been put off for a while...the glucose tolerance test that Toews sent me for.
So I had an appointment for 10:45, and good thing, because the place was packed. The test would take two hours, during which time I had to remain in the clinic. They took me in, took a vial of blood and gave me a glucose drink. I had been trying to avoid Coke for the last few days, except for stealing some Pepsi from the fridge at Avigilon while waiting for 4:15 to arrive (see last entry). Been drinking Fresca instead.
So for two hours I sat with my laptop. I had prepared before I left by loading it with some stuff to do. First I processed the new Adele album, and then I watched the latest Real Time with Bill Maher. What was most memorable about it was seeing Chrystia Freeland, Justin Trudeau's new Minister of International Trade make a complete ass of herself. Trudeau has made such a big thing about his gender-balanced cabinet "because it's 2015", which of course leads to the suspicion that he passed over the best candidates for the sake of symbolism. Wow does Freeland ever confirm that suspicion. She really doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that she can handle a grown-up's job. It's hard not to believe that there weren't ten men more qualified than her for the job. I predict a very strange era in Canadian history. Or maybe I'm wrong, and all these far-left wackaloons actually understand the brave new world better than I do. Paradise or perdition ahead? We'll see.
Couldn't access the lab's WiFi on my laptop for some reason.
Finally the two hours were up and they took the second vial, and I decided to walk to Mom's and pick up her big soup pot to make turkey soup in. Then, while I was there anyway, I asked if I could borrow her car and I went to Richmond to photograph the fields around the cement plant. So I did that, and also a lot of shots of the sun setting behind the Sikh temple that I've wanted to try for at least a year now (I kept seeing it on the bus ride home from Avigilon, and wishing I could stop to shoot it). Not having a motorcycle has been such a crimp in my life.
The shoot went fairly well I think. Now who knows when I'll get around to processing all these photos, but I'll post them here eventually.
Sunday I'm making turkey soup and catching up on LiveJournal. It's cooking as I type this.
So it's been fine for two weeks. But this last week has been brutal. I work across from Shelley, who yammers on and on in pidgin English to anyone who wanders by, has the most annoying laugh I've ever heard (hoohoohoohoohoo), and this entire week has been sick with something. So she's constantly clearing her throat, almost exactly the way Nancy always did when we were kids. I'm losing my mind. The only thing keeping me sane is ignoring the rule against cellphones and listening to music on mine all day. I'm tempted to further ignore the rule against earbuds. Fuck, if it weren't for that rule, I'd be completely content.
Meanwhile, Daniel and Andrew are making a complete shitstorm out of Line 6 (though admittedly it's not always their fault, as they often are running out of some part or insert or other).
So, November 20, Friday. Last day of the week. I grit my teeth through most of the day with Shelley, who is indeed still grunting and coughing her way through hers. I'm working on boxbody cameras for the first time, and it's slow going because there's only one stand available so I can only calibrate one at a time rather than two. And Franky tells me he needs me to take over Line 6. Daniel's gone for the day for some reason.
Of course, it's a disaster. Something like twenty in-ceiling PTZs backed up, plus six multihead pendants, and just an hour thirty left in the day. Well, I keep bragging to myself that I can do this better than him and Andrew together, right? It's go time.
I had to refresh my memory first -- it's been three weeks since I've done this. I also had to fold twenty boxes, which is about twenty minutes. Had to put the screws into the little black covers that get included in each box, because of course Daniel has never found the time to prepare them in advance. I got empty boxes lined up in a row on the counter, and started packing. First batch about seven. That opened up more counter space for a larger second batch. I skipped the fifteen minute break at 2. But I got all twenty packaged well before 3. Then whatsisname who does the testing gave me six more.
Now I'm pissed off. I hate that at the end of the day I have to suddenly bust ass to cover for someone else. So I decide I'm at least going to grab some overtime, and I'm not leaving until every single camera is done...even the six pendants. So, by four o'clock, I've packed over 30 cameras, which is more than Daniel and Andrew do in a typical day. I swear, I want to just ask Franky, or Jeeva, or Jennifer, or whoever, why they don't just put me there, and keep everybody else the FUCK OUT OF MY WAY. Can't they understand that I just don't like working with others, and can do much better work FOR THEM on my own?
Well, I quit at 4, but hung out in the break room until 4:15 before clocking out to be sure that I get paid for that 15 minute break I skipped.
And just to put the cherry on the day, the 410 bus was driven by that chatty moron who did the quiz game that one time.
When Daniel got back, I went back to doing other stuff; usually Line 4 and the bullet cameras. But a week ago, things were slow, I was helping out with some production, working on some part or another (tap a nut into place, put in a screw, pass it on). I'd done 300 of them that morning, finishing off a work order, and was just settling into starting on a new work order of 500, when Jen pulled me off it. The cameras on Line 6 were backing up, and she was steamed as fuck at Daniel and Andrew, who were working on them. Reamed them out in front of me for not getting anything done, and put me on it instead.
Apparently she'd noticed that my way was a lot better than Daniel's way.
In the last two hours of the day, working alone, I got caught up, packaging 23 cameras. In the previous six hours, working together, Daniel and Andrew did nineteen.
Doesn't surprise me by the way. Daniel is just plain lazy, and while Andrew works fast, he's also completely unorganized, sacrificing efficiency for speed. The two of them together are just a disaster. Meanwhile, I feel gratified, knowing that my work is appreciated.
I was kind of hoping that this meant I'd be officially put on Line 6 permanently, while Daniel can go do whatever -- who really cares. It hasn't really worked out that way in the week since though. Jen's gone on vacation for three weeks herself. She said she'd leave a note for Franky, who is subbing for her (and she did in fact leave it, as Franky showed it to me), but Franky has decided to have me doing calibration for the first time instead. Apparently they're caught short by some people not coming in. Calibration is easy, you get to sit down all day. It's also pretty boring, and I hate sitting across from Shelley, who yaps constantly in pidgin-English to anyone in the vicinity and has the most annoying laugh in the world.
We'll see what happens when Jen gets back. I miss Line 6. The best job for me is one where they give me a task to do and keep everybody else the fuck out of my way.
Except that having left the highway to the bridge, we're eventually going to have to get back on it. And then we hit Queensborough itself, which is completely locked solid. After sitting in the same spot for ten minutes, I said 'fuck it' and got off the bus. I figured it would be faster to walk over the bridge to the Skytrain station. I start walking. I pass another 410 bus a block ahead. Then I pass a third. Then a fourth. The bridge is not very safe for pedestrians, but I climb a rail and cross a lane and walk along a yellow line, and eventually cross a field to get to the station, which is packed with people waiting for those four buses. The 101 to Uptown New West is there, and I hop in it. Almost home.
Except that whatever's jamming the Queensborough is also jamming the Patullo, which means that the artery through New West is ALSO locked solid. I can't believe this, but I'm getting off another bus and walking AGAIN! Another six blocks to get home, and I beat this bus too. Fuck, I just want to sleep. I feel like if you can beat the bus home, BC Transit should give you a rebate or something.
I made a video of me outpacing traffic on foot.
First it was Saturday, going out to Lisa's on the bus (bike's still not working and I refuse to ask Kelly for a lift anymore). We took Dad for dinner at the Japanese restaurant, and then we all saw Everest. Good movie; I later downloaded Into Thin Air, the book it was based on.
Sunday was dinner at Carol's. Again on the bus to Lisa's, and then Dad picked us up. Dinner was OK. Ham, which I don't really like, but awesome scalloped potatoes. Hard to believe I didn't like scalloped potatoes as a kid. We played a strange game with cards and tiles, not unlike gin.
Then home on the bus, really late, due to just missing one bus, and then another. Not time for bed yet though...still had to make mashed potatoes for Monday.
I asked Kelly if she was coming to Mom's Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, and she said she hadn't been invited, and couldn't drive anyway. So I asked Mom if she wanted Kelly there, and if I could pick her up in Mom's car. I swear, I'm getting tired of this cold-war thing between them. They're both whining about how the other one is mad at them, and neither of them even knows why, I don't think. Anyway, thanks to me, Kelly was at dinner. She seemed grateful that I wanted her there.
I spent 50 dollars on an iTunes card for Kelly, which was more than I could really afford, but she went overboard on me for Christmas with the XBox so I wanted to do a little extra. Dad told us about finally buying a piece of property on Sheridan Lake, and we talked about me doing some hot water tank installation with him.
That's all the bullshit stuff to help me place this in my memory later. The big news of the evening, that made me want to record this here, is that I found out that Kelly has MS. Mom doesn't know yet. Kelly doesn't know if it's progressive or relapsing-remitting. Jeez we're a fucked-up family.
I had no less than three jobs in 2014, a record. I was at Amazon until June 22, then I was lucky enough to get a job installing modular fences for Modu-Loc on August 15, after answering a Craigslist ad. Thought I'd landed on my feet, but that job went away on October 17 after the busy summer season ended. Getting a knee injury probably didn't help. On December 8 I was placed by Aerotek with a company called Avigilon.
2014 is the year Jack died. Mom had him put to sleep a few weeks ago.
I switched from Shaw to Telus, and got an iPhone 6 to replace my old HTC Desire which I got on Boxing Day 2010. Thus fulfilling a promise to myself that I'd only get a new phone when they made one that had more memory than my Zune. The iPhone 6 meets that criteria with 128 GB. So really, my Zune is also sort of retired after serving since June 6, 2008.
Got a new wallet, replacing the hemp one I bought in Kamloops in August 2003, and also replaced my old motorcycle gloves which I've had even longer. Actually, I didn't replace them; they were a birthday present from Lisa.
An interesting year in another respect; it seems that 2014 is the year feminism jumped the shark. First the #shirtstorm hashtag, then the UVA gang-rape hoax. I wouldn't say that feminists are going away any time soon, but for the first time it seems like the media is actually noticing that these people are not the progressive fighters of oppression they present themselves as; they are modern communist-hunters, motivated by hate and venom and their own mediocrity. Hopefully the lesson sticks.
Couple other gadget upgrades. Got my first laptop and my first wireless router, both free gifts for signing up with Telus, and also got an XBox 3 for Christmas.
And I bought a new coat. It's an American Navy coat, the style usually referred to as a peacoat, and I got it in a store called Mintage on Commercial Drive for 80 dollars. It's much more stylish and attractive than the gray raincoat I've had since 2001. Also, 2014 is the year I started habitually wearing a shaved hairstyle (I think I shaved it for the first time in 2013 though...I know it was around the time Breaking Bad ended). Although I still have lots of hair, unlike a lot of the men in my family, I always said that if I started to go bald I'd much rather just shave it than try to hide it. Well, I'm getting thin enough on top that longer styles just don't look good anymore, so I went for it.
I've been wearing a goatee too for about a year now. I think I might look more attractive now than I have at any other time in my life.
I won second place in two photo contests in 2014: the Fraser River Discovery Center gave me second place for my photo Industrial New Westminster, and City Hall gave me second place in their 'Our Town' contest for my photo Traffic.
Some of my favorite photo shoots of the last year: the Wait For Me Daddy statue in New Westminster, and several nice panoramas of the Port Mann Bridge as the disassembly continues.
In July I made it farther up the Spuzzum Creek Road than ever before, only to find that the road that leads closer to Lake Vanden-Eykel simply didn't exist anymore. Google Maps is over a decade out of date.
I'm uncertain about my motorcycle's future. It hasn't been running for over a month, and I suspect it has deeper issues with the engine than I'm willing to repair. Not starting with the starter may simply be a problem with the battery or a solenoid, but I'm noticing a rattle in the motor that may be related to the pistons. The bike may simply be nearing the end of its life. It had about 36,000 km on it when I bought it in 2002-3, and now it's over 105,000. It's had a good run.
2014 is the year I turned the corner on the Daily Show. I can hardly bear to watch it anymore. Jon's gone from mocking the media to trying to be part of it, and he's just got his head up his ass on too many things. It's not as centrist as it used to be, it's too pandering, too lazy, and it seems lately that it's all-racism-all-the-time. Jon, you want to stay fresh, run away from your audience as fast as you can. Colbert is a little better, but of course this was also the year the Colbert Report ended. Good luck being able to do anything smart or funny on network TV, Stephen. Guess Suey Park wins after all.
Dad - Crown Royal Whiskey (as usual)
Carol - A teakettle from the Dutch store in New Westminster
Kelly and Jay - A decorative coffee grinder, also from the Dutch store.
Jay - A cookie sheet. Kelly said he wanted one, and it was cheap, so I added it to the other gift.
Lisa - Happy Trumpets, by Pedro Gonzales and his Mexican Brass.
Matthew and Abigail - Chocolate coins. Wanted to get them chocolate letters, but the Dutch store was sold out of everything but F and U. Same to you, pal.
Mom and Nancy, by request, did not receive gifts. Unless you count my making the mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner.
What I Got:
Lisa - 25 dollar gift certificate from EB Games
Kelly, Jay and Dad - Xbox 360.
Carol - Bag of Turtles.
Mom - LED flashlight.
The Xbox I was not expecting at all. I'd mentioned that it might be nice to get one, since the price was bound to drop now that the Xbox One was out. Looking for myself, I found that they didn't drop as much as all that, so I'd told Kelly to forget about it. But I guess she didn't.
I worked Christmas Eve until three, got a ride with Kelly to Lisa's place. It was the first time Kelly and Jay had taken the new South Perimeter road as an alternative to the Port Mann. They both agreed that it was faster, with the added benefit of not being tolled. I told them to enjoy it while it lasted, because the Patullo is going to be rebuilt soon enough, and the new bridge will be tolled as well.
Kelly's ongoing problems with her leg may have a solution soon. Or not so soon. She's going in for MRI next October. But the doctor is suggesting the problem may not be in her leg at all, but a pinched nerve in her spine or elsewhere.
Jay and I picked up the Chinese food as usual. It was particularly good this year. Dad and Lisa forgot to order anything green, so for a change I had a bit of everything. Then after gifts, we played Scattergories. I don't remember who won, I just remember that I missed getting any points at all on two rounds; the first because I thought someone else was keeping score, the second because I used the wrong side of the card. Still scored higher than Kelly though.
Lisa got a bottle of tequila, and offered everybody a shot. I figured 'what the hell' and took one. Kelly was amazed, not just that I took one (I never drink), but that I shot it in one while keeping a straight face. I don't know why she's surprised. I've always been stoic, and I'll do anything for a joke. In other words, the only reason I took the shot was because I thought it would be funny. And honestly, it really didn't do much of anything except feel warm on the way down. Alcohol just doesn't do much for me except taste bad.
Next day was Christmas with Mom. Kelly and Jay were supposed to go in the morning, while I was going later, so I wasn't expecting to see them at all. I made the mashed potatoes, then called Mom around noon to pick me up. When we got to her place, there was a message from Kelly, waiting at the gate, so I went down to let them in. Lisa arrived shortly after, so we got to be all together after all.
None of Mom's friends joined us for dinner this year. I was kind of relieved.
On Boxing Day, in keeping with the theme of shining my life up a bit, I wanted to get a new coat. Something pea-coat style, something that looks more adult than the hoodie from Army and Navy that I've been wearing for four fucking years now, or the goretex shell I've had for fifteen. I took the bus down to Commercial Drive and walked the strip, just browsing. In a vintage consignment shop, I found two coats I really liked, and got them both for half price. Total price, including tax, $107.10.
And today, the goal was to get a new cell phone. I've checked with Fido and Virgin, but I'm thinking of sticking with Bell if I can persuade them to let me keep the plan I've currently got (1GB of data for 55/month). I was thinking of upgrading to a Galaxy s5 because it allows a memory card up to 128GB and it's important to me to have enough space for my entire music collection. But now I'm thinking of splurging on an iPhone 6. It would be nice for a change to have the latest and best.
I also went to EB in Metrotown (after first taking the bus to Queensborough, thinking there was still an EB there) and got three games for the Xbox: Halo 3, Red Dead Redeption, and Skyrim Legendary. Damn was it packed!
I'll have to talk to Bell's customer service tomorrow to see what they are willing to do for me.
For starters, a job just sort of fell into my lap. I got a call from Aerotek, saying they'd found something for me. Frankly, I wasn't really sure I wanted to go back to work yet, but couldn't really work up the nerve to turn it down. Besides, I'm bored anyway.
So it started with going down to Aerotek's offices for an interview with my recruiter Daniel, just so he could get a sense of who I was. It included a brief written test designed to see if I could follow instructions -- "put five stars in the upper right corner, don't do question 13" that sort of thing -- and I aced it. Then a few days later, I was told to go to an aptitude test at a company called Avigilon, which manufactures security cameras. It was me and three other guys, we all sat around a table where we were given a bag full of parts and a set of instructions, and told to assemble the camera. I was first to complete it, and it was assembled correctly. It was not a pushover, by the way. Later, I got a call from Daniel that the job was mine if I wanted it. I started on Monday, December 8.
Finally got some closure on my knee injury and WorkSafe claim, but it wasn't good news. After an absurdly difficult time trying to get in touch with the woman handling my claim, which I finally did by leaving her a message during my lunch break to be waiting for my call at exactly 2:05 (my Avigilon afternoon break), we finally connected. My claim was rejected, so I will receive no compensation for the lost week of work at Modu-Loc.
And then there's Shaw Cable. Last October, we had a power outage in New Westminster which apparently fried Shaw's digital cable box. I had to go to their store in Guildford to exchange it for a new one. Then, a few weeks ago, the new one quit working as well. So I had no TV. I was already behind on my Shaw bills, and I decided two things: First, I wouldn't pay them another cent until I had a box that worked properly, and second, I wouldn't lift a finger to help them make that happen. I talked to their rep via Twitter and got very irate as he tried to take me through all the same steps as last time. I said I didn't want to go through all this again and cut off communication. Then I visited the Telus store in Royal City Center.
Telus of course said it would be next week Sunday before they could get someone out to install it, and shortly after I spoke to them, I guess Shaw realized I was leaving and they cut off my Internet and phone as well. For a week, all I had was my cell.
It was a frightening experience. I have no real social life, and only when deprived of Internet did I really understand how much of a void it fills. Who knows what I would do if I didn't have that connection to the world; but for a week in December I've never felt as close to simply falling off the face of the world.
Having a job again has helped quite a bit, of course. And after the installation from Telus was complete, I'm quite pleased with the results. The digital box seems much more robust than Shaw's, AND it includes a digital TV recorder. AND their Internet box includes wireless routing, so I can now have a WiFi network in my apartment. AND on top of everything, I'm going to be getting a notebook computer, just for signing up. I should have done this a long time ago.
Another bit of creeping darkness was an escalating problem with my computer itself. Its CPU kept overheating and shutting down. I thought at first it was just because I was working on a project that took a lot of computing power -- converting the entire series run of Gilmore Girls from MKV to AVI -- but it kept getting worse even after I finished that job. Soon, I couldn't even watch a video and surf the Web at the same time without the computer shutting down.
It was scary, for exactly the same reason as losing Internet was. I really can't afford a new computer right now. If it dies, then what?
But, the day after the Telus switch was made, in a burst of optimism and energy I decided to do something about it. I assumed that dust was somehow blocking air from cooling the CPU, and had already opened the computer a few weeks prior to clean it out, but this time I did a much more thorough job -- removing the entire heat-sink and fan assembly. Sure enough, all the flanges of the heat-sink were completely caked with dust. After cleaning it out, the computer has been performing like new, and I feel rather revived myself.
It's been a consistent theme of the last year; feeling useless, feeling stuck, watching everything I own fall into decay because I can't afford to fix or replace it. My bike has not been working for a month now. My knee has me worrying about getting older and weaker. But getting a new job, fixing the problem with the computer, and making the switch to a superior system with Telus has me feeling much better.
The Mayor of New Westminster, Wayne Wright, decided to turn the photograph into a war memorial to be erected on the site where it was taken -- in Hyack Square at the base of 8th St. I've never been thrilled with the idea. I don't think such a sentimental photo strikes the right note for a war memorial, and I find the Province's constant and shameless self-promotion disgusting. I found myself thinking that if only I could draw, I'd like to do an editorial cartoon expressing exactly why I didn't approve of it. Then I figured 'fuck not being able to draw' and started doodling anyway. Ten minutes later I had this:
Naturally I also wrote the following letter to the Province, and New Westminster's two local papers, the Royal City Record and the News-Leader:
I have a confession to make. I really don't like Wait For Me, Daddy.
I'm not saying it's a bad photograph. It certainly captures a dramatic moment. I just don't understand why the City of New Westminster is pushing it so hard. It's completely inappropriate.
Think about other iconic (wow, have we heard that word a lot lately) Second World War photographs. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing his girl in Times Square - what did they have in common? They celebrated the end of war.
Why is it only Canada that chooses to honour a photo that celebrates the war's beginning?
Worse, Wait For Me Daddy takes going off to war and makes it cutesy and mawkish. There's a reason why this photo was used for recruitment purposes; but today, it just leaves a bad taste.
I'd never heard of or seen Wait For Me Daddy 10 years ago. Only recently does it seem that people have been trying to turn it into a Canadian icon. I suspect that it was dusted off a few years ago when someone at the Province found it in their archives and thought it could be used to polish up their journalistic apple a bit.
Every story I've seen about this photo seems to be the Province trying to create a legend they can sell. It has the air of war-profiteering, and it's ugly to see.
I think the city blew it on this one. I'm going to wince every time I see the statue downtown.
Both the Record and the News-Leader published this letter more or less as written. But just to add the perfect, ironic twist to the story, when the Province published it, they not only cut the second half of the letter entirely, but they changed the opening line to read "I really don't like famous 1940 Province photo 'Wait For Me, Daddy'". You have to admit, that's pretty pathetic. Like I said, their self-promotion has been shameless and relentless.
Anyway, the unveiling took place on Saturday October 4th, and I went down to take some photos.
( Photos under the cutCollapse )
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.
( Click to continue.Collapse )
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.
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!
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!
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).
( EnjoyCollapse )
Time to tell the story of the Kelowna road trip. Strap in.
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.
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.
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 )
- Current Mood:awake
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.
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.
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 )
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.
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 )
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 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.
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.
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 )