Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Open Letter Cambie Road Richmond and its drivers.

Or how to avoid a shouty angry cyclist.
Repeatedly I have been called to a site about 5km down Cambie road in Richmond, just down the street from the IKEA that I am not shopping at is.  The job is tolerably mundane, but not the subject of todays opinion.  On paper the site can be reached by transit alone. Indeed on my second day there after a klutz induced flat I did just that.  However I live far enough away from reliable buses that a bike makes a logical part of my commute.

Rest assured this hobbit is not going to start bragging about his 20 mile commute uphill both ways in the snow.  No, I ride to Broadway station and take the train south to Aberdeen.  That places me on Cambie road and a nearly straight shot from my work site on nearly flat ground, not a bad condition for riding.  And yet I find I turn into a shouty cyclist.

Richmond, I know as a someone on a bike on a road I am potentially a new, scary, and oddly slow vehicle, but I am legally allowed to be there.  Richmond, you are generously paved and blessed with long lines of sight something that factors greatly into how I view your handling of my presence on your roads.  For context I live in East Vancouver, on Victoria drive, it is narrow with parking and hilly.  Cambie road is none of those things.

The length of Cambie Rd. I ride is four laned, the only hills are the over passes.  The lanes  are near as wide as some streets near my apartment.  The line of sight often nearly 1km or even nearer 2.  During the off peak hours I ride, if I am working early I am on the road at 6:30am, there can be many hundreds of meters between vehicles.  It is in this context I will ask you nicely please move fully into the other lane to pass me.

You have two generous lanes, of good clean pavement, in the morning, you have a great deal of lead time, you have no good excuse. And I mean all the way into the other lane.  Its not hard, mirror, signal, shoulder check, repeat, once done I will be nicely behind you.  If you do this I will polity just keep moving.

Now I don't want to have to use my outside voice on you so here are a few things to remember to avoid that.  The bike is wider than its one inch wide tires, act like it.  Slipping half way out of the lane is just sloppy and I will judge you, and harshly, you have two wide ones. Passing me without even leaving our shared lane makes me angry.  I will shout at you.  Also Signal.

Lastly don't act so surprised.  I have lights, often a reflective jacket, I am clearly in the lane.  Learn to watch for bikes, they are not going anywhere and watching for them rather than acting all shocked when one that has been in front of you for a mile is at last on your bumper will save you some property damage and a cyclists life.

So if you don't want angry shouty cyclists, signal, give plenty of room, and learn to see us.

Monday, April 7, 2014


My mother requested I write this.

After both a delay in starting the process and similar length delay in results I have started doing Temp work.  After a month on one agency's roster, I got called in on a warehouse gig on short notice, after a couple weeks of moderately steady work I have a few more thoughts on the subject.  It was suggested that I should write about how different this work is, from what I had done, the striking thing has been how different it is not.

Early Train to Richmond. 
As it turns out the office that started three years ago was the outlier.  Jobs in rough places with rough people have been more my style than not.  The majority of the gigs I have been assigned to have been in warehouses, a setting not unlike where I spent much of my time in geology.  Industrial spaces with concrete floors, corrugated steel shipping boxes and people who's most frequent word is FUCK.  As was the case when I worked geology I move awkward boxes from one pile to the other.   I do skip the part where I break open the box and take sciency measurements of the contents, a process I don't miss. Nor do I miss the weight and dimensions of standard NQ Core Box. The NQ sized core box is 5 feet long, 1 foot wide and can contain between 30 and 70 pounds of rock. As an added bonus they are made of plywood, and are often greasy and or wet.  So after a few years of shlepping those at any thing from -35 to +30 degrees a simple cardboard box is a near pleasure.

In the coarse of three weeks I have worked for, a clothing distribution warehouse, a garden centre, a restaurant supply warehouse, a large scale shipping centre, and the aquarium.  Four of the five followed the pattern of take boxes out of trucks stack on the correct pallet, repeat.  The aquarium gig was a job of making sure things were not sticky.  These jobs are united in their need for the people doing them to have the same basic qualities, bipedalism, arms, and semiliteracy.  Clearly I am bringing enough of those to the table because more than one place has asked for me back, even if I have only had repeat gigs at one place.  In doing these things I rediscovered the things I learned when I was not looking.

Years ago during another period of unemployment, in the gap years when I fell out of university I did a day job in a garage door facility.  It involved you guessed it moving things from one pile to another.  This was before I had worked in a kitchen, and years before I would work in the field, back then I had hardly worked before.  On that job it was hard for me to stay out of harms way, let alone be productive.  Now things are different, I am not 20 any more.

Its sneaky, you spend years working in out of the way places doing jobs that demand specialized knowledge and occasionally helicopters, and while you may be planing to learn about the rock of the area, the helicopter is ready to teach you a few things too.  I have forgotten too much about rocks but much of what I learned around helicopters, drills, and other big moving bits of metal has stuck with me.  The intangible skill of situational awareness, it was learned, when I doing other things.  Scraps of bush craft, the skill of pacing yourself, listening for the machines you want to avoid, these are the the things I learned when I was out.   So now I find myself in warehouses, a setting I have never worked in before and while I may not know how any one place works, I have a solid idea of what to watch for.

A few other notes. I never got the rhythm of office work.  The environment was new to me, I have still to learn what to watch for.  The current batch of labour jobs are delightful because they don't follow me home.  Between the jobs and the pool I am slowly getting back into shape.  I am enjoying the access to feed back that working with the agency is providing.  It is prompt and clear.  As an alternative to wondering and assuming the worst it is a grand improvement over several jobs I have held.

As it stands for a mix of reasons I would be unlikely to take, or apply for a full time work with any of the places I have contracted with.  The best reason I will give here is I hope to try more things out before settling. It is also worth noting that upon closer retrospection not every one I have worked with was particularly nice, and I could find a crew I mesh better with.  Lastly I am not yet of the habit of making the best use of my down time.

I really should be writing in the mornings.  There is a window between 7am and 10am when I am up, and the agency is unlikely to call me.  Currently this time has been wasted. It has taken two weeks to get this entry started and it feels incomplete.  But I have  been working, and with that gaining some new vision.  If nothing else I will need to bring in some new money, I am almost finished breaking the vertical blinds in the living room and want to get a budget drape for a replacement.

A sunny friday afternoon. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Brain Has Fleas: Update

Back in the beginning of year I was losing sleep and sanity over the uncertain state of the efficacy of the flea treatment. I described this in My Brain Has Fleas.  Not with out reason, the first application at the hospital was not properly followed up with by me, and the house was contaminated.  Frequent cleaning with a better vacuum improved my state of mind.  Now that I am two months past the last treatment, I can report no behaviour or material evidence.  Some doubts still linger and I do watch how intensely or frequently The Baroness scratches any specific point.

Because of the lifecycle of the fleas and the repeated cleanings I think I have gotten rid of them for good. Since I am talking about my cat. Here are some pictures.

The Lady, Baroness von Softpaws of Gallifrey, wants something.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

A small update.


After yesterdays rather pathetic post I am of the opinion that I should do something rather than just whine.  As it happens I have been sitting on a cycling related project that both would benefit from other people partaking in it and exceeds my standalone ability to execute. So in an effort to see which wheels have already been invented I called up a cycling organization.  The plan is to go to the meeting next week and just see what is going on.  I am confident that they are interested in solving many of the same problems I am.

So here is me kicking myself in the ass. A bit. And here is to The Hub.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Notes from a bad day.


This should have been written yesterday.  Yesterday this stewed, adding to the thick and bitter broth that is my brain during such times.  Scribbled in a handful of note books, or rattling around in my head are countless  of the bitter sentiments expressed here.  It neither satisfies me nor interests you for me to repeat that, yet some of that will happen today.

I always knew I would be bad at the rat race.  Ambition does not come naturally to me.  What I did not expect was to be as bad at it as I am.  The one year anniversary of my lay off is around 6 weeks away.  I am now entering black mark territory, that is, the duration of my unemployment is looking worse and worse to anyone who may read my resume.  A more careful reading brings out the troubling truth that this episode is not alone.  Just for extra flavour the interlude between BCIT and my last long term post is dotted brief positions that raise questions about my reliability.

A resume can not convey the fact that I had enough.  I tried to get back into field work and core logging, the money was good, but at the end of the day it breaks me.  When the bitter only centred on work I had out grown because the lifestyle could not work for me, I could tolerate it.  Now I work at corralling it enough to function.  The mood gets fuelled through two distantly connected channels, and builds on my weak spots.

At one end, my media is a steady stream of environmentally minded and or leftist reading.  Constant reminders of the distal causes of my sporadic employment, and of the environmental crises we are in the middle of exasperating.  But you know what I read, Facebook makes sure of that,  too much of what passes through my brain starts from there.

The trouble has been I have felt burnt out from the beginning.  I have only had a handful jobs only three of those have lasted longer than two years, at the most two and half years.  I have looked for work too many times, it has not gotten easier.  I want to work, but I start to cease up when I start looking.  Being tired and burned out should be my mood at the end of a productive day not at the start of an unproductive one.  Yet today like yesterday I have wandered around getting far too little done and collapsing on the couch too early in the day.

I don't want to live like this. I don't know how to escape this.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Yes 3am there really is an Alexander.

This is not a real post.  Go here for a real post. Its not by me but it will make your day better.

Sleep did not come to me till near 3am.  When I am not certain, but there is a feeling of brain pain that only comes with less than 4 hours of rest.  A few things came to make that so.  Foolishly on my last big shop I picked up a 24 of generic cola, of which I drank a few in the evening because they tasted good.  The book I switched back to did nothing aide my rest.  I will have more to say on that in the next post, one that will require much revision and careful thought.

As has become my habit, as it often works I put down the book before I am too tired to read any more, it is still too easy to well past my bed time.  I failed at unwinding and going to sleep.  I was at the tail end of a cold, at last breathing freely enough for it to not fuck with my sleep much.  But my sheets were due for a change and my backup set was also dirty.  By the time I had put the book down it was well past when I should have been a sleep, and the gears were still turning.

My world view on a bad day. 

So in tangled sheets, caffeinated in dark I start thinking.  This can't end well.  Most of the thoughts have been articulated in this blog over the last year.  Boiling down to, I am still unemployed, I have a shameful lack of vision and ambition, and this is not the first time I have been unemployed for a overly long time  That last one is the worst.  The fact that I have never been anything but expendable and have failed so far to to become indispensable drives much of the bitterness, anger, and hopelessness that I have right now.   It makes me want to play a different game than wage earning serfhood.

This all of course degenerates into a feedback loop that does a mighty good job of getting to cry into my pillow while hiding under the covers, sometimes this even happens at night.  So what should have been good nights sleep leading to planning the week, turned into insomnia.  And just for extra fun my gut joined the party.  This at least was not personal, in response to my cold my main meal for several days running was variations on spicy noodle soup.  Thankfully at least one of my problems had a clear and immediately applicable solution.  My appeasing my plumbing unstuck my crap mood.  The rest of the journey to 3am was accomplished by reading too much.  Which lead me to thinking about writing about what I was reading.

I kept my 6:30 alarm set.  I did not get up till 7.  Vacuuming, much needed after a weekend sick on the couch, happened as the water for the coffee heated up.  This has been written while I wait for the laundry, in dress slacks because anything casual was in the wash.  I may yet crash today, but I don't want to fail first thing.  I tell myself that any day can be a good day and that any day can be salvaged into something productive.  I don't live by this often enough but there is still enough drive in me to want to.

And lastly I wrote this for me. For two reasons, one to be honest to myself about the bad days. Secondly to keep today from being a bad day.  Though it cost time to write this, having done so washed my mind of the worst of the anxiety and general crappitude I started the day with.