Friday, November 27, 2015

Nakusp Or France.

So the other day the topic of visiting the folks came up and was rejected.  It would be nice but it is beyond practical to do it at this time.  The sister shared her approximate cost for traveling out there, the number was high enough that it begged the question, could I get to Europe for the same amount.

Now it has to be understood that the town I am from, and where our parents still live, is at least two hours from anywhere, surrounded by a sea of mountains and more than one route in required a ferry. It is also not a town serviced by Greyhound.  The bus will take you to one of the towns roughly two hours from Nakusp, after that getting the last hundred kilometres solved is up to you and the generosity of your friends.  For this exercise I will exclude the bussing plus pick up combination and the more eccentric hitch hiking option,  Those options do not reflect on the type of trip I want to have.  Which is not spending 12 hours on a bus, or risking life and limb sticking a thumb out.  No this trip has to be done in the only sensible way possible, with a car.

A car, I don't own one.  There are no short term plans for buying one and no pressing reason consider one.  So a rental is in order.  Now I am pretending I am doing this as winter trip, perhaps a prechristmass adventure, which places functional demands on a car that would be reduced in the summer.  So I need a rental, with good traction, snow tires, and insurance for all the things.  The season demands a better car, a lazy pricing for a four day trip, using a mid range, SUV such as a Rav4, gets the rental cost at just under $400, before fuel. At a one way trip of just over 600km from my home in New west to Nakusp, you will be using a lot.  I picked a four day trip because you will need two days for driving.
Looking at the !, someone made an error near Deep Creek.  Don't do that.
So for this I will pretend I rented car with approximately 30 miles per gallon fuel economy.  Number based on the stats for a 2014 Rav4, the Rav4 was the car the rental website described as a medium SUV.   Travel cost estimate break down
  • Car rental ~ $400.
  • Round trip distance, min 1240km. Ignoring side trips that will happen
  • Cost of fuel based on above estimates, ~$130.  Likely an under estimate because hills. 
  • So there and back, approximately $530.
These are not going to be the only costs.  For numerous reasons, but primarily privacy and comfort staying at the folks place is undesirable.   Because it had a good review, and is the only accommodation's with in a reasonable walk to the folks place I will pretend I booked 3 nights at the Brouse Creek B&B. This adds approximately $330, bringing a four day, three night trip to about $860, before adding eating out, going to the hot springs, the cost of driving to a neighbouring town eating out there and using their hot springs.

Trip time, not that different, direct flight not so cheap.
In the original discussion it was framed, could I fly to France, stay one night eat a meal and come back for a similar cost.  Paris is a cosmopolitan city, and there is no real cap on how expensive a meal or hotel room could be, but wine, bread and cheese from a corner store could keep the trip budgets similar.  So how much is a December return trip to Paris. According to this about $760.  

Travel Cost, not that different. 
So what can I conclude. If I plan an expensive trip to Nakusp, choosing creature comforts and autonomy over minimum costs, I get a back of the envelope trip cost for a 4 day trip approaching that of return air fare to France for similar time period. I also conclude that a 14hour trip to France is not a dissimilar travel time to what a Greyhound trip to Nelson or Revelstoke with pick up would end taking.  Ultimately this was a thought experiment, one that illustrates how big BCs, how remote my home town is, and why I can't just visit.  My home town is two hours from anywhere and those places are pretty far most other places, far enough that France is almost closer. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Was not a good day.


Today was not a good day. I am writing to try to keep it from weighting me down.  It started too early, and ironically ended too early.  

Sometime near 2:30am my bladder woke me up.  It was not just that lower organ that brought me to wakefulness, despite a cool bedroom I had sweated enough to leave the sheets damp, something was troubling me.  Sleep was very slow to return.  I found everything on my mind. 

The bed oddly felt lonely, for the first time in I can't think how long I thought, a human here would be good.  The cat's not coming when I called did not help. So I tossed and turned worrying about work.  The dark mood I worried about on Facebook was showing up.  The mood I had when at last I fell asleep was heavy enough that when I woke it was like coming up for air.  Sleep did not return until far too close to 4am to be worth much. 

So I got up, it was one of the three very hard things I did today. The other two were leave the house, and not walk off site in the first hour of work.  The change of work is enough not justify a down mood.  A week ago I was part of a tight crew, where I had their respect, camaraderie, trust, and was granted a comfortable level of autonomy. I was good at what I did and I spent 9 months learning how to get better at it.   The hours were stable, yes the pay was low but it was predictable. Where I moved to was all different. 

I replaces a tight crew with a small army.  Where I had mellow professionals who placed being right over being fast, I got a massive site full of restless men jockeying for position.  That testosterone atmosphere was enough to make me think of the North West Territory.  All the trust and autonomy were taken away, it became follow the crew lead, carry a thing, repeat. I was another temp in a sea of temps.  

The site is a cleanup after an apartment fire.  It is moving without the thrill of getting a new home.  The place is swarming with trades people, temps, and others.  As I said there is a lot of men jockeying for position, and some who take being on a crew as a sigh that you should make conversation. As a result I am still deflecting questions about where I am from, they all come from one source.   There is a quality about the aggressive posturing that I find deeply tiring.  I am not saying I worked with bad people, no but I lacked the strength to be in a tiring atmosphere without it wearing on me.  When asked if I was ok, when carrying a heavy thing, I wanted to answer 1000X NO, but said I'm fine, because the things that were wrong were on the inside.  

In the end it comes down to I want things to be getting a little better not a little worse. The change of contract, moved thing to the little worse bin. This saddens and angers me.  Perhaps made worse by the fact that the last few weeks were peppered with great moments.   I simply miss the photocopier job.  It might be the first job where that really happened. It taught me a lot. Most importantly I know far more about what I need from a job to be engaged and therefore happy.  A plan is forming, I have a spread sheet for tracking things once I send out applications.   There is one thing I know, I will need help. 

Some of the help will need to be technical, there is only so many times I can look at a resume and have it make sense.   Most will need to be mental.   When I am active in looking for work I quickly become deeply anxious and that can cripple my efforts.  I develop an impotent rage, the feeling that even after doing all the steps, and knowing the right things I still can't get the expected outcome.  But the longer I stay in the precariate the more I need to get out. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I'm Done


This post has its origins on a coarse at Whistler, and the drive home from there, it also has far deeper roots.  The need to write it happened today. I am done explaining myself.

It happens every time I meet a bunch of new people. It happened today at a job site full of new people. It starts off as someone else's small talk and becomes a tired lie.  There are three forms of the question in general. Where are you from? Are you from (insert western European nation or colony), and lastly, what's your accent.   Today I was asked "You're Irish or something?" I answered or something this did not satisfy.

The first question where are you from, may still get answered.  Only because it occasionally humours me to name a town far from anywhere that most people have never heard of.  What I will not do is follow it up with the answer they are expecting.  People who ask me these questions already believe I'm an outsider, perhaps an immigrant, there is a desire to put me in a box.  I will not give them a box to put me in.

The second question. Are You from X.  No. I am not from, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Holland*, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Kansas, or whatever the regional accent you have assigned to me is.  Where am I from, Canada, I have never lived overseas, can't even afford to travel right now, and I can barely English on a bad day.

*Holland is least wrong, but only because my folks did immigrate to Canada from there, but I am not from there. Where I am from is a small town literally two hours away from anywhere, it sits on Nicola group sediments from the early Triassic and is a good place to be from.

The Third question, is the one that started me thinking. What is Your accent? I am starting to think I don't know. The traditional answer has been to blame the Dutch.  Yes I did speak Dutch for the first few years, and took on English a little late.  Yet neither of my parents have typical accents, and there was no Dutch community to rub off on me.  On those rare occasions where I have heard my own voice it is not what I have heard from other folk from the low country.  So to give a cobbled together story of family history, only to come up with an answer that is not accurate enough to be honest is no longer worth my time.

To answer that question again, What is my Accent. I don't know.  And if I answer with leading alternate hypothesis your small talk might get big in a hurry.

So to recap, I will no longer indulge strangers' desire to pidgin hole me, and I can no longer give an answer I don't believe in any more.  This may leave curious folk with a frustrating lack of answer, but the passing frustration of a person committing small talk is of no concern to me.  If you get to know me you may learn I am more interesting than a dot on a map.  And if you Honest and earn my trust perhaps we can talk about the alternate hypothesis.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Damn it I liked that Job.

It looks almost but not quite like work

This is the first regular work day since December where I have not made the trip to Annacis island.
My contract with Preflight has ended. It was no fault of my own, the simple truth was I could look down the aisles of the warehouse and see they were clean and empty of new orders. The work dried up.

Since it has been nine months of constant work a sudden day off is largely welcome.  I have been stretching my resources thin with the doing of many things.  It has been a busy summer and fall. In the last three weeks I have been camping twice and ran an obstacle coarse in Whistler.  The doing of the camping involved much running around to find the food things, or in more than one case running around to not find the food thing.  For the first trip a evening was spent making noodles for the camp meal.  All of this was good fun but it left me tired and my cat stressed and lonely.  That is why a day off is needed.  Now I have to make sure they do not become common. 

So back to the job I did not hate.   My life has shown that it is easy for me to hate a job.  When it was geology the hate grew from the being away from home, and I just cannot live a healthy life when I am sequestered in a work camp.  My later experiment with office work proved I simply do not have the patience to sit still at a desk all day.  So why did I like that warehouse.  Lots of good reasons.

In contrast to my time making maps where I struggled trying to match my output with a variable and poorly explained set of parameters, I had a crystal clear set of outcomes.  When my job was assembly, the outcome was clear, the parts go out of their boxes get screwed and wired in, if the machine fires up and no error codes come up I did my job right.  So I could be confident I was doing the right job by the simple fact that there was a simple binary, the thing I built worked, or it did not.  And sometimes it did not, but that was never a huge problem because I worked with good people. 

I worked with good people both in the sense that they were friendly, polite, and easy going, and in that they were good at there job.  The crew in that shop had been there a long time,  properly experts in field of photocopiers. Preflight's job was to make absolutely sure the machine on the order would work when it was delivered. This demand created an atmosphere that I enjoyed, it was more important to do the work correctly than to do it fast.  This is in sharp contrast to many places where haste has dominated the work flow.  This changed how errors were handled. 

Mistakes get made at jobs, doubly so as a temp where you have to learn new versions of jobs and new sites regularly.  At many places errors are met with chastisement, and the surprised anger that you did not know the thing that was obvious to the experienced crew.  There is a correlation with the supervisor being near the upper bounds of their abilities and wrangling a temp is an unwelcome stressor. At Preflight I was faced with a suite of technologies I could not be expected to know anything about, and working with experts. Work is better when your supervisor has time to teach.

I learned things.  Often my work was repetitive, in fact it was often so.  For many days at a time I would install the same common accessories on the same common models, but inside of this routine I still learned things.  Some things learned are useless beyond that office, I don't know when I will need to know how a colour copier works. I just don't, but learning about that dance of lasers on photo conductors, and brushes made of iron filings and electrostatic charge made things interesting. Other things learned, or refreshed have more direct value.  What I can take away is time spent learning the language of machines. 

 It was the first time mechanical things were the core of my work.  When I was first handed the 5.5mm hex driver I was intimidated.   I believed mechanical things were not my thing.  It was a slow start, initially painstakingly following the printed instructions, carefully checking all the things, and occasionally getting a little lost.   After literally hundreds of parts installs and many removals things became easy.  At some level it became rote learning, but not exclusively.  I learn things be because I get board, I start to look at how things are connected, because what else am I going to do when turning a screw driver.  So I started to read how things were put together, learning what would move and stay put if I removed any given set of screws and wires.  Perhaps it should come as less of a surprise that I could learn to see mechanical things, it is not unlike geology. Geology demands that you practice the art of seeing below the surface, and seeing the third and fourth dimensions from the second.  

That the work was repetitive could have been held against it, and in some weeks it was too much, but it was also comfortable.  It varied comfortably with a theme, and that kept me confident and happy.  What also kept me happy was I was trusted.  I had a small collection of borrowed tools, a workspace for the tools, manuals and checklists.  By and large I was left alone, but I was not isolated, the shop was shared with the four full time techs, most of whom largely kept to themselves.  So I was trusted to read the orders, build things in the order that best met the deadlines.  The work I did worked, and on the odd occasions it did not, the worst that happened was I went back and fixed it.  

Ok I’m getting tired and bridging paragraphs together is too much work so I will end this soon. I have a take way from this.  One of the better incites into what makes me happy at work.  The short list. Work with a clear and obvious outcome, access to competent people in the same field, comfortably repetitive, but not fixed tasks, the chances to solve problems and to be trusted to do some of my own thinking.  I am good at repetitive tasks that require mindfulness. This ironic because I also bad at those things, but I know how I am bad at them and build my workflows around cancelling out my known errors.  My biggest frustration at the end of these 9 months was, I was only ever allowed to learn and do a narrow slice of things because I was a temp.  I wanted to learn more, damn it I was good at was I was doing.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Politics.


In Canada there is an election on. It will go for sometime, I already tire of it.  Like most of my friends I have no love for government of British Columbia, or the current federal administration.  It took a few things for the frustration to hit a level where I had to do my own ranting.  The first trigger was that wasteful and counter productive transit plebiscite.  It proved that if asked to vote for a tinny tax increase for their own good enough people would reject a sensible plan.  My anger at the plebiscite was not the result but that it happened. 

My knowledge of the mechanics of Canadian politics is simplistic and limited, but enough to highlight why bringing things to a vote was a bad idea. The fundamental is this is a representative democracy.  MLA's and MP's are elected to represent an area, to vote in the interest of the residences of that region. There is the assumption that in taking on a portfolio the representative will gain enough specialization on that topic to make informed and balanced plans.  

The plebiscite was a government shedding its responsibility by turning a complex matter over to the public. I honestly want the government to be making infrastructure investments, and I know full well that there is demand for transit.  Now they can not beheld to account for their failure to represent because they turned it over the masses. 

I came here to have words on the federal election.  Having vented about the transit vote my brain now has the resources to take on the national situation.  Canada has been under the rule of a bland pseudo-dictator for at least 10 years.  The list of things done that anger me is as long as my arm, your own list may be longer still.  We are in desperate need of a change of government.  From the trickle of news that passes through to me it looks like that desire is wide spread.  That same news trickle irritates me with endless comparisons of the standings of the leaders of the three national parties, a tiresome aspect of modern politics. 

I believe I was taught at a young age that your vote should be given to the candidate who can best represent your riding.  The resulting government would be cobbled together out of the missmash of elected members.   Sadly in the age of televised and internet news, Riding level politics gets lost under noise from from the nation scene.  This fails the electorate, that’s you the ones eligible to vote,  because it leads voting for the national brand in place of judging the local candidate by what they bring in for you.   If you are lucky the party whip will lay off enough for your representative to vote in your interest not just their parties. 

What got me to write this and what made me release I hated this election almost before it began was a slide show from the Orange formally socialist party, attracting the leader to the Liberals for not supporting a $15/hour minimum wage for federally regulated employees.  I am decidedly for a $15/hour minimum wage everywhere, and calling out your opponent’s stance on an important topic is fair play.  No what drove me to anger was the style.  It mirrored the „He’s just not ready“ attack adds that have been pounding my ears since before the election was called.   I do not like this long bloody election, and that one of our best hopes for a new government is too willing to ape the nearly fascist incumbent. 

In my bubble the election looks like this.  The Conservatives draw all the attention to the Liberals, trying to ape the American meaningless binary.  The NDP is attacking the Liberals and Conservatives, but aiming most the orange artillery at the blue fortress.  Meanwhile the Greens are demanding a chance to be seen and heard at the national debates.  

 It is the Green Party that brings me to my final point of frustration.  It was in the news this week that the Greens gained a third seat in the House of Commons.  Included in his reasons for crossing the floor was the demand to follow the party line.  The demand to vote for the party interest at all cost, damages your MP’s ability to represent your riding.  And I can’t stand the notion of MP’s being stripped of autonomy and opinions.  Yet that is becoming the new normal.  Under the Harper regime his goons followed a tight script. This sets a precedent for his successors, form any party, govern from the top down, with the MP’s being vote casting machines.  

I could hope that it would be a conservative habit. Linda McQuaid’s keep oil in the ground comment, and fuss that this known fact caused, one should doubt that policing of the MPs is isolated to one party.  And this brings me back to one.  This is a representative democracy, on paper.  It is crippled by and endless focus on the national leaders, an antiquated ballot counting system, party whips, and too much America influence.  I want to be able to vote for the person who stands out as the best voice New Westminster, not making a strategic vote in the hope of creating a change of government. I want that same representative to have the freedom to speak the truth, to stand up for what their riding demands is important, especially if that differs from the national parties view.  

In writing this, in my head at work I realized something.  As someone who is angered by Canada’s inaction on climate change, and addiction to Tarsands, and angered by relentless top down politics of the traditional national parties, I have little choice but to move closer to alinement with the Green Party.  I am sure there are flaws in their platform but the others are a large collection of old Ideas. Heck Tom Mulclair basically admitted to believing in magic when he suggest we could mine the tarsands and reduce carbon emissions.  You lost me then and there Mister. 

Today was an angry day, and I was bored at work.  This happened. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Accidentally Running

It seems almost by accident I have taken up running.  Ok, it was not accident but it has sunk up on me. And now I like it.

I will blame hiking.  The last year has had the right combination of people to form the core of an informal hiking group.  At some point in some of the adventures conversations turn to things done for fun. Running came up as one such activity. My go to was, well thats for other people and I moved on.  It took a new hat and a big hill get me to push myself.

Despite having a solid collection of technical garments, I am not one to immediately suggest buying a new thing to start a new endeavour, but when you have my UV sensitivity and hair line somethings are needed, hats and sun block for a start.  The hat in question is a quick drying ultra compact cadet cap, picked up to take up a mountain.  Lindsay Lake loop, was our early go at a big hike, at 1km of vertical and about 15km round trip it was bigger and taller than anything done before.  I was not going to do it in a sweltering black felt outback hat, a hat that blocks the view as much as it blocks the sun.  The new cap proved to do what it needed tom stay on and keep the sun off the baldest bits.  The staying on part proved important for the whole running thing.

It was during the climb at Lindsay Lake, and conversations about exercise that I pondered if I would continue to keep up if my regime remained the same.  It likely did not matter, our hiking style is one of steady paces and a time budget for random breaks.  But the idea set.  Not long after that I gave it a go.

Run one was jarring. With no clue as to how fast I should go, I went too fast, and quickly dropped to a walk.  The whole business of breathing while my thorax was rattling did not work out well.  Of the 2km I covered that first time less than half of it was spent running.  Future efforts were delayed as a massive muscle not in my back made me rethink the whole business.  Half a week later I decided to give it a retry, I can be a little stubborn.  This second try went better, it was still run walk, but the breathing thing got figured out.  I built up to longer distances by learning how fast I could go without getting out of breath, and going a little slower than that.

To my coworkers, and perhaps to many others my 12km bike commute to work over New Westminster sounds like more than enough exercise. When I started it was, and in the past I would have found away to make it so.  The truth is I have developed a set of riding habits focused on energy efficiency.  My goal is to arrive at work, or home, relaxed and as cool as the weather allows, I don't want the energy spent riding to define my day.  The side effect is I would have to ride rather far to get a more satisfying workout.  Riding is not without other costs, too many mile, or too much power for too long and my knees complain.  The wrists and elbows don't want to spend too much time in the saddle. A modestly paced 120km a week avoids the worst side effects but I still want more movement.

Work is one of the reasons I continue to run.   My current contract is some of the better work I have had, despite the impractically low wage.  Even as  good gig it gets under my skin just a bit, especially the endless FM music stations.  There are only so many times I can hear a dopy young man sing about how much he needs someone.  Dude get your shit together.  There is for me an on going demand to clear my head.  Though I could go for more recreational bike rides, the demands of traffic always get in the way of the moment.  On foot, I can afford to pay less attention.  On foot I can look up and around, my mind can wonder or zone out.  It feels good to relax and still be moving fast.

Its amazing what you can do when you learn your high school gym class is not watching you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Traumatic insemination and other crimes.


The other day I saw a scurrying form in the bedroom. I took it to be a beetle and went to bed. I leave the window open and there is no screen, bugs can get in.  Today I confirmed the fear that was ignored at the time. BEDBUGS.  

The plan was simple, go for a nap. The simplest plan there is really. Since it was bright out I used the other wise entirely decorative curtains above the head of the bed to shade me some. Sleep has been in short supply thanks to the heat and early mornings.  There is a lot of early morning sun here, it is not a bad thing but it keeps me from getting all the hours I could want.  So colour me shocked, and very much awake when a creepy crawly falls from my personal blackout curtain to my face.  It came to a rest on my pillow.  The nap was canceled. 

It was flat, reddish black, segmented and it had a family and a collection of moulted exoskeletons.  An act of science was committed on to it, the abdomen released evidence of its feeding, in a long red stain.  So now I have an ugly problem. I need to kill them, kill them all.  I can't do that all today. 

The offending curtains were double bagged in plastic in the vain hope that that was the main home.  But that will not be good enough. I know I saw some crawl into the mouldings.  This is a situation that requires chemical warfare, it is a situation that requires professional chemical warriors. 

I write this not to tell the news that I have a pest problem.  Facebook already knows that.  This is a proactive counter attack. Not against the bugs but against my brain.  In the winter of 2013 and 2014, during my cat's recovery fleas got into the house.  And worse into my brain, this during the worst of my unemployment.  It ate at me.  Anxiety and depression played with my vivid imagination, all this against a pest that never fed off me.  Now I have spots on my pillow that point to my entry into the food chain.  So I write to fight from them taking over my brain.  So, faced with the option of anxiety and depression, or anger and action I am going to try for anger.  I am not good at anger, never thought it was safe to play with, but when directed at the world, not people, it has value. 

I don't want anxiety to eat at me taking away what little capacity I have to function as an adult.  As a deeply underemployed bachelor work and self care eat too much time and leave me with little money.            A few things are different from the flea war.  One I like the apartment.  Where the old place dragged me down with its crumbling darkness, this place is bright with cheap but new repairs, the balcony alone brings pleasure.  So I want to fight to get this apartment back into a state where I feel clean and safe.  To do that I am going to have push myself, I am not going to like it, not at first.  I will have to ask for favours, an act I hate.  I don't know what shape the favours will take, but to keep moving forward and to keep it from eating my brain I will have to.  So I admit that I will in as yet undefined ways be needing help and support to make sure I win this war.