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I Wish It Would Rain

I remember as a kid sitting and playing outside my house one summer day, when I felt a small drop of rain on my shoulder. And then another on my head. I decided to sit there and let the whole rain storm come and go, feeling every drop of it. Eventually I went inside the house, completely soaked but happy. The memory of that very personal rainstorm has always stayed with me.

There are dozens of old, popular songs about rain out there. “Here Comes The Rain Again”, “Rainy Night In Georgia”, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, “I Love A Rainy Night”. One of those titles is sure to give some of you boomers an earworm.

A lot of the time, rain songs are about sadness or loss. We often think of rain in a negative way, for example, when an event gets “rained out” or “it rained on my parade.” It never rains but it pours.

Over the years I’ve heard both locals and tourists complain about the rain here on the west coast. I like to refer to it as the “wet coast”. Well, we live in a rainforest, what do you expect?

My Dad always hated the rain, but then he had to drive a bus in it for 40 years. People laughed at him “So why the heck do you live on the west coast then?”

People who move out here from somewhere else in the country usually have to acclimatize to our weather, especially during the winter. It isn’t always about the rain itself, but the endless grey days we have to endure. It just makes the winter feel longer and darker.

Ah, yes. Rain. The good ol’ days. It almost seems sacrilegious to complain about it any more. The fires are raging, the harvests aren’t happening, the cows have no hay. If you surf the web, watch the news or read the paper, you know all the bad stuff going on because of our drought. These days the skies can just as easily be filled with smoke as with clouds.

The other day, I received an email from my cousin in Denmark, and in it she complained about the endless rain in her country this summer. There have been flash floods in Europe, in Venezuela and even in Tennessee. If there was only a way for them to send some of it here!

Looking out my window right now, there is cloud cover and the possibility of rain in the forecast this afternoon. If it begins, I will go outside and sit there and feel every drop. I’ll appreciate it like never before.

I have vowed to myself to never, ever complain about the rain again.

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Lost In Space

It was the middle of February 2020, just before COVID-19 changed everything. My husband, daughter and I were at a luau in Hawaii, celebrating my daughter’s birthday.

Just after the outdoor show began, an hour or so past sunset, somebody at our table pointed to the western horizon. “Look at that!” Flying low in the sky was a series of lights in a straight line. There were maybe 10 or 12 of them. We’d never seen anything like it. Were they birds? Were they shooting stars? Was it the second coming? What the heck??

We asked some of the hotel staff “Have you ever seen this before?” No, they all answered. We watched until the string of lights slowly drifted out of sight.

The next day our astronomer friend, who was also visiting Hawaii at the time, gave us the explanation. Only a few days before, SpaceX had launched 60 Starlink satellites. What we saw were a few of them still following each other in the same orbit. Eventually, they would drift apart and orbit on their own.

When I think of it now, it seemed like a strange omen. We didn’t realize then that this would be our last trip for a very long time.

Just the other day, May 4th, known as “Star Wars Day”, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites. A string of them were visible in the night sky here on Vancouver Island for a short time.

There are roughly 6000 satellites orbiting around our little blue planet at this time, with more coming. Some of these satellites are not even operational. Space junk.

They float along with lots of other bits and pieces like old bolts, equipment fragments, fuel sludge and paint chips that have been orbiting for years. One of the main concerns is the possibility of collisions with important working satellites.

The International Space Station is constantly adjusting direction in order to avoid this space junk. At a high velocity, even the smallest bit can do great damage.

Environmental issues, it seems, are not just confined within our atmosphere. Believe it or not, there are “space debris experts” out there trying to sound the alarm and to come up with ways to safely remove space junk before something catastrophic happens.

Why, at the very moment of this writing, there is a 10-story, 23-ton piece of rocket about to crash to earth, with no one knowing for sure where it might end up. Alert the “space debris experts.”

It could splash harmlessly into the ocean, but it could also smash into a populated area. Some of it will burn up on re-entry, but not all 23 tons of it.

Back in 1969, I remember watching the blurry image of the first step onto the moon. I was at my best friend Shirley’s house and we watched this incredible event on her black and white TV. “The Eagle has landed.” Looking at the moon that night, I was amazed to think that people were actually up there walking on it.

Now we’ve got NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance roaming the red planet, looking for past signs of life. The technological advances in space exploration have been astounding, and we keep learning more and more, not only about our solar system, but also about our home, the earth.

And, as my astronomer friend would point out, a lot of that technology and research has also benefited us as individuals too.

Oh, oh, watch out!

Phew…

Just figure out a way to get rid of all of that space junk, will ya?

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Electric Avenue

When I was quite small, the family car, an old 1938 Chrysler, finally gave up the ghost, and we went for 4 years without a vehicle. New cars were expensive and my Dad, a bus driver, had a mortgage to pay and not much else left over after that. We pretty much walked or took the bus everywhere we needed to for those four years.

Finally, around about 1966, my Dad bought one of the first Toyota Corolla’s in Canada. It cost him $2298.00. And, as he recollected in his memoirs, that was with a radio included!

One of our first road trips with the new car was a drive to the BC interior. Whenever we stopped for gas, the gas attendant would stare up and down the car in wonder. The Toyota looked nothing like the North American vehicles everyone was used to at the time.

Dad loved that car and drove it for many years.

Fast forward to last year, February 2020, when my daughter became the first in our family…well, the first of anybody we know, actually, to get an electric car. She’s had her red Hyundai Kona for almost a year now, and it’s been a learning experience, but not a difficult one.

With the recent announcements by GM that they will be building electric vans at their plant in southern Ontario, and President Biden revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, there is a feeling of change in the air. Literally, I suppose.

Gas vehicles won’t disappear overnight, of course. And hybrid vehicles will help the transition for many. But more and more people are lining up to buy electric vehicles these days.

Still, change can be slow. One of the concerns many people have is the number of charging stations across the country, and the other is the length of time it takes to charge, even for a fast charge. More and more infrastructure is being built across Canada, with many gas stations also providing EV charging stations now, but it’s a process. And you won’t find EV charging stations yet in many smaller communities.

Charging up certainly isn’t quite as quick as gassing up. While she was waiting for her Kona to arrive, my daughter plotted out where all of the charging stations were in and around the city and on the Pat Bay Highway. Then it came down to figuring out how to use that charging time effectively. Like plugging into an EV stall at the mall and getting her grocery shopping done at the same time.

When she comes to visit us, she plugs her car into a regular outlet outside the house. In an 8 or 9 hour visit, she can only get a 10-15% charge. As an example, she uses that much charge just driving to and from work for one shift out at Swartz Bay.

At the mall, with what is called a Level 2 charge, she can get the same charge in about 2 hours. With a Level 3 charge, it’s two or three times faster than that. Of course, that all depends on the size of the battery too.

Me, well I still have my 2004 Mustang GT convertible. It’s a gas guzzler, but it’s pretty nice. I love to put the top down. When it isn’t raining, that is. And it has a V8 engine, so you can hear me coming from many blocks away.

Ford came out with an electric vehicle called the Mustang Mach-E but it looks nothing like a Mustang to me. So I have refused to purchase it, in protest. If they ever make an electric Mustang that looks like a Mustang, I’ll be first in line.

I don’t drive a lot. I work from home, so typically, I get in the car once or twice a week, if that. Some might say I don’t even need a car considering how little I drive. But I can’t let go of my Mustang. Don’t make me!

The car also has to be plugged in when I’m not using it. Just like a lot of muscle cars, the battery drains when it’s sitting there for too long. So I have a battery maintainer that I attach to it to keep the battery charged.

In which case, I guess you could say I DO have an electric vehicle, no?

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October Storm

One day last week, I was in my basement studio finishing up a lesson with a guitar student. He started to pack his guitar in its case when POW!! There was a huge bang and the lights went out.

The wind had been blowing pretty fiercely all morning, so the power outage wasn’t really a surprise. But when we both walked outside, I could see that this was more than a blown transformer. The power lines to our house were almost touching the ground and the thingamajig holding those power lines to the side of the house was ripped right off the exterior wall. Oh, oh.

I texted my husband who had been working from home but who had gone in to the office to work that day. No response.

I looked for the number for BC Hydro and called them instead. I reported the issue and hoped for the best.

When I looked out and down the street, I could see lots of neighbours coming out of their houses, and I realized that this was a whole chain of events affecting us all. Just down the street, another power pole had snapped right in half and was hanging precariously above the street by the wires. The domino effect had yanked the power lines all the way up to our house, which caused the whatsit to rip off the house.

Someone had called the fire department and a couple of trucks responded. Firemen began to block off the roads, and I knew this wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. Using my phone, I emailed all of my students for that day and cancelled their lessons.

Having lived in the same house for 32 years, I can count on one hand the number of times that we’ve had power outages. It’s been many years, in fact, since the last one. I know that people living in rural communities or on the smaller islands go through this all the time, especially during our winter storm season, but I felt like a kind of a newbie at this. What do I do?

It was almost lunch time, but I didn’t want to open the fridge. I foraged for anything that I could find in the cupboards. I decided it was a good time to start gathering candles and flashlights, even though it was the middle of the day.

I went outside again to survey the situation and saw a young firefighter at the corner.

“I guess I get an extra long weekend!” I laughed. “I like your attitude!” he smiled. From our short conversation I found out that it was going to take at least 6 hours to get this mess straightened out. I went back inside.

A short time later a very friendly BC Hydro guy knocked on the door, and with a big grin he told me that because the whats-a-ma-call-it was ripped from the house, I was going to have to call an electrician to repair that before BC Hydro could repair the line. An electrician! I panicked. I called my husband again and was finally able to get through to tell him what happened.

He took it upon himself to get a hold of an electrician who could respond quickly.

My phone was about to run out of power. I got a text message from my phone provider that I had already used up half of my data for the month. And it was only day 2 of the cycle.

I have a battery booster that I bought for my car when it had a battery leak that my mechanic couldn’t figure out. Fortunately, the booster was fully charged, so I brought it upstairs from the basement. It has a USB connector and one of those cigarette lighter chargers, so I managed to find plugs and cables to plug in my phone and a couple of other battery packs. I was even able to plug my laptop in so I could do a little work.

I was feeling pretty good about my resourcefulness. The electricians showed up and set about fixing things. And then they handed me the bill. Gulp. More than thirteen hundred dollars.

The stormy day dragged on and BC Hydro worked continuously up and down the street repairing the wires and putting in a new power pole where the old one had snapped. It grew darker in the house so I lit up the candles. My husband brought home some fast food for dinner and we ate by candlelight. We took turns using the battery booster to charge things up.

Every now and then I would pop outside and look down the street where most of the work was being done. There were fewer and fewer trucks. Part of me worried that they’d just give up and go home for the evening. But they didn’t.

At 8:25pm, almost nine and a half hours after the power went out, the lights came back on. Sigh.

Thinking about the whole event, I decided to take note of what I had learned from the experience.

  1. I can be pretty resourceful when I have to be.
  2. There are never enough candles. Or flashlights. Or battery packs.
  3. When a BC Hydro guy comes knocking at your door with a big grin on his face, it isn’t necessarily a good sign.
  4. That whatsit thingamajig that holds your power lines against your house is actually called a mast.
  5. The character trait that serves you best in a situation such as this is called a sense of humour.
  6. The firefighters, electricians and Hydro people out there working for hours and hours in miserable conditions to get things up and running, are real pros. Thank goodness for them.
  7. When you don’t want to open the fridge for the white, you can always open a bottle of red.
  8. I’m nowhere near prepared for the Big One.
  9. Because, you know, it’s 2020.

Good News Is Good News

TOKYO - DECEMBER 06:  Toyota launches 'Violin-...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I woke up at about 3 am this morning, as is my habit these days, and instantly my mind was filled with worries and concerns, stresses and sorrows. But this time, rather than allowing myself to wallow in that misery, I decided that I wasn’t going to let myself go there. For a change, I said to myself, I’m going to stop those thoughts dead in their tracks and focus on some happy thoughts.

Later in the morning as I was perusing the latest news on the web, I came across a link to a Time Magazine list of the best (according to them) inventions of 2008. What a great find! I thought to myself, and began to go through and read about all of the entries on their list. Some of them I can live without; for example, their number one choice, the “Retail DNA Test”. You can send a sample of your saliva to various companies and they will tell you all about your genes, including your predisposition to 90 different traits. Well, personally, I don’t care to worry about the chances of my getting various diseases. What would be the point in that? It would just give me something crappy to worry about at 3 am which would ruin my happy thoughts plan entirely.

However, there were some other great inventions that I didn’t even know about on that list of 50, and it makes me wonder why the heck don’t we see these stories in the headlines for a change? I know North and South Korea have a lot of problems with each other but I get tired of hearing it, and frankly it’s been 56 years, can’t they get over it?

I’d rather hear about this new algae biofuel that they’ve been working on at Arizona State University, which would practically be identical to gasoline, but without the carbon. There’s a lot more to why it would be such a great replacement for gasoline, so click on the link to read all about it.

But wouldn’t it be nicer to read headlines that talk about new biofuels rather than ALWAYS having to read about our planet being in peril? I mean, I understand that a lot of people don’t accept climate change yet, but you’ve gotta give a person (especially me) hope!

Then there’s Eistein’s Fridge. You betcha this guy was smart! He invented a refridgerator that uses amonia, butane and water to cool the interior instead of that crappy, atmosphere-destructive freon. It wasn’t all that efficient when he was working on it, so scientists at Oxford University have taken the invention and improved upon it enough to bring it into the 21st century. You mean I can have a fridge that works just fine but doesn’t poison the atmosphere? Thank you Albert, you are the gift that keeps on giving.

Okay, how about this? Smog-eating cement!! I’m not kidding. They mix an extra chemical into cement, and it reduces the nitrous oxides in the area by as much as 60%. It’s being tested in Milan, Italy. I’m all ready to email my city council and ask them if they can start mixing it in our city sidewalks.

There are other inventions on Time’s list that I’m not so excited about, like social robots. You know, those robots the Japanese seem to love that have facial expressions and can interact with you. I’m thinking that I’m not that desperate for friends.

Yet. Maybe when I’m 90 and nobody wants to deal with me, I’ll get myself one of those robots to give me a bath with a smile. He’ll be really cute and tell me how gorgeous I am, and he’ll feed me grapes and maybe even chew them for me.

And unless Nike‘s new Zoom Victory track spike running shoe can actually do the running and huffing and puffing for me, I’m not too excited about how light it is. Can it make me light? Lighter? I don’t like running anyway.

So I was pretty happy to find a list of inventions that included a few things that could end up making our future a little brighter.

You can read the whole list at Time Magazine’s website. And I’m vowing to report right here whenever I find more good news out there in the universe. ‘Cause I just know it’s out there somewhere…

IJ

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