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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.

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Home Invasion – A Bug Story

I skipped my usual weekly Zoom meeting with my friends the other night because I had to catch the flies in my kitchen.

You might think I’m kidding. But if I don’t catch them in my special way, someone in my house will pull out that disgusting bug repellent and spray it everywhere with reckless abandon. I hate bug spray. Mostly, I hate seeing bugs and flies squirming on the floors and counters as a result of it. So I’m a capture-and-release kind of gal.

We had the doors open the other day for hours as we sat outside with some friends celebrating Canada Day, and I guess that’s when the flies took up residence. And apparently, all the rain that we’ve been experiencing lately also brings out more flies. There were literally dozens of them in the house, although we didn’t really didn’t notice how many right away.

So last night, I pulled out the old cup and piece of cardboard, and one by one I captured them and released them outdoors. I accidentally beheaded one, much to my regret, but the rest, maybe 30 of them, got out alive. Lucky for them. Someone in my house would not have had the patience.

I even have one of those spider catchers. It is basically a brush with a long handle that opens and closes on the spider without harming it so you can safely move it outside. Brilliant invention.

This time of year, especially when we are outdoors more, we come face to face with all sorts of creepy crawlers. When I’m working in the garden, I see a lot of them; worms and beetles, fleas and flies and ants. And yes, I will do my best to avoid killing them. I will put them to the side or brush them away from wherever I’m working so that I don’t smush them.

When I’m out for a walk, if I see them, I will avoid any ants crawling along the sidewalk. I’m sure that the sight of a 60-something year old woman springing sideways off the sidewalk just to avoid an ant must be a curious, if not bizarre vision.

To someone in my house, these are not just ants, they are antagonists and must be quickly and mercilessly destroyed. I’ve tripped over traps and slipped on newly sprayed floors many times over the years. And I’ve cleaned up many carcasses. Yuk. It doesn’t help matters much that I have a hummingbird feeder right outside the kitchen door, because the feeder actually leaks a lot. Ants like that. They hang around, drink up the spilled nectar, and then an army of them find their way inside the house.

I am not an ant lover, don’t get me wrong. They are bugs. It’s no accident that the dictionary defines “bug” as both an insect and an annoyance. Not only do they bother us, sometimes they even cause damage. There’s nothing worse than an infestation of carpenter ants, chewing away at the wood frame of your home. And I don’t want to find beetles in my lettuce, or fruit flies in my glass of pinot grigio.

The answer to the invasion of the ants, I have discovered, is vinegar. They hate vinegar and will do everything to avoid it. So you get your spray bottle and spray vinegar anywhere ants accumulate, and that keeps them away. This will be my new plan of action.

Which will hopefully please someone in my house.

Got Any Ideas?

Once upon a time many years ago, I worked at our local television station here in Victoria, CHEK TV.  I worked in the traffic department and occasionally I would fill in at the reception desk, direct people as they came into the station and answer the phone, as receptionists do.

Now a TV station tends to be a bit of a magnet for, shall we say, borderline lunatics.  Everybody’s got a beef or an idea.  Beefs could be anything from an annoyed person complaining that their neighbour had knocked down a tree, to more serious complaints about local politicians or organizations.  The people with beefs would be directed to or given a contact number for the news department.  Other members of the public had ideas for television shows.  Most of them were under the impression that you could just walk in and introduce your idea and BANG!  The station would spend thousand of dollars to produce your amazing show.  The people with ideas would be directed to someone in the production department.

And then there were those who you just couldn’t place.  For instance, one day when I was filling in at reception, a rather scraggly fellow with a bit of a scary look in his eyes came in and wanted, or should I say demanded, to talk to someone in the news department.  You see, he had a brilliant idea.  He had it written down and everything and he handed me a dirty, crumpled piece of paper that described it to a tee.  His idea was inspired by the fact that we needed to grow more food and feed more people in the poorest countries of the world.  It was easily solved, he said, if we took everyone’s poop and shipped it to the Arabian desert where it could be cultivated into the sand to make the desert into arable land.

That was his idea.  He was pretty excited about it, and while I quietly wondered whether I should call the cops, he stood with his crumpled diagram and explained it all to me quite thoroughly.  I finally realized the only way I was going to please him was if I took his diagram and told him that I would immediately pass it on to the news department.  That seemed to satisfy him.
 
I can’t remember what I did with the paper.  I think I showed it to a couple of people and maybe I did, in fact, pass it on to the news department.  But I’ll never forget it.

Lately I find myself enjoying the Canadian version of “The Dragon’s Den“, a show where inventors and small business dynamos present their ideas to a panel of investors in the hopes of getting a little financial help to bring their ideas or inventions to the next level.  Of course, some of the inventions are bizarre, but many of them are very clever.

Since the devastating oil spill in the Gulf, literally thousands of people have come forward with lots of ideas as to how to clean up the 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil that continues to spew out from the pipe every day.  Just go to YouTube and you’ll find lots of videos posted by companies who have ideas or products that they think can help.  Here’s an example:

From what I understand, there have been thousands of potential solutions presented to BP, most of which have been at least considered.  Out of those thousands, a couple of hundred have been deemed viable, including Kevin Costner‘s “dream machines” or V20s, which are said to be capable of separating 210,000 gallons of oily water a day.  Costner has signed a contract with BP for 32 of the units.  But before the spill, he had been trying to employ the technology for 17 years, spending $20 million of his own money, only to be pretty much mired in red tape.

And why is this?  It seems like a brilliant idea, along with the one in the YouTube video above.  But we don’t care about these kinds of inventions or technologies until we are in desperate need of them.  Forward-thinking people are not respected the way they used to be back when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.  Or maybe they weren’t respected then either, and it’s only in hindsight that we adorn inventive people with  any admiration.  Or maybe it’s more about the technology itself.

When it comes to cell phones and software programs or anything computer-related, we have hundreds of companies chomping at the bit to come up with something new that the public will eagerly line up around the block to buy.  These companies spend millions and even billions of dollars on the next  big thing.  It’s too bad that they aren’t as anxious to put their money into inventions and ideas that could actually save lives.

Right now, we need the right “idea” people more than ever.  Not just to tackle this oil spill, but to find alternatives to oil dependency in the first place, and to solve so many other problems we have on this planet.  Governments need to put money into programs and schools to encourage younger people to become inventors, and come up with some great ideas to solve all kinds of problems. And big companies have to SMARTEN UP and realize there is a lot more good they could do with all that money.

We have to pay more attention to little guys who have big ideas.  Come to think of it, maybe that strange fellow who wandered into CHEK years ago to show me his idea for creating arable land wasn’t so crazy after all.

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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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