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It’s Like Riding A Bike

Remember all of the fuss people made when bike lanes started showing up all over the city, taking over car lanes, or at least impeding upon them? I have to admit, I wasn’t all the pleased to see them myself. And my husband was especially unhappy.

Suddenly you had to pay attention to things like new cycle-only lights and rules about right turns. Not only that, but lots of regular parking spots disappeared. For those of us who’ve been behind the wheel for a long time, it was like driving in a foreign country.

Judging by the comments in local media and online, we were not alone. A lot of people were miffed. And, according to most angry types, including my husband, it was all Mayor Lisa Helps’ fault.

Imagine my surprise then, when my newly retired, anti-bike lane partner pulled out his dusty, rusty old bicycle one day and started pumping up the tires. And, even more surprising, he got right on it and started hobbling down the street. I thought he was nuts.

But he insisted that he wanted to see if he could still do it and I had to admit that I admired his tenacity. He decided he might even like to try an e-bike one day and wondered if I might like to try one too.

Me? On a bike? I wasn’t so sure.

And then something interesting happened. My good friends and I were planning a wine tasting tour in Oliver, and one of the tours was supposed to be on e-bikes. I’d never heard of that before.

So now I felt obligated to pull out my own steed of rusted steel to see if I could manage it.

Holy expletive.

I was pretty shaky at first. It felt familiar, but not familiar enough. Not only that but my once 18-speed bicycle now had only one working gear. Thank goodness the brakes still worked.

For my first ride, I went about 5 blocks and then came right back. The legs were definitely feeling it, and I knew I was going to have to get more comfortable with cycling again before our trip. And after a few short practice rides and only one near spill, I was feeling a little better. A little.

The e-bike was a whole different experience. For those of you who haven’t tried one, I won’t go into all of the technical details. The bikes we rode were German-made CUBEs, and had the usual mechanical gears and then 4 e-gears, going from “eco” to “turbo”.

You can also ride the bike without the e-support, but I’m pretty sure I had it on “eco” for most of our 27 kilometer tour. When the e-gear kicked in, it just felt lighter and smoother. On long stretches uphill, I’d use the “turbo” setting and that helped considerably.

And the wine helped too.

When we got back from our trip, my husband was excited to hear all about it. I have to admit that by then, I was also convinced to get an e-bike of my own.

As it turns out, we found two used ones of the same make, CUBE, on Facebook Marketplace. I guess it was meant to be.

Now it was my husband’s turn to get used to the e-bike, but it didn’t take long. Little by little we ventured further, warming up to the idea of cycling in the city instead of driving.

One day, we went from our house in the Oaklands area all the way to Willows Beach. And on another, we pointed ourselves south and made it through Beacon Hill Park to Dallas Road.

Suddenly we were very grateful for those cycle lanes and signal crosswalks, and the CRD cycle maps. It has become another very different way of experiencing and exploring beautiful Victoria.

We are e-sold. And we’re old enough that we should have learned the old “don’t knock it before you’ve tried it” adage by now.

Apologies, Lisa.

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We Are Stardust – Following The James Webb Telescope

I sat on the swing set with my best friend Shirley, staring out at the blue, blue sky on a summer day many years ago. We wondered about the stars and the sun and how certain words in our vocabulary came to be. That was the nature of our young friendship – pondering the mysteries of the universe.

Not long after, on July 20th, 1969, I was in Shirley’s living room watching the blurred black and white TV images of Neil Armstrong taking his first step on the moon. “One small step for man…” he began. It was wonderous.

We went outside and tried to find the moon in the day time sky, but couldn’t. Still, we somehow understood that we’d never look at it exactly the same way again, because now we knew human beings had been there. It was forever changed.

I thought about that the other day when I saw the first pictures coming in from the James Webb Telescope on the NASA website. Look how far we’ve come, I thought.

I don’t like saying the word “awesome” too much because it’s overused these days. But those pictures were definitely awesome.

That the James Webb Telescope was even able to blast off was, in itself, a huge feat. Over the years it was being built, there were many cost and scheduling issues. Lots of little things went wrong along the way, and it almost got cancelled completely.

And just imagine the pressure there was to make sure the telescope was as perfect as they could get it before it launched. Because once it was way out there in space, there was no going back.

When it finally left the earth on December 25th, 2021, more than $10 Billion had been spent. And a lot of people were pretty nervous.

Would it get to where it was supposed to go? Would it unfold properly? Would it work at all?

As we saw the other day, it exceeded expectations.

Stephan’s QuintetMany Million Light Years Away

All of the pictures were spectacular and mesmerizing, but the one that struck me most was Stephan’s Quintet, seen above. First of all, I didn’t realize it, but Stephan’s Quintet is something I’ve seen many times before.

A couple of minutes into the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life”, there is a scene where the angels are praying for George Bailey. The angels are represented by an animation of Stephan’s Quintet, having a conversation.

I never knew that that.

The Carina Nebula photo is also stunning, with sparkling, golden cloud dusts beneath millions of twinkling stars.

The most amazing, mind boggling thing to me is the fact that in those photos, we are looking far into the past. In some cases, we are looking back many millions of light years.

Light years. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that concept.

The telescope’s main mission will last 5 to 10 years, but its expected lifespan will be up to 20 years, similar to the Hubble telescope. Just imagine what scientists, and the rest of us, will learn from it by then.

Maybe we’ll discover all kinds of new things, including ways to help ourselves, and, especially, our tiny blue planet.

As Joni Mitchell sang:

We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.

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Michael Woloshen – That’s A Wrap!

You might not know his name, but if you’ve watched CHEK Television at any time over the last 42 years, you’ve seen his work many times over.

January 2nd, 1980 was Michael Woloshen’s first day on the job at CHEK as a commercial writer/producer. He came to Vancouver Island from Richmond where he had lived with his family since 1969. Before that they lived in Boucherville Quebec, a suburb of Montreal where Michael was born.

His Dad, Andy Walsh, was a well known radio broadcaster both in Montreal and Vancouver.

Michael’s passion for television began back in the early 1960’s around the age of 7, when he got the chance to be in the audience for a local Montreal children’s television show called “The Johnny Jellybean Show”. It ran in the afternoon and was a big hit for CFCF-TV at a time when local television was mostly live.

Michael remembers being dazzled by the lights and the cameras in the huge studio. He also got to play a part in another children’s show later on, and, like a lot of kids from the 60’s, he recalls sitting at home with his many siblings surrounding their new black and white television.

From that time on, he was a TV guy. He was also a bit of a ham.

Michael (left) as Tweedle Dum in “Through The Looking Glass”

In school, he participated in music and in drama, getting parts in high school plays like Through The Looking Glass and Tom Jones. Even after graduating from high school, he joined a local community theatre for the production of Bye Bye Birdie.

When he had completed high school, he went to BCIT and signed up for their television broadcast communications program. On weekends, he spun a little dough at Shakey’s Pizza.

After graduating from BCIT, he landed a job at Delta Cable. And then Michael’s whole world changed when he saw an ad for a job at CHEK 6 in Victoria. It meant moving to another city all by himself, and starting a new life.

When he first started working in CHEK’s Commercial Production department, the station was located on Epson Drive, right beside the Cedar Hill Golf Course.

Michael began by writing and producing commercials for a number of local businesses. Then he got involved in writing for the children’s television series, “Foufouli” with Dale Read.

He also co-wrote and produced “Highband”, a comedy/variety show featuring music videos and sketches, and “Everyday Things” with children’s entertainer Pat Carfra.

Then there was “A La Carte”, a cooking show which he also co-hosted, the home fixup show “Home Check With Shell Busey”, and “Reel Guy”, where Michael went on camera in his hockey shirt and housecoat, introducing the movie of the week. You had to be there.

There were also the parades. Michael wrote the scripts for and produced the CHEK broadcasts of the Victoria Day Parade and, after a time, Santa’s Light Parade.

Of the countless commercials he has written and produced, the Dodd’s Furniture spots would probably be what many would remember most. Gordy Dodd was always gracious and good humoured, allowing Michael to dress him up as so many memorable and crazy movie and television characters over the years.

Michael with the “cast” of Dodd’s

For all of his work, Michael collected his fair share of awards from B.C.A.B, the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and CanPro, the Canadian Television Program Festival. Life was good.

During this time, the station had gone through a move to its present location on Kings Road, and a couple of changes in ownership on top of that.

And then one day, it all came to a grinding halt.

Michael, along with the entire commercial production department, was laid off. It was a cost cutting measure as CHEK and a number of other stations across Canada were put on the market yet again. This was in early 2009, when the world experienced the domino effect of the 2008 stock market crash in the U.S.

For Michael and everyone in his department, it was devastating.

And yet, somehow over the next 9 months, he found a way to employ himself independently, working wherever he could to make ends meet. Even worse news came when CHEK itself was put on the chopping block and was going to shut down completely.

Then, just like in the movies, there came the happy ending. A group of investors stepped up, and along with CHEK’s employees, they put their money together and bought the station. Michael was the first person that was hired back.

On his first day of work, he had to scrounge around just to find a chair and a desk to use. But it was the beginning of completely rebuilding the commercial production department, literally from scratch.

As we sat around the kitchen table the other morning (it’s okay, we’re married), I asked Michael what he enjoyed most about his work.

“Putting all the pieces together,” he said. From coming up with the concept, to writing and shooting and editing all the bits, and finally seeing the end result, that’s what pleases him most. “I mean, there’s lots of aspects of it that are interesting.”

But when I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for, he said that it’s all about the people he has worked with over the years. As an example, he enjoys helping someone who had never been in front of a camera before, getting them to relax and bring out their best performance.

And it’s also about making clients happy. “You have a connection with clients and the goal is to help them with their business and create that message for them.”

But overall, building the production department back from nothing, employing people as a result, and creating so many local television series’, has given him the greatest satisfaction over the last few years.

I might be slightly biased, but I think he’s done a fabulous job.

On Friday, May 27th, Michael moves on to another chapter of his life; retiring after over 40 years of doing what he loves most. You can’t beat that.

So, as Michael has said so many times, “That’s a wrap!”

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A Cozy Heat Pumped Christmas

At this very moment, I am trapped in my living room. There are sheets of plastic covering door ways and on top of our furniture. Drills and saws are squealing everywhere, and muffled shouts are flying from one guy to another.

They are carpenters, electricians, installers, inspectors and duct cleaners. All in my house at varying times. All wearing masks, of course.

I can’t work in my basement studio or office because of the equipment, cables, tools, bits of garbage, and large sheets of metal strewn everywhere.

The dust is flying as carpenters drill and saw through the old lathe and plaster to install a new duct behind the walls.

And then there is the noise. I have to wear my noise cancelling headphones to muffle the sound of the old ducts being cleaned. Apparently they should have been cleaned more often. The occasional swearing I’ve heard from the guy cleaning them confirms that.

It’s an invasion in every sense, but it’s all for a good cause.

We are finally getting a heat pump installed.

Over the years, we’ve had all kinds of renovations, installations and repairs done on this old house. It was built in 1938, and didn’t even have insulation when we first moved in 32 years ago.

It had an oil furnace which is a lovely kind of heat, but over our first winter here we nearly froze to death. The heat just seeped out of the walls and windows and the cold blew back in. During one particularly cold stretch, I remember sitting on the floor of the living room in front of the lit fireplace, holding my infant daughter tightly because we were chilled to the bone.

Eventually we replaced the old cardboard that was tacked under the roof in the attic with real insulation, and had more insulation blown into the exterior walls. Later, we installed new double-paned windows.

It all made a big difference.

But last June when B.C. was overwhelmed with that blasted heat dome, we had to sleep in the basement of our house to stay cool enough. Our electric fans were useless, and air conditioning units were out of stock everywhere.

And that’s when we heard about this magical new thing called a heat pump.

Now don’t ask me to explain all of the technology behind it. But, essentially, it works as both a heater and an air cooler, depending on the time of year, with much more efficiency built in.

Wikipedia says: “A heat pump is a device used to warm the interior of a building or heat domestic hot water by transferring thermal energy from a cooler space to a warmer space using the refrigeration cycle, being the opposite direction in which heat transfer would take place without the application of external power.”

Did you get that?

All I care about is that it is more energy efficient, better for the environment, and over time, it will save us money.

The best news is that there are grants for heat pumps available from the federal and provincial governments, and you can even apply for them from some municipalities. It is quite the process to get these grants, including house inspections before and after the installation and all kinds of paperwork, but I don’t mind the effort to help mitigate the cost.

Ssshhh. It just got eerily quiet in the house. Have the workers gone for coffee? Lunch? I’m taking a chance and sneaking a peek down in the basement.

Oh dear. It’s a disaster area. I should have just stayed away.

There have been a number of interesting items found under shelves and inside the old ducts over the last couple of days. A golf ball, two dice, an old key, an eraser, some ancient door hooks, an ice cube tray, plus a lot of dirt and dust. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Wait. An ice cube tray?? Well, at least they didn’t find any dead mice.

The best Christmas present this year will be a cozy, heat-pumped house.

And they’re back. With the squeal of a drill and the pounding of a hammer, I can hear the workers have returned. There seems to be an argument erupting between two of the guys about something. Here comes the swearing.

Now where did I put those darned headphones?

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Never Mind Astro, I Want Rosey

I couldn’t believe it was actually going to happen. Rosey the Robot was finally coming to life.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the old cartoon series “The Jetsons”. There was George and Jane Jetson and their children Elroy and Judy, and one of my favourite characters on the series, Rosey, their personal robot maid.

I loved Rosey. She was like a sassy, no-nonsense aunt. “Beep! Beep! I may be homely, buster, but I am s-m-a-r-t, smart! Beep! Beep!” She didn’t take any baloney from anyone. But boy, could she clean their space house!

I always wanted a Rosey of my own. Who wouldn’t?

So when Amazon announced their new home robot Astro, I was beside myself with excitement. Finally! My own personal housecleaner.

I was imagining all of the things I would never have to do again. Scrub the toilet. Wash the kitchen floor. Dust and vacuum. Maybe Astro would even make my bed and prepare my favourite dinner. Wow.

I decided to watch Amazon’s introductory video, announcing Astro.

“What are we going to do with a robot?” the lady in the video asks her husband. Are you kidding me? I said that out loud. Housecleaning as we know it is now over!

“Astro, follow me,” the husband says.

I watched with great anticipation. Was he going to give Astro a toilet brush and put him right to work?

Astro followed him. Okay, so you can command him to follow you. Sort of like a dog.

That lead to another scene with a little girl talking to her grandmother through Astro’s video screen face.

I started wondering if the exciting stuff was still to come.

In yet another scene, a guy sitting on a park bench used his phone to give Astro the command to check and make sure that he turned the stove off at home.

Astro can relay text messages, re-charge itself, check the house for intruders, and play and dance to music. So basically a video camera that moves. And can catch a raccoon stealing your cupcakes.

At the very end, Astro brings the woman a beer on its tiny platter, and she declares “Alright, I’m in!”

Well, I’m not.

I already have a video doorbell. I can video chat with anyone I want using my phone or my tablet. And if I’ve accidently left the stove on, the fire department will surely let me know. As they’re dousing the flames.

I also have a man servant to bring me my wine. Begrudgingly, perhaps, but he’ll do it if I ask nicely.

I want a robot that can do the real work!

Who created Astro anyway? Let’s see. It can follow you like your dog, re-charge itself and bring you a beer. Was it a MAN?

Something I saw recently was an extract from a 1950s home economics book called “Tips To Look After Your Husband”. It’s filled with eye rolling suggestions for wives, like having dinner ready when he gets home. Preparing yourself and your children so you are presentable to him. Clearing away the clutter.

At the end of the article, it says “Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.” Cue another eye roll.

I have an idea. Let’s change that to “Your home robot will make your house a place of peace and order when you can renew yourself in body and spirit”. And instead of Astro, we’ll call our robot Rosey.

Alright, I’m in!