May 30, 2020

Laying Kodiak to rest

 With heavy hearts, we finally buried the ashes of our dear friend Kodiak this afternoon. We had put it off for too long and for too many reasons, but at last the day came when it felt right to do it and we could both face the task ahead. The weather was rainy and overcast, which both suited our moods and kept many people at home and dry, leaving us plenty of personal space outside.
 Kodiak passed away in March, a time when the magnolias a beginning to bloom, and we wanted to bury him in a place that would remind us of that season. A rhododendron garden runs up from the banks of lost lagoon and is in nearly perpetual bloom, with many magnolias as well. Two small paw print ornaments mark the spot for our future visits.

We dug a small hole at the base of a tree, said our final farewells, and laid him to rest forever.
I had read a poem by Jim Willis in late 2018 when the idea of Kodiak's mortality was really starting to weigh on us both and it made a fitting farewell to our little guy. The original is clearly about a dog, but captures the grief of losing a pet, so we modified it to suit our situation.

This is where we part, sweet friend,
we loved you to the very end,
gone now from sight, but not from mind,
to new warm spots we know you’ll find. 

We will go on, we'll find the strength,
life's measured quality, not in length.
One long embrace before we leave,
share one last look, before we grieve. 

There will be others, this is true,
but they be they, and you were you.
Your eyes so bright, your fur so black
Our little bear, our Kodiak

Your place we've held, you are so missed,
the fur we stroked, the nose we kissed.
And as we lay you here to rest,
take this with you...we loved you best. 

April 26, 2020

Local but uncommon mammals

Finding the silver lining during this pandemic, working from home gives us both a lot more opportunities to walk around Stanley Park several times a day. Increasing our presence in the area increases our odds of seeing new and interesting animals inside familiar spaces.

Starting off with this mouse. We were walking along the edge of Lost Lagoon and noticed it scurrying along the bank and frequently coming closer to the path to feed. While it was initially quite skittish of the camera shutter, it eventually got used to the noise and came close enough for a few nice pictures. There are at least 15+ species of mice in BC and I have little experience with any of them, so tips on this one's ID are appreciated.
 Stanley Park is also home to 6 if the 16 species of bat in BC and we saw this individual soaring around in broad daylight hunting insects from a small copse of trees near the aquarium. We enjoyed a very pleasant quarter hour or so watching it dart around on its hunt and managed to get a small handful of acceptable photos of it, despite its speed, size, and distance. Again, I don't know bat species well so I am inclined to guess it is a Little Brown Bat, but don't know for certain.
Luckily, we keep this species on our money AND there's only one type on the continent which makes identifying this North American Beaver a bit of a slam dunk. We have looked around the park many times for these guys and had zero luck, but just this past week there have been a pair with a convenient routine of coming out to graze between 5 and 7 most evenings, making them far more accessible for identification.

While it is nice to feel that nature is returning to the area as a result of people being less active in the last few months, beavers have been a regular mammal in the park for years and we have seen gnawed down trees on many of our walks. These beavers have a large lodge in the area, but are unlikely to build a damn. Apparently dams are more of a defense to keep unfrozen areas of deep water accessible to them in winter but since Lost Lagoon rarely freezes at all and never for long, they won't need this particular tactic here.

April 19, 2020

Droning on about perspective

DJI have been making increasingly impressive consumer drones for years, and I have been promising myself one ever since I finished my degree a few years back. I finally got one this spring with the announcement of the Mavic Mini, which weighs a ridiculous 249g including the battery and memory card. Once unfolded and configured, this little drone can fly for up to 30 minutes and easily reach the legal Canadian recreational airspace ceiling of 100m (the app automatically caps altitude, so its easy to safely stay within the limit).

While this little marvel can shoot video and race around at ludicrous speeds, my primary interest in getting one has been to expand the possible results of stereographic photography.
For those of you that aren't as nerdy on the terminology as me, stereographic photography is the end result of shooting 360° panoramas and then re-projecting the image to make a "little planet." I've been shooting these for nearly a decade and think they are really cool, but find that sometimes they over-emphasize the immediate foreground to the detriment of the horizon.

This is entirely understandable since my camera is usually 5.5 feet up and, therefore, there is quite a bit of immediate ground in that perspective. The image below is from the Langdale Ferry Terminal and was shot with my usual fisheye technique.
In contrast, the image below was shot in the exact same spot but from the Mavic Mini at a height of around 80 meters. Not only are the beach and tide line a much smaller proportion of the overall composition, but you can see the islands behind the ferry and terminal as well as the mountains beyond the trees.
DJI has done an incredible job of making a powerful and compact flying camera that I can carry with me on any trip. As an added bonus, its an ideal hobby to take up during times of physical distancing as you're not permitted to fly within 30m horizontally of other people, or over crowds at all, so it's a great excuse to get away from everyone around you. You're also required to keep the aircraft in line of sight at all times, so having a hawk-eyed wife/spotter is highly recommended when you need to focus on getting all your shots right.

April 13, 2020

Quarantined with a Kitty

My friend Serena is maintaining both her relationships and eye for composition by taking pictures of colleagues outside their homes, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, during the pandemic. She asked us to participate in this series and was kind in providing the original files from her shoot for me to share on our blog and keep for the future. I really appreciate opportunities like this, since normally one or the other of us is behind the camera and we don't have enough photos of the pair of us.
On March 12, the entire office at PDFTron was told to work remotely until the ongoing Covid situation was under control. I felt fortunate to have job stability and to be working at a flexible company that could implement such a change quickly, but was also quite new to the position and somewhat concerned about meeting our ambitious next few months of targets with limited access to our team.

Kathryn was driving a ferry 3 days a week on the Sunshine Coast, which was considered an essential service, but neither of us were relishing the distance during such a stressful time. She had signed on to work that gig over the winter, with an agreed end date of March 31.
I have now worked for PDFTron longer from my home than in their office and everyone has come to terms with the challenges of distances. Kathryn is back at home, but her usual summer jobs are all scuppered until Transport Canada gives the go ahead. Even then, it will be some time until the cruise ships are in town and the demand for tourism is high enough to keep their services in demand. Throughout all of this, Wesley has been a total joy.
He is full of energy and affectionate around the clock, following us both like a little ginger shadow and making sure we always have someone to talk to. When we first got him, it felt like it was too soon but he was just irresistible, but with the circumstances of the last month he couldn't have fallen into our lives at a better time.

February 8, 2020


We were not ready for another cat. And in complete agreement on the topic. Maybe in December or early 2021 we would open our hearts and our home up to a new little friend. Yet, despite any number of quotes from Sun Tzu to Gandhi about the virtues of planning ahead, we were totally unable to resist this little bugger when he showed up in our lives.

Our friend Lisa had adopted a new friend for her current cat, but he turned out to be too much of an excitable jerk to live with another animal. However, he harnessed that same energy in making himself completely irresistible to us. When faced with the notion of him returning to the SPCA, we knew in 30 seconds that he was coming home with us instead. With fair warning about his ability to make you act against your own best interests, I introduce you all to Wesley "Danger Zone" Warren Taylor of Orange.
 Being a little mysterious is part and parcel with being a cat and Wesley is no exception. Although he is estimated to only be three years old, he started life as a street cat in the city of Delta. We have no idea what his life was like or how he started out, but it sounds like life was pretty hard on his own. When a good Samaritan fed and trapped him, he had flees and a broken tail.

After inspection by a vet they removed all but an inch of his tail and had to pull one of his upper canines. We have only known him without a tail and honestly think he carries it well and has a distinctive look, so its turned out to be to his advantage.
Despite being a floor model. rather than mint in box, he is undeniably adorable and the camera loves him almost as much as everyone he meets. Its only been a short while so far, but he has already returned some of the light and love that had been missing from our home since last March.

January 31, 2020

Farewell to Bardel

Today was my last day in the accounting department at Bardel Entertainment. Between working a summer during my diploma, and then returning after BCIT, I have spent five years there and am ready for a change.The hardest part of leaving after that much time is you know so many people that it's tricky to properly say goodbye to everyone - and it's important to remind some people that you're leaving a company, but not them. It's equally daunting to consume the sheer volume of calories that people offer you on your way out the door...

I have had a fantastic core of co-workers across Finance, Payroll, Operations, HR, and Production, so there were almost a dozen lunches, drinks, and coffees this week trying to fit in goodbyes with everyone. I feel incredibly fortunate to have met so many kind and hard working people over and hope everyone continues to succeed in their careers moving forward.

Anyone that has talked with me about work in the last few years has heard about my work-aunts and I was delighted that Sherna (who retired in December and never had to set foot near Bardel again) came all the way from Ladner for my send off lunch.

(L to R: Michelle, George, Sanja, Sherna, and Ethel)
I also made a point of taking the operations team out for beer and nachos since they work as hard as everyone else (if not more so) but are too often overlooked when someone leaves Corporate. I'm not sure if this is because specialized teams get insular or what, but I wanted to thank everyone that helped me succeed and you certainly can't work in finance without getting the mail and calls routed or having lights and locks.

I was very pleased that they were keen to spend time with me off the clock since I'm not sure I would have been thrilled about hanging out with a 40-something accountant when I was their age, but they were sincerely happy to visit and fantastic company with an energy an exuberance which was contagious.

My camera phone is old and a little blurry, but this photo managed to capture the primary character traits of the team in one go. They're a great bunch and I'm confident they'll do great in the future as they go on to bigger and better things.

(L to R: Sam, Kyle, and Andy) 

Purely by fluke, there was also a company town hall/Beer Friday on my last day, so I got a chance to see the whole team gathered one last time and signed up to work the keg filling pitchers for a chunk of time at the end of the day. There was something pleasing about having my last task for the company being bar-tending that I just couldn't turn down.

January 25, 2020

The Langdale Skipper

 As many of you know, Kathryn recently had an interesting opportunity fall into her lap out of nowhere. She is currently spending 2 and 2 half days captaining a foot ferry which connects the Sunshine Coast terminal with Gambier and Keats islands. Since this service starts early and finishes late, she is spending 3 nights a week in the town of Langdale. The downside is a little time apart for both of us, the upside is a new job experience and a little bit of rural living.

I made a short visit one day over the Christmas break and, as you can see, the scenery is pretty darn picturesque out there. The terminal is in the lower left corner of the picture, and she is staying with a nice couple just a few minutes walk away.
 The dock for her commuter service is right alongside the BC Ferries docks. All pedestrian traffic exits at the front of the ship's car deck and it's just a few dozen meters to the side. The majority of customers are locals who live on remote islands with limited services and therefore need frequent access to a larger community for food and various other goods. It sounds like there are more out-of-towners in the summer months, but the winter is predominantly regulars.
The company (Kona Winds) owns several boats, but Stormaway IV is the workhorse for these runs. Kathryn handles the driving and navigation in all sorts of weather, but has a deck hand available to take fares and assist with docking and tying up the vessel. All in all, a good opportunity to put her 60-ton ticket to use and get more experience in the waters of BC!