Friday, July 31, 2009

Less heat

Here in our town, we've had a record-breaking heatwave for over a week, highly unusual. Our entire province has been subject to the same phenomenon. As a result, there have been a number of serious fires caused, and new ones started by, sad to say, careless people and also thunderstorms. We had a spectacular storm here a few days ago. Our son took some great pictures. After that storm, the sunset was an eerie orange-red (picture taken through living room window). I suppose that the cause was the smoke from the various wildfires, even though those are some distance away from our city.

The heatwave here made all of us look for ways to cool down (temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius - about 100 degrees Fahrenheit). The night temperatures stayed at what are normally our summer daytime values - so cooling fans were in great demand. As usual, kids are inventive, and our younger granddaughter and a friend made use of the garden sprinkler hose to get cool.

The ravens, which are numerous in our area, were also "taking baths". One took advantage of the birdbath in our back yard. I admire these clever and inventive birds. When they look at you, the intelligence in their eyes is obvious. Who knows, if we manage to wipe ourselves out, maybe they'll become the dominant species?

Today, temperatures have moderated, and we're very happy to sit outside to enjoy another beautiful day and evening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Past glory

There is a lot of interest and comment today regarding the exact day, 40 years ago, on which humans first set foot on the Moon. To me, this is a bittersweet memory. The sweet part relates to the fact that our son, whose birth had occurred three weeks before, was having his mother's milk while we were watching the landing on TV. At the time I wondered whether he would grow up to be one of many future space travellers who would naturally go to space, with an ease similar to travel by airplane. In my mind, the image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon's surface will forever be linked with those memories.

The bitter part of that memory is that mankind's ability even just to repeat that forty-year-old feat has withered on the vine. We are reduced to admiring achievements which occurred four decades ago, and treat them as though they are today's. No one is in a position to place a human on the Moon now, both for technical and financial reasons. It is sad to think that much of the talent and money which could have furthered our progress in space was instead directed toward, and wasted on, conducting useless wars and persuing infinite greed.

I find it a hopeful sign that a return to the Moon, and also an expedition to Mars are seriously being contemplated. Maybe our son's daughters will one day go into space. I wonder whether I'll be around to see it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Musical Telescopes

This past Sunday, the Vancouver Symphony put on a concert at Deer Lake park here in Burnaby. This is a casual affair for the listeners (there is no cost), and everyone is free to bring their own lunch, chairs, etc. It's a "picnic atmosphere". For the occasion, food vendors, and others interested in making the public aware of what's going on in the community, are set up as well. Among the latter, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, of which I'm a member, showed telescopes, handed out brochures and other astronomy related publications. We would have pointed the telescopes at stars and other interesting objects in the sky, had it not been cloudy. As it was, we picked some distant targets to show what telescopes can do, and how they work. Here are some pictures:

The orchestra playing

The audience

People at the telescopes

Looking through the C-8

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pseudo vacation

Over the last few weeks, at various times, we've had visitors from both Mexico and Germany. Since the weather here has been great during the last six weeks or so, we decided to show our guests around. We went to the various Vancouver showpieces, and also included a trip to Whistler.

At Whistler we spent a day which included taking a ride on the new Peak2Peak gondola. This is a great experience, and I recommend it to anyone not afraid of heights. We went all the way to near the top of Blackcomb mountain ('seventh heaven') which gave us a great view of the snow-covered mountain peaks for 100km around. The viewpoint is located above the Horstman Glacier; we had a birds-eye view of the skiers and snowboarders who were displaying their talents.

Last weekend, Derek had his 40th birthday bar-b-q at home, attended by about one hundred of his friends, and our family and friends as well. Lots of food was consumed. The next day we took part in an open house at Derek's friend and former IHR partner Paul Garay's house in Maple Ridge - again with lots of food.

The last two weeks have therefore been filled with many social activities for my wife and me. Every now and then, though, I had to do things related to my business, but since the universities and colleges are running on summer hours right now, I wasn't too busy.

So this episode has been like an unplanned break - a "pseudo vacation" .

Update: Here are a few pictures from the Whistler excursion:

CIMG4203CIMG4197CIMG4177CIMG4171CIMG4152CIMG4211(click on any frame)
Pictures by K. Pelk