Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Totem pole

Workers working on the upgrades to Victoria's Empress Hotel line up in a human column as they erect scaffolding...

Monday, March 28, 2016

MCDS HMCS... not a vowel in sight

A coastal patrol boat on a mission...

The MCDS HMCS Brandon patrols the Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island's east coast.

These smaller vessels were commissioned in the late-1990s and are manned by a mix of Regular and Reserve Force personnel. Their main missions are counter narcotics, coastal surveillance, sovereignty patrol, route survey, and training although they can also be converted to a minesweeping role in a wartime situation.

Friday, March 25, 2016

High eye on the sky

The Centre of the Universe is... here!

The main observatory of the Centre of the Universe narrowly missed being the largest telescope in the world when it was built in 1918. Unfortunately, six months earlier it was beat by a telescope in the United States. However, it was the second largest telescope in the world for nearly twenty years.

From Wikipedia:
"The glass mirror, 73 inches in diameter and 12 inches (30 cm) thick, weighs approximately 4340 lb. (1970 kilograms)... The completed mirror was hauled up Little Saanich Mountain by horse and wagon."

Details of the observatory dome in Saanich...
The portal to the Centre of the Universe...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wayback Wednesday: Making a statement

you have much to say
many shiny new stickers
out of work beach bum?
This photo appeared here almost three years ago. Sadly, our old dog Bruno has since passed away, and we no longer walk around the lake where this car was seen.

I never did see it again to confirm my guesses. Earlier today though I was excited to see a small white car with many of the same stickers in a downtown parking lot. However, when I checked it against this photo it turned out to be a different make and model of car. So the mystery continues...
Jun 2, 2013
On weekends my wife and I take the dog out to the local lakes for a walk on the popular hiking and riding trails. I've seen this car parked in the lot a few times but have never seen the owner.  I decided to play Sherlock Holmes one day...

1. The fact that the stickers are all brand new suggests the owner has recently found a lot of free time on his/her hands. Newly retired? Divorced? Probably no family or at least no young children at home...

2. The fact that a few of the stickers are surf/ ocean related suggests that he/she is an active outdoor-sy...

3. The theme of the stickers plus the one that specifically mentions the Surf Sisters tells me this car's owner/driver is a woman. Surfing is a pretty active sport too so she is probably a younger woman.

4. The car is small and economical suggests the owner is someone of modest income and/or someone who is environmentally conscious.

If I ever encounter the car's owner I will report back on this blog...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Journey to the Centre of the Universe

Saanich's observatory sits high above the city...

The title of this post sounds like a movie title from a 50s drive-in B-movie.

Well, it turns out the centre of the universe is right here in Saanich, BC. See that white dome in the photo above? That's it... the centre of the universe. I know! Who knew?

The Centre of the Universe a.ka. the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory sits high above the suburbs, lakes and parks of Saanich below it. All that is readily visible is the white dome of the observatory itself, but there is much more to the site than that.

Despite living in greater Victoria for 40 years, I had never ventured up to see it until recently. I'll talk about it more later this week.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Roost or Murder?

Crows gather in the late afternoon near Swan Lake in Saanich...
strange murder indeed 
there are no criminals here...
no victims either

A group of crows is known as a murder, although that's strictly a poetic affectation that was first used in the 15th century. Scientists would still refer to the collective as a flock.

A roost is a gathering of birds for a specific purpose, typically to sleep together at night though they may forage as individuals during the day. It may be a survival mechanism decreasing the odds that any particular bird will be picked off by a predator. Another theory suggests that, like humans, individual birds will end up gathering wherever there's an ideal sleeping spot protected from the elements, close to a nearby food source, whatever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Slow slide into spring

The Gorge waterway in Saanich, BC...
The Gorge waterway passes through Saanich, BC.
Spring seems to be S-L-O-W-L-Y creeping its way over Vancouver Island. Once spring segues into summer, the bucolic Gorge Waterway looks like this and is a popular destination for walkers, paddlers and those who enjoy a picnic in the park and gardens.

A walkway along the water has a number of benches for pedestrians to stop and admire the scenery.

Creative plaques mark the benches along the Gorge Waterway.
Several of these benches have dedication plaques with intriguing inscriptions.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Skiing the top of Mt Washington in a whiteout...

This photo is a pretty good approximation of the visibility at the top of our island ski hill, Mt Washington, this past weekend.

The morning was warm and semi-sunny, but visibility decreased steadily throughout the day... the result of fog and heavy falling snow. By mid-afternoon the viz was reduced to near zero. Except for the vague orange signs marking the course to guide us there was nothing else to see. No horizon... no trees to mark the edges of the run... nada. All we could do was aim for the signs.

We were skiing based solely on our sense of balance. With no visuals to provide clues to the terrain or our speed it felt like I was floating lazily along rather than racing down the hill. The effect was dreamlike.

Friday, March 11, 2016


Ship wrecked on the Victoria waterfront...
Shipwrecked on the Victoria waterfront...
Here's something you don't see everyday... an honest-to-goodness shipwreck.

This barge broke away while underway off Victoria's waterfront during a recent windstorm. It washed up on the waterfront at the base of Victoria's popular Dallas Road walkway, giving pedestrians and beachcombers something to talk about.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

No girls allowed...

Saanich treehouse...

Growing up in northern Ontario we never lived near any tall trees that would have allowed us to build a tree fort. On the west coast with tall trees everywhere I'm surprised that I don't come across them more often.

This cool clubhouse in the sky is located in rural Saanich about fifteen minutes north of where I live. Given the expensive price of real estate out here I estimate this penthouse accommodation is probably worth about $60,000.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Round and round we go...

Creepy sand sculpture in Parksville, BC...

Monday?! So soon?!

Actually, I don't have any reason to complain. Spring has arrived early in Victoria. Blossoms are out... bees are buzzing... Meanwhile the rest of Canada endures through snow and cold.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Surf City Sheriffs

Danger! Earthquakes and hostile surfers!

Remember that cliché line from old Westerns: "Stranger eh? We don't take kindly to strangers around these parts."

This sign can be found adjacent to the beach at Jordan River. The original sign is a warning about the local earthquake danger. A BC Hydro dam upriver was identified as likely to fail when the expected major earthquake occurs here sometime in the next 50 to 100 years. The result will be a wall of water expected to wash away the campsite at the mouth of the river.

Consequently the provincial government closed the campsite as a safety precaution. However, saner heads prevailed when someone calculated the odds that campers would actually be at the campsite during the limited camping season as minuscule and so the province agreed to re-open the site.

The second sign is the smaller attached sticker seen below. Jordan River has a reputation for its local surfers not taking too kindly to visiting surfers encroaching on their turf. And they definitely don't like paddle surfers like me in their waters.

Personally, I haven't experienced any hostility, however, I've confined my water play to a different area of the beach so as not to provoke anyone.

Always read the small print...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wayback Wednesday: Jurassic Parksville!

Beach Club Resort in Parksville, BC...

This photo was first published here in March of 2013.

The Beach Club Resort -- shown here -- is located in Parksville, BC, an area known as Oceanside. When it was originally built, locals complained loudly because it robbed them of their lovely views of the ocean and the beach from their main street.

In the years since they've come to grudgingly accept it. They cheerfully use it to host their conferences, wedding receptions and other social events, as well as accept its higher tax rate. They also flock to the boardwalk in front of it that was possible only because the resort was built.

With the Canadian dollar at historic lows compared to the US dollar, we will be spending a big chunk of our summer vacation time at our condo in this resort. The main beach of Parksville gets some awesome winds. Combined with the extensive beach and shallow water I hope to get in lots of time playing with my kites this year.