Saturday, 16 September 2017

Saturday Photo: Rock of Ages, How Concrete Built the World as We Know It


This is the week that I start work in earnest on my next book, tentatively titled Rock of Ages: How Concrete Built the World as We Know It. Now that the major revisions to Different: Places that Should be Alike That Aren't Alike  (due from University of Regina Press in Fall 2018, if all goes well)  have been sent off, it's time to change gears.

Not that I haven't been thinking about the topic for a long time.  During our trip this summer, one of the things I wanted to see was Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River, which for a while was the biggest concrete construction in the world.  But one of the things I forgot when I was thinking about the hydroelectric potential of dams is the massive effect irrigation with water from the projects. 

Concrete is essential for getting water to the countryside.  Without canals lined with it, the water so carefully collected behind dams would simply sink into the earth without the desired effect. 

This is a photo of the outlet canal at Grand Coulee.  I haven't yet researched just how the irrigation system works in this part of Washington state, but you can see the kind of countryside the river and its channeled water runs through.

More later....

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday Photo: Le Jardin botanique, Montreal's Jewel


A good friend is visiting from out of town and we did something we hadn't done in a long time: visit Montreal's Jardin botanique.  What a delight!

Our friend had spend some time around here in the early 1970s, but she said she'd never gone there then, and I realized, too, that until I was in my late 30s and had kids, I never went looking for the loveliness of gardens.  But when the children were small the garden was free, and one of our favourite winter outings was to spend an afternoon in the green houses.  Quite wonderful to be in a tropical atmosphere when it's snowing outside!

Since then we've gone through phases when we visited frequently, but lately the press of work and other projects have pushed the Jardin to the back of our schedules.  This visit has revived our interest, and I'm sure we'll be back soon. Here's a link.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Saturday Photo: Or What Happens When the Internet Lets You Down

No picture this weekend, to show my profound disappointment that we didn't have internet for 24 hours this weekend.  Amazed at how much we have come to fit regular views of news sites, Facebook and e-mail into the fabric of our lives.

Things are back to normal, which means I can waste more time than I should following links to interesting sites....

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Saturday Photo: Bees....

My overgrown, mostly-indigenous garden of perennials has been hosting a bumper crop of bees this summer.  Glad to see that, given the current worry about the fate of bees in the wild.

But last night a few wasps decided to check out the sausages I was barbecueing.  Not so welcome visitors, but I guess all part of the web of life, or some such.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Saturday Photo: Pear Harvest

It's been a wet, rather cool summer but the two pear trees in our backyard have loved it.  There are more pears than the squirrels can eat, and I harvested those I could reach this week.  Not that they're terribly tasty, but getting fruit like this in the middle of the city is pretty cool.

My neighbor Nicola, with whom we share our harvest particularly since they get a lot of down fruit on their side of the fence, said she makes a purée of the pears, freezes small portion,  and then uses them to make pear mousse.  Sounds like a winning idea.  As soon as the pears are ripe enough (and you have to pick them before they're ripe) I'll do just that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Saturday Photo: The Grand Antonio, and Electricity

One of the grandkids favourite stories is that of The Great Antonio, a Montreal strong man, by Elise Gravel.  He pulled buses with his teeth and other feats of strength.  Gravel's illustrations are delightful, and obviously made a big impact on not-quite-five Thomas.

When we were doing a little morning walk-about near Grand Coulee dam on our recent trip, he got very excited, pointing toward the hilltops and talking about the Grand Antonio.  The adults couldn't figure out what he meant, but then it dawned on us: the high tension pilons carrying electricity from the dam.  They look a little like someone flexing his muscles, I agree.

You could probably do a nice turn on that: how electricity makes the world run, and how it magnifies the strength of all of us.  But I think I'll just be delighted at a little boy's imagination. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Saturday Photo: Dry Falls and the Forces of the Earth

On our trip West in July, one of the most interesting places we stopped was at the Dry Falls State Park where the ancestral Columbia once ran.

Or maybe it wasn't the Columbia, exactly.  What is certain now is that  an enormous amount of water  surged over this precipice as the Ice Age ended and an ice dam burst, letting free the impounded waters of a massive meltwater lake.  The result was a catastrophic flood (or floods) and this dry, empty landscape which followed.  The dark rocks, by the way, were laid down in another geologic event that staggers the imagination: the great volcanic episode which saw lava spread over hundreds of thousands of acres for perhaps a million years.

All this puts our particular problems in  perspective.  We are screwing things up royally, but our presence on this planet is likely to be only fleeting.  The rocks remain.