11 March 2010


Winter arrives, and departs

Slushy march! at Flickr.comI'm just emerging from another few days of post-chemotherapy haze, but this morning was an interesting way to emerge.

After many a joke during the Winter Olympics about how there was no snow here in Vancouver in February, we actually got our first proper dump of snow—less than two weeks before the start of spring. My daughter Marina photographed it.

Of course, since we're in Vancouver, it has almost all melted now in the rain. That's okay. Like most of us, I remember last year.

P.S. Marina and her sister set up a fashion design blog yesterday. It's pretty cool—especially since they required no grown-up assistance at all, as far as I know.

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09 March 2009


Excuse me?

I looked out the window this morning and I was actually angry. I don't anger easily, but here's the view now, after I shoveled the walk and driveway and cleared off the car:

March. Vancouver. WTF?

This is Vancouver. In March. In contrast, here's what we were doing in your yard in February last year:


Or, for that matter, three weeks ago at the schoolyard:

Playgrounders 1

Even my kids looked out at the snow today and said, "Not again!"

I mean, WTF?

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04 January 2009


Vancouver's blizzards have rendered my neighbourhood snowbound

Third Week of SnowI've lived in this small section of town, near Metrotown in Burnaby, B.C., for the last 37 years, since I was two years old. I've never seen snow accumulations like this, not even in the record-setting 1996-97 season. Maybe it was like this in 1964, or in the early '70s when I was young, but I don't recall it.

The shovel pile on the left side of the bottom of our driveway is nearly as tall as me. I minimally dug out the driveway before going for groceries at 7 p.m. today. I got back at 8 p.m. and could not drive up, even in snow tires, so I shoveled again, because 3 or 4 cm had accumulated. I managed to finesse the car in.

Trees are coated. Houses look like marshmallow sundaes. Power and telephone lines are unpredictably dropping thick ropes of snow to the ground, then swaying from the release.

Surviving tree - colour corrected

This is after regular snowfall since mid-December, little of which has melted. Around here (some altitude above sea level), we had very low temperatures (–15°C) in early December, then snow in the middle of the month, continued cold, more snow before Christmas, a bit of melt after, then a freeze, then more snow, and more, and more.

Our house getting buried

Up the street where people have bigger driveways, the snow piles are considerably taller than me. Street signs are becoming obscured, and sidewalks have disappeared—people must walk in the wheel ruts on the street:

Taller than I am Four-way stop

Since Greater Vancouver has little history of lasting snow, most people around here don't have proper snow tires, which makes it worse for driving. My wife and I do have them on one of our cars, but even with those I had trouble on the steep driveway this evening.

One moves, one doesn't

Some people have abandoned their cars tonight in our neighbourhood. Others are putting on tire chains even on major bus routes that have been plowed. Still other vehicles have been so buried since before Christmas that you can't see them at all, just big lumps in the snow. People with 4WD but not snow tires are getting stuck now.

Some are snow, some are cars

Today's bout is taking things over the edge. Forecasts have called for rain several times in the past week, and in some parts of Vancouver it came, but here it has been snow every time. The roof added above a sundeck on a house a few blocks away collapsed, and our neighbours lost a large cherry blossom tree after Christmas for the same reason:

Deck roof collapse

Neighbour's busted tree

Tonight the whole region is in a blizzard, and police are recommending no one drive unless they really have to—and then chains or snow tires are necessary.

Stuck and abandoned

Some of the streets are getting hemmed in from shoveling, buried cars, and the occasional plow heaping stuff up, plus the ruts are getting so deep that the snow in the middle is scraping the bottom of our car when we drive there:

Buried 2

I should say that the City of Burnaby crews do plow side streets when the clearing of major roads is sufficient and time permits. One of the streets on our corner was plowed several times in December; the less-used street out front, once.

But neither has been done in some time since the snow kept coming up here on the north brow of the hill. The trucks need to keep the highways and main streets open. It's beautiful, but pretty soon walking (or snowmobiles, or dogsleds) will be the only option on our street.

Quiet lane

I never thought I'd say this in winter in this city, but I sure hope for rain, and lots of it. Not all at once, mind you—for a gradual melt, a nice steady drizzle for a week or two would do. You know, normal Vancouver weather?

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22 December 2008



Two photos I took on yesterday's winter solstice:

Burrard Station
Burrard SkyTrain station, 10 p.m.

Solstice sledding - 04
Sledding at Forglen Park, Burnaby, 2 p.m.

CBC's Weather Centre says "it's guaranteed that all the country will see a white Christmas. We have snow on the ground everywhere and it's going to stay into Christmas Day." That's less common right across Canada than you might think.

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16 December 2008


This year's tree

For the first time since before our kids were born more than a decade ago, we bought a real Christmas tree for our living room. The Douglas fir was a little messy to put up, but we have a good vacuum, and now the house smells great. It's also good sign than it's sucking up water like crazy, so it likely won't dry out in the next week and a half:

Tree's done

Unfortunately, while I I did haul it into the house and help get it put up, I didn't help decorate. That's because my current cancer medication, cediranib, has one major side effect: diarrhea, or something close to it. I don't get it every day, but when it happens, it comes on suddenly and lasts for several hours. And last night was one of those times.

My wife and daughters didn't need my help, though. They did a great job decorating, as usual.

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14 December 2008



Bokeh dots 4 - Christmas coloursIt snowed a bit in Vancouver yesterday, and it is (for this mild city) pretty cold tonight—about -6°C right now, plus something of a nasty wind chill.

So, for the occasion, I went looking for photos of snowflakes, and via Pharyngula and New Scientist, boy did I ever find them. Researcher Kenneth G. Libbrecht of the California Institute of Technology has even had his snowflake images appear on American postage stamps.

I've also posted some photos of Vancouver's Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival, which officially kicked off tonight. We had a (chilly) walk through that neighbourhood earlier this evening.

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12 December 2008


Winter's late in 2008

Usually we'll have had some before now, but today is the first snowfall in Greater Vancouver this year. It's just started to stick on the ground in the past 20 minutes or so:

Snow is sticking at Metrotown

We may get some decent accumulation at higher elevations, such as where we live here in Burnaby, but I don't think it's yet sticking downtown or at the airport. If the usual Vancouver pattern holds, the stuff will all melt before the weekend is over.

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17 September 2008


Thirteen coolest Antarctic vehicles

These are probably some of the most specialized vehicles in the world. (Via J-Walk.) Some might look familiar from ski resorts. Most won't.

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10 June 2008


Photos from ideas

Here are a couple of photo collages. The first one shows two views from the same place in my kids' schoolyard, one from today and one from this past winter:

Spring and winter

The second came to me via Jodi, who explains at her blog how to search for and assemble your own similar Flickr meme collage:

Flickr photo meme mosaic

1. Penmachine in action, 2. 2006 07-22 HOOK typeB [16], 3. talking to air, 4. alive and bright, 5. Lavender crème brûlée with fresh berries, 6. hawaii lava, 7. The Glenlivet, 8. Kari Byron, 9. Auroville 014 - Colour Purple, 10. St. George's School - 1931, 11. Disco Girls - 5, 12. derek jarman's gaff

P.S. I answered the questions in reverse order.

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06 February 2008


Fun fun fun

Fun fun fun at Flickr.comOnce again, it is snowing crazily here in Burnaby. It seems like we've had many more days of snow this year than usual. I like it, it feels very Canadian here, but I can't go out and enjoy it.

That's because today I started my ninth chemo treatment (out of twelve total) in this cycle, which began in October and will finish at the end of March. I'll spend most of tonight in bed watching Iron Chef America and MythBusters. I'll probably also be lying down most of tomorrow.

If things go as they usually do, I'll be a bit better by Friday, and pretty much back to normal by Saturday, when I hope to play drums with my band for the first time since July.

But right now I feel just gross. Bleah.

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23 January 2008


North Shore mountains

Oh, how I love the view from our front window on a sunny winter day:

Front window, 22 Jan 2008

The Lions, 22 Jan 2008 Mt. Seymour, 22 Jan 2008
Beyond Lynn Peak, 22 Jan 2008 SFU and tank farm, 22 Jan 2008

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19 January 2008


Sledfest '08

For kids who live in Vancouver, snow is a bigger treat than in much of the rest of Canada. While it does snow here every year, it tends to arrive when cold outflow winds from the B.C. Interior get overwhelmed by a warm wet front from the Pacific—so it may very well dump down and then melt almost immediately.

Several times over the past few weeks, therefore, I've planned to take the kids out sledding in the fresh snow, only to have the sky turn to rain and the ground become unpleasantly sloppy before we get the chance. But not today. It was just around freezing, but the snow was pounding down, so we packed up and went.

Sledding at Forglen - 07

We were the first sledders today at our local park, which has slopes as steep as any ski hill. So my daughters were able to get a bunch of good runs in before they were wet and cold and we went home for hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches. Unfortunately, because of my current cancer treatment, blood thinners, ileostomy bag, and all that, I don't think sliding and bumping down the hill is a good idea for me, so I just watched and took photos.

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14 January 2008


A night

IMGP7133-7251 at Flickr.comToday's weather was as unpleasant as Vancouver winter gets: just above freezing, windy, with driving rain. Water sluiced down the gutters, and even brief jaunts outside, from the house to the car, or standing at the gas pump, felt bitter. Having something of a chemotherapy hangover from last week didn't help. I slept for four hours this afternoon in a grey funk.

The kids had trouble getting to sleep, in part because the house was creaking in the wind. I imagined what it must have been like to live in this climate in a Salish or Haida village 150 or 200 years ago—despite the richness of our landscape, surely even those First Nations people would have huddled inside their homes in weather like this too.

Then, tonight, around 11:30, I was getting ready for bed and looked out our front window. The wind had died down, the streets were dry, and the sky was clear; I could see stars and, in the klieg lights of the ski slopes, fresh snow on the North Shore mountains. It was quiet, and beautiful.

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28 December 2007



Here, this afternoon, is what Kingsway in Vancouver looked like just as we were driving up the long, slow hill into Burnaby—notice there is no snow at all:

Kingsway near Victoria Drive - no snow

Mere minutes later we near the crest of the hill near our house in Burnaby, and it looked this way:

Burnaby near Metrotown - lots of snow

We needed the extra grip from the snow tires to get up our steep driveway. In Greater Vancouver, a few metres of extra elevation make all the difference.

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22 December 2007


Uh, Happy Solstice again

Mark pointed out that my post yesterday was slightly wrong; the Winter Solstice was actually last night (not the night before), or this morning if you're on Eastern Time. For a demonstration of the contrast in weather, here's what it looks like right now in Vancouver:

Driveway 2

Unfortunately, it looks like it will all melt before Christmas. Maybe before sundown today.

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03 December 2007


Most people have probably never seen snow

In a comment on one of my photos of the first real snowstorm of the season yesterday (it's almost all melted now, by the way), an Australian reader noted that he had never seen snow first-hand in his life.

That's a strange concept for any Canadian, but I started thinking about it and realized that not only did our hominid predecessors evolve in parts of Africa where it never snows, even today the great centres of human population—some of the most densely inhabited parts of China, the vast majority of India, Indonesia, almost all of Africa, the supercities of South America, and elsewhere—are also largely snow-free zones.

In other words, it has probably always been true that a big proportion, and likely the majority, of the human species has never experienced snow. And despite much easier travel, that is becoming more true as populations and climate shift. It's amazing that any number of us, from the Inuit, to the mountain dwellers of Peru and Afghanistan, to the bureaucrats in Ottawa, Vienna, and Ulan Bator, can handle the white stuff at all.

Does anyone have any data to back up my theory?

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02 December 2007


Hello December

Proper snow - 2 at Flickr.comPeople from the rest of Canada often make fun of us here in the southwest corner of the country, where the weather is generally mild and we never face the kinds of minus-35°C blasts our brethren enjoy so much.

I do think, however, that this weekend's snowstorm, which has been coming down continuously since yesterday, counts as Actual Snow. We can't see the road or sidewalk or lawn, and the big fluffy flakes have built up a good 10 cm on some surfaces in our yard.

Typically, though, a sloppy wet tropical system is on its way to Vancouver from Hawaii or thereabouts, so it's all supposed to change to rain this afternoon and melt over the next couple of days. So we'll enjoy the prettiness today and slog through the muck tomorrow.

If you like, you can watch a time-lapse movie of our putting up the Christmas tree yesterday.

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