Wednesday 21 February 2018

Back On The Number Nine

I met a man on the Number Nine bus a couple of weeks back who still sticks with me.

When the encounter started I was waiting downtown for the northbound Nine to go home. It was really cold, as it tends to be in January. Very few people were outside like me, but there was this one fellow in a knit cap and ragged looking clothes with a heavy hockey bag who comes up to me and asks if the Nine has gone by. "No," I say to him. "I'm waiting for it too." The bus arrives a few minutes after that, and we pile on board.

The knit cap guy sits beside me, which I find a bit disconcerting. But there aren't many places on the bus where he can keep his bag away from people's feet, so it's understandable. Then he starts to talk to me and I really become concerned, because in my experience people who want to have a conversation with a stranger at 9:00 PM are usually drunk and those talks never go well. But no, this guy is sober. He talks in a normal way, without long pauses or repetition like drunk people usually do. But his voice is weak and he sounds sick.

Pretty soon he draws me in and I become worried for this stranger, instead of being worried by him. It seems he's going to the emergency ward at the Royal Alex Hospital (hence the bag with what must be a change of clothing and personal items), because he's suffering from carbon dioxide poisoning. Last night he was in some kind of shack, and burning kerosene to keep warm. But he didn't know that he was supposed to keep a hole open somewhere in the shack for ventilation. He had it all closed against the cold and overnight the carbon monoxide collected in the enclosed space, poisoning him. In the morning he was really sick and didn't know why, until a friend told him about carbon monoxide and said he should go to the hospital. But he had to wait until after work, which apparently meant nine o'clock at night.

We talked for a bit and he told me how he moved here from the East, and how it was so hard to get by in Edmonton. Apparently he'd fallen asleep more than once on the bus and had his cellphone stolen. (He clearly didn't have one now.) "People steal stuff in Edmonton," he said, in his tired, weak voice, and my heart kind of broke for him.

When we got to his stop, he got up and tried to leave the bus, but despite both him and me shouting for the driver to open the door, the driver didn't hear us and left without letting anyone out. But he let the man out at the next stop about a block and a half away. And so the knit cap guy said goodbye to me and I said "Good luck!" as he heaved his heavy bag out the door and onto the snow and ice of a cold January night, preparing to cross four lanes of busy traffic and walk five or six blocks to the Emergency Room for a condition that should have been treated almost twenty-four-hours earlier. I hope he's okay now.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Snow And Ice, Shadows And Light

This is just an excuse to post some winter pictures.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Of Murder And Moonlight

I ran for thirty minutes again, today! Never ran that far in my life, and now I've done it twice. I felt kind of dizzy afterwards, but it soon went away and I did the rest of the workout.

In other sort of "first" news, I was stung by a wasp today while mowing the lawn. I've been stung by bees once or twice, but so far as I know this was the first wasp. It hurt a little, but it's a lot less trouble than a mosquito bite. The mosquito bites itch like crazy and can sometimes get really red and big, but the wasp sting is small and seems to already be fading. Interesting how the immune system reacts differently to various insects.

I reacted to this provocation by unleashing chemical vengeance upon the wasps, both the (presumably) guilty one and its many innocent sisters were all sprayed, and to top that off I jammed a chemically saturated rag into where I think the entrance to the nest is. Have to see tomorrow if they're still around.

It bothers me that so many of my posts on this blog seem to involve killing animals. First mice, now wasps. I hate doing it, but they keep trying to move in on me. I've only got one small patch of land in this world, and if I don't defend it then it will no longer really be mine. The mice come right in the house and make life a misery if they're not killed, and the wasps will apparently sting me if I'm even close to them with a roaring lawn mower. There's literally not enough land for all of us, and since I'm smart enough to have a credit card and know the way to the pest aisle at Canadian Tire, and they don't, that means it's curtains for them,

In better news, here's some recent photos I took of the Moon. One when it was full, and once when it was a crescent. I would love to get into astrophotography, but that takes expensive equipment and darker skies than I can reach. Maybe some day. In the meantime I'm getting better at taking pictures with the point-and-shoot camera I bought for the trip to Mexico. These moon shots look pretty neat.

Friday 26 August 2016

Keeping It Classy On The Number Nine Bus

Since yesterday's quick note seemed to work okay, here's another one.

Tonight I was coming home from the gym on the Number Nine Bus. It's one of the worst bus routes in the city, so of course ETS forces me to take it as much as possible. There's literally no other bus available at 9:30 PM. Anyway, there's a mostly eaten bag of chips or popcorn or something on the seat in front of me. I'm reading my Kobo, trying to lose myself in Bertrand Russell's critique of Plato's theory of ideas (heavy stuff), when this little black guy gets on the bus and heads right for that seat in front of me. He sits down and puts the bag on his lap. Then over the next five minutes or so he keeps shooting little glances back at me, while I'm trying to lose myself in the book. (But I can see him in my peripheral vision so it isn't really working.) Then he reaches in the bag and starts eating whatever's in there. At first he does it tentatively, while still looking back at me, but when he sees I don't react, then he starts eating like it's no big deal. Just snacking on some random food he found on the bus. Meanwhile, there's a guy about four seats behind me who's explaining to his buddy how he got out of a seven year jail sentence because there was a last minute change in judges, and the new judge didn't have experience in criminal cases. And later he came to a meeting with his parole officer both stoned and drunk, but the parole officer was out of town and her replacement decided to ignore the whole thing. I got off the bus before he reached the moral of his story, but I imagine it was something like "I can do whatever I want, and it always seems to work out for me." Just another day on the Number 9.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Longest Run To Date

This isn't a full post. It's just a quick note to record something, because I'm kind of proud of it. At the gym today I ran for thirty minutes at five MPH. I'm certain this is the longest I've ever run without stopping in my life. It's twice as long as my usual warmup. Today I thought I'd just see how far I'd could go, and I kept going and going...

Friday 19 August 2016

Late Night Encounter With An Idiot

Something just happened, and it's disturbed me enough that I feel I have to write this down, even though I really don't feel like writing just now.

But first, context. I've been going to the gym pretty regularly the last year or so, and over the summer I've gradually slid into doing things later and later. (Partially because I'm naturally a night person and partially because nocturnal living helps to beat the heat.) Anyway, today I went to the gym at 6PM, then went to Safeway to get some groceries and didn't come home until 11PM.

It's about three blocks from the bus stop to my house. It's an easy walk that I've made thousands of times before. It was pretty dark, but between the full moon and the streetlights there was enough illumination to see where I was going. Seeing anything further away was a bit difficult, though.

So I get off the bus and I'm walking home. There's some woman walking in the same direction about half a block ahead of me, but I'm not paying much attention to her. Mostly I'm thinking about having pizza for supper. Then we both get to the last block before home, and as she passes the alley there, she turns into it and disappears. Again, this doesn't make much of an impression on me.

Then some guy appears from out of the alley. He's yelling and waving something in the air and - I'm not kidding, an actual chill went down my spine when I realized it was a machete. He's standing there yelling and waving a machete in the air. Then the woman reappears from out of the alley and I realize he's yelling at her. He's calling her stupid and irresponsible, and what was she thinking walking out by herself this late at night. Meanwhile I stop walking and as these sensory impressions hit home I wonder if he's going to attack her with that thing. Is he a murderer? Can I stop him if he is? Do I have to jump a man with a fucking machete when I've got nothing but my backpack? I can't let him attack her, to say nothing of the possibility that he might go for me next. They're less than twenty feet away.

Then they start walking together, in the same direction that I'm going. And I realize from her manner that she knows him. She's acting more like a sullen teenager than a terrified victim. Then he says something about how she's going the wrong way, and she says "this is the way I walked down here." Then he interrupts her, saying "We walked past the wall, we have to go around it again to get to the other side." And I realize he's talking about the Yellowhead freeway. He tracked her from somewhere on the other side of the Yellowhead to here, apparently because she left the house without telling anyone where she was going. Meanwhile he puts the machete back in its sheath on his belt and I feel a little better. But they're walking slower and slower and there's no way to avoid passing them. Meanwhile he continues to berate her in an incredibly patronizing way, calling her stupid and foolish and so on.

So when they get to my corner, of course they stop. Or rather the man stops, then the woman does too. Then, feeling more than a little scared, I pass right by them. I was trying to pass on the man's other side, so if he drew the machete again he'd have to turn to face me. But he's already turned, and while he's still yelling at her the whole time, I feel his eyes on me as I go by. Then I turn onto my block, they start walking again and soon they're out of sight. But I can still hear the man's voice because he's really loud, as he says "You're so fucking irresponsible. What if you forced me to take a man's life? You don't think of these things."

Then I'm walking down my block under the moonlight, and I realize that he wanted me to hear that last part. He wasn't waving the machete in the air to threaten her, he was doing it to threaten me because he must have seen me behind her when he was waiting at the mouth of the alley. And when I realized that it scared me even more! I wondered if the woman would be okay, but it seemed like she knew him, and frankly I didn't want to approach them again and ask questions. I was glad for it to be over.

But as I though about it a bit more, I started to feel angry. What if I had been walking at a slightly faster pace and passed the woman in front of the alley? Would that fucker have attacked me with his big knife? I actually think he would have. The only reason I didn't get attacked by an idiot with a machete tonight is because I was lucky enough to be walking slowly.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Third Blog Entry In A Series of Six

There's an interesting FPP (front page post) on MetaFilter today: Skepticism Refocused. The point of discussion is a post by John Horgan on his Scientific American blog, wherein he addresses the Skepticism movement. The body of Horgan's post is a reprint of a speech he made to the Northeast Conference on Science And Skepticism, and then there's some addendums where he addresses a few prominent critics.