Archive for the 'Interesting' Category

Burns Bog Plume

plume of smoke from fire in Burns Bog

Plume of smoke from the fire in Burns Bog
from the top of Mt. Gardner, Bowen Island

For exercise, on Sunday June 3, 2016, I walked up to the north summit viewpoint on Mount Gardner. There was a huge plume of smoke rising from the direction of the municipality of Delta. I learned later this was Burns Bog burning and there were about 100 firefighters trying to contain it.

An 80 minute free ZBS Retrospective

ZBS Radio Drama Retrospective Readers of this blog know I love radio drama — and my favourite stories are created by the ZBS Foundation. This week, while I was travelling, an announcement arrived in my email about an 80-minute program of audio episodes of ZBS radio plays. Back in June, Meatball Fulton, the creator of Jack, Ruby, The Android Sisters, and many others, was asked by Hear Now: The Audio Fiction & Arts Festival to put together a retrospective to present at the festival.

The Retrospective is now online, and you may go directly to the SoundCloud 80-minute audio track with commentary by author and producer, Meatball Fulton.

This is luscious stereo audio, and it is worthy of better sound than your computer speakers will produce. I recommend pumping it through a good hifi system or, the way I prefer, listen with a great headset. No, not a gamer’s headphones — if you are looking for quality sound reproduction, perhaps pick something from the Grado catalogue where even the low-end cans sound great and are not expensive.



The Globe & Mail reviews response to oil spill in English Bay

Crews on spill response boats work to contain bunker fuel leaking from the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa, second right, on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver on April 9. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Crews on spill response boats work to contain bunker fuel leaking from the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa, second right, on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver on April 9.
(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

On April 8th the news media began reporting that there was an oil spill in English Bay, not far from my home: Bowen Island. Ten days later the Globe And Mail published an article that details the slow and ineffectual official response to this event, near Vancouver, and in the sensitive ecosystem of the Salish Sea.

Looking at, I see that the ship that perpetrated the spill, the Marathassa, is still at anchor close to Vancouver’s beaches.

Current location of MV Maraathassa

Location of the Marathassa at the time this blog article is published.

Is Markdown in your future?

Something seems to be happening in the use of tools for writers. If you write long documents, or collaborate with other writers, Markdown may become useful to you.

Over the years I’ve learned how to use several word processors, starting with MacWrite and Wordstar. As they evolve, they all become more and more complicated. Currently, as a Macintosh user, I’m conversant with MS Word and Apple Pages. In the shadow of these giants from Microsoft and Apple are a host of writer’s tools with special features: Mariner Write, Scrivener, Mellel, Nisus, etc. For script writers there is Celtx, Final Draft, Storymill, etc. All of these programs have a considerable learning curve.

Some people feel that all the bells and whistles get in the way of the business of writing: extracting the ideas from the writer’s head, composing some words, and typing them into the computer. Now, some of these programs have a way of making everything on the computer, including the application’s interface, vanish, so that all that is visible on the computer screen is the blank page and the author’s words. In Pages, it is the ‘fullscreen’ button on the menubar.

I’m suggesting something else.

I just wrote a book. You can see what it looks like online, here:

The publisher, Leanpub, has staked its future on authors never using any of the above word processors. In the FAQ, “Leanpub has bet the company on Markdown.” (Details Here.) If you look at the book, you will see lots of word processing, e.g. a hierarchical system of headings, bullets, asides, images, etc. In fact, I wrote the whole book as a series of text files. I indicated the formatting by typing a small number of special characters that instructed what I wanted. I did not use a word processor; only a simple text editor (It could have been anything, but I used the free program, TextWrangler). The files are kept in Dropbox where both my co-author, Sherry S Jennings, and I, can edit them; and where Leanpub accesses them to make up the book for the clients.

The special characters are defined by a plain text formatting syntax called Markdown. It is not a word processor, but a system of rules. It is easy and fast to learn.

Just today, I stumbled across Fountain — “Fountain allows you to write screenplays in any text editor on any device. Because it’s just text, it’s portable and future-proof.” This is another use of Markdown. As you probably know, the formatting of screenplays is strictly conventional and there are expensive word processors to facilitate achieving the perfect format. Here, again, with Fountain, there are a few rules to learn, and then the writer can just focus on writing.

Free, fast, easy to learn — and when used with Google Drive or Dropbox, these protocols can facilitate collaborative projects.

At this point, I don’t have a conclusion… except to say that people are using these tools, and you might find that Markdown will have a place in your future.

Cheap easy compost bin

In Winnipeg we had a large vegetable garden, and I maintained three big compost piles. They were really cheap and easy: for each I’d buy 18 feet of 4-foot welded stucco wire and form a cylinder with it. That’s all I did — other than throw compostables into it. The compost was turned once/year, if that. It made lots of great compost.

That design failed here on Bowen Island. The deer think that my compost pile is their dining room table, and they stamp down the sides to access their meal. I see many elegant compost bins that either use lots of plastic, or require many hours of carpentry. We are talking about the recycling of waste, not constucting a family heirloom. So, here is what I am trying now. (This is what I made today.)

Sketchup 2x2 cedar for frame of composter

The frame will be 2″x2″x4′ cedar connected with galvanized carriage bolts. Diagram made with Sketchup. It will support 18′ of stucco wire

Completed Compost Bin

This is the completed compost bin.

The stucco wire is attached to the frame with stainless wire. I will use more before it is deployed. The front is on the left, and can be removed by taking off 2 nuts & washers. In a year or so, I’ll let you know how it works. If it does, I’ll make more. It is very big… I might try something smaller.

We built a 9-foot inside diameter igloo on Hollyburn Mt.

9-foot diameter igloo 2012 December 29

9-foot diameter igloo 2012 December 29

It has been years since our group wanted to build an igloo. On Saturday morning at 7:45 am we assembled at the Hollyburn parking lot, and the igloo was completed about 1:15 pm. Click the image for the Clubtread thread about how we build these wonderful snow structures (this one is mentioned lower down in the thread). If you are in the Vancouver area it is easy to visit, here is a map with directions:

We have had lots of rain at sea level, so we expected there would be plenty of snow above 3000 feet. There was. The old forest was awesome with thick fresh snow on the trees and at least a couple of metres on the ground. The day was grey and misty. It did not photograph well (at least taking snap shots), but was almost spiritual with its sound absorbing silence. A walk in those woods is a wonderful uplifting cure for anyone depressed by the short days and rain at low altitudes.

Fine print: this igloo was made with the finest materials (Canadian snow) and excellent workmanship. Nevertheless any user enters the site at his/her own risk. Snow changes its characteristics over time and with local conditions. The igloo is very heavy, and the structure will eventually fail. Use your own judgment when approaching or entering it. It is not a kids’ play structure. It is, after all, just made of snow. Please repair any damage.

A festival of the Android Sisters

Every day for a month, and for free, you can have your fix of the Android Sisters’ social satires.  Android Sisters - album cover - © ZBS FoundationThese are actually tiny podcasts. Meatball Fulton, writer of these speak-song ditties, will say a few words before each song. He´ll tell you where the idea for the song came from, or who he stole it from, or simply why it´s not his fault. He´ll keep his comments short and snappy. And then he´ll play the song.  Who are the sisters? You probably know this one: Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? For the podcast, Click here, or on the picture, to go to the page with the current audio file. The music is by Tim Clark – who is responsible for the great pizza described elsewhere on this blog. For more information go to the ZBS Foundation (there is nothing about pizza at ZBS, search this blog for how to make those pies). [Well this offer is long gone, but click the link for Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep for a wonderful sample of the Android Sisters. Any of the other links will take you to ZBS.]

Robert's professional sites:
Ballantyne and Associates

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