BAD AIR

This weekend has been terrible for air quality for the greater Vancouver area. The wildfires from down south have made things just a smoky mess. I really should not have been outside on Saturday. On Sunday, I woke up to see the city blanketed in a thick, opaque haze. I was warned to stay inside. I am glad to have heeded this warning as the air was so bad, it would have been detrimental to my health had I spent anytime outside.

About two years ago, local wildfires caused similar smoky skies. I was curious how bad the air was, so I bought an air quality sensor off of Amazon. The sensor measures the amount of fine particulate matter in the air, stated in micrograms per cubic meter. Ideally, that value should be 12 or less. Up to 35, it’s in the caution zone. Between 35 and 55, we’re in a spot called “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”, meaning for people who are susceptible or elderly, this kind of air is not good for them. 55 to 150 is unhealthy. 150 to 250 is very unhealthy. 250 to 500 is hazardous.

This afternoon I turned on the sensor for the first time in about two years. It registered a 24 inside, which was comforting considering the circumstances. Just for “fun”, I placed the sensor on my balcony outside. It registered a 235 right away. It was clear evidence to remain indoors all day today.

Things were bad but at least manageable but as this is 2020, things got worse around 8pm tonight. I live near a waterfront pier which was turned into an award-winning park in 2009. That pier, which is old and has creosote-soaked pilings, caught on fire tonight, in a spectacular blaze. The park and the pier is one of the jewels in this municipality. There were plenty of pictures, videos, and live streams of the fire. The smoke was black, thick, and apparently toxic. For the first two hours or so, I couldn’t smell the smoke but as I watched the live stream, the winds seemed to change, and I saw the smoke starting to drift in the direction of my home.

Around 11pm, I began smelling that familiar creosote smell near my the door to my apartment. I opened it to sample the air in the hallway and I had to quickly close it. The whole hallway just reeked of creosote and smoke. That air was not healthy. The air quality sensor inside my apartment jumped from 35 to 80 in a matter of minutes. I could feel the air seeping in from the gaps between my front door and the door frame. The creosote filled hallway air was making its way into my home. I quickly took some packing tape and sealed the gaps between the door and the frame as best as I could.

As a temporary measure, I also closed all my windows in my living room and my bedroom. I hate doing this because my apartment can get almost air tight and I find the air can get quite stale in short order. When it gets like that I feel like I’m suffocating. I had to do this, however, to lower the amount of dangerous particulates in the air. Before I closed the windows, I smelled the air near the openings and it was thick with the smell of creosote. This was the air that was coming in.

I now have two air purifiers in my home. Two years ago, I bought another to deal with the wildfires. They’ve been on the maximum setting almost all day. With everything sealed up, I was able to bring the air quality sensor reading down to 24. The air is now much cleaner in my apartment but it definitely feels like it’s stale air.

I now have a problem with a balancing act. If I leave everything sealed up, there won’t be new and “fresh” air coming into my apartment. If I open up the windows again, I’ll get “fresh” air again but that air will also contain dangerous particulates from the fire. I need to find a balance where I can open up a window or two a tiny bit to allow some new air into my apartment, while still allowing my air purifiers to clean the air enough that the air quality is still acceptable. I have opened two windows just barely to feel some air coming in and the air quality sensor is reading 35. That should be ok. The air isn’t exactly ocean fresh but if I opened the windows more, the air quality will be too poor.

Having to choose between dirty air with oxygen and clean air without oxygen really sucks.

We started this day with poor air quality to begin with and then the worst thing that could happen with regard to air quality indeed happened. 2020 continues to find new ways to absolutely suck.

TOO HOT

At one point this afternoon I looked at the thermometer that I have in my bedroom and it told me that it was 27 degrees Celsius in there. It was very hot today. I can’t remember the last time it was this hot this far into September. We’re a third of the way into this month and today rivaled some of the most hot days of this summer.

I wrote in an earlier post that I knew it would be sunny for the next few days but I didn’t realize it would get this hot. A week of sunny and hot weather isn’t a lot of data but one can’t help but wonder if this climate change is causing some of this. The line of wildfires down the west coast of this continent also is worrying.

We also might see some wild swings in weather, as it might go from uncomfortably hot to cold and frosty within a day or two. What else does 2020 have to offer?

TIME CONTINUES TO FLY

It’s already Thursday this week. The week seems shorter due to the long weekend. It was quite hot out today but we’re about a month away from Thanksgiving. Hard to believe it’ll be turkey time in 30 days or so. Back in the present though, the government weather service had to warn residents that there’s a heat wave going on right now. I can’t remember the last time there was a warning about high temperatures in the month of September.

The highs will apparently still be in the 20s into next week. I am waiting for that one day where the weather will turn on a dime and it will be readily apparent that it’s now autumn. I’m guessing it might happen a week and half from now. One day it’ll be shorts weather and the next day the jackets will come out.

It’ll be tougher for people to eat while in the outdoor patios once the weather turns colder. I wonder how that will work. That will definitely lead to less business as we still can’t have restaurants at 100% capacity.

This autumn will be interesting for so many different reasons.

IT’S STILL DANGEROUS OUT THERE

In the early days of the pandemic for this province, lots of businesses sent their employees home to work from there. The industry I work in did the same for the most part. Many studios shifted to develop games from home as best they could.

As the months wore on and as it seemed like things were under control, some businesses allowed their employees to return to work, at least in limited numbers. Now, we have a less an than ideal situation. In British Columbia, each day seems to bring a new record of caseload numbers. More people are back to work and out and about, while there are more sick people out there than before. That doesn’t seem like a great combination.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard that several studios have allowed some employees to return to work in “limited” numbers. I can’t say what strategies each studio has adopted to keep their developers safe while in the studio. I only know of my own studio, which seems to have taken it very seriously. Are other studios big enough to keep their returning employees a safe distance apart? Do they enforced a mask policy while inside their studio? Is there a limit to the number of people that can be inside at one time? I don’t know the answers to these questions for the studios in town.

What I do know is that at another video game development studio in Vancouver, who I will not name, an employee that didn’t want to or couldn’t work from home any more, went into their studio while they were carrying the COVID-19 virus. This employee caught the virus from their partner and then went to work, not knowing they were infected.

This individual was tested and the test came back positive. I’m also been told this person is actually ill and suffering from the effects of the virus. I don’t know the whole details but it appears that while they are ill, they currently do not require hospitalization.

I do not know how many other employees this person came in contact with while they were still working while infected. This will be a great test for this studio’s policies and if these employees took them seriously. As it stands, I’ve been told the studio has now been shut down for a period of time so that it can be sanitized. I hope that the other employees that were going in are now self-isolating. To not do so would be outrageous and irresponsible. I do not know if there is a plan for the studio to be opened up for people to return to work if they want to.

I’ve relayed this news to a few other developers I know and all of them were quite surprised that people were willing to take a risk to return to work. I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t want to work from home anymore. They range from children distracting them to not having easy access to equipment they need for their roles. Yeah sure, I get it, those things don’t make it easy to work from home. If you decide to go back into the studio though, you have to understand the risks that involved, especially the risk during these times of increased and record positive tests. No one wants to infect their co-workers but the harsh reality is that might have happened here. Was it worth it to return to work to have this happen? The math doesn’t add up to me or for the other people I’ve talked to.

I understand I don’t know everyone’s situation but someone once told me that making games isn’t curing cancer and that I should have some perspective on the things we do for our jobs. I’ll continue to work from home to keep myself and others safe.

A DEAL

One of the highlights of my weekend was buying a t-bone steak with a discount of $6 off the original price of $13. A $7 t-bone steak is a pretty good deal these days. The discount came about because I bought it on the best before date. The steak looked great, was red-coloured all over, and didn’t have that shade of grey that meat gets when it starts to get old.

I feel like the t-bone as a cut of meat gets overlooked as a blue-collar choice of steak but I don’t think you can ever go wrong with it. It’s usually got that strip of fat on the long side, the tender part, and tends to be cut thin enough that it cooks easily, so that even novice chefs won’t screw it up.

I cooked the steak sous vide style using these new sous vide bags I got on Amazon. In previous years, I was relying on these re-usable silicone food grade bags for all my sous vide needs. I certainly got value out of them but I could never get a great vacuum seal using the water displacement method. Also, the silicone was thick, so it would take a bit longer for the food to get to the target temperature. These new bags are also re-usable but can form a true vacuum seal and are thin enough for the water to heat the food much quicker than using those silicone bags.

These new bags will allow me to cook irregularly shaped food easier, as the thinner bags will allow it to wrap around the food completely, without any air gaps. Before, it wasn’t easiest if I chose food that was shaped rectangular.

Well, I hope everyone had a great long weekend!

FIRST WORLD PROBLEM

About a week ago, a new phone case arrived in the mail for me. It was a cheap one, which cost me about $12. The only problem is, the case is for a phone that I currently do not own. It’s been just sitting there, empty since it arrived. Sometimes I’ll pick it up and envision the phone that fits in there, inside the case.

The phone that’s supposed to go in there, the Google Pixel 4a, doesn’t actually go on sale in Canada for at least another week or so. I pre-ordered it in early August. After factoring in shipping time, it won’t get to me until probably September 18 or thereabouts.

Since 2020 has been weird, the accessories like cases and screen protectors for this new phone have been available for sale for months now. Google delayed releasing this phone several times but it didn’t stop manufacturers from finding out the specs and making accessories. I’ve never seen an instance where you could buy a case for a phone about six months before the phone was even publicly revealed.

This is just a minor oddity in a year filled with chaos.

EXTRA LONG WEEKEND

I have decided to take Friday off and make it a four-day long weekend. Because no one could travel for holidays this year, I have almost thirty vacation days banked, so it didn’t hurt to take one day off this week.

The game I’m working on is basically done, so my presence won’t be missed. In fact, many of my co-workers will also be taking the same day off. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the extra day off. Whatever I wind up doing, I’m going to try to stay safe. It remains dangerous out there if you’re not careful. Long weekends can be a problematic time, as more people are out of their homes, congregating in places that other people want to go to as well.

My apartment needs a serious clean, so if this weekend just results in a clean and tidy apartment, I’d settle for that. The weather is supposed to be quite nice all weekend as well, so I’d like some sun and fresh air. Not too freak anyone out but we’re already less than thirty days away from October. Keep that in mind.

I hope everyone has a great long weekend.

A SPECIAL TIME

There are a lot of people who are having a tough time now. Some have it worse than others but overall, it’s a pretty bad time for lots of folks. We think of people who have health issues, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are struggling to pay their bills. This pandemic also has and will continue to steal from people experiences they expected to and deserve to have.

It’s the beginning of another school year and that includes universities across the world. Some universities will be online only this year. Students won’t have to travel to the campus to attend classes. This means many students won’t be able to experience the campus or the country (for international students) the university is located in.

University is a great time for young people to learn about academics but also to experience life. It’s about meeting people and partake in events that interest them. It could be parties but it could also be about sports or a club. A lot of these things will be curtailed or even unavailable to students for the foreseeable future.

Most students will have just one chance at university life and it’s a shame some of them will have to start or end that part of their life during a pandemic. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst thing in the world to experience but it certainly does suck and it’s just another unfair thing among a giant list of unfair things to have happen to people this year.

University students, I feel for you.

SUMMER IS OVER

Today is the last of August and according to my own personal almanac, it is the end of the summer. Nature seems to agree with me as the temperatures have dropped perceptibly in the last two or three days. I partially closed my living room window last night, which had been in the same open position since probably early June. I went for a walk this evening after dinner and I had to wear a jacket since it had rained earlier and it was quite cool. Yesterday was one of the coolest August days in the history of Vancouver weather. The temperatures will rebound later this week as they are forecasted to rise to the mid-20s again. This is the last bit of good weather we will probably have for the year.

It’s common to ask where did the summer go and lament that it went very quickly but I feel like this summer did not fly by but it did not drag on either. I think a lot of this was because that it was a summer lived during a pandemic. Every month offered new challenges and new developments both global and local. May was not like June, June was different than July, July and was a departure from August.

In this hemisphere, I think the summer brought some relief to those living in the pandemic. The exposure to more sun light, the better weather, and longer days probably helped people feel a bit better and made it somewhat easier to deal with the current state of the world. Autumn and winter are fast approaching now though. Shorter days, colder weather, and less sunlight will be the norm soon. I’m a little nervous about the cold and flu season but it seems like Australia’s went ok. I don’t know if it’ll be the same for this hemisphere.

Who’s ready for snow now?