It's an annual pilgrimage, driving one day straight-through to my wife's hometown, to visit her aging parents and their dwindling number of local friends. The town is a village, and here are photos from the "downtown."
After the grain elevators got pulled down, the train didn't run through here anymore.
My dad was selling his farm in northern Canada, and so we decided to visit it one last time, partly to see what memorabilia we still might want, partly to show our new daughter-in-law northern Canada. The morning of the day we left on our 3,400km trip, we first detoured to our daughter-in-law's early morning citizenship ceremony to become a Canadian.
One mandatory stop along the way to the north is to be photographed next to Mr P.G., the decades-old symbol of lumber town Prince George.
Arriving in the evening at my dad's farm, he warned us that the flood waters were rising. We toured the initial flooding at the far end of the farming community, and watched those farmers evacuating. It took local emergency services two days to notice the flooding, and to issue eviction orders to the long-empty farm houses.
We returned to my dad's farmhouse, and before going to bed repacked our car, in case we also needed to flee.
At 4:30am the next morning, he woke us up, worried that the rising waters would cut off our escape route to the nearest town.
Unsure what was to come, we killed some time visiting my home town, some 50km away. Wrecked by the closed pulp mill, closed methonol complex, and downsizing aluminum smelter, my home town looked too depressing to hang around for long.
My mom used to get all our groceries from the Shop Easy grocery store in the now-abandoned Nechako Shopping Center
We decided we needed to find a motel for the night. Three brand-name chain hotels in town looked too sketchy, and so we decided on a private and new-looking motel down the highway, a suite in the Costa-Lessa Motel.
My daughter-in-law worried we would not visit Alaska, a childhood dream of her's from when she lived in South America. So we booked a second night, and first drove to the Nisga'a Lava Beds, Canada's most recent volcanic eruption, from some 300 years ago. We met two glum wanna-be fishermen from Switzerland, discouraged that the flooding was killing their fishing holiday in Canada.
The lava beds stretch for miles in Nisga'a
Then along a 50km gravel logging road as a shortcut (where we passed two cyclists), and then up to Stewart on the Alaska border. The drive to Steward has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, and very few people ever see it.
We passed by three glaciers and through the after effects of two tree-stripping avalanches that had crossed the road earlier this winter.
Her thrill of finally reaching Alaska was ruined by an over-zealous trainee Canadian border guard, who blocked our return (by foot) from the border line some 50 feet away. (We had received permission from the regular border guard to approach the US border without paperwork.) He demanded proof of birth and residency, a problem for my daughter-in-law, who was in the curious limbo region of having lived in Canada too long to have I.D. from her home country, yet not having proof of Canadian citizenship. "Am I in trouble?" she worried. We hope not.
Upon our return from the "United States," we found the flood levels were falling slowly.
The next day we returned home to southern Canada. On our six-day trip, we saw five black bears, seven deer, and three moose, along with the good news of no evidence of global warming or overpopulation.
My daughter upgraded her cell phone, and so her Samsung Hype (A256) became superfluous. This gave me the opportunity to try my hand at unlocking a cell phone.
I found www.cellunlocker.net and sent them the phone's IMEI number and the $7. ($7 is a lot less than the $50 charged by our national cell phone companies for unlocking phones!) The IMEI number is the number that uniquely identifies every cell phone. It is short for "International Mobile Equipment Identity" and you can learn more from Wikipedia. You usually find the number inside the phone, under the battery.
After a day or so, I received an email with the unlocking number, plus six pages of instructions. It's not that it takes a lot of steps to unlock a phone; it's that CellUnlocker.Net provides instructions for 15 groups of Samsung phone models, plus extra instructions should the phone freeze after unlocking.
The Hype A256 was not listed, and so I tried the instructions for "All Other Samsung." It didn't unlock. I wrote CellUnlocker.Net's tech support, but after two months still haven't heard from them.
My other kids needed to bring their phones in for warrenty work, which typically takes six weeks with Rogers. I thought I would try again to unlock the unused phone. This time I picked a set of instructions at random... and it worked!
For the Samsung Hype (model A256), type the following:
enter the unlocking code provided by the unlocking service
Typical Unlocking Instructions
The instructions for unlocking a phone are usually similar:
1. Turn off phone, remove back, remove battery, and then remove existing SIM card.
2. Insert a SIM card that does not work; ie, one from another network.
3. Turn on phone, and wait for it to start up. It will complain about a bad SIM or other such message.
4. Enter a string of numbers and punctuation, as if you were entering a phone number. Often, these begin with # and/or *, have a series of number specific to the phone, followed by the unlocking code, and end with more # and/or *.
5. Phone should then announce it has been unlocked, and the "non-working" SIM card should now work. You can make phone calls.
Just because a phone is unlocked does not mean it will work with your cell phone company. In some cases, phones do not work because they do no support the cell phone company's communications protocols, such as CDMA (Telus, Verizon) and GSM (Rogers, AT&T). CDMA phones don't have SIM cards.
In other cases, the cell phone model itself is not supported. For example, the Samsung Hype does not work with my cell provider, Mobilicity. But the unlocked phone works with Rogers and its low-cost brand, Fido.
Since Google today revealed their until-now secret driverless cars, I figured I'd talk about their secret ocean-going vehicle.
I heard about it from the relative of someone working on this project. The relative is not technical, so perhaps he got some details wrong. In any case, this is what he told me:
Apparently Google has a warehouse in California where they are designing and building a submersible made of carbon fiber, designed to tavel down to depths of 30,000 feet. It surprised me that it was not designed for the deepest part of the ocean floor, which is 36,200ft (6.9 miles or 11km). Maybe they figured that 30 thousand was good enough for now.
The submersible is small; it is not designed to hold humans. It is remotely controlled to photograph the ocean floor. I seem to recall the relative telling me that the units are filled with fluid to counteract the tremendous external water pressure at such a depth -- 16,000psi.
BTW, UPS delivered it a day late.
The only part of high school I liked was the annual, week-long band trip. Since we lived in northern Canada, it was a treat to leave our isolated town and travel to the big cities in the south. (I played trumpet, 'cause I liked how brash the instrument sounded.)
I took this photo (1972) at the Husky station in Prince George, BC -- the half-way point of our two-day travel to the south. This gas station featured an enormous restaurant for the on-the-go traveler and tour groups. It still stands there today.
There's our bus, operated by FarWest of Kitimat. Back then, their fleet consisted of two highway buses, numbered F101 and F102 (pictured above); today, they operate the entire transit system of Greater Vancouver.
Aeroplan is the points plan formerly owned by Air Canada. It is now its own company, operating in Canada with American Express, CIBC bank, Air Canada, and others. Aeroplan makes money by selling points to these corporations, who then hope to attract more customers by handing out points.
The traditional thinking is that as times get tough, customers turn more to using up points -- a recession-proof business. Instead, Aeroplan says, customers now would rather buy airfares, which have become cheaper again. (Airfares peaked in September of last year.)
People commenting on the story, however, have other explanations:\
As Black Gold wrote, "One day I may donate them to some charity but for now, I don't have a problem with making Aeroplan and Air Canada feel financial pain for all the times in the past I have tried to use my points but was unable to because of some stupid condition or other."
Environment Canada says this is the first time in many years that all cities in Canada are having a white Christmas.
Yup, it's rather unusual for us on the West Coast of Canada to have snow on December 25. So rare, that one sporting goods store has a No-Snow-in-Christmas guarantee: if it snows on Dec 25, you get a 100% refund on the skiing equipment you bought from them. No wonder their name is "Mad Dog."
Ya, so we had a foot (30cm) of snow on December 24. The British Columbia department of highways has lots of Webcams set up around our province's roads. Today, I captured these two screen grabs from the freeway Webcam closest to my home.
In this first image, you can see several people standing outside their cars, on the left. On the right, a semi-trailer is in the ditch. Since it is in the passing lane side of the ditch, I'd guess the driver was speeding to pass and went out of control.
A half-hour later, the traffic jam gets worse: