Forecast: Hot, Smoky, and Depressing

Jeff Powell
7 min readAug 13, 2021


Hey there. Happy to see you, or rather I would be happy to see you if I could see you through the smoke. And that whole internet thing. And life. Yeah… life.

But the smoke... ugh. We’re suffering through Heat Dome Mark III right now. Temperatures are high. Not as high as the first Heat Dome, but still not fun. Yesterday we hit 34° C — about 93° F — and it was bad. We’re supposed to get to about the same temperature again today, but this time with the added benefit of drift smoke from some wildfire.

It’s just barrels of fun up here right now.

Let’s get all the bad stuff out of the way up front, shall we? Last week saw the continued rise of the 4th wave of Covid. We’re now seeing over 500 cases a day here in BC, nearly all of them driven by the Delta variant. Most are concentrated in the interior, but the case rate is slowly rising everywhere, and given how rapidly Delta spreads, it won’t be long before lock downs return.

Last week also saw the release of the latest IPCC report on climate change. To be honest I have not read the report myself, but I have seen a number of news articles about it. “Bleak” seems to be the operative word.

If you’d rather curl up in a fetal ball and avoid thinking about this stuff, I get it. And I am not going to say anything more about these things, at least not this week. I’m not informed enough to say anything intelligent anyway, and I’ve been busy worrying about other stuff.

Let’s talk about those other things instead.

True, those other things aren’t nearly as important at a societal level, but I haven’t got an answer for that. Anyway…

First, I did some light (pun intended!) electrical work. There were two exterior lights I really hated on this house. Here’s the first and its replacement:

The first image is the original light. Well, sort of. I’d already removed one of the bulbs and the shade before I remembered to take the photo. The next image is what I replaced it with. This house has several other exterior lights of that style (nominally called Marina Lights) so this follows the theme. It’s less ugly, sealed, and not motion or light sensitive. Thus, when I turn it on it simply comes on and stays on. It’s only used in very limited circumstances, and the motion sensor on the old light was a drawback. And it was ugly. Floodlights like that are always ugly.

Then we have this mess in the back yard:

The first photo is almost — but not quite — a “before” picture. There is a white cover plate in the back that I had already installed before remembering to take the photo. It covers the opening the downspout used to come out of, which was just an ugly thing asking for insects and what not to enter the eave.

You can also see another of those ugly, motion sensitive lights, and it disappears in the second photo. The most amusing thing about this is how that light is right next to an old Marina light that we use all the time. The two lights were on different switches, and we never used the floodlight. I don’t even know why it was installed. It’s dumb, and it’s gone now.

It turns out I learned something amusing while removing it. You know how you should always turn something like this off at the breaker before doing any work on it? Well, I didn’t bother doing that. It’s switched off, after all. I know it’s off, so I opened things up in that state.

But when I got a look at the wires in the junction box I was initially confused. There are two pieces of Romex cable coming to the box. Two? That’s odd. Nothing else is on this switch, so why on earth are there two wires here?

Then it dawned on me. This house is 60 years old and has been remodelled extensively at least once. You can’t count on anything in such a case. My expectation was that power would go from the breaker box to the switch and from there to the light. In that case if you turn off the switch the light is electrically dead — with no live wires in the box — and I’d see only one cable to the light.

But imagine you were remodelling and could just steal power from some other nearby circuit rather than tear open the ceiling to run new wires from the breaker box. (Reminder: the house is on a slab and there is no attic, so running wires means opening walls and/or the ceiling, or running them on the outside.) Rather than all that mess, you run a wire from some nearby box you can get at to the place the light will be. Then you run another wire to the switch. Now the power comes from the breaker box to the light first (via a long, circuitous route) and then the (logically) black wire runs to the switch and back. When the switch is off, current cannot flow, so the light is off as desired, but there is still live power in the junction box.

No, I did not zap myself, but it took me a bit of head scratching to figure out what the heck was going on.

In any case, the light was removed. I still need to clean up the pointless switch, but I can’t do that while Anne is working and I didn’t get to it last weekend. One of these days.

Last week saw yet more progress on the community association website. We get closer to launching it every week, but we’re not quite there yet. I’ve now had all the new content reviewed by one person and fixed the few minor issues that were found. I hope to get it out to the board for general review in the coming week or so, but that decision is not mine to make.

The good news (from my perspective, anyway) is that my friend Heather has been roped into creating a series of images for the site. She’s already on the case, and it is so nice to work with her again. She’s given me several images already and they are up on their respective pages. Her style is doing exactly what I hoped it would, and I think these will be a big win. When this thing finally goes live you’ll get to see what I’ve been blathering about if you want to.

But to get Heather working on this she and I needed to have a chat. We did that in person while walking around the neighbourhood as I ground verified the locations of a number of trails on a neighbourhood map. We hiked a long way that day, and my legs are still sore. In the process we found a small stand of timber bamboo and I snapped a picture:

I have no idea what we were talking about at the time, but clearly Heather thought it was funny.

None of the bamboo around our home is anywhere near that large. Fascinating stuff, bamboo. I enjoy seeing it in the yard, but I worry that Anne will grow tired of the maintenance involved. Still, she signed up for the job when we agreed to buy the house.

There was progress on other fronts as well. I re-installed the door to our bedroom after it was painted. (Sorry. No photo available this time.) In addition, I got started installing curtain rods in our bedroom. These curtains will replace the bathroom and closet doors. Doing that required a new toy:

That’s my new laser level, on a tripod on top of the dresser. I wasn’t yet smart enough to turn off the vertical line (which is the green bit on the ceiling) or the red dot that lets you align a spot on the ceiling with something directly below, but you can clearly see the horizontal line going over the bathroom door and the closets. That was helping me figure out where to put the curtain rod hangers so they will all be at the same height.

They’re up now, but the job isn’t yet done. The rods are cut but I am struggling to get the end caps installed. I need to drill holes into the rods to lock those end caps in place and that is proving difficult. In addition, the curtains had to be washed (to get them to shrink) and they need to be hemmed.

At the moment I know where to get the jig I need to let me drill the holes and the curtains have been washed. With minimal effort Anne can pin them up and start hemming, and once I have the jig I can finish up the end cap installation. Those awful bifold closet doors will soon be a thing of the past. Yay!

That’s all the news from the past week. Today should mark the end of the worst of the heat. Tomorrow and the day after will still be warm, but not as bad. And after that we’re back to normal temperatures. As for the smoke, I have no idea how long it will stick around. Some onshore flow would be nice, though.

Everyone keep safe, please.



Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.