Mystery Flower

Jeff Powell
6 min readJun 2


I’ll come back to that opening photo, but for the moment I like leaving it there, unexplained, making you wonder.

If you read last week’s post, you might recall that I was was just about at my wit’s end as my computer had developed a new issue. Chrome was failing to display certain items — particularly Google Sheets — after an update to Ubuntu. I assumed the problem was related to the update, but it turns out I was wrong.

After making that post I discovered that Gmail was also not loading properly — again, only in Chrome — and the nature of the issue was odd. When Gmail loads it displays an animation of an ‘M’ that starts grey and fills with Google’s colours. But on my computer only the left leg of the ‘M’ appeared during that animation. The rest of the application worked, but that new issue made me think.

So I tried something: I cleared out the cache and cookies stored in Chrome. I didn’t really think it would help, but I did it anyway, and it completely fixed both of my Chrome issues. Gmail then loaded correctly and my spreadsheets all worked again.

In some ways, though, I was an idiot. (To be fair, I am still an idiot.) I didn’t think to pay attention to how much data was cached. I just cleared it out. I figured it was a long shot and so I didn’t note the numbers. When it worked I decided to clear the cache on Firefox, since that was my daily driver browser for quite a while, and it still gets some use. And now that I knew it could make a difference I noted the size.


Firefox had 1 GB of data cached, and about 500 MB of cookie data.

Apparently it had been a while since I last cleared my caches. Quite a while.

In Chrome, either something corrupted the cache or it started failing in weird ways when the cache got too big. In Firefox, the time to load the first page had increased to over 2 minutes, but it shortened to just 15 seconds once I cleared the cache.

I simply hadn’t thought about this stuff in ages. It’s basic maintenance, and everyone jokes about clearing your browser history, but that’s small potatoes in terms of size. Cache and cookies can get really big, and (it seems) problems can arise when that happens.

The lesson for me: clear the browser cache regularly, and consider clearing cookies from time to time as well, even though it will force me to login to many sites again. Depending on your browser, these big data stores may cause delays, and they can possibly get corrupted or fail in odd ways, leading to the issues I was seeing, and probably other stuff as well.

For the moment, thanks to this discovery, I am not as worried about upgrading my main computer. It still needs to happen, but the urgency has been reduced. That’s good.

I spent two days this last week working, and that was useful. I got a few things done that would be difficult to accomplish once classes start this fall, and the technician from the laser cutter company came and worked his magic. He replaced the bed of the machine (which had warped due to the heat), tested the laser for output power (88 watts, which is more than we expected), and aligned everything. We’re close to being back in business for the fall. I need to tune all the cutting and engraving settings for our materials, I’d like to clean the machine some, and we’re still waiting on approval to buy new software to drive the cutter. Hopefully that approval comes soon.

And in other news, mom and I drove up to the closest local ski resort — Mt Seymour — just to have a look around and see what was to be seen. It’s closed for the season, but there are still patches of snow on the ground. They have a maintenance crew working on various things, and many cyclists train on the road up there. We visited on Wednesday afternoon, though, and there weren’t too many people around.

We stopped at two places along the road. One gave us this view:

That’s looking to the southeast. All the white roofs in the distance are buildings in Port Coquitlam. Coquitlam itself is mostly hidden by the hill coming in from the left. You can make out some towers in downtown Coquitlam sticking up above the hill if you look closely.

At the time, I stood there with my phone trying to figure out what we were looking at and failed. Turns out I was underestimating the distance we were seeing by quite a bit, and I only understood it when I got home and had a larger monitor to see more of the area in Google Maps. Satellite mode is great, but I had no clue we were looking more than 12 miles (about 20 kilometres) off into the distance, and it turns out that you can barely make out a few other landmarks even farther off. For a hazy sky, the view wasn’t bad.

At the other stop we had a somewhat similar view — more restricted by the trees, though — and that is where we spotted the plant whose picture is up top.

It’s off the side of the road a little ways. I suppose it might be a memorial, but it didn’t feel like one to me. I really don’t know. But the bright orange flower felt out of place, and it’s just far enough away that the pot wasn’t entirely obvious to the naked eye. The photo is zoomed in a bit to show it.

We also tried to visit the Deep Cove Historical Society during that same trip, but that was a failure in multiple ways. Firstly, because the town of Deep Cove has serious work going on in it, and many streets are closed except to local residents. And the downtown area where the Historical Society office is located is all torn up. Plus they had a large pile of horrifically stinky dirt to be used in the construction somewhere. It was awful. And finally, the Historical Society itself was closed and is only open one day a week.

I was after a book containing some local history — to help me work on some pages for the BCA website — and had to go back another day to get it. Given the stench, I did not take mom on that second trip!

On Tuesday morning our contractor brought a painter to assess the house for painting. We’re expecting that bid soon, and I hope the work gets going shortly. It would be really nice to cover the ugly primer spots from the window replacement project, as well as get rid of the awful putty colour that the previous owners thought looked good. (It doesn’t.)

Last week also saw us go to a Vancouver Bach Choir concert. They were playing some very interesting stuff, all based around two pianos and bells. For me, the highlight was the arrangement of Tubular Bells, which was quite fun. It’s been ages since I listened to that, and I was happy to discover how much of it I actually recalled, even when played on very different instruments. Apparently not all of my memory is failing. (Perhaps I just need to clear out my own cache?)

We’re going to see the Vancouver Symphony this weekend, and Anne is playing three concerts herself, so it’s a busy time.

That’s everything of interest this time. I hope we’ve been slightly better (less boring) hosts this week. Take care of your guests!



Jeff Powell

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