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More snow but less trouble

Fast-melting snow piled like cumulus clouds on a South Granville curb at 11:13 a.m.

“Surprise—it snowed overnight!” was the message conveyed by the sight and sound of the first car that rolled in to this homeless person’s parkade sleeping spot at 5:45 a.m. White stuff atop a red dumpster at the parkade’s mouth confirmed the unexpected intelligence.

Admittedly it wasn’t a huge surprise—the overnight low was forecast to get nearish freezing. And happily it wasn’t a huge amount of snow either.

Alley on north side of 1100 block of West Broadway, where—unlike the side streets—both asphalt and trees were already clear of snow by 7:52 a.m.

At 6:30 a.m. the north-south side streets—which take me from my parkade to the east-west arterial of West Broadway Avenue—were blanketed in automobile-roiled snow. At the same time, the bordering sidewalks wore only thin coverlets of slushy snow, already well-pierced by boot prints and dog tracks.

Pedestrians were left to plow their own way along West Broadway at 8 a.m., after plow trucks apparently cleared the roadway onto the sidewalks.

City salting and plowing trucks likely beat me to West Broadway because the situation here was reversed compared to the side streets. Broadway’s roadway was glistening wet and entirely free of snow, while its sidewalks were covered by wasting masses of the white stuff—piled (no doubt, by the plow trucks) and churned to the clumpiness of cottage-cheese by early morning foot traffic.

Temperatures in Vancouver are forecast to fall near or just below 0°C over the next two nights but no precipitation is indicated. Meanwhile, as of 2:44 p.m., the temperature is already up to a quite decent 9°C and it has several hours to get even warmer.

So, not to proclaim the arrival of spring or anything but it may be fair enough to say that wintertime is now just a nighttime thing. Click the images to enlarge them.

Vancouver’s winter cold spots plus a warm one

Sinuous curl of ice delicately graces the green leaf of a Fairview hedge.

Right up until the morning of Saturday, February 13, Vancouver’s nearly three week-long Arctic outflow was heavy on falling temperatures but light on falling snow. The result was a particularly measly outbreak of winter, with many, many spots of ice and frost but no big tableau of snow.

That finally changed on the night of February 12, when snow began falling in abundance.

Snow and ice leading a sheltered life in an alley off Hemlock St. and West Broadway Ave.

By the morning of the 13th a blanket of white had finally connected all the little dots and dashes of winter that had accumulated in some 20 days over the evergreen and asphalt of the city. Read more…

Last night’s Moon was close but still not close enough

The Moon seen Monday at 9:49 p.m., over the “ToyMac” sign in the 1100 block of West Broadway.

Monday evening at 11:31 p.m. (March 9) marked the March lunar perigee in Vancouver—when the Moon was as close to the Earth as its slightly off-kilter orbit will allow all month.

But, however close the Moon was, it still wasn’t close enough to be more than a blur to any of my dumpster-dived point-and-shoot cameras—though the cameras and I gave it our best shot.

Perhaps it made an adverse difference that I took my photos nearly two hours before the exact time of the March perigee but I doubt it. Read more…

U.S. Customs and Border Protection uniform patches turn up among donated clothing

An apparently official U.S. Customs and Border Protection uniform patch—one of 14 found by a homeless friend Saturday in a pile of donated clothing.

What are the chances that the United States government will take a relaxed attitude toward uniform elements belonging to its Customs and Border Protection agency (USCBP) falling into the hands of a Vancouver Homeless person?

It’s true that the Canadian government got a little shirty when I blogged in 2014 about dumpster-diving actual uniform shirts belonging to the Canada Border Services Agency CBSA).

But that may have been partly due to the fact that my little post received some mainstream media coverage.

Mostly it was because what I dug out of a residential dumpster in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood were a great many perfectly intact, ready-to-wear, CBSA uniform shirts (albeit of short-sleeved variety, complete with all their embroidered patches. Read more…

Seasonal correction temporarily halts spring rally

7:05 a.m. Closeup of the frosted plastic lid of a dumpster in a Fairview back alley.

Weekend trading in the stock phrase “spring is just around the corner” fell sharply in Vancouver as temperatures unexpectedly plunged to winter levels not seen for two weeks or more.

As a result, Early Monday morning (March 9) saw sidewalks peppered with road salt, roads stripped with salt brine and cars covered in frost and wreathed in clouds of exhaust.

7:10 a.m. Warm car exhaust hangs like clouds of steam in the near-freezing air as an apartment resident get ready to drive to work.

According to those who specialize in forecasting weather futures, Vancouver residents will have to bear up under winter-like overnight lows for the rest of the week—though they should be able to take profit from a 10 degree Celsius spread between early morning and late afternoon.

It may shake the confidence of Vancouver residents emotionally invested in the idea that winter is virtually over but not to worry, say analysts, this seasonal “correction” will be short-lived.

8:02 a.m. A black capped chickadee landing, or taking off from a Fairview tree that—despite the unseasonably cool temperatures—looks near to budding.

And anyway, when we say “winter-like overnight lows”, we mean Vancouver winter-like—which means spring-like in almost any other part of Canada.

We should never sell our wonderful West Coast Climate short. Click the images to enlarge them.

No trace of nearly 60 percent of free #VanWiFi city says is serving Broadway

The City of Vancouver states that its #VanWiFi initiative provides free Internet to 768 public spaces across the city. But this claim badly fails the test of scrutiny so far as Broadway Avenue is concerned.

Of 63 free WiFi hotspots along Broadway currently listed on the city’s webpage for the four-year-old #VanWiFi program, fully 37 (or 58.73 percent) did not register in a recent location-by-location test.

Only 26 Broadway addresses were found to be broadcasting the unsecured “#VanWiFi”, or “CoV_Public” signals claimed by the city.

The test was conducted between February 21 and March 2 and involved standing on the sidewalk directly in front of an address and using my 2016 Samsung Galaxy J3 smartphone to both detect and connect to any city WiFi signal.

The test did not include any free WiFi that is serving City of Vancouver public facilities, such as libraries and community centres—none of which are located along Broadway.

And despite finding that only 41.26 percent of the city’s free WiFi along Broadway works, my test arguably puts the ad hoc public WiFi hotspot network in a far better light than it deserves.

City’s free Broadway WiFi is weak and prone to vanish

All of the city’s would-be free WiFi signals that I mapped and annotated along Broadway emanate not from street pole-mounted, city-controlled infrastructure but rather from Shaw Communication equipment located somewhere inside active retail businesses.

What #VanWiFi signals I did find coming from these businesses were rarely very powerful. Not only did I have to stop directly in front of the listed addresses but I usually had to wait 30 seconds or more for the city’s free hotspots to appear in the list of available networks.

To be fair, the City of Vancouver doesn’t claim this un-connecting “Public-WiFi” signal detected near West Broadway Ave. and Birch St.

For all I know, relying on existing third-party WiFi routers inside of private businesses may have been the quickest and cheapest way for the city to roll out a nominal hotspot network. But it yields terrible WiFi street coverage—at least on Broadway—on a par, I imagine, with shining street lights out of ground floor retail shop windows.

In my experience during testing, If there are three #VanWiFi host businesses in one block the signal will drop out between them. If the host businesses are only on one side of the block, there will not be a hint of #VanWiFi on the other side of the block.

It is an understatement to say that the city’s public WiFi signals never extend far enough from their origin to provide full block coverage. The signals often do not even extend to the curb of the sidewalk nearest a host business.

In fact, the week before I began testing the signals address-by-address, I spent a few hours just walked up and down Broadway Avenue checking the listed WiFi networks on my phone. Doing it that way—like someone just walking around—I was only able to connect to #VanWiFi signals twice.

One of two #VanWiFi signals I came across on February 20 (at West Broadway and Willow) when I was just walking and watching what networks came up.

Not only does the city’s approach to providing public WiFi along Broadway result in weak and patchy coverage, it all but guarantees that the coverage is ultimately temporary.

Not surprisingly, #VanWiFi hotspots located inside retail business have a tendency to disappear along with their hosts.

Of the 37 business addresses with missing #VanWiFi hotspots, two are empty and up for lease, five have changed hands and five have been—or are in the process of—being demolished. (like the Memphis Blues Barbeque House at 1465 West Broadway.)

And two of the addresses that do still broadcast #VanWiFi signals are ultimately slated (like Memphis Blues) to be demolished to make way for station entrances for the Broadway subway.

Good idea badly done or just a waste of money?

Moody shot of 102-906 West Broadway, taken February 24. The address broadcasts a #VanWiFi signal but is scheduled to be demolished for a Broadway subway station.

This is the second time I have audited the extent of the free city-provided WiFi along Broadway and it is a far more exhaustive effort than the first test I conducted in January 2018.

But then, I am part of a distinct minority in Vancouver that has a reason to care about the availability of free WiFi. I am homeless and apparently quite impoverished. Some months I cannot even afford to pay for my pay-as-you-go phone service.

I seriously wonder though, whether the majority of Vancouverites, who are not in such dire economic straits, derive any value from the city’s #VanWiFi initiative.

On the one hand, I know that when I have my phone paid up, I do not find myself all that needful of free, mobile WiFi. Doing email, using social media and surfing the web (without big file downloads) barely dents the 6GB of data that my mobile plan provides.

On the other hand, the #VanWiFi on Broadway is so haphazardly distributed and weakly available that I have to question how many people are even aware that there are free public WiFi signals provided by the city along 27 blocks (or 5.28 km) of the busy avenue.

Hopefully the bulk of the city’s free, public realm WiFi hotspots—which are located in the downtown peninsula—work well and are well-used by the public. But if Broadway is any indication, I would say that the entire outdoor-facing #VanWiFi network, as implemented, should be scrapped as a bad waste of good money. Click the images to enlarge them.