Friday, January 24, 2014

Emergency Power Outage

Sorry I haven't posted for awhile but we've been going crazy around here. We're contractors for BC Hydro and some severe storms left about 37,000 homes without power farther north of us. So began a mad scramble to restore their power. The downed lines covered a lot of territory, some of it cross country and only accessible with snowmobiles and snowshoes.

Where possible aerial lift trucks were used to get certified workers close to the power lines so they could use insulated trimmers to cut away broken limbs or snow-pressed branches. Fortunately there were enough trucks up there so we didn't need to take ours. All we had to bring along was our crew and snowmobiles. There were crews from all over the province. Crews put in 16-hour days for as long as necessary and the cost to restore power will be in the millions.

Our crew told us about being out at midnight one night and walking almost an hour up a hill to take down a single huge tree that had fallen across a line. By the time they got up there they realized they couldn't just cut it down but would have to climb it in order to take off some of the top before cutting down the rest of the tree. It's always dangerous climbing a partially downed tree as you can't tell how much damage it's sustained and there's a risk it could snap while you're in it. Also, once you free up the top branches that are now bending way, way over, there's a risk of being boomeranged out of the tree and killed. Thankfully, all went well and they got the tree down without incident.

My part is the paperwork. Ugh. And let me tell you there's a lot of it. Every person and every piece of equipment has to be accounted for every day plus our meal and motel costs. One department wants things accounted for one way and another department another way. Payroll isn't done the normal way either so I had to figure out how they wanted overtime taken care of and recorded. I've been immersed in paper!!!

I'm glad to say that the crisis is now over, power is restored and my emergency paperwork is almost cleared up. Yippee, I can breath again. Well, sort of. Now I have to get back to doing our maintenance audit for the BC Forest Safety Council. It's due in a little over a week and I've lost so much time. Then there's the year-end accounting stuff to take care of and T-4s to send out.....

Sigh. I'm living in this office and haven't written a word on my novel the whole time. It will probably be March before I can begin working on it again. Oh well, fresh eyes and all that.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Ancient Babylonians Did For Fun: Entertainment in Ancient Mesopotamia

Did they have any free time to enjoy themselves? You bet. In ancient times the working classes had twelve days off each month. In general, our modern society has only eight days off each month, four days less than the ancients. Huh.

Assyrian Royal Lion Hunt, from Wikimedia Commons

The most widely recognized recreation was that of the ancient kings and their love of big-game hunting. They preferred to hunt large, aggressive animals as a successful royal hunter could prove his kingly power to be legitimate. Archaeologists have discovered many bas-relief panels depicting lion hunts and it is plain that the lions weren't given much of a 'sporting' chance. Kept in game reserves, the big cats were driven by servants into wooden cages and then released to be attacked by dogs and beaters. The job of the beaters was to hit the lions with sticks and drive them toward the king, waiting in the safety of his chariot to kill them using a bow or spear. Occasionally a king is pictured on foot, apparently grasping a lion by the mane before thrusting his sword into the beast. Even if this were true, I doubt the lion had much fight left in him by that time. I chose one of the less graphic scenes above as some were pretty disturbing. It was an ugly sport.

Lavish banquets were also held and bas-reliefs show kings and queens receiving guests in lush gardens entertained by musicians and waited on by servants at tall tables of four. One of the most extravagant affairs was held by King Assurnasipal II to celebrate the construction of his new capital city. There were over forty-seven thousand guests and tens of thousands of animals were slaughtered to feed the huge crowd along with ten thousand loaves of bread, ten thousand jars of beer, ten thousand skins of wine and crates of vegetables, sweet fruits, nuts, honey and cheese.

Ancient Mesopotamian Boxers from

But enough of kings. Boxing was a popular sport, as was wrestling. They also played a form of polo but instead of sitting on the backs of horses, men sat on one another's shoulders. In the Epic of Gilgamesh "there is a reference to Gilgamesh oppressing his subjects by tiring the young men with endless contests of this polo and then taking sexual advantage of the young women." (1)

Ancient game from Ur, Ancient Encyclopedia History

Board games were popular too and archaeologists have recovered a couple of types. One was a game of twenty squares. Players raced using button-like pieces that moved according to rolls of the dice. Everyone, from the very rich to the very poor, played this game. Boredom must have accounted for some archaeological finds. Unearthing the huge statues of bulls that guarded either side of King Sargon's palace at Khorsabad, excavators found this very board game scratched into the pedestal of one of the enormous statues, much as we might do with a game of tic-tac-toe. Probably by guards. The second type of board game contained fifty-eight holes, an early model for cribbage. Still another game board was found that contained instructions on the back for playing the game using game pieces shaped like various birds. The word for game pieces was 'doll, figurine', just like we use the word 'man' in chessman. There were also dogs, cones, pyramids and other shapes.  Most games were played by throwing dice and moving game pieces. The dice that have been found were cubes made from bone, clay, stone or glass with the numbers one through six scored on them.

Lion and Hedgehog, from BAS Library 

Children played with miniaturized weapons of the time such as slingshots, bows and arrows, boomerangs or throw sticks much like today's children might play with toy guns. There were also spinning tops, rattles, jump ropes, pucks and mallets, hoops, balls, and the buzz or button - a disc piece of pottery with holes for string. Children played 'house' or 'grown-up' and used miniature furniture for role playing - tables, beds, stools, dolls and small-sized animals. They also played with miniature carts, wagons, chariots and ships. A little hedgehog on wheels and a lion on wheels were found at Susa, dating back to around 1250 BC. It's unclear whether or not they were toys or offerings to the gods. They look like toys to me.

Ancient Lyre, from
Singers and musicians entertained at festivals. Stringed instruments, pipes and a clay whistle have been recovered from excavations. Lyres and harps have been found throughout the Near East and an elaborate lyre inlaid with shell and trimmed in gold was found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur.

Finally, men and women were entertained by the performance of literary works, sometimes set to music and sung, sometimes recited by more than one person like actors in a script. For a price, a 'teller of tales' would regale you with a story in the market place.

So, there you have it. Like the old French proverb says, "The more things change, the more they stay the same".

(1) Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Karen RheaNemet-Nejat

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What is it about the New Year...

that brings out our compulsion to make resolutions?

Maybe it's hope.

A fresh year brings fresh hope - hope that we'll make smarter choices, accomplish our goals this time. In the middle of the dullness of winter we give ourselves a bright future to look forward to.  We've sung Old Lang Syne, we've oo'd and aa'd over the fireworks, we've given and received the midnight kiss. Now it's on to a better year!

Unfortunately our resolve seldom lasts.Talking to a fitness instructor, he said that the new year brings hordes of people out to buy equipment and start exercise programs. By February many are still going strong but by March enthusiasm is waning and by April all but the most determined have dropped it altogether. Dieting follows the same downward trend. So does the resolution to quit smoking, etc.

Yet year after year we doggedly continue to make those same resolutions - and hope. The blogger at Hard Hobbit to Break has made 365 resolutions! Must be some kind of a record. Isn't the human spirit resilient? I sure think so. We intend to hope again, and this time, this time, we will triumph. Ha ha!

Hubby and I haven't gotten off to a very good start. Today was our anniversary. We'd planned to have a nice evening out, just the two of us, something we don't do nearly enough and had resolved to do better this year. So, why am I at the computer instead of out with hubby? Well, he's a contractor for BC Hydro and we had a huge snowfall today, there are tons of power outages and he's had to take out a crew to help clean things up. He'll be gone all night. Perfect.

Okay, so starting tomorrow....