Archives for category: Engineers

Friendly Fire

Guest blog by Thomas Virany
We were watching CNN at about five p. m. on Thursday, when we heard a loud boom and everything went off. TV, stove, furnace, etc. Oh, well, that happens here sometimes.

But the power didn’t come back on, and I went to see what happened. A friendly Hydro guy came to our house and told me that there would be no power for awhile. How long, oh, maybe two or three hours. Pas de problèmes, as they say here.

He also told me not to go into the backyard, because a hydro pole had fallen and dragged all the wires down. And some more may fall. He asked me to turn off the main switch to prevent damage when the power came back on.

As the house was getting cold, I made a fire in our non-polluting stove we had bought to match our home-made furniture in 2006 instead of a fireplace. We ate what we had, some left-over spareribs, potato chips, fruit, etc. We boiled water on the stove for tea and sat by the fire, as an old (84 and 87) retired couple should.

Meantime, the ground floor and some upstairs bedrooms were warming up nicely. The two-three hours turned into all night. I kept feeding the stove wood. Even after going to bed, I got more wood from outside every two-three hours.  In the morning, still no power but the house was warm.

mar1-blackout3.jpgWe got into our 2003 Prius hybrid car and went out for a wonderful breakfast. We called our children on our ipads and told them, then went home. No power, but a wonderful warm house and I continued adding wood. Lots. We again went out, this time for lunch and more talk with our children on Skype and Facetime.

Back home, we removed the grate off the top and roasted some chestnuts in the stove’s steel pan. Still no electricity, but lots of hydro trucks. School next door closed.

Just about suppertime, the electricity came back on
and we went back to our normal life. TV, cooking, telephone,
etc. Other than some expense of money, we got through
the day conveniently, thanks to the stove and car.

Mar.2018blackout2We felt independent of the government; only deprived of some usual
services for awhile. Pas de problèmes.

Happy Reading by Flashlight & Fire from Cozybookbasics!

How did you cope with a blackout? Please leave a comment; we’d love to hear about it.



Guest post by Thomas Virany, B.ASc., P.Eng.

Some fifty years ago we moved to the west end of Ottawa from Toronto. After many years as mostly a journalist at Canadian Press, Maclean-Hunter and CBC Television News, my wife decided that I should get a secure job. The reason was that we had three children by then. Since I was a graduate in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto, I managed to get a job in the Canadian Patent Office. It was a different life, but a good one. I took the bus to the Office in the morning, examined patent applications all day and took the bus back home at about 5 p.m. No overtime, no work at home. It was not allowed.  Off and on, however, I drove. One snowy day I drove, like so many others, on Ottawa’s main road, the Queensway. It was and is a beautiful limited-access superhighway crossing the City east-to-west. But it had one fault. The strip between the eastbound and westbound lanes was very modest and in snowy or icy weather cars slipped off into the middle and with traffic as dense as it was, there were frequent head-on collisions, often resulting in fatalities. One day there was one, right in front of me. Canada’s provinces had not built many such roads with an adequately wide median and the Queensway, in spite of its heavy traffic with a speed limit of 60 miles an hour was one of these. As an engineer, I knew exactly what should have been done to prevent the fatal collisions. There were many ways to prevent them although they all cost money. And as an investigative journalist I was furious. At home I sat down and wrote a letter to the Globe and Mail. Next day I walked around the Office with the letter and collected 12 professional engineers to support me. All signed, happily. Then I mailed it and the Globe printed it as you can see. unnamedThe issue came up in the Ontario Legislature and the Government started building fences where there was too modest a median. download (4)Only a couple of weeks ago we drove back from Toronto and at times were delayed by construction. Guess what! A new and improved concrete cement barrier was being built to prevent collisions on the median. For the first time, we enjoyed the delays. They served a good cause. Frankly, I think that letter to the Globe is what I regard as my greatest achievement. It saved a lot of lives in Ontario and in other provinces, all of which have been following Ontario’s lead.