First Day of School

It was a foggy Tuesday morning (Monday was Labour Day). Ezra was both nervous and excited, with a backpack on his back and a lunch bag in his hand. When he entered school there was no hesitation, no anxiety. As he released my hand I wished him a fun day and he smiled back uncertainly, then he turned and walked into school without looking back.

First day of school: blurry

I could say this photo is artfully blurred to reflect my feelings as I watch my son take his first steps into school, beginning his journey away from home and towards eventually finding his independent self in the world at large; but really my phone camera just kept focusing on the door window mesh. There’s a clearer image here but I like how the candid, hasty one above came out.

At the end of the day he came out looking almost shell-shocked, quiet and unresponsive after emerging from school. I thought at first he’d been traumatized by his first day, but after several minutes of coaxing he said in a small voice “I wanted to stay longer.” Pre-K has continued to be fun for him every day since.

Martha meets a neighbour

Our cats are strictly indoor-only, but we’ve made exception for them to go out on the deck when it’s nice out, which Martha enjoys a lot. Here she is meeting one of the neighbour’s cats from afar, and possibly learning of the existence of other cats for the first time.

Martha meets the neighbour

(Our neighbours have an ingenious system for allowing their cats outside without letting them stray out of the backyard, consisting of a rope line over the grass to which the cat’s leashes are tethered, allowing them free reign of the yard without getting any farther than the leashes allow.)

Lightning over Halifax

Thunderstorms are rarer up here in NS than they were in DC and VA, so lightning and thunder seem to occasion a lot more comment when they come. I left my GoPro Session out on the porch as a storm passed through this week, and the lightning did not disappoint.


On a warm July night in Cole Harbour NS, I ventured to a school atop a nearby hill, set up my camera atop a playground slide, pointed it northwest, and with a 15 second exposure, captured Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) Wide Angle View

It was small and fuzzy, not visible to the naked eye with the local light glare, and I wasn’t sure if I’d actually capture it, but once you knew what to look for in the long exposure, the comet was unmistakable. See it? Just above the closest house and the swings, left of the tree?

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) cropped

JPL orbit diagram for C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. By now the comet is farther out and fading, not to return for another 6,700 years, so I was glad to have been able to catch a clear night while it was still around. Add this to other comets I’ve managed to photograph: C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy and C/2011 L4 PANSTARSS.


One reason I like Nova Scotia is that it’s more distant from everything, but the perks of living in civilization remain all accessible: a semi-detached life, if you will. Fittingly, a year and a half after moving to Halifax, we have bought a semi-detached house and moved into it.


It’s one side of a 3BR/2BA duplex in Cole Harbour, with a nice view of the rolling wooded hills of Nova Scotia through the maple trees out back, and even a glimpse of the nearby ocean in winter. This house, and most of the houses in the area, were built in the 1990s, and so are newer and generally better equipped — and better insulated — than a lot of other homes in the HRM.

New View

Local real estate market has been surprisingly competitive, despite the pandemic; we were outbid on multiple properties and had to put in a rather aggressive offer to win this one. Closing was in early May (via videoconference), and we spent the rest of the month moving things ourselves, piecemeal, day by day, with the help of a rented pickup truck.

Cats on moving boxes

Cats have been enjoying the changing landscape of boxes and new views out the window.

Martha in window

And Ezra has a new room, bigger than his old one.

New Room

The place has needed some work: sewer line replacement, new water heater, new closet doors in the basement, new stair handrails, patching up a cracked bathroom vent pipe and cleaning up the resultant attic mould, and eventually we want to re-floor the basement and replace the old oil furnace with a ducted heat pump.

Attic Mould Treatment, Before and After

After 18 months of renting, I guess we’re back to the joys of home ownership.

Sewer Line Repair

Meanwhile, the duplex we had previously rented sold within weeks, and local prices continue to rise while supply remains tight. I can’t help but feel like a new unsustainable real estate bubble is forming, and we might have bought near the peak. Still, I’m glad we were able to get this place when we did; it’s far cheaper than our old townhouse or the previous condo in VA, and this new semi-detached house is hopefully going to be our long-term home.

Ezra Turns 4

This guy is now four years old:

Ezra's 4th Birthday Ezra's 4th Birthday
Ezra's 4th Birthday Ezra's 4th Birthday

I know it’s not much of a birthday being isolated from a worldwide pandemic in a new and unfamiliar home still full of moving boxes, but Happy Birthday, kid.

Ezra's 4th Birthday

The adventure’s still just beginning.


The loss of my GoPro Hero4 Session during my last Philippines dive trip gave me an excuse to splurge on a new GoPro Hero8 Black.

GoPro Hero8 Black

Main draw was Hypersmooth 2.0, built-in stabilization, which made for some decent sledding videos — and for cool TimeWarps: smoothed time lapses with smart speed adjustment. I tested this out on a snowy day in late winter (audio added later from a non-timelapse walking video, the squirrelly effect from sped-up footsteps was unexpectedly comedic):

Amy’s also been finding the camera useful for art education, prerecording art lessons and project timelapses for her classes. Meanwhile, though I enjoy the Hero8 for its stabilization, features, and high quality video, I kind of missed the old “little cube” form factor of the Hero4 Session, so I got a used replacement off eBay.

GoPro Hero4 Session and Hero8 Black

They live together now, sharing a case and accessories. Watch my GoPro playlist for updates, I guess.

More PicPedant Coverage

Some recent media appearances, all relating to PicPedant suddenly being back on the journalism radar lately:

Interview with Alexandre Capron of Info ou Intox on tips to spot and debunk viral images and detect when image mongers are automated spambots:

More recently I answered some questions by email from Natasha Daly for this National Geographic article on people sharing false feel-good animal stories in the midst of the pandemic.

The NatGeo article caught the attention of twins Hannah and Cailin Loesch, who interviewed me over the phone about my debunking process for their show “Double Talk.”

I’m not sure why, but the run-up to each of these interviews has been giving me more personal anxiety lately. In retrospect I feel like I should have done PicPedant anonymously, or under a pseudonym. Too late now, that train has sailed.

Lockdown Life

Just because the pandemic has us staying the blazes home doesn’t mean we can’t go outside — as long as we avoid close human contact. Glad we’ve got a backyard.

Shootin' hoops

Also we live in a place with nice walkable forest paths and scenic lakes; just have to make sure to walk on the other side of the trail from anyone passing by.

Amy and Ezra at Cranberry Lake
Amy and Ezra at Settle Lake

One of us goes out for groceries once a week; the stores are limited-entry with socially distanced queues. Also been ordering eggs, cookies, bath bombs, and other staples via delivery from Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market. We try to disinfect all our shopping before storing, out of an abundance of caution; this is probably the most stressful part of the week.

Social Distancing Line at Sobey's

I’ve come around to mask wearing and found a keffiyeh to tie bandit-style over my nose and mouth. (Also lucked into a pack of washable cloth masks online; they feel like Face-Speedos.) Fabric isn’t N95 surgical-level protection, but properly folded and tied, it’s enough to keep me from breathing and speaking moistly on others, so in case I’m an asymptomatic carrier I can try to be moistly harmless.

Keffiyeh as face mask Edited book cover for Douglas Adams's Mostly Harmless but it's Moistly and the laughing alien has a surgical mask on

Keeping in mind that “romanticization of the quarantine is a class privilege,” be sure to be generous, tip more, be kind to front line workers, and do your part to help overthrow the kakistocracy.