Deep in the heart of the Lost Mountains of Brzoza (pronounced Bruh-Zo-Za) is a magical valley, the valley of Kan-moor, where the mighty Bow River meets the Spray, where the strata of the mountains expose the earth’s chapters like a book, where the glacier retreats to its mountain lair, shedding mass like a fleeing salamander, to await the next epoch. There, our group found itself, with our various implements of instruction, determined to measure the unmeasurable, to Fathom™ the unfathomable, and to SWAG the unswaggable. As the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) flew overhead, to Fathom™ back to the cradle of the universe, and into the inky black heart of failed stars, or possible neighbours, we too looked deep into our blackened hearts for the light of purpose on that river. For if we could not measure it’s flow, what purpose had we?
We’d assembled with our un/usual peripherals:
-Long dangling probes to fling into the Spray to capture the water’s electricalyness, after equilibrialization had been seized,
-Pike like spindles and vanes to generate blips and chirping bat-like sonars,
-The uni-browed cyclops brothers, with unpronounceable names: Lspiv, Stiv, and the sly Ssiv waited pensively on the shore.
We’d gathered to impress the Bearded Prince of the realm, Prince Brzoza, the petulant prince of posterity and paucity. For example, he made everyone bring their own toilet paper and beer.
Chapter 1: The Marriage of Waters
We’d gathered at the marriage of the Spray and Bow, where the fluids of the two mixed and mingled. Padre Jon Jeffery, the Prince’s Pontiff, who carried around a “bible” of RISC standards and regularly quoted passages (so much fun at parties), was holding court at the Spray River near Banff (05BC001) station, active since 1910, discussing the inherent value of benchmarks. Jon raised the RISC standards above his head and bellowed “AND LO! Thou shalt survey NO MORE and NO LESS than THRENCE benchmarks to achieve RISC Grade A OR GRADE B grading. And the Lord of the RISC standards will smile upon you! But BE WARE, ye of little faith in the Benchmarks, for the Devil! (crowd gasp) hides within the details of a poorly surveyed and poorly documented site datum. MANY are the perils of station established UPON INSTRUMENTATION ALONE! We MUST have FAITH in our surveyed benchmarks, for THEY are the FOUNDATION upon which we build our church! (here he jumped up and down on the ground for emphasis and pointed to the station hut.) “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth!” Now, that is NOT the Lord of the RISC, but Archimedes, one of the founders of the Greek school of philosophy and logic. The DATUM… is the fixed point UPON WHICH WE STAND!” (pause) “The DATUM… is the fixed point UPON WHICH WE STAND,” he repeated. The sensors and sondes which build our dataset may rise and fall, like empires, but the datum… is the FIXED POINT… UPON WHICH… WE STAND. Remember that.”
“‘But Jon!’, you cry, ‘how can we be sure our benchmarks haven’t moved?’ (pause) Well that’s a very good question.. That’s why we rely on the trinity, BM1, BM2, and BM3. For without one, the others cannot be certain. The triangle, is the most stable geometric shape. Where disagreement arises between two, the third shall decide the verdict. When two brothers quarrel on this elevation, or that, IT IS INCUMBENT upon the third, to lay down his judgement! (crowd:mmhmm) So it is in life as it is in the RISC standards. Remember that. Where disagreement arises between two, the third shall decide the verdict… Can I get an amen… ” (Murmurs from the crowd) “I SAID…can I get an AMEN!”
“Amen!” shouted the congregation.
“We build our decision making systems upon good quality data. The RISC Standards ensure that data is good quality, or poor quality, but the RISC standards enable a decision maker to know the quality of that data. Our world is built upon Quality Control and Quality Assurance! ” (Mmmhmm from the crowd) “I said, our WORLD… is built… upon Quality Control and Quality Assurance,.. QA/QC… We’ve all heard it but what does it mean? Hmm??? Master Ryan, do you know? (Ryan shrugged and looked at the ground.) Master Cameron, do you know?” Cameron starts to say something but stopped short, for fear of being wrong and ridiculed by the Pontiff. “No? Quality Control, that’s after the data has been collected. It’s ensuring that the data meets the standards AFTER it’s too late. Now Quality Assurance, that’s where our friend, the GOOD BOOK… comes in, We’ve got the AQ tables, AQ01, AQ02, AQ03 and so forth. You collect the data in those tables, your are ASSURED that EITHER you will find an error in your ways and correct it, OR you will leave your site confident in your labor. Confident, that the energy… the lord has blessed you with has been put to good use. (pause, Jon stares at Natasha, who stares back unimpressed) QA—QC. Not just QC, no ma’am.. QA-QC. Would I go to a diner and sit down for a plate of flapjacks and double smoked bacon, and expect the waiter to say “Excuse me sir, but the eggs are of unknown quality and the bacon was sold by a ..a … street bacon seller just moments ago! (Noooo), We don’t know where it came from, or..or…or if it’s from a RISC abiding citizen. (Mmmhmm) No, Ma’am, we want to know that we are eating Grade A eggs and Grade A Bacon. We demand it. Our hydrometric standards should be no different.”
At this point the Prince Brzoza yawned, signaling to Pontiff Jeffery that it was time to wrap it up.
“TO CONCLUDE.. my brothers and sisters. It is INCUMBENT upon us, to Know thy RISC Standards, and follow thy standards. Whether you collect Grade A, Grade B, or the Lord help us Grade C or even Grade N (a woman shutters in the front row) it is INCUMBENT upon us to know, and to JUDGE our data by these standards. Let us pray… Lord of RISC, I humbly ask that you grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference, amen. Now, let us go, and collect our measurements.. Go in peace!” The pontiff glanced at the Prince for some morsel of approval, but the Prince had already beckoned the band to start playing to signal the start of the competition.
The alchemists with their salts and sondes were the first to wade onto the field. “M’lord, if it pleases you, we shall inject no more than 2kg of Sodium Chloride into this waterway, and through the science of craft, deduct the flow. God Save Ye!” and they backed away, bowing low. Next, were the Acousticists, those that raised bats in the deep Caves of Sontek, trained them to listen and report the changing pitch of a passing particle. They had had great success with their methods in the last 20 years and had become the standard for flow measurements, where time and space allowed it. And finally, the Cyclops brothers, Lspiv, Ssiv, and the more philosopical Stiv stepped into the court. M’lord, while we have been given the gift or seeing the future in exchange for one of our eyes, we cannot see stereoscopically, nor do we need to. We only need to see forward in future, and watch the changing patterns of light from frame to frame. We shall require no more than a clear view or the river, with minimal reflections, no wind, and ideally homogenous lighting conditions, that is all!” and they backed away together.
The Prince rose from his chair of cat fur (all the cats he’s ever loved), stroked the current cat who jumped from his lap meowing, stroked his beard, and with his characteristic fluttering eyelids typical of the dissociation of the gentry class when addressing the populace (part boredom, part disgust) announced robotically, “These champions satisfy the Prince. Let the games begin. ” And he took a large lead Columbus type sounding weight and rang a large brass gong to signal the start of the games. Or rather his footman did as the Prince bade him to. At this point, the Prince’s ancient father, Lord Stuart Hamilton was rolled out on the platform to witness the beginning of the games. Through clouded eyes full of rage and entitlement, he muttered “Nothing like Lethbridge..” and gesticulated with his head to turn, and was rolled back to his room, where coloured lights and opium filled his mind.
But just as the competition was getting underway… an inky black carriage entered the arena, pulled by 4 black stallions and flanked by 2 black knights! So black were they that no light emerged from either the knights, the horses, or the black pit of a carriage; they were simply the absence of light. “It is the agent of the dark lord, Mors-em,” whispered Pontiff Jon to the Prince, “He seeks an audience.” The Prince’s eyebrow raised, however slightly, while his eyelids did not. The carriage rolled to a stop in front of the Prince. The black knights, Kaba and Poworoznick, dropped from their horses in clouds of black dust, stepped forward and opened the door, kneeling beside the carriage. Out of the black cloud, a hand emerged with a black ring emblazoned with a golden “H”, Kaba held the hand, a leg emerged, swathed in black leather. The leg wore black shoes, tied with red ribbon shoelaces. The foot stepped on the bent knee of the knight Poworoznick, who let out a restrained cry. And from the darkness of the carriage emerged one of the most feared and respected men in the realm. The royal page announced, “May it please my prince to welcome, Lord Van Der Have the Third of Hoksinsssss Scientific.”
This was Lord Francis, or Frank, Van Der Have, one of the most powerful mages in the realm and deeply engaged with Mors-em. Frank looked cynically at the page who had mis-pronounced his agency. “It’s Hoskin… Scientific. Not Hoskinsssss” and a great beam of red light shot forth from Frank’s eyes at the young page, who instantly burst into flames and ran into the nearby river screaming. The crowd gasped… and then applauded. Afterall, the reason the folk came to these events was to be entertained.
“M’lord” and Frank bowed low with a great flourish, “It would give me great pleasure to demonstrate for you, both the Power (clutching his leathered hand into a fist) of the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (one of his pages tore away an ultra black cloth to reveal an orange pontoon boat,) the Sommer RQ-30 (another black cloth pulled away) and the ever-enigmatic, Tracer Q! (a third cloth pulled away to reveal .. nothing). As always, you will be so kind as to look under your seats to find a Hoskin Scientific mug, mutton, and ale. Enjoy..” and he waved at no one in particular. The crowd took a moment to look under their seats, then erupted in applause. Frank smiled and his teeth flashed the whitest of white gleam, causing the Prince to shield his eyes.. The Cyclops Stiv grunted to his brother Ssiv, “I’d give my right nut for teeth that white, ” while Lspiv only shook his head at what had already been lost.
The prince motioned to his royal trumpeteers to play the theme song of the event again, and the contest was afoot!
Chapter 2: Not a God
The first challenge of the day was the SWAG, or Shit-Wild-Asinine Guesses. In this portion of the challenge, each competitor must visually assess the flow in the river, then listen to what others are saying, change their original guess, and make excuse as to why they changed it. There is nobody better at this than Lord Francis VDH, or at least at the latter stages. I cautiously approached Lord VDH, blocked, of course, by the cat-eyed Black Knight, Ashley Kaba, who spoke with a deep baritone, while clearly a paragon of the feminine form “What business have you with our Lord?” followed by Braedon Poworoznick who gripped his jet black sword and stood behind Kaba, who removed her helmet, but still had jet black eyes.
“I would simply like to pay my respect to Lord Francis,” The knight Kaba gripped the hilt of her +2 long sword, but the dark lord said, non-chalantly, “Let him pass,” The knights parted to reveal Lord VDH standing in a noble pose (left hand on hip, right clutching his book of spells to his breast, chin high, right leg thrust forward confidently), surveying the river, dressed in his all-black leather outfit.
“Come,” he beckoned, “It’s a beautiful place, is it not?”
“It is, m’lord,” and I bowed low.
“Yes, yes it is. What is your name, gentleman?” he said, eyeing my strange garb and equipment.
“I am but a humble salesman of hydrometric waterfowl, m’lord. I travel from town to town selling my wares from my cart. (Quack! Quiet!)”
“Hmm, I see,” said LVDH, “well, you should know… I will destroy you. Enjoy your time here. Eat, drink, love, dance, for your time will end nigh sunset.” and he flicked his left hand at the setting sun.
“Thank you m’lord for the warning and well-wishes.” I replied.
“Mmm,” and LVDH flicked his hand in my general direction indicating our audience had ended. The knight Kaba and Poworoznick approached.
“But m’lord, if I might be so bold as to ask your estimate of the passage of water in this fair waterway, before I leave, m’lord, as the word in these parts is that there is no equal in your ability to recon the conveyance of water.” Kaba and Poworoznick stopped short, hands on hilts, and turned their blackened eyes to LVDH, expectantly.
“Yes, well,” LVDH blinked, shifted his weight from his left leathered leg to his right, “Yes, well, taking into consideration the, the angle of the river, and the, the, uh, alpha coefficient, something like… 0.3 cumecs?” and he looked nervously to me.
“O,3! 0.3?! Is that your guess?!” I exclaimed exuberantly, mockingly. Kaba and Poworoznick eyed each other furtively. And I began to rush away to report Frank’s estimate to the Prince’s record keeper.
“Wait!” said Francis, “Wait.” and Kaba and Poworoznick blocked my path with their quickly drawn swords. “Wait, I didn’t understand the question, I meant… 3…” He looked to Kaba, who nodded, “point 06. 3.06 cumecs. is what I meant.” Kaba nodded again and lowered her sword. “Report that to the magistrate.”
“Of course, m’lord.” I bowed low, but looked up from my bow to see the fear, the fear of the Truth in LVDH’s eye. “It shall be done.”
“Good, be gone.” Kaba and Poworoznick ensured I spent no more time in his presence. But I had what I had come for: proof of vulnerability!
Chapter 3: Murky Waters
Once all the SWAGs had been collected, it was time for the main event, the Flow Regatta! Each of the champions unleashed their instruments of instruction upon the wild watercourse. The mighty Spray River bucked and resisted, but in the end it was measured. The cyclops peered at it… hard. Then peered at each other’s estimate of good ol’ fudgy alpha. The ADV was primarily left to its own recourse, with mixed results. The ADCP always has plenty of wiggle room, the depth of the sonar below the pontoons, the boundary extrapolations, etc, etc, etc. You can make ADCP say whatever you want, pretty near. This site was not well suited to salt dilution, having no constrictions and very few rapids, but using the novel QComp method, pioneered by Fathom’s team of Engineers and Artists, we achieved results very close to the rated value. The Fathom team had distributed 3 probes across the waterway, with approximately equal flow through each cell delineated by the boundaries halfway between each probe, and achieved a QComp of 4.55cms on the first injection and 4.92cms on the second. While the average is 4.73 +/-5.6%, the spread in the Q values from each probe was +/-18%. This is part of the ongoing QComp research undertaken by our Alchemist’s Laboratory, where the scientists are chained to their desk 24-7 as punishment for crimes against statistics. Many of them actually trained under Lord Hutchinson and carry on his dark work, unbeknownst to their jailers. But that is another tale.
According to Table 1. the Average of all measurements was 4.87 cms+/- 3.8%, while the WSC Rated flow was 4.80cms and Alberta Rivers was 4.58cms. Note how the RAW and QA/QC’d values differ, often significantly, as part of the mad scramble for consensus.
The Prince, thirsty for a champion, stared at the results. UVic’s Tom Gleeson had won the SWAG easily, with a confidence bordering on soothsaying. However, no clear winner had been called in the main event. The crowd murmured restlessly. “Sir Cam, Sir Ryan, forthwith, let us retire to our ale room to discuss!” cried the prince.
Chapter 4: The Lost Mountains
The Lost Mountains of Brzoza are not lost in the way you might think. We know where they are; they are right there on the map where we left them. They form the barrier between rules-based life-loving lands of Harlando and the pitch black parasitic lands of Mors-em. Indeed, they are mountains and hard to lose. They are “Lost” in the sense of those that find themselves in the valleys and glens are time out of mind, lost in time. It’s no coincidence that the Fathomland timezones converge on the lost mountains within a narrow boundary between tomorrow and yesterday. Only the mountains reside in the present, only the mountains are now. Travelers to their inns and huttes become lost in purpose. Many find themselves taking up guitar, knitting, or designing salves, writing poems, studying improv, or painting. While outsiders may call them “lost,” the travelers are ripe with purpose.
They are also lost in another sense: the prince’s father, Lord Hamilton, “lost” them in a gambling match in a little cantina in Shannonshire to the Dark Lord VanDerHave. Believing a Full House always beat a flush straight, he neglected the fact that a royal flush straight of black spades held by the blackest heart in the realm, will always win when the bouncers and dealers are also in his pocket. Despite the Lord Hamilton’s quickest maneuvering, he found himself wagering his mountain home to the Man in Black, along with a large portion of Today. The cyclops, Lspiv, Ssiv, and Stiv were present and gave the king advice on how to keep some portion of tomorrow, but regrettably he still bet the prince’s birthright against the past. Now, Prince Brzoza is simply the caretaker of the mountains of today, held in perpetuity as collateral against the costs of tomorrow.
Prince Brzoza sat staring at his latest batch of amber salves, drinking an amber ale, and contemplating his mortgaged throne.
“Sire,” began Ryan, the Prince’s Captain of the royal guard, “Why not just destroy them all and claim the prize yourself?”
The Prince stroked his beard, and alternately the arm-rest of his cat-fur lined throne, and stared at Ryan. Sir Ryan shifted uneasily. It was weird, really, really weird. “Interesting… interesting.. But what of this Man in Black, he appears to have fell powers, what if we cannot destroy him? Sir Cam, what say you?”
Cam, a more careful advisor to the Prince, drank his ale, stared into space, and lamented, “The Oilers have lost. The Oilers have lost..”
“What you say, you?!” queried the Prince
“M’lord, I agree with Ryan, but perhaps imprisoning them is a more diplomatic choice.”
“Interesting..” The prince stroked his beard, and the car fur throne, his eyes flickered up into his head, when there was a loud clang and the ale room doors flung open. “What is the meaning of this?” bellowed the prince.
“M’lord!” Sir Scott announced, “this stranger has evoked the Rite of Hamilton, the law of the land required that I let her enter!”
A young-er woman burst into the chamber, an angry mob just behind her. She was dressed in a black cloak and wore white sequined gloves, it was Krystal of Karstland! “Prince!” she yelled, “You sit drinking your ale and stroking your… beard, when the people demand a champion!” She removed her right glove and laid it on the stone floor. “I invoke the ancient rite of the Fathomland Dance-off to decide the champion.”
“If a dance-off the people demand, then I, the people’s prince, shall give them… that!”
Chapter 5: Dance off
The 3 parties representing the remaining champions had assembled with their dance troupes in the great hall. There was the Man in Black, Lord VDH with his black knights, Kaba and Poworoznick, decked out in 80s hip-hop garb, gold chains, backward black caps, and Air Jordan 1s , The WSC crew, James Bomhof, Curtis Bertrand, and Lyssa Maurer, were dressed in traditional flamenco garb, Curtis and James in tight cut tuxedos and expressive blue and purple cummerbunds while Lyssa wore a flaming sapphire dress full of frills and flowers. The remaining dancers, myself and Krystal, wore classy black eveningwear, with white sequined gloves. The finest band in of all of Kan-more played the music.
First up was Lord VDH’s crew. The band started playing Beasty Boys Sure Shot, while the knights Kaba and Poworoznick performed slick backstreet boy-inspired choreographed accompaniment to Lord VDH’s traditional slamdown Breakdance routine: Windmills, Jackhammers, culminating with a spin thrust and twerk pose. The crowd went wild, especially Sir Ryan.
Next to take the floor was the WSC crew. Curtis and James clip-clopped their castanets while Lyssa spun and twirled to a traditional WSC flamenco song by Lord Hutchinson’s Master of Music, Stephanie Moore III. They finished in an epic Flamenco pose, arms splayed, chests held proud. The crowd clapped appreciatively, but Lord VDH snuffed and adjusted his gold chains confidently.
Krystal and I were nervous as we took the floor and awkwardly sidestepped through “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. We cued the lightning crew to engage the black lights and performed an intricate hand dance using only our sequined gloves, the lights came up, and our pièce de résistance was revealed: a double death drop, shown in Figure 5.
The crowd went wild and I could see Lord VDH’s eyes starting to glow red. I was about to take cover when the band lit into Mumford & Son’s “I will wait” and everyone started dancing. The dance floor was bouncing, the band was really happening, when the Prince’s spiritual advisor, Dr Abbas Fayad floated in on the crowd and whispered to the Prince, who himself was letting his backbone slide. The Prince spoke, “Attention, attention. I’ve decided on a Champion for this year’s Flow Regatta..” The crowd went silent. Lord VDH smirked. I’ve decided that this year’s winner is….” the sound of collective breathing, a car honked in the distance, somebody who just couldn’t hold it any longer let out a stifled toot.. “Everyone! We are all winners!” Bellowed the Prince. The crowd erupted again in cheers, saving the poor tooting soul years of embarrassment and therapy. Storm Clouds formed on Lord VDH’s face, he yelled “I’ll win this prize yet, there’s always next year!” And he threw something at the ground, a thick black smoke enveloped him, and where he was, only a pile of Hoskin branded merch remained. Everyone clapped again and the band played the rest of “I will wait for you.”
Always Next Year
You too can be one of the many winners! Join in the Fun and Drama at the 2023 CWRA/NASH Flow Regatta and Dance Competition to be held June 11th-14th in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia. And always remember:
from the darkest night comes the brightest light.. the blackest light shines brightest… you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him dance. A wolf at your door is worth two in the bush. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, sometimes, you get what other people want, and you can sell it to them, and then get what you want, that’s what I did. A pack of wolves is always better than a lone wolf with a chip on his, or her, shoulder, It was Caesar’s trusted advisor Brutus who stabbed him in the back, never trust anyone! Gryffindor always wins, which frankly seems a bit rigged. Sometimes you must look directly into the light to see your own darkness. Sometimes you must look into the darkness to see the light. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Nobody finds true love sitting at home alone watching Netflix, eating a bowl of ice-cream, even if it’s organic ice cream. In the beginning there was darkness, which was boring, so God created light, the heavens and earth, animals… centipedes… millipedes…platypus…but was still a bit bored. So he created humans and has been endlessly amused ever since.. you must survey your 3 BMs at least once per year if you want to achieve RISC Grade A or Grade B!