March 29, 2004

Record Highs Make Great Creek Day

Temperature records were set here on the west coast today, with Vancouver Airport reaching 18.5C and White Rock over 25C, and it just so happened that we had plans to do some surveying along Byrne Creek.

I left the house wearing a T-shirt under a heavy cotton shirt, and a down-filled vest, not knowing how warm it was outside as I'd been working in my basement office all morning. Needless to say the vest stayed in our friend Maho's car.

Maho, my wife Yumi and I were surveying invasive species along the creek. Maho took photos while I took notes referenced to location tags streamkeepers placed along the creek. Yumi picked up and bagged garbage along our route.

The most serious problems in the ravine are with Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, Japanese knotweed, and holly. The area we mapped could easily provide work for a couple of dozen people for several weekends, and it's just a small portion of the creek.

The warmth was encouraging insects, and there was literally a buzz in the air as sleepy bees droned by, occasionally bumping into us in their spring lethargy and eliciting a surprised shriek or two. We also saw several butterflies.

We went to Hi Genki for lunch. The restaurant is part of the Nikkei Place complex on Kingsway and serves excellent Japanese food at incredible prices.

Maho dropped us off at home after lunch, but it was so nice out, Yumi and I decided to hike up and down the ravine section of the creek again. In the mid-afternoon heat we ran across a gorgeous silky black garter snake with a bright yellow stripe that had been basking on a trail above Southridge Drive, and saw male towhees tussling over girlfriends. They're usually very shy birds, but spurred on by competition they flapped and grappled, twisting and tumbling through the bush.

It was hard to turn our feet homeward and get back to work again...

Posted by Paul at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2004

Laggardly Income-Tax Receipts

Why in this day and computerized age do we have to wait until the end of March or even early April to get investment-related tax receipts from financial institutions?

We have to file personal tax returns by April 30, but for those of us expecting refunds, it would be extremely beneficial to be able to file much earlier.

I bought my tax year 2003 copy of QuickTax well over a month ago and began entering data to supplement what it automagically sucked in from the 2002 version on my hard drive regarding last year's return.

And then I had to wait. And wait, as the statements and forms trickled in. We received another one today -- do I have to wait for more?

This is ludicrous. I understand that stock sales/purchases need a few days to be settled, but why does it take months to send out a form?

I encourage anyone in the banking/brokerage sectors to elucidate me on this issue. Are we talking regulatory crap here, or simple laziness?

Posted by Paul at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2004

Surrounded by Dangerous Drivers

Society has to crack down on dangerous drivers. There should be zero tolerance for ANY infraction, as that simply leads to stretching the boundaries of what is considered acceptable behavior.

I saw three drivers commit potentially deadly acts today.

One sailed through a red light without even slowing down. Another did the same at a four-way-stop intersection next to an elementary school. The third passed me on the #1 highway. I was doing 90km/h in an 80km/h zone, and he flew by at what must have been at least 120km/h and weaved back and forth from lane to lane, missing other vehicles by a foot or two. He was no kid either, I saw white hair and a white beard as he flashed by....

We talk about the horrendous accidents and killings caused by kids street racing, but have you ever noticed how incompetent the average driver is?

The tailgating, the rolling through stop signs, the changing lanes without signalling, the yakking on cell phones, the failing to stop at crosswalks, the....

I'm almost afraid to stop at crosswalks when I see a pedestrian attempting to cross, because other oncoming drivers do not, or else some idiot blows by me on the right from behind!

In case you think I'm a sourpuss, I enjoy driving. I used to work on and modify cars as a kid. I like driving fast -- but safe -- and certainly not within city limits.

I know police are already overworked and overextended. But couldn't they assign just one unmarked car to traffic? And I don't mean a big Chev or Ford, but some innocuous vehicle that nobody would ever think was a police car.

Then NAIL the tailgaters, the stop-sign drifters, the lane-change non-signalers. Get them for the little things, and get them thinking before they cause a big accident.

Drivers have to wake up and take responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. They must realize that driving is a privilege extended to the adequately skilled and aware, not the mindless and the stupid.

Posted by Paul at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Oil Enters Byrne Creek

My wife and I were down at the sediment pond above the Byrne Creek spawning habitat late this morning not long after it started to rain. At around 10:40 we noticed an oily substance exiting the bottom end of the Southridge culvert that formed small oily swirls as it hit the side of the concrete above the gate.

As we stood there, the rain picked up and the flow began increasing until there was a constantly replenished oily area on the surface about a foot wide by four or five feet long along the concrete that oozed over the gate and on down into the sediment pond. While we've been having problems with an oily substance entering the system for months, the flow was the worst we'd seen.

We called it in to Burnaby's Environmental Services Division, and began making our way upstream to track it. I got a call on my cell from a city engineer around 11:00 who was already at the sediment pond and who confirmed that an oily substance was still accumulating.

Yumi and I noticed tiny amounts of oil entering storm drains up on Southridge Drive. It was wash off the road, and wasn't enough to be causing the large accumulation in the sediment pond.

There were bubbles in the creek all the way up the ravine, and in Griffiths Pond. We checked the usual suspect -- the right bank storm pipe below Griffiths Ave., and it while its discharge was noticeably dirtier than the creek pipe, both were bubbly.

There were some bubbles in Susan's Pond on 18th Ave. About that time we got another call from the engineer who said that even further upstream where the creek daylights (first emerges from storm drains) the water was very murky and had some bubbles.

So while the right bank storm pipe under Griffiths Ave. was the dirtiest, there seemed to be bad stuff entering the system all over.

It's hard to believe that such a steady flow of that much oily stuff could be coming off roads alone. Based on today's back-tracking and previous flow monitoring, there must be something trickling into the storm drain system that leads to the pipe under Griffiths Ave.

Kudos to the City of Burnaby for responding so quickly!

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004

Burnaby Mayor Gives Glowing Report

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan gave a glowing State of the City Address to a Burnaby Board of Trade luncheon today.

We have a lot to look forward to with Burnaby hosting the World Police & Fire Games in 2009, and being part of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Residential and commercial construction is booming, and the city is in the black with $260 million in reserves. A new Burnaby Tourism Bureau will open this year, and there is continuing focus on the Edmonds area where we live. The boarded up Burnaby Hotel has been declared a nuisance and is to be torn down within 31 days, and there is talk of a new public swimming pool in the neighbourhood.

The 117,000 sq. ft. of commercial space in the new Highgate (former Middlegate :-) mall that is under construction up the hill from our place is 85% leased. Condos in the first two residential towers in the complex are nearly sold out, so the developer is moving ahead planned construction of additional towers.

There are going to be a lot of changes in our 'hood.

Posted by Paul at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2004

Outback Hits 100,000

Our '98 Outback hit 100,000km today, and I'd like to thank Subaru for building us a great vehicle.

Aside from regularly scheduled maintainance, we've had only two incidents -- a blown radiator fan fuse that was replaced free of charge, and a minor leak in an engine seal that was noticed by the dealer and replaced under warranty.

It's been an excellent car and I'd certainly buy another, but I aim to get at least another 100,000km out of this one, which should take another five years. We work from home and have no commute, so we don't put on the miles many people do.

The all-wheel drive has saved my bacon at least twice on snowy/icy mountain roads, and the versatility of the wagon is great for camping and hauling stuff.

We have received top-notch service from Don Docksteader Motors in Vancouver since originally getting the car at the dealer in Saskatoon.

Posted by Paul at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

Steveston Cormorants, Obachan's Flowers

We went down to Steveston in the southwest corner of Richmond today. It's a funky town of antique and second-hand shops, fish and chips restaurants and cool marine hardware stores.

You can buy fish and shrimp at the pier, walk along the river and the point park where you often find daredevil kite fliers, and along the west dike. The turtles were out in force along the dike, basking on a floating platform.

The treat today was a row of nine cormorants perched atop a line of posts in the river. We'd never seen that many of the impressive birds at one time.

The redevelopment of the old BC Packers cannery site is trundling along. Fortunately a few buildings are being saved for posterity. The flowers were blossoming in Obachan's garden -- the Murakami residence memorialized in the well-known video depicting a personal look at the Japanese internment in WWII.

Posted by Paul at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

Killing Eagles to Save Marmots?

It was revealed today that the BC government has been killing golden eagles on Vancouver Island in an attempt to protect the hightly endangered Vancouver Island marmot.

This is yet another idiotic, heavy handed effort by the so-called most intelligent species on Earth to intervene in nature. When will we learn?

Even spokepersons for the group spearheading attempts to revive the marmot population were aghast to learn of the killings, and thought they served no purpose. They were never consulted.

The largest contributing factor to the declining marmot population is loss of habitat. To pursue a somewhat Swiftian argument here (remember eating babies?), what species is destroying the marmot's habitat? Why isn't that species being culled?

Because that species is homo sapiens -- us. And we consider ourselves to be above the law -- the law of nature.

Posted by Paul at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2004

Winnowing Books

I have winnowed out over a hundred books from my shelves to donate or give away. It's always hard to see them go, but I need the space.

When my wife and I moved from Japan to Canada in 1999, we shipped over 100 boxes at great expense, and over half of them contained books. Those boxes were met by 30 or 40 more boxes of books that had sat in my mother's garage for the 14 years I lived in Japan.

Last week, nearly five years after we arrived in Canada, I finally unpacked the last half-dozen boxes, and something had to give.

Last summer I managed to toss a couple of hundred old textbooks and useless tomes on the Soviet Union and Eastern European history. At one point in my life I'd thought I'd be a Kremlinologist :-).

This latest batch includes a pile of Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum and other assorted novels. Why keep them when I'll never re-read any of them? A bunch of books on running -- my back hasn't been able to take pavement-pounding for years now....

There are several hundred more books that could go, but this is enough for the moment.

Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Helping Drivers in Trouble

Comments I made recently in response to a question on assisting drivers in need appeared in an Ottawa Citizen article a few weeks ago, and the link is finally available to non-subscribers. I don't know how long it will be active, but I'll include it below.

The story was called Do I help? Or drive on by? by Susan Hickman.

I came across as a knight in shining armour, or at least a Boy Scout. Be prepared! Um, for those who don't know, that's not a lead into the rest of this post, it's a Boy Scout motto :-).

Reading my comments locked into black and white pixels on the screen made me squirm just a tish, for while it is true that I've helped many a driver in trouble, the bulk of those incidents were in what seem to have been more innocent days, in a more neighbourly place -- Saskatchewan in the 70s and early 80s.

While I did qualify my response somewhat, when I think about it now, I'd be very careful stopping my car and putting myself into possible danger.

That's sad, but that's life these days.

What's happening to us?

Posted by Paul at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Dad's Anniversary Service

I arrived yesterday in snowy, slushy, muddy Saskatoon, far from the blossoming cherry trees in Burnaby, to honour my father.

This morning I went to mass at All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Likely my first full mass in nearly 20 years aside from weddings and funerals.

The service was followed by a short 1st anniversary remembrance for my Dad, and to my surprize it resulted in some feeling of closure, or at least getting closer to it. Family members and friends came out of the pews to circle around the kolachi (traditional breads) and were handed candles to hold.

I sang the minor-key funeral responses, and tears trickled down my cheeks.

I'm lapsed Ukrainian Orthodox, but it was somehow comforting to be in the church, surrounded by relatives and parishoners I'd grown up with. I had my old, well-thumbed prayer book with me, complete with pencilled-in instructions from the days over 25 years ago when I used to be an altar boy and directed younger kids through the rituals.

A prayer book that had been in storage for some 20 years. The responses tumbled naturally off my lips in Ukrainian, though I can barely carry on a conversation in the language any more....

My Dad's wife Maura had invited over 100 people to lunch in the church basement, the count likely reached near 175, and it was great seeing many relatives and friends. I left Saskatoon about 20 years ago, yet it was comforting to see people I grew up with.

I felt good that I came.

And I felt very strange.

Nothing has changed, that would make me change.

Posted by Paul at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Review - Start and Run a Copywriting Business

Start and Run a Copywriting Business
by Steve Slaunwhite

Another how-to book in the Self-Counsel Press small business series.

Our business is mostly translating and editing, however I found this book a valuable read. Much of it applies to any freelance creative business.

Lots of good tips on setting rates, getting organized, marketing and promotion, and dealing with clients.

Posted by Paul at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Remembering Dad

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my father's death. It's difficult to comprehend that a year has passed -- I still catch myself thinking I can pick up the phone and call him.

After he died, I added a few commemorative pages to my personal Web site. A couple of photos, his obituary, the eulogy I wrote for his funeral, a scan of his funeral card.

A small cyber-shrine. I'm not very religious, but it seemed like a good thing to do.

To remember him, and, mostly for me.

The link is front, top and center on my home page, and perhaps it's time I let go and made it less prominent. In a few days....

Dad was fully familiar with human weaknesses, had a pretty good handle on his own, and while he'd understand my sorrow, he wouldn't approve of much wallowing.

Indulge me tonight, Dad. I miss you.

Tomorrow I'll get on with trying to be half the man you were.

Love, Paul.

Posted by Paul at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2004

Is Sony Ripping Off Canadians?

Why is Sony charging substantially more in Canada than in the U.S. for the same products?

I saw a new Sony camcorder in a flyer today, the Digital 8 DCR-TRV460. Our old Sony Hi8 camcorder died nearly a year ago, and I'm interested in getting a Digital 8 model that can play back our old Hi8 tapes. The TRV460 can do that.

However, at Sony Canada, it's listed at C$699.99. At Sony U.S., it's listed at US$399.99. When I do the conversion, that's about C$530. Why is it nearly C$170 cheaper in the U.S.? That's outrageous.

I previously wrote about how much cheaper cameras and electronics are in Japan than in Canada, and I'm shocked to find such a huge disparity exists between Canada and the U.S.

Consumers ought to complain -- and loudly!

Posted by Paul at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Burnaby Symphony - Winter Classics

The Burnaby Symphony warmed us up tonight with a Schubert overture and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in the first half, followed by a magnificent Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Bb minor, opus 23, splendidly hammered out with great flair by pianist Nikolai Maloff.

As my mom said, "Sometimes you just need that Slavic soul." Amen.

Maloff's performance was intensely powerful, and his command of his instrument was immediately obvious. Not quite enough to stand the hairs up on one's neck, but I certainly felt a strong tingling :-).

On second thought, I suspect it was not Maloff's fault that I didn't get a full rise out of my neck hairs. He was playing with a budding symphony, many members of which were glued to his breathtaking prowess whenever they had a lull in the action.

It's too bad the Michael J. Fox Theatre was less than half full. The symphony is still young, and there are rumblings that it's facing financial problems if things don't improve.

It's a blossoming group with great potential and it would be a shame to see it go. C'mon Burnaby, let's support our local symphony!

Posted by Paul at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

Coho Fry Multiply in Byrne Creek

We were elated to see several dozen coho fry today compared to six or seven yesterday, and they were spread over a longer stretch of Byrne Creek. We caught and released a few more and all were coho.

There were also definitely fry below Meadow Bridge, however we didn't manage to catch any in that area.

We saw a small dead fish at the bottom of the sediment pond above the spawning habitat, so we went home and got a 7" X 7" inch net that we had previously duct-taped to an extendable painting pole.

It turned out to be a 7cm cutthroat trout and it had a wound -- looked like perhaps it was caught by a heron or other bird, managed to get away, and died later.

There was also an amazing number of bugs in the leafy matter that came up in the net with the dead cutthroat -- perhaps it was attracting them. In about two handfuls of debris we found:

Scuds - 18
Aquatic worms - 16
Caddis flies - 3
Mayfly - 1
Snails - 3
Midges - 2
Wormy/caterpillary things about 1cm long, whitish-yellowish body with black head -- or is that a black body with a whitish-yellowish head? - 3

All in all a great morning!

Posted by Paul at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

Byrne Babies are Coho

My wife Yumi and I took a little aquarium-type net and some jars down to Byrne Creek this afternoon.

We netted two of the fry we spotted two days ago. They were so cute! Both identified as coho, one just under 3cm, the other just over 3cm, both about halfway between the fallen tree/pool and the footbridge in the ravine above Southridge Drive. Saw a total of six fry.

Parr marks oval and crossing well below the lateral line, so not chum
No dorsal spots, no caudal spots, so likely not cutthroat
Long, white first ray on anal fin, so likely coho
Thirteen or more rays on anal fin so not cutthroat

The creek is protected salmon habitat and we carefully returned them in good health to where we found them.


Posted by Paul at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Midori Awakes

After three months of hibernation, our red-eared slider turtle Midori is happily sprawled out on a blanket on my lap as I write this. She dozes off, then blinks and cocks an eye up at me, seems reassured I'm still there, and snoozes again.

She hadn't really been hibernating for some time, so we decided to officially wake her up. We keep her in the spare bedroom with the heat off in the winter, however since it's on the south side of the house, the temperature was getting as high as 15C recently -- certainly not conducive to hibernation.

She was a bit disoriented when we removed her from her hibernation tank, however she was soon basking in the late afternoon sun. She hasn't made any attempt to enter her normal tank in the living room, though I'm sure her stomach will soon inform her brain that she hasn't eaten anything in three months :-).

It's been quiet around here, but that's going to change!

Posted by Paul at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)