January 30, 2006

Flat Ben Tours Fraser River, Byrne Creek

This is the second installment in our nephew Flat Ben's visit to Burnaby, BC. The sun came out today after days of rain, so Uncle Paul and Aunt Yumi took Flat Ben to the Fraser Foreshore Park and to Byrne Creek.

Here's Flat Ben on the shore of the north arm of the mighty Fraser River, which is said to have the world's most productive salmon runs. It's also a working river and you can see log booms tied to pilings in the background.

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Here's Flat Ben at a Stream of Dreams mural near the spot where Byrne Creek enters the Fraser River.

"Did you paint any of these fish?" Flat Ben asked.

"Yes," replied Aunt Yumi. "I painted the fish at the bottom right corner."

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"Hey, what's that square thing over there?" said Flat Ben.

"It's a huge picture frame," said Uncle Paul. "Let's pose you in it with the south slope of Burnaby in the background."

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"OK," said Uncle Paul. "It's time to put on our streamkeeper hats. Let's go to Byrne Creek and check the water."

"How do we do that?" asked Ben.

"Well, one indicator is the temperature," said Aunt Yumi. "The temperature of the water determines how long it will take salmon eggs to hatch -- the eggs need a certain accumulated amount of thermal energy to develop into alevins, which are teeny fish with yolk sacs. Chum and coho salmon made nests of eggs called redds in the gravel and cobble on the streambed from October to December, and the fry, or baby fish, should start emerging from the gravel any day now."

Ben held the thermometer in the water and discovered that the temperature was 8 degrees Celsius, or 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

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"What else can we test?" asked Ben.

"We also test the pH," said Aunt Yumi. "That tells us how acidic or alkalyne the water is. Fish die if the pH is below 4 or above 9."

"So what does the pH paper say?" asked Ben.

"It's 6.4," said Aunt Yumi, "so that's fine."

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"OK, let's go home and decide where to send Flat Ben next," said Uncle Paul. "We'll miss having you around!"

Posted by Paul at 04:25 PM

January 29, 2006

Flat Ben Tours Stormy Burnaby Mountain

My nephew arrived in the mail from Los Angeles the other day in the form of Flat Ben. He will be traveling all over visting his relatives and friends. Here's his story on his first day outside in Burnaby, BC.

Flat Ben was getting impatient. "When are we going outside?" he cried. "I'm tired of hanging around with this sleepy cat."

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"Well, it's been raining for days," said Uncle Paul.

"And the forecast is for another week of rain," sighed Aunt Yumi.

"I don't care," Ben said. "I thought you guys are streamkeepers! Are you afraid of a little rain?"

"OK," said Uncle Paul. "Lets go to Burnaby Mountain Park, no matter how hard it rains. Lets rig you up a sandwich bag for a raincoat, and off we go!"

As they drove toward Burnaby Mountain, they saw it was enshrouded in mist. Soon they were gaining elevation as the road wound its way upward, and the slanting rain began turning to sleet.

"Wow!" said Ben. "I remember that you can usually see the North Shore Mountains from here, but I can't see anything..." He sounded a bit deflated, but defiantly shouted: "Let's go outside anyway!"

Uncle Paul and Aunt Yumi groaned, but they zipped up their coats, put on their hats, and unfurled their umbrellas.

"Let's see the crane mural first," said Uncle Paul. "Aunt Yumi and I helped install it last summer. It commemorates the 40th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Burnaby and Kushiro, Japan. The Stream of Dreams Murals Society taught schoolchildren in Burnaby the story of the Kushiro marshland and how it was preserved by volunteers to bring the Japanese tancho crane back from the brink of extinction. Then the kids painted about 2,000 cranes, most of which were installed on the mountain, and some in Japan."

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"How about we take a look at the Kamui Mintara 'Playground of the Gods' next?" said Aunt Yumi. "These carvings by the Ainu people of northern Japan were sent here years ago as part of the sister-city relationship."

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As they began walking back to the car, Ben suddenly spied another kind of totem pole. "Hey, lets go see that one, too!" he said, pointing at the West Coast First Nations carving.

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"All right," said Uncle Paul, "I'm cold and wet. Back to the car!"

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Flat Ben, Aunt Yumi and Uncle Paul warmed up inside the car and then drove home. If the weather is a bit nicer tomorrow, they plan to have Ben help out with some streamkeeping activities.

Posted by Paul at 03:32 PM

January 26, 2006

Mayfly Photos From Byrne Creek

When I stopped to scan Byrne Creek from the wooden footbridge in the ravine this afternoon, I spotted this mayfly sitting on the rail. It was dark, cold and wet, so it wasn't moving much.

Here's a photo with flash.

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Here's another one without flash. It's interesting how the lighting changes the appearance of the mayfly and the background.

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Posted by Paul at 04:16 PM

January 24, 2006

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Yumi and I ran across a woolly bear caterpillar in the Byrne Creek habitat this afternoon.

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We also saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers on the Byrne Creek ravine ridge trail and several varied thrushes.

Posted by Paul at 07:12 PM

January 21, 2006

Stream of Dreams Starts Exciting Year

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society had its AGM and a meeting of the new board today, and as the returning president of the board, I am very excited about the year ahead.

We have achieved charitable status, and while we haven't received our tax number yet, we've been told it will be retroactive to Jan. 1. This is a huge step, and it opens up a whole new world of fundraising to us to continue and expand our environmental education/community art programs.

Speaking of fundraising, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the staff at the Kingsway and Royal Oak Safeway in Burnaby for choosing SDMS as their community fundraising organization for a second consecutive year. They raised over $10,000 for us last year!

I see 2006 as being a turning point for the society. We are preparing to leap into a new level of operations, and I think we will see many exciting developments. Requests for the society?s programs continue to pour in from across Canada.

Our educators and artists have taught over 30,000 children about their local watersheds and how they work, and how to care for them, while brightening school fences with beautiful "Dreamfish" and other wildlife.

Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

January 20, 2006

RRU Communications Learners Meet in Vancouver

Seven "learners" in the Royal Roads University Masters in Applied Communications program, plus one spouse (my faithful Yumi), met in Vancouver tonight for some face-to-face contact.

The two-year program has an intensive three-week on-campus residency at the beginning of each program year, followed by online work, so the "meat-space" contact is great for staying in touch.

While I've been impressed with how well the online teams and overall cohort discussions have been working, it's also nice to get a few hugs and converse over a brew or two for a few hours.

I've been in the program for nearly four months now, and it is clear how crucial the residency is. Three weeks of boot camp does wonders for developing close working relationships for the online portion of the program.

Now that courses and teams are changing, I already have faces to put to names, which is a huge advantage in getting team processes underway. Not to mention having worked with many of the instructors who will continue in the online portion of the program.

Posted by Paul at 09:56 PM

January 18, 2006

'Fearless Freelancing' Guru Invigorates EAC Meeting

Speechwriter Colin Moorehouse gave a rousing talk at an Editors' Association of Canada meeting in Vancouver tonight.

Moorehouse runs the Fearless Freelancing website, on which he provides advice to freelance writers.

He said most editors undersell their services, often because clients do not understand or appreciate what they do. He pointed out that you are saving clients time, and time is more important than money. So the key is distinguishing how you help people solve problems that are frustrating them.

If you're a writer or editor, and you have a chance to hear Moorehouse speak, don't pass it up!

Posted by Paul at 10:24 PM

January 16, 2006

Byrne Creek Salmon Run Disappoints

It appears that the 2005 salmon spawning season in Byrne Creek has ended, with the last coho found on Dec. 29, 2005. Streamkeepers haven't seen any spawners since then.

Unfortunately, the return was less than half of 2004. Streamkeepers were also dismayed that very few male coho returned, and almost all of the female coho found had not spawned. The chum run was very low, less than a third of 2004.

Posted by Paul at 04:56 PM

January 15, 2006

Strolling in Steveston on a Sunny Sunday

Unbelievable! A second sunny day in a row in soggy, winter BC. Yumi and I took advantage of the glorious rays to take a stroll along the boardwalk in Steveston, and to check out the catch of the day at the public sales pier. Unfortunately there weren't many boats with fish, but we enjoyed the picturesque village in southwest Richmond.

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A shot facing east along the boardwalk with an old cannery building in the background.

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An old wooden dory waiting restoration.

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The public fish-selling pier.

Posted by Paul at 07:45 PM

January 14, 2006

Sun Breaks Through at Foreshore Park

We've been heading for a record-breaking streak of rainy days here in the lower mainland of British Columbia, however the sun finally broke through for a couple of hours today. We headed down to Burnaby's Foreshore Park on the Fraser River to take a stroll in the lovely sunlight.

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The north arm of the Fraser with pilings and log booms.

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The Nokia building across an artificial pond.

Posted by Paul at 07:37 PM

January 08, 2006

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Volunteer Hours 2005

I started keeping track of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers volunteer hours on June 9, 2005, and here are the results.

They are on the low side, because not everyone tells me when they put in streamkeeping-related volunteer time. Even so, the numbers are impressive for a group with about 15 active members and around another 15 occasional participants.

June 165.5 hours
July 135.5
August 67.5
September 240
October 161.8
November 113.5
December 99

June 9 to Dec. 31, 2005 total: 982.8 hours
Monthly average: 140.4 hours
Weekly average: 32.8 hours

Posted by Paul at 06:20 PM

January 05, 2006

Kia Minivan Ad Sucks

I'm disturbed by a Kia ad that has been running on TV lately in which a family -- Dad, Mom, and two kids -- gleefully push a minivan over a cliff and sneak away, with the premise that they can now buy a new Kia van.

I like a joke as much as the next person, however I fail to see the humor in this.

What are we seeing here? Environmental pollution? Littering on a grand scale? Insurance fraud? Abdication of parental responsibility?

Sheesh.

Posted by Paul at 07:48 PM

January 04, 2006

Tedious Task of Fixing Mom's Computer

My mom's computer began behaving oddly a week ago, with programs slowing down and freezing, and instances of Internet Explorer opening spontaneously with offers to download files. Norton AntiVirus was complaining, saying certain of its files were corrupt, and by the time I was called in to assist, I soon came to the conclusion that a reinstall of Windows XP Pro from scratch was in order.

I tried a few other steps but the OS seemed to be hosed with some virus. I could not access the Task Manager to see what was running -- it almost seemed like something was blocking access to several administrative tools. The rollback function also was not working.

I tried uninstalling Norton, because it was saying that the subscription had expired even though it had been installed in August of this year, with no success. I even downloaded several uninstall fixes from the Norton website to no avail. Reinstall of Norton AV 2005 kept crapping out halfway through, and so did attempts to install a new 2006 version.

I also had a heck of a time getting all of Norton Security off of my wife's computer awhile back when I had to uninstall it -- it leaves hooks and processes all over the damn place. I'm ready to try a different AV product...

Anyway, rather than waste more time, for $62 I bought her a new hard disk, that at 80GB was twice the size of her old one, and reinstalled Windows and all of her programs.

What a tedious job! In the end it took about seven hours. Just installing Windows XP on the new drive and then getting all the service packs and updates took several hours.

Thankfully she had been backing up her data to Zip disks, so she didn't lose anything. The data on the old drive was still accessible, however I didn't want to take the chance of installing it as a secondary drive to copy the stuff over, and instead played with a bunch of Zips to get her data back.

Even though people consider me a computer geek, I hate these episodes!

Posted by Paul at 07:43 PM