July 31, 2007

Edmonton to Jasper

Before we met a couple of fellow learners from my recently completed MA in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University for lunch in Edmonton, Yumi and I spent the morning at the Royal Alberta Museum. We enjoyed the dioramas and live animal exhibits, and wished we'd had more time to explore.

Here are some of the beautiful and educational dioramas:

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Coyote family.

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Wolves.

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Golden eagle and chick.

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Yumi is spellbound by the eagle catching a rabbit diorama.

And here are some of the live animals:

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A western hognose snake -- cute! And endangered :-(

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An amazing stick insect.

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Yumi staring at the unnerving giant tropical cockroaches!

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Brook trout.

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Arctic grayling.

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Northern pike -- a ghostly predator...

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Relaxing by the fire with a brewskie at Whistlers campground in Jasper.

Posted by Paul at 06:46 PM

July 30, 2007

Saskatoon to Edmonton

We drove from Saskatoon to Edmonton, stopping at Vegreville to show Yumi the world's largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg).

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The pysanka with a brewing storm in the background.

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Yumi stretching up to the pysanka.

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Alberta summer thunderstorm.

We reached Edmonton, and in the evening we checked out the West Edmonton Mall, the largest in the world. We were not particularly impressed. A mall is a mall, eh? OK, there are the other attractions, too, but.... Just didn't do it for us.

Posted by Paul at 09:34 PM

July 29, 2007

Morning at Weyakwin Lake

We went for a drive and walk in the morning at Weyakwin Lake. We spotted some mushrooms from the vehicle, so we all piled out to search for more, but they were few and far between.

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The public beach.

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A sleek female mallard.

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"Ukrainian fire drill" -- everyone hops out of the van and checks the side of the road for mushrooms :-).

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A wasp's nest on the cabin with resident emerging.

Posted by Paul at 06:56 PM

July 28, 2007

Visiting Weyakwin Lake

We drove from the farm north of Melfort Saskatchewan to an aunt's cabin further north at Weyakwin Lake. It was great visiting relatives and catching up in the summer sun.

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Checking out the dock.

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My wife Yumi on the tractor-tire tree swing.

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Yumi lends an ear to a visitor.

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Amazing lilies.

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Evening boat ride with cousins.

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The breathtaking (and nose plugging :-) cormorant and pelican island. Unfortunately I was using my pocketable Canon SD400 and didn't bring my Canon S5 IS superzoom along...

Posted by Paul at 07:12 PM

July 22, 2007

Banff Morning

We woke up early in the morning in the Tunnel Mountain campground in Banff, and quickly ate breakfast and broke camp. We had a few hours to kill before driving to Calgary, so we poked around the hoodoo trail, drove up the Mt. Norquay road, and explored the Cave and Basin historic site.

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Morning view from the campground.

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Hoodoo in front of mountains.

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Hoodoos trail.

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Another hoodoo trail view.

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Banff from the Mt. Norquay road.

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The Cave and Basin historic site -- the hot springs here provided the impetus for declaring the area a national park.

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The famous pool, now closed to use.

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Yumi carefully viewing endangered Banff Springs snails.

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A trail from the Cave and Basin leads to a bird blind on the lake.

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Trilingual English, French and Ukrainian signs commemorate the harsh internment of Canadians of Ukrainian descent during WWI -- the Cave and Basin was their winter camp. Such forced labourers built much of early Parks Canada facilities. They were considered to be enemy aliens because at that time Western Ukraine was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They were treated much like Canadians of Japanese descent were in WWII.

While none of my ancestors were interned, I am angry that such events happened in a supposed democracy. I feel it for both wars and ethnic groups for my wife Yumi is Japanese. Again, none of her family was affected for she was born and raised in Japan, but there's a connection...

Posted by Paul at 08:24 PM

July 21, 2007

Summer Trip - Burnaby to Banff

We're off to the prairies. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and we try to get out to visit relatives at least every second year. I love the drive from our home in Burnaby, BC, through the mountains, and down into the expansive plains. We drove as far as Banff the first day and camped overnight. We had reserved a spot through Parks Canada, a wise move during the busy summer season, but were disappointed by the bare, open campsite that we were assigned which was closely surrounded by several other sites. With the usual luck, some of our neighbours arrived back from town near midnight, and proceeded to loudly chatter and giggle with boyfriends on their cell phones as they bedded down. The wonders of modern technology, eh?

Yumi forbade me from roaring at them, as I've been known to do to campers who carry on with loud music and laughter well past "quiet time."

Grrrr...

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Sunset on the Bow River in Banff.

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Magpie casing out handouts in downtown Banff -- why have I seen these corvids only east of the Rockies?

Posted by Paul at 07:34 PM

July 18, 2007

Apple MacBook HD Mixup

Was browsing the Apple Canada website and ran across this interesting option:

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Yes, it took me a moment to spot it -- the text says you can choose from among 80, 100 or 120GB hard disks, but the clickable options include only 160 and 200GB drives :-). The error is only with the black MacBook and also exists on the Apple US website.

Posted by Paul at 06:10 PM

Donaldson's Salmon Poetry

A friend sent me a link to Peter Donaldson's moving salmon lifecycle poems. He has a lot of excellent material on his site, and I hope to catch his Salmonpeople one-man performance some day.

Posted by Paul at 05:44 PM

July 15, 2007

Burnaby's Symphony in the Park

The Vancouver Symphony played its annual, no-charge Symphony in the Park at Burnaby's beautiful outdoor concert venue at Deer Lake Park this evening. It was warm and sunny with enough dramatic clouds to set off the perfect setting for an outdoor concert.

Even though we arrived nearly an hour before show time, the grassy slope overlooking the serene lake was already filling up. The VSO played a crowd-pleasing program, as usual. Shostakovich's Festive Overture was the short, sweet, lead-in, followed by Borodin's melodic In the Steppes of Central Asia. The first half concluded with Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, ably performed by the 19-year-old Melody Quah on piano.

The second half began with a rousing, hyperdrive fast rendition of Williams's Star Wars Suite 1. Main Title. That was followed by Conway Baker's Through the Lion's Gate: 3. Mountains, a lovely piece I'd never heard before. It celebrates the north shore mountains near the concert venue, and the composer was present and received a standing ovation. In a serendipitous touch, a Great Blue Heron overflew the crowd in the midst of the performance. Only in Canada, eh?

That was followed by Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, in the version for violin, charmingly performed by the VSO's Associate Concertmaster Joan Blackman. When the short piece ended, Yumi and I simultaneously sighed and said we wanted more... Then came a few well-known selections from Grieg's Peer Gynt, and the concert wrapped up with Tchaikovsky's thunderous 1812 Overture.

In conclusion, being of Ukrainian descent, and noticing the preponderance of Slavic composers represented in the program, all I can say is: Slavs Rock! :-)

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Posted by Paul at 11:18 PM

July 14, 2007

Dreamfish Renewed at Discovery Day

Burnaby's Discovery Day at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts on Deer Lake was the site of the latest Stream of Dreams Murals Society and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers renewal of Dreamfish from the original fish mural at the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds. Those Dreamfish commemorated the killing of 5,000 fish in Byrne Creek in 1998 when someone poured a toxin down a storm drain, and grew into a watershed education and community art program that has taught over 50,000 participants across Canada with over 160 murals installed.

That original mural came down for a new development, and we salvaged fish that were still in good condition, and prepped them so that they could be repainted for a new location on a bridge on the Urban Trail that crosses the Skytrain line near Edmonds station.

You cannot paint a Dreamfish until you have heard the story of the death and rebirth of Byrne Creek, and learn how drains on streets and parking lots lead directly to local waterways.

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Stream of Dreams co-founder Joan Carne explains how rain drains lead to local creeks.

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Stream of Dreams co-founder Louise Towell talks about environmentally friendly cleaning products.

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Kids painting Dreamfish.

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My wife Yumi found time amid volunteering to paint a Dreamfish.

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Kids double-teaming on a Dreamfish.

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Adults become kids again, and the creativity flows.

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Admiring the growing collection.

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A closer view of a few beauties.

Posted by Paul at 08:41 PM

July 13, 2007

Byrne Birds

More shots of our feathered friends. A wee one, and silhouettes of crows chasing a raptor.

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Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

Intuit's WillExpert Sucks

I am fed up with Intuit's WillExpert. I am generally a fan of Intuit products, using Quicken for my personal finances and QuickBooks Pro for my company, but I've had nothing but trouble with WillExpert.

I bought a copy of WillExpert a few years ago, and it refused to run unless I signed on as an Administrator in Windows XP. This is plain foolishness -- you should never be logged on as Administrator unless you need to do system maintenance tasks. Then eventually WillExpert just refused to let me use it -- I forget if it thought I'd printed too many copies, or whatever, but I never successfully completed a will using it.

Recently I bought a new edition of WillExpert, and it refused to even install on my main Windows XP computer. So I tried another Windows XP box, and it began to install but then it wanted to install Acrobat Reader 5 because the already installed Reader 7 was an "older version." Huh?! I told the installer I didn't want Reader 5, so it refused to install WillExpert. Sheesh! That's as far as I've gotten and I don't know if I want to waste more time on this software lemon.

The hours I've wasted on WillExpert would have paid for a lawyer...

Update: July 17, 2007

I finally got WillExpert installed on a backup computer by allowing it to install Reader 5, even though Reader 7 was already on the target machine. I ran through the Wizard, asked it to print out a draft will, and it shut down with an error message. Tried again, same outcome. It really is a lemon!

Posted by Paul at 08:57 PM

July 11, 2007

More Byrne Creek Wildlife

Here are more shots taken in the Byrne Creek salmon spawning habitat. I'm amazed at how many species of birds inhabit the Byrne Creek area and really need to learn to identify more of them.

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Posted by Paul at 08:08 PM

July 10, 2007

Stream of Dreams Teams Meet

Teachers and artists from several Stream of Dreams Murals Society program teams from across BC met today to share tips and techniques, and to brainstorm program ideas. As president of the board, I took the opportunity to put faces to some names, and sit in and listen to this dynamic bunch. We ran all day long, continuing discussion through lunch, an afternoon Dreamfish T-shirt painting session, and dinner.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and was impressed by the shared passion. Each person drew upon his or her unique characteristics and talents to present the SDMS watershed education program in slightly different ways, while covering the core concepts and remaining true to the society's mission "to educate communities about their watersheds, rivers and streams, while dazzling them with the charm of community art." It is precisely this flexibility that is key to drawing in students and keeping things interesting for everyone.

I'd like to share my president's message in the latest SDMS newsletter, for it speaks to this spirit:

Thank you to all our hard-working teams, volunteers, staff, board directors, members and supporters! The SDMS continues to add teams and partnerships across Canada, and our award-winning educational program is reaching more participants at an ever-increasing pace. We couldn?t do it without you. It is a privilege to work with such passionate people, and I hope we can set up some events at which teams, staff, directors and volunteers can meet each other, and share techniques and ideas. Polls show that Canadians are increasingly concerned about environmental issues, and we can capitalize on this trend to further spread our message of the importance of caring for our watersheds. All of those beautiful fish swimming on fences across our nation are symbols of hope for a future with clean water and a sustainable environment. I wish all of you well with your endeavours.
Posted by Paul at 09:02 PM

July 09, 2007

Learning the Telephone Computer Game

Several times over the last few months our call-screening has been evaded and we've picked up the phone and said "Hi" only to hear a digitized voice respond: "Sorry, that is not a valid response."

So tonight I received a call from "Private Number" and picked up the phone to hear "Congratulations!" Before the recorded message went any further, I intoned: "Sorry, that is not a valid response" and hung up.

Of course it was not a victory in any sense at all, but it felt good just saying the words :-).

We occasionally get snookered by the "Private Number" display because that's what often comes up when family and friends call us from Japan.

Posted by Paul at 07:21 PM

July 08, 2007

Taylor Park Abounds With Birds

This afternoon Yumi discovered a patch of native blackberries on one of our regular walks around Byrne Creek, so I headed up the hill from the Southpoint Dr. cul-de-sac into the as yet undeveloped part of Taylor Park, a former landfill in Burnaby. When I got to the open area surrounded by brush I saw dozens of birds of various species. It's an optimal area for birds with lots of berry bushes transitioning into an open meadow-like area. I hope the city doesn't clear it all out and turn it into a monocultural "people" landscape. I saw robins, various sparrows, a red-tailed hawk, American goldfinches, cedar waxwings, chickadees, towhees, swallows and others that I couldn't identify. I'm not really happy with these shots -- they were all taken handheld at the full 432mm telephoto of my new Canon S5 IS -- and even with image stabilization they'd be a lot better with a tripod and a closer distance to the subjects. Live and learn...

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American goldfinch -- I saw at least seven species using this perch tree.
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Cedar waxwing.

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A hummingbird and unidentified pal.

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American robin with a berry.

Posted by Paul at 10:38 PM

July 04, 2007

Lonsdale Quay

The sun spurred us to work hard this morning so we could get out for the afternoon today. We took the Skytrain downtown and the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay. We strolled around the area enjoying the gorgeous weather, and had a late lunch at the Quay. On the way home we wandered around Canada Place and checked out the cruise ships.

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Downtown Vancouver viewed from Lonsdale Quay.

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Downtown with dock in foreground.

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The MPV Constitution, a real paddlewheeler.

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It's cruise ship season.

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Canada Place sails.

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Another view of Canada Place sails.

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Take me to your leader :-).

Posted by Paul at 06:34 PM

July 03, 2007

Canon PowerShot S5 IS

I bought a Canon PowerShot S5 IS digital superzoom camera a few days ago, and after blasting through close to 500 shots I really like it. I've used it for all the photos on this blog starting July 1.

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Product photo from the Canon Canada website.

You can see all of its features at the link above, but the ones I like most are the 12X zoom and image stabilization -- they're great for nature photography. It would be nice to have the zoom start a bit wider than 36mm (35mm equivalent), but the 432mm reach at the telephoto end sure beats the 105mm equivalent on my pocketable Canon SD400.

I've only used it on full auto so far, and focusing and exposure have been pretty accurate. I want to experiment with some of the more controlled settings like aperture and shutter priority. I also haven't taken any flash shots yet.

One drawback is the loose lens cap -- but I suspect it may be loose on purpose, because if you start the camera without taking the lens cap off, it gets knocked off by the extending lens. And I've done that several times already...

Posted by Paul at 07:07 PM

July 02, 2007

Lynn Valley Hike

This Canada Day holiday Monday found us zipping over to the north shore to take a hike in Lynn Valley. We did a portion of the Lynn Headwaters trail system. I was also eager to take more photos with my new Canon PowerShot S5 IS superzoom digital camera, and an encounter with a deer put the stabilized telephoto to the test.

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Yumi on the trail.

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Remains of old wooden water pipes.

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Clear, cold Lynn Creek.

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A deer near the parking lot. This was shot at full telephoto, or the equivalent of a 432mm lens on a 35mm film camera, hand held after a fairly strenuous hike, so the image stabilizer appears to work well.

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Nibbling on foliage.

Posted by Paul at 07:37 PM

July 01, 2007

Dreamfish Revived at Canada Day Fest

Canada Day dawned bright and clear, and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took part in the festivities at Burnaby's Eastburn Community Centre.

We've participated in this event for many years, but this day was special because we invited people to help revive the original Stream of Dreams dreamfish that graced a chainlink fence at the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds in Burnaby for many years. The dreamfish commemorated the killing of 5,000 fish in Byrne Creek in 1998 when someone poured a toxin down a storm drain, and grew into a watershed education and community art program that has taught nearly 50,000 participants across Canada.

That original mural had to come down for a new development, and we salvaged all the wooden fish that were still in good condition, and sanded them and primed them so that they could be repainted for a new location on a bridge on the Urban Trail that crosses the Skytrain line near Edmonds station.

Dreamfish are special, and you cannot paint one until you have heard the story of the death and rebirth of Byrne Creek, and learn how drains on streets and parking lots lead directly to local waterways. We set up a pathway in our tents through which people passed to learn that story, and then they painted their dreamfish.

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People line up to paint dreamfish.

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We had lots of posters of trout and salmon to provide inspiration.

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Kids learn from a 3D topo map of the Byrne Creek watershed.

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Kids paint their dreamfish.

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The collection of fresh dreamfish grows.

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The palettes of paint grew increasingly funky!

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Here's another one next to a blank dreamfish.

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Even more dreamfish...

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Admiring the eclectic collection.

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Do you remember which dreamfish you painted?

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What's a Canada Day without an RCMP honour guard?

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Or municipal, provincial, and federal politicians cutting a cake?

By the end of the afternoon, Stream of Dreams and streamkeeper volunteers were exhausted, but we had a great time.

Posted by Paul at 08:19 PM