November 29, 2007

Byrne Creek Sees Few Spawning Salmon

It's been a disappointing spawning season so far this autumn on Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, with only around 20 chum and coho salmon tallied. Another issue that has cropped up in the last few years is also being repeated -- the lack of spawning success in coho. We keep finding female coho dead before they have laid their eggs, and today Yumi and I processed another.

NOTE: My usual disclaimer -- it is illegal to disturb spawning salmon. Streamkeepers receive training and also have permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to process dead spawners and record data about them. I think it is important to share our volunteer efforts with the public; however, I occasionally worry that people may get the idea that these fish and their eggs are fair game -- they are not!

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Beautiful coho found in Byrne Creek today.

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Unfortunately, this female did not spawn before she died.

Some people may also be confused about why these fish die. Salmon are anadromous -- that's a big word that means that during their lives they move from fresh water, to salt water, and back to fresh water again to lay their eggs. This entails major changes in their organs -- from ingesting minerals in fresh water to extruding salt in the ocean. Some species of fish can repeat this cycle, but when salmon come back to their birth creeks, streams and rivers to spawn, it's a one-way trip. They stop eating when they enter fresh water and their health begins to steadily deteriorate -- all of the energy in their bodies goes to keeping their reproductive systems and brains going as their flesh fails. If a fish cannot reach its native spawning grounds and find a partner within a set period, it will die before it can spawn.

After collecting data about the fish, Yumi and I voiced a brief appreciation for her efforts, and then we cut the carcass in half (this ensures that streamkeepers don't double count fish) and returned it to the creek where it will provide essential nutrients for the food chain.

Posted by Paul at 03:27 PM

November 28, 2007

BC Enviro Minister Visits Stream of Dreams Program

BC Environment Minister Barry Penner saw a Stream of Dreams program in action at the Oaklands elementary school in Victoria today.

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society has reached over 60,000 school children to date, teaching them about their local watersheds and creating Dreamfish to install on school fences to remind communities about the importance of clean water and healthy ecosystems.

Posted by Paul at 09:08 PM

Community Group Surprises Me With President's Role

I was elected to the board of directors of the Edmonds Town Centre Business and Community Association at the AGM last month. I've been a member of the group for several years now, and it was my first time to sit on the board. Then to my surprise, today at the first board meeting following the AGM somehow I was chosen to be president!

I had hoped to get some board experience before taking on an executive position, but now that the gavel has been passed, I will do my best to fulfill the responsibilities. Past President Dave Fairhall, who has done a great job for many years, assures me the board works by consensus and other directors are more than willing to assist me as I get the lay of the land.

The group does a lot of good work in southeast Burnaby, and we aim to expand our membership and our activities.

Posted by Paul at 03:16 PM

November 26, 2007

Gift-Less, More Sustainable Christmas

Yumi and have decided that we will not exchange Christmas gifts this year with each other, and other members of our families. Why not?

It has become increasingly difficult to find anything useful or meaningful to give. We have everything we need, and a garage full of stuff we're getting rid of by sorting and donating it to thrift stores run by the Burnaby Hospice Society and the Salvation Army.

I'm a well-indoctrinated consumer so certainly there is a ton of stuff that I want, but nothing I really need, and Yumi feels the same way.

We'll still do some fun, cheap stuff for the stockings, but no gifts.

Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

Riders Grey Cup Champs!

It was great to see the Saskatchewan Roughriders overcome a long drought and win the CFL's Grey Cup yesterday. Though I haven't lived in Saskatchewan for decades, like many expats, I still have Rider Pride!

Posted by Paul at 12:29 PM

November 24, 2007

C$ Rip-Offs: Apple Computers

I haven't bought an Apple computer in 15 years, but admit to technolust that drives me to visit the Apple website every month or two. Now that the Canadian dollar has been stronger than the US dollar for some time, I thought I'd compare prices on the Apple Canada and Apple US websites. I was not surprised to see that the Canadian prices were higher, because Canadian consumers have been ripped off by most companies for many years.

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Base prices on the Canadian site.

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Base prices on the US site.

Update on Dec. 4, 2007: OK, the Canuck buck slipped back below the US greenback by a smidgen today...

Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

November 23, 2007

Cat Defends Luggage Against Further Absences

It's been a long time since I posted a pet photo, so here goes. I have been on the road a lot over the last couple of months, and when I got home today and opened up my suit bag, Choco the cat planted herself on it with a baleful look. I guess she wasn't sure if I was coming or going, but she was making her point either way :-).

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Posted by Paul at 08:21 PM

Subprime Crisis Explained :-)

A hilarious explanation of the subprime crisis on You Tube.

Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM

November 19, 2007

Off to Building Sustainable Communities Conference

I drove up to Kelowna this afternoon to attend the Building Sustainable Communities conference sponsored by the Fresh Outlook Foundation. I attended the conference last year and it was jam-packed with excellent speakers. This year's program looks very good as well, and I am looking forward to the kickoff tomorrow morning.

While driving up was probably not the carbon-friendliest means of transportation, I enjoyed the trip. The mountains were dusted with snow, but the roads were good for the most part except for the highest passes.

Posted by Paul at 05:31 PM

November 18, 2007

Streamkeepers Wrap Trees Against Beavers

Yes, beavers are part of the ecosystem, too, but streamkeepers have to preserve trees in our urban habitat -- in cities the odds are already heavily stacked against healthy streams and salmon. Beavers have been razing trees in the Byrne Creek spawning habitat, so we are wrapping trees with chicken wire to preserve them against the gnawing beasts.

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Me wrapping a tree -- photo by JW

Posted by Paul at 07:28 PM

November 14, 2007

Initial Glitches With Metro Vancouver Survey Fixed

I sent the following email to Metro Vancouver tonight. They're doing good work, and I don't want to criticize, but I've been having some trouble with their public response channels so I'm making this public on my blog:

Hi, I attended the public forum in Burnaby tonight, and really enjoyed it. It was great to meet many concerned citizens and speak with Metro Vancouver staff.

I have a question about the questionnaire: Have you considered providing the option of an online survey using an inexpensive service such as Survey Monkey? Or perhaps your IT staff could set up an internal, free, open source survey application on your own servers.

I would much prefer to be able to select responses and type my answers into an online web application. I will fill out the questionnaire by hand and fax it in, but it would save me time, and it would save you collation, data analysis, and transcription time (and costs), if the questionnaire was available online, and all of the results went straight into a database.

I happen to have a fax machine because I work from home, but other people will have to find an envelope and postage. I also note that on your website, you ask the public to print out and mail in the questionnaire. If I may be so bold, that is so late 20th century :-). And so wasteful of resources: paper, envelopes, ink, and moving the snail-mail around with internal-combustion engines...

The lower the barriers to access, the more responses you are likely to get. A survey a click away would make my day!

Update: my email message to the address on the paper survey bounced...

Update 2: I finally noticed that the paper survey says I can fill out the survey online here -- but I cannot see where....

Update 3 on Thursday, Nov. 15: The survey is now online! Thanks!

Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

November 10, 2007

Autumn at VanDusen Gardens

The colours were wonderful this afternoon at Vancouver's VanDusen Botanical Gardens.

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Yumi checking out the pond.

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We were graced by several bald eagles soaring overhead.

Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

November 05, 2007

Mushy Pollutant Pours Into Byrne Creek

The Hedley storm drain outfall has poured an ugly, whitish, porridge-like pollutant into southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek yet again.

Yumi and I were doing a creek patrol today when we saw a sandy white substance deposited in pools along the creek. We backtracked it to the Hedley storm drain outfall, where we found gallons of the yucky stuff.

We called it in to the city, and environmental staff said they would be on it along with sewer system staff. This is at least the third or fourth time that streamkeepers have found this substance entering the creek.

I am fairly certain that the flaky porridge-like substance does not come from a sanitary/storm system cross-connect because it occurs sporadically. While the Hedley outfall is notorious for having a nearly constant obnoxious smell, I think we are dealing with at least two sources -- one a fairly constant flow that causes the smell, and dumping into a storm drain that produces the "porridge."

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Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

November 04, 2007

Mom Receives UCC Nation Builders Award

My mother, Sonia Violet (Stratychuk) Morris, was posthumously honoured today with a Nation Builders award from the Saskatchewan Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee of Canada at a luncheon in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Her husband, Barry Morris, delivered an emotional, touching and inspiring acceptance.

It was wonderful to see many of Mom's colleagues and old friends, many of whom had driven down from Saskatoon to be there. I grew up with these people, and while my life and career have taken me far away, and I haven't lived in Saskatchewan since 1983, it was heart-warming to be recognized as Mom's son again for an hour or two. Mom's son, and a "little boy" receiving many hugs and kisses....

A little boy of 48 years...

More later, I'm choking up.

Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

My Citation For Mom's UCC Award

Here is the citation I wrote for my mother's UCC Saskatchewan Nation Builders award:

Sonia V. Morris
UCC Saskatchewan Provincial Council
Nation Builders Award 2007
Narrative

In the Ukrainian song Dva Kolory, or Two Colours, a mother embroiders a shirt for her son before he goes out into the world. The black threads signify life?s trials, and the red portray love. Sonia had several threads interwoven throughout her life: the first, her humanity with which she loved and nurtured her family and friends with respect and understanding; the second, her lifelong commitment to the Ukrainian language and culture; and third, her professionalism over a 32-year career at the University of Saskatchewan as an educator and mentor, and a role model for female students.

Sonia is remembered as a teacher, community leader, and supporter of charities. Her positive outlook and conviction that all people deserved the freedom to achieve whatever they desired, was inspiring. Sonia passionately promoted the Ukrainian language and culture within a goal of fostering multiculturalism and fighting racism, and was among the pioneering educators who developed Ukrainian-language curricula in Saskatchewan, serving on many committees and councils where she was known for her listening skills and diplomacy.

Sonia?s work ethic extended into retirement, as she spent hundreds of hours working with her sister Roma translating and editing Ukrainian literature into English. She was an optimist who was always learning, always looking to the future.

Sonia loved music and art, and many will remember her fine soprano voice and emotive piano playing. She supported artistic groups including orchestras, opera and theatre companies, and the ballet. She enjoyed entertaining, hosting family and social events, and was a caring wife, mother and grandmother who always had an ear for the troubled, a shoulder for the weary.

One of Sonia?s last public appearances was at a book launch of translations of Ukraine?s greatest literary figure ?? Ivan Franko. If she were with us here today, she would urge us to think of his famous poem Kameniari that depicts the arduous toil of the never-ending fight for justice, freedom and democracy, and would ask us to keep swinging our hammers to crush ignorance and oppression wherever we encounter them.

Posted by Paul at 08:50 PM

November 02, 2007

MA Convocation From Royal Roads

I convocated from Royal Roads University today with a Master of Arts in Professional Communication.

It was delightful to be back on the gorgeous RRU grounds surrounded by my exuberant peers. The day was marred only by the absence of my mother, who died on April 5 this year, as I was completing my major project. As she steadily and swiftly weakened from a recurrence of cancer, she insisted that I focus on my project. She was a huge supporter of my doing the program, both intellectually and monetarily, and she was sorely missed.

Thanks, Mom, wish you could have been there, and you were -- in my heart.

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My anchor and my inspiration, my loving wife, Yumi.

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Posted by Paul at 10:02 PM