October 31, 2009

Salmon Pumpkin for Halloween

My wife Yumi carved this salmon pumpkin for Halloween to celebrate the return of spawning chum and coho to Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, just behind our place.

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Later: She also made a cat pumpkin.

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Posted by Paul at 08:12 PM

October 26, 2009

Metro Vancouver Solid Waste Management Plan

I attended a Metro Vancouver luncheon on solid waste management on behalf of the Burnaby Board of Trade Environmental Sustainability Committee.

Here's my distillation of the presentation materials and the ensuing discussion:

Top priority is to reduce, reuse, recycle.

Now diverting 55% of waste.

Goal is to divert 70% of waste by 2015 (Metro Toronto has set this goal for year 2010 and is nowhere near achieving it).

MetroVan population projected to grow from ~2 million to ~3 million, so increasing diversion from 55% to 70% has little effect on remaining solid waste.

Even with a 70% diversion rate there will still be over 1 million tonnes of solid waste to dispose of every year.

Three scenarios:
1) waste-to-energy (incinerate)
2) landfill mechanically/biologically treated waste
3) landfill

Key point: When it comes to overall emissions, solid waste management contributes 1% or less in the Fraser Valley, under any scenario.

MetroVan says studies show no discernible health impacts from WTE (waste-to-energy) plants. Many EU nations have WTE plants located in major cities. EU no longer allows landfills.

Key point: What about the "fourth R" in addition to reduce, reuse, recycle? REVENUE (or cost).

WTE, because of heat and electricity generation, has a 35-year NET REVENUE of $20 million in the MetroVan scenarios. The other two options COST between $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion over 35 years.

MetroVan is strongly promoting WTE as the solution.

What about 100% diversion? It becomes uneconomical at a certain point - diminishing returns.

MetroVan feels it's not winning the PR/media war on WTE. Needs to present clear, understandable message to the public. In greater Vancouver, 60% in favor of WTE, but in Fraser Valley only 37%.

I used to question WTE, but I've come around for several reasons. I don't see 100% diversion as being achievable, I think the emissions/health impact from running diesel trucks up the valley to a landfill would be far more detrimental than a new WTE facility, and finally WTE is the only alternative (at least according to MetroVan's consultants) that makes economic sense. In fact it makes $ from producing electricity and heat, whereas the other options cost billions of dollars.

My other observation is that few people even seem to be aware of the WTE facility that has been operating in my home town of Burnaby for years. I'd say 80% of the people that I talk to don't even know it's there.

Posted by Paul at 05:55 PM

October 25, 2009

Has Anyone Read Hemingway?

The question came up on the Editors' Association of Canada mailing list today, and here's my response:

It's been awhile since I've read Hemingway. I went on a binge :-) of his writing, and writing about him, about 20 years ago. Some of his stuff is very good, some may feel dated now, and, like any writer, there are weak patches.

I think his writing has been (and to some extent perhaps always was) overshadowed by his persona. And in death the persona grew even larger. I've seen the strangest documentaries on his life. By chance there was a scathing review in today's Vancouver Sun of a "new release" of his classic A Moveable Feast, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture of attempts by his heirs to "improve" on his work and cash in along the way.

My bottom line? At his best, I think he was one of the best. I just wonder how many people read him any more, how much he is now of a certain (bygone) era, and how many just wear the T-shirt.

Posted by Paul at 07:46 PM

Our Cat, the Behavioral Psychologist

When did Choco the cat train me to hold her dish six inches above the floor so she wouldn't have to bend over for food heated for precisely four seconds in the microwave?

Four seconds is just enough to impart  some warmth to, and slightly re-liquefy, a teaspoon of soft cat food that's been stored in a plastic container in the fridge. Choco loves the juice, and the cold food needs a blast to get the congealed bits runny again. More time makes it too hot, less is not enough to evoke that teasing aroma.

Choco has a bowl of hard cat food that she dips into as she pleases. She's moderate in her appetites, and never overindulges, so it remains out on the kitchen floor. She does love soft food, though, and signals it's time by posing daintily between the kitchen and the living room with an expectant look on her face.

She'll usually start on her soft food on her own, but lately she often doesn't finish it - until someone picks up the dish and holds it for her at seated-chin level. Over the carpet in the living room is nice, too, as that kitchen linoleum floor gets rather chilly this time of year.

It struck me this morning how smoothly this progression had developed over. . . how long? The only reinforcement I get is the tickly feel of her whiskers against my hand as I hold the dish, and an occasional appreciative twining around my legs when she's done. Am I such an easy mark?

Posted by Paul at 11:33 AM

October 24, 2009

Spawning Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers spotted six chum salmon in Byrne Creek this afternoon, and several of them were already digging redds, or nests, for their eggs. It was a wonderful sight to see!

Byrne is an urban creek in southeast Burnaby, and salmon numbers have been declining for the last several years.

I took the above video using the video function on my Canon S5IS camera, which tops out at 640 X 480 at 30 fps. I then used MS Movie Maker, which came free with the Windows XP operating system, to do so some rudimentary editing, titling, etc. It's a far cry from a real camcorder and more powerful software, but it's still fun to play with.

Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

October 21, 2009

Apple Store Won’t Let Me Order

I'm trying to send an Apple iTunes gift card to someone in the US and I'm in Canada. I tried Apple's US website, but it would not accept my Canadian province and postal code in the purchasing address. I tried Apple's Canadian website, but it would not accept the US address as the shipping address.

Perhaps I'm just missing some option, but you'd think they'd make carrying out a transaction as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, er, Silly) as possible. Dunno if it's Apple being silly or I'm being stupid, but after a couple of failed attempts I guess I'm off to Amazon - at least I know Amazon's gift certificates work cross border, and that I'm able to place orders with both the US and Canadian Amazon websites.

Posted by Paul at 07:53 AM

October 20, 2009

‘The’ Ukraine?

The "The Ukraine" topic came up as part of a larger "The" usage thread on the Editors' Association of Canada mailing list again recently.

Didn't we discuss, a few months back, some geographic names that take "the"? Places like the NW Territories, the Ukraine, the Argentine, the Arctic, etc.

Here's my response:

I thought "The Ukraine" had finally died (though I see it's listed as an option in Canadian Oxford 2). I've never seen the need for a "the" on it.

I don't know why the use of the "the" ever arose in the first place. But to me it always seemed to be somehow diminishing, second class, not quite worthy of nationhood. With Ukraine's history of being constantly invaded, split up and forcibly incorporated into various empires, and subjected to repeated programs aimed at wiping out its language and culture, Ukrainians can feel rather sensitive about such things.

"Ukraine" in ITP Nelson does not list "The Ukraine," all the definition says is:

"A region and republic of E. Europe; came under control of Lithuania in the mid-14th cent. and was a constituent republic of the USSR from 1922 to 1991."

Huh? That's it? The blind man describing the elephant?

I also note that neutral phrasing: "came under control of" and "was a constituent republic of." Sounds like Ukes happily bought into both regimes, eh?

Posted by Paul at 09:12 AM

October 19, 2009

My Digital Photo Stats Over 8 Years

My Nikon D300 DSLR "rolled over" yesterday: the photo counter hit 9,999 and started fresh. I began using it in August 2008. My Canon S5IS superzoom rolled over on Sept. 19 this year, a bit over two years after I bought it in July 2007.

My first digital camera was a Kodak DC4800 with which I shot the first photo on March 30, 2001. That camera still works but has been retired. It was followed by a shirt-pocket-size Canon SD400 that died in February this year, being replaced with a tiny Canon SD780 for everyday carrying around. I took the SD400 nearly everywhere in pockets, belt packs and briefcases, and it did yeoman's work for about three-and-a-half years before succumbing to the regular battering with a dead LCD screen.

The D300 and S5IS 10,000-shot milestones got me thinking about my digital photo statistics, so I did some poking around my hard drive.

As of today, I have 45,330 files in 960 folders under the My Photos directory, totaling 221GB. That includes perhaps a hundred photos scanned from film pictures, and a few dozen short movie files shot using the movie function on my Canons. I have no idea how many rolls of film I've shot since I began taking pictures some 40 years ago, and that's another project - to scan the better slides and negatives into digital files. . .

That means that since I shifted to digital photography, I've been keeping about 5,330 photos/year. As I explain in the next paragraph, that means I've been shooting about 6,500-7,000 photos/year. Not bad for an amateur, eh?

When I transfer digital photos from my various cameras to my computer, I immediately cull the worst of the lot - the badly underexposed or overexposed, the out of focus, the motion blurred, etc. I also usually zap severely unflattering shots of people, near duplicates of the same scene, and so on. I figure that I trash 15-20% this way. But I need to do more.

While my photos are fairly well organized in chronological folders and topic folders, I've never used a tagging/archiving program to keep track of them, and with 45,000+ images that needs to change. Since I returned to SLR shooting last year after about a 15-year hiatus, I've also gotten more serious about my photography again, and need to keep better track of my better work.

I've started using Nikon Capture NX2 and Adobe Bridge CS4 to do some basic tagging over the last few months, and am investigating digital asset management options such as MS Expression Media, ACDSEE Pro 3, etc.

As time allows, I aim to go back and do more culling, while adding metadata to my old photos. I ought to be able to cut at least 10-20% of that 45,000. And more importantly, tag the best 0.1 - 0.5% (1 - 5 out of a thousand??) that may be worthy of printing for display, or attempting to sell.

It will be interesting to revisit this topic once this gargantuan project is done, and see how the numbers turned out.

Posted by Paul at 08:16 AM

October 18, 2009

Waxwing Chows Down Berries

It was a great day to wander the Stewart Heritage Farm in South Surrey this afternoon. I'll add more photos tomorrow, but I wanted to post this series of a waxwing selecting and downing a berry before I went to bed:

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Checking things out.

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Going. . .

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Going. . .

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Gone!

All shots handheld with Nikon D300 and Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm zoom at 300mm (450mm effective), ISO 800, 1/320, f7.1

Posted by Paul at 10:14 PM

October 16, 2009

Enjoying Book Camp Vancouver

Have had a great morning at Book Camp Vancouver, and am settling in for the afternoon sessions. This morning sat in on Open Source business models and publishing, and a session on newspapers, magazines and books in the digital age. Next up is Getting to Zero: Who Gets Paid When Books are Free?

Lots of people are covering the conference in real time on Twitter at #bcvan09.

Posted by Paul at 01:03 PM

Riding Translink’s SkyTrain Incubator

Being a good, green citizen, I took the SkyTrain to downtown Vancouver this morning to attend Book Camp Vancouver. When the doors of the train opened at Edmonds Station, a wave of hot, humid, fetid air washed over me on the platform, and I cringed as I stepped aboard.

Why the heck was the heat on? You do not need heat when you have people packed into an enclosed space. What a waste of energy! Has TransLink never heard of thermostats?

It must have been pushing 30C in the car as people stood packed shoulder to shoulder, the windows fogged over and rolling with condensation. It was a perfect incubator for the flu season. H1N1? I guess TransLink has never heard of it. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the heat off and external air circulation cranked to the max?

Moisture was soon rolling down my body too -- sweat. Sweat trickling down my back, and eventually even down my legs.

We all stood there suffering silently, station after station, like good sheep-like Canadians, until some brave soul finally cracked a window a couple of stops before the end of the line.

I'm a firm believer in the benefits of mass transit, but TransLink has to provide a better atmosphere for commuters. You're not going to get more people on the trains if they dread the ride.

Posted by Paul at 11:15 AM

October 15, 2009

‘Please RT’ Flags Messages to Ignore

I don't understand why people include "please RT" (re-Tweet) in Twitter messages. To me that's waving a red flag that the Tweet is likely spam, or blatantly commercial or self-promoting. It's gotten to the point that as I scan TweetDeck, I skip over messages with "please RT" in them.

If a Tweet is compelling, and stands on its own merits, it's a given that I'll RT it, eh? So why waste the nine characters just to irritate me?

I find this particularly ludicrous when I see so-called "social media experts" littering their Tweets with "please RT." Oh, please. Stop.

Update: @WritersKitchen tweeted a link to this study printed on Fast Company that shows that retweet pleas do seem to work. Thanks, but they still rub me the wrong way!

Posted by Paul at 08:00 AM

October 13, 2009

Turning Cities into Sponges

I never thought I'd be quoting a publication called the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record, but I'm willing to learn from anyone. An article entitled Philly's bold stormwater management plan leads the way caught my eye - it's an initiative that I'd like to see in more cities, and promoted by ones like my own Burnaby.

I love the following quotation from the article:

The plan reimagines the city as an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavements, thousands of additional trees, and more. The idea is to turn the city into a giant sponge to absorb as much rainwater as possible and delay the rest in its journey to the nearby Delaware and Schuykill rivers.

Now that's vision! Or simply going back to what used to be . . . Most cities were once giant sponges, because that's what most land used to be before we built on it. So it makes sense to return to what worked for Mother Nature for millennia, eh?

How about this?

The new plan announced last month would "peel back" a lot of the city's concrete and asphalt and replace them with plants - rain gardens, green roofs, landscaped swales in parking lots, heavily planted boulevards, and small wetlands.

Yes! Streamkeepers and other concerned citizens have dreamed of this for years. The main issues dogging urban creeks are massive flows during rains because of all the water that goes shooting off of roads, roofs and parking lots straight into street drains, and pollution from oil, antifreeze, brake-lining dust, rubber, soap, other chemicals, etc., washing off our streets. Rain gardens, ponds, swales - they would all help with both problems, slowing peak flows and filtering out pollutants.

I believe all municipalities in British Columbia are required to produce ISMPs (integrated stormwater management plans) for all of their watersheds, and Burnaby is no exception. The City has been working on a Byrne Creek ISMP for some time now, and I have sat in on stakeholder sessions as a representative from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Unfortunately, I haven't witnessed much imagination in the process so far. I get the sense that there's more talk about more pipes, than there is about rain gardens, swales, street-edge alternatives, trees and plants. More pipes? That's so 19th and early-to-mid 20th century, eh? Let's be forward-looking!

Posted by Paul at 04:25 PM

October 11, 2009

Autumn Rains Coming to Lower Mainland

We're going to savor the sun today, because look what the Environment Canada Weather Office has in store for the Vancouver area for the coming week:

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It's not all bad news, though. This is about the time of year when rain triggers spawning salmon to start coming up our local stream, Byrne Creek, in southeast Burnaby.

Posted by Paul at 10:40 AM

October 10, 2009

What’s Wrong With This FP Picture?

The joys of middle age: I can easily spot mistakes like this one in today's Financial Post:

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That ain't no Monte Carlo!

Posted by Paul at 09:01 AM

October 09, 2009

Burnaby Now Interview on Edmonds Association

The Burnaby Now interviewed me about the Edmonds Town Centre Business & Community Association a few weeks ago. Today I received permission from the paper to post the feature to my blog and to the association's website. Thanks!

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Page 1 (3 MB PDF file)

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Page 2 (2.3 MB PDF file)

Images and PDF files reprinted courtesy of Burnaby Now, which reserves all rights.

Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

October 06, 2009

No More Address Labels, Xmas Cards, Notepads – Please!

Groan, I just got another pack of sample Xmas Cards in the mail today from an "environmental" group. Thank you for using up all that paper, coating it, printing it, spewing diesel fumes to truck it from place to place, just so that it could go into my recycle bin to be trucked, processed. . .

Enough with the address labels, the preprinted "From the Desk of Paul Cipywnyk" notepads, the Xmas Cards. I have an overflowing drawer full of them. I have enough address labels to keep me going for several lifetimes.

How many letters do I send these days anyway? How many do you send? All my bills are on scheduled auto-withdrawal/auto-charge programs, and I email, IM, Facebook, Tweet, or Skype family and friends.

I refuse to donate to groups that use this sort of marketing, and if you got my name and address from a previous donation, you will lose me as a supporter if you follow up with any of the above products.

Posted by Paul at 04:04 PM

October 03, 2009

Autumn 2009 Edmonds Clean Sweep

We couldn't have asked for a better morning for the 2009 Autumn Edmonds Clean Sweep. It was sunny and cool, with crisp autumn air invigorating the volunteers. Organized by the Edmonds Town Centre Business & Community Association, Clean Sweeps take place the first Saturday in May and the first Saturday in October in the Edmonds area of southeast Burnaby.

I'm in my second year as prez of the organization, so it was my pleasure to welcome and thank participants. We had a great turnout, and I'll attempt to list participants here, in no particular order:

  • South Burnaby Neighborhood House
  • Eastburn Community Centre staff
  • District 3 RCMP and community policing volunteers
  • Byrne Creek Streamkeepers
  • Burnaby Firefighters
  • MP Peter Julian
  • MLA Raj Chouhan
  • Councillor Paul McDonell
  • Councillor Nick Volkow
  • RCMP Superintendant Rick Taylor
  • Burnaby Anti-Graffiti Coordinator Kathy Wipf
  • Dozens of citizens from the community
  • Rosewood Printers for beautiful poster design

Here are some photos I took of the fun event.

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Eastburn Community Centre on Edmonds St.

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Volunteers pulling trash pails apart

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Gearing up in safety vests, gloves

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Pickers 'n pails

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Sharps boxes and anti-graffiti supplies

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RCMP and community policing volunteers

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The boys hit the street

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The gals patrol the pavement

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Targeting graffiti

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RCMP taking out the trash

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Firefighters charity volunteers fire up the grill

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Councillor Paul McDonell

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Councillor Nick Volkow leads a street gang

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MLA Raj Chouhan hangs with some kids

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MP Peter Julian with Eastburn staffer Leanna Rostron

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MP Peter Julian put his back into it

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Association Secretary Joyce Rostron (l) and buddy

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Self-portrait in community centre window

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And the cutest shoes in town!

Posted by Paul at 06:10 PM

October 02, 2009

More Autumn Colours Around Byrne Creek

A ramble from Ron McLean Park in SE Burnaby down the ravine trail to Byrne Creek.

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Posted by Paul at 03:42 PM

Missing Salmon – I Think I Know Where They’re Going

I've been eating them.

I've been to three events in the last week, two of them specifically aimed at raising consciousness about the environment and restoring waterways and salmon runs, and I've been served salmon, lots of it, at all three.

And I've shamelessly, well, OK, with a twinge of conscience, indulged at all three. Heck, I had seconds at one event, because the call kept going out that there was still fish to be served.

Wild? Farmed? Endangered sockeye? "Still plentiful" pinks? I dunno, but it all tasted great. Surely it wasn't farmed, at least at the enviro events, eh?

When people organize an event to preserve, say, the Vancouver Island Marmot, do the little beasts end up on the dinner plates? Do celebrants discretely poke at bits of fur stuck between their teeth instead of fish bones?

Yeah, I know, that analogy is full of holes, but. . . it makes you squirm at bit, doesn't it?

Posted by Paul at 10:21 AM

October 01, 2009

Autumn Colours Advance on Byrne Creek

The recent rains in the lower mainland of BC have cast a chill upon the land, yet warmed my heart with excitement. Salmon will return to Byrne Creek soon.

It's a bit early, the first spawners are usually spotted in this urban creek in southeast Burnaby around mid-October, but the fish follow the rain, so you never know - and I couldn't wait to start looking.

I didn't find any salmon today, but the rain had begun washing the vibrant greens into reds, yellows, golds, and browns.

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Posted by Paul at 11:06 AM