March 31, 2010

Kitchen Kraziness, or a Theory on Multiple Injuries

OK, so a few days ago I get a nasty steam burn in the kitchen, and then a day later I manage to nearly take the tip off a finger on the same hand while chopping walnuts. Yoi. I had that god-awful slow-motion feeling of knowing what was going to happen, yet I couldn't stop the knife hand, or move the  target hand in time. I'm getting a bit paranoid about doing anything in the kitchen and I sure hope bad luck doesn't really come in threes! This photo is after several days of healing, and there's quite a ways to go yet. . .

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I have this theory about injuries - - if you have one, you're more likely to get another one, for a couple of reasons.

One is that the first injury throws you off balance. It's like when you smash a toe, you start walking funny to compensate, and the next thing you know you've screwed up your lower back.

Another is a strange law of attraction. I recall seeing some comedy show about this, perhaps an episode of Seinfeld in which a driver (Kramer?) kept hitting any object that he was distracted into looking at. To get back to the smashed toe example, once you've smashed it, even though you start being hypersensitive and careful with it, it seems that the chances that you'll stub it again before it's fully healed rise dramatically.

Posted by Paul at 08:07 PM

March 28, 2010

Jack Whyte’s ‘Dream of Eagles’ Engulfs Me

I've always been an easy mark for historical fiction. My first degree was in history, and I'm an editor by trade. I'd heard of Jack Whyte over the years but never got into his world, but now I'm in it with his A Dream of Eagles series based on the Roman occupation and eventual withdrawal from England, mixed in with the Arthurian legends. I picked up the entire series at a garage sale last weekend for a few dollars, and have ploughed through two of the books already, enjoying them, if one can enjoy descent into chaos, constant bloodshed, etc. We have no idea how fortunate we are to live in an era, and in a nation, with rule of law.

Posted by Paul at 09:40 PM

March 27, 2010

Nasty Burn Nearly Painless

I got a steam burn in the kitchen yesterday. I immediately ran cold water on it, then held an ice compress on it for five to ten minutes. I then coated it with Polysporin, and my wife taped a light piece of gauze over it. This morning, she covered it with a thin slice of aloe, again under a light piece of gauze. By the end of the day, the aloe was completely dry, all the juice having been absorbed by the skin. There's now a nasty looking blister about 2-3cm in diameter, but what amazes me is that I've had almost zero pain by following this treatment. Now that the blister has been open to the air for about an hour, I'm starting to feel a bit of discomfort, so maybe I'll slap some aloe back on for the night.

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Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM

March 24, 2010

Scotch Broom-Climbing Snails

Continuing the theme of climbing snails (see entry below), today we spotted lots of snails way up in Scotch Broom bushes along Southridge Dr. in southeast Burnaby. Dunno what all these snails are doing way up in trees and bushes, but they sure come in a fascinating variety of colours and patterns.

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Posted by Paul at 05:20 PM

March 23, 2010

Cybercrime ‘Hotspots’ – Huh?

There was an article in today's Vancouver Sun called B.C. is a cybercrime hot spot. It went on to list several cities as being "among the most dangerous in Canada." The problem with this is that cyberspace is not a geographical space or place. While the article goes on to say that it's the security of individual computers that affects their vulnerability to cybercrime, in combination with user behavior, it muddies the issue by attempting to scare people with a meaningless list of dangerous cities. The article is based on a study by security firm Symantec, but it appears some additional thought into how the data could best be presented to the public would have been useful before pen hit paper. :-)

It matters not where your computer is located. If you don't have a router, a firewall, up-to-date anti-virus software, etc., you are more vulnerable, no matter where you are. My online activity does not somehow become more risky if I move from one town to another.

Posted by Paul at 01:44 PM

March 22, 2010

Tree-Climbing Snails

On our way home from a ravine loop late this afternoon, my wife and I ran across scads of snails. Climbing trees. We'd never observed this before.

Large ones, baby ones, different colours and designs, and on different types of trees:

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Above is one of the babies. The rest are all the usual size.

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Posted by Paul at 10:02 PM

Blossoms, Clouds in South Burnaby

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Posted by Paul at 09:56 PM

March 21, 2010

Ending the 2010 Olympics with k.d. lang

I had to listen to k.d. lang's untouchable Winter Olympics 2010 cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" one more time tonight as the Games end. Gorgeous. . .

OK, yet one more time. . .

Posted by Paul at 09:59 PM

Saskatoon & Japan: Special Mention at 2010 Paralympics

"Saskatoon cross-country skier Colette Bourgonje and Japanese sledge hockey captain Endo Takayuki of Japan were awarded the special Whang Youn Dai achievement gold medals by International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven."

I nearly cried. Saskatoon is my hometown, and Japan is my adopted country -- the homeland of my wife. Those Japanese sledge hockey guys played their hearts out. Sorry, Canada--whose guys also played their hearts out. . . Sigh.

And now, it's really over. This Olympics doubter admits he had a ball. . .

Posted by Paul at 08:57 PM

Golden Ears Park, Alouette Lake

A jaunt to Golden Ears Provincial Park proved relaxing and refreshing even on a rainy day.

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Alouette Lake wreathed in clouds.

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Salmonberry blossoms graced with raindrops.

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The refreshing scent of lush evergreens in the mist.

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

March 20, 2010

Robson Square, Sledge Hockey, Dal Richards

Well, even the 2010 Paralympics are winding down, but there is still fun to be found in downtown Vancouver. The Vancouver Art Gallery features free admission, so we checked out the Leonardo da Vinci display and the BC Pavilion. Then it was off to Robson Square to check out the big screen and catch some tunes. We lucked into Dal Richards, Vancouver's famous sax playing, singing band leader, who's in his nineties! Wonderful show.

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The art gallery with the Olympic Clock at 0:00.

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Dal Richards & His Orchestra, with sledge hockey on the big screen.

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Posted by Paul at 10:02 PM

Spring Flowers, Foliage

A few shots taken near our place today.

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Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

March 18, 2010

Maclean’s Publishes Gross Errors on Korea, Japan

I am shocked at the March 22, 2010, issue of Maclean's. First, it somehow managed to place Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as dictators of South Korea (p. 9). Hello?

Then, in  a long article called "The Battle for Okinawa" the news magazine managed to turn decades of Japanese imperialistic expansion and military aggression (invasion and occupation of Korea? invasion and occupation of parts of China? Nanking Massacre, Pearl Harbour?) and over five years of WWII into something it called the "1945 Battle of Okinawa, the Americans' 82-day long assault on Japan. . ." Apparently, according to Maclean's, "Japan fell to the Allies in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa." Uh, Hiroshima? Nagasaki? Japan did not surrender until the first, terrible, use the world has ever seen of nuclear weapons.

The errors continue to pile up. How about "Okinawa lost as much as a quarter of its civilian population (estimates vary)-both in battle and through mass suicides, propelled by rumours about the brutality of approaching American soldiers." There is plenty of documentary evidence that the rumours were just that - rumours - and that those rumours were purposely spread by the fanatical Japanese military defenders on Okinawa, who also had no compunction about mass-murdering their own citizens if they preferred to take their chances with the supposedly barbarian Yanks instead of "voluntarily" committing suicide.

Maclean's needs to have a serious meeting of its editorial staff and take a close look at the claptrap it's publishing. It's one thing to perhaps mistype "South" for "North" and have a series of writers, copy editors and editors miss the mistake, but ignoring and rewriting history is extremely worrisome.

Posted by Paul at 10:06 PM

March 15, 2010

Stream of Dreams Society Elects New Board at AGM

As president of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, I am pleased to announce our new board of directors as elected at our AGM tonight.

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Jennifer Lynton, Vice President
Rob Carne, Treasurer
Jane Burkholder, Secretary
Andrea Rozsa, director
Lynn Duncan, director

My President's Report to the AGM:

Stream of Dreams has an exciting year ahead of us in 2010 and many proud accomplishments to celebrate for 2009. Thank you to everyone for all the hard work over the last year.

We ended 2009 solidly in the black, and with many achievements to be proud of as we enter our tenth year. Unfortunately, this has also been a time of cutbacks in government grants, and a poor economy that has severely impacted several sources of revenue. The Society is being proactive in dealing with this situation, adding one staff member to focus on fundraising applications and promotion, along with handling some of the administrative work to free up some of the founders' time to focus on development.

Is 2010 the year of go big or go home? Those of you who have been with us for awhile know this has been a recurring topic over the years, due to the continually growing demand for our watershed education and community art program. We are also developing new methods of educating the public. The ongoing success of our programs, and our stable financial state to date despite economic fluctuations and the severe recent downturn, are testaments to prudent management both at the board, and operational, levels. I congratulate staff and volunteers again for their great work last year, and their efforts to ensure that 2010 will see continuing progress.

We have reached some amazing milestones: 10 years and 100,000 Dreamfish -- that are really something to celebrate! Stream of Dreams is also exploring partnerships with other artists with experience in combining art and music with environmental education.

The Stream of Dreams watershed education and community art concept grew out of a fish kill in Byrne Creek, which runs just a few dozen meters from where we are sitting here tonight. Sadly, Byrne Creek was wiped out again just ten days ago, when someone unthinkingly or unknowingly released a toxin into a drain in the upper watershed that flowed into the creek, killing well over 1,000 fish and likely other animals, in addition to impacting the entire watershed from the creek to the Fraser River, to the ocean. Our health, and the health of every living thing in the ecosystem is at stake.

It is clear that the need for education remains, that the need for our program is as important now as it ever was. I am personally saddened and angered by the loss, as I'm sure many of you are. But let us not despair, let us take this as a renewed call to action. I look forward to working with this amazingly talented and creative group for another year, and I hope some of the faces here tonight that we don't see quite as often will consider devoting a few more hours of their precious time to helping the Society's message spread far and wide.

Thank you, Paul Cipywnyk

And a big thank you to Stream of Dreams founders Louise Towell and Joan Carne, and to departing director and continuing Vancouver Island team leader Micqualyn Waldie for their passion, drive, creativity, and hard work that have grown a local community event into a multiple award-winning, cross-Canada watershed education and community art program. You are truly inspirational and it's been, and continues to be, a privilege to work with you.

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

March 14, 2010

DiNovo Shines with New Westminster Orchestra

The New Westminster Symphony Orchestra put on a lovely performance this afternoon, with the highlight being a blazing rendition of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major by soloist Nancy DiNovo. The technically difficult piece is always a crowd-pleaser and DiNovo got a standing ovation.

The only unfortunate, er, note, was the opening plea for financial support as government grants are cut. That seems to be an ongoing refrain at concerts these days. It was nice to see folks dropping bills into the donation boxes during the intermission.

I strongly support those who feel that the arts serve a greater purpose in society, and are far from being elitist. They promote education and personal excellence. The dedication, practice and perseverance that it takes to become a musician or artist serves broader society in many ways.

Posted by Paul at 04:43 PM

March 13, 2010

Environment Canada ‘Responds’ to Streamkeepers

Here's what an Environment Canada spokesperson had to say to the Burnaby Now after yet another chemical dump into Byrne Creek that killed everything in the open watershed from top to bottom:

Raisinghani responded to recent criticism from streamkeepers that suggested Environment Canada was lax on enforcement of anti-pollution laws and failing in its job to protect fish and their habitat.

"Environment Canada takes its enforcement responsibilities very seriously," Raisinghani wrote. "If the source of contamination is found, an investigation may be launched."

WOW, Right!?

I'm sure polluters are shaking in their chemical-covered boots upon hearing that proclamation. IF. MAY.

How about WHEN. SHALL..?

Isn't action by default something that we should expect from those mandated to protect our health and our environment?

I feel for Raisinghani. He, she, is muzzled, handcuffed, and just spouting the "line" from someone higher up who doesn't have the balls to speak to the public.

What we need is swift prosecution, not purported tough talk. Hell, that ain't even tough talk. Them's bureaucratic-PR weasel words. IF. MAY.

I would like to point out that the IFs and MAYs have been spouted repeatedly in the past - and have never been addressed. That does not reassure anyone about Environment Canada's track record, eh?

There was a toxic spill on a tributary that feeds into Byrne Creek as recently as 2007  in which the "source of contamination" WAS found, and Environment Canada went into its usual "an investigation MAY be launched" mode, but ended up doing NOTHING.

So what gives us citizens, who pay Environment Canada salaries, and who trust you to protect us and our environment, any reason to believe this time will be any different?

This issue has been brought up again, and again, and again, and we don't need any more IFs and MAYs. We need ACTION.

The real sad thing about all this is that as volunteer streamkeepers we work with all levels of government: municipal, regional, provincial, and federal. We don't want to diss anyone, but . . .   We are giving up hundreds and thousand of hours of our time to volunteer. We are taking time away from our work. . . while we're paying through our taxes, for, apparently, nothing to be done by "our" government.

That's harsh..

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

March 10, 2010

Short Video on Fish Kill from Newsleader

Found this video on BC Daily Buzz, and am assuming that since it's got embed links, it's OK to reproduce. This was shot by Mario Bartel of the Burnaby Newsleader a couple of days ago. It's me at the pond near Edmonds Skytrain Station where the deadly spill was first noticed on March 4, 2010.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

Burnaby Now Editorial on Fish Kill

I'm stunned.

The Burnaby Now has published an editorial on the recent fish kill in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek, using a post from this blog, and giving me credit. All I can say is, thank you.

Posted by Paul at 01:37 PM

Media Interest in Byrne Creek Kill Has Legs

The strength and duration of media interest in the recent fish kill in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek after someone illegally disposed of a chemical, likely down a drain on a street, is intriguing. The kill happened late Thursday afternoon, yet I was still receiving multiple calls for interviews and tours on Monday. Usually three- to four-day old local news is as appetizing to mainstream media as, er, rotting fish, but somehow this story had legs.

And we didn't send out a single press release or email, we didn't make a single phone call - we simply tried to keep up with the requests that poured in. We have no staff, streamkeepers are 100% volunteer. If anyone still doubts the power of Twitter, well, that's how this story started. . .

Perhaps it had something to do with public outrage. This story struck a chord. The creek is in an urban area, it is surrounded by public parks, and I think people are really getting the message that it's not only fish,  it's about the entire ecosystem and our health, too.

I've been monitoring the online versions of stories, and people have been responding with anger and disbelief that such a tragedy could happen - yet again - in a beloved creek. People have also been scathingly skeptical that anything will really be done by the federal agencies that supposedly are tasked with protecting our environment and our health.

The outrage is palpable, and I think that's what has kept this story alive.

Streamkeepers are making lemonade from the lemons handed to us by the thoughtless polluter - we've been getting calls from concerned citizens reporting suspicious substances on streets and in ditches, we may have a few new faces at our monthly meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 11, at 7:30pm - coordinates here), we've been getting requests from businesses to come speak to employees about the watershed and how we all connect to it.

I hope interest remains high, but I understand that we have to get on with our busy lives and attention will quickly fade. Unfortunately, I've seen this cycle several times on battered Byrne Creek, and I hope that my sense that this time the response is noticeably stronger isn't just wishful thinking.

Thank you to all the media who covered the kill! And thank you to the public for expressing your feelings. If you really want change to happen, if you want to see enforcement, I urge you to write your local MLAs and MPs, and the federal and provincial environment ministers - without strong policy direction agency staff's hands are tied.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 AM

March 07, 2010

Media Covers Byrne Creek Fish Kill

Some of the media coverage of the toxic spill in SE Burnaby's Byrne Creek a few days ago:

Burnaby Now article

Burnaby Newsleader article

CBC website

The press is already getting results - a gentleman phoned me today with a report about seeing Powerhouse Creek, a tributary of Byrne Creek, running very dirty in the area of Beresford St. about a week ago. The more eyes we have on our local creeks, the better!

Update March 8, 2010

Globe & Mail article

Metro article

Update March 10, 2010

Burnaby Now on lack of enforcement

Burnaby Now on Mayor, City Council Push for Education

Update March 11, 2010

Burnaby Newsleader followup

Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

March 05, 2010

Sample Density of Fish Killed in Byrne Creek

Sometimes it takes death to reveal how much life there is.

Would you believe that on average there was a dead fish less than every 2 meters along a sampled section of Byrne Creek the morning after someone poured a toxin down a street drain in the upper watershed on March 4, 2010? Most people never see fish in the creek - it takes patience, stealth, and knowing where to look to spot them when they are alive. My wife and I counted 231 dead trout, coho smolts (yearlings) and coho fry (this spring's babies) in an approximately 400-meter section of the creek. For those interested, here's the breakdown:

182 - Small cutthroat trout (say less than 15cm)
20  - Medium cutthroat trout (say 15-20cm)
1   - Large cutthroat trout (over 20cm)
Total 203 cutthroat trout

16 small-to-medium dead fish visible inside the culvert, too dark to ID
1 - large trout, very dark, no cutthroat markings on chin, near footbridge

8  - Coho smolts
3  - Coho fry
Total 11 coho salmon

Grand total dead fish in that stretch: 231

And that's likely lower than the actual number due to several factors: dead fish get wedged under rocks and drop deep in pools, the tiny fry are difficult to spot at all and we know that before the kill there were schools of dozens in the area sampled. In addition, opportunistic predation starts almost immediately after the toxin is quickly flushed down the creek: we found several fish partially eaten, and only strings of guts and bits of flesh too small to ID here and there.

The coho were found around T518 to T516 (lower end of the lower ravine). The coho fry were found in the vicinity of T517 where we photographed live ones a few days ago... See the entry below "Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek."

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The above photo shows dead fish ranging from coho fry at the bottom left,
a coho smolt a the bottom right, and an adult trout above. There was a
surprise to come, as you'll see in the next photo. . .

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The big trout had a fry in its mouth. It's not hard to imagine what
happened - it spotted a little fish in distress from the chemical,
thought it an easy meal, and then before it could even finish
swallowing its target, the bigger fish also died.

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM

Counting the Dead

Imagine walking down a street, and every few steps that you take, you come across a body.

A few more steps, a cluster of bodies. Every step, another body. Another group of bodies.

You approach an area where yesterday you saw small children playing - and you find small, inert bodies.

Small bodies, ranging from babies recently born, to midsize ones -- kids going to school. Further on, large ones, adults.

All with bulging eyes, gaping mouths.

Staring. At nothing. For they do not see any more. They do not breathe any more, for they died gasping for breath.

They choked to death.

That's what it was like today, carefully walking down Byrne Creek, counting the dead.

The dead that died when someone unthinkingly, uncaringly, or, despite decades of educational efforts, perhaps unknowingly, poured a chemical down a storm drain.

The bodies were fish. Just fish.

But we'll drink what went in that water someday, too. Or perhaps swim in it. Those toxins don't just disappear.

If we eat fish or other seafood, we will eat what went in that water someday, too.

All drains lead to fish habitat.

People habitat.

Every living thing's habitat.

I fear I'll dream tonight about counting the dead.

The bulging eyes, the gaping mouths.

The horrifying, constricting feeling of being unable to breathe.

We found fish today that in desperation had thrown themselves into the air, up onto the banks of the creek - to breathe, please let me breathe!

That would be like me throwing myself under water to escape foul, poisoned air - to breathe, please let me breathe!

Yes, I'm emotionally attached, because for days recently I eagerly patrolled Byrne Creek, looking for baby coho salmon, baby chum salmon, hoping against hope that the few salmon spawners that made it back last autumn succeeded in creating a new generation.

I saw baby fry, and I rejoiced. My heart soared. I took photos. I took videos.

I blogged, I Tweeted, I Facebooked. I did all that social media, cyberspace stuff.

But real life intervened

And now they are all dead.

And all that I can do is

Count the dead.

Posted by Paul at 09:08 PM

March 04, 2010

Fish Kill in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek March 4, 2010

A chemical entered Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby in the mid-to-late afternoon today, killing fish. Someone called Environment Canada [CORRECT: in fact the City of Burnaby received the call from the BC provincial enviro ministry after a youth called the Provincial Emergency Program], who then called the City, and streamkeepers also noticed the kill around the same time. City staff took samples and worked on tracing the source, which likely came from a storm drain, while streamkeepers took photos for documentation and sampled pH in the creek at several points. Both City staff and streamkeepers plan to follow up tomorrow. Here are some photos:

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The fish ladder at the pond west of Griffiths Dr.
Water is covered with foam and slick to the touch.
There was an ammonia smell coming out of the pipe.

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Dead fish on bottom of pool.

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Dead cutthroat with hazy water visible. That's a size 12 boot
toe beside it for comparison.

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Just a few days ago, streamkeepers were excited to see baby salmon
fry popping out of the gravel. We are concerned that they may also have
been affected.

I find it hard to believe that after decades of education efforts, such
kills still happen.

Please, folks, remember that all drains on roads and parking lots lead to fish habitat!

Posted by Paul at 10:20 PM

March 01, 2010

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

Ran across this study today (pdf doc): Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Nature in the Capital Region by the  Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. While I have yet to read all of it, it appears to be an excellent take on issues that streamkeepers in Burnaby and all over BC have been concerned about for years. An excerpt from the introduction to the problem:

We don't normally think of rainfall as pollution. However, over the last 150 years we have built cities in a way that transforms rainwater into an agent of considerable environmental harm: urban stormwater runoff.

Changing pristine rainwater into pollution occurs in stages. The first step is the creation of pollutants from driving and fixing cars, using chemicals on houses and yards, and commercial and industrial processes. Heavy metals, PCBs, oils, grease, antifreeze, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, paint chips, PAHs, road salt, and detergents fall to the ground across the urban landscape.

The second step involves our construction of impervious surfaces such as roofs, paved streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. As a city develops, the vegetation and natural soils that absorb and filter rainwater are replaced by impervious surfaces. When we pave over nature's absorption and filtration system, the next heavy rain sweeps across the landscape's hard surfaces picking up pollutants.

In the final step, the storm sewer system rapidly conveys all this polluted water to the nearest water body and flushes it at high speed into a sensitive aquatic ecosystem. In addition to the pollutants from the landscape, the water often contains paint and motor oil that people have dumped into the storm sewer. To make things worse, in older municipalities, this stormwater often contains sanitary sewage.

Posted by Paul at 08:32 PM

Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek

I shot this video at 640 X 480 resolution with my Canon SD780 digital still camera handheld with the zoom at max. I processed the file in Windows Live Movie Maker, a free download. Not bad for such a cheap, on-the-fly setup :-).

It's always great to know that at least some of the few salmon that managed to return to this urban creek in southeast Burnaby last autumn successfully spawned, and that their eggs survived through the winter.

Posted by Paul at 05:08 PM