July 31, 2010

Powell Street Japanese Festival Rocks!

Yumi and I took in the Powell Street Festival in Vancouver today and had a blast. It gets better and better over the years. It's so wonderful to revive "Japantown" for at least a weekend each year. The Issei and Nissei ancestors who used to populate this area of Vancouver would be proud!

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The main stage

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Love this recycling banner done traditional Japanese style

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Bring on Sawagi Taiko - Canada's first women-only taiko group!

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And now, the thrilling, exhausting Mikoshi!

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Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

July 30, 2010

Midori the Turtle Falls Strangely Asleep

Midori enjoyed the sun streaming through the windows today, basking for hours. As the rays gradually diminished, she fell asleep in this odd position on the wooden stairs that surround her tank. My wife built the stairs so Midori could get in and out of the water as she pleases.

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Oooo! Damn I woke up with a crick in my neck!

OK, all fun aside, this is an excellent example of why not to release pet turtles into the wild, or even to keep them as pets. Aside from the invasive species problem, as you can see, Midori is so acclimatized to human presence that she zonks out in a totally vulnerable manner which no healthy wild turtle would ever be lulled into. . .

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

PC Mag Gives Time Capsule 5/6 Stars – Huh?

The August 2010 digital issue of PC Magazine awarded Apple's Time Capsule NAS five out of six stars. Not bad, considering every other product is rated on a five-star scale!

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Posted by Paul at 04:39 PM

July 26, 2010

Sunset at Spanish Bank in Vancouver

The lovely clear sky was too good to pass up tonight, so we headed out to Spanish Bank in Vancouver to watch the sun set.

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The sky was absolutely clear with no clouds to work with,
so I concentrated my shots on this tree, the mountains in
the background, and the changing light.

Posted by Paul at 10:25 PM

July 24, 2010

Burnaby Library Honours Original Stream of Dreams Mural

In a great collaboration, the new Tommy Douglas Public Library in southeast Burnaby has incorporated a visual legacy of the original Stream of Dreams mural that used to grace the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds.

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Before the new library and adjacent commercial/residential development went up, the original watershed mural had to come down. You can read & see about it here.

The original mural commemorated the deaths of thousands of fish after a toxin was poured into a street drain in 1998, killing everything in Byrne Creek. That first Dreamfish mural stimulated amazing collaboration between streamkeepers, schools, the local community and several City of Burnaby departments. It went on to spark so much public interest, that eventually Louise Towell and Joan Carne, who had instigated that first mural, formed the Stream of Dreams Murals Society to carry out watershed education and community art.

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

July 23, 2010

Cover Boy

The Burnaby Newsleader picked up my blog post on completing three volumes of Ukrainian-English literature translations and interviewed me on the topic. The online story is here.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the cover of the print version!

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Thank you to Wanda Chow, the enterprising Burnaby Newsleader reporter who peeked at my blog, contacted me, and took the story higher. She was the consummate professional - giving me great leading questions and letting me blabber on and on . . .  I was mesmerized :-).  

And then she distilled and crafted my ramblings into an excellent article. Thanks too, to her editor(s), and to photographer Daniela Ciuffa, who made my mug look quasi-handsome .

As someone who has been on both ends of the mike and the camera over the years, I appreciate journalism done well - - especially when I've been at the blathering end of the mike! And somehow Wanda got into my soul and made me forget I was being interviewed.

That's talent.

We are very fortunate in Burnaby to have two healthy, well-written community papers. It never hurts to have some competition :-).

Posted by Paul at 04:32 PM

Politicians Tour Byrne Creek

Thanks to a passel of politicians who took the time to go on a tour of the Byrne Creek watershed in southeast Burnaby today!

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society board members Joan Carne and moi led MP Peter Julian, MLAs Raj Chouhan and Kathy Corrigan, and City of Burnaby Councillors Sav Dhaliwal and Paul McDonell down the ravine trail.

The goal of today's tour was to impart the importance of environmentally-friendly development to the health of urban creeks. The City of Burnaby was a trailblazer in implementing an "open creeks" policy several decades ago, but the creeks cannot survive in a constantly urbanizing environment without progressive development policies that require rain gardens, and roadside and parking-lot swales - anything and everything that helps get rainwater into the ground where it belongs, filtering out pollutants along the way.

SPONGE

That's the word of the day. Our cities must be developed as SPONGES, just like the forests, fields, and bogs that they've filled in. Get that water back into the ground, and you're way ahead in the fight against pollution, against flooding, against massive storm flows off of our streets, roofs and parking lots. . .

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Getting oriented to the watershed.

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Distracted by potential voters on the ravine trail :-)

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A group of nature-loving daycare kids exploring the lovely
creek stole our hearts.

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Checking out a simple swale that absorbs run-off from a parking lot
instead of draining it into the storm system - and then the local creek.

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Observing a site that streamkeepers approached the City of Burnaby
about, suggesting it could become a large rain garden. The dead-end
street will be decommissioned and turned into a lovely, water-infiltrating
garden that will also bridge Taylor Park and Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Taylor Park Elementary School just up the hill is already excited about the potential to use the rain garden as a nature-study site. After the pavement is ripped up, and water starts to flow again, and native plants are planted - what species begin to use the habitat? And how does that change and progress over the years. What a great, ongoing science project!

Thanks again to our elected representatives! We know you are very busy, and we appreciate your time and attention. I think another concept that was related today was the fact that streamkeeper groups are 100% volunteer. None of us get any financial compensation for what we do - including today's tour. . .  In fact we take unpaid time off from our day jobs to do events like this. . .

So, now, ahem, let's see some action for our tax dollars ! ;-)

Posted by Paul at 03:30 PM

July 20, 2010

Choco the Cat Loves Her (Human) Mom

Our SPCA rescue cat, Choco, gets really upset if Yumi heads out somewhere in the evening after coming home from work. She's like a little puppy, moping all day long after Yumi leaves (I do my editing work from home). As the afternoon rolls by, she emerges from one of her sleeping havens and sits near the steps leading to the front door in expectation of greeting Yumi.

So when Yumi heads out again in the same day to an event, or an exercise class in the evening, Choco feels crushed. When Yumi came home tonight from a class with her pack on her back, and we began chatting about how our day went as she skimmed one of the local papers while sitting on the floor, Choco took advantage of Yumi's low pose to do a bit of "you ain't leaving me again" domination :-).

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Choco has expressed her frustration at me leaving the house as well: here and again here.

Posted by Paul at 08:57 PM

July 17, 2010

First Walk in Delta’s Watershed Park

We've zoomed past this park many times, and today we decided to dismount our trusty '98 Outback and spend some time on the trails.

It was a good decision, for it's beautiful. Congrats to Delta for preserving this forested watershed.

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A couple of observations, though: there are vast swaths of invasive
Policeman's Helmet ( Himalayan Balsam) in sections of the park
that ought to be dealt with, along with lesser stands of Japanese
knotweed. . . And it would be great to have a toilet facility or
three around this large park. Dunno if we missed them, but we
did not see any on the kiosk maps, or the map we had printed
off the web.

Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

July 16, 2010

LinkedIn Goes For the Bottom Feeders?

I was shocked to see this advert on LinkedIn today:

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I cropped the screen capture so as not to identify the advertiser.

Um, that's not a living wage anywhere in the developed world. Not that I have anything against the developing world, but I thought LinkedIn was a website for professionals, charging professional, developed-nation rates.

Posted by Paul at 09:30 PM

July 15, 2010

Trilogy of Translations Nearly Ready for Printer

Language Lanterns Publications Inc. is almost ready to announce the publication of three more volumes of Ukrainian literature translated into English. The proofs are sitting on my desk, and as soon as I complete entering some corrections into the InDesign files, the three 416-page books will be ready to print!

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This trilogy will bring the total of Language Lanterns books published to 20. That's quite the accomplishment for a tiny company that really ought to be a non-profit! It's been a labour of love for Roma Franko, the translator, and the late Sonia Morris, the editor. I've been copy editor, proofreader, and since the passing of my mother Sonia in 2007, the associate editor. It's been quite the experience!

Mom and Roma both took early retirement from careers as professors at the University of Saskatchewan, and poured their energies (and their pensions!) into Language Lanterns. They've donated thousands of books to libraries in Canada and Ukraine, with the aim of spreading the accessibility of 19th- and 20th-century Ukrainian literature.

Last year, they were awarded the inaugural George S. N. Luckyj Ukrainian Literature Translation Prize by the Canadian Foundation of Ukrainian Studies. The citation cites Franko and Morris

for their dedication to and tremendous efforts and achievements in translating Ukrainian literature into English and making it accessible to a wide reading audience. . . After taking early retirement from their respective academic careers at the University of Saskatchewan in 1996, the sisters embarked on new careers, Roma Franko as translator and Sonia Morris as editor. Together they founded Language Lanterns Publications dedicated to publishing works of Ukrainian literature in English translation. . . To date, 17 volumes have appeared translated by Roma Franko and edited by Sonia Morris. . . The names of the recipients will be inscribed on a plaque that will be permanently displayed in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto.

While I have to wait to tell you more about the trilogy that will appear soon, I can say that there are many powerful and moving short stories in it. Stories that brought me to tears, even upon a third or fourth reading while editing and proofreading.

And you see that photo up above? That desk is my Mom's desk that I got after she died following many years of fighting cancer. I'm proud to have been able to assist in fulfilling her and Roma's goal of translating, editing, and publishing 20 volumes - -  on her desk.

P.S. I want to thank Don at Hignell Book Printing for his unwavering support, DTP advice, and assistance over many years. Don has been a rock, and his calm dealing with any and all "crises," and his (perhaps I shouldn't share this) tolerance for, um, extended deadlines, has been a lifesaver. Thanks too to Cori at Hignell for her great work on tweaking the covers of the forthcoming trilogy.

Posted by Paul at 08:23 PM

July 10, 2010

Wonderful Day Doing Canoe Level 1 Cert Course

I'm a self-taught canoeist, and my wife Yumi has little boating experience of any kind. So we decided to take the Level 1 Lake Water canoeing course to increase our confidence, learn some skills, and get experience with water rescues for canoes, and swimmers.

The course was taught by Dave and Rick from Ridge Wilderness Adventures, a couple of great guys who are top-notch at what they do, have great teaching skills, and calmly lead folks with a deft combination of seriousness, fun, and when needed, a firm guiding hand.

The full-day course took place on a gorgeous Saturday on Pitt Lake and Widgeon Creek, launching from Grant Narrows Regional Park.

I thought we'd run into Ridge Wilderness before, but I wasn't sure until we arrived at the site and introduced ourselves to Dave and Rick. Sure enough, they'd led a Voyageur "Big Canoe" trip for streamkeepers down the mighty Fraser River that we took part in a year ago.

What are my revelations after a hard day with the professionals?

  • Practice, practice, practice all the strokes until you know them cold, and can make your canoe move where you want it to go, immediately. And this doesn't mean just forward and easy turns, it includes moving sideways, in circles "on a dime," and any combination thereof.
  • Canoeing is a weighty matter, and you'd better get your canoe trimmed properly if you want any semblance of manoeuvrability. The paddler in the stern (the back end) calls all the shots and does the steering. That much I knew. But Yumi had never had any stern paddling experience. As part of the course, she had to pull stern duty, and boy did she have trouble changing course, and maintaining course, with 100+kg of me in the bow, and 55kg of her in the stern! We moved all our packs to the stern, and finally Dave even filled a huge dry bag with water to further weigh down the stern.
  • On-water rescue is a crucial skill. Somehow I got through some 50 years of life never tipping a canoe. When asked to do it on purpose, I was amazed at how fast it happens! You see, actually we were supposed to try to gently sink our canoes by gradually tipping them just to the point where they'd slowly fill with water, and then our designated rescuers would practice rescuing first our canoe, and then us. I dunno if anyone accomplished the slow fill! In our case, twice, it was slowly tip. . . tip. . . and suddenly FLIP! Once that canoe reaches the rolling point, she just goes so fast you don't even have time to scream :-).
  • There are huge differences in canoe design. We got to try three models over the course of the day and again I was amazed, this time at the great variability in stability, tracking in a straight line, and ease of manoeuvring. And I discovered that at least to me, manoeuvrability is much more important than tracking. Proper stroke techniques will keep you on track, but in a heavy, low- or no-rocker canoe with a keel it's a real pain to get it pointed where you want it to go.

So thanks Dave and Rick! We're exhausted, but we had a hugely enjoyable experience, learned a lot, and will practice our strokes.

A few photos:

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Now does that look like a perfect day to take a canoe course?

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A few of our fellow students.

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Yumi in the stern learning to call the shots!

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Paul enjoying lunch :-)

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Working on canoe rescue.

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More rescue practice.

Posted by Paul at 09:00 PM

July 09, 2010

Streamkeepers of the Language

A well-crafted blog post by James Harbeck, a fellow member of the Editors' Association of Canada, that uses the theme of streamkeeping, and in particular the March 2010 Byrne Creek kill, to frame an essay on living languages and etymology.

Thanks for the links, James!

Posted by Paul at 10:54 PM

July 08, 2010

Excellent Info about Keeping Reptiles as Pets

I ran across this website about keeping reptiles as pets. It appears to be a joint effort by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Thompson Rivers University. It has lots of great info on the true responsibilities and issues involved with keeping reptiles as pets.

If you use the search function on this blog and enter "turtle" or "Midori" you'll find lots of entries about our pet Red-Eared Slider. When we bought Midori as a wee babe in Tokyo, Japan, we had no idea what we were getting in to. She was about the size of a toonie then,  so cute, scrambly and rambunctious. Or terrified.

Some 15 years later, she's close to the size of a dinner plate, and slowly, but steadily growing every year. And she could be with us into our 70s or 80s. . .

When we moved to Canada from Japan, we had to get an import permit for Midori and a possession permit, for technically she is a wild animal, and not native to Canada to boot. You may scoff at that, and say that you've seen dozens of red-eared sliders all over the lower mainland of BC, and you'd be right - and wrong.

Yes, they're all over, but they are still an invasive species. All those red-eared turtles you see out there? They are not native, and they are impacting habitat, and resources for native species. And they really validate the website I'm plugging in this post, because most likely all those red-eared sliders out there are dumped pets.

So while we love Midori, we aren't allowed to let her breed, and we aren't allowed to ever set her "free" in the wild. Because the wild here is not her native wild. She'd also be an invasive species. And because as a turtle raised and cuddled and regularly fed by humans, she might not last long in the wild. She's been acclimated to human touch, to human feeding. . .  And not all humans are as loving as we are. And if she did last in the wild, she'd be competing with species that shouldn't be facing her and her kind.

So you think a reptile would be cool for a pet?

I know now. I've been there. I'll be there for another 20-30 years! And I wouldn't recommend turtles, cute as they are.

Posted by Paul at 11:02 PM

Canadian Wildlife Federation Slips on Turtles

The following is a comment I submitted tonight to the Canadian Wildlife Federation website regarding the online article "Spotty Luck for the Spotted Turtle."

I am curious about a couple of statements in your online article "Spotty Luck for the Spotted Turtle."

1) The article states that the spotted turtle is "Canada's only freshwater turtle." How about the native Western Painted Turtle? Or the masses of invasive Red-Eared Sliders all over the place?

2) the article goes on to say that turtles "keep warm by huddling together." Huh? They are cold-blooded reptiles. They hibernate in the winter, they don't try to keep warm... You could huddle thousands of turtles together and that wouldn't increase their warmth at all...

I'm surprised this made it past the editorial staff. I know all non-profits are overworked and underfunded these days, but these are pretty basic errors. I support the federation, but I can't let such inaccuracies pass without comment. Sorry! And all the best in the future!

UPDATE: July 9, 2010

A fellow editor from the Editors' Association of Canada provided me with this link to an Ontario government website that lists several freshwater turtle species resident in the province.

Thanks,  Adrienne!

Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

July 06, 2010

‘Retail Therapy’ Should be Struck From the Lexicon, Our Behavior

I hate the bandied-about term "retail therapy." I know we all do it. Gals do it with clothing, jewellery, perfume, shoes. . . Guys do it with sports gear, tools, gadgets. . .

Yet it speaks horribly of a total disconnect from ourselves and our planet.

How many of us living in "first-world" nations really need more stuff? More crap? We're already consuming wayyyy more than our share of the planet's resources. So how the hell can we really feel better by consuming even more?

It's morally ridiculous. You might get a little boost for a short while, but you're just adding to your psychological burden way down deep inside.

I've spent much of the last three days going through the garage and my home office trying to de-gunk my life. Purge! Even just a little!

And yet I'm still as gadget-lustful as the next guy. Just bought a new smartphone, would love a better canoe, perhaps a kayak for some solo excursions. And the darn car is just too small, wouldn't it be nice to get a mid-sized truck for camping and canoeing excursions?

It never ends.

But perhaps we could at least stop talking about it as something uplifting, eh?

P.S. I admire my wife, Yumi. She still gets her shopping hit regularly, but she does it at the Salvation Army, the Hospice Society Thrift Store, etc. She spends hours having fun (not my cup of tea, but I respect our differences), while spending tens of dollars instead of hundreds, comes home excited and happy, and feels great and looks great. That kind of "retail therapy" I can support :-).

Posted by Paul at 08:55 PM

July 05, 2010

Clearing Invasive Policeman’s Helmet along Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are tackling invasive Himalayan Balsam (aka Policeman's Helmet) in lower stretches of the urban creek, yet again. It's an endless battle. We've cleared this particular stretch of the creek three years in a row, but it still comes back.

The growth of this invasive plant can be so thick and rampant that it can literally suck sections of the creek dry if not battled back.

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That's my wife, Yumi, and the pink blossoms
above her head are on one of the dreaded plants.
In a matter of several weeks it's gone from barely
noticeable to nearly 2 meters high!

And in places, pink is all that you see. . .
This is near the end of several hours of
back-breaking eradication.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

July 04, 2010

Lovely Afternoon at West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park

It was a gorgeous day to explore parts of Lighthouse Park that we hadn't checked out before. It had been several years since our last visit, and we'll certainly have to go more often.

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Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

Byrne Creek Bug Count Yields Baby Crayfish

Twice a year, Byrne Creek Streamkeepers count bugs - the fancy name is "aquatic invertebrate surveys" - to assess the quality of the water in the urban stream. We sample the same locations year after year so that we have comparable data. The bug counts usually run for three weekends in a row.

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The crew hard at work - we are fortunate to have members
who let us use their china and dining room tables so that we
can  count in comfort after collecting the samples from the creek.

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To our surprise, we found three baby crayfish in our sample.
Here's one of them next to a dime for size comparison.

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

July 02, 2010

New Acer Liquid E Smartphone

Rogers sent me a loyalty upgrade smartphone offer the other day, and after perusing reviews online I settled on the Acer Liquid E (note this is a link to a video with music), running Android 2.1 for only $19.99. That was for the razor. The blades are an extra $25/month for the basic data plan :-).

I used to have a razor, a Motorola Razor colour-screen flip-phone, but somehow it landed in the washing machine many months ago, so I regressed back to a Motorola 280 with a teeny monochrome screen. At one point I considered an iPhone, but it was too early in my contract cycle to get it at a decent cost. And while I have an iPod Touch, I was interested in checking out the Android platform.

It's still my first day with the new gadget, so I have a lot to learn, but so far it looks great! Now I can do email, Tweet, and Facebook on the go.

I used to say I'd never succumb to this, but I'm a prolific emailer, Tweeter, and Facebooker on my office computer, so what the hey, hey? Actually I wonder at how long it took me to get here, as I'm usually an early adopter. . .

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The old, backup Motorola 280 next to the Acer Liquid E

It appears that the Acer Liquid E is a hot little item at the moment. I first cycled over to Metrotown, the largest mall in BC, but Wireless Wave didn't have it, and the Rogers store didn't have it either. Which irked me, because if you sent me the loyalty upgrade brochure, why don't you have the offered items in stock?

The trail finally led back to a "Rogers Plus" store just a 5-minute cycle from our place, but an outlet that it never even occurred to me to go to because I consider it to be just a video rental place.

Was I ever wrong about that! The Rogers video rental place on Royal Oak and Rumble not only had the Acer Liquid E, it also had a superb store manager by the name of Arjun Tyagi who calmly and deftly took me in hand, fulfilled my loyalty upgrade to perfection, and gave me a great demo of the Liquid E to boot. Thanks, Arjun!

Posted by Paul at 09:13 PM

Developing Thunder Thighs. . .

I spent over four hours on my new bicycle today, and my thighs are aching to prove it. This was only my third ride of the year, and perhaps my enthusiasm carried me away too much.

I cycled from home to Burnaby City Hall to pay our property taxes. Needless to say, going downhill was thrilling, chugging back up the considerable and lengthy slope from the Deer Lake valley to the top of the Kingsway ridge was another matter. But I recovered, and went on to check out the trail all the way to the New Westminster Quay and back to our home in the Edmonds neighbourhood in south Burnaby. By this time I was being routinely passed by svelte young female gazelles as my 50-ish body began to realize its (current!) limits :-).

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The lovely new overpass that gets you over the traffic and
down to the New Westminster Quay area.

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It truly was a gorgeous day. A view of the mighty Fraser River.

Posted by Paul at 09:01 PM

July 01, 2010

Canada Day in Surrey

We decided to check out Canada Day in Surrey as part of our ongoing exploration of events on Canada's birthday. Last year we went to Canada Day in New Westminster and thoroughly enjoyed the cosy atmosphere in Queen's Park, the live music, etc. As Burnaby residents and community volunteers, we've been to many Canada Day events in Burnaby.

Our impression of the Surrey event was that it was much more corporate-sponsorship oriented than Burnaby events are. I'm not judging that as being either good or bad, but it was interesting to hear Surrey politicians lauding the corporate sponsors for enabling a "free public event." Hmm. Burnaby Canada Day events are free to the public, too, without all the banner ads, displays of cars and trucks, etc. . . Perhaps the Burnaby events are not on quite the same scale, but bigger is not necessarily better, eh?

I was impressed, however, with the strong environmental-sustainability presence at the Surrey event. Lots of displays on sustainable living, and booths on streamkeeping and preserving urban forests. Surrey actually hires university students over the summer to lead teams of hired high-school students to work on restoring urban streams, removing invasive plant species, etc. I have to admit that's way ahead of Burnaby initiatives. . .

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM