August 29, 2010

Sockeye Salmon Dying Unspawned on Harrison River & Lake

Yumi and I went as far up the  Fraser Valley as Kilby today looking for spawning salmon.

We were surprised to see lots of dead sockeye on the banks of the Harrison River -- many of them just barely starting to show their spawning colouration, and looking good enough to eat. We could also see lots of big silver fish belly up out on the water. Strange.

On our way home we stopped in at Kanaka Creek to poke around the hatchery, and talked to the manager. He said he'd heard stories of people out fishing on Harrison River & Lake who said they'd seen lots of silver floaters.

I also found a thread on the Fishing with Rod website with similar reports, and plenty of speculation as to what the cause could be -- high water temps? disease?

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The above had the most advanced spawning colouration that we saw.

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The beach at Kilby.

In several shots I took of the water, you can count a dozen or more dead
floaters per picture, but I've not posted any here because at this size of photo
the fish are just white dots.

Posted by Paul at 06:21 PM

August 28, 2010

Buntzen Lake Hike

We hiked around Buntzen Lake today for the first time in several years. It was not crowded at all, and we met fewer than a dozen people on the loop around the lake.

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Posted by Paul at 08:05 PM

August 27, 2010

Met Ripple Relay Riders at Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

I met Ripple Relay/Wild Salmon Express cyclists Michelle Nickerson and Daniel Van der Kroon today. They have been cycling the entire length of the Fraser River watershed to highlight awareness of wild salmon and promote a shift away from open-net fish farming.

We met at Burnaby's Byrne Creek, and chatted about the challenges this urban watershed faces. It was great to meet them, and wish them on their way. Their goal is near!

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Photo by my wife, Yumi.

Posted by Paul at 08:10 PM

August 26, 2010

Ripping Old LPs to MP3

I've finally gotten around to starting a huge project - digitizing over 300 LPs, most of which I haven't listened to in over 20 years.

When I moved to Japan in 1985, the LPs went into storage in my late Mom's garage, and she and her husband Barry carried them around with them through several moves - - thanks!

When my wife Yumi and I moved to Canada, initially we were in a small apartment, so I didn't take the albums back until we'd bought a townhouse. I bought an inexpensive Sony PS LX250H turntable some years back (it has a built-in pre-amp so is ideal for plugging straight into a computer's sound card), but never listened to many of the albums. I figure if I get them on my computer and thence onto my iPod, I'll start listening to them again.

A few days ago I bought the Spin it Again software app and tried it out with an album. It worked quite well, so the project is now underway, an album or two at a time.

I'm surprised at how good the albums are sounding, and how they bring back memories. Tonight is Heart night. Started with Dreamboat Annie and am now doing Dog and Butterfly.

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The setup in my office is not ideal - I can't get any desk space close enough to plug in the turntable, so it's sitting on the floor next to my Windows 7 tower. But that's OK, bending over every 20 minutes or so is good exercise :-).

BTW, I believe this is all legal. I'm simply shifting mediums for music that I own licences to. If I were to rip all my LPs to MP3s and then sell or give away the LPs, that would be crossing the line, since I would no longer own the licences. So to my understanding, I gotta hang on to the original LPs, even after they're all digitized.

Posted by Paul at 09:19 PM

August 23, 2010

Massive Cross-Posting Dilutes Value of LinkedIn et al

I'm getting increasingly irritated at people who use various apps to simultaneously post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Or perhaps I should say that I'm getting increasingly pissed off at social media sites that open up their APIs to any and all apps.

When I'm on LinkedIn I'm not looking for used cars. When I'm on Facebook, I'm not looking for references.

This shotgun approach is eventually going to adulterate and dilute some of these media to the point that they will become useless. I for one, feel they should be kept separate and focused upon their niches.

We've lost the basic filters.

I would have thought that LinkedIn would never allow "I'm selling my car" posts. Well, last time  I looked at my LinkedIn home page, more than half of the "network updates" were of that ilk. So where's LinkedIn's uniqueness now?

Posted by Paul at 08:45 PM

Double-Yolk Egg

Ran across a double-yolk egg today. They're not that uncommon, but I don't recall cracking one before:

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Posted by Paul at 06:28 PM

August 21, 2010

Let’s Kill More Salmon Before They Spawn ‘Too Much.’ Huh?

Now that we've got a half-decent run of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River for the first time in several years, the "let's harvest more!" crowd are out in force. Gluttony and opportunism are reviving their old, baseless, self-centred, anti-social arguments.

As a society, we have the collective attention span of a two-year-old child. And a matching lack of historical awareness.

FEED ME! NOW!

The "over-escapement" letters to editors are starting to fly, accusing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of not allowing more "harvest" (isn't that a nice, benign word?).

I've never understood the argument that us enlightened human managers of the world might make the apparently huge mistake of letting too many salmon reach their spawning grounds.

What?! Horrors!

The "over-escapers" say this will lead to "over-competition," disrupted redds, blah, blah.

The Fraser used to regularly, year after year, have salmon runs 3, 5, perhaps even 10 times the volume of what we have now in our best year out of five. And since there were none of us enlightened, scientific, white folks around to harvest them with vast nets and motorized vessels, or chew up their habitat with our housing and commercial buildings, or poison them with our sewage and chemicals, the bulk of those salmon got past the First Nations fishers who literally had a life-or-death dependence upon them for millennia.

So how is it that salmon managed to thrive and fill rivers from bank to bank without our scientific, commercial intervention, year after year for centuries?

And as for that "over-competition" argument, well, that's nature's way of ensuring healthy populations. The big, strong, healthy salmon get to partner, get to spawn, get to stir up and replace the redds of smaller, weaker fish.

Nature thrives on competition.

If I were a fisher truly looking forward to the future of this "resource," I'd say let *all* the sockeye through for several generations of fair natural selection until we get tens of millions of huge fish back again - - *on a regular basis*.

Instead of directing your anger at DFO for not allowing you to scoop the LAST FISH, you might focus your efforts on habitat preservation, a shift to tertiary sewage treatment. . .

It's only whining Canadian humans who demand self-centred changes to government regulations that happen to benefit and suit them in the short term. The fish have no voice, no party, no cabinet ministers. . .

UPDATE (Aug. 30): I was happy to see the Vancouver Sun's Stephen Hume tackle "over-escapement" on the front page of the Aug. 30 paper.

UPDATE (Aug. 30): Ernie Crey of the Sto:lo First Nation also warns against overfishing in CBC article.

Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

August 20, 2010

Jennifer Atchison, 1938-2010, Passionate Burnaby Streamkeeper, Environmental Advocate

Jennifer was always swimming upstream, leading by example, pushing and prodding, collaborating and cajoling. She was the heart of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, and was instrumental in that group achieving so much environmental restoration in her watershed in conjunction with many partners including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the City of Burnaby.

As president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society, I extend our condolences to Jennifer's family and our fellow streamkeepers at Stoney Creek.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with Jennifer at least a little over the last ten years. She was always a joy to meet at streamkeeper events and activities. I was also fortunate to be present when she received two well-deserved awards: the City of Burnaby's Environment Award for Community Stewardship in 2010, and a BC Achievement Award in 2008.

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City of Burnaby Environment Award 2010
L to R: Greg Bartle, City of Burnaby Long-Range Planner - Environmental Stewardship;
Jennifer; Burnaby Councillor and Environment Committee Chair Dan Johnston

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BC Achievement Award 2008
L to R: MLA Harry Bloy, Jennifer, BC Premier Gordon Campbell

As you can see by the above photos, she was physically diminutive, but she'd latch onto my arm, tilt her head up, focus on my eyes nearly two feet above her own. . . and keep me fixed in her sights until she'd imparted a key message she wanted me to hear :-).

Many of us in the streamkeeper community, and I suspect many politicians and bureaucrats as well, will miss that arm lock, that intense gaze . . .

So let's remember and honour her unwavering message of watershed restoration and protection, and the right of every human being, fish, and animal, to live in clean water and a healthy natural environment, even in urban areas.

Posted by Paul at 10:28 PM

August 17, 2010

Rainwater and Sustainable Communities

This is an excellent website for sustainable stormwater management practices. I really like the "Who are you?" links that tune the perspective toward elected officials, municipal stormwater managers, developers, and the general public.

Thanks to Waterbucket for the link!

Posted by Paul at 12:41 PM

August 15, 2010

If You Can’t Beat the Heat, At Least You Can Wear a Yukata!

It's another hot one on BC's west coast today. Lots of high temp records broken. As of 8:00 p.m. the digital thermostat in the living room reads 28C. It's finally cooling a bit as evening falls, and we opened all the windows wide a few minutes ago. I'm sitting in my basement office, which is at least a couple of degrees cooler, sipping on a beer that spent the last 20 minutes of its life shifted to the freezer portion of the fridge to ensure tooth-dazzling coldness, and wearing my yukata.

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This light cotton robe-like garment is popular in Japan and is provided with one's room at traditional inns and many hotels, where it's a sort of loungewear that's also acceptable in public spaces, and also at festivals. This one's a fairly cheap touristy item, but I've also got a nice one that nearly sweeps the floor on my 6' frame.

I dunno why, but there's something about wearing a yukata that seems to make the heat more bearable.

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

Sampling Japadog, Hanging with ZZ Top at Lonsdale Quay

We headed into downtown Vancouver today to check out Japadog, a sausage and hot dog vendor with a Japanese twist. The dogs were great, but the fries were a bit wimpy and wayyyy over-salted. I had the "Okonomi" pork sausage  with Japanese mayo, Okonomiyaki sauce, fried cabbage and dried bonito flakes. Yumi had the "Oroshi" Bratwurst with grated daikon radish, soy sauce and green onion. Both were delicious!

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After the dogs, Yumi followed up with a green tea cream puff from the Beard Papa outlet almost next door to Japadog. Now here's a happy Japanese gal :-)!

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Our appetites sated, we took the SeaBus over to Lonsdale Quay. To my delight, a pretty good ZZ Top cover band was playing in the square, so we took in some tunes before the hot sun prompted us to take a walk in breezier spaces.

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I am impressed with how the area is developing with an eye to the local shipbuilding history.

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Restored moveable crane.

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Some brightly painted gear on the old pier.

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And a wee little yacht with its own helicopter :-)

Posted by Paul at 08:26 PM

August 14, 2010

Speaking Streamkeeping at Mesa/Burnaby Sister-City Visit

I was invited to speak to a delegation on a sister-city visit today to Burnaby BC, from Mesa, AZ. The group was visiting Burnaby's gorgeous new Tommy Douglas Library, and I was asked to talk about the significance of the Stream of Dreams mural in the children's area of the library, and how the City and the library have collaborated over the years with local volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

I quickly recounted some of the history of Stream of Dreams, and the original Dreamfish mural on a fence surrounding the property that the library was eventually built on. I spoke about the "fishy neighbourhood" around the library and the beautiful salmon sculpture and the "stream" and its aquatic animals inlaid into the path behind the library. I explained how all drains lead to fish habitat, and how streamkeepers and the City of Burnaby work closely together on keeping urban creeks and streams as natural and healthy as is possible in a developed environment.

While I'm not sure how much of the healthy watershed message I got across in a few minutes, I thank library staff including Chief Librarian Edel Toner-Rogala and Tommy Douglas Branch Manager Roberta Summersgill for inviting me. They are both wonderful to work with!

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Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan (right) presents Mesa Mayor Scott Smith with framed memento of the tour.

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Viewing the Stream of Dreams installation in the children's corner.

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Touring the gorgeous library.

Posted by Paul at 07:30 PM

August 13, 2010

Pride Kills: 25th Anniversary of Deadliest Single-Plane Crash Ever

I was surprised to see that it's the 25th anniversary of the world's worst-ever single-plane crash that killed 520 people and left only 4 survivors. I vividly remember news about JAL Flight 123 because it happened the year I arrived in Japan for what became a 14-year stay.

The memories also revive my anger at the Japanese government's response to the crash - something that you don't see much of in the news of the anniversary. US Forces were the first to pinpoint the mountainous site of the crash, and US rescue crews were standing by for insertion from helicopters, but the Japanese government refused all offers of assistance. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces didn't arrive on site until the next day.

One of the four survivors chillingly recalled how sounds from more survivors diminished through the night as the injured succumbed to shock and exposure.

Fingers can be pointed in many directions in this tragedy: at Boeing, at JAL, etc., but I still think that misguided national pride was one of the most stupid aspects.

To some degree I can understand the sentiment that Japan wanted to take care of its own, and didn't want to acknowledge that the always-contentious US bases in Japan had troops with the initiative, the training and the gear to accomplish what the JSDF could not.

But was pride worth those lives?

Posted by Paul at 08:25 PM

August 10, 2010

Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby Underway!

It's so exciting to see construction underway on the Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby, BC. The rain garden is being created on a dead-end cul-de-sac, and will bridge Taylor Park and Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers brought the site to the attention of the City of Burnaby's planning, engineering and parks departments, and all immediately understood the site's potential. It not only links the green space of the two parks, it will provide natural filtration of rainwater that comes down Burnaby's south slope and that roars unfiltered into Byrne Creek. Streamkeepers have noted for years the oily flow off the streets that accumulated into the rain drains (storm drains) along Southpoint Drive and was visible way down below, exiting pipes into the creek whenever it rained.

The site will also be a gorgeous outdoor nature lab for elementary school students from nearby Taylor Park School. The principal, staff and students have already been involved in discussions and developments. The school has also been so kind as to hold an event with streamkeepers, and everyone appears excited about monitoring the new rain garden and how it will affect local urban biodiversity.

And last, but not least, the site is right by Adera Development's "Green" townhouse development. As part of its ethos of sustainable development and giving back to communities, Adera provided a substantial donation to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers several years ago. We thank Adera for its patience in waiting to receive full public acknowledgement for its efforts, as the streamkeepers decided to use the funds to support the rain garden - a project that took some time to come to fruition.

I can almost feel the earth heaving a sigh of relief as the asphalt is stripped away, allowing the soil to breath and to absorb rain again!

Way to go Burnaby! I hope this project stimulates more of its kind around our beautiful city.

You're doing good, we heartily appreciate it,  let's see more! :-)

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Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

August 08, 2010

What Camera Do You Use?

I've had this question posed to me several times, and while you could poke around this blog for awhile and figure it out, I thought I'd consolidate some of the info in one post.

The answer is, several cameras.

My present active camaraderie of cameras includes a Canon SD780IS, a Canon S5IS, and a Nikon D300. I'd have several more, if I had the budget!

The SD780 is a teeny, pocket-size camera that I carry nearly all the time, even when I have one of my bigger units along. It's an excellent basic point-and-shoot, and its limitations come mainly in its narrow-range zoom (about 35-105mm in 35mm equivalent) and its poor performance in low light. Aside from that, it's an amazing unit for its size.

The S5IS is a "superzoom" point-and-shoot. It does not fit in a pocket, but it's a heck of a lot smaller and lighter than a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex). Compared to a DSLR its main limitations are poor low-light capabilities, lack of RAW file capture, and much slower "reaction time" when it comes to powering up and shutter lag. I carry it when I don't want to lug my heavy DSLR around, and also use it in situations (like canoeing) in which I don't want to risk my DSLR!

The D300 is a big, heavy, amazingly customizable machine. It takes high-quality shots all over the spectrum from bright days to nearly lightless nights. But, I don't necessarily want to lug it around all the time - though I probably should! :-). A DSLR's big advantage is that you can change lenses, and you have a lot more manual control of f-stops and shutter speeds. I have an 18-200mm zoom mounted on it most of the time (about 27-300mm equivalent on a 35mm camera), and have a couple of other lenses (longer telephoto and close-range macro) that I can swap out as I please.

Do megapixels matter? My humble opinion is that once you reach 8MP or so, you're pretty much covered up to 8 X 10 prints. The SD780 is capable of 12MP, but I have it set to 8MP because its tiny sensor simply doesn't provide 12 *quality* megapixels. The S5 tops out at 8MP and that's where I leave it. The D300 is a 12.1MP machine, and I shoot everything on it at that setting, capturing RAW files.

So why is the SD780 a couple of hundred bucks and the D300 is over $1,500 when they both top out at around 12MP? The Nikon's sensor is a lot larger, with a greater range of tonal values captured per pixel for much better performance, particularly in low light. The D300 is also a tank, well-sealed against inclement weather, and with a wealth of customizable shooting features.

So if three cameras are not enough, what's on my wish list? A newer superzoom. The lens ranges have gotten wider, at both the wide-angle and telephoto ends in newer cameras, and low-light performance and responsiveness (shutter lag) have also improved. I'd also like an "all-weather" pocket camera that can take dunking in water to 20 or 30 feet. . .

And, of course, a high-end DSLR like the Nikon D3X - mind-blowing 24MP image quality and low-light capability, but you're looking at C$7,500 for just the body! :-)

P.S. Oh yeah, at the resolutions of the photos output as 70% quality JPEG files on this blog (usually in the 350 X 250 pixel range), it would be nearly impossible to tell which of those three cameras a particular photo was taken with! So the bottom line is, it's (mostly) not the equipment, it's the photographer. A good eye can produce amazing photos with the most basic of gear.

Posted by Paul at 09:43 PM

Rain Refreshes White Rock Scenes

We finally got some much-need rain in BC, and the misty, damp afternoon
provided for some lush shots in South Surrey/White Rock.

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The pier.

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All other photos taken at Stewart Heritage Farm

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Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

August 07, 2010

Wild Animals Know Windows

Here's a great example of squirrels who have learned all about windows and patio doors. This little bugger was munching on our balcony bean patch in total confidence. It knew as long as the glass door was closed, the cat, and not the even more irate human, could get at it.

In the end, we sacrificed a few young beans for the "through-the-glass" entertainment of our completely indoor cat, Choco.

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Yumi gets in on the action, readying to protect her beans!

Posted by Paul at 11:00 PM

August 02, 2010

Wondering About a Canada Flag Pin

I was looking back at some recent entries on this blog, and the one on Lowe hiking and camera gear evoked a wonderful memory. It was one of those fragments that may have changed a life, perhaps nudged it a bit. I wonder what, if anything, came of that day when I literally reached out and touched another life?

It was a sweltering summer day in Japan nearly twenty years ago, give or take a few years. My good buddy Michael and I were heading home on a train after a long day hiking in the mountains west of Tokyo. Though we'd changed into fresh Ts and sandals from our sweat-soaked hiking clothing and heavy leather boots, we, and our steaming boots, still presented an assault on the olfactory senses of those on the crowded commuter train around us. I'm not a small guy, and Michael, who was then working toward his second-degree black belt in karate and regularly training with weights, was also imposing.

It was impossible not to be aware of us because of our race, our size and our big packs.

I noticed a small boy clutching his mother's hand and staring at us. He couldn't keep his eyes off us, despite his mother's embarrassment and hushed admonitions to look away.

What was going through his formative mind? He was obviously entranced by these two huge, hairy, foreign men. We must have looked like strange gods to him, albeit tired, sweaty, gods.

I smiled at the boy, which only made him grip his mother's hand harder, but he didn't lose eye contact. I wanted to do or say something, but what?

I recalled that I often kept a bunch of tiny Canadian flag pins arrayed on my backpack to share with hikers. I still had one left.

I unpinned it, and slowly stretched out my hand toward the little boy with the flag resting in my open palm. He looked up at his mother with a questioning glance, and she hesitated, then nodded and gave me a nervous, blushing smile, so he slowly stretched out his hand, and the pass was made.

I wonder if that little boy, who must be a man in his mid-twenties by now, also occasionally remembers that moment? Does he still have that pin in a dusty drawer somewhere?

Or perhaps he hikes the lovely mountain trails of Japan with that pin on his backpack.

I'd like that.

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Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

Long Weekend Bicycle Ride Around Burnaby

We did a four-hour bicycle ride on this holiday Monday from our home in SE Burnaby near Edmonds Skytrain Station, all the way over to Cariboo and the Central Valley Greenway around Burnaby Lake. We took a break at Piper Spit and watched some wildlife, then headed over to Kensington and eventually huffed and puffed our way up Royal Oak and back to the BC Parkway and home. Whew!

There's a great cycling map available online here.

A few shots from Piper Spit:

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And me with bicycle helmet hair:

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Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM

August 01, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me – New Photo Backpack

Lens and Shutter was celebrating my birthday with a 25% off sale on Lowe camera bags and backpacks. :-)

So I picked up a Nature Trekker AW II for my birthday.

Seems like a lot of bag to carry, but the important part for me is the well-engineered suspension system, and in particular the padded hip belt that takes the weight off the shoulders, seeing as I have a bad back.

I've accumulated a fair bit of Lowe gear over the years. Here's a shot with three Lowe camera bags with the latest acquisition at the right. I've also got a couple of Lowe hiking backpacks. Great gear! I've used it hard, some of it for 25+ years and it's still going strong.

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This shot is missing my classic Lowe shoulder photo bag that I carried for some 15 years. Along with my 35mm film Nikon gear and loads of Kodachrome (may you rest in peace) and Fujichrome film. That bag finally succumbed to jungle rot, well, actually some sort of mould that was impossible to get rid of, from hot and humid Asian weather years ago.

Posted by Paul at 10:39 PM