May 31, 2013

What? No More SATA Power Leads in my Tower Computer?!

Dontcha just hate it when you run out of SATA power leads in your tower computer, and it's 10:30pm and you need a 2" 4-Pin IDE Molex to SATA Power Adapter Cable?

So I bought a PCI USB 3.0 card for my tower the other day, along with a USB 3.0 HD dock. I open up the case tonight, and, gasp, horrors, no more SATA leads are available off the power supply to power the card!

I've had a USB 2.0 HD dock for years, one of the best gizmos ever for hot-swapping SATA hard drives for backup and other purposes. But I'd really like to upgrade to the much faster USB 3.0, because at this point I have 824 GB of photos and video to back up, which takes ages over USB 2.0.

Posted by Paul at 10:42 PM

Turtle Exhausted After Laying Clutch of Eggs

Midori, our red-eared slider, has been laying eggs off and on over the last month. Usually it's one or two at a time, but the other evening we found her with half a dozen on the carpet and a few in her tank.


Folks are bound to have questions about this so let me attempt to anticipate a few:

  • Are turtles good pets? No, not really. They are a lot of work and are a long-term commitment. We've had Midori for over 15 years now, and she could live another 30 years. They are also potential carriers of salmonella. Dori is probably clear, but we wash our hands after touching her, or changing the water in her tank (which we do at least once, and sometimes two or three times a day, depending on how much she eats and poops.) Like I said, a lot of work. . .
  • Aren't red-eared sliders invasive in BC? Yep, they are. When we moved to BC from Japan (which at that time, and perhaps to this day, has no pet turtle regulations), we had to get an import permit from the federal government, and a possession permit from the BC government. We are not allowed to breed her, or set her free in the wild. Yes, I know that sounds crazy as hundreds of unwanted pet sliders have been released all over the lower mainland over the years.
  • Why is she laying eggs if she has no mate? When she reached sexual maturity, she began producing eggs in numbers varying from a dozen to three or four dozen every year. They're just not fertilized.
  • Why is she dropping her eggs willy-nilly wherever she happens to be? We've tried to provide more "natural" spots for her, like boxes of dirt, or sand, but she's never used them.
  • More on keeping reptiles as pets here.

All that said, we got Midori when she was so small that she appeared to almost imprint on us to some degree, and she's very cuddly for a turtle. After that last batch of eggs, she fell asleep in her tank for a day. When she came out, she immediately crawled over to us, wanting "uppie." She fell asleep wrapped in a towel on Yumi's lap yesterday evening, and then we put her in a basket with a warming gel pack. She slept for 14 hours straight, and didn't appear until almost lunchtime today.

Posted by Paul at 11:13 AM

May 29, 2013

Tracing Erosion of Stairs in Byrne Creek Ravine Park

I've been noticing active erosion along the stairs that go from Brynlor Drive into Byrne Creek Ravine Park the last several times that it has rained. Today I saw that the stairs are being undermined and eroded away in places, though just  a few days ago it appeared some repair work had been done to previous recent washouts on, and near, the stairs.

This has happened before, where (I think) Burnaby Parks repairs the stairs, but doesn't seem to locate and fix the source of the problem. I think that may be because pipes are Burnaby Engineering : -).

So today I backtracked the unusual flow to an area near where a storm-drain pipe had cracked a few years ago and had caused similar problems. This time I found water upwelling from a manhole cover on a storm-drain pipe in the same vicinity as the origin of the problem in the previous event. Water upwelling could mean various issues, but that's civic employee pay grade, not for a volunteer to guess at : - ). That upwelling was cutting a new channel down the steep ravine slope, hitting the stairs, and thereby channelling the flow along, and, under, the stairs.

I called the source of the flow in to Burnaby Dispatch, and within an hour they were on the scene and following up. Great response!

But I wonder why the initial problem was not detected before the first repair on the stairs. I hate to see my property tax dollars going to fix the same problem over again within days, without tracking or tackling the source. And, like I said, this happened before a few years ago, in almost the exact same way, with the source in almost the exact same place.


Upwelling manhole


Erosion where the unusual flow meets the stairs into the ravine


Another view of the erosion


A close-up shot of the steps being eroded

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

May 28, 2013

City of Burnaby Environmental Issues & Priorities Questionnaire

Burnaby Environmental Sustainability Strategy - Let's Plan-It!

We want to hear what matters most to you, to help us create a plan for Burnaby's green future! Take our questionnaire

Posted by Paul at 01:43 PM

Double the Fun in SE Burnaby

So what happens when two community associations in the same neighbourhood have meetings on the same night? The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society sends board members to both: Edmonds Business & Community Association (EBCA) at the Tommy Douglas Library at 6:00 p.m., and Edmonds People in Community (EPIC) at Edmonds Community School at 6:30 p.m.

Posted by Paul at 11:40 AM

May 25, 2013

‘Development Study’ Far From Actual Development

Friends of ours going through their files ran across a "Development Study" dating back some 20 years or so for the townhouse complex that we live in. It was built years before we bought a unit and moved in, and it was eye-opening to see major differences between what was initially envisioned, and what was actually built. It was also educational, because as streamkeepers, we keep an eye on new developments in our watershed. Here are a few shots from the scanned document:


No such open waterway exists in the complex, nor did the complex ever have such a forested appearance.


There is no such "community building" overlooking a "conservation area" with an open waterway. None of those features exist. And no such trees exist, either.

Other features from other panels, such as a common open treed area in the middle of the complex never saw the light of day either.

Posted by Paul at 07:30 PM

May 24, 2013

Lush Spring Colours Paint Byrne Creek

A photo ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this afternoon. . .















We are so fortunate to have Byrne Creek in our "back yard."
When working and volunteering gets crazy, and I'm feeling overwhelmed,
there's nothing like a photo ramble to exercise the body and mind.

A 3-hour photo hike is like 3 hours of Tai Chi:
up, down, stretch, squat, balance on rocks and slopes. . .

And, er, focusing on photography engages a whole 'nother part of my mind.
It's refreshingly exhausting!

Posted by Paul at 10:49 PM

May 22, 2013

Environment Week Events in Burnaby & Public Input Into Enviro Strategy

This in from the City of Burnaby:

Mark your calendars!  There are some exciting community events just around the corner!


Environment Week 2013

Sunday, June 2 to Saturday, June 8

Burnaby's annual week of fun-filled environmentally-themed community activities.  The main event, Environment Festival, is on Saturday, June 8 at Burnaby City Hall in the outer courtyard.  Come on out to learn, participate and enjoy!


Environmental Sustainability Strategy 'Plan-It' Event

9am to 2pm, Saturday, June 8

Burnaby City Hall, in the outer courtyard

Help us create a plan for a greener future!  The City of Burnaby wants to hear about your priorities and ideas to protect and enhance the environment in Burnaby as input to the Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS).

  • Learn about what the City does now!
  • Place landmarks on our giant Green Map of the City!
  • Take part in other fun events for kids, youth and adults!
  • 'Plan-It' is part of the Environment Festival. 
  • Enjoy food, activities, music, exhibits, and prizes - fun for the whole family!


Call for ESS Community Engagement Volunteers

Submission deadline: May 29

Monday, June 3 to Sunday, June 30

The City of Burnaby is looking for individual volunteers to assist with Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS) community engagement events taking place over the month of June 2013.

Check out this great opportunity to help make your City a greener place!

Posted by Paul at 11:21 AM

May 21, 2013

Selling a Nikon, Gasp!

I placed one of my old Nikon 35mm film cameras and a Vivitar Series 1 zoom lens for sale on Craig's List Vancouver today:

I've never sold any of my old Nikon gear before, but I'll likely never use any of my film cameras again. This is the one I can part with most easily, as it was the most recent Nikon film camera I bought. I'll hang on to my Nikon F2 for sentimental reasons forever, and am still dithering about my "second body" "backup" Nikkormat FT2. They've sat unused for decades, but they have so many memories attached to them that it's not worth giving them up for the few dollars they'd still command today.

I started out with a Mamiya 500DTL that I bought in NYC around 1970 with money I saved from babysitting. I added to the screw-mount collection in those early years with an ancient Pentax, whose model number I don't even remember, and several lenses.

I sold all those over 30 years ago when I finally got my dream machine of that era, the Nikon F2, along with several top-notch Nikkor lenses: the 24mm/2.8, the 50mm/1.4, the micro 55mm/3.5, and the 80-200 zoom. The F2 in those days would be like a $6,000 D4 today - the pro camera enthusiasts aspired to own.

Anyway, I hope some aspiring young photographer who still has to go through the film, and film developing and printing, process, lands this camera.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

May 20, 2013

Reifel Ramble on Victoria Day

The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary was crowded this holiday Monday, but we still saw lots of birds.

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A series of shots of a blackbird chasing away a crow:

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Heron in flight

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Sandhill cranes in flight

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My how puffed up and handsome am I. Hey! I said. . .

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

May 16, 2013

Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright Share Their Music

Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright have this amazing ART program.

ART = Artist Response Team. They go into schools with an environmental/music program that's incredibly uplifting. The combination of their powerful voices and playing, backed up by professional, world-class musicians (the accompanying Dream Band is made up of session musicians who've played on many a gold album), and schools of children, has sent shivers down my spine on more than one occasion.

Years ago I had the wonderful opportunity as a Stream of Dreams board member to be there when some collaboration was arranged between the two groups that resulted in several magical performances.

So I'm (volunteer) working on a couple of streamkeeper/environmental slide shows to present at free community events over the next few weeks. They're all about watersheds, salmon, streamkeeping, and so forth. And it hit me that Holly and Kevin's music would be fantastic to play at such events to engage folks as they gathered, and to rev them up as I started my show.

So I asked ART if I could use a few of their tracks in that context.

Holly's response was wonderfully giving:

For sure Paul, we'd love you to include our music. Please credit Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright as performers/songwriters. If you have the space, could you include our website:

If I wasn't away on the Skeena tour at that time, I'd come and sing in person for you.

Now, that's dedication. . . and sharing.

Thank you Holly and Kevin.

Posted by Paul at 09:54 PM

Tiny Doses of Some Insecticides Fatal for Bees, Aquatic Insects

"May 15, 2013 - Neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects not only on bees but also on freshwater invertebrates. Exposure to low but constant concentrations of these substances -- which are highly soluble in water -- has lethal effects on these aquatic organisms."

One of the insecticides this article addresses is imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Merit. I fought a losing battle several years ago against using Merit in our townhouse complex (less than 20m from Byrne Creek) to combat chaffer beetles (and we had not even had an outbreak!).

Even Bayer's fact sheet for Merit states it is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, and says it should not be applied to water, or where surface water is present. It also says it can contaminate groundwater.

I contacted Environment Canada back then with the argument that the application ban should also extend to any ground that drains into a storm drain. They didn't buy it.

Posted by Paul at 01:14 PM

May 14, 2013

‘Beautiful Byrne Creek’ Presentation at Burnaby’s Tommy Douglas Library

To help mark the City of Burnaby's Environment Week celebrations, the Tommy Douglas Library is generously hosting a presentation by the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society on June 6 at 7:00 p.m.

This year's Environment Week theme is  "Nature in the City" so it's a great partnership.

I'll be putting together a snappy PowerPoint of some of our best photos, videos, and maps, to help cover the following points, and more:

  • Overview of Burnaby's waterways
  • Byrne Creek -- an oasis in the city
  • Fish and wildlife in Byrne Creek Ravine Park
  • Streamkeepers -- what do they do?
  • How can my family and I help keep our creeks healthy?

We'll also have posters, maps, and a display of streamkeeper gear.


Hope to see you there!

Posted by Paul at 04:24 PM

May 11, 2013

Jawbone JamBox Portable Speaker Rocks

I've got a couple of presentations coming up, and I want to play some music and some videos. I'm not ensured of having a speaker system to patch into with my laptop, so the other day I bought a Jawbone JamBox at Best Buy Canada. Regular price $159, on sale for $129, plus I had a $5 Best Buy discount coupon. The Jambox runs off of an internal battery for up to 10 hours before requiring recharging, and can connect to a wide array of devices through BlueTooth or a 3.5mm audio cable.

I've tried it out with some YouTube videos and some music, and while it doesn't match the much larger (and much more expensive) Big Jambox, it's still pretty impressive, and way better than the built-in laptop speakers.


I'm amazed how speaker tech has progressed over the years, but I think that especially for the  bass end, at some point nothing makes up for physical size. From internal notebook speakers to JamBox is a huge improvement, but play the same tracks through my tower computer and Logitech Z-2300 Extreme THX®-certified 2.1 performance speakers, and the bass and overall clarity and separation is still far ahead. And that's for my 50-year-old ears! : -)

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

May 07, 2013

Dog Scares Cat, Cat’s Leash Breaks, Yikes!

Whew! Total cat-walking freakout this morning. Our 99.9% indoor cat Choco wanted to graze on the grass, so I put her in the harness and out we went. She then decided she wanted to explore and headed up the walkway in our townhouse complex.

As we got to the end of the row, a door opened and a dog bounded out. I don't think it even saw the cat, but of course Choco tore off back toward our door - - and the snap on the leash broke. I had visions of her disappearing into the ravine behind our place and lost forever as I galumphed after her. But she stopped at our door, then went to ground under a bush.

I slowed and called her, and she immediately came into my arms and a moment later was safe inside. Good kitty!

Posted by Paul at 09:15 AM

May 06, 2013

Nikon D300 Starts 5th ‘9,999’ Shutter Cycle

Since I bought my Nikon D300 in August of 2008, I've shot over 40,000 photos with it. I just started a fifth 0001 cycle the other day. Seeing as the shutter is tested to 150,000 cycles, I doubt I'll ever wear it out before the camera is considered obsolete. That's the build quality of a semi-pro camera.

Well, I dunno if it'll ever be "obsolete", it will just be replaced with more capable models. The D300 was discontinued several years ago, and it appears there may never be a "D400." The D7100 now seems to be Nikon's flagship in the DX-format category, and it sounds like a very capable replacement. Perhaps not quite as tank-tough as the D300, but close.

UPDATE: Well, of course it will be obsolete some day. . . Perhaps it already is for those willing and capable of upgrading every year or two. I think what I meant to say was that I'd continue using it until the day it dies. Even in its dotage, it would make a great macro camera, since it can operate just fine with my 30-year-old all-manual 55mm Nikkor Micro lens and extension tubes..

Posted by Paul at 09:48 PM

May 05, 2013

Tiny Spider Nabs a Fruit Fly

I noticed a bit of action near the door to my office when I entered a few minutes ago. A tiny spider was chasing a fruit fly, and I was rooting the spider on - we've been invaded by fruit flies the last day or two (one just went merrily skipping across my computer screen as I was typing). Not sure if they're from our worm compost out in the garage, or if they came with some potted plants purchased recently.

Go spiders!


That's the tip of my index finger to give some indication of how small
the hunter and prey are.

Posted by Paul at 08:32 PM

Burnaby Rhododendron Festival at Deer Lake

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day for the Rhododendron Festival at Burnaby's Deer Lake Park today. It felt like summer!

It's a great place to take photos, and the counter on my Nikon D300 cycled back to zero today, the second time that's happened, so I've taken over 20,000 shots with it.



















Posted by Paul at 02:25 PM

May 04, 2013

Streamkeepers Fill Dumpster at Edmonds Community Clean Sweep

It was a gorgeous sunny morning for a Clean Sweep in SE Burnaby! Byrne Creek Streamkeepers filled one entire dumpster heaping full, with a tire, shopping cart, rebar and other assorted large items leaning against it. Streamkeeper volunteers worked the area around Edmonds Skytrain Station, on both sides of the tracks, nearby streets, and the ravine park. Thanks to all the volunteers!



MLA Raj Chouhan (2nd from left) came by to thank volunteers.






No, we didn't dump the wheelbarrow! It had been filled with lot of
broken glass which we tipped in.


A full dumpster = a job well done!


Volunteers get drinks and hot dogs served up by the Burnaby Firefighters
Charitable Society in the parking lot of Gordon Presbyterian on Edmonds
Street where the community association had its signup area.

Posted by Paul at 02:57 PM

May 03, 2013

Wife Gets New ASUS K53 Notebook

Yumi is going back to school - taking accounting classes on weekends which will require her to have a notebook computer. Her desktop was also getting long in the tooth, as her tower was still running Windows XP on 2GB of RAM and a 500GB HD. So today she got an ASUS K53T with Windows 7, 6GB of RAM, a 750GB HD, USB 3, etc. She was not at all excited about the huge interface leap to Windows 8, so we were happy to find a Windows 7 machine on clearance. We got it at Staples for $449, minus a 10% coupon which nearly made up for the sales tax, so it was a good deal.

The plan is to replace the desktop with the new notebook, using her present 19" monitor when she's home, and she can also carry the new machine to class. I am now in the midst of setting up the ASUS. That means deleting unnecessary bloatware, installing MSE (Microsoft Security Essentials), updating Windows 7, and creating a backup image because manufacturers are all too chintzy these days to throw in a recovery DVD for a few cents. Grrr.

I've had a smaller ASUS for a couple of years that I've been happy with, but Yumi's machine is a lot larger, though only a pound or two heavier. I wanted something very portable so got a UL30 with a 13" screen, while Yumi's K53 has a 15.6" screen and the keyboard has a numeric keypad built in - a big plus when you're going to be taking accounting courses.

I will gradually install software and transfer data to the new unit over the weekend.

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

Honking Spider Sparks Excitement

I came across an intimidating spider in the garage this evening. After taking a deep breath, I caught it in a glass jar, and then Yumi and I transferred it to a square glass case for better photos. Sure hope it's not in my dreams tonight!

After shooting a few photos, we released it outside.




Posted by Paul at 09:22 PM

May 02, 2013

Streamkeepers to Participate in Edmonds Clean Sweep, Sat., May 4

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are taking part in the Edmonds Clean Sweep this coming Saturday morning, May 4. As in past years, we'll have a satellite registration site at the Edmonds Skytrain Station.

Meet in the Edmonds Skytrain Station parking lot at 9:45 a.m. Depending on how many volunteers we have, we'll send a few groups out in the neighbourhood and along the ravine park.

We'll have extra garbage bags and gloves, but if you want to bring a bag and work gloves, that would be great.

If you want to take part in the refreshments at the end of the event, please be at the parking lot of Gordon Presbyterian Church on Edmonds St. (next to the new community centre that's under construction) by 11:45 a.m.

Note that the main registration site is at the church parking lot, if that is more convenient for you.

Posted by Paul at 07:27 AM

May 01, 2013

Presenting on Social Media, PR, Traditional Media at Streamkeeper Workshop

I recently received a "speaker information form" from the organizers of SEP Community Workshop 2013, the 12th workshop for British Columbia's streamkeeper/stewardship community since the first one back in 1991. The biennial workshop will also celebrate the 35th Anniversary in 2012 of the Salmonid Enhancement Program run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, so it should be a great event. It will be held the May long weekend (May 17-19, 2013) on Bowen Island.

Since I'm speaking on public relations, media relations, and social media, how can I not toot my horn on my own blog? : -)

Here's the presentation description and bio that I wrote up for the information form.

Presentation title: Media and Public Relations 101

Presentation description and outcomes:

Get your story out through social media plus traditional newspapers, radio and TV. Get an overview of how Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and other tools work, how to tailor your message to each medium, and how to develop relationships with journalists. Paul will share examples of how he's helped gain online, print, radio and TV coverage for a local streamkeeper group. Participants will come away with ideas on how to promote their stewardship efforts, educate the public, and influence media, and political policy, through PR, social media, and traditional media.

Please provide us with a brief introduction of yourself:

Paul has degrees in journalism and communication. He has over 25 years of experience writing and editing. He has a unique perspective that combines work at major media corporations with extensive board and executive experience volunteering with business organizations, community groups and environmental NGOs. Paul has volunteered with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in Burnaby for over ten years, is a member of the Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board, is a citizen representative on the City of Burnaby Environment Committee, and is active on the Burnaby Board of Trade Environmental Sustainability Committee. Paul was named "News Source of the Year" in 2012 by Burnaby Now reporter Jennifer Moreau.

Posted by Paul at 03:28 PM