Friday, December 31, 2010

Just wringing the last drops out of 2010

Admittedly an artificial construct, but one must acknowledge the end of the calendar year.

As I look back on the year past I must admit to a couple of short comings. First and foremost was my inability to stick to my quest for a thinner me. My other quests - like cooking, baking, eating and general sloth were easier quests to hoist my colours for. Other than that I did pretty good.

I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family and a lot of me time in the hills and open expanses around Kamloops. I led a couple of alpine hikes, took my daughter fishing a number of times, went on an epic hunt with my father and fixed a couple of things around the house. I chased snakes, captured rainbows, started writing two books and shot a lot of shaky video. (Chances of books getting finished or published are somewhere between slim and hardy-har-har). Oh and I went to the Canadian finals for Canada writes!

I added a lot of real friends to my list (as opposed to just facebook friends) and I re-connected with a number of friends, many of those reconnections a direct result of this blog.

And speaking of this blog - 144 entries for the year, so about one entry every three days, or about the life expectancy of my hamsters when I was a little boy. The hamster life expectancy story will have to wait til the new year as I wouldn't want to lose the last of my followers at this late stage of the year.

I do want to wish all of my readers all the best for 2011 and I will try not try to be more focused in my subject matter.

My last offering is this clip of waxwings I saw out at Tranquille yesterday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Google - the unfriendly giant

2010 is ending in a bit of a tailspin for me - at least in the computing field. First, my host for my websites, HostPapa, inadvertently deleted my primary domain (www.frankritcey.com) and I have yet to hear if they can do anything about it. I guess what really bugs me about that situation is that I didn't even receive an apology for their actions.

If that matter isn't resolved to my liking I imagine I will trudge across the internet highway to somebody like GoDaddy who has similar service at cheaper prices. My hesitation to switching is that I was trying to shop Canadian and HostPapa, up until last week, had been a very good service provider.

Then to add to the festivities, on Christmas Day, I received an email from google telling me that they had canceled my Google Adsense account for suspicious click activity. From my reading of the emails they apparently, and wrongly, figured that someone that I had influence over was clicking on ads on my website with the intent of providing me income instead of purchasing the product or service the ad was promoting.

What really frosts my butt in this matter is that they don't allow you anyway to interact with them to explain your side of the situation or to implement ways to block suspicious click activity. Due to their size they can do pretty much anything they want. But in fairness to them I guess the conversation would have gone something like "No I didn't" and "Yes you did" until one of us grew tired of the exchange. I had learned many many years ago that life has nothing to do with what is fair or right - it is more a matter of circumstance and might - so I guess I'll have to let this one slide and unlike Don Quixote, I'll find other windmills to joust.

I guess the irony of the situation is that this very blog is hosted by Google and is just a small part of their immense web empire. It gets one thinking about the problems that arise when so much of our cyber-lives are controlled by single interests like Google, Microsoft or Apple.

If I can weather the last days of 2010 without suffering other internet borne malaise I promise to have something well worth reading on the first day of the new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No pictures - Bah humbug!

2010 is coming to a close and I think I’ve managed to wring a good bit of entertainment from it.
  • I’ve filled up a couple of hard drives with the video I’ve shot
  • hiked a couple of hundred kilometers of trails: some new, some old familiar favourites.
  • made it to the national finals on CBC
  • started writing three different books
  • found some cool snake hunting spots
  • took my daughter fishing and hiking
  • took my father hunting to the far east (Saskatchewan)
  • caught some salmon with my elder brother
  • travelled around the province with my wife to some great music festivals
  • even managed to do some work stuff but that was nowhere as much fun as the other stuff

And through it all I managed to keep plugging away at my blog. Writing is what I love to do, and like a lot of other things in life, you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy doing it. I have enve made some people happy with my writing. Every now and then I will get a comment or an email from a reader saying how much they enjoyed my blog and if I could bring back the casserole dish that they left at the last family get together it would be appreciated. Okay, maybe only mom writes to say that she enjoyed my blog but it is a start.

One of the interesting aspects of the blog is my ability to track where readers are from and I have started on my quest to get a reader from every country in the world (or at least a visitor). My list to date includes:

  1. Albania
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Belize
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Estonia
  9. France
  10. Germany
  11. India
  12. Ireland
  13. Italy
  14. Kenya
  15. Kuwait
  16. Latvia
  17. Mexico
  18. Moldova
  19. Norway
  20. Russia
  21. Spain
  22. The Netherlands
  23. United Kingdom
  24. United States

So I have 24 of the approximately 195 countries that are presently defined by today’s political landscape. I am setting myself a goal of two new countries a month - a goal which should be doable.

As I get closer to the New Year I will post more goals as I find it easier to post goals than achieve them. I guess that is what I love about the season – the ability to plan for the future without having to do all of the hard work associated with all that planning. Heck, I even enjoying planning for the planning session.

I am off now to go make up some "best laid plans" and to do my Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anatomy of the perfect sneak

The start of the game

Now it is seldom that you will see the words “anatomy”, “perfect” and “Frank Ritcey” in the same sentence but this is that rare occasion when they do actually belong together. Of course it is not my anatomy I am referring to but the anatomy of the sneak that I recently pulled on a small herd of normally pretty astute mule deer.

I was off on one of my hikes through Kenna Cartwright Park when I noticed what I took to be a doe and a fawn at some 400 meters distance. I didn’t think I could, or would even try to, get close to them. As I worked my way down the trail however, I spotted a third and then fourth and fifth deer and knew that this would be a good challenge for me.

When you’re out taking pictures it is a lot harder than just hunting. Even a poor shot like I can be relatively effective at distances out to 200 meters. But, even with a great big lens and a doubler, a photographer needs to be within fifty meters to start getting decent shots.

So I first assessed the situation and planned a route that would bring me within 50 meters of the deer and to do so in such a way as to not spook them. Pictures of deer bounding away I have enough of.

The deer were high on a knoll and could see me already and had pretty much 280 degrees of vision given their present position. The wind was blowing from the south and precluded a direct approach even if one could get under their line of sight.

I tried one of the oldest tricks in the book and that was to walk away from the deer, all who were watching me intently, and to then duck in behind a knoll and out of their sight. By walking away from the herd I was attempting to put them at ease and to lower their level of preparedness for flight. Sort of like getting your adversary to go to an orange alert from a red alert.

I then hiked a good distance to the east to insure that the wind that was blowing up towards the deer would not carry my scent towards them. After an hour of hiking, my scent can probably be picked up by most animals (and many plants) and extra caution is warranted.

Safely to the east I then picked my way up through a small draw and got directly behind where I thought the animals to be. Approaching the ridge I would pause every three or four steps. By pausing while you are walking, if the deer hear you, they may attribute the sound to just another deer approaching. Humans are one of the few animals that will walk without pausing and when an animal hears a steady footfall they vacate an area quickly.

After about thirty five minutes of this circuitous sneak I nervously poked my head over the ridge. There, about three meters away, was a wide eyed doe looking directly at me! She almost looked embarrassed for having such a large awkward beast get so close to her and her young. I quickly withdrew, gave a couple of reassuring bleats (like those of a lost fawn) and got my camera ready.

Poking my head back over the ridge I could see all five deer and managed to get some decent shots. As I was careful not to appear threatening in any way – slow deliberate movements and averted eyes – the deer continued to feed, albeit nervously, and then they eventually got wind of me and decided it was time to leave.

The resultant two and a half minutes of deer video was well worth the effort and was so much fun I think I’ll try it again. I'll post the deer video sometime in the next week, 'til then, keep your cinch tight.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An expert mouser at work



I was out on a shoot the other day when I almost ran into famed local photographer Peter Suzle. I say almost ran into but thanks to ABS and good winter tires we avoided the crash.

Peter was coming back from his search for Great Grey owls and I was wrapping up a trip through Kenna Cartwright Park and we had both ended up by the Timber Lake road, searching the trees in hopes of spotting a Great Grey.

Finding nothing of the owl persuasion we decided to take the backroad by Goose Lake to see what we could scare up that would be worthy of our attention. There wasn’t much going on – a couple of Rough Legged Hawks and a coyote off in the distance was all that presented themselves – and those only briefly.
I figured the day could only be salvaged by a trip to Tim Horton’s and Peter said he would join me there. Shortly after I had pulled out on the highway I noticed Peter was no longer following me so I wheeled around and returned – fearing the worse. The worse being of course that he was getting pictures of something that I had missed.

Yes the worst had happened. I had driven right past a coyote hunting mice in the field alongside the Goose Lake Road and Peter was there blasting away with that big camera of his. Talk about lens envy.
I did manage to get a minute or so of shaky footage, before the coyote figured he should go hunt elsewhere. In this case I figure a bad video about an interesting subject is better than the reverse so here it is.

Please check out Peter’s photos at http://psulzle.blogspot.com/2010/12/dippers-and-coyotes.html and see what good photos are all about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nuts about you

Talk about wild and crazy Christmas parties. Yes, please talk about them, the one I was at last night wasn't one of them so I'd like to hear about lampshades on heads and inappropriate behaviour of all types.

No, the only thing wild about the Kamloops Naturalist Club is the subject matter of their discussions. The year- end meeting is always a nice one in that we try to get through the regular business as soon as possible, have a couple of baked goodies, enjoy a short program of entertainment and get home before Doc Martin is over.

As I was in charge of last night's entertainment, I forced the group to watch a few of Loyd's and my video productions and I subjected them to a wild animal quiz. The quiz was harder than I thought and the best score was 5/10 - I'll be posting that quiz here at some point so I can't give away much more than the fact that it is tricky.

The videos I presented were well received and the people laughed and clapped in all of the right places so we obviously got it right. Loyd's production of "Nuts about You" was particularly well received and one of the members recounted to me of how when she had first seen the video on Youtube that it brought a smile to her soul for the rest of the day. It is that type of response that we are always looking for. Fame and money is nice but making people happy is the real reward of the composer or writer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frank's World

I'm setting some type of record here - twice now I've written on the same subject. And that subject is the spread of my blog, like some insidious weed, across the world. Since I've started recording my visitors I have amassed a total of 18 countries and some 76 cities.

I have noticed that I haven't had visitors from Norway or Sweden yet, which is surprising as I have relatives in both countries and you would think that there would be a least a glimmer of interest in what their representative off in the new world was up to.

I am also interested in how the search engines work in flagging this blog about Norway and Sweden. My guess is that if I say something bad in the same sentence with the words Norway or Sweden, a flag goes up in some ministry of tourism office and a cyber agent is sent out to investigate - at least it would if I were in charge.

Of course there is nothing bad to say about either country but having now used the word bad three times, the lights and sirens are going crazy across the Atlantic and the cyber-elite are being scrambled. When they get here they will breathe a sigh of relief, post a message to say "Hi" from their respective countries and another potential threat to tourism will have been quelled (or is that quashed or perhaps squashed? - Ellen, if you are reading this, please elucidate.)

 Resistance is futile - I will eventually have a reader from every country in the world!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the road to Moldova

So where is Moldova? And if any of you say - in the back of Frank's fridge I will send you out of the class.

Once again I am stumped by the what, where, when  and why of another small European country - but not, as the astute of you will have notice, not stumped as to the who of Moldova. My blog showed a recent visit from that country and it came from an old friend of mine - Alanna Jorde. Not to say that Alanna would be old, because she was only like six or seventeen when she started work at the newspaper at which I was also employed.

Alanna is like the Lois Lane of the newspaper world and she travels all about our planet, writing about politics and N.G.O.'s and all types of interesting stuff. She is a fast pen for hire and her full credentials can be found at Red Lotus communications.

So another country has been added to my growing list and I've had a chance to catch up on some of the travelings of an old friend. I did a quick google of Moldova and learned a number of interesting things but I would love to receive a comment from a native or ex-pat of Moldova.


Moldova is the dark green country - what is the light green country?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Things I have mis-seen

No, I didn't have a stroke - but that would help explain a lot of things I guess. I just have this habit, as do many when they get to be my advanced age, to mis-hear and to mis-see things.

I don't know that this failing of the faculties is purely physical or if perhaps your mind does it just to add a bit of interest to your life. Take for instance the other day while out hiking along Tranquille River: There, up ahead in the alder thicket was a bear, out well past his hibernation date. I sneaked and ninja-ed my way up along a prickly rose thicket only to get close enough to take some very good footage of the dark end of a culvert. At least for ten minutes of the hike I was having fun.

And this morning added to my fun. I rolled out of bed and hit the computer to catch up on all of my very important messages and to jot a quick entry into my too often neglected blog. As is the case, when one signs into the management section of the blog I am presented with all of the brilliant things my friends and folks I follow have written.

One blog I follow is Mel Rothenburger's. Now for those of you  that aren't Kamloopsians, Mel is a long serving editor of the local paper and ex-mayor. I had never been a big fan of Mel's  - mainly because he has actually done the two things I always thought I would like to do (if it wasn't for all the work involved). Mel was one of the great mayors of Kamloops - not Peter Wing or Kenna Cartwright great but definitely close. During his term in office he managed to tone down his right wing tendencies and was in fact a mayor for the majority. Mel is also a very good writer and so I like to follow his blog as it helps me get fired up for the day.

So I was very intrigued when I saw his latest entry about the RIH versus Lighting. (The RIH is our Royal Inland Hospital) and the "Lighting" I supposed would be the on-going controversy about how much we spend on the christmas lights for the city. "Ah - ha" I muttered to myself, "that old scrooge will suggest we get rid of the lights to help finance the hospital!" I was already formulating my witty riposte to his ill-formed plan.

It took me about half way through the article before it dawned on me that the post was in fact about 'lightning' and not 'lighting'. I read the rest of the article but, like the bear-turned-culvert it had already lost its appeal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lunch with an icon



Okay,  maybe I didn't have lunch but the icon did and I was there, so that has to count for something.

The icon of course was the great Canadian Beaver. That furry little pelt upon the back of this, America's second largest rodent, is what spurred the settlement of Canada and without which there would be no basketball, Tim Horton's or Superman comic books. We may have been responsible for more but I only mention the most important items. Quick - what is the largest rodent?

Our lunch date was up on the Tranquille river and I, in an escape from the keyboard, had made the hike up there on my own. The chilling winds kept most of my usual companions curled up around a glowing TV set and I was forced to be my own company (quite frankly, I'm probably not all that fun to hike with - I just wouldn't shut up or let myself get a word in edgewise) but I was all that I had so I, and my other personalities, made our way up alongside the river.

I had gone up there with the hopes of getting some footage of an American Dipper and apart from a fleeting glimpse of one making its way up the river I was to be skunked on that particular quest. But on my way back I decided to check out what I thought were a set of beaver tracks just upstream of the lodge. Sure enough, when I got there a large black form was waddling down the ice. It slipped into the open water just upstream of the dam and I quickly positioned myself for his return.

I was quickly rewarded for my stealth with the beaver's return. His poor eyesight and my ninja like ability to appear like a tree - albeit a big fat tree - allowed me to shoot for nearly 90 minutes. I watched as he chewed down numerous trees and saplings and marveled at his resistance to the icy cold waters. Finally something spooked him - perhaps another hiker along the trail away from the river or perhaps he caught wind of me - whatever the cause, he dropped everything, scooted across the ice and dove under without a backwards glance.

Oh, the answer to the rodent question - the capybara

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A lesson about eye-care


Okay this is almost embarrassing but too funny to keep to myself.

As an admitted hypochondriac I have a tendency to attribute my latest ache or pain to something rare and almost always terminal. It comes from an over active imagination I guess - that or a tumour in my reasoning lobe of the brain. But there I go again.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been suffering from acute migraine attacks. These are a first for me as apart from all of my other maladies I seldom if ever have suffered even the slightest headache. But something has triggered these migraines and I have been trying to figure out what the source of the pain is.

I had been thinking it might of been the result of too many hours in front of the computer screen and my failing eyesight. Consequently I have been cognizant of my vision and so it  was with great consternation that yesterday, while working on my computer, after an 8 hour stint at the keyboard, that I started to notice little black dots moving across the range of my vision. Now I have experienced the little "floaters" that you sometimes get across your field of vision but these were much more pronounced - darker and moving much faster.

I blinked, took a break from the computer but the black dots persisted. I was sure that a tumour was encircling the optic nerve as I sat there and was obviously on the start of the long dark road to oblivion. The dark spots spun and grew more frequent and greater in number. Now instead of one or two spots there were four, five, six - my sense of foreboding deepened. How would I break this to my friends and family? If blinded would I be able to play the piano like Ray Charles? My mind spun.

The dark spots started to become clearer. As I had mentioned, my near vision is not that great, but every now and then these black dots would take form - almost like they had wings! Wings! That was it. I remembered the banana peel I had discarded in my waste basket a couple of days (maybe weeks) ago and the resultant batch of fruit flies which were now invading my room would more easily explain the black dots before my eyes.

It appears that I don't need extensive radiation treatment - I just need to take out the trash more often.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So where the hell is Estonia?

Now I am not going to print the map with Estonia marked on it, because I wonder how many of you might know where Estonia is without going to google maps. Apart from my brainiac uncle Jim and his equally astute sister aunty Ellen I doubt that many of my readers could confidently tell me what two countries border this small-ish country.

Well, at least one of my readers should know where Estonia is, as I have just had a new reader log in from that country. Perhaps it was my friend Alana who is off jet setting in that part of the world as an international reporter. Probably not though as she was supposed to be gong to Moldavia, which is a little out of the way.

Perhaps my Estonian visitor can give us a quick recap of what is going on in your country these days or answer a question I would ask of any of my guests while out in the mountains, and that is "What is your particular part of the country famous for producing?" In Oregon it is cheese, Idaho is potatoes and millionaires, and Michigan it is brainiacs. What is it that Estonia produces?

This getting readers from all over the world is fun and informative. Next time I have to play trivial pursuit against uncle Jim he'd better be ready!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome Latvia

Latvia - one of my more recent acquisitions

Last week I had put out a call for new viewers and, as promised, I am now sharing some of the new acquisitions. According to Google analytics I have had 6 visits from the country of Latvia, which I must admit a huge ignorance of.

Latvia is not that far from Norway and even less of a swim from Sweden and being so close to the land of my ancestors you would think that I would of at least had a passing acquaintance with the country. But no, til now, Latvia has escaped my radar.

So now I have to ask my reader or reader(s) from Latvia to let me know what, if there were one main thing a person should know about your country, what would that one thing be? Now if someone were to ask me that about Canada I would have to say that we are home to some of the last wilderness places on the earth. Others would say that we are famous for being the birthplace of Tim Horton's and some others would say we were famous for our moose hunting. It all depends on what you are interested in and that is what I am interested in learning from my Latvian readers - what is it that makes you proud or excited about your country.

Has anyone of my readers ever visited the country or met a person from there? Please inform me. I could google it but then it would take away from the mystery and intrigue of the country. A prize of an original "Rounders and Sinners" CD will be sent out to the first reader to comment from a valid Latvian address.

But I must return to my programming tasks. I am working at developing a Joomla based website and thought I was doing so well with frankritcey.com until Loyd let me know that it doesn't work with Internet Explorer 8. I'm thinking that Bill Gates better get on this problem as I don't think I'll be able to figure it out - feel free to visit the site with any other browser and let me know what you think. I know it's pretty rough right now but what I am working on is the proof of concept. It's sort of like building a house - you get it up first and then make it pretty with paint and trim at the end.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice water - A story of survival



Loyd and I were out filming a few days back and the weather had turned cold - about -20 or so and the ice was forming rapidly all along the river.

One of the beaver ponds looked pretty safe so I crossed out on it to get some different angles of a pond that one is usually restricted to the edges of. Now I would not recommend this type of action to the general public but as I like to point out - I am a trained professional. Okay, maybe not that trained and probably not that professional but I always assess any situation I am moving into with the follow factors to consider:

  • Risk: This is the probability that what you're about to attempt will turn out the way you want.
  • Uncertainty: This is what part of the equation that you don't know - if there is a large factor of uncertainty one needs to assess the other factors in the equation.
  • Payoff: What is the reward for taking the action - Being able to say that "I did it" is usually not enough of a payoff for me, but perhaps "getting that perfect shot" is.
  • Penalty: This is what happens when the risk doesn't pay out a reward but instead you fail - this to me is the biggest part of the equation.
In terms of me deciding to walk across the beaver pond I knew the risk was low for me falling through - about a 10% chance, the uncertainty was low as I was fairly confident in my assessment as I had been across a number of similar ponds under similar circumstances, the payoff wasn't that great but still held some benefit to me as a photographer, and the penalty if I'd fallen through would have been cold feet as I trudged the kilometer or so back to my vehicle. So I went out across the pond.

I made a similar calculation once up on the Graham river out in the middle of nowhere and I guess I'd forgotten to carry the zero or something but I'd decided to cross the river in an area that I thought was both frozen and shallow enough to make the crossing not that dangerous. I was wrong on both accounts.

I was by myself, about five kilometers from camp, it was minus 20 and I was just out exploring. This was during the time that I was building the lodge and I was living up there on my own so there was no chance of a rescue. I'd got about four steps out onto the ice when it just opened up and I fell through to my armpits in some incredibly cold water.

Cursing my bad judgment I tried to extricate myself from the river but my snowshoes kept getting stuck under the ice. I realized I was in a pretty bad jam - in that cold flowing water I had about 10 minutes before I'd succumb to the cold so I had to do something and something very quickly. I threw off my pack back towards the shore, reached into the water and grabbed the tip of one snowshoe and managed to get that shoe up on the ice. I was now pretty much completely soaked. I rolled, squirmed and kicked until the second shoe came free.

At that point I had to make a quick calculation and this time it had to be right: did I stop and try to build a fire and thaw out and then make the trip back to the lodge or did I just head out for the lodge and hope I'd make it before I froze. I chose the later and you are probably quick enough to surmise that I made it, but it was pretty close.

Dog trotting along the trail kept my body cranking out the heat, but my clothes, wet as they were, were very efficient at wicking away this warmth. By the time the cabin came into view my feet had gone numb and I was getting worried.

Ever since that day on the Graham River I have been pretty good about performing my risk vs. reward equation and I guess when you get older the risk has to be well worth the reward.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Taking a winter dip



Just a real quick post as I am extremely busy doing nothing. I got out for a short hike with dad this a.m. and we saw the bighorn sheep that have moved in to the base of the mountain behind my folk's place. We also saw close to 50 chukar, 4 mule deer and your assortment of winter birds.

I did get some poor video of a dipper along Tranquille river and saw a Varied Thrush, which to a non-birder means very little but is somewhat noteworthy for those of the ornithological bend.

Apart from that I have been busy working on my Joomla coding - just learning by doing so it will be a little rough for the next couple of websites but I should get better at it. You can check out my first attempt at www.frankritcey.com - Eventually this site will evolve into a community forum where my buddies and I can post reviews about outdoor gear and service providers that we have found good, bad or ugly.

And apart from that I went for an interview about taking a course at TRU to become certified as an ESL teacher.

And apart from that I have been working on some quantum mechanics equations that I think I may have finally solved - or was I just thinking that I should do that but instead went and read some more of my Green Lantern comics? Probably the later.

My request for readers from around the world has pretty much gone unheeded - but thanks to those that have sent some links. I've picked up readers from Belize, Latvia, Ireland and Australia - only 189 more to go!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Help me travel the world

My not so impressive visitor stats

So I have a new quest, which is of itself not that new in the general sense of the idea, but new in the particulars of this quest. Those that know me know that new quests for me pop up at about the same rate of sunrises and sunsets - and on a good day maybe twice that number.

But I digress - my new quest is to have my blog read in every country that Google reports from. I have recently install some analytical software from google so that I can see where my visitors are coming from and it is from the above map that I got the idea that it would be nice to be able to say that I am a world-wide read author. The present title of "Best on the block", well actually "Best on this side of the block" doesn't really do much for me.

Perhaps it is from watching one too many sci-fi flicks where there is a mad scientist wanting to take over the world that has sent me on this quest. But it is a quest never the less.

So here is the assignment for each of my loyal followers: please copy this address-
and send it off to at least one of your friends that lives outside of Canada - the more obscure the better, and encourage them to visit leave a comment on my blog. You can also click on the facebook button below and share the link with your friends. This could be interesting for all of us to see how fast this type of social networking takes off.

I will post the results from this experiment weekly and we can, as a crowd see of fast we reach our goal of world domination.

Now I must go and think of something pithy to write so your friends won't be too mad at you for sending them to this website. I know I'll write about the big man eating rat I just caught in the basement!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birds on the brain



These are some of the birds that were feeding on the ground after the bears destroyed their feeding stations. Watch the little house finch on the left as he puffs up his feathers to ward off the cold.

The house sparrow on the right I think is a young bird as you can still see the yellow around his beak. The yellow I think is an adaptation to trigger the feeding response from the parents. Fortunately for the kids the parents are hard wired to keep feeding no matter how old the offspring - hence my predilection towards visiting around lunch time at my folk's place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For the cat lovers

I have wanted to do this project for some time, but inertia and general sloth have prevented me from going through all of my video and actually pulling the pieces together. But a pot of coffee and an attack of acute insomnia has allowed me to finally pull the Cat-sitter project together.

The Cat-sitter project (CSP) is a video I have put together to keep your cat and or dog occupied while you are off bungee jumping or playing bingo. While it is a poor substitute for actual human interaction it is better than leaving them to amuse themselves by shredding the drapes or chewing up your collection of Frank Sinatra albums.

The clips shown here are just a sampling of the contents. The full hour version just has a lot more birds hopping around and is designed to keep your pet in suspense until the climatic ending where . . . (well I can't tell you how it ends because that would spoil the surprise.

Those with pets could help me out by letting your Fluffy or Mr. Spock watch this video clip and let me know how they react and if there is a part they like best (watch the time counter on the progress bar to let me know about where the interesting parts are). The full length version will be available online and in pets stores everywhere - unless I get bored and go off to produce another CD with Loyd.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

An ethical question

As I get older I find myself asking more and more ethical or metaphysical questions. When I was young I would ask myself questions like: "I wonder if I can jump all the way across this ravine?" or, "I wonder how long before I hit the bottom?" and "How long before the para-medics arrive?" Now that I am older I ask more the "meaning of life" type questions as I have figured out most of the other more immediate type questions.

So it was when I was reviewing this little clip of some type of black millipede-isk creature that was making lunch out of a worm.

At the time, one of my neighbour's children and I were being treated to this raw act of nature and I was trying to explain to the girl that this is what happens in the real world: "One day you're just cruising along, enjoying your life, and the next you're being ravaged by some dark mysterious force that you have no control over."

As I was posting the video though I had pangs of guilt associated with the fact that I could have saved the worm earlier and that by posting the video I hope to realize monetary gain at some time from the act. Google shares the ad revenues with a few of the more prolific or popular posters on the net.

So the moral questions are:

1. Is it right to save the worm, because in so doing you either starve the predator or condemn another insect to death because the predator will just move on and kill something else in order to survive?

2. Should we assign any morality to watching two animals duke it out in a life and death struggle? This is a hard one as I am sure when I was being charged by the grizzly sow up in the northern Rockies, that I made one or two calls for intervention from whatever greater forces happened to be watching this particular channel.

Other people's views are greatly appreciated although not necessarily adopted. This is one that I am still ambivalent about but at some point will make up my mind as to what is my stance on the issue.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hard water fishing

So - I am feverishly going though my old video files looking for some footage of a fishing trip to Foot Lake but keep getting sidetracked by all types of other gems that I come across.

What I find so interesting is the number of subjects I will have on a single hour of tape. As an example: one tape had everything from a treatment of the American Dipper, Christmas dinner, a hike to Triple Decker falls, a series of birds and squirrels at my feeder, a "polar bear" swim in the North Thompson river, a cat hunt and a time lapse of a full moon. No wonder I have a hard time staying focused on any one thing - there's far too many exciting things to sample at this great buffet we call "life."

I took the time to pull together a bit of a fishing clip from the one tape and I present it here as a way of demonstrating that not all kids these days are tied to their Iphones and xboxes. It helps that the kids in the video have parents that are the epitome of activity and that they have been raised on a diet of adventure and physical fitness.

On another note - the lake on which we caught this great trout has been changed over to a "trophy" lake and you are not allowed to ice-fish there any longer. This is typical of a bureaucracy that caters to the whim of the elitist fly fishing lobby. Really, maybe a handful of people are energetic enough to make the trip into the lake, and with a two fish limit, how many fish does the no ice fishing rule save: four or five? Hardly worth the cost of preventing the odd group of fishers that want a ski and wilderness ice fishing experience.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Calling all moose

Well I have finally got around to it. Okay, almost got around to it if you must be precise.

I have got my moose calling website up and running. Okay, almost running - sheesh you'te being very picky today aren't you? Sorry that was a rhetorical question and I didn't really expect a response. But if you'd let me get on with my original thought we could get through with this and get onto finding our latest Bob The Postman clip on CBC radio 3.

So I have put together this site on calling moose - why would you want to call a moose should be the first question the astute reader should ask. The primary response seems to be to shoot it and eat it but I am tending towards more of the call it, video it, post the video on Youtube, make lots of money from the clip, and then I can go out and buy a big beefsteak so nobody needs to get shot. Well nobody but the cow I guess, so we're probably no further ahead than we were when we started. Life was much simpler before Youtube, the wheel, fire and speech.

But the point of even mentioning that I have this new website is to also mention how it was put together. I outsourced it. Signed up to Elance.com, posted the job, chose a contractor from about 12 billion and six responses, and then sent them the specs and a bunch of mockups of what I wanted.

I won't say the process was painless. The time difference was a factor - India is 12 hours ahead of us, so if I wanted to talk I had to be up at 3:00 a.m.. The language was a bit of a factor but the people I worked with had a pretty sound grasp of our idioms and really worked hard to please. In the end I got a Content Managment System built in Joomla which would never have happened if I were doing it myself.

If I can just sell three ads to outfitters who want to be associated with the site and make a buck a day off of the Google Adwords that I have attached to the site, I will do alright. The long term goal is to get a hundred or so of these sites that generate a cash flow so I can just sit around, write stories and take pictures of muskrats out at Lac Dubois (still have to post that clip here).

Anyhow - please go check out the site - www.moosecaller.ca and then check it again in another three weeks when I have got around to getting the hunting stories and pictures actually posted along with the other stuff.

Must go and see how my remote magpie cam is doing.

Magpie at feeder

Monday, November 1, 2010

A test of reason

 KNC hiker with anthill in foreground

The following is a problem I am thinking of donating to the science department at TRU, just to let the students put some of their new found problem solving skills to the test - and a chance to win a free lunch, which is always appreciated when you are a starving student (although these days there are not quite as many starving students as there were in my day - and even in my day we always seemed to have money for a burger and a beer, although sometimes we would skip the burger and just have two beers)

Here is the problem. You are hiking along and come across an ant nest. The large pile of woody debris and the black and red insects scurrying about tells you it is some type of Formica (quite possibly Formica obscuriventris) but that is not what intrigues you at this moment. Your hiking companion, one of those liberal arts types and most probably a Poli-sci major, says “there must be a million ants in there!”

You know there are not a million ants in there – but just how many are there? You realize at this point that if you can devise a way to calculate the size of this colony (plus or minus say 10%) your biology prof would have to reconsider that substandard mid-term mark she gave you.

Here is the challenge: devise a methodology for estimating the population of ants in the anthill. The methodologies should have the following characteristics:
  1. Time efficient (so tagging individual ants is out of the question)
  2. Cost effective (side scanning xrays are also a non-starter)
  3. Minimally intrusive (Spraying the hill with raid and counting the bodies won’t get very high marks either – although one may have to sacrifice a few ant mounds to verify your original assumptions)
  4. Accurate – a methodology is no good if you can’t rely on the results to reflect the real world.

I don’t know what the prize will be yet but I am thinking either a hot new 4x4, a lunch at Hero’s, or maybe a copy of “The Camp Fire Leader’s Book”. The monetary value is not quite as important as being crowned the methodology champ of biological science.

But now I must get back to counting the control . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And now for something completely different




The above video is just my way of sharing a beautiful fall day up on the Tranquille River, which is part of the Lac Du Bois Grasslands Provincial Park. The colours are almost mother nature's way of saying "Sorry for what I'm about to do to you"

I am not a big fan of the winter months. Not like some who believe that you have to go hungry to enjoy a good meal later, I think I can quite enjoy my summers without having to live through a winter.

I am still working with my software, trying to get just the right settings to show what the new Sony NexVG10 can do, so please hang in there while I figure out all the bells and whistles of the new system.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's new pussy-cat?

Actually I should of had a picture of a pussycat to go with the above title, but I am at present too filled with sloth to look through my volumes to find the aforesaid  pic.

I think it is the dark dreary days of fall that have been getting me down - those and the six fudge brownies and the coronas that passed for supper last night. Oh, and about the fudge brownies. . . .

I guess that is what I should write about today - how not to make fudge brownies. Even if the recipe doesn't call for it, a seasoned chef, such as myself, should know to lightly grease and flour the pan before adding the dough. I didn't and I ended up with and upside-down -sideways wreck of a pile of baked brownie goo when I went to release it from the pan. Still very delicious but not very presentable. Loyd and I fell upon the mess like pirates on a merchant ship so as to destroy any evidence of my mistakes.

I had to quickly rebuild the project as I had promised my good wife that I would bake something for her drum group. This time it worked perfectly. My secret - add a cup or two of chocolate chips to the mix - which gives it that extra blast of sugar and chocolaty goodness. Here's the recipe for

Frank's no-fail fudge-ee-ohs brownies!

Melt 3/4cup butter in glass bowl in microwave
Add two cups white sugar and beat in
Add big splash of vanilla extract
When mixture is cool add three eggs and beat til smooth

In a second bowl mix together
1.5 cups flour
.5 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 cups chocolate chips

Mix the contents of the two bowls together
Turn out on a lightly greased and floured 8x11.5 pan
(or whatever your smallest cake pan is - I like to use the blue glass one that I keep next to the flour bin)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes
When the brownies start to pull away from the edge of the pan, they are done.

Remove and cool before cutting


And for no particular reason, other than I have just finished it, here is my latest clip from the world of youtube.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not another ghost story

Every now and then something happens that really sends a chill down your spine. I'm talking about one of those moments when you feel totally ill at ease and even skeptics like myself feel like there is another entity present in the area even though nothing can be seen or sensed within the physical realm.

So it was the other evening when I went out into the hills south of town to get a time-lapse shot of the sunset with my new video camera (the Sony Nex VG10).

The area I had visited needs to remain vaguely described for reasons which will become apparent later. One of the reasons I can state now is that there is no need to panic otherwise sensible people.

This area I was in was the approximate site of the disappearance of a group of hikers from back in the 60's. The local story is that the group had gone out on a warm fall afternoon to commune with nature as was the habit of the flower children of that era and perhaps to partake of the low grade reefer that was available in those days.

Three days later, when they had not yet returned a search party was dispatched and their VW micro-bus was quickly located, but not a sign of the hikers was ever discovered. Rumours persisted for many years about aliens, wood spirits, and military experiments in the area, but of course nothing was ever proven.

Records of the disappearance were quickly lost and as none of the hikers had any permanent links within the community, even the oral history of the disappearance almost died away. I had heard the story personally from an old rancher in the area some fifteen years ago when I was pursuing a story of a completely different nature - a story which would be an interesting enough yarn of itself but would merely serve as a digression now.

I passed the story off as a fanciful yarn and had all but forgotten it until this last evening. After capturing the image of the setting sun I compressed the time sequence and on playing it back got this very weird sounding audio track.

I don't believe in ghosts but this thing gave me the willies. One could almost argue that these are the sounds of something, or some "ones" long since departed, that are still trying to communicate with us on the other side.

I don't think I'll be heading back to those hills by myself in the evenings for quite some time.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ram a lam a ding dong

Okay this post has nothing to do with the 50's hit by "Big Wheelie and the Hubcaps" (Or whoever it was that did it - and I don't have the luxury of googling the info right now - maybe one of my fine readers can comment with the right info on that one) but there I have digressed immensely and created yet another run on sentence that would have my old English teacher spinning in his grave (if he were in fact in one and not running about like some modern day Don Quixote).

So where was I? Oh yes, the ram thing. I went out for a hike today to get an idea of where the rams were and to test out my new camera. I found these two young rams who, by way of their youngness - and a gale force wind, did not hear me approach, and I managed to get some decent footage. Now my brother tells me if I were to just swing by Mt. Paul I can get much easier footage through the page wire on the sheep fence along the highway. These sheep are much more civilized and are used to human stalkers.

I may try the Mt. Paul sheep another time but I like the challenge of getting on to these "wild" Kamloops lake sheep.

Anyways, hope you enjoy, and Mr. Fieber, you can stop spinning now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Math to the rescue

How many times has a student, bored to tears, in a math class, said "When am I ever going to use that?"


Now I have been a part of that group, but that was in fifth year university and the formula in question looked as though someone had thrown up a bowl of alphabet soup on the chalkboard. And, "No" I have never had call to use one of those formulas, but I think it did build character or something.

A formula one does have call to use though, are the simple geometric formulas for various shapes. My latest hike out to Kenna Cartwright Park proved this as I pondered the plethora of pocket gopher spoils. The spoils being the dirt pushed out of the burrows that they are constructing with great fervor these days out in the grasslands.

I said to myself - "Self," I says, "Just how long are those burrow?" One could find a long bendy stick I guess and shove it down one of the holes but that process is fraught with danger (especially for the pocket gopher). So instead I turned to math.

I calculated the volume of the spoils, and then calculated the length of the cylinder that had the diameter of the burrow and the volume equal to the volume of the spoils.

The result was that a relatively small volume of dirt was representative of a very long burrow. Of course there are a bunch of assumptions as to the compaction of the soil and the lack of variance in the size of the burrow, and a host of other things that some masters student can tackle when they write their definitive work on the burrowing habits of the pocket gopher.

The video below demonstrates both the math and the fact that I have too much time on my hands.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Almost in a new snack bracket!

Almost as much as I made when I shoveled coal in Cape Breton

So about three months ago when I decided I would try the Google Adsense program, and when I signed up for YouTube to put ads on my moose calling video, it was more as a lark than as a serious business venture. But if you look at the screen shot above you can see that I almost made enough today to pay for an extra large double double and an apple fritter.

All kidding aside though, I now see the potential in this framework. Maybe a little too much like the little boy who was such an optimist that, on receiving a bucket of horse poop for his birthday, began running around looking for the pony.

Well, I am off looking for that pony now. I will be expanding my exposure on Youtube - which is rather ironic because I have been expanding my waistline sitting at the computer - and I will be launching a number of soon to be hit websites. You will be able to tune in to such sites as: Ask Frank (in which desperate readers send in their questions to which I will reply - "Do I look like I care?"), or "How dead is it?" in which peole can send in shots of roadkill and I will tell what it was, when it was hit and by what. The list is almost endless and this new phase of mine will probably be marked as the point at which the internet died!


Now off to outsource another couple of sites to my new-found friends in India and that will be the subject of my next posting.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can't win in the photography game

Golden mantled ground-squirrel


So, on one of my trips this summer we had occasion to take a shortcut on a backroad over the Purcell mountains between Kootenay Lake and Cranbrook. It was on this lonely stretch of road that we came upon a golden mantled ground-squirrel and then, a little further down the road, a pride of Pikas.

Now I don't know what the proper moniker for a group of the little rodents is, but "pride of Pikas" has a nice ring to it.

Anyhow, I got some photos, not great by any stretch of the imagination, but good enough to share with my less critical friends and of species rare enough that I was feeling pretty good about my efforts.

I returned home, uploaded my photos and fired up my email and got ready to send off the aforementioned photos. Before I could though, I noticed an email from my friend Peter (the real wildlife photographer) who had been down in the the southern mountains as well.

I opened his message and was shocked to see that he had trumped me without even trying. Not only did he have golden mantled ground squirrel pictures and Pika pictures but he had a picture of a golden mantled ground-squirrel eating a Pika! At that point I realized I had better stick to the video stuff and leave the still photos to others.

Pika (not being eaten by a golden mantled ground squirrel)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Slowly working my way back

It seems like a lifetime since I last made an entry into my blog. Fortunately the reasons for my absence have all been good.

August was pretty much taken up with music festivals and I've got a whack of great performers that I want to introduce you to. (A "whack" being more than a bundle and less than a slew) And the road trips to the various festivals provided me with enough fodder to load the literary cannon a couple of times over.

Sandwiched between all of that was a summer full of birding, filming, and a hike or to into the mountains.

So now when I finally have something to write about I no longer have a teacher who wants a 500 word essay on "What I did this summer"

And as I don't really have time for this entry - just waiting for the mothership to contact me - and that's yet another story - so instead I'll get you to watch this little film, Loyd, Peter and I put together.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just back from the Trophies

It's been a hectic summer and will get more hecticer I am sure! ONly have time to post some quick pics from my trip across the Trophies/Table and Battle mtns. The story will follow in the fall when I have slowed down.

Great bunch of 11 Dutch that I guided on one of the "great" hikes of North America. Unfortunately the bugs and weather took turns tormenting us.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

A really good hike

Peter Sulzle - famed wildlife photographer

How can you tell if you have been on a really good hike? For me, success is measured by whether or not they have to send out the search party. So, by all accounts, last evening's/night's hike was a total success.

My friend Peter (whom I shall write more about later) and I decided to head up Wheeler Mountain to get some sunset shots and possibly some photos of the bighorn sheep that sometimes congregate on the cliff tops. The trip is not particularly arduous. But having said that, I should add that the road to the hike can be perilous, the hike itself is steep and dry, and there are numerous opportunities along the way to fall or impale one's self - so arduous no, but if I had a better vocabulary I could come up with a word that would convey: stupid, strenuous and little chance of a payout.

So Peter and I set out on this trip with a yet to be determined adjective and, with that optimism that all photographers/videographers have, we started to look for things to shoot. At this point I should introduce Peter. Peter is an excellent photographer and you can see some of his work at: http://www.blurb.com/books/599990. He is also one of the few people in Kamloops that likes to go on some of these more "adjective yet to be determined" hikes; more importantly he doesn't complain if I stop to take ten minutes to round up an ant to feed to an antlion. Just as you can't mix birders and hikers, you can't mix photographers with just about any other subset of humanity - we just need our time to stop to get that all important shot.

From the outset we knew the trip was going to be good. We found a tree full of dragonflies, a sandpit with spadefooted toads, a new nesting site of the collared dove, blue grouse, chipmunks, rare butterflies (okay maybe not rare but neither of us knew their names), nighthawk young, fresh bear tracks, a deer mouse, antlions by the handful and a great sunset sequence.

Yes the hike was long and made harder with the thick pall of smoke that hung in the summer evening like the air in a 50's roadhouse - but it was worth it. Especially since, once we had won the top of the Wheeler cliffs, a strong breeze started and the air cleared and the perfect sunset sequence presented itself (I'll post once I get around to processing it).

We waited until the sun had set and hiked out through the now growing darkness, marveled at the nighthawks wheeling overhead, and then marveled at the loud thunk my truck made while sliding down the rough gravel track that was once a road.

It was this loud thunk that sort of knocked the wheels off of our adventure. I am no mechanic but I know that front-end thunks and a subsequent growl are usually not good. The vehicle was still drivable - but only at about 20kmh. So it was a long slow drive back to my folk's place where we had left Peter's vehicle. When we got back there was a note from my father saying he had gone to look for us. Since his vehicle was still in the driveway I knew he had pressed my brother into service. A quick call to my brother's house confirmed this and through the marvels of cellular communication we were able to call the search off.

I left the wounded vehicle to rest at my folk's place and Peter had to drive me home. So I dragged myself into the house, tired, dry, dusty and sporting a few new cuts, scraps and pulled muscles but I had a tape full of video, a chip with a some good shots and another great hike under my belt.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The red planet



Okay, maybe it wasn't Mars but it sure was red. Here is a clip I posted of the new moon rising over Rose Hill in late July. I don't know why but Adobe couldn't handle the speed thing - or maybe my camera dropped some frames, but half way through it takes off pretty fast. The wolves howling were from a clip from somewhere else but seemed to add the necessary ambiance.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm Back - but just for a moment

One of my forest friends

I haven't posted for awhile but I have a good excuse. I've been swamped at work, and when I haven't been working I have been making good use of the daylight with trips up Tranquille River and out through Kenna Cartwright Park.

I have got some pretty good video footage of coyotes, chipmunks, fires and lightning storms that I will share with you once I get time to process it and post it to YouTube.

In the meantime I will leave you with these couple of pictures pulled from my video, just so you know I haven't been shanghai-ed and shoveling coal on a slow boat to China.

The trickster - Kenna Cartwright Park

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What, another contest?

So here it is - watch this short video and name the three mammals, three insects, two types of berries, two flowers, one bird and one lichen that are featured in the video.

If you get all twelve then you are a top notch naturalist. Ten or more and you are in the top 99.5% of the world's naturalists. Seven to nine right makes you a good student of nature. Three to six correct and you can still go hiking with me. If you know less than three of these items, and live in North America, then it is time to get off of your couch, lace up the boots and get out for some face to face time with mother nature!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Somebody owes me some MAD money!

I think the similarities are obvious (Alfred E. Neuman left, and author right, circa 1966)

They say if you look long enough you will come across your exact double. I was hoping mine would be more in keeping with a character like Sam Spade, or Archie of Nero Wolfe fame. But no, I am going through some old family photos and I see that Mad Magazine had shamelessly copied my image to use as their mascot.

So, I did some quick thinking and I figure my likeness has been used nearly 173,208 times in the Mad Magazine (yes I googled it) and that, at a nominal rate of $127.80 per use - the standard modeling fee, pro-rated for compound interest - I should be in line for a image use cheque in the neighbourhood of $2.1 million dollars.

Once my cheque comes in, I'll put up my feet and I'll be the one saying "What, me worry?"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Holy Guacamole Batman!

Peppers, garlic and onions before the beef.

I just realized it has been a fortnight or two since I have posted a recipe, and having just finished an incredibly delicious meal with my daughter, I thought I would share this little culinary gem. The following is my Mexican inspired, somewhat local meal plan.

It is basically a nacho dish made with local beef - check out The Chop N Block, for some of the best local beef around, fresh produce, picked up at Gourmet Greens, and some Fresh is Best tortilla chips. I will have to talk to the owners of the other two shops as they don't have a website yet, but we won't hold that against them. I like to shop with local merchants when they provide me with service, quality products, and fair prices and all three of the aforementioned do just that.

So the process is simple: heat up your cast iron skill with a light swirl of oil and saute the following chopped items: 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, half an onion, half of each red, green, yellow and orange peppers. Once the vegetables are about half way done, add .5 to .75 kilos of lean ground beef, brown and season with: season salt, garlic powder, Montreal Steak Spice and a shot or two of Frank's Hot Sauce.

While the meat is browning, make your guacamole. I use: 3 ripe avocados, 1/2 tomato, 1/3 onion, juice from half a lemon, couple shots of Tabasco sauce, pinch or three of salt, 2 or three cloves of garlic (optional and not traditional). All of these ingredients are chopped coarsely and then blended together with a power blender. I season as I'm building this as it varies with the size of your avocados.

To serve, it is just a layer of tortilla chips, a layer of the meat mixture, cheese and a big dollop of guacamole on top. Served hot with a nice cold beverage and a view of the North Thompson in the valley below, it could not get any better.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day

We stand on guard for thee!


Not a lot of time to write this morning as I am heading off for the park to take in the festivities. I did have to make a quick entry to say that I realize how lucky I was to be born in a country as great as Canada.

Unfortunately there are many that have not yet clued into the fact that Canada is something special, and by their indifference we will suffer. Show your fellow Canadians that you care about your country: volunteer at something, pick up litter even if it is not yours, reduce, reuse and recycle, hug your kids - do anything that shows you care about those things that make Canada great. Then when you are singing those words about "standing on guard for thee" you can really belt it out because you have done your bit to protect our great land.

Now I shall go off to enjoy the patriotic fervor and hot dogs at Riverside Park.

Peace - eh?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orange and Yellow

orange form of the Prickly Pear Cacti flower

the more common yellow form of the Prickly Pear Cacti

Here's an interesting question to the botanists in the group. Why does the Prickly Pear Cacti sometimes produce orange flowers instead of the more standard yellow?

There are many possible answers: differences in soil, differences in genetics, differences in age. While each might be a good answer, logic and observation would tell us that each proffered reason doesn't make sense. If the variation was due to soil, then all of the cacti in the one clump should exhibit the same colour. If it was genetic, then again, the cacti in a group should all be showing the same characteristics (most cacti reproduction is from budding - or so I believe). Finally, if colour were age dependent then there should be a whole lot more orange cacti, or at least as many as the age distribution would suggest.

No, there is something much more interesting going on in the world of the cacti. I offer up the question to some bright young mind heading off for an interesting stint of studentism at our beloved Thompson Rivers University.

Or, if one of you kind readers know what is going on, please feel free to comment and let us all know.

P.S. John Foster wrote: In the Genus Acer, the variation in the colour of fall leaves has to do with sugar, moisture and pigment content. I just read that one explanation for variation in Opuntia flower colour also has to do with moisture and sugar content. If flowering is asynchronous, then indeed moisture, and sugar content would influence colour.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hicktown?

 The view from here


Nothing says "hick town" more than coming into an airport and having to pay to use the WIFI connection. But before I get into that I should state that I will be posting this rant from the airport in Calgary because I know that it, like so many other real city airports has free internet connections for its travelers. I was off on another business trip and wanted to check some emails but find that YKA still requires you to ante-up before hopping onto their broadband.

The cost isn't the issue, it's the principal of the thing.

Don't get me wrong. I love Kamloops. Kamloops is by far the greatest city in the world in which to live. Now I haven't seen all the other cities but I have seen quite a few and apart from some cervezca inspired love affairs with villages in Spain and Mexico, nothing comes close to being a Kamloops.

But, and there is most always a but, but if we are ever to shake off our image of being a poor cousin to Kelowna or a whistle-stop on the way to the Rockies then we have to step up to the plate. We have a very strong tech sector in town but who knows it? Wouldn't it be wise for the city to fill in the WIFI dead zones with free public access. Sure, you could have a little splash screen that welcomes the user to "Kamloops - where ideas grow" but other than that the service would be free.

As a tech traveler, internet access is one of the top items in my checklist in rating cities, hotels, restaurants and airports. Yes - the Kamloops airport is tops in its facilities, staff and convenience but consider the following scenario:

A business traveler is checked into the airport and needs to check a couple of quick emails before returning to the head office. He is about to make up his mind as to whether or not to relocate to Kamloops but his deliberations are paused as he has to fork over his credit card number to get onto WIFI. WIFI which, up till now, he has been getting for free on his cross Canada journey. Kamloops is not as tech-friendly as he had been led believe. His new office ends up in Road Narrows Saskatchewan.

While the aforementioned scenario is admittedly a bit of a stretch, the impression left on business travelers is not. Free, community sponsored WIFI in strategic locations is a smart investment in our future.

P.S. Arrived in Calgary, booted up, logged on using my facebook account, and hopefully the airport mined all of my data to learn what type of traveler was using their system and we are both the happier for it.

P.P.S. Flew out of Grande Prairie (population about 40K) and their municipal airport had free WIFI. Greatly appreciated the gesture so I think I may open my latest internet venture there. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The mystery of the glacial sandwich

Red = Silt layer, Blue = Glacial debris? 
Bluffs on the east side of the Tranquille River

Now for something completely different I offer up the following mystery. On the hills to the east of the Tranquille river is an exposed piece of real estate. Like some giant turkey club sandwich, minus the turkey and all the good stuff of course, is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, shrouded in a riddle (or something like that).

The gravel bars could have been deposited by either a river, or more likely a glacier and the silt could have been deposited when the lake covered the land. That would explain the bottom layers of the sandwich, but why the next two layers? My understanding was that there was an ice age that covered this area a couple of years ago, but this sandwich seems to suggests that the ice age was duplicated at least once and possible twice.

Or is there some other explanation for the gravel deposits: was it giant pocket gophers, or perhaps aliens experimenting with terraforming? I for one am flummoxed. And I am sure there are not many of you that can truthfully say that you have had occasion to say the word flummoxed, so "Ha" on that one as well. Unless, of course you can come up with the real reason behind the giant silt and gravel club sandwich sitting out behind our fair city, in which case you can say "ha" to me, and I will be your most humble servant as always. . . FR

Addendum:

I wrote to, and got a quick response from Ken Klein of Thompson Rivers University. Ken is the resident geologist at TRU and he writes:

I would have to look at the glacial debris to determine if it was a delta or ice deposited - my best guess from the picture is glaciofluvial delta deposits covered by lake sediments then more delta and then more lake sediments. Glacial activity in the interior was very cyclic with many periods of warm alternating with cold - hence the researched salmon remains of about 17-19,000 years of age. Water and Ice levels fluctuated with deltas being inundated with rising water and lake deposits....then becoming exposed and recovered with delta material - if the coarser material is glacial ice deposited till then it simply marks advance, retreat, melt, advance, retreat, melt etc........that is all I can attest to from the photo....Ken

So I guess I was somewhat close is my guess-timation I just did not know that so many glaciers visited our area.