Sunday, January 31, 2010

My apologies

Screen shot of Mark Francis' new website -created by Frank Ritcey, Cafe Productions

I've been reading back through my posts and I realize a shocking truth. I haven't done anything really stupid lately. No broken bones. No frantic search parties. No additional scars and/or distinguishing features.

In short, I haven't been my usual self. This working for a living is really starting to cramp my style. I have however finished off another website. This one is for the third of the Francis painters - Mark. I would really like to meet Mark as he sounds like an interesting sort who has spent a lot of time in the film industry and has become quite an accomplished set designer - prop maker type of guy (I think that is the technical term they use in the biz these days).

I'll post the temporary link to Mark's site on my personal website: and you can view it there. Leave me a post or comment if you have any trouble loading it. I've been having some issues with Internet Explorer and my sloppy coding. Firefox and Chrome are much more forgiving browsers for sure.

If opportunity calls I'm off for a city hike.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

At long last - I hope

"Before all the fuss" click on the photo to see full size

I am composing this post in two parts. Right now I am writing a short introduction to the two websites that I hope will be fully functional by the time I finish writing the intro -Editor's note: they weren't -

Okay, life interrupted, had a houseful of company and the place was rocking! We had a little get together and my friends came by with some guitars, drums, and a willingness to sing and we  jammed for quite awhile. It's surprising how many songs we know - and how many of those that we don't know all the words to.

But the websites are finished and I think show the art of the two Francis' very well. The third Francis website should be up and running by next weekend. The top photo is one of Tim's and the bottom is one of his mother's.

Check out and

"First Snowfall" click on photo to see full size

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

Oops I did it again. I missed out on a number of posts but all for very good reasons. I've been burning the candles at both ends and in the middle it seems and have not taken the time to write. The hard work is starting to pay off though with 5 projects just about finished and a sixth about to start.

Although I have this great pile of work about to crush me I did want to celebrate my birthday by taking 15 minutes out to write my blog - about 60 minutes on the treadmill- maybe a couple of hours to see some friends from out of town - 25 minutes for a nap - 2 hours to cook a birthday dinner - 30 minutes to review some video - and a couple of hours to work on my novel - a 30 minute coffee break -and before you know it the day's half gone!

I wish I had something pithy to say on my birthday but I am pith-less this morning and will instead post a couple of photos, get back to work and promise to regale you with a good yarn in the next couple of days.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An eagle eye

I pried myself away from the computer for a couple of hours this morning and it was well worth the effort. My wife and I made our way across to the North Shore and joined up with mom and dad for what is their daily ritual of walking out by Tranquille.

The weather was abnormally warm, even for the normally mild winters of Kamloops and it was great to see so many fellow Kamloopsians out hiking, birding, walking dogs and even a gaggle of runners were making their weekly pilgrimage out along the road.

The birds are scarce these days but, of note, was a flock of some 800-1,000 waxwings that were ground feeding on the exposed weed seeds and bits of greenery that have been exposed by the recent melt. There were your usual winter scavengers working the shoreline around Cooney bay: crows, ravens, magpies and a pair of bald eagles put on a good show for us. The eagles were interesting to watch as they had captured, or scavenged some unidentified prize, perhaps a cat, and were feasting upon it up in a big Yellow Pine snag. The magpies were being extremely bold and would crowd the eagles on the limbs in the hopes that the owners might drop the catch or at least let some little scrap fall.

Dad got some great shots of the eagle and I got some that were less so. I think the issue of lens envy is a real problem amongst the haves and have-nots in the photography world. After we had our fill of shooting the eagles we were treated to a view of a good sized herd of bighorn sheep up on the sage covered hills. These were mostly ewes, lambs and  young. The older rams tend to head off to other locales to hang out with the old boys club.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Goodnight Irene!

Okay, this post is nothing about the old Leadbelly Classic but instead is just what came to me when I was looking at yesterday's post. It is also a saying that my mother's family would use to explain the hopelessness of a situation as in  when you've used up your last shell and the bear is still coming at you it would be a good time to say all cool and calm like "Well, goodnight Irene!"

I had just about used up all my shells yesterday while trying to get the photo album working on Tim Francis' new website ( . After three hours of searching through the misbehaving code I found that the new snippet of code I had added had a capital "I" instead of a small "i" on one word buried deep within a Flash application that the website required. A little more tweaking and the site will be fully functional. It is a good start none the less and probably worth the visit.

The painting above is one I just love. It captures the essence of that most enjoyable of pastimes "just hanging out" and enjoying a good old ice cream cone.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good morning world

Okay, I've got a good coffee buzz going and I'm chilling out to some classic Johnny Cash, the coding is going along well and I've just prepared and enjoyed a continental breakfast with my good wife. The sun is starting to break to the east and the city is trying to stir from its uneasy slumber.

Mornings are mine. I guess its because there's so little competition at this time of day. In the morning one can sit high atop their hills (real or metaphoric) and enjoy their kingdoms, fiefdoms, or whatever the deed says is their right. Myself, I see the land stretching out as an invitation to adventure - a new adventure each and every morning. Some mornings will take you out to a piece of ground you've never trod before and some mornings will take you back to a well known piece of land but occupied by new animals or a fresh growth of flowers.

In the city I have to satiate my wanderlust by poking and prying into every opportunity presented by civilization. Like a raccoon checking under every rock along a riverbank, I too am checking, but for experiences and interactions that will enrich my journey through this world. But if I don't get back to finishing this bit of code I might be checking for a new client.

Seize the day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The mark of an artist

Okay I missed yesterday's entry but then I had a great excuse. Lot's of head-banging trying to get one simple procedure to work on my database project, dealing with transferring web domains with a company that couldn't quite understand what I needed to  happen wasn't what they wanted to happen, two websites with two different design challenges, and then I invited mom and dad over for supper and sort of got out of control with the menu.

The dinner was pretty good - not Janice Francis good mind you, but pretty good if you were really hungry type of good. The menu was: sopapillas, rice, chicken enchiladas, tacos, nachos with home made guacamole and home made salsa. All in all everything worked well together and I will be eating leftovers for the next two days.

And, as always, it is the third paragraph before I get into what the heck the title is about. My friend Tim, whose art I have mentioned in previous posts, has a brother, Mark, who is also an artist. Once Tim's site is operational, I will be building a site for Mark.

Mark's art is brilliant and I've included samples of his work above and below this post. What I find so amazing is that all three of the Francis' display this ability to capture and reproduce images with such an acute eye. I have at times, turned my own hand towards the fine arts but I must admit that I doubt if any of the truly artistic fields are likely to be my genetic inheritance.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hidden in the Midden

And another busy day draws to a close. I had to pull an all-nighter working on some code that wouldn't co-operate and didn't get it to work until the wee hours of morning. A couple hours of shut-eye and then I dragged myself off to the Monday morning ritual of coffee with my good buddy Gerry.

Gerry is working on launching a blog and website, more of which I will tell you about later, and in joining the fray of social media had launched his facebook account. He mentioned that it seemed kind of strange that he would have to invite me to be a friend of his account, seeing as we had been real friends since 1966. But I guess that is the challenge of the information age - remembering what is real, and what is only fabricated by this world of "nots and ones".

The subject of the title is what I should have got to before this third paragraph had I been any type of a writer (but then again, If I had been any type of a writer I probably wouldn't have had the varied career I have had and hence would have had nothing to write about - so while you're trying to un-convolute that bit of reasoning let me talk about the midden .)

While working on my database I got the little pop-up notice that mail had arrived. I am always excited when it is a message from Loyd and there is an attachment. The attachment means either a new song, or a new snippet of video. Today was a video entitled "The Midden". It's a little segment we shot about 4 years ago and as I remember, it was a beautiful spring day and we were out in Wells Gray Park looking for some bear activity. We never found the bears so we shot some video about our friend the squirrel. This segment will be added to the squirrel song segment - once I work on the lyrics a little - and Loyd does final production on the music. Then we just write 14 more segments and we'll have the "Forest Friends DVD" ready for sale at a WalMart near you!

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Photo finish

Well another KNC AGM has come and gone, and no, that isn't a bowl of alphabet soup but the Kamloops Naturalist Club's Annual General Meeting. It's nice when you belong to an organization especially at my advanced age and are considered one of the "young people" in the group.

The Ritcey household did well once again at the photo contest even though we were stacked up against an impressive wall of entries. Perhaps we did so well because we are also in charge of tallying the votes! Father took the Syd Roberts Memorial trophy for the anything goes category with a photo of a Waxwing. I managed to take a first place in the "Plants" category with a photo of "Lion's Mane."  I am ashamed to admit that I don't know the proper name for the plant but will look it up at some point. My other entries never got a sniff so I will be displaying them here from time to time just so they get set free.

The bigger news is that I have been appointed as one of the VPs of the club and will be working to help organize a number of field trips and some new activities to help bolster numbers and interest in the club.

But Sunday awaits and I must go see what it has to offer.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Tim and Janice came over for a most enjoyable dinner -well, the company was most enjoyable but I think the rice in the jambalaya was overcooked - nice tang to the spice but I should have followed my own instructions and cooked the rice with the other ingredients instead of seperately and then adding. Oh well, live and learn (and learn again it seems).

Tim had said he had exciting news for us when he came over and wouldn't let us know til they got there. At supper he presented me with a royalty cheque for one of his mother's paintings that sold via our website. The painting was one of the few originals remaining from Dorothy's years  of work and the price reflected both the quality and the scarcity of her work.

It must be hard for an artist to sell a work like that. As an author I never have that problem. Not just because people don't like my stuff but when people do buy something of mine it is always just a copy never the original. It would be very hard for me to, say, write a story and then to sell that story and to know that I would never see it again.

But another Monday beckons so I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky - oops, I mean I must go down the the office again . . .

The Girls Team - $24,000 Sold 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Norsk Latkes

So today we are seeing what the Cowboy in the Kitchen was cooking over the holidays. I made these a couple of times and they have become the number one requested item at the Ritcey breakfast table - the previous number one request was for me to put on a shirt and to quit singing!

There is no way to pass these breakfast beauties off as being at all healthy for you so you might as well scoop on the applesauce and whipping cream, or smother them with syrup or ketchup or with whatever your particular vice is.

I am told that these are originally a Jewish dish but I believe the origins are probably more Norwegian. My grandfather was a Norsk and according to him, most great discoveries were made by Norwegians, or by people who were wishing they were Norwegians, so in deference to Thorbjorn Helset, I present my version of Norsk Latkes.

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 heaping tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Peel and shred potatoes into a large bowl
  2. Shred onion into the same bowl, (here you can add a splash of lemon juice to keep the potatoes from going black)
  3. Mix and break in two eggs and add salt
  4. Mix again until a big sloppy goop
  5. (Do not try to wring out moisture from potatoes as some suggest – this moisture is needed to make the innards nice and creamy)
  6. Add flour slowly and mix til excess moisture is picked up by the flour and mixture just starts to stiffen.
While this is going on, have a cast iron pan with about a centimeter of oil in it heating up. Use canola oil as it takes the high heat without smoking. Insert a wooden skewer to the oil and when it boils around the wooden skewer it is hot enough.

Spoon out your pancakes, a little smaller than my hand and about one and a half of your fingers thick is about right. I can get about three in a pan at a time without them touching one another. Let them turn golden brown and crispy before carefully turning. Cook til golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on a metal rack.

Served up alongside some bacon and eggs you will have the best of both worlds (as I believe the bacon is non kosher or treif – that’s a bit of Yiddish I picked up while researching the history of the dish)

Some latkes in the forground and my Heuvos Racheros del mar fixens in the background

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the trail

On the trail
with Frank Ritcey

It was one of those hikes that I knew was going to go bad but my morbid sense of curiosity made me play out the hand. The first bit of fore-shadowing was the fact that I couldn’t talk any of my cohorts into joining me on the trip. The second warning sign was that my good wife called the insurance company to ensure that our policy did not preclude acts of god or extreme stupidity. So, without the normal moral support of companions or well wishing from the family, I set off for the Tranquille River Canyon.

Now most locals will protest that it is a creek and not a river, but I checked and it is actually gazetted as a river. I am sure the tag of “river” was due to either an exceptional spring run-off or the fact that the person doing the naming was from back east where virtually any moving body of water gets the more regal moniker of river. I will go with the river designation as it sounds much better when I explain how I became entrapped in a river canyon as opposed to just being stuck in a creek.

The trip is incredibly dangerous and should only be undertaken by those well versed in the ways of the wild and endowed with the well toned body of an Olympian – or by those who don’t really think things through entirely (I leave it to the reader to guess which group I fall into).

My father, who normally has better judgment, agreed to drive me to my jumping off point some 12 kilometers up the Red Lake road. He also loaned me his faithful hunting dog, Tia, as a companion for the arduous journey. Now Tia is not quite like a “Lassie” who will go and alert would-be rescuers but she will eat any leftover sandwiches and does not offer much in the way of rude remarks when I get lost or entrapped in some misadventure. In retrospect, Tia is a notch above my usual traveling companions.

To enter the canyon one needs to slowly and carefully work their way down the steep banks of the upper Tranquille valley. The side hills here are steep and dry and one needs to watch their footing. It is especially important to watch the route ahead as there are numerous blind ends where the trails terminate at cliff faces above the creek bed. 

Once you reach the valley floor you are rewarded with the sparkling clear waters of the Tranquille River. Good stout running shoes are the preferred footwear here as you will be making your way down the centre of the creek for most of the remainder of the hike.

The creek bed is an oasis in the otherwise dry hills and you will be rewarded with signs or sightings of all types of animals. Bears, coyote, foxes, gopher snakes, garter snakes, rattlesnakes, deer, bighorn sheep, cougars, White-footed mice, voles, chipmunks, squirrels and a plethora of birds all call the valley home. Descend in the early summer and you may be rewarded with ripe wild raspberries, stand in the wrong patch of vines and you might be rewarded with the excruciating itch of poison ivy.

The highlight of the hike down the creek, oops, I mean wild river, is the one and a half canyons you get to traverse. The first canyon is where the river has cut through a lava flow and requires a short swim to get through one very deep pool about mid way through the traverse.  Take time to look up and marvel at the power of the water that, through sheer patience and persistence has worked its way through what must have seemed an impermeable barrier at one time.

After emerging from the first canyon you’ll return to the normal tumble of boulders, and steep walled valley but don’t despair because more adventure is ahead. The second canyon, a short ways downstream of the first, is best skirted by climbing the game trail to the river left. I knew this. The little voice in my head knew this. That other voice in my head though, the one that gets me into trouble, suggested that true adventure lay down that stretch of canyon.

Upon entering the canyon I was confronted by a small drop that required me to descend a rock face. The descent was somewhat technical and I thought it would be safer if I took off my daypack – the one with all of my survival gear, my gps, my cell phone, my car keys, my wallet and everything else that I could possibly need in case of an emergency – like say getting stuck in a canyon, yep that's the daypack that I lowered over the rock face first. The ledge I lowered the pack onto was a narrow one and was located just a centimeter or two above the raging torrent.

Retrieving the rope that I used to lower my pack with I turned to secure that same rope to a stout log with the intent of lowering myself to the ledge, retrieving my pack and then continuing my way downstream. My knot tying didn’t go all that well. By the time I had a knot secured, that would hold my considerable bulk, I turned to see, with much horror, my daypack floating downstream and over another set of rapids.

Scrambling down the rock face and making my way as quickly as a man of my girth can manage I gave chase. The chase was short lived. The canyon walls at this point are impassable and there is no option for swimming here as the final drop (waterfall) had a large log sweeper at its base that would most assuredly pin anyone foolish enough to attempt to go over the falls.

The trip upstream through the canyon was decidedly more difficult than coming down and Tia was understandably confused as to why we were backtracking up through this inhospitable piece of real estate. Cursing my poor decision to become separate from my survival gear I made my way up and over the hill alongside the canyon and then made my way back to the water.

As I sat there at creekside, dejected and wondering how I would ever make my way up the canyon, against the current as it were, I was offered up a gift by the hiking gods. There, floating lazily out of the canyon, came my waterlogged but still intact, pack. My heart soared. Everything of value, housed with foresight in double Ziplocked bags was dry and operational.

The rest of the hike was made even more enjoyable with the knowledge that karma was onside with me that day. Below the last canyon are a number of pools that require short swims and extra caution so as not to become entangled in the rocks or occasional sweeper that has, itself, been swept down into the canyon.

Follow the creek down til you come to the old water intake works for Tranquille and get out on river left and follow the road out to the parking lot where your ride should be waiting.

Total hiking time is about 8 hours giving you lots of time to stop and take photos of the wide variety of bugs, flowers, and geological formations. 

Hiking level is for experienced hikers and outdoorsy types only. Having hiked Kenna Cartwright Park, no matter how many times, does not make you an experienced hiker. Go with somebody who has some scars, walks with a limp, or some other proof of having spent some time in the bush. Not a great hike for those that are claustrophobic, non-swimmers, afraid of heights or uncomfortable with snakes.

What to take: Typical survival gear plus: sunscreen, long pants (for the poison ivy), climbing rope bottled water

Special notes: Be sure to travel with at least one other hiker - three is better, because one can go for help while the other provides first aid or tells long winded stories to keep your mind off of your fractures. Make sure someone knows where you’ve gone and when you’ll be back. Be especially cautious with this hike if the water level is high - I leave it for mid July or early August, and never if it has been raining.