Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Cuckoo-Bee in my bonnet

A Cuckoo-Bee

My blog posting has been spotty as of late but with good cause - again. I have been busy out in the field trying to get as much material captured before the long nights and short days of winter befall us.

One of the joys of coming back to my blog is that I then catch up on all of the other blogs I follow. Well worth the reading and following are these three blogs: Danial Neil - Language of trees (Danial is a gifted writer who words are worth a thousand pictures), Peter Sulzle - Peter Sulzle's Wildlife Photography Blog (Peter's pictures of wildlife are worth a thousand words), and Mel Rothenburger - The Armchair Mayor (Mel is begrudgingly one of the better mayors we have had. As I get older and more crotchety the more I agree with Mel).

But the reason I made this post is that I have recently come across a group of insects known as Cuckoo Bees. These bees behave like the Cuckoo and lay their eggs in another bee's nest and allow that parent to raise the young while they head off to the casino and enjoy life. I had always figured these insects to be some type of wasp, but no, they are in fact bees. The amazing thing about nature is that no matter how long you study and observe it - you will never scratch the surface of all its intricacies - something like trying to learn how the remote for your TV works!

Apparently not another cuckoo bee - but a striped hoverfly mimic

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Not a good patient

So it is1:24 in the a.m. and I am sitting in front of my computer. Not because I am particularly obsessed with writing, but because I am sick.

While those that know me, or have read more than three of my posting will nod in agreement and say "Yes, we've known that about you for a long time" I will hasten to counter with "Not that type of sick - I am really sick with a sore throat and the shivers."

I do not suffer well, or silently. That is why I have been banished from my own bed to wander the house like a lost soul looking for refuge wherever it might be. The kitchen, the TV, and the library offered little solace so I have ended up here in front of my computer seeking solace on the net.

I thought about tweeting my ailments but with five followers I figured the return on that expenditure of effort would be minimal. I could have posted the info on facebook but those types of posts are clearly designed for superficial condolences - no I needed a forum that could truly spell out the depths of my misery and in turn generate some real heartfelt emails of sympathy.

But alas and alack, the shivers have taken a hold of me again and I must go off to battle them instead of pounding out some prose that would capture the depth and project the magnitude of my despair and suffering.

Perhaps some late night "Family Guy" and a bottle of Nyquil will bring me around.
From this summer and happier times when I wasn't dying from this stoopid, stoopid sore throat!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Small Wonders

So I know I haven't been posting much but that is because I am very lazy. No wait, what I meant to say is that I have had both hands broken while rescuing children from a burning orphanage. Yes, that was it. I am now typing this with a straw stuck in my left eye. It is slow and painful but for you my reader I would do almost anything.

I have compiled a little contest which I think is pretty cool and I will try to undertake it myself one of these days. The way it works is simple: Watch the following video and jot down the names of all 23 animals you see. These are little creatures so you may not know all of them. Jot down the ones you know and their taxonomic information (phylum,class, order, family, genus and species) and give yourself 10-60 points respectively for each correct entry. So the correct phylum gives you 10 while the correct species gives you 60 points (plus all of the other points you got while getting to the correct species). But if you get, say, the species wrong -you double that score and subtract it - so a wrong species is -120 but a wrong class is only -40.

I have not yet figured out what all the animals are but I have some of my best people working on it (that would be you my loyal readers). Please send me any info you have.

Take care and peace out!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alive and well

Oh it has been so long since I have put in the effort to peck out a few words for my blog that I hardly know where to start.

My absence from this forum was not planned but like so many things it was a result of a chain of circumstances. Snakes had to be chased. Trips had to be taken and then there was the matter of school and the alien abduction. Not that doesn't sound right, I think it was abduction by aliens.

I will try to post more now that the probes have been removed and my access to the internet has been restored to former levels.

What actually prompted my return was the following link

Which, when clicked upon, will transport you to ITunes and Loyd Bishop's incredible presentation of the Rounders and Sinners Cowboy music CD.

If that doesn't float your boat you can check out my video below which shows all six species of snakes we have found in Kamloops - in between promoting Cowboy Music CDs, going to school, going to work and teleporting across the universe.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Ant Hypothesis

The astute reader will remember that last year I wrote about the number of ants on a Tennessee anthill (an oblique reference to The Loving Spoonful's big hit Nashville Cats). Well, I found such an anthill yesterday on my hike and I present it on the above video.

The question though, is: "How many ants?" Let's do the math.

 Lots of little individuals make up a the collective

The picture above is 1680x920 giving a total area of 1,545,600 (pixels). I took a random square from the main photo of 295x239 (area: 70505), counted the number of ants (40 see below) and multiplied this by the size ratio of the two photos (1:21.93) to come up with 877 ants in the photo.

 You should count 40 ants here (I looked for heads and assumed bodies would follow)

You can't tell from the photo but I would estimate that I was only seeing 1/10th of the colony at any one time - both because I think that would be accurate and because I know how to multiple by ten. So, this anthill I am guessing has 8,770 ants in it (plus or minus 7,500 ants).

The contest is still open to some bright young, or old, naturalist who can give me a more exacting estimate or way of counting the number of ants in one of these anthills.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cowboy Coffeee?

Was up early today, and wasted most of my morning on homework and workwork but did manage to get some productive time in on the net listening to some vintage Chuck Berry while searching through my vast library of photos.

Whenever I need to go to my "happy place" I quite enjoy randomly flipping through the 50K plus images I have and remembering the trips associated with the pics. Here I had a big pot of cowboy coffee going while camped out along the Graham River. We were building a spike camp and spent an enjoyable ten days swinging hammers, swatting mosquitoes and generally enjoying the life of a layabout woodsman.

While living in the northern Rockies is great for short stretches, I could see where it could substantially shorten one's life and not just from the many pitfalls associated with living with large carnivores outside your tent, but more likely from drinking the vile brew contained within the pot pictured above.

Must dash off to work now. Two more TESL classes and I'm through. My first act of freedom will be to get back to treating this blog with the respect it deserves. Til then, my friends, shalom.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Help - I'm being held against my will in reality!!

"It has been many moons since I lasted posted," sighed Running Diatribe, as he leaned against the wall of his tee-pee and stared into the now dying embers of the fire.

And so it is with me. I do apologize to my follower(s) but I have been felled by a horrible disease called life. Lately "life" has required me to attend school and put in my hours at work. Don't get me wrong, both activities are immensely rewarding on their own, but together they are making for a tough slog for this old cowboy.

I did get out for a quick hike today with my sister-in-law, my daughter and her beau. We took a hike out to see the owls of Kenna Cartwright Park - in fact were hoping to see the young of the year. But none have appeared yet.

Of greater note was the story my brother passed on - and that was that he had seen the alligator lizards already this year. Now the inner-me says to treat any such announcement from any of my siblings with a great deal of skepticism. But the wishful hoping-its-really-spring me says "Ya-hoo!" Consequently I will be heading off to the secret Alligator Lizard bluffs tomorrow in hopes of getting some really good shots.

If nothing else it will give me reason - if not time - to post again.

Peace out.

PS - try changing my address to\view\flipcard

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beat like a rented mule

 Kristyn Harris - A real rising star

So, yes it has been a while since I posted, but as always I have a good excuse. I have been busy.

Last weekend I was tied up with performing at the 15th Annual Cowboy Festival in Kamloops, B.C.  I was performing in what they call the Rising Star showcase. While rising star might adequately describe some of my fellow performers, in my case it should have been called "the not even a hope-in-hell competition."

I jest, of course. I had a great time even though I was competing against some very talented folks. We gave three performances over Friday and Saturday and were judged at each performance and then the top three in both poetry and singing went on to the main stage event on Sunday. Due to a mix up in the adding of scores (I am sure) I ended up on the main stage with 5 very good performers.

The kid, Jayden Stafford, who won the poetry was some precocious 9 year old who was reciting the poetry of Brian Salmond. The combination of the kid's delivery and Brian's poems made him a crowd favourite and I was quite content to use the opportunity to make 300 people I didn't know listen to some of my poems and stories. The fact that our local radio station, Country 103, put up $2,000 in prize money made the experience even more enjoyable and I walked away with some impressive folding money in my pockets for being a runner-up. Country 103 is a real strong supporter of cowboy and country music in our town and my hat is tipped to them.

The singing part of the competition was very close and again, it was youth and talent that took the top spot. Folks would do well to keep an eye out for Kristyn Harris a teen-aged Texan fireball that has an upbeat personality and a great grasp of Texas-swing.

Apart from inflicting my poetry on folks I have been busy with my TESL course and working for a living. Tomorrow with favourable weather I will be out making movies.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Who - who's there?

Just a real quick post today as I am up to the proverbial armpits in alligators. This week will be the "perfect storm" in terms of projects for yours truly.

First I have about 6 zillion assignments due for my TESL classes. Next I have two sets of lesson plans to prepare and deliver for the ESL class I am teaching. Then, I have a huge stack of applications on my desk to process at work. Adding to the stress, the Cowboy festival kicks off on Friday and I am thinking of changing my set which is probably a very bad idea at this pint. Finally, Lisa and Nick will be by for supper tonight and I have to get some ribs in the oven and all of the other fixins that go with a sunday supper. Looks like I won't be getting off to the workshop at TRU that I was hoping to attend.

So why have I had time to hike around Kenna Cartwright Park, and to go out to Tranquille taking video of the waxwings? Why? That's a very good question. Maybe I know that no one has ever died, wishing they had spent more time at work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Git along doggies

The 15th annual B.C. Cowboy festival is about to descend upon Kamloops and I are in it. I thought it might be a bit of a stretch losing all of that fine grammar I were taught at the university but apparently, at least according to my profs, I was doing a very good job of masking any grammar that I had picked up.

Fortunately, aficionados of cowboy doggerel are not as discerning. And it is for those that I post the following:

The hundred dollar shirt

I could’a spent the money
on booze or girls that flirt
But there’s nothing like the feeling
Of a hundred dollar shirt

The girls will often leave ya
And the booze just makes you hurt
But you’ll never be mistreated
By a hundred dollar shirt

Oh, I could’ve paid the feed bill,
Or squared up with the vet
But the smell of fresh pressed cotton
Why a fellow can’t forget

With its brocade and its buttons
Why it’s better than dessert
And I’m prouder than a peacock
In my hundred dollar shirt

So when you’re feeling beaten
Whipped by life’s relentless quirt
You’ll find the perfect pick-me-up
Is a hundred dollar shirt

Bright and gaily coloured
Neatly pressed right off the rack
More like a million dollars
You got hanging on your back

And when my race is over
And they lay me in the dirt
You’ll surely see me smiling
In my hundred dollar shirt

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Summertime and the living is easy

I really should have been studying my grammar (a present perfect progressive structure) but instead I was flipping through (past progressive) old videos and had come across (past perfect) this one of a deer that Peter and I were doing a sneak on (present progressive). Or maybe that was "we were snucking on" - like I said, perhaps I should have been studying a bit more seriously.

Anyhow it made me think of how much I love summer, and how I wish it were back.

For summery pictures you can go check out Peter's Gallery at and then you too can yearn for summer. Unless of course you are reading this in July in which case the crispness of a February morning is what you will be pining for.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Attack of the howler monkeys and deep philosophical questions

Okay, I know they are not howler monkeys, but when you slow down the video the results are howler monkey-like. I just had to share this as I find it amazing to watch wildlife in a different time frame.

Our perceptions of time are fixed by our abilities to discern discreet events in our day-to-day life. For all we know, time may appear much differently to an animal with faster reflexes and keener eyes. Or what of the rock or mountain that experiences time on a geological scale. Think on that the next time you plunk your butt down on a boulder that has been watching the earth unfurl for the last million years or so.

Okay, before I get too much grief for mentioning that maybe rocks experience time in a manner different to us we must keep an open mind. I mean, if the latest crop of politicians want us to believe that voting for them will in any way change our lot in life then I can assign sentient qualities to rocks.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ram Slam

Well I said on my last post that I was wishing for something worthwhile to post today and that wish has apparently come true.

On my way out to Tranquille I stopped to watch the sheep as they were grazing along the hillside above the tracks. I had just set up my camera when two of the younger rams (about 6-7 years of age) started bashing heads.

As I watched the animals square off it became apparent that this wasn't just an isolated incident but a good proportion of the herd was taking part. The crash of the horns could be heard coming from distant rocky slopes, hidden gullies and fortuitously, right in front of me.

Watch the last part of the clip and it sounds like a single crash, but when I slow it down you can hear the two distinct sounds made when first one set of horns collide and then the next.

All in all a great day. I am heading out again today to see what I can capture.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A new job!

A pair of black bears

So today will mark the end of my first week as the guy sitting in the office that has the title of Provincial Coordinator, Bear Aware Program. The job is great, at least I think/hope it will be great as right now all I am doing is trying to get enough background information on the process that I don't shoot myself in the foot the first time I am asked a question of any importance.

The mission of Bear Aware is to reduce the number of bear-human conflicts in communities through education, innovation and cooperation. So the focus is on education and it is amazing how effective the process is. I don't know yet how we get all the bears to sit still in class but I am wiling to give it a go.

I have a great office and as I mentioned the other day it is right next to where my buddy Gerry works so that is an extra bonus. Additionally my friend Pat works just down the street at Pro-Video so I should never be at a loss for coffee or walking partners.

But as much as I love my new job I am even more excited about the return of the sun. Tomorrow is supposed to be bright and crisp so I will make up for a week of no filming and hopefully have something worthwhile to post here by Monday.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rode hard and put away wet

Frank - in Arabic (I hope)

Yesterday I learned that this "working for a living" thing is not all that it is cracked up to be. Now I must remain vague at this point to as to the particulars of my new job but let me tell you I have learned to say "Do you want fries with that" in a particularly convincing manner.

No, I do jest. My new job is pretty much a dream job for me and I am sure it will be a pretty good fit. Once all of the protocols have been addressed that go with a job like this I will be sharing the particulars with all six of you that are now following my blog.

But getting back to my "dies horrendus" I can, and will, go into the particulars of that.

The day started early, about 2:30 in the a.m. early. I had eaten late and like Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Christmas Carol I was fighting indigestion caused by a piece of cheese or some other irritant. Being awake and, realizing that three of my three school assignments that were due were not yet finished, I stumbled down to the computer to complete the tasks.

Some of my most brilliant work is done in the wee hours of the morning, but my muse had slept late this particular morning and I struggled through all of the assignments.

I sent off the assignments, slept through breakfast (which was hard as I was also cooking breakfast) and then forced myself out through the door and off to work.

I think I will have to instigate some of the Swedish protocols around stretching breaks, coffee breaks and generally getting up out of your chair breaks if I am to survive in an office atmosphere. Fortunately, my friend Gerry has an office nearby and we get to meet for coffee and plan where we will build our next fort. Gerry and I have known each other since grade three and we started out as friends by building forts together and thought "why change a good thing" and have been building forts ever since. More on the fort building later.

Work was over and I rushed back home, changed, grabbed my books and headed off to T.R.U. where I had to teach an ESL class about the exciting world of adverbs of frequency.

Sometimes I never often get the words right usually. The lesson went something like that before it started to go downhill. Despite my bumblings the students seemed to enjoy the lesson and all gave me a glowing review on the evaluation that they had to complete at the end of the class.

Then quickly on to a 50 minute dissertation on Silence and learning. I think it had something to do with the idea that a real cowboy never passes on the opportunity to say nothing. Halfway through the class the lack of sleep was catching up with me and it was all I could do to remain conscious.

The next class was our two hour grammar class which I truly enjoy but this day proved to be my Waterloo. My classmates and I were each given 7 minutes to review a verb tense with the rest of the class. Everyone else brought Powerpoint presentations, laser light shows, fog machines, and one women was setting up a trapeze and had some guy from Cirque du soliel teaching us about future tenses. I had a piece of a chalk and a shakey understanding at best of the concept. It was probably my single-most disappointing moment of my learning career.

After my less than stellar performance one of my more compassionate classmates said "You look horrible - maybe you should get some rest!"

I concurred, went home and went to bed.

The week can only improve.

(Oh, and the picture at the top of the blog - one of my student's had my name printed in Arabic for me, I am pretty sure it is Frank but I'd better check that it isn't a part of a horse's anatomy)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fish on!

I was going through my video collection when I came across this clip from quite a number of years back and thought I should post if for my good friend Robert (and when you say Robert please say it as it supposed to be pronounced in French and not as in English or as in my middle name.)

Robert is a Clearwater-ite with an impressive list of credentials when it comes to anything to do with the great outdoors. He is an accomplished heli-ski guide and one of the top kayakers in the universe. He even managed to navigate the lower Clearwater river with me in the front of a two person kayak. When he is not out performing various acts of adventure daring-do he runs a gym, teaches, and runs a river rafting company. I get tired just listing all of the stuff he does.

Robert and I were talking one day and he mentioned how he would like to take his son Robson out on a fishing trip but didn't know of a good lake nearby. I knew of the perfect lake and since I knew Robert also had a canoe and could carry it, all of gear, and our lunches I thought it would be a great idea to let him in on my secret lake.

The trip was one of those great fall days when everything went just right and Robson got to slay the fish in grand style. This was definitely a catch and release into the frying pan type of trip and although we released as many as we caught we did end up with a pretty healthy stringer of fish.

The only item of note for the day was the fact that we got caught up in one of the most spectacular lightning storms of my life. We were forced off the lake and had to take shelter under some smallish trees. Marble sized hail pelted the earth and the skies were torn asunder. Lightning bolts danced across the ridge we were on as the gods vented their full and mighty wrath on the forest. Then, like the fickle humour of a latin lover, the violence was gone, the sun returned and we were left to finish our day of paddling around the lake and hauling in rainbow after rainbow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick I need a rhyme for horse!!

So once again my hands are quicker than my brain. I had come across the BC Cowboy Heritage Society website and thought - hey I should enter that poetry competition again. Before you could say "dog-dieing and girl crying" I had signed up for the event.

Shortly thereafter I looked at the website to see who else had also signed up. I had recognized a few of the names but the entry that generated the most fear was some young fresh faced kid who looks about 8 years old. There was a rule in Vaudeville and that was to never follow an act with a kid and not to work with monkeys. I don't know about the latter but I definitely know about the former.

The previous year when I had entered the poetry competition there were thankfully, no junior combatants. In the musical category though there was one pint-sized singer who was not only cute-as-a-button but also an incredibly talented singer. She took home all of the hardware along with a thousand dollars to tuck in her jeans. I see she is also retunring to the festival as a main stage performer.

So now I am hoping the young poet that I will be expected to perform alongside comes down with some childhood affliction like mumps or chicken pox. Perhaps I'll get lucky and he'll be made to stay after school on the day of the festival and he just won't show up.

Lacking an effective hex to put on my competitors I may have to break down and write some really good cowboy poems. That or perhaps I can catch the end of the Star Trek marathon. Live long and prosper!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bathtime for Bonzo

Or was that "Bedtime for Bonzo", you remember, the old Ronald Reagan movie. But I digress because this post has absolutely nothing to do with past US presidents, or present US presidents for that matter, but I did think the title did offer a unique segue to this short clip I had composed of a chukar bathing in a dust bath.

Chukar, even though they possess an uropygial gland, still like to get a good dust bath in whenever possible. The uropygial gland as you may well remember from Biology 350 is the gland that birds use the oil from to preen themselves with. Some birds don't possess this gland nor do humans and hence our need for Brylcreem and other stylish hair gels.

Anyhow, I wanted to post this short video as I have been busy with the books and preparing for a job interview instead of fun things like shooting video and writing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

33 Countries and counting

 Map of country of origin of my readers

I thought I should update my quest for having at least one reader from each of the 169 or so countries that presently exist on our little blue planet. The list has grown to 34 countries, and in terms of numbers or readers, here it is:

United States
United Kingdom
Sri Lanka
Hong Kong
Czech Republic

So what does it all mean? I think it means that there are a lot of people around the world with not a heck of a lot going on with their lives!

Actually I get quite a kick out of the fact that somewhere, some person from a completely different culture is reading my words and trying to make heads or tails out of our culture. Fortunately most internet savy readers will quickly realize that the bulk of Canadians could not be like me or the country would not run as well as it does.

As a reminder to any of my readers that might have contacts not on this list, to pass the word along to your friends to get them to visit the blog and to post a comment so I can add their country to the list.

Right now however I have some very interesting bird video to edit. In the meantime you can watch this short clip that I have made about Starlings - The Kings of Bling.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Frank's Video Vault

We interrupt these normally awe inspiring postings to bring you a short commercial message. Once again I am looking for gainful employment and had directed one of my potential employers to this site to check out some of the many videos that I have produced as a way of showing what a "swell guy" I really am.

Those that are looking for the latest fix of "frank-isms" will need only wait another day or so and I'll post the saga of my latest road trip with brother Bruce and my father.

In the meantime, here are a number of videos that I think are representative of things I am interested in:
You gotta love these birds!

(I included this clip because Kenna Cartwright Park is one of my favourite hiking spots and there is a good bear track shot in this one)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Go chukars!

In one of my TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) classes our teacher had divided us into groups. These groups she had given names and for once I was not put in with the "turtles", "sloths" or "slugs". I guess teachers have become much more sensitive with their terminology since my elementary school days.

No, this past group I was put in with was the Chukars - not the most noble of birds but better than a Dodo I guess. The placement in this group was a fortuitous segue to this little clip I had composed of some Chukars that I found feeding out on the hillside on the edge of town.

I was perplexed about their penchant for hanging around for a picture as they are normally clearing out of the area at a million miles an hour. My perplexedness was short lived however, for as I was filming, an old station wagon with an equally old couple in it pulled up and they started feeding the birds. While I know a great debate rages about the appropriateness of feeding birds I tend to side with the feeders.

Perhaps God himself is particularly fond of birds. Just maybe being nice to birds might get you that extra half mark on the ledger of life needed to get you into the promised land. If that is the case I better quit writing and go top up the feeders.

Oh and PLUR out to all my new found hippie friends.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not really a post

Sorry but I am rushing out the door to an important meeting at the office (Tim Horton's) but I am also trying to keep the blog fresh by posting at least every three days.

I thought some of you might enjoy this little clip of an American Dipper, which interestingly enough has a Latin name of Cinclus mexicanus. I guess the Mexicans are reclaiming the Americas one bird at a time.

The bird is one of my winter favourites and I can spend hours watching them feed in the frigid waters. Or at least I could have spent hours watching them feed if the ice I was standing on hadn't broke. Guess it's time to get back on the diet.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why gooder English?

So this grammar class I am enrolled in is very much like looking in a mirror. Now for some of you that is not much of a problem, but for me it can be a little scary.

My subconscious mind, in an effort to protect my conscious self, still tells me that I still have a good head of hair, and amazingly, still sport the body I did when fencing in the 78 Olympics or when leading that expedition up Mt. Kilimanjaro (I should hasten to point out that my subconscious mind also likes to exaggerate somewhat with regards to past endeavours.)

The point is that looking at the real me in the mirror can be more than a little discouraging as there is this great disjuncture between the real and the perceived.

So it is with my writing and the grammar class. I have written pretty much all of my life; from my first forged sick notes in grade school to this very blog. Through it all I have always enjoyed writing. But now, when exposed to grammar and its convoluted rules I am forced to reassess. Should that participle be dangling? Does the subordinating phrase agree with the dependent and independent clauses? Should I get another coffee? These are all questions I find myself fighting with in an average grammar class.

Before, I took the Ma Murray approach to writing and was quite happy. Ma Murray was an editor of a little paper in the Fraser Canyon and she would put a bunch of punctuation marks in her paper at the beginning of the year and encouraged her reader's to put 'em wherever they wanted because she couldn't be bothered.
Now however, I feel compelled to at least to try to get it right.

While it may help with my teaching prospects, it's going to really screw up my ability to write good cowboy poetry.

 The author at 18,578' mark on Mt. Kilamanjaro (or maybe not)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Up-space class

When asked today, as to what I was taking at university, I replied: "Up space apparently." (as in, the teachers all felt I was taking up space in class that could be better utilized by a decorative plant or other item of equal intelligence). The person asking the question either:
  1. didn't understand the humour or,
  2. understood, the humour, but didn't think it funny or,
  3. maybe just felt a little sorry for me, and
the subject was quickly changed.

And while not taking up space I am actually learning some very interesting aspects to the whole Teaching English as a Second Language thingy. I'm not 100% sure that "thingy" is the correct academic term but it shall have to suffice for now as I don't want to stretch my brain too hard at this point in the day.

I had opportunity to sit in and observe a couple of ESL classes today and found in very fascinating. I even knew some of the answers. Some things were very new to me like the fact that run-ed was not the past tense of run. I think though, if you said that "Ed and I were about to get caught stealing apples and I hollered, 'Run Ed!'" that it might get you half marks.

I think the hardest part of the class will be getting any work done while in the actual ESL classes. The students all come from such interesting places that I find I am far more interested in their stories than if they know how to conjugate an irregular verb.

I was talking to one of my classmates and you will never guess where they were from. No really, you will never guess so I will tell you. From Ashcroft. Now isn't that cool? You live all your life thinking that the world doesn't get much bigger than that stretch of highway from Blue River to Kamloops and then out of the blue you meet someone that was actually from Ashcroft.

All kidding aside, I think Ashcroft is pretty cool in that it is a real heritage town and has lots of interesting history associated with it. Sorry but the history lesson will have to wait though as I think the teacher is noticing that I am not really following along with the class discussion.  I'll finish this post later, til then - Shalom aleichem, vaya con dios, and see you later alligator.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A fear of flying

I don't think I've ever made any great secret of the fact that I am a devout coward. In me there is never the "fight or flight" decision to be made. I will always opt for "flight" - unless of course, flight means actual flight in some type of machine. In the case where I have to choose between "fight" and actual "flight" I just feign death until the situation resolves itself.

I guess my fear of flying stems from the fact that I understand how gravity works. There is not much more to be said on that subject so instead I will share with you a few of my adventures when circumstances have forced me to abandon good sense and actually fly somewhere.

While working in the northern rockies I had to fly quite often. Now the normal flying that most of you civilized folks do is pretty safe. Runways are long, paved, quite smooth and usually very close to firetrucks, ambulances, and hospitals. Bush flying is quite the opposite.

Bush flying is usually done into strips that would barely pass for a cattle trail in most parts of the civilized world. Strips would make use of the natural openings in the forest and would seldom be straight, level or long enough. Mountain men seem to lose interest in building a strip shortly after they start on the project and tend to leave it up to the pilot to compensate for their own lack of industry when it comes to construction.

I should add that there was one upside to flying in the mountains. The strips that I flew in and out of were good in that they let me get closer to my spiritual self and I would routinely pick up a religion or two on approach to these strips. I had had to scour the world of theology to pick up new leads on deities that may be there to protect me on take off or landing. It was either religion or booze and most of my co-workers had dibs on the liquor cabinet so I turned elsewhere.

Nowadays I don't have much call to get into a small plane and hurl myself at some 300 meter strip of partially cleared land in the middle of a rock pile, consequently I find my spirituality waning somewhat. Perhaps I will take up snake juggling or something else to motivate my spiritual development. Til then, shalom.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

At the back of the class

I have, at times, awoken under a tree without a clue as to where I was. Often when out hiking, especially if the weather is fair, the day long and having no pressing engagements, I will stretch out under a tree and enjoy a short catnap.

When I awake my mind races through all of the scenarios of trees I have slept under before in an effort to put myself in the right context: Am I in Wells Gray Park? the Northern Rockies? perhaps a hillside in New Zealand? Was I hunting something? Did I have a client with me? Am I in bear country? Yes, there are a lot of questions to be answered as my mind recenters itself, ensuring that I am in the right context before embarking on any course of action.

I offer up the preceding observation as a metaphor for what happened to me last evening. A few hours ago I found myself back in a university class, surrounded by other students, and a stack of books on my desk - none of which had pictures of animals or superheros bashing villains.

Seems that last thing I distinctly remember I was being thrown from a mule as I rode along a narrow mountain pass and the next thing I know I am in the middle of a TESL course orientation. Teaching English as a Second Language is apparently what I am now being trained for. I am not too concerned at this point as I do remember one Star Trek episode where Captain Janeway kept drifting in and out of various scenarios before the time-warp anomaly was corrected and she was returned to the bridge.

Unfortunately, if I don't time-warp back to my mule and packstring I will probably have to start reading these text books. The prospect of being a student again is considerably more frightening than the prospect of rolling off a cliff face into the Graham River. Although I have survived both scenarios before, the scars from the river incident make for much better stories than the scars from being at the back of the class again.

Crossing the Graham

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The coldest place on earth - a longish story

 On top of the world

 The coldest place on earth

Having recently fought off the grim reaper I am feeling extra perky this evening and thought I would endeavour to write a longish story. I do apologize to those of you not in the mood for a longish story but one must endure reading through these things periodically if one is to build character and moral fiber. On the upside, this story should meet your moral fiber requirements for at least the next week or so.

Without much further introduction I should like to relate the story of the coldest place on earth. The timing for this story, by way of the last part of my introductory remarks, was brought about a chance opening of a folder that contained a great number of photos from this ill fated journey and nothing else. Just be thankful that I didn't open the folder labeled "Roadkill 1997-2003"

So it was in the winter of  ought five that I found myself high atop a frozen wilderness plateau, about as far away from civilization or any of its trappings as you can imagine, and on that plateau I had just two things in my favour for survival. Fortunately one of those things in my favour was a sled with about two hundred pounds of provisions and survival gear and the second thing in my favour was another sled with another three pounds of gear and about 50 gallons of gasoline.

No, it would take just a whole lot of bad luck and poor judgement to get into trouble with the equipment and provision that we had with us on this trip.

I should also point out that when I say sled I am not talking about some long narrow wooden dog sled lashed together with caribou sinew but an aluminum high tech job coated with some space age ultra high molecular density plastic to reduce drag coefficients to near zero. These sleds were attached to pair of equally high tech, and high performance snowmobiles which can best be described as "goes fast" and "goes faster."

The purpose of the trip, apart from being off on a grand adventure, was to transport a pair of 18' aluminum boats into normally inaccessible northern lakes. The lakes are inaccessible except by float plane or a 20 day hike on foot - and that 20 days does not include time spent lost or swatting mosquitoes. However, when the winter snows blanket the land which is about 80 percent of the year, one can, if one is so inclined, fight their way in by snow machine. And that is what we were doing.

Ice fishing - Canadian style

The first two legs of the journey were uneventful. We had driven the 1,800 km from Kamloops to the trailhead in a long day of driving. We caught a good two hours of sleep in the cab of the truck, loaded our sleds and headed off on the trail. The first fifty kilometers was up through an incredibly beautiful mountain range and then onto the edge of a broad alpine plateau. At the east edge of the plateau was a large lake that was also the base camp for what was our outfitting territory at the time. (Please note: when I say "our" outfitting territory it is like when the greeter at WalMart says "Welcome to 'our' store")

This base camp is well stocked with warm and efficient cabins and the layover was appreciated. The trip in was pleasant as the weather was warm, about -20, the sun was bright and there was little or no wind to contest with. We double checked our gear and machines the next morning and headed off across the frozen lake and made our way up a small creek bed and then up and onto an even larger plateau.

In the northwest corner of B.C. there are a number of large, relatively flat, alpine plateaus that stretch out for what seems like forever in all directions. These plateaus are important areas for the caribou, moose, grizzlies, wolves and other northern species. These plateaus are also virtually void of all animal life once the snows come. Most mammals know that this area can not support life as we know it when the wind is hitting 80, the temperature is -40, and a hard crusted snow clings to everything. It was into this icebox that we were headed.

As long as we were moving it was alright. Dressed for the weather and fighting the large machines as you finessed your way up mountain pass or along willow-choked valley bottoms one did not worry about being too cold. But once we reached our far mountain outpost, it was a different story.

Down in a lonesome valley and exposed to all four winds was a smallish, say 10'x16' cabin. This cabin was used in the fall by hunting parties that would have ridden in by horseback or would have been dropped off by floatplane. When the weather is in around the freezing mark it is a pleasant cabin and the little airtight heater throws off enough heat to warm you and to dry your clothes. In the winter it is a different story.

Because of the lack of timber of suitable size in the area the cabin was built with the logs on the vertical instead of the traditional horizontal orientation. The upright logs were held together with wooden splines that ran their length and were to provide a measure of chinking against the outside elements. The splines probably did their job well for the first ten or so years of their existence, but by the time I got to the cabin they had sort of lost interest in what they were supposed to do. The wind, apparently straight out of the arctic circle, would rush down that long narrow valley and would cut through the cabin as though the walls did not exist.

The life jackets, kept inside for safe storage would swing violently above my head as I lay on the bunk huddled in my sleeping bag, teeth chattering like a squirrel on crack. The little airtight would being glowing red hot but unless you had actual physical contact with the metal of the stove, the heat would disappear like a politician's promise the day after an election.

All night I lay there in the bed thinking of places I would rather be than there in that ice box. I am sure that the ptarmigan outside, huddled in the snow where warmer than I. In hindsight I think it was the orientation of the cabin and the splines within the logs that created a vortex in the cabin and in fact amplified the windchill factor within the confines of that space.

To steal a line or two from Robert W. Service:
If our eyes we'd close, our lashes froze
Til sometimes we scarce could see

When morning finally came there was little reprieve from the cold. I managed to get enough heat into some eggs and bacon pressed hard against the stove that they actually cooked. We gobbled down our breakfast, fired up our machines and "got the hell out of Dodge" without looking back.

The next day we continued on our journey and made our way across yet another mountain range and finally to the frozen lakeshore where we were to drop our boats. Our return trip was much faster as we had  a broken trail to ride on and were not encumbered by our heavy loads.

The original plan was to spend a second night in that little icebox of a cabin but I suggested we press on through as the warmer cabin to the east was only another 50 kilometers away and freezing to death on the plateau in the dead of night was preferable to voluntarily spending another night in the cabin.

Again, the more astute of you will surmise that I did not in fact freeze that night on the plateau but did make it back to civilization. The trip back had some adventure to it but I grow weary at the keyboard and the NyQuil is now kicking in. I shall write of those adventures another time, but for now I think I shall retire to my warm bed and dream of being in a warm bed.

Morning- the clouds have to thaw out to begin moving again

Me on the trip home - happy that I am not frozen

 I must cross the river but the ice bridge is gone

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thanks John

Click on the video so it plays while you read

I was listening to a set of John Prine's tunes on Youtube yesterday and figured I might as well give up on my hope of ever being a songwriter - John has taken all the good lines already.

"Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see"
"That's why last night and this morning always look the same to me"

And when he isn't being poetic he is just plain funny. If you can listen to "Please don't bury me" without smiling then you are unfortunately dead; and not in the good sense of floating around on a cloud dead - eating bonbons and catching sunbeams - but more of that walking-dead, cement jungle, type of zombie dead.

I guess the purpose of this posting is just to say thank-you to John for sharing his songs with me. The small amount of royalties he has made from the tapes and cds I've bought over the ages doesn't come close to the enjoyment he's brought me.

Once, on a particularly eventful roadtrip with my buddies Rod Hammerston and Kelly Ferguson, we had only one cassette for the 18 hour drive - fortunately it was a John Prine cassette and one just can't ever get tired of listening to and singing along with John. I'd like to say that when the cop that had pulled us over heard we were listening to John Prine that he too was a fan and let us off with a warning but that would be just lying and I'm not about to start that now. In hindsight, perhaps it was the refrains of "An illegal smile" that put our group in such a bad light and the cop in a suspicious mood.

Did I say I wasn't about to start lying? That must be the Buckley's talking. It's been another long night.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My fine feathered friends

 The common magpie (Pica pica)

Again, the wee hours of the morning find me unable to sleep. This time I am splitting my time between T.V. (ScoobyDoo) and the computer (pulling together video from days past).

The video editing is more rewarding but Scooby does take my mind off of the chore of trying to breathe.

Tonight's video is not all that inspiring but for some reason I find very entrancing - perhaps it is the combination of sleep deprivation and Buckley's - but I do like watching magpies.

I think the local university would do well to provide a course in using technology for field study. Setting up cameras like I did yesterday yields a lot of information about birds and how they interact, and I truly believe that knowledge no matter how obscure is a wonderful thing.

Watch this short clip of the birds and see what you can glean from the antics of our feathered friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My mountain friends

The upside to being sick is I don't feel so bad when I take the time to dig through my archives of videos from days gone by. This latest clip I remembered fondly and thought I would share it and the lesson that one can take with it.

I was to be the last person transported out of our mountain camp up at Lady Laurier. However as the little bush plane departed with the second to last load, the weather closed in and I knew I was to be on my own for awhile. Up there in the mountains one learns quickly that plans have to be fluid, especially when it comes to travel by air.

The rain, hail and sometimes snow was relentless over a four day period and I was starting to go a little 'bushed' until this little mouse (actually a red-backed vole) showed up in my cabin. The vole looked as though he had been in a one sided fight and was obviously exhausted as he hauled himself under our wood stove. The heat from the stove was probably welcomed and he just lay there, panting and obviously stressed.

Now I know that most would have taken the opportunity to dispatch the rodent as they are the bane of all who live in cabins. They chew the leather on your saddles, they eat your porridge and they poop in the pepper. But I have recently been of the view that I should only kill that which: I can eat, is about to eat me, or is really annoying. I hasten point out that my wife reminds me that the third criteria I mention is not really appropriate and I thank her for filling in for my somewhat faulty social conscience.

So instead of whacking the vole on the head with the frying pan, I offered him up a small piece of cheese. Small to me of course but a veritable mountain to my minute friend. He finally got up the nerve to feed on the cheese and I got a good deal of satisfaction out of watching him chow down.

The vole came back periodically and each day he seem to grow in strength and his offspring are probably still up in that alpine cabin - chewing on saddles, eating porridge and pooping in the pepper.

My plane never did return and I had to ride out on my own through a raging mountain storm, through a valley choked with grizzlies, and then faced with fording a swollen mountain river. You may surmise that I had survived that trip but the truth of the matter is the subject of yet another of my "Amazing Tales form the North."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Yawn Hyper Ape

Those of you into cryptology will of course recognize the title of this first posting of 2011 as a scrambling of the simple phrase well wishers pass onto one another on this first day of the year. 

So will this posting be about cryptology? Of course not, but it is something that you might want to stash away in the back of your mind for future reference. You might also want to pass this blog on to any of your friends that are into treasure hunts and other such nonsense. You will of course want to remind them if they should happen to find some buried treasure in 2011, that it was you who pointed them in the right direction.

Other than that paragraph I really don't want to say too much. Well, I do want to say much more but one needs to be patient in this treasure hunting business.

So if I can't talk about treasure hunts, what can I talk about? I think I will take the first couple of weeks to plot out all of my upcoming projects for the new year. The major project is that I would like to post 150 new videos to YouTube. With quantity comes quality.

This first video is some I had taken many years ago up along the Clearwater River. It is interesting to watch how this sow reacts to catching my scent. For those not so well versed in the out of doors it is important to learn to watch the animals around you and to pick up on their actions as to how they are feeling and what they are about to do. Probably not bad advice for watching other humans as well. Anyways when you see a bear perk its ears up, get its nose up in the air, and start casting its head side to side, then you know it is getting nervous and is getting into that fight or flight mode.

Any of you that missed my best wishes for 2011 I send them out again to you - hopefully we can share some good stories, photos, and hikes in 2011.