Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The road to somewhere

The road to somewhere
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
Out for a walk with my new camera. What I'm enjoying the most is the view through the viewfinder. I haven't used a viewfinder for a long time. With the smaller digital cameras, its more natural to hold the camera out in front of you and look at your picture in the viewer on the back of the camera. But with this new Nikon, I'm back to composing my images with the camera up to my eye and looking through the viewfinder. It's the way I always used to use film cameras and it feels very natural.

And sometimes, something comes along that you don't even notice when you take the picture. That's what's happening here. Any ideas on what it might be? Add your ideas in the comments. I might or might not add the answer later, so check the box in the comments if you want to be notified when another comment gets posted.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I feel like a photographer again

I bought myself a new camera - a Nikon D90. That's a picture of it on the right, courtesy of Nikon. (Click on the photo to see a larger image at my Flickr site.) I didn't realize how much I missed using a SLR until now. I knew that using a smaller digital camera wasn't the same as a SLR (I used to have Minolta film cameras, with a large range of lenses.) But since I switched to digital cameras, about 3 or 4 years ago, I've been using a Nikon Coolpix 5000. It was a great camera for its time, but that time was about seven years ago and it was showing its age.

I've been considering a new camera for awhile but I hemmed and hawed over Nikon or Canon, what model, what kind of lens, etc. Usually, I think about it, get ready to make a decision, then just put it off for awhile, which meant that I've just been missing out on a photographer. But after the Northern Voice conference in February, I decided to solve two problems with one solution. I wanted to take more photos and I wanted to increase my blogging. So I decided to start the 1aDay project.

I've been publishing at least a picture every day to my Flickr account and writing a blog post about it. So far, it's worked very well. I started carrying my camera around with me again and I've enjoyed making some nice photos. I've also come up with some topics that I wouldn't have written about otherwise. But as the month went by, the urge to upgrade my camera kept growing.

So on Friday, I asked my Facebook friends what they'd recommend and got a lot of good suggestions - many too expensive for my budget, but all good ideas. It was my wife, Heather, who finally convinced me to just go ahead and get the one I wanted. I realized that I had already made up my mind - so I went out and bought the Nikon D-90. It's a nice camera - not the top of the line, but a long, long way from my older 5000. It will be fun to keep shooting and posting some of the results here. I expect you'll be hearing more about my progress as we roll along. Please feel free to add your comments here or on my Flickr site.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

BCSTV - It's not a TV show, its a referendum

That's right. BC is about to have a provincial election. And in addition to deciding who our local representatives will be, voters here will be asked whether they want to keep the current "First past the Post" style of elections or whether they'd like to try an alternative, called a Single Transferable Vote, or BCSTV, as they call it here.

This is the second time in four years that voters will be asked to decide. in 2005, a majority of voters (58.6%) said they wanted to switch. But the government decided that we'd need 60% to change, so the motion was not put into place by the government. However, it was so close to passing - and in 77 of 79 ridings it received a majority of votes - the government decided they'd hold the referendum again.

That 2005 referendum came after a Citizens' Assembly, made up of a man and a woman randomly chosen from every riding in the province, spent a year deciding whether the system of voting in BC should be changed. They recommended that the province should adopt a single transferable voting system, which was the questions put to a referendum.

On May 12, BC voters are going to get a second chance to make electoral history here in Canada. Today's picture was taken at a information meeting I attended the other night and it illustrates the biggest problem facing supporters -- no one seems to know about the upcoming vote and no one really seems to care.

Whether its apathy or just lack of awareness is hard to tell. Although the election is less than a couple of months away, there has been very little discussion about BCSTV. Most people seem unaware that the measure is on the ballot again. And that's OK with the folks who would prefer to keep the status quo, which is pretty much all of the elected officials and the party types who surround them. The first past the post system is an adversarial structure that rewards the winners, and is a prize worth fighting for if you're on the winning side. And even if you're not, there's always the hope that you'll take the next round, then your party will be in the driver's seat.

From what I've seen and heard, there are two things happening. First, supporters of the BCSTV process are concerned that counting the votes would be complicated. The people opposed to BCSTV have seized on the complexity issue and intend to make it the debating point. They are warning that it would be too complicated and lead to all kinds of delays on election night and confusion about winners and how they were chosen.

That argument is nonsense, as anyone who has studied the process can attest, including many European countries, as well as New Zealand, that use a STV system to elect their representatives.

Unfortunately, BCSTV supporters are playing along and spend valuable time trying to explain the counting process. But it's not the process that matters - it's the results. The first past the post system we use now regularly results in majority governments that do not refect the majority of votes cast. The BCSTV model would reflect the popular vote and we'd end up with MLAs in numbers that by and large matched the votes their party received.

If you're interested, I'd urge you to visit some of the websites that are online and dedicated to explaining the process, such as:
British Columbians for BC-STV
Fair Voting BC
Fair Vote Canada

Although there weren't that many people at the meeting I attended, there were some good lines that people were encouraged to use when talking to their neighbours.

"The First Past the Post system was invented when we didn't know where the sun went at night!"

Another urged us to adopt a well-known phrase that seemed to work south of the border earlier this year:

"Can we come up with a fairer voting system?"

"Yes we can."

The video below might help those who are interested understand what's going to happen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Let's stand up for small magazines

MR Coalition ad proof b.jpg
Here's a cause that I think most of us can get behind. (Click on the photo to see a larger view of the poster.) Small magazines and small presses have been a huge part of my life. This poster is being distributed here in Victoria by Susan Sanford Blades, one of the editors of The Malahat Review. She sent this to an editors' group that I belong to:
I'm writing from The Malahat Review on campus; we've been launching a campaign against the proposed federal cuts to small magazines, which will affect all literary magazines in Canada. I have a poster sized ad that we'll be running in our next issue, and I'm wondering if this could be printed off and put up on your bulletin board, or passed on to students in the creative writing courses? I'll attach it here. Please let me know what I can do with this, if I should forward this to creative writing professors, send hard copies to you, etc.
I think we should all send a letter to the Minister and one to our MP. As the poster mentions, you don't even have to put a stamp on the envelope.

Democracy is not easy - it takes work to keep it working.

What really caused the credit crisis

This is a must-read. I've been frustrated by the nagging feeling that the problems that caused the world's economy to melt down aren't as complicated or as unpredictable as the people responsible would like to have us believe. But we keep being told that it "just happened" and that no one could have foreseen the catastrophe it has become.

That's just bull. And in "The Big Takeover" on rollingstone.com, written by Matt Taibbi, we get a sobering look at the real story of what happened and what is continuing to happen. The truth is not unexpected. People with power and influence figured out a way to skirt the regulations and make enormous amounts of money. But what is particularly galling is that we find out that now that their schemes have unravelled, these same people have been able to game the system yet again and are continuing to milk the crisis for their own benefit.

It's a story that will make you very angry. But it's also an exceptional bit of investigative reporting. Taibbi has his own unique writing style and not everyone will appreciate it:
It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream.
It's strong stuff, but Taibbi has the facts to back up his statements. It's a good read.

Link to the story

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dogs get blamed for everything

The things you see sometimes while you're waiting for a ferry. It seems to me that leashing the dog might not be the most important thing to worry about if people are eating children. But I guess it depends on your priorities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Standing Guard in SGaang Gwaii

Last summer, we spent a week kayaking in Haida Gwaii. It was an unforgettable trip, filled with images and sounds and experiences that were unlike anything I've encountered before. The scenery was spectacular but the visits to the Haida villages, like SGaang Gwaii (Anthony Island/Ninstints), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were the highlights of the trip. It was powerful and sad at the same time. While there was something elegant about the way that nature is reclaiming these sites, there is a sense of loss as well. All too soon, the evidence of these people will be gone or relegated to recreations and photos. But meanwhile, the watchmen care for the villages, welcoming visitors but keeping the sacred safe. It was a privilege to be invited to participate and I'm grateful we had the chance.

UPDATE - I amended the title of this photo and the location of the village, after reading my notes more carefully.

Video clips from Northern Voice09

I attended NorthernVoice 09, a blogging conference back in February in Vancouver. Since then, a number of the sessions have been posted as videos. You can find a listing of them here.

I'd like to recommend one in particular. Rob Cottingham is a very funny guy, who gave a great keynote address on Saturday. Here's a link to the video (or you can watch a slightly smaller version down below). The jokes come fast and furious, so it may take a couple of viewings to get them all. But it's very good fun.

And if you're interested in technical stuff, Bruce Sharp, the wizard behind lots of cool audio and video software (podcasters will recognize The Levelator) at Singular Software, wrote a post about all the work involved in making the whole thing sound so good. Nice techy stuff...


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Heading down to the ocean

Colquitz creek is a beautiful bit of water that winds its way along the edge of the park near our home. Fresh water flows down from the north, working its way through neighbourhoods, parkland and along roadways winding through Saanich. From where I'm standing on a bridge that spans it at the south end of the park, it's just a short paddle out to Portage Inlet, the large body of water at the end of the Gorge Waterway. The creek here is subject to the large tides we have in Victoria and it changes every day from a flowing river to more of a series of mudflats at low tide. But there's lots of wildlife and it makes for a great paddle. We've seen otters and herons and lots of ducks. People say they've seen seals in the past, but there haven't been any for a long time. It was a great salmon spawning area at one time but that seems to have stopped, at least in the last few years since we've been here. But there are efforts underway to try to bring the salmon back. That would be a pretty amazing sight to see in the middle of the city.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Crossing the finish line

I'm turning the feature photo over to my wife Heather today. She snapped this pic at the end of Jaime's first half-marathon, which she ran on Sunday. The race was in Comox. Jaime had originally planned to run it with her roommate but when she had to pull out, Heather decided to take her up there so she could race it herself. (Jaime, that is, not Heather.)

Jaime said it went better than she had hoped for. She ran the first half at a good pace, but realized at the half-way point that she could go a lot faster. So she spent the second half of the race passing people ahead of her -- great fun for a kid that never gets tired of competing. When she was rowing in high school, she used to race the dump trucks driving along the shoreline in the morning.

This was her first half marathon - in fact, it was her first distance race of any kind. A very impressive first outing. She's already looking forward to the Vancouver half marathon in May. She may have caught that running bug that's going around - fortunately, I've dodged it so far...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Forest Path in the Morning

I have a thing for paths that head out of the picture. I like to take shots that include trails or roads rolling away into the distance. Combine a path with early morning light and some sunlight bouncing off the greenery and I can't resist. This is one of those shots. I love the shadows of the trees. They look like they're curving around the path. It's a nice illusion.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Blue Herons Heading Home

Great Blue Herons Heading Home

Today's photo is going to need an explanation. (Click on the pic to see a larger image on my Flickr site) You'll have to take my word for it when I tell you that the birds you see flying around (they are the black specks floating around the top of the photo) are Great Blue Herons. They've established a rookery in the park near our home.

Their long-established rookery used to be in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria until a bald eagle destroyed it last year. Local birders were concerned that they wouldn't re-establish it anywhere in the area, but then they showed up in our park. Last year, there were only a handful of nests. Now there appear to be dozens.

Today, I was out walking and I happened to look up to see about 35 birds flying above me. While I grabbed my camera, they circled, then settled into the trees. It was an amazing sight. They have a huge wingspan and float effortlessly into the trees. When they move from branch to branch, they spread their wings and just move over to the next branch. They seem to defy gravity.

Unfortunately, I have a small camera, with a short lens. So the beauty that I was watching today was for my eyes only. If you get a chance to watch these remarkable birds in your area, take the opportunity. You'll enjoy it.

Here's a link to a Wikipedia page about the herons, if you want to read some more about them.

Elements of Style is 50 years old

elements-ms.jpgThere aren't a lot of reference books that I'd consider wishing Happy Birthday too. But Strunk & White's classic "Elements of Style" is one that I'm happy to include in that list.

This from the Associated Press:
ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) _ History's famous word collaborators include Gilbert and Sullivan, Lennon and McCartney, Woodward and Bernstein.

But while those pairs were contemporaries, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White worked four decades apart, yet the little known turn-of-the-century Cornell University English professor and his universally famous student produced a classic that has become one America's most influential and best-known guides on grammar and usage.

"Strunk and White's The Elements of Style" has sold more than 10 million copies since its initial publication in April 1959. Its present-day publisher, Longman Publishers, has put out a special black leather-bound, gold-embossed edition in tribute of the 50th anniversary.
-You can read the whole story here.

And if you want a bit more background on the book, here's a Wikipedia article about it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A reflecting puddle in a ditch in North Saanich

Today's photo is another shot from my miniature series, although this shot was taken in North Saanich today. A series of culverts ferry water down the roadway. Occasionally, the flowing water gathers in a small pool This one was just a few inches across. The small rocks and twigs stacked up beside the pool and the stones under the water create a nice mix of textures. And the sky reflecting off the surface creates more depth.

I'm not sure this picture is finished yet but I'm about done for tonight, so I'll post this now. (Click on the photo to see a larger version on my Flickr site.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ready to pop

Ready to pop
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
A few days ago, I posted a picture taken from a low angle of some grasses. If you didn't know, you'd think you were looking at a forest scene.

This is from the same set, shot from ground level, of some daffodils getting ready to bloom. (Click on the photo to see a larger version on my Flickr set.) The shot was taken in the ditch beside the TransCanada highway not too far from our home in Victoria.

I like this point of view. Up close and plenty of detail. And the colours are impressive.

Update on my 1aDay project

For the past month or so, I've been working on a project I'm calling 1aDay. It's a simple premise, one that plenty of people on the Web are following.

From time to time, I'm going to post a slideshow, like the one above, so you can see what I've been up to, in case you're not following along every day. This is the first installment.

The project rules are simple - I post at least one picture a day to my Flickr site and write something about it here on The Daily Upload. That's about it. It's been fun so far, although posting each day can be difficult. But that's the point, isn't it?

Comments are always welcome, of course. And I've been getting more of them than usual, which is great fun. It's easy to add your own - there's a comment link at the bottom of each post. I look forward to hearing what you think about my photos or anything else I talk about here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Moon setting over Victoria

With apologies to Ansel Adams, who once saw the moon rise over Hernandez, New Mexico, I saw the moon setting over Victoria the other morning from my bedroom window and I couldn't resist shooting my own version. (Click on the pic to see a larger version on my Flickr site.)

I always like it when the sun rises just as the moon sets. But my favourite time of the year is late summer, when we get those enormous harvest moons poking up on the horizon, just as the sun sets in the west. It's magical.

Did you know that the moon is part of one of the world's most-viewed optical illusions? The next time you see a large moon rising in the east, when it looks so large, hold up your hand and measure the size of the moon. It's usually about the size of your thumbnail, or a dime. Then try it again when it's directly overhead and it looks so much smaller. You'll be surprised to find out that it's actually the same size. There's something about its proximity to the horizon that makes it seem larger. I used to think the view was magnified by the atmosphere but I was wrong. It's just an illusion.

UPDATE - Here's the link to the Wikipedia article about the moon illusion

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dawn's first light

Dawn's first light
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
Today is St. Patrick's Day, when people around the world celebrate the Irish saint, who is best known for creating green beer. I wanted to pay tribute myself, so I found a photo with a bit of green in it. There are lots of other colours here too, thanks to the effect of the sunlight on the camera. An interesting effect and one that I'm sure St. Patrick would have approved of.

Seattle newspaper closes down

I used to be a print reporter and I've still got a soft spot for newspapers. So it grieves me to see an institution like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut down. But that's what happened today and it looks like more of these events are coming in the future.

Of course there's two sides to every story, as any good reporter knows. And lots of folks don't see the death of a few papers as a bad thing. But a theme is emerging, which is that the traditional news business - and the mainstream media in general - missed their chance to seize the opportunity that new technology offered. Instead, they tried to keep the status quo, which is rarely, if ever, a good option. Now they're paying the price.

For more views on what's going on, read Clay Shirkey's take or Jeff Jarvis's.

I've often said that we're living through an information revolution. The problem is we like some of the old stuff that's going to get pushed aside and it's tough to adapt. But it's going to happen.

What do you think our media future will look like in 10 years? How will we get our news?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heading home on the high road

The view outside is mesmerizing, even if the window in the plane is a bit dirty. I came home to Victoria today from Regina, wrapping up a quick, three-day visit to Regina for my Mom's 87th birthday.

I had hoped for a clear day as I headed west across the prairies and over the mountains but the weather wasn't co-operating. I'm still kicking myself for leaving my camera in the overhead bin on the trip out. The views of the mountains were the best I'd ever seen. Too bad you couldn't see them. On this trip, the clouds were out most of the way, although they did break for a bit when I shot this picture. I'm not sure what the big lake is down below, but it certainly is large. I think we were heading over Alberta, just before the foothills at this point.

One travel-related note. If you're flying out of Regina, be prepared to be subjected to the most thorough security in Canada. I'm not sure why but the staff there are zealous in their efforts. I have to pass certain items through by hand each time I travel and while I don't get many questions elsewhere, in Regina, I get a thorough questioning, then a full search of all my carry-on stuff. It happens every time - and I'm not the only one. So be sure you're following all the rules around the sizes of your toiletries, etc., when you fly out of that airport. The people are polite - but very strict.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The dinner crowd

The dinner crowd
These are most of the people I spent the past weekend with in Regina. We were there to celebrate my Mom's 87th birthday. Unfortunately, my sister Janice is seated just to my right and I didn't get her in this image, which is pieced together from 3 shots.

From the left, Zola, Trish, Sue, Beth, Ken, Byron. You can figure out the relationships. And on the far right, although you can't see her, is Janice.

This photo was taken at Peking House, where we enjoyed a fine dinner -- and great conversation, thanks to the round tables, which Sue was thoughtful enough to reserve.

I'm heading home tomorrow with lots of good memories. I'll also put a set of photos together of our mini-reunion and get Janice and Trish and Sue to contribute.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's all about the hair, right?

Thirty-one years after my first haircut with Stephanie, we're still a great team. Every time I'm back in Regina, I try to get in to see her at the Canadiana. It's downtown, next door to the Novia Cafe, which is the building beside the original McCallum Hill building, Regina's first skyscraper. And whose demise in spectacular fashion I captured on film from the roof of the Hotel Saskatchewan. But I digress...

Being here in Regina always does that to me. The hometown is a place full of memories - most of them good. The streets, the sidewalks, the buildings - they've all got stories. This one is about Stephanie. We first met in the late seventies. I was going to university and living in the Bartleman apartments on 14th Ave. As it turned out, Stephanie did too. But I only met her when I went for a haircut one day. She did a good job and from then on, I went back to her every time. She moved around a bit. She was with a different hair shop for awhile, then she moved to Weyburn to pursue a boyfriend that didn't work out. But she always ended up back at the Canadiana and I usually ended up back there too.

There's something about a relationship between a man and his barber. I'm not the only one that feels that way. I know my Dad used the same barber for most of his life and Heather's father did too. And now my son Cory is still going to Stephanie. She's been cutting his hair since he needed a booster seat.

Over the years, we've gotten to know about each others' lives and its always fun to find out what's happened with our families and our dogs. We're both older and settling down a bit. We talk about retirement and the years going by and how our Mothers are doing. Mine just turned 87 - her's is 86. She's always interested in my kids and she remembers far more than I would expect, given that I only see her at the most once a year.

But so much about my hometown is like that. I come back and its like I've never really been away. It's a treat to walk through the old neighbourhood and visit the stores I remember so well. The library is still open, the school hasn't closed (yet) and many of our neighbours are still around. Not all, of course. Changes happen. People leave. But fortunately, some things just keep on keeping on. Like Stephanie's haircuts. They're worth coming back for every year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Mom's birthday weekend

It's my Mom's 87th birthday on Monday and as you can see, she's still looking pretty good. I flew into Regina today for a couple of days, along with the rest of my siblings. It's going to be a fun weekend and we're all looking forward to it. We spent much of the afternoon visiting with Mom, then the siblings went out for the first of what will be several memorable meals, I'm sure. There's nothing like a family reunion to get the tales flowing. It's good to catch up and I know it's making Mom very, very happy. She's a great lady and I'm thankful that she's still around to enjoy it all.

OK, two family pics in a row...I'm sensing a theme developing...more tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fond memories coming up

I did a good thing today and got our old VHS tapes of the kids birthday parties and other significant events transferred to DVD before they became unviewable. While the quality of the pictures isn't that great, they sure give me a warm feeling when I watch. Those years were wonderful...I would like to be back there again.

So in honour of my kids, the stars of so many videos and the authors of some of the best moments of my life, I dug up this shot of the three of them climbing the walls in our house in Regina. There's another one that some of you may have seen, in a similar pose, with their Christmas best duds on. This is from the same set, but it's from the working series, where we were practicing to get the shot just right and they hadn't gotten dressed up yet. You can see they knew what they were doing. And nobody got hurt, which is always a plus.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Regina to celebrate my Mom's 87th birthday, with all of my siblings and Cory too. I'm really looking forward to sharing her special day and telling lots of stories with my family.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A forest path?

A forest path?
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
There's a trail running off the side of the path. I've always been attracted to shots of trails leading off somewhere, so I took this shot. But there's something a little different about it. Any ideas what it is?

Notice the birch tree at the top left side of this photo? (Click on the image to see a larger view on my Flickr site) There's another one on the right side too. But if you look closer, you may notice that some of the trees aren't really trees at all. Maybe it's a bamboo forest?

Actually, the "forest" you see is a path running through some grass that's about 18 inches high. I set my camera down on the ground and shot some pictures from ground level. The results are pretty interesting. I've got some others too and I'll be posting them in the days ahead. It's amazing how changing your perspective gives you a whole new view on stuff you see every day.

My friend Art and his treadmill desk

I'd never heard of a treadmill desk until I read about it on my friend Arthur Slade's blog. But once you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Art's a writer (you can see his books at his website) so rather than spending all day sitting at his computer, he decided to walk at his computer. Here's a snip from the blog post:

Since I, as a writer, tend to sit for hours and hours and hours, this idea of a treadmill desk kept coming back to me. Finally, I decided to take the plunge. Dr. Levine's desk is $4500 or more, so I frugally made my own (for about $500). I'd read about home built treadmill desks (just Google "treadmill desk" if you want to learn more about treadheads) and followed several fine examples (here's a great blog). I bought a Tempo Evolve treadmill from Canadian Tire, and, oddly enough, the arms on it were perfect for attaching a shelf. It runs quietly and fits nicely into my office.

Art's got a great post about his new desk (which he'd been using for about a month when he wrote the post back in early February. And he made a video of himself on the thing.

This is such a cool idea. It's the kind of thing you often hear people speculate about, but full credit to Art for actually doing it!

I don't have a treadmill, but I do own a rowing machine. I wonder if I can adapt that?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The treasures you can find (part 1 & 2)

It's amazing the kind of things you find in a walk in an urban park. The other day, this brand-new Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner was sitting just off the path. Somehow, I don't think that it was left there by the owner. It might have been someone who wanted to clean up the dead leaves but was put off by the lack of an electrical outlet. But I suspect the more likely story is that somebody stole it. Why they decided to leave it in a thicket of trees is anybody's guess.

The treasures you can find (part 2)
Here's the funniest part about the tale of the lost vacuum cleaner (see part 1). Just after I stopped to take the first picture, this guy showed up wondering what was going on. He had a truck and we decided that someone really ought to take away the thing before it rained again and ruined it. So he decided he'd load it up in his truck and call the police. If no one claimed it, he'd give it to Value Village or some other charity. It was a nice ending to a strange story. Of course, he might have just put it in his garage too...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Springtime in Victoria

Springtime in Victoria
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
This photo is for those who noted that my pic of me washing the car the other day was a bit of a "hey - look at the weather we're having in Victoria" type of thing. I hadn't intended it that way, but I can see how it might look, given that a lot of the country was dealing with major winter weather at the time.

Today, I got my comeuppance. We're having a blizzard. And it looks like the weather is serious. I'm hoping this will pass through and we can get back to enjoying the flowers and leaves, etc. But for now, we're back in the grip of winter, so you don't have to feel sorry for us any longer.

Hope the weather is nice wherever you are. I'm heading to Regina later this week and I'm sure it will be sunny and warm there, like it always is.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stating the obvious doesn't seem to work

I haven't smoked for many years and so I haven't even seen a cigarette pack in a long time. This one was lying by the path the dogs and I were walking on and I noticed that the warning on the front was a lot longer than it used to be. The statistics are pretty startling. In case you can't read it on the small photo (click on the pic to see a larger version) here's what it says:
Warning: Each year, the equivalent of a small city dies from tobacco use.

Estimated Deaths in Canada, 1996
Murders - 510
Alcohol - 1,900
Car accidents - 2,900
Suicides - 3,900
Tobacco - 45,000
That's a lot of people that die from cigarettes. But do smokers really understand what kind of risk they're running? Funny how people will buy a lottery ticket (which they have virtually no chance of winning) but they don't think that they're going to get sick from smoking.

We've had these warnings for a long time but have they really done much to decrease smoking? It seems more plausible that they make people who are opposed to smoking feel better and that smokers just don't pay attention. They know its bad but so what?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Buena Vista Morning

Buena Vista Morning
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
Our clocks jump forward tonight. That means that summer is on the way. We're going to be spending July at the cottage in Saskatchewan and I'm really looking forward to it. This is a photo of Hillcrest, our home in Buena Vista. I took it in the early morning light in the fall.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Jim Beam Distillery, Kentucky

I was in Kentucky last year and took a tour of the Jim Beam Distillery, not too far outside of Louisville. Located in the rolling hills, it's a fascinating operation. They still make their Kentucky Bourbon just the way they have for the last 200 years or so. This is a shot of one of the restored buildings.

I'm more of a single malt Scotch fan, but I have to admit, tasting some of the "special" varieties they had at the tasting after the tour made me a believer in bourbon. Jim Beam is just one of many distilleries located in the region, where they take their whiskey very seriously.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Oregon Afternoon

Oregon Afternoon
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
Just over a year ago, we travelled down the west coast of Washington and Oregon. I took a lot of photos but I haven't spent much time looking through them. (Click on the photo to see a larger version on my Flickr site)

Digital pictures are funny that way. You can run through the whole set, then forget about them, especially if you don't put them into albums or have some printed.

I like this shot but after working with it for awhile, I can see that I need to invest in a sharper lens - or have my tripod with me. But it's still a beautiful sunset in an incredible part of the world.

Whodunit — This is VERY cool!

I'm passing along verbatim this fascinating item from Tod Maffin...watch it yourself.

Whodunit — This is VERY cool!: "

You owe it to yourself to stop whatever you’re doing and press the Play button on the video below. It’s only two minutes long, but it’s most excellent.

(Via Tod Maffin .com.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Morning light

Morning light
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
I took this photo earlier this week in the park near our house. (Click on the photo for a larger view at my Flickr site.) I like the way the light spills into the forest in the morning. You can't tell from this photo, but this area has become a nesting site for Great Blue Herons. They have a very distinctive call, to say the least.

If you want to find out more about the Great Blue Heron, (or any other bird) including listening to their call, check out the amazing Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. If you're a birder, you'll go nuts. And if you're not, it's still a pretty cool example of the potential of all this technology. They've been able to put their collection of virtually every bird call in the world online for the benefit of us all.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Brentwood Bay Ferry Terminal

Today was a grey day, as you can see from this photo. I was struck by the monochromatic lighting except for the splashes of colours on the boats and a slight green cast over the rocks on the beach. (Click on the photo to see a larger version on my Flickr site.)

I was at Brentwood Bay to pick up a friend who had been visiting his mother in Mill Bay, a short ferry ride across the water. He lives in Halifax now but we grew up together in Regina, where our parents were very close friends. Over the years, Rick and I have fluctuated between being really close and hardly seeing each other. But the best thing about old friends from our childhood is how comfortable we are together. It's like the years just fall away when we sit down at Smitty's for a meal before I drop him off at the airport.

We talk about our kids, our parents, our jobs and all the things that are going on in our lives. It's a good break from our routines. When we're done, he's back on a plane, looking at a long, overnight trip back to the snowy, cold East Coast. It may be grey here today but I'm happy to be here.

A newspaper going under is not a good thing

The Rocky Mountain News, published in Denver, Colorado for the last 150 years, died last Friday. That is not a good thing by any definition.

"Old Media" is in big trouble, with newspapers on death watch, TV stations being closed and traditional journalists watching as their livelihood disintegrates around them.

And if you don't think this is going to have an effect on you because you "get your news from the Internet" - think again. Open up Google News and you'll see that most of the stories are aggregated from traditional media outlets. We depend on them to watch, filter and deliver the news to us. Sure, we've come up with a lot of fancy ways to look at it, but it's still coming from the same sources.

This morning in the Vancouver Sun, I read "The old media are the new media - just look at the Sun,"by Stephen Hume, a newsroom veteran, who told a story about buying milk over the years to illustrate his point:

Think milk. In my day, I've bought milk in bottles delivered to my doorstep every morning, at the supermarket in plastic bags that fit into reusable jugs, at my local gas station in waxed cardboard cartons, at the all-night convenience store in plastic blimps, in cans and in tetra packs. The medium of delivery may change but milk is milk and I don't expect to get it free because the package changes. The price I pay for milk enables farmer and cow to produce it.

Journalism is the content cow. News organizations are the farmer. Both represent input costs recouped by charging for the output.

It's a good point. We pay a whack of money to get on the Internet, we pay for cable TV and we pay to go to the movies. Why do we figure that we shouldn't have to pay for information that comes from our computer?

It may be that people won't pay for it, but then the price should be included in the charges that we pay to Shaw and Rogers and Bell for our Internet access. We need to support writers and editors who deliver the news.

For more on the death of the Rocky Mountain News, read this Salon article, written by one of the staffers who watched it unfold. A sad tale, beautifully told.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A taste of heaven

A taste of heaven
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
Sure, these may look like oranges.

But they're much, much more. These are Buck brand organic oranges and in these parts, they are legendary. For people who might be sitting on the fence, not sure whether there really is a God, these little babies tilt the scales. One bite and you know there is a heaven and you've just entered it.

If that sounds a little strong, well...you haven't tried them yet, have you? Some people in our household - not necessarily me - insist on bulk buying when the Buck brand is in the local Thrifty's Foods. So today, I picked up a few bushels of the things. And it turns out that even Heaven can have the occasional problem with the weather.

Here's what a little orange card that I found inside one of the bags said (in very small type):

The original navel orange was discovered in Brazil at the turn of the century. One tree was started in Riverside, California. From this one tree came the California navel orange known through out the world as the best eating orange available. We grow several varieties of navels at Deer Creek Heights Ranch including the original Washington navel. These oranges are grown and custom packed at our own ranch. We never pick our fruit until it is ripe and full of flavor. We do not artificially color our fruit, use artificial wax or post-harvest fungicides. Unfortunately the temperatures in first week in the spring of 2008 were in excess of 100 F. This caused over 60% of the immature fruit to drop that resulted in the lowest average fruit count per tree in over 25 years. As a result you may find some fruit in this bag with some scarring. We apologize for this, but it is necessary if we are going to have enough fruit to sell. We still unconditionally guarantee our fruit to you as the sweetest available and offer a return of $4 back if you are not completely satified when returned with a sticker and/or receipt. Your comments are appreciated.

Deer Creek Heights Ranch, Route 4 Box 130 - Porterville California
So there you have it. There was some bad weather in Heaven last spring and we've got the scarred oranges to prove it. But regardless of what they look like, they still taste good.

Thank you know who.

Bell Canada's PR fiasco over Twitter texts

It looks like Bell Canada has realized how bad it looked when it decided to charge its customers that use Twitter $.15 for every incoming Twit - even if they were signed up for unlimited text messaging service.

Today, Bell announced that it won't be charging people although it doesn't seem very forthcoming about why there was such confusion over the issue.

This seems like a no-brainer to me. You have Twitter announcing they'd reached a deal with a Canadian carrier to let people receive tweets from their phone followed immediately by Bell telling everyone they were going to have to pay for the incoming texts. It looked like an obvious money-grab and why Bell didn't realize that before it made the announcement is beyond me.

But maybe there's a silver lining here. Not that long ago, companies that got burned by dumb decisions like this one took weeks to recover from their bad decisions - and often they didn't recover at all, partly because they weren't monitoring what was happening in the online world.

But now a lot more companies are watching their reputations online and taking action when they've screwed up. It might be after the fact, but at least they're reacting. The next step might be to involve some of the smart people in the online space in the decision-making process to avoid such obvious gaffes in the first place.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A dream come true

A dream come true
Originally uploaded by Dave Traynor
've always wanted one of these. No, not the car, although that's nice too. And not the brush, although it's also nice.

No, what I've really been lusting for all these years is the big long driveway that we've got at our new house in Victoria. It's paved and everything. And I'm doing what you're supposed to be doing in a driveway on the weekend - I'm washing the car. That's after I spent about 90 minutes trying to vacuum out the dog hair that's built up in it.

Our house in Hamilton had a gravel driveway and I always wanted to pave it. I don't know why but that's what I wanted. So now I've got it. It's not the main reason we bought the house, but it's a nice bonus.

If you're wondering about the car, it's a 1994 VW Jetta and it's very rare. No, really. You find another one that's fitted out like this one. It's got power windows that don't work. And the back windows don't roll down. The sunroof leaks (that may not be so unique.) It's got an inch of dog hair in the back seat and an odour that if you bottled it would ensure that you'd always be attractive to animals on your local walks. It's got a fuel filter that works intermittently and a radio with a single speaker. You just can't buy stuff like this anymore. But if you'd like to, call me. I could be persuaded.