Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice water - A story of survival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Taking a winter dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Help me travel the world

My not so impressive visitor stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birds on the brain

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

For the cat lovers

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An ethical question

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

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

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

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

So the moral questions are:

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hard water fishing

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

Calling all moose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magpie at feeder

Monday, November 1, 2010

A test of reason

 KNC hiker with anthill in foreground

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

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

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

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

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

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