Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orange and Yellow

orange form of the Prickly Pear Cacti flower

the more common yellow form of the Prickly Pear Cacti

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hicktown?

 The view from here


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

The mystery of the glacial sandwich

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

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

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

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

Addendum:

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

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

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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day Dad

 Dad on Battle Mountain from a hike we made a few years back

 Father's day, as a commercial venture, falls behind every other holiday in terms of sales. Perhaps only beating out Groundhog day, which really isn't much of a holiday, father's day seems to be a bit of a lame duck.

Not that retail sales alone should be the measure of success - although I am sure there are some fathers out there that would appreciate a large screen T.V. or a new set of golf clubs as a measure of respect. My father won't be getting either of those as he has the former, doesn't use the latter, and I couldn't afford either. Instead he will be getting the pleasure of my company out for a hike up along the Tranquille River. But then there is a good chance that he may be gone on a hike of his own, in which case it may be a belated father's day gift for sure.

My own son was home for the weekend last and he suggested we go for a hike. That was perhaps the greatest father day's gift he has yet given me. While I am sure the pencil holders he built with their macaroni motifs were made with great love, they compared little to the act of going out on a hike together.

Hiking together is a way of saying, yes I enjoy the same trails that you do. Of course by trails I am speaking metaphorically and one could substitute the term "life and all of its glory" for the more mundane bit of clod that we tread upon.

I'm quite proud to say that I still enjoy the same trails that my father treads. Perhaps even more proud to say that he still hikes along those trails with a gait that many, twenty years his junior, would have a hard time matching. So while the other fathers will be getting their slippers and easy chairs, my Dad will be getting a ride out to yet another trail on which to go exploring. It'll be a few years yet before he's ready for slippers.

My kids who also hike the same trails as I

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We now pause for this ad from our sponsor

Almost a hundred-aire

The astute reader will notice that I have added ads to my blog. This is as much an experiment as it is a get rich quick scheme. Hopefully the experiment will be a much more resounding success than the get rich portion of the plan has been to date.

I was setting up a Google account for a new business I am working for and I came across an account I had forgotten I had set up. Thoughts of untold fortunes raced through my mind as I frantically fought to remember my password for the account. It wasn't much of a stretch as I use the same password for everything and once I could remember my birth-date I was into the account.

The above balance did not quite move me into the tax bracket that I wanted so I started to think about how I could monetize other aspects of my on-line life. My blog struck me as a good starting point. The ads that google serves up are supposed to be based on your content and as I write about so many different things it will be interesting to see how well they match ads to site content.

Each month I will post how much money we have made. When I get my first pay-cheque I will do something wild and crazy with it: either donate to clean up the Gulf coast or buy some beer. I think I'm leaning towards the later. So please, everyday, after reading my blog - click on two or three ads and watch the pennies roll in!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Funny Pages and Renewable Energy

Lots of good reading material like this at the new Kamloops "Funny Pages"


There's a lot going on this week in Kamloops. First, we've got the big Kamloops Energy Fair at MacArthur Island on Saturday the 19th. Check it out at: Energy Fair. I've attended this event in the past and it's always nice to go around and see what new technology is out there. If you're at all interested in sustainable energy you owe it to yourself and the planet to become better informed.

The other big event, and perhaps only big to me and certain other cool people, is the grand opening of a store called Funny Pages. Funny Pages is located at 373 Victoria St. Kamloops (right beside Zacks) and is a great source for old-school comic books. I am an avid reader of the golden age comic books - you know - the ones where the lines between good and evil aren't yet blurred and good always triumphs. I'd give you a link to their site but I don't think they have one. For the any collector this will be a great sale as all their comic books are half off. I plan on loading up. Funny pages is also a great source for vintage vinyl which seems to be making a resurgence amongst collectors.

My posts must be short these days as I am in the midst of many paying projects and must crank out a few more websites and marketing campaigns. I will however have some video to share once I get around to uploading my latest shots of some young crows in our backyard.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A long ways from home

Adrift on a sea of concrete.

It's been awhile since I posted to my blog but then things have been busy. I have been on the road for quite some time and am hunkered down in a concrete bunker in the beautiful hamlet of Kitchener. Now those with a keen ear can hear the sarcasm in my voice.

I know it's not nice to bad mouth another's home but I'm afraid that I just can't warm up to the notion of the asphalt kingdoms that we produce. Urban sprawl from the center of the hive (Toronto) spews out in all directions, much like a plume of BP oil. Unfortunately though, unlike the BP plume, this sprawl will never be capped. I'm hoping those brave Manitobans will be able to construct some type of dike at their borders that will force the super-city to turn back on itself and force the toxic plume of civilization eastward.

Wait now, the sun is poking out again and the city doesn't look quite so bad. Perhaps I am just bitter from the food poisoning I got last night. It has been awhile since I felt that rough and so, like a snake who has been handled a little too roughly, I want to strike out and bite anything close to me. Sorry Kitchener.

I've met some nice people here - mainly cab drivers. It is interesting how each city gets its cab drivers from a different part of the world. Here, they are from Russia and the surrounding countries. My last cabbie was a very happy and well spoken Serbian who was bent on saving us some cabfare by taking every shortcut imaginable. His best maneuver consisted of scooting across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic, cutting across a lawn, through a parking lot and zipping across 5 lanes of traffic and coming to a screeching halt in the parking lot of our hotel. He managed to knock 5 cents off the previous fare and about 5 years off my life.

I think I now know how Geronimo felt when he was taken from his homelands and imprisoned in the east. He told his captors "The pinyon-jay pines for me." I would like to think that the yellow bellied racers are missing me but I know better. Geronimo never made it home. Hopefully I'll fare better.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A recipe to share

"Graffitti from Barcelona -
A picture that has nothing to do with a Pineapple Carrot Cake Recipe"


A friend asked for this recipe and I hate to admit but it is pretty much an "as-is" recipe from the internet. I have made a couple of crucial changes: adding raisins, more eggs, spices and substituting brown for white sugar and upping that a little. As with all recipes, you need to make it your own somehow.

I first made this one up in Big Meadow and every one of the workers had a complaint when I told them what was in it. Somebody didn't like: raisins, pineapple, or walnuts. However, after the meal, not a single piece of cake was left, and it had been a very large cake and there were only four of us at the table!

PINEAPPLE CARROT CAKE

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of allspice (optional)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1-2 cups raisins (soaked and drained in hotwater)

Frosting:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  • Remove butter and cream cheese from refrigerator and allow to warm up to room temperature 30 minutes in advance.
  • Wash, peel, and grate the carrots  
  • Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices as desired
  • Beat the eggs, add the sugar. 
  • Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture gradually. Add oil and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed of electric mixer.
  • Using a wooden spoon (or other large spoon) stir in the grated carrots, coconut, crushed pineapple, raisins and finally the walnuts. 
  • Mix well and turn out into a buttered and floured 9x13 inch pan.
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 45 minutes or until cake is no longer moist in center and begins to pull away from edges of pan. (The toothpick test won't work on this cake!).
  • To prepare frosting, beat cream cheese with butter and a few drops vanilla extract or rum; when completely mixed, beat in the confectioners' sugar until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Frost cake while still slightly warm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quick Robin - to the Bat Cave!!

Dr. Cheeptham points out a possible location to test for new microbes.

Well we weren’t going to the bat caves, and it was far from being a quick trip, so I pretty much got the title wrong – but I did get you to read this far. Back in my newspaper days I learned that the editor/page layout guy’s job was to get a title that grabbed the reader’s attention and need only be remotely related to the subject matter.

So, assuming that you are still with me on this one I can now launch into the story of our trip to the BearCat caves. I had been planning for months to take the Kamloops Naturalist Club to the BearCat caves as I wanted a hike that was a little more strenuous than our standard fare. I also figured that I had best take a pre-scout of the trip to ensure that the hike went without incident – it’s a good thing that I did.

Between the Mountain Pine beetle, the Douglas Fir Tussock moth, and a severe winter storm, the forest surrounding the caves had been decimated. Blowdown was stacked over 2 meters high in places and even the deer would have trouble making their way through the forest now. It was a long slow hike to the caves but we pressed on and were well rewarded for our efforts.

The we in this story, included myself, my father and a new conscript to our adventures: Dr. Naorwarat Cheeptham (Ann).  Ann is an expert in the field of micro-biology and is a professor and researcher at TRU. I had heard of her studies and had invited her along to see if this particular set of caves was suitable for her studies. What she does is very interesting and my understanding of the process is as follows: she collects, and analyzes new strains of microbes found in extreme conditions (in this case, caves) and from these microbes they can find all types of agents that may have uses in medicines and/or extend our knowledge of the “nature of things.”

One of the areas of research that I think is extremely cool is the idea that microbes might be able to communicate with others through the secretion of certain enzymes that signal the existence or lack of food. At a philosophical level this would change our perception of what a sentient being was and would be a great blow to vegetarians the world over.

The hike, although difficult, was pleasant as father was along to point out a great variety of plant life and animal sign to Ann. This kept the two of them occupied while I forged ahead trying to find the path of least resistance through the heaps of blowdown.  Our finds of interest were: Morels, Chanterelles, slime molds, Calypso orchids, Indian paintbrush, and a great variety of mammal poop.

Eventually the caves were reached and Ann and I made our way through the most accessible passageways while father remained above ground. Please note: It is always advisable on a trip like this to keep at least one person above ground to go for help in case the crew gets stranded below. The caving went without incident and after checking out the cave’s suitability for further research (it is) we ascended and fought our way back through the fallen forest to my faithful Ford.

Sneaking up on the dangerous Morel

A splash of gold amongst the greenery - which is my way of saying I don't know what this flower is!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A feast for the senses

Lisa in the marcado - spelling of which may be wrong -or as the Spanish would say "wrongo"


I don't know if it is just because one is taken out of their usual surroundings that the senses are raised to another level, or if it really is the case that everything does taste better in Spain. I was flipping through my photos, as I often do, searching for inspiration, when I came across these from the marcado in Barcelona.

Now I had been in Spain last year, visiting my daughter Lisa and she had taken me on a tour of the big city and at the end of the day we stopped by the marcado to pick up the groceries for the next couple of days. This was the highlight of my trip.

The Spanish know what good food is all about. Fresh produce from the farms, fruits from both Spain and neighbouring countries, meats of every type imaginable, seafood - some of which I had never seen before, and chocolates and sweets of every variety.

My senses were in overdrive. The grit and coolness of a fresh carrot, the brilliant reds of washed tomatoes next to every hue of green of the cilantros, parsleys and other herbs that I have no idea of what they were called or used for. The sounds of hundreds of people content in their business of buying or selling food. And the smell of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats: smells which, while strong, were not overpowering. Sometimes the smell of a market can be a little too strong as they often are in the warmer countries where refrigeration is the exception and not the rule.

It took us about an hour and a half to make our way through the market, checking out all the different offerings. At the end we had four bags of fresh everythings and it cost us about twelve dollars.

You could even buy beer on tap at the market. My love affair with Spain had started.

fresh, cured, salted or in sausages - meat is available in just about every configuration possible