Friday, December 31, 2010

Just wringing the last drops out of 2010

Admittedly an artificial construct, but one must acknowledge the end of the calendar year.

As I look back on the year past I must admit to a couple of short comings. First and foremost was my inability to stick to my quest for a thinner me. My other quests - like cooking, baking, eating and general sloth were easier quests to hoist my colours for. Other than that I did pretty good.

I got to spend a lot of quality time with my family and a lot of me time in the hills and open expanses around Kamloops. I led a couple of alpine hikes, took my daughter fishing a number of times, went on an epic hunt with my father and fixed a couple of things around the house. I chased snakes, captured rainbows, started writing two books and shot a lot of shaky video. (Chances of books getting finished or published are somewhere between slim and hardy-har-har). Oh and I went to the Canadian finals for Canada writes!

I added a lot of real friends to my list (as opposed to just facebook friends) and I re-connected with a number of friends, many of those reconnections a direct result of this blog.

And speaking of this blog - 144 entries for the year, so about one entry every three days, or about the life expectancy of my hamsters when I was a little boy. The hamster life expectancy story will have to wait til the new year as I wouldn't want to lose the last of my followers at this late stage of the year.

I do want to wish all of my readers all the best for 2011 and I will try not try to be more focused in my subject matter.

My last offering is this clip of waxwings I saw out at Tranquille yesterday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Google - the unfriendly giant

2010 is ending in a bit of a tailspin for me - at least in the computing field. First, my host for my websites, HostPapa, inadvertently deleted my primary domain (www.frankritcey.com) and I have yet to hear if they can do anything about it. I guess what really bugs me about that situation is that I didn't even receive an apology for their actions.

If that matter isn't resolved to my liking I imagine I will trudge across the internet highway to somebody like GoDaddy who has similar service at cheaper prices. My hesitation to switching is that I was trying to shop Canadian and HostPapa, up until last week, had been a very good service provider.

Then to add to the festivities, on Christmas Day, I received an email from google telling me that they had canceled my Google Adsense account for suspicious click activity. From my reading of the emails they apparently, and wrongly, figured that someone that I had influence over was clicking on ads on my website with the intent of providing me income instead of purchasing the product or service the ad was promoting.

What really frosts my butt in this matter is that they don't allow you anyway to interact with them to explain your side of the situation or to implement ways to block suspicious click activity. Due to their size they can do pretty much anything they want. But in fairness to them I guess the conversation would have gone something like "No I didn't" and "Yes you did" until one of us grew tired of the exchange. I had learned many many years ago that life has nothing to do with what is fair or right - it is more a matter of circumstance and might - so I guess I'll have to let this one slide and unlike Don Quixote, I'll find other windmills to joust.

I guess the irony of the situation is that this very blog is hosted by Google and is just a small part of their immense web empire. It gets one thinking about the problems that arise when so much of our cyber-lives are controlled by single interests like Google, Microsoft or Apple.

If I can weather the last days of 2010 without suffering other internet borne malaise I promise to have something well worth reading on the first day of the new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No pictures - Bah humbug!

2010 is coming to a close and I think I’ve managed to wring a good bit of entertainment from it.
  • I’ve filled up a couple of hard drives with the video I’ve shot
  • hiked a couple of hundred kilometers of trails: some new, some old familiar favourites.
  • made it to the national finals on CBC
  • started writing three different books
  • found some cool snake hunting spots
  • took my daughter fishing and hiking
  • took my father hunting to the far east (Saskatchewan)
  • caught some salmon with my elder brother
  • travelled around the province with my wife to some great music festivals
  • even managed to do some work stuff but that was nowhere as much fun as the other stuff

And through it all I managed to keep plugging away at my blog. Writing is what I love to do, and like a lot of other things in life, you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy doing it. I have enve made some people happy with my writing. Every now and then I will get a comment or an email from a reader saying how much they enjoyed my blog and if I could bring back the casserole dish that they left at the last family get together it would be appreciated. Okay, maybe only mom writes to say that she enjoyed my blog but it is a start.

One of the interesting aspects of the blog is my ability to track where readers are from and I have started on my quest to get a reader from every country in the world (or at least a visitor). My list to date includes:

  1. Albania
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Belize
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Estonia
  9. France
  10. Germany
  11. India
  12. Ireland
  13. Italy
  14. Kenya
  15. Kuwait
  16. Latvia
  17. Mexico
  18. Moldova
  19. Norway
  20. Russia
  21. Spain
  22. The Netherlands
  23. United Kingdom
  24. United States

So I have 24 of the approximately 195 countries that are presently defined by today’s political landscape. I am setting myself a goal of two new countries a month - a goal which should be doable.

As I get closer to the New Year I will post more goals as I find it easier to post goals than achieve them. I guess that is what I love about the season – the ability to plan for the future without having to do all of the hard work associated with all that planning. Heck, I even enjoying planning for the planning session.

I am off now to go make up some "best laid plans" and to do my Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anatomy of the perfect sneak

The start of the game

Now it is seldom that you will see the words “anatomy”, “perfect” and “Frank Ritcey” in the same sentence but this is that rare occasion when they do actually belong together. Of course it is not my anatomy I am referring to but the anatomy of the sneak that I recently pulled on a small herd of normally pretty astute mule deer.

I was off on one of my hikes through Kenna Cartwright Park when I noticed what I took to be a doe and a fawn at some 400 meters distance. I didn’t think I could, or would even try to, get close to them. As I worked my way down the trail however, I spotted a third and then fourth and fifth deer and knew that this would be a good challenge for me.

When you’re out taking pictures it is a lot harder than just hunting. Even a poor shot like I can be relatively effective at distances out to 200 meters. But, even with a great big lens and a doubler, a photographer needs to be within fifty meters to start getting decent shots.

So I first assessed the situation and planned a route that would bring me within 50 meters of the deer and to do so in such a way as to not spook them. Pictures of deer bounding away I have enough of.

The deer were high on a knoll and could see me already and had pretty much 280 degrees of vision given their present position. The wind was blowing from the south and precluded a direct approach even if one could get under their line of sight.

I tried one of the oldest tricks in the book and that was to walk away from the deer, all who were watching me intently, and to then duck in behind a knoll and out of their sight. By walking away from the herd I was attempting to put them at ease and to lower their level of preparedness for flight. Sort of like getting your adversary to go to an orange alert from a red alert.

I then hiked a good distance to the east to insure that the wind that was blowing up towards the deer would not carry my scent towards them. After an hour of hiking, my scent can probably be picked up by most animals (and many plants) and extra caution is warranted.

Safely to the east I then picked my way up through a small draw and got directly behind where I thought the animals to be. Approaching the ridge I would pause every three or four steps. By pausing while you are walking, if the deer hear you, they may attribute the sound to just another deer approaching. Humans are one of the few animals that will walk without pausing and when an animal hears a steady footfall they vacate an area quickly.

After about thirty five minutes of this circuitous sneak I nervously poked my head over the ridge. There, about three meters away, was a wide eyed doe looking directly at me! She almost looked embarrassed for having such a large awkward beast get so close to her and her young. I quickly withdrew, gave a couple of reassuring bleats (like those of a lost fawn) and got my camera ready.

Poking my head back over the ridge I could see all five deer and managed to get some decent shots. As I was careful not to appear threatening in any way – slow deliberate movements and averted eyes – the deer continued to feed, albeit nervously, and then they eventually got wind of me and decided it was time to leave.

The resultant two and a half minutes of deer video was well worth the effort and was so much fun I think I’ll try it again. I'll post the deer video sometime in the next week, 'til then, keep your cinch tight.

Monday, December 20, 2010

An expert mouser at work



I was out on a shoot the other day when I almost ran into famed local photographer Peter Suzle. I say almost ran into but thanks to ABS and good winter tires we avoided the crash.

Peter was coming back from his search for Great Grey owls and I was wrapping up a trip through Kenna Cartwright Park and we had both ended up by the Timber Lake road, searching the trees in hopes of spotting a Great Grey.

Finding nothing of the owl persuasion we decided to take the backroad by Goose Lake to see what we could scare up that would be worthy of our attention. There wasn’t much going on – a couple of Rough Legged Hawks and a coyote off in the distance was all that presented themselves – and those only briefly.
I figured the day could only be salvaged by a trip to Tim Horton’s and Peter said he would join me there. Shortly after I had pulled out on the highway I noticed Peter was no longer following me so I wheeled around and returned – fearing the worse. The worse being of course that he was getting pictures of something that I had missed.

Yes the worst had happened. I had driven right past a coyote hunting mice in the field alongside the Goose Lake Road and Peter was there blasting away with that big camera of his. Talk about lens envy.
I did manage to get a minute or so of shaky footage, before the coyote figured he should go hunt elsewhere. In this case I figure a bad video about an interesting subject is better than the reverse so here it is.

Please check out Peter’s photos at http://psulzle.blogspot.com/2010/12/dippers-and-coyotes.html and see what good photos are all about.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nuts about you

Talk about wild and crazy Christmas parties. Yes, please talk about them, the one I was at last night wasn't one of them so I'd like to hear about lampshades on heads and inappropriate behaviour of all types.

No, the only thing wild about the Kamloops Naturalist Club is the subject matter of their discussions. The year- end meeting is always a nice one in that we try to get through the regular business as soon as possible, have a couple of baked goodies, enjoy a short program of entertainment and get home before Doc Martin is over.

As I was in charge of last night's entertainment, I forced the group to watch a few of Loyd's and my video productions and I subjected them to a wild animal quiz. The quiz was harder than I thought and the best score was 5/10 - I'll be posting that quiz here at some point so I can't give away much more than the fact that it is tricky.

The videos I presented were well received and the people laughed and clapped in all of the right places so we obviously got it right. Loyd's production of "Nuts about You" was particularly well received and one of the members recounted to me of how when she had first seen the video on Youtube that it brought a smile to her soul for the rest of the day. It is that type of response that we are always looking for. Fame and money is nice but making people happy is the real reward of the composer or writer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frank's World

I'm setting some type of record here - twice now I've written on the same subject. And that subject is the spread of my blog, like some insidious weed, across the world. Since I've started recording my visitors I have amassed a total of 18 countries and some 76 cities.

I have noticed that I haven't had visitors from Norway or Sweden yet, which is surprising as I have relatives in both countries and you would think that there would be a least a glimmer of interest in what their representative off in the new world was up to.

I am also interested in how the search engines work in flagging this blog about Norway and Sweden. My guess is that if I say something bad in the same sentence with the words Norway or Sweden, a flag goes up in some ministry of tourism office and a cyber agent is sent out to investigate - at least it would if I were in charge.

Of course there is nothing bad to say about either country but having now used the word bad three times, the lights and sirens are going crazy across the Atlantic and the cyber-elite are being scrambled. When they get here they will breathe a sigh of relief, post a message to say "Hi" from their respective countries and another potential threat to tourism will have been quelled (or is that quashed or perhaps squashed? - Ellen, if you are reading this, please elucidate.)

 Resistance is futile - I will eventually have a reader from every country in the world!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the road to Moldova

So where is Moldova? And if any of you say - in the back of Frank's fridge I will send you out of the class.

Once again I am stumped by the what, where, when  and why of another small European country - but not, as the astute of you will have notice, not stumped as to the who of Moldova. My blog showed a recent visit from that country and it came from an old friend of mine - Alanna Jorde. Not to say that Alanna would be old, because she was only like six or seventeen when she started work at the newspaper at which I was also employed.

Alanna is like the Lois Lane of the newspaper world and she travels all about our planet, writing about politics and N.G.O.'s and all types of interesting stuff. She is a fast pen for hire and her full credentials can be found at Red Lotus communications.

So another country has been added to my growing list and I've had a chance to catch up on some of the travelings of an old friend. I did a quick google of Moldova and learned a number of interesting things but I would love to receive a comment from a native or ex-pat of Moldova.


Moldova is the dark green country - what is the light green country?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Things I have mis-seen

No, I didn't have a stroke - but that would help explain a lot of things I guess. I just have this habit, as do many when they get to be my advanced age, to mis-hear and to mis-see things.

I don't know that this failing of the faculties is purely physical or if perhaps your mind does it just to add a bit of interest to your life. Take for instance the other day while out hiking along Tranquille River: There, up ahead in the alder thicket was a bear, out well past his hibernation date. I sneaked and ninja-ed my way up along a prickly rose thicket only to get close enough to take some very good footage of the dark end of a culvert. At least for ten minutes of the hike I was having fun.

And this morning added to my fun. I rolled out of bed and hit the computer to catch up on all of my very important messages and to jot a quick entry into my too often neglected blog. As is the case, when one signs into the management section of the blog I am presented with all of the brilliant things my friends and folks I follow have written.

One blog I follow is Mel Rothenburger's. Now for those of you  that aren't Kamloopsians, Mel is a long serving editor of the local paper and ex-mayor. I had never been a big fan of Mel's  - mainly because he has actually done the two things I always thought I would like to do (if it wasn't for all the work involved). Mel was one of the great mayors of Kamloops - not Peter Wing or Kenna Cartwright great but definitely close. During his term in office he managed to tone down his right wing tendencies and was in fact a mayor for the majority. Mel is also a very good writer and so I like to follow his blog as it helps me get fired up for the day.

So I was very intrigued when I saw his latest entry about the RIH versus Lighting. (The RIH is our Royal Inland Hospital) and the "Lighting" I supposed would be the on-going controversy about how much we spend on the christmas lights for the city. "Ah - ha" I muttered to myself, "that old scrooge will suggest we get rid of the lights to help finance the hospital!" I was already formulating my witty riposte to his ill-formed plan.

It took me about half way through the article before it dawned on me that the post was in fact about 'lightning' and not 'lighting'. I read the rest of the article but, like the bear-turned-culvert it had already lost its appeal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lunch with an icon



Okay,  maybe I didn't have lunch but the icon did and I was there, so that has to count for something.

The icon of course was the great Canadian Beaver. That furry little pelt upon the back of this, America's second largest rodent, is what spurred the settlement of Canada and without which there would be no basketball, Tim Horton's or Superman comic books. We may have been responsible for more but I only mention the most important items. Quick - what is the largest rodent?

Our lunch date was up on the Tranquille river and I, in an escape from the keyboard, had made the hike up there on my own. The chilling winds kept most of my usual companions curled up around a glowing TV set and I was forced to be my own company (quite frankly, I'm probably not all that fun to hike with - I just wouldn't shut up or let myself get a word in edgewise) but I was all that I had so I, and my other personalities, made our way up alongside the river.

I had gone up there with the hopes of getting some footage of an American Dipper and apart from a fleeting glimpse of one making its way up the river I was to be skunked on that particular quest. But on my way back I decided to check out what I thought were a set of beaver tracks just upstream of the lodge. Sure enough, when I got there a large black form was waddling down the ice. It slipped into the open water just upstream of the dam and I quickly positioned myself for his return.

I was quickly rewarded for my stealth with the beaver's return. His poor eyesight and my ninja like ability to appear like a tree - albeit a big fat tree - allowed me to shoot for nearly 90 minutes. I watched as he chewed down numerous trees and saplings and marveled at his resistance to the icy cold waters. Finally something spooked him - perhaps another hiker along the trail away from the river or perhaps he caught wind of me - whatever the cause, he dropped everything, scooted across the ice and dove under without a backwards glance.

Oh, the answer to the rodent question - the capybara

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A lesson about eye-care


Okay this is almost embarrassing but too funny to keep to myself.

As an admitted hypochondriac I have a tendency to attribute my latest ache or pain to something rare and almost always terminal. It comes from an over active imagination I guess - that or a tumour in my reasoning lobe of the brain. But there I go again.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been suffering from acute migraine attacks. These are a first for me as apart from all of my other maladies I seldom if ever have suffered even the slightest headache. But something has triggered these migraines and I have been trying to figure out what the source of the pain is.

I had been thinking it might of been the result of too many hours in front of the computer screen and my failing eyesight. Consequently I have been cognizant of my vision and so it  was with great consternation that yesterday, while working on my computer, after an 8 hour stint at the keyboard, that I started to notice little black dots moving across the range of my vision. Now I have experienced the little "floaters" that you sometimes get across your field of vision but these were much more pronounced - darker and moving much faster.

I blinked, took a break from the computer but the black dots persisted. I was sure that a tumour was encircling the optic nerve as I sat there and was obviously on the start of the long dark road to oblivion. The dark spots spun and grew more frequent and greater in number. Now instead of one or two spots there were four, five, six - my sense of foreboding deepened. How would I break this to my friends and family? If blinded would I be able to play the piano like Ray Charles? My mind spun.

The dark spots started to become clearer. As I had mentioned, my near vision is not that great, but every now and then these black dots would take form - almost like they had wings! Wings! That was it. I remembered the banana peel I had discarded in my waste basket a couple of days (maybe weeks) ago and the resultant batch of fruit flies which were now invading my room would more easily explain the black dots before my eyes.

It appears that I don't need extensive radiation treatment - I just need to take out the trash more often.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So where the hell is Estonia?

Now I am not going to print the map with Estonia marked on it, because I wonder how many of you might know where Estonia is without going to google maps. Apart from my brainiac uncle Jim and his equally astute sister aunty Ellen I doubt that many of my readers could confidently tell me what two countries border this small-ish country.

Well, at least one of my readers should know where Estonia is, as I have just had a new reader log in from that country. Perhaps it was my friend Alana who is off jet setting in that part of the world as an international reporter. Probably not though as she was supposed to be gong to Moldavia, which is a little out of the way.

Perhaps my Estonian visitor can give us a quick recap of what is going on in your country these days or answer a question I would ask of any of my guests while out in the mountains, and that is "What is your particular part of the country famous for producing?" In Oregon it is cheese, Idaho is potatoes and millionaires, and Michigan it is brainiacs. What is it that Estonia produces?

This getting readers from all over the world is fun and informative. Next time I have to play trivial pursuit against uncle Jim he'd better be ready!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome Latvia

Latvia - one of my more recent acquisitions

Last week I had put out a call for new viewers and, as promised, I am now sharing some of the new acquisitions. According to Google analytics I have had 6 visits from the country of Latvia, which I must admit a huge ignorance of.

Latvia is not that far from Norway and even less of a swim from Sweden and being so close to the land of my ancestors you would think that I would of at least had a passing acquaintance with the country. But no, til now, Latvia has escaped my radar.

So now I have to ask my reader or reader(s) from Latvia to let me know what, if there were one main thing a person should know about your country, what would that one thing be? Now if someone were to ask me that about Canada I would have to say that we are home to some of the last wilderness places on the earth. Others would say that we are famous for being the birthplace of Tim Horton's and some others would say we were famous for our moose hunting. It all depends on what you are interested in and that is what I am interested in learning from my Latvian readers - what is it that makes you proud or excited about your country.

Has anyone of my readers ever visited the country or met a person from there? Please inform me. I could google it but then it would take away from the mystery and intrigue of the country. A prize of an original "Rounders and Sinners" CD will be sent out to the first reader to comment from a valid Latvian address.

But I must return to my programming tasks. I am working at developing a Joomla based website and thought I was doing so well with frankritcey.com until Loyd let me know that it doesn't work with Internet Explorer 8. I'm thinking that Bill Gates better get on this problem as I don't think I'll be able to figure it out - feel free to visit the site with any other browser and let me know what you think. I know it's pretty rough right now but what I am working on is the proof of concept. It's sort of like building a house - you get it up first and then make it pretty with paint and trim at the end.