Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lunch at the Berry Barn

We went to the Berry Barn for lunch today and wandered around the gardens. We even found some frogs in a small pond beside the wedding area.

2009-06-25 Berry Barn


Track ID#7AAJ (Running) | Saskatoon, SK, Canada - Trailguru

I recently bought an iPhone and I've been looking at the various running applications. This track is from one called Trailguru for a run I did this morning.

The GPS had some trouble in the lower unpaved trail through the trees, but it seemed to handle it ok, catching up when it did get a signal, although I think that's what threw off the max speed. (I didn't really run over 20 km/hr!)

The gap in the track is when I left the app to pick a new podcast to listen to. When I resumed, it wouldn't track until I turned off "Airplane" mode (cell and wifi disabled) which I'd done to conserve power. But it had worked up till then in Airplane mode. Strange.

The other ones I've been looking at are MapMyRun and RunKeeper. I haven't decided which one I like best.

If I'm going to use the iPhone on runs I'm going to have to buy an armband carrier. Holding it in your hand, like I did today, is not the most convenient. But I'm not convinced I really want to. One of the things I like about running is that it's low tech.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Old Dogs Still Have a Few Tricks

Shelley and I were in the Urban Adventure Race in Saskatoon this weekend. We entered for fun and to support the event. Neither of us had really been training much and we weren't particularly competitive or expecting to do that well.

Surprisingly, we ended up winning!

There were 21 teams with 2 or 3 people per team. Half the race (2 hours) was on bike, the other half was on foot. We were the oldest racers and I'm sure we weren't the fastest - there were triathlon people, and bike racers and marathon runners. That's the nice thing about adventure racing in general, and even more so, score competitions* like this one - it's not enough to be fast, you also have to make the right strategic and tactical decisions. I think our experience with score competitions like the Navigation Marathon helped. And we also know the city and river bank trails pretty well. And I've spent a lot of hours reading maps, especially from planning the Prairie Pitch races. (The maps were from Google Earth which added a good twist. Most of the streets weren't labeled, but you could identify other features which wouldn't have been on a street map.)

The start was amusing. They handed out the maps a few minutes before start time and while everyone was studying them the start time came and passed. Finally Shelley asked "can we start" and they said yes so we took off, leaving everyone still standing around. So we had everyone chasing us for the first few points. (Although, you have to be careful not to rush too much because not spending enough time planning your route can also cost you.) Of course, this didn't last very long - one of the nice things about a score competition is that people make different route choices and scatter, instead of all chasing each other around the same course. Even when you do see other teams you have no idea whether they have more or less points.

* A score competition is where you have a fixed amount of time to collect as many marked locations as possible. Some locations may be worth more points e.g. if they are further away or harder to find. If you exceed the time limit then you get points deducted from your score.

Hoedown from Rodeo

Hoedown from Rodeo from Eleanor Stewart on Vimeo.

Very cool. Worth switching to full screen (the four arrow icon next to "Vimeo")

Sunday, June 21, 2009

2009-06 Kayak Trip

Last week I spent three days kayaking down the North Saskatchewan river from North Battleford to Saskatoon, about 100 km.

Although it runs through developed farmland, the river and banks are still mostly wild. I didn't see any other people during the trip, other than the one bridge I passed under about halfway. I did see lots of wildlife - moose, deer, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, and of course, geese, pelicans, and other birds.

I had great weather, if anything a little too hot, which led to some afternoon thundershowers. But the mornings were beautiful.

2009-06 Kayak Trip
I didn't take a lot of photos. On the water I tend to keep my camera in a dry bag, but that means when I see wildlife I usually can't get the camera out in time to catch them.

The river was quite shallow and slow (~ 2 km/hr) so it took me longer than I had expected. Four days probably would have been better. I spent about 10 hours a day on the water, which might sound like a lot, but with 16 or more hours of daylight it still leaves time to relax.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Finding Coral

Day 9 - The Search |

These folks are doing a great job of publicizing this project. Otherwise, you'd never hear about a bunch of scientists out doing research.

We think our world has been explored to the last detail, but it's amazing how much we don't know about the underwater world.

Jordy Gold and Urban Sustainability | News & Features | 'Icebreakers' seek common ground:
He may not be the green Messiah but he sees dark days coming. And, amiable as he is, when he talks about what he thinks it'll take to ward them off, he exhibits the proselytizing zeal of a hellfire-and-damnation evangelist.

That doesn't, he insists, make him a prophet of doom.

'If you were a pessimist, you might as well just give up right now,' he says. 'All I want is for people to act like adults.'
via WorldChanging Canada

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bixi: the Bicycle-Taxi

WorldChanging Canada: Bixi: the Bicycle-Taxi for a Bright Green City


Of course, our winters in Saskatchewan would be a problem.

Balloon Ride

We finally got our balloon ride after three years of trying. Every time we were booked, the weather would be wrong - too windy, too calm (!), rain, clouds, etc. Then you'd have to rebook a month or two in advance so you only got a few tries per summer. I was starting to wonder if it would ever happen. But in the end we had a beautiful morning, as you can see from the pictures. It's a very peaceful experience.

2009-06-12 balloon ride

California State Parks Closing?

Schwarzenegger proposes closing 80 percent of California state parks - San Jose Mercury News

I'm not sure what to think about this.

My first reaction was that it was awful.

But if they just close the gates to vehicle traffic, maybe that's not so bad.

The concern is that there will be vandalism and other abuse, but if you can't drive in, will that really happen?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I watched the documentary Sharkwater last night. There's some beautiful underwater photography. But it's also depressing.

We (people) have killed about 90% of the sharks so far. About the same as we've done to most large fish. The difference is that we don't eat the sharks like we did the fish, we just cut off their fins for shark fin soup and discard the rest.

Shark fins don't even have much flavor (they're just cartilage). But people, mostly the Chinese, will pay large amounts of money for it. And because there is so much money involved (literally billions of dollars) governments don't stop it. Even where it's illegal like in Galapagos, the government turns a blind eye.

Of course, it doesn't help that sharks are commonly portrayed and thought of as monsters. So people aren't as concerned about them being wiped out as they are about cuddly panda bears.

Part of the film is with Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. He was one of the founders of Greenpeace but left to form Sea Shepherd because Greenpeace wasn't radical enough. (my oversimplification) I have a lot of admiration for people who don't just talk and inform, but actually take direct action.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Get Your Walk Score - A Walkability Score For Any Address

Our current address gets a "Somewhat walkable" 52 out of 100. We avoid driving by riding our bikes.

If Rivergreen Ecovillage gets off the ground and we move there, we'd rate 90 out of 100 - "Walker's Paradise"

How does your address rate?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Talking About Running

I just finished reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist, runner, and triathlete.

I really enjoyed this book and identified with what he talked about. I'm not a serious runner, I don't enter any races. But I've run fairly regularly since I was a kid. Nor am I a serious writer, but I've done a little, and I'm certainly a serious reader, and in some ways my programming is a similar solitary creative pursuit. I'm also reaching a similar age as Murakami writes about - the point where you have to face the fact that your physical performance is past its peak.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next days work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed - and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.
This seems very true for my big programming projects.
"It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to make sure I get the facts down clearly: I'm the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I've had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.
I've always been happy on my own as well, preferring to run on my own, and happy to read or work on projects on my own.
"I'm in my late fifties now. When I was young, I never imagined the twenty-first century would actually come and that, all joking aside, I'd turn fifty. In theory, of course, it was self-evident that someday, if nothing else happened, the twenty-first century would roll around and I'd turn fifty. When I was young, being asked to imagine myself at fifty was as difficult as being asked to imagine, concretely, the world after death. ... For me - and for everybody else, probably - this is my first experience growing old, and the emotions I'm having, too, are all first-time feelings. If it were something I'd experienced before, then I'd be able to understand it more clearly, but this is the first time, so I can't. For now all I can do is put off making any detailed judgments and accept things as they are. Just like I accept the sky, the clouds, and the river. And there's also something kind of comical about it all, something you don't want to discard completely.
"I look up at the sky, wondering if I'll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don't. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn't be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself - that when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I've carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long dusty path. I'm not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I've carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.
"I expect that this winter I'll run another marathon somewhere in the world. And I'm sure come next summer I'll be out in another triathlon somewhere, giving it my best shot. Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I'll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Warning: Potential spoiler - I give away some of the story.

I recently watch the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. I didn't know much about it, just that it was science fiction and starred Keanu Reeves. It's a remake of a 1951 classic.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the part where you find out the aliens are here to wipe out humanity because we're destroying the earth. (I wonder if that was in the 1951 version?)

After that I was cheering for the aliens, although I'm sure you're supposed to be cheering for the poor humans struggling not to get snuffed.

By almost any definition, homo sapiens is an incredible pest. If any other animal or plant had spread as much as we have and altered the planet as much as we have, we'd certainly be trying to "control" it (a euphemism for wiping it out).

Wiping out people entirely might be a little extreme, but certainly the earth would be better off with a lot fewer of us.

Often, pandemics are listed as potential problems of the same order as environmental destruction. But even the worst pandemic (depending on your definition), the bubonic plague, only killed roughly 50% of the population. That would still leave us with billions of people. But if we destroy the environment, that could kill not only all humans, but huge amounts of other life as well.

I was disappointed with the ending of the movie. The humans (mostly Jennifer Connelly) convince the aliens (represented by Keanu Reeves) that humans shouldn't be wiped out because we are actually nice people who care about our kids, and we can change, even if our track record is abysmal. Come on, how gullible are these aliens?

Oh well, I didn't really expect the movie to end with humans getting wiped out, as pleasing as that might be to a rabid environmentalist.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Logging Banned in Manitoba Parks

Logging Banned in Manitoba Provincial Parks | Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Manitoba Chapter

This is great news, but naively I would have assumed logging wasn't allowed in provincial parks.

Regardless of whether you think parks are for recreation for people, or to protect the environment, I can't see how logging fits into the picture.

Or at least, the only way I can see how it fits is that profit driven logging companies and money driven governments were cashing in.

Of course, I don't think hunting or motorized vehicles (e.g. snowmobiles, atv's, jetski's, powerboats) should be allowed in parks either. But that does depend on whether you think parks are for recreation or protection. I think parks can server both purposes, but only if you stick to self-propelled recreation.

I guess the next question is what about the other provinces? Does Saskatchewan allow logging in our provincial parks?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Australia Revisited

I know it's long out of date, but I never finished posting our Australia photos, so here's a batch from Perth.
2008-09 Perth, Australia

Monday, June 01, 2009

The War on the Car

From WorldChanging Canada: City Changing: Re-mixing Built Environments:

Recently, Toronto's city council approved plans to transform Jarvis Street from a five-lane car-only street to a four-lane street with bike lanes. This came after significant resistance from council members who claimed that an alteration of the street was but one battle in an alleged "war on the car". Dissenting council members also claimed that all parties involved—the some 27,000 cars that traverse Jarvis Street on a regular basis—had not been consulted. Instead, the city had sponsored an ad in NOW Magazine querying public opinion on the idea of bike lanes. Because NOW is a local, youth-oriented publication, it was assumed that thousands of drivers were being excluded from the conversation at the expense of Toronto's cyclists, who appeared at public planning meetings in droves to exhort city planners to move forward with the bike lanes.

While the approval of the lanes is good news for both environmental improvement and cyclist safety, the length and speed of the debate indicates the kind of uphill battle in store for people who want to engage in what we might consider "urban re-mix."
I love the "war on the car" part.

DSLR Cameras

Although I'm quite happy with my Pentax K10D, I could always use higher ISO and better auto-focus. There never seems to be enough light to use a fast enough shutter speed for hand held shooting, or a small enough aperture for more focus lattitude. Thank goodness for image stabilization or I'd be even worse off.

So I can't help but covet the Nikon D3's awesome low light abilities. Of course, it also costs roughly $5000 and is a huge heavy beast, so I don't really want one.

The Nikon D700 also performs well and it's somewhat cheaper and smaller. But, like the D3, it has a full-size sensor (the actual size of 35mm film). The bigger sensor is one of the reasons for the better performance. The problem is that I like the increase in focal length that the smaller sensors give you. On a full size sensor, my zoom would be 18 to 250mm. But on my Pentax with a smaller sensor, it's equivalent to 27 to 375mm. You could use a tele-extender but then you lose another stop of light, and this zoom is already quite slow. Of course, there are other lenses, but that's a whole 'nother story!

I've looked at the Nikon D300, which has a smaller sensor, but it's performance isn't as impressive as the D700 (or the D3). The Nikon D90 which is actually a more "consumer" oriented model, actually does better for low light, also does video, and it's considerably cheaper.

One of the reasons I bought the Pentax was because it had in-camera image stabilization, which means you're not buying expensive image stabilization in multiple lenses. But so far, I've stuck to my one super-zoom lens, so the argument doesn't really hold. And the image stabilized Nikon version of this lens is actually 18 to 275mm (as opposed to 250mm).

I also like how the Pentax will output standard DNG format instead of just a proprietary format like most other cameras, although this isn't a huge factor.

To complicate things, Pentax is coming out with a new K7 model this summer. Full test results aren't out yet so it's hard to tell how it will compare. It shoots video like the D90. And it's small and light and weather/dust proof which is a plus for me. The auto-focus is supposed to be better. And it would work with my existing lens. The resolution has increased, which is good in some ways (more room to crop), but higher resolution means smaller pixels on the sensor, which usually means more noise (i.e. worse low light performance). e.g. My Pentax K10D sensor with 10mp rates higher than the more expensive K20D with 14mp. (Of course, there's a lot more to a camera than just the sensor.)

Of course, I don't really need a new camera at all. An expensive camera is no guarantee of good pictures!

PS. For some reason I haven't got interested in Canon cameras, although I've had several smaller Canon's, and I'm sure their DSLR's are good too. The Sony Alpha's also have good specs but I don't know much about them either.