Friday, September 4, 2009

Heavy metal ballet

Has this ever happened to you?

At 7:30am, on Thursday, September 3, I was biking across the Knight Street Bridge, southbound, going to work. The previous night's thundershower had left in its wake a perfect morning for riding. The road was still slightly damp, the air, cool & clean. Wednesday evening, I had oiled my chain and replaced my slowly leaking front innertube, leaving a mild sense of accomplishment to further enhance the ride.

I was in the bike lane on the northwestern segment of the bridge, approaching Mitchell Island. Technically, the bike lane is off limits (riders are supposed to use the concrete-barrier-protected sidewalk), but signage is minimal and a fresh line of paint clearly sets off the bike lane. The northwestern sidewalk segment forces you partway around the Mitchell Island off-ramp, after which you must either take a risky left across the ramp, or dismount and make the same crossing at even greater risk on foot. Via the bike lane, you can cross straight over, pass the Mitchell Island bus stop, and enter the sidewalk.

View Larger Map

I wore a backpack and an orange safety vest, and had my helmet on [Common Commuter]. It was slightly overcast with excellent visibility. Traffic was heavy: Three lanes of commuters, like me, bound for work. Leading the pack, just to my left, was a larger than usual, nice looking brand-new grey pickup truck, with a chunk of heavy equipment in the back - a cement mixer, maybe.

Behind the pickup there were probably about sixteen cars, two lanes of eight. Two guys were in the cab, likely heading to a construction job, with heavy equipment in the black-lined truck bed. The driver must have tapped the brake, reacting to something on the bridge.

Suddenly the truck starts to fishtail and skid into a doughnut. Everything goes into slow-mo, there is no time for fear, just an abstract appreciation that about 3,500 pounds of metal moving at 60+ kph, is now totally out of control and might slide towards me at any second.

The pickup did a 360+, ending broadside to the oncoming cars, inches from the central concrete barrier. Miraculously, it was unscratched. I now realized that there were sixteen cars on a slippery road just five feet to my left, blocked by a truck. If any of them reacted just a hair too slowly, I might soon suffer the consequences. I began to appreciate the logic behind our bicycling restrictions.

Miraculously, all the cars came to a complete stop without a single mishap. It was too perfect, as if the whole thing had been rehearsed and executed that morning by a team of highly skilled stuntmen and women. I didn't look too closely, but I did thank my stars that nobody was too preoccupied with their cellphone, drive-through breakfast, coffee, make-up, etc. What are the odds?

Through the whole, surreal experience, I continued riding, scarcely able to believe that this vehicular ballet was all taking place within 12 and 30 feet of me. I don't think I even slowed down. I recall thinking of YouTube and wishing I had a helmet-cam.

After the truck resumed its course, everyone drove on as before, not a fender bent, not a scratch to be seen. If someone was drinking coffee, they probably didn't spill a drop.

On September 3, 2009 I finished my morning commute in a state of gratitude.

It’s also about having one foot over the edge—just enough of yourself to recognize the inherent wisdom and beauty of close calls.

-- Veda Hille


If you have had a similar experience, please let me know.

Reference: BikeBC - Cycling Restrictions

Excerpt from the Highway Act B.C. REG. 174/70:

Structure Section/Subsection/Summary
Knight Street Bridge...
[Vancouver - Richmond]
2.03 (b) Bicycles not permitted on roadways but may use a sidewalk.

[return to blog]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

(continued from Mushroom Industry 2 and Forest Biology)

David Lee Kwen, owner of Misty Mt. Mushrooms, has been in the mushroom business for 20 years. He owns an office/warehouse in Richmond and employs 10-12 people on staff year-round.

Hi David, what can you tell me about wild B.C. mushrooms?

Wild mushrooms cannot be cultivated - they only grow in symbiosis with trees. The tree provides them with nutrients, they provide it with water - they are like water sacs on the roots. People don't like pesticides in the food chain, and mushrooms are a healthy, wholesome organic food. Wild products in general are considered wholesome.

And how does the 'mushroom business' work?

Misty Mt. Mushrooms is the only company in B.C. (and possibly in Canada) that takes all wild mushrooms, berries, etc. We are a top-level wholesaler, providing mushrooms to other wholesalers and to restaurants throughout North America and five other countries [whose identities are a trade secret].

Buyers buy from pickers (mostly transients) who bring the mushrooms to their facility for regrading and distribution. This is similar to the system used for 'domestic' mushrooms (grown in factory farms), except that those are graded by the farmers as they are harvested from the beds, and don't need to be regraded.

At Misty Mountain, the wild mushrooms are regraded by a team of from one to ten people (most pulled from in-house staff), then repacked and sent out. The quality of the incoming product varies widely - for example, boletes may have been nibbled by worms.

What is the difference between the price paid to pickers and the retail price?

The picker price varies depending on several factors, such as type, grade and season. Pickers know the going rates, and they shop around. The price for the final product also covers a range. If there is a bad (poor quality) crop and recoveries are down, the price will rise.

Growing and harvesting seasons vary from place to place around the world. Wholesalers buy from others globally, during the local off-season, to serve their clients and stay in business all year.

Thank you for your time and for providing insight into this unique local industry!

References and further reading:

Certified Organic Associations of BC
Georgia Straight March 6, 2008 Interview
Vancouver Sun November 2, 2002 Interview (includes photo)
Misty Mountain Specialties
BC Mushroom Industry Overview

Monday, August 17, 2009

Busy Recovery Day

After two days of driving the "Pink Panther" van (and doing Clouseau impressions), today was a much-needed day of recovery. However, I did keep busy:
  • picked up a contest prize
  • visited some talented friends
  • read a good book

Contest Prize: Stephane Grenier's Blog Blazers (review to follow). Thank you to Raul Pacheco-Vega for posting the contest through which I obtained this very useful book.

I picked up Blog Blazers at 422 Richards Street, right above academie duello.

Talented friends:
Adrienne is a writer/rapporteur (sample) and digital storyteller, and also a painter of some talent. She welcomed me into her home, where we visited while awaiting my brother Gavin's return. I was able to enjoy Jim's story, as put together by Adrienne with photos and narration, and she generously took the time to read several Enduroblog entries, even providing some useful information (such as 'Little Man's' name).

Jim is a virtuoso guitarist & singer (and busker extraordinaire), humorist and artist with a book on the way.

A good book:
I always enjoy Quinnett's hard-boiled, thoroughly practical advice for Counselors and Medical Doctors about how to save the lives of people who are not inclined to continue living. A classic reference work, IMHO.

(Lineups, combined with hunger, dissuaded me from trying the new RAV line - a two hour wait to ride - and my brother was out, so I missed him).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekend to End Breast Cancer

Tomorrow and Sunday, August 15 and 16, will be Vancouver's 2009 Weekend to End Breast Cancer. I am excited and delighted to be a member of the Sweep Team, the crew of van drivers that will 'sweep forward' any walkers in distress.

Today my van partner Cynthia and I, and her two daughters, went down to decorate our van near the Rocky Mountaineer station, not far from Science World. We have a great theme - "the Pink Panther loves eggs" - that reflects our fundraising to fight Ovarian Cancer, while emphasizing the Weekend's dominant pink colour scheme.

I will be Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers' version); Cynthia will be my sidekick, Cato ... and, in character, will employ the occasional well-placed karate chop to keep me in line. Cynthia and her daughters are the creative masterminds behind the theme and our van's excellent look.

[include photo]

Tomorrow will be a very early morning - must make it a relatively early night :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Newspaper/Blog Hybrid Business Model

Part II
(a quick update)

My research into this topic was somehow sidetracked into a search of local newspapers.

. BC newspapers list at
. ~ at Google Directory
. Free Community papers at VPL
. CPIQ database listing (per VPL)
. List from
. ~ from
. Freebase listing
. Ulrich's (per VPL)
. RelocateCanada
. Eye on Vancouver
. Mondo Times
. Newspapers24

A good starting point, perhaps, to understand the local newspaper scene.

Newspaper blog monetization, however, is a somewhat different kettle of fish...

Blog search

Tech writer's tweets suggest targeted advertising for Twitter
Alan Mutter’s plan for newspapers is an industry-owned ad venture
See his links? >> Monetize blog without seo
affiliate blog convert
long tail keywords

Newspaper/Blog Hybrid Business Model

Part I

I want to know more about how newspapers incorporate blogging into their business model.

Much has been posted on the need for newspapers (particularly North American newspapers, operated by larger corporations and carrying a heavy debt load (1)), to rejig their business plans. For example, Clay Shirky's classic March 13, 2009 post (1,055 comments, as of this writing).

Clay points out that newspapers foresaw the internet's potential impact well in advance and, in the 1990's, came up with an array of plans, but that they ignored the 'unthinkable' scenario that ensued, instead stiving to maintain a doomed order.
The core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift.
Shirky concludes that:
With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.
He also compares the present day publishing landscape with the 1500's (impacted by the printing press), pointing out that in a revolution it is hard to predict what will succeed. The traditional model's dominance was based on a publication cost barrier, which enabled high, sustainable advertising and subscription revenues. As ads shift from classifieds to craigslist, and bloggers tackle more of Clark Kent's workload, these revenues are redirected.

We don't know what is going to work, just that it is changing. Clay Shirky suggests we focus not on what works for newspapers, but on what best serves society.

Step back and consider the big picture, in which newspapers are small players owned by globe-spanning corporations (who also own radio, TV and ISPs). If we are to believe the Media Democracy Day folks, these represent an ongoing threat to individual freedom, which behooves us to be cautious in the face of change and to stand up for:
* Education - understanding how the media shapes our world and our democracy
* Protest - against a media system based on commercialization and exclusiveness
* Change - calls for media reforms that respond to public interests, promote diversity, and ensure community representation and accountability.

Perhaps many would regard these 'topics to be avoided at the dinner table' (or in polite conversation), the province of passionate fringers: Entertaining, but disturbing, and certainly not profitable in the short term. However, they do present information of possible value to those speculating on media futures.

Which, in a philosophical sense, is everyone. Or, if you heed the twittersphere, seems like almost everyone in a hardcore PR/marketing/hype/blind-leading-the-blind way.


Gans, Joshua. Newspapers in The Voice : Core Economics. The Voice, 13 July 2009.
Put simply, for the vast majority of news, the value comes from being able to talk about and share it ("did you hear about"?) rather than add to your pool of knowledge per se.
Kafka, Peter. What Happens When Your Local Paper Goes Online-Only? It Loses Most of Its Staff. The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, June 24, 2009.
Here’s what the math looks like: I’ve broken up the P&L into three sections, and clicking on each of them will enlarge the image. Or you can view the whole thing as a Google document here.
(1) Try Googling 'newspaper debt load'.

Other searches:
newspaper blog business model
newspaper sample business model

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How to blogathon

This was my first time, and it could have been better with some more preparation.

Here are my take home lessons:

1. Have a pre-existing blog, that you have developed over some time;
2. Let readers know, well in advance, what to expect;
3. Line up content: interviews, guest posts, stuff you've thought about;
4. Help organize the blogathon;
5. Register on the blogathon site, before the cutoff;
6. Set a realistic fundraising goal;
7. Publicize your activities and those of fellow bloggers;
8. Bring something to share;
9. Pre-post some scheduled posts;
10. Plan to get some sleep at some point.

Thank you, donors. Thank you, Rebecca Bollwitt - Miss 604 for a well-organized, welcoming & enjoyable event. I felt well looked after. Isabella Mori for coming early, bringing breakfast & encouragement. Raul Pacheco - hummingbird604 for constant encouragement and good humour throughout the event. Sponsors, WorkSpace for providing a truly excellent venue, Dairy Queen for lunch and treats, Developmental Disabilities Association for dinner, mojaveband for inspirational music.

And to many others: interviewees, topic suggesters, commentors, friendly conversationalists, all those whom I have left out, thank you, too!

Brain scan

My brain:

I wonder how it looks now?

Recipe: favourite alcoholic drink

I like a coffee nudge, or a paralyzer:

Coffee Nudge:
3/4 oz dark creme de cacao
3/4 oz coffee liqueur
1/2 oz brandy
6 - 8 oz hot coffee
1 1/2 oz whipped cream

Combine all with coffee and top with whipped cream.

1 oz Kahlua® coffee liqueur
1/2 oz vodka
1 oz Coca-Cola®

Build ingredients, in order, over ice in a highball glass, and serve.

Scotch on the rocks is good too!

Hard work - no pay?

Social- networking whiz- kid sought to work as intern at Cambodian newspaper


Recorded calls

"Hi, this is Mike. This is important info about your credit card..."

But I don't have a credit card. Click.

And I signed up on the Do Not Call - that was quite a while ago. How long does it take to kick in?

Oh dear me, what's this from the CBC...

Registered with the do-not-call list? Expect more calls, says consumer watchdog

Smart Cat

'Little Man', of 40 East Hastings St.

This cat has big paws.

Sundials in the shade

'Wasted Strengths'

I am enjoying an audiobook based on the Gallup Poll Organization's poll of strengths, Now Discover Your Strengths.

There is a StrengthsFinder Profile, apparently, that lets you figure out how best to apply your strengths, and avoid leaving them in the shade. There is quite a spiel about Warren Buffet and the system of investing in companies whose position he could predict in twenty years. Some areas:

. handling risk
. connecting with people
. making decisions
. deriving satisfaction

The point is that, if one is aware of one's strongest skills one can play to them; this is more important than shoring up weak areas. It is important not to simply take them for granted.

'Carve out a role that draws on these strengths every day.'

I won't have time to listen to & review the whole CD. It was on the bookshelf here, where I will leave it. It has an ISBN no. (or something like that): 0-7435-1814-4.

Eight favourite places to eat in Vancouver

My favourite places to dine in Vancouver (in no particular order:

> at home
> Nat Bailey Stadium
> Seasons Hilltop Bistro
> The Afghan Horseman
> The Stone Grill
> Cloud 9
> Harbour Centre Restaurant
> Chop steak fish house
> Wild Garlic Bistro

Friendster founder's fate

Pioneer ‘burned out’ on social networking

It may be possible to overdose, I will concede that (21 hours into blogathon ;) ).

I wonder if this represents a trend or a deliberate strategy in newspaper stories?

StarPhoenix telling us...?

Some Facebook users uncomfortable with site

Reznor deletes Twitter account

Hmm .. If I quit Twitter AND Facebook, I'd have a lot more time to read the newspaper.

favourite meal

"how to make your favorite meal" (suggested topic)

1. invite some friends
2. lay in supplies
3. clean up, prep
4. put it in the oven
5. set the timer
6. relax & refresh
7. play some music
8. laugh, talk, enjoy
9. be hungry
10. good eating :)

Extra points: on a boat, with a view, after a hard day's work

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tamara's walk

This year, Tamara is giving it another go and dedicating her walk to her friend Shari, who is currently battling breast cancer.

Sixty kilometers. Months of hard training. Fundraising that can feel like a never-ending uphill battle.

I have tried it, twice or more, and failed, but Tamara has succeeded. If anyone can do it, she can. I see her working hard at it every day: Writing letters, thank you notes, those difficult "please donate" emails.

She is committed. She will endure, and will do whatever it takes. If you knew Tamara the way I do, you would share my confidence.

I am very proud to support Tamara in The Weekend to End Breast Cancer.

Web crackdown shutdowns

Web crackdown shuts 2 more sites

I hate the idea, but I've reached the stage of weariness where I can't resist the phrase. Must be that language thing. It sounds like something from a fusion musical.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, all denied. Where will it end? What will be the effects? Increased sense of personal insecurity?

Do the tall trees of the internet nourish some deep mycelium that buds forth mushroom delicacies of thought? Or at that point is it just tasteless conk - and we're better off with a managed internet?

You would tell me, wouldn't you?

Couldn't be better

So far it has been excellent, two days of trepidation notwithstanding.

I have a file drawer full of unsent letters - condemned to rot by the internal censor. So, coming into the blogathon, the prospect of choking had me tied in knots. Also, the whole idea of blogging all day instead of, say, playing tennis, seemed fiendishly unnatural.

I'm glad to say though that, here at hour 16.5, it is starting to look like a high point for the year.

The bloggers (thank you Shane Gibson) are very supportive (not to mention bright and interesting), the food is excellent (thank you sponsors!), I've interviewed some articulate, opinionated folks and had a chance to share things that I feel passionate about. We just enjoyed a lightning storm followed by some of my favourite music, mojaveband, acoustic guitar and vocals. Followed by a skype chat with a friend from Mauritius, who is starting his leisurely Sunday with a nice cup of coffee. The perfect vicarious contrast.

(As for me, I swore off caffeine for the week and am doing alright).

Blogging for the long haul

Title: Blogging for the long haul (guest post by Tris Hussey)

In it for the long haul

You've heard the phrase time and time again. Were in it for the long haul. What does it really mean? What does it mean for something like blogging?

I started blogging in 2004 on a whim. I though, hey this might be fun, all the cool tech folks are getting into it, and I should learn about it to stay ahead of the curve.

So I did.

Before long, like about four months, I was doing it professionally. I was writing three posts a day on three separate blogs. Lots of work. I did it though, and kept up my own blog.

That was then, this is now. Today I try to stick to just one or two blogs. I know my limits. I like having a life. I like having the time to be creative, something I wasn't afforded trying to crank out that much content at once.

I was in it for the long haul.

Lots of people and businesses start out blogging like gang busters. One, two posts a day. Passion, enthusiasm and all those things that work in a new blog. Then the three month wall hits. That's when being it in for the long haul is hard.

The question then becomes, what to do next? Sometimes it's as easy as actually taking a break. Sometimes a rest will give you the energy. Ask some people for guest posts (just like I'm doing here). Maybe just making a schedule to post a few times a week. Write posts ahead of time and save them for later when you're busy.

It's the little things that help you make it through for the long haul.

Humans as Animals 2

Not about anthropomorphism - the idea of humans without technology

Vintage Keegan, throwing a monkey wrench with a topic like this.

After almost 15 hours blogging, humans without technology is starting to sound good.

I haven't decided whether we over or under leverage tech. I'm still on the fence.

I am sure that as we define technology we are defined by it, if not exactly as we are by language, culture, genetics and a myriad forces barely within our ken, if that.

Biologically we are animals, simple as that. Does it make sense in any scientific view to conceive that we are anything else? And yet, to seriously accept it, to make it a precept, would be most unsettling. How would I feel about another who held that view of me, even if they were the most ardent believer in animal rights?

And yet, is it right to make such an arrogant claim about our place in nature? Seems like hubris.


I could not resist snapping this image, reminiscent of a planet viewed from orbit - but with parking space in the background :)

Digital vehicle

‘It’s a social place, not a car’

Can you say 'kuruma banare'?

Seriously, what kind of crash test dummy do you use to test for this kind of design risk?

Elated News, part 2

(continued from Elated News, part 1)

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss points out the contradictions in our industrial age mentality of "work now, retire at sixty-five to enjoy life." It delves into various ways we can set up different income streams, so that we can really enjoy life, and do what we love now.

Tim goes into all kinds of communication strategies and ways to save time, and efficiently promote businesses. It was a revolutionary book when it came out.

It sounds very inspiring. Is that what set you on your path?

Dan: Not entirely -- though it was a component. There were other seminars and books that opened my eyes, but The 4-Hour Work Week was significant, for myself and many other people. I go to various entrepreneurial start-up and marketing groups, and usually just about everyone in the room has read it; it has come up in dozens of conversations.

It is a revolutionary idea. Four hours is so different from our concept of a work week.

I should qualify, as Tim does, that the definition of 'work' in the book is 'doing things you don't like to do, just to make money.' The point is to create your cash flow to minimize such activity. If you run an online vitamin store, for example, automate: Have virtual assistants process your orders, a shipping centre for distribution; that element would be four hours. You then do things like speaking or blogging, that takes up much more time.

So, if you love your job, the book is not encouraging you to stop working but, instead, to find out what you are passionate about. In the meantime, you set up a way to make all the money you need so that you are not stressed out and worried.


Recipe: Kansas City Steak Soup

3 C water, 2-4 T beef bouillon
1/2 C butter, 1/2 C flour
2 small onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 lb canned tomoatoes
1 tsp pepper
1 10oz pkg frozen mixed vegetables
1 lb coarsely ground chuck (or cubed steak), browned and drained.

Put all ingredients in big pot on stove at low for two hours. One hour before serving, mix butter and flour, add and stir until thickened.

Interview: Elated News, part I

Dan Johnston is a writer, speaker & coach dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed with their first business.

Dan, how did you come up with the idea for Elated News?

The concept for the paper is a focus on positive, actionable items -- both editorial and stories. There will be a range from local inspirational stories to editorials on relationships, health, business, and general / personal development related articles.

What kind of niche do you see for this publication?

It works for people who want more from their time. Traditional media often leaves you hanging: There is no action to take, no positive feeling. This is bad, both for the reader and also for the businesses supporting the publication. The last person you want to try to sell to is someone disempowered or deflated.

The concept behind Elated News is that people who feel positive and confident are more likely to spend money and support the people behind the publication.

Did that idea come from looking at what is available in the regular media?

Yes. First I went on a media fast (or media diet), about a year and half ago, after reading The Four Hour Work Week. Traditional media, be it the TV news, or many different feeds (obviously newspaper), while they do inform, often don't give you anything you can act on. And they clutter your mind with things that don't benefit your primary goals or objectives.

If your focus is launching a business, reading about all the different things going on in the economy -- albeit entertaining and good for some cocktail party conversation -- won't empower you: It doesn't help you achieve your goals. That was the theme of The Four Hour Work Week: It challenged readers to take a week off from all media and then evaluate whether they want to go back. I never went back.

The media fast lesson isn't a total blackout, but that there are other ways to find things out (for instance, through conversation or, for a high-end executive, having assistants do some research).

Clearly there is a niche for a publication that offers that empowering information.


Forest biology

Gerrard Olivotto, BA MSc RPF, is a specialist in forest economics and natural resource modelling, owner and operator of Campbell River Forest Research Ltd.

I asked Gerrard if he would expand on some of the themes discussed earlier today with Randy Marchand, that fell within his area of expertise.


Mushrooms come from mycelium, the fibers under the soil that connect to the tree. The mycelium looks after and supports the tree, and the mushroom is the fruit of what happens under the soil between trees and fungus. Fungi collect nutrients (phosphorous, ...) and feed it to the tree; the tree gets sugars from sunshine and gives it back to the fungi.

They are interconnected.

There is a big blossom of mushrooms in the Fall (except morels, which feed off the destruction from forest fires).

Mushroom growth comes in different stages depending on the age of the trees: Boletes (a delicacy, known as 'cep' in France) are found near trees of 30-40 years; chanterelles near 40-60 year old trees, and Matsutake (pine mushrooms) near trees 75-120 years old.

If the trees are older than 120 years, a non-edible fungus ('conk') takes over. You'll see it growing on the sides of the trees.

You can manage a forest and take down trees from 125-140 years old. That way you get really good timber and manage the regrowth underneath.

Deforestation completely wipes out the mushrooms. A mushroom compatible with a 75 year old tree can't live without the tree, although you might find some around the very edge of a clearcut (feeding on the remaining root system) for a few years.

The coolest thing is to get into a forest where selective logging has been done. All the roots become mushroom food.

I have done 25 years of field experiments, and some walk-throughs with major pine mushroom expert Shirley Pietla. The mushrooms break down root systems and feed the younger trees; everything grows very well.

Selective logging can be quite good for the whole system. Voles and mice love the mushrooms. As far as the vegetative system, you need some cover to distribute rain and snow, and to cool things down. Some biologists don't accept these observations, but mushroom production has tripled in areas where selective logging was done.

If you run around in the woods much it [global warming] should be obvious. Moss, the distribution of the canopy, the underground stuff are all affected. Lichens are a sign of dryness and cold (they usually grow on rocks and are very prevalent in the Northwest Territories, where reindeer feed on them).

Can you confirm what is happening in terms of reduction of forestry personnel in B.C.?

Gerrard: Yes, there has been a substantial reduction in forest science workers. The government offers retraining programs. Forestry is really shrinking, partly due to the softwood lumber situation, but the trees keep growing.

There is a huge concentration of just a few companies taking over all the little companies. They become conglomerates and have a 'corporate attitute' to land issues. Also, there is a huge growth of small woodlots getting hold of land and managing it differently.

The next 30-40 years will not be so good for mushrooms; the forests need to grow.

There are 28 or so Community Forest Licenses, for hundreds of hectares, for little towns, indian bands and such.

>> B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

New York Review of Books

The News About the Internet

Michael Massing provides some thoughtful commentary, such as:
The blogosphere, by contrast, has proven especially attractive to those who, despite having specialized knowledge about a subject, have little access to the nation's Op-Ed pages.
Massing notes that blogging, albeit subject to "polemical excesses" among other issues moves us from journalism's traditionally two-sided (at best) framework, to a multi-faceted discussion. At stake is who will dominate such discussions, and why.

This would be a good backgrounder for Media Democracy Day (November 11, 2009).

Team Derricott: Blogging brothers

Blogging brothers look for big break.

Canadian finalists in the 67 Days of Smiles contest put on by the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Another defining moment in the rise of social media.

Bike Commuting Passion

Recently I have volunteered for the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition; if there is one thing that I am passionate about (besides my wonderful wife and son!), it is bicycling.

More specifically, commuting by bicycle. I have never undertaken a long trip or race (except for a triathlon in 1984), but I have 'cycled to work since 1982 and love it! It is better than ever now that showers are available at some worksites, buses are able to carry your bike, and bike lanes have spread through the city.

Working at UBC was excellent. I live at 49th and Fraser, so it was about a 10km ride and took just about as long as the bus trip. So why not enjoy public transit, read a newspaper and relax? Sure, if you can get a seat, if the bus actually stops (on 49th, before Langara, this is definitely not a given), etc. and so on.

By bicycle, I enjoyed a great workout morning and evening, beautiful homes & gardens all the way followed by the pleasant woodsy aroma, sights and sounds of Pacific Spirit Park. This is probably one of the best rides in town.

My current ride is a study in contrasts: The south slope's neighbourhood sprawl, followed by an adrenalin-powered surge over the Knight Street Bridge to Richmond, and past Ikea through a well-groomed semi-industrial area. Plenty of blackberries, free for the picking, along the way (I noticed some ripe ones yesterday).

And of course, there is the fascination of bike maintenance - but that's another post.

Recipe: Macaroni & Cheese

Mac & Cheese
(Much better than the pre-packaged variety)

9 oz macaroni (cooked)
2 C cheese sauce (i.e., white sauce with cayenne pepper & cheese)
1/2 C grated cheddar
1/2 C fresh buttered bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Butter 1-1/2 quart casserole. Put cooked macaroni in dish, pour cheese sauce over and mix with fork. Sprinkle grated cheese over macaroni & bread crumbs over cheese. Bake uncovered until top is golden and sauce is bubbling (approx. 30 min).

Serve with sauted kolbasa :)

Humans as Animals

Humans as animals. (Our true nature). That sort of thing. I'm not talking about anthropomorphism but of the idea of humans without technology.

Question: Is Language Technology?

If words are tools, surely the answer must be yes, in which case 'humans without technology' also lack language. In that case, are they truly human?

Looking at an individual, we might define them as human based on genetics, regardless of ability to speak or understand speech (or sign language). An alinguistic person is human because of their family connection. What about an isolated alinguistic group of people?

What about groups of language using 'animals' - dolphins? Gorillas etc. who have learned sign language? I think most would agree - not human, however deserving of 'rights'.

Thank you Keegan for suggesting this interesting topic :)

Today's news

Try this on for size: Sales tax on bikes returns, fossil fuels exempt

Plenty of unhappy comments today in response to this column about the B.C. Government - via tax harmonization - removing longstanding tax exemptions for, among many other things, bicycles.

BC residents will also pay higher taxes on:

. hard hats, safety boots, smoke detectors and items used in farm production, everything from fence posts to hog pens;
. restaurant meals, knitting yarn, and pollution control products;
. alternative fuel vehicles, jet aircraft, and a range of goods used by the aquaculture industry;
. energy-efficient products and other “green” goods.

Exemptions will be in place for only these items:

. Children’s clothing, car seats, diapers, books, feminine hygiene products, gasoline and diesel fuel.

Great blogging advice

Here is some good stuff for would-be bloggers:

Raul’s Top 5 Tips for Blogging for Small Businesses (Sponsored by Small Business BC)

Who was it that said "writing is re-writing?"

Writing is writing, blog posting is posting. The writing can be done beforehand (and even some rewriting). If I ever do this again I hope I can bear this in mind :)

It is almost time to celebrate the 7/24 mark.

Nearby street scene

Recipe: Lemon Pudding

Lemon Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 cup sweet milk
2 egg yolks
juice & rind of one lemon
2 egg whites

Beat egg whites stiff. Add dry ingredients.
Add egg yolks, milk and lemon.
Bake at 325 F for 25 minutes.

Saturday morning

A photo from this morning's bike trip downtown:


I must include a link to Isabella Mori's guest post.

As a sidebar to the Russian connection, my passion for languages had a similar origin (albeit sans ex-german-soldier teachers). I was very fortunate to study Latin in high school (elementary school would have been even better, especially if Greek had also been part of the curriculum). Typically, it was part of the 'alternative curriculum' and was not even offered in the main high school building - although I didn't mind trekking over to the nearby mini-school.

I am very glad that Isabella emphasizes the usefulness of studying these languages, and the way it can "open up language and make it easy".

After all, human knowledge and culture are almost entirely encoded in language.

The Russian connection

Thanks to Isabella Mori for this suggestion!
This also qualifies as a good childhood memory...

As far as I know (though at some point surely I must) I have no Russian ancestry. However, I was very fortunate, as a child, that my father made up stories for my brother and I (he refused to have a television in the house). In fact, Dad invented a mytho-comedic cycle that began on the Volga river and featured the famous boatmen of that area.

(I am not sure how he came to choose that setting, but I do recall a book of Russian folk tales that I read several times).

In any case, partly as a result, I was always curious about Russia. During the space race, that interest naturally grew. I remember visiting a booth at Expo 86 and purchasing a children's book by Yuri Gagarin.

Many years later, as a UBC employee, I was able to take a first year Russian language course. Since then I continue to take advantage of every opportunity to increase my vocabulary, although it is a slow process!

Recipe: Nanaimo Bars

Time for a change of pace!

Nanaimo Bars

Coconut Base:
1 egg
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups graham wafer crumbs, not crushed too fine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup coconut

1/4 cup butter
3 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

2 tbsp. butter
4 squares unsweetened Baker's chocolate (or semi-sweet)

Coconut Base: Break the egg into a bowl and add butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Set the dish in a pan of boiling water and stir until completely melted and mixed. Then add the graham wafer crumbs, dessicated coconut and chopped walnuts, and stir until completely mixed. Pack into a 6 x 10" glass casserole or a 9" square pan.

Icing: Cream the butter. Then dissolve custard powder in the milk, add it to the creamed butter, and add icing sugar. Stir until all mixed, and spread evenly over the coconut base. Put in fridge (not freezer) 15 minutes.

Topping: Melt the chocolate with the butter, and spread it evenly over the icing. Put it back in the fridge to set, and then cut into squares.

Interviewee #2 (photo)

Downtown Eastside (DES) resident interview

How long have you lived in the neighbourhood?

Well, I first got a hotel room down here in 1991, when the court ordered me to stay away from my wife. However, she found me. That was in the Hazelwood.

It wasn't long before I moved down here as a resident, into the Columbia Hotel, in 1996. I needed an economical place to rent.

And what were you doing then?

Landscaping. I was soon introduced to a quaint local custom of spending all your disposable income on alcohol and going to the food lines for your sustenance. My companions were unsatisfied with this acclimatization and began plying me with rice wine, a toxic brew that destroys the liver through agents other than alcohol. If it weren't for my various superhuman qualities, I would surely be dead.

I remember, one of the guys I knew at the Columbia used to walk up the fire escape to the roof and run around the parapet, with eight stories beneath him and hard concrete below. I see him from time to time on the street, and we always greet each other. He can barely walk now, and he trembles. He is covered with horrible scars.

If it were not for my well developed sense of nausea and vomiting, I would no doubt have suffered the same fate.

Now I have a mental health diagnosis. I resist the pills they tried to give me in the past, so now I take an injection - Resperitol Consta. I looked it up on the internet, and see that it is usually prescribed to schizophrenics, and there is a litany of side effects that are quite alarming, including fatigue - which, like any good hypochondriac, I can easily imagine myself suffering from.

All in all, I can say that I was less a victim of society than its parasite. Please do not crush me, however, for I have made valuable contributions to society in the past and, who knows? If I continue to be supported in my leisure, I may (emphasis) make further contributions.

Mushroom industry 2

(Continued from mushroom industry)

How does deforestation affect the mushrooms?

Randy: The impact of loss of tree cover on mushrooms is not known. Logging companies are saying that they come back, but the evidence is scanty. I have watched patch after patch of mother beds....

Island Lumber has harvested riparian zones, where you could find all that was left of giant fields of Matsutake (pine mushrooms). They harvest right to the river and lake edge. It is heli-logging, but that is what they do.

If you go to Paris, or many other small communities in B.C., the people will quickly tell you that they see many benefits from the mushroom industry. Mushroom pickers eat in their restaurants and stay in their hotels, providing instant economic benefits.

A logging company might spend three billion dollars on a machine and say they have contributed to the economy, but we don't sell those machines in Canada.

Is a low dollar better for the economy? It is for corporations who export our raw resources. But most Canadians, particularly small businesses, import. Small firms, who provide local jobs, are at a disadvantage competing with a large business that imports. For example, one out of sixty containers brought in by Wal-Mart will be inspected, versus every single container brought in by a small local firm. Inspection frequently results in expensive damages, which are not reimbursed.

So, you are saying that the mushroom industry would quickly blossom if regulated?

It would quickly blossom. In Matsutake mushrooms alone, 20 million dollars of product is shipped out of the province annually. That is the picker price; exporters charge at least a hundred times that amount. For every dollar per pound paid to pickers, one to two hundred dollars per pound is the price for the end buyer.

Unfortunately, the definitive information cannot be obtained. The companies involved are not Canadian, and so are exempt from Freedom of Information Laws.

>> Interview with Gerrard Olivotto
>> B.C. Mushrooms - a business perspective

Mushroom industry & BC forestry (interview)

Like many B.C. residents, I had often considered our forest industry, but never realized until today how it interacts with so many related industries. Today I spoke with Randy Marchand (KingMorel) of Enchanted Teak.

Randy is an outdoorsman who has prospected across Canada. He came to BC in 1988 in search of environmentally friendly work. After collecting mushrooms for local buyers, he was hooked, and still has a passionate interest in the subject. You can find several stories about his first hand experiences on his blog.


It is important to promote alternative resources you can get out of forests - mushrooms are totally sustainable, you don't have to kill a tree to take the resources.

However, government refuses to regulate the industry, perhaps because it competes with the logging industry. Those days may soon be coming to an end, though: There is nothing left for them to harvest!

If you fly to Japan, you soon reach a great height, such that you can see much of Vancouver Island and the BC coast from the air. You will be outraged when you see that they have taken everything - there is nothing left! You will be thinking, What have they done?!

Most of the logging companies are not Canadian and do not care what is left here. It will hit BC hard, in both the logging and government sectors. Why let business carry on in this fashion, when it will make you redundant?

For example, professional foresters are mostly data scientists. They work for the government, figuring out sustainability numbers, etc. There used to be eight to ten thousand such positions; now there are hardly any (although union numbers have been kept up artificially by including technicians). Most are unemployed.

(Link to interview with Gerrard Olivotto)



Pablo, Carlito. "Logging companies look to flip forests in B.C." July 24, 2008. Logging companies, Vancouver, B.C.

Blogathon 2009 blogroll

Time to check out some blogathon 2009 participants. Many are here in the room with me, but they are busy typing. In fact, it seems a bit strange to a neophyte. I will say this, they appear to be a very determined, well organized group of professionals.

I'll look online for that blogroll. It looks like Rebecca may have saved me some research ...

OK, I didn't find Rebecca's list yet, but I did find Raul's blog. Raul and I arrived at the same time this morning, and he was kind enough not to complain about being squished into the corner of the elevator by my bicycle.

Dr. Beth Snow is also here in person. She is well ahead of me by virtue of having some rough notes in addition to possible posting titles.

. . .

P.S. I eventually did find an excellent blogathon 2009 listing, courtesy of Shane Gibson: link.

14 blog topic ideas - blogathon 2009

"Thank you!" to everyone who suggested a topic, in case I run out of things to say.

Here is the list so far (more suggestions welcome!):

. Humans as animals. (Our true nature). That sort of thing. I'm not talking about anthropromorphism but of the idea of humans without technology.

. Endurance and it's many forms.

. promoting, enhancing and harvesting wild mushrooms instead of logging..... We would get "our" forests back, make more money from "our" land and help reduce global warming big time...

. Digital Newspapers

. your favorite places to dine in Vancouver

. how to make your favorite meal

. a place you would like to travel to

. good childhood memories

. Gossip

. Favorite alcoholic drink (how to make it)

. Call and interview someone for five minutes and write about that

. Comparison of your thoughts of Vancouvers last mayor and this new mayor

. Cool websites you enjoy

. Different developments in breast cancer

Blogathon 2009: Blogging to raise funds for charity

This is post #1 of 49 (starting late so I'll keep it short).

Through this year's blogathon I am seeking donations for The Vancouver Weekend to End Breast Cancer, specifically my wife Tamara's walk for the weekend: link

I am grateful to Rebecca Bollwit, Miss 604 for organizing this year's blog-a-thon.