Friday, July 28, 2006

The Dalai Lama is now a Canadian Citizen

From the article:
Parliament unanimously adopted a motion on June 22 conferring the honorary status on the Dalai Lama. The honour has been awarded only twice before - to South African leader Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved countless Jews from extermination during the Second World War.

China is not pleased:
China is threatening to use its considerable economic strength to penalize Canada following the Harper government's decision to bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on the Dalai Lama.

The Canadian government only went partway out the limb:

Foreign Affairs says Canada recognizes the Peoples Republic of China as the
legitimate government of China and Tibet.
"Canada does not recognize the Tibet government in exile, but Canada considers the Dalai Lama to be an important and widely supported spiritual leader," said spokeswoman Kim Girtel.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Touring the Wye Marsh

The Wye Marsh is a sort of nature conservatory and open-walled zoo in one. It's an interesting place to visit anytime, although, because my mother volunteers there and I can visit at no charge, I probably visit more than most.

Here I am with KwandongAlex. He is watching the Blandings Turtle or maybe the stuffed beaver while I am recovering from rollerblading to the Marsh.

The turtle has an interesting and sad back-story. I asked the curator about it's asymmetrical shell- it was more like a cresting wave than a smooth semi-circle- and he told me it had started as a pet and suffered from malnutrition. The lack of vitamin D gave it a weak shell that deformed when it was young. It seems comfortable enough now.

These days, the Marsh is known for it's work to re-introduce Trumpeter Swans into the region. Here is one - the white thing behind it is in fact a rock.

On Sunday evening, I joined a guided canoe tour through some of the marsh. Sara (below) and Adrian, the curator, sterned two large canoes and took twelve clients deep into the unknown. If you click on the picture, it will expand. At the top, one-third from the left, is the Martyr's Shrine, approximately where we started. Although it seems like open field, between us and that hill are nothing but cattails and bullrushes.

The Marsh is used for a variety of research purposes and is home to at least a few endangered species. We saw one, the black tern, during our paddle.

The Marsh, as with every other public space, has bureaucratic challenges to overcome. The part of the marsh that most visitors see is a National Wildlife area that the volunteer organization, "Friends of the Wye Marsh" run. The greater marsh is a Provincial Wildlife Area that the organization has stewardship over. The provincially controlled area is more open to the public and hunting and fishing are permitted while the Nationally controlled area is limited access and hunting or fishing are controlled my the Friends of the Wye Marsh. To help support the programs and care of the Marsh, Ducks Unlimited is involved. They or their money has made berms and dams in the marsh to maintain water levels. I suspect that they require hunting be allowed in the PWA to keep the Ducks Unlimited funding.

The canoe trip ran from seven to ten at night. Here we are paddling back to our cars. All right, here I am, the others weren't exactly eager to have their photos pasted on a stranger's blog.

Near the end of the trip, a flock of small birds raced, jinked and zigzagged just overhead. I took this picture hoping that something would be in the field. (click to enlarge). I think all the white specks are insects while on the left, just at the height of the bullrushes, is a nightbird of some sort.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

From the local paper

Clarence was my maternal grandfather. He died when I was young but I think I remember him taking me fishing.

Recently, I learned of a high school acquaintance who won more than $10,000 at a fishing contest. What a difference forty years makes!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Can you see me now?

A few weeks ago, I tried to visit my own site (yeah, yeah, unrestrained vanity and all that) and couldn't. All I got was a blue screen.

Lately, I have had no problems with seeing my blog but the Nomad commented that he could see none of the pictures.

If anyone has time to comment, can you see the pic in this post and also the pics in earlier posts? Thanks for your time.

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

I have just returned from the park and will probably keep this post short. With two friends, I kayaked around Beausoliel Island, the one island of the park open to visitors. Georgian Bay, a part of Lake Huron, has more than 30,000 islands; the park consists of about ten. With so many islands, the waterways sometimes look like rivers as in this photo.Here I am, posing for the camera. Of the three, I had the most experience with sea kayaking and had visited the island a few times previously (six years or more ago). I said I had the most experience, not that I had a lot of experience. We figured the vultures were waiting for us!
One side of the island is sheltered and the water calm. On the open water side, there is more than a hundred kilometres for the waves to build up. These swells wouldn't look out-of-place on the ocean. We reached this point and studied the waves for twenty minutes before deciding to push on. We had all been competitive swimmers and ironically would have felt safer crossing the open water stretch by swimming than by kayaking.
On the little island is Brebeuf lighthouse. Brebeuf was a Jesuit 'black robe' locally famous as part of Ontario's earliest white settlement, St. Marie Among the Hurons.
In a post below (I'll fiddle with the datestamps so it appears under this post) I'll write more.

Monday, July 17, 2006

a night on Beausoleil and more wierd stuff

Now, this bug is wierd. I've never seen antennae shaped liked brooms before. I took the picture of it on our picnic table at Christian Beach on the open water side of Beausoleil. The conditions we were in made it only a passing thought, though.
We had reached Christian Beach after six pm and were pretty tired. We set up tents and soaked in the lake for half an hour. That might have been a mistake...

We got out of the water as the sky filled with clouds and the wind picked up. You may remember that the wind was already strong. I set up the camp stove with two little coolers to block the wind. That wasn't enough. My friends, the Kaiser and Nine-toes, stood to block the wind. Still not enough. Finally, we moved the second picnic table on it's side and that helped.
Below are Nine-toes and the Kaiser trying to enjoy kraft dinner salted with wind-driven beach-grit.

Look again at that sunset!

It was a mighty storm with a lot of wind and lightning but not so much rain. I am really proud of my Eureka tent which didn't even shudder. The Kaiser's tent, similar in shape to mine, also did well. Nine-toes had a big tent with exceptional headroom but it was almost folded over in the wind.

How bad was the storm? Well, I've read that in Korea, the Han flooded even more than previous summers and a Gangwon highway was closed due to a mudslide so perhaps our storm wasn't quite that bad. Still, according to the Toronto Star:

The flash storm late Monday night swept through Greater Toronto and parts of southern Ontario, leaving destruction in its wake. In Callander and Mattawa, the storm was so destructive, the mayors declared states of emergency.
You think camping is a safe activity, but with all these freak storms coming up, you just never know ... ."
Ontario Provincial Police also blamed a tree felled by the storm for the death of Jeff Grey, 26, of Michigan, who had been in a tent in Algonquin Provincial Park, south of Kiosk, Ont.

Two others died in the storm.

On a lighter note, that Nine-toes is probably a better photographer with his own camera. Here is his picture of me with the Kaiser on my camera:

Yeah, my friends have funny names but what can you expect from a guy who goes by 'GeorgianBayBrian'? Nine-toes actually has a full complement of pedal appendages, if you care.

On Tuesday we rounded the northernmost point of the island and returned to sheltered waters. We saw huge carp frolicking (or something) in the shallows many hideously expensive yachts hiding from the previous night's weather.

The island is pretty cool and for those who don't kayak, it is full of hiking trails as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More beef than I'd eaten in all my time in Korea

Yesterday, I had dinner with some old, school friends. They are part of a farm family and when you eat there, expect to be filled. Here are the honkin' huge steak just before they hit the Barbeque. I was even able to get the history of the steak; Bob the cow was a friendly sort who met his end last fall.
Bob, thank you for your sacrifice, you were great!

Here are two of my giant friends. One thing I've had to get used to is not standing out in a crowd. I'm 175cm, which is middling tall in the general population in Korea (around average for the male university students), but possibly on the short side of average in Canada. These guys are both over 180cm and well over 110kg (sadly, I am not that far under 100kg - especially after this meal).

On the table are mashed potatoes, Brussels Sprouts (Those Belgians are lucky they make such great beer and chocolate; inflicting these tiny cabbages on the world needs a lot of forgiving!), bread and cheese sauce..and those giant steak!

I've had kalbi and bulgogi in Korea and in Jan 2005, I had a pretty good, and good-sized, steak, but these monsters...WOW! Once again, this is one of the things I was looking forward to for my trip home. If I bought this meat in Korea, it would likely top 200,000 won. Here, probably twelve dollars.

Another thing you don't see very often in Korea. Note the 'Beware of Dog' sign in the background.

Before I went to Bracebridge, mom and I had dinner on her deck. A beautiful bird visited.
We knew it wasn't local. Eventually, I just reached out, grabbed it and took in to the Humane Society.

Monday, July 10, 2006


I expect in the near future to take my own pictures of these cool fish, but here is what I've found online.
(Photo found at this site).

Briancoad's website describes them almost as a link between fish and amphibians:
The swimbladder has a rich blood supply enabling the
fish to breathe air through a connection to the gut. A school of gars will break the water surface to breathe air at the same time and reduce the chances of attack by predators. Vertebrae are peculiar in having an opisthocoelous shape ...- which is almost unique in fishes and more usually associated with amphibians and reptiles.

The thing that makes them most interesting to me is their habit of sunning themselves in shallow water - really shallow. At a local beach, I chased and almost caught one in less than a foot of water (30cm)- and this was a fish close to a metre in length.

I've been having trouble seeing my own site. The Seoul Hero suggests a bad link or imbed for a photo. If you can read this, please leave a message -ah, before July 12th, let's say. Thanks.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

You poor bastards in Korea

I just finished a great, but very short, canoe ride and rushed to the computer to brag. My mom lives on the west shore of Georgian Bay and normally the wind makes nearly ocean-sized surf here; very unpleasant for canoeing. Today, the wind was mild.

The three of us, Mom, myself and GeorgianBayAlex, tried canoeing but the little guy really didn't like it. This afternoon, while he slept and mom kept an eye on him, I experimented with poling.

I am a fairly skilled canoeist although those skills are currently rusty. I'm pretty comfortable standing in the canoe and when the conditions are right, it's a great way to see further and deeper into the water. Here I am, posing near our beach.

Although I am comfortable standing, I still make mistakes.

After using the canoe, I have to put it away. Note the dent in the bow-seat. I did that years ago but may have deepened it today.

Before actually traveling in the canoe, I used it to remove several hundred kilos of rocks from the beach. Who's the guy, Sisyphus, that has to push a rock uphill forever? Removing the rocks creates the same feeling; there are always more just below the ones you cart away.

Anyway, I loaded the canoe and took it out a little to dump where we won't be walking. I had to shift all the stone to one side of the canoe and was terrified that in trying to tip it, I would just fill it with water and have it sink on an even keel. Then, I would have to lift every fricking stone again to raise the canoe. Luckily, it sank on one side and with massive effort, I was able to tip it enough to recover the canoe.

Then I went swimming to some nearby old dock-cribs. There, I saw some monster-bass (Naa, naa, Nomad!) and a frightened looking crayfish. I shot them with a disposable camera so you may see the photos someday.

Then, I went poling in the canoe. Observing from a five-foot-plus vantage is way better than the seated three foot vantage point. I saw a fox or milk snake. I used to know the difference but now only could confirm on sight that it wasn't a rattler, nor a watersnake. I chased it awhile and shot it with the camera a few times. I crossed the little bay and found several garpike.

I am new to this part of Georgian Bay; I am more familiar with the northern waters. Garpike are new and exotic. They are gold and pike shaped with long mouths. Pretty darn cool to see as they frequently sun themselves in shallow water and take off like torpedoes when approached.

On returning home, a mink ran across mom's beach. We later saw it eat a crayfish.

Although I haven't seen any really big mammals like bear or moose, today is what being in Canada is all about for me. It's already been a great trip.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

North Korea launches a missile

You can see how upset GeorgianbayAlex is about the launch. He might be worried about his mommy as she is likely in for a long day at the Coast Guard office.

We were watching CNN when we heard the news. I learned of an even greater crisis...

Call VANK: repeatedly, CNN described the missile as falling the Sea of Japan!

Oh, as a side note: I am satisfied with this post but expect others -including the one below discussing a ride-along with the OPP, to be more than usually cryptic, with some, possibly vital, information missing. Being a single parent is tough: I have had to stop writing mid-post and run off a few times to care for the little guy.
I told a friend earlier today that I have a blog and even over the phone I could hear his eyes roll. Most blogs are poorly edited, with little use of the spell-check provided and with key info missing. My blog, never considered to be the literary standard, is joining the great unwashed while I vacation.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A ride-along with an OPP boat patrol

Below is a not-completely-linear account of a ride-along my wife and I did with an Ontario Provincial Police boat patrol. You may recall that my wife is a member of the Korean Coast Guard or Maritime Police so we felt it would be interesting to see what and how things are done here. My father was an OPP officer so we have a few contacts and before we arrived, mom had arranged for us to do a ride-along.

Below is an excerpt from what I emailed my wife about our experiences. She wanted me to write an account to compare with hers. Eventually, something may be posted in the Korean Coast Guard monthly newsletter.

We signed a waiver agreeing not to sue if things went bad but there was no confidentiality request or anything. Still, one of the officers is a friend and general blogging ettiquette is to be cautious with names so I removed them and made some other slight changes... Nothing underhanded occurred but you will not see the boat-owners of the boats that were inspected, for example.
I also added a bit about locks as I think there are none in Korea (until Seoul Mayor and presidential candidate Lee Myoung-bak has his way and makes a rediculous canal connecting the Han and Nakdong).

We started at Couchiching Narrows, a narrow point between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, at 12 noon. We crossed Couchiching and entered the Severn waterway and travelled about two kilometres to Lock 42. Further information can be found here:

On the way to the Severn waterway, we stopped one boat. At the lock, Constable Dave handed out T-shirts to a boatload of children wearing their lifejackets. On the waterway we crossed under a very low (nine feet or just under 3metres) railway bridge.

Returning to Lake Couchiching, we stopped four boats for equipment inspections. The first held a family and was well-prepared for water travel. The second held a group of university students and they were missing batteries for their flashlight. The police were concerned they might have damaged the student's boat as it was mishandled approaching the police boat and caught under some metal part of the police boat stern (it may have a nautical name and I am a fairly nautical guy, but I don't know it- the student's boat was NOT under the police boat- naturally).

The third boat was also well prepared but the officers had expected to find problems as it was a pontoon boat or "party barge"- the sort of boat where alcohol is often found.
The fourth boat attracted their attention as it had a kid up front without a lifejacket. Upon inspection is was found to be missing several items. The fines would have totalled over three hundred dollars but the man was very cooperative so they reduced the fine to one hundred and twenty-five. He passed the all-important "attitude test".

The officers told us they had "zero tolerance for lifejacket and alcohol violations" but minor problems in other areas might get merely a warning.

Yesterday was a sad day for members of the Kwandong family. My wife and her second cousin (the girl on the right, below) went home to Korea, while the little guy and I will remain in paradise for most of July.