October 27, 2019

Grizzly Bears

 This fall we took an excellent outing from Campbell River with our friends at Discovery Marine Safaris with the intent of seeing some grizzly bears. Given that grizzly bears are not found on Vancouver Island, this may sound counter-intuitive. However, Campbell River is only a few hours by boat from Bute Inlet, home of the Homalco people, who run excellent land-based bear tours. Small buses move groups of people between several viewing spots and towers in the area, offering safety from/for wildlife and a number of chances to see animals.
There was a pink salmon run in progress during our visit, so there were a goodly number of bears working the Orford River in anticipation of their coming winter hibernation. While there have been some scares in the news about emaciated bears in nearby Knight Inlet, the seven or so individuals that we saw all appeared to be healthy and decently fat. While people are undeniably having an impact on salmon stocks, the pinks were in good numbers and I am confident the bears will find their share.
 Evidence of this hypothesis was shown by this sleeping bear who was relaxing in what our guide rightfully called a "salmon-coma." It was perhaps 25 feet away from our stop but frustratingly concealed by some tall plants. However, once he had fully evaluated its state of lethargy, our guide offered Kathryn the chance to climb up on a fallen log nearby to get a handful of less obstructed photos for us and some other people on the tour. Although it briefly woke to survey this change in its surroundings, the bear was nonplussed and quickly went back to sleep.
The whole experience was exceptional but not cheap, so while we certainly plan to return to the Bears of Bute again in the future, its a trip that we'll have to ration out and savor every few years.

September 15, 2019


This week, after months of preparation and years of study, I completed the Common Final Exam (CFE) for my accounting designation, and I certainly wasn't a notice leading up to this point. In 4 years at BCIT I wrote close to 100 exams in 48 different courses, and 4 of the 6 prior CPA modules also pretty grueling finals.

However, the CFE is designed to be particularly nightmarish. Three days, 14 hours, 5 cases, zero time to stop and think or make mistakes, and that's just if things are running smoothly.
I debated taking a picture of the convention center exam room but decided against it given how strict they are about everything and how boring a photo it would be. Fortunately, Hieronymus Bosch did a pretty good job of catching the details. You can see the candidates being funneled in the lower right corner, before being charged one more time at admissions and eventually prostrated in preparation to write.

Of course I'm kidding, in actual fact the CPA is much stricter regarding items permitted on the premises than a lazy pack of demons, and were much more thorough in searching for prohibited items like mechanical pencils and scarves.
Day 1 and 3 went reasonably smoothly, all things considered, but Day 2 was an absolute disaster.

Somehow, despite having literally years to prepare for this day, the computer servers were completely unable to log-in everyone, so most of Western Canada started hours later. We had a 3 hour delay, and before you think that doesn't sound bad, just know that most of us had 2-6 hours of sleep the night before and were therefore caffeine and sugar crashing from exhaustion just as we were supposed to start a 5 hour test. The case itself was enormous and pretty miserable on top of that. People writing in Edmonton were apparently there for 12 hours...
When I started this whole journey, my friends used to joke about the diploma being the Fellowship of the Ring, with a bunch of friends starting out on a journey together and things going generally alright. By the Two Towers, everyone is fractured and chasing after different objectives, just like part-time night school. Finally, by Return of the King, its down to a few people, well beyond exhaustion, trudging through a fiery hellscape. I was incredibly glad to have my friend Julia with me through the whole thing. We wrote mock exams together, grumbled nearly every week for two years, and both made it through. I forget which of us is Sam or Frodo in the picture above.

Now I just get to kick back until December when the marks are released...

March 18, 2019

Farewell to Kodiak

We were devastated to have to say goodbye to Kodiak. After struggling with an enlarged heart, kidney disease, a pancreatic condition, liver complications, and old age he finally succumbed to a thrown clot which paralyzed his back legs, leaving him unable to walk.

His quality of life has always been of our paramount concern and his regular vet tech only had to listen to his heart for a few beats to tell that he was nearly burned out. He spent his final day in our arms before going to the vet in the sunshine and without complaint. A noble gentleman to the end, he didn't yowl or fuss and seemed to agree that he'd gone as far as he could with us.
Kodiak (like most cats) collected aliases even more prolifically than medical ailments and has also been known to answer to: The Big Black Browl, Mister Cat, Gatamus Maximus, Yowlio, Kodiak T Cat Esquire, Shimanie Shongo the Bongamus Cat, Little Villain, Sweetheart, the Ambassador, Gigantor, Kitty, Hufty Chufty, Browltiger, Softie Soft Cat, Little Man, and many others. He was known as both Root Beer and Darwin at his adoption centre.
 We first adopted him on November 25, 2007 because he melted in Kathryn's arms when she picked him up and because I didn't mention he had bitten me a few minutes earlier for touching his feet. That gave us 4,132 days with him or 11.3 years. He's only been gone a few hours and we'd both do anything for just a little more time with him or to take back any number of afternoons in the past where we were too busy with things that no longer seem to matter in comparison.
We want to thank the kind and dedicated staff at the West End Veterinary Clinic for their years of compassion and for helping us grieve while giving him the grace and dignity he required until his final seconds. Especially Leni for being his favourite and Dr. Helene Childs for exemplary care.

If you also knew and loved him, please consider a donation to Katie's Place Animal Shelter or just take a few moments to reflect on your time with him. If you have a pet yourself, hold it extra close for us and be sure to treasure every moment you have.

March 2, 2019

Water Taxi from Cabo to Land's End

 Cabo San Lucas has a very pleasant touristy marina full of little boats that want to take you out and show you the sights. You can't walk more than 15 feet without someone offering to get you signed up for whale watching, deep sea fishing, or a local cruise. We opted to travel out with this gentleman for a bti of local sight-seeing.
 For about $10 USD per person they take you on a pleasant cruise through the bustling marina, past the local rock formations of Land's End, and out to Lover's Beach (more on them coming up) You can then specify how long you want to explore the area and they'll come back for you at roughly that time.
 An added bonus to this excursion is that most of the boats have a little glass-bottom panel in them and the fish around the reefs of Land's End are are striking as the water is crystal clear. This gives you a great look at some local wildlife feeding on algae and whatnot on the bottom of the boat. I was pleased to get a better look at fish while diving, but for people without that opportunity this is a pretty fantastic option.

February 23, 2019

Vancouver Snowpocalypse

 After months of (presumably) insufferable smugness about our gentle winter, Vancouver got a dumping of snow recently which closed schools and threw our whole transit system into disorder. While some of this can legitimately be explained by icy hills being more treacherous than the prairies, part of the problem is undoubtedly that Vancouverites are simply unprepared for such weather since it only happens in small bursts every year or two. I certainly don't own as rugged a winter jacket as I did in Winnipeg and feel the chill all the more as a result.

That said, anyone saying that its a wet cold and therefore in any way comparable to Portage and Main at -54 is just flat out lying. On a related note, you can currently buy avocado toast and lattes with shotgun shells or slaves as valid Vancouver currencies.
 Hopefully this picture will tug some heartstrings in Ottawa and get our city the disaster relief it so direly requires. These daffodils have only been up since mid-January and without immediate efforts they may not have a chance to make it until actual spring sets in by early March.
 Once the worst of the storm had passed, the snow left behind was IDEAL for making snowmen and had the perfect consistency for snowballs. English Bay was littered with figures like this one, many of which utilize bits of fallen palm leaves into fun hairdos and hats.

February 16, 2019

Kitty Cat Bath Time

 Kodiak has been getting pretty old of late and we decided that he was both having trouble fully washing himself and getting a bit whiffy in the process, so it was time to experiment with bath time. We had never tried such a thing with him before and we're sure exactly how much blood we'd lose in a fur-throwing frenzy in the process. Much to our surprise, he has mellowed in his dotage and, except for a few kicks here and there going into the sink, was VERY good about the whole thing.
 Look at that little face! He sat patiently while we washed and shampooed his back and barely caused a fuss at all.
 It is pretty cold in our place in the darkness of the Canadian winter, so we made sure to swaddle him in a few towels to keep him warm and help dry out. Once the towels were too damp we replaced them with an electric blanket just to keep him from catching a chill. Don't think we'll make this a routine event, but it was undeniably a success.

February 9, 2019

Scuba Encounters

I had 3 dives in Mexico during our visit and had several unique and exciting animal encounters to share. The first dive at Land's End was also my first dive since 2011 but any apprehension I might have had quickly evaporated when my guide Julio dug around in the sand and produced tiny sea urchins which puffer fish would swim up and take right from your fingertips. They were very gentle but certainly had tough little teeth in there for crushing and grinding up urchin shells and spines.
It can be pretty difficult to give wildlife the space it deserves while also getting a decent photograph, but I decided to err on the side of caution with this moray eel and accept that my wide-angle lens would have to be pretty generously cropped for any photo to share. Still, this was my first wild eel and I was very excited to see one.
When we did a dive at the La Paz sea lion colony this one individual was very intrigued by bubbles and rings that our guide was blowing while lying almost on the bottom and came down to investigate and be patted. At this exact moment, Kathryn was actually snorkeling in a different spot and spent 20 minutes cuddling a juvenile sea lion, but unfortunately we only had the one underwater camera so that moment can't be shared with the rest of you :(