Friday, August 29, 2003

Day Off

All of this fire talk is exhausting. We actually had a fantastic day today -- had breakfast at the Bohemian, read many books with Ivy at the downtown library, hit the water park for an hour, napped, and then swam at Gyro beach in the afternoon. A mellow, happy day off, with three more days of weekend to go.

I'm starting to let myself look forward to my Manitoba trip in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping to be able to go for a ride with Milt, even though it's a fast trip. Thinking about it made me pull out this shot of me trying way too hard last year on his track.

Parents Return Home

My parents returned home this afternoon. The house was in perfect condition, not even smelling much smokier than the air outside. I guess the power stayed on right through, because everything in the fridge was still ok. We met Mom at the beach in the afternoon for a swim and then drove up for was a bit of a shocker to see the devastation around their place. We had seen some photos of the burned-out homes, and knew that all the houses behind them had burned, but to see it in person is entirely different and scary. I took some pictures and I'll post them here soon, but I don't expect them to convey the eerie reality.

The most bizarre part of wandering around their place was seeing how close they came to losing it. They have empty lots on both sides of their house -- the one to the east with trees burned entirely, and many of those trees are within 10 feet of the house. The black soot just ends on all sides of their lot. All three yards that border the back of their property are destroyed, leaving big chunks of charcoal, mangled screen and ash lying around. A pile of grass clippings burned right beside their back wall, and the eaves have blackened wood sitting in them. A miracle that it didn't burn with the rest of them.

Seeing the wreckage of the burned-out houses up close was not pleasant. A young couple was optimistically discussing clean-up strategies and rebuilding plans while picking through the rubble and commenting on the beauty of the sunset. A statue still stands on their upper fireplace, suspended 15 feet above the ground by their chimney, which is the only thing left intact. A family of quails pecked at the charred slope beside them and the woman laughed, wondering aloud what they were finding to eat.

Tonight we looked at some of the more recent photos. Our beloved Crawford Trails aren't looking too good...but they look great compared to the worst sections of Crawford Estates.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


I just had lunch with my mom, and she's getting frustrated. Two main areas sustained the most damage from the fire: Crawford Estates and the Upper Mission neighbourhoods near Okaview. Castanet is reporting that residents are already going home to Crawford today, but people in the Upper Mission haven't even been allowed to see their properties yet. In today's official news conference, there was almost no mention of the Upper Mission. Meanwhile, the media was poking around their neighbourhood two days ago, and last night we saw that power was already restored. I guess they've finally announced that there will be a bus tour for people who lost houses, but what about the people who just want to confirm that their house is standing? Everyone is strung so tight right now.

Ice Cream at Gyro Beach

I think most people in Kelowna just want to feel normal again. This is usually a mellow time of year when the tourists have mostly gone home, the weather is calm and warm, and people just soak in the last weeks of summer. Not this year. The wind came up again last night from the west-northwest, blowing the smoke mostly away from town and clearing the air. We watched the smoke reflecting the sunset, which mostly seemed to be pouring out of Bellevue Canyon, scorching the upper slopes of our favourite mountain biking area. The Myra Canyon trestles will definitely be in imminent danger if the wind keeps howling.

We picked up ice cream and sat around at Gyro beach as if everything was ok...felt bizarre. Gorgeous warm evening, with the ash-blackened waves lapping the sand. The south slopes looked relatively normal as the sun set over the lake, and the streetlights were on in my parents' damaged neighbourhood. But after the sun went down, the ridge above Crawford took on that Mount Doom look again, with glowing orange smoke and occasional flames.


Yesterday I posted a photo of a burned house behind my parents' place, and I got an e-mail from Martha in Ontario confirming the location. That row of destroyed houses on Okaview tended to be a bit older than the newer subdivisions surrounding them, which means that many have a longer history and more memories attached to them. So sad. On Saturday, they posted thermal overlay map that shows the heat around my parents house...amazing that it didn't burn.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Media Rant

I guess they've let the media folk into my parents' neighbourhood now. They're hyperparanoid about letting residents in to see their stuff, but apparently anyone with a press pass can go poke around the wreckage with no problem. Which would be fine if they actually got some decent footage and showed it right away -- how hard would it be to start at the bottom of Viewcrest Road, drive slowly up with the camera rolling, then across Okaview and up Lark? It would take three minutes to give everyone the information they want. Instead we get a pathetic trickle of photos with no context (what addresses? how about a wider shot of the entire street?), and residents are forced to peer through telescopes and binoculars from the other side of the freakin' lake to find out the status of their houses! I think this chimney might be all that's left of the house directly behind my parents' place. It could be their roof below and to the right.

There has been an obvious old-school/digital split in the media coverage of this fire. Castanet has been great for updates on the fire itself, evacuation info and photos submitted by readers -- it's become the public clearinghouse, clearly illustrating the power of the web to let people help each other with information. On Saturday, my parents and others were entirely dependant on a couple of the photos they posted like this one from Friday night to help them figure out the risk of losing their home. Then last night, on CBC's National news, they showed crystal-clear video footage of the same scene from Friday...which means someone was willfully withholding those images for at least three days. But why? It's maddening to know that the information exists, but the media/authorities are intentially not showing it. Trying to "protect" people from the reality?

The limitation of the online stuff is that they lack video or interviews for the more personal, experiential stuff. That's where TV should be picking up that slack, and the CBC National coverage last night was decent for the human-interest angle -- the feature was much better than most of the stuff we've seen locally. CHBC did manage to sneak someone into Crawford Estates on Saturday afternoon to show the devastation, but meanwhile, they've been doing these "official" media tours of damaged areas for days, and the footage has been mostly ambiguous. Quickly panning past burned-out homes with no reference to their location, lingering shots of bits of standing brick and charred stuff with no's no wonder people are sneaking behind the barricades to go find out for themselves. At least they might be able to protect their stuff -- I hope there's a special place in hell for people who would steal from evacuated houses.

Some of the frustration must be due to changing expectations of news coverage and information dissemination. In an age where it seems that you can get almost any information about anything immediately online, and reporters actually join soldiers on the front lines of war, we expect to see and know exactly what is happening in a crisis like this fire. And we expect it NOW, not three days later.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Panorama Shot of the Kelowna Fire on Saturday

Russ took a bunch of photos from Dilworth Mountain on Saturday, then stitched them together into one wide panorama shot, showing everything from Black Mountain (above our place) on the left, all the way around to where the fire started at the far end of the park on the far right (where you can see the lake). So this was the morning after Friday's devastation, and gives a sense of the scope of the fire...although all you could see during the day was the line of smoke. Mom and Dad's house would be roughly where the limp Canadian flag is pointing, closer to the right side of the photo. Since Saturday, the fire hasn't moved much further to the east (left in the photo), but it's still raging.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Official Good News

Mom and Dad found out officially today that their house survived the fire. Authorities finally released maps showing the damaged lots in each neighbourhood (in brown). I marked my parents' place in red on the map of their neighbourhood:

The fire was moving from the bottom left to the top right, and you can see that nearly the entire row behind their place got wiped out. They have empty lots on both sides of their house, which we thought might be a liability (dry grass and trees)...but there seems to be no real pattern or logic to the destruction. As sad as it is that people lost their homes, it's amazing that so many homes were saved -- you can see how densely populated this area is. The Crawford Estates subdivision further east on the slope took the other major damage.

This thermal map shows how the fire progressed over the last few days. Terrifying progress on Thursday and Friday. None of the ex-Rosenort people in the neighbourhood (Jim and Elmer Eidse, my folks, Norm Thiessen) lost their homes, which is just amazing.

Late Night

Angelo and Esther arrived tonight, and I still had some homework to do, so I put in a late one tonight. My group is working on finishing up a project this weekend, and the fire has been a constant distraction. I wasn't really pulling my load in the final stages.

There's been really crummy coverage of yesterday's fire damage. Our local TV station managed to get a camera into one of the areas and they actually showed footage of smoking holes that used to be houses. All people want to know is whether their houses burned or not, but the media has been blatantly withholding information. They won't let people in to see for themselves, but the people who have photos and footage aren't showing what's going on. So frustrating. The fire is still raging, but the whole thing seemed less dramatic after yesterday's brutality. And then in the afternoon, another fire started on the other side of the lake, increasing our sense that the entire city is under siege...sounds like they got that one nearly put out already.

Saturday, August 23, 2003


Mom and Dad just got back from Westbank. They could see their house through the binoculars, still standing, even though the houses behind them and to the east of them were gone. It's still smoking and windy, so they're not in the clear yet...but this is the best news we've had in a week.

The House

My hands are shaky as I try to type this. We still don't know if Mom and Dad's house is ok, but it wasn't looking particularly promising at 8:00pm last night when this photo was taken. Their place is circled in yellow...their neighbour's house is a fireball, and their backyard has flames licking it from the back.

The lake is at the bottom of the photo, and the grey wasteland above the house is Kettle Valley...although it looks like there might be some houses still standing back there.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Fire Update

The wind was blowing pretty hard tonight, forcing flames west and north into the city. It cleared the smoke away enough for us to get a good view of the fire, even from our bedroom window. We were looking south toward the Crawford slopes, and we could see a massive ridge of flame moving east across it. It also looked like there was significant fire closer and more to the west, just out of view, but glowing red off the pillar of smoke

Supposedly 30,000 residents have been evacuated already. The evacuation line is about 10 blocks from us now, at the end of our street where it meets Mission Creek...and the wind is still howling. We've also just witnessed a huge lightning storm, which is bound to cause more problems. A few drops of rain, and suddenly we couldn't see the flames anymore, which probably means there's more smoke between us and the fire now -- a momentary tease, to let us think that it might be raining over there.

We've been mostly wondering if Mom and Dad's house has survived. We've heard conflicting reports, but it's not looking good. The firefighters pulled out of the neighbourhood by about supper time, which is certainly not positive. One woman called in to a radio station reporting that she was sitting in a boat on the lake watching her house on Okaview (the street behind my parents' place) burn, along with at least 50 other houses on fire around it. The captain of the Kelowna Fire Department acknowledged tonight that "homes have been lost between Kettle Valley and Lakeshore Road", which pretty much describes their location exactly.

Mom and Dad did manage to get pretty close to their neighbourhood tonight, cruising around on their motorcycle and getting a good view of the slope from the lakeshore near Sarson's beach. That must be about three kilometers away, and what they saw then (earlier tonight) gave them some hope. There were definitely things burning, but it wasn't an all-consuming inferno. Dad figured they still had 50-50 odds of finding it intact tomorrow. Our neighbour Lori Eidse and her sister Becky (old Manitoba friends) knocked on our door earlier, and said that their uncle Jim was still at his house just down the hill from my folks' place, and the flames weren't down there yet. Their folks live right around there too, so that gave them some hope, but they had also been a bit freaked by the Okaview woman's report.

The fire chief was talking about some pretty scary shit at the news conference tonight: "In his words the fire is a war zone, a firestorm category six. Firefighters are battling walls of flame 400 feet high. With wind gusts of 60 to 70 km per hour pushing the fire at 100 metres per minute tonight, Captain Moody feels fortunate no lives were lost. In two instances firefighters were trapped with flames all around and through the efforts of their colleagues battled their way out." We saw some footage of armed forces crews silhouetted against a wall of flame, supposedly around Lakeshore Road somewhere.

Very Bad to Much Worse

Greg sent me an e-mail asking what we were seeing today in Kelowna...and the answer is the same as yesterday: mostly just thick smoke...which is also what we're breathing. Still lots of incredible photos on Castanet, which has been our main source of news about the fire. So sad that houses burned on Rimrock, where my folks used to live.

The loss of the park, the Crawford trail system and the trestles will be really hard to take for this mountain biker -- I think it will start to sink in later, and then I'll grieve. It sounds silly, perhaps, but those places have played a large role in my sense of self, place and value. I guess it's still possible that the Myra Canyon KVR trestles won't get torched-- the trestles are irreplaceable -- but the possibility of the fire not going through there is looking pretty slim. I wonder if our perfect little swimming hole in KLO creek will be destroyed? Gallagher's Canyon? It sounds like firefighters are abandoning Bertram Creek Park, the special spot where Tannis and I got married. I have way too many favourite places in the swath of that fire -- places that have defined my last seven years here-- and it's really pissing me off.

Well, since I started this post, it appears to be going from very bad to much worse:
"Structure fire in Belcarra in the Chute Lake area. 3:53 pm. Fire has breached the Cedar Creek fire hall on Lakeshore. Fire has breached Chute Lake Road. Reports of structures in the Lakeshore Road area catching fire. Winds estimated at 60 to 70 km/h."
That's all around my folks' place, and with winds like that...shit. You know things have gone sour when the damn fire hall is on fire. It's starting to sound like hell has descended on the Upper Mission.


My parents and thousands of their neighbours were evacuated from their houses last night. I think everyone was watching the footage on TV...we were still glued to it at midnight, even though they were showing the same footage over and over. After dark sometime they starting showing footage of serious flames right behind Belcarra Estates, which is the upper edge of my parents' neighbourhood, bordering the Kettle Valley development. I guess that means that one of my favourite riding areas is toast, but it sounds like the houses are ok so far.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003


So I finally got our scanner working (after much frustration, cursing Windows XP, and then simply unplugging everything and plugging it back in), which means I can plaster this place with photos. I added a new one of Tannis, looking gorgeous and quite pregnant. I should have had my camera along last night to capture the Mount Doom images above St. Hubertus Winery, but Castanet has thousands of photos of the fire already...and what we saw looked exactly like this, because we were sitting right beside that sign.

In lighter news, we got Ivy a little playhouse and planted it on our deck:

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Kelowna Fire

CBC finally noticed that there's a massive fire burning on the edge of Kelowna. Local coverage has been really spotty, which seems bizarre considering that there's a huge ridge of flame visible from most areas of the city. Castanet's servers crashed yesterday, so they switched to a text-only version of their page that's updated pretty regularly...and they finally posted a map of the extent of the fire. Yesterday it still seemed far away from Mom and Dad's but it's been steadily moving closer to town, and their neighbourhood went on evacuation alert this evening, so we picked up some of our keepsakes and brought them home just in case.

It was surreal riding up to Mom's after work. It was a gorgeous August day, sunny and mellow, and I was pedalling along the Greenway, happy to be finished another day at the office. But between the upper branches of the cottonwoods, I could see a dark cloud hanging over the southern horizon, towering thousands of feet into the sky. I felt almost schizophrenic, enjoying my quiet ride to the Mission as the flames inched closer. Yesterday, it looked like the fire was mostly contained miles west of Mom's, but today as I rode up the last hill, I could see flames and smoke on the ridge behind their place.

The surreal feeling continued as we had our barbecue with water bombers flying over the house continuously, ferrying their insignificant loads from the lake to the edge of the fire. It seemed utterly futile -- they looked like fleas against the backdrop of smoke, and the little bit of misty water they dropped seemed to evaporate before it could do any good. On the way home, we sat above Pebbles beach, just down the hill from Viewcrest, and watched the flames dancing on the ridge, looking like lava ready to pour into the city. Strangely compelling, quite beautiful and somewhat terrifying.

The Weakerthans

Greg reminded me this morning that I haven't been paying attention to the Weakerthans for a while. I saw them live at the Laurel with Cassandra a couple of years ago with a hundred or so skateboarder kids, and they were fantastic. I guess they've since been signed by a bigger label -- their Epitaph site contains a great video and an excellent new mp3 called Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call. And then I remembered that other cool Winnipeg band -- Nathan -- the creators of one of the best unknown pop songs of all time: Australia.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Sad, Smokey Day

Okanagan Mountain Park (map here) is on fire. Just three weeks ago, Angelo and I were flying through Wildhorse Canyon on our bikes, blown away by the beauty of the massive rock walls and varied ecosystems. And this weekend, the whole area got reduced to smoking ruins. We saw the fire on Saturday, after a dusty bike ride in Crawford, and my heart just sank. Mom and Dad's place is on the same slope of the mountain, but it's probably 15 miles away...there are some houses pretty close to the edge of the park. It sounds like they're close to getting it under control, but the thick blanket of smoke over the city would indicate otherwise.

I guess some people had an amazing view of the fire from across the lake last night. I remember when this article came out a couple of years ago, warning about the potential for this kind of fire. At the time, I took the cynical view that the logging company was just trying to get in there to harvest some wilderness wood...

Hippie Nation

Canada: Hippie Nation? I love Naomi Klein's earnest sense of irony, especially when she turns her literary gaze on her homeland. In this article, she shows that Canada's apparent lean to the left (pot laws, non-participation in Iraq, gay marriage) -- which may be perceived as an attempt to distance ourselves from U.S. policies -- actually disguises increasing dependance on our southern neighbours. A damning indictment of Chretien's so-called legacy.

I found this article through Caterina's excellent site. She's a writer/designer in Vancouver with a new media resume to die for...and lots of compelling ideas. She's associated with an online community called The Game Neverending -- it's entirely web-based, and seems more interesting and legitimate (whatever that means) than the Sims or There. Reading about connected, dynamic people like this tends to make me feel somewhat inadequate and overly settled in an interior backwater, but they also have the potential to get me thinking about interesting possibilities.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Pumpkin Soup

Ivy's current reading list includes an excellent picture book called Pumpkin Soup. You can't really tell from the cover, but the illustrations in this book are truly wonderful. Several reminded me of Renaissance paintings like one of my favourites by Jan Van Eyck, and there's even a scary one reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. The story has wonderful rhythm, too...good enough to make me seek out the author's personal site. There's even a tasty-sounding recipe for pumpkin soup at the back -- so much to love about the book.

Power Outage

Power disaster hits North America
There's something fascinating about the scope of a news article that includes a line like: "Industry, government and transportation have ground to a complete halt."

Wednesday, August 13, 2003


The other day I was ranting about how great is. I should have attached the disclaimer that they're pretty fascist about their advertising, and it's incredibly annoying...but I guess they have to find some way to pay the bills. Anyway, as promised, I saved two of the playlists that I've cobbled together from the site and uploaded them here. They'll give you a sense of my personal soundtrack at work. You'll probably need Winamp and a fast connection to get the benefit of listening to these, but if you've got those, just click an icon to load the playlist. The first one is rock, mostly pop-punk, emo and anything that has loud guitars...think Sum 41 and Linkin park, but with lesser-known bands as well:

The second one is more mellow, including some unknown pop and a couple of songs from Dispatch, which Peter Temes passed along on a tip from his daughter. Some really good stuff:


French Friends

I think this is a first -- at least two people linked to my instructional design and technology blog in French. I used Babelfish to translate them, and they seemed to like what they found of them even saying that he was going to add my newsfeed to check it regularly. I probably doubled my audience!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Christmas in August

Greg and Sophie left this morning after a long weekend visiting us here in Kelowna. They stayed in Mom's wonderful suite and enjoyed the view. We had an excellent adventure near Gallagher's Canyon, finding a perfect little swimming hole in the creek with a waterfall. If only our dumb scanner was working, I'd post a picture or two. Greg and I went for a short ride, and they did the Myra Canyon trestles. We had a great supper at our favourite little Mexican place, Hector's Casa, and spent lots of time drinking beer and sitting around discussing the stuff of life. Last night's finale ended up going late into the night, with much Rainforest Amber Ale consumed by about 1:30am. Also finished my last bottle of Granville Island Christmas Ale, a spicy, strong beer that made Greg wish the party had ended earlier.

Saturday, August 09, 2003


Tannis is in Vancouver for an international adoptions conference. She called tonight and said she was having an excellent time -- her first three days "alone" since Ivy was born! Ivy and I have been having a blast: sleepover at Grandma's, beach, Kettle Valley playgrounds, Mission Creek Park hike, Animaniacs on the tube. I almost felt human today after a week of brutality working on my 28-page final paper for my dumb course.

Two new pictures of Ivy from the last month or so:

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Guy Turned a Mail Truck into a Rolling Camera

I've gotta think that anyone who has even the slightest interest in photography would find this article amusing. This guy in Virginia bought an old mail truck on eBay, picked up some lenses from a submarine periscope, and turned the truck into a giant box camera that creates negatives eight feet wide. Why is this idea so compelling?

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


Treble Charger truly rocks. One of the few CDs I've actually gone into a store to buy, and I've never been sorry. And they're actually coming to Kelowna, but it's one of those Molson dealies where you have to win tickets to attend, which always seems like kind of a rip-off. I'm still holding out hope that Vicki will swoop to my rescue with some secret tickets, but you don't want to have to count on these nefarious connections.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Procrastination Master

Since I've been working on a brutal 25-page report this week for school, I've been getting all sorts of other things fixing the navigation problems with this site. Small stuff, but I never bothered to do it properly the first time. The archives didn't let you return to the main page, it was confusing to go to the headspaceJ home page and I was calling the pages different things everywhere. It's better'll have to trust me on this one.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Photos on Blogger

Ok, I feel like a total moron. I got it into my head at some point that you couldn't post graphics using the free version of Blogger. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I should at least try it, so I finally did today...and of course it works great. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That seals the deal -- it's time for a decent digital camera. If only I didn't need to save every penny to buy this bad boy sometime in fall:

Why rocks...

I haven't yet shared the musical bounty that is I've never used Kazaa or Morpheus or Napster (back in the day), mostly because I've been listening to their streaming mp3s at work -- granted, it helps that I'm constantly tethered to a computer all day with a broadband connection, but if you're ever sick of your music and need a change, you might want to check it out. They've got top-song lists for every possible genre, and you can stream the whole list at once if you want. You can even download some songs, or even create your own online playlists: I built the 20/20 Feelgood mix a couple of years ago...but it's in desperate need of an overhaul. Now I just add new songs to my existing Winamp playlists, which I should share here some time. My most recent discovery was this incredibly kick-ass pop-punk tune from Yellowcard: Way Away.