Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pink Azalea Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens

Two new things today at Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens in Mississauga (Canada) : A sign of spring and a sign for the park.

First, the sign of spring: Near the south bridge, closest to the lake, a flush of pink near the waterfront trail proved to be a pink rhododendron just starting to bloom.

Pink Rhododendron in Bud - Mississauga ON

The rhodo blossoms were just starting to open, and I had to step into the bed to see them close up. This bed gets south sun for -- gosh-- about 5 hours a day at this time of year, and will continue to get full sun until the deciduous trees leaf out and shade the rhodos  and azaleas that share this bed.

Rhododendron in Bud, and Azalea

Here's one of the rhodo bushes that shares this bed along the trail. This bed is the last one before you cross the bridge east towards Godfrey's Lane. These rhodos are very showy in mid-spring.

Late last fall, volunteer David and Gardens head gardener Para planted ferns and more in this same bed. Since the ferns have not yet sprouted new growth, I didn't want to chance trampling them.

Azalea Bush ~ Blush of Spring in Port Credit

Here's a wider shot of the azalea. It's just so nice to see this definite sign of spring, especially after yesterday's torrents of cold rain and chill winds. More rain tonight and tomorrow (I know, I know -- it's good for the rhodos!) but this coming weekend, temperatures are forecast to be in the low 20 C (70F). This should pop all manner of blossoms into view.

Forsythia is also newly bursting with yellow, and the new redbud trees -- planted last summer -- are fat with buds. As soon as they pop, I'll be there with my camera. As will dozens of others, especially on weekends. And when the flowers come, the wedding parties are sure to follow.

Brueckner Rhodo Gardens new sign

And, now, at either entrance to the park , the new signs are up, freshly painted and with a third plank to reflecting the addition of the name 'Brueckner' in front of the city park name. For background on why the City of Mississauga is recognizing the late Dr. Brueckner, see this blog post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Amazing Race 7 Reruns ~ Santiago Chile to Argentina

More cheap armchair travel via The Amazing Race (TAR) reruns on OLN in Ontario, Canada! And TAR 7, currently showing, is one of my all time favorites: Rob and Amber, of Survivor Marquesas fame. Boston Rob, as he was nicknamed, showed a surprising skill set, and a lot of common sense and people skills. With his good humour and cheekiness, he added a lot to both reality shows.

Last night's episode was the second leg of TAR 7, taking the teams from Cuzco, Peru, to Santiago, Chile by bus, a 10-hour trip. Rob bribes the bus driver, schemes to get an earlier arriving bus, and teases the stuffing out of the other teams, most of whom are gunning for him based on his Survivor reputation.

Santo Cerro San Cristobel Santiago Chile

And one of the landmarks encountered by the teams in Santiago is Santo Cerro, and San Cristobel. The teams took the funicular up the mountain. Lucky them! When I was there, the funicular hadn't opened yet for the day.

The Santiago Detour had the teams choose between shopping at Mercado Central for the chef at Donde Augusto restaurant, or heading to the Libreria Chilena, and packing and moving 180 books to the National Library, below.

National Library of Chile Santiago

Trust Rob to know to stack books onto a cart so they wouldn't fall over. He and Amber completed this task easily. The library is a truly wonderful building, with a great cafe. Worth a visit for sure!

Mercado Central ~ Donde Augusto Restaurant

This picture shows part of the market in Mercado Central, and Donde Augusto is also close by.

Cerro Santa Lucia Santiago Chile Park

Cerro Santa Lucia, a city park down the street from the National Library, was the Pit Stop for this leg of the race. Cerro Santa Lucia is also well worth exploring if you can spare the time. A winding trail and stairs lead to the top of the mountain, right in downtown Santiago. On clear days (good luck finding one!) the views are wonderful. Even on smoggy days, it's a lovely walk.

Tonight's episode (leg 3) will have the teams heading into Argentina, also a fave episode! Who could forget Rob balking at the roadblock when asked to eat 4 pounds of Argentine barbecued meat! No one should ever eat that quantity of food of any kind at one sitting. Ever! And early TAR episodes used this force feeding as a challenge way too many times. (Remember Charla et al eating 2 pounds of caviar?)

Traditional Argentina Barbecue

Using food as entertainment -- eating contests, challenges -- is not only bad for the eater but wasteful, disrespectful, and downright thoughtless, especially when performing these task/ contests in countries where hunger is a very real concern. One time, in a recent series, teams had to throw fabulous, elaborate, delicious looking cakes (Austria?) at one another to reveal the clue. These wonderful cakes would have taken a long time to prepare, using costly ingredients. And to simply waste food by having contestants throw them at each other while the bakers looked on was unforgiveable.

But, food wasting aside, what I loved about the Argentine barbecue episode was watching Rob convince a few other teams to join him in refusing to do the barbecue eating / gluttony roadblock. And since he was the first to balk, his hourglass penalty ended first, automatically guaranteeing that he and Amber would not finish last.

Argentina Gauchos Traditional Contests / Games

And tonight, as the teams head into Argentina, they encounter another detour that requires them to ride a horse and complete a traditional gaucho challenge. Who knew Rob, a rough and tumble Boston kid who worked in construction, would be such an able rider! Again, just a pleasure to watch. Go Rob! You highlight the lameness of the competitors on both Amazing Race 14 and Survivor Tocantins. Good audition pools must be tough to find these days.

More pictures of Chile and Argentina at my travel site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rattray Marsh, Jack Darling Park, Lake Ontario, Toronto Views and a Great Waterfront and Canada Trail Walk

Update June 28 2010: On a walk today through to Rattray Marsh, we noticed two food vendors near the main building in Jack Darling Park, and that the splash pad is open. Construction of the water treatment plant will continue for about 2 more years.

Easter weekend's good weather (though a bit chilly) begged me to go for a walk along the Waterfront Trail to Rattray Marsh from Jack Darling Park along the lake -- Lake Ontario. Clear conditions made for fabulous views of Toronto and the CN Tower.
Just near this spot on the lakeshore, the wind-whipped waves were washing ashore two wooden paddles, in mint condition. Another walker was timing the waves to try to salvage them. Seeing these oars cast adrift prompted my companion to wonder if we should be concerned that perhaps some hapless boaters were stranded. Let's hope not, as we didn't pursue this.

Jack Darling Park has a number of good spots to have a picnic, like this one on a small point of land that juts out from the shore, with fabulous views of Toronto. The CN Tower is the sharp pointy thing. A new water treatment facility, another 2 years or so from completion, is making a mess of the entrance and west side of Jack Darling park, and chewing up parking spaces and play areas, as well as a long section of Waterfront Trail.

The new trail section, though, is graded level, and looks ready for paving as soon as weather permits. Where Jack Darling meets Rattray Marsh, there's a small playground and what appears to be future parking. I certainly hope so, as this would alleviate some of the parking issues and traffic at Jack Darling.

The view in the picture above is looking west, towards Hamilton. (See how this scene looked in January, and a map of the area.) This is very near the spot where wooden stairs lead to Rattray Marsh trail, blocking bike access. Posted signs say this section of the trail is closed until May 2009. Though these signs have been up since last fall, and the trail access closed with wire and plastic fencing, visitors have worn a new path, and stepped over fallen sections of fence to continue the trail walk.

Into Rattray Marsh, with the songs of red wing blackbirds and robins, and a few seagulls providing a song track with the breezes. How still and lovely this spot is, and how lucky we are to have the Credit Valley Conservation Area to manage this wonderful resource. Near one of the bridges that cross the small creek that feeds into the marsh, we could see fish jumping near the banks. The Waterfront Trail and Canada Trail are one and the same through the marsh.
Three mallards were bathing and preening on the small pond. I had come to this area to see if there was any sign yet of the trilliums (Ontario's provincial flower) that blanket the hillside near this spot. All I could see were the first spikes of shoots that promised a good flower show in a few week's time. None of the small violets were up; not even any sign of leaves.

Sign of the Times: So many cautions and warnings! It seems to me that our governing bodies assume we Canadians don't have the sense God gave gravel, and need to be micro-managed at all times. Perhaps it's only the CYA legal implications. In any event, the bottom line is don't go swimming or wading in the water.

The best part of this area, to me, is that I live a few minute's walk from these wonderful parks and lakeshore. The best times to walk are on weekdays, as the weekends can draw visitors from further afield. But no matter! There's plenty of room for all.

Related Walking Trails at Lake Aquitane and Culham Trail

Video of Jack Darling Beach and Rattray Marsh.

More information Waterfront Trail and Trans Canada Trail.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Loving Twitter on Travel, Websites, Guide books, Media and More

Though I've only been on Twitter.com for about two weeks, I am really loving it for the short, real-time tweets on travel, websites, and more.

Here's a sampling of a few of the twitterposts to illustrate some of the interesting (to me, anyhow) and useful posts.

Just today, tips on how to choose the right avatar/ bio pic for your social networks (see avatar tips). According to that post, my own bio pic can use some fine tuning. And if we think about how we ourselves view others' avatars, the author is right.

Is our bio pic too suggestive? Is it detailed enough? Does it stand out from all the other little bio pics and avatars and give visitors an idea of who we are?

And coincidentally, today a travel agency posted links for best image editing tools

And friend Keram, working hard in LA, posts a link to a great video on how to make a light without electricity. Now this may not be of any interest to many of you at all, but I jumped on it.

While this DIY technique could work for dark garden sheds and garages in many parts of the world, I particularly liked it for Starthrower Foundation working in Haiti, where hydro power sources are iffy.

The no-power light would also interest my friend Bob at Devxchange, working in Ethiopia. This DIY light only works on sunny days, but those little skylights can make a big difference.

To see all those I follow on Twitter, and a sampling of their recent tweets, go to my twitter page (see blog sidebar for link) and click on the little avatars shown under Following.

A heady array, to be sure: Matt Cutts (Google engineer), Google, mashable (tech stuff), Michael BKK (in Bangkok, with real time on the ground updates), travelfish (in Bali, ditto real time updates), Durant on Europe, Teena in Australia, and in SF, artistatlarge/writer/web designer in San Francisco.

Over the past two weeks, I have Followed, then Unfollowed a few more. Some only seemed to post news items that were already widely known, or simply links copied from other media.

One had an avatar that flashed between left and right profile every second. So distracting to have this jumping little image in Tweets and sidebar, I had to turn it off. Maybe I should send him the link above about finding a good avatar.

With today so dark, rainy, snowy and downright miserable, weather-wise, it's a good day to stay indoors and tweet, facebook, blog and do our taxes. I'm not the only one thinking this: Already Twitter is reporting 'overcapacity' and 'try again in a few minutes'.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wind, Waves Create New Shoreline Lake Ontario in Port Credit

At Brueckner Rhododendron Garden this afternoon (Mississauga, Ontario), I walked up the trail past the sleeping rhodos, azaleas and forsythia to the footbridge over the small creek that runs through the garden to empty into Lake Ontario.

As I stood on the bridge, I could see at once that the creek now took a dog leg to the right. Hmmm. This is new. This small creek formerly trickled straight south across the stones and emptied itself into Cranberry Cove without a lot of fuss. It's usually narrow enough to step over, if you're careful. Today, with all the rain over the past two days, I stayed on the path.

The first picture (above) shows the creek turning to the right, as seen from the footbridge. The stones along the lake front are a good size, and were piled high enough to divert the creek from its usual route. (See update at bottom.)

I walked down to the beach to where the creek runs parallel to the lakefront. Until just a few days ago, the creek entered Lake Ontario (Cranberry Cove) where you can see the tree branch (Log? Driftwood?) in the photo.

I've looked through all my archived photos of this part of Rhododendron Garden to see if I had any pictures of this area before the storm driven beach front rearrangement, and this is the best one I have. The creek is unremarkable, a thin stream entering the lake just below the tree branch on the beach. I took this picture last summer.

This entire area (south Ontario) has been pummeled by strong winds and copious amounts of rain the past few weeks; when the wind blows from the south east, as it has been doing, it forces waves directly onto the lake shore here. I took a video of the storm tossed waves on this beach a few weeks ago, and another video last week on the lake in Port Credit, about 2 km east of here.

Either one of those storms could have caused the creek diversion. Last night and today, the winds were gusting to 70+ kph (44 mph), but mostly from the north (offshore), so the lake was fairly calm, though out in the distance, I could see whitecaps.

And though it's early days until this garden is in the full flush of spring, it was nice to see these crocuses pushing through the winter leaf mulch. And along the bank above the beach, the day lilies are spiking up and promising a good summer's blooming. Can the trilliums and violets be far behind?

UPDATE April 12, 2009
Heavy rains and north winds flooded the creek a few days later. Have a look at the photo below and see how the force of the creek in flood changed the creek outlet back to the usual course.

If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't believe it. And as for the trilliums and violets, I think they will need another week or two of warmer weather. The trilliums are just shoots as of Easter weekend, and the violets are nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Port Credit Pictures, iMovie Video on YouTube, Animoto

Doing some trial videos and animations using my travel pictures before my next trip. Using the video option on my camera is fairly new to me, as are the animoto.com still picture animations. Editing video using iMovie, which came with my Macbook, is also very new. I want to become familiar with all of them before I travel.

To share iMovies on my blog or website, I create the iMovie first, and choose the Share on YouTube option. Once the iMovie has been uploaded to YouTube, I can highlight and copy the html / embed codes and paste them into a Blogger Layout Gadget Html widget. The default YouTube width is a little too wide for some blog templates, so I edit this size to reduce the number of pixels for iMovie height and width shown in code by about 20 percent each.

My Canon digital video option and iMovie are a bit of a learning curve, but that's the fun of it. And for animation, that's a lot of fun, too: to take random old photos, add music and animation, and get a new way of sharing your travel pictures or family photos.

For the animation, I used the free version of animoto.com. You can experiment; it's fairly intuitive and easy to follow. While animoto asks you upload 12-15 images, I found that on my first attempt, only 4 of the 8 images were used in the animation. But when I edited that version, and changed my music selection to a faster tempo tune, all of the pictures I uploaded appeared in the final product. The resolution looks fine viewed on animoto, and not as good on YouTube. Likely will have to choose YouTube HQ option before playing.

Here's the first animoto.com version:


And here's the aminoto version using the same pictures with different (faster tempo) sound track:

When your video animation is complete, you can choose how to share it -- YouTube, MySpace, emails, etc. But I wanted the embed code to post here on the blog myself.

It took me a minute to find the embed code: After you Play your video, there are buttons below the screen. Choose the thumb tack one (embed). The first screen that comes up has all the sharing options. Look at the top and you'll see the default screen is Post. Click on the Embed button to the right of the Post; the code for your video is in the box. Copy and paste into a web page/blog.

I let animoto post this same video on youtube (link YouTube)

When you are logged into YouTube, you can edit as usual, and get the YouTube embed and link code. And since I haven't been on a trip anywhere recently to shoot new video, I rely on my lovely Port Credit Ontario surrounds for inspiration and material.

My earlier videos were pre-iMovie (link) editing capabilities. Here's the link for one of my first iMovies (when I got up the nerve to speak.)

Practice makes perfect, and I look forward to gaining a lot more skill!