December 24, 2010

La Conner, Whidbey Island Day Trip

The day before Christmas, we headed down across the border into Washington State for a daytrip and some shopping. As a Canadian citizen it's relatively easy for me, but my Japanese national wife Yumi needs to get a visa, along with fingerprint and eye scans. We hadn't been across the border since the new technology was implemented, and we were impressed by the new facility, and the efficiency and courteousness of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel at the White Rock/Blaine I5 crossing.

We drove to La Conner for lunch, and wandered around the quaint town which we had last visited some ten years ago. By the time we got there, the rain had stopped, making us pleased with our choice to head south across the border away from Vancouver's forecast of a week of rain. We continued south on highway 20 at a leisurely pace, going as far as Ft. Ebey Washington State Park on Whidbey Island. I chatted with a park ranger, and it seems like a great place for camping when it's a bit warmer.

We headed back north, stopping at Bellis Fair for some shopping, and got home late in the evening. Somehow it stayed dry in the States, but as we crossed the border back into Canada we ran into pouring rain again.

There were several cool salmon sculptures on the shoreline. I thought I'd snapped a photo with info about the artist, but I can't track it down. Anyone who knows can contact me at paul@cipywnyk.com so I can make proper attribution.

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Love this gas-mask salmon -- that's how I envision the fish
must feel going up the Fraser and my troubled local creek.

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One of the 6" gun emplacements at Ft. Ebey.

Set up as defense against the Imperial Japanese Navy,
the WWII-era battery never fired a shot in anger,
though it won artillery contests against floating targets.

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Part of the excellent field of fire over the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
er, I mean a lovely view!

Posted by Paul at 07:06 PM

December 21, 2010

Adding Japanese Support to Ubuntu on IBM Notebook

The other day I installed Linux Ubuntu 10.10 alongside Windows XP on an older IBM T42 notebook computer. The Ubuntu install was flawless, and I can now dual-boot into either OS. Everything just worked, including wireless, and sleep and resume.

We've put that laptop on station on the main floor for easy Web access while watching TV, cooking, etc. My wife and I have our own offices, hers on the top floor and mine in the basement, each with our own tower computers, but for years I'd been lugging notebooks around the house. . .  Now there's one dedicated to the main floor Smile.

Anyway, she asked today if she could use Japanese on the Ubuntu notebook. Oops, I had forgotten to install additional languages. It took all of 5 minutes to install Japanese capability, and, OK, a reboot and bit of poking around to figure out the input method, but it worked.

She can now write in OpenOffice, email in GMail, and surf on Firefox, all in Japanese. Yay!

Oh, yeah, if you haven't heard, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox etc., are all free.

Yep, free.

I salute the years of dedication by countless Open Source volunteers who made, and continue to, make it so.

P.S. Ubuntu appears to be smarter than both Windows XP and Windows 7 in one respect: I have a D-Link DNS-323 NAS (network attached storage) unit on my LAN (local area network). To get the NAS to show up on a Windows machine, the easiest way is to run a utility on the accompanying D-Link CD.  Ubuntu? It found the NAS all by itself. . .

Posted by Paul at 11:03 PM

December 17, 2010

Installing Ubuntu Linux 10.10 0n IBM T42 Notebook

I have an IMB T42 notebook running Windows XP with a gorgeous 1400 x 1050 screen that's been acting slow and flaky recently. I ran a disk check and a defrag, and that helped a bit, but it still seemed slow. Since it's no longer my main portable, I thought I'd give installing Ubuntu Linux 10.10 a try. I was also hoping Ubuntu might be faster on the limited 1.5GB of RAM and 1.8Ghz single-core Centrino processor.

I cannot believe how far Linux distributions have come. The install was absolutely painless. I simply popped in the downloaded Ubuntu image that I'd burned onto a CD, fired up the T42, and away we went. Did I want to keep my original OS? Yes. OK, how much disk space did I want to give each OS? Simple slider control. And the installation began with only one warning that I wasn't connected to the Web to get updates installed automatically. I figured the wireless hadn't been detected yet so I grabbed an Ethernet cable, plugged it into my router and the T42, and the Ubuntu install routine instantly picked up the connection in mid-install and continued on.

So far everything just seems to work. The TrackPoint works. The TrackPad works. (The T42 has both). Wireless works, it just took entering the SSID and password. I can access all my Windows files from within Ubuntu, and OpenOffice reads them all.

And yes, initial indications are that loading programs, browsing, writing documents, etc., feels a lot snappier than it did under Windows XP.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

December 16, 2010

Xmas at Burnaby Heritage Village

What a deal! Half-price entry to Burnaby's beautiful Village Museum, with all proceeds going to the  Burnaby Christmas Bureau.

Yumi and I couldn't pass it up. On a cool, clear evening, we rambled the grounds, enjoying the Christmas lights and the carols. We checked out Urby - Interurban 1223, so lovingly restored by so many volunteers - and found our friend Eleanor aboard, giving tours.

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Yumi on the bridge from the entrance.

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The gorgeous, restored tram. How I wish they'd never stopped running!

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Eleanor and moi. As befits the 1920s-era atmosphere,
I had a hat, as every gentleman should - one of my Australian Akubras.

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Yumi entranced by the bakery display.

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Rides on the restored carousel were included with admission
on this special evening. Yumi couldn't resist.

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM

December 11, 2010

Things to do in Tokyo

Friends of ours will be spending awhile in Tokyo, and I came up with a list of things to do. I lived in Tokyo for about 14 years, so the process made me feel very "homesick" for awhile. (Note that this list may be somewhat skewed toward an engineer who likes woodworking).

1) Railway Museum looks cool:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Museum_%28Saitama%29
Yumi and I visited the old one when it was in a small building "downtown." We've never been to this new facility in the suburbs, which sounds impressive.

2) Akihabara Electric Town
The gizmo, gadget, computer, cell phone, electronic device capital of the world
http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/

3) Tokyu Hands - kind of like Michael's crafts, Staples and Lee Valley combined :-) South end of Shinjuku Station.
http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/en/index.html

4) Kinokuniya - bookstore with English-language section. One of the largest collections of books for sale in English about Japan.
As I recall it's next door to the Shinjuku Tokyu Hands store.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_Kinokuniya

5) Japan Traditional Craft Center in Ikebukuro
http://www.kougei.or.jp/english/center.html

6) Meiji Jingu
Beautiful park and shrine located about halfway between Shinjuku and Shibuya, two main Tokyo shopping/entertainment areas.
http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/

7) Omotesando & Takeshita Dori
Tree-lined shopping street in the famous Harajuku (at the south end of Meiji Jingu). Fashion, kid hangout, lots of fun to amble the streets on a weekend. Used to be a really funky area with old apts, pretty much all razed in the last decade and replaced with cutting-edge architecture, tho I miss the old atmosphere...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omotesand%C5%8D,_Tokyo

8) Asakusa Senso-ji temple
Huge temple with famous gate.
Shopping arcade
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asakusa

9) Ginza, the super-upscale shopping district, can be fun to amble around in. The Kabukiza theatre is in this area:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki-za

UPDATE: My Tokyo friend Mike passed on this article about Kabukiza-closing down.

People also like to hang out at the Sony building in Ginza to check out the latest gadgets:
http://www.sonybuilding.jp/e/index.html

10) Odaiba is the new shopping/entertainment area out in the bay that I was trying to remember the name of.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaiba

11) Minato Mirai in Yokohama is a fun area.
Historic sail training ship Nippon Maru
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minato_Mirai_21

12) For a quiet getaway with a taste of hiking, there's Mt. Takao about an hour west by train from Tokyo. Relatively easy trail, temples in the woods...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Takao
http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/index.htm

13) Nice day trip to Kamakura
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura,_Kanagawa

14) Oh, yeah, there are several museums in Ueno Park. We haven't been there in at least 15 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueno_Park

Oops

15) How could I forget Yuzawaya in Kichijoji, another amazing crafts, toys 'n cool stuff store:

http://www.yuzawaya.co.jp/company/brochure2.html

Yuzawaya is in Kichijoji, right at the east end of the JR station. Kichijoji is a great dining, shopping area in western Tokyo where I spent a lot of time because we lived nearby. Inokashira Park on the south side of the station is nice, particularly in the cherry blossom season.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Kichijoji

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

December 07, 2010

Introduction to ‘Desperate Times’ Trilogy

Here's the introduction I wrote to Desperate Times, a new trilogy of Ukrainian-to-English translations from Language Lanterns Publications Inc.:

The trilogy, Desperate Times, with its volumes Brother against Brother, Between the Trenches, and Conflict and Chaos, focuses on stories written during the 1900 to 1930 period that encompasses the slide of the imperial Russian Empire into chaos, the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, World War I, and the subsequent upheaval in Eastern Europe fomented by the Russian Revolution. Some of these works are not for the faint-hearted, for they depict truly desperate times of revolution, war, and social upheaval, along with enormous human emotional and physical costs.

As of the early 20th century, Ukraine had long been divided by other empires--with Russia controlling eastern Ukraine, and various European powers including Lithuania-Poland, Austria-Hungary, and the Hapsburg Empire dominating western portions. In both regions the Ukrainian language, culture and distinctive Ukrainian forms of Orthodox and Catholic rites were at times severely controlled, or completely banned, and conditions for ethnic Ukrainians were harsh. There was little opportunity for education and advancement for Ukrainians, and the rising revolutionary tide that began sweeping Europe in the 19th century, with its concepts of nationalism, democracy, and freedom, soon found fertile ground in traditional Ukrainian territory.

The stories in this trilogy depict attempts at reform and political activism, peasant uprisings, revolutionary and terrorist acts, and the flowering of the Ukrainian independence movement. This blossoming of culture, language and political idealism was soon trampled however, with empires being rent asunder resulting in the redrawing of borders, the First World War sweeping millions to death, and the brutal consolidation of power by communists in the former Russian Empire.

These stories are written from multiple points of view, as is only fitting, for they are all part of the spectrum of beliefs that drove the variously motivated protagonists of those times. Thus we read about Soviet revolutionary heroes--and disillusionment with the new communist regime. We read about atrocities perpetrated by imperial forces, and the complete collapse of morality in areas controlled by anarchist groups. We experience the power of fiction that enables us to put ourselves into others' shoes, to witness events through their eyes, to feel their emotions. The results often are not pretty, but stories such as these actually happened, time and again, shaping real people.

While it is difficult to divide the stories into precise chronological order, we have attempted to begin with ones dating to the Russian Revolution of 1905 that revealed the rotten state of the empire. At the time, Russia was shocked by repeated defeats in the Russo-Japanese War, and revolutionaries of various political stripes--though mostly socialists and communists--realized that collapse was a matter of time.

The Russian Empire had suppressed ethnic and religious groups, and had attempted to impose the Russian language and church upon all within its territory. As the bureaucracy weakened and military disasters in the Far East undermined discipline and pride, the empire was faced with the steady rise of ethnically based national aspirations in many of its regions. The overwhelming human and economic cost of WWI piled on stresses that the ossified and increasingly fractious empire could not withstand.

For Ukrainians, WWI was really a time of brother against brother, and not by choice. Several of the stories in this trilogy depict the anguish as families were divided between empires, with Ukrainians conscripted into both the Russian army, and opposing Germanic-Austrian forces.

By 1917, an exhausted, demoralized and near-destitute Russian Empire was ripe for revolution, and two of them exploded that year. The first, the February Revolution, saw the abdication of the tsar and the establishment of a provisional government. The second, the October Revolution, saw the Bolsheviks under Lenin sweep into power and begin the consolidation of a new, communist, empire that became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or, more simply, the Soviet Union.

The great tragedy of this revolutionary era is that idealism fell by the wayside, devolving into horrific years of civil war in which combatants of all political stripes plunged into an escalating cycle of atrocities. It didn't matter right wing or left wing, all met in extremism, mass murder, rape, torture, looting--and for extended periods--total anarchy. There was complete social, political and economic collapse, with the only authority being the barrel of a gun.

The modern Western reader has little concept of such chaos, terror, and utter helplessness. We have no sense of such ingrained hatred--hatred of the oppressive aristocracy and bureaucracy--followed by hatred of the perversion of Marxism and Communism into a new, even harsher dictatorship that placed no value on human life and blindly espoused totalitarian ends that justified the foulest means.

Yet we see in these stories that amidst the chaos created by the breakdown of the political and social order there were flickers of humanity, of ethical, moral behaviour. Within that chaos, people still loved, dreamed, and hoped. It is heartening to find that within that chaos some people still adhered to humane and principled codes of behaviour, even sacrificing their own lives to save those of others.

The issues central to these volumes of revolutionary stories are still relevant and some are yet unresolved. The short-lived Ukrainian governments of the confusing revolutionary period planted the seeds of independence, and some partisans fought on for decades against the Soviets. The reverberations from those times still impact the ongoing development of a nascent democracy in a free Ukraine in the face of still widely entrenched authoritarian values and practices in modern Russia and its resurgent imperialistic ambitions.

We have tried to strike a balance in assisting those readers who may be embarking into unfamiliar territory by providing glossaries including some of the main parties, armies, and military and political leaders, without overly interrupting the narrative flow.

* * *

Language Lanterns Publications began its mission of adding to the treasury of Ukrainian literature accessible to the English-reading world in 1998 with the six-volume series Women's Voices in Ukrainian Literature which included translations of selected literary works written by eight Ukrainian female authors between 1880 and 1920. In 2004, two companion volumes were published, Passion's Bitter Cup and Riddles of the Heart, with stories by Ukrainian male authors in the same period.

To date, Language Lanterns has produced 20 volumes of translations including several by Ukraine's leading man of letters, Ivan Franko, and two volumes called From Days Gone By and Down Country Lanes that added stories written in the second half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th by sixteen Ukrainian male authors.

These diverse stories from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries give modern readers a window into societal, political, religious and economic conditions in Ukrainian ethnic lands, and the gradual revival of the Ukrainian language, culture and political spirit following centuries of external domination.

The volume taken most to heart by the public thus far is A Hunger Most Cruel that graphically depicts through short fiction the horrendous impact upon Ukraine of the famine artificially created by Soviet authorities in the 1930s in an attempt to break the Ukrainian peasantry. This terror-famine, or Holodomor, that resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent victims, has come to be internationally recognized as genocide.

* * *

Sonia Morris, my mother and the editor of the Language Lanterns Publications team, passed away in April 2007; however, she and her sister Roma Franko, the translator, had begun work on many of these stories. Therefore Sonia's name remains as editor to recognize her passion for her cultural heritage, her historical knowledge and literary skills.

Roma and I dedicate this trilogy to her memory.

Paul Cipywnyk
Associate Editor

Posted by Paul at 10:43 PM

December 05, 2010

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol Finds Female Coho

I've been streamkeeping for nearly a decade now, and of course I know salmon die after spawning. I regularly patrol my local creek, Byrne Creek, in the autumn looking for spawning and dead salmon. But sometimes it's still hard when you run across one that's near the end, probably because in the last few years we've gotten so few of them in our urban creek, and we are so appreciative of the ones that do make it back.

On spawner patrol today Yumi and I found a female coho flat on its side on a bar in the creek in the ravine. We thought it was dead. As streamkeepers we "process" dead spawners - measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and whether or not they've spawned, and then cut the carcasses in half so we don't double-count fish. It's illegal to interfere with spawning salmon. Streamkeepers do spawner counts under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we report our results to them every year. The carcasses are returned to the creek to provide food and nutrients for the rest of the food chain.

Since it wasn't stiff yet, Yumi gave it a bit of shake to make sure it was dead, and it twitched, began visibly breathing, and remained upright, albeit motionless, when Yumi released it in a small pool. Nice size fish, dark red spawning colouration, abraded white tail, so it had been digging a  nest for its eggs. 

It's an odd feeling. Yeah, it's just one fish. Yeah, it's going to die in an hour or two. Yeah, I had canned salmon with mayo and diced green-pepper sandwiches for lunch the other day. Yeah, I'm defrosting a couple of sockeye steaks for our Japanese-style breakfast and homemade bento lunches tomorrow. Yeah, I like to go fishing now and then. But this fish was born in our struggling urban creek a couple of years ago, traveled thousands of kilometers during her years in the Pacific Ocean, and then made it back to the place of her birth against nearly unimaginable odds to try to start a new generation.

She was so close to death that I admit it was tempting to tap her on the head, and get the bloody assessment over with. But somehow we felt we ought to leave her be and let nature take its course. We'll find her stiff tomorrow. . .

byrne_creek_coho_spawner_20101205 

P.S. It's also reassuring that we found at least one spawner since the recent fish kill.

P.P.S. And yes, I'm aware that over the course of this little narrative "it" became "she." That's the way it came out from my brain to my fingers, so that's the way I'll leave it.

UPDATE [Dec. 6, 2010]: Streamkeeper Frieda and I found this fish dead this morning, perhaps 10m downstream of where Yumi and I saw it yesterday. We are happy to report that she was completely spawned! We couldn't find any obvious redd (nest of eggs) in the vicinity, or a boyfriend, so it may be that she spawned somewhere higher upstream and gradually slipped downstream as she weakened. Glad that she successfully completed her lifecycle.

Posted by Paul at 05:14 PM

December 04, 2010

Frosty Leaves in Ron McLean Park

While waiting near the Ron McLean Park parking lot in SE Burnaby, BC, early this morning for fellow streamkeepers, I was entranced by the frost on the grass and autumn leaves. I pulled my tiny Canon SD780 out of my pocket and paced the area looking for angles in the low morning sun:

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Posted by Paul at 01:29 PM