July 31, 2012

Post-Work Stroll in Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby

I picked up two three-piece chicken dinners from KFC with a discount coupon today. Yeah, not the healthiest choice, but what the heck, it's my birthday tomorrow, and I always celebrate by eating badly for a couple of days : -). I intercepted my wife at the skytrain station on her way home from work and we drove down to Burnaby's Fraser Foreshore Park for an impromptu picnic.

After we had our romantic meal watching tug after tug towing log booms up the river, we stretched our legs by walking over to the mouth of Byrne Creek, and the Glenlyon pond just west of the outfall. The pond is a great place to see waterlife, unfortunately much of it invasive, including non-native pumpkinseed fish and possibly bullfrogs, judging the occasional massive croak one hears. There are also smaller native frogs, and lots of assorted dragonflies.

A few shots taken with my pocket Canon SD780IS today.






There are two little frogs in this "where's Waldo" picture : -)

I was amazed at how relaxed a couple of these frogs were. The SD780IS
maxes out at the equivalent of a 105mm lens on a 35mm film camera,
but I managed to get the camera within a meter of these sun-stunned beauties.

I haven't been down by the foreshore ponds for months, so I may
play hooky tomorrow on my birthday after I take care of a client
meeting in the morning. I'd love to go back with my DSLR and
telephoto zoom. . .

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

July 28, 2012

Flora ’n Fauna Fotos from Campbell Valley Regional Park

Yumi and I spent a wonderful afternoon at Campbell Valley Regional Park today. It's part of Metro Vancouver's fabulous regional parks system. We visit Campbell Valley several times a year, but today we tried a couple of trails that were new to us. The park has a great variety of mini ecosystems to explore: ponds, marshy river, forest, meadows, etc. The "walk" turned into more of a "trek" but we emerged back the parking lot after several hours tired, but happy.

Here's a bunch of photos:


The pond and gazebo near the nature house


Lots of different kinds of bees in the nature house flower garden











Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

Byrne Creek Crayfish, Ladybugs, Invasive Plants

Yumi and I tackled some invasive Policeman's Helmet along Byrne Creek this morning. Over about four summers, streamkeepers have managed to battle the plant to near victory in one stretch in the lower watershed. We've focussed on this stretch because the prolific plant would literally suck the creek dry around here. This summer we found just a few plants, and bagged them before they could spread their thousands of seeds. After completing that volunteer task, we checked out some other parts of the creek and were gratified to see hundreds of gradually growing salmonid fry - and a crayfish.


Yumi is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so those Policeman's Helmets
behind her must be pushing 8 to 9 feet, or well over 2 meters


There were hundreds of ladybugs near where we were working.
Some were just out of the larval stage, with husks around. Many
of the ladybugs were hanging out on stinging nettle - obviously
it doesn't affect them like it does us!


Here's the crayfish. It was a good size and very active.


And a cool green bug

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

July 24, 2012

I Love My Wife, and My Cat, and Always Think of Their Welfare…

Ah, just had one of those lovely "couples'" moments.

Went upstairs from my basement office, noticed it was starting to get dark and time to close the blinds, and strangely the balcony door was unlocked.

So I locked the door and began methodically closing blinds. It was only when I got to the last window that I glanced out to see my wife and the cat, both staring at me... How funny!

Or, not.


Posted by Paul at 08:46 PM

July 20, 2012

Am I in Communication or Communications?

I've been looking at rebranding myself recently. My wife and I ran a successful Japanese > English translation business for nearly a decade, but she's been working full time for a couple of years now, and I'd like to expand beyond my bread and butter of editing. I made the investment to get a master's degree in communication a few years ago, but have never capitalized on it.

Over the last few weeks I've been looking for available domain names (an increasingly difficult task as the years have gone by and squatters have bought up entire dictionaries of potential names), and have been running a few of the available ones past the name-approval process at the corporate name registry at BC Registry Services.

I finally found a combo I liked, and registered it:

Streamside Communication Co.

I will set up Streamside Communication Co. as a "DBA" (Doing Business As) under my present corporation, Cipko Consulting Ltd.

But then the doubts set in - should it be Streamside Communication, or, Streamside Communications?

My degree is in communication, sans "s". I have a Master of Arts in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University. I studied in the department of Communication & Culture.

Yet when I see many of my cohort on LinkedIn, and what they're up to these days, they are almost invariably in corporate or government communications, with that darn "s" at the end. Some Googling around shows this is a long-running debate, but I don't understand why, when every dictionary that I own makes a clear distinction: communication (sans "s") is the act of communicating, exchanging information, etc. Communications (with "s") is related to the technology used to relay information, such as telephones, satellites, etc.

My bookshelf bears me out. I have titles such as: International and Development Communication, The Bias of Communication, Organizational Communication in an Age of Globalization and so on.

So I shall boldly sail forth under Streamside Communication. (Though I have also bought the domain streamsidecommunications. . . just in case. . . : - )

Oh, yes, why "Streamside"?

Because I'm a volunteer streamkeeper, and streamkeeping has been my entry to, and my connection with, my broader community. Because I live beside a lovely urban stream, Byrne Creek. Because I like the sound, and the images it can evoke of flow, of rhythm, of rise and fall, of clarity, of clearing muddied waters. . . Lots there to play with for potential branding and marketing.

Posted by Paul at 11:26 AM

July 16, 2012

Policeman’s Helmet Blooming in BC’s Lower Mainland

My wife and I had a great afternoon exploring the trails in Delta's Burns Bog Nature Reserve the other day. However, we were taken aback to see invasive Policeman's Helmet already in bloom along the creek. That made us wonder what the lower reaches of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby were looking like, where streamkeepers have been battling Policeman's Helmet for years . . . Time to go down and assess the situation!

Posted by Paul at 09:57 PM

July 15, 2012

Debate on New Tires Settled by Lag Bolt

For the last month or two I've been thinking about buying new all-season tires for our 1998 Subaru Outback. It's been an outstanding car, but at 14 years and some 235,000km (~145,000 miles), I've been starting to wonder how much more to keep investing in it. It's still running fine, and I've always had it serviced faithfully and regularly according to the manufacturer's guidelines.  A month or two ago I had the winter tires switched for summer tires during a regular service, though the dealer warned the tread on the all-seasons was getting iffy, and doubted if we'd get much over a few months of safe driving out them.

The dealer quoted around $700 for a new set of premium all-seasons, so I said I'd think about it, and began checking out places like WalMart and Canadian Tire. I certainly didn't want to buy high-end tires for a car approaching the end of its life, but on the other hand, I didn't want overly cheap ones, either. Tires are not something you scrimp on. They are key to overall vehicle safety.

The debate was settled yesterday when a bolt was driven into the right rear tire during an errand. Thunka thunka thunka. . . Something had to be done about that immediately, and I wasn't thinking of plug-and-patch on a tire that already had nearly 100,000 klicks on it. We headed straight to Canadian Tire where they were having a 25% off sale on their in-house Motomaster brand (some of which to my understanding are made by Hankook, and higher-end ones by Goodyear).

Canadian Tire quoted me about $450 for four Motomaster AWs on "4 f0r 3" sale, installed, with tax, and enviro disposal fees for our old ones. They said they had nine in stock, and could get them mounted the same day. So I drove my wife home (thunka, thunka, thunka), and went back to get into the queue.

An hour later, as I wandered the strip mall, I got a call on my cell. The nine P205-70-15s supposedly in stock had resulted in only three turning up. And he'd called three other stores within a 20k-radius with no luck. So there was our car, up on the lift, with no wheels, and no tires, and the guy at the desk was saying they did have the slightly more expensive Motomaster SE2s available, also on sale at 25% off, for around another $70.

Now of course I immediately thought this was a bait and switch, despite all the "Reader's Choice" awards mounted on the walls of the service waiting room from local newspaper surveys.

But after calling the wife, and the manager offering to throw in their cross-Canada premium protection plan (which I had declined in the first place) at no extra cost "for my time," I bit the bullet. A total of $528 was still better than $700, and from all I'd researched online, the SE2s had better reviews than the AWs.

So we now have a new set of all-seasons that are rated at 110,000 km, plus a set of winter tires that likely have around 40-50,000 km left on them. Will the car do another 150,000 km? Unlikely, but as I said, you don't want to mess with being cheap on tires. . .

Posted by Paul at 07:41 PM

July 13, 2012

All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church 25th Anniversary Booklet

Wow, a blast from the past. I ran across this while going through some of my late Mom's files, and had to scan it.

25th Anniversary
Commemorative Booklet
All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church

There is so much history in this 32-page pamphlet, and so many names I grew up with in Saskatoon in my formative years.

Nearly every page brought back a memory, at least until the point where I left Canada in 1985 to work in Japan for 14 years.

Lots of close relatives are mentioned in this history. A grandfather, a grandmother, my father, my mother, an uncle, etc. Ahem, though I fail to see my name, or that of my cousin Ivan, as youth members of the church building committee : -).

And so many other adults that were part of an extended community when I was a kid. I think children in such milieus felt so safe and loved. I still remember so many folks from this parish and the broader Ukrainian-Canadian community in Saskatoon with fondness, though for the last several decades I've seen only a few of them during short visits once every three or four years.

As one of my aunts wrote me recently: "Oh, to live all together in one village like in the good old days!"

You can download my scan here. (1.3MB PDF)

Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

July 11, 2012

ESL Streets in Japan No Longer Paved with Gold

I occasionally get information and advice requests from friends whose kids wonder about going to Japan to teach English.

I went to Japan in 1985, taught for several years, and then moved into journalism. (I had degrees in Arts, Education and Journalism to back me up). After an initial tight year or two I eventually developed some great teaching gigs, all private contracts through personal connections. At one point I was teaching just three days a week (albeit leaving home at 6:30 a.m. and returning at 9:30 p.m.), averaging around C$60/hour, and enjoying four-day weekends.

That largesse is long gone. . .  In recent visits to Japan one and four years ago, I was shocked at the low wages on offer in ESL job adverts, accompanied by some high education requirements.

I've been back in Canada for over ten years now, so my knowledge of Japan's ESL market conditions are not what they once were, but when I got a recent request, I contacted a couple of buddies in Japan for insight.

Here is my initial stab at giving a Mom some advice for her daughter who was looking at teaching English in Japan:

It's been over 15 years since I was last in the English-teaching biz in Japan, and a lot has changed. A few of the leading chain ESL schools there have gone bankrupt over the last several years. I avoided the chain schools anyway (drudgery hours at low pay), lucking out with a private school that sponsored my work visa, and let me pick up my own contracts on the side. I'm not sure how well XYZ would get along without a degree -- that's been pretty much a minimum qualification for decent teaching work going back to the 80s. My sense is that TESOL qualification has also become more of an advantage since my heyday of the mid-80s/early 90s before I shifted to journalism. Please don't take what I say next the wrong way (but it's a fact of life, eh?) tall, attractive, young, blondish women have always done well in Japan... And while Japan is, relatively speaking, one of the safer countries in the world, it's also not that difficult to "stray" if you don't have a good grip on where you are, who you are, and, what you want.

To my gratitude, both friends in Tokyo responded to my e-mail plea for more up-to-date info within hours, confirming that the English-teaching boom that began in Japan in the early 80s and rolled along for 10-15 years, was over. The market is much tighter now, and higher qualifications are required for decent positions.

A succinct take from Kevin Ryan, a professor whose blog you can see at http://www.kevinryan.com/:

Had a friend with a daughter who just graduated university. She got a job at a chain school, and it was very exciting at first. She was able to get set up in an apartment, but ended up using most of her salary for rent and food, paying the "company store". She worked hard hours, about 30 contact hours a week, in a suburb of Osaka. It was OK, but she didn't have any time to do much else but work and live. She left after about 6 months. You need a solid MA in TESOL for anything more than that. The market has tightened up tremendously since you were here.

And a broader response from Mike Lloret, recently retired from corporate communication and training at a leading Japanese electronics firm. His blog is http://balefires.blogspot.ca/:

First, a quick response to the mother's points:

  • Experience working with children and tutoring is a plus; many schools, especially smaller private ones, derive more of their income than you'd think from classes for kids. Note that some of them can be very young kids, who may have little-to-no exposure to English outside the classroom.
  • Some sort of TESOL certification is becoming very important, as Paul notes. A degree is pretty much an unavoidable minimum requirement, and these days there is a strong preference for degrees in education, linguistics, TESOL, etc. Some employers are seeking those with Masters degrees.
  • There can be a little wiggle room with regard to the degree if the job-seeker has extensive experience, especially in Japan, but I wouldn't count on it, and that doesn't seem to apply in this case, anyway.

It might be instructive for the young woman to take a close look at gaijinpot.com, paying particular attention to the length of time the job offers have been there. Except for the openings in Fukushima and prefectures close to it--most of which are hard-to-fill replacements for teachers who fled what they saw as danger after 3/11--the openings represent employers holding out for better-qualified and/or cheaper applicants, not a lack of job seekers.

This might be instructive for background knowledge:


Your comments about attractive blondes are accurate, as noted in this anecdote:


and if the young woman is unaware of the Lindsay Hawker case, she should look it up.

The bottom line is that I don't think much of the young lady's chances of getting a decent job here, and definitely wouldn't recommend that she come over before getting a binding contract.

So, unfortunately, the good times seem to be over for "experience Japan by teaching a little English on the side." I'm not saying it can't be done, it just won't be as easy or fun as it was when money seemed to slosh around in abundance, and a ramen shop on the Ginza offered gold-dust garnish for your broth. . .

Posted by Paul at 08:34 PM

July 10, 2012

FB Update About Consolidating Late Mom’s Files Draws Flurry of ‘Likes’

Dunno how this hit a chord today on Facebook, but it did:

Consolidated 6 bankers boxes of my late Mom's files into 1 box over the last two days. She kept meticulous records! Tidbit for the day: in one of her first jobs as a substitute teacher for the Saskatoon Public School Board in the early 1960s she was paid $15 a day. Her first full-time instructor contract at the University of Saskatchewan was some $6,000/year... but over a 35-year U of S career she reached the position of assistant dean of the College of Education.

Posted by Paul at 09:11 PM

July 08, 2012

Should Check Website Analytics More Often

I hadn't checked the website analytics for my blog in ages, and while I was happy to see that I am averaging over 500 unique visits per day these days, I was surprised by some of the referral data.

In terms of operating system, 78% of my visitors use Windows, 13% use Linux, and just under 9% use a Mac.

As for browsers, Internet Explorer has lost its old overwhelming dominance, at 44%, with Firefox coming next at 17.6%, and then Chrome at 14.3%, and various others making up the rest.

So if you have a website that has certain features that work only with IE (and I still run across these now and then, usually govt.) you're likely pissing off over half of your visitors.

As for which search engines drive traffic to my site, Google has a near-total lock. The top one is Google.ca at 67%, followed by Google.com at 20.5%, and then it drops off a cliff with Google UK, Google India, Google Germany and Google Russia all in the 1-2% range. The only non-Google engine to even appear in the list is Yahoo UK at 1.37%.

Posted by Paul at 08:30 PM

July 06, 2012

My Blog Among Royal Roads University Alumni ‘Featured Blogs’

Thanks RRU!

Check it out here.

Posted by Paul at 09:04 PM

July 04, 2012

Grey Wolf–Tawny–#10–Masks

I recently came across some "art" I created, or attempted to copy, apparently at age 8.

There is an attached caption in my handwriting, which hasn't improved much from childhood.

Wooden fool mask with painted face made by Tsimshian and worn at a potlatch in 1912. Paul Cipywnyk. Age 8.

That, and in someone else's hand (a teacher's?): "Grey Wolf-Tawny-#10-Masks"

At age 8 I would have been in grade 4 (? I did grades 1 & 2 in one year) at Greystone Heights Elementary in Saskatoon, SK. Not sure how this would have been part of a prairie curriculum in the mid-1960s, but I think it's great!


Posted by Paul at 09:00 PM

Ah, the Hiss of the Waves, the Thunder of the Guns…


I was sorting through some books and got all excited to find volumes 19 and 20 of Patrick O'Brian's wonderful Aubrey-Maturin series in apparently pristine, unread shape -- and set apart from the rest of the series. Zounds, thought I, what a superb pair of volumes to while away a weekend or two this summer!

But when I checked my list of books read, I had indeed read them back in 2005. Sigh. Oh, well, I could always start the series from the beginning again! : -) That is, if I didn't have stacks of other books unread to get to. . .

Posted by Paul at 08:05 PM

July 02, 2012

First Annual Celebration of Safety & Culture on the Fraser River

I couldn't find a link to this event online, so I have taken the liberty of scanning the PDF and reproducing it, along with some of its information converted to text. Sounds like an interesting, educational, and community  building event.

The First Annual "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" will take place on Saturday, August 11, 2012, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Island 22 Regional Park in Chilliwack. This Celebration is a family event hosted by the Fraser Valley Regional District in cooperation with the Fraser River Peacemakers and Fraser Valley First Nations' organizations.

The "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" is intended to promote safe river practices and highlight the many groups who use and are connected to the Fraser River. The event will feature displays, activities and demonstrations from a variety of river user groups and relevant organizations. Groups that will be on site at this event will include:

Please mark this event on your calendar to make sure that you don't miss this great opportunity to learn more about safety and culture on the Fraser River. Admission to this event is free, and food and drinks will be available.
If you have any questions regarding this event, please email parks@fvrd.bc.ca.

(Note: the hyperlinks tagged for the above  groups were researched and added by me, so any landing errors are mine. I could not find web pages for the two FN listings.)


Posted by Paul at 06:34 PM

July 01, 2012

Volunteering at Canada Day in SE Burnaby

Despite some iffy weather forecasts, it turned out to be a lovely Canada Day in Ron McLean Park in SE Burnaby today. Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had our booth up, with aquatic bugs for kids to view, and we had a steady flow of interested folks throughout the event. Kudos to City of Burnaby staff who had the event running like clockwork, as usual. Job well done.


The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers booth



Kids love the bugs!


The RCMP are always a big draw : -).


And the politicians show up in force: L-R Kathy Corrigan, MLA; Raj
Chouhan, MLA; Peter Julian, MP; Sav Dhaliwal, Councillor; Burnaby
Mayor Derek Corrigan


Cutting the cake

Posted by Paul at 07:57 PM