Google Sucks Me Tighter into its Borg

Google Calendar is shutting down its free personal sync with Outlook. I was informed that I should uninstall the software by the end of the month.

So I thought about how I’m using calendars and have decided to stop using Outlook and go 100% Google. Why? I never used Outlook for email, I’ve used Thunderbird for ages on my Windows 7 boxen, and Eudora before that on older Windows versions in days of old. On the road I use Gmail.

In fact I have my email accounts (personal and business) set up to hit a web hosting server at Pair Networks, which then forwards to Gmail, which then forwards to my local Shaw account. Between the Pair and Gmail anti-spam filters, I get very little unwanted mail.

Google Calendar has enough functionality for my needs — calendaring and a to-do list is all I want. And it syncs with my Android phone, and iCalendar on my Mac Mini and iPod.

As you can see, I am hardware and OS agnostic. I use Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kobo, Kindle. . . I even have an old tower running Ubuntu Linux. Don’t use Linux much, but like to play with it occasionally.

So the cloud appears to be the way to go.

TV Japan Reminds Me of Lovely, Hot/Cold Traditional Japanese Houses

Caught a few minutes of an NHK Japan TV drama that my wife was watching tonight. Sigh.

I really love the look of traditional Japanese houses. I can imagine the scent of the tatami and old wood. The gentle rumbling of the screen doors moving. The gorgeous little rock-moss-and-water gardens. . .

I’d love to live in one, in Japan, for the three or four months of the year that they are comfortable to live in — at least in central Honshu — with my metabolism.

My 14 years in Japan I mostly lived in concrete “mansions”, aside from 6 months in an old, traditional “student house” and about a year in an old wooden apartment building, with teeny rooms, a shared toilet, and bathing facilities a block up the street at the local sento, or public bath.

And I’ll tell you that when I earned enough to move into an apartment of about 300 square feet in a brand-spanking-new concrete “mansion” with my own bath and an air conditioner, I thought I was king of the hill .

From memory of Japanese seasonal patterns, I’d say a traditional Japanese house without modern cooling/heating appurtenances would be comfy, at least for me, for around April-May, and October-November, in the  greater Tokyo area .

Cleaning the Closet, Taking Photos for the Memories

I’ve got amazing junk hanging around. Today I am tossing several Ts and sweats into the rag basket, but I’m shooting them for the memories.

carleton_1984-85First up, my sweatshirt from the Carleton University Bachelor of Journalism program from 1984-85.

Goodtimers_T_frontA Goodtimers T-shirt dating to the late 1980s in Tokyo, Japan. The Goodtimers were an English-speaking jogging club. I met my wife, Yumi, through this group.

Goodtimers_T_logoCloseup of the logo.

Goodtimers_T_backAnd the back.

Goodtimers_sweatshirt_backGoodtimers sweatshirt

Goodtimers_Noble_T_backA special event Goodtimers T, date June 26, 1994. We were aiming for a cumulative 750km in one day around the Imperial Palace moat in Tokyo.

honolulu_marathon_1987_front1987 Honolulu Marathon T. My one and only full marathon. As I recall, I finished in around 4:50, with a muscle tear in my thigh. Shoulda stopped, but. . . didn’t see myself doing more marathons so I really wanted to get this one done. Was limping for weeks.


portland_1990A five-miler done in Portland in 1990.

yevshan_frontYevshan Ukrainian Dancers T circa late 1970s? I wasn’t a dancer, but I played bass guitar in their Sweden tour orchestra.


cymk_1970sCanadian Ukrainian Youth Association, circa 1970s. I was president of the Saskatoon chapter, and the Saskatchewan Provincial Council way back when…

tc_1970sNo, I never attended Columbia, but my Mom did from around 1969-71. My sister and I attended elementary classes at a “free school” associated with Teacher’s College. We ended up mostly home-schooling with textbooks sent from Canada.

I really need to get rid of stuff like this. Stuff that’s been sitting untouched for decades, but I’m a sentimental softy. So now it’s preserved, somewhat, digitally, and yet my wife can be happy that I’m tossing it : -).

Used Book Steal of a Deal

Used books


My steal of a deal of the week. Used books from a seniors’ society thrift store on Whidbey Island, WA, a few days ago. Try around $5 for the stack.

I don’t buy many new “paper” books any more, just used ones. New books tend to go to either my Kindle or my Kobo these days.

Birds’ Breakfast Buffet at Birch Bay State Park

Here’s a set of photos I took this morning at Birch Bay State Park in WA. It was a veritable breakfast buffet on the beach for various birds. Herons were chowing down on several kinds of fish, and what appeared to be lamprey. Gulls were rooting out clams, carrying them up and then dropping them to break them open. An eagle sat overlooking the breakfast scene while being harassed by a crow. Stimulating morning on the beach!

Flickr Album here.

heron in flight at birch bay

Cute Deer at Fort Ebey State Park, WA

There are lots of deer in state parks on Whidbey Island that are fairly accustomed to people. The ones we’ve seen have been wary, and not overly tame, but confident enough to get good photos.

I think we’ve seen the following one twice in about as many weeks at Fort Ebey State Park. Same area, same size, same behavior.


Out in the open above, and nearly concealed between the tree at bottom right below.

deer fort ebey, wa

Looking Forward to Burnaby Blues & Roots Fest in August

Looking forward to the Burnaby Blues and Roots Fest in August. This is steadily developing into a major music extravaganza. I’m particularly anticipating Imelda May — as I recall, she broke an ankle (?) at her last BB&R appearance a few years ago, and soldiered on like the trouper she is. Gorgeous voice and great band, eh?

I’m also eagerly awaiting the performance by Miss Quincy. I have gone head over heels for this Canadian band recently. Top of my play list!

A Fave Hawk Photo from 2009

I “shot” this hawk couple on their nest on a rural road in southern Alberta back in 2009.

Hawks on nest in southern AlbertaI

I’ve been asked several times over the years if this is a photo of a diorama in some museum. It’s definitely a live shot.

I saw the nest as I was slowly cruising down a rural road. It was likely the Red Coat Trail, or a parallel road nearby.

I spotted the nest, drove past it in an attempt to allay suspicions, and slowly wandered back toward it, hiding any equipment, as hawks are very shy of anything that looks like a “projection” or rifle.

I slowly angled into the ditch and eventually snapped several shots, but the parents were getting agitated, so I backed off.

Just in time. The male swooped me seconds later as I was backing away, but seeing that I was already retreating, he stayed 5-10 meters above me.

An exhilarating experience, but one that also respected the birds. As soon as I knew I was intruding, I backed off.

If you try this, please give them their space, too. Thanks!


Writing 500 Words Per Day – First Try

How long will it take to write 500 words?

That is the question. I am off on a quest to write 500 words a day, every day, until something substantial arises from the keyboarding. I am only one monkey pounding away, so I am curious to see how long it will take me to write the first 500 words.

Why write 500 words a day? There are plenty of writing programs out there that flog this concept. The number may be different, but the idea that remains constant is that to produce any manuscript you have to get words down on paper. Or characters up on the screen.

You simply write. If you have an idea in mind, great. If you’re adding to something already started, wonderful. If you’ve got nothing, just go. Just get those fingers tapping or pen scrawling. And do it every day.

Eventually, the theory goes, that writing will begin to coalesce into something. Ideas will form. Concepts will begin to glimmer through the mist. The more you write, the more likely you are to come up with something that will eventually be usable.

So where is my writing headed? Honestly, I’m not sure. I have a background in journalism, but I haven’t done newswriting for many years. I started a creative writing program at the university level some 30-odd years ago, and gave up after a few months. I switched to expository writing, and was happy there for the rest of the semester before going off to journalism school. So essays, reportage––those genres are certainly within my capabilities.

But there is also the lure of fiction. I love reading novels, why not write one? But that’s a daunting task. That’s also where the 500 words a day comes in. It’s a manageable chunk. It’s not dozens of pages, it’s not a chapter. I’ve taken a fiction workshop or two over the last few years, mostly from an editing standpoint because that’s my work. I’m a freelance editor. But I’ve also participated in some fiction writing workshops, and while I found them scary, I did quite well.

“Write an opening page for a novel this evening, and then we’ll come back tomorrow morning and share them.” Yikes! But I survived. I even got a fair bit of praise. But then that first page has been sitting untouched on my computer for a couple of years now.

But perhaps I could add to that page, 500 words at a time. See how that goes. All it takes is the discipline to do it. 500 words isn’t such a huge challenge, is it? I’m at 438 words on this page now, and that’s taken me six minutes.

Another approach that some of my Facebook friends were discussing recently is the timer technique. You get a cheap, simple kitchen timer, or use one on your phone or computer, and focus on activities in 30-minute chunks. Again the idea is to make the chunks manageable, and not something to be feared. So you, say, practice that guitar that you haven’t touched in years for 30 minutes a day.

Whoops! I’m done! I am now at 526 words, so I quit.

That wasn’t bad at all.

Now to just do it again. And again…

Word count: 547

Elapsed time: 8 minutes

UPDATE: July 9 – BTW I am not going to be posting my daily 500 words on this blog every day. Apologies if that’s what readers thought. While it might have been fun, I think a daily dose of unedited dreck would quickly become tiresome. However, if any 500-word session produces something I feel is worth sharing, I will post bits and pieces, and perhaps the occasional entire spew.

Streamkeeping, sustainability, community, business, photography, books, and animals, with occasional forays into social commentary. Text and Photos © Paul Cipywnyk