CO2e Saved

In a recent update to the Suunto app., it started displaying how many kg of CO2e I’ve saved for the month during my commutes to work. This only includes the runs to and from work, which are few and short, that Suunto automatically tags as commute. I often walk, but also need to take the car due to the need for groceries and such.

I sent my bike to Ted’s Bicycle Studio in Stratford for a tune up on Friday – which seemed expensive but I appreciate his up front pricing. While it’s in his care he is also adding a rear bike rack. Once I order some rear panniers I should easily be able tp pick up some essentials for dinner – at least until winter.

Since my body is refusing to allow me to run marathons this year and perhaps next, I am planning a big bike upgrade for Sheryl and I so that we can start working towards long distance cycling trips. Traveling across the continent by bike sounds like a nice goal.


I learned something

I don’t know exactly what it was about the old library but I seldom wanted to spend any time there. Maybe it’s the open space, the brightness, or maybe it’s The Shed, but the new space is so much more inviting. I like to discover books, more than I like searching for them. The same could be said about music which is all algorithms now, which is far less satisfying than browsing for an hour at a store like Sam’s on Young St. in Toronto, back when LP’s were more than a narrow niche. So I wandered the aisles today at the learning centre, found a book and actually learned something new. Nothing life altering, just a useful function in Logic Pro I didn’t realize I needed to know. Now I do.


Blue skies

Taken from my Instagram feed, where I post a lot of blue.

If asked what I appreciated about living here, I would point to the blue sky. Returning here for summer vacation when we lived in Asia I would always marvel at the puffy white clouds, the clean air and the blue sky.

With all the bad news lately, Prince Edward Island seems like an increasingly unlikely place to choose to live, but that blue sky has the remarkable effect of washing away a lot of the negativity.


Blindness is an option

A little over 3 years ago this month I wrote about a health care experience that couldn’t have “happened anywhere else“. It was in one sense, a private/public health care system performing as it should.

Lately, I have been experiencing similar symptoms in the same eye and seeing as vision is fairly essential, decided after much procrastination, that I should go see Dr. Elaraoud, who replaced the angel who I first interacted with.

The hiccup is that Dr. Elaraoud is a specialist and on PEI that means you need a referral, and that referral costs money (either cash or through private insurance).

I’m prepared to pay the fee, I already, in addition to paying an exorbitant amount of taxes, invest a great deal of money in trying to keep mentally and physically sound. Not just for the joy it brings, but with the idea of forestalling being sick or injured, as help may not be forthcoming.

I run a money losing children podcast network so am not of means, but can still afford to pay the fee. But what if I couldn’t? What recourse is there for others? Blindness?

It’s also a month wait to see an Optometrist and an unknown length of time to see the specialist.


Learning Centre

The new learning centre is wonderful. Finally, Charlottetown has a place where you can meet, greet, work, read, and spend an afternoon while enjoying excellent coffee and treats. I’ll be there frequently, especially as the weather gets colder.


Blue skies

On days like this I think it’s best to not know just how nice it is outside – a benefit of having a basement office. Now that I know it’s difficult to focus on todays banal work knowing that I should, or could, be outside enjoying our short warm season. But if I did take the afternoon off, what exactly would I do? Hiking perhaps. Maybe I need to take up golf.

My daughter says that I have lost the “chill vibe” that she says we both used to share. We used to spend the afternoon in a coffee shop, she would drink tea, and I cup after cup of coffee. And share cheese cake. There is no where in Charlottetown to do the same, though The Shed comes pretty close with its excellent beans.

I can’t just sit and do nothing, and find relaxing perplexing. I didn’t travel to take a break, I traveled to experience things. My body continues to resist the punishing nature of road running, so I guess long bike trips around the Island might be the experience I need on afternoons like this.


Montreal

I got back from Montreal last night after a four night stay. I went up with the Canada Games swim team to an International meet primarily to support and spend time with Camren, but also to help the team wherever required. I spent most of my time outside in the hot sun, pool side, watching, listening, learning and occasionally yelling kudos to the swimmers.

Originally I planned to fly up as I couldn’t fathom sitting on the coach bus for 12 or more hours, but luckily I didn’t, as those few that did fly suffered at the hands of Air Canada. Their trip was far longer than ours and without a nights sleep.

There were many highlights during the brief trip: watching kids compete is a powerful thing, Montreal unlike Charlottetown has wonderful mango and watermelon, my son was thrilled to eat rice triangles again, apartments and condos seem built to last unlike the ugly rickety structures built locally, and I love how much space is given to bicycles and pedestrians.

While I enjoyed the trip, I’m not sure I can ever live in a big city again. I feel more settled in small towns like Charlottetown. We’ll see if I feel the same way when we decide whether to move back to Asia in the next few years.


Convergence

I’m experiencing deja vu this morning as some workers next door are sawing, drilling, and generally making as much noise as possible. This as I have a deadline which requires quiet.

In Taiwan, inevitably whenever plans were made to do some concentrated work at home, or take a rest day, or in one case celebrate Christmas, someone somewhere would decide to refurbish their whole apartment. Some neighbours would do it multiple times a year. This of course involved lots of drilling of concrete and deafening noise. This tendency to create noise whenever it pleased was one of the many reasons that prompted our decision to leave and return to a place with slightly less noise. Except for today of course.

So much has been happening all at once lately, that I think I must add a shit happens clause to my life. Whereby everything gets postponed until all the dust settles.


Give yourself permission to be creative

Many nights when we have time to watch a show Camren and I afterwards will watch a little something on Youtube. I’ve been fascinated lately with these small svelt young women in Vietnam constructing houses using simply their surroundings, and then gather food at the end and have a meal. Other times we have a chuckle and gain a little inspiration from various David Goggins videos. What’s interesting is that since we don’t log in to our TV’s Youtube app we get delivered a fuller range of interesting topics.

Thursday night it was an interview with Jordan Peterson, where he said his oft repeated trope that “weak men are dangerous”. So of course Camren picked up on this and made a joke about it, but it was a good lesson, as we listened to it multiple times, and I pointed out that it was nothing but completely incoherent verbal diarrhea with sound bites like above, that impressionable young men like my son could pick up on. I mentioned to Camren that I think no one truly listens anymore, they just hear what they want to hear, just like on the web they see what they believe, rather than believe what they see. Camren said maybe he wasn’t prepared.

But we did find something interesting to watch, which was the above talk by Ethan Hawke, whose views on work and creating I enjoy listening to. He too is not always easy to follow, and reiterates on “being the fool” or step outside your boundaries advice that many could use (I write children’s stories though I’m not a writer, and have been failing at Olympic lifting for years now). It’s obvious that he is an intelligent and thoughtful artist, unlike the aforementioned, who seems to have gone off the rails of late.


Comment no more

I wrote in January about the effects that my Twitter habit was having on my mood and since deleting my “PEI list” that contained hundreds of people and organizations with roots on the Island, my mood improved immeasurably. I took it a bit further and unfollowed even more, and if it weren’t for @Asymco I might not use Twitter at all.

The fact that their language started to enter my lexicon was reason enough (to classify is to be human, but to oversimplify risks objectifying), but their constant yelling, “vitriol, virtue signalling, and an endless stream of all that is wrong with the world” was depressing.

Online discussion amongst strangers is largely dead I think and best avoided.

The only real source of Canadian news that I read is the CBC website, I can’t stomach many of the big city papers and the local Guardian doesn’t seem worth paying for. Lately, the comment section has been over-run with angry angry people, maybe it always has been, but I found a decent antidote to them polluting what is otherwise a rather pedestrian read.

I installed a safari extension that deletes all comment sections on most websites I visit. That, plus the ad-blocker I use removes all many of the current annoyances of the web, and makes for a faster loading, more satisfying reading experience.


Motivation

I spent a morning recently with my 90 year old Uncle at the QEH, helping him get from point A to point B, and ensuring when possible that he understood the instructions of staff. He’s the last remaining elder on my side of the family, with the others having succumbed to the evils of cancer and bodies that could no longer support them.

If you are open to change and are on the fence as to whether you should modify your eating and physical habits, just spend some time at the hospital to see what it could be like if you don’t. The number of people of all ages unable to move their bodies as designed is distressing.

The way our medical system operates, you only interact with it when you are at your worst, when things are broken, or when you are sick. That is if you are able to see a doctor in a timely manner. In my youth I remember seeing my GP on a regular basis and being told to take care of certain aspects of my health, lose weight and get exercise. I’m not sure if doctors still do that or if they are even allowed to tell someone they are overweight.

So while my hospital observations may represent the worst case outcome for a sedentary lifestyle, it certainly gave me some encouragement to continue trying to keep moving, keep working on some form of athleticism, as I move through this phase of my life.

Last night I reluctantly went to a CrossFit workout. All I really wanted to do was stay at the office to try and finish the endless list of tasks I have to do. But after an hour of hanging out with good people, safely sweating a bit, my mood completely changed. I was talkative even. That’s evidence enough for me to keep trying.


Favorite stretch

I take a picture of this stretch of Victoria Row most days that I walk over to The Shed for coffee. It’s possibly my favourite stretch of road in all of Charlottetown and I only wish most of the downtown area was closed to monster trucks and open to those who can and like to walk (or bike).


Camren and I

Though he at times struggles with being overshadowed by his extroverted peers, and the negative framing that seems to follow being quiet, Camren has many of the qualities I respect in young men. He is quiet and determined, posesses grit, is intelligent and curious, dependable, works hard, and has great athletic potential.


To quit

I dropped into KC clothing for the first time in ages yesterday in search of something suitable to wear to a dinner I have to attend. I am told that it’s socially unacceptable to wear what I arrive to the office in – gym pants and hoodie – at a fancy restaurant in a hotel. So to avoid embarrassing my son and wife with the stares of others, or the possible baring of entry, I am in need of some proper pants.

I do have pants, and my previous office wear, jeans and t-shirts, but what I have recently found out was that they were purchased for someone who was slimmer and more athletic than I am now. My legs wouldn’t even fit in one pair. Thank you carbs.

This revelation was the topper to a week of suffering through what Goggins would call Poopy Pants mentality.

About 10 days ago during a workout I seemed to have strained a minor muscle that connects to my hip, making running impossible. This occurred after having spent a small fortune on a running assessment with a local physio., where we identified some minor issues to work on, so I can get back to training after a year off due to a different injury.

Though I am not ambitious, I’ve long believed in a work harder (and smarter), keep moving forward attitude, and I shudder whenever I hear people talking about being kind to yourself. But this past week I have come the closest I have come yet to just say, what the fuck am I doing this for, and quit.

I’m a big believer in keeping active and functional fitness. So many people my age or even much younger can’t get from point A to B without a car, some can’t bear a couple flights of stairs, and then later many find it hard to even get out of a chair. That’s no way to live and a sure fire way to frequent visits to a doctor, if you can find one.

Running has been a boon to my mental health and the inability to go for a long run has contributed to a more gray outlook towards the world.

Crossfit or functional fitness I describe as essential for injury free movement. Ironically, it’s where all my injuries have come from of late. It has done wonders for my conditioning and I love the intensity of some of the workouts. It keeps my hinge (hips) strong.

I’ve been through this before and worked my way through it, but I wasn’t working 7 days a week then, and there was more extrinsic motivation than what I have now.

Perhaps It is time to reexamine my concept of work life balance and see if I have the energy to work through injuries again.


Book Now!

Once in a blue moon I’d like a break from Marvel movies, and the uncomfortable couch we have in our living room, and go out and watch something quirky.

Luckily we have a cinema in town that plays films outside the mainstream. Unluckily, said cinema has a website that abandoned a utilitarian approach for yet another largely indecipherable WordPress theme.

Who knew that to answer the question, “What films do you have appearing over the next month?,” you would have to “Book Now!”.

The Buzz attempts to fill the gap, but they only feature a partial list.


But who is counting

I’ve written upwards of 35 short stories for kids since winter, or I guess episodes might be more precise since some are multiple parts.

This weeks story is in two parts – a listener asked for a story about being different at school. So I wrote about Fuzzy, who is a fox from Kensington attending The Stratford Academy for Cats and Dogs. Being a fox and not of financial means he is not initially accepted, but goes on to help them win an art competition over last years winner Birchwood.

I’ve written about this theme in the past and many of our listeners seem to identify with it.

For me it’s good fun to do something that I have no background or talent for, other than having a great imagination and the desire to one day put the silly stories in my head to paper.


Pod Stats

Podcast directory stats and their mysterious algorithms provide an interesting window into who is spending more on podcast discovery.

A show appearing out of no where means a company has released a huge sum, and then because for so many companies content is a feature, the show will slowly fade. Then someone else will have a six figure budget and the process continues.

Our move to our new host has had some interesting side effects. The design of their stats interface has serious problems, to the point of being unusable. There is some interesting data contained within, but its hidden behind an almost indecipherable display. Why can’t American companies just do what the Chinese do and copy the best fitting example of a competitor?

The result of this poor UI is that I spend far less time worrying about numbers and more time on … anything else.


My apologies

After living a lifetime in places where you taped your windows shut and enjoyed machine filtered temperature controlled air, it was a relief to return to a northern climate where you cooled your house by opening a window. Except for our bedroom.

In the summer it could be 21°C outside, 23°C in our living room but 28°C in our bedroom. And the temperature would rise from there.

So this year we bought the loudest air conditioner I have ever witnessed, the portable kind since there is some ordnance against in window air conditioners, no doubt to avoid air conditioners falling down on peoples heads like the rain (something that I never heard of in earthquake prone Taiwan).

When we installed it last night I remarked that this would spell the start of the wettest and coolest summer since we returned. And sure enough it’s rainy and cool this morning.


Changes

I’m sitting in St. John at the Second Cup drinking putrid coffee trying to stay awake after a sleepless night. We are here yet again for another few sessions at the Aquatics centre.

I’m supposed to be writing a story about a mouse who is jealous of a dog’s life but when I am tired I am more open to procrastination.

Thursday we signed an agreement with Redcircle for non-exclusive distribution for 3 of our podcasts. If we were more marketing savvy this might warrant a press release, or something similar, but this paragraph with have to suffice. All change entails some risk but the terms and the platform that they gave us makes this an important opportunity. So far the switch has worked seamlessly and the redirects are working as they should.

This agreement also means we are also obligated to publish our funky science podcast, which was a fun experiment for us, and which we have been trying to relaunch for almost 2 years (I can’t believe I have been doing this for that long). There will be less beeps and bops, fart noises and such in this season, and it will focus around Bernice and Papa Bear working on science homework before bed. Bernice and Papa Bear are characters that I created for Sleep Tight Stories, and which I hope to have in print over the summer.


Note on Groceries

The photos above were typical shopping carts for us prior to returning home 4 years ago. At that time fresh protein sources were so cheap, whole chickens were less than $3CAN, that we fed our dogs better than what we sometimes ate ourselves. Feeding them whole chickens or chicken half’s was cheaper than imported processed dog food.

That was the pinnacle of our healthy diet, plenty of greens, good fats, delicious fruits and meat and fish. We would have salmon for breakfast and dinner. Bread was not a staple but a treat, like ice cream. Everything was fresh, and organic out of necessity, as food wasn’t as clean there.

When we first arrived back home I couldn’t understand why, with the exception of lobster, seafood sourced from the Atlantic, particularly salmon, was more expensive here than in Taiwan. But then you could get a PEI lobster sandwich at the movie theatre in Hsinchu for the same price as a bucket of popcorn here.

When you walk into a grocery store in Canada, if you are concerned about the food you eat, you stick to the outside of the store, and avoid the aisles. At RTMart in Hsinchu, the whole foods were all in one square boxy area, though later they got clever and added freezers of processed food just before the checkout aisles to increase profits. At the Superstore, which we started going to because they used to have the best prices and “in store” specials, now has resorted to putting Twizzlers, crackers, and other garbage amongst what used to be the fresh meat section (fresh fish is not a thing here). I took this initially as an ominous sign that real food was not available, but I’m starting to now think it’s just another ploy to get people to buy more high margin crap.

We used to plan our meals for the week, both for convenience and to make sure we were eating well. When food is affordable, you can plan, but now that the price of food has increased exponentially for our family, I go and buy the cheapest protein sources available and start from there. A couple of us have changed our protein sources somewhat, Camren in particular eats more plant protein, which is a good thing. But I think he would agree that eating salmon or steak is preferable to pea or pumpkin seed protein powder.

For the most part, our diet has changed for the worse, and the 20+ lbs I have gained since coming here is in part evidence of that. Some changes are inevitable, there will be no more bowls of sweet mango, sliced guava, lizhi, or bags of thick skinned oranges. The variety of “greens” has decreased somewhat.

Whenever Taiwanese friends would tell me that they left the US because they didn’t like the food, I would try not to show my astonishment at their choice. We live in a region where you can get almost anything you desire, for a price, and yet I am slowly starting to come to understand their point of view. It’s not so much that we can’t get a bowl of delicious beef noodles (you can’t) it’s that fresh food is expensive to the point of unattainability.

I tend to exaggerate, but first COVID, and now yet another insane war in Europe is making it more difficult for families to afford fresh food – even potato chips are overpriced.

Unfortunately, no place is immune to inflated food prices, and I understand the cheap protein sources we used to buy in the past are no longer as cheap today.


Saint John Redux

We are in Saint John again, this time for Canada Games trials. Camren is trying to join PEI’s swim team to compete this summer.

Swimming as a sport is not something I completely understand, and not just because I myself can’t swim, but due to its extremely technical nature. Also, at the amateur there is often a disparity in skill levels which makes the races, less of a race.

It’s interesting to watch Camren progress through all the training and effort he puts into everything. With 6am CrossFit classes, 5 swimming practices a week, work, school and even a social life, he is the epitome of grit. If the people of my generation don’t succeed in destroying the world, I see a wonderful future for him.

As we are here for 4 days there was no way we were going endure the hotel experience we had last time. So we booked an Airbnb which I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, in places like Charlottetown I see STR’s as a contributing factor to the housing crisis and the decline of the downtown. On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that this experience we are having is far superior to any hotel we could have booked. I don’t see hotels in this part of the world stepping up their game anytime soon.

I noticed this the last time we were here, but uptown Saint John is sketchy as hell. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt I had to be aware of my surroundings. In Charlottetown your greatest concern is cars vs. pedestrians/cyclers, especially monster trucks. I almost got hit by one of those tanks last week at an intersection crosswalk when he couldn’t see me and I am 6ft too short.


Update on A Quick Change

January felt like a tough month and in an effort to ensure some control over my life and keep moving forward, I proposed a few bullets of change.

As with many of the bullet lists I create, I didn’t get through it all, partially due to laziness and also in no small part due to contracting COVID.

My biggest disappointment is certainly my inability to ramp up my physical activity (thank you lungs) and the ever increasing middle aged paunch. The greatest gift that returning to the Island has given is 20lbs of weight gain.

The healthy diet we had in Taiwan is just a little bit harder to replicate here and the bread just a little bit more abundant and tasty.

Dreams of running an ultra without excessive injury are drifting away.

What I have accomplished is reading, and though not on the list writing. I’ve managed to read 8 books since the 15th of January and average 2-3 short stories a week. For many I know, my daughter included, this isn’t cause for celebration, but based on my previous habits, it’s a good start.

Now that I seem to be rid of all effects of COVID, and it’s still a big PITA for the vaccinated and healthy, I hope I can slowly spend more time on physical activity with perhaps a race in the fall.


Help still required

It’s that time again, time to update my payment information across multiple systems. Luckily this only happens once every four years or so, as this interaction illustrates why companies still need to hire someone people with an eye for detail and a ounce of empathy for their customers.

Kudos to PayPal who somewhat uncomfortably updates this info automatically.

Unfortunately, Pair Networks has no area to update your payment details in their VPS account that I could find, unlike their shared hosting which has a completely different UI. Parent company Libsyn, hides billing information in a different place for their Enterprise accounts. Public Mobile uses tiny text as an afterthought and their database is so slow you need to wait 2 minutes for each screen change. And the list goes on …

Every time I think there must be so many accepted UI patterns that work, that there must be no more work for those people concerned with their customers experience, I come across situations like this.

I’ve allocated a couple of hours for this. I hope it will be enough.


Like a fine wine

I can think of no better analogy to describe the cup of coffee I had at The Shed on Monday. After a weekend of drinking coffee from the likes of The Java Moose and The Second Cup it was particularly refreshing to taste coffee’s true potential.


See you again St. John

This past weekend found us in St. John, NB, a city I don’t think I have ever visited but may have driven to when I would have been too young to realize where I was.

We were there for Camrens swimming meet, his first off-Island meet and the largest since COVID turned kids lives upside down.

The uptown is full of wonderful architecture with intricate detail and I loved the sturdy old brick homes. At the same time there was a certain edge to the place, which might be due to it’s current and past industrial activities, but also the poverty that was evident for all to see. The uptown suffers from the same fate as Charlottetown, as it’s extremely quiet, with few locals about, as most prefer to live in the outer edges and shop and eat at the soulless big box stores. It’s a shame that it is only tourists who appreciate an interesting downtown.

St. John is home to not only Crosby Molasses, but also a couple fine coffee roasters, which I will get to brew over the coming week. Drinking copious amounts of coffee there re-affirms to me just how lucky we are to have The Shed. There is no comparison.

We are looking forward to going back to St. John in the first week of May for Canada Games trials, and we’ve already booked an AirBnB for that period. The hotel’s in Saint John look like they haven’t had much in the way of investment for 20 years, and at least in the place we stayed, it shows.