Staying at home

We are attempting to give the kids some kind of a resemblance of structure, structure that they used to have as we filled their days with school and after school activities.

I subscribe to the notion that this is a great opportunity for them to follow their own path of learning. To take on a project of their choosing. With so much free time there is so much they could accomplish, learn or do, but alas the lure of Xbox and its immediate dopamine rush wins far more often than I would like.

The education system here seems ill equipped for a transition to distance learning and there is an overwhelming focus on “taking it easy” and not giving the kids any new challenges. Talking to people in Taiwan they seemed to have the opposite problem when they briefly closed schools, the kids couldn’t keep up with the work load. Different culture and different values in terms of academic achievement. I’m 100% certain that my kids prefer this Island’s approach, but I’m also fairly certain that my daughters dreams of a university education may be put on hold for a year as a result. Math and science education here already lags behind, with the strategy they seem to be following here for at home classes she will be at an extreme disadvantage.

Yes we are in the midst of a pandemic, with our southern neighbour now the epicentre, but I prefer to focus on a brighter future than wallow in fear of what is beyond my control.

Now that my COVID-19 like symptoms have abated, I went last night to retrieve the last of my items at my desk at the StartUp Zone. I’ve set—up a desk in our small living room which now puts us altogether, working at the same time. Which is kind of cool.

My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Isaac Asimov

I see this quote periodically on Twitter, particularly now with COVID-19 and the American public’s unrepentent love of their current President, distrust of science and belief in all kinds of snake oil remedies and fairy tales.

I’ve yet to have the opportunity to read the article that the quote comes from until I came across this scan.

When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health. If you don’t regularly exercise this capacity, it withers.
Barbara L. Frederickson, Your Phone vs. Your Heart

Goodbye Adobe Fonts?

I received an email today from Adobe letting me now that my Creative Cloud single-app membership for XD was about to renew for USD119.88 plus Tax. I didn’t sign up for Adobe XD but was given a free trial a year ago (time has flown) when I believe they made the final changes to Typekit. Typekit was bought by Adobe in October 2011 from Jeffery Veen’s Small Batch, Inc. I have been a user of Typekit almost from the very beginning and currently have 12 websites using the service.

But I have no interest in any other of Adobe’s products and the year that I have had the opportunity to use Adobe XD I haven’t even bothered to install it. Adobe Audition might prove useful, but at US$31.49/mo (if paid monthly) the price is ridiculously high. There are good enough solutions out there for far less, or in the case of Pro Logic, you can pay a hefty one time licensing fee and over the course of the life of the product save money compared to Adobe’s pricing.

Sketch provides almost all I need in a design tool these days and their pricing model, though still a subscription, is far more agreeable. If the need arises I’m sure Serif Labs tools will more than suffice.

But that leaves me with what to do with Adobe fonts. They don’t offer a separate subscription for the service and I’ve spent in some cases considerable time finding suitable typography for each project I use their type with.

I’m considering a monthly subscription to InCopy which at US$7.49/mo is currently their cheapest plan. But long term I will look for alternatives at Google Fonts and investigate the feasibility of smaller independent foundries that have a sizeable collection of web fonts.

I’ve completely divorced myself from Microsoft office years ago. It seems time to say goodbye to Adobe as well.

Life is Beautiful

When I was living in China alone and particularly missing my family and Taiwan, and/or when the stress level was particularly high I would listen to 美麗人生 by Gary Chau (I think some mornings I had it on repeat while raced to get ready). Not so much because I thought it was a great piece of music but it brought back memories of a simpler time when we were camping with Camren’s classmates in the mountains a couple hours from our home. It was one of the songs they performed. Kids and families form stronger bonds there, than what I experienced growing up here, with lots of group activities for kids and parents alike.

During the particularly dark days in China the song served as a reminder that life was more positive than my mood at the time might have expressed.

Sheryl Sharing Stories

Starting this Monday past at 10am AST (GMT-3) and continuing at the same time all week, Sheryl will be reading some of her favourite story books on the Sleep Tight Stories Facebook page. Suitable for kids in elementary school or older, our hope was that this might prove useful as kids are in isolation at home or may have limited contact with their English teacher. Listening to stories may also help children understand change, and new or frightening events, and also the strong emotions that can go along with them. Also, it can be fun.

Some suggested at home activities to try after listening to the story (or any story):
– draw a picture or pictures representing the story
– tell someone about the story, and/or
– try to write something about the story

Each session will be short and will either be pre-recorded or live. Our first 2 sessions were live, one of which ignored the fact that Facebook forces you to position the camera in portrait mode – so viewers had to tilt their devices or their heads to view properly.

There are a multitude of resources that parents can access to allow their kids to continue learning and using their imaginations while staying home from school, and away from their friends. Perhaps these videos might be a useful addition to their playlists.

Thankful for simple pleasures

My coffee intake has spiked to record levels this past week and I have been finding myself dreading drinking each cup of stale store bought beans. So being able to buy a couple of bags from Receivers was a welcome respite and treat.

I have a lb. of unroasted beans arriving today, so I expect our place to be filled with the smells of roasting coffee beans shortly after their arrival.


I’m sitting here at my desk in a somewhat zombie like state after yet another night of no sleep. I thought I was on the mend, I was well enough yesterday to go for a run and didn’t experience burning lungs and throat like the day before. Unfortunately as nighttime arrived my cough returned and I didn’t have an hour of solid sleep all night. This has basically been my whole week and never have I experienced a cold such as this. I’ve had little energy to get anything done. When I developed a fever, I decided it might be wise to test for COVID-19, because prior to developing symptoms I and my family were out and in contact with people. Unfortunately, according to the online self-assessment tool, you can only be tested if you have recently returned from travel abroad, or have been in contact with someone confirmed to have the virus. This would seem unwise, but I assume that this is due to a lack of testing capability.

Now that the initial shock that an “Asian Style” outbreak has followed us here has somewhat reduced we are now filled with worry about other practical matters.

How will we educate our children and how will we pay rent are our immediate concerns.

Due to lack of employment opportunities I fear that we will soon have to leave PEI. Of course, if the global economy tanks, then demand for design talent will go down as well. Educators like my wife should be safe for the short term, at least overseas.

Starting Monday we have to start homeschooling. There have been some rumours that the school year might not be continued, and I’ve heard that at present there are no plans to implement some kind of e-learning component to allow it to continue. Resources for parents are being made available but it’s entirely voluntary.

Other regions have been successful in implementing adhoc e-learning programs during isolation, and returning kids to school after a period of self-isolation (though Singapore just closed schools again). I doubt it would fly here due to our lack of experience and our western sense of individuality – would we allow the rigorous testing of our kids health here that they follow in Taiwan? The most obvious reason why e-learning might not work is that in 2020 many still don’t have reliable high speed internet access at home.

Next week should provide for a rewarding challenge. The mornings will be filled with the kids working on academics, while the afternoon the kids can do project work. Maybe we can create a podcast together, or Catriona can learn more Python, while Camren tackles Javascript. Some time outside would be wise as well.

All of this will require patience on everyones part. If I can develop that, then this break might almost seem worthwhile.

Keeping kids busy and educated during self-isolation

I shared this on Slack earlier this am. It’s by no means exhaustive but it might serve as a good starting point.

Podcast recommendations and a collection of resources to keep kids busy and educated during self-isolation.

“children’s book authors are now doing virtual storytimes!”

For those of you with little kids, #OperationStoryTime might be a fun way to fill in some time.

Also, my wife will be reading Childrens stories next week on Sleep Tight Stories FaceBook page at around 10am. Very adhoc and informal but could be a nice break for the little ones.

Sleep Tight Stories is publishing twice weekly now and with 79 episodes their might be something to add to your child’s playlist.

Apple Podcasts:
Google Podcasts:

Lastly, Kids Listen has a great list of kids podcasts and stay at home resources.

Focus on the things within your control

One of the many reasons I am most grateful for my years of competing in the @crossfitgames and medical training, is that they’ve taught me to be more comfortable with the unknown. They’ve taught me to focus on the things that are within my control, and not to spend time worrying about those things that are not. They’ve taught me that we as human beings are vulnerable – we are not perfect, and we fail a lot – but this vulnerability does not have to paralyze us and keep us from doing our best every day.

These lessons are so important at a time like this in the world where so many things are unknown about #COVID19. I’m drawing on these lessons now myself and I hope you will, too.
Julie Foucher, MD

Keeping heathy

I managed to get out for a run last Saturday when the temperatures managed to climb above zero. It was great to get out and breathe some fresh air and run along the water. Its really the best mental and physical therapy I could ask for.

Hopefully the weather will warm up a bit and I can continue to run, as my CrossFit box, along with all gyms across the Island, has been closed for the foreseeable future. The mat and the weight above are my only tools to keep healthy and strong while stuck inside.

I’m asymptomatic; I assume it’s just a bad chest cold, the kind that keeps you awake all night with incessant coughing, so I’ll be staying home, avoiding the office and practicing social distancing as instructed. Social distancing has from my perspective been the norm this past year, partially due to my introverted ways and partially due to the fact that we don’t know many people here. There are never crowds anywhere, and Charlottetown in winter is bereft of people. It will be an interesting summer without the tourists to fill the streets.

This chest cold is a good reminder of the ferocity of viruses. We have been through so many different outbreaks over the years, developed excellent preventative methods, and live as healthy a lifestyle as one can. Yet, a virus may spare no one. Hence our whole household is suffering.

My son get sick first and I’m sure I said some stupid remark that the rest of us were unaffected because we have been eating better, or some such nonsense I say to goad my son to make better food choices.

I should have learned this lesson years ago. When the kids were still little and we were living in a house located in a dank alley in Hsinchu downtown, a virus swept through the house. It was unbelievably horrible, with uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by high fever. Each one us succumbed in order, like falling dominoes. At one time I was the last one standing when I foolishly joked that I must be the strongest in the family. Shortly after, I got sick, it hit you so hard and fast you could feel the transformation, and I was practically unconscious in bed for 15 hours, leaving Sheryl, the one who is truly strongest, alone to care for the recovery of the kids.


These are fairly mild compared to the scenes that are being shared endlessly throughout social media.

This was the scene at NoFrills last evening. People on the island have joined with many others around the world in abandoning community and retreating to their base instincts. It’s one thing to ensure you have a 2 weeks supply of the essentials, it’s another to hoard, thereby denying availability to others.

Hoarding is easier I suppose, to choices that have greater effect; choosing competent leadership and living a healthy lifestyle are a couple that come to mind.

Kerim’s COVID-19 Potpourri

I’m quoting liberally here from Kerim’s excellent article on COVID-9, from his perspective living in Taiwan.

COVID-19 Potpourri

First of all, Taiwan was able to learn from experience, despite the fact that the political party in charge has changed since the SARS epidemic. This is a far cry from the US where Trump fired all the staff Obama had hired in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. One area where these differences can be seen in stark contrast is in the different rates of testing in each country.


One area which has been a matter of some debate is whether or not we should wear face masks. First of all, it is important to know when and how to wear masks correctly. I recommend this WHO website designed to provide exactly such information. Because many people wear face masks incorrectly, some experts (including those at the WHO, the Singapore CDC, and the CDCs of several other countries) have argued that one shouldn’t wear a face mask unless you are sick or are caring for infected patients.

However, in East Asia it is common to wear masks even if you aren’t sick and some experts have argued that this might be a good model to follow. This is especially true due to the risk of asymptomatic transmission. Moreover, as the article points out, everyone wearing masks in public helps remove the stigma associated with such behavior. Such stigma might prevent people who are sick from wearing masks.

Wearing a mask is also a “symbol and a tool of protection and solidarity”:

PEI, Taiwan, and COVID-19

How has Taiwan kept its coronavirus infection rate so low?
Taiwan’s number of COVID-19 infections is currently below 50, despite the island’s proximity to the outbreak’s epicenter on mainland China. Experts say early intervention has helped stop a public health crisis.

I think this early success comes from experience and good leadership. I don’t expect this kind of success south of the border, nor despite calm rational leadership here on the Island, expect the same results locally. Which leads me to think that the safest place to be during this outbreak is near the epicentre of where it started, a reversal of my thinking, after years and years of believing that we should leave Taiwan to be closer to safer surroundings.

Sheryl and I lived through SARS in Taiwan, she was pregnant at the time, and the image that lives on in my head is the constant temperature checks wherever we went. From the time I got on the bus to work, until I was sitting at my desk, I was checked no less than 5 times by security wearing masks and gloves. The same could be said for most public places. Wearing a mask is commonplace there, and despite the medical establishment in the West stating otherwise, it was deemed an effective tool to slow the rate of infection. I always saw it as a means to keep our hands away from our face and I still have a number of N95 maks in storage here somewhere, which I suppose might be worth their weight in gold these days.

SARS changed us. Vigorous hand washing had become the norm. We always had disinfectant hand wipes, and Purell, in the car and in pocket, for the kids when we were out and about. It wasn’t just SARS. The kids would get sick all the time, in addition to the normal seasonal flu, there always seemed to be some kind of viral infection making it’s way through the schools. Doctors were a great source of information and they were frequently visited. This kind of resource is sorely lacking locally.

Social distancing is the norm here, people expect their homes to be as far from others as financially possible, personal space is expansive, and you can walk the streets of Charlottetown without meeting a soul. That wasn’t possible in Taiwan, no matter how hard you tried, and I tried often.

And yet, when I look through my photo library for photos during the period of SARS, and all the years since, I see nothing of masks or security checks, or the constant multitudes of hand disinfectant stations. I see us traveling the region, smiling faces, and generally just living our lives. Sheryl recalls that we still went about our days, went to movies, and ate at restaurants. We just remained calm, aware, and made sure we were following proper procedures.

What worries me most about this pandemic is not the virus itself but all the hysteria that surrounds it. I get the feeling that it’s not a good time to be in America, unless you are wealthy. The lack of leadership there, the delusions of people with voice everywhere, and the click bait hungry media have seemingly whipped people up into a frenzy. Why you need a years supply of toilet paper during an outbreak is beyond me, there are more pressing concerns other than a comfortable wipe.

Bus vs. Taxi

The bus I take from Stratford to the downtown and return, is quick, inexpensive, and features a friendly helpful driver. So helpful that the driver will even drop me off at my door when I am taking the return trip. People talk and share stories.

It’s such a contrast to the taxi experience on the same route, which is slower, far more expensive, and generally not as social a drive. Taxi’s don’t feel as safe either.

I only see growth for public transit in Charlottetown, fuelled in no small part by the bus drivers themselves. I see only decline for taxi’s, especially if ride sharing ever takes hold, which despite the negativity surrounding the gig economy, is incentivized to provide a good experience.

Atlantic Podcast Summit

Last Friday found me on the road at 4:30am for an early morning arrival in Halifax to attend the Atlantic Podcast Summit.

I came away with a number of salient points and particularly enjoyed the talks given by Kristen Meinzer and Dila Velazquez, who is content and audience developer at Curiouscast. Primarily I came away with some renewed enthusiasm for the medium, so many at the conference treat podcasting not as platform for ad dollars, but something to be enjoyed and shared. Much like the web used to be.

The location inside the Cineplex on Spring Garden road was interesting. It certainly had comfortable seats, but the audio was poor and the interaction difficult. They could stand to learn from Peter’s Crafting {:} a Life – much of the value obtained from conferences would seem to be from the interaction with those attending, comfortable seats are of a secondary concern.

Lunch was not provided so since there was little opportunity beforehand to meet interesting strangers, people in their pre-formed cliques went about there own way. It’s a pity, as a catered lunch is a great opportunity to force people to bump into each other. Those collisions provide for all kinds of opportunity for learning. Lunch was cheap, cheaper than what can be found near my haunts in Charlottetown.

It was a short trip as I managed to somehow guide the car into our lot in Stratford sometime after 8pm. I was kept awake with bad coffee and the miracle of actually listening to a 3hr podcast with a conversation centred around hunting bear with bow and arrow.

Garageband’s Hard Time Limit

I’ve been meaning to switch to Reaper for all our audio editing needs, or perhaps ProLogic, but because Reaper’s interface takes some time to get used to and set-up I’ve put it off. We already use audacity to record single track audio and it’s awful for anything beyond that.

Most of the audio we record has been under or around 30 minutes but today I wanted to create a file of 45 minutes. Garageband (aka garbage-band) has, I discovered, a hard limit in terms of how much time you can create.

So I turned to Google for answers.

Because Garageband’s focus is in the creation of ‘fun’ music projects it has created a hard limit as to how many bars of music you can create in 4/4 at 120 beats/minute. I had forgotten that Garageband’s underlying focus was bars and beats.

The solution was to simply slow down the tempo and apparently voila you have the potential for hours of time. Except I made the mistake of doing this after my project was complete. Garageband does not respect the ‘time’ between edits, or audio files, and everything is spread unevenly all over the place. A complete mess. Returning the tempo to its original state does not help. The audio files do not return to their original location, they remain a mess. So we must start anew.

Garageband is a good enough tool for those creating podcasts on a Mac. But one thing that is missing from many getting started guides is the advice to change the tempo before you start creating your tracks. You can do that by going to the track menu and dragging the difficult to see blue line up and down to your desired tempo.

Kudos to Silver Streams Restaurant

Last week was Camren’s 14th birthday, and keeping with tradition there was a pancake breakfast replete with balloons and a later dinner out at a restaurant of his choosing. Our weekday evenings are full of activities, so the dinner part of the day had to be delayed. One part of our birthday tradition that was missing was the Daddy Cake. Camren elected to have cheesecake, surprisingly difficult to find in Charlottetown, instead of the monstrosity that I would create.

His choice for dinner was Silver Streams near the 1911 jail. With all the decent Asian style restaurants in Charlottetown, it’s hard to understand why this place has become his favourite, but it has, and so off we went.

Their buffet is about what you would expect, but I managed to find more protein than starch for my plate, and the sweet and sour chicken balls reminded me of the Chinese food we would have when I was Camren’s age.

The staff were new, I believe the restaurant has new owners, and were friendly and kept the food fresh.

At one point Camren coughed, he has a cold, and an older couple looked at him with a look of horror on their face for seemingly a long period of time. Hopefully it wasn’t a sign of early Covid-19 hysteria. This I believe led to a conversation as to how Sheryl was pregnant during the SARS outbreak and how that has changed our habits since.

As we were leaving I asked Catriona to mention in Chinese that it was Camren’s birthday and they graciously gifted his meal. An unadvertised special.