Receivers Operator Blend is still the best deal in coffee around these parts. Only slightly more expensive by weight than store bought, but it’s fresh (roasted within a week prior to purchase), and importantly local. And while the taste won’t appeal to all, I think it’s great.

How fast is fast enough?

I have documented at least a couple times the effects of poor or non-existent response times from businesses and organizations here on this Island and elsewhere. To restate the obvious, if your primary means of interacting with those outside your organization is email, social media, or other channels, then you should strive to answer queries in a timely manner. If you don’t have people in a dedicated customer support role, it might be a good idea to set some kind of expectations in terms of when you can reply (Facebook does this for you via algorithm). This I think is polite and makes good business sense.

I’ve been looking for dev help since I came back to the Island, which as of this week was 2 years ago, and have largely failed to find people who fit my niche. This is due to my social awkwardness, bootstrapping, and the simple fact that the pool of talent is not that deep. It’s not difficult to find help off-Island, a simple Instagram message this week immediately lead to someone interested, but I like or have been more comfortable kicking off the work in person.

The positive side effect of this is self-sufficiency, and a return to learning to code, at least until I can afford to hire regularly remote.

But I can only do so much and when Sheryl had a new project arrive that might tie in nicely with our podcast work, I reached out to hire a popular dev team. I also got on a Zoom call with an American company who has a subscription product which is, I would realize, about 1/3 the price of the dev.

I started reaching out about a month ago about the possibility of doing some work. It was very casual and I was at first just looking for some advice, while at the same time seeing if they would be someone easy to work with. Many relationships start this way, a simple hello, questions, praise of their prior work, or even a request to have a short talk.

It took a week to get a reply. I chose the wrong method to reach out, and at the time I wasn’t in a rush.

Finding out that our timeline to get a quote was moved up a month, I emailed the dev and asked if they could meet the rough scope of work outlined in an email or recommend someone who could. They replied immediately and said yes they could do the work, in fact they had already finished a rough prototype of that exact product. How fortunate.

Over the course of a week, and after I wrote a very rough software spec., constant promises to reply to email were broken and I had to chase them to see if they were truly able to join the project. They kept promising to get back to me. They never did.

If you are busy, or uninterested, it’s best to set expectations or simply say no. Saying NO can be liberating. Or set up processes to deal with customer requests.

Yesterday, I reached out anonymously to the American company via their online chat window and asked if they could give me a written quote for their product. They cheerfully replied, yes, let me see if I can work that up for you, and less than 10 minutes later I had a quote and rough statement of work.

My needs were extremely simple and didn’t require a complex plan upfront. The work didn’t even need to start for months.

Which company will get the most repeat business and future recommendations?


I got a haircut today and while it wouldn’t be worth protesting at a state legislature for my right to get one, it was nice to be able to go and accomplish what would otherwise be an ordinary task.

I had briefly toyed with the idea of getting into the habit of cutting my own hair, but my attempts at doing so (had to look my best on Zoom), were pretty abysmal; lots of oops and such during the process. So at the advice of family, unless I wanted an army cut, my dreams of being an in home barber have been put aside for now.

Besides, what better place to learn about the habits of people half my age than at a barber shop? A number seemed to have been spending a great deal of time binge watching Netflix and were uncomfortable being inside their own head when alone.

The PSB’s Reality Distortion Field

We have been very impressed with the work of our teachers, who have migrated to home learning platforms with tremendous efficiency and creativity during this global pandemic. Teachers have been very busy preparing lessons, providing feedback on learning, connecting with students, working through year-end transition processes and supporting the social and emotional well-being of students. Teachers have and continue to be available to students and families through various means of communication.
Parker Grimmer – PEI Public Schools

The public school boards messaging across all the platforms its engaged in usually espouses the outmost in positivity. It’s all rainbows and sun, and “everything is beautiful, in it’s own way.” I get it, this is part of their job to highlight the good work that the teachers do throughout the province.

Generally most of the email communication from the PSB is long winded and difficult to read through, particularly when it comes after an evening meal and I feel like having a nap, but last nights email caught my attention immediately, particularly because of the first paragraph which seemed to come from a different reality all together.

In fact, when I first read it, I yelled out, “what nonsense is this!”

While there has been “learning” occurring during this time at home, there has been no “schooling”. It was my understanding that teachers were under strict guidelines to not attempt to teach, how else could we explain what has been occurring. Nothing new has been attempted at the intermediate level, with review worksheets sent out with the answers attached, and little to no communication from teachers at all levels. Having kids watch a video is not teaching. Some teachers of course, despite instructions to the contrary, have been communicative, giving new material and immediate replies to questions. They have been wonderful.

The PEI Home and School sent out a question to parents recently, asking for our experiences during the pandemic, in my reply:

  • I commented on how teachers were not allowed to experiment with various online teaching methods and how that seemed like a terrible mistake. What better time to try, and fail, when it’s all review and no marks are being counted.
  • I shared how my kids couldn’t even reach their teachers with questions and how many teachers would simply send out some simple worksheets with the answers attached. Kids see this for what it is and realize it’s largely a waste of time.
  • What has happened as that parents have had to fill in the role of teacher, which most of us are unprepared for, and while trying to work from home.
  • There was an overwhelming theme of not wanting to “stress” the kids with work, or a trend of taking time together as a family. I countered that sometimes keeping kids minds occupied with schooling reduces the stress from what is happening around them. Working hard, or working in general, is not a bad thing, even during an outbreak.
  • I noted that the most stressful part of this whole pandemic, after the initial shock, was trying to play the role of teacher, while knowing that our children were being let down academically.
  • Lastly, I also stated, based on our unfortunate experience with viral outbreaks, that I had little confidence that any plans were being formulated to return kids to school and deal with the inevitable return of COVID-19. Have they started training teachers? Any negotiations started to change the length of the school year? Virus mitigation procedures?

I’m writing this in a hurry as I do with all my blog posts. Issues like this require more articulate responses than I have time for, or talent to give. But the PSB’s eagerness to bend any fact to fit the communication purpose at hand required some kind of response into the abyss.

“Unfortunately not everyone is on board”

We went out to run some errands today at noon, which included a stop at NoFrills, the Post Office, and Receivers.

The Island being the Island one stranger shared that they were now on a diet and not eating meat. Another, showed me their feet (they had shoes on) in order to detail their injury and I shared that I have forgotten how to wear pants.

With the exception of Receivers, no one was social distancing, wearing any kind of PPE, nor utilizing what little sanitizing your hands apparatus was available. It’s like nothing had happened; nor was still happening.

We can’t stay inside forever. We need to eat, and not everyone has the opportunity to work remotely as a programmer or other desk bound occupation.

Islanders have from my vantage point been great, at least until it was decided that people from away could come to their summer residences (I don’t think they should). Real leaders make unpopular decisions based on the available data and experience, it’s hard.

Living through viral outbreaks, or in this case, hopefully a once in a lifetime pandemic, requires a massive cultural shift for Islanders. Washing your hands, carrying antiseptic wipes and hand wash, wearing a mask, using store provided antiseptic hand wash, installing antiseptic matts, and on and on, must become an ingrained habit. It is elsewhere; they’ve been screening travellers in Taiwan and elsewhere for over 15 years. Arriving from a region known to have an outbreak? Step aside sir while we ask you a few more questions. Have a fever? Off to quarantine you go. Not wearing a mask? Please leave the building. Kid sick? Isolation and then a call to come collect the child.

These are the things you do. Take matters into your own hands, complaining about people coming in from outside the province is not enough.

Via Ruk.

Patti Larsen: Cat City

Our last Sleep Tight Stories episode featured a chapter from a story by Island author Patti Larsen called, Cat City. It’s wonderful to bring her work to a new audience. It’s a great story, sure to spur the imagination of kids of all ages, myself included. Sheryl and I are her latest fans.

In my short conversations with her I also learned a great deal about the mental model of, or how publishers and authors differ in their approach to book promotion, and more.

One of the benefits of being on the Island is that people here tend to be friendly and approachable, which can lead to all kinds of interesting conversations, and sometimes collaboration.

To purchase her book please visit: https://books2read.com/CatCity or your favourite bookstore.

What have I become?

When we lived in Taiwan fellow parents used to say to me that I was more Chinese than they were, referring to my attitude towards education I suppose. It would seem I still harbor some other Taiwanese characteristics that I didn’t know I had.

Here it is Saturday morning, and I remarked to Sheryl that I still haven’t received an email reply from a potential partner for a project she is developing. I thought it was strange that she wasn’t working Friday night and Saturday morning. Sheryl gently reminded me that people don’t work Friday night and weekends here.

I’ve become what I used to constantly rebel against when I worked for those bosses in Taiwan and China.

Behind the scenes

This mornings Facebook livestream with Sheryl. Replacing the iPhone’s internal mic with an external makes all the difference in the world. Some lighting would help too, but by the time we felt the need the prices for lighting went up measurably due to the pandemic.


I went for a walk Monday evening and while this section of Stratford has that lack of life feeling that comes from quickly building houses on a farmers field, the blue skies and clean air can’t be beat. I could stare at the skies on PEI for hours on end.

The global pandemic might change how we interact with daily objects

By Tiouraren (Y.-C. Tsai) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82148132

Peter posed an interesting question: “What are the right Pedestrian Call Buttons for the Pandemic?” I thought of writing a comment along the lines of, there is nothing more cost effective than getting into the habit of washing your hands. But in the context of his blog I think it comes across as flippant, and I can be as flippant as I want here.

Giving it further thought, most high traffic areas in cities in Asia have a certain amount of automation – doors, traffic lights, and lighting itself often work on a no contact required principle. So no change in affordances are required, unlike in our building where I open the doors with the sleeves of my shirt.

In Affordances of the post-COVID-19 era Can Aslan briefly discusses how we might see changes in design often used public objects, including a concept by Dutch designer Thor ter Kulve who hacked a traffic light button by placing a lever on top of it which can be pushed by knee, elbow, or hip.

As every person is a potential virus carrier and each publicly used object is potentially contaminated, how we perceive and interact with these objects have been dramatically changed. Thus, the core concepts of product design might be subject to change as well.

One of these concepts is affordance, which was popularized by Don Norman, a researcher, professor, and author. In his book The Design of Everyday Things, he defines affordance as “a relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of the agent that determine just how the object could possibly be used”. In other words, affordances determine what actions are possible when interacting with an object.

Affordances of the post-COVID-19 era

The image above is of Xiaolüren or little traffic light man, which provides a delightful representation of when you can walk and how much time you have left. The character walks faster, and then runs, depending on the time.

See also: Taiwan’s Traffic Lights Just Got a Romantic Redesign for Valentine’s Day

Back to the classroom in Shanghai

This was shared with me by Sheryl from a friend who posted it on Facebook. It’s for a school in Shanghai and though I wouldn’t characterize it as new (whenever there is an outbreak these procedures are put in place), it represents in part how schools elsewhere are returning to the classroom.

It’s the new “normal”, returning to school after 15weeks of home schooling. Every day at school Mr F will:
– have to wear a face mask all day
– take his temperature before he leaves home
– have his temperature taken at school before entering
– sit with 1.5 meters between each school desk.
– take his lunch to school
– not wear a tie (considered germ catchers)

With the addition of 1.5m rule, all other steps are the same ones taken during SARS. We can do this! And he is very happy to see his friends again.

I would be very surprised if we had similar procedures here. Not because of science, but because my impression thus far is, that unlike the leadership exhibited by the Chief Medical Office and the Provincial Government, the Public School Board hasn’t been exhibiting the kind of leadership required to institute these procedures.

More Masks

This photo is notable for the regrettable use of the filters that were popular during early iPhone photography. We lived in a house in Xiangshan at the time, the sick house as we called it. Large mold formations use to appear in parts of the kitchen, and Camren was always sick looking during the time we were there; he always had large circles under his eyes which cleared when we moved to the Science Park, where they constantly sprayed poison to kill off all signs of insect life. We enjoyed the neighbourhood for the most part, it was so close to walking trails, rice patties and country roads.

The mask might I was wearing might have been due to the Avian Influenza (2010) which was in Hong Kong at the time, or I may have been trying to protect my lungs from pollution while riding.

A visit to Deckers in Cornwall

It was a beautiful crisp day yesterday and after a finishing the days work and a quick run we finally had the chance to head out as a family for a sojourn to the wilds of Cornwall.

The main attraction in Cornwall, and a summer tradition, is Decker’s which is now open for take out, with some common sense initiatives in place for social distancing. The main attractor for me is the ice cream, but the temperature though much improved, still feels far to akin to winter to start that summer habit. So we opted for some burgers and fries, which we shared with my uncle who lives just around the corner. It’s been a long time since he has had so many visitors, or any visitors at all, due to all the restrictions in place at seniors residences. He also shared that he has now lived in Cornwall for 12 years, which is “longer than he expected to be alive”.

The taste of the food is fueled by nostalgia, which is to say that when I got the bill for $80 I laughed, and ate the burger, which came devoid of any of the salad inside, a little more slowly that I might normally eat.

It was money well spent as finally getting outside as a family led to laughs, and a much needed break from the confines of our too small abode.

Stepping into the Covid-19 Waters

We have avoided anything but the most cursory mention of the pandemic on our podcast. One reason was I wanted to be sure that if we did give it some attention that what we said was accurate. Parents have enough problems understanding guidance from health care professionals to have us add confusion at sleep time.

The other reason being that despite this being a health issue, with little leadership at the national level and a seemingly general distrust of health care professionals (not to mention people protesting for their inability to get a haircut), it’s yet another entirely politically charged topic in the US, where a large percentage of our audience lies.

But when Vince mentioned that his partner wrote a book entitled, The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid, I thought this was a great way to kick-off our renewed focus on locally authored stories while providing a way for kids to gain some understanding of the issues. They described the books as follows:

The evil CoronaVillain is using the world’s concerts and parties and hugs and kisses against them! Someone needs to buy some time so that the Council of WHO can finish their secret weapon. This sounds like a job for The Stay at Home Kid and his gang. When the world needs heroes, you can count on them.

This fun book is a great way to help kids understand some of the concepts influencing their daily lives: disease, social distancing, hand washing, and the World Health Organization.

If parents are finding it challenging talking to kids about what’s happening in the world, this book provides a great foundation and some laughs along the way.

My sound treatment of the story was perhaps a bit on the scary side, but we decided to go ahead with it as is, and though we want to provide a safe experience for all, hoped that parents could decide whether it was too intense for their kids.

We get lots of critical feedback from our listeners, I read it all, and make changes where we can. But this one comment from a listener is indicative of what I had hoped to avoid:

We loved these stories until recently when I put on the Corona vs the stay at home kid … why are you supporting and even mentioning the corrupt and incompetent World Health Organization in a children’s bedtime story?

I’m not sure how to respond to that, so I think I won’t respond at all.

Listen to The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid on Overcast.

Since then we have also released, with permission from Nosy Crow Ltd., Coronavirus: A Book For Children 🦠.

What do you like about the place where you live?

Oliver Rukavina is organizing an unconference, in Zoom, today. Unfortunately I can’t attend but I have been pondering the two questions he posed for the unconference all week

What have you learned from the pandemic that you want to keep for the future?
What do you like about the place where you live?

The first question I have seen posed in a number of places and it requires a lengthy response. The second question is much easier. The response comes to me from simply looking out our patio doors this AM.

The lovely clear blue skies.

Navigating for pay services

The problem Sheryl and I are mulling over today is the difference between having our free podcast, be used by for pay services, vs. the already established platforms, which in essence charge too. What’s the difference between Spotify, where most of our audience resides, and a young start-up offering a curated podcast listening experience?

Sleep Tight Stories is still a simple thing, without the elaborate production values and serialized story telling of say, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian, but it’s taking an ever increasing amount of our time to produce. Our ongoing effort to reach out to independent authors is an effort worth doing, but many most publishers consider partial readings as theft, not a marketing opportunity, or a chance to reach a new audience. This takes time. A lot of time.

When you publish something via unprotected feed, there is little we can do stop anyone from pulling that feed into their service. In fact up until now we have been actively encouraging them to do so (being included in JioSaavn’s service required a visit to a lawyer to review contracts).

I’m inclined to think that it’s great to be included. But Sheryl’s reflex response was no. It’s her voice after all.

We have a few hours to decide before politeness requires I respond to their email.

Mother’s Week

This week was always considered Mothers week in my mind, being framed on one end by Mother’s day and her birthday on the other. I don’t remember the time that the above photo was taken, but I suspect it was during the time we lived for a short period on the family homestead in North Wiltshire.

The photo below was taken during our last time together at the Palliative Care Centre in Charlottetown. A place filled with the most remarkable people imaginable.

I’m sure she would love to see how her grand children have changed and grown into their own, and I suspect she would have sage advice for them as they enter adulthood.


There are a great deal of possible stressors that we could experience during this pandemic. In the beginning I was concerned less with getting sick, then with how people would react. Would there be hoarding, or would we witness the extreme reactions as in the US, that you see endlessly broadcast on social media? People here have little experience with outbreaks like this but luckily Islanders took it in stride and didn’t see it as some kind of infringement on their rights. Islanders are a hardier bunch.

There is financial worry, as it’s hard to make a living when everything is shut down. And this is made all the more difficult when you can’t leave for places where employment is still possible.

There is the concern that your neighbours, family, friends or colleagues might become sick. Or worse.

And of course there is the very real stress of being inside with family 24/7. We love each other, but conflict is bound to arise when in close contact with people for extended periods of time. This is intensified when you have little space, like we have.

None of these emotions seem to compare to the stress caused by the simple fact that our kids aren’t in school. There has been at extraordinary amount of attention given to not wanting to add stress to children’s lives by giving them learning tasks, but none to the simple fact that the act of learning, of doing work, is in itself a way to keep kids thinking about a better future. Not to mention keeping kids engaged on things more valuable then days filled with Xbox or extreme boredom.

Each letter from the school board is filled with indefinite language, nary a “will’, but instead many “maybes” and at best a “can.”

My son misses the structure, and though I know he won’t admit it, he misses learning the topics that were covered in school. Right now, it’s all review, and no marks are given. Everything is positive, that is, if he receives any kind of interaction with the teacher at all. He sees through this, and feels he is wasting his time. Which in a way he might be, since the math and science topics he is covering in grade 8, he covered in elementary school. This isn’t a comment on his teachers, who I have come to have an incredible amount of respect for.

This is a crucial year for our daughter and unfortunately all her critical classes were lumped together in one semester, this semester. Her marks for the year have apparently largely been decided, though they do send her new material to learn on her own. If she doesn’t hand in assignments it is marked as “not handed in with justification” with no effect on her final score. Thinking like a normal teenager, why would I pay more than a cursory attention to the work? She does, and we constantly reminder her to do so. She has had one test in one of her classes before the closures of school. She did very poorly. The assignments she completes can help her final grade, maybe.

Going safely back to school requires a cultural shift. Masks are most effective when everyone wears them, constant hand washing, social distancing, multiple temperature check points, procedures for when 1 child gets sick, and so on. It’s hard. But what choice do we have? The infrastructure on the Island doesn’t exist for distance learning, even in the city, bandwidth is constrained on consumer Internet. And the teachers don’t become experts in distance education over night.

A semester off isn’t the end of the world but if this continues I have many concerns about how children and families will cope.

Fuzzy Thinker

I have at last count 6 unfinished blog posts in my drafts folder in iAWriter. I think this indicates that my thinking on these topics is still unclear, and at the rate I am going, may never be. Or perhaps this fuzzy incomplete writing is reflective of fuzzy thinking in general.

Just buy Receivers

I have since returning to PEI ventured to try every coffee bean brand that I could find in the local stores and on Amazon. With the exception of Kicking Horse coffee’s Hola Light Roast, all have proven to be a disappointment. The Hola Light Roast proves to be a value only when on sale, it’s regularly $9.99 for a 1LB bag on Amazon. I can’t imagine paying the prices in local grocery stores. Even Lavazza, which I’m drinking now is nothing deserving of their heritage and the small batch roasters located in Nova Scotia and Toronto are nothing to get excited about.

One of the main factors for this other than the industrial sized roasting that many brands do, is simply that by the time that bag of whole beans arrives at your door it’s already stale. You taste a huge difference when you roast your own, or buy from a local roaster.

Considering the cost of coffee here in the stores you would be far better served buying Receivers Operator Blend, which tastes great, and importantly is roasted less than a month from your date of purchase.

Dinner at Phinley’s

We ate out for the first time in 6 weeks last night and opted for a restaurant nearby, which gave Phinley’s the win by default. Camren wanted Vietnamese food but we overruled as Sheryl wanted a burger and I never go against a chance to eat red meat. Though it’s a short walk away this was our first time experiencing their food, though we have visited their dairy bar a couple times during summer.

The service was amazingly quick and the food was … fine. We may go back sometime when sit down service is allowed again.

While the food was not “lets get on Yelp and leave a 5 star review worthy” it was a good way to mark the restart of normal life on the Island.