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.


Commute view

Sheryl spent a few days in Truro this week which meant I was without a car, so I took the opportunity to run to and from my office in the downtown. It’s not really that long a walk either.


A New Place

I dropped into The 5th Wave this morning as I was determined to spend time drinking coffee amongst the backdrop of people and their chatter after being stuck inside for so long. My first stop was The Shed but I swear it has been closed more often than open whenever I have dropped by this winter.

The 5th Wave has the advantage of a convenient location and an interior set-up conductive to staying for longish periods that make for a pleasant experience. It’s bright and geared towards a younger clientele; more Japanese minimalist than College bookstore. The music in the shop is front and centre, which is almost always a mistake, as it was at The Shed, and many other places who don’t think of audio as an integral part of their experience.

Yesterday when spending time at The Shed I remarked that their drip coffee tasted better than my pour over. It was quite good, and their pour over is even better. Buying black drip or pour over defines to me the character of a coffee shop. That’s what I ordered today at The 5th Wave. Their drip is a med-dark roast with a flavour profile not unlike many other slightly upscale coffee shops like Receivers. It wasn’t distinctive or great, but it was fine. They don’t do their own roasting and much of the flavour of coffee is dependent on freshness, so they are perhaps at a disadvantage in developing a uniquely flavoured product.

I’ll come back for an expresso again in the near future, and would certainly prefer spending time in their bright environment than say the darkness of the Victoria Row Receivers or Alambé Coffee.


Optimism

After our last set of restrictions from the CPHO I wrote a missive about what I had hoped to do to maintain my sanity midst the never ending deluge of negativity (and rage) that seems to accompany life on the Island of late.

With the exception of getting outside, I still am not a fan of winter, I’ve read a few books, exercised far more and have paid increasing attention to the food I eat.

I’ve also disconnected from most of social media, with the exception of Instagram, the Internets greatest source of unrealistic body image expectations.

Despite this I’ve found it increasingly difficult to maintain a positive attitude. I’m generally not what you would call a positive person on the best of days, but the current environment makes it hard to maintain my usual salty/not salty equilibrium. Let alone make the kind of change needed to transform myself to having a more positive outlook.

Peter linked to Charlie Angus On Getting from Darkness to the Light which helped for a moment.

I think all I can do is acknowledge the negativity, move on and keep achieving the goals set in front of me, and hope that the sun of Spring and Summer bring with it a greater sense of optimism.


Literacy

When you sit and wonder how so many people can believe what they do with regards to all matter of topics, but most importantly these days, public health, it’s important to first ponder the following statistic:

“For years, we have seen data that says 46 percent of Islanders struggle with the basic literacy required to work and thrive in our knowledge-based, digital society,” – source

“In 2003, it was estimated that 40,000 (nearly 43%) of PEI residents who were 16 to 65-years old had literacy levels below the desired level of coping (Statistics Canada, 2003, p.107)”

The problem doesn’t seem to be improving.

Now couple this with the algorithms behind social media platforms manipulating people with disinformation and we can come to a possible understanding of why we are where we are.


A quick change

I wrote this missive on our company Instagram account, replete with the required photo:

January has been my least favorite month for as long as I can remember, and my view on winter in general has always been that it’s best experienced from the inside of a warm home or on a tropical beach.

Further restrictions by the CPHO this month has meant my plans to increase indoor fitness activities have been put on hold, and daily trips for coffee cancelled.

To keep healthy mentally and physically I plan on:

❄️ getting outside as much as I can bear – including running on trails,
❄️ reading more,
❄️ have an increased focus on sound nutrition,
❄️ and follow along with the excellent coaching from @782fitness for daily workouts

I might also spend a bit more time working than I should.

The goal is to continue pushing forward despite all the roadblocks put in our way.

Sometimes a change in perspective, attitude, or direction takes ages to occur. This time for me it took a short afternoon nap. When I woke I decided to stop letting external events affect me to the degree they had been, and treat them as simply another challenge to be overcome.


Emotions

I felt a range of emotions yesterday as I listened to the news reports announcing new restrictions on what we are allowed to do. I had arrived at another gym, which I just joined for the winter in an effort to not only keep mentally and physically healthy but prepare for some competitions in the summer and fall, while I am still able.

Like many I am tired, and like some I am angry. I have no more patience.

When this all started two years ago, it was perplexing as to how people refused to wear masks or wash their hands or follow common sense health guidance. When the vaccine came, it was mesmerizing how people had collective amnesia with regards to the litany of shots they already have HAD to receive. I realized that most don’t have our frame of reference, having lived through SARS and various other outbreaks in a society that respects health professionals and trusts government. These measures and more feel normal to us. We have improved.

Being a small place surrounded by water with restricted points of entry we seemed to do well. Round-abouts were built, hockey rinks announced, pay raises for government were approved, and most importantly few got sick. Like before, you still needed to wait 6 months to get an ingrown toe nail clipped, and years to see a paediatric specialist. Life was as it was but with the added regime of limiting your contacts or booking your time in a gym (travel was somewhat a no no).

I assumed that like health care professionals, and many others, surely the government has been working to exhaustion to prepare for an outbreak, right?

That assumption has proven to be patently false.

It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of priorities and competence. My son today cannot attend school, cannot train in the pool, and cannot go to his CrossFit gym. But he is free to add more shifts at his service job. He is safe while increasing the profits for corporate but not while preparing himself for the future? Not a good look.

I see no strategy or long term plan, only tactics. If there is one, it isn’t being communicated which is in itself another failure.

A crisis is a sure test of leadership for which this provinces leadership is failing. Now I turn this angst to something productive, the one thing we can do, work, at least until election time, when I hope to devote myself to making sure these people don’t continue to serve.


Spot on

I have been at the office subsisting on Maxwell house instant coffee of late so it was an absolute treat to enjoy a cup of pour over at The Shed this morning. Having a cup of coffee where you can not only smell but taste the overtones is a brilliant (re)start to the day. There are a number of places in town to have an ok tasting expresso but no place I have been dedicates itself solely to great tasting coffee. We are so lucky to have her.


Not a resolution

I’ve long felt that New Years resolutions were nonsense and more a way to make yourself feel bad about what you didn’t accomplish than setting achievable goals.

On New Years Day Sheryl shared what we did on that day four years ago. We ran a race together sponsored by ChaTime (the same chain in Charlottetown), then went to see a movie at Big City, followed by Cheesecake and Latté’s at Ink, our favorite café at that time.

5 years ago I ran the Xiamen Marathon and spent New Years Eve alone in a hotel bar.

I enjoy how Facebook, Apple photos and DayOne give us a chance to remember or relive the past. It’s a valuable feature for me but it’s becoming evident that we spend too much time reminiscing, and not enough time creating new memories. Granted there is much more to do in a place like Hsinchu than say Charlottetown, the Island is a sleepy place, not a bustling Asian city surrounded by mountains and beaches. We led a full life before returning home, and now with the exception of our first year here, our default seems to do more work, which includes my son, who has a part time job, is on the swim team, and is part of our CrossFit crew.

We don’t expend enough effort trying to find something to do together, no matter how simple the activity may be.

My daughter is starting to get it. Unlike other local youth her age she has no interest in bars and drinking, or house parties and such. On New Years Eve she said she was going to go out with friends for a drive to the beach and later sit and talk at the park. At the time I thought it rather odd, but later realized this is exactly the kind of activity that is possible here, the kind of activity that helps build new memorable experiences.

On the podcast Stay Tuned with Preet, Scott Galloway talked about how he takes the month of August off and travels with his family to Europe. Now, he’s rich, and I’m most certainly not, but Sheryl and I used to do the same. One year we spent the summer traveling Europe, many summers afterwards we would spend time on a Canoe Cove beach. Scott talks about how he will never regret taking time away from work to spend with his family – a common refrain from anyone with the ability to do so and a modicum of foresight.

I have little to report about the past year. This is in part due to COVID (and Canada’s lack of a coordinated response), but we really could have done more. Much more.

I’m not going to call this a resolution as that’s just framing for failure, but I will commit to spend more time in 2022 creating more memories with family and outside of work.


Post Christmas

Coming out of Superstore last night in my evening stupor of exhaustion I stopped and mentioned to Sheryl that they were actually playing Christmas music. My first taste of Christmas muzak. Looking around the outside of the store it would be hard to notice it was Christmas season.

Downtown Charlottetown looks great with each changing season. Christmas is no different with the streets lit up and store fronts decorated. But leaving the downtown area around the Confederation Centre one would be hard pressed to realize much of the usual Christmas excitement of years past.

I could of course be blind to it all now.

The bright lights and celebrations have been moved to the residential areas, where I guess they should be.

I do miss the ostentatious light displays, the rush to find gifts, the food and general excitement of years past. It’s ironic to me that some of the best displays of Christmas come from our times in countries that place no cultural value on the holiday at all.

Luckily this Christmas we will all have the day off, something that was not always possible in the past, and spend the day eating, and wearing out the couch. Less gifting, more time with family.


Foreboding

Looking at the water yesterday, while out for a run, I had the feeling that a major storm was on the way. The harbour was so calm and sky grey.

Running at my level is largely a mental exercise, so one of the tricks I have been playing on myself is to wear shorts and a minimum of clothes on top. That way, if you dare stop moving you freeze. Eventually though, after I warm up and my legs are numb I stop to take some pictures.

The undershirt I wear is by KALENJI. And at $15 it is likely the deal of the century. I have winter gear costing 7x that which is no where near as effective. It keeps you warm until -15 and wicks dry in a flash. This coupled with a windbreaker and you are good to go but for the coldest of days.


Colors

I’ve taken a new approach to running of late, partially a result of listening to a number of interviews of Courtney Dauwalter. She espouses a joyful enthusiasm towards getting outdoors and moving your body which has been lacking for me these last 8 months. No training plan just run as your body feels. Of course, what her body can do and mine are miles apart, 240 miles, as she has been the winner of the 240 mile MOAB race over all participants. Which is great evidence of what the mind is possible of doing.

She is also a refreshing change from the “dominate”, “crush”, “who’s carrying the boats son” testosterone addicted athletes I’ve been listening to for too long.

So I go out and run, look at my surroundings, take pictures, and don’t worry so much about pace. It’s been working very well and despite the increasing cold I’ve been enjoying running. I tried to do the same today, as it was the type of temperatures I’d love to see all winter, but alas my Achilles still doesn’t want to come along with the rest of me. This injury just does not want to go away.

My plans are, if I can heal my injury, to spend an increasing amount of time running on the trails culminating in some moderate distance trail race in the summer, ideally in Utah, COVID willing.


Mysteries

Living and now working under people gives you insight into strangers lives.

Our first year back in Charlottetown was a nightmare, as we lived under a neighbour we unaffectionately called “Stampy”. He and his family own a restaurant in the downtown and would look like model neighbours – always a smile. But surfaces can be deceiving and many nights were filled with parties and people falling down drunk. Not the neighbours I wanted at this stage in my life.

Now I work in an extremely quiet office below a publisher of a periodical, which my past experience tells me is primarily a sit down do work affair. The noisy days of setting type are over but for those who appreciate the craft.

And yet there are days when I hear people constantly walking on their heels, using what sounds like a cement mixer, shuffling drawers and dragging large objects across the floor (dead body?). It’s at times like working under the constant din of a hotel lobby.

I mostly have my headphones on and it’s not in the same league as Stampy but it often leaves me curious. Maybe one day I’ll just ask.


A positive medical experience

The medical system on PEI has been a swirling cesspool of negativity of late with my own opinion being of the we are doomed when we get older type. I’ve been so concerned that I’ve starting questioning the logic of moving home, particularly as we enter the time when the machine that is our body starts to need concerted attention.

We don’t have a family doctor, and we have found it increasingly difficult to see a doctor at a walk-in-clinic. Often, the Water St. clinic will be full in less than a minute after registration opens. This week though, to my surprise I was able to book an appointment, which is in itself a cause for celebration. Upon arrival I was greeted with such positivity I had to ask the nurse what was going on. Why are you all so happy? She just chuckled and I forget what she saidw but I get the impression that these are people that enjoy doing what they do.

I’ve been experiencing some middle age malaise which has been interfering with my sleep at night – how I continue to function on so little sleep is a mystery, though yesterday was an exception and I went and bought groceries instead of doing what I had planned.

The doctor I saw at the clinic, was personable and gave me as much of her time as someone working in a clinic could afford. After our talk, she asked the nurse to take some blood in order to order some comprehensive tests and I was told to expect a 10 business day wait.

Well, yesterday after a scant 3 days the doctor called me to tell me that everything was better than perfect, made some George Burns references, and was again generally a beacon of positivity. The medical system in this case over delivered, what a joy.

I’ve had the (mis)fortune of interacting with medical professionals all over the world, and I can say I prefer those on the Island to most others I have interacted with. I just hope we can give them the pay and environment they deserve, and us the access we need.


Old world

This showed up on my Facebook feed today. Why Apple photos cannot surface old photos with the same panache as FB and Day One is a mystery – it also can’t search.

The first picture was the office I worked out of in China, which came with all the trappings – olympic swimming pool, restaurants, proper running track, boxing ring, gym and on and on and on. Of course it also came with an office with astro turf, because having meetings while lying on fake grass was supposed to produce better results(?). When you are a billionaire CEO you can accumulate things.

The 2nd picture is the door to my current office.

It might look like I’ve fallen from the future to land on a set from West World, and in some ways Charlottetown is very old world, but despite my constant complaints about things, there is a calmness to this place not apparent elsewhere. Though I work more now than I ever did in China, it feels much better to be home.

I do miss the running track.


Surveillance

I’m not sure how long these have been in place, it’s amazing how one doesn’t notice these eyes encroaching on your privacy, but these cameras on the confed. centre certainly are an ugly accoutrement. It’s not like the building was attractive in the first place but one would think that more subtle methods for surveillance might exist.

While not yet approaching Asian state levels of surveillance, Charlottetown certainly does seem to be trying hard. Is there a crime problem I don’t know about?


Island Cam

Years ago I used to check the Island Cam(s) from half way around the world to take a peak into the goings on in the City of Charlottetown. Not much was ever going on during the times I checked but it served as a good lead in when talking to family via phone. “I see you have some snow there…” “How did you know that?” That and listening to local radio while driving in some remote locale was pretty magical in those days.

These days, with our weird and annoying changes in weather, I use to see if it’s fit to go outside. My current office doesn’t have a window.


Open water training

Camren had the opportunity to have some open water practice (about 6km) and coaching with Pierre Lafontaine yesterday, all in preparation for the upcoming Canada games. This was after he went to Stratford gym to practice the double-under for CrossFit, then a CrossFit class, and his 2nd COVID shot in the afternoon. I’m not sure where his intense drive towards certain activities comes from, but I do know we go through a dozen bananas, a dozen or more bagels, and a kg of peanut butter a week just to keep him moving.

Meanwhile, I stumbled along the starting route of the PEI marathon for my 6k, in what felt like incredibly strong sun. This segment is one of the most agreeable places to run I have experienced. Lovely flat surface, clean fresh air, and aside from the monster homes in the distance, incredible views.


Monday view

We took part of Monday off to enjoy this view on the north shore of the island. I have little patience to sit on a beach hours on end, but I enjoyed our little reprieve from screens and work.


Hello heat

When we first arrived in Taiwan many years ago I would plan my routes throughout Taipei with the ability to stop at the ubiquitous convenience stores that cover the whole Island. This was my attempt to beat the sweltering heat and torrential rain. During summer, a time to stay indoors, you would find whole families camped at one of the many malls to avoid the high cost of leaving monstrous AC units running day and night.

I sweat profusely at the first sign of exertion, so running in Taiwan was a constant battle with dehydration. Often I would fail, as I experienced during one marathon when my leg muscles failed to contract, but to cramp, and I started to pass out due to poor hydration. 3 litres of water on a 21k run wouldn’t be enough, and I experimented with all manner of electrolyte replacement products, none worked, but the disgusting Japanese drink powder Pocari Sweat came close, and is what I have been drinking as I have been running midday from downtown Charlottetown to CrossFit.

The weather we have been having lately is giving us a sense of deja vue, except that the interior temperature of our living room reached 31c yesterday, and many places are with out air conditioning. My new office in the basement has been a god send.

Today I lost more than 2kg in just over 1 hour of running. My clothes looked like I had been in a downpour.

I don’t recall as a kid growing up on the Island needing so much as a fan, but this intense heat, on an Island in the cold Atlantic, seems to be the new normal, and means further investments in AC units which will likely perpetuate the problems that got us here in the first place.


Quiet

When visiting a new city I love to get up early, grab a hot drink, and watch the city wake and get down to business. Charlottetown doesn’t have a downtown or central business district like other places, but there is still the opportunity to see quiet moments before people make their way for lunch and dinner.


Absence of thought

Peter has a wonderful post detailing his canoeing adventure on Andrews Pond, a lovely area to walk, run or in this case, canoe. There is much to do around Charlottetown for those of us who enjoy quick quiet escapes to nature, all are accessible and require nothing more than the ability and time to walk or ride.

I love it when urban areas thoughtfully juxtapose with nature but this is certainly not the case in this area. I can’t keep my eyes off the photo above, a screenshot from Peters article. Charlottetown’s rickety apartments look far worse than the brutalist concrete architecture that was so valued in construction throughout Asia. The use of concrete represented prosperity and strength, and the exterior appearance (and interior for that matter) was of less importance. Over time though, the concrete takes on the same patina as the surrounding area and can withstand the gradual encroachment of nature. I am constantly surprised, despite the obvious wealth flowing through this country, how little attention is paid to the places where people congregate and live. Perhaps that attention to detail is paid only to those who can afford a mansion in places like Stratford.


Short visit


It was great weather for a short visit to the beach on Tuesday. This was a small attempt on my part to try to incorporate activities other than work into my life – especially since the season of nice weather on the Island is so short.

My strategy has long been to go harder until it breaks, but with recent injuries, an ongoing problem with my Achilles, and increasingly foul demeanour, it feels like it’s time to step back, gain some perspective, and rest.


Work sprint @ The Shed

In between running, CrossFit and my “Fascia Release” class I came downtown to do a short work sprint at The Shed. Nice coffee. Nice people. And they play jazz in the background. They also serve iced tea as it’s meant to be served – without sugar. It’s worth coming here from Stratford.


Rejuvenate

Yesterday, after a short run, a bit of work, 2 naps, and a long Fascial Stretch and Release session at Reactive Wellness I was still feeling tired, listless and generally … blah. Remembering the wise words of my mother, I headed to the closest beach for a short walk in the hope that by being close to the sea all ailments may well disappear. While it did nothing for my aching muscles, a short walk amongst the red sand cleared my head and prepared me for the remainder of the evening. We are lucky to close to clean beaches.


The Shed Visited

I think we have contender in the upcoming Charlottetown coffee wars. I had the honour to have tried one of their first Lattés, and though the barista seemed unsure of himself, it tasted fine. This is the second coffee shop in town where you can choose what flavour profile you want in your expresso, I chose the light roasted bean from Peru. My only complaint is that in terms of taste the coffee to milk ratio seems off – too much milk.