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.


Walking to town

I gifted myself a walk across the bridge today and the experience is so much more improved than the previous dance with large trucks that it verges on relaxing. What a difference a little thought makes.

Not to sully this little celebratory jig, but I find it hard to believe that the city of Charlottetown had much to do with the planning of this project. As the superhighway sized road construction continues on St. Peter’s Road seems to illustrate, the continued effort to drive people out of the city and into the countryside continues unabated, thereby eventually turning the whole of PEI into the banality of suburban Toronto. It’s not just a government stuck in the 70’s but a people who don’t want development in their backyard because … traffic. But you can’t get people out of cars without density and so the cycle continues.


The Shed

I’m really liking this lets open a coffee shop trend in Charlottetown. I plan on supporting them all. Is this what happens when Starbucks leaves a market, local small enterprises have room to try to make something work?


Empty

One of the reasons I have parked myself in the downtown for the summer is to spend time around real live people. When I worked out of my then Jhubei office I would spend my lunch hours watching people come and go at the train station, in part to study how people used mobile devices while living their busy lives, and also because I am an avid people watcher.

Charlottetown is a great place to walk, if you discount the soulless outer rim, you can pretty much walk most of the city within 30 minutes or less. Unfortunately, the pandemic has given the downtown a feeling of abandonment with few people out and about, so while I had a relaxing and safe walk, I only met 5 people during my time outside. Hopefully, with restrictions being lifted visitors to the city will breathe some life into the downtown during business hours.


The Bridge

Sheryl and I both spent most of Sunday working so an after dinner walk was in order. One thing we both appreciate about Stratford is her network of trails, parks and beaches, which we need to take advantage of more often.


Rustico

Last night at the risk of having our place smelling like a fat filled fry pan, we prepared burgers and salad for dinner, which as my burgers are usually 3-4x the size of the overpriced variety found in restaurants, usually means an after dinner walk.

This time, instead of a walk around Stratfords own ghetto, we got in the car and headed to Rustico. My thought was that perhaps there would be a village or something to walk around in, which would in addition to a little beach time, would provide a suitable antidote to a fever from eating too much red meat. We never made it to a village, because as I know now that expanse is in the north side while we had driven to the south side, which is anchored by an old house with an Acadian flag on its roof. We did get a chance to peek inside Prince Edward Island’s oldest house, one of the few houses in the area not foreign owned or a short term rental.

It was a nice drive, a chance to see the countryside, and experience some quiet. I also realized that the fact that I actually enjoyed getting in a car, and driving just to go for a drive, means that as I get older I am getting more and more alike my parents. Parents who I set out at an early age to be as dissimilar as possible.


Lucky Bean

Back from my usual Thursday bask in the light of all the people in downtown Charlottetown habit, I didn’t quite feel like staying in the confines of our noisy home so I walked over to Lucky Bean for the first time to try their Latte’s.

In my recent tour of newish Charlottetown cafés Lucky Bean wins the best looking mug award by far.


Life on a shrinking island

Prince Edward Island is slowly disappearing into the ocean, in large part due to climate-change-related sea level rise and powerful storm surges which are increasing erosion of the island’s soft sandstone base. Tides have become noticeably different and have destroyed infrastructure including lighthouses, bridges, wharfs, streets, boardwalks, water wells, and sewer lines. As one resident remarks, “climate change is here and, if anyone doesn’t believe it, just get up and look out the window”.
Life on a shrinking island

This result came up in a totally unrelated search in the People also ask box on a Google search results page. The question asked was Is Prince Edward Island sinking?, and I couldn’t help but to find the answer.


A coffee break reprise

In what feels like a lifetime ago one of our favourite activities on the weekend was to spend a few hours in the afternoon drinking lattes, reading and eating cheese cake at Ink, possibly one of the worlds great cafés, in Hsinchu. How this city known mostly for designing and producing the things that power our lives became a coffee lovers dreamscape has always amazed me.

Since returning to PEI we have lost that tradition, at least in part due to a combination of the pandemic, poor café seating (cafés rely on turn-over, not loitering), and a lack of good Japanese cheesecake.

Sunday, after the days work was done, and after seeing a post on Instagram about some kind of bacon cheese cake (finally Insta is good for something), Sheryl and I dropped in to The Gallery – Coffee House & Bakery on Great George St. The interior was bright and beautifully appointed. The coffee was from Receivers and the cheese cake made in house. The desert was enough for 2 or maybe 3, and though far too sweet for my tastes, didn’t last long on the plate.

It didn’t feel like a place to loiter but certainly a fine place to stop and chat over coffee.


Coffee Plus

After leaving a meeting this morning at that large government funded technology building I stumbled across a new coffee shop near the running room on Great George Street. I bought a Latté and they seemed to have a short collection of sweets on hand and some limited seating. In my limited interaction, the owners seemed passionate about their craft, knew the flavour notes of the beans they had on hand, and seemed generally amiable. I didn’t get a chance for much of a chat as another customer was keen on telling them at length what was missing from their menu. The coffee tasted fine, the milk sweet, and I’ll likely go back to try the bolder roast they have available. It reminds me of one of our favourite coffee shops in Hsinchu which would allow you to choose the bean and roast for your expresso. Nice.


Dinner at Hopyards Hunters Ale House

We don’t generally get out to dinner as a family too often, due to cost, COVID, and the simple fact that most dishes the kids like are much better tasting when prepared at home. After a failed search for a sit-down pizza restaurant suitable for a family with a 15 year old, who would walk away hungry at the portions at Piatto, we settled on Hopyard Hunters Ale House of all places. Not pizza, but they had salads and other dishes that the kids like.

The occasion was mothers day and a celebration of a milestone in our podcasting journey.

Overall, the meat was dry and recooked, but they did a solid job with french fries. Seeing as we were full, and being amongst strangers was such a thrill, no one moaned, groaned, or complained, even when presented a bill worthy of fine cuisine.

It was fun.

Updated to reflect the fact that I don’t know the difference between Charlottetown various pubs.


Sunday Scene

After getting some work done, Sheryl and I walked (she walked, I limped) around Victoria Park on Sunday. The park was alive with people playing, walking and relaxing. We sat for awhile on a bench, people watched and generally enjoyed being outside, breathing in the crisp clean air. I find it very hard to just sit and do nothing; seeing people laying around for hours on end mystifies me, as I always feel the need to see or experience something. Relaxation for me comes from an escape from routine and this fit perfectly.


Wither Startup Zone

Recent changes at the Startup Zone prompted me to jot down my thoughts on the changes, which then became a too long to read article, and now a still too lengthy TLDR bullet point post.

  • While not without it’s faults, the Startup Zone has provided tremendous value for me (and others) during the time I have been a resident company. Weekly stand-ups, coffee chats, workshops, access to an incredible breadth of advisors, social events, water cooler talk, and the accelerator program are just a sample of what I participated in.
  • While modelled after other programs, Startup Zone’s focus on small local business’s makes it unique; nowhere else could I participate in a meeting with a freelance designer, material scientist, dog trainer, Saas company CEO, fitness trainer and someone developing products for cancer survivors.
  • There is no other place on PEI where a remote worker, entrepreneur, or fledging business owner can simply congregate. No other government organization as willing to help get you started and support the ongoing development of your business.
  • Startup Zone CEO, who was "from away", left to return to Halifax to raise his family. The fact that this was an abrupt transition speaks volumes. The marketing and events coordinator left shortly afterwards, as has the office admin. This leaves the running of the space to an overworked temporary operations manager who is filling in for a maternity leave.
  • A new CEO, a local hire, has been selected but won’t start until sometime in November which in the real world means the organization is without leadership for a year, or more. An inexperienced local entrepreneur-in-residence has been hired for an unadvertised position.
  • This is turning out to be a fine case study in how a tone deaf board can run to the ground a valuable community resource.
  • It’s also a case study in how not to change leadership.
  • What little communication there has been has been cold, opaque and without an ounce of empathy.

Anyone who has worked in any kind of corporate environment for a period of time has seen leadership come and go. I’ve witnessed many of these transitions, and this is perhaps one of the worst I have ever seen (no communication, no knowledge transfer etc. etc.). It reflects very poorly on the board and it’s a shame that the community that has benefited so much from this resource, and Islanders in general, may not be able to rely upon the Startup Zone in the future.


Faith

Like the weather before, COVID dominates the start of many conversations I have had recently. Unlike the weather, it spoils the conversation to such a degree that whenever the topic emerges I try to change it as quickly as possible. The anger the topic brings spoils all that follows – it’s gone well beyond the shared suffering stage. People are angry.

At this point I have lost all faith that Canada or Canadians will ever get this pandemic under control. It’s been over a year and yet nothing has changed; nations with more competent leadership and more resilient peoples have, with the exception of tight border controls (which are meant to keep people from Canada and other Western countries out) moved on. It’s ridiculous.

Locally, we have faired far better. But we still suffer from the same self-righteous, selfish assholes that the rest of the country does. This is illustrated by the 2 women who recently had to break isolation in order to go shopping at Toys-R-Us. It’s not hard to conjecture that the only thing special about their situation is they got caught. And what will be their punishment? About the same as playing hooky from school. Civic responsibility is fleeting for many more.

There are also the dim-wits who believe wearing a mask is infringing on their rights, or some other nonsense they read on Facebook. They are ignorant to the fact that our rights have been earned and that they require payment time and again.

Locally we are still using language that doesn’t emphasize the seriousness of the situation. Self-isolate instead of quarantine. Advise you to do something, instead of requiring. Guidelines, instead of mandate. It’s like we are trying not to hurt peoples feelings.

The time to be kind and patient is long over …


Hojo’s Revisited

Sheryl and I went to Hojo’s last night for dinner, her first visit and my first since the endless pandemic began.

The food was well prepared. My “mixed fish on top of rice” was tasty and her “fried pork and egg” was filling. We also ordered Miso soup, which was nice, and a spicy salmon roll which was not. I could eat this food just about everyday, though unfortunately the prices charged for Japanese food locally would might speed us towards bankruptcy.

Seeing as we were out to dinner sans children it would seem like a perfect opportunity to spend some time in the downtown. Go for a walk, visit some shops, and enjoy a treat. But I was suddenly cold and there really is no where to go. A walk around the block in the dark perhaps, Charlottetown really is quite dark at night, but there is nothing much of interest for the non-bar hoppers like us.

It’s a shame, but the effects of the pandemic and lack of new influx of PNP store owners have left the downtown to the point of dereliction. Without tourists Charlottetown has always been somewhat lifeless. It’s much more so now and if the tourists ever have the opportunity to return, they may be shocked to see nothing but boarded up windows.

So we did what many others do. Drove in our car to a big box store and bought a few groceries before heading home.


I tried

The first real day of winter happened today and after the plows had their first pass at the streets it was somewhat safe to drop Camren off at Bluefins. As is fast becoming tradition, while he is swimming, I run on the trail that so conveniently intersects the town. Unfortunately after about 4 km I decided to pack it in and head for the grocery store, the only real shopping experience I enjoy. The trail was cleared quite well and the temperature was agreeable, but unfortunately they had the snow packed down so smooth that parts of the trail were better suited for skates than running shoes. After a few close calls I decided to err on the side of not fracturing a hip and stopped.


Trail condition

This blurry paint-like photo was taken while still moving last night on the part of the Confederation Trail forbidden for use during winter. Our recent weather has been such that the trails are unsuitable for snowmobiles which is unfortunate for the snowmobile association but good for everyone else. I didn’t stay on the trail long as it was muddy in places and I didn’t want to make a mess of what is a solid smooth path. If the lack of snow continues and the ground hardens, I’ll be back, headlamp in tow.


Fresh snow

Taken en route to a haircut yesterday with Barbie Girl, near the soon to be closed Starbucks, a victim of North America’s inability to summon enough discipline and responsibility towards their fellow citizens to reduce the spread of COVID.

My forgotten photography skills didn’t capture what was a beautiful scene on the part of the trail we are permitted to be on last night. It’s only slightly over 4km’s one way from start to finish, but a run or walk on that trail cures all that ails you. It should be on every local mental health practitioners or physicians prescription pad. Your first step to wellbeing should be a walk on that trail.


The private public trail

Pedestrians on Confederation Trail ‘quite a safety issue,’ this season says snowmobile association

Snowmobilers excited for season as more Islanders join their ranks

Who in their right mind would have agreed to this lease?

On Sunday when I was running on the Confederation trail, Sheryl was out for a walk and had sent me a warning of 2 snowmobiles coming down the trail towards me. One apparently sped by her with little regard to her safety. I met one of them, who was extremely curtious, but luckily didn’t see the other. We commented afterwards that it seemed odd to see snowmobiles on a public trail.

Now it seems the oddity was us, as according to the Snow Mobile Association people are for the winter months forbidden on the trails, as they have an “exclusive lease” that “covers the entire Confederation Trail except two sections reserved for pedestrians: in Charlottetown from the bypass to Joe Ghiz Park.”

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous agreements I have ever seen.

The trails are the safest places to run, walk or bike in the Charlottetown area. And the views are beautiful. If anything we should be encouraging people to borrow snowshoes from the library and get out and explore the Island in winter.

To give exclusive access to public land to those with the money or even inclination to drive a snowmobile seems extremely short sighted, to say the least (actually I think it’s heinous).