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).


Winter Running

I’ve been out running a couple times since the snow fell – last night in the dark and on Sunday afternoon. I’m not a lover of winter and it has taken me a couple years to acclimate to the cold, so I’m very pleased that I am able to enjoy some activity during this season. There is no denying that winter scenes on the Island have a certain beauty.

Running in snow or the semi-prepared surfaces of the various trails is quite a work out. It’s particularly hard on my ankles and shins.

I’ll likely restrict my running to the trails as many streets in Charlottetown are a “slippy” mess and falling on ice is on my short list for things I fear.


Great emptiness

Just after dusk in the downtown.

I don’t think I was expecting a Hallmark moment but I think I expected some signs of life.

On Sunday I ended the day a bit early, cleaned myself up, put on pants and decided to go on a Christmas shopping sojourn to the downtown area. Outside of my hobbies of running, food and coffee, I do little in the way of window shopping, so Christmas has traditionally been the time I look through the stores in search of interesting things to buy for the kids. In years past I would spend hours looking through Eslite bookstore and the multitude of other small design/craft related shops that inhabited the central district of our old residence, going elbow to elbow with the throngs of people doing the same. This effort would often necessitate rest breaks in a café or 3.

That’s life in a big urban centre and I would like to say pre-pandemic, but they got that under control from the onset, so it only applies to our experience here.

The downtown on Sunday was like a scene from the Walking Dead with streets devoid of people and no traffic whatsoever. You could say that the new restrictions are having an unhealthy effect on business, but I’ve heard that these restrictions haven’t stopped families from shopping en masse at those big box stores that keep moving farther and farther from the town.

I’ll admit that I have a bias. I hate the experience of shopping in Walmart, Canadian Tire and the like. With an experience largely devoid of warmth, personality and efficiency, I would rather shop online where the prices are much better and the selection far more vast.

I do enjoy the downtown and would love to be able to do all our activities there, groceries included. I’d also prefer to buy local, but how many fancy soaps, coffee cups and fine mittens and hats can one buy? Luckily, my kids love books, and we have a trio of bookstores, of which the previously read stores provide a great selection. It’s a shame that downtown Charlottetown can’t thrive without tourists and expand it’s retail options beyond what appeals to the cruise ships.


Running into winter

We have been blessed with a somewhat mild fall/winter to date and as a result my running season continues unabated. The photo above was taken just before the finish line during the 2018 PEI marathon. I couldn’t deal with the cold that year and stopped running shortly after. The winter also brings the real possibility of falling on the ice and breaking something, a fear that ranks up there with drowning for me. Hopefully sticking to the trails over the winter and my new Altra shoes that I purchased explicitly for running in snow and slush will lessen that risk.

Tuesday past I had an unexpected guest, my son, on my nighttime run on the trail between the entrance at Sherwood Rd. and end point at Covehead or Union road. It made for a nice slow 10k run in pitch black darkness, with no others on the trail but a few hares running about hiding from some plush foxes that I’ve seen other evenings. It’s nice running with Camren, a first, and like many his age his goal was not only to keep up with me but find some way to win in the end. Which he did. The fact that he was sore and wondered how I did this everyday gave some satisfaction.

The new public health rules have had an effect on his life as well. No more swimming or CrossFit. His swimming team, the Bluefins, have had a rough time – first the pandemic killed last season, then both the pool in Charlottetown and in Summerside were unavailable all summer and fall. It would be nice if sports other than hockey got some attention from the local government.

Camren declined an invite to run last night but may be convinced to go again tonight. I’ll see if I can’t sneak a couple more kilometres into our route to push him a bit farther.


A new colleague

Though when it was announced that we were switching to home based learning, I started spewing obscenities, I am happy to have Catriona studying at home. I can’t say the feeling is shared as she doesn’t like my reminders to stop reading Chinese soap operas and study biology.

Hopefully, teachers this semester will have higher engagement rates than 25%, the often touted figure from the last time they tried home based learning. When teachers look at her report from last semester they regularly discount the achievement as many I talked to feel little was learned. I don’t disagree. Many kids need school to flourish and Google Classroom is a poor imitation.

It’s interesting to me how you think you have adapted to the loneliness of working at home, until you have a temporary colleague and realise what you have been missing. This ongoing social isolation, was in part the reason for my anger at hearing the new temporary restrictions from Dr. Morrison.

If I hear one more time the phrase, “we can do it,” or “we are in this together” I am going to puke. The fact is after all this time we still don’t have the pandemic under control. How can we, when you have a huge percentage of people who don’t believe that the virus is real or doesn’t affect them, or have incredibly poor risk assessment capabilities, and/or lack the sense of civic responsibility to care about others? People complain about having mask fatigue! Like washing your hands and wearing a mask is some Herculean task.

What is a Herculean task is to “continue to be patient and kind”, as espoused by Dr. Morrison. I think it’s time to start taking a harder stance against those who refuse to follow common sense public health measures. Perhaps handing out fines like they hand out in Taiwan might be a good start.

This push and pull from a government who wants zero cases and a portion of the public who doesn’t seem to care has real consequences. People get sick and people die. There are seniors I know who are alone, I have a mother-in-law with cancer who we can’t visit, kids are out of school and we, and many others, face risk of severe financial hardship, as there are no government programs available for our family.

It’s time to set aside the politeness so prevalent in Canada and take a more aggressive stance.


Tracks

This photo, taken in 2011, came up via the “On This Day” feature of Apple’s photo app. It shows Catriona at a local elementary school participating in a track and field meet.

When Camren was out at UPEI recently participating in what the swim team calls dry land training, I decided to take the opportunity to go for a long run on the trail that conveniently passes through the back of the school. When I returned 50 minutes later, knowing he was still training, I wanted to run a few 1k loops around the UPEI track for time. But when I sauntered over to the track I discovered that it was surrounded by a high chain link fence and only accessible by express permission of the university. I find this extremely odd for a public institution and rather disappointing, particularly since it’s the only such track in Charlottetown. Stonepark has a prepared surface on their soccer field but it doesn’t compare.

Incidentally, UPEI has one of the only two available pools, suitable for swimmers on Prince Edward Island, and it has been inaccessible for months. Charlottetown is definitely a hockey town.

It’s one of a multitude of differences between our current and former home. Every school had a rack comparable to what is found at UPEI, and they were used by all, from serious runners, to those looking for a place to walk and talk. Basketball courts were popular and also something you don’t see much of here.

Thankfully we have a great trail system, and with the exception of some crosswalks a safe environment for walking and running.


Weekends

My weekend activities are generally a continuation of what I do during the week, though lately at less frenetic, more God why am I sitting at my desk, pace. The exception being that Saturday and Sunday morning are for exercise.

Saturday I run to Court 6 CrossFit out by the airport, in what often feels like an attempt to explode my heart. A quick consult with a physiotherapist reveals that I am too weak and am forcing my heart to work too hard.

Sunday morning is for long runs, which I often refer to as going to Church, as being in nature is a far more spiritual experience than the interior of an old building.

It’s taken me many months to get over the mental hurdle required to constantly enjoy the long run. Running for an hour is fine, but being inside my head for two, tends to get very boring and the focus shifts to how sore my feet are. Lately, I’ve abandoned the meditative aspects of running in favour of listening to more podcasts while I run.

My original goal was to run to Cavendish beach every Sunday, equal to a marathon, but I have only been able to make it to the halfway point. It’s again more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. That said, I’ve finally reached my weekly milage goal of 80kms a week without any injuries other than sore hips.

When fall started, I stopped to take some pictures of the route. Below are some of those photos.


A day off

This is for me the defining feature of PEI. Deep blue skies, fluffy white clouds and no pollution.

Sheryl and I took a short respite yesterday from work and the kids to spend a day outside in the sun. We haven’t spent ay significant amount of time together not working in many months, so this was long overdue, and has proven to be an antidote to my general feeling of downtroddenness.

The day started with a short walk through one of the many short trails that dot Stratford, then followed by a gentle 5k run and back home.

Sheryl and I then drove out to Greenwich a place we both have never been and spent the afternoon walking through the well maintained trails that take you through the property. The trip to and from of which required a stop in Saint Peters Bay for refreshments. Saint Peters Bay Black & White Cafe and Bakery sells receivers coffee and seems in desperate need of customers.

We ended the day with dinner in Georgetown at the Wheelhouse. Sheryl had chicken and I had fish chowder and their version of a lobster roll. The chowder was excellent, though ideally twice the size. The lobster roll was interesting; I love lobster and I love melted cheese but I think the two should never meet. Service was great.

All told I was on my feet for well over 21k yesterday which is a good way to relax I think. I guess there is some truth that fresh sea air and sun cures what ails you.

Not sure where else you could be practically alone on a beach of this quality.


Grass cutting

One of the many things we missed in the 20 odd years living in Taiwan and elsewhere was the summer tradition of the smell and sounds of fresh cut grass. There is something inherently satisfying about the distant hum of the lawnmower and the sweet smell of grass. It goes hand in hand with fresh strawberries and ice cream, BBQ meat, trips to sandy beaches and wearing shorts to signify the start of the Island summer.

Where we live now, a former farmers field turned soulless neighbourhood, in otherwise beautiful Stratford, people don’t seem to enjoy this summer tradition. This is likely in part due to the number of apartment buildings, multiple family housing, and the general transience of the people who choose to move here. Instead of the weekend morning or afterwork yard work that you see elsewhere, what you see here is leagues of workers descending on the neighbourhood with large noisy machines zipping around trying their best to work as quickly and as noisily as possible. If there is a pattern in terms of when they might arrive I have yet to see it. It could be early Saturday morning or during dinner through the week. Or like today, as we were about to record some voice over, they descended like monsterous sounding bees reverberating sound through our building.

It’s not nearly as romantic as the memory we had held while we lived elsewhere.


Why isn’t everyone wearing a mask?

Peter writes:

Picking up groceries at Sobeys this afternoon, an environment that clearly qualifies as one where “physical distancing cannot always be maintained,” only about a quarter of shoppers were wearing masks (and, additionally, any pretence of social distancing was abandoned by many).

I think one answer to that question could be risk perception, whereby others don’t see the same risk as I.

The degree of risk associated with a given behavior is generally considered to represent the likelihood and consequences of harmful effects that result from that behavior. To perceive risk includes evaluations of the probability as well as the consequences of an uncertain outcome. There are three dimensions of perceived risk – perceived likelihood (the probability that one will be harmed by the hazard), perceived susceptibility (an individual’s constitutional vulnerability to a hazard), and perceived severity (the extent of harm a hazard would cause). Risk perceptions are central to many health behavior theories.
Source

Add to that perhaps a little bit of group think, we are more willing to do something when those in our tribe are also doing the same. When beliefs become shared by social groups they are very difficult to change, even in the face of scientific evidence. There are a great deal of people who think the pandemic is largely fiction, even here on this beautiful Isle.

Wearing a mask is only one of the many things you should do to mitigate the risk of virus transmission, but it’s possibly the easiest. How many people are religiously washing and disinfecting their hands?

See also: What Happened When Americans Had to Wear Masks During the 1918 Flu Pandemic


An hour or two in the big city


The streets downtown were only moderately more busy today at early afternoon than the last time I walked through this street. I wish there were more streets like this, pedestrian and bike friendly, and devoid of cars. Unfortunately, city gov. moves in slow motion and at times seems resistance to change that might bring life to the downtown.


The market was anemic. This should be viewed as an opportunity, as the best markets I have been to have all been for the pleasure of locals, not tourists, which has the unintended consequence of giving visitors the kind of authentic experience many are looking for.


This is a welcome sign. I hope we will see more businesses putting up these hand sanitizing stations to not only fight covid, but the myriad of other viruses that make our lives less full of joy.


Diarrhea of words

I guess this is what it means to be in government.

The Green Party of Prince Edward Island has released their so labeled Return to School Framework yesterday which if you remove all the excess verbiage is nothing but a simple list of questions that most of us might have been asking around the dinner table. No deep insights, plans, or ideas from what are a highly educated and well paid group of people.

And I would argue that their priorities are wrong. The mental health and social well-being of all students, teachers, and parents is not the priority. Returning kids to school, whereby they can enjoy rigorous academic learning and physical activity, with minimized risk, is the priority. The main source of stress in families is the simple fact that kids are not in school. The Green Party should be aware of this.

These people are paid to come up with solutions, but between them and the nebulous plans of the department of education, I fear we will be left waiting.