Toilet UI

When I was in Tokyo and had to make a pit stop I was confronted by this interesting array of choices for what one would assume were to flush the toilet; sometimes the most obvious affordances are best, but for those who have a sense of adventure, pressing the wrong button might lead to surprise and a story to tell. Unfortunately, I could read the characters and was familiar with similar toilets in Taiwan so in this experience I was denied the discovery of something new.


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.


By train

A short clip taken while travelling the Chinese countryside by train enroute to the Xiamen marathon.


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.


Cognitive empathy doesn’t require a face, or a person’s preferences and demographics, but rather the underlying reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles. Replace demographics with a person’s inner thinking, and empathy will follow.
Indi Young


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.


The cycle for creating a deep understanding of people is necessarily separate from the cycles spinning around your software, products, and services. People need to be understood in the context of their own internal world, not in the context of a product or service.
Indi Young


Open wound vs. alcohol

I have been practicing lately doing various types of cleans using a strap on hook for my left hand. It’s almost impossible for me to lift upwards safely with any kind of weight due to poor grip strength. In my other gym I would use light weight sandbags to get a similar stimulus.

Yesterday I was cycling quickly through a series of power cleans and managed to rip off some of the skin on my left hand. Not a big deal.

Except, as is my habit upon exiting the gym I rubbed a copious amount of alcohol based disinfectant on my hands to help avoid getting myself or others sick.

I soon realized my mistake as the stinging set in.


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.


Yiu Fat Seafood

With our painful inability to travel anywhere, even Halifax seems like an exotic destination at this point, Apple Photos and DayOne have been helping me travel vicariously through our past.

During this month in 2006 I was in Hong Kong, exploring the side streets and alleys as I always did. I travelled to Hong Kong many many times, for work and play, but most often as a waylay point enroute to a quieter locale.


Death and Taxes

While I helped others complete theirs, I waited until the last possible moment to finish our taxes this year. My thinking was that it should be pretty straight forward, I haven’t drawn a salary since COVID hit so what could be easier than entering a 0.

Except it wasn’t easy. Something was awry. Sheryl was continuously coming away with owing thousands of dollars in taxes. I prepared them separately, together, and backwards and forwards (not really) but with each revision the numbers got more and more dire. There was smoke coming out my ears, as I loudly exclaimed the impossibility of owing Canada yet more taxes during one the hardest years of our adult lives.

I’m the last person in the world you should rely upon for financial advice, and so with the knowledge of my limitations I called my cousin for advice who directed me to his accountant.

Long story short, he saved us these thousands by virtue of his knowledge of just announcement rebate (nee loophole). I thanked him profusely, paid for his 10 minutes of work, and was on my way.

But it shouldn’t be this way. No tax code should rely upon experts in order for tax payers to pay their fair share. What if I was too poor to pay his fee? Or just accepted my fate? How many other people in Canada are paying more than their fair share? It’s ridiculous.

Comparisons are odious, but I am going to do it anyway. In 20+ years of living in Taiwan when we went to file taxes (Sheryl as a teacher didn’t have to pay taxes for the majority of our time there), we would make the short trip to the tax office where the officer would review our file, and work to save us money! It was a simple 1 page doc. but they always found some simple errors and the general feeling was that they were on our side. I can’t imagine the CRA doing that here.

And has this higher tax rate resulted in a higher standard of living? Better services? Not that I can see.

My cousin just shrugged, laughed, and said welcome home. Sort of a Canadian equivalent of 沒辦法.

It’s not just taxes. The bureaucracy in Canada is thick, with people hiring experts with money from the government, in order to prepare complex documents to get yet more money from the government.


Sean Casey Can Run

The weather today could be best described by saying, at least it’s not a snowstorm. But despite the winter like temperatures Sheryl and I participated this morning in the @flyYYG Runway Run with event proceeds going to the family of Randy and Valerie Diamond.

I’m still wary of the problems I have in my left posterior chain, with lately my Achilles telling me to ease off the biking, which yesterday I didn’t with a heart exploding performance this time on the Concept2 BikeErg. Since I haven’t been running much my plan was just to enjoy a run with Sheryl and take it slow and easy.

That plan went out the window when half way through the run Sheryl had some problems and decided to walk, goading me to keep going.

I like targets, and seeing Sean Casey wearing Liberal red far in the distance I thought it might be fun to catch up and say some likely not so witty words of encouragement as I sped past.

Alas, I forgot that I am no Usain Bolt and failed to sprint soon and fast enough to catch up to Sean but managed to finish with wonderful flush of adrenaline that you feel after a sustained 4th zone push.

Afterwards, as usual, a short nap was needed.


No reward for difficulty

As we sit at the whiteboard strategizing how to get blood from a stone, this quote comes to mind …

The interesting thing about business, it’s not like the Olympics. You don’t get any extra points for the fact that something’s very hard to do. So you might as well just step over one-foot bars, instead of trying to jump over seven-foot bars.
Warren Buffett’s $200B Berkshire Blunder


Time and understanding of a culture

Twenty-one days isn’t enough time to really understand anything about a place — we’ve been on Prince Edward Island for twelve years and we still don’t understand. Most of what I relate above is more about comfort and familiarity than about realizing French life, culture and history.
Vicarious Travel

We lived for upwards of 21 years in Taiwan and still were dumbfounded by many things. Even after spending close to 6 years studying Chinese, much at the undergrad level, I still only seemed to be skimming the surface. A professor I studied with a National Central University said that I must marry into the culture to acquire a deeper level of understanding, a shallow remark considering she knew I was married, and something I discounted as just another person repeating the “you foreigners don’t understand Taiwan culture” trope.

This apparent lack of understanding did not take away from our experience there; Taiwan, and all the other places we have travelled, have shaped our view of the world today.


Island of bosses

Further, Taiwanese bosses foster a work culture defined by the ideal of suffering, shaping Taiwan culture in entirely negative ways. In Taiwan, work is suffering. Workers constantly have to display that they are suffering in order to show that they are working (much “work” thus becomes displays of suffering to fend off added work).

This social programming begins in school with students displaying how much their massive homework loads are making them suffer. Homework thus functions as a form of authoritarian control of time, leaving students little time for their own lives — that might lead to their participation in politics, god forbid — and as a tool for acculturating Taiwanese children to their adult lives of suffering at work under authoritarian bosses.

That is why Taiwanese frequently accuse white foreigners of being lazy, since many of us are from cultures in which it is considered a loss of control, especially for males, to make displays of how difficult work is, of how much we are suffering. We foreigners are not sending out the right cultural signals. You need to suffer more loudly, big noses!

It starts before elementary school.

Notes from central Taiwan: Taiwan: Island of bosses


Thailand near border

Hiking in Northern Thailand (close to Burma I believe) almost 20 years ago we finally came upon the village where we would stay the night. The rivers were swollen and the ground wet and muddy. It was this trip I think that I ventured into a fast moving canoe that almost capsized as we were trying to get to our destination. I don’t swim and there were no life jackets. There were a couple similar occasions during our many trips to Thailand that I would have, with only a slight change in luck, have met a different fate.

You haven’t had Thai food until you have had it prepared fresh right in front of you, with freshly culled chicken, and just picked herbs and spices.


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.


I fought the echo bike, and the echo bike won

It’s been a bit of a challenging week or two. First, persistent chest pains that kept me awake over multiple nights, then a man-cold, and now a sports related injury that has me sitting on the couch with my leg iced and elevated.

Since I became interested in running 6 years ago or so, I’ve suffered a slew of injuries. The most uncomfortable of which was extreme lower back pain that could only be abated by laying on the floor, just before I was to board a 24+ hour flight in economy. My mind, and to a lesser extent my heart and lungs, were far more capable of exercise than my middle aged weak frame. I’ve learned a lot about my body since then, have seen a number specialists, and have been scanned and probed many times.

Most medical advice on injuries aspirational middle aged athletes like myself acquire, almost universally includes the word stop. I have in turn each and every time I have heard that word ignored the advice, and instead replaced it with go harder (but smarter). It’s worked pretty well.

This past year I have despite putting my body through many kilometres of slow runs, intense running workouts, and light CrossFit workouts been injury free. I thought my more measured approach was working, and it seems to be until now.

I switched gyms recently, primarily out of convenience, but also in the belief that I would receive better coaching. That has turned out to be true, and they are far more accommodating towards an adaptive athlete such as myself.

Since joining in January I have ramped up the intensity of my workouts, and started adding more weight. My frequency has increased as well, so that I am there 5x per week. The biggest change was my discovery of the Echo bike above. If there was such a thing as hell, I am almost certain it would have one of these. It’s a torture device, and I have fallen in love with the discomfort and pain it gives me.

I used to always laugh at those who were laying on the floor after a work-out, but now the laugh is on me, because anytime a work-out includes extensive row/bike/run I’m laying on the floor in a fetal recovery position afterwards. It’s fantastic for my mental health.

Unfortunately, seemingly out of the blue this change in intensity, either from the bike, skipping, or box jumps has caused swelling and pain on the inside of my calf. I’m taking a breather for the next few days and off to Physio early next week.

It used to be common for the old folks to say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I’ve found that since the pandemic has restricted our lives I’ve lost much of the routines I used to follow, and some discipline as well. So, I am going to take this opportunity to work harder at living a more healthy lifestyle, and work through whatever injury I am suffering from.


Giving

I just completed my 89 year old uncles income taxes (2 weeks later than promised) and am humbled by the amount of money he gives to charities that matter to him. And he does that on an income that is less than we pay in rent every year. He splits a box of Kraft dinner over multiple meals so he can afford to do this. Often a meal is a biscuit and tea. Selflessness like this is rare in our world today.


“Heavy production pressure”

I like Michael Turton’s take …

In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe.

Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of intense production pressures and a lax safety culture has caused me to reflect often on Perrow’s insights. Everywhere you look, you see normal accidents.

Notes from central Taiwan: Taiwan’s normalized accidents


True Fans

I read this essay years ago and am rereading it after being reintroduced to it via an email list subscription. While the thesis of the essay feels true to me, getting these numbers of fans is harder than creating the work worth paying for. Time, patience, grit and luck are all required.

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.

1,000 True Fans


I’ve got a cold

This is only notable because I can’t recall having anything close to resembling a cold or flu since the pandemic started, and for the simple fact that somehow despite following all protocols, I still managed to catch a virus. I suspect, at some point I touched my face prior to washing my hands, likely at the gym.

I slept poorly over the weekend which may explain why I am exhibiting symptoms – which are mild, but being a male, they feel exaggerated and I am left wondering how I will get anything done today.


Liberty requires sacrifice

Not just America, but Canada and much of the West.

The pandemic has illuminated a set of imbalances in American society. The most profound among them is the growing disharmony between the individual and the community.

In recent decades many Americans have conflated liberty with selfishness, adopting the notion that freedoms are self-sustaining, that liberty is a birthright that no longer requires sacrifice or collective action. They denigrated the institutions and traditions that yielded our freedoms in the first place and serve as the connective tissue holding the nation together. These attitudes are societal comorbidities, and when the pandemic hit, the results were tragic. Despite having just 4% of the world’s population (and nearly 30% of the world’s wealth) America suffered 25% of reported covid-19 infections and 20% of its deaths.

Scott Galloway on recasting American individualism and institutions