Catriona’s 19th

The day the Fiona hit was Catriona birthday so our annual sojourn to New Glasgow for dinner was prudently put on hold. Unfortunately they decided to close for the season so we took her for lobster at The Water Prince Shop on Saturday.

Fiona Day 3

We are back in our studio on Victoria Row, marvelling at the fact that when you flip a switch, a light turns on. We also have somewhat limited Internet access.

I ran around our neighbourhood in Stratford yesterday and it was sad to see so many lovely trees felled by the strong winds. Some utility poles were snapped, and lines down, so I don’t expect we will have power anytime soon. It’s amazing that so much of our critical infrastructure is strung between teetering wooden poles.

We have a limited social network on the Island but people we have met have been kind – my colleague gave us a 5G hotspot on loan, so that we can keep in touch with the outside world.

We do have some packaged food left and some fuel to heat it with, so we should be good for a couple more days. Hopefully by then other options will appear.

A Weekend Off

I’m sitting here in my kitchen, safe, warm and dry, drinking a lovely single origin from Peru that I brewed on my camp stove.

We’ve been through all kinds of natural disasters from the 921 earthquake, which leveled mountains and towns, to yearly typhoons which blew everything off the island not battened down. Being prepared for such things is something we are accustomed to but we’ve become somewhat complacent since returning to this gentler Island, and as such when we heard that this was going to be a “historic” hurricane we were caught somewhat unprepared.

Our food stores had expired and we were a bit short on fuel for our camp stove. The disadvantage of living in a place that relies entirely on electricity for heat, lights, and cooking is that once that disappears, modern life becomes less … modern.

We’ve done fine so far, we made food ahead of time and we have enough power banks to keep devices humming for days.

But what good are these devices if you can’t use them? This is perhaps the greatest surprise of this whole experience. Never in all the calamities that we’ve lived through, have we been unable to communicate with the outside world. In PEI, and other parts of Atlantic Canada, cellular service has been unavailable. According to some reports 911 service is unavailable as well. It took hours for me to finally check in with my 91 year old Uncle and the call failed half way through. What if he needed help?

Luckily we have a radio stored away in our survival kit so that we could listen to news updates. The CBC was having a hard time initially staying online as well.

We’ve now been without power for 36 hours. I think the CEO(?) of T3 Transit explained it well on radio the criticality of our electric infrastructure – you can’t even get fuel without power to the electric pump. It’s surprising how few backup systems there are in place.

We were greeted by the Mayor of Stratford yesterday as we went for a walk to survey the damage and realized that the town hall was open. He and other staff kept the coffee hot and made sure people could charge their devices and use Wi-Fi to communicate with others. It’s wonderful to see that level of care for the community.

I had a zoom call today and no way to reach out to say I was unable to attend. So I went to Town Hall again to see if I could either join the call or send an email to say I couldn’t. Unfortunately their network was overloaded with the hundreds of people looking to connect to the outside world and charge their devices. Instead we connected with neighbors over apple pie and coffee. We’ll go back later for a hot shower.

IRAC Vs. Renters

The recent announcement by IRAC to dramatically raise the allowable rental increase on the Island for the coming year affects us – we rent. Thankfully we won’t be left homeless or miss meals like others might, but because our money has limits it might mean no restaurants, which is already a rarity due to the high cost – low reward aspect of eating out in Charlottetown. It will also have an effect on charitable giving. Yes our rent is already that high.

Housing as an investment is weird here in Canada, at least from my inexperienced eyes.

In Taiwan, my experience was that people viewed real estate as an easy investment, an appreciating asset that could either be sold or used later in life. But they wouldn’t rent the house with the same regularity that you see here. Being a landlord was too much of a hassle, and often times we would have to convince landlords that we wouldn’t cause their asset to depreciate.

In Canada, it seems landlords use various means to mortgage a house, then have renters pay the mortgage, while they gain not only the value of an appreciating investment but also a profit from the renters.

The Taiwan model I witnessed resulted in whole districts being built with beautiful buildings, but no one living in them.

The Canadian model seems to create a return to a kind of serf – lord relationship.

In Taiwan it was understood that we could find another place to live with relative ease. So if we had a landlord with unrealistic expectations, or who was uncooperative, we would simply move. Adequate supply makes the relationship more equal.

Canada has no supply, and as such you have no recourse.

One of our many mistakes in moving home was not buying a house before we arrived. It seemed too risky with no steady income, and we wanted more than just a house, we wanted a home. Of course those houses have doubled in value in the past few years, but we didn’t have a crystal ball, and we knew nothing of real estate in Canada.

We are in a better position to buy now, we are more settled, but the question that we keep wondering, is this investment worth it? It was 4 years ago, but now at 2x the cost? It seems everyday the answer inches closer to no, but renting on the Island is not tenable over the long term (for many reasons), so that may mean a move to somewhere else. Somewhere with a functioning medical system perhaps, maybe Europe this time, instead of Asia?

Goodbye prime

“Your HappyEars Canada order is now complete.”

I’ve been shopping for earplugs to replace the freebies I received from Upstreet brewing a few years ago when I was there to hear Lady Soul. They were handing them out when people started complaining about the excessive volume, to which the sound engineer just laughed and turned the volume up even more.

HappyEars didn’t work for me, but I always thought that the language was odd considering I had yet to receive the product. Doesn’t my experience with the company continue after they receive my money? And shouldn’t they consider that?

The same can be said with Amazon, whose Prime we stopped subscribing to as the value proposition all but disappeared. In major markets Amazon handles delivery but PEI being remote, Amazon relies upon low cost providers for the last mile of service. When they used Purolator and Canada Post, service was great, now more often than not you will see someone pull up in their car with the backseat overflowing with packages. The results are predictably poor.

Over the winter we would see our packages in snow banks or tossed at random doors. Today I got a phone call telling me they found my package outside.

Considering that Amazon deliveries are slow at the best of times, why would you choose to subscribe to Prime? More TV? Admittedly the ability to order just coffee filters was nice, but some advance planning is all that’s needed, and Mother earth might appreciate the smaller carbon footprint.

The effect to Amazons profits of losing some customers in the Atlantic region due to poor experience is infinitesimally small, but smaller companies should find ways to at the very least let their customers know that they are there with them throughout the customer journey.

Coffee prices

With the exception of the cost of fuel, in much of our day to day the effects of rising costs brought on by the cause of the day hasn’t seemed to be that apparent. We eat less steak and fish, but that’s been a thing for years.

Today it hit home. We’ve been buying coffee from a number sources since we moved back, finally settling on 49th Parallel and Green Beanery as our most frequent place to purchase beans. Coffee of the quality we buy we consider our treat; other people buy wine, we drink good coffee.

Coffee has gone up since the pandemic but not so much so that we had to reconsider our habit (I drink about 5 cups a day).

Today marked a change. I abandoned a Green Beanery order because the shipping seemed excessive. Heading over to 49th Parallel I thought to restart my subscription until I saw the new shipping price. Our subscription was once 3 bags of single origin for $50 shipped, a great deal for the quality of beans. That subscription is now $80, a result of increased shipping costs, though I don’t see an increase at Canada Post who they ship with.

We do now have a good roaster in town, so perhaps we will be relying on her more often.

New Glasses

I received a pair of computer progressives yesterday which now allow me to see all the UI of Logic Pro, and text in general, with greater clarity. The effect is more magnifying glass than simply bringing objects into focus, so I’m not sure I will stick to it, but will give it a couple of weeks.

Thailand redux?

I run my life via my Aeroplan Visa card and have over the course of the past few years slowly accrued a lot of points.

Yesterday I found out that I have enough points to fly the four of us from Halifax to just about anywhere we might want to go. Flying to Thailand would leave some points for a flight elsewhere.

For some reason I hoard points like its real money (see Loss aversion) – I have enough PC Optimum points to buy weeks of groceries – but perhaps it’s time while we are all still under the same roof, to have a family vacation in one of our most beloved places, and enjoy some sunshine during the cold Canadian winter. Now if only we can get our passports renewed before 2023.


Sheryl and I shared a look last week when I mentioned yet another couple of news items, one about the failing health care system, a day doesn’t go by without at least one article, and the other of yet another failing in one part of the giant bureaucracy of Service Canada.

It had been close to nine weeks since Sheryl filed for EI and numerous phone calls had shed no light on what the problem could be. Her case was elevated so many times it might well have been on the desk of the PM himself. Each time she called, the person who she talked to didn’t have any answers, and the person who did was either away or unreachable. The person on the other end of the call has an unenviable job. Yesterday she got an answer. Her SIN was inactive.

She asked how that could be possible – she drew EI last year for a month, voted in an election, they gladly took her tax money, even asking her for more based on her past EI claim, and she has been living and working back in Canada for years. The representative didn’t know.

So she spent a couple hours at Service Canada yesterday afternoon, patiently waiting while people were on coffee break, in an effort to prove to the Government that she does indeed exist so that she can receive the service she has been paying for.

It was recommended that I look into doing the same. But before I spend an afternoon at a Government office convincing them of my existence, I wonder if there are any benefits of living here in Canada, but not existing?


On this day not so many years ago, I got up, ran 21k, came home and showered, ate a full breakfast, and walked to work. This was routine.

Yesterday, I tried to run 3.5k from my office to home and failed. I mostly walked.

Monday at Crossfit I took a knee because my heart rate spiked over 200 and I thought I might fall.

Activity of all sorts seems more difficult and I now think in terms of movement and not, am I making my mileage targets. So I walk, run, bike, and SkiErg.

The cause of my decrease in athletic capability could be many things; long COVID, sitting on my ass all day, or it could all be in my head. This might be something to start a conversation with a GP over but we don’t have one, and it seems ridiculous to clog an already overloaded system with abstract health concerns.

What I will likely do is create a performance baseline in which to measure improvements from. This way I may gain a better idea if there are any underlying conditions that might be affecting my ability to move. The QEH has facilities for this, but getting access to that equipment in a timely manner is about as likely as winning the lottery. So I will pay a private clinic when I have saved the money required.

On the plus side, while at the hellscape that is Walmart yesterday, we had a competition to see who could sit down on the floor and get back up again without using your hands or any momentum. It’s a test of mobility and more difficult than it sounds. I won.


I think it was during one of the many lockdown periods that we created something new, an experiment in a science education podcast. But once we started going about our lives again time became ever shorter and the project didn’t get past the first season of 10 episodes. We did the leg work for the second season, conducting and arranging interviews, a new direction for us, but again time just did not permit.

I made the time this summer, launching a new episode featuring Bernice the Bear who with her father was learning something about plants, and planting a garden. Our new direction is less beeps and bops, more let’s learn some science as a bedtime story. I also designed more space for advertising which makes me somewhat sad but is the only way I can see to make this work.

I finished the production of another episode yesterday – there is some voice over that needs to be redone but the real problem is we have found the limit to how much information can be chunked in audio format. It’s seems to my mind almost incomprehensible.

In a narrative format we can say more while allowing the kids to follow along and gradually become engaged with the underlying facts.

In our other question and answer format I have found hard limits to what can be said; it’s interesting how much more we can learn when it is contained within a story.

We are thinking of rewriting the whole episode but I’m also considering releasing it as is. Perhaps listeners will surprise us. Also, since one of the purposes of these summer episodes was to gain feedback, we might learn more by releasing the episode as is.

The Doorway Effect

I didn’t realize that this was a thing until someone smarter than me posted a cartoon about it on Facebook (it’s good for something!). I always assumed it was further evidence of age related cognitive decline or evidence of a mind preoccupied with too many things at once. I feel better already.

The doorway effect is a known psychological event, where a person’s memory declines when passing through a doorway moving from one location to another, when it would not if they had remained in the same place. People experience this effect by forgetting what they were going to do, thinking about, or planning upon entering a different room. This is thought to be due to the change in one’s physical environment, which is used to distinguish boundaries between remembered events: memories of events encountered in the present environment are more accessible than those beyond it.

Workplace Progressives

I had a visit with the optometrist this week as I had some concerns about my left eye which had prompted a visit to emergency a few years ago. Luckily all is well, and though we discussed how getting older is a nuisance, my vision has actually improved compared to the past.

This is an ongoing example of health care that works. I make an appointment that works for both of us, I talk to the doctor about my issues, she does tests, gives a recommendation, and passes on some info to the specialist for future followup. Unfortunately, this is also a private and paid practice. It’s also expensive.

The other problem I have been having is I can’t make out the menu items on my computer monitor. Apple’s UI has been increasingly lacklustre in their pro apps, and deteriorating at about the same rate as my ability to see small text clearly at about an arms length distance. It drives me crazy and has an effect on my ability to work.

The optometrist’s recommendation was a pair of “computer or workplace progressives” which focus on the mid and short range of vision. Very promising. She was more than happy to introduce me to the optician who then gave me an overview of the frames available, which all have the same starting price, and what my final cost would be. The total cost for this visit was to be approx. $850. Glasses for driving would be an extra expense.

I didn’t buy the glasses.

What do you call a solitary entrepreneur?

Part of my motivation. I value greatly who I work with and its very difficult to know how well you will get along with the team in any company you might join.

… No bosses or investors to tell me what to do. Just me and my customers. And no-one else to share the profits with, apart from the tax man.

The downside is that you don’t always have someone to bounce ideas off and it can be a little isolating at times. Nothing is perfect. …

The place in which you work makes a difference as to how you deal with isolation. I find Charlottetown to be a very difficult place to do the work we do and have often considered moving to a place where there is a community of like minded people, or organizations to interact with. But life is not all about work so we stay.

I like creating products. So I created a job around that, with a conscious decision not to take on any employees. A ‘lifestyle’ business.

I like this framing; creating a job around doing what you love doing.

What do you call a solitary entrepreneur?

The craft revolution

My love of coffee and the vision I have for my for my professional life converge.

… Instead of privileging the pursuit of profit, craft businesses and professionals are part of the rise of creative professions. They are driven by esthetic engagement, creative expression and an aspiration for quality.

Craft work gives professionals the opportunity to create unique products that align with their personal visions. This helps the makers distinguish themselves and express their identity through their work.

The craft revolution helped develop the market for specialty coffee

CO2e Saved

In a recent update to the Suunto app., it started displaying how many kg of CO2e I’ve saved for the month during my commutes to work. This only includes the runs to and from work, which are few and short, that Suunto automatically tags as commute. I often walk, but also need to take the car due to the need for groceries and such.

I sent my bike to Ted’s Bicycle Studio in Stratford for a tune up on Friday – which seemed expensive but I appreciate his up front pricing. While it’s in his care he is also adding a rear bike rack. Once I order some rear panniers I should easily be able tp pick up some essentials for dinner – at least until winter.

Since my body is refusing to allow me to run marathons this year and perhaps next, I am planning a big bike upgrade for Sheryl and I so that we can start working towards long distance cycling trips. Traveling across the continent by bike sounds like a nice goal.

I learned something

I don’t know exactly what it was about the old library but I seldom wanted to spend any time there. Maybe it’s the open space, the brightness, or maybe it’s The Shed, but the new space is so much more inviting. I like to discover books, more than I like searching for them. The same could be said about music which is all algorithms now, which is far less satisfying than browsing for an hour at a store like Sam’s on Young St. in Toronto, back when LP’s were more than a narrow niche. So I wandered the aisles today at the learning centre, found a book and actually learned something new. Nothing life altering, just a useful function in Logic Pro I didn’t realize I needed to know. Now I do.

Blue skies

Taken from my Instagram feed, where I post a lot of blue.

If asked what I appreciated about living here, I would point to the blue sky. Returning here for summer vacation when we lived in Asia I would always marvel at the puffy white clouds, the clean air and the blue sky.

With all the bad news lately, Prince Edward Island seems like an increasingly unlikely place to choose to live, but that blue sky has the remarkable effect of washing away a lot of the negativity.

Blindness is an option

A little over 3 years ago this month I wrote about a health care experience that couldn’t have “happened anywhere else“. It was in one sense, a private/public health care system performing as it should.

Lately, I have been experiencing similar symptoms in the same eye and seeing as vision is fairly essential, decided after much procrastination, that I should go see Dr. Elaraoud, who replaced the angel who I first interacted with.

The hiccup is that Dr. Elaraoud is a specialist and on PEI that means you need a referral, and that referral costs money (either cash or through private insurance).

I’m prepared to pay the fee, I already, in addition to paying an exorbitant amount of taxes, invest a great deal of money in trying to keep mentally and physically sound. Not just for the joy it brings, but with the idea of forestalling being sick or injured, as help may not be forthcoming.

I run a money losing children podcast network so am not of means, but can still afford to pay the fee. But what if I couldn’t? What recourse is there for others? Blindness?

It’s also a month wait to see an Optometrist and an unknown length of time to see the specialist.

Learning Centre

The new learning centre is wonderful. Finally, Charlottetown has a place where you can meet, greet, work, read, and spend an afternoon while enjoying excellent coffee and treats. I’ll be there frequently, especially as the weather gets colder.

Blue skies

On days like this I think it’s best to not know just how nice it is outside – a benefit of having a basement office. Now that I know it’s difficult to focus on todays banal work knowing that I should, or could, be outside enjoying our short warm season. But if I did take the afternoon off, what exactly would I do? Hiking perhaps. Maybe I need to take up golf.

My daughter says that I have lost the “chill vibe” that she says we both used to share. We used to spend the afternoon in a coffee shop, she would drink tea, and I cup after cup of coffee. And share cheese cake. There is no where in Charlottetown to do the same, though The Shed comes pretty close with its excellent beans.

I can’t just sit and do nothing, and find relaxing perplexing. I didn’t travel to take a break, I traveled to experience things. My body continues to resist the punishing nature of road running, so I guess long bike trips around the Island might be the experience I need on afternoons like this.


I got back from Montreal last night after a four night stay. I went up with the Canada Games swim team to an International meet primarily to support and spend time with Camren, but also to help the team wherever required. I spent most of my time outside in the hot sun, pool side, watching, listening, learning and occasionally yelling kudos to the swimmers.

Originally I planned to fly up as I couldn’t fathom sitting on the coach bus for 12 or more hours, but luckily I didn’t, as those few that did fly suffered at the hands of Air Canada. Their trip was far longer than ours and without a nights sleep.

There were many highlights during the brief trip: watching kids compete is a powerful thing, Montreal unlike Charlottetown has wonderful mango and watermelon, my son was thrilled to eat rice triangles again, apartments and condos seem built to last unlike the ugly rickety structures built locally, and I love how much space is given to bicycles and pedestrians.

While I enjoyed the trip, I’m not sure I can ever live in a big city again. I feel more settled in small towns like Charlottetown. We’ll see if I feel the same way when we decide whether to move back to Asia in the next few years.